Tuesday, November 30, 2010

YemenWatch: Tuesday November 30, 2010

An AQAP attack wounded 2 soldiers in Abyan province (southern Yemen).

A Saudi doctor, traveling in northern Yemen, was kidnapped and then releasedHis family was also released.  He was kidnapped to pressure the government into releasing some prisoners allegedly linked to AQAP.

Some families in the Houthi areas of northern Yemen have fled to Saudi Arabia to escape the fighting.

I you would like more information about the AQAP magazine Inspire, and the article they wrote about the parcel bombs, the Yemen Times has an article about it.


Yemen wants to expand its ties with Russia.  The relationship has been fairly good, which makes sense since there used to be a North Yemen and a South Yemen (socialist).

President Saleh agreed to an opposition party's proposal that the election commission be formed from judges, instead of the usual method (appointed?, elected?).  This way there are no political parties on the commission.

A lot of Yemenis don't have health insurance or access to health care facilities.  Homelessness is also increasing.

Islamophobia in Oregon?

By now, you've probably all read about the failed bombing in Oregon that was an FBI sting (or setup, depending upon your view).  Well, over the weekend, a fire was set at an Islamic center in Corvallis, where the bomber went to university.  To me, this sounds like backlash against Muslims, because of the bomber's religion.  Because, as we all know, the best way to handle a bombing is to lash out at innocent people with the same religion.  This kind of thing really gets on my nerves, because it shows just how ignorant some Americans still are.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Egyptian Elections

Elections were held yesterday in Egypt.  The Muslim Brotherhood and New Wafd appear to be the losers and the Brotherhood is claiming fraud.  Which is pretty standard for elections in Egypt.

Queen in Gulf

The Queen of England is in the Gulf States on a 5-day tour.  She was in Oman when the Tate loaned pictures to the Sultan's palace.  Many of the smaller Gulf States started out as British protectorates, and some rulers were educated in England, so Great Britain has had a presence there for a while and tries to stay on good terms.

Edit:  And a British frigate has been sent to the region to protect other vessels from pirates off the coast of Africa.

Top Stories November 29, 2010

Arab News (Saudi Arabia):  King Abdullah undergoing physiotherapy - The surgery went well and the king is recovering.

Daily Star (Lebanon):  Iran backs Saudi-Syrian bid to defuse crisis -  Apparently the Iranians have decided to back Hariri and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.  Which may indict Hizbollah, which may cause fighting to break out.  At least they are backing the government.

Haaretz (Israel):  WikiLeaks expose: Israel offered to coordinate Cast Lead with Egypt and Fatah - Yes, you read that correctly.  Before Israel attacked Hamas in Gaza, it asked Fatah and Egypt if they were willing to take over.

Turkish Daily News:  WikiLeaks unleashes flood of confidential US cables - Info on the massive WikiLeaks documents release.

Russian News Agency:  U.S. officials spy on UN diplomats - WikiLeaks - More info on the documents.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

YemenWatch: late November

AQAP has taken credit for killing Shi'ites (Houthi) in northern Yemen.  The Houthi Group has blamed the US for the bombings, which the US says is not true, and it has condemned the attacks.  The Houthis may also be expanding their control to outside of Saada.

It looks like a suicide bomber blew himself up in Aden.  His bomb went off as he left a taxi, headed for a police station.  No news yet on who he was working for.

A lot of the air strikes against AQAP were carried out by the US, but President Saleh told his people it was the Yemeni military.  He's been exposed by WikiLeaks.

The trial of journalist Abdul Elah Haidar is now set for December 5th.  He's a terrorism expert accused of working with AQAP.

The separatists in southern Yemen held a protest this week.  And later a separatist activist was arrested, which set off some fighting.

Apparently the US has a new strategy for fighting AQAP in Yemen.  Finally.  More from the US Ambassador.

Israel Attacks Gaza?

According to the Qatar News Agency (and repeated via SabaNews of Yemen) Israel attacked southern Gaza.  They quote Palestinian sources.  So far I have found no outside news sources mentioning this.

Update:  So far, all I have found is an air strike against Khan Younis 2 weeks ago.

I'm Back

And trying to get caught up on all the news.

Monday, November 22, 2010


I'll be out of town a few days, and Thursday is Thanksgiving Holiday here in America.  So I probably won't be posting as much as I normally do this week.

Top Stories November 22, 2010

Arab News (Saudi Arabia):  King to leave for treatment in US; Sultan returns - King Abdullah is heading to the US for medical treatment.  He has a slipped disc and blood clot in his back.

Daily Star (Lebanon):  Saudi-Syrian efforts to defuse tension increase - The Special Tribunal for Lebanon has been investigating the 2005 assassination of Rafik Hariri.  But that's a controversial topic in Lebanon and had led to a political deadlock.

Haaretz (Israel):  Netanyahu: No settlement freeze vote without U.S. offer in writing - Netanyahu wants to see an offer of incentives, in writing, before he'll ask the cabinet to vote on a settlement freeze.

Turkish Daily News:  Turkey unshielded from NATO debate - Turkey asked that Iran not be named as "the main source of a potential attack" against a NATO ballistic missile shield, and it was agreed upon.  There are also some other topics up for discussion.

