2011-10-30 The value of street protests in the Occupy movement

Speakers in order of appearance:

Heather Marsh.

       As 

Georgie

       she has been writing about the revolution since before the beginning, starting with 

A Stateless War

       in September 2010. As editor/administrator of WL Central, she has created a community for activists around the world to provide a new hard news organization, covering only the news people require in order to govern themselves and working towards the Wikileaks model of scientific journalism. This is an ongoing project that is about to get a lot bigger, building off of everything learned in the last year.

A Canadian activist, she created Take the Square Canada and works with activists around the world to encourage and facilitate connection and communication for the revolution, both in Canada and around the world. She has been active in human rights and freedom of information for years.

Zak Yahya is a blogger at Lebanon Spring blog, where he writes about current affairs in Lebanon and Middle East. He writes in Wikileaks Central matters related to the Wikileaks cables, democracy and human rights issues. He focuses on the matters originating from the Levant – Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Palestine and Iran. You can contact him on the Lebanon Spring blog or on twitter @TheZako

Naomi Colvin is a UK activist with UK Friends of Bradley Manning and the Occupy Londonmovement. . Her website is here.

Alexa O’Brien. In February of this year she founded usdayofrage.org, where alongside her friends, she pushed the edge of digital social media for scalable organization of civil disobedience and non-violent protest. usdayofrage.org was instrumental in the traditional and digital organization of the original September 17 action in 5 American cities, including Austin, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Oregon, and New York, and built trusted networks that spread #occupywallstreet virally across the United States.

Since January 2011, she has covered the WikiLeaks release of US State Department Cables, JTTF memoranda known as the ‘GTMO files’, and revolutions across Egypt, Bahrain, Iran, and Yemen. She has interviewed preeminent US foreign policy expert on the Cambodia cables, and published hours of interview with former GTMO guards, detainees, defense lawyers, and human rights activists, as well as WikiLeaks media partners, including Andy Worthington, GTMO historian and author, and Atanas Tchobanov, Balkanleaks’ spokesman and co-editor of Bivol.bg.

Listen to the conversation here.

2011-08-13 Human Rights News

Current news of any violations, legal progress, setbacks or other news in human rights as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Syria: Assad continues to ignore the UN security council, the Arab League, the governments of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and almost everyone else, killing at least 90 civilians this week, for a total of almost 2000 since the protests began in March.

United States: A US federal appeals court ruled on August 8 that former Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld had no immunity against being sued personally by US citizens Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel who allege torture at the hands of US troops. Last week, a US district judge in Washington ruled separately that a former American military contractor who also claims he was tortured in Iraq could sue Mr Rumsfeld. A lawyer for Mr Rumsfeld said the decision “puts American soldiers at risk”. Further appeals by the US justice department to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals or to the US Supreme Court are possible.

On July 12, Human Rights Watch produced an extensive report entitled Getting Away with Torture: The Bush Administration and Mistreatment of Detainees.

Carol Rosenberg covers the rehearsals for Guantanamo trials.

Cageprisoners reports A New York judge has declined to force an investigation into whether an Army psychologist developed abusive interrogation techniques for Guantánamo Bay detainees and should be stripped of his license.

Charles Graner, who was convicted of leading his six-member team in the sexual humiliation of naked prisoners as documented in the Abu Ghraib photos, was released after serving more than six-and-a-half years of a 10-year sentence.

Kyrgyzstan: Osmonjon Khalmurzaev, a Russian citizen, died two days after being released from police custody where he was allegedly tortured, Human Rights Watch reports.“Khalmurzaev’s torture and death show the chilling consequences that can result from total impunity for law enforcement officials who use torture for investigation or personal enrichment.” the family’s lawyer stated.

England: UK Prime Minister David Cameron supports plans by estate councils to evict familes from council housing if one member was involved in rioting, in addition to imposingharsh sentencing within the legal system. There are reports of an eviction which has already been served to a family which includes an 18 year old who has been only charged (not convicted) of burglary and violent disorder. The family also includes an eight year old girl. Other evictions reportedly include the family of a 12-year-old boy photographed stealing a £7.49 bottle of wine.

