A decade on, the broken dreams of the Arab Spring

A decade on, the broken dreams of the Arab Spring
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In this file photo taken on January 23, 2011, inhabitants of the central Tunisia region of Sidi Bouzid demonstrate in front of the government palace in Tunis. (AFP / FETHI BELAID)
A decade on, the broken dreams of the Arab Spring
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Libyans celebrate during the speech of Mustafa Abdul Jalil, Chairman of the Libyan Transitional Council, at the Martyrs' Square, in Tripoli on September 13, 2011. (AFP / Mahmud Turkia)
A decade on, the broken dreams of the Arab Spring
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This file handout image released by the Syrian opposition's Shaam News Network on August 21, 2013 shows bodies of boys and men lined up on the ground in the eastern Ghouta suburb of Damascus, whom the Syrian opposition said were killed in a toxic gas attack by pro-government forces. (AFP file photo)
A decade on, the broken dreams of the Arab Spring
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Protestors carry a flag with the slogan "Leave, Egypt is bigger than all of you" in the crowd after Friday prayer in Cairo's Tahrir square n November 25, 2011. (AFP / File photyo)
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Updated 23 November 2020

A decade on, the broken dreams of the Arab Spring

A decade on, the broken dreams of the Arab Spring
  • Participant in Libya protests says it was necessary for the Qadaffi regime to be dismantled
  • In Syria, protests for reforms was met with unremitting violence, which spiraled into a civil war

TUNIS: “The revolution showed me that everything is possible,” says Ameni Ghimaji, remembering the heady days of the Tunisian protests that sparked the Arab Spring uprisings a decade ago.
She was just 18 when Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fell from power, the first casualty of wave upon wave of demonstrations across the Middle East and North Africa which saw some iron-fisted leaders tumble, some brutally cling on and nations convulse in years of upheaval, conflict and civil war.
“We had no plan for the future, but we were sure of one thing: anything has to be better than this,” added Ghimaji.
Ben Ali was ousted just hours after she was photographed, shouting and pumping her fist in the air, at a massive Tunis anti-regime rally.
Her picture swept the front pages and she became an iconic image of the youth in peaceful revolt.
The Tunisia protests were triggered when an impoverished street vendor set himself alight on December 17, 2010, weighed down by despair.
His shocking act of self-violence ignited long simmering tensions among young people, angered by Ben Ali’s corrupt, nepotistic regime and hungry for new opportunities.
Less than four weeks later, Ben Ali had fled into exile, ended his 23-year rule and, drawing courage from his ouster, protesters began gathering elsewhere.




This combination of pictures created on November 8, 2020 shows Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (L), Tunisia's President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (2nd-L), and Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh (R); and Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi (2nd-R) . (AFP)


No magic potion
Today across the Arab world, the 2011 uprisings have been blamed for opening the floodgates to violence and economic ruin, leaving millions of refugees and displaced, while countless others have had their lives blighted by chaos.
But for those who were there, the early demonstrations were times of exhilaration and hope.
On January 14, 2011, social networks were flooded with footage of lawyer Abdennaceur Aouini defying a curfew to stand in the iconic Avenue Habib Bourguiba of central Tunis, shouting: “Ben Ali has fled!“
It felt like “revenge. Since I was 18 I’d been hassled and imprisoned,” Aouini, now aged 50, said.
But today, he admits he feels “disappointed.”
“There is always hope. But I was in a dream, today I have come to my senses,” added Aouini.
Despite the political freedoms Tunisians have won, they still face grinding unemployment, inflation and inequality.
“People thought that Ben Ali’s departure would fix things, but that will take 20, 30 years,” said lawyer and activist Houeida Anouar.
“I’m not sure that within my lifetime I’ll see a Tunisia with a political scene worthy of the name, but I’m optimistic.”

Libya's revolution “was necessary”
While Tunisia does have a hard-won constitution, a flawed but functioning parliamentary system and free elections, state repression has descended again on Egypt after a brief flirtation with democracy.
“Ten years on, you can see that the hopes are still there within the younger generation, a generation that were little kids at the time of the uprising,” said Mohamed Lotfy, 39, executive director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms.
But “the government is doing everything it can to kill that dream of January 25” 2011 when thousands marched in Cairo and other cities, demanding the departure of president Hosni Mubarak and “bread, freedom and dignity.”
Worse still is the situation in Libya, Yemen and Syria, where initially peaceful uprisings sparked civil wars that have laid waste to cities and killed hundreds of thousands of people.
But that’s not how it started, according to Majdi, a 36-year-old Libyan, who took part in protests against dictator Muammar Qaddafi a decade ago.
“We were watching what happened in Tunisia and Egypt,” he said. “It was our turn, change was inevitable.”
Protesters’ demands were “just a bit more freedom, some justice and some hope for the young people who didn’t have any,” he said.
Initially “there was no talk of overthrowing the regime.”
But the regime’s bloody response provoked a call to arms.
Qaddafi’s killing while on the run in October 2011 plunged the country into a decade of violent chaos.
“With hindsight, I don’t think we knew how much damage Qaddafi had done to the foundations of the state,” Majdi said.
Yet he insists he has no regrets: the revolution “was necessary, and I still believe in it.”