Islamic Republic News Agency (Iran):  Minister: Muslim states account for 50% of Iran's non-oil exports - This was discussed during the Second International Seminar on Economic Convergence Among Muslim Countries.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Earthquake off the coast of Yemen: Update II

More small quakes off the coast of Yemen.  If I'm reading the seismology maps (earthquakes) correctly, this appears to be fairly common.  The Arabian peninsula, up to parts of Turkey, is on its own tectonic plate, so it makes sense that there would be quakes along the edges.

YemenWatch: Sunday November 21, 2010

AQAP published details of the parcel bombs plot on a jihadist website and in their magazine (they have an English language magazine).

The Yemeni government was offended by a comment made by Saudi prince Turki al-Faisal.  He said that Yemen is divided, which is helping AQAP infiltrate Yemen.  The Yemen Post quoted him as saying:
The situation in Yemen in general is making it easy for terrorists to infiltrate into Saudi Arabia and operate actively there. Also, many Yemenis flee into the kingdom amid conflicts and deteriorating humanitarian situation in their country.

American Sharif Mobley's hearing will continue next Sunday.  It was adjourned because a translator was not available for him.  This is the man who was accused of joining AQAP (those charges were dropped), then shooting a soldier while trying to escape.

The Gulf Cup officially starts on Monday.  This is the first time it's being held in Yemen.

The Yemeni president met with the presidents of Djibouti and Eritrea.  They all want to improve relations, and they're concerned about Somalia.  The presidents are sticking around for the opening of the Gulf Cup.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Saudi Ailments

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has a blood clot in his back.  He was ill during the Hajj with a ruptured disc in his back, and the clot is related to that.  The king is also 86 years old, so it's worth taking a look at what will happen whenever he does pass away.  So far, all of the kings have been the sons of Abdul Aziz, the founder of Saudi Arabia.  After Abdullah, it will pass to the next generation.  I'll post more on this later.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Women's News November 14, 2010: Update I

Two of the female lawyers arrested have been freed.  This comes as the UN passes a resolution saying they are concerned about human rights abuses in Iran.  And the Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning appeared on television.  Well, it may have been her - they blurred her face and used a translator (she spoke in Azeri Turkish.)

Nuclear Iran: Update I

In a post at the beginning of the month, I mentioned how Israel is claiming that Iran is close to having enough nuclear material for one bomb.  The US and the UN have been putting a lot of pressure on Iran to work with the IAEA, and accusing Iran of not doing that, based on leaked documents.  These documents show Iran working on nuclear missiles.  But there's a new problem:  the documents may be fakeTruthout has a long in-depth article discussing all the discrepancies and problems with those documents.  Not only are they probably fake, but there's a good chance Israel was behind leaking the documents, through an Iranian dissident group.

Human Rights for Workers: Update I

An Indonesian maid in Saudi Arabia is in the hospital after allegedly being tortured by her employers.  An official team from Indonesia is there investigating the incident.  They are also looking into the murder of another Indonesian maid.  Human Rights Watch issued a report on migrant worker conditions in April.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Human Rights for Workers

There is a big problem in parts of the Middle East, in regards to workers' rights.  This is generally a problem for workers from Southeast Asia.  There are large numbers of Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, and others in the Middle East, especially in the Gulf states.  And they are often mistreated. 

Human Rights Watch is looking into cases involving maids from Sri Lanka working in Jordan, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia.  In these case the women either had nails pounded into their bodies, or were forced to swallow nails. 

Another maid in Saudi Arabia was convicted of murdering a baby in her charge.  She says the baby choked on his food and she could not save him.  And considering how little regard is given to people from Southeast Asia, it would not surprise me if the baby's family wanted her life because their baby died.

This is a major problem, and I have seen it myself, in the Gulf.  For some reason, people from Southeast Asia are seen as menials, and often expendable.  They are the equivalent of illegal Mexicans working in the US, who cannot go to the police, except that in the Middle East they generally are not illegal.  Just mistreated.

YemenWatch: Thursday November 18, 2010

President Saleh is a bit upset with all the criticism and boycotts involving Yemen.  He says that Yemen and the Yemeni people are victims too.

The Bani Thabian are denying foreign reports that their district is home to AQAP.  The head of the local council said there is no Al-Qa'eda and no air strikes.

According to The Telegraph (UK), the US knew about possible parcel bombs several months ago.  American officials claim to have intercepted test packages in September.


The president of the Kuwaiti Football Federation said that Aden is safe for the Gulf Cup.  The Kuwaiti team arrives on Friday.

A man threw a hand grenade into a relative's house, where he was having a qat party.  Three people died and 21 were wounded.  He may have ties to the Houthis in the north.  It's a bit unclear right now.

A Yemeni C-130, on its way home from Jordan, ran off a runway and caught fire at Sana'a International Airport.

A Panamanian ship sank off the coast of Yemen.  All on board were rescued.

Schlumberger is in trouble for bribery.  The Wall Street Journal has an investigative report into the matter.  Apparently there is some sort of US law on foreign bribes.  Look, I'm all for people in America trying to keep bribes out of the picture in the US.  I firmly believe in getting things done on merit or cost.  But in some parts of the world, bribery is how you get things done.  It's not thought of as "bribes" it's thought of as the cost of doing business.  So if you tell American companies that they can't pay "bribes" in certain other countries, then you're putting them at a disadvantage, behind the other companies who are paying the bribes.  There's a big difference between bribing an official in America and bribing one in Yemen.

