The Women of Karbala

December 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Asghar Ali, Engineer

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Women of the Ahlul Bait at the feet of Zul-Janah (the horse of Sayyidinal Hussain (kw)) who returns after the martyrdom of its rider.

TRADITIONAL Muslim set-ups place many restrictions on women. They cannot even venture out of their homes; most are required to restrict themselves to performing household chores only. Few Muslim women take up public roles; fewer still participate in outdoor events.

All this is being done in the name of Islam by the self-styled guardians of social norms. However, if we cast a glance on the early history of Islam we find women taking part in various events alongside men. Prophet (s) Muhammad (PBUH) had from Hazrat Khadija four daughters and brought them up as model women who participated in his revolution.

Islam’s was not only a spiritual but also a social revolution. It empowered women and gave them equal rights which was unthinkable at that time. Women played at best a secondary role in any civilisation in the seventh century CE. However, Islam raised their status and assigned them an equal role in all worldly affairs along with men. Many women, like Umm-i-Ammara, even took part in various battles which the Prophet (s) had to fight. In the Battle of Uhud, Umm-i-Ammara took the attack of a sword on her arm and saved the life of the Prophet (s).

Hazrat Fatima, as all Muslims agree, was indeed very close to her father, and thus Muslims highly revere her. She too was brought up by the Prophet (s) enshrining the highest values of Islam. Her sons, Imam Hasan and Husain, were equally loved. Her daughter, Hazrat Zainab, played a pivotal role in the aftermath of the battle of Karbala. Bibi Shehar Banu was the daughter of Kisra, the King of Persia who was defeated by the Muslims, and Hazrat Ali married her to his son, Husain.

Shaher Banu also faced the tragic events at Karbala very bravely and sacrificed her two sons, Ali Akbar and Ali Asghar, in the way of Allah.

It is important to note that when Imam Husain was leaving Makkah for Kufa (Iraq) in response to the letters he had received from many important citizens of Kufa to lead them in their fight against Yazid (who had usurped khilafat in violation of the condition laid down by Imam Hasan while abdicating in favour of Ameer Muawiyah), Imam Husain was advised by his well-wishers not to take his family along to Kufa.

It was feared the people of Kufa might betray him.

However, despite the risks, Imam Husain turned down the advice and took along all his family members, including women and children. He knew that the women, who included his wife, his sisters and daughters, would play a very important role even if he had to fight against Yazid’s forces in or near Kufa. The people of Kufa did betray him even though they were the ones who had invited him to lead them in a fight against Yazid’s tyranny.

Yazid stood for all that was against Islamic norms. Not only was his lifestyle against that of the Prophet (s) (PBUH) and his companions he also tried to destroy the institution of khilafat by introducing monarchy.

This was totally against the revolutionary spirit of the political system introduced by Islam. Husain perhaps knew, before he left for Kufa, what was in store and he deliberately took women along with him to show to the world that women could also play a role in saving the Islamic way of life.

The women of the Karbala tragedy did play a role which was no less significant than that of the male companions of the Imam.

The Imam was right: his women played a pivotal role, particularly the Imam’s sister, Hazrat Zainab. After the martyrdom of Husain and his colleagues, Imam Zainul Abidin and all women and children were arrested and taken to Damascus on camelback via Kufa. Bibi Zainab, a brave and bold woman, addressed Muslims everywhere along the way, exposing Yazid and his evil actions and un-Islamic acts.

Bibi Zainab and the Imam’s entire family were kept in prison in Damascus. When they were brought to Yazid’s court, Zainab eloquently spoke in front of Yazid’s courtiers and thoroughly exposed him. She never shied from her mission, so much so that he had to release her and the Imam’s entire family. They were sent back to Madina with their security being ensured.

Syeda Zainab’s role was exemplary. It showed how bold Muslim women were and how they played a key role in consolidating Islamic teachings.

Today, despite so much progress and the spread of education, so many Muslim women are suppressed. In Saudi Arabia, for example, even a woman’s voice is considered ‘awrah i.e. so that it should not be heard in public; and here was Zainab from the Imam’s family who became a public speaker to save Islamic values.

Zainab was the eldest among the women of the Imam’s family, including Imam Zainul Abidin who was very unwell at the time.

The leadership of the family thus fell to Zainab, and she proved to be more than what was expected of her. Today, women have to learn much  from her example and leadership qualities. Her public role in the Karbala saga has much to teach us.

It is wrong to think, as many Muslim men do, that women are weak and cannot achieve much in the public domain. Hazrat Zainab’s role is a wake-up call for those who feel that women are fit only for domestic chores and nothing beyond the confines of a house.

The writer is an Islamic scholar who heads the Centre for Study of Society & Secularism, Mumbai.

Source: The Dawn, Karachi

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On the Verge of Transition

November 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

– The Syrian Expatriate

By Laura Fawaz

IMG_0007

Livonia, MI–“I think what happened in Syria is exactly what happened in the rest of the Arab World.  It’s the results of long term torture and oppression by the current regime,” said Ammar Ghanem, of Indiana, with the Syrian National Council, when speaking about the effect of the Arab Spring on Syria.

Last Saturday, the Syrian Expatriate, along with the Syrian National Council, held a seminar called “On The Verge of Transition, a Meeting With The Syrian National Council, at Burton Manor in Livonia.” 
The seminar focused on the Syrian National Council’s (SNC) integration within Syrian Communities across the world.  The SNC’s focus was for the Syrian community, especially in Metro-Detroit, to meet the SNC and the Syrian Expatiate. 

SNC board member Louay Sakka of Canada explained that they are hoping “for an exchange of ideas, and to discuss the future of Syria.”

Ghanem added, “The main objective is trying to help the people inside Syria, and to help drive forward the Syrian Revolution.”

Attendees were asking questions and exploring options for Syria with the SNC, as part of the seminar that was divided into four topics: The structure and the way the SNC is currently working, the economics of the Syrian Revolution and options to weaken the regime, discussing the political work being done, and lastly, international protection and interaction to protect civilians in Syria.

Ghanem explained that the plans for this event have been in the works for five weeks, and were necessary because “the people of Syria couldn’t take it anymore, and they want to up rise and want to get rid of the current regime.  Who doesn’t want freedom?”

