Sudan’s military rulers step up crackdown, arrest activists

Sudan’s military rulers step up crackdown, arrest activists
With her Jan. 22 arrest, Amira Osman joined hundreds of activists and protest leaders targeted since a military coup last October removed a transitional government from power. (File/AP)
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Updated 11 February 2022

Sudan’s military rulers step up crackdown, arrest activists

Sudan’s military rulers step up crackdown, arrest activists
  • The detentions have intensified in recent weeks as Sudan plunged into further turmoil with near-daily street protests
  • It’s unclear who the officers are who stormed Osman’s house

CAIRO: Amira Osman, a Sudanese women’s rights activist, was getting ready for bed a few minutes before midnight when about 30 policemen forced their way into her home in Khartoum last month.
The men, many in plainclothes and armed with Kalashnikov rifles, pistols and batons, banged on her bathroom door, ignoring her mother’s pleas to at least allow her to get dressed before they took her away.
“It was like they were engaging in a battle or chasing a dangerous terrorist, not a disabled woman,” said Osman’s sister, Amani, a rights lawyer.
Osman, who uses crutches since a 2017 accident, was imprisoned twice under Sudan’s former autocratic President Omar Al-Bashir for violating strict Islamic laws governing women’s behavior and dress. This time, she was detained for speaking out against military rule.
With her Jan. 22 arrest, Osman joined hundreds of activists and protest leaders targeted since a military coup last October removed a transitional government from power.
The detentions have intensified in recent weeks as Sudan plunged into further turmoil with near-daily street protests, sparking fears of an all-out return to the oppressive tactics of Al-Bashir. The coup upended Sudan’s transition to democratic rule after three decades of international isolation under Al-Bashir, who was removed from power in 2019 after a popular uprising.
“The military delivers one message to international diplomats, that they are interested in a political dialogue and fundamental reform of the state, but then they do nothing to hide their blatant efforts to maintain the status quo and undermine efforts to unseat them,” said Cameron Hudson, a former US State Department official and Sudan expert at the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center.
Following the coup, security forces launched a deadly crackdown on protesters. They fired live ammunition and tear gas at crowds on the streets and knocked the country’s Internet and mobile signal offline — all in efforts to keep people from gathering. Around 80 people, mostly young men, have been killed and over 2,200 others injured in the protests, according to a Sudanese medical group.
Sudanese security forces have also been accused of using sexual violence against women taking part in the demonstrations. The ruling, military-led Sovereign Council said a probe was launched into the allegations of rape and gang rape on Dec. 19, after the United Nations called for an investigation. It is not the first time security forces have been accused of using rape — such attacks occurred under Al-Bashir and also under the military during the transitional period.
The US, UK, and Norway, along with the European Union, Canada and Switzerland, called the recent pattern “troubling,” and urged the release of “all those unjustly detained.”
“We remind Sudan’s military authorities of their obligations to respect the human rights and guarantee the safety of those detained or arrested and the need to ensure that due process is consistently followed in all cases,” the group said in a statement released by the US State Department.
Osman’s detention drew condemnation and concern internationally. She was finally released on Sunday.
But for nearly a week after the arrest, her family didn’t know where she was held. Then, they received a phone call asking them to send clothes to a prison in Khartoum’s twin city, Omdurman, according to her sister, who also is her lawyer.
Osman said she spent the first three days in solitary confinement in “very bad and humiliating conditions.” Then another activist, Eman Mirghani, joined her in the cell. Mirghani remains in detention.
Authorities accused Osman of possession of illegal weapons and ammunition — the “five old bullets” found in her wardrobe, she said, souvenirs from the 2016 national shooting championship in which she competed.
It’s unclear who the officers are who stormed Osman’s house. During the raid, they said they were from a drug-combating force, but Amani Osman, the sister-lawyer, said she believes they were actually from the country’s feared General Intelligence Service.
Formerly known as the National Intelligence and Security Service, the agency was for decades a tool used by Al-Bashir’s government to clamp down on dissent. After the coup, the military reinstated the agency’s powers, which include detaining people without informing their families. They are known to keep many of their detainees in secret prisons called “Ghost Houses.”
Gibreel Hassabu, a lawyer with the Darfur Bar Association, a legal group that focuses on human rights, said the exact number of those detained across the county is still unknown — a situation reminiscent of Al-Bashir’s rule.
Hassabu says he knows of over 200 activists and protest leaders detained in the Sudanese capital alone. Many activists were taken from their homes or snatched from the streets, according to documents he provided to The Associated Press.
At least 46 activists are held in Khartoum’s Souba Prison, the documents show. Some female activists — including Amira Osman — are sent to the women’s prison in Omdurman.
The wave of arrests has expanded following the killing of a senior police officer during a Jan. 13 protest close to the presidential palace in Khartoum. The officer was stabbed to death, according to local media. Security forces raided a Khartoum hospital and arrested six, including an injured protester and women who were visiting him, accusing them of being responsible for the killing.
And on Jan. 29, paramilitary troops from the Rapid Support Forces, another security body with a reputation for brutality, grabbed Mohamed Abdel-Rahman Naqdalla, an activist and physician, from a Khartoum street, his family said.
A spokesman for the RSF did not answer requests for comment. The force is largely comprised of former militiamen and has been implicated in atrocities under Al-Bashir in the the western region of Darfur. It is headed by the country’s second most powerful general, Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, and runs its own detention centers in Khartoum and elsewhere in the country.
This week, authorities rearrested Khalid Omar, a minister in the ousted transitional government. Omar had been detained in the Oct. 25 coup and was released a month later as part of a deal between the military and civilian leaders. His party, the opposition Sudanese Congress Party, said he was taken Wednesday at the party’s headquarters.
Also arrested Wednesday was Wagdi Saleh, a member of a government-run agency tasked with dismantling the legacy of Al-Bashir’s regime, according to the pro-democracy Forces of Freedom and Change alliance.
The trend has frustrated diplomats working to bring the military and civilian leaders to some sort of an agreement.
“Arbitrary arrests and detention of political figures, civil society activists and journalists undermine efforts to resolve Sudan’s political crisis,” said Lucy Tamlyn, US chargé d’affaires in Sudan.


