Tuesday, May 31, 2011

More Deaths in Yemen

UN Rights Office Says More than 50 People Believed Killed by Pro-government Forces in Yemen

By Associated Press
Tuesday, May 31 2011

GENEVA — The U.N.’s human rights office says it has received reports from Yemen that more than 50 people have been killed since Sunday by pro-government forces.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay says the reports “remain to be fully verified.”

Pillay says the killings occurred when Yemeni army, Republican Guards and other government-affiliated forces destroyed a protest camp in the southern city of Taiz.

She says “reports indicate that hundreds more have been injured.”

Pillay said in a statement Tuesday that “such reprehensible acts of violence and indiscriminate attacks on unarmed civilians by armed security officers must stop immediately.”

Becoming a Woman in Iran

The Iranian Queen of Fado: Newsha Tavakolian

By Mrs. Deane
nothing is too amazing to be true
30 May 2011

Lis­ten © New­sha Tavakolian

Slowly, doggedly, per­sis­tently, steadily New­sha Tavako­lian has been build­ing her career, first as a pho­to­jour­nal­ist for local news­pa­pers in Iran, then work­ing for inter­na­tional media, today includ­ing reg­u­lar con­tri­bu­tions to The New York Times Lens blog. Now she is edg­ing towards the world where doc­u­men­tary meets art project, announc­ing her arrival with a project aptly called "Lis­ten". "Lis­ten" deals with female ambi­tions being frus­trated but not extin­guished by the pow­ers that be. If women in Iran are for­bid­den to sing solo or record music, then noth­ing stops them to per­form in silence. Tavako­lian lets them act out their dreams in front of her cam­era, and pro­vides them with the stage they so ardently seek. Her por­traits show these singers when they are at their most unpro­tected and vul­ner­a­ble as they descend into con­cen­tra­tion and focus on the music. At the same time there is some­thing pow­er­ful about them. The result is a heady mix of defi­ance, vul­ner­a­bil­ity and sen­su­ous­ness — in short: the dan­ger of the Sirens.

Listen © New sha Tavakolian

"Lis­ten" exists as a series of pho­tographs as well as a six chan­nel video instal­la­tion, which can be viewed in sim­pli­fied ver­sion on her web­site. All women are seen singing sound­less simul­ta­ne­ously. Because the dura­tion of each song is a dif­fer­ent one, some singers are cued to begin a few sec­onds later, oth­ers fin­ish ear­lier, adding to the flow and dynam­ics of the whole experience.

Listen © New sha Tavakolian

Another part of the project con­sist of six empty CD cases, sym­bol­iz­ing the music Ira­ni­ans are miss­ing out on, designed by Tavako­lian based on a series of self por­traits. This is an impor­tant iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of the pho­tog­ra­pher with the per­form­ing artists. Not only did she want to become a singer her­self when she was younger, the stand-in can evi­dently be read as a metaphor for her own posi­tion and ambi­tions as a pho­tog­ra­pher. "Lis­ten" is the horn sound­ing before the hunt opens, announc­ing the arrival of the main play­ers on the scene, the hunters and the deer. "Lis­ten" is a com­mand as much as an invi­ta­tion. It takes a spe­cial kind of courage to sound that horn, in Iran, but not only in Iran.

Listen © New sha Tavakolian

The call is answered too, over the past years by var­i­ous nom­i­na­tions, awards and acqui­si­tions. Quite recently her work was part of the For­mat fes­ti­val in Derby, which led to a pub­li­ca­tion in the lat­est issue of 8 Mag­a­zine, "Dis­cover Islam". As part of Rawiya, the new female pho­tog­ra­phers col­lec­tive from the Mid­dle East, "Lis­ten" will be pre­sented at the MENASART fair in Beirut in July. I wish I were free to say: “I hope to see it a resound­ing suc­cess”, but my role as the cura­tor of this pro­gram makes me sus­pi­ciously and inex­cus­ably non-partial.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Film "Open Shutters Iraq"

There are a plethora of documentaries about the American-led war in Iraq that have won awards and acclaim. Even so very few Americans end up watching any of these films as we continue to evade our collective responsibility for the destruction of the world around us. I want to write about the perhaps under-acclaimed documentary project "Our Feelings Took the Pictures: Open Shutters Iraq" (2008) precisely because it so beautifully communicates the lives of extraordinary women who have suffered incredible injustices as the result of American policies. These are the lives that are so often silenced by mainstream media reports of the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

For me one of the grossest injustices in our contemporary world is that Americans have absolutely no sense of what our wars are doing to millions of people. Yes a few thousand Americans were attacked in minute areas of New York City and Washington D.C. on one particular day and this created much suffering, but it is totally incomparable to the attacks on tens of millions of people across entire countries over many years. Americans cannot imagine the humiliation of living under foreign occupation. We have no idea what it would be like to say goodbye to our children in the morning knowing that there is a good possibility that they may never return home. As the film reveals, during the battle of Fallujah many Iraqis were being killed and yet it was too unsafe for families to leave the house so there was nowhere else to bury the dead except for in the garden. This film symbolizes our inability to comprehend because of our vastly different living histories, and yet also helps to bridge the resulting divide.

Open Shutters is a series of workshops initiated by British photojournalist Eugenie Dolberg that embraces a methodology to help create a more participatory kind of journalism. The Iraq project now includes a film, book and exhibition. Open Shutters Iraq focuses on using the medium of photography to document the changing world of Iraq during probably the worst episode of sectarian violence as a result of the American-led war, helping Iraqis to find expression for their pain, suffering, hope and love. The director of the film, Maysoon Pachachi, is a British-Iraqi filmmaker who returns to the region to document Dolberg teaching a group of Iraqi women from five different cities how to express themselves through innovative but perfectly sensible artistic techniques, such as asking the women to create life maps, as well as teaching them how to use a camera. The women draw, write and paste pictures of their life histories, which not only helps them to find their inner selves to express in photographs, but also helps them to verbally communicate these selves to others, building intense bonds between the women.

Dolberg starts by explaining how she never felt comfortable growing up in British society. She felt so isolated and alone that she eventually ran away from home. However her story seems almost mundane in comparison with the stories of the women who have suffered hundreds of lives worth of injustice, death and violence. One woman was forced to deliver her own baby who died because the umbilical chord was wrapped around the baby's throat. Another woman was kidnapped for ransom and subsequently suffered from a reputation as a tainted woman. Several of the women had received death threats. Fathers, husbands, brothers and sons were arrested or killed. Probably the most shocking of all was hearing young children talk about kidnapping, explosions and death as if such things were totally normal for children to experience. But the fear in their eyes betrayed them.

Despite all of the pain and suffering in their lives, the women still speak about families and love. Each embodies human creativity, tolerance and kindness, which comes through in their photographs. They open their arms to American volunteers for the project. They completely refute ignorant views about oppressed Arab women and sectarianism in Iraq. At one point in the film, right around the execution of Saddam Hussein, one of the women says that she is feeling so overwhelmed by events that she stays alone in her room because she is afraid to say anything that may hurt the others. Another responds that she need not worry about saying anything because this is a war against militias and Iraqis are one people so all houses remain open. Although from different backgrounds, throughout the film these women always listen to each other with sensitivity and compassion.

These dramatic stories of pain and charity are foreign to a privileged American like me. And yet the bullets that maimed and killed were almost always American, even when fired by Iraqis whose lives were thrown into chaos as a result of the invasion and occupation. Learning about the lives of these women, two of whom who have died since filming, in their own words and images helped me to intimately see some of the pain and suffering the American-led war has created. Indeed this film ought to be required viewing for all Americans so that senseless wars have no place in our shared futures.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

English Translation of Sayyed Nasrallah's 5/25/11 Speech

In His Name

May 25th, 2011

The speech delivered by Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on the Resistance and Liberation Day on May 25th, 2011.

I take refuge in Allah from the stoned devil. In the Name of Allah, The Compassionate, The Most Merciful. Praise be to Allah, The Lord of the world. Peace be on the Seal of prophets, our Master and Prophet Abi Al Qassem Mohammad Bin Abdullah, his chaste and pure Household, chosen companions, all prophets, messengers, martyrs and fighters in the path of Allah until Judgment Day.

Brothers and sisters! Peace be upon you all and Allah's mercy and blessing.

I welcome you on your holiday and I would like that you consider your presence under the sun as a kind of assistance and equality with the Resistance fighters who have spent 30 days under the sun.

First I would like to address all of you, all the Lebanese and our Arab and Islamic nation with felicitations on the Day of Resistance and Liberation which we will talk about Inshallah and which coincides this year with a very solemn and dear occasion which makes the occasion this year brighter and more blessed namely the birth of the daughter of the Prophet – the Lady of all the ladies in the world, her father's mother and the soul between his two sides – Sayyeda Fatima Zahra (Peace be upon her).

We have chosen this year to mark this occasion and holiday in Bekaa – in the village of Nabi Sheath and in the neighborhood of our teacher, leader and the master of our martyrs Sayyed Abbass Mussawi (May Allah bless his soul) because we want from electing the place at this time to stress on the partnership of Bekaa and people of Bekaa in the liberation of the South and Western Bekaa since the establishment, continuity and persistence until today and until the achievements of goals and to remind of the jihad of this blessed kind town which was one of the first villages in Bekaa that believed in the Resistance and embraced it since the time of the absented Imam leader Sayyed Mussa Assader.

This town was a warm bosom and a safe haven for those migrating to it namely the fighters from the occupied Lebanese lands. It was the link between the training camps in Jenta and Yahfoufa and its hills and valleys and the operation fields in the South, the Mountain, West Bekaa, Dahiyeh and Beirut on the days of occupation and is still in the neighborhood of the resting place of our master and leader Sayyed Abbass and his wife dear solemn lady martyr Um Yasser and his young child Hussein so as to remind the world of the role of this leader, teacher, resisting fighter, establisher and humble, ascetic, good-natured master who offered as sacrifice his wife, child and even his soul to grant this anniversary and holiday some of its concepts that we must be reminded of.

Brothers and sisters!

In this place, in the neighborhood of the hills and valleys of Jenta and Yahfoufa and the first training camps, Sayyed Abbass got enrolled in its first military cycle which smells of the chaste scent of martyrdom from every hill, valley and on every road on which martyrs used to fall by Israeli aerial bombardment when we used to exercise in the open air with determination to attain the factors of power to restore our land, dignity and freedom and prevent the invading occupiers from achieving any of their goals. This land is pregnant with memories which we must mark every day and every night and not only every year.

Brothers and sisters!

As there are many topics – as I have not appeared since some time to address you – I find myself obliged to start directly with the topics apart from introductions and praising which you were and are still not in need of.

