Friday, December 14, 2007

Egyptian discusses Israel

A little slice of truth: Egyptian working in Israel is confronted by angry Egyptian media presenter:

(Presenter): Couldn't you have got a job in an Arab country?

(Egyptian): You mean to work as slave? Have a kafeel ( sponsor who subcontract the foreign worker) to ill treat me, keep my passport in his desk-drawer and I have no rights or protection?

( Presenter) ( Interrupting): Arabs are your brothers and cousins , there might be bad examples but thousands of Egyptians work in Arab countries

(Egyptian): Good luck to them, and I hope they get some decent treatment, but here I belong to the union, there is law, I have rights, and I can take my employer to court and get my full rights.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

President Ahmadinejad Seen Through the Eyes of the Poor

President Ahmadinejad Seen Through the Eyes of the Poor

نگاه اقشار محروم به احمدی‌نژاد؛ 28 ماه پس از حضور در قدرت

Maryam Radnia | Mazandaran | 5 December 2007

Podcast: 2 MB, 8 mins 40 secs [Download audio file...]


When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected Iranian president in 2005, most of his support came from the poorer sections of society. His famous campaign pledge was that he'd distribute his country's oil money so that it landed on people's dinner tables. He also promised to establish social justice and root out corruption.

In short, what Ahmadinejad was offering was an end to the way things had been run so far in Iran. He was going to reshape the system so that it worked in favour of the most vulnerable sections of the population.

The people who turned out to vote for him were certainly motivated, in part, by religious conviction and by their anger at the record of bureaucracy over past years.

But what's just as important is that many of those seventeen million voters were hoping for a reduction in inequality. They were hoping they really would end up with more on the dinner table.

Twenty-eight months after that watershed election, almost none of Ahmadinejad's promises has materialised.

Economic policy decisions and the unrestrained emission of money have resulted in unprecedented inflation over the last ten years. A fifty per cent rise in house prices has been accompanied by sharp increases in the cost of staple items like dairy products, fruit, meat and vegetables.

The result is that people have less purchasing power, and their tables are emptier. There's no sign of all that oil money.

Social justice has not been established, and the factors commonly used to measure it show no signs of improvement. Social security and health provision remain problematic, and the gulf between their availability and demand has widened. A recent report from the Central Bank of Iran shows that massive rises in water, electricity, gas and telephone charges have contributed greatly to the overall inflation figures.

Far from being reduced, unemployment is on the rise, as production falls and the population increases in size. The petrol rationing scheme introduced over the summer has created still more problems for poorer people.

The authorities have encouraged unprecedented levels of imports to maintain the availability of goods on the market. But the deluge of imports has had a damaging effect on local manufacturing.

All this provides critics of the government with ammunition to claim that President Ahmadinejad is becoming less and less popular among the poorer sections of society that form his natural constituency.

But although that argument contains an element of truth, it is far from being a complete reflection of the situation.

Ahmadinejad is certainly facing increased criticism from the educated elite and parts of the urban population in the big cities. But it isn't logical to suggest that the president is losing support among university students, the educated classes and the better-off. He never enjoyed much popularity with them anyway.

The bulk of the population doesn't necessarily feel the same way about Ahmadinejad.

It's certainly true that none of his election promises have been delivered on. Purchasing power has definitely declined, unemployment has gone up, and that nearly ten per cent more people now fall below the bread line. Yet even these facts don't automatically mean that rural and other impoverished communities have ditched their president.

It's important to remember how much impact government propaganda can have among poorer sections of the population, especially as they live in an oral culture, not a literary one.

Take the shoemaker I met this summer in Noor, a town in the northern province of Mazandaran. This man genuinely loved Ahmadinejad. It was the president's rivals, he said, who were responsible for his plans being derailed and for the rising cost of living. There are many people in villages across Mazandaran and other undeveloped provinces who think the same way.

Some of the president's policies and actions have genuine popular appeal, even if the educated classes dismiss them as misguided, populist gestures.

In the past two years, Ahmadinejad has visited virtually every city and town in Iran, meeting the people and speaking to them directly. In many deprived parts of the country, the mere fact that you have talked to the president is an intense experience that you will remember over many years with a sense of pride.

In the course of all these visits, Ahmadinejad gets a lot of letters from members of the public. So far there have been six million of them.

And in reply, he sends out literally tens of thousands of letters to government bodies instructing them to take action. Often these instructions lead to the person who appealed to him getting their problem resolved.

About half of these letters from the public are requests for small sums of money. The authorities appear to be responding to them with small gifts of money ranging between fifty thousand and a hundred thousand toman, or up to one hundred US dollars. More importantly, the president's office replies to each and every letter, and hands out sums of money to most of the supplicants through the Emdad or Aid Committee.

The government has also changed the banking system to make loans on easy credit terms available to millions of less well-off people. These loans, which don't exceed a million toman, roughly a thousand dollars, can go a long way towards resolving some of the short-term problems these people face. Before Ahmadinejad came to power, it was extremely difficult for people to take out such unsecured loans.

Another scheme – known as self-employment credit - has seen hundreds of thousands of loans of between five and ten million tomans offered to young unemployed people, to allow them to set themselves up in business. Many economists argue that the loans haven't actually created jobs, as the young borrowers use the money to buy a car or other consumer goods, or to get married. In other words, the scheme has simply turned the young unemployed into the young, unemployed and indebted.

But even if these employment loans haven't been an economic success, they've still had immense impact in terms of propaganda.

The final thing Ahmadinejad has been able to pull out of his war chest is the so-called Justice Share scheme. Under this somewhat rushed scheme, the government issued millions of shares in state-owned industries to the most impoverished strata of society.

There's been considerable criticism of the scheme, and many experts see it as highly risky for the economy. But the government has pressed on regardless, and in early November it announced that the first dividends from the Justice Shares were now due – and that they'd be paid out to deprived families in hard cash.

So despite the economic instability and the fall in purchasing power for less well-off Iranians, the Ahmadinejad government has nevertheless taken a number of steps that may keep its support solid in small provincial towns and in the countryside. Even if some of these measures could ultimately go against the national interest and further undermine economic stability, in the short term, at least, they will meet some of the needs of Iran's poorest voters.

Maryam Raadnia is a reporter in Mazandaran province.

This article is an abridged and translated version of the full original text published on the Farsi pages of Mianeh, with editorial adjustments agreed with the writer made to provide clarity for English-language readers.

Iran: Upsurge in Dissident Arrests

From Mianeh

Upsurge in Dissident Arrests

وضعیت حقوق‌بشر؛ دور بی‌سابقه سرکوب یا جنگ روانی منتقدان؟!

Hamid Khosravi | Tehran | 12 December 2007

Human rights organisations in Iran say dissidents are being targeted in an unprecedented wave of arrests and harassment. It looks very much like all-out war on anyone critical of the regime.

Iranian government officials, meanwhile, insist that everything is fine and that attacks on their human rights record are merely a diplomatic weapon deployed by the West as part of the broader nuclear dispute.

In September, for instance, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told students at Columbia University in the United States that Iran was one of the most free countries in the world. Other officials have expanded on the theme, arguing the merits of "religious democracy" as an ideal political model and decrying external criticism as a form of psychological warfare.

When the European Union produced a tough report about the state of human rights in Iran, a foreign ministry spokesman responded, "These political statements are aimed at pressurising Tehran over the nuclear issue."

A member of the judiciary official, who did not want to be identified, told Mianeh that "everyone in the world knows that concerns about the state of human rights are a political instrument for exerting pressure on governments opposed to the west".

Domestically, the authorities have dealt with the troublesome question of human rights by the stifling news sources that report on it. The ILNA news agency, which carried critical reporting on political detentions despite having official status, has been closed down. The Iranian Students News Agency, ISNA, which focused on the detention of students, has undergone management changes which have radically changed its editorial policy.

For the last few years, both news agencies have been under fire from the conservatives, who viewed them as the voice of counter-revolution and hostile human rights groups. With their elimination as critical voices, the official media carry little news about the treatment of government critics.

Even so, news sources – radio and internet sites based abroad – continue to report on the issue, and the picture they paint is an alarming one, indicative of a wave of arrests and harassment of critics of the Ahmadinejad administration in the last few months.

The groups targeted in this offensive can be divided into six main groups - students, political activists, trade unionists, journalists, women's rights defenders and ethnic minority activists.

Most of the detentions appear to involve student activists, judging from the reports that have been published. The high-profile arrest in May of Ehsan Mansouri, Ahmad Ghassaban and Majid Tavakkoli from Tehran's Amir Kabir University, and especially the open letters they wrote alleging physical mistreatment in detention, led to protests from students at other institutions, who in turn were subject to arrest.

Continued here 

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The agony of Lebanon continues

Nobody seems to care or even remember that the leech of the Hezbollah has settled on the neck of the Lebanese and is gradually drawing out their blood. By this time, must of the Lebanese don't seem to care.

The Beirut Down Town Sit-in: Sacrifices, Dragons & Saint Georges
By: Elias Bejjani/ LCCC Chairman

December 10/07

"Now I beg you, brothers, look out for those who are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and turn away from them. For those who are such don't serve our Lord, Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by their smooth and flattering speech, they deceive the hearts of the innocent" (Saint Paul's Letter to the Romans:16/17 & 18)
Hundreds of opposition supporters rallied in downtown Beirut on Saturday December 01/07, to mark the first anniversary of the Hezbollah-led sit-in that has sent 2,700 people unemployed and forced closure of 75 restaurants and coffee shops. The protestors gathered in Riad Solh Square where the opposition, supported by Syria and Iran, has maintained a tent city outside the offices of Prime Minister Fouad Saniora. They vowed to maintain their tent city for years if need be to force the resignation of Saniora's majority government. The demonstrators waved Lebanese flags as well as the banners of Hezbollah, Amal, the Free Patriotic Movement of Gen. Michel Aoun and a number of pro-Syrian parties" .

The sit-in did not achieve anything, while its devastating damages are clear on all of Lebanon and its economy, and not only on Beirut. Ironically, the so called opposition has refused to budge, linking removal of the tents to Saniora's departure or the election of a consensus president.
The whole world ought to be fully aware that the so-tagged "Lebanese opposition", that is led by Hezbollah represent nothing that is Lebanese based on all world-wide norms and criteria. Hezbollah is an Iranian-Syrian army stationed in Lebanon, no more no less. The opposition coalition that revolves around Hezbollah has one and only one paramount objective and that is to topple by all means the Lebanese multicultural, parliamentary, democratic, peaceful, and free regime in a bid to erect in its place a religious state replicate of the Iranian Mulla's republic.
In this context it is worth mentioning that the festivities held in Beirut's downtown  under "The one year celebration of the opposition sit-in protest", tag was nothing but an overt declaration of an on-going nasty war against the Lebanese people and their country. The festivities were in fact a set of atheist rituals in which the Iranian-Syrian made leaders and politicians assumed the role of  HERETIC priests. These machineries, joined by other orphans of the Syrian regime and its leftovers, offered during the celebrations and with cold blood the Lebanese people as sacrifices to the Syrian/Iranian Dragon represented by Hezbollah.
The sit-in celebration was held a few hundred meters from the Beirut bay that was historically known as "Bay of Saint Georges". The well known Lebanese Myth states that a ferocious dragon blockaded the people of Beirut city and as the price of sparing them, he forced their king to present him daily children sacrifices. The short sighted King accepted the Dragon's condition under the false believe that he, his family and the royal community shall be safe. He started supplying the children of his community as sacrifices for the dragon till all his kingdom's children  had disappeared. Finally the king was forced to surrender his own daughter as the sacrificial lamb. the Myth goes on to say that Saint Georges saved the king's daughter and eliminated the Dragon who would have devoured all the city's citizens.
One wonders how similar are the current traumatic unfolding events in Lebanon that the axis of evil two countries (Syria and Iran) are instigating, to those that the country witnessed in numerous hardship past eras. Meanwhile how weak, confused and selfish are those Lebanese Leaders and politicians who venomously tailor their stances and platforms to suite their personal agendas and ambitions, and not those of the country and its people.
How evil are those leaders and politicians whose conduct is motivated by hatred, stupidity, grudges, inferiority complexes and lack of tolerance. How destructive and heinous to the country's stability, welfare, democracy and peace are those who abandon their humanity, and surrender submissively to instincts, delusions, greed, and egocentricity.
The Syrian army was forced by the Lebanese people and the international community to withdraw from Lebanon in 2005. But during its occupation era Syria, in full conspiracy with Iran, has erected an oppressive and criminal Lebanese kind of governance and formed the Hezbollah militia. Two years after their country's liberation the Lebanese people are still struggling to re-build a free and democratic Lebanon and to contain the threats of Hezbollah. The Lebanese current kind of governance that was masterminded by Syria and Iran is portrayed very well by this following biblical verse:

Continued here


Muslims target Christians in Gaza

Khaled Abu Toameh , THE JERUSALEM POST    Dec. 8, 2007

Muslim gunmen in the Gