May 3, 2011
By Armenak Minasyants (AEGEE-Yerevan, Armenia)
So, April is almost over and for me and my readers it is real time to summarize the things which have happened during the second month of spring. The last week particularly was full of interesting political and non-political processes, cultural and sport events. So check up our Newsflash and get updated.
Syria; Civil War or Humanitarian Catastrophe?
In the suburbs of Deraa in Syria where protests flared last month it is being reported that forces loyal to the government have opened fire in areas of the city. Campaigners claim eight tanks went into the old quarter with the army shooting at random. Several bodies were seen lying near a mosque. It is a pattern being repeated in other cities across the country, according to reports from protesters. In Douma it is claimed scores of people have been arrested and all communications cut off. At least 100 people are reported to have been killed since the start of the weekend, as protests continued despite President Bashar al-Assad ending the 48-year state of emergency in the country. The campaign group Human Rights Watch called for a UN inquiry and international sanctions against Syria following the killings. In Nawa, at a funeral for protesters killed by security forces, thousands gathered to call for the overthrow of the president. Witnesses say four people were shot dead. Syrian writers have issued a declaration denouncing the crackdown in what analysts say is a sign of the outrage amongst the intellectual elite over the violence. And according to security officials in neighbouring Jordan, Syria has closed all land borders with the country. European governments are urging Syria to end the violence. On 26.04.2011 Italy and France issued a joint statement calling on Assad to stop the violent repression of what they called peaceful demonstrations. The White House says it deplores the tactics of the Syrian government and is considering targeted sanctions, an idea also being pursued by the UK and the Netherlands. European countries, including the UK and Germany, are drawing up plans to evacuate citizens from Syria. Criticism also comes from the 22-strong Arab League who said in Tuesday that pro-democracy demonstrators across the Arab world “deserve support, not bullets”. The most interesting thing at least for me, is, will we see some type of international humanitarian intervention to Syria as we have seen it in Libya? I consider that it is the question which is an issue for debate not only for me, but as well as for the all Governments of Coalition forces.
See more on Syrian Clashes here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-13247375
Libya; Gaddafi vs. Tunisia?
Fierce fighting between anti-Gaddafi forces and government troops is raging around Libya’s border with Tunisia. There are unconfirmed reports that Libya shelled the Tunisian frontier town of Dehiba and Tunisian soldiers engaged in a gunbattle with Gaddafi’s troops. The crossing point at Dehiba is now back in rebel hands. Libyan armour positioned to the north of the rebel-held town of Zintan in the Western Mountains came under attack from NATO aircraft. Anti-government fighters say Gaddafi’s bombardment of the town has now stopped. The Tunisian government condemned Libyan incursions into Tunisia and demanded an “immediate stop to the violations”.
Tunis strongly condemned the incursions demanding an immediate halt. Nevertheless, the offensive appeared to be a wider move by Gaddafi’s men to weed out opposition in the west of the country. Though the rebels rapidly countered, one anti-Gaddafi fighter desperately demanded international help. After weeks of advancing and retreating by both sides, the fighting in Libya appears to have settled into a pattern of clashes and skirmishes in several hotspots, notably Misrata and the western mountains.
Simultaneously, the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has appeared on state television saying he was ready for a ceasefire as long as NATO stopped its aerial campaign against government targets. In the 80 minute address Gaddafi struck a conciliatory tone saying: ‘Countries that attack us, let us negotiate with you.‘ But he repeated his determination not to leave power, a central demand of the rebels and western leaders.
As he was speaking NATO bombs hit three buildings close to the television centre in Tripoli.
State media said it was a clear attempt to kill Gaddafi. The airstrikes hit two government buildings. It is not clear if there were any casualties.
On the Libyan side of the frontier rebels said they had regained control, saying the bodies littering the ground were those of Gaddafi’s mercenaries.
Gaddafi’s forces bombarded the rebel-held city of Misrata again. Rebels and civilians were reported to have been killed. NATO said its warships had cleared mines laid by Gaddafi forces in the city’s port. The population of 300,000 relies on the port. The mines had prevented humanitarian aid ships from getting through.
Unrest in Morocco
In Morocco reports indicate at least 14 people have been killed and 20 injured in a blast which ripped through a cafe in the tourist city of Marrakesh at midday. It is understood foreigners are among those who have been killed. A Reuters photographer who was at the scene of the explosion in the city’s main Jamaa el-Fna Square reported rescue workers pulling dismembered bodies from the Argana cafe.