On this occasion, I would like to handle several topics: the Palestinian issue, the Arab issue, the situation in Syria – because it's the first time I talk about this issue with such details and clarity – and finally the situation in Lebanon. Indeed I will handle the great media political event which can not be neglected – namely the speeches and the recent stances announced lately by the two heads of occupation, tyranny and hegemony in the world – Barak Obama and Netanyahu as I will refer to some concepts of these two speeches in every situation I will tackle.

We have this annual commitment to mark the Day of Resistance and Liberation. By this commemoration, we assert that this holiday is not for a group or a faction or a sect. It is rather a holiday for all the Lebanese people. It rather must be a holiday for the Palestinian people and the peoples of our Arab and Islamic nation.

On the Resistance and Liberation Day, we stress that the victory of the Resistance on May 25th is the fruit of the accumulation of all sacrifices since 1948 until today offered by all factions, groups and parties which remained steadfast, had patience, resisted, fought, were arrested, were wounded and offered martyrs. Thus we take pains that it be a national holiday cum laude.

If we are able to change May 25th to a national day cum laude, the Lebanese will discover the greatness of the historic achievement which was made on May 25th, 2000 away from grudges, fanaticism, internal consideration and narrow Lebanese allies. Then we will view the victory as a national victory and a national victory cum laude.

We insist on commemorating this occasion first for its greatness, second for the importance of its eternal, permanent and vivacious implication which we need in our life and third for its centrality in the events in Lebanon and the region because what took place on May 25th, 2000 changed the face of Lebanon and the equations in the region. There is a permanent strategic and a special moral need– a strategic need on the political and military levels and a strategic need especially on the moral level - to commemorate this holiday and consecrate it. In our modern history, there is the Nakba Day followed by the Naksa Day. Our nation which recalls the days of Nakba and Naksa needs to recall the days of triumphs to get rid of the moral, psychological, political and military repercussions of the days of Nakba and Naksa to wipe away those black days from its history, conscience, present and future.

Today, when we see and listen anew to the stances and speeches of Obama before the Jewish Zionists and their supporters in AIPAC and from Netanyahu before the Americans in the Congress – as the place, form and content are all important - we become more certain of our choices and the soundness of our path from the very beginning. The developments and events in the last three decades – at least since 1982 - proved that the correct realistic, rational, logical, fruitful and effective choice that leads to the achievement of goals is the popular armed resistance and the unrealistic, absurd, irrational, maddening choice which does not lead to any goal but rather leads only to depression, frustration, humiliation, degradation and begging on the doors and thresholds is the choice of negotiations.

If we in Lebanon waited for a national consensus in 1982 and following 1982 or for an Arab consensus or a united strategy or an international movement or the United Nations or America or the West our territory would have been occupied and by 2011 it would have been still occupied. Israel would have completed the occupation of Lebanon and came along to Baalbeck, Hermel, Tripoli, Zgarta and the rest of Lebanon and settlements would have been built to the south of Litany River at least. Lebanon would have become a second Israel in the region and not only at the middle of Syria but also at the side of the whole nation. Millions of Lebanese would have been displaced inside their nation and so on.

But the Resistance with its sacrifices, jihad, the blood of its martyrs and patience toppled all these potential results and restored to us our land and honor without conditions and found a historic turn also in the Arab-Israeli struggle on the level of the region. Let's go back a little in history. This is why I at times say that some Lebanese still cannot realize the greatness of the historic victory in 2000. Isaac Shamir then said that Israel after the pullout from Lebanon is different from Israel before the pullout from Lebanon. He was not talking about Israel and Lebanon. He was talking about Israel in the region. Shamir himself says that if Ben-Gurion was able to come back to life and look from over his tomb on Israel he would have found that the strategic pillar on which Israel was found had collapsed. What is the strategic pillar according to Ben-Gurion? It is the strategy of psychologically overpowering the Arabs – meaning that the Arabs come to believe that Israel is powerful and capable and that its army is undefeatable and that they are only before the choice of accepting Israel and succumbing to its conditions. Ben-Gurion says we must reach a stage in which the Arab soldier comes to believe that the only available choice before him in the battle is escape. In 2000 the one who escaped was the Israeli soldier. In 2000, the one who fell was the Israeli soldier. In 2000, the equation changed, and that was because of this choice and the soundness of this choice.

Also Netanyahu who was talking two days ago said in a lecture he gave in 2006 that "the historic path of the state of Israel has been turned upside-down since the beginning of the withdrawal from Lebanon in the year 2000 all the way passing through the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, until July war in 2006. Israel is no more unbeatable in the eyes of Arabs. Questioning the existence of Israel started looming again not only by foes but also by friends.

True days ago, Netanyahu in the Congress, was presenting himself as someone oppressed and miserable, but I could see fear in his eyes while speaking about the missiles of Lebanon, the missiles of Gaza, Iran and Syria.

Anyway, we always need to discuss our choices and means on the level of Lebanon and the region because the occupation still exists and the threat still persists. Hereof I usher into the Palestinian topic.

After listening to the speeches delivered by both Obama and Netanyahu, the big question comes: What did Obama and Netanyahu leave for the Palestinian people and the Palestinian authority and the Palestinian factions? What did they leave for them?

Going back to Obama’s speech in AIPAC Conference, we find that he renewed before the Zionists his decisive commitment to Israel's security and its prevalence over the entire region and not only the Palestinians. Under his administration – though we say he is moderate and we call him Barak Hussein and Abu Ali Hussein - he pushed the US-Israeli relations and cooperation to an unprecedented level. We are good-hearted peoples. We are cheated by his black color and the name of his father – Hussein; but in the past two years only he pushed forward the relations of US-Israeli cooperation. He declared his rejection to a unilateral Palestinian State and rejected the reconciliation between Fateh and Hamas because he backs sedition not only in Palestine but also in every Arab and Islamic country. He talked about a deformed disarmed Palestinian state. He talked about the borders of 1967 but could not stand that for a couple of days.

This is the President of America. Still he could not stand for a couple of days. He started interpreting and furnishing his explanation with comments and notes in AIPAC and explaining what he means with the borders of 1967 in what looked more like an apology to the Zionists. This is Obama.

Yesterday – as was reported by the media – applauding was more than talking in Netanyahu's speech. Not a phrase passed without them applauding for him. They stood and applauded for him. In the Congress, this is a tradition with a definite significance. At times they applaud while they are seated. At others they stand and applaud. That means that all what Netanyahu had said in the US Congress is a point of consensus for the Democrats and the Republicans in America. Still the Arabs deceive their peoples saying that the Democrats are different from the Republicans; one is moderate while the other is an extremist. Yesterday America held the name of Netanyahu. America yesterday held the name of Netanyahu…

What did Netanyahu say? Al-Qods is an eternal capital to Israel. Search for a way out for the refugees outside the borders. Here Lebanon is mainly concerned in this issue. The Israeli state is a Jewish state and its Judaism must be acknowledged. There must be military presence at Jordan River. The main settlements in the West Bank must be annexed to the entity. The Palestinian state will be a disarmed state and there is no return to the 1967 borders. Then he called on PA Chief Mahmoud Abbass to tear apart the agreement with Hamas and return to negotiations.

After keeping all of that, how will the Palestinians go to negotiations? What will they say? The issue of Al Qods is over. So is the case of the borders, the settlements, the refugees and everything. There is nothing to negotiate on. Even more, when he keeps everything to himself, he promised to be generous in what he offers to the Palestinians and that he will offer painful concessions. See the deception, misleading, shamelessness and falsehood. But we are a nation with whom its enemies deal as such unfortunately.

Thus the Americans and the Israelis specified their stance clearly. They declared their viewpoint to the way out before the world. Accordingly they categorized the enemy and the friend when they talked about Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and the Resistance in Palestine and especially Hamas. Here what is the response? What is the Palestinian response? What is the Arab response? The answer was not only to the Palestinians. Yesterday, both Obama and Netanyahu gave the finishing stroke to the so called Arab Peace Initiative. What is the stance of the Arab governments and the Arab League from that? Is it not due time this initiative is taken off the table?

In Kuwait conference, King Abdullah Bin Abdel Aziz said: I do not tolerate that this initiative remain for long on the table. Hasn't it been a long time already following these speeches? Isn't time over? In your name, I call on the Arab League to declare a response to the speeches of Netanyahu and Obama by withdrawing permanently the Arab Initiative from circulation. The response to this level of speech must at least withdrawing the Arab Initiative and at most that we must be a nation that declares its "No". As Netanyahu - who was defeated in Lebanon in 2000, defeated in Gaza, defeated in July War and afraid from the changes in the region - had the courage and boldness to say no for the return of Al Qods, no for the return of refugees and no for the return to the borders of 1967, we must be a nation which stands with courage to say: no to negotiations, no to the existence of Israel, no to the occupation of Al Qods and yes for the Resistance. The nation which does not do that is a dead nation. The governments which do not do that are dead nations. On this day, what choices remain for the Palestinians? Do some Palestinians really still have hope in negotiations and still have hope in the American administration which has threatened them with questioning, demands and confrontation in the Security Council and in the United Nations?

Again, on the Arab Lebanese May 25th, on the Day of Resistance and Liberation, I tell you: The only choice for the Palestinians is resistance to make liberation. I call on them in the name of triumphant Lebanon to meet and unite – Fateh, Jihad, Hamas and all the factions and all the Palestinian people. I call on the entire nation to adopt the choice of the Palestinian Resistance and to offer all kinds of support and assistance because what took place is not a threat to Palestine but rather to the entire nation.

Now, we move to our stance from the Arab situation. First, I must comment on the rumors circulated by some Arab media outlets and websites especially in Lebanon and have been mentioned as well in statements made by some officials whether foreigners or Arabs. This denial or clarification is not related to our political stance from what is taking place in this Arab country or that whether negatively or positively. It is rather a kind of facts clarification.

Some time ago, the NATO chief in Europe said that Hezbollah and Al Qaeda are militarily present in Benghazi and East Libya. This is not true.

Gaddafi's government a few weeks ago said that in Misrata – the Libyan city where fighting is still taking place between the rebels and Gaddafi's forces – there are snipers (not regular fighters but snipers) from Hezbollah fighting in Misrata. That is not true either.

Two years ago, some demonstrations took place in Tehran. They were addressed by the Iranian brethrens. Some Iranian Opposition websites – you know that some of the Iranian Opposition, Khalq fighters, have ties with Israel – broadly published (and that was unfortunately quoted by a gulf newspaper) that there are 1500 Hezbollah fighters in Tehran with the aim of suppressing demonstrations. Iran is a great state and a great regional power and the world takes it into consideration. It frightens Obama and Netanyahu. Does it – when it wishes to deal with a number of demonstrators – resort to 1500 fighters from Hezbollah!? When someone makes a lie, if he makes it too big, it will be revealed as a lie.

