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7

Democracy and Human Rights l Update

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Peter Clifford

31/3/11 Peter Clifford –

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Democracy and Human Rights l Update

Over the last 3 months I have highlighted Democracy and Human Rights issues in the Ivory Coast, Libya, Bahrain, Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, China and elsewhere, so I thought it was time for an update. (See my previous post Democracy on the March)

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/human-rightsLIBYA: At the time of writing the Libya story struggles on as battles continue between the forces loyal to Gaddafi and the armed revolutionaries ranged against him. Clearly much of the world wants Gaddafi to go and many stories of human rights abuse by his troops have emerged and will continue to come out in the future.

One disturbing story this week was told by a young woman lawyer,  Iman al-Obeidi, who got through into the hotel where all the foreign journalists in Tripoli are based. She told the journalists that she had been gang – raped by 15 of Gaddafi’s troops but was quickly bundled away by officials and hotel staff before getting to tell her story in full.

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Iman al-Obeid - AVAAZ.org

At first called a “prostitute” by Libyan officials it later emerged that the Libyan Government had offered her family a house and money to keep her quiet.  She has not been seen since.

UPDATE 18th May 2011: Iman al-Obeidi apparently crossed into Tunisia earlier this month in the company of some defecting Libyan army officers and has since flown to Qatar and is safe.

To give you an idea of Gaddafi’s profound understanding of the human condition, here are a couple of extracts from his famed Green Book, the philosophical basis of the “revolution” that brought him to power:

“Freedom of expression is the right of every natural person, even if a person chooses to behave irrationally, to express his or her insanity”

“Women, like men, are human beings. This is an incontestable truth… Women are different from men in form because they are females, just as all females in the kingdom of plants and animals differ from the male of their species… According to gynaecologists women, unlike men, menstruate each month… Since men cannot be impregnated they do not experience the ailments that women do”

Yes….er…..well .!!. I think the sooner Gaddafi gives up the day job the better for all concerned in Libya, especially women!

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/human-rights

Gaddafi Tank destroyed

Meanwhile, do we know exactly who the opposition forces are and what are their future intentions?   “A Vision of a Democratic Libya”, just published by the Libyan Interim Transitional Council in Benghazi looks promising and there is also a useful map (though not always up to date in this fast moving situation!) on the progress of the revolution on their website too.

Moussa Koussa’s (Gaddafi’s Foreign Minister) “defection” to London is also interesting – just whose side is he on?

IVORY COAST: 11/04/11   Breaking News Update: Following overnight attacks on the heavy weapons around his compound, Laurent Gbagbo this afternoon surrendered to Ouattara’s forces and has been taken to the Golf Hotel, Ouattara’s  UN defended HQ, under arrest.

If you read my previous post Prevent War With Chocolate, you will know that the conflict in the Ivory Coast has been caused by the former president Laurent Gbagbo refusing to stand down after losing the election to his democratically elected opponent Alassane Ouattara.

AVAAZ, the pressure group, organised a campaign to get the world’s major chocolate manufacturers to, temporarily at least, boycott purchases of cocoa from the Ivory Coast, the world’s largest producer, so that Gbagbo could not fund his army.

Clearly this has not worked as hostilities have now broken out between the two parties and their supporting groups and armed professionals are involved.

Ouattara’s New Forces have swept down from the North and taken over several towns, while Gbagbo, supported by the army has imported mercenaries from Liberia and shelled Ouattara supporters in Abidjan, the capital.  Atrocities are being reported on both sides.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/human-rights

UN Struggle in the Ivory Coast

The people of the Ivory Coast have been here before, having suffered years of civil war prior to a ceasefire in 2007. UNHCR estimates that a million people have already fled their homes this time and a UN peacekeeping force of 9,000 stands by helplessly, under equipped and with no proper mandate to intervene.

Neighbouring countries such as Mali, Liberia and Ghana are being swamped with refugees and at least 800 people have already been killed since December. In the latest developments Ouattara’s New Forces have taken Yamoussoukro, a regional centre, and the key cocoa exporting port of San Pedro.  Gbagbo is left only with parts of Abidjan.

The United Nations has just past a UN resolution imposing sanctions on Gbagbo and his family until his sources of revenue dry up and he is forced to stand down.

