Ever since the bailout was agreed, this blog has been predicting a Greek default. Despite perfunctory official denials, almost no one now seriously expects the Greek government to honour its obligations. What’s more, it’ll be a proper, château-bottled default: not a deferral of interest, but a straightforward repudiation of liabilities.
I’ve also been predicting that Greek and EU leaders will try to keep Greece in the euro after the default. Here, by contrast, I’m still pretty much on my own. Most observers, whatever their sympathies, believe that a government which had reneged on its debts could not remain in the single currency. No one would lend it money. Simply to cover its immediate bills, it would need to price itself into the markets and print more money. To take the pain of a default without the compensating advantage of a devaluation, say all the clever commentators, would be the worst of all worlds.
They’re right; but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. For the past two months, Eurocrats have been talking increasingly confidently about an ‘orderly’ default within the euro. While the markets might refuse to lend to welshers, the EU could supply the shortfall. In the mean time, Brussels would bail out the banks which had foolishly bought Greek bonds.
Such a package would be tremendously expensive: in the trillions. It would be disastrous for Greece, which would remain nailed to its artificially high exchange rate. And it would involve yet another transfer of wealth from ordinary taxpayers to wealthy bankers and bondholders. Yet, unerringly, this is the option for which EU leaders are plumping.
Some are marked radioactive, as were the open plastic bags alongside.
The powder they contain appears to be yellowcake uranium from neighbouring Niger. Yet when they were discovered by advancing rebel forces last week, they were abandoned, in tumbledown warehouses protected only by a low wall.
Niger mines yellowcake under a strict security regime designed to ensure none of it falls into the hands of illicit networks. But post-Gaddafi Libya affords little or no protection to this vast haul of material, which if refined to high levels of purity is the essential element of a nuclear bomb.
The Daily Telegraph reported last week that Iran, which is pursuing underground nuclear programmes, had joined in the looting of Libyan weaponry.
Despite the dangers, international atomic agencies and Libya’s rebels say it will take weeks to put safeguards in place.
Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) — Part of the U.S. embassy annex in Kabul came under attack early Monday, a U.S. official and an official from the International Security Assistance Force said.
The attack was believed to be largely over by about 4 a.m., the U.S. official said. At that point, there was not yet any word on casualties.
ISAF Maj. Jason Waggoner said it was a single incident, not several attacks.
The U.S. official described the situation as fluid at the targeted facility, which is used by U.S. government personnel in the Afghan capital.
The area is known as a place where personnel both live and work, some in intelligence operations. A CIA spokeswoman declined to comment on the attack.
Afghanistan has been site of several high-profile attacks of late, including strikes at the NATO headquarters and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and the assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani. Rabbani had been leading efforts for reconciliation talks.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta contended last Thursday that such attacks represent a strategy shift by the Taliban, the conservative and militant group that has been waging a years-long fight in the war-torn nation.
“We judge this change in tactics to be a result of a shift in momentum in our favor and a sign of weakness in the insurgency,” Panetta said in a Senate Armed Service Committee hearing.
He added that “the insurgency has been turned back in much of the country, including its heartland in the south, and Afghan National Security Forces are increasingly strong and capable.”
Mike Mullen, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified then that he felt Pakistan is “exporting” violence to Afghanistan. He described the Haqqani terrorist network as “a veritable arm of Pakistan’s intelligence” — an assertion that Pakistani officials later strongly denied, even as it admitted the country does have contacts with the group.
August was the deadliest month for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since the conflict began. Seventy-one American troops died that month, including 30 killed when insurgents shot down a helicopter August 6 in the eastern central province of Wardak.
The surge in U.S. deaths comes as NATO is drawing down and handing over security control to national forces. Some 10,000 U.S. troops are scheduled to depart by year’s end, with all U.S. military personnel out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
CNN’s Barbara Starr and Claudia Dominguez contributed to this report.
It’s the show that time and the world forgot. It’s called the Occupation and it’s now in its 45th year. Playing on a landscape about the size of Delaware, it remains largely hidden from view, while Middle Eastern headlines from elsewhere seize the day.