In this file photo taken on March 29, 2008, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (R) shakes hands with Libya's late leader Muammar Qaddafi at the opening session of the Arab Summit in Damascus. (AFP / HASSAN AMMAR)


“Syrians were only calling for reforms”
“We were only demanding reform,” said Dahnoun, a Syrian.
He joined some of the country’s first protests against President Bashar Assad, and recalled “no chants were calling for division, or fighting, or war. On the contrary, it was very peaceful.”
“I remember, we used to chant ‘freedom, freedom, freedom’ and nothing else,” Dahnoun told AFP by phone from Idlib city.
But the movement was met with unremitting violence, including on some occasions the once taboo use of chemical weapons by Syrian regime forces, charges that Damascus denies.
“During that first protest we were attacked by regime thugs and security forces,” said Dahnoun, who was 15 at the time.
As in Libya, the worsening situation in Syria drew in outside nations, seizing both an opportunity to boost their sway and minimize regional turbulence.
“We were played by foreign powers, and now Syrians have zero say and external players have the last word,” he said.
“I don’t have hope... Syria is not ours anymore.”
A crushing 2015 intervention by Russia to prop up the Syrian regime saw Damascus claw back swathes of territory that had been held by opposition forces, and Assad now controls over 70 percent of the country.
But a brutal economic crisis, accentuated by Western sanctions, has seen the government criticized from all sides, even those who did not support the revolution.
Abu Hamza, a teacher from Daraa where the first demonstrations of the Syrian revolution began, says people have “no loyalty” toward the regime.
“When you are hungry, you have no more fear,” the father-of-three told AFP by phone from Daraa.
“I’m dead either way. I’ll either be killed by tanks or by hunger.”


IAEA confirms Iran has started enriching uranium to 60% purity

IAEA confirms Iran has started enriching uranium to 60% purity
Updated 50 min 11 sec ago

IAEA confirms Iran has started enriching uranium to 60% purity

IAEA confirms Iran has started enriching uranium to 60% purity

VIENNA: Iran has started the process of enriching uranium to 60% fissile purity at its above-ground Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz, the UN nuclear watchdog said on Saturday, confirming earlier statements by Iranian officials.
"The Agency today verified that Iran had begun the production of UF6 enriched up to 60% U-235 by feeding UF6 enriched up to 5% U-235 simultaneously into two cascades of IR-4 centrifuges and IR-6 centrifuges at the Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant," the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement.

UF6 is uranium hexafluoride, the form in which uranium is fed into centrifuges for enrichment. 


Defiant Lebanese judge stages second raid on money exchange

Defiant Lebanese judge stages second raid on money exchange
Ghada Aoun. (Photo/Twitter)
Updated 1 min 37 sec ago

Defiant Lebanese judge stages second raid on money exchange

Defiant Lebanese judge stages second raid on money exchange
  • Prosecutor’s stand sparks calls for judiciary to ‘rise up against corruption’

BEIRUT: Controversial Lebanese judge and Mount Lebanon state prosecutor Ghada Aoun carried out a second raid on a money exchange in northern Lebanon on Saturday in defiance of a senior judiciary decision dismissing her from an investigation into possible currency export breaches.

Aoun was accompanied by several activists from the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) during the raid on the money exchange in the Awkar district in northern Lebanon.

Less than 24 hours earlier she raided the office with members of the security services.

Aoun remained in the money exchange for several hours on Friday in protest at her dismissal by the the discriminatory Public Prosecutor, Judge Ghassan Oweidat, a decision that caused widespread anger among the Lebanese public.

Caretaker Justice Minister Marie-Claude Najm held an emergency meeting on Saturday with Oweidat as well as Supreme Judicial Council head Judge Suhail Abboud and Judicial Inspection Authority head Judge Borkan Saad.

After the meeting Najm voiced her anger at the situation regarding the judiciary, saying that she refuses to be “a false witness to the decay of the judiciary and the fall of the fig leaf in this state.”