Senate slams European Parliament decision criticizing Egypt’s human rights record

Senate slams European Parliament decision criticizing Egypt’s human rights record
Updated 45 min 12 sec ago

Senate slams European Parliament decision criticizing Egypt’s human rights record

Senate slams European Parliament decision criticizing Egypt’s human rights record
  • Senate Speaker Abdel Wahab Abdel Razek accused the European Parliament of continually adopting positions and policies based on ‘fragile assumptions and misconceptions’
  • Abdel Razek: ‘Unfortunately, these policies are outdated, reminiscent of a European colonial legacy, and reveal nothing but a hidden desire to spread the culture of a particular civilization’

CAIRO: The Egyptian Senate has branded a European Parliament resolution criticizing Egypt’s progress on improving its human rights record as being based on “fragile assumptions and misconceptions.”

Senate Speaker Abdel Wahab Abdel Razek told a House of Representatives plenary session that the decision was unacceptable and went against “international rules and norms.”

The European Parliament resolution highlighted what it described as a lack of improvement in Egypt’s human rights situation including on the right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly or association, and media freedoms.

Calling for a review of the EU’s relations with Egypt in light of “very limited progress on its human rights record,” the European Parliament also demanded the “immediate and unconditional release of a number of political activists, journalists, lawyers, and social media influencers.”

In a speech, Abdel Razek said: “We all received with displeasure the decision issued by the European Parliament on Nov. 24 regarding the human rights situation in Egypt.”

He accused the European Parliament of continually adopting positions and policies based on, “fragile assumptions and misconceptions and an attempt to claim that it has the authority to evaluate and hold others accountable outside the borders of its members, in violation of international rules and norms.

“Unfortunately, these policies are outdated, reminiscent of a European colonial legacy, and reveal nothing but a hidden desire to spread the culture of a particular civilization. These are issues that no free country, particularly Egypt, will accept,” he added.

In a statement on Friday, the Egyptian Parliament said the resolution, “shows again that the European Parliament insists on adopting an arrogant approach toward Egypt, giving itself the right to use a host of sheer lies to deliver a judgement regarding some recent developments inside Egypt.”

Abdel Razek noted that Egypt had sought to strengthen efforts to improve the lives of its citizens.

He highlighted the Decent Life Initiative as one of the country’s most important projects bringing together the public and private sectors, and civil society, to help boost living standards for Egypt’s neediest groups.

He added that Egypt had launched a national dialogue to identify issues of concern to citizens and had also reactivated the Presidential Pardon Committee which had previously worked to grant amnesty to convicts and reintegrate them into society.

In addition, millions of refugees and asylum seekers had been welcomed to Egypt, Abdel Razek said, adding that efforts to promote and preserve all human rights within the framework of a national vision were ongoing.


Iran frees hundreds after World Cup win over Wales

Iran frees hundreds after World Cup win over Wales
Updated 28 November 2022

Iran frees hundreds after World Cup win over Wales

Iran frees hundreds after World Cup win over Wales
  • 709 detainees were freed from different prisons in the country
  • prominent Iranian actor Hengameh Ghaziani had also been released on bail

TEHRAN: Iran has released more than 700 prisoners after the national team’s World Cup football victory over Wales, the judiciary’s Mizan Online website said Monday.
It announced that “709 detainees were freed from different prisons in the country” following the 2-0 victory on Friday.
Among those are “some arrested during the recent events,” Mizan Online said, making indirect reference to demonstrations which have shaken Iran for more than two months.
It gave no further detail.
The ongoing protests were triggered by the September 16 death in custody of Mahsa Amini, 22, after her arrest by morality police for an alleged breach of Iran’s strict dress rules for women.
Other Iranian media separately reported that prominent Iranian actor Hengameh Ghaziani had been released on bail after her arrest for having supported the protests.
Two of the most prominent figures detained over the demonstrations — former international footballer Voria Ghafouri and dissident Hossein Ronaghi — were also let out on bail, reports said.
State news agency IRNA reported on Monday that former state television host Mahmoud Shahriari, 63, had been released after two months in prison for “encouraging riots.”
Iran on Friday scored twice deep into stoppage time to stun Wales and breathe new life into its World Cup campaign ahead of a politically charged showdown Tuesday against the United States.
Iran lost its first World Cup match to England, 6-2.
Iran’s judiciary says more than 2,000 people have been charged since the start of the protests.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk last week said around 14,000 people have been arrested.

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Turkiye, Egypt to re-appoint ambassadors “in coming months”

Turkiye, Egypt to re-appoint ambassadors “in coming months”
Updated 28 November 2022

Turkiye, Egypt to re-appoint ambassadors “in coming months”

Turkiye, Egypt to re-appoint ambassadors “in coming months”

ANKARA: Turkiye and Egypt may restore full diplomatic ties and re-appoint ambassadors mutually “in coming months,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday.
Ankara and Cairo may re-start diplomatic consultations led by deputy foreign ministers as part of a normalization process “soon,” Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara.
After years of tension, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan shook hands with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in Qatar this month in what was described by the Egyptian presidency as a new start in bilateral relations.


Turkish forces nearly ready for a Syria ground operation – officials

Turkish forces nearly ready for a Syria ground operation – officials
Updated 28 November 2022

Turkish forces nearly ready for a Syria ground operation – officials

Turkish forces nearly ready for a Syria ground operation – officials
  • Eescalation comes after a deadly bomb attack in Istanbul two weeks ago that Ankara blamed on the YPG militia

ONCUPINAR, Turkiye: Turkiye’s army needs just a few days to be ready for a ground incursion into northern Syria and such a decision may come at a cabinet meeting on Monday, Turkish officials said, as Turkish forces bombarded a Kurdish militia across the border.
Howitzers fired daily from Turkiye have struck Kurdish YPG targets for a week, while warplanes have carried out airstrikes.
The escalation comes after a deadly bomb attack in Istanbul two weeks ago that Ankara blamed on the YPG militia. The YPG has denied involvement in the bombing and has responded at times to the cross-border attacks with mortar shelling.
“The Turkish Armed Forces needs just a few days to become almost fully ready,” one senior official said, adding that Turkiye-allied Syrian rebel fighters were ready for such an operation just a few days after the Nov. 13 Istanbul bomb.
“It won’t take long for the operation to begin,” he said. “It depends only on the president giving the word.”
Turkiye has previously launched military incursions in Syria against the YPG, regarding it as a wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which Turkiye, the United States and European Union designate a terrorist group.
The PKK has also denied carrying out the Istanbul attack, in which six people were killed on a busy pedestrian avenue.
President Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkiye would launch a land operation when convenient to secure its southern border. He will chair a cabinet meeting at 3:30 p.m. (1230 GMT).
“All the preparations are complete. It’s now a political decision,” another Turkish official told Reuters, also requesting anonymity ahead of the meeting.
Erdogan said back in May that Turkiye would soon launch a military operation against the YPG in Syria, but such an operation did not materialize at that time.
The first Turkish official said a ground operation, targeting the areas of Manbij, Kobani and Tel Rifat, was inevitable to link up the areas brought under the control of Turkiye and its Syrian allies with incursions since 2016.
Ankara had been in contact with Moscow and Washington about its military activities, the person added.
The United States has told NATO member Turkiye it has serious concerns that an escalation would affect the goal of fighting Daesh militants in Syria.
Russia asked Turkiye to refrain from a full-scale ground offensive. It has supported Syrian President Bashar Assad in the country’s 11-year war, while Ankara has backed rebels fighting to topple him.
On Monday, the defense ministry said Turkiye’s army had “neutralized” 14 YPG militants preparing to carry out attacks in Syrian areas under Turkiye’s control. It typically uses the term to describe casualties.
The defense ministry said on Saturday three Turkish soldiers had been killed in northern Iraq, where the military has been conducting an operation against the PKK since April.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, having traveled to the Iraqi border area, was quoted as telling military commanders on Sunday that Turkiye will “complete the tasks” of the mission.


Iranian artists call for global boycott of arts organizations tied to Tehran regime

Iranian artists call for global boycott of arts organizations tied to Tehran regime
Updated 28 November 2022

Iranian artists call for global boycott of arts organizations tied to Tehran regime

Iranian artists call for global boycott of arts organizations tied to Tehran regime
  • 6,000 creatives sign statement urging support for art students persecuted for protests
  • Signatories slam ‘increasingly brutal, violent and deadly state crackdown’

LONDON: A group of Iranian creatives has issued a statement to the international community asking it to stop working with cultural groups and institutions with links to the regime in Tehran.

The statement — signed by over 6,000 artists, academics, writers and film directors, based in Iran and abroad — was issued following the mass arrest and incarceration of students across the country for their roles in anti-regime protests following the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in September at the hands of the morality police.

The statement calls for the international community to “boycott governmental institutions of the Islamic state of Iran and their covert affiliates, and prevent them from having any presence in international arenas of arts, culture and education” over the regime’s “increasingly brutal, violent and deadly state crackdown” that has left at least 300 people dead and around 14,000 in detention.

One of the signatories, London-based curator Vali Mahlouji has also called for direct action by protesters against arts organizations that receive money from Iran.

Mahlouji told The Guardian: “We know that some private Iranian galleries are connected to the money systems of the Iranian state, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Council. They need to be boycotted.”

Since the beginning of the protests, art has been used by demonstrators to signal anger at the regime, including red dye being poured into fountains and red nooses hung from trees.

“This is a society saying: We are terrorized,” Mahlouji said. “There is a big performative response: People tying themselves up; red ink being poured on pictures of the founder of the Islamic Republic; red paint being thrown at buildings; even urinating outside art galleries which have kept themselves open when artists demanded that they close down.”

Canada-based artist Jinoos Taghizadeh told The Guardian that some art galleries “have been the money-laundering arm of the government” and have “tried to depoliticize (Iranian) artists.”

She added that art students in Iran who defy the regime “were constantly threatened by the police and university security,” but “have been very brave and creative despite all the repressions, arrests, kidnappings,” and that “the performance of their music and protest songs and their publication on social media both encouraged the protesters and brought the voice of protest to other cities and outside Iran.”

Art has also been used as a form of protest against the regime overseas: In October, a group called the Anonymous Artist Collective for Iran set up a display of 12 red banners with images of Amini and the slogan “Woman, Life, Freedom” at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

In London’s Piccadilly Circus, exiled Iranian artist Shirin Neshat displayed a digital protest piece of the same slogan, also showing it at Pendry West Hollywood in Los Angeles.

Neshat said: “We are not just a bunch of oppressed artists trying to get the Western culture to feel sorry for us. We’re teaching them that it is time to wake up and understand that culture plays a big part in the political fabric of our world.

“We see these young people who are completely fearless facing tyranny. You really question your own state of mind as an Iranian who has never been able to live without fear for so many years. It’s extremely hopeful to have these young people who are saying no more fear.”