Friday, December 31, 2010

YemenWatch: Friday December 31, 2010

It's been a hell of a year for Yemen, especially the last few months.  The next year looks to continue things, especially with the elections in April.  The election situation is getting crazier and crazier.  The leader of the Yemen Socialist Party who was arrested has been ordered released.  Saleh and the GPC have formed a panel to "dialog with the opposition."  The GPC is also working on some amendments to the Yemeni constitution, like increasing seats in parliament for women.  One of them decreases the presidential term from 7 years to 5 years, but also gets rid of the 2-term limit.  Some people are worried that could make Saleh president forever.

About 460 Houthis were released from prison in Sana'a and Saada provinces.  Qatar has been mediating a ceasefire between the Houthis and the Yemeni government.  There may be more Houthis released soon.  The government got back 10 military vehicles in return.

An unknown fever is making people sick in al-Hudeidah.  Most of the sick people seem to have al-Dhanak (I think that's dengue fever).  IRIN (humanitarian news) says there was an outbreak of Dengue Fever over the summer.

The government has banned some companies from trading, because they didn't pay their taxes.  And many others aren't even registered.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

UAE Boots Canada

Canada and the UAE are now feuding.  UAE airlines Emirates and Etihad wanted to expand their flights in Canada, but Canada refused.  So the UAE is now requiring visas for Canadian visitors - and if you don't fly on a UAE airline, a 30-day visa is $250 (Canadian).  The UAE has also told Canada to get out of its base in Dubai.  Canada also has a lot of trade with the UAE, which could be affected.

Turkish Headscarves

I have had numerous posts over the years about headscarves, especially in Turkey.  The whole issue is explosive in Turkey.  Headscarves were banned for many years, but have been making a comeback lately.  It was a very big deal that the First Lady of Turkey actually wears a headscarf.  The Turkish Daily News has a section dedicated to the Headscarf Issue, so if you're interested, it will keep you up to date on how headscarves are affecting Turkey.

Palestinian Activist Banned From Home

A Palestinian from Jerusalem has been banned from that city.  He led protests against new Jewish housing there, so the Israelis used an old law to ban him from the city.  He originally filed an appeal, but withdrew it, because he didn't think the Israeli Supreme Court would rule in his favor, instead of the Israeli military.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

YemenWatch: Tuesday December 28, 2010

The upcoming elections are getting messier and messier.  A southern separatist leader is saying the JMP (Joint Meeting Parties) financed some of their sabotage operations, so the Interior Ministry is investigating.  The leader of the Yemen Socialist Party has been detained.  Two deputy prime ministers and 7 ministers of parliament have resigned, because they have to be out of their jobs for 3 months so they can run in the elections.  President Saleh is calling for monitors to oversee the elections, which have been boycotted by the opposition parties.  The elections are in April and it should be interesting.

A man accused of killing a French engineer will get his verdict next month.  He is on trial along with Anwar al-Awlaki and Othman al-Awlaki (in absentia).

Yemen is expanding its counter-terrorism forces.  It's creating 4 new branches in Shabwa, Marib, Hadramawt, and Abyan provinces.  The Yemen Times quotes an expert as saying it's because of pressure by the US.

The International Committee for the Red Cross has set up video conferencing for Yemeni relatives of Guantanamo Bay detainees.

A man in Aden and his bodyguard were killed in a tribal dispute.

Somebody tried to burn down a journalist's home, but his neighbors helped put out the fire.

South Korea is helping to fund some hospitals in rural Taiz province.

A huge fire at a Turkish furniture store in Sana'a is estimated to have cost the store $2.5 million.

The Anti-Khat Al-Najat Foundation has launched a campaign to keep students off of khat (qat).  It's estimated that Yemenis spend about $7 million per day on qat and the trees need a lot of water.

A drug bust netted 37 kilos of hashish in Sana'a.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Top Stories December 27, 2010

Arab News (Saudi Arabia):  Kingdom to make cars for Gulf and N. Africa - King Saud University will be working on this with a South Korean company.  The first car should be available in 2 years.

Lebanon Daily Star:  Saudi Arabia, Syria step up bid to end crisis -  More on their efforts to help Lebanon survive the coming indictments from the Special Tribunal.

Haaretz (Israel):  Deputy defense minister: Hamas made Gaza into troublesome abscess - The minister says that "Hamas is "rying to conquer Jerusalem."

Turkish Daily News:  Turkish-Germans struggle with dilemma of double identity -  Turks in Germany face discrimination, but they sometimes have problems in in Turkey too.

Islamic Republic News Agency (Iran):  World corrupt powers support anti-human measures: President - Ahmadinejad was speaking with the Somali Parliament Speaker, and mentioned Somalia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan as places where extremists are causing problems.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Update

I'm taking a few days off for Christmas.  I'll be back for the Top Stories on Monday morning.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

YemenWatch: Thursday December 23, 2010

Yemen has asked Interpol for help in tracking down 90 suspects, not all of them terror related.