Unfortunately this conflict does not have the high profile of Gaddafi and Libya, despite the fact that just as many civilians will suffer in the long run and another, once very prosperous country, will be wrecked.

TUNISIA: Mohamed BouaziziRemember that name. Mohamed was a  Tunisian street seller of fruit and vegetables who, sick to the teeth of corruption, harassment and humiliation by local officials and the police, set himself on fire on December 17th 2010 and sparked the demonstrations that led to the overthrow of the Tunisian President, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who had ruled the country for 23 years.

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The Revolutions Started in Tunisia

From that one act everything in Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen and right across the Middle East has followed and still continues.

While the interim President Fouad Mebazaa has announced the date of an election in July for representatives who will rewrite the constitution, unrest still continues and arrest warrants have been issued for the former president and his family who are believed to have fled to Saudi Arabia.

BAHRAIN: Democracy and Human Rights have been a hotly debated issue in this tiny Gulf State (100 times smaller than the Irish Republic!) since the events in Tunisia and Egypt.  Every revolution has its own particular flavour and ingredients and Bahrain is no exception.

Here there is an enormous division between the minority, ruling Sunni elite and the majority Shia population who feel dispossessed and under represented.  Median age in Bahrain is 30, while youth unemployment is almost 20%. At the same time literacy rates run at 91% – all part of the potent mix for revolution in the modern age.

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Protesters in Bahrain

The root of the problems here is that almost 70% of the population is Shia Muslim, while the nearly 30% Sunni Muslim self appointed ruling class have 90% of the power and most of the wealth and virtually all of the most valuable land.

Gerrymandered electoral districts have always ensured that the Shia electorate ended up with a minority of seats in the legislative body. Women do have the vote but very few get elected.

The ruling Al – Khalifa family has been in power since 1820 and its members still hold most of the most important government positions.  Indeed,  Sheik Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifah, the uncle of the Crown Prince, has been Prime Minister of Bahrain for 40 years! (Thank God that could never happen in the UK!).

The ruling family also contains such leading lights as Sheikh Abdulrahman Mubarak Hamad Al Khalifa who, according to the London Telegraph has been taken to court in both London and Bahrain for the repayment of gambling debts owed to the betting firm Spreadex for the princely sum of £270,000.  No doubt he worked really hard to be able to gamble away such wealth.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/human-rights

Protesters Hold Pearl Roundabout

On February 14th 2011 the pot finally boiled over when protesters marched through the capital Manama and a month of unrest followed with more than 20 killed and 100’s wounded, many of whom declined to seek treatment as many doctors and staff at the world renowned Salmaniya Hospital, according to media reports, were threatened, arrested or prevented from treating protesters.

The protests are also embarassing for the US Navy as the island is also the home of its Fifth Fleet.

The Bahrain government’s answer to all this was to import 1,000 soldiers from its neighbour Saudi Arabia, suppress all further demonstration and to demolish the monument at the Pearl Roundabout which had been the focus of rebellion.

I doubt if any of that will solve the underlying problem, which is a pity as Bahrain has a reputation as one of the more “open minded” Gulf States.

YEMEN: What started as a protest by students has now escalated into a full scale insurrection. It has also, significantly, the support of a large number of women, in what has been until now a very conservative society.

On March 13th snipers killed 52 people and their families have since been offered money by the government to keep quiet.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/human-rights

Protester in Yemen

The protesters are demanding that President Saleh, who has been in power for more than 30 years, stands down, along with 25 members of his family – the usual cosy family arrangement exploiting the people they control. Another more sinister factor is that Al -Quaeda certainly have a presence in the country as well.

After six weeks of protest, many people want the President put on trial, especially after the fatal sniper incident.  At the moment there is stalemate – but there is certainly more to come.

EGYPT: Egypt, though coming after the revolution in Tunisia, has undoubtedly set the standard for protesters to maintain their peaceful stance and use the sheer force of numbers to promote change.

Nevertheless and estimated 685 people were killed in the revolution here and an uneasy truce remains between the protesters and what remains of the security services and police.

Police officers are slowly returning to the streets but many are unwelcome and a number of former ministers and security officials are to stand trial for killing protesters during the unrest.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/human-rights

The Domino Effect

It remains to be seen whether the controlling Army Council will carry through its promises or whether it is just going through the motions in order to protect its own interests.  They can expect an angry backlash if they don’t give the people what they want.

