Greater Middle East

Egyptian revolution rebooted

Anti-government protests broke out across Egypt, with thousands joining demonstrations calling for the ouster of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi—a rare show of defiance since he established his dictatorship four years ago. Demonstrators filled Cairo’s Tahrir Square, center of the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Protesters also gathered in Alexandria, Suez and Gharbiya. Videos posted on social media showed demonstrators chanting “rise up, fear not, Sisi must go” and, reviving the slogan of the 2011 Arab Revolution, “the people demand the downfall of the regime.” Hundreds of protesters were finally dispersed from Tahrir Square by the riot police. (Photo via Twitter)

North Africa

Libya: did Haftar bomb migrant detention center?

The UN is calling for an urgent investigation into the “outrageous” bombing of a migrant detention center at Tajoura, outside Libya’s capital Tripoli, which left at least 44 dead. Libya’s UN-recognized government issued a statement blaming the air-strike on warlord Khalifa Haftar, who has for months been besieging Tripoli. Already believed to be supported by France and Russia, he has now also apparently established contact with Washington. The White House admitted in April that President Trump had spoken by phone with Haftar and discussed “ongoing counter-terrorism efforts.”  (Photo via Libya Observer)

Greater Middle East

Egypt: ‘crimes against humanity’ in Sinai feared

Human Rights Watch detailed abuses against civilians by both the Egyptian government and militants in the Sinai Peninsula, some of which HRW classified as war crimes or crimes against humanity. The information in the report was collected over a two-year investigation into conditions facing civilians in Sinai. Abuses include mass arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture, extrajudicial killings, and unlawful air and ground attacks against civilians. These actions are part of the government’s fight against the ISIS-affiliated militants in Sinai. HRW claims that both groups are guilty of atrocities against civilians, but the Egyptian government is responsible for the majority of the abuses. (Photo: Egypt Daily News)

Greater Middle East

Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah released

Alaa Abdel Fattah, a leading Egyptian pro-democracy activist, was released from prison after serving a five-year term. A prominent blogger and software engineer, he was once described by authorities as “the icon of the revolution” that ousted Hosni Mubarak in 2011. He was arrested in November 2013 on charges of organizing an illegal protest. Fattah’s release will not bring him complete freedom, as he will be required to sleep at a police station each night for five years and will be under close police surveillance.

Central Asia

Regional reaction to mass detention of Uighurs

Amid the mass internment of ethnic Uighurs in China's western Xinjiang province, reaction within the greater region has been largely muted. Dolkun Isa, head of the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress, blasted the leaders of Muslim countries for being largely "silent" over the "ethnic cleansing" of the Uighurs, calling it the "shame of the Muslim world." Worse, both Pakistan and Egypt are accused of deporting Uighurs back to China—presumably to face detention. Demonstrations have been held in Kyrgyzstan against the persecution of the Uighurs and other Turkic peoples in China—but the Sinophobic ethno-nationalist posture of these protesters is clear. Ironically, among their demands is the deportation of any Chinese nationals living "illegally" in Kyrgyzstan. (Photo of Kyrgyz protesters in Bishkek via RFE/RL)

Syria
Rojava

Bolton goes to bat for Rojava Kurds?

Talk about strange bedfellows! This week witnessed the surreal spectacle of US National Security Adviser John Bolton, the most bellicose neoconservative in the Trump administration, visiting Turkey to try to forestall an Ankara attack radical-left, anarchist-leaning Kurdish fighters that the Pentagon has been backing to fight ISIS in Syria. “We don’t think the Turks ought to undertake military action that’s not fully coordinated with and agreed to by the United States,” Bolton told reporters. Refering to the Kurdish YPG militia, a Turkish presidential spokesman responded: “That a terror organization cannot be allied with the US is self-evident.” Bolton left Turkey without meeting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who then publicly dissed the National Security Adviser’s stance as a “serious mistake.” YPG spokesman Nuri Mahmud, in turn, shot back: “Turkey, which has been a jihadist safe-haven and passage route to Syria since the beginning of the conflict, has plans to invade the region end destroy the democracy created by blood of sons and daughters of this people.” (Photo: ANF)