Asked if most Metro-Detroit Syrians feel the same way about the current Syrian political party, Sakaa replied, “most of the people in general already get to a point where they are completely against the regime.  Having said that, it doesn’t mean that everyone is on the same page.  You still have people who get some type of benefit from this regime, directly or indirectly.” 

According to Sakaa, since the rest of the world is primary against the current political Syrian party, the Arab League has just removed Syria.  After this, it seems as though most Syrians are feeling the isolation, and is why less people are working with the Syrian government. 

Some of course still support the current Syrian regime. So the SNC when asked whether anyone came out and showed disagreement with this event, they explained that Burton Manor received anonymous threatening phone calls. 

The SNC took extra precautions, including having the Livonia Police Department all around the building, as well as having their own security on board.

As the rest of the Arab World has shown this past year, we truly cannot know what is happening inside country lines until it all unravels.  So for now, attending events such as this will be our closest entry point. 

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Eid Protests Across Syria Defy Tanks and Troops

September 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

AMMAN (Reuters) – Security forces shot dead four demonstrators on Tuesday as people streamed out of mosques after prayers to mark the end of Ramadan and renewed protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, activists and residents said.

The victims, who included a 13-year-old boy, were killed in the towns of al-Hara and Inkhil in southern Deraa province.

Demonstrations broke out elsewhere across the country, notably in Damascus suburbs, the city of Homs, 165 km (100 miles to the north) and the northwestern province of Idlib, the sources said.

“The people want the downfall of the president,” protesters shouted in the Damascus suburb of Harasta, where activists said dozens of soldiers defected at the weekend after refusing to shoot at the crowds.

In the adjacent Saqba suburb a crowd held their shoes up in the air — an insulting gesture in the Arab world — and chanted anti-Assad slogans.

According to one activist group, troops have killed at least 551 civilians during Ramadan, the holiest period in the Islamic calendar.

Five months into the street uprising against his rule, Assad, from Syria’s minority Alawite sect, is facing more frequent demonstrations. Protesters have been encouraged by the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, with whom Assad had close ties, and rising international pressure on the ruling hierarchy.

The Obama administration froze the U.S. assets of Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem and two other Syrian officials on Tuesday in response to Assad’s increasingly bloody crackdown.

The Treasury Department also named Ali Abdul Karim Ali, Syria’s Ambassador to Lebanon, where Assad wields influence through the Shi’ite Hezbollah guerrilla group, and his adviser Bouthaina Shaaban.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the United States had imposed the sanctions on the three because of the “role that they play in propagating and advancing the reign of terror that Assad is exacting on their own people.”

Moualem and Shaaban have appeared in the media defending military assaults on towns and cities, saying Syrian forces were pursuing “terrorists.” They are not part of Assad’s decision-making inner circle, composed of his younger brother Maher, other family members and top security officials already on the U.S. sanctions list.

Opposition figures in Syria see international pressure as crucial to stripping Assad of legitimacy and in helping raise the momentum of peaceful protests.

Residents and activists are reporting increasing defections among Syrian troops, drawn mostly from the Sunni majority population but dominated by Alawite officers effectively under the command of Maher.

In the capital, YouTube footage showed soldiers from core units roaming the center in green public transport buses, their AK-47s hanging out from the doors, to prevent protests, which broke out nonetheless in Qaboun, Kfar Souseh, Rukn al-Din and Maydan districts, activists said.

Moral Ground

In a report published on Tuesday, the Syrian Revolution Coordinating Union grassroots activists’ group said Assad’s forces killed 551 people during Ramadan and that 130 others were killed on July 31, the eve of Ramadan, in a tank assault on the city of Hama, scene of a 1982 massacre by the military.

“The report does not include the number of martyrs who were not identified by name nor… bodies that were abducted (by security forces) and not returned to their families,” it said.

Amnesty International said that deaths in Syrian prisons and police detention had soared in recent months as Assad’s government tried to crush the protests.

The London-based human rights group said it had details of at least 88 people believed to have died in detention between April and mid-August. At least 52 of them had apparently suffered some form of torture that was likely to have contributed to their death.

Chibli Mallat, a professor of law at Harvard, and chairman of the Right to Nonviolence international group of public figures, said Syria’s death toll, although high, was still less than Libya, where the revolution turned into armed conflict and needed NATO’s help.

“It may be also the case in Syria today … But is it necessary to reach the point that arms are engaged?” Mallat said in an article published on Tuesday in Egypt’s al-Ahram online.

“Is it not wiser, albeit perhaps more frustrating, to keep the revolution pure in the tenacity of its nonviolence, rather than lose the absolute moral superiority against violent rulers?” said Mallat, who is Lebanese.

The official state news agency said state television had aired an audio recording of two “terrorists” who described themselves as activists.

It said the tape revealed “a full agenda of provocation and targeting police and army camps and terrorising peaceful citizens in the name of freedom and non-violence.”

The Syrian National Human Rights Organization, headed by exiled dissident Ammar al-Qurabi, said pro-Assad forces, including a loyalist militia known as shabbiha, had killed at least 3,100 civilians since the uprising erupted in March, including 18 people on Monday alone.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay said this month that 2,200 people have been killed, with Assad’s forces continuing “to employ excessive force, including heavy artillery, to quell peaceful demonstrations and regain control over the residents of various cities.”

Syrian authorities blame “armed terrorist groups” for the bloodshed and say they have killed 500 soldiers and police. They have also repeatedly denied that army defections have been taking place.

Foreign media were expelled after the uprising began in March, making verification of reports difficult.

(Additional reporting by Suleiman; al-Khalidi; Editing by Angus MacSwan and David Stamp)

Lurking Dangers to the Arab Spring

August 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Ramzy Baroud, Gulf News

Arab revolutions are currently facing real dangers, which vacillate between lack of prioritisation, stagnation and foreign intervention.

In Egypt, there have been deliberate attempts to divide the objectives of the revolution into blurred ideological classifications. A chasm is already growing between ‘liberal’ and Islamic forces regarding the identity of the state. Endless debates have ensued regarding the best course of action pertaining to elections, the constitution and more.

