Archive for October, 2011

Mass grave with 900 corpses found in Iraq

Diwaniyah, Iraq (AFP) July 6, 2011

Iraqi authorities uncovered a mass grave with 900 corpses near the central city of Diwaniyah on Wednesday, believed to be Kurds killed during the rule of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein, an official said.

The corpses were found in the Shanafiya region, 70 kilometers (45 miles) west of Diwaniyah.

“The corpses were buried in a trench. There were 900 bodies,” said Dakhil Saihoud, provincial head of the Justice and Accountability Commission which investigates issues related to Saddam’s regime.

“Initial indications show the remains are those of Kurds. They were transferred to laboratories in the city of Najaf to help in identification,” Saihoud said. He said the corpses apparently dated back to the 1980s.

Last April, authorities said they had found another mass grave in Anbar province of western Iraq containing the bodies of more than 800 people, including women and children, executed during Saddam’s regime.

During Iraq’s 1980-1988 war with Iran, deserters were executed and the Sunni Arab dictator intensified a crackdown on Shiites suspected of sympathizing with Iraq’s predominantly Shiite neighbor.

Kurds were persecuted because they were the main opposition to Saddam.

The number of people missing as a result of atrocities committed by Saddam, who came to power in 1979, is estimated at anywhere between 300,000 and 1.3 million, according to various sources.

Human rights groups believe there are hundreds of mass graves in Iraq of people killed during Saddam’s rule.

Shortly after the 2003 invasion, the US-led coalition said there were 263 mass reported graves of people executed in Iraq under Saddam, including 40 containing evidence of systematic killings.

Source: Space War.
Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Mass_grave_with_900_corpses_found_in_Iraq_999.html.

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Rifts Weaken Women’s Protest

By Suad Hamada

MANAMA, Jul 4, 2011 (IPS) – Women activists in Bahrain have acknowledged their poor showing in the recent unrest as well as in efforts to fight sectarianism, and blamed it on rifts within their organizations.

Many have accused Bahraini women – with their long history of struggle and victory – of failing to leave their mark in the recent uprising in the country.

Shortly after sectarian tensions broke out in Manama in February, women activists and their societies launched at least three initiatives to bring their advocacies to the people and help improve the plight of women.

But the political agenda of other groups got mixed up with women’s causes. “Most of our societies were forced to stop all activities either because women-oriented programs weren’t suitable then or because some members tried pushing their political agendas,” a human rights activist and founder of one of Bahrain’s oldest women’s societies told IPS on condition of anonymity.

“In my own experience, we had many female members who wanted to misuse the society and its programs in pushing for the agendas of their own political societies, which isn’t something we wanted to happen. So we froze almost all activities to protect our neutrality,” she said, stressing that the same problem occurred in other groups.

An example was the Women for Bahrain project, which had a grand launch last March but started to fade in less than a month.

“Women for Bahrain was lucky to have a strong start, but received a deadly end when its Facebook page turned into a war zone between youth from different sects,” she said, explaining that the group’s presence in the social networking site became a battleground for opposing views. “All efforts to control the activities of the page and bar angry youth failed, hence the organizers decided to shelve the project.”

Abdulnabi Al Ekri, president of the Bahrain Transparency Society, told IPS that women’s participation across all political parties did not exceed 25 percent of all activities during and after the unrest.

Women took part in rallies and processions organized by opposition and pro-government groups, but their involvement was mainly as participants and not as leaders or speakers.

“Political societies have female members but they aren’t in leading positions, hence their roles were overshadowed by top male members,” Al Ekri says.

He urges female activists to end their silence and grab the golden opportunity for greater women empowerment offered by the national dialogue to commence on Jul. 1 with the participation of all segments of society.

Bahrain Women’s Union led the way when it submitted on Jun. 23 the points it thought should be included in the general agenda for the talks. The Union, with 12 women’s societies as members, demanded an amendment to the outdated nationality law to give females the right to pass their nationality on to their children, just as men married to foreigners are able to. It also asked for the implementation of the second part of the Family Law to cover Shiite Shariah Court under the legislation. The current law covers only Sunni Shariah Court.

“We have submitted our views and they are supported by almost all women’s societies, but we have no idea if they will be given priority,” said Mariam Al Ruwai, president of the Bahrain Women’s Union. But she noted that the talks would focus on “correcting the political situation and creating political changes,” and that gender equality needs to play a key role.

Writer Saeed Al Hamad said women’s voices have been hijacked and are no longer as loud as they were during the 1960s when Bahrain was fighting for independence from British rule.

“The backwardness of the Arab world in the last 30 years turned women in the region into followers and not leaders,” Al Hamad told a recent seminar by the state-run Supreme Council for Women. “Bahraini women felt the pain of unrest more than males, so they have to have a bigger role in the future by having greater participation in society. The upcoming by-election in September could be a good start,” he said.