Also, the Yemeni volleyball team is having trouble concentrating at the Asian Games (cheerleaders!).  (h/t Waq al-Waq)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Egyptian Blogger Beaten: Update I

Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer has finally been released!  He finished serving his prison term two weeks ago, but was detained and beaten.  Officially, he was convicted of insulting Islam.  He has written posts condemning Al-Azhar university and conservative Islam.  Now, he is home with his family.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

YemenWatch: Tuesday November 16, 2010

Yemeni security believes the people who sent the parcel bombs are hiding out in Shabwa province.

The Secretary-General of the Arab League says the West should not intervene in Yemen, like it has in Afghanistan.  He called on the Gulf countries to help Yemen.


There were a number of earthquakes off the coast of Yemen.  You can see my previous posts for more info on that (post 1, post 2).

Twenty-seven Houthi militants were killed in Saada province, in the north.  A ceasefire started in April, after 6 years of fighting, but things have been heating up since then.

Islamophobia in Greece

Some Muslims in Athens were heckled and had eggs thrown at them during Eid al-Adha prayers.  But at least one group was able to pray in peace, near Athens University.  Apparently there are no "official" mosques in Athens, so Muslims pray at community centers, in homes, etc.  There has been antagonism to mosques being built, but the current Greek Orthodox Archbishop is supporting the Muslims, so there should be a mosque soon.

Earthquake off the coast of Yemen: Update I: Clusters Suck

There have been more earthquakes near Yemen.  The first appears to have happened on Sunday, followed by several others.  There have been so many that's I'm having trouble getting them all organized, so if you're interested, go to http://earthquake.usgs.gov/search/ and type in Yemen, in the search field.  There's less than a dozen, so far, and all of them are around 5.0.  I found a list of all the earthquakes for the past week, and there are around 30 of them near the Yemeni coast.  Most of them happened on Sunday.  They were mostly in the 4.5 - 5.0 range.  If you count the ones closer to Djibiouti, then there are even more of them.  No word on any high waves.  No idea on when this will stop either.  I am not an earthquake or tsunami expert, but I would be a bit nervous if I lived on the coast.  At least the worst appears to be over now.

Edit: updated post

Monday, November 15, 2010

Earthquake off the coast of Yemen

There was a 4.7 earthquake off the coast of Yemen not long ago (h/t @yemenwatch).  Here's the map.  No further news yet.

edit:  added link to twitter

Daewoo Electronics Bought by Iranian Company

Entekhab Industrial Group just bought Daewoo Electronics.  Daewoo used to be a giant conglomerate who made everything from cars and electronics to AK-47s and supertankers.  They had some financial problems in the 1990s and several of their subsidiaries were spun off.  Daewoo Electronics was bought for about $518 million.

Top Stories November 15, 2010

Arab News (Saudi Arabia):  Mina reverberates with 'Labbaik' -Officially, about 2.5 million people are in Mina for the Haj. 

Daily Star (Lebanon):  Tribunal, arms aid on Hariri's Russia agenda -  Prime Minister Saad Hariri is visiting Moscow.

Haaretz (Israel):  Contentious Jerusalem construction taken off the agenda - The Prime Minister's bureau asked 2 committees to take the construction of 1,300 homes in Gilo off of their agenda.  Gilo is on the other side of the Green Line.

Turkish Daily News:  Istanbul animal bazaar overrun ahead of Feast of the Sacrifice - Tuesday is Kurban Bayram, when animals are sacrificed.  Istanbul has set up a big animal market, including mobile slaughterhouses, to handle the traffic.

Tripoli Post (Libya):  CAF Confederation Cup: So Near, Yet So Far for Ittihad as they Miss Final on Away Goals Rule - Ittihad won their game (soccer), but did not have enough total goals to progress to the next level.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Women's News November 14, 2010

A lot of stuff happening involving women this week.

Iran has arrested 5 lawyersThree of them are women.  They have been involved with human rights issues in Iran.  It is unclear where they are being held.

A female physician from Saudi Arabia, who is a breast cancer survivor, just finished a visit to Yemen, where she promoted breast cancer awareness for Yemeni women.

The UN Refuge Agency will be working with the Yemeni government to help train refugee women in technical and vocational education.

Yemen will also be joining the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.  The protocol started in December 2003.

Facebook Blocked in Saudi Arabia: Update I

Saudi Arabia is denying blocking FaceBook.  Apparently it was just technical problems.  Gosh, I hate it when that happens.

Hajj News

It's that time of year again.  The Hajj has started and people are flooding in to Saudi Arabia.  The Kingdom is trying to control the huge number of pilgrims, but illegal ones are also getting in.  The Saudi's are going more high-tech, by creating a light rail system to aid pilgrims.  It's not yet fully operational, but should be for next year.  The first part is called the Mecca Metro.  Really.  More rail info.