Diplomats shuttle back and forth from Washington and Brussels to Middle Eastern capitals; the Israeli-Turkish alliance ruptures amid bold declarations from the Turkish prime minister; crowds storm the Israeli embassy in Cairo, while Israeli ambassadors flee the Egyptian capital and Amman, the Jordanian one; and of course, there’s the headliner, the show-stopper of the moment, the Palestinian Authority’s campaign for statehood in the United Nations, which will prompt an Obama administration veto in the Security Council.
But whatever the Turks, Egyptians, or Americans do, whatever symbolic satisfaction the Palestinian Authority may get at the UN, there’s always the Occupation and there – take it from someone just back from a summer living in the West Bank – Israel isn’t losing. It’s winning the battle, at least the one that means the most to Palestinians and Israelis, the one for control over every square foot of ground.
Inch by inch, metre by metre, Israel’s expansion project in the West Bank and Jerusalem is, in fact, gaining momentum, ensuring that the “nation” that the UN might grant membership will be each day a little smaller, a little less viable, a little less there.
Occasionally – say, when riding through a narrow passage between hills – it was possible. But not often. Nearly every panoramic vista, every turn in the highway revealed a Jewish settlement, an Israeli army checkpoint, a military watchtower, a looming concrete wall, a barbed-wire fence with signs announcing another restricted area, or a cluster of army jeeps stopping cars and inspecting young men for their documents.
The ill-fated Oslo “peace process” that emerged from the Oslo Accords of 1993 not only failed to prevent such expansion, it effectively sanctioned it. Since then, the number of Israeli settlers on the West Bank has nearly tripled to more than 300,000 – and that figure doesn’t include the more than 200,000 Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem.
The Oslo Accords, ratified by both the Palestinians and the Israelis, divided the West Bank into three zones – A, B, and C. At the time, they were imagined by the Palestinian Authority as a temporary way station on the road to an independent state. They are, however, still in effect today.
The de facto Israeli strategy has been and remains to give Palestinians relative freedom in Area A, around the West Bank’s cities, while locking down “Area C” – 60 per cent of the West Bank – for the use of the Jewish settlements and for what are called “restricted military areas” (Area B is essentially a kind of grey zone between the other two). From this strategy come the thousands of demolitions of “illegal” housing and the regular arrests of villagers who simply try to build improvements to their homes.
Restrictions are strictly enforced and violations dealt with harshly.
When I visited the South Hebron Hills in late 2009, for example, villagers were not even allowed to smooth out a virtually impassable dirt road so that their children wouldn’t have to walk two to three miles to school every day.
Na’im al Adarah, from the village of At-Tuwani, paid the price for transporting those kids to the school “illegally”. A few weeks after my visit, he was arrested and his red Toyota pickup seized and destroyed by Israeli soldiers. He didn’t bother complaining to the Palestinian Authority – the same people now going to the UN to declare a Palestinian state – because they have no control over what happens in Area C.
The only time he’d seen a Palestinian official, al Adarah told me, was when he and other villagers drove to Ramallah to bring one to the area. (The man from the Palestinian Authority refused to come on his own.)
“He said this is the first time he knew that this land [in Area C] is ours. A minister like him is surprised that we have these areas? I told him, ‘How can a minister like you not know this? You’re the minister of local government!’
“It was like he didn’t know what was happening in his own country … we’re forgotten, unfortunately.”
- Na’im al Adarah, from an Area C village
“It was like he didn’t know what was happening in his own country,” added al-Adarah. “We’re forgotten, unfortunately.”
The Israeli strategy of control also explains, strategically speaking, the “need” for the network of checkpoints; the looming separation barrier (known to Israelis as the “security fence” and to Palestinians as the “apartheid wall”) that divides Israel from the West Bank (and sometimes West Bankers from each other); the repeated evictions of Palestinians from residential areas like Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem; the systematic revoking of Jerusalem IDs once held by thousands of Palestinians who were born in the Holy City; and the labyrinthine travel restrictions which keep so many Palestinians locked in their West Bank enclaves.
While Israel justifies most of these measures in terms of national security, it’s clear enough that the larger goal behind them is to incrementally take and hold ever more of the land. The separation barrier, for example, has put 10 per cent of the West Bank’s land on the Israeli side – a case of “annexation in the guise of security”, according to the respected Israeli human rights group, B’tselem.
