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Newsblog: 2-8 July

08/07/2011

By ICSR Research Intern Joana Cook

THE MIDDLE EAST AND MORE

Syria was the hot spot of the week in Middle Eastern news. This week Syria was openly accused of crimes against humanity by the human rights group Amnesty International in a detailed report which listed instances of torture and assaults on unarmed civilians across the country. This report follows the Syrian army moving into the city of Hama earlier this week where communication to the city was cut and many civilians fled the city. Human rights group state 1,300 civilians have been killed so far. US Ambassador to Syria Robert S. Ford made a surprise visit to Hama on Thursday as well in a show of solidarity with the residents there. Moving late into Friday afternoon, Syrian forces opened fire on protestors in Damascus andkilled four. At the time of writing, half a million people were been said to be protesting on the streets of Hama in the largest protest thus far in the city.

The newly retired head of the National Counterterrorism Center in Virginia, Michael Leiter, recently commented on the changes he’s seen in terrorism in the US in his four years at the center. Specifically he touches on the rise of homegrown terror plots in the US, the difficulties of combating jihadists online and the challenges of balancing personal freedoms with public security and the importance of deeper engagement with the American-Muslim community.

An interesting story to come out of Israel this week discusses the radicalisation of the rabbinical community and the effects this is having on Israeli civil society. Specifically, the article focuses on the government’s expansion of the rights of rabbis and how this is having a negative effect on women’s status and equality in marriage, property rights, child custody and, above all, divorce rights.

From Pakistan this week comes an internal view into the countries perception as a hub of radicalisation and the challenges that Pakistanis face in countering the many problems of ethnic, linguistic, sectarian and religious extremism. This article has a section dedicated to the programs being used to deradicalise youth, children and child soldiers, including a UNICEF cricket initiative, and discusses the most vulnerable areas of the country.

Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh appeared on television Thursday for the first time since an attack on June 3 left him with severe burns and forced him to undergo eight surgeries in neighbouring Saudi Arabia. Saleh said that he welcomed power sharing as long as it was within the constitutional framework of Yemen. Forty al-Qaeda militants were also reportedly killed in Yemen this week by air strikes from the Yemeni air force as the militants were trying to take over a military camp in Abyan.

Historically, Friday is always a busy day in the Middle East and this week proved no different. An attempted “flytilla” visit to show solidarity with the Palestinians was prevented when Israel blocked 200 individuals (a large majority of which were from Europe) from boarding flights to Ben-Gurion airport in Israel. Protestors had been expecting up to 600 people to participate in the protests that were meant to draw attention to Palestinians living in the West Bank.

Thousands rallied across Egypt on Friday both to protest the slow progress of reforms promised after their January revolution and to demand the beginning of trials of those involved with injuring or killing protestors. The demonstrations had the support of almost every political party in Egypt and has been nicknamed “the march of the million.” It is thought today’s rally will have more attendees than any other protests since the fall of President Mubarak on February 11.

 

THE UK

This story was published just before the cut-off for last week’s stories, but found its way into this week’s NewsBlog as it gives unique personal accounts of extremism from a number of different individuals formerly associated with hate groups. Following the Summit Against Violent Extremism (SAVE) in Dublin at the end of June, former neo-Nazi skinheads and affiliates of Al Shabab, the IRA and Hizb ut-Tahrir discuss what led them to extremism and the often difficult realities that caused them to renounce violence.

If you thought airport travel security was already an annoyance, be prepared for more to come. The US has recently reported that there has been an increase in interest in surgically implanting bombs as they can be hidden from even the newly introduced full body imaging machines. The UK uncovered evidence last year about this new method of attack by al-Qaeda, though this method is not necessarily restricted to al Qaeda. The article also states that AQAP is currently the most “inventive terrorist organization these days” thanks in part to the recent printer bombs sent to synagogues in New York as well as the Christmas “underwear bomber.”

Hizb ut-Tahrir, a fundamentalist Islamic political party in the UK, is planning on holding a conference in London this 9th of July. This highly disputed party, whose stated political goal is to re-establish the Islamic caliphate around the world, will be focussing on the topic “Our Vision for the Ummah.” The far-right English Defense Leauge has said they are planning rallies around the country to counter this conference and bring attention to the organisation.