But religious lecturer Fatima Bosoundel refuses to accept that Bahraini women played a minor role in recent political events. “Females had great roles at home by keeping children calm and unaffected when things were out of control in the streets. They cannot be underestimated for being the strongest element in the house,” she tells IPS.

Source: Inter-Press Service (IPS).
Link: http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=56345.

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Qatar has lowest unemployment rate in GCC

Tuesday, 05 July 2011

DOHA: Qatar has the lowest rate of unemployment in the GCC region at 0.5 percent but experts warn that future trends point towards an escalation rather than a decline.

Among the GCC states, Oman and Bahrain top as far as unemployment is concerned as the rate in these countries is quite high at 15 percent each, with Saudi Arabia trailing with 10.8 percent.

The UAE and Kuwait have lower joblessness rates at 2.2 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively, Al Masah Capital said in a report on unemployment in the Mena (Middle East and North Africa) region.

The region (MENA) has the dubious distinction of having the highest unemployment rate in the world, Al Masah said talking of the political upheaval jolting some countries in the region.

The cause of the various civil uprisings in these countries can easily be traced to authoritarian rule, corruption, large rural-urban divide, high inflation and unemployment in the region, Al Masah said in its report.

It added that unemployment, in particular, has played a significant role in energizing the masses.

The situation in the GCC is somewhat better, the report noted, putting the unemployment rate in the region at 4.2 percent. The report, however, said that the total number of new jobs required in the GCC states is 3.3 million.

The services sector accounts for 70 percent of the jobs in the GCC region whereas the average for MENA is 52 percent and that for the world is 43 percent.

Shailesh Dash, founder and CEO of Masah Capital, was quoted as saying that expatriates will keep dominating the jobs market of the GCC since private sector employers prefer foreigners over nationals due to a number of reasons, including their knowledge and skills, lower salaries, higher productivity and flexible recruiting arrangements.

Source: The Peninsula.
Link: http://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/qatar/157941-qatar-has-lowest-unemployment-rate-in-gcc.html.

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Bahraini Activists: London, Tel Aviv Aid Manama Regime in Suppressing People

2011-06-08

TEHRAN (FNA)- A prominent Bahraini human rights and political activist underlined Britain and Israel’s support for the suppression of peaceful protesters in Bahrain.

Speaking to FNA on Wednesday, Head of Bahrain Freedom Movement Saeed al-Shahabi said that recent media reports, including a report by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks, proves that Tel Aviv is collaborating with the Manama government in suppressing anti-regime demonstrations in the tiny Persian Gulf island.

Shahabi also pointed to London’s support for the Al Khalifa dynasty, and stated, “Several reports released by different media outlets have revealed that the Saudi military forces deployed in Bahrain are being trained in Britain. Given the fact that there is no war with a foreign country, it is evident that these courses are aimed at training the Saudi troops how to suppress the Bahraini people.”

He blasted continued occupation of Bahrain by the Saudi forces, and expressed confidence that the end of the Saudi occupation will be similar to that of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 80s.

The move will eventually result in the collapse of the Saudi regime and Riyadh will have a fate no better than that of the former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, he reiterated.

Anti-government protesters have been holding peaceful demonstrations across Bahrain since mid-February, calling for an end to the Al Khalifa dynasty’s over-40-year rule.

Violence against the defenseless people escalated after a Saudi-led conglomerate of police, security and military forces from the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (PGCC) member states – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar – were dispatched to the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom on March 13 to help Manama crack down on peaceful protestors.

So far, tens of people have been killed, hundreds have gone missing and about 1,000 others have been injured.

The Bahraini people condemn Riyadh’s involvement in the suppression of the revolution, and have repeatedly underlined that they will continue protests until the regime collapses.

Source: FARS.
Link: http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=9003180562.

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Bahrain Shiites hold first mass rally since crackdown

Jun 11, 2011

DUBAI — Thousands of Shiite Bahrainis rallied Saturday answering a call from their largest opposition group, Al-Wefaq, in the first demonstration since a mid-march crackdown on Shiite-led pro-democracy protests.

The rally, staged under the banner “Bahrain, homeland for all” in the Shiite village of Sar, 10 days after a state of emergency was lifted, had received the nod from authorities, Al-Wefaq politician ex-MP Hadi al-Moussawi told AFP.

“The ministry of interior has been informed, and there was no objection,” he said by telephone, adding that police stayed away from the immediate vicinity of the venue, as demonstrators spilled into neighboring streets.

“This presence in the street is to tell the authorities that we still demand political change… Our slogan is: ‘The people want to reform the regime’,” Moussawi said.

Shiites, who form the majority in the kingdom ruled by the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty, had led a month-long protest inspired by uprisings which toppled the autocratic leaders of Tunisia and Egypt.