Indeed, this has precedents. You remember in Yemen, during the so-called sixth war between the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh and Houthis. Indeed we were sympathizing with the Houthis as they are oppressed and aggressed. Then it was said that Hezbollah was in Yemen and that there were 50 Lebanese martyrs from Hezbollah and Hezbollah is perplexed how to inform their families and how to bury them. Where are they? Now in Lebanon if someone dies there is no place to hide him. What if he was martyred in Yemen or in any other place?

Accusations reached Syria. During the first days of events, a Syrian dissident appeared on Al Arabiya TV Channel (there is no problem in giving definite names). For 24 hours he appeared in voice and picture addressing me in his speech saying that Hezbollah sent to Syria 3000 fighters to defend the Syrian regime. Indeed he is strong and he was threatening us: O so and so if you do not pull them out in carriers, we will return them to you in shrouds. This is a lie. Still the Head of Media Relations in Hezbollah appeared on Al Arabiya and denied that. They broadcasted his denial once and the news remained being broadcasted for 24 hours on the respectable Arab satellites.

These days, some Arab satellites and websites broadcast some kind of news. There is a cuisine that delivers the news: a newspaper reports from a satellite and the website reports from the newspaper. So it appears that the news is general and there are several sources while it is one cuisine. These respectable media outlets – especially some websites (for example the Lebanese Forces website in Lebanon and I am not promoting this website) reported that there are snipers from Hezbollah in Homs (as if we had distributed snipers in Homs and Misrata) and that Hezbollah has 10 martyrs there. They were martyred there and they are being brought back to be buried in Lebanon.

Praise be to Allah no military action has been carried out in Bahrain yet so that Hezbollah be accused of it. People in Bahrain are still protesting very peacefully. Despite demolition of mosques, the killing of detainees, the arrest of women and breaking into homes, no military action or any violent action has taken place so far. That's why in Bahrain we were not accused of any military action. We were accused of something else.

This denial is very important before tackling the Arab situation with a couple of words and the situation in Syria with some words. However, I like to address all those liars in the Arab words whether satellite channels, newspapers, internet websites and reporters who write to earn money from Feltman, Clinton and Obama and who take money as the source of the news and not field facts: any military intervention in any of the Arab countries won't be Hezbollah responsibility at all. However suppose one day we went to fight in any square, we tell you and we tell the whole world: We in Hezbollah have the courage and bravery to say where we fight, where we kill and where we are martyred, because the arena in which we fight is to be a square of honor and not a shameful arena where we feel disgraceful to fight in and exist in.

Turning to the situation in the Arab region, yes on the political level we in Hezbollah had clear stance that back the revolutions and the peoples in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Libya and Bahrain. We held a special rally for that and we talked clearly in that rally and following it via the brethren leaders in Hezbollah and in the media. Our stance from every Arab square or Arab revolution or popular movement is decided according to two angles. Here I hope that we be precise. The first angle is the stance of that Arab regime from the Arab-Israeli conflict (its stance, position and role in the central cause of the nation namely Palestinian). So we consider the regimes we mentioned a while ago – Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain – and there well known positions, stances and roles especially concerning the Egyptian regime.

The second angle is the absence of any hope for reform at the domestic level – when the regime is closed to all doors, windows or even small gaps for reform for the benefit of the peoples of these countries.

Starting from these two angles we take our position. Our criteria are clear. Our standards are clear. We do not have double standards. We do not have discriminating standards. Some revolutions were victorious in Tunisia and Egypt. They were victorious in principle but these victories are not complete yet. Still some Arab countries are passing through difficult times like Libya, Yemen, and Bahrain.

It goes without saying that every country knows how to face its situation and solve its problems. The people of Yemen are more expert in Yemen. The people of Bahrain are more expert in Bahrain. The people of Libya are more expert in Libya and so on. However, we take a general stance. When we take a position the only thing we hope for is that the Arab and Islamic world enjoy a state of harmony between the governments and the peoples, that the regimes and governments take into consideration the concerns of their peoples and address them, and that our countries live in the best conditions of security, stability and development on all domains. This is what we all hope for… that our regimes and governments live up to the level of the aspirations of the nation and the central confrontation which this nation had assumed so far.

However, according to the Arab situation, we find it our duty to be cautious because America and Israel want to confiscate the Arab revolutions. They want to confiscate them with sweet language – Obama's words – and some money.

What is the worth of two billion dollars? Do you know – brothers and sisters – that one Gulf businessman – I do not want to say from which country – told me that the rich in one gulf country only deposit 3300 billion dollars in US banks? I say again 3300 billion dollars in US banks. There the Americans invest this money. Later and in response to any event in this Gulf country, Obama would show up to confiscate this money.

What is the worth of two billion dollars through which he wants to bribe Egypt – the mother of the world and half of the Arabs? Would Egypt sell its choice, sovereignty, dignity and political decision – and he expects that from it – for two billion dollars from here and four from there and the like?

Those who backed Husni Mubarak until the very last moment are today intervening to confiscate the blood of the Egyptians and the cries of the Egyptian and the sacrifices of the Egyptians. The same applies to the others countries.

Man feels disgrace and humiliation when someone like Netanyahu – the killer of the children in Palestine – talks about Arab youths and Arab revolutions and insults the entire nation and all of the governments of this nation.

Now let me say more. Should President Ahmadi Nejad in Iran or any Iranian official said one word yesterday on the Arab governments, you would have found uproar in the Arab media, Arab satellite outlets, the Arab league and the Arab governments. Iran is an enemy! There is an Iranian invasion to the Arab world.

Days ago Netanyahu stood in the Congress. All the Americans were applauding for him. He insulted all Arab kings, princes, rulers, governments and regimes and even Arab youths and peoples when he said that 300 million Arabs are not living in freedom, dignity and democracy or anything else. What did this great quack found? He found that only a million Arabs who exist in what he called Israel enjoy freedom and democracy.

No Mr. Netanyahu. It's up to the rest of Arabs if they do not want to answer you. We in Lebanon are the free of this world. We in Lebanon made our freedom with blood. We triumphed over your sword and the sword of your US masters. We are part of the Arab nation, the Arab peoples and the Arab youths.

America today wants to confiscate these revolutions. The peoples of these revolutions must be aware. They must not have a good opinion regarding the Americans. They must not trust the US promises. They must know that America is not concerned except with its interests.

If Mr. Obama is truthful in his claim of respecting the will of the peoples and his call to the rulers to respect their peoples, he must start with himself and respect the will of our Arab and Islamic peoples. If he is truthful in his claim, what is the will of the Iraqi people today? There is a consensus or a semi-consensus that the US occupation troops pull out from Iraq. To respect the will of the Iraqi people O Obama, get out of Iraq and don’t pressure on the Iraqi government and Iraqi political forces to stay as an occupier of Iraq but under civilized titles. He wants to keep in his embassy in Baghdad 7000 soldiers and he wants to guard it with 12000 soldiers. He wants a consulate in every province and hes want to guard it with a 1000 soldiers. He wants to keep around 50,000 soldiers under the title of embassy and consulates. If you respect the will of the Iraqi people, get out of Iraq. If you respect the will of the Afghani people, get out of Afghanistan. If you respect the will of the Arab peoples, see what these people want regarding Palestine. We are fed up with deception, misleading, lying, falsehood and fake faces.

The Americans know the position the peoples of the Arab world have regarding them. All the polls in the Arab world assert that.

Wrapping up this topic, I want to tell our Arab revolting people: Beware of the US policy and the US administration. Your goals and needs must not let you throw yourselves in the arms of the Americans again. If you want to go back to the Americans, stay where you are then.

Now we turn to the Syrian situation and our stance from the situation in Syria and what is taking place in Syria. I will be frank and very clear because the stance demands a great and a clear and a decisive responsibility.

Our stance which I will say in a while – and which is not surprising indeed – is based on a number of factors. Why did we build this stance?

The first factor: We, in Lebanon and especially in Hezbollah, are highly grateful to Syria, its leadership, its President Hafiz Assad and President Bashar Assad and the Syrian resisting and opposing and patient people who have been bearing for long decades the repercussions of the national stance of the Syrian leadership as well as the Syrian Army which has paid great sacrifices on this path.

Syria has offered much to Lebanon. Syria prevented division in Lebanon if we went back to 1975, 1976, 1977 and 1978 and recalled the great dangers of divisions on Lebanon and the region.

Syria greatly helped maintain Lebanon’s unity and halted the bloody Lebanese civil war which was about to exterminate Lebanon and the people of Lebanon. Syria supported Lebanon and its Resistance. Thus was the liberation in 1985 in the Mount, Beirut, Sidon, Tyr, West Bekaa and Nabatiyeh until the complete liberation of the border line with the exception of Shebaa Farms and Kafar Shuba Hills on May 25, 2000 and the steadfastness and miraculous victory of July 2006. We cannot forget how Syria embraced Lebanon, its Resistance and people who were displaced to Syria. It embraced us as a regime, army and people. Therefore, when we are worried about Syria, we in fact are worried about its regime and people. We are not worried only about its regime but also because of what is schemed for its regime and people.

No one is denying that Syria made mistakes in Lebanon - President Assad had tackled that in the Assembly. However, what Syria achieved in Lebanon was historic and decisive on the national level.

This is first. Second there is Syria’s stance regarding Israel, the Palestinian Resistance and Syria's steadfastness despite all pressures, noticeably following Madrid Conference and the launch of the settlement process. It remained steadfast before the bullying and temptations.

Thirdly comes Syria’s position towards the new Middle East scheme which was toppled by the Resistance in Lebanon from its eastern gate. Today America and Israel are trying to usher into from other gates.

So we are before a resisting opposing country, regime, leadership, army and people.

This is a central point. Also among the essential points that we build our stance on is that the Syrian leadership is convinced with its people on the need to implement reform, fighting corruption and opening new horizons in the Syrian political life.  We believe – I personally believe and this is not built on analysis but rather on direct discussions and declarations – that Syrian President Bashar Assad believes and is serious and determined about reform. I even know more. I know that he is ready to take very great reform steps but with serenity, care and responsibility. This factor influences our stance.

So at times there is a closed regime. In Bahrain the regime was closed. Mubarak was closed. Gaddafi was closed. Zein Al Aabideen Bin Ali was closed. In Syria the regime is not closed. On the contrary he is saying I am ready and I believe in reform and I am serious and I want to carry them.