Najm said the events involving Aoun are an indication of “the failure of state institutions.”

Lebanon is facing a political and economic crisis amid disputes between state officials, a deadlock that has led to the collapse of the national currency.

However, critics accuse Aoun of a lack of respect for due process.

HIGHLIGHT

Caretaker Justice Minister Marie-Claude Najm held an emergency meeting on Saturday with Oweidat as well as Supreme Judicial Council head Judge Suhail Abboud and Judicial Inspection Authority head Judge Borkan Saad.

There are six criminal cases and 28 complaints against her before the Judicial Inspection Authority — the largest number of cases filed against any judge in the history of the Lebanese judiciary.

Aoun was investigating the Mecattaf money exchange company and Societe Generale Bank for allegedly withdrawing dollars from the market and shipping the funds abroad.

The Supreme Judicial Council dismissed Aoun along with two other judges who had previously been suspended by the Disciplinary Council for Judges.

Judge Oweidat on Friday asked the Director-General of State Security, Maj. Gen. Antoine Saliba, to suspend the officers who accompanied Aoun on the exchange office raid.

People in Lebanon on Friday watched on TV as Aoun requested that the money exchange office be sealed because the owner, Michel Mecattaf, refused to provide her with details of currency transfers on behalf of banks.

Earlier, Mecattaf’s agents informed Aoun that she had been dismissed from the case.

Aoun remained alone for hours inside the office after state security personnel left. A medical team checked on her after her blood pressure rose, and she left the premises soon after. Later she stepped on to the balcony of her home to wave to FPM supporters, who gathered outside to offer support.

After Aoun’s second raid on Saturday, the head of the Mecattaf financial company accused her supporters of “breaking into private property by force.”

Mecattaf described the case as “eminently political,” saying that he is “a witness and not a convict.”

Najm described the events as “unacceptable.”

“I am not in a position to please this political party or that team. We want an effective and independent judiciary. The problem is not the laws — oversight and accountability have been absent for years,” she said.

Najm also said that “the judiciary is incapable of fighting corruption,” and called on judges to “rise up against this reality.”

She added: “There is a lack of confidence in the judiciary, and this is a major insult.”

Retired General Prosecutor Hatem Madi told Arab News: “Judge Oweidat’s decision shows that some judges are working independently, but things must be put to rights. Regardless of whether Oweidat’s decision was right or wrong, the public prosecution offices in Lebanon must be an integrated unit.”

The decision to dismiss Aoun revived a political dispute between the FPM and the Future Movement, the two parties in conflict over the formation of the government.

The FPM, headed by MP Gebran Bassil, said that it will “continue to expose every file related to the fight against corruption,” saluting “every judge who rightfully performs their duties despite the injustice to which they are sometimes exposed.”

The Future Movement said that “mourning for judges after encouraging them to violate laws and asking them to open discretionary files for opponents is a matter that no longer fools any of the Lebanese people.”

 


Qatar’s controversial cleric Qardawi contracts coronavirus

Qatar’s controversial cleric Qardawi contracts coronavirus
Updated 17 April 2021

Qatar’s controversial cleric Qardawi contracts coronavirus

Qatar’s controversial cleric Qardawi contracts coronavirus
  • His son Abdul-Rahman Yusuf Al-Qaradawi confirmed that the cleric had coronavirus on Twitter

LONDON: Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian cleric based in Qatar and infamous for his controversial religious edicts, has contracted COVID-19.
“Sheikh Al-Qaradawi has been infected with the coronavirus and he is in good condition, praise be to God. He is receiving health care, reassures his followers, and asks you to pray for his recovery and good health,” his official Twitter account stated.


The news was also reported by Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu.
His son Abdul-Rahman Yusuf Al-Qaradawi confirmed that the cleric had coronavirus on Twitter and said his father had been vaccinated against the virus previously. He also requested prayers for his father.
Al-Qaradawi is 94 years old and is the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, head of the European council for Fatwa and Research and co-founder of IslamOnline.net.