Cameron is also considering restrictions on social media websites, disrupting the use of cell phones services, messaging services or social networking tools, banning or removing face coverings, using the army to help quell riots and the use of water cannon and dye sprays.

Iran: The Committee to Protect Journalists reports “In recent days, Iranian authorities increased a prominent journalist’s prison term by two years and arrested a critical journalist who had just finished serving a prison sentence. Other journalists have suffered from declining health as a result of substandard conditions, extended periods in solitary confinement, and intentional abuse, according to news reports.

2011-08-13 Protests around the world

Syria:

  • The Local Co-ordination Committees say 7-8 people have been killed across Syria so far today: 4 in Homs, 1 in Hama, 1 in Daraya and 1 or 2 in Latakia. Shooting continues.
  • This video reportedly shows Bashar al Assad’s picture taken down and destroyed at Syrian Airlines international sites.
  • Friday’s death toll is being reported as 23.
  • This video shows a funeral in Douma, where five people, including a young woman, were reported killed by government forces on Friday. The crowd is being estimated at “tens of thousands” by Al Jazeera.
  • Thousands are still being arrested.
  • Tanks entered Lataika and heavy artillery was being reported there.
  • Turkey isn’t ruling out international intervention in Syria if the Bashar al-Assad regime doesn’t stop using violence against its own people, a Turkish official told the Hürriyet Daily News on Friday.

 

Israel: 25,000 assemble in Haifa, 20,000 people fill Rager Boulevard in Be’er Sheva, in Afula, some 15,000 people gather, more than 1,500 people march down the city’s main street in Eilat. Haaretz reports. It was the first time in nearly a month that Tel Aviv did not hold a march. Thousands of protesters took to the streets in other cities throughout Israel, with 8,000 demonstrating in Modi’in, 7,000 in Netanya, 5,000 in Petah Tikva, 3,500 in Hod Hasharon, 2,500 in Ramat Hasharon, 2,000 in Rosh Pina, 1,500 in Rishon Letzion, 1,500 in Eilat, 1,500 in Dimona and 1,500 in Nahariya.

Yemen: Hundreds of thousands protested in Sana, and at least 17 other cities and towns,the largest turnout since President Ali Abdullah Saleh left a hospital in Saudi Arabia, where he was recovering from wounds suffered in a June attack on his palace compound, and signaled he intends to return home soon.

South Korea: Continuing the labour protests related to the mass layoffs at Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction, the 4th Hope Riders, a festival in which people around the country ride down to the Youngdo shipyard to show solidarity and support to the crane protester Kim Jinsuk, launches in Seoul on the 27th August. The protest of Kim Jinsukenters its 219th day.

United States: Anonymous has a message for the people of San Francisco. “The Bay Area Rapid Transit has made the conscious decision of ordering various cell phone companies to terminate services for the downtown area inhibiting those in the area from using cell phones – even in the case of an emergency.” They are organizing a peaceful protest at Civic Center station on Monday, August 15th at 5pm. They are calling for non-violence and requesting that people bring and use cameras. They are requesting that people outside of San Francisco, show solidarity by using black fax, email bombs, and phone calls to the BART Board of Directors. Tomorrow, Sunday – August 14, 2011 at High Noon Pacific Time we, Anonymous – will remove from the internet the web site of BART located at www.bart.gov for exactly six hours. That’s twice as long as they shut off the cell phones for. BART decided to cut off your communications and now we will flood theirs. Follow #OpBart on Twitter.

US Day of Rage is posting video guidelines for non-violent civil disobedience in the leadup to their September 17 protests.

Chile: In response to the ongoing student led protests for free and equal education in Chile, Government spokesman Andres Chadwick says Chile “is not going to be governed from the street.” Students have been marching for over two months and are asking for a referendum.