Another factor is that all given and information so far – and here I do not pose on what is said on Arab satellite outlets – assert that the majority of the Syrian people still support this regime and believes in President Assad's ability to introduce reform. Well, what is the position of the Syrian people? Let's know to stand by their side.

One of the factors that form our stance is that toppling the regime in Syria is an American and Israeli interest meaning toppling the regime in Syrian and exchanging it with another regime, similar to the Arab moderate regimes which are ready to sign a peace and submission agreement with Israel.

Another factor that constitutes our stance is what Syria means to Lebanon as what happens there has its repercussions on Lebanon and results on having repercussions on the region as a whole.

Among the factors that constitute our stance is Lebanon’s commitment towards Syria, based on Taif agreement in addition to mutual interests.

In our opinion, all of these issues and factors impose on us as Lebanese in general – now it is up to the Lebanese to accept that or not; we are saying our viewpoint - and on us as a resistance movement in face of Israel in particular to take a responsible and great stance that requires the following:

First, we should be committed to the stability, security and safety of Syria as a regime, people and army.

Second, we call upon the Syrian people – and we make this call on them today – to preserve their country and resistant and opposing regime, as well as to give way to the Syrian leadership with the cooperation of all the popular classes to implement the required reforms and to choose the course of dialogue and not confrontation.

Third, we as Lebanese shouldn't interfere in what is going on in Syria, but rather let the Syrians themselves address their issues as they are able to do that. Yes, if it is possible to play a positive role, there is no problem in that.

Fourth, we reject any sanctions promoted by US and the West through asking Lebanon to abide by them against Syria. This is the one of the goals of Feltman's visit to Lebanon. There must be a public and popular decisive and final stance regarding this issue. Lebanon must not by any means stab Syria or be led by us schemes that target Syria. We must cooperate altogether so that Syria emerge strong and steadfast because that is to the interest of Syria, Lebanon and the Arab nation.

Now I move to the Lebanese situation. Regarding the Lebanese situation, I first will tackle the accusations made by Obama against us before the AIPAC. He accused Hezbollah of carrying out what he called “political assassinations” through missiles and car bombings. Indeed this US enmity to Hezbollah is not new. Perhaps this political and judicial content from Mr. Obama is new as he was present in an occasion that shows allegiance to the Zionists.

Second his speech is baseless. Thirdly it stresses and comes again and again in the context of the conspiracy of the International Tribunal. People are waiting for Fransen to sign and for Bellemare to announce his indictment in a press conference while we all know its content. However it was said by Barak Obama. Thanks for Barak Obama because he confirmed the authenticity of all what we said regarding the US-Israeli tribunal. The prosecutor, judge and executor in it are American. But Inshallah only and solely their skin will be whipped.

Fourthly, America, which is speaking of political assassination and booby-trapped cars, is the most terrorist country that is absolutely and fully involved in political assassinations. Books, documents, security information and what is being published worldwide assert this idea. He is talking about political assassination and booby-trapped cars; I want to remind him then of what documents, investigations, facts and even the Lebanese judiciary proved regarding the CIA which had targeted through a car bombing placed in a busy street in Bir Al Abed on March 8, 1985, Grand Ayatollah late Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah (May Allah have mercy on him), what resulted in the martyrdom of more than a hundred civilians, mostly ordinary people, children and even embryos. It was the CIA and you know who used to finance it then.

When a killer stands to accuse us do not take his accusation into consideration. That is worthless. When a just man accuses us, then we must be worried because he is just. But when the killer of hundreds of thousands in Iraq – killing takes place daily in Iraq – and Afghanistan and Pakistan, the co-killer of hundreds of thousands killed by Israel to accuse us, we don’t feel concerned. This is the first point. I really hope we stand much on Obama's speech. He did not accuse us. He rather judged on us by talking about political assassination and booby trapped cars.

The second point is that we have the honor to be attacked by Obama before the AIPAC and by Netanyahu in the Congress. Some people feel happy and assured when America and Israel praise them.

There are people who feel worried when America and Israel attack them.

Here I tell you: When America and Israel attack us and the heads of the greatest two states of occupation, killing and terrorism attack us we feel prideful and honorable. This is a badge of honor because our enemy is making acknowledgments before the AIPAC which is an annual strategic conference. Hamas must feel proud. Iran must feel proud. Syria must feel proud. That means that we have a definite status. All the members in the Congress are on their feet applauding. At a moment he talks about Hezbollah, the missiles of Hezbollah and the resistance of Hezbollah meaning the resistance of the Lebanese. That means that we have an important status and we are taken into consideration in the local and regional equation. Do not look at the negative side. Look rather at the positive side. Don't they say this in Lebanon: Look at the filled half of the glass. The half is full of Obama's and Netanyahu's abuses and accusations. They are recognizing you as a key influential part in the equation of conflict in the region. This is a source of honor to Lebanon and to Hezbollah. Here I tell you that on the contrary if Obama and Netanyahu praised us we must have held an emergency meeting on the level of the leading bodies in Hezbollah to say and search where we were wrong and what we did. We must reconsider our actions. This is the school of Imam Khomeini (May Allah sanctify his noble secret). This is America. When the greater devil praises you, you must be afraid. When the devil attacks you that means he is recognizing you as a perfect enemy. This is an important characteristic.

The third point is the Lebanese situation regarding the government since the toppling of the previous government up till now. It may be that you dislike a thing while it is good for you. The new majority has not up till now been able to form the government. The expression "the new majority" is not precise as there are the new majority, the designate Premier and His Eminence the President of the Republic. These altogether haven't up till now been able to form the government. If we took the issue to the political forces in the new majority, it might have been easier. It may be that you dislike a thing while it is good for you.

We wanted to form the government since the very second day. However, after four months, one of the unintended benefits – following the example of looking at the filled part of the glass – is that this delay has demonstrated to you how the other political bloc deals with Hezbollah in particular. Let us defend ourselves. Our allies are defending themselves daily. However a considerable time has passed in which we haven't made statements or held televised interviews.

For example when the government was toppled, the leaderships, deputies, ministers and media of the other party went through endless uproar. They created an instigating atmosphere among people saying this is a readymade coup; the government is ready; it's the government of Hezbollah; it's an Iranian government; it's the government of Wilayat Al Faqih; it's the ruling party. Didn't you hear all of this? Now they halted because it was made clear that there is no coup whether Iranian or Syrian or anything else. The whole story is that there was a government. Things were moving towards a solution. However, at one of the American moments, the solution was crippled, the government was toppled and things were over. We are forming a new government. This is the whole story. There isn't anything like a designed or a mapped out coup.

What is this coup like? It has no readymade government. In fact the government has not been formed even after four weeks. What is this ruling party which is not able to form a government? What is this speech? This reveals the level of their claims and I will not stop for long here.

They said that Hezbollah took control over the state and the authority while they knew that this is mere fabrications and untrue falsehood. They know the Lebanese texture very well. They know the nature of Hezbollah's relations with its allies and Hezbollah's concern about its allies… However all of that shouting was messages sent to America, the West and some Arab countries to hurry up and offer help because Hezbollah is taking grip of the country and may Allah help this country then.

The second point concerning the government is that today the ones concerned in forming the government are the President, the Premier-designate and the new majority. The one directly responsible of the formation is the Premier-designate and the government hasn't been formed up till now.

Here I do not want to carry a political analysis. There are American and Western pressures despite all those who try to deny them. Delegates daily visit the President of the Republic and the Premier-designate and tell them: Our position from the government is based on who the ministers are? What is the form of the government? What is its ministerial statement? What is its position from the International Tribunal?

What do pressures mean? Does it mean holding a stick to beat someone with? We are talking about a political diplomatic life. Days ago as soon as it was said that the name of the interior minister had been agreed on and that there were advanced steps in the process of forming the government, the US Ambassador to Lebanon Connelly – who hasn't appeared since some time – directly went to President Mikati and President Sleiman (May Allah assist them). Why did she go to Presidents Mikati and Sleiman? She went to talk about the interior ministry and the government. She wanted to know where did they reach and where to they are going. She wanted to remind them that the US stance and the stance of the West and the world from the government are linked to the form of the government, the portfolios and the ministerial statement. Aren't these pressures? Aren't these called conditions? There are some internal demands which are not new also delaying the process. This has always been the case in forming the government in Lebanon.

To your knowledge – and this is the first time I talk in an official way but this exists and is circulated – it took the previous Lebanese government five months to be formed. And do you know why and how it was formed? Were the Lebanese left on there own it would have taken a year or two. The government was formed within five months because President Bashar al-Assad and King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz personally intervened. Thus it was formed in five months. Now we are still in the fourth month and nobody has interfered yet whether presidents, kings or others.

This is the nature of complications which exist in Lebanon and which happen in Lebanon. Indeed we are responsible and we will carry on. However here again we take another sample on the performance and conduct of the political forces in March 14 Bloc during these four months. In fact, that is perplexing. At one time they say Hezbollah wants to form a government and control the country and still the government is not formed yet. At others they say Hezbollah does not want to form the government. At others they say Hezbollah's interest is in political vacancy and the collapse of the state and that Hezbollah does not want the state for the interest of a petty state. You hear them as they speak on the TV, radio, interviews, magazines and articles. Indeed this is their post – to write and talk or else they won't be paid by the end of the month.

So at times they say Hezbollah wants the government and wants to control the country but the cabinet is not been formed yet because Hezbollah doesn't want to pressure on its allies apart from who these allies whom they want us to practice pressure on are. At other times they say that Hezbollah wants to impose its conditions and because its conditions are not being met, the government has not been formed yet. So under all conditions, the one responsible for vacancy and the crippling of the formation of the government in the viewpoint of March 14 is Hezbollah. Even when they attack PM Mikati and President Sleiman and mostly General Aoun they say that Hezbollah called on General Aoun to cripple the formation. This in fact holds insult for both and this is also a sample. This is as far as the so called governmental issue in Lebanon is concerned. Since the toppling of the government and all through the events of the last four months, it has become clear to you that the other camp is not authentic in its analysis, stances and performance and that it has positions set in advance.

When we gain victory over Israel they say that this is a conspiracy with Israel and a play set under the table. That means that if someone has reached a place in which he can't see anything good in you and wants to hold you fully responsible, I don't know where to the country would be taken.

What I would like to say at the end concerning the governmental issue is that we officially believe in the necessity of forming the government as soon as possible because the country can't go on living in vacancy and can't go on without a government. The existence of the government is primary and has no substitute. The parliament is not a substitute. The President of the Republic is not a substitute and the caretaker government is not a substitute. Forming the government is primary for the solution and for addressing the problems in the country on the political and security levels. If we want to talk about living, social and financial concerns and about gas and gasoline, unemployment and the high costs of living, how are these issues to be addressed without a government?