 


NGO says 4,500 Palestinians in Israeli prisons

NGO says 4,500 Palestinians in Israeli prisons
Updated 17 April 2021

NGO says 4,500 Palestinians in Israeli prisons

NGO says 4,500 Palestinians in Israeli prisons
  • Of the thousands behind bars, 430 are administrative detainees held without charge or trial, including 180 children and 41 women and girls
  • There are 550 prisoners suffering from various illnesses, including 11 with cancer, seven with kidney failure, and heart disease

AMMAN: There are 4,500 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, including an 82-year-old man who has been behind bars since 2001, according to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club NGO. 
It released the figures to mark Palestinian Prisoner’s Day, which is observed on April 17.
Of the thousands behind bars, 430 are administrative detainees held without charge or trial, including 180 children and 41 women and girls.
There are 550 prisoners suffering from various illnesses, including 11 with cancer, seven with kidney failure, and heart disease. One of the sick prisoners is Foad Shobaki, who is 82.
There are eight prisoners with serious disabilities, said the NGO, adding that 222 prisoners had died in Israeli prisons since 1967.
Prisoner’s Day had become an occasion for paying tribute to the 1 million people jailed since 1967, the Palestine National Council (PNC) said. 
According to the council, 73 prisoners had died as a result of physical torture while 67 died because of medical negligence.
It said that prisoners caught in a war or armed struggle were not destined to remain imprisoned for life, as indicated in the Third Geneva Convention.
The PNC said there were 14 prisoners who had spent more than 30 years in jail, and 47 who had been imprisoned for more than 20 years.
Israel continues to detain 25 prisoners held before the Declaration of Principles between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), in which Israel promised to release them but reneged at the last moment in 2014.
Former PLO Executive Committee member, Hanan Ashrawi, tweeted: “It’s important to understand the grave injustice that the Israeli Occupation inflicts on them and on the whole nation. The legal and political systems, the judiciary, the military and security forces are all in the service of an illegal and oppressive occupation.”
Fatah’s deputy chair Mahmoud Alloul said the prisoners’ cause was part of every Palestinian’s mind and consciousness.
His son Jihad, a Najah University student, was killed by Israeli gunfire during the second intifada. 
Alloul told the Voice of Palestine radio station: “Prisoners have sacrificed a lot having to spend their entire lifetime behind bars for their homeland. We will not carry (out) any political move without ensuring the freedom of the prisoners.”
He emphasized that the Palestinian leadership had resisted persistent pressure to stop support for prisoners and their families, saying that Israel had stolen money earmarked for the Palestinian Authority because of its continued support to prisoners and their families.
Khalil El-Halabi, whose son Mohammed has been held by the Israelis since 2016, made an appeal to world leaders — including Israeli ones.
He called for “building a new life based on peace for all the believers in God, Muslims, Christians, Jews and others.”
El-Halabi said his son was jailed because of false accusations that he diverted charitable funds to an illegal organization.
“The charity my son works for (World Vision) and the Australian government have thoroughly investigated these allegations and found them to be untrue,” he told Arab News. “Yet my son is in jail for five years despite torture that caused him to lose 50 percent of his hearing, simply because he refused to sign a plea bargain deal in which he would have to admit to a crime he did not commit.”
There were many like Mohammed who were tortured and charged with false accusations, he said, urging the Israeli people to seek justice if they wanted peace.
“Holding prisoners indefinitely will not bring peace and security and will not provide justice. I know that millions around the world would like to see peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Releasing innocent prisoners is the first step toward a lasting peace.”


Third coronavirus wave hits Egypt

Third coronavirus wave hits Egypt
Updated 17 April 2021

Third coronavirus wave hits Egypt

Third coronavirus wave hits Egypt
  • Hatem said that the number of cases is directly related to how far citizens follow precautionary measures
  • He said that there was no shortage of medicines in public hospitals, whether in university hospitals or those under the Ministry of Health

CAIRO: Egypt is witnessing a third coronavirus wave, a top official has said. Ashraf Hatem, head of the health affairs committee in the Egyptian Parliament and a member of the supreme committee for respiratory viruses of the Ministry of Higher Education, indicated that the number of coronavirus cases at university hospitals is once again increasing daily.
He said that citizens must adhere to precautionary measures, respect the rules of social distancing and wear their protective face masks, as well as avoiding family visits.
He advised of the need to follow proper nutritional habits and eat foods that contain nutrients that boost the immune system.
Hatem said that the number of coronavirus cases is directly related to how far citizens follow precautionary measures.
He said that there was no shortage of medicines in public hospitals, whether in university hospitals or those under the Ministry of Health.
Egypt has not yet reached the peak of the third wave, he said, and numbers might continue to rise until the last week of Ramadan. He called on citizens to be careful in the coming period to minimize the increase in infection rates.
He praised the decision of Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly to fine those who violate the instructions of the government.
Ashraf Abdel Basset, president of Mansoura University, said that the number of beds allocated for isolation had not been reduced following the earlier decrease in the number of daily recorded cases. He said that the hospitals are highly prepared for any emergency.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi had previously warned of a third coronavirus wave. “We are on the threshold of the third wave … please be careful, especially with the month of Ramadan … We want the matter to end in peace,” he said.