Parliamentary elections will take place in September and the presidential election within two months after. The Muslim Brotherhood, whose  more extreme elements many fear, has said it will not field a presidential candidate.

In my previous post, I commented on democracy and human rights in relation to Egyptian Women.  I see this as the “heart” of the Arab revolution.

Unless the rights of women change, then in reality nothing changes, the Muslim world will still be locked in the past and wasting 50% of their human resource.

FOR FURTHER UPDATES ON DEMOCRACY AND HUMAN RIGHTS, ESPECIALLY IN SAUDI ARABIA, SYRIA AND CHINA click CONTINUE ………

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1

Does The Western World Have a Conscience? l Egyptian Women

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Peter Clifford

28/1/11 Peter Clifford –

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Does The Western World Have A Conscience?

As protest and revolution rumbles on across North Africa and through the Middle East and beyond, I can’t help wondering what is the role of Western countries in all of this?

Pausing just long enough to test which way the wind was blowing, western society has been quick to take up the side of the protestors and to support them verbally and morally at least.

And the western digital world (hail Facebook, Twitter and Youtube) has clearly been instrumental in aiding the protesters to spread their message rapidly and effectively and to give them a platform to air there grievances. It has also made fascinating and often gripping news for all of us westerners  sitting safely at home.

In western civilisation we like to promote democracy, freedom of self expression, the rule of law, protection of the disadvantaged etc. and quite rightly so.  However, at the same time western governments have a habit of cosying up to any government or dictatorial and repressive regime whom they want something from.

If your country has vast resources of oil or minerals which the West needs in order to fuel its economies, or there is the potential for rich trade opportunities, then it is very likely, no matter how repressive your regime, that you will get a call from western leaders and their ministers inviting you to do business.

It is extremely easy for governments in the western world to condemn repressive regimes that they do not, at present, want anything from e.g the military government in Burma, the communist regime in Cuba or nuclear threatening Iran.

It is also extremely easy it seems to embrace two way trade with China while at the same time completely ignoring its suppressive behaviour towards the people and culture of Tibet.

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East - West Togetherness

Not only do western governments turn a blind eye to the behaviour of the oppressive regimes they choose to do business with but the cherished keystone values of western culture i.e. freedom, justice and equality go completely out of the window at the first sniff of a trade deal.

Not only do western nations love buying oil and other resources from repressive regimes that practice detention without trial, torture and political imprisonment but they love selling them the arms and weapons to carry out this oppression effectively!

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Libyan Dancing Partners

One of their best customers, since his rehabilitation in 2004, has been Colonel Gaddafi who is now undoubtedly using those same weapons against his own people. And the The Irish Government, in their recent acute financial crisis even sent their financial representatives to Libya to try and secure multi – billion dollar loans from Gaddafi’s International Investment Fund!

Meanwhile in Saudi Arabia for example, women are still not allowed to drive a car or go out alone and at the first hint of protest opposition leaders are hauled in for questioning, yet the West craves their oil and sells them (in particular the US, the UK and other western European governments) vast amounts of weaponry. No doubt it offsets the oil trade deficit.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/conscience

UK PM in Tahrir Sq. Cairo

David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister, was very quick this week to visit Egypt and a number of other undemocratic regimes in the Middle East with pro-democracy protestors making themselves heard currently on a daily basis.

It was rather bizarre therefore to see him striding across Tahrir Square in Cairo with a gaggle of British businessmen in tow, eight of whom represented British arms and weapons systems manufacturers.  No doubt US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, President Obama and other western leaders are all ready making their travel plans.

But are their also deeper lessons in all this for the West? These arab world revolutions have been led by their disaffected youth, the so called Facebook generation. In some western countries our youth are also equally angry.

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Student Protests London 2011

Witness the anger of students in the UK recently at the Coalition Government’s decision to increase university fees – fierce and destructive demonstrations in the streets of London and elsewhere over a number of days.

Currently the UK unemployment rate for 16 – 24 year olds is 20% and rising under the present harsh economic climate. I hope the UK’s senior politicians, many of whom are millionaires and telling us “we must all share the (economic) pain” are seriously taking note of the consequences of complacency.

Democracy Is ……..

……. the right to make fun of your ruling elite without fear of reprisal or a knock on the door from the Security Services.