China: Thousands of people in Qianxi County, Guizhou province smashed ten vehicles and torched another five, said Xinhua, China’s state news agency. According to Reuters, “China saw almost 90,000 such “mass incidents” of riots, protests, mass petitions and other acts of unrest in 2009, according to a 2011 study by two scholars from Nankai University in north China. Some estimates go even higher.” “In fact, China has riots more serious than England’s every week,” said one Weibo comment.

Egypt: Brief clashes between protesters and security broke out in an otherwise peaceful demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square where a few hundred people gathered on Friday to protest the continuing military rule.

2011-04-21 Syrian government lobbies for seat on UN Human Rights Council while preparing large scale attack on Friday protests and students

“We don’t believe the government anymore. All their decisions are just ink on paper for us.” –Omar Ali, a Kurdish-Syrian activist.

Thirteen human rights groups have signed a press release condemning the Arab League’s support of Syria’s bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. The regional group for Syria has the same number of nominations as they have seats available, so at this point Syria seems guaranteed a seat. While the human rights groups feel that support for Syria’s bid is an “an insult to the UN body and its mission”, a quick glance at the current membershipshows Syria, who have killed some 220-250 of their own citizens in recent weeks anddetained and tortured close to a thousand, should feel right at home. While Libya was recently suspended, the council still has Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Gabon, Nigeria, Cameroon and enough other countries with sordid human rights records to constitute a jury of their peers. They need support from half of the members, when the vote takes place on May 20.

SANA state news agency today published the decrees on ending the state of emergency, abolishing the Supreme State Security Court, and regulating the right to peaceful demonstration, signed today by President Bashar al-Assad. Opposition activist Haitham al-Maleh told Reuters the move was “useless”, and “The problem is that the ruling elite and the security have put their hands on the judiciary, and that other legislation they had introduced exempted the security forces from being held accountable to law.”

Abdel Halim Khaddam, a former Syrian vice president based in Paris told BBC Arabic: “The crisis in Syria has nothing to do with the presence or absence of the state of emergency. It is not the state of emergency that arrests people and takes them to jail and it is not the state of emergency that fires on people. … Assad has exposed himself completely before the people, through the crimes committed by his security apparatus. This has created a deep feeling among Syrians that the continuation of the regime would be a catastrophe. The depth of the rift between the regime and the majority of the people… will lead to the collapse of a regime desperately struggling to survive.”

Yesterday protests continued unabated by the announcement, as the country gears up for what both sides are expecting to be a huge demonstration with huge retaliation. This week has seen a concentration on government crackdown on students and universities, with many arrested and beaten. Security is readying for Friday, when protests are expected in 40 or more cites, by deploying armed security in plainclothes everywhere protests are expected. Tanks are reported in Tahrir Square in Homs.

2011-04-19 #Syria government passes more meaningless reform, continues killing protesters

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The Syrian government today passed a bill that lifted the country’s 48 year old emergency law as well as abolished the state security court for political prisoners and approved a law allowing ‘regulated’ peaceful protests requiring Interior Ministry permission. In a country with 10,000 political prisoners, walking into the Interior Ministry to obtain permission for a protest does not seem risk free. Neither can a protest be peaceful when Syrian security are firing at it as has been the case in the current protests. There is also a total ban on political gatherings, and the Interior Ministry today called the current protests a mutiny by armed Salafi militants who it promised to ‘punish with the strongest penalties.’

The Ministry said it will not be lenient with such terrorist acts and it will work strictly to enhance security and stability all over Syria and pursue terrorists everywhere to bring them to justice.The Ministry called on the citizens to tell about the whereabouts of terrorists and suspects and not allow them to exploit the freedom atmosphere to shed blood and corrupt public and private properties.

Assad’s government has so far released political prisoners and detained many more, replaced the government while retaining the Assad family and friends who control all government, military, intelligence and economy, and lifted the emergency law while retaining all of the other laws that allow the Assad government to operate as it pleases, such as guaranteed immunity for crimes committed in the line of duty for the secret police. Protesters were once again unimpressed by the reforms and promised to continue protesting.