The trial of former president Hosni Mubarak has been marketed as a major victory for the revolution. Undoubtedly this is a historic event with great psychological impact. Many in Egypt were suspicious that the military was trying to co-opt the revolution, and some believed that Mubarak was continuing to run the country from his Sharm Al Shaikh mansion. With the world having now seen Mubarak in prison garb, some of these rumours are being quelled.

Still, it must not be forgotten that Egypt’s problems are multi-faceted, running deep into the very fabric of its political and social structures. Its already threadbare economy was also further devastated by recent events.

Presenting Mubarak on a stretcher for ‘conspiring to kill protesters’, and then falling into the trap of disputes around political semantics will not resolve the country’s many problems.
The Yemeni people persist between clear objectives and unclear strategy. Yemen was already teetering on the brink of ‘failed state’ status before the February revolt. The opposition is clearly failing to unify the revolutionary efforts of the people. The aim has been to create a meaningful political platform capable of translating the just demands of millions into a clear roadmap.
This has no room for Ali Abdullah Saleh and his discredited government. A delay of nearly six months has allowed regional and international forces to impede the popular process aimed at democratic reforms. Frustrated by the ineptness of the opposition, and worried about the devious role played by outsiders, the ‘youth of the revolution’ moved to establish their own transitional political body.
This move seemed to create more confusion rather than actually address the challenge of political centrality. Saleh and his ruling party are feeling emboldened once again and are bargaining politically with a nearly-starved population. As for Libya, it has turned into a battlefield. Although the people’s original demands for democracy are as genuine as ever, linking the heart of the revolution to Nato’s central command has more than tainted the uprising.

It has also raised the spectre of western intervention in Libya. The billions of dollars spent to ‘liberate’ Libya will be recovered through political and economic leverages later on. This will prove very costly for any new Libyan government.

Three Principles

The Syrian revolution has been most inspiring. Despite the extremely violent behaviour of the army in its attempts to subdue the uprising, the people remain committed to three major principles: the rightful demands of their revolution, the non-violent nature of their efforts, and non-interventionism. That said, foreign intervention does not seek people’s permission; it seeks opportunities.
It is guided by a straightforward cost-benefit analysis. As for violence, even noble revolutions with noble demands have limits. How long will the Syrian people endure before resorting to arms, at least to defend themselves against the government’s thugs?

There are other Arab countries that are also experiencing their own upheavals. These are divided between betrayed revolutions (for example, Bahrain), revolutions in the making, and bashful reform movements (Jordan, Morocco, Algeria, and others).

True, each revolutionary experience remains unique. The socio-economic specificities of a wealthy Gulf country are different from those of a poverty-stricken country like Morocco. Still, Arab countries have much in common. Aside from shared histories, religions, language and a collective sense of belonging, they also share experiences of oppression, alienation, injustice and inequality.
The third UN Arab Development Report, published in 2005, surmised that in a modern Arab state, “the executive apparatus resembles a black hole which converts its surrounding social environment into a setting in which nothing moves and from which nothing escapes.”

Things didn’t fare much better for Arab states in 2009, when the fifth volume in the series claimed: “While the state is expected to guarantee human security, it has been, in several Arab countries, a source of threat undermining both international charters and national constitutional provisions.”

It is this shared fate that makes an Egyptian woman protest the violence carried out by the Syrian regime, and which drives a Tunisian man to celebrate the trial of Mubarak.

Coupled with a joint understanding of their history — which includes the struggle against colonialism and continued oppression in the neo-colonialist era — the Arab sense of solidarity is almost innate.

There is no question that in a post-revolutionary Arab world, a new collective sense of identity will emerge, this time without the manipulation of a single charismatic leader.

Revolution is a process, a progression of realisations borne out of experience. It seeks real and lasting change. It spans in its outreach from the realm of politics into the specificity of identity and self-perception. Because Arab revolutions are real, they also represent a real danger to foreign powers and their local alliances.

The self-seeking concoctions will use all their power to impede the process of change and reforms in the Arab world. This helps to explain the shedding of doubts on the authenticity of the youth movement in Egypt; the collective punishment of Yemenis; the brutalising of revolting masses in Syria.

Arab revolutionaries must be wary of all of these challenges. They must prepare for all grim possibilities. With unity being their greatest weapon, the revolutionaries need to remember that a victory in Egypt or Tunisia is an important step in the quest for freedom in Yemen, Syria — and everywhere else.

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Why the 21st Century Will Not Belong to China

July 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Editor’s Note: The following is an edited transcript of Fareed Zakaria’s opening and closing statements at the Munk Debate where he joined Henry Kissinger in arguing against the proposition: “The 21st Century will belong to China.”

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

China is not going to be the dominant power of the 21st century for three reasons: economic, political and geo-political.

Economic

One thing we’ve realized over recent years is that nothing goes up in a straight line forever. China looks like it is about to inherit the world, but Japan looked like that for a while. Japan was the second largest economy in the world. We were told that one day the world would be run by Japan. It didn’t turn out that way.

Most Asian Tigers have grown at about 9% a year for 20-25 years and then shifted downward to 6% or 5% growth. I’m not predicting any kind of Chinese crash. I am simply saying that China will follow that law of large numbers and regress at some point to a slower growth rate – perhaps a little bit later than the others because it is a much larger country.

But it is also worth pointing out that there are massive inefficiencies built into the Chinese economic system. They have a huge property bubble. Their growth is highly inefficient. In terms of foreign direct investment, China attracts every month what India takes in every year.

Still China only grows two percentage points faster than India.

In other words, if you think about the quality of Chinese growth, it’s not as impressive as it appears. They are undertaking massive investments – huge numbers of airports, eight-lane highways and high-speed rail. But if you look at what you are getting in terms of the return on investment it is not as impressive.

China has another huge problem. The UN just came out with a report that pointed out that China is going to have a demographic collapse over the next 25 years. It is going to lose 400 million people.

There is no point in human history in which you have had a dominant power in the world that is also declining demographically. It simply doesn’t happen. And if you want to look at what a country in demographic decline looks like, look at Japan.

Political

Let’s say that China does become the largest economy in the world: Does it have the political capacity to exercise the kind of leadership you need?

Remember, Japan was the second largest economy in the world for decades and I didn’t see any kind of grand, hegemonic design. You need to have the political capacity to be able to exercise that kind of leadership.

China is a country ruled by a political system that is in crisis.