A ceasefire early this year stopped the 6th Saada War between the Yemeni government and the Houthis.  New figures show how badly that war went for the government.  Yemen Post quotes the figures as 3,000 soldiers dead and $3 billion spent (I think they mean $3 million).

More fighting between Houthis and tribesmen, at a Houthi checkpoint.

Another Yemeni fishing boat was hijacked by Somali pirates.

A meeting was held in Cairo for the Arab Justice and Interior ministers.  One of the 5 agreements they reached was in regulating prisons.  Let's hope that means less torture.

President Gul of Turkey will visit Yemen in January.  I wonder if his visit will overlap with the visit by some US congress people?

The Yemeni Center for Strategic Studies did a poll asking about what could help Yemen out of its current crisis. [Not sure if they mean the Sheba Center for Strategic Studies.]

A Yemeni man won the Star of the Gulf singing competition held in Dubai.  He's a music teacher in Taiz province.

Interesting article by a US journalist:  An American Woman Peeks Behind Yemen’s Veil.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Civil Rights Sit-In in Saudi Arabia: Update I

The sit-in has been cancelled.  You may remember that ACPRA had called for a sit-in on December 23rd.  Well, yesterday they were called in to the Interior Ministry and told their permit request was not approved.  So they decided to cancel it.  I'm guessing that without approval they were simply too intimidated to go through with the protest.  I don't blame them.  I would be terrified of doing an illegal protest in Saudi Arabia, but that's usually what it takes for anyone to pay attention.  Protesters getting beaten up or imprisoned and tortured, until the rest of the world says "Enough!" and pressures their governments to do something.  But that might not happen since the Kingdom controls a lot of oil and has a lot of influence in the US government.

Qatar gets 2022 World Cup: Update III

The FIFA player's union has joined calls for moving the 2022 World Cup to the winter months.  They cite the extreme heat and humidity of Qatari summers as their main concerns.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

YemenWatch: Tuesday December 21, 2010

A cable released by WikiLeaks says that some nuclear material was left unguarded at a warehouse in Yemen.

Supposedly President Saleh refused to meet with a US diplomat because of some of the WikiLeaks Yemen cables.

Forty separatists were released from prison in Aden.

The World Customs Organization is sending a team to Yemen in mid-January, to help start some new programs.

Yemen just sent a new ambassador to Iraq.

In 2010, 12 Yemeni children died when they stepped on land mines.  Sa'ada is one of the most dangerous provinces for land mines.

A 24-year-old man is facing the death penalty for a crime committed when he was only 15 years old.  Amnesty International is asking Saleh to halt the execution.  Another teenager has already had his execution halted.

Women's News December 21, 2010

A Bangladeshi woman was sentenced to 40 lashes under Sharia law, for adultery.  She was caned a month ago, then hospitalized, and died last week.  Caning was outlawed earlier in the year, so several people have been arrested in this case.

An organization met in Yemen about press freedom.  The article calls it Women Journalists Without Chains, and it seems to be a Yemeni women journalists group.  It looks like their chairwoman was arrested in October.

There's a photo exhibition going on in Sana'a about the hijab and politics.  The article I linked to has some photos.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Incoming Iraqi Government

Check out the new government of Iraq, courtesy of Yahoo!.
  • Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
  • President Jalal Talabani
  • Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi
  • Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq
  • Deputy Prime Minister Hussain al-Shahristani
  • Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari
  • Chairman of the National Council for Strategic Policies Ayad Allawi
  • Finance Minister Rafia al-Issawi

Muslims Increase at Catholic Universities

The Washington Post has a good article about how Muslim enrollment is increasing at Catholic universities in the United States.  Which kind of makes sense when you think about it.  Islam and Christianity do have a lot in common, and it's easier to be actively religious at a religious school.  Hopefully this will expose even more Americans to Islam so they can see that Islam is NOT a religion of terror.

Top Stories December 20, 2010

Arab News (Saudi Arabia):  Allawi to join Iraqi govt -  Allawi is the former prime minister and a Shi'ite, but had a lot of Sunni backing.  But it wasn't enough for a majority in parliament.

Lebanon Daily Star:  Syria, Saudi Arabia scramble to defuse tensions - The Special Tribunal for Lebanon is getting ready to hand out indictments for the assassination of Rafik Hariri, which may implicate Hizbullah, which could cause an outbreak of violence.

Haaretz (Israel):  IDF to deploy super-armored tanks along Gaza border - The number of anti-tank missiles in Gaza is increasing.

Turkish Daily News:  Turkey's main opposition party cleanses its Augean Stables - The head of the Republican People's Party changed 46 members of the 80-member assembly for his party.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sharks at Sharm el-Sheikh: Update IV

A friend sent this article to me.  Supposedly a drunk Serbian man killed the killer shark at Sharm el-Sheikh.  Here's an excerpt:
“Dragan jumped high and plunged down to the sea, but didn’t make as much splash as we thought he would”, explained Milovan.
 . . .
Dragan was able to swim to the shore and told his friends he had twisted his ankle, telling them the water was not that soft.
The water is soft buddy, you just landed on a shark.
 I really doubt this is true, but it is a great drinking story!