The president of Sudan has said he is going on Hajj this year.  He is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, but some African and Middle Eastern countries have refused to arrest him.  Since this is the Hajj, I expect Saudi Arabia to not arrest him as well.

The Saudis have also been preparing for attacks by al-Qa'eda.  According to Yahoo!:
Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula responded with an Internet statement Sunday saying it would never target pilgrims and accusing the Saudis of spreading lies.

Hajj photo gallery on ArabNews.com

YemenWatch: Sunday November 14, 2010

There's a lot happening in Yemen right now, so this post will be rather long.

First of all, SabaNews (Yemen News Agency) has an interesting interview with one of President Saleh's advisers.  It's definitely worth a read.  His mind-set is a bit disturbing.

The Yemeni military is carrying out air strikes in northern Yemen, on areas where AQAP is suspected to be hiding.  This is happening around Sana'a.  I'll have to check, but I thought most of the fighting in this area was tribal, not AQAP.

Last YemenWatch I linked to an article from a Kuwaiti paper saying that many al-Qa'eda leaders from Afghanistan were now in Yemen.  The Yemeni government (a "security source") is unofficially saying that's not true, and calling for the media to be more accurate.

Germany will now allow passenger flights from Yemen.  Last week they had banned all flights, so Yemen invited them to check their new security procedures at Sana'a airport.  A German team did that, so now passenger flights are re-allowed.

On September 13th a liquid-natural gas (LNG) pipeline from Marib to Shabwa was blown up.  AQAP just released a video claiming credit for that.

The American who moved to Yemen and was arrested for terrorism has been tortured.  Which appears to be typical for Yemeni jails.  What is interesting is that according to the Yemen Post:  "He is now being trialed not on terror charges, but for killing a soldier. Yemeni government has said that there is no proof that Mobley is linked to terrorism."   I really don't know what is going on with this situation.  Is he really a terrorist, or is this some person who was easy to accuse, and then tried to escape from his captors and killed one of them?  His wife is really upset, and says the US embassy is not helping much.


Separatists staged a protest in Shabwa province, demanding that one of their leaders be released from prison.  Four of them were arrested.  The overall leader of the separatist movement seems to be Ali Salem Al-Baidh, who used to be vice-president of Yemen.  He is currently in exile, probably in Germany.

There was a large fire in Aden over the weekend.  The 4th one this year.  Supposedly it was started by an electrical malfunction, but who knows.  Considering the state of affairs in Aden and southern Yemen, it could just as easily be separatists.  Of course, it could just as easily be a short-circuit.  It's really hard to tell what's actually happening in Yemen.

Prisoners in Hudaydah province went on a hunger strike to protest their treatment.

A girl in Dhale province was killed when a clock sent to her father blew up, as she plugged it in.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

My Very Own Bookstore

Thanks to Amazon, and some help from a friend, The Ali Gator Blog now has its very own bookstore on Amazon:  http://astore.amazon.com/aligat-20  It's an affiliate store, so if you buy something from there, they'll send me a kickback....er...affiliate bonus or something like that.  (Apparently the world does run on baksheesh!)  You can also click through my store to Amazon.com and I think they'll send me money for those purchases as well.  Enjoy!

edit:  It's still a bit small right now, but I'll be adding to it over time.

Egyptian Elections Upcoming

The Egyptian elections are set to start at the end of the month.  Their electoral commission has until tomorrow to finish vetting all the candidate applications.  There were a lot this year:  5,720.  There were calls for a boycott by Mohamed ElBaradei, but he's mostly been ignored this year.  There have been rumors about Hosni Mubarak's son being his successor, but, at least for the moment, Gamal Mubarak is saying no.  He is part of his father's National Democratic Party, which met a few days ago to discuss the elections.

Where is Israel? Update I

Remember the boycotted performing arts center?  Some politicians want to cut the artists' funding, because of the boycott.  Now there is an online petition supporting the artists doing the boycott.

This goes straight to something we've been talking about on this blog:  freedom of speech.  Some performers are upset about a new arts center, that is built in a town on the other side of the Green Line, in the West Bank.  So these people are boycotting it.  Apparently the right-wing Israeli politicians don't believe you should be allowed to have an opinion that disagrees with them.  So these politicians are trying to get rid of any government funding for said boycotters.  So much for democracy in Israel.

Facebook Blocked in Saudi Arabia

Supposedly this is only temporary.  As you can imagine, the entire concept of Facebook goes against many of the Kingdom's values.  Men and women can easily speak on FB and there are a ton of "morally" bad groups to join and topics to talk about.  Although, hey, in good news, the high court rejected the death sentence for a convicted Lebanese sorcerer.

Friday, November 12, 2010

New Flotilla Scuttled by Greed?

A Greek ship is being held in Greece, after leaving Libya.  The story is a bit confusing, but it seems as though there were activists, who gathered in Libya, to send aid to Gaza.  Then something happened, maybe a payment dispute, and the Greek ship's captain decided not to let any more of them on board, but some went ahead and jumped on board.  The ship left harbor and was then followed by the Libyan navy, until the Greek navy took over.  The British aid workers who made it on board are a bit concerned for their situation.  The remaining group in Libya is currently stranded, as their passports were confiscated.  More updates as information becomes available.