Protesters are asking for freedom and human dignity, the release of the rest of the political prisoners, freedom of speech, and legalized political opposition groups. Increasingly, they are also demanding regime change.

Hours before announcing the new bill, security forces killed a reported 17 people during anattack on protesters in Homs on Sunday night. Syrian police have also reportedly arrested opposition figure Mahmoud Issa. More protesters were killed today, according to SANA news agency and others. Amnesty reports at least 26 more protesters have died in recent days, bringing the total to some 220 over the past month. On Sunday, security forces reportedly killed 17 protesters in Homs and three mourners at a funeral in nearby Talbisah, with five more protesters reported killed in Latakia on Monday. A tribal leader, Muhammad al-‘Aliwi, also died in custody on Monday, possibly as a result of torture.

Previous WL Central coverage on Syria.

 

2011-04-18 Shadowy figures play with real lives in #Syria

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Image credit: SkyNews

“We are extremely concerned that lives are endangered as a result of this article based on WikiLeaks,” a senior Obama administration official told Fox News Monday morning. “The concern regards what (the) Syrians might do to those that work for (Barada), given that (Assad and his security forces) are prone to crack down and could well use this as an excuse — blaming it on foreigners.”

It is unfortunate that it took a Washington Post article on US involvement in Syria for the US government to feel concern, and that it chose to do so based on the disclosure of their actions rather than the actions. US State cables published by the Washington Post have illustrated reason for concern over US involvement for a very long time, and have also shown that US actions have been known to the Syrian government for a very long time.

Cable 09DAMASCUS306 dated April 28, 2009 states: “The SARG would undoubtedly view any U.S. funds going to illegal political groups as tantamount to supporting regime change. This would inevitably include the various expatriate reform organizations operating in Europe and the U.S., most of which have little to no effect on civil society or human rights in Syria.”

As related in cable 09DAMASCUS477 dated July 8, 2009, it did not take the publication of the US State cables for the Syrian government to become aware of US activity. “… report begs the question of how much and for how long SARG has known about Democracy Council operations in Syria and, by extension, the MJD’s participation. Reporting in other channels suggest the Syrian Muhubarat may already have penetrated the MJD and is using MJD contacts to track U.S. democracy programming. If the SARG does know, but has chosen not to intervene openly, it raises the possibility that the SARG may be mounting a campaign to entrap democracy activists receiving illegal (under Syrian law) foreign assistance.”

From cable 09DAMASCUS692 dated September 23, 2009: “It is unclear to what extent SARG intelligence services understand how USG money enters Syria and through which proxy organizations. What is clear, however, is that security agents are increasingly focused on this issue when they interrogate human rights and civil society activists.”

Much earlier, cable 06DAMASCUS701 dated February 21, 2006 describes the reaction of Syrian opposition groups to a public announcement by the US that it had designated five million US dollars for the Syrian opposition. The embassy was told at that time that such actions could be very harmful to the opposition’s efforts, and that the human rights and civil society activists were left with the impression that the US government saw them as just another “chip in the game” and were not serious about helping them. The US government was perceived as either naive or uncaring. It was also pointed out that anyone visiting the website the US government had set up for the program would instantly be targeted by the Syrian government. Accepting foreign funding is illegal in Syria, and anyone caught would be accused of treason and face the death penalty.

The most likely applicants for the funding, according to the embassy contacts, were the Syrian government themselves. One contact described the funding as a terrible idea that would be used by the regime to discredit the opposition and had already made the opposition look like US agents in the eyes of “most Syrians” even with no government effort. The US was told that funding would help the Syrian regime consolidate its position. One dismissed it as a stunt with a small amount of money that would make no impact (as previous US funding of the opposition had made no impact) and said that it had angered most Syrians who resented the US interference in their affairs. It was also pointed out that, for the damage caused, five million dollars was a very low amount compared to the 75 million pledged to the Iranian opposition.