So on a lighter {!} note, can someone tell me why so many Middle Eastern potentates seem to be critically overweight?  A great business opportunity for WeightWatchers perhaps?

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/conscience

Royal Wedding Sick Bag - copyright Linda Leith

And British designer Lydia Leith as an andidote to all the somewhat questionable quality of the memorabilia currently in full production for the wedding of Britain’s Prince William and his fiance, Kate Middleton, this coming April, has produced the Royal Wedding Sick Bag, in case you want to “Throne up”!  As they are of a certain age I think the Royal couple are laughing at this one themselves – at least I hope so, and I wish them every sucess with their marriage.

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Uniform Kitsch

In Libya, we can but pray that Gaddafi’s uniform designer has now got the sack and that the rest of his administration will follow soon.

And lastly, clearly the Arab world is catching on quickly to the idea of freedom of self expression with this effort recently posted on YouTube – Colonel Gaddafi’s recent “clayman” rant turned into “DJ Gaddafi Rocks” Zenga Zenga!

EGYPTIAN WOMEN:

Without wishing to be cynical, as I expressed in my last post, I am not entirely convinced that the ruling Army Council in Egypt will let go of the reins of power easily, despite making some of the right noises.  Certainly, when it comes to the rights of Egyptian women, they still do not seem to have got the message.

This week in Cairo, the Army Council appointed a judge, Tarik al-Bishry to set up a Constitutional Panel to draw up a new constitution for the country. Bishry then went on to choose all the members of the Panel himself, not one of which was a woman.

One of the appointees was a Christian Copt, who represent 10% of the Egyptian population.  Women  in Egypt, of course, represent 50% of the country’s population but that still does not gain them the right apparently to having a say in shaping the future of the new state.

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Women Protesters Tahrir Sq. Cairo

Worryingly, in a survey conducted in Egypt shortly before the recent revolution 90% of those who took part still thought stoning for adultery was a “good idea”.

Similarly, in Malaysia on February 14th, Valentine’s Day, hotels in Kuala Lumpur were raided by the “religious enforcement police” and over 80 people detained for being unmarried and sharing a room or being “alone and in close proximity to a member of the opposite sex”. They can expect up to two years in prison if convicted. The law does not apply to non – muslims.

Clearly, for muslim women in particular and arabic women in general throughout the entire world the Revolution is only just about to begin.

Until the next time,

www.petercliffordonline.com

 

Peter Clifford: www.petercliffordonline.com

TO HAVE YOUR SAY SCROLL DOWN & CLICK ON ” COMMENT” IN THE GREY PANEL

If you value what I have written please click on the “Like” button and Tweet my short link – http://bit.ly/petercliff – onto your friends.

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3

Arab World In Revolt

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Peter Clifford

21/2/11 Peter Clifford –

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ARAB WORLD IN REVOLT

I was going to write my next post on something completely different from politics but the pro-democracy protests across the muslim world have continued to dominate the headlines and I feel compelled to comment further on what looks like (potentially) the most significant and powerful revolutionary movement seen in decades.

Firstly, congratulations to the people of Egypt, who not only got rid of Mubarak but succeeded in what has been, so far, a relatively peaceful transition towards democracy, with minimal deaths and injuries (though no less painful for the families and friends involved).

Whether the full transition to free and fair parliamentary elections and a true democracy with an independent judiciary, police and army continues, remains to be seen.

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Egyptian Army Helped - AP via BBC

At the moment, the government of Egypt is in the hands of an army council, who to their credit enabled the revolution by refusing to be heavyhanded with protesters. However, governing army generals have a habit of developing a thirst for power, once tasted, and frequently annoint one of their number as the next president. Let’s hope better sense and justice prevails in Cairo.

Another interesting sideline to the Egyptian revolution is that the London Telegraph reports that the Mubarak family spent the 18 days preceding the President’s resignation moving vast amounts of money around the world and into safer havens where they continue to have access. Estimates vary from $7 billion to £70 billion.

Even if its the lower figure, this is an obscene amount of money to be accumulated by one family and undoubtedly obtained through corruption and the misuse of power. I hope that the new Egptian authorities go to great lengths to recover it and return it to where it belongs – in the service of widespread social welfare and reform in a country that badly needs it.