Atheist Blogger Arrested

A West Bank man, Walid Husayin, has been arrested for insulting Islam.  He has spent several years blogging anonymously about atheism, starting up Facebook pages making fun of Islam, and even saying that he was God.  The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank set up a sting and arrested him last month.  He's in trouble for heresy and could be in jail for life.

I don't agree with everything every blogger says, but I do believe in Freedom of Speech.  And that freedom is sorely lacking in the Middle East.  This is a case that could mess up a lot of hard work.  Many Middle Eastern nations have so little free speech, that just opening the door a crack has been hard to do.  Throwing the door open all the way for an atheist may seem absurd.  So I can understand if free speech proponents stand down and distance themselves from the battle.  It's difficult for freedom of speech advocates who are Muslim to actively aid a man accused of heresy.  But if you truly believe in free speech, that is exactly what you should do.  I really wish this case hadn't happened at this point in time, because it's a lose-lose scenario for freedom of speech in the Middle East. 

The problem with Freedom of Speech is that if you believe in free speech, you have to believe in free speech for everyone.  I don't think the Middle East or Islamic countries are ready for that yet.  But I am still adding Walid Husayin to the list of jailed bloggers who need help.  This story is very recent, so I haven't seen anything about Husayin on Reporters Without Borders, but hopefully his story will show up there soon.

YemenWatch: Friday November 12, 2010

According to a newspaper in Kuwait, some Al-Qa'eda members who escaped Afghanistan to Iran have now escaped Iran and moved to Yemen, because of AQAP.  And a Kuwaiti spokesman for Al-Qa'eda has also moved to Yemen.  The newspaper says it got the information from a "confidential report" that was given to Gulf security officials.  

The Hajj starts next week, and Saudi Arabia is stepping up security in case of an AQAP attack.  And you may remember that last week some Yemenis on their way there died in a bus crash.

According to a new report out of Britain, the parcel bomb discovered there may have been disarmed "accidentally."

An American is in jail in Yemen for ties to AQAP and talking with Anwar Al-Awlaki.  He was hospitalized in March, and tried to escape, and killed a guard.


Four Yemeni soldiers were injured when armed men attacked a checkpoint in Dhale province.  This seems to be part of the separatists attacks, not AQAP.

Four other people were killed in Abyan province on Monday, part of various ongoing tribal clashes.  According to the article "the government had chosen and intended to keep silent about the incident."

An electrical room at a sports stadium in Aden, that is part of the Gulf Cup facilities, caught on fire.  It caused a power outage for about an hour.  There were a lot of smoke and flames at the stadium, which supposedly were part of a drill for firefighters and security staff.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Turkish Head Scarf Ban Harms Women?

New evidence suggests that banning headscarves may actually hurt women's employment chances.  Those who choose to wear a headscarf are discriminated against, intentionally or unintentionally, by not being able to hold government jobs, or taking lower-paying jobs, and sometimes being unable to find a job at all.  Apparently this may be hurting all women's employment, as the employment rate for women in Turkey has decreased over the years, while in other Muslim countries it has increased.

Personally, I believe wearing or not wearing a headscarf is a personal choice.  It should not be mandated or banned by the government of any country.  It it based on your religious beliefs and your upbringing.  I understand why Turkey has banned headscarves, because of its foundation as a secular nation.  But I believe that ban discriminates against women.  Now we have more proof about exactly what happens because of the ban.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Egyptian Blogger Beaten; Bahraini Bloggers Still Jailed

Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer was supposed to be released from prison last week after serving 4 years in jail for insulting Islam and Mubarak.  Instead, as he was transferred to the release area, he was re-arrested and beaten

While this is going on in Egypt, Bahraini bloggers Ali Abdulemam and Abduljalil Al-Singace are still in jail and being tortured.  Their trial is set to resume tomorrow (Thursday).

YemenWatch: Wednesday November 10, 2010

The French Ambassador met with the Minister of Transportation, to let everyone know that France-Yemen flights will not be affected by the AQAP parcel bombs.

Egypt and Qatar offered support for Yemen's "unity and stability."

Eighty-nine Yemenis are still at Guantanamo Bay, and since the parcel bombs, who knows when they may ever be released.

The journalist on trial for allegedly supporting AQAP has had his trial adjourned, again, for an unknown period of time.


The Djibouti Code of Conduct meeting finished today.  I'm really not sure if anything concrete came out of it.

The GCC formed a commission to inspect the sports facilities in Yemen, ahead of the Gulf Cup which should be held there soon.  Security is being inspected, and as of now, the event is still on.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Women's News November 9, 2010

Women in Jordan are running for office.  Unfortunately, they rarely succeed.  Currently, a quota system is in place so that there are at least a few women in the parliament.  Some women are pressured by their family or tribe not to run for office.  And even if they do run, most do not get enough votes to win a seat in parliament.  Women have made some strides, in employment positions, but Jordan is one of those countries where women are still murdered as part of "honor killings," and in many ways, women are still dependent upon their husbands.

As many as 2 million Yemeni children don't go to school - and most of them are girls.  Yemen is a very poor country, so many children face malnutrition, and have to work as well.  Human rights organizations are worried about a possible increase in child-trafficking too.  There is also a very large urban-rural divide in Yemen.  In rural areas, only 13% of girls go to school, compared to 69% for boys.