YemenWatch: Sunday December 19, 2010

You've probably already heard this by now, but yes, the 4 Americans who were attacked do work for the CIA.

An Army major was kidnapped in Lahj province.  There's been a lot of unrest there lately, with the southern separatists holding protests, so the military has moved in more forces.  The separatists are asking for prisoners to be released in exchange for the major.

Sheikh Salman al-Ouadah of Saudi Arabia is the head of IslamToday.  In a TV appearance, he asked Anwar al-Awlaki to take a good look at what he is doing and stop killing people.

In the north, families of prisoners from the Houthi mess held a hunger strike at a prison in Sana'a.

More election mess.  The JMP is still threatening to boycott the elections in April, which they say are rigged in favor of the GPC.  This sounds almost Egyptian.  President Saleh appointed 9 judges to the Supreme Commission for Elections and Referendum, which only the GPC voted for and chose.  More on the GPC point of view.

Russia and Yemen want to "strengthen there historic relationship."  South Yemen was socialist until reuniting with North Yemen in 1990.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

News in Yemen

I thought some of you might be interested in where I get the information for my YemenWatch posts.  Getting news from some countries often feels like an art more than a science.  Yemen is one of those countries.  I get my news (in English) from several different sources.  And some of those have problems writing in English. 
  • There's the "official" news from the Yemen News Agency.  Like most government news agencies you have to take what they say with a grain of salt.
  • There's the Yemen Times, which has interesting articles but feels more like a magazine. 
  • There's Al-Sahwah, which seems to have regular news, but has formatting issues.
  • There's NewsYemen, which doesn't have a lot of stories.
  • There's the Yemen Observer, which has a problem I'll mention in a minute.
  • There's the Yemen Post, which claims to be the "First Hourly Updated Independent English News Website" in Yemen but has some English language problems.
  • I also get random articles from people I follow on my twitter feed.
I get a lot of my news from the Yemen Post, the Observer, and even the Yemen News Agency.  Lately I've been perusing the WikiLeaks cables from the US Embassy in Sana'a, and I came across something I didn't know.  In 2009, there was a cable that mentioned that the Yemen Observer was owned by President Saleh's secretary.  That fact is pro,bably known by Yemenis, but it was news to me.  And that may explain why the Yemen Observer said the attack against 4 Americans was definitely AQAP, while the Yemen Post didn't.  Like I said above, reading the Yemeni news is an art-form.

Qatar gets 2022 World Cup: Update II

There is a movement starting that thinks maybe the World Cup in Qatar should be held in December or January, when the weather is cooler.  This would mean changes to the European football schedule.  A plus for holding the Cup in winter is that different countries would be available for hosting, since winter in the northern hemisphere is summer in the southern hemisphere.  The president of FIFA also met with representatives for Oman, Bahrain, and Kuwait; these countries could help host the games.  Qatar would have to be the one requesting it though.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Iraqi Christians Leaving

The number of Christians in Iraq has been dropping since the US "freed" Iraq from Saddam Hussein.  The Church siege killed several priests and about 70 other Christians.  Now the UN is reporting that thousands are leaving central Iraq for Kurdish areas which are considered safer.  The UN High Commission for Refugees is also worried because some Iraqi Christians who are trying to get asylum in Europe are being sent back to Iraq to areas that simply aren't safe for them.  One of these countries is Sweden

Bahraini Blogger Still in Jail

Ali Abdulemam is still in jail awaiting trial.  The BBC has an interview with his wife on their site.  Ali was jailed after he wrote a blog post about Shi'ites who were arrested and accused of trying to overthrow the government.  His trial is currently set for December 23rd.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

YemenWatch: Thursday December 16, 2010

Someone put an explosive device in the back of a vehicle belonging to 4 Americans who work at the embassy.  It's still a bit unclear.  Some reports said it was a grenade, some say a bomb (see my earlier post).  A Jordanian man was arrested, but may not be involved.  And the Yemeni government is saying that AQAP is not involved but some newspapers say it is AQAP.

Two soldiers died in a clash with armed men at a weapons market in Lahj province.  A third man also died, and may have been on a wanted list.  The article is a bit unclear.

A leader of the Joint Meeting Parties was attacked in Sana'a.  The JMP says the ruling party is responsible. 

A sit-in was held by families who have relatives in jail.  I believe they are in jail because of the Houthi rebellion.  They held the sit-in to protest torture and because they can't get in to see their relatives.

Nine people in Yemen came down with H1N1 flu in early November, and 4 of them have died.  The hospital said they were told to keep it quiet since this was just before the Gulf Cup.

The National Dialogue Preparatory Committee met the Houthi Group today and they agreed to form a joint commission for national issues.

The US Congress is sending a delegation to Yemen.  I'm guessing this will be early next year once the new congress takes over.