It is unclear whether the next succession that China goes through will look anything like this current one. China has not solved the basic problem of what it is going to do when it creates a middle class and how it will respond to the aspirations of those people.

When Taiwan went through a similar process, what you saw was a transition to democracy; when South Korea went through it, you saw a transition to democracy. These were not easy periods. They were fairly bloody and chaotic.

Geopolitics

People like to talk about the rise of Asia. But there is no such thing as Asia. There’s China; there’s Japan; there’s India. And they don’t much like each other.

You are going to find that as China rises there is going to be a spirited response in India, Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, South Korea and others. You already have begun to see the stirrings of this. China is not rising in a vacuum. It is rising on a continent in which there are many, many competitors.

Bet on Freedom

We are going through a crisis of confidence in the Western world. This has been true often when we have faced these kinds of new and different challenges and when we have faced nations that seem on the rise and on the march.

George Kennan, the great American statesman, used to write routinely about how he thought the United States would never be able to withstand the Soviet challenge because we were weak and fickle and we changed our minds and they were far-sighted and strategic. We were tactical and stupid. But somehow it worked out all right.

I think there is a tendency to think the same of China – that they have this incredible long-term vision and we are bumbling idiots. There is a wonderful story that encapsulates this:

When asked, “What do you think of the French Revolution?” Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai is supposed to have answered, “It’s too soon to tell.”

Everyone thought, “Oh, my goodness, he’s such a genius; he thinks so long-term – in centuries.”

Well it turns out that in 1973, Zhou Enlai meant the French revolution of 1968 – a student revolution. It was perfectly rational at that point to say: “It’s too soon to tell.”

So don’t believe that the Chinese are these strategic masterminds and we are bumbling. We have managed to bumble our way to a rather advanced position despite the challenges from the Kaiser’s Germany, from the Soviet Union and from Nazi Germany.

In fact, I think what you will find is that the United States and North America are creating an extraordinary model in this new world.

We are becoming the first universal nation, a country that draws people  from all parts of the world – people of all colors, creeds and religions and finds a way to harness their talent and build a kind of universal dream. It happens over here and it draws together people from all over the world.

Don’t lose faith in free and open societies.

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Workers and Women Fight for Their Share of Egypt’s Revolution

June 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Some 100,000 protesters gathered in Tahrir Square on May 27 to demand civilian, not military, rule.

By Reese Erlich

EGYPT/

A boy jumps from a pedestrian bridge into a small branch of the river Nile, to cool off on a hot day in Cairo June 3, 2011.

REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

CAIRO—As Dr. Mohammad Shafik stands in the chaotic emergency room of the Cairo hospital where he works, his biggest worry as patients are wheeled in is not about issues of medical care. What concerns him is the lack of police protection against the fights and even murders that occur all too often in the city’s hospitals. A dispute between two people might result in one coming to the hospital with a gunshot wound, and then the relatives of those involved “come in and fight here,” he says. “All the police disappear with the hint of danger.”

Egyptian police, once a key component in the repressive apparatus of Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship, now often refuse to carry out their jobs, according to Shafik and other doctors. That’s just one sign of the upheaval roiling Egypt since the revolution that forced Mubarak’s resignation in February.

The health care system has become an important battle ground. Shafik says, “Of course we haven’t totally changed the regime as we had hoped. They are trying to reinvent the regime with new faces. That’s what makes the health care struggle key in Egypt. Every percentage point for increasing health care will come from the budget of the Ministry of Interior and other parts of the oppressive machine.”

The government allocates 3.6 percent of the national budget for health care, while the repressive Ministry of Interior funds an armed force of 1.4 million police.

Immediately after the revolution, doctors and other hospital staff members in various parts of Egypt formed independent unions. At Shafik’s hospital, Manshiet el Bakry, freshly organized workers threw out the old, pro-Mubarak hospital administrator and elected a new one.

Similar independent unions have sprung up spontaneously in textile, aluminum and other factories. Even the workers who issue marriage licenses have unionized and threatened to strike for higher pay.

Union members are asking for a minimum wage of $200 per month, among other demands. A hospital resident such as Shafik currently earns a base pay of only $50 per month.

Ellis J. Goldberg, a political science professor at the University of Washington and now visiting professor at American University in Cairo, says the current military government in Egypt is unwilling to meet such demands.

“They don’t want to make those hard decisions,” he says. “They might if there was some major political upheaval by the workers.”

Goldberg notes that hundreds of workplaces around the country have experienced strikes and demonstrations since February. A plethora of independent unions, worker federations and worker parties arose. To date, some have won local demands for wage increases or replacement of workplace administrators. But the government has resisted more thoroughgoing changes.

Goldberg says Mubarak cronies still control much of the economy through corruption and political patronage.

Some 40 “people formed the leadership of the ruling party and had significant economic interest in sectors of the economy benefiting from state contracts,” he says. “They used political power to maintain monopolies.”

Twenty years ago, the Mubarak regime began selling off state-owned enterprises to favored cronies, resulting in the layoff of tens of thousands of workers. Today, many workers want to re-nationalize some of the factories.

Fatma Ramadan, a researcher with the Union of Workers and Working Forces, says, “I favor re-nationalization. But workers should be part of the new management.”

Many organizations are competing for worker support. Conservative Islamist groups, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, have considerable backing among rural farmers, workers and the urban poor.
The Muslim Brotherhood has generally opposed strikes and demonstrations against the military government. It hopes to gain a substantial number of seats in the September parliamentary elections, and Brotherhood leaders are cooperating with the military in the meantime.

Brotherhood officials stress that strikes and demonstrations are too disruptive, a view that is shared by many ordinary Egyptians.

Interviewed after Friday prayers at a mosque, truck driver Ahmad Fathi says, “We should give the government some time. We shouldn’t have sit-ins and demonstrations every day. We need time for things to get back to normal.”

But union leaders and Tahrir Square activists don’t want things to go back to normal. Women workers are demanding an end to discrimination in hiring and promotions, and want government-funded child care. Fatma Ramadan says, “A woman is supposed to feed the kids and take them to school—along with working. There’s a lot of pressure on women workers.”

Women played an important role in the occupation of Tahrir Square and in the subsequent demonstrations and strikes. Women in Egypt are more prominent in professions and society in general than those in many other Arab countries.