The First Lady of Turkey wears a headscarf.  You may remember that being a point of contention when her husband was first elected.  Now she has gone on record as saying that girls should not be forced to wear headscarves at a young age; they should decide once they are old enough to understand the situation.  I am very glad to hear her say that, because that is something that has been bothering me for a while.  From what I understand about Islam, girls do not start wearing a headscarf, or covering up, until they reach puberty.  So why do some countries force 3-year-old girls to cover themselves?  If that is a tribal law that has become a national law, surely you could fight that on the basis of Islamic law?

Journalism as Jihad

Journalism can be a scary profession in some parts of the world, especially the Middle East.  Gaddafi just ordered that 19 journalists, who were arrested several days ago, to be released.  According to Reporters Without Borders, there are a great many problems for journalists in the Middle East.  Hundreds left Iraq during the war because of death threats.  But even in peace time, journalists are threatened by governments and high-ranking people in power.  Egypt is issuing new licenses for satellite TV uplinks, in an effort to control the media. 

It takes a lot of courage to print the truth when you know you could be arrested and tortured for it.  I feel very lucky to be blogging from America, because many bloggers in the Middle East have also been jailed for speaking their minds.  I include them as journalists quite simply because some of them are, and even those who aren't "technically" journalists, have proven themselves over the long term by staying true to their principles.  Let us not forget those who are currently imprisoned, often illegally.  Reporters Without Borders has information available in several languages, including Arabic and Farsi.

Monday, November 8, 2010

YemenWatch: Monday November 8, 2010

It looks like things may be settling down a bit in Yemen.  If it continues, I'll slow down YemenWatch to a few times a week.

The Customs Authority in Yemen is instituting new security measures for the international airport in Sana'a.

Anwar Al-Awlaki released a video today calling for Muslims to kill Americans.  He told them not to worry about consulting anyone else, such as religious leaders.  All of which shows how al-Qa'eda does not truly understand real Islam.  I realize I am not a religious expert either, but it doesn't take one to see how al-Qa'eda is warping the Qur'an to its own purposes.


There are still some parliamentary problems going on in Yemen.

In March, Somali pirates captured a ship with Yemeni crewmen on board.  They have been held captive since then.  The human rights agency HOOD said they were just told that one of the men committed suicide.  They are asking President Saleh to pay the $1 million ransom so the men will be released.  Otherwise the pirates are threatening to kill them.

UN representatives visited a displaced persons camp in Hajjah province.

The Minister of Agriculture met with representatives from USAID, about cooperation to improve Yemeni agriculture.

Where is Israel?

The Israeli government just approved new construction plans for 1,300 apartments in East Jerusalem.  And, of course, this happens just as Netanyahu (the prime minister) is in the US to try and have peace talks with the Palestinians.  I've come to the conclusion that the Israeli government does not want peace.  If it did, it would not go through such blatant attempts at antagonizing the Palestinians.  There's this thing called "diplomacy" which involves some give and take on both sides.  From what I can tell, Israel subscribes to the "give it to us or else we'll just take it" group.  They are constantly asking the Palestinians for concessions, but don't want to make any of their own.  And the few times they do promise concessions, they do not follow through on them.  This entire process is a farce.

That said, at least some of the Israeli people want peace.  A new performing arts center opened in Ariel, in the West Bank.  And many Israeli artists are choosing to boycott it.  The West Bank was captured by Israel in 1967 and both Israel and Palestine lay claim to it.  Lieberman is threatening the artists with losing government funding if they insist on the boycott.

edit:  I just found a link to a great article from the New York Review of Books:  The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment.  It's from this past summer, but definitely worth reading.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Top Stories November 8, 2010

Azzaman (Iraq):  Iraq's Basra reaps more than $800 million from petrodollar project - Some of the money has already been transferred to the province.  According to the article "Under the petrodollar scheme, each Iraqi province is entitled to one dollar from each barrel of oil it produces."  Is that normal?  Because I thought they would get more than that.

Daily Star (Lebanon):  Israel to quit northern Ghajar: Lieberman - In the 2006 war, Israel occupied the northern part of Ghajar.  UN Security Council Resolution 1701 calls for Israel to withdraw.

Haaretz (Israel):  Netanyahu to Biden: Sanctions are not stopping Iran's nuclear program -This could be bad:
Netanyahu said that a credible threat of military action is the only way to ensure that Iran will rethink its nuclear program. According Israeli estimates, the only time that Iran stopped its nuclear program was in 2003, when Iran believed there was a threat of military action.
Turkish Daily News:  EU progress report criticizes pressure on Turkish press - Turkey has had some problems lately with freedom of the press, although there has been more open debate over some issues.

YemenWatch: Sunday November 7, 2010

Anwar Al-Awlaki, his cousin, and another man are on trial in Yemen, although Al-Awlaki is still at large.

AQAP denied bombing the Wahda Sports Club in Aden.  You may remember this bombing from several weeks ago.  A group called al-Harak had already claimed credit (my post).  AQAP has claimed credit for the recent parcel bombs, including the bombing of a UPS flight on September 3rd off this year.  The UAE will investigate, although currently they are saying there was no sign of an explosion.