Breaking News: Yemen Bomb Misses Americans

American Embassy workers were not hurt, but a grenade was thrown in the back of their vehicle outside of a restaurant in Sana'a (h/t @yemenwatch).  News from Toronto Star and Herald Sun.  A Jordanian man has been arrested.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Flotilla Investigation Update IV: Turkey & Israel

Turkey and Israel have been at odds since 9 Turks were killed on the flotilla in May.  The two countries have been having talks, to ease tension and bring back their old relationship.  So far, things are not going wellTurkey wants an apology, and Israel doesn't want to give one.

I haven't heard any news about more flotillas, but I will keep looking.

Women's News December 15, 2010

A Saudi woman has made the short list for the Arabic Booker Prize.  Her name is Raja' 'Alim and her nominated book is a novel titled Collar of the Pigeons.

There is a move to get more women into parliament in Yemen.  A workshop called "Women and the Next Parliament in 2011" is being held in several parts of the country.

Another workshop was held for imams in the Hadramawt area of Yemen.  It was a UN workshop focusing on gender and economic empowerment.  The imams appear to have liked the workshop and want more in the future.

An article on wearing the veil in Yemen.  Female judges are now required to unveil during work hours.  A similar measure for parliament met with resistance and claims that it infringed on a woman's rights.

A woman in Georgia is suing because when she went to a court hearing, the courthouse tried to force her to remove her hijab.  They stopped her at the metal detector, and when she tried to leave she was taken before a judge, charged with contempt of court, and had to remove her hijab for the booking process.  The law was later changed in 2009 to allow religious or medical headgear.  I would like to point out that this whole thing was about the hijab - that's a headscarf, not a full facial veil like the niqab.

I will say again, I am for a woman's rights.  And that includes her right to wear a hijab or niqab or whatever she wants.  As long as it is her choice.  I do not believe in forcing a woman to veil, as Saudi Arabia does.  But if a woman in America wants to wear a headscarf, how can we condemn her?  This nation is supposedly founded on freedom.  That does not mean freedom, except for those things you disagree with.  It means liberty and justice for all.

YemenWatch: Tuesday December 14, 2010

Two soldiers were injured when gunmen attacked a checkpoint in Shabwa. 

A high-ranking police officer was killed (tribal attack) in Abyan, while another escaped a bombing attempt.  The Yemen Observer calls the policeman who escaped an "intelligence director" and says it may be related to an AQAP assassination list of policemen.

There was a gunfight between Houthis and tribesmen, and "Houthi followers" killed 8 people in Sa'dah.

The Houthi Group says that Houthi prisoners in jails are being tortured.  It looks like things may be heating up again between the Houthis and the government.  There seem to be more incidents being reported in the papers.

More WikiLeaks material says that the US helped Saudi Arabia fight the Houthis by giving the Kingdom intelligence and even weapons.  Which may explain why the Houthis thought some of the AQAP bombings were actually caused by the US.

An interesting editorial on the whole Houthi-AQAP-US situation in Yemen.

HOOD (Yemen human rights organization) wants an investigation into the detention of 5 Cameroonians.  They were detained in 1995, never tried, and one of them died shortly after incarceration.  The remaining 4 were just deported.

The Yemen Polling Center did a survey about elections and reform and will discuss the results today and tomorrow. 

The former president of Yemen, Ali Nasser Mohammed, wants those accused of crimes in WikiLeaks material to be prosecuted.  Especially for the innocent civilians who died in air strikes (I'm assuming he means the US air strikes that Saleh said were carried out by the Yemeni air force).

The Joint Meeting Party held a protest in front of Parliament yesterday.  They are very concerned that they're being shut out of the election process.  The protest was met by riot police and the Socialist Party accused them of hitting women involved in the protest.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I'm a little under the weather.  Will try to update YemenWatch on Wednesday.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bombing Iran? Again - Really?

Wow.  I was hoping this had gone away, but the Republicans will be back in control of Congress starting in January.  You my remember my posts from June about the US or Israel possibly bombing Iran (Bombing Iran? and Bombing Iran?  Again).  Well, the Washington Post has an article explaining why we need to change our Iran policy (h/t @abuaardvark).  Luckily another article points out the fallacies:  What's Farsi For 'Cakewalk'?

I really hope no one is taking the idea of bombing Iran seriously.  Bombing a country is not something to do lightly - it is an ACT OF WAR.  Iran is NOT Iraq or Afghanistan.  Afghanistan was run by the fanatic Taliban and had no real air force.  Iraq was already on its knees from the embargoes.  Iran is neither of those.  Iran has a large population, a large military, an air force and navy, and long range missiles.  I would be concerned about Iran bombing Israel in response to any attack.  And any notion that dissident Iranians would welcome us helping to oust Ahmadinejad by force is ludicrous!  Think about it - think of the worst ruler your country has ever had in your lifetime.  If an outsider attacked, would you welcome them with open arms, or would you fight to protect your country?

Nigerian Governor To Be Extradited

The UK has been trying to get its hands on a former governor of Nigeria, James Ibori, for corruption charges.  He's accused of stealing almost $300 million and socking some of it away in UK banks.  He managed to escape when Interpol tried to arrest him, and then he ended up in Dubai, UAE.  The high court in Dubai just ruled that he can be extradited to the UK.

Sharks at Sharm el-Sheikh: Update III

The saga continues.  The experts are saying that the decline in fish for sharks to eat, plus people trying to feed the fish and/or sharks and dumping animal carcasses, are the reasons for the shark attacks.  The experts want the dumpers fined, as well as watch towers on the beach and boat patrols in the water too.  If you haven't seen the movie Jaws, you really ought to. 

Top Stories December 13, 2010

Arab News (Saudi Arabia):  Storms, snow, rains lash Mideast; Madinah valley being evacuated - Yes, you did read that correctly.  The Middle East is getting pounded by inclement weather, mostly rain in Saudi Arabia.

Lebanon Daily Star:  Arrival of winter takes Lebanon by storm - Massive storm in Lebanon.  This is the first time in ages the Special Tribunal hasn't been the top story.

Haaretz (Israel):  Visiting U.S. envoy Mitchell to push Israel for stance on core Mideast issues - The US envoy is meeting Netanyahu about the peace process.

Turkish Daily News:  Barzani's KDP important for Iraq's ties with Turkey's Kurds, experts say - Barzani is the leader of Iraq's Kurdish Democratic Party.  [One of the top stories for Turkey was also the weather - snow!]

Saturday, December 11, 2010

YemenWatch: Saturday December 11, 2010

General James N. Mattis, head of US Central Command, is on his first visit to Yemen, to discuss security issues and "understand the Yemeni viewpoint."

Yemen spends about 40% of its budget fighting terrorism.

Saudi Arabia is funding some Yemeni tribes in an effort to fight AQAP.  It seems to be somewhat effective, but it's also undermining the actual state of Yemen.  And the tribes near the border may be smuggling too.

The UAE lifted its ban on Yemeni air freight.

An appeals court upheld the sentences of 7 AQAP members.  They were arrested in October of last year.

An AQAP member who helped bomb the USS Cole in 2000 and was reported as dead in Pakistan, is now reported as alive in Shabwa province.  It isn't unusual for terrorists to die and live again in Yemen, but this time it looks like even the US may have thought he was dead.


The man accused of bombing the Al-Wahdah sports club in Aden in October was sentenced to death.  His brother received jail time and 3 other suspects were acquitted.  The announcement set off protests and 7 policemen were kidnapped.

Eight people were arrested on suspicion of being involved in the qat market bombing on Wednesday.  (It just occurred to me that many of you may not know what qat is.  Here's the wikipedia article on it.)

More on the election mess in Yemen.

Yemen and Somalia are discussing their relationship.  Yemen just arrested about 80 Somali refugees, and another 50 went to a refugee camp in Yemen.  And on Wednesday 2 Yemeni fishermen were killed by Somali pirates.

A riot at a prison in Taiz province ended with 2 prisoners dead from smoke inhalation.

According to the Yemen News Agency, the US and Yemen discussed information and journalism, and even exchanging journalists:
He [the Information Minister] noted to the new law and its freedom guaranty of the press via prohibiting and preventing the imprisonment of journalists.
Gee, it's nice to have those laws, now if they would only abide by them.  If you've been reading the YemenWatch posts, you know that journalists have been arrested and jailed.

You just gotta love government news agencies.  The Yemen one has a great quote from the head of a Yemeni tourism delegation to Oman:
Dispelling fears that Yemen is prone to internal strife, Abdul-Wahab said, “It is the creation of Western media and Yemen is more safe than the West. It is a peaceful country and the peaceful conduct of the Gulf Cup held in Yemen points out to this".
Yes, the Gulf Cup went off without a hitch.  So forget the bombings that took place before it, or the bombing and bomb materials found in Sana'a this past week.

Iranian Woman Still in Peril: Update I

More information is coming out about the Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery, who also may have murdered her husband.  Iranian TV showed a re-enactment, with the actual woman.  Initially, she was convicted for having relationships with 2 men after her husband's murder, then she was convicted of adultery, and after being tortured she confessed to the murder.  It appears that the man who supposedly helped her kill her husband is not in jail.  This whole thing is crazy.  Ahmadinejad is even claiming that the adultery sentence was not to be stoned to death.

It sounds like, after her husband was killed, she decided to mess around a bit, and got caught.  One of the above articles even suggested that maybe she was convicted of murder because there would be too much outcry if she was stoned to death for adultery.  I hate it when governments legislate morality.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Human Rights Day

Today is International Human Rights Day.  There's a good opinion piece in Haaretz about the human rights problems going on in Israel.  There have been a lot of civil and/or human rights issues in the news lately, so consider this a Salute to Human Rights Activists world-wide.  Keep up the good work!

Civil Rights Sit-In in Saudi Arabia

Yes, you read that correctly.  A sit-in is scheduled for December 23rd in Saudi Arabia.  The organizing group is the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA).  They have asked for official permission, but the sit-in will go on even if it isn't granted.  They are calling for all Saudis to join the sit-in. 

You may remember that last week a magazine editor was arrested for speculation on the succession issues in Saudi Arabia.  According to the ACPRA website, a university professor and human rights activist was arrested on Sunday.  He had recently published an article about the royal family on Facebook.