A statement from the Interior Ministry issued to the country’s main news agency said, “Early evidence collected at the site of the explosion indicates that it was a criminal act.” Officials did not say if they suspected the involvement of militants. One report said gas canisters caught fire inside the cafe on the second storey of the building overlooking the main square. Marrakesh is known as the tourist capital of Morocco and the square is a popular haunt for visitors and street sellers.
You may get updated on Morocco here http://www.euronews.net/2011/04/30/search-for-clues-in-morocco/
Kandahar Prison; is it prison or not?
More than 470 Afghan prisoners have broken out of jail through an escape tunnel dug by Taliban insurgents underneath the prison walls. The breakout happened at Kandahar Prison, which is meant to be one of the country’s highest security jails.Confirming the breakout, President Hamid Karzai’s spokesman Waheed Omer insisted an investigation would be held. “We are looking into finding out what exactly happened and what’s being done to compensate for the disaster that happened in the prison in Kandahar,” he said. The Taliban said 541 inmates had escaped but a local provincial governor said 478 had fled their cells. The jailbreak is the second major escape from the prison in the past three years. In June 2008, a man blew himself up at the prison gates under the cover of darkness, destroying a nearby checkpoint and freeing up to 1,000 prisoners.
Middle East; focus on Iran an Palestine
Several Iranian MPs have called for the impeachment of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as evidence is growing of a rift between him and the country’s supreme leader. The MP’s claim Ahmadinejad has violated parliament-approved laws. Iran’s opposition claims Ayatollah Khamenei is worried about the increasing power of his president. In particular he is concerned over two key positions, that of intelligence minister and the foreign affairs portfolio. Heydar Moslehi, a close ally of the Ayatollah, was recently sacked by Ahmadinejad as head of intelligence but Khamenei immediately reinstated him. Since then Ahmadinejad has apparently refused to chair several cabinet meetings. But it didn’t stop him from also sacking his foreign minister, clearly asserting his control over Iran’s foreign policy.
And now a little about Palestine. In territory as small and fragmented as that given to Palestinians, any division was bound to weaken its diplomatic bargaining strength. Last March a huge demonstration in Gaza and the West Bank, called for an end to the long-running feud between Hamas and the Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The victory of Hamas in the parliamentary elections of 2006 in Gaza complicated the situation. It lead to a national unity government between President Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh, the nominated prime minister, but that was short-lived. In June 2007 clashes erupted between pro-Fatah and Hamas factions. In effect a mini-civil war in which over 100 people lost their lives and which cemented the division between the two movements. Hamas took control of Gaza, forcing Fatah out of the territory. But the roots of the division go much deeper. Hamas was created in 1987 by Sheik Yassin after the first intifada, or uprising. Fatah was founded by Yasser Arafat in 1965 as a political movement, rather than as simply a reaction to a specific event. The Oslo Accords, signed in Washington in 1993 between Yasser Arafat and Israel’s Shimon Peres, were the first Israeli-Palestinian agreements that laid the foundations for the peace process. But Hamas has rejected the accords to this day and still does not recognise Israel. Years of division has done nothing to help the chances of their voices being heard. They should have more success if they can speak with one voice according to Uzi Rabi is a Middle East expert at Tel Aviv University.He said: “Fatah and Hamas are going to benefit a lot if they can present a united front, and this helps out in putting much pressure on Israel and United States.” But for Israel and the international community Hamas remains a terrorist organisation. Reconciliation is one thing, its practical implementation is another.
Former Israeli negotiator Yossi Bellin said there are still big questions: “What we have to know is whether Hamas is going to have any say in the security of the West Bank and whether the government or Hamas in that case is going to allow Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President to negotiate on peace with Israel.” After the recent violent clashes it is predictable that security will be the Israelis’ chief concern. It may be that reaching an accord between Palestinians, could make it more difficult to make peace with other countries.
Find detailed information on Iran here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-13250309
And see something else on Palestine here http://www.euronews.net/2011/04/27/fatah-and-hamas-strike-deal-to-form-unity-government/
Death of the Influential Spiritual Leader
Influential Indian guru Sri Sathya Sai Baba has been buried at a ceremony attended by political, religious and military leaders as well as celebrities and family members. The 84-year-old’s death on Sunday sparked an outpouring of grief throughout the sub-continent. Among the hundreds of thousands of visitors to see his body since then as it lay in a glass casket were Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and cricket superstar Sachin Tendulkar. The funeral was carried out with full state honours at Sai Baba’s ashram or spiritual centre in the southern town of Puttaparthi. He was buried rather than cremated, which is the custom for those whom Hindus esteem are holy men. Many devotees believed Sai Baba was a living god whose teachings drew on traditional Hindu and Muslim beliefs. He was credited with mystical powers including the ability to conjure jewellery from thin air. Critics said he was a persuasive fraudster who hid behind his popularity to avoid being investigated over allegations of sexual abuse. None of the allegations were ever proven.