The UAE has banned air cargo from Yemen on its airlines, following the lead of other countries.

According to the Yemen News Agency, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament said that the US and Yemen have a great relationship, and the US ambassador returned the compliments.

The US says it could train Yemenis to fight AQAP, but this could backfire and feed AQAP or the insurrectionists.  Many Yemenis are already upset about US drones in their country (especially when civilians are killed).


On Monday a conference starts in Sana'a.  It's the Djibouti Code of Conduct signatories.  The code is about stopping the rampant piracy off the coast of Africa and Yemen.  The following countries are taking part in the conference:  Yemen, Djibouti, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Eritrea, Sudan, Jordan and United Arab Emirates.  Observers include Kenai, Tanzania, South Korea, the Netherlands, France, and the European Commission.  There will also be experts from the EU and the International Maritime Organization.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Out of town

My apologies.  A friend asked me to go out for the weekend, but I did not realize we would be in the middle of nowhere.  I tried to update on my cell phone yesterday, but it doesn't seem to have worked.  I can't even get cell reception at my hotel!!!  I will be home Sunday afternoon, so I will try to recap the last few days then.  But don't count on any posts until then.  Again, my apologies

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Iranian Woman Still in Peril

Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani is still in jail in Iran and may die soon.  She was convicted of adultery, and sentenced to death by stoning.  That was suspended, but she was also convicted of her husband's murder, because the man she committed adultery with was convicted of it.  That carries a hanging sentence.  Currently, her son and her lawyer are both in jail too, although it's unclear why. 

YemenWatch: Thursday November 4, 2010

A car bomb exploded in Dhale province.  It looks like it was meant to kill a security officer, but was detonated near a market where it killed 2 people.

Yemeni troops in Abyan are preparing to fight AQAP at the town of Jaar.

The South Korea ambassador to Yemen met with the Interior Minister to discuss security.

The Yemen envoy to Russia pointed to the bomb in Athens as proof of "hands destabilizing world peace and security:"
"All terrorist acts inside Yemen came from outside its own borders. Yemen has given many sacrifices for the elimination of terrorism, with more than 100 troops and security killed during the terror operations." 
edit: added link for Jaar article

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Nuclear Iran

Iran is getting closer to nuclear weapons.  According to Israel, it has enough nuclear material for one bomb and should be able to make a second one soon.  Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad still says Iran only wants nuclear material for energy production, and he accused the West of being arrogant.

Ahmadinejad is also upset with Russia for cancelling its military order.  Iran ordered S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems from Russia in 2007, but then the Russian president banned sales over the summer.  So Ahmadinejad wants Russia to pay a penalty for breaking the contract.

YemenWatch: Wednesday November 3, 2010: Part 2

The Pentagon has said that the US is not sending special forces to Yemen, to work under the CIA.  There was talk about that earlier in the week.

An AQAP fighter was killed in Abyan province, and a car full of explosives was found.

The military leader of AQAP is thought to be Qassim Al-Raimi.  He wants to get rid of the current Yemeni government and attack the United States.  He may be hiding in Marib province.  This is the man who has supposedly disguised himself as a woman at times.  He led an AQAP escape from a prison in Sana'a in 2006.

The G-20 Summit will be held in Seoul, South Korea next week.  According to the Yemen News Agency, the government of South Korea is getting ready in case of an attack by North Korea or Al-Qa'eda.


A bus carrying Yemeni pilgrims on their way to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, rolled over.  One woman died and 27 people were injured.

YemenWatch: Wednesday November 3, 2010: Part 1

The British are now saying that the source on the two bombs was Al-Fayfi, the AQAP member who surrendered to Saudi Arabia over a month ago.  It has been pointed out that surely AQAP would have changed their plans after they learned he surrendered.

AQAP is warning Anwar Al-Awlaki's tribe not to cooperate with the Yemeni government who, along with the United States, is trying to capture or kill him.


According to a Korean or KNOC official, an oil leak may have caught on fire and caused the pipeline to explode, not AQAP.  They are still investigating.  About 5000 barrels have been lost so far.

Yemen is supposed to have its next parliamentary election in April 2011, and the prime minister (Ali Mujawar) today stated that that was correct.  There have been several articles about that this week:
Mujawar made the statement during his meeting with the ambassadors of Arab States to Yemen. The meeting aims to acquaint the diplomats with the latest developments in the national dialog held between the General People Congress (GPC) and his alliances and the Joint Meeting Parties (JMPs) in addition to the circumstances of the suspicious packages sent to the USA and the fabricated media hype about them.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Egyptian Christians Face Danger

Al-Qa'eda Iraq claimed credit for the Church siege in Baghdad.  Now they are saying that some Coptic Christian women in Egypt have converted to Islam, but are being held prisoner by the Copts.  And if they are not released, then they will attack Christians in the Middle East.  Egypt is concerned because a huge Coptic festival that lasts 2 weeks started today, and they're expecting up to 2 million people.

More on Coptic Christianity courtesy of Wikipedia.