We are acting as if forming the government is the most important duties. Our interest is in the existence of an able, powerful, active and responsible government which addresses the crises of the country and confronts challenges. We don't want a petty state but rather a state because we are not a substitute for the state. I stood on this very day in Bint Jbeil and said we are the first resistance in history which triumphs and does not ask for a share in the state, authority or government. Today I reiterate that. However today we are being concerned about the concerns of the people and the country and its stability, security, welfare, crises and problems which can't be solved except through the government. Here I tell you that we will carry on exerting our efforts through Ali Khalil and Hussein Khalil and the other friends, and we will not feel desperate. We will not stop. However we do not seek to pressure on anyone. Do not bother yourselves. We do not pressure on anyone. We respect our allies and carry on discussions and dialogues with our allies, and we will reach results. At the end we will reach the desired result.

Dialogue, agreement and political effort are what yield results. Betting on a technocrat government fell because no one agreed on it from the new majority. It is known where from did the proposal of a technocrat government come? It was made by the US and the Future Movement. So if they were the majority they must rule even if in the framework of a national unity government. As such we accepted when we became a majority to rule in the framework of a national unity government. However when this bloc became the majority, they said that the solution is in a technocrat government. This is unprecedented. In fact, in a country like Lebanon, neither now nor in the past nor in the near or far future does it work that a technocrat government rule. This is an absolutely political country in its concerns, affairs, structure, essence and veracity. Talk about philosophy, logic and whatever you want. Only a political government can exist in this country and it must be protected by the principle political forces or a national unity government. This is the end of the story or else we will be wasting our time.

We want to move towards a political guarded government which assumes its responsibility and carries on with it. Indeed we back the initiative of Speaker Nabih Berri in activating the Parliament and we will participate in the meetings of the General Authority and in activating it because things must not be crippled as a result of the ongoing disorder.

As for the Resistance, here I tell you on the Day of Resistance and Liberation: This is the Resistance in which you believe and were part of. You have embraced it, supported it and offered in its course your children. In Bekaa especially there isn't a village in Bekaa where there isn't a martyr or martyrs. In this village – the village of Nabi Sheath, if you go behind the shrine of Sayyed Abbass there are martyrs and in the nearby graveyard there are martyrs. Where did they fall? In training camps and in the hills of the south and West Bekaa. This is the case of many or the majority of the villages and towns of Bekaa.

Here I tell you: This Resistance for which you offered your children is your Resistance and not our Resistance. We talk to you about it. We express it in your name.

This Resistance will carry on. No one scares us, neither Obama nor Netanyahu nor all the fleets. We belong to the land which defeated the fleets in 1982 and 1983.

We are not afraid of the threats, accusations and intimidations made by anyone. Days ago, Netanyahu has increased our conviction in our missiles. What Netanyahu said should be a message to those who argue the arms of the Resistance and a message to the dialogue table. From among all what is in Lebanon, what is Netanyahu afraid of? He is afraid of these missiles. Here I tell him: The missiles are not 12 thousands; your information which you mentioned yesterday in the Congress is too old. He must have increased the number. These rockets are ready and will remain in place. They will remain effective and will protect Lebanon. They will remain present in the equation of the region, and no one will be able to disarm us, neither in Lebanon nor in the world.

Today our missiles, which Netanyahu talked about before the Congress, represent our honor, our blood, our money, our dignity and our pride. In the Arab, religious, humanistic and moral culture comes that whoever dies while guarding his money is a martyr. Whoever dies while guarding his honor is a martyr. Whoever dies while guarding his family and people is a martyr. Whoever dies while protecting his land is a martyr. Whoever dies while guarding his honor is a martyr. Today all of that is gathered in the arms of the Resistance and the missiles of the Resistance.

This Resistance – the Resistance of Imam Mussa Assader, the Resistance of Sayyed Abbass Mussawi, the Resistance of Sheikh Ragheb Harb, the Resistance of Martyr Imad Moghniyeh and the Resistance of all the free nationalists, Islamists and Arabs in Lebanon and the region will remain faithful to its goals, to its path, to its hopes, to its expectations, to its sufferings and to the blood of its martyrs.

Again I tell you what I told you back on September 22nd, 2006: From the land of Nabi Sheath and the neighborhood of the master of the Islamic Resistance martyrs, with this chaste blood, with your prideful foreheads, with your firm will, with the steadfastness of our people and Resistance – brothers and sisters – again on May 25, 2011, I reiterate: the time of defeats has gone, and time of victories started. Victory is written on your foreheads, and yesterday I have seen defeat written on the foreheads of Netanyahu and Obama. On May 25th, 2000 I said that Israel is feebler then the spider web. Eleven years later and after Gaza, July, Maroon Arras and Majdal Shams and before hundreds of the armless Palestinian youths and before their courage, boldness and zeal and the cowardice of the Israeli soldiers again I tell you: By God Israel is feebler than a spider web.

If several hundreds Palestinian youths – indeed those who gathered in Maroon Arras are tens of thousands but those who went to the barbed wire are several hundred and those who stormed in Majdal Shams are several hundreds or above a thousand – made Israel scared. Israel acknowledged great frustration and reconsidered its bravery. When I was watching the youths on the barbed wire in Maroon Arras and in Majdal Shams and their dashing courageous bravery and their no fear of death though with their empty hands only and compared that to the extent of Israeli fear and perplexity, I recalled the words of Imam Khomeini (May Allah bless his soul) when he used to say that we are a billion Muslims. If every Muslim held a bucket of water and throw it over Israel – if we all at a time held a bucket of water each and not a missile or a machine gun and threw it on Israel – Israel would have been swept away with water. This is a symbolic expression. Israel is feeble. The problem is in us. Now after this scene, imagine if many millions of Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians, Jordanians, Egyptians, Arabs and Muslims from all around the world gathered all along the borders with Occupied Palestine all at a time to cross the fence, what will Israel do then? What will Obama do?

However that needs a great decision. That needs a great will like the will of the Palestinian and Syrian youths who were in Maroon Arras and Majdal Shams.

This is Israel. Thus before all what is taking place around us we are very close to achieve victory and to change the equations. The US-Israeli counter-attack on the region and the peoples of the region will lead nowhere. Hundred returns and peace be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings.

Be Afraid of Saudi Arabia

I love how Saudi Arabia offers "aid" to shore up power, "shields" monarchies, and "limits" regional upheaval. Rather than bribes officials, oppresses demonstrators, and interferes in the politics of neighboring states...

Saudi Arabia Scrambles to Limit Region’s Upheaval

By Neil MacFarquhar
The New York Times
May 27, 2011

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia is flexing its financial and diplomatic might across the Middle East in a wide-ranging bid to contain the tide of change, shield other monarchies from popular discontent and avert the overthrow of any more leaders struggling to calm turbulent nations.

From Egypt, where the Saudis dispensed $4 billion in aid last week to shore up the ruling military council, to Yemen, where it is trying to ease out the president, to the kingdoms of Jordan and Morocco, which it has invited to join a union of Persian Gulf monarchies, Saudi Arabia is scrambling to forestall more radical change and block Iran’s influence.

The kingdom is aggressively emphasizing the relative stability of monarchies, part of an effort to avert any drastic shift from the authoritarian model, which would generate uncomfortable questions about the pace of political and social change at home.

Saudi Arabia’s proposal to include Jordan and Morocco in the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council — which authorized the Saudis to send in troops to quell a largely Shiite Muslim rebellion in the Sunni Muslim monarchy of Bahrain — is intended to create a kind of “Club of Kings.” The idea is to signal to Shiite Iran that the Sunni Arab monarchs will defend their interests, analysts said.

“We’re sending a message that monarchies are not where this is happening,” Prince Waleed bin Talal al-Saud, a businessman and high-profile member of the habitually reticent royal family, told the editorial board of The New York Times last week, referring to the unrest. “We are not trying to get our way by force, but to safeguard our interests.”

The range of the Saudi intervention is extraordinary as the unrest pushes Riyadh’s hand to forge what some commentators, in Egypt and elsewhere, brand a “counterrevolution.” Some Saudi and foreign analysts find the term too sweeping for the steps the Saudis have actually taken, though they appear unparalleled in the region and beyond as the kingdom reaches out to ally with non-Arab Muslim states as well.

“I am sure that the Saudis do not like this revolutionary wave — they were really scared,” said Khalid Dakhil, a Saudi political analyst and columnist. “But they are realistic here.”

In Egypt, where the revolution has already toppled a close Saudi ally in Hosni Mubarak, the Saudis are dispensing aid and mending ties in part to help head off a good showing by the Muslim Brotherhood in the coming parliamentary elections. The Saudis worry that an empowered Muslim Brotherhood could damage Saudi legitimacy by presenting a model of Islamic law different from the Wahhabi tradition of an absolute monarch.

“If another model of Shariah says that you have to resist, this will create a deep difficulty,” said Abdulaziz Algasim, a Saudi lawyer.

Saudi officials are also concerned that Egypt’s foreign policy is shifting, with its outreach to the Islamist group Hamas and plans to restore ties with Iran. The Saudi monarch, King Abdullah, also retains a personal interest in protecting Mr. Mubarak, analysts believe.

The Arab Spring began to unravel an alliance of so-called moderate Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which were willing to work closely with the United States and promote peace with Israel. American support for the Arab uprisings also strained relations, prompting Saudi Arabia to split from Washington on some issues while questioning its longstanding reliance on the United States to protect its interests.

The strained Saudi posture toward Washington was outlined in a recent opinion article by Nawaf Obaid, a Saudi analyst, in The Washington Post that suggested Riyadh was ready to go it alone because the United States had become an “unreliable partner.”

But that seems at least partly a display of Saudi pique, since the oil-for-military aid arrangement that has defined relations between the two for the past six decades is unlikely to be replaced soon. Saudi Arabia is negotiating to buy $60 billion in advanced American weapons, and President Obama, in his speech last week demanding that Middle Eastern autocrats bow to popular demands for democracy, noticeably did not mention Saudi Arabia. The Saudi ambassador, Adel al-Jubeir, sat prominently in the front row.

Saudi Arabia is taking each uprising in turn, without relying on a single blueprint. In Bahrain, it resorted to force, sending troops to crush a rebellion by Shiites because it feared the creation of a hostile government — a kind of Shiite Cuba — only about 20 miles from some of its main oil fields, one sympathetic to Iran, if not allied with it. It has deployed diplomacy in other uprisings, and remained on the fence in still others. It is also spending money, pledging $20 billion to help stabilize Bahrain and Oman, which has also faced protests.