Syria

Arrest warrants issued for top Damascus officials

French prosecutors issued international arrest warrants for three prominent Syrian officials charged with collusion in crimes against humanity, in what human rights lawyers are calling a major victory in the pursuit of those believed responsible for mass torture, abuse and summary executions in the regime’s detention facilities. The warrants name three leading security officials—including Ali Mamlouk, a former intelligence chief and senior adviser to President Bashar al-Assad, as well as head of the Air Force Intelligence security branch, Jamil Hassan. A third, Abdel Salam Mahmoud—an Air Force Intelligence officer who reportedly runs a detention facility at al-Mezzeh military base near Damascus—was also named. Hassan and Mamlouk are the most senior Syrian officials to receive an international arrest warrant throughout the course of the conflict. (Photo of hunger strikers at Syrian prison via Foreign Policy. Credit: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)

Greater Middle East

Human rights lawyer ‘disappeared’ in Egypt

Human Rights Watch called on the Egyptian government to immediately identify the whereabouts of and free Ezzat Ghoneim, a prominent human rights lawyer who has been missing for approximately three weeks. Ghoneim was arrested in March along with a blogger, three journalists and a student on charges of spreading false news and "supporting a terrorist group." A month ago, a judge ordered Ghoneim's release conditioned on his reporting to a police station every two weeks. However, according to his wife, police refused to release him, citing the need for further "instructions from the National Security Agency." When his wife again reported to the police station where he was being held a few days after this, she was told that he had already been released. She claims that neither she nor any of their friends have seen him since his supposed release. HRW is now asserting that Ghoneim has been forcibly disappeared. The actual activity that resulted in charges against Ghoneim and his co-defendants was documenting police brutality at protest demonstrations. (Photo via Jurist)

Greater Middle East

UN rights experts protest Egypt death sentences

Six UN Special Rapporteurs called on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to respond to a recent Egyptian court decision that condemned 75 protesters to death. The court sentenced another 47 protesters to life in prison. The protesters were charged with illegal gathering, involvement in violence, and incitement to break the law. The Special Rapporteurs state that those who have been sentenced did not receive a fair trial, as they were not given the right to present evidence in their defense. The UNHRC was called upon to "send a strong message to all States that they have a duty under international law to investigate arbitrary killings and prosecute those responsible as well as to apply due process and fair trial standards." The rapporteurs called the executions "arbitrary deprivations of life." (Photo: Egypt Daily News)

North Africa

Libya: ‘official’ regime to lose control of Tripoli?

Armed street clashes have rocked Tripoli over the past week, as militias linked to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) have vied for control of the Libyan capital with rival militias that have launched an offensive on the city from the southeast. The most significant of these is the 7th Brigade from the town of Tarhuna, which has rejected a truce, vowing to continue fighting until it "cleanses Tripoli of militias." The city's electricity has intermittently gone out amid the fighting, and access to Facebook—the only news source for most Libyans—has been blocked, although it is unclear by whom. The GNA has declared a state of emergency in the city, and Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj has formed a "crisis committee" to try to broker peace. But warlord Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi, who is loyal to Libya's unrecognized eastern government, anticipated the fall of Tripoli, saying that "liberating the Libyan capital is inevitable." (Photo: Libya Observer)

Greater Middle East

Egypt: ‘cybersecurity’ law restricts social media

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi signed a cybersecurity law  that gives the government broad authority to block websites deemed to constitute a threat to national security or the economy, imposing prison terms for anyone found guilty of running or just visiting such sites. Amnesty International described the new law as giving "the state near-total control over print, online and broadcast media." More than 500 websites had already been blocked in Egypt prior to the new law being signed. There is another cybersecurity law before the president, which would places all Twitter accounts with more than 5,000 followers under government supervision. With street protests in Egypt all but banned, the Internet has been one of the last spaces left for dissent. (Photo: Egypt Daily News)

Greater Middle East

US unfreezes military aid to Egypt

The Trump administration has decided to release $195 million in military aid to Egypt that had been frozen last year because of human rights concerns, the State Department announced July 25. The decision is intended to recognize "steps Egypt has taken over the last year in response to specific US concerns," the statement said. A high-level Egyptian military delegation had been in Washington for talks prior to the announcement. The funds, falling under Foreign Military Financing, are intended for Egypt to buy US-made military equipment. Human rights groups slammed the decision by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, saying he had squandered valuable leverage over President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi at a time when his regime's rights record only seems to be worsening. (Photo: Egyptian Streets)