See more on Death Guru here http://www.euronews.net/2011/04/27/full-state-funeral-for-indian-guru-sai-baba/
Unrest in the East
There have been heavy cross-border artillery exchanges between Thai and Cambodian forces for a third consecutive day. Since the latest flare-up of a long-running territorial dispute, 10 soldiers on both sides have been killed and dozens wounded. Each side is blaming the other for firing first. The Cambodians have accused Thai troops of shelling civilian villages and using cluster bombs, which are widely banned. The Thai prime minister used his weekly TV address to say his country had no intention of invading or attacking anyone. But he added: “We have a duty to fully protect our own sovereignty.” The fighting is over two ancient Hindu temples and the land surrounding them. It is a dispute that has been raging since the French colonial power left Cambodia in the 1950s. Thousands of civilians have been moved to safety on both sides of the border. The UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon has called for “maximum restraint”. The leader of the Association of South East Asian Nations has meetings planned with the foreign ministers of both countries.
Back in the Day
April 27, 1994. Voting begins in South Africa’s first post-apartheid election, with non-whites allowed to take part freely for the first time. Almost 20 million people queue to cast their ballots over three days. At the previous election in 1989, only around two million people voted.
Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress finished first with 62 percent of the vote. Having fallen just short of the two thirds majority, the ANC decided to form a government of national unity with F.W. de Klerk’s National Party (which introduced apartheid) and the mainly Zulu Inkatha Freedom Party. South Africa marks April 27, Freedom Day, with a public holiday.
El Classico # 3
Lionel Messi scored twice in the final 15 minutes to earn Barcelona a two nil win over arch rivals Real Madrid in their Champions League semi-final first leg. It was a hot-tempered encounter at the Santiago Bernabeu which culminated in Madrid being reduced to ten men following a clumsy Pepe challenge on Dani Alves. Seconds later Real coach Jose Mourinho was sent to the stands for protesting the dismissal of his player. When many thought it was heading for a drab goalless stalemate, up stepped world player of the year Messi, whose brace of late goals put Barca well on their way to a second Champions League final in three years. In the May 28 final at Wembley, Barca look to be on a collision course with Manchester United for a repeat of the 2008/2009 final, which the Catalans won. United put one foot in the tournament’s showpiece event after a very convincing win over Bundesliga club Schalke. Both Barca and United now host the return legs next week and both have the comfort of a two goal advantage. We all are waiting for final El Classico # 4
Focus on Prince William and Catherine Middleton
But surely none of the above mentioned could be compared with the royal wedding ceremony of this couple, which was on headlines of all magazines and journals.
William and his best man, his brother Prince Harry, arrived to cheers from thousands of well-wishers, for this, the most anticipated royal wedding since his mother Lady Diana married his father Prince Charles 30 years ago. The Prince looked relaxed as he personally greeted guests. Almost 2,000 people were invited from around the world, including royalty, statesmen, politicians and celebrities. But most of all it was about family and friends – over 1,000 of them. A proud day for his father Prince Charles and Charles’ second wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. Among the last to enter the Abbey were Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip – or on a less formal note, the grandparents.
But of course there was still one more person to arrive. The star of the show, the leading lady – the bride Kate Middleton, and the first proper look at THAT dress, the best kept secret of the whole event until the day. The designer, as some people had guessed all along, was Sarah Burton, creative director at the Alexander McQueen fashion house. As tradition dictates, Kate took the long walk down the aisle, accompanied by her father Michael Middleton. At one point Kate’s mother Carole looked a touch emotional, understandable given the occasion.
Prince Harry did what best men are supposed to do, keeping the groom in good humour with a joke or two. The marriage ceremony, conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, went off without a hitch, as did the rest of the service. Afterwards came what for many people will have been the highlight – the royal procession back to Buckingham Palace in the open-topped state carriage, the crowds by now even bigger and louder. Following the procession, hundreds of thousands of well-wishers filled the Mall and surrounded the palace for one last highlight – the appearance of the newly-weds on the famous balcony.
And there, they sealed their vows with a long-awaited kiss to the delight of the crowd.
So, what could I add??? Only one thing I wish to this wonderful couple the best things in the world,,,that is health, wealth and happiness. J)); Congratulations William and Kate on your marriage and Best Wishes from me and AEGEE-Europe IPWG
See more on the Royal Wedding here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-13251789ipwg