For example, says Dr. Nadia el Ebissy, about 60 percent of the 400 doctors at Manshiet el Bakry Hospital are women. That’s partly because of opportunities for women in medical education and partly because many male doctors leave the country to earn higher salaries.

On March 8, International Women’s Day, some 1,000 women and their male supporters rallied in Cairo to demand, among other things, that women be allowed to run for president and become judges. The rally was viciously attacked, some say by thugs of the former regime.

Salma Shukrallah, a journalist with Ahram Online, says the Women’s Day attack didn’t permanently set back the efforts for women’s equality. She says major politicians must now at least pay lip service to the idea that a woman could be president. “Women’s demands are very much central,” she says. “But the widespread social values are still very sexist.”

Back at Manshiet el Bakry Hospital, newly elected administrator Dr. Milad Ismail has found interim funding through outside donations. “We now depend on donations from civil society, NGOs, from doctors at the hospital,” he says. “We also rely on the spirit of the workers.” Some hospital profits will now be used to hire private security guards to protect the doctors and staff. Dr. Ismail says the battle continues to get adequate funding from the Ministry of Health.

Dr. Shafik says the Tahrir Square occupation changed medical workers’ lives forever. “Doctors had revolutionary experiences,” he says. “Protesters died in our hands. That experience which has been transferred to us cannot be taken away.”

Veteran foreign correspondent Reese Erlich has covered the Middle East for 25 years. His reports from Egypt are funded by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Follow his blogs and read his other stories at the Pulitzer center’s website.

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Eyewitness to the Fight for Freedom in Libya

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

Dr. Mahmoud Traina, an American born cardiologist of Libyan descent, visited the besieged city of Benghazi from the 23rd of February through the 5th of March. The city of Benghazi was the birthplace of the revolution against Muammar Qaddafi and the scene of the greatest violence and injury for the freedom fighters.

It was in Benghazi that the freedom fighters are trying to coordinate the efforts of the war. A number of former Qaddafi supporters, including members of the military,  joined the side of the freedom fighters. This includes membership in the Transitional National Council (TNC), the council of the freedom fighters.  Dr. Traina met one of the Libyan freedom fighters, Omar Al-Harari, a member of the TNC though not the head.

Dr. Traina reports that the spirit in Benghazi was euphoric for the people. Despite attacks and deprivation the people were joyous and optimistic in their efforts to secure the freedom that so much of the world takes for granted.

One person told him, “You can’t imagine the feeling of now being free after 42 years. Now that we have tasted freedom, we will never go back, no matter the price”.

Dr. Traina had received word earlier in the day from his sister that she and her family escaped from Misrata and were currently in  England.  Other family members and friends were still in harm’s way putting a cloud over this good news.

The living conditions in Benghazi are horrendous. There is no electricity, no water, and no sanitation. There are no infant supplies. Only the most basic medicines are available. A Cholera epidemic is a very real possibility. The hospitals are so crowded that they have had to dislodge half of their patient load to be cared from outdoors under tents. Injuries to limbs, normally treatable by orthopedic surgery, have often resulted, due to these primitive conditions, in amputations. There are no functional Intensive Care Units to treat for the critically ill and/or post surgical patients.

The lines for bread involve a three hour wait.

Dr. Traina spoke of the conditions he witnessed. “In Benghazi, people were beginning the process of self-rule and organization.  Volunteers manned the traffic signals, and organized traffic.  Others helped to feed the people with donated food in improvised “soup kitchens”. Other groups were going around cleaning up the debris in the city left from the violence. Medical staff was working overtime to care for the ill, especially the nursing staff who remained. (A large number of the nursing staff were foreign workers, and many of them left the country, but many stayed, and said they couldn’t abandon the patients who needed them)”.

Dr. Traina said that Qaddafi, after 42 years of despotic rule, believes that Libya belongs to him as one would own a personal possession. Qaddafi has said that if necessary to keep his power he will kill every Libyan and restock the country. He has used mercenaries from Chad, Mali and Niger. This became obvious when some of the mercenaries became hospitalized, and the personnel in attendance realized these patients spoke no Arabic.

In addition, Dr. Traina believes that there are pro-Qaddafi cells in Benghazi ready to spring into action when called upon.

When asked about opinion in the street about the United States and NATO as having a role to play, Dr. Trains replied that the Libyans want to win their freedom through their own acts. It is they who must play the leading role.

The Libyan people, he continued, want freedom as Americans know freedom. They want an open and accountable government and the freedom to form political parties. Nearly 100% of Libyans are Muslim, and Islam will play a role in their government. This is comparable to the role Christianity played in the early days of the American republic. Islam and freedom are totally compatible, he said, citing the Prophet Muhammad (s) and his early followers.

Dr. Traina dismissed the idea that the revolution, when successful, could be hijacked by radical forces. The people have fought too hard for their freedom and would guard in jealously.

Some organizations, he continued, have been able to get aid in by working with United Nations agencies. Others based in Ireland and the UK have been successful in this arena because they are not subject to the same sanctions.

Dr. Traina has suggested two web sites that he both recommends and is involved with. They are: www.libyanemergencyaid.com and www.islamicreliefusa.org/libya .

Dr. Traina is Assistant Professor of Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and on the cardiology staff at Olive View – UCLA Medical Center in Sylmar.

The Muslim Observer thanks him for his time.

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Sec. of State Hillary Clinton Appreciates Muslims’ Contribution to America at US-Islamic World Forum Washington DC, April 12, 2011

April 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Remarks of Hillary Clinton

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“Thank you, Strobe. It is a pleasure to join this first U.S.-Islamic World Forum held in America. His Highness the Amir and the people of Qatar have generously hosted the Forum for years. I was honored to be a guest in Doha last year. And now I am delighted to welcome you to Washington. I want to thank Martin Indyk, Ken Pollack and the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution for keeping this event going and growing. And I want to acknowledge all my colleagues in the diplomatic corps here tonight, including the Foreign Ministers of Qatar and Jordan and the Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Over the years, the U.S.-Islamic World Forum has offered a chance to celebrate the diverse achievements of Muslims around the world. From Qatar — which is pioneering innovative energy solutions and preparing to host the World Cup — to countries as varied as Turkey, Senegal, Indonesia and Malaysia, each offering its own model for prosperity and progress.