Today US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the US was not working to undermine the Syrian government, but rather to “promote a transformation to a more democratic process.” The first half of that strategy is working excellently well, as US involvement has contributed more than any other factor to keeping Assad in power and attracting suspicion to any dissidents. But promoting democracy requires a better understanding of what democracy actually is. In the US, where the last “democratic” election cost an estimated US$5.3 billion, the basic premise of a democracy as an indication of the free will of the citizens has been lost and is now equated with money spent.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry today denied US accusations of Iranian assistance to Assad, saying “We deny these claims and we are sure that the Syrian government is able to resolve the internal problems and respond appropriately to people’s demands.”

The Syrian government has very effectively cast doubt and suspicion on the identity, motivations and backing of the Syrians protesting this year. Even the snipers shooting people have had their identity questioned. If the US government was using its embassy to undermine the credibility of Assad’s opposition, they have done a very good job. The list of people imprisoned, missing and killed since the protests began is now at 925, as what ought to be a straightforward matter of removing a corrupt and sadistic government has become a game of propaganda and suspicion with no one ever sure who they are fighting against or beside.

Previous WL Central coverage on Syria.

 

2011-04-08 Another bloody Friday in #Syria [Updated]

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 al-Assad (right) with his brother Maher al-Assad (left) and brother-in-law Assef Shawkat (center) in 2000.

Update:Syrian state TV has aired footage of masked gunmen firing on protesters and police. There are many similar videos in different situations on the internet, and different ideas of who the snipers are, Syrian security forces, protesters, or outside forces.

Today protesters in Dara’a destroyed a statue of president Bashar al-Assad’s older brother Basil al-Assad and reportedly burnt down the State TV building in Dara’a and set fire to a Baath Party outpost. Al Jazeera’s correspondent Cal Perry reports that the army has now been deployed in large numbers to Dara’a. The government’s earlier decision to arm the police force with electric batons instead of live ammunition was reversed today.

Syrian state TV (translated by Al Jazeera) said repeatedly today: Over the past Fridays there were a lot of demonstrations in which armed groups used weapons to kill people and security forces – and though we understand that protesting is a right of the population, we can no longer allow chaos to take place and official buildings to be destroyed. So we will use all the means to stop the chaos from taking place.

Protesters are calling for people to come out tonight in great numbers in other cities to take the pressure off of Dara’a.

Video of snipers from AP


Amnesty is now putting the death toll in Syria over the last three weeks at 171, with the majority killed by security forces firing live ammunition at protesters. This list detailing all people people imprisoned, missing and killed since the protests began, has now reached 770. Amnesty confirmed another eight people killed today, six from Dara’a and two in Homs, but they say the confirmations from today could rise significantly. A doctor in Dara’a told CNNthat 22 unarmed civilians were shot dead in just Dara’a today. The Syrian government said it was nineteen of the security force. From AllVoices, Amar Qurabi, president of the Syrian NGO National Human Rights Organization, reported a total of 22 people dead in three cities. “We have a list of names of 17 protesters killed in Deraa (south) and we have been informed of the death of two protesters in Homs and three in Harasta.” Reuters also puts the death toll in Dara’a at 17, from a “hospital source and activist.” NewsTsar has graphic videos from a mosque in Dara’a.

President Bashar al-Assad signed a decree yesterday to finally (after a fifty year wait) give Syrian citizenship to tens of thousands of Kurds in Syria. There was still a huge protest today in the Kurdish city of Amouda, which does not seem appeased. There is no indication that Assad plans to stop or curb the violence directed at the protesters and open a real dialogue or implement the changes wanted by the protesters, particularly the scaling back and reform of the security and intelligence forces run by his brother Maher and brother in law Assef Shawket. Syrian protesters have vowed to come out and protest every Friday until the government meets their demands for meaningful change.

Previous WL Central coverage on Syria here.

Lataika today: