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Robin Yassin-Kassab

Archive for March 2011

Tripolitanian Abnormality

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Steve Bell's Qaddafi

Our Tripolitanian witness is alive and well in an Arab country beyond Libya’s borders. Free to use the internet again, she has sent some old reports. The first is from early March.

Today I went out in my area, Ben Ashour, and all the shops were still closed in the main street. I stopped by the bakery for bread and I found a long line of people waiting; the bakery of my area gives each person a rationed number of loaves so each can have at least some bread by the end of the day. I also went to Fashloom, near my neighborhood, and I noticed a weird silence and only a few people walking in that area, the walls all clean of the anti-Qaddafi graffiti that had covered them earlier. I also noticed two cars belonging to Qaddafi’s thugs parked (and undoubtedly armed) in the corners of the tiny streets of Fashloom. Some thugs were dressed like civilians and yet I could tell who they were by their car. Others were wearing military outfits and standing alertly in front of their cars. A member of my family sadly confirmed to me that some families they know in Fashloom (and other areas) had buried their epic martyrs in the gardens of their houses, for they were scared the bodies would be taken away from them by Qaddafi’s thugs.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

March 20, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Posted in Libya

The US-Saudi-Khalifa Alliance

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Following the surprise visit of US Defence Secretary Robert Gates to Bahrain, home of the American Fifth Fleet, tanks and troops of the Saud family dictatorship have crossed the causeway and are now occupying Manama. The film below shows Bahraini police tactics against unarmed protestors before the Wahhabi goons were called in. Meanwhile, the Khalifa regime is urgently recruiting more mercenaries.

Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

March 14, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Posted in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia

Should the No-Fly Zone Fly?

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For those of you wondering what’s become of our informant in Tripoli, I’ve heard from a member of her family who lives here in Britain that she is physically safe but in a difficult emotional state – terrified and very tired. The internet is properly down now, and Human Rights Watch reports a wave of “arbitrary arrests and forced disappearances” throughout the capital.

To the west of Tripoli, the heroic city of Zawiya has fallen after Qaddafi’s forces bombed schools, hospitals, mosques and private homes. There are reports of random mass arrests there too. We can be sure that executions and torture are continuing on a massive scale. Further east, first Bin Jawad, then Ras Lanuf and now Brega have been reclaimed by the tyrant after heavy aerial bombardment. It seems that my earlier optimism was misplaced. The Libyan revolution risks drowning in blood. If it does, the larger Arab revolution may well grind to a temporary halt.

This worries me far more than the prospect of Western intervention, because the West is currently in no position to occupy or control Libya. The West’s economy is precarious to say the least, partly because of the adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq, the mighty American army was tied down and humiliated although no more than 20% of the people rose against the occupation at any one time, and despite the political incompetence and sectarian divisions of the resistance. In Afghanistan, NATO achieved the amazing feat of making the almost universally hated Taliban popular again. While the West squanders treasure and blood, China has signed the contracts to exploit Afghanistan’s resources.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

March 13, 2011 at 5:57 pm

Posted in Iraq, Libya

Terror and Hypocrisy

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children in 'Ain Qenya

An irate PULSE reader, a Zionist immigrant to Israel from Britain, has written to ask why I haven’t condemned the murder of a family living in the illegal colony of Itamar near Nablus. The reader, by the by, describes himself as a ‘lefty.’ It’s always interesting to see how political terminology entirely loses its meaning when employed by Zionists. Choosing to migrate from a safe, free country to join the side of the masters in an aggressive ethnocracy is not what would normally be called ‘lefty’ behaviour. Here’s another example – a “left-leaning youth movement” is establishing a new settlement in the illegally occupied and ethnically-cleansed Jordan valley. Hooray for the Zionist left.

As it happens, I think the attack on the Itamar family was repulsive. I have no idea how anyone could stab young children to death, even the children of racists and thieves. These murders were immoral and politically counter-productive. They gave Israel an excuse to whine about the bloodthirstiness of the natives and a pretext for building hundreds more homes in the West Bank (although Israel does these things without pretexts too).

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

March 13, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Posted in Palestine

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Tablet and Pen

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This review appeared in today’s Financial Times.

In his introduction to “Tablet and Pen – Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East”, Reza Aslan correctly argues that “from ‘the civilising mission’ to ‘the clash of civilisations’” the West has read the East primarily through a security prism, as something to be managed and contained. Apart from a couple of Nobel winners, an Egyptian feminist, and Sayyid Qutb, the region’s writing – and therefore the human dimension – is absent from our calculations.

With Saidean distaste for grand orientalist categories, Aslan argues the literatures grouped here are linked by themes of “imperialism, colonialism and Western cultural hegemony.” A straightforward civilisational definition might have been more logical; African, Indian and Caribbean writing has engaged the same preoccupations. But we know what Aslan means: these 20th Century poems, short stories, novel extracts and essays come from Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and the Arab world, the old Islamic heartland connected by common experience and similar cultural references.

The presence of the anthologiser is felt throughout – pleasantly so: Aslan’s introductions and chronologies give historical structure and social context to the pieces, and succeed in making this “not an anthology to be tasted in disparate bits but rather a single sustained narrative to be consumed as a whole.” It’s a weighty and physically beautiful book which is also compulsively readable.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

March 12, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Posted in book review

Tagged with ,

No Exception for Oman

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By Iman Said

After Cyclone Gonu

Just like the Gonu and Phet cyclones that hit the Sultanate in the last two years, corruption has united the Omani people once again. The protests that have spread all over the country turned into a huge campaign to ‘clean’ the country.

Yesterday I saw people holding placards on which they had written names of some of the corrupt officials in high positions. They were protesting peacefully and no riot police were involved. I felt very proud of the space of freedom that we have established in our beloved Oman. That is what I want for my country. That is what I want for my fellow countrymen.

Public opinion has been fluctuating because of what the Omani TV describes as vandalism. People came out with new slogans now: “No corruption…No vandalism”. However, one can never ignore the greater picture; a picture of Omani citizens expressing themselves with no fear.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

March 2, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Posted in Oman

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Daughter of a Martyr

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picture by Ali Farzat

Anonymous eye witness in Tripoli:

After more than ten days at home, yesterday morning I went out for some grocery shopping, and I noticed a sad and fearful quietness in the faces of the Libyans in the streets because of the inhumane events which are happening. The streets are very quiet and almost empty. People no longer feel safe enough to walk in the streets even in daylight. In fact, the shops near here are all closed; only a few small grocery markets are open so people can buy the basic needs (water, flour, oil).

There is an apparent shortage of all goods in the market, including dairy products, beverages, and vegetables. All the goods are highly expensive. We wanted to buy flour but we couldn’t find any. Also people are buying up whatever is available. Two days ago I saw my neighbors carrying big bags of flour. They told me that some bakeries are running out of bread, and that soon all bakeries and food shops will close. Prices of food have almost doubled (a bag of 20 eggs used to cost between 4.75/5LYD, and now it costs 10 LYD). People are suffering between the need to stock up with adequate quanties of food and water on the one hand and the sudden high prices on the other.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

March 1, 2011 at 10:59 pm

Posted in Libya