This Forum also offers a chance to discuss the equally diverse set of challenges we face together around the world – the need to confront violent extremism, the urgency of achieving a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, the importance of embracing tolerance and universal human rights in all our communities.

I am proud that this year we are recognizing the contributions of the millions of American Muslims who do so much to make this country strong. As President Obama said in Cairo, “Islam has always been a part of America’s story,” and every day Americans Muslims are helping write our story.

We are meeting at a historic time for one region in particular: the Middle East and North Africa. Today, the long Arab winter has begun to thaw. For the first time in decades, there is a real opportunity for change. A real opportunity for people to have their voices heard and their priorities addressed.

This raises significant questions for us all:

Will the people and leaders of the Middle East and North Africa pursue a new, more inclusive approach to solving the region’s persistent political, economic and social challenges? Will they consolidate the progress of recent weeks and address long-denied aspirations for dignity and opportunity? Or, when we meet at this Forum in five years, will we have seen the prospects for reform fade and remember this moment as just a mirage in the desert?

These questions can only be answered by the people and leaders of the Middle East and North Africa themselves. The United States certainly does not have all the answers. In fact, here in Washington we’re struggling to thrash out answers to our own difficult political and economic questions. But America is committed to working as partners to help unlock the region’s potential and realize its hopes for change.

Much has been accomplished already. Uprisings across the region have exposed myths that for too long were used to justify a stagnant status quo: That governments can hold on to power without responding to their people’s aspirations or respecting their rights. That the only way to produce change in the region is through violence and conflict. And, most pernicious of all, that Arabs do not share universal human aspirations for freedom, dignity and opportunity.

Today’s new generation of young people rejects these false narratives.

They will not accept the status quo. Despite the best efforts of the censors, they are connecting to the wider world in ways their parents and grandparents could never imagine. They see alternatives. On satellite news, on Twitter and Facebook, and now in places like Cairo and Tunis. They know a better life is within reach – and they are willing to reach for it.

But these young people have inherited a region that in many ways is unprepared to meet their growing expectations. Its challenges have been well documented in a series of landmark Arab Human Development Reports.

Independently authored and published by the United Nations Development Program, they represent the cumulative knowledge of leading Arab scholars and intellectuals. Answering these challenges will help determine if this historic moment lives up to its promise. That is why this January in Doha, just weeks after a desperate Tunisian street vendor set fire to himself in public protest, I talked with the leaders of the region about the need to move faster to meet their people’s needs and aspirations.

In the 21st century, the material conditions of people’s lives have greater impact on national stability and security than ever before. The balance of power is no longer measured by counting tanks and missiles alone. Now strategists must factor in the growing influence of citizens themselves — connected, organized and frustrated.

There was a time when those of us who championed civil society, worked with marginalized minorities and women, and focused on young people and technology, were told our concerns were noble but not urgent. That is another false narrative that has been washed away. These issues – among others – are also at the heart of smart power – and they must be at the center of any discussion attempting to answer the region’s most pressing questions.

First, can the leaders and citizens of the region reform economies that are overly dependent on oil exports and stunted by corruption? Overall, Arab countries were less industrialized in 2007 than in 1970.

Unemployment often runs more than double the world-wide average, and even worse for women and young people. While a growing number of Arabs live in poverty, crowded into slums without sanitation, safe water, or reliable electricity, a small elite has increasingly concentrated control of the region’s land and wealth. The 2009 Arab Development Report found that these trends – and I quote — “result in the ominous dynamics of marginalization.”

Reversing this dynamic means grappling with a second question: How to match economic reform with political and social change? According to the 2009 Global Integrity Report, Arab countries, almost without exception, have some of the weakest anti-corruption systems in the world. Citizens have spent decades under martial law or emergency rule.

Political parties and civil society groups are subject to repression and restriction. Judicial systems are far from free or independent.

Elections, when they are held, are often rigged.

This leads to a third and often-overlooked question: Will the door to full citizenship and participation finally open to women and minorities? The first Arab Human Development Report in 2002 found that Arab women’s political and economic participation was the lowest in the world. Successive reports have shown little progress. The 2005 report called women’s empowerment – and I quote – a “prerequisite for an Arab renaissance, inseparably and causally linked to the fate of the Arab world.”

This is not a matter of the role of religion in women’s lives. Muslim women have long enjoyed greater rights and opportunities in places like Bangladesh and Indonesia. Or consider the family law in Morocco or the personal status code in Tunisia. Communities from Egypt to Jordan to Senegal are beginning to take on entrenched practices like child marriage, honor crimes and female cutting. All over the world we see living proof that Islam and women’s rights are compatible.

Unfortunately, some are actually working to undermine this progress and export a virulently anti-woman ideology to other Muslim communities.

All of these challenges — from deep unemployment to widespread corruption to the lack of respect and opportunities for women – have fueled frustration among the region’s young people. And changing leaders won’t be enough to satisfy them. Not if cronyism and closed economies continue to choke off opportunity and participation. Or if citizens can’t rely on police and the courts to protect their rights.

The region’s powerbrokers, inside and outside government, need to step up and work with the people to craft a positive vision for the future.

Generals and imams, business leaders and bureaucrats, everyone who has benefited from and reinforced the status quo has a role to play. They also have a lot to lose if the vision vacuum is filled by extremists and rejectionists.

So a fourth crucial question is how Egypt and Tunisia should consolidate the progress that has been achieved in recent months.

Former protesters are asking: How can we stay organized and involved?

It will take forming political parties and advocacy coalitions. It will take focusing on working together to solve the big challenges. In Cairo last month, I met with young activists who were passionate about their principles but still sorting out how to be practical about their politics. One veteran Egyptian journalist and dissident, Hisham Kassim, expressed concerns this week that a reluctance to move from protests to politics would, in his words, “endanger the revolution’s gains.” He urged his young comrades to translate their passion into a positive agenda and political participation.

And as the people of Egypt and Tunisia embrace the full responsibilities of citizenship, we will look to transitional authorities to guarantee fundamental rights such as free assembly and expression, to provide basic security on the streets, and to be transparent and inclusive.

