US, UK slammed for arms sales to Saudi

Amnesty International yesterday condemned the United States and Britain for selling arms to Saudi Arabia to use in its war in Yemen. The rights group states that since the conflict began two years ago, in March 2015, the US and UK governments have together transferred more than $5 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia. Read: 31 Somalis killed in raid off Yemen coast-source That was more than 10 times the estimated $450 million spent by the US and UK in aid to Yemen over the past two years, it said. Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty’s deputy director for research in the Beirut regional office, said: “Two years of conflict have forced three million people to flee their homes, shattered the lives […]

Firebrand Iraq Shia cleric rallies thousands in Baghdad demonstrations

Central Baghdad ground to a halt today as thousands of Shia demonstrators took to the streets and the capital’s central Tahrir Square to demonstrate against corruption and calling for reforms, responding to a rallying cry from a firebrand Shia cleric to move against the government. Iraqi security forces undertook extensive security measures, including sealing off roads, footpaths and bridges leading to the protest site, as well as establishing a wider cordon of roadblocks in the Iraqi capital. Moqtada Al-Sadr, a Shia cleric who has an on-again off-again relationship with Iraq’s post-Ba’athist political process, attended the rally and addressed the crowd. He said that he did not fear threats or even death, and called upon his supporters and followers to “continue […]

Israel denies Palestinian education minister access to Gaza

Israel yesterday denied Palestinian Education Minister Sabri Saidam entry into the besieged Gaza Strip through the Beit Hanoun crossing, known as Erez in Israel, in northern Gaza. “Israel has refused to grant Minister Saidam and his delegation permission to enter the Gaza Strip,” Kamal Al-Sharafi, chairman of the board of trustees of Al-Aqsa University in Gaza, told Anadolu news agency. He explained that the education minister’s visit, which was scheduled to take place yesterday, aimed to declare solutions for the administrative crisis experienced by the Al-Aqsa University for the past two years. Read: Israel arrests Palestinian MPs to distance them from the people He noted that efforts were being made to allow the minister entry into Gaza later next week. […]

Tunisia sentences former president Ben Ali to 6 years

A Tunisian court has sentenced in absentia former President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali to six years in prison on corruption charges. The criminal court in the capital Tunis sentenced the former dictator after declaring that he had exploited his position for his own personal benefit. The same court has also sentenced former higher education minister Al-Azhar Bou’ouni for the same period of six years, as well as former Ben Ali adviser and political backer Al-Sobhi Al-Umari for four years on charges of nepotism. Read: Tunisia to conduct municipal elections this year The rulings are not the first against Ben Ali and his regime. Similar rulings have already been issued in other cases which have stirred controversy in Tunisia, where some […]

Switzerland launch probe into alleged spying by Turkey

Switzerland has launched a criminal investigation into possible foreign spying on the country’s Turkish community, federal prosecutors said today. The Swiss foreign minister told his Turkish counterpart on Thursday that Switzerland would “rigorously investigate” any illegal spying by Ankara on expatriate Turks before a 16 April referendum that could expand Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers. “The Office of the Attorney General has been made aware of concrete suspicion that political espionage has likely been conducted involving the Turkish community in Switzerland,” the office said on Friday, giving no other details about the probe that began on 16 March. For weeks, neutral Switzerland has been trying to avoid becoming entangled in a bitter dispute between Ankara and other European nations […]

Banging the drum for Palestine

Trance, techno, Arabic sha’abi beats, it’s what the best music is made of, isn’t it? The crowd out to watch Cairo Liberation Front and 47Soul in Scala, Kings Cross London, definitely thought so, it’s what they had signed up for. Formed in Jordan in 2013, 47Soul is now based in London. Its members share Palestinian heritage but grew up across the globe as a result of the 1948 nakba. The Cairo Liberation Front were accompanied by High Wolf – the alias of a Frenchman known only as Max – who has made a name for himself because of his ability to mix repetitive hypnotic beats. It seemed to be working as ravers danced and swayed to the heavy sound of […]

Tunisia’s democratic transition has some achievements but still faces obstacles

Despite the intoxicating excitement of the Arab Spring in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), it turned to winter very quickly in many countries. Today, only Tunisia seems to be a success story in terms of maintaining its democratic transition, even if there are many obstacles in the way, especially on the economic side of the process. On 28 January, Washington-centred Freedom House released a report stating that Tunisia has become the first “free” Arab country for decades with regard to its improvement in political rights: “Tunisia has transitioned to a functioning democracy in which citizens enjoy unprecedented political rights and civil liberties.” However, the report also raises concerns about corruption, economic challenges and security threats that are the […]

Algeria commits to paying its share of the Palestinian Authority funds

The Algerian Embassy in the Egyptian capital Cairo announced yesterday that it had delivered $26.4 million to the General Secretariat of the Arab League, representing its contribution to the support of the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) budget for the first part of the current fiscal year. According to Algerian state news agencies, the Arab League confirmed today that Algeria was among the few Arab countries that have already committed themselves to paying all their commitments to support the struggle of the Palestinian people. Algeria’s moves come after the Arab League adopted a resolution at a summit held in Beirut in March 2002 calling on Arab states to support the PA’s six month budget of $330 million from the beginning of April […]

US-Israel settlement negotiations stall

The Americans and Israelis said yesterday that Donald Trump’s administration has reiterated its concerns regarding Israel’s settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. The comment came after a series of talks which failed to agree on a settlement freeze in the territories within which the Palestinians want to establish an independent state. The meetings were held at the highest level for four days in Washington and are the most recent step by Trump’s advisors to open the way to diplomatic efforts to achieve peace between Israel and Palestine. They went ahead despite deep doubts on the part of the US and Middle East states regarding the chances of success. Read: Settlements are an absurd provocation Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, […]