Taken together, these measures amount to the solution that the Israeli government seeks, one revealed in a series of maps drawn up by Israeli politicians, cartographers, and military men over recent years that show Palestine broken into isolated islands (often compared to South African apartheid-era “bantustans”) on only about 40 per cent of the West Bank.
At the outset of Oslo, Palestinians believed they had made a historic compromise, agreeing to a state on 22 per cent of historic Palestine – that is, the West Bank and Gaza. The reality now is a kind of “ten per cent solution”, a rump statelet without sovereignty, freedom of movement, or control of its own land, air, or water. Palestinians cannot even drill a well to tap into the vast aquifer beneath their feet.
Living amid checkpoints
Every Palestinian has a personal, traumatising story of how the occupation has impacted their life [GALLO/GETTY]
Almost always overlooked in assessments of this ruinous “no-state solution” is the human toll it takes on the occupied. More than on any of my dozen previous journeys there, I came away from this trip to Palestine with a sense of the psychic damage the military occupation has inflicted on every Palestinian. None, no matter how warm-hearted or resilient, escape its effects.
“The soldier pointed to my violin case. He said, ‘What’s that?’” 13-year-old Ala Shelaldeh, who lives in old Ramallah, told me.
She is a student at Al Kamandjati (Arabic for “the violinist”), a music school in her neighbourhood (which will be a focus of my next book). She was recalling a time three years earlier when a van she was in, full of young musicians, was stopped at an Israeli checkpoint near Nablus. They were coming back from a concert.
“I told him, ‘It’s a violin.’ He told me to get out of the van and show him.” Ala stepped onto the roadside, unzipped her case, and displayed the instrument for the soldier.
“Play something,” he insisted. Ala played Hilwadeen (Beautiful Girl), the song made famous by the Lebanese star Fayrouz. It was a typical moment in Palestine, and one she has yet to, and may never, forget.
It is impossible, of course, to calculate the long-term emotional damage of such encounters on children and adults alike, including on the Israeli soldiers, who are not immune to their own actions.
Humiliation at checkpoints is a basic fact of West Bank Palestinian life. Everyone, even children, has his or her story to tell of helplessness, fear, and rage while waiting for a teenaged soldier to decide whether or not they can pass. It has become so normal that some kids have no idea the rest of the world doesn’t live like this.
“I thought the whole world was like us – they are occupied, they have soldiers,” remembered Ala’s older brother, Shehade, now 20.
A view of a different life
“It was a shock for me to see [Italy]. You can go very, very far, and no checkpoint. You see the land very, very far, and no wall. I was so happy, and at the same time sad, you know? Because we don’t have this freedom in my country.“
- Shehade Shelaldeh
At 15, he was invited to Italy. “It was a shock for me to see this life. You can go very, very far, and no checkpoint. You see the land very, very far, and no wall. I was so happy, and at the same time sad, you know? Because we don’t have this freedom in my country.”
At age 12, Shehade had seen his cousin shot dead by soldiers during the second intifada, which erupted in late 2001 after Israel’s then-opposition leader Ariel Sharon paid a provocative visit to holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem. Clashes erupted as youths hurled stones at soldiers. Israeli troops responded with live fire, killing some 250 Palestinians (compared to 29 Israeli deaths) in the first two months of the intifada. The next year, Palestinian factions launched waves of suicide bombings in Israel.
One day in 2002, Shehade recalled, with Ramallah again fully occupied by the Israeli army, the young cousins broke a military curfew in order to buy bread. A shot rang out near a corner market; Shehade watched his cousin fall. This summer Shehade showed me the gruesome pictures – blood flowing from a 12-year-old’s mouth and ears – taken moments after the shooting in 2002.
Nine years later, Ramallah, a supposedly sovereign enclave, is often considered an oasis in a desert of occupation. Its streets and markets are choked with shoppers, and its many trendy restaurants rival fine European eateries. The vibrancy and upscale feel of many parts of the city give you a sense that – much as Palestinians are loathe to admit it – this, and not East Jerusalem, is the emerging Palestinian capital.
Many Ramallah streets are indeed lined with government ministries and foreign consulates. (Just don’t call them embassies!) But much of this apparent freedom and quasi-sovereignty is illusory.
In the West Bank, travel without hard-to-get permits is often limited to narrow corridors of land, like the one between Ramallah and Nablus, where the Israeli military has, for now, abandoned its checkpoints and roadblocks. Even in Ramallah – part of the theoretically sovereign Area A – night incursions by Israeli soldiers are common.
“It was December 2009, the 16th I think, at 2:15, 2:30 in the morning,” recalled Celine Dagher, a French citizen of Lebanese descent. Her Palestinian husband, Ramzi Aburedwan, founder of Al Kamandjati, where both of them work, was then abroad. “I was awakened by a sound,” she told me.
She emerged to find the front door of their flat jammed partway open and kept that way by a small security bar of the sort you find in hotel rooms. Celine thought burglars were trying to break in and so yelled at them in Arabic to go away. Then she peered through the six-inch opening and spotted ten Israeli soldiers in the hallway.
They told her to stand back, and within seconds had blown the door off its hinges. Entering the apartment, they pointed their automatic rifles at her. A Palestinian informant stood near them silently, a black woolen mask pulled over his face to ensure his anonymity.
The commander began to interrogate her. “My name, with whom I live, starting to ask me about the neighbours.” Celine flashed her French passport and pleaded with them not to wake up her six-month-old, Hussein, sleeping in the next room.
“I was praying that he would just stay asleep.” She told the commander, “I just go from my house to my work, from work to my house.” She didn’t really know her neighbours, she said.
As it happened, the soldiers had blown off the door of the wrong flat. They would remove four more doors in the building that night, Celine recalled, before finding their suspect: Her 17-year-old next door neighbour. “They stood questioning him for maybe 20 minutes, and then they took him. And I think he’s still in jail. His father is already in jail.”
Most imprisoned people on earth
“You can’t go to Jerusalem to pray. And it’s only 15 kilometres away. And you have your memories there.“
- Saleh Abdel-Jawad, dean of the law school at Birzeit University
According to Israeli Prison Services statistics cited by B’tselem, more than 5,300 Palestinians were in Israeli prisons in July 2011. Since the beginning of the occupation in 1967, an estimated 650,000 to 700,000 Palestinians have reportedly been jailed by Israel. By one calculation, that represents 40 per cent of the adult-male Palestinian population.
Almost no family has been untouched by the Israeli prison system.
Celine stared through the blinds at the street below, where some 15 jeeps and other military vehicles were parked. Finally, they left with their lights out and so quietly that she couldn’t even hear their engines. When the flat was silent again, she couldn’t sleep. “I was very afraid.” A neighbour came upstairs to sit with her until the morning.
Stories like these – and they are legion – accumulate, creating the outlines of what could be called a culture of occupation. They give context to a remark by Saleh Abdel-Jawad, dean of the law school at Birzeit University near Ramallah: “I don’t remember a happy day since 1967,” he told me.
Stunned, I asked him why specifically that was so. “Because,” he replied, “you can’t go to Jerusalem to pray. And it’s only 15 kilometres away. And you have your memories there.”
He added, “Since 17 years I was unable to go to the sea. We are not allowed to go. And my daughter married five years ago and we were unable to do a marriage ceremony for her.” Israel would not grant a visa to Saleh’s Egyptian son-in-law so that he could enter the West Bank. “How to do a marriage without the groom?”
A musical Intifada
An old schoolmate of mine and now a Middle East scholar living in Paris points out that Palestinians are not just victims, but actors in their own narrative. In other words, he insists, they, too, bear responsibility for their circumstances – not all of this rests on the shoulders of the occupiers. True enough.
As an apt example, consider the morally and strategically bankrupt tactic of suicide bombings, carried out from 2001 to 2004 by several Palestinian factions as a response to Israeli attacks during the second intifada. That disastrous strategy gave cover to all manner of Israeli retaliation, including the building of the separation barrier. (The near disappearance of the suicide attacks has been due far less to the wall – after all, it isn’t even finished yet – than to a decision on the part of all the Palestinian factions to reject the tactic itself.)