In Yemen, Saudi Arabia joined the coalition seeking to ease out President Ali Abdullah Saleh because it thinks the opposition might prove a more reliable, less unruly southern neighbor. But Arab diplomats noted that even the smallest Saudi gestures provided Mr. Saleh with excuses to stay, since he interpreted them as support. This month, for example, the Saudis sent in tanker trucks to help abate a gasoline shortage.

On Syria, an initial statement of support by King Abdullah for President Bashar al-Assad has been followed by silence, along with occasional calls at Friday Prayer for God to support the protesters. That silence reflects a deep ambivalence, analysts said. The ruling Saudi family personally dislikes Mr. Assad — resenting his close ties with Iran and seeing Syria’s hand in the assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri, a Saudi ally. But they fear his overthrow will unleash sectarian violence without guaranteeing that Iranian influence will be diminished.

In Libya, after helping push through an Arab League request for international intervention, Saudi Arabia sat out and left its neighbors, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, to join the military coalition supporting the rebels. It has so far kept its distance publicly from Tunisia as well, although it gave refuge to its ousted president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

There are also suspicions that the kingdom is secretly providing money to extremist groups to hold back changes. Saudi officials deny that, although they concede private money may flow.

In 1952, after toppling the Egyptian king, Gamal Abdel Nasser worked to destabilize all monarchs, inspiring a regicide in Iraq and eventually the overthrow of King Idris of Libya. Saudi Arabia was locked in confrontation with Egypt throughout the 1960s, and it is determined not to relive that period.

“We are back to the 1950s and early 1960s, when the Saudis led the opposition to the revolutions at that time, the revolutions of Arabism,” said Mohammad F. al-Qahtani, a political activist in Riyadh.

Iran, America and Censorship

In today's The Wall Street Journal there is an interesting article with the deceptive lead "Iran Vows to Unplug Internet". The article is about the Islamic Republic's push to create a national internet to make it easier for the state to regulate content and ostensibly also more affordable for users. So not about unplugging the internet at all. But never mind, the article is still worth reading. However this effort to control the internet in Iran ought to be placed in the historical context of fighting Western imperialism. While this rationale is often used to unjustly silence legitimate political and social critiques from Iranians themselves, it still is important to understand. Iranians are resentful of the 1953 coup sponsored by London and Washington that removed the popularly elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq. They still bristle over the unconditional support both countries subsequently gave to the autocratic Shah. They recently watched the Americans and British invade neighboring Iraq and know that Washington allocates aid to unpopular Iranian fringe groups that are seeking to destabilize the government in Tehran. And more recently, Iranians have had to deal with the Stuxnet virus that momentarily disabled the country's nuclear program. According to the WJS article, Iran blames the United States and Israel for this cyber attack, but Western scholars and journalists also make that charge and neither Washington nor Tel Aviv has challenged these claims.

As a result of this long history of Western oppression, freedom in the Islamic Republic today has as much to do with protecting Iranian society from imperialism as it does with individual rights. Thus the government's desire to patrol the internet and mitigate foreign influences is understandable, even if we still do not think it is quite justified.

But the article appears to believe that such censorship is only a behavior of states aligned against the West, such as Cuba and Myanmar. There is no mention of similar efforts by the American state, for example, to limit our access to information. Some of the political censorship in the United States is successful only because of the capitalist economic base of our media. For example when Octavia Nasr was fired from her job at CNN last summer for publicly expressing sympathy for the death of late religious authority H.E. Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah. Uncritical supporters of Israel went crazy and Nasr's editorial judgement was suddenly questioned after twenty years of media service. God forbid that Americans learn about the respected position of an influential spiritual leader who promoted justice for all peoples, especially considering the CIA attempted to assassinate him but killed dozens of civilians instead. At least today the blanket commercial ban on Al Jazeera television is hopefully coming to an end. Nevertheless some state censorship is still pursued through the American courts. A few years ago a Pakistani immigrant from Staten Island was arrested for including Al Manar television in a satellite package to customers. Although he had already lived in America for twenty years and has a family there, he will likely be deported after he serves his five year prison sentence. So it seems that Iran, Cuba and Myanmar are not such special cases after all...

Friday, May 27, 2011

President Assad's Last Chance?

At Least Eight Killed in Protests across Syria

Agence France Presse
27 May 2011

DAMASCUS — Syrian security forces killed at least eight people on Friday as anti-regime protests broke out across Syria, including in the capital Damascus, activists said.

"We have three people killed in the southern town of Dael, three others in the Damascus suburb of Qatana, one in the suburb of Zabadani and another in Jableh, located near the coastal city of Latakia," said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The killings took place as pro-democracy protesters again took to the streets in several cities and towns across the country after Muslim Friday prayers, in what has become a weekly ritual.

Those killed in Dael were chanting "Allahu akbar" or "God is greatest" on rooftops when they were gunned down at dawn, Abdel Rahman said.

Baton-wielding troops also violently dispersed thousands of people protesting in the northern town of Aleppo and the eastern town of Deir Ezzor, the head of another rights group said.

Security forces waded in with clubs to disperse the protest in the north Damascus district of Rokn-eddin, Abdul Karim Rihawi, head of the Syrian Human Rights League, told AFP by telephone.

"We have received information that the Syrian security forces fired in the air to disperse around 5,000 protesters who gathered in Deir Ezzor after the Friday prayers," he added.

In Aleppo, security forces used truncheons to disperse hundreds of protesters gathered in the Salaheddin district, Rihawi said, while in the northeastern town of Derbassiyeh, some 400 people protested against the regime by singing the national anthem and waving the Syrian flag. Rihawi said there was no police intervention in Derbassiyeh.

Protests were also reported in the region of Homs, located in central Syria, in Qamlishi, in the northeast of the country and in the northern, Kurdish-majority town of Amuda.

Friday's unrest took place as French President Nicolas Sarkozy endorsed a call by his US counterpart for Syria's President Bashar al-Assad to lead a transition or "get out."

"We've done everything to bring Syria into the international community. Everything. We talked (to the Syrians), tried to help them, to understand them," said Sarkozy who was speaking at the summit of G8 nations in France.

"Unfortunately, I'm sorry to say that Syria's leaders are moving quickly in reverse. Under these conditions, France withdraws its trust and denounces what must be denounced," Sarkozy said.

Sarkozy's declaration is the first time that France has spoken so explicitly about Assad leaving power. Until now France has simply called for an end to the repression in Syria and for reforms to be implemented.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also telephoned Assad on Friday and urged him to move toward reforms to end the deadly unrest, a government official said.

Erdogan "emphasised again the importance of reform," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity, refusing to give other details.

Erdogan, who enjoys good relations with Assad, has piled up pressure on the Syrian leader to initiate a democratic transition but stopped short of calling for his departure.

Since the revolt in Syria erupted mid-March, Friday protests have become a weekly ritual and are widely seen as a barometer of whether activists are able to maintain momentum despite the repression.

The protests that swept the country on Friday last week left at least 44 people dead. Several more were killed the following day during funerals for the victims.

Protesters in recent days have shifted their strategy, opting to stage demonstrations at night in a bid to outwit the security forces and avoid arrest.

More than 1,000 people have been killed and 10,000 others arrested since the revolt began in mid-March, according to rights groups.

Syrian authorities say 143 soldiers, security forces and police have been killed.

Foreign journalists have been barred from travelling inside Syria to report on the unrest.

The government insists the unrest is the work of "armed terrorist gangs" backed by Islamists and foreign agitators.

It initially responded to the revolt by offering some concessions, including lifting the state of emergency in place for nearly five decades, but coupled that with a fierce military crackdown focused on protest hubs.

The opposition has dismissed calls for dialogue, saying that could only take place once the violence ends, political prisoners are released and other reforms are adopted.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The West and Qaddafi's Bank Account

Libyan Gold Rush Followed End to Sanctions

By Robert O’Harrow Jr. and James V. Grimaldi
The Washington Post
Thursday, May 26 2011

Some of the world’s most sophisticated banks and investment firms rushed to do business with Moammar Gaddafi’s government in Libya after the United States rescinded the country’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism five years ago, according to an internal financial document obtained by The Washington Post.

HSBC, Goldman Sachs and other top banks took on hundreds of millions in cash deposits. Hedge funds and private investment firms, including the Washington-based Carlyle Group, sold Libya’s investment authority complex financial products. The Libyan sovereign wealth fund bought more than $1 billion in U.S. Treasury bills, effectively giving Libya a chance to underwrite U.S. debt.

By last year, Libya’s fund recorded about $56 billion in assets around the world, the internal document shows.

The document, created for the Tripoli-based Libyan Investment Authority by management consulting firm KPMG, provides the most detailed accounting yet of how Libya invested its oil revenue in the years between its removal from the international blacklist in 2006 and the resumption of sanctions after a deadly crackdown on protesters earlier this year.

The report underscores that just months after Gaddafi’s government was cleared for international business deals, leading financial institutions were courting Gaddafi officials for access to a huge new reservoir of capital — more than $40 billion at the time.

The gold rush in Libya occurred with encouragement from U.S. officials, who wanted to reward Gaddafi for pledging to honor international law, disavow terrorism and compensate relatives of victims of the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing.

“Sanctions are powerful because of our ability to leverage the U.S. financial system. Immediate access to the U.S. and Western investment upon the removal of sanctions is the ultimate carrot,” said one senior U.S. official, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak about the matter. “That carrot is what compels sanctioned narcotics traffickers, proliferators and supporters of terrorism to change their behavior and stop engaging in the illicit conduct that got them cut off from the United States.”

But the sudden embrace of Gaddafi became a source of embarrassment once his government — long known for its ruthlessness in suppressing dissent — used massive force to attempt to squelch a civilian uprising in February. Since then, government forces and rebels have been locked in a stalemate, with NATO warplanes regularly striking loyalist targets.

“It’s amazing how many big banks were prepared to do business with the Gaddafi regime given the obvious concerns over corruption and brutality in Libya,” said Corinna Gilfillan, head of the U.S. office of Global Witness, a nonprofit watchdog group that first obtained the document.

The Post independently confirmed that the document was produced by the London office of KPMG, which worked as a consultant to help the investment authority better track its assets in 2009 and 2010. KPMG spokesman Gavin Houlgate declined to comment on the report. 

Officials at the Libyan Investment Authority could not be reached for comment. Officials at Goldman Sachs, HSBC and the Carlyle Group all declined to comment.