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Bahrain Pearl Square - AFP

In my previous article on these extraordinary events (Democracy On The March) I asked the question – where next? Almost everywhere across North Africa and the Middle East and even further afield to East Africa and China, it appears that people are taking up the flame of courage from those in Tunisia and Egypt and carrying it forward, realising, perhaps for the first time, that there is enormous power in the scaling up of numbers.

Vast hordes of angry citizens, even if unarmed, terrify suppressive authorities it seems.   And rightly so.  The moment you suppress anyone you create the seed of anger and resistance that given the right nutrients will grow and expand into an unstoppable force, in the same way that fragile plants force themselves millisecond by millisecond, relentlessly, through concrete.

Clearly the most significant “nutrient” in the current political “soup” is the widespread use and access to, the Internet and the mobile phone network. The more these come into common usage and integrate themselves, one system with another, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, the Web itself, smartphones etc, the more difficult it becomes for repressive governments to control the information coming into and going out of their countries.

This is as it should be. The whole point of democratic systems is the protection of the rights of its citizens to freedom of expression and free access to information.

It is the young everywhere which have realised the potential and taken rapidly to the advantages of mobile communication. You may not have a job or much of a future under the prevailing system, but if you can talk to thousands of people about it there is the opportunity for creative change. The older generations, including myself, have been slow to realise this.

Watching celebrities making fatuous remarks on Twitter seemed like a huge waste of everyone’s time to me. Using Twitter to rapidly promote interest in this blog has been far more interesting and effective.

Clearly, it is how you use modern technology that makes a difference. The fact that in Libya for example the median age is 24.2 and the literacy rate is 88% adds power to the process.

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Protestors in Libya - Yahoo.com

Unsurprisingly, this electronic freedom to communicate scares repressive authorities half to death. Egypt tried shutting down the Internet, but then discovered it shut down business as well. Colonel Gaddafi in Libya is trying the same thing, in a country notorious for its lack of access to independent reporting.

Yesterday, the Chinese President Hu Jintao called for “stricter government management of the internet”. China’s Twitter website equivalent,”Weibo”, run by Sina.com, blocked discussion of Egypt and over the weekend, message chains using the Chinese word for “Jasmine” – as in the Jasmine Revolutions in the Middle East – were blocked as well.

This will not do gentlemen, the seeds against repression have already germinated and are growing fast.

If you would like to support freedom of communication in the circumstances described above, link with AVAAZ in their latest campaign to supply independent broadcasting equipment to pro-democracy groups worldwide ( I have supported previous AVAAZ campaigns on saving Sakineh Mohammedi Astiani from death by stoning and helping to bring about democratic change in the Ivory Coast)

Meanwhile, protests continue in Benghazi and elsewhere in Libya, in Algeria, in Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, Syria,Yemen, Iran, China and the former French colony of Djibouti, just across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen.  Former President Gorbachev of the Soviet Union has even suggested it could happen there.

There have also been further deaths and demonstrations in the Ivory Coast where the losing presidential candidate Laurent Gbagbo refuses to stand down after three months.

Interesting times, which I will continue to watch closely. Particularly as it all may have significant messages for Western governments as well.

*********************

GUA AFRICA:

My support of Emmanuel Jal’s charity Gua Africa continues throughout February and by using any of my Amazon links I will ensure that 10% of any commission I earn goes to support Emmauel’s work with the child victims of war (your Amazon prices remain as normal). Thank you to all of you who have supported us so far.

Incidentally, southern Sudan which is where Emmanual Jal originates from (see previous posts South Sudan Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3) has decided simply on the name South Sudan when it moves to full independence on July 9th, following on from the referendum last month.

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South Sudan Flag - BBC

The road to freedom is still not without serious problems as 200 people were killed this month in an attack by rebel leader George Athor in Jonglei State.  Hopefully, peaceful solutions can still be found to end Athor’s conflict with the government.

Until the next time,

www.petercliffordonline.com

 

Peter Clifford: www.petercliffordonline.com

TO HAVE YOUR SAY SCROLL DOWN & CLICK ON ” COMMENT” IN THE GREY PANEL

If you value what I have written please click on the “Like” button and Tweet my short link – http://bit.ly/petercliff – onto your friends.

Lastly, don’t forget to sign up (Top Right) for my mailing list for future information, advice, tips and reviews – for a limited time only there is a FREE copy of my 40 page ebook on “Love Relationships – The 10 Step Guide” which I have written especially for this website.



 

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