So, yes, Palestinians are also “actors” in creating their own circumstances, but Israel remains the sole regional nuclear power, the state with one of the strongest armies in the world, and the occupying force – and that is the determining fact in the West Bank.
“Existence is resistance.“
Today, for some Palestinians living under the 44-year occupation simply remaining on the land is a kind of moral victory. This summer, I started hearing a new slogan: “Existence is resistance.” If you remain on the land, then the game isn’t over.
And if you can bring attention to the occupation, while you remain in place, so much the better.
In June, Ala Shelaldeh, the 13-year-old violinist, brought her instrument to the wall at Qalandia, once a mere checkpoint separating Ramallah and Jerusalem, and now essentially an international border crossing with its mass of concrete, steel bars, and gun turrets.
The transformation of Qalandia – and its long, cage-like corridors and multiple seven-foot-high turnstiles through which only the lucky few with permits may cross to Jerusalem – is perhaps the most powerful symbol of Israel’s determination not to share the Holy City.
The Palestinians are said to be the most imprisoned people on earth [GALLO/GETTY]
Ala and her fellow musicians in the Al Kamandjati Youth Orchestra came to play Mozart and Bizet in front of the Israeli soldiers, on the other side of Qalandia’s steel bars. Their purpose was to confront the occupation through music, essentially to assert: We’re here. The children and their teachers emerged from their bus, quickly set up their music stands, and began to play. Within moments, the sound of Mozart’s Symphony No. 6 in F Major filled the terminal.
Palestinians stopped and stared. Smiles broke out. People came closer, pulling out cell phones and snapping photos, or just stood there, surrounding the youth orchestra, transfixed by this musical intifada. The musicians and soldiers were separated by a long row of blue horizontal bars. As the music played on, a grim barrier of confinement was momentarily transformed into a space of assertive joy.
“It was,” Ala would say later, “the greatest concert of my life.”
As the Mozart symphony built – Allegro, Andante, Minuet, and the Allegro last movement – some of the soldiers started to take notice. By the time the orchestra launched into Georges Bizet’s Dance Boheme from Carmen #2, several soldiers appeared, looking out through the bars. For the briefest of moments, it was hard to tell who was on the inside, looking out, and who was on the outside, looking in.
If existence is resistance, if children can confront their occupiers with a musical intifada, then there’s still space, in the year of the Arab Spring, for something unexpected and transformative to happen. After all, South African apartheid collapsed, and without a bloody revolution. The Berlin Wall fell quickly, completely, unexpectedly.
And with China, India, Turkey and Brazil on the rise, the United States, its power waning, will not be able to remain Israel’s protector forever. Eventually, perhaps, the world will assert the obvious: The status quo is unacceptable.
For the moment, whatever happens in the coming weeks at the UN, and in the West Bank in the aftermath, isn’t it time for the world’s focus to shift to what is actually happening on the ground? After all, it’s the occupation, stupid.
Sandy Tolan is author of The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East. He is associate professor at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. He is at work on a new book, Operation Mozart, about music and life in Palestine. He blogs at ramallahcafe.com.
The views expressed in this article are the author‘s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera‘s editorial policy.
Failure to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and Israel’s 40-year occupation, in the words of UN former Secretary General Kofi Annan, would “continue to hurt the reputation of the United Nations and raise questions about its impartiality”.
No cause has consumed as much UN paper work as the plight of the displaced and occupied Palestinians. But hundreds of its resolutions on Palestine have not been respected let alone applied for over half a century.
Nowhere has the UN ideals and mechanisms been more mired in power politics than in Palestine. The efforts to neutralise UN intervention have been championed mainly by the United States. This week’s efforts by the Obama administration working on behalf of Israel took advocacy into a whole new level.
Washington has vetoed more than 40 UN Security Council resolutions critical of its policies some of which were drafted by its European allies. A quick look at today’s Middle East makes it clear that such obstructions worked for the interest of neither party, nor for peace and security in the region.
Cold-War rivalries have also contributed to UN paralysis in the Israeli Palestinian-Arab conflict, which explains why more than half of the 690 resolutions adopted by the General Assembly from 1947-1990 have been ignored.
But what justifies sidelining the UN ever since, while keeping it at an arm’s length from a two decades of Peace Process?
The short answer is a double standard.
All major post-Cold War conflicts have seen direct UN involvement including, Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria and of late, Lebanon, South Sudan. Not the Palestine problem. It was deferred to the US sponsored diplomatic process even though Washington’s close relations with Israel rendered it anything but an impartial broker.
Not only was Palestinian Israeli conflict snatched out of the world body, most relevant US resolutions critical of Israel were ignored by the US sponsors.
Only after the peace process failed to yield a solution a decade later, did the Bush administration allow the United Nations to join, and even then, only as a junior partner in a newly formed International Quartet that includes the European Union and Russia, all of whom are members of the UN!
Meanwhile, Israel has disregarded tens of resolutions, “censuring”, “calling”, “urging”, “recommending”, or “condemning” its attacks, settlement, deportations, occupation, etc.
Likewise, all pleas and demands for humanitarian and political interventions fell on deaf ears. The only time the UN was allowed to act, was in 1997 when it sent few international unarmed observers to the occupied city of Hebron. Alas, they weren’t mandated to speak publicly about the ongoing violations.
For the past four decades, Israel has violated all relevant UNSC council resolutions such as the resolution 465 of 1980 that strongly deplored all measures taken by Israel to change the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure of status of the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem.
It also rejected Resolution 476, which reaffirmed the necessity to end the Israeli occupation of Arab territories ongoing since the 1967 war. The only UN Security Council Resolution that was accepted by the US and Israel as the basis of the diplomatic process, i.e. 242 of 1967, was also systematically violated. Israel has been expanding its settlement activity when the resolution notes the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force”.
Paradoxically, Israel was created by a UN recommendation for Partitioning Palestine in 1947, and was accepted as a new UN member on the basis of its commitment to respect its resolution, and specifically UNGA 194 regarding the return of the Palestinian refugees.
Now that all other venues have been tried and failed, including 18 years of bilateral negotiations, the UN Security Council must carry its responsibilities by demanding that Israel carry its obligations under UN charter and by recognising the Palestinian right for self-determination in a state of their own. Period.
Marwan Bishara is Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst.
He was previously a professor of International Relations at the American University of Paris. An author who writes extensively on global politics, he is widely regarded as a leading authority on the Middle East and international affairs.
A suspected suicide bomber has detonated explosives in a church in Indonesia’s central Java, injuring at least 20 people, according to an Indonesian radio station.
The attacker is believed to have died, a local police spokesman told El Shinta radio.
Citing police and witnesses, El Shinta reported that the blast occurred just after the completion of services on Sunday at the Kepunton church in Solo town.
“I can confirm that there was a suicide-bomb attack in Church Bethel Injil at 10:55 [am],” Djihartono, a central Java provincial police spokesman, said in El Shinta radio broadcast on Sunday.
“The body of the dead one, believed to be the suicide bomber, is lying in the main entrance.”
Bambang Sumartono, an official at Dr Oen hospital, said that 20 people, including a child, were admitted to hospital, but that many of them were only slightly injured.
The attacker “walked about four metres behind me”, Abraham, a churchgoer, told El Shinta.
“I believe he was disguised as a churchgoer.”
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, has been battling armed groups since 2002 when suspected al-Qaeda-linked men attacked two nightclubs on Bali island, killing 202 people, mostly foreigners.
Tripoli, Libya (CNN) — A mass grave thought to hold the remains of more than 1,200 victims of a 1996 massacre at Abu Salim prison has been found in Tripoli, officials with Libya’s transitional government said Sunday.
The suspected grave holds 1,270 bodies, according to Libya’s National Transitional Council. It was located by revolutionaries on August 20, said Kamal el Sherif, a member of an NTC committee.
“There is a lot more to be done to reach the actual truth of this massacre,” said Dr. Salem Fergani, also a committee member. “To be honest, we were not prepared to deal with such human massacres, so we request the assistance of the international community. We need specialists in the field to help us in identifying the victims … this is a national mission. The families of these victims have the right to learn the truth about their deceased sons.”
Former guards at the prison cooperated in helping find the grave and provide details of the massacre, said Abdul Wahab Gady. He said he is a former prisoner who was at Abu Salim when the deaths took place.