Unfortunately, this year we have seen violent attacks in Egypt and elsewhere that have killed dozens of religious and ethnic minorities, part of a troubling world-wide trend documented in the State Department’s annual human rights report released on Friday. Communities around the world, including my own, have struggled to strike the right balance between freedom of expression and tolerance of unpopular views.

But each of us has a responsibility to defend the universal human rights of people of all faiths and creeds. And I want to applaud the Organization of the Islamic Conference for its leadership in securing the recent resolution by the UN Human Rights Council that takes a strong stand against discrimination and violence based upon religion or belief, but does not limit freedom of expression or worship.
In both Egypt and Tunisia, we have also seen troubling signs regarding the rights and opportunities of women. So far women have been excluded  from key transitional decision-making processes. When women marched through Tahrir Square to celebrate International Women’s Day in their new democracy, they were met by harassment and abuse. You can’t claim to have a democracy if half the population is silenced.

We know from long experience that building a successful democracy is a never-ending task. More than 200 years after our own revolution, America is still working on it. Real change takes time, it takes hard work and patience – but it is possible. As one Egyptian women’s rights activist said recently, “We will have to fight for our rights… It will be tough, and require lobbying, but that’s what democracy is all about.”

We also know that democracy cannot be transplanted wholesale from one society to another. People have the right and responsibility to devise their own government. But there are universal rights that apply to everyone and universal values that undergird vibrant democracies everywhere.

And one lesson learned by transitions to democracy around the world is that it can be tempting to refight old battles rather than focus on ensuring justice and accountability in the future. I will always remember watching Nelson Mandela welcome three of his former jailors to his inauguration. He never looked back in anger, always forward in hope.

The United States is committed to standing with the people of Egypt and Tunisia as they work to build sustainable democracies that deliver real results for all their citizens, and to supporting the aspirations of people across the region. On this our values and interests converge.

History has shown that democracies tend to be more stable, more peaceful, and ultimately, more prosperous. The trick is how we get there.

So this is a fifth question: How can America be an effective partner to the people of the region? How can we work together to build not just short-term stability, but long-term sustainability?

With this goal in mind, the Obama administration began to reorient U.S. foreign policy in the region and around the world from our first days in office. We put partnerships with people, not just governments, at the center of our efforts.

We start from the understanding that America’s core interests and values have not changed, including our commitment to promote human rights, resolve long-standing conflicts, counter Iran ’s threats and defeat al Qaida and its extremist allies. We believe those concerns are shared by the people of the region. And we will continue working closely with our trusted partners – including many in this room tonight — to advance these mutual interests.

We know that a one-sized fits all approach doesn’t make sense in such a diverse region at such a fluid time.

As I have said before, the United States has a decades-long friendship with Bahrain that we expect to continue long into the future. We have made clear that security alone cannot resolve the challenges facing Bahrain. Violence is not and cannot be the answer. A political process is. We have raised our concerns about the current measures directly with Bahraini officials and will continue to do so.

The United States also strongly supports the Yemeni people in their quest for greater opportunity and their pursuit of political and economic reform that will fulfill their aspirations. President Saleh needs to resolve the political impasse with the opposition so that meaningful political change can take place in the near term in an orderly and peaceful manner.

And as President Obama has said, we strongly condemn the abhorrent violence committed against peaceful protesters by the Syrian government over the past few weeks. President Assad and the Syrian government must respect the universal rights of the Syrian people, who are rightly demanding the basic freedoms that they have been denied.

So going forward, the United States will be guided by careful consideration of all the circumstances on the ground and by our consistent values and interests.

Wherever we can, we will accelerate our work to develop stronger bonds with the people themselves – with civil society, business leaders, religious communities, women and minorities. We are rethinking the way we do business on the ground, with citizens themselves helping set the priorities. For example, as we invest in Egypt ’s new democracy and promote sustainable development, we are soliciting grant proposals from a much wider range of local organizations. We want to find new partners and invest in new ideas. And we are exploring ways to use connection technologies to expand our dialogue and open new lines of communication.

As we map out a strategy for supporting the transitions already under way, we know that the people of the region have not put their lives on the line just to vote in an election. They expect democracy to deliver jobs, sweep out corruption, and extend opportunities that will help them prosper and take full advantage of the global economy. So the United States will work with people and leaders across the region to create more open, dynamic, and diverse economies where all citizens can share in the prosperity.

In the short term, the United States will provide immediate economic assistance to help transitional democracies overcome their early challenges — including $150 million for Egypt alone.

In the medium term, as Egypt and Tunisia continue building their democracies, we will work with our partners to support an ambitious blueprint for sustainable growth, job creation, investment and trade.

The U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation will provide up to $2 billion to encourage private sector investments across the Middle East and North Africa —especially for small and medium-sized enterprises. We are working with Congress to establish Enterprise funds for Egypt and Tunisia that will support competitive markets and provide small and medium-sized businesses with access to critical low-cost capital. Our Global Entrepreneurship Program is seeking out new partners and opportunities. And we are exploring other ideas, such as improving and expanding the Qualified Investment Zones, which allow Egyptian companies to send exports to the United States duty-free.

To spur private sector investment, we are working with Partners for a New Beginning, an organization led by former Secretary Madeleine Albright, Muhtar Kent of Coca-Cola and Walter Isaacson of the Aspen Institute. It was formed after the President’s Cairo speech and includes the CEOs of companies like Intel, Cisco, and Morgan Stanley.

These leaders will convene a summit at the end of May to connect American investors with new partners in the region’s transitional democracies, with an eye toward creating jobs and boosting trade.
Under the auspices of Partners for a New Beginning, the U.S.-North Africa Partnership for Economic Opportunity is already building a network of public and private partners and programs that deepen economic integration among the countries in North Africa. This past December in Algiers, the Partnership convened more than 400 young entrepreneurs, business leaders, venture capitalists and Diaspora leaders from the United States and North Africa. These people-to-people contacts have helped lay the groundwork for cross-border initiatives to create jobs, train youth, and support start-ups.

For the long term, we are discussing ways to encourage closer economic integration across the region, with the United States and Europe, and around the world. The Middle East and North Africa are home to rich nations with excess capital and poorer countries hungry for investments. Forging deeper trade and economic relationships between neighbors could create new industries and new jobs. And across the Mediterranean, Europe also represents enormous potential for new economic partnerships and greater shared prosperity. Reducing trade barriers in North Africa alone could boost GDP levels by as much as 7 or 8 percent in countries such as Tunisia and Morocco, and could lead to hundreds of millions of dollars in new wealth across the region every year.

