Syria Calls for Arab League Emergency Meeting

November 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Martin Chulov in Beirut

Syria has called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League after the regional body announced it will suspend Damascus from its membership ranks on Wednesday and impose sanctions – a move that has sharply escalated tensions across the region.

The regime of President Bashar al-Assad wants the urgent meeting held before the suspension is due to take effect. Syrian officials made the demand after a night of apparently sponsored violence against the diplomatic missions of states that had voted to punish it because of a crackdown against demonstrators in defiance of an earlier understanding.

On Saturday night, protesters stormed the Saudi Arabian and Turkish embassies in Damascus and the Qatari mission in nearby Beirut, prompting Turkey and Saudi Arabia to withdraw non-essential diplomats and their families.

Turkey has also demanded compensation for damage to its embassy and warned its citizens against travelling across its southern border.

Last month, the US also withdrew its ambassador after the US embassy was twice stormed by a crowd.

The British Foreign Office minister, Alistair Burt, condemned the latest embassy attacks on Sunday. “By allowing these attacks to take place, the Syrian regime is demonstrating yet again that its first response is repression and intimidation,” he said. “This cycle of violence must stop now for the sake of the Syrian people and for those who support them.”

Turkey called on the international community to stop the bloodshed in Syria, a demand that appeared to leave open the possibility of some kind of intervention.

An unnamed Syrian official told the state news agency Sana on Sunday that Arab League monitors could travel to the country to assess the situation before the suspension is due to take effect on 16 November.

Such a concession had been a key demand of the body, which two weeks ago thought it had struck a broad deal with Damascus to end the violence.

However, clashes have intensified since then, with daily death tolls often of more than 20 people, meaning November – the eighth month of the Syrian uprising – is likely to be its bloodiest yet.

A large pro-regime rally saw thousands turn out in central Damascus on Sunday in what was cast as a spontaneous mass display of backing for Assad, whose support base remains stronger in the capital and in the commercial hub of Aleppo than in the third and fourth cities, Hama and Homs. Daily clashes there between troops and protesters underline a deepening divide with ever-sharpening sectarian dimensions.

Syria is ruled by the Assad clan, hailing from the Allawite sect, which has close ties to Shia Islam. The Allawites account for around 12% of all Syrians, but are deeply entwined into the establishment.
Other minorities include Christians, Druze and Kurds. However, the bulk of Syrians are Sunni Muslims, whom the regime fears have drawn strength from successful revolts in the Sunni states of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

The effect of Syria’s suspension is not yet clear, and neither are the type of sanctions that the Arab League may impose. The organisation’s secretary general, Nabil al-Arabi, said on Sunday that he is “studying mechanisms” to protect Syrian people.

He left open the possibility of again referring Syria to the UN security council, where Syrian allies Russia and China last month blocked a move that had threatened to bring security council sanctions.
Arabi said the league did not have the means to act alone.

Despite its relative lack of clout, the Arab League move is significant on the global stage, where European and US policymakers had been struggling to craft a means of stopping the violence in Syria without causing a collapse in regional stability.

Without the cover from the Arab League that the US received in March, Barack Obama would have been much less likely to authorise the use of the US military in the early stages of the Libyan operation – an essential element of the ultimately succesful Nato operation.

The move against Syria – only the second of its kind in the history of the 22-state organisation – is likely to embolden states opposed to the regime but fearful of the knock-on effects of the fall of Assad.

Isolation is not sitting well with Assad or Syria’s key patron, Iran.

Both states have warned of “dire consequences” if more pressure is piled on the regime, and insisted that the relentless protests are foreign-backed and being led by militant Sunni Islamists.

Guardian.co.uk

Victim of 9/11 Hate Crime wants Governor of Texas to Pardon the Attacker

June 30, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

“Rais Bhuiyan is calling for compassion, healing, and forgiveness. Sign his petition at www.worldwithouthate.org”.

Rais Bhuiyan Speaking At The Press Conferencebw
Rais Bhuiyan Speaking At The Press Conference

These were the words of Mustafaa Carroll, the executive director of the Texas Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-TX), as he welcomed the media and members of the Houstonian community to a special press conference.