Authorities backed by troops that rolled into Bahrain from fellow Gulf nations quelled the protest, and security forces launched a massive campaign of arrests against activists, as well as doctors, medics and teachers accused of backing protesters.

Authorities said 24 people, including four policemen, were killed in the unrest. The opposition said scores were arrested, amid wide claims of torture, while hundreds were dismissed from their jobs.

“No one was left out in the (government’s) revenge,” Moussawi said. “These people came to express their rejection. The punishment inflicted on the people by the authorities made them believe that there is not much more to lose.”

At the rally, the leader of Al-Wefaq, cleric Sheikh Ali Salman, described the recent events as a “grim black three months that left deep wounds in the body of the homeland.”

“(But) it only strengthened the determination of the people to voice their legitimate demands and cemented their belief in the need for real reform,” he said, according to text posted on the Al-Wefaq page of Facebook.

He did not appear to budge on the initial demands of the opposition which called for a “real” constitutional monarchy, topped by vesting the elected chamber with exclusive legislative and regulatory powers, redrawing electoral constituencies to allow for “fair polls” and an elected government.

He also extended a hand to the Sunnis, slamming as a “big lie” the branding of the protest demands as a “move to establish a Shiite Islamic state.”

“We want a civic and a democratic state… My dear Sunnis, let us put hand in hand to advance our political system, build our nation and safeguard the future of our children,” he added.

Meanwhile, King Hamad said on Saturday the national dialogue he announced on May 31 on the eve of the lifting of the state of emergency would be led by parliament chief Khalifa Dhahrani, the official BNA news agency reported.

Making the talks offer, the monarch had called for “all necessary steps to prepare for a serious dialogue, comprehensive and without preconditions,” adding that it should “start from July 1.”

Al-Wefaq welcomed the offer.

BNA on Saturday quoted King Hamad as saying Dhahrani was an elected MP who “represents the will of the people,” and that he had been tasked with preparing and launching the dialogue.

Copyright © 2011 AFP. All rights reserved.

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Iran and Armenia To Join Railway Systems

Monday, 06 June 2011

Hamsayeh.Net – Iran and Armenia have signed an agreement to link their railway systems by constructing a 460 km long route between the two historic neighbors.

Landlocked Armenian Republic will have direct access to the Persian Gulf sea routes as well as untapped southern Persian Gulf markets for transportation of manufactured goods and passengers and Iran will also have access to Northern Caucasus region.

The agreement signed between the officials of Iran and Armenia would make preparations for construction of a 460 km railway connecting the two systems.

The Republic of Armenia — enjoying one of the highest levels of human development factors in the world — has many attractions and a favorite destination for thousands of Iranian tourists visiting the ancient country.

Armenia’s Ambassador to Iran Grigor Arakelyan told reporters that construction of the joint railway system would greatly boost ties between the two neighboring countries. Arakelyan also said the Iranian President’s visit to Armenia will further strengthen mutual cooperation.

Iran is due to construct a 60 km line from Jolfa – a town in northern Azerbaijan Province – to its border with Armenia, while Yerevan will undertake the construction of a 400 km long line inside to its border with Iran.

Source: Hamsayeh.Net.
Link: http://hamsayeh.net/world/780-iran-and-armenia-to-join-railway-systems.html.

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UN chief calls on Bahrain leaders to uphold rights

Jun 4, 2011

UNITED NATIONS — UN chief Ban Ki-moon called on Bahrain’s influential crown prince to uphold international rights norms in dealing with opposition protests, a UN spokesman said Saturday.

Ban met with Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa and the Gulf state’s foreign minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmad Al-Khalifa at the UN headquarters late Friday, two days after the ending of a state of emergency during which protests were violently put down.

Police dispersed a small group of demonstrators in Bahrain on Friday.

“The secretary general reiterated his call on the government and security forces in Bahrain to uphold international human rights norms and standards and welcomed the commitment and assurances made by the crown prince in this regard,” said UN spokeswoman Vannina Maestracci.

The prince, head of the Bahrain military is on a tour aiming to ease international fears over Bahrain’s harsh action against opposition protests. He is to visit Washington this week.

Bahrain is a key ally of the United States and other western nations and the violent crackdown has embarrassed many western nations as they strongly criticize other Arab leaders.

The UN secretary general welcomed Bahrain’s lifting of emergency laws and King Hamad’s call for national dialogue, which Ban said must be “genuine, meaningful and inclusive and respond to the legitimate political, economic and social aspirations of all Bahraini people,” the spokeswoman added.

The royal family, which dominates Bahrain life, is Sunni Muslim while the protests for political reform have come out of the Shiites who make up 70 percent of Bahrain’s population.

Bahraini authorities said 24 people were killed in unrest in the kingdom which erupted in February. Saudi Arabia sent troops to help the Khalifa family put down the protests and some opposition leaders are now in jail.

Copyright © 2011 AFP. All rights reserved.

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