I'd like to wish Good Luck to everyone involved with the sit-in.  It is easy for me to write about civil and human rights, because I live in America.  But it takes a lot of courage to do that in the Middle East.

Sharks at Sharm el-Sheikh: Update II

Well, some of the beaches are now open.  Most of them are still closed.  I guess they're waiting to see if they can catch more sharks, or counting how many they see.  I read an article that compared the situation to the first Jaws movie.  It's a bit scary.

Palestinian State Recognized: Update II More on Gentiles Ban

More info about the ban on selling homes to Gentiles.  A top rabbi has condemned the religious ruling and two rabbis who signed their names to it have changed their minds because of him.  The top rabbi is non-Hasidic Orthodox which is really helping the situation.  The attorney general for Israel is looking into the original ruling, in case it violates the law.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

YemenWatch: Thursday December 9, 2010

A bomb exploded in Sana'a, at a qat market.  Thirteen people were injured.  There's no word yet on who is responsible.

An explosive device and drugs were found in a woman's purse in Sana'a, and TNT was found in her car.

I don't know what's going on in Sana'a lately, but if you are in Yemen, please be careful.  It's always a bad sign when bombings move to the capital city.

The Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) held protests in Taiz province.  Parliamentary elections are set for 2011, but the JMP is saying those elections are illegal.  This whole thing is a mess, and I'm not sure I completely understand what is going on.  It sounds like the political parties are all fighting and were hoping to have dialogues and then the election in 2011, but the dialogues are not going well.

Yemen is getting 4 Huey II helicopters in January for military support.

The Specialized Criminal Court sentenced 3 suspected AQAP members to jail in the Hadramout.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Palestinian State Recognized: Update I More on Gentiles Ban

You may remember the letter signed by dozens of rabbis, saying that Jews shouldn't sell or rent property to Gentiles (read: Arabs).  I'm happy to report that some Israelis are protesting and calling the letter racist.  Amnesty International is also criticizing it.

Edit: added to title

Sharks at Sharm el-Sheikh: Update I

The beaches are still closed at Sharm, and another shark has been caught.  US shark experts are there helping out.  The shark that was caught is a Mako, and they're still looking for an Oceanic White Tip.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

YemenWatch: Tuesday December 7, 2010

You may remember seeing news about a WikiLeaks memo where a Yemeni minister jokes about lying to parliament when he said there were no US air strikes.  Well, parliament is not happy.

Five members of AQAP turned themselves in to authorities in Abyan province.  The government is getting the tribes to put pressure on AQAP.

Four men are on trial for allegedly forming a terrorist cell.

There was a protest in Lahj province, over the arrest of some of the southern secessionists.

It sounds like the Yemeni government may be a bit worried.  A presidential advisor to Saleh keeps saying that Yemen is not like Pakistan, and there shouldn't be any American troops in Yemen.

Saudi Succession

I've been meaning to get back to this subject.  King Abdullah, who is 86, is currently recuperating from surgery.  The next-in-line for the throne is his brother Prince Sultan, who is 85.  As I've mentioned before, so far all of the kings have been Abdul Aziz and his sons.  That generation is getting very old now, and soon the crown will have to pass to the next generation. 

It's been a while since I looked at this, but I think that in the past, when the king died, the Al-Sauds got together and chose the next heir.  At the moment, Sultan is set to become king after Abdullah.  But at their ages, it wouldn't surprise me to see some major turnover in the next 5 years.  Joseph Kechichian wrote a good book on the subject almost a decade ago.  His access to members of the royal family really showed some of the succession lines. 

I'm not sure what will happen when the next generation takes over, but apparently I'm not the only one concerned.  A magazine editor was arrested for writing an article speculating about how the kingdom could collapse after Abdullah's death.  There are different factions in the royal family who may fight over who gets to be in charge.  Abdullah himself must have been worried because he created the Allegiance Council (of sons and grandsons) in 2006 to officially govern the succession.  Things could get interesting in Saudi Arabia in the near future.

Palestinian State Recognized

Last week Brazil recognized Palestine as a state, and this week Argentina did too.  Apparently Uruguay will do the same next month.  These countries are recognizing Palestine in the 1967 borders, which were then conquered by Israel, even though under international law it is illegal to gain territory that way.  As you can imagine, Israel is rather ticked off with all the recognitions and claims it is hurting the peace process.  I really don't see how.  If anything is hurting the peace process it is settler Israelis building homes and towns on land that is supposed to belong to the Palestinians.  Add to that the US deciding to stop pressuring Israel for an extended moratorium on West Bank construction.  But somehow it is never Israel's fault if the peace doesn't work.