YemenWatch: Tuesday November 2, 2010: Part 2

The latest news says that AQAP caused the oil pipeline explosion.  According to the article, the pipeline is owned by the Korea National Oil Corp (KNOC).  Now, if you've been following YemenWatch on this blog, you may remember that some of the tribes were upset with a South Korean oil company (Oct 27 and Oct 29).  And yes, it is the same oil company, KNOC.  I haven't seen any articles about the resolution of that problem.  While it would not surprise me to see that AQAP had bombed the pipeline, it could just as easily be a tribal affair.

The Yemeni military is searching Maarib and Shabwa provinces, looking for Ibrahim Al-Asiri, the possible bomb maker.

President Obama and President Saleh spoke today about recent events.


I don't know if this is related or not.  According to the Yemen News Agency, a bomb was found at the German Chancellor's office (in Germany), and was sent via UPS.

Also, a Syrian cargo ship caught fire off the coast of Yemen.

Suicide Bomber Hits Istanbul: Update I

The PKK was suspected of the bombing, but they denied it, and extended the ceasefire.  Now officials are saying the suicide bomber was a member of PKK and police are still investigating.  The government is getting flack from the Nationalist Movement Party and the Peace and Democracy Party over how it  handles the PKK.

YemenWatch: Tuesday November 2, 2010: Part 1

Yemen has decided to try Anwar Al-Awlaki in absentia.  He's somewhere in Yemen.  They also convicted 16 AQAP members in Hadramout province.  And journalist and terrorism expert Abdul Elah Haidar is on trial for allegedly working for AQAP and Al-Awlaki.

The Yemeni government is upset that the German government has banned Yemen's cargo flights.  Enjoy the quote:
Germany's ban on cargo flights coming through it was hasty, strange, exaggerating, harming its counterterrorism efforts and only serving Al-Qaeda.
The Prime Minister of Yemen met with EU ambassadors and declared that Yemen will not be a safe haven for Al-Qa'eda and Yemen's airport security is ready.


An oil pipeline was bombed in Shabwa province.  No word yet on who is responsible.

edit: made this Part 1

Monday, November 1, 2010

YemenWatch: Monday November 1, 2010: Part 2

Ever since the attempted bombing there have been a lot of mainstream articles on Yemen.  Here's one about how AQAP is trying to recruit Westerners for home-grown attacks.  The article lists Americans who have joined or helped al-Qaeda.  Since one of them used language study as an excuse to enter Yemen, a side effect has been that many language schools there are almost out of business now.

The UAE is trying to track the serial numbers of some of the bomb components from the attempted bombing.

The latest hypothesis is that the bombs were never meant to reach Chicago, but were supposed to blow up the airplanes in mid-air.  One of the bombs was set to go off, but the other needed a cell phone to set it off.  According to the Germans, it would have really damaged the planes.  The Germans are now involved because one of the packages went through a UPS hub in Cologne/Koln.

The Yemeni college student finally has her name cleared; the man who processed the package at the shipping agency said it wasn't her.  For those of you unfamiliar with segregation of the sexes in many Middle Eastern countries, you may be amused to know that when the police stormed her house, it was police women who did it.

It really sounds like no one knows what is going on.  First the packages were letter bombs, now they were targeting the planes.  First an al-Qa'eda man who turned himself in to Saudi authorities told them about the bombs, then it was an anonymous tip just before the attempted bombings.  I'm not sure if there is a dearth of information, if everyone is incompetent, or if governments are obfuscating the issue so that AQAP can't figure out what is known.

Iraqi Church Siege Over: Upate II

The Christians in Iraq have had a rough time since the war started.  Now a bunch of them are dead because of the church siege.  According to recent reports, 41 Christians died (2 of them were priests) and 78 may have been wounded.  The monsignor of the church says only 25 were wounded, and another government official says 60.  At this point, I have no idea who is correct.  What we do know is that the Christian population of Iraq is rapidly shrinking.

YemenWatch: Monday November 1, 2010: Part 1

Officials and tribal leaders are saying that the break in the bombing scare came from an al-Qa'eda member who surrendered to Saudis last month. 

Fourteen 14 AQAP members just surrendered in Abyan province in Yemen. 

The Yemeni government is now saying they arrested the wrong woman. (I'm sure that makes her feel so much better about being tortured in custody.)  They are currently looking for a new woman suspect.

Women's News November 1, 2010

Princess Sabeeka, wife of the king of Bahrain, attended the 3rd Arab Women's Organization (AWO) conference in Tunisia.  She "stressed the importance of promoting Arab women as key partners in development amid global changes."

The World Economic Forum issues a Gender Gap Index every year.  For the last 3 years Yemen has been last, out of 134 countries, and this year was worse than 2008.  It's a very depressing issue for the organizations involved.  By contrast, the UAE ranked at 103, the best in the Middle East.  

In August, a cleric in Saudia Arabia issued a fatwa saying that female cashiers violated sex segregation.  The top government clerics are now endorsing his fatwa on banning female cashiers.  Just another step backward for Saudi Arabia.  More information here.

Iraqi Church Siege Over: Upate I

Wow.  It's amazing how things can change over night.  The news this morning says that 52 people died during the siege, and most of the deaths occurred when the security forces stormed the church.  They're not sure right now exactly who shot the hostages, but there are a lot of people dead and injured.  And Iraqi Christians are very concerned about their safety.