In the United States, Treasury officials have frozen about $37 billion of Libyan funds. A U.S. government official said most of the assets described in the KPMG report have been frozen either in the United States or overseas.

Treasury officials have said that the majority of $29 billion in Libyan funds identified in an initial sweep by U.S. investigators were located in a single bank. The KPMG report does not provide enough specific information to identify the institution, which officials have declined to name.

In Britain, which also imposed sanctions, the head of the London School of Economics resigned after it became public that he served as an informal adviser to the Libyan government and that the school had accepted a donation from the investment authority.

In Italy, the investment fund’s holdings in UniCredit, the nation’s top bank, and other companies have stirred national debate about the propriety of doing business with Gaddafi.

The Libyan Investment Authority was a risky entity to do business with because its operations were opaque. The lack of transparency made the authority prone to corruption — an allegation that has dogged it from the beginning.

Edwin Truman, a former Treasury official in the Clinton administration and a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said he reviewed Libya’s fund and effectively rated it a zero in transparency because of insufficient reporting on its holdings and activities. Details about the fund’s holdings were supposed to be available from the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds. “Go on that Web site, click on Libya and you will learn nothing — which is why I can’t score them,” Truman said.

After examining the document provided by The Post, he noted that about one-third of the investments are in “subsidiaries,” which is “where there is the potential for mischief of various types.”

“The LIA was at least well-enough run a year ago to have such a presentation,” Truman said. “But they did not tell their public or our public much about what they were doing.”

The Libyan Investment Authority was created to help the country leverage the wealth generated from oil revenue. Known by its Arabic name as “the mother of all funds,” it was run by managers who were purportedly independent of Gaddafi. But the fund was closely tied to Gaddafi’s powerful son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi.

Saif Gaddafi, who has a doctorate from the London School of Economics, portrayed himself as a reformer who was trying to push Libya in a new direction. He helped choose the leadership of the investment authority and routinely met with financiers in the United States and Europe in search of new investments. After the crackdown began, Saif Gaddafi became his father’s most public supporter, brandishing weapons and urging citizens to fight the rebels.

Western emphasis

The KPMG report, dated June 30, 2010, shows a wide array of investments across the globe, with an emphasis on the West. In the first quarter of 2010, the fund had $315 million in cash spread across accounts at HSBC, the Arab Banking Corp., Goldman Sachs, the Central Bank of Libya and other institutions. It owned $6 billion in equities, including shares of General Electric, AT&T, Citigroup and Telefonica. Its biggest stock holdings were in Italy, where the investment authority owned almost $600 million worth of stock in UniCredit, the Italian-based bank with operations across Europe.

The report shows that a quarter of Libya’s $6 billion in stock holdings are in Italian companies, with 15 percent in U.S. firms. But most of the $3.2 billion in bonds — 65 percent — are held in U.S. bonds, including Treasuries.

An adviser to rebel Finance Minister Ali Tarhouni said the rebels should be given access to the investments, although they do not expect that to happen.

“We believe these are the Libyan people’s assets and it’s ours,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to be named. “We are in immediate need of cash. It’s the Libyan’s people’s money, and they have a right to it.”

Correspondents Sudarsan Raghavan in Benghazi, Libya, and Michael Birnbaum in Tripoli contributed to this report.

A Crackdown Mainstream Media Ignores

Bahraini Police Taking Aim at Reporters, Teachers

By Roy Gutman
McClatchy Newspapers
Wednesday 25 May 2011

BAGHDAD -- After severely curbing news coverage of its crackdown on opposition groups by foreign reporters, Bahraini authorities have begun an assault on local journalists working for international news agencies - with arrests, beatings and, apparently in one instance, electric shock.

Two well-known reporters were arrested Sunday and beaten - Nazeeha Saeed, who reports for the Arabic language service of France24, an all news French television channel, and Mazen Mahdi, who reports for the German press agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur and the U.S. publication Defense News.

Saeed was held until 2 a.m. Monday, and, according to human rights activists in Bahrain, subjected to electric shock. On Monday, the French Embassy lodged a complaint with the Bahrain government, which subsequently announced it had launched an investigation into the alleged abuse, activists said.

McClatchy Newspapers is withholding the names of its sources in Bahrain to protect them from retribution.

Reached by McClatchy in Paris, where she was flown by France24, Saeed said she would have "no comment on the shocks" or her arrest, pending a court case against the Bahrain police who abused her.

Mahdi was held for hours of questioning and physically abused as well. "They blindfolded, cuffed and then beat me," the Financial Times quoted Mahdi as saying. "They were claiming I 'published lies' that harmed the country's image." Mahdi did not respond to McClatchy Newspapers' request for comment.

The assaults on local reporters appears to be another step in Bahrain's harsh crackdown on dissent that began in mid-March after Saudi Arabia dispatched troops to the island nation to halt a month-long national protest.

Besides ousting the editors of the only independent daily newspaper, Al Wasat, the authorities have arrested local reporters and photographers and expelled the only resident foreign reporter, who worked for the Reuters news agency. Most foreign news reporters, including this one, have been prevented from entering Bahrain.

There's also been an increase in what appear to be efforts to intimidate would-be critics of the monarchy that rules Bahrain, a close U.S. ally and the home base for the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

The intimidation campaign appears to be focused on teachers, who report that as many as 30 elementary and secondary school teachers are taken from their classrooms at a time and driven to police stations, where they are subjected to hours of verbal and physical abuse before being released.

Those seized Monday included the wives of a former member of parliament, Jalal Fairooz, who himself has been jailed since early May, and of Haider Mohamed al-Noaimi, a 26-year-old columnist for Al Wasat, who was released Sunday after a month in detention.

The teachers were made to stand for hours facing a wall, then ordered to sit and stand in rapid succession, sometimes with black hoods on their heads, stripped of their abayas or black gowns, and subject to verbal insults by their captors.

One teacher, who could not be named for fear of government recriminations, reported that a school bus traveled from school to school picking up teachers who had been selected for the police scolding.

On the bus, the teachers were told to sing the Bahraini national anthem and swear their allegiance to King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa, the country's monarch. At the station, they are photographed, then subjected to a bizarre interrogation, the main question being how many times they had gone to the Pearl Roundabout in Manama, Bahrain's capital, which was the central gathering point for anti-government demonstrations during February and March.

"They called me a donkey, a cow, a liar. They said I am fat. I am an embarrassment," said one teacher.

Most of the teachers were beaten over the head, and had to give up their cell phones and laptop computers, the teacher said. "The whole thing was laughable," the teacher said, "except that I had all my curriculum plans and grades for my pupils on my computer. I need that back."

The Persecution of Shi'is in Yemen

Yemen's Shia Dilemma

Shia Muslims say they are facing persecution from the authorities, including raids on homes and torture.

By Nir Rosen
Al Jazeera
24 May 2011

In 2009, Yemeni security forces arrested four men for being Twelver Shias. Yemen's north is dominated by Zaydis, a sect of Shias very distinct from the Twelver Shias who are found in Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Bahrain and elsewhere.

Zaydis are theologically closer to Sunni Islam than they are to mainstream Twelver Shias and Yemen's president is himself a Zaydi. Sectarian tensions throughout the Middle East increased since the 2003 American invasion of Iraq and the civil war that followed, getting worse after the 2005 assassination of Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al Hariri who was posthumously made into a Sunni symbol, as was Iraq's Saddam Hussein following his 2006 execution. Lebanese Hezbollah's 2006 defeat of the Israeli army and its increased influence in Lebanese politics provoked a campaign of sectarian agitation against it.

Fears were spread of Shia Islam, a so-called Shia crescent, and of Shia Arabs as fifth columnists loyal to Iran. Dictators increased sectarian tensions for their own purposes and in Yemen, which was undergoing twin uprisings, President Ali Abdallah Saleh manipulated both Zeydi Shias and Wahabi Sunnis, as well as various tribes, in order to weaken opposition. In the north, Zeydi rebels known as "Houthis" for the family that led them, battled a brutal Yemeni army. In order to gain international assistance, Saleh falsely accused Iran and Hezbollah of supporting the Zeydis.

Saleh depended on American and Saudi aid, and he knew that Saudi paranoia of Iranian meddling would guarantee a money flow, just as the al-Qaeda boogey man would mean increased American money. US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks reveal that even the Saudis suspect Saleh is manipulating them.

Often innocent Yemenis have been the targets of these propaganda campaigns. While it is likely that President Saleh will eventually be ousted, the Yemeni regime with all its brutality is as much a part of the problem.

On July 13, 2009, Muamar al Abdali from Lahj was arrested. Muamar was a human rights activist whose organisation Himaya focused on freedom of thought and freeing detainees. It was not affiliated with any one sect. The government had rejected Himaya's permit.

In 2007 Muamar was arrested while sitting for his university exams and held for two and a half months because of his human rights activism. When he was released they told him "we are just pinching you in the ear", meaning he was being taught a lesson, or given a warning. After his release, he was often followed. And during religious gatherings he attended, there would be strangers in attendance who were suspected of monitoring his activities.

Muamar's greatest problems would come from his conversion to the Twlever interpretation of Shia Islam. I spoke to his wife Amat al Latif. Muamar was a Shafii Sunni originally but he converted to Shia Islam, she told me. Ten years ago, when they were engaged to be married, she decided to convert to Shiaism, too. Following conversations with him and reading of Shia religious books he gave her, she accepted the faith. Together, they also visited the Seyida Zeinab shrine in Syria.

In July of 2009 Muamar was in the southern city of Aden, heading to dinner with a friend, when he was arrested by National Security officers. A police officer who was Muamar's friend notified Amat of his arrest. That officer would be jailed for 14 days for revealing that to her. For the first four months of his arrest, Muamar's whereabouts were unknown. The day after Muamar was arrested, his deputy at Himaya, Sadiq Abdelrahman Asharafi was arrested. The organisation's office was raided and its computers and files were confiscated.

Raids and torture

Muamar was tortured those first four months, and suffered a heart attack. National Security officers took him to a hospital fearing he would die. After the first four months, he was transferred to the custody of the Political Security Forces. There, he was no longer physically tortured, his wife told me, only psychologically tortured. He spent two weeks in solitary confinement and in a cell with al-Qaeda members who fought with him.

"Now, he is in the political prison and he receives threats that al-Qaeda will kill him," Amat said. Muamar was attacked by al-Qaeda members in prison; and even though he was wounded he was punished and put in solitary confinement. Al-Qaeda suspects were given privileged treatment, his wife told me.

Muamar was accused of spreading the Shia sect in Yemen, and providing money and weapons to the Houthi rebels in the north. "Any Twelver in Yemen is considered an agent of Iran," Amat told me, "this is the first accusation." Muamar had a library with Shia books from Iran and Kuwait. It had been open for one year with government permission.

"Afterwards we faced problems and difficulties because of the library, even though we had permission," Amat told me, "we had to close it." After they closed the library Amat brought the books to her house. Their home was raided by National Security.

"It was an inhuman raid," she said. "The children were in the house. They broke the furniture, they took 150 or 200 books, they were all Shia religious books published in Kuwait and Iran, not political books." They also confiscated the original authorisation for the library, but she had an additional copy. "When they took the books, I said the books run in our blood. They stepped on the books. They have tried to insult us by calling us spies and extremists."

"Twelvers face persecution from the government unlike other sects here like the Wahabis," Amat said. "Muamar demanded freedom of thought and religion. Even recently Zeydis started to conceal that they are Zeydis because they are being persecuted." Amat insisted that Muamar had never visited Iran and had never had any communication with Houthis.

Trials and imprisonment

Amat insisted that the men were on trial with no evidence brought against them except the confessions extracted under torture by the National Security forces. Their lawyers demanded that a forensic doctor examine the men to testify about the scars they bore from torture, but the judge refused.

Walid Sharafeddin was an accountant with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), where he had worked for two years. On August 25, 2009, Walid was on the street next to a bank. At 11:30 AM, men in civilian clothes asked if he was Walid Sharafeddin and took him away. At 3 PM that day, his wife Alia Wazir's home was raided by men in civilian and military clothing. She knew at once Walid had been arrested because Muamar had recently been arrested.

Alia recalled: "They entered in an ugly way, a barbaric way -  like they knew where to go. They asked me, 'where is Walid,' I said 'he is at work.' They showed me a permission to search the house but I couldn't read it. Two female policewomen searched me. They unplugged the phones so I couldn't call anyone. They asked me who my father was, where I work. They didn't let me move unless one of them was with me. They searched the house carefully, they took personal things belonging to Walid - passport, files. They took receipts for my gold jewelry."

As they were leaving after the search, the men told her that they indeed had Walid. Walid's two children were also present.

Ibrahim Sharafeddin, Walid's brother and lawyer, was in the apartment next door. About 30 armed men in civilian and military clothes raided Walid's apartment, Ibrahim said.

Ibrahim was not allowed to enter his brother's apartment. He demanded to see a warrant. A security officer waved a white paper at him, but he couldn't see what it said. After three hours the security men left. Later, when he was representing Walid he would see a copy of the warrant ordering Walid's house to be searched and accusing him of membership in an armed gang. "They left with sacks containing papers and his UNDP computer, his phones, CDs, not with guns and bombs," Ibrahim told me, "when they left they told my brother's wife, 'please forgive us we are just following orders and we have Walid.' She asked 'who are you' but they didn't respond."

Missing persons and no records

Abdallah Ali Adeilami was arrested in August 2009 in the Damar province, 100 kilometers away from Sanaa. He was married with two children. He taught Islamic Culture at the University of Damar and was a deputy headmaster at the Ali Abdel Mughni elementary school. Abdallah converted to the Twelver interpretation of Shia Islam in 1998. His wife was not a Twelver.

Abdallah was an acquaintance of Walid and Muamar but not a close friend. I spoke to his nephew Ali Muhamad Adeilami. On the night of his arrest National Security, Central Security and Political Security forces surrounded the neighbourhood and besieged it. They rang his doorbell and then broke down the door. "They violated the privacy of the house and the privacy of women," Ali said. "[They] broke furniture, took mobile phones from the men and women, they took his laptop and desktop, they took Shia CDs, pictures of (Hezbollah's) Hassan Nasrallah."

They put a sac on Abdallah's head. He asked them what was happening as they shook him roughly. "None of your business," he was told. He was held by Political Security for four months and 15 days. Then a neighbour who worked for Political Security was told to tell Abdallah's relatives that he was in their prison in Sanaa. "We didn't recognise him when we saw him," Ali told me, "he was very thin, his head was wrapped with gauze. We asked him 'whats wrong with you?' He said he knocked his head against the wall. There was a policeman sitting next to him. I asked him if he was tortured. He nodded his head but the policeman saw it and ended the visit.

Abdallah was examined by a doctor from Political Security who said the scars were received before his arrest. "Did we torture him at home?" Ali demanded from a Political Security officer. He was told to sit down. "I said shame on you and they expelled me from the court."

Abdallah was charged with spreading the Twelver intrepretation of Shia Islam and giving speeches. Walid and Muamar were accused of sending $700 to Abdallah to give to poor people. "Twelvers are persecuted here," said Ali, "the government wants to kill them all. They treat them differently in prisons. They treat al-Qaeda prisoners better than they treat Twelvers."

Walid's wife Alia went to the prosecutor general's office and was sent to the appeals office who sent her to the criminal investigation office because their claim was about a missing person. Ibrahim went to the criminal investigation office: "They were supposed to record my complaint in their records - it didn't happen. Instead of doing that he kept asking me what happened and asked me about the people who came, what did they look like, their cars, I described it to him. He said what did your brother do. I said you're a judge you can't ask me this. You're supposed to tell me what my brother did. At least you're supposed to tell us where he is. He said you want the truth? I cant do anything for you."

Alia went to the ministry of interior. The family published letters in newspapers addressed to the prosecutor general's office, the ministry of justice and National and Political Security. Political Security and National Security denied they had Walid. At the same time the family held demonstration in front of the parliament, the minister's council, in front of the prosecutor's office. "Our slogans were these people are forcibly disappeared and security is supposed to protect citizens. And if a person committed a crime he is supposed to be taken to court through legal steps." The family demonstrated every day.

In November of 2009, an official from the Political Security Forces told Alia that Walid was in their custody and had been transferred from National Security. Three days later, the family went to visit him. "When I saw him he looked like he was high on drugs," Ibrahim told me, "he had no concentration, he was very thin, he had lost a lot of weight." Walid immediately asked his wife and mother how they were because his interrogators had threatened that they would bring his female relatives in for investigation.

"They threatened him with dirty means," Ibrahim said, "we saw bloody marks from handcuffs. We later found out that he was tied from behind and his hands were pulled up. The first time it was for two hours. The second time it was all night long. He was beaten by sticks, slaps and insulted." Security officers were present during their visits to Walid.

There were many court appearances, but the men were not allowed to defend themselves. Their lawyer Ibrahim Sharaffedin, Walid's brother, resigned because whenever he tried to speak, the prosecutor would say "oos!" a rude sound meaning "shut up," and the judge did nothing in response. "Shut up or we know how to shut you up," the prosecutor said, which the lawyer interpreted as a threat. Female relatives attended some of the trials but were prevented from entering the court at times. "These trials are a play in front of public opinion," Muamar's wife Amat told me.

The men were accused of working for Iran and the Houthis. "The court that will accept his trial would be clearly a court following the regime. And the people who kidnapped him should be taken to trial," Ibrahim said. His overtures to legal officials were met with contempt. Ibrahim objected to the investigation because his brother was being illegally detained. Instead of telling Walid what he was charged with, the investigators asked him what his relationship with Iran was.

Ibrahim demanded to know the charges. Walid was charged with belonging to an armed gang and communicating illegally with a foreign country. Contrary to standard procedures, the charges contained no details of specific actions taken. Instead, the charges were statements he made under torture while still in National Security detention. Ibrahim objected but was overruled and told to shut up by a judge named Rajih Hneish, or he would be expelled. Walid claimed he had been forced to put his thumb print on statements the security officers had prepared.

'All trials like this'

Political Security was not a place for punishment or pre-trial detention, Ibrahim explained. There was a separate prison for pre-trial detention. Moreover no evidence was provided. "The evidence they used was just papers, financial accounts," Ibrahim said, "they said it included amounts of money that they claimed he received from the Iranian cultural attaché, about $143,000 and it included where they claim it was spent. The charge was receiving that amount of money to pursue Iranian political projects in Yemen and to support the Houthis. The law is anybody who illegally contacts a foreign country or works for a foreign country's benefit in harming the status of the country, militarily, diplomatically or economically can be sentenced to death."

The first judge the four men saw was called Muhsin Alwan. In the first trial before any evidence was even presented he told the four accused men that they were spies. Ibrahim objected to a doctor from Political Security examining the men for signs of torture because Political Security was illegally detaining the men. The judge overruled his objection. The prosecutor threatened Ibrahim.

Sadiq and Muamar responded by telling judge Radwan Annamer that he belonged to Political Security and they condemned the lack of judicial independence. Annamer ordered them placed in solitary confinement for fifteen days as a result. Ibrahim objected that solitary confinement was only permitted when the detainee could harm others.

"I resigned, I said the court is not decent. No matter how weak the evidence this isn't a problem for the court to find a person guilty. We were not even allowed to copy paper, except for the charges and the list of evidence. The sentence was ready the day the case was taken to the prosecution and they tried him already in the national security and he is serving his time in political security and this trial is just something for public opinion because we brought this subject into the media. They want to justify war in Saada. Salafi elements have authority and power. These four are just a ploy for the regime to prove that Iran supports the Houthis.

In May of 2010, President Saleh announced a general amnesty for Houthis and all people detainees from the Saada war in north Yemen were supposed to be freed. The judge in the case of the four Twelver men said that they faced two charges. The first was for membership in an armed gang belonging to the Houthis and the second was being intelligence agents for a foreign country. The amnesty applied to the first charge but not the second charge.

Ali al Asimi was the lawyer for Sadiq, Muamar and Abdallah. "There are serious violations taking place here," he said, referring to Yemen, "as a defense team we have stopped dealing with the court. There is no benefit from attending and going.

The presence of the lawyer is just symbolic, the lawyer has no rights. He can't even copy files of case, even some papers are being taken away from the files so the lawyers won't see. Our presence is like analysts for the sentences. They just tell the lawyers the charges and don't let lawyers see the rest of the file. Some evidence they allow them to see and others they don't let them see. But in the end there is no real evidence, most of it is confession taken under torture. They were tortured in the National Security. So the criminal court relies on these confessions and it's a big problem."

Ibrahim's outrage about his brother's persecution was raw. "People were kidnapped for four months and he will be tried instead of those who kidnapped him?" he asked me, "the trial is not decent because of the procedures, the torture. If the trial was honest it should talk about the procedures. It's all illegal according to Yemeni law and constitution. All trials are like this."

Nir Rosen is an American journalist who writes on current and international affairs. He has contributed to The New Yorker and Rolling Stone, among others. His latest book is Aftermath: Following the Bloodshed of America's Wars in the Muslim World.