The bones are scattered around an area with about a 100-meter radius, Fergani said. Members of the media were taken to the site on Sunday and shown bones and clothing. Family members of the Abu Salim victims also turned up at the site.
On June 28, 1996, prisoners rioting over poor conditions and restricted family visits seized a guard and escaped from their cells.
“Five or seven minutes after it started, the guards on the roofs shot at the prisoners who were in the open areas,” former prisoner Hussein Shafei told Human Rights Watch in an interview years later.
Security officials ordered the shooting to stop and feigned negotiations, he told the organization. But officials instead called in firing squads to gun down the prisoners.
After the inmates agreed to return to their cells, they were taken to prison outdoor areas, blindfolded, handcuffed, and shot.
At first, said Gady, the bodies were buried inside the prison walls, but moved outside the walls in 1999.
The government of ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi did not acknowledge the killings and denied any crime had taken place. Some families filed a complaint against the government in 2007, Human Rights Watch said, and Gadhafi’s government offered them compensation in exchange for their silence.
The families refused, calling it a bribe, and instead began holding protests each Saturday in Benghazi, one of the spots where the Libyan unrest began this year.
It could take years to identify all the bodies through DNA, Fergani said Sunday.
– Journalist Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Phil Black contributed to this report.
(CNN) — The editor of a Mexican newspaper was found dead, her body decapitated and with a note next to it, officials said.
Maria Elizabeth Macias Castro, 39, was the editor in chief of the newspaper, Primera Hora.
Her body was found Saturday morning, according to the attorney general’s office in the northern Tamaulipas state. A message “attributed to a criminal group” was found next to her, the office said.
“The state government expresses its deepest condolences to the relatives and loved ones affected by these lamentable acts,” the office said, adding that it is investigating.
Earlier this month, attackers left ominous threats mentioning two websites on signs beside mutilated bodies in northern Mexico.
A woman was hogtied and disemboweled. Attackers left her topless, dangling by her feet and hands from a bridge in the border city of Nuevo Laredo. A bloodied man next to her was hanging by his hands, his right shoulder severed so deeply the bone was visible.
Signs left near the bodies declared the pair, both apparently in their 20s, were killed for posting denouncements of drug cartel activities.
(CNN) — Women in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to run for office and nominate candidates in future municipal elections, King Abdullah announced Sunday.
The king did not specifically use the word “vote,” though his announcement followed increasing pressure on Saudi Arabia to allow women to vote.
The announcement does not affect this week’s elections, which will be held Thursday for only the second time in more than 40 years.
Women will be allowed to serve as members of Shura councils in the next elections, the king said in remarks on state TV. Still, Saudi officials have not said when those elections will take place.
“As of the next session, women will have the right to nominate themselves for membership of Municipal Councils, and also have the right to participate in the nomination of candidates with the Islamic guidelines,” he said.
“Since we reject to marginalize the role of women in the Saudi society, in every field of works, according to the (Islamic) Sharia guidelines, and after consultations with many of our scholars, especially those in the senior scholars council, and others, who have expressed the preference for this orientation, and supported this trend,” the decision was made to allow these changes, the king said, according to an English translation of his remarks released by the Saudi government.
Saudi women’s rights activist Wajeha Al-Huwaider called the announcement “great news.”
“Women’s voices will be heard finally,” she said. “Now it’s time to remove other barriers like not allowing women to drive cars and not being able to function and live a normal life without a male guardian.”
When elections were held in 2005, they were the first since 1963. Only men were eligible to vote, the U.S. State Department says in its human rights report on Saudi Arabia.
Earlier this year, Saudi women activists wrote the government requesting that women be allowed to vote and be candidates in the municipal elections, according to the U.S. Library of Congress.
Saudi Arabia’s “Minister of Municipality and Rural Affairs declared that Saudi women will not be able to either run or vote in this election,” the Library of Congress reported on its blog. “According to news reports, the Minister stated that the ban on women’s participation is due to the lack of segregated voting facilities.”
When election centers opened in April for voters to register, some groups of women turned up and were turned away. It was one of the first public acts of the “Saudi Women Revolution,” a movement set up to campaign for the end of Saudi Arabia’s discriminatory laws.