The people of the Middle East and North Africa have the talent and drive to build vibrant economies and sustainable democracies – just as citizens have done in other regions long held back by closed political and economic systems, from Southeast Asia to Eastern Europe to Latin America.

It won’t be easy. Iran provides a powerful cautionary tale for the transitions under way across the region. The democratic aspirations of 1979 were subverted by a new and brutal dictatorship. Iran’s leaders have consistently pursued policies of violence abroad and tyranny at home. In Tehran, security forces have beaten, detained, and in several recent cases killed peaceful protesters, even as Iran’s president has made a show of denouncing the violence against civilians in Libya and other places. And he is not alone in his hypocrisy. Al Qaida’s propagandists have tried to yoke the region’s peaceful popular movements to their murderous ideology. Their claims to speak for the dispossessed and downtrodden have never rung so hollow. Their arguments for violent change have never been so fully discredited.

Last month we witnessed a development that stood out, even in this extraordinary season.

Colonel Qadhafi’s troops had turned their guns on civilians. His military jets and helicopter gunships had been unleashed upon people who had no means to defend themselves against assault from the air.

Benghazi’s hundreds of thousands of citizens were in the crosshairs.

In the past, when confronted with such a crisis, all too often the leaders of the Middle East and North Africa have averted their eyes or closed ranks. But not this time. Not in this new era. The OIC and GCC issued strong statements. The Arab League convened in Cairo, in the midst of all the commotion of Egypt’s democratic transition. They condemned the violence and suspended Libya from their organization, even though Qadhafi held the League’s rotating presidency. They went on to call for a no-fly zone. I want to thank Qatar, the UAE and Jordan for contributing planes to help enforce it.

But that’s not all. The Arab League affirmed – and I quote – “the right of the Libyan people to fulfill their demands and build their own future and institutions in a democratic framework.”

That is a remarkable statement. This is reason to hope.

But all the signs of progress we have seen in recent months will only be meaningful if more leaders in more places move faster and further to embrace this spirit of reform… if they work with their people to answer the region’s most pressing challenges: How to diversify their economies, open their political systems, crackdown on corruption, and respect the rights of women and minorities.

Those are the questions that will determine whether the people of the region make the most of this historic moment or fall back into stagnation.

The United States will be there as a partner, working for progress. We are committed to the future of this region and we believe in the potential of its people. And we look forward to the day when all the citizens of the Middle East and North Africa and around the world have the freedom to pursue their God-given potential.

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Is This the Culmination of Two Years of Destabilization?

April 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Are the Iranian Protests Another US Orchestrated “Color Revolution?”

By Paul Craig Roberts

A number of commentators have expressed their idealistic belief in the purity of Mousavi, Montazeri, and the westernized youth of Tehran. The CIA destabilization plan, announced two years ago (see below) has somehow not contaminated unfolding events.

The claim is made that Ahmadinejad stole the election, because the outcome was declared too soon after the polls closed for all the votes to have been counted. However, Mousavi declared his victory several hours before the polls closed. This is classic CIA destabilization designed to discredit a contrary outcome. It forces an early declaration of the vote. The longer the time interval between the preemptive declaration of victory and the release of the vote tally, the longer Mousavi has to create the impression that the authorities are using the time to fix the vote. It is amazing that people don’t see through this trick.

As for the grand ayatollah Montazeri’s charge that the election was stolen, he was the initial choice to succeed Khomeini, but lost out to the current Supreme Leader. He sees in the protests an opportunity to settle the score with Khamenei. Montazeri has the incentive to challenge the election whether or not he is being manipulated by the CIA, which has a successful history of manipulating disgruntled politicians.

There is a power struggle among the ayatollahs. Many are aligned against Ahmadinejad because he accuses them of corruption, thus playing to the Iranian countryside where Iranians believe the ayatollahs’ lifestyles indicate an excess of power and money. In my opinion, Ahmadinejad’s attack on the ayatollahs is opportunistic. However, it does make it odd for his American detractors to say he is a conservative reactionary lined up with the ayatollahs.

Commentators are “explaining” the Iran elections based on their own illusions, delusions, emotions, and vested interests. Whether or not the poll results predicting Ahmadinejad’s win are sound, there is, so far, no evidence beyond surmise that the election was stolen. However, there are credible reports that the CIA has been working for two years to destabilize the Iranian government.

On May 23, 2007, Brian Ross and Richard Esposito reported on ABC News: “The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert “black” operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell ABC News.”

On May 27, 2007, the London Telegraph independently reported: “Mr. Bush has signed an official document endorsing CIA plans for a propaganda and disinformation campaign intended to destabilize, and eventually topple, the theocratic rule of the mullahs.”

A few days previously, the Telegraph reported on May 16, 2007, that Bush administration neocon warmonger John Bolton told the Telegraph that a US military attack on Iran would “be a ‘last option’ after economic sanctions and attempts to foment a popular revolution had failed.”

On June 29, 2008, Seymour Hersh reported in the New Yorker: “Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership.”

The protests in Tehran no doubt have many sincere participants. The protests also have the hallmarks of the CIA orchestrated protests in Georgia and Ukraine. It requires total blindness not to see this.

Daniel McAdams has made some telling points. For example, neoconservative Kenneth Timmerman wrote the day before the election that “there’s talk of a ‘green revolution’ in Tehran.” How would Timmerman know that unless it was an orchestrated plan? Why would there be a ‘green revolution’ prepared prior to the vote, especially if Mousavi and his supporters were as confident of victory as they claim? This looks like definite evidence that the US is involved in the election protests.

Timmerman goes on to write that “the National Endowment for Democracy has spent millions of dollars promoting ‘color’ revolutions . . . Some of that money appears to have made it into the hands of pro-Mousavi groups, who have ties to non-governmental organizations outside Iran that the National Endowment for Democracy funds.” Timmerman’s own neocon Foundation for Democracy is “a private, non-profit organization established in 1995 with grants from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), to promote democracy and internationally-recognized standards of human rights in Iran.”

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com.

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