US-approved Syrian opposition group forms governing body
After US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for a "more trustworthy" Syrian opposition last week, New TV reported that a leader in the Free Syrian Army announced that the Free Army is reorganizing its ranks to gain the trust of the international community, adding that his leadership has started to settle inside Syria. The Syrian opposition also announced during its ongoing meetings in Doha that it accepted a proposal to establish a transitional government headed by opposition member Riyad Saif. The initiative, headed by Saif, stipulates creating a unified leadership dubbed the Syrian National Initiative, from which a government in exile will be formed.
World groups organize global day of action in support of Myanmar's Rohingyas; Suu Kyi under fire for ignoring violence
Myanmar's Rohingyas are fleeing Rakhine State after a new wave of attacks from the Buddhist majority. Press TV reported that Rohingya groups around the world held a global day of action for the Rohingyas on November 8. International rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch, have also criticized Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi for her silence on the issue. The president of Arakan Rohingya National Organization, Noor al-Islam, added in an interview during a rally in London that if the persecuted had been Rakhine's Buddhists, Suu Kyi would have spoken out. Additionally, the aid group Doctors Without Borders says its workers have been threatened and stopped from reaching violence-hit areas in Myanmar. The group says thousands are left without medical care in the western Rakhine State as a result, adding that many of the victims are extremely vulnerable.
Tens of Thousands Demand Nobel Peace Prize for Malala Yousafzai
BBC Arabic reported that over 60 thousand people signed a petition calling for Pakistani rights activist Malala Yousafzai to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The 15-year-old girl is recovering in The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, Britain, after suffering an armed attack by the Taliban movement in Pakistan. Malala and her campaign for education gained notoriety around the world after she wrote her memoirs in the Urdu section of the BBC about life under the teachings of the extremist Taliban movement that rejects girls' right to an education.
Oil Giant Shell Undercuts Iran Sanctions with $1.4B Grain Barter
Dubai TV reported that the Royal Dutch Shell Company aims to circumvent international sanctions imposed on Iran by concluding a swap through which it would pay its USD 1.4 billion debt to the Iranian national oil company with a grain barter deal through the American agribusiness Cargill. Through the deal, Shell would deliver grain to Iran worth USD 1.4 billion, or what amounts to nearly 80 percent of Iran's yearly grain imports. Sources also revealed that the Royal Dutch Shell company, Tehran's second largest customer, imports 100,000 barrels of Iranian oil per day, and continued to purchase oil until the sanctions went into effect on July 1st.
Image: Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai talks to her father, Ziauddin Yousufzai, as she recuperates at the The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, in this undated handout photograph released to Reuters on November 8, 2012. REUTERS/Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham/Handout
In Aleppo, the Free Syrian Army made a "tactical withdrawal" from the strategic neighborhood of Salaheddine last week, citing a shortage of ammunition. According to BBC Arabic, they have returned and opened new fronts in the city, including a push to control Aleppo International Airport, as well as the military airfield adjacent to it.
However, Aleppo City and some of the governorate proper is coming under heavy fire from the Syrian Army. On Thursday, Dubai TV reported that at least 80 were killed in an air strike on the town of Azaz, which is about 50 kilometers from Aleppo. There were also air raids on several Aleppo neighborhoods on Friday.
The Free Syrian Army, known in Arabic as al-Jaish al-Suri al-Hurr, also came under scrutiny this week after videos surfaced showing alleged FSA members participating in a morally questionable execution in Aleppo and kidnapping a Lebanese national, the latter of which the FSA denied. New TV showed the footage of a what appears to be a "shabeha" getting his throat slit by an FSA member, alongside footage of the FSA with a captured Syrian Army pilot. According to Dubai TV, however, the FSA claimed that both the kidnapping of Hassan al-Miqdad of the powerful al-Miqdad family, as well as the group involved in the abduction, were fabricated by the Syrian regime in an attempt to fuel strife between Syrians and Lebanese.
In the south of the country, Damascus also experienced heavy fighting this week. Al Jazeera reported on Wednesday that the Free Syrian Army detonated a bomb under a fuel truck near Umayyad Square. The FSA said that the bomb had targeted a meeting of the Syrian Air Force, but the explosion was also very close to the UN observers' hotel. The bombing was followed by clashes in the neighborhood of Kafr Susa, which is near the prime minister's office.
Meanwhile, at the Organization for Islamic Cooperation's latest summit in Mecca, Algerie TV reported that Syria was suspended from the OIC, and the leaders agreed to continue pursuing the political solution and a peaceful solution to the crisis that would guarantee the country's unity and sovereignty during the violence. The meeting ended by confirming support for oppressed Muslim people, and with calls to combat strife between Islamic teachings, as well as countering terrorism and extremism.
Image: A man cries in front of houses destroyed during a recent Syrian Air Force air strike in Azaz, some 47 km (29 miles) north of Aleppo, August 15, 2012. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
South Sudan refuses to withdraw troops from oil-rich town
Al Jazeera - South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit refused to withdraw his forces,from the oil-rich region Heglig, and threatened to take over Abyei if the Sudanese forces do not retreat from the area. Sudan announced it will mobilize its forces to recover the Heglig region. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said the Sudanese army is capable of resolving any aggression on his country,in a response to South Sudan's People's Liberation Army's taking over Heglig. The UN Security Council called on Sudan and South Sudan to halt the border battles, and return to negotiations, in order to avoid further deterioration of the situation by the border.
Bahrain protestors rally to demand realse of dying activist al-Khawaja
Al-Alam - Bahraini regime forces crushed demonstrations, held across various provinces, in solidarity with detained activist, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who has been on a hunger strike for more than two months. Fourteen international organizations called for mounting pressure on al-Manama to release al-Khawaja. The rights groups said that the court's ruling against al-Khawajah, and other activists, is a blatant violation of their rights to freedom of expression, and the freedom to hold public gatherings and assemblies, under the provisions of the international law. Bahraini protestors are demanding the downfall of the regime, which has failed to bring about a solution to the political crisis in the country and are vowing to continue their mobilization, until all of their rights and demands are attained.
Clashes near Turkish border on second day of fragile Syria truce
BBC Arabic - Two days after a ceasefire took place in Syria,the Syrian Revolution's General Commission said eight civilians were killed in different parts of Syria. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said clashes erupted in the morning between Syrian forces and members of the Free Syrian Army in Idlib province, near the Syrian-Turkish border. Damascus said what happened near the border is part of the implementation of Annan’s plan, and a redeployment of its forces. As for the breach, it said it was caused by yesterday’s attack on a military vehicle.
Egyptians rally against former regime candidates
Al-Alam - Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians demonstrated in a million-man march to protect the revolution in Tahrir Square in the center of the Egyptian capital Cairo. This comes in response to a call by the country's Islamist parties and groups. The protestors affirmed the revolution is still continuing against anyone who tries to steal it, and they expressed their rejection to the idea of boycotting the presidential elections. They also stressed the Egyptian people will overthrow the regime's remnants through the ballot box.
Arab Hero Ahmed Ben Bella dies at 96
New TV - Ahmed Ben Bella was a figure more esteemed than a revolutionary hero, and seen as a prisoner with a will stronger than his warden's. He lives in the Arab consciousness as one of the most important figures of this nation’s recent history. Soaring from his position as a fighter in the Algerian million-martyr revolution, and reaching his destination as the first president of the republic established following the country's victory. He restored Algeria's natural status in the heart of the nation's struggle, and restored his people's stolen identity. Ben Bella departed the world as a history maker, and he goes down in history as one of the most glorious leaders of this nation.
Image: Supporters of Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) take part in a rally in support of South Sudan taking control of the Heglig oil field, in Juba April 13, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer
The past several months in Afghanistan have witnessed a rise in the level of violence caused by the ramification of U.S.-committed crimes in the country.
In January, a video of four U.S soldiers in uniform urinating on three dead bodies sparked anger and outrage around the world.Russia Today reported on this incident with a statement from authorities refuting this video saying: "While we have not yet verified the origin or authenticities of this video, the actions portrayed are not consistent with our core values and are not indicative of the character of the Marines in our Corps."
In February, violence broke out in Kabul over the burning of copies of the Quran at the Bagram military base.This led to protests by thousands of Afghans demanding the departure of foreign troops from Afghanistan. Demonstrators also burned the American flag and expressed rage over the ongoing desecration of Muslim sanctities; thirty Afghans were killed in the protests.
Finally, on Sunday, anger reached a tipping point after a U.S. soldier killed over a dozen civilians on a late-night shooting spree.This latest massacre left 16 civilians dead, most of them children and women.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the shooting and demanded an explanation from the U.S., stating, "This is an assassination, an intentional killing of innocent civilians and cannot be forgiven."
While mainstream media are reporting on just one U.S. soldier, the prime suspect whose identity was just released as Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, an Afghan committee investigated the crime and concluded that up to 20 people may have been involved in the massacre.The committee explained, "The villages are one and a half kilometers from the American military base. We are convinced that one soldier cannot kill so many people in two villages within one hour at the same time", but accounts by the massacre's survivors have yet to be reported by most outlets.
The number of Afghan casualties has steadily increased since 2009. The 2011 UNAMA report documents, "2,332 civilian deaths and 3,649 injuries by the Taliban for a total 5,981 civilian casualties, an increase of 10% in deaths and injuries attributed to anti-government forces compared to 2010. This accounted for 77% of all deaths whereas Nato and government forces totalled 410 civilian killings and 335 injuries."
These figures indicate the Afghan people are subject to regular violence from multiple forces, both local and foreign.
Image: Afghan protesters shout anti-U.S. slogans during a demonstration in Jalalabad province March 13, 2012. The shootings triggered a protest by around 2,000 students in the eastern city of Jalalabad, the first since Sunday's attack, calling for the U.S. soldier to be prosecuted by Afghan authorities in Kandahar. REUTERS/Parwiz
Seven months into the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, the Syrian opposition remains starkly divided on several key issues. According to the BBC, these issues include "the question of whether or not to encourage foreign intervention, whether there should be regime change or dialogue, and whether there should be armed rebellion or peaceful protest."
The Syrian National Council (SNC), which was recently formed in Turkey, and the Damascus-based National Coordination Committee (NCC) are the two main opposition groups that have emerged in Syria. While both blocs agree on overthrowing the current regime, the NCC calls for dialogue with Assad's regime (on the condition that the regime ends the violence against protestors), while the SNC vehemently rejects any form of dialogue.
While the SNC and the NCC both originally rejected foreign intervention, the SNC membership now seems divided on the issue. According to Foreign Policy Magazine, "some SNC members, especially the youth activists, have been calling for the imposition of a no-fly zone and the protection of civilians including a NATO-led intervention akin to the one in Libya." The NCC calls instead for economic sanctions and other political maneuvers to counter Assad's regime.
Military defectors organized under the Free Syrian Army (FSA) mark yet another facet of Syria's opposition. The FSA has repeatedly mounted attacks on Syrian security forces and Syrian security forces and army, worrying many that the crisis will escalate into a civil war. A majority of the opposition agrees that protests should remain non-violent, however many youth activists are growing impatient with the slow progress on the political front.
Many protestors are weary of both opposition blocs, saying they aren't representative of the people and their demands. In an article titled, "Opposing (Some) Arab Opposition Groups," As'ad AbuKhalil warns against endorsing Arab opposition groups simply because they oppose dictatorial regimes. He says, "Some Arab opposition groups may promise democracy and rule of law, while they carry the agenda of a sponsoring tyrannical government… It is our duty…to speak out against those opposition groups who promise to take the people from one form of tyranny to another."
As the protests calling for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad continue on a daily basis in Syria, the deepening divide in the muddled Syrian opposition will continue to hinder a resolution to the crisis. In the words of Steven Heydemann, senior advisor for Middle East initiatives at the US Institute of Peace, the Syrian revolution will be "a marathon" if Syrians cannot unite.
(Photo: A Syrian protestor living in Egypt attacks a member of the Syrian opposition delegation before the delegation was due to meet with Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo November 9, 2011. Watch New TV's report on the altercation here.)
Two contrasting reports from Afghanistan on attempts to create local police and military forces capable of controlling the troubled country when the US and NATO leaves.
(Associated Press: 0851 PT, May 10, 2011) US personnel have been training and fighting alongside Afghan special operations forces. The development of such commandos may be key if Americans are to reduce their presence in the country.
(Al Jazeera English: 0238 PT, May 10, 2011) The Afghan Local Police (ALP) has been expanding fast across the country over the past year. Community-based units, they are seen as a pet project of NATO commander General David Petraeus, who has described the ALP as having a significant impact. But the police force has also faced allegations of theft, abduction and intimidation. Al Jazeera's James Bays reports from Maidan Wardak province.
(Euronews: 0549 PT, May 9, 2011) The Egyptian Army is demonstrating its promised "iron fist" in Cairo, after two days of deadly clashes between Coptic Christians and Muslims. At least 12 people were killed and more than 200 injured.
Clashes flared between Christians and Muslims in the capital on Saturday and Sunday. Stones were thrown and there were reports of gunfire and bullet wounds; 190 people were arrested. The army's aim now is to reassure the people.
(Al Jazeera English: 1610 PT, May 8, 2011) Christians marching against the military in the Egyptian capital and calling for more rights have come under attack. While some blamed hardline Muslims, others said the attack is symptomatic of rampant lawlessness in the country following the revolution that overthrew long-time leader, Hosni Mubarak. Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh reports from Cairo.
(Democracy Now! 0752 PT, May 9, 2011) Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous reports from Cairo, where 12 people died and more than 180 were wounded during clashes between Muslims and Christians in Cairo over the weekend.
"This was a major attack," says Kouddous. "What many people, many Coptic people in particular, do not understand is why the military, who was present at the scene while the violence was happening stood by while the worst of it took place and did not intervene."
(Press TV: 0252 PT, May 4, 2011) Article nine of the Japanese Constitution forbids the nation to engage in war or maintain state military forces. But while many on the liberal left support this pacifist doctrine, there are others on the right who believe it is misguided. Press TV's Michael Penn reports from Tokyo.
(Euronews: 0739 PST, April 26, 2011) UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Tuesday that Britain is working on "possible further measures" to be taken against the Syrian government unless it stops attacking its own people. This comes as amateur video footage emerged on the internet that appears to show Syrian security forces shooting at protesters in Deraa yesterday.
Warning: Video contains graphic images from the start.
(Al Jazeera English: 0320 PST, April 26, 2011) A resident of Deraa, who we are not naming for security reasons, described to Al Jazeera, through a translator, a desperate situation on the ground in the restive southern city.