Category Archives: Middle East

General Assembly grants Palestine non-member observer State status at UN


29 November 2012 – The General Assembly today voted to grant Palestine non-member observer State status at the United Nations, while expressing the urgent need for the resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians leading to a permanent two-State solution.

The resolution on the status of Palestine in the UN was adopted by a vote of 138 in favour to 9 against with 41 abstentions by the 193-member Assembly.

“We did not come here seeking to delegitimize a State established years ago, and that is Israel; rather we came to affirm the legitimacy of the State that must now achieve its independence, and that is Palestine,” the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, told the Assembly before the vote.

Mr. Abbas noted that the world was being asked today to undertake a significant step in the process of rectifying the “unprecedented historical injustice” inflicted on the Palestinian people since 1948.

“Your support for our endeavour today,” he said, “will send a promising message – to millions of Palestinians on the land of Palestine, in the refugee camps both in the homeland and the Diaspora, and to the prisoners struggling for freedom in Israel’s prisons – that justice is possible and that there is a reason to be hopeful and that the peoples of the world do not accept the continuation of the occupation.”

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, said his delegation could not accept today’s resolution. “Because this resolution is so one-sided, it doesn’t advance peace, it pushes it backwards,” he stated, adding that peace could only be achieved through negotiations.

“There’s only one route to Palestinian statehood and that route does not run through this chamber in New York. That route runs through direct negotiations between Jerusalem and Ramallah that will lead to a secure and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” he added. “There are no shortcuts. No quick fixes. No instant solutions.”

The Israelis and Palestinians have yet to resume direct negotiations since talks stalled in September 2010, after Israel refused to extend its freeze on settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory.

“Today’s vote underscores the urgency of a resumption of meaningful negotiations,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said after the vote was finalized. “We must give new impetus to our collective efforts to ensure that an independent, sovereign, democratic, contiguous and viable State of Palestine lives side by side with a secure State of Israel. I urge the parties to renew their commitment to a negotiated peace.”

Addressing the same gathering, the President of the General Assembly, Vuk Jeremic, appealed to “my dear friends from Palestine and Israel” to work for peace, to negotiate in good faith, and ultimately, to succeed in reaching the historical settlement.

“I have no doubt that history will judge this day to have been fraught with significance – but whether it will come to be looked upon as a step in the right direction on the road to peace will depend on how we bear ourselves in its wake,” he said. “Let us therefore have the wisdom to act in furtherance of the goal I’m sure we all share.”

In the resolution, the Assembly also voiced the hope that the Security Council will “consider favourably” the application submitted in September 2011 by Palestine for full UN membership.

The Palestinian bid for full UN membership stalled last year when the 15-nation Council, which decides whether or not to recommend admission by the Assembly, said it had been “unable to make a unanimous recommendation.”

Today’s action comes on the same day that the UN observed the annual International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Established in 1977, the Day marks the date in 1947 when the Assembly adopted a resolution partitioning then-mandated Palestine into two States, one Jewish and one Arab.

Source: UN.



Russian Troops Land In Syria

Archived image - Russian troops

A Russian anti-terror squad has arrived in the port city of Tartus on the Iman oil tanker, according to ABC News. The Russian gov’t news agency, RIA Novosti‘s Arabic language site announced the arrival. The Russian embassy in the U.S. had no comment. Russia is one of Pres. Bashar Assad‘s strongest allies and has blocked numerous U.N. resolutions that call for Assad to step down.

source: Investors

Egypt’s Coptic pope dies at 88

His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, Pope of the Co...

Coptic Pope Shenouda III, the spiritual leader of Egypt’s Coptic Christian community for nearly four decades, died Saturday, according to the head of the Egyptian General Coptic Association. He was 88.

“Shenouda III suffered renal failure … due to the diabetes he endured for years,” Sheif Doss.

The leader of the Coptic Christian community for 38 years, Shenouda was in poor health off and on for many years. He traveled to the United States to undergo medical tests last year.

Egypt’s population is roughly 9% Coptic Christian, according to the U.S. State Department.

The Christian minority has been the target of a number of high-profile attacks in the past several years, including the bombing of a major church in Alexandria last January that left at least 21 people dead.

“The funeral is expected to take place in two days, as massive preparations must take place first. It is a historical event and 2 million people are expected to attend the prayers. I don’t expect violence though,” Doss said.

Markus Askuf, spokesman for the Coptic Church, said Shenouda’s body is expected to arrive at the Coptic cathedral in Cairo at noon Sunday. Visitors will be permitted to come and pray there.

Shenouda will be buried Tuesday at Emba Bishoy monastery in Wadi Natroun, northwest of Egypt’s capital, Askuf said. The area is home to some of the world’s earliest Christian monasteries.

The Coptic Orthodox Church is the largest Christian church in the Middle East, according the Coptic Orthodox Church Centre in Stevenage, England.

In addition to millions of followers in Egypt, the church has adherents in Europe, Canada, the United States, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa, the center says.

U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife offered their condolences Saturday after news of Shenouda’s death spread, saying he will be remembered as “a man of deep faith, a leader of a great faith, and an advocate for unity and reconciliation.”

“His commitment to Egypt’s national unity is also a testament to what can be accomplished when people of all religions and creeds work together,” the Obamas said.

When a Coptic pope dies, all 150 bishops of the church’s Holy Council appoint an acting patriarch until a vote is conducted for a successor, Doss said. Thousands of bishops, priests and monks are eligible to vote.

The most senior bishop usually takes the role of acting patriarch. In this case, that would be Bishop Michael of Asiut. If he declines, Bishop Bakhamious of Behira is next in line, Doss said.

source: CNN

Twitter Now Available in Right-to-Left Languages

Thanks to the efforts of 13,000 volunteers worldwide, Twitter is now available in Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew and Urdu, according to a company blog post. Twitter had been working on translating and localizing these right-to-left languages since January 25.

These languages posed unique challenges for Twitter. To overcome technical barriers, Twitter’s engineering team had to build a new set of special tools to ensure that these tweets, hashtags and numbers would behave as their counterparts in left-to-right languages.

Not only that, but some of these languages are spoken — and therefore will be tweeted — in locations where Twitter is officially blocked.

Twitter was a recognizable force in the Arab Spring — but given that there wasn’t yet an Arabic interface, most of the users who tweeted from those regions did so in non-native languages.

And Twitter’s numerous volunteer translators for these right-to-left languages —from Lebanese teenagers to Egyptian college students to IT professionals in Iran and Pakistan, among others — live in these areas as well. “Their efforts speak volumes about the lengths that people will go to make Twitter accessible and understandable for their communities,” the company said in its blog post.

Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew and Urdu join Thai as the only right-to-left languages in Twitter’s translation center. Their incorporation means the service is now available in 28 languages.

What do you think of the addition of these languages? Do you think more people from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia will start tweeting? Let us know in the comments.

source: Mashable

2 Western journalists killed in Syria, opposition activists say

Two Western journalists were killed Wednesday in the Syrian city of Homs amid heavy shelling from government forces, opposition activists said.

The Sunday Times of London said one of the journalists reportedly killed was staffer Marie Colvin — the only British newspaper journalist inside the embattled Homs neighborhood of Baba Amr.

And French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe confirmed journalist Remi Ochlik was killed in a bombing. He was 28.

Colvin was on air with CNN on Tuesday night, recalling how she watched a young boy die after his house was struck by shelling.

Colvin, who had reported from many conflicts including last year’s Libyan civil war, said Syria was the worst conflict she had covered, partly because of the sheer amount of ordinance falling on Homs.

“There’s a lot of snipers on the high builds surrounding the neighborhood. I can sort of figure out where a sniper is but you can’t figure out where a shell is going to land,” she said.

The deaths Wednesday followed that of New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid, who was reporting in eastern Syria when he died last week, apparently from an asthma attack, the newspaper said.

While violence erupting once again across the country Wednesday, Syrians pleading for help in stopping a government-led slaughter might have fresh hope, as the United States called for more international action and hinted that arming the opposition isn’t out of the question.

In Washington, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the conflict under Syrian President Bashar al-Assad‘s regime demands reaction.

“We believe that we are in a situation where we — the international community — needs to act in order to allow for the transition from Assad to a more democratic future for Syria to take place before the situation becomes too chaotic,” Carney told reporters Tuesday.

Asked about calls in recent days by Sens. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, for the United States to consider arming the opposition, Carney said, “We don’t want to take actions that would contribute to the further militarization of Syria, because that could take the country down a dangerous path.

“But we don’t rule out additional measures that, working with our international partners, that the international community might take,” he added.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland held out hope for a political solution, but she too cited the possibility of seeking “additional measures” in the absence of change.

“From our perspective, we don’t believe that it makes sense to contribute now to the further militarization of Syria. What we don’t want to see is the spiral of violence increase. That said, if we can’t get Assad to yield to the pressure that we are all bringing to bear, we may have to consider additional measures,” Nuland said.

While foreign officials spoke, Syrian government forces pounded the embattled city of Homs for the 18th consecutive day and tormented residents in several other cities, opposition activists said.

About 9,000 people have been killed — including 106 just Tuesday — since the government crackdown began almost one year ago, according to the opposition Local Coordination Committies of Syria.

At least 55 people werek illed in Idlib, 45 in Homs, three in the Damascus suburbs, two in Deir Ezzor and one in Aleppo, the LCC said.

The Revolutionary Council of Homs said shelling blasted through homes in the city’s Baba Amr neighborhood, but “the number of those injured could not be estimated because of the nonstop bombing,” it said.

“This attack carried out by the Assad forces can be considered a real genocide, and all this is happening amid an electricity, water, and communication services outage, accompanied by the unavailability of food, baby formula and medicine. In this manner, even those who may survive the bombing, end up dying due to hunger or lack of medical care,” the group said.

But the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported Tuesday that “food and services are available in Homs,” and said “provocative channels are fabricating lies” to the contrary.

CNN cannot independently verify opposition or government reports of casualties because the government has severely limited access to the country by foreign journalists.

But the vast majority of accounts from inside Syria indicate al-Assad’s forces are slaughtering civilians in an attempt to quash opposition members, who are demanding his ouster and democratic reforms.


The story of Mecca as it’s never been told before

New artwork by Saudi artist Ahmed Mater using a magnet and iron filings to represent people circling the Ka'ba in Mecca.

From a few thousand people traveling by camel in the 7th century to three million a year today: The story of the Hajj — the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca — is an epic journey.

That journey is celebrated in the first major exhibition dedicated to the Hajj, opening at the British Museum in London on January 26.

It includes sacred objects, pictures and the human stories of pilgrims past and present.

“We hope to be able to get across the hardship of the journey in the old days when it was a long journey by camel or by sea and could take two years there and back,” said Venetia Porter, the exhibition curator. “Now of course you can go by plane.”

Yet despite the changes over the years, it was what hadn’t changed which most struck Porter.

“The experience itself doesn’t seem to have changed,” she said. “If you read the historical accounts of pilgrims in medieval times, their rituals, how they feel and the deep spiritual significance is the same as now.”

The exhibition falls into three sections, the first focusing on the journey to Mecca, particularly along the major routes used through history across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

The second section focuses on the Hajj today, its rituals and what the experience means to pilgrims. Finally, the exhibition takes on Mecca itself, its origins and importance.

Mecca is considered the spiritual center of Islam because it was where the Prophet Mohammed is said to have received his first revelations in the early 7th century.

At its heart is the cube-shaped Ka’ba, built by Abraham and his son Ishmael, according to the Quran.

The Hajj takes place in the last month of the Islamic year, known as Dhu’l Hijja and includes certain rituals which must be completed. Every Muslim who can is expected to go on Hajj at least once in their lifetime.

It took the British Museum more than two years to collect all the objects, which include a seetanah which covers the door of the Ka’ba, archaeological material, manuscripts, textiles, historic photographs and contemporary art.

Also on Inside the Middle East: Finding freedom behind bars

The exhibition was put together with the help of the King Abdulaziz Public Library in Riyadh, which arranged the loan of some objects which had never before been taken outside Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi Ambassador to Britain, HRH Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf Al Saud, said: “Hajj is not just a physical journey, it’s the most extraordinary spiritual journey every Muslim takes.

“We leave our families and our homes to undertake this profound life-changing experience.

“It doesn’t guarantee passage to Heaven, but it focuses us on what’s important in life.

“It’s a sensitive issue for the British Museum to tackle and we had long discussions to make sure it was accurate. Eventually they did an excellent job.”

Porter said: “The most challenging aspect for us was to turn it from a mere collection of objects into something evocative of the strong spiritual experience.

“The way we did it was to include quotes and voices from pilgrims.”

To accompany its exhibition, the British Museum invited Muslims to recount their own experiences on its website, and hundreds have done so.

One, Kamran Majid, from London, wrote: “The moment you enter the Harem Mosque and first lay eyes on the Ka’ba feels like the day you are truly born of life, your soul, heart and eyes soften and ease to the glorious sight.”

Also on Inside the Middle East: Youth march ‘shows true spirit’

Another, Amal Alabdulkarim, from Riyhad, wrote: “Hajj is the journey of pureness, love, hope and optimism. It taught me humility, patience and justice.”

Sophia Khan, from Slough, UK, wrote: “My most memorable moment was when I just happened to sit on some steps looking out to the Ka’ba. There were thousands of people from all over the world circumambulating this sacred structure at the center of the Earth, all there for a common purpose of praising God, yet each engaged in private reflection oblivious of any other.”

source: CNN

Egypt football violence leaves many dead in Port Said

At least 74 people have been killed in clashes between rival fans following a football match in the Egyptian city of Port Said.

Scores were injured as fans – reportedly armed with knives – invaded the pitch after a match between top-tier clubs al-Masry and al-Ahly.

Officials fear the death toll could rise further.

It is the biggest disaster in the country’s football history, said the Egyptian deputy health minister.

“This is unfortunate and deeply saddening,” Hesham Sheiha told state television.

Some of the dead were security officers, the Associated Press news agency quoted a morgue official as saying.

The BBC’s Jon Leyne in Cairo says it appears some fans had taken knives into the stadium.

Our correspondent says the lack of the usual level of security in the stadium might have contributed to the clashes.

Police in Egypt have been keeping a much lower profile since last year’s popular protests that ousted President Hosni Mubarak from power.

Egyptian fans are notoriously violent, says our correspondent, particularly supporters of al-Ahly known as the Ultras.

They have been heavily implicated in confronting the police during recent political protests, our correspondent adds. There is speculation that the security forces may have had an interest in taking on al-Ahly supporters.

‘Black day’

Wednesday’s violence broke out at the end of the match, which, unusually, Port Said side al-Masry won 3-1.

Witnesses said the atmosphere had been tense throughout the match – since an al-Ahly fan raised a banner insulting supporters of the home team.

As the match ended, their fans flooded onto the pitch attacking Ahly players and fans.

A small group of riot police tried to protect the players, but were overwhelmed.

Part of the stadium was set on fire.

Officials say most of the deaths were caused by concussions, deep cuts to the heads and suffocation from the stampede.

“This is not football. This is a war and people are dying in front of us,” al-Ahly player Mohamed Abo Treika said.

Hani Seddik, who played for al-Ahly as a teenager, told the BBC: “I don’t think this is about football. These trouble-makers were not football fans.”

“How were they allowed to carry knives into the ground? To me, this is the actions of people who do not want the country to be stable and want to put off tourists from coming here,” said Mr Seddik, who was watching the match on TV in Cairo.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood – which has emerged as Egypt’s biggest party in recent elections – blamed supporters of ousted President Hosni Mubarak for the violence.

“The events in Port Said are planned and are a message from the remnants of the former regime,” Muslim Brotherhood lawmaker Essam al-Erian said.

He went on by saying that the army and police wanted to silence critics demanding an end to state of emergency in the country.

In Cairo, another match was halted by the referee after news of the Port Said violence. It prompted fans to set parts of the stadium on fire.

Egyptian journalist Ashraf Khalil: “Where was the security”

All premier-league matches have been cancelled and the newly-elected Egyptian parliament is to hold an emergency session on Thursday.

Fifa President Sepp Blatter later issued a statement, expressing his shock over the incident.

“This is a black day for football. Such a catastrophic situation is unimaginable and should not happen,” he said.


أطرف تعليقات للشعب المصري لسنة 2011

ظهرت على الفيسبوك، فكرة الأفضل، فاختار النشطاء مواقف وشخصيات وتعليقات شهيرة، علقت في أذهان المصريين على مدى العام الذي أوشك على الانتهاء، ومنحوهم لقب الأفضل..

– ”أفضل رجل لـ عام 2011 .. الراجل اللي ورا عمر سليمان”

– ”أفضل حركة سياسية ظهرت في عام 2011 .. حركة ”كفاية” بقى خربتوا البلد ”

– ” أفضل مؤثرات صوتية .. تامر بتاع غمرة “

– ” أفضل سيناريو .. سيناريو الانفلات الأمني “

– ” افضل محلل استراتيجي .. عمرو مصطفى “

– ” أعلى مرتبة شهيد .. الشهيد الحي، شهيد السويس مرشح مجلس الشعب “

– ” أفضل معلومة .. شهداء 25 يناير ماتوا في أحداث يناير “

– ” سؤال عام 2011 .. من أنتم؟؟ .. وتوفى القذافى بدون الحصول على الإجابة للأسف “

– ” الفيلم الذي أثبت أن اقتصاد بلدنا لسه بخير .. فيلم “شارع الهرم” “

– ” المرأة التي هزت عرض مصر .. علياء المهدي “

– ” أفضل شيئ الذي يركبه الجميع للقضاء على الثورة .. عجلة الانتاج “

– ” أكبر تغيير حدث في مصر .. تغيير أرقام الموبايل “

– ” أفضل أغنية اتغنت لشباب الثورة .. ياريت سنك يزيد سنتين عشان سنك كده صغير “

– ” أفضل تعليق .. جدع يا باشا “

– ” الكتاب الذي مات بعدد فصوله بني آدمين .. كتاب “وصف مصر”

– وأخيرًا منح أهل الفيس بوك لقب “أفضل عيون” لعيون الشاب الدكتور “أحمد حرارة “