Rais Bhuiyan, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Bangladesh, was one of this country’s first hate crime victims immediately following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He is requesting the Texas Criminal System and Governor Rick Perry that the scheduled July 20th, 2011 execution of his attacker, the white supremacist Mark Stroman, be commuted to life in prison without parole. Bhuiyan was working in a convenience store when, 10 days after the terrorist attacks, a man pushed a gun into his face. “Where are you from?” were the last words the 26-year-old Bhuiyan heard before his attacker shot him at close range, blinding him in one eye and leaving shrapnel he still carries in the right side of his face. The shooter had asked the same question of two other South Asian immigrants, Waqar Hasan and Vasudev Patel, before killing them in separate incidents on September 14th and October 04th, 2001, respectively.

Widow of Waqar Hasan and Rais Bhuiyan have both issued statements to forgive Mr. Stroman, while Rais Bhuiyan is going steps forward to have the death sentence commuted to life imprisonment without payroll and wants many people to sign his petition at www.worldwithouthate.org

“My parents have taught that hate leads to cycle of violence. Best thing is to forgive. Plus in our religion and Sacred Book Quran, we have been informed that saying one life is as saving the life of humanity. Our beloved Messenger Mohammad Peace Be Upon him was brutally wounded when he took message of God to the people of Taif. Angel Gabriel gave him the option to kill everyone in Taif, but he forgave them all by saying what they have done is in ignorance and hopefully future generations’ will be better than them. When I went for Hajj in 2009, I saw the valley of Taif, which is now one of the most peaceful places in Saudi Arabia. Although I lost one eye and bullets shrapnel are still in my skull, I still want to forgive Mr. Stroman due to the way my parents have brought me up and what I have learned from our religion Islam,” said Mr. Bhuiyan.

The joint hosts of the event were Dominican Sisters, a Christian faith based group against death penalty, and CAIR-TX. Other organizations, who either came to speak or are showing their support for Rais Bhuiyan cause include the Amnesty International, Dallas Peace Center (DPC), Houston Peace and Justice Center (HPJC), Islamic Circle of North America – Houston Chapter (ICNA-Houston), Muslim American Society – Houston Chapter (MAS-Houston), Sikh Establishment for Harmony, Appreciation & Joy (SEHAJ), Shades of White (SOW) world peace organization, Texas Coalition Against Death Penalty (TCADP), Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement (TDPAM) based at the SHAPE Community Center, and Greater Houston area religious leaders and human rights activists.
Speakers included:  Sister Ceil Roeger – Dominican Sisters, Rais Bhuiyan – World without Hate (www.worldwithouthate.org), Hadi Jawad – Representative Waqar Hasan Family, Rick Halperin – History Professor & Director of the Embrey Human Rights program at Southern Methodist University (SMU), Texas State Representative Lon Burnam (D-90),  Harpal Singh – Sikh Establishment for Harmony, Appreciation and Joy,  Imam Qasim Khan – Shades Of White world peace organization.

Mr. Stroman wrote on his website that he lost a sister in the attacks on the Twin Towers and that he believed his actions would be celebrated as those of a patriot. Now imprisoned in the Polunsky Unit death row facility in Livingston, Texas, Stroman has expressed profound remorse and deep regret for his actions, (Rick) Halperin says “…and when Mark’s appeals attorney, Lydia Brandt, shared with him (Stroman) that Rais and other members of the victims’ families have forgiven him and were working to commute his death sentence, he was reduced to tears.”  Bhuiyan is seeking solace for himself and the wives and children of the other shooting victims. “Executing Stroman is not what we want. We have already suffered so much; it will cause only more suffering if he is executed,” Rais said.

The decision to pursue commutation of Stroman’s sentence currently resides with Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins. If Watkins does not support commutation, Bhuiyan says he will appeal to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which can then make a recommendation to Texas Governor Rick Perry to commute the sentence.

For additional information and to sign the on-line petition to commute Stroman’s death sentence to life in prison without parole, please go to Bhuiyan’s website, www.worldwithouthate.org.

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