Oh, and it gets even better.  Dozens of Israeli rabbis are supporting a religious ruling that would prevent Jews from selling or even renting homes to non-Jews (Gentiles).  Even Netanyahu has spoken out against it.  I'm all for freedom of religion, but not when it discriminates against people of other religions.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Egyptian Elections: Update II

Well, the runoff elections are over.  And, no surprise, Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party won.  As usual, the elections were plagued with charges of fraud and even voter intimidation.  The Muslim Brothers boycotted the runoffs, which means they were shut out of parliament.  Human rights organizations are calling for the elections to be annulled.  Personally, I doubt that will happen.  Considering all the irregularities in past elections, why would Mubarak care about this one?  Especially since his party has even more control over parliament (an estimated 83% plus help from some independent parties).  Next year is the presidential election.  You'd think the United States would be concerned about democracy in Egypt.

Atheist Blogger Arrested: Update I

The atheist blogger, currently being held but not charged, has posted an apology to his family, and Palestinians in general.  It is unknown whether this is related to some kind of deal for his release.  Human Rights Watch is calling for his release, and says:
Laws that criminalize the peaceful criticism of religious beliefs violate international human rights standards, and the PA should ensure that it applies legislation in ways that are consistent with international protections of the right to freedom of expression.

Top Stories December 6, 2010

Arab News (Saudi Arabia):  Leaks damaged US credibility: Turki - Prince Turki al-Faisal is the former Saudi intelligence minister, and former ambassador to the US.  He's worried that diplomats won't be able to deal with US diplomats, because anything they say may get leaked.

Azzaman (Iraq):  The world should take Iraqi government's statements on 'terror' with a pinch of salt -  This editorial claims that most of the Al-Qa'eda terrorists arrested aren't al-Qa'eda and may just be Iraqi resistance fighters.

Haaretz (Israel):  Firefighters subdue Carmel fire after 77-hour blaze -  The fire is finally contained.  Twenty-four aircraft from foreign countries helped out.

Turkish Daily News:  Cry of 'plot' from Turkey's Grey Wolves - The National Party has had some political problems lately and their leader is accusing the Justice and Development Party of trying to destroy them.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Pakitstan's Blasphemy Laws Abused

Pakistan has some strict blasphemy laws, which can be taken advantage of if you're mad at a non-Muslim.  A Christian woman has been sentenced to death for blasphemy, because she dared to defend her beliefs when she was taunted by Muslims.  Now, first of all, I believe in freedom of speech, so the whole concept of blasphemy sounds wrong to me.  Secondly, if you're going to have a blasphemy law, couldn't you at least use it against people who were actually blaspheming, instead of innocent people who just aren't Muslim?  This issue appears to be dividing the country, with those who support changing the law being attacked for it.  It's pretty sad if you can't even discuss the issue because you're worried about being killed.

Sharks at Sharm el-Sheikh

There has been another shark attack at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.  Four people were attacked last week, and beaches were closed until 2 sharks were caught.  They had only been open a few days when the current attack happened, and now the beaches are closed indefinitely.  This could really hurt Egypt's tourism industry, since much of it is beach tourism.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

YemnWatch: Saturday December 4, 2010

The Houthi Group has decided to set up security checkpoints, following the car bombings last month.  They arrested a student attending a conference for the Islah party.  AQAP has claimed credit for the bombings, and is saying they are trying to protect Sunnis from the Shi'ite Houthis.  AQAP says they assassinated a Houthi spiritual leader in the bombings, but the Houthis are saying he died of natural causes.  The UN and HOOD (Yemen) are concerned about the escalating violence.

Hillary Clinton spoke with the Yemeni foreign minister at the Regional Security Summit in Bahrain.  The Australian foreign minister said that Australia may increase its aid funding to Yemen.  And in 2011 the Friends of Yemen group will meet in Saudi Arabia.


The Yemen News Agency is quoting Gulf journalists covering the Gulf Cup, who are saying how wonderful Yemen is, and how terrorism is not as bad as other media has claimed.

Yemen is still talking with the World Bank.

Forty Dead in Israeli Forest Fire: Update I

It looks like firefighters are making headway against the fire, but they're still worried it might flare up at night, when the winds pick up and firefighting aircraft can't fly.  So far, 41 people are dead and almost 50,000 dunams of land have been destroyed (I think 50,000 dunams is 5,000 hectares or 12,400 acres).  Police have arrested two 16-year-old boys who are suspected of starting a fire near their home that got out of control.

Let's hope the winds die down so the firefighters can get the fire under control before anyone else dies and any more land is destroyed.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Qatar gets 2022 World Cup: Update I

I've been seeing a lot of articles in the US about how horrible it is that Qatar won the bid for World Cup in 2022 and it's really getting on my nerves.  There have been 19 World Cups so far.  In 2010, the first one was held in Africa.  In 2002, the first one was held in Asia, in Korea and Japan.  Otherwise, all of the World Cups have been held in Europe or Latin America, plus the US in 1994.  In my mind, this seems to deny half the world the opportunity to have a World Cup in their country or region.  Which is why I'm getting so irritated at these articles blasting Qatar and FIFA.

Let me reply to some of the complaints listed in the Yahoo! article I linked to above.

1) "heat, which will force fans and players to endure temperatures soaring over 100 degrees during the tournament."
Yes, because it's not hot in the southern US where the 1994 World Cup was held.  Oh wait, it is.  I watched that World Cup.  It was very hot, and in the southern US it's also very humid.  In Qatar, it's not as humid.  And yes, there is a big difference between dry heat and humid heat.

2) "impracticality of hosting a global event in a nation with only one major city"
As long as their airport has the capacity, and there are enough hotels, I don't see the problem.  One could even make the case that the teams and fans won't have to travel as much when they play.  Qatar is bordered by Saudi Arabia and the sea, so there won't be much foreign travel from there (SA).  But I could see Bahrain and the UAE picking up tourism and helping to transport them to the games.

3) "security risks of staging it in the midst of a politically unstable region"
Really?  Considering how many World Cups have been held in Central and South America, you're going to trot out security?  Qatar is a stable country in the Middle East.  They're one of the only Middle Eastern countries to have an Israeli trade office.

4) "Qatar’s political alliance with Iran"
Qatar is located directly across maybe 40 miles of water from Iran.  Most of the Gulf States are.  Qatar and Iran have an economic relationship, and Qatar believes Iran should be able to use "peaceful nuclear technology."  Oh no!  If they don't condemn Iran, I guess that means they're evil!

5) "Qatari women still suffering from routine sexual discrimination"
At least this is a valid argument.  Although Qatar is making inroads into equality, and hopefully will soon have elections for the Majlis al-Shura.

To me, this just sounds like sour grapes.  If Australia had won the bid, I don't see this much reaction from the US about it.  But how dare some pipsqueak little Arab country that we have to protect win it instead of us.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Women's News December 2, 2010: Yemen

It's an all-Yemen post this time.

A neat article about Yemeni women becoming more interested in sports.  Some women-only gyms have opened, but are seeing resistance from some religious authorities.

A Yemeni woman runs the Sisters Arab Forum for Human Rights and doesn't wear the hijab either.  There are some scary statistics on the lack of women's equality in this article.

An article on the bizarreness of some children's names in Yemen, and how men usually get to choose them.

YemenWatch: Thursday December 2, 2010

According to the Yemen News Agency, the Vice-president of Yemen is quoted as saying:
cooperation with America in the fight against terrorism is limited to providing "logistical and technical support"
Even though WikiLeaks says otherwise, but Yemen has accused WikiLeaks of lying.

The 7th Annual Regional Security Summit started today in Bahrain, and Yemen is taking part.


Elections in Yemen are still set for April 2011, although the ruling party and the opposition party are still at odds over many issues.

The World Bank is financing programs at 8 Yemeni universities to help improve the quality of education.

Yemen started a big tourism campaign yesterday in Doha, Qatar.  They also accused the media of distorting events in Yemen to make it appear less safe than it really is.

Several dozen Houthis were arrested on the Day of Al-Ghadeer, which led to a sit-in for their release today in Amran province.  They claim the arrests were illegal.

The Yemen Observer has what looks like interesting articles on the Yemen Special Olympics Team and an international conference on medical education, but I'm getting errors messages when I click on them.

Forty Dead in Israeli Forest Fire

A forest fire in the Carmel Mountains of Israel has killed 40 people, mostly student prison guards.  Their bus was trapped by fallen trees as they headed to a prison to evacuate prisoners.  The fire is causing evacuations near Haifa and has overwhelmed emergency crews.  Twelve to 13,000 people have already evacuated.  Netanyahu has asked for everyone's help and according to Haaretz's breaking news crawler, Spain, Cyprus, and Greece have firefighting aircraft on the way.  More info from BBC.

Qatar gets 2022 World Cup

And as you can imagine, the Qataris are ecstatic.  They are the first Middle Eastern country to host the World Cup and beat out the US, Australia, South Korea, and Japan.  More info on the bidding process.  Personally, I think it's about time a Middle Eastern country got the bid, considering how big football (soccer) is there.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Egyptian Elections: Update I

The Muslim Brotherhood and the Wafd have pulled out of the run-off election in Egypt, in protest of election fraud.  According to the BBC:
Following the first round, Egyptian media carried images and testimonies of mass faked ballots and voters being intimidated at polling stations.
The end result is that most of the seats in parliament will go to the National Democratic Party of Hosni Mubarak.  So much for democracy in Egypt.

Iraqi Church Siege Over: Upate III

Twelve terrorists were arrested in Iraq for their role in the church siege last month.  They appear to belong to a group called the Islamic State of Iraq.  And Al-Qa'eda in Iraq also belongs to that group.

Al-Qa'eda in Gaza?

Israel is claiming that Al-Qa'eda has operatives working in the Gaza Strip.  The Prime Minister for the Hamas government there is denying the allegations, and says Israel is making it up so that they have an excuse for attacking.

I'm not sure what to make of this.  The US considers Hamas a terrorist organization, but that does not necessarily mean they would get along well with Al-Qa'eda, which has its own agenda.  But on the other hand, if Al-Qa'eda offered to help them, perhaps they would agree to it.  And yes, it is entirely possible that Israel is looking for an excuse to invade Gaza (again).  We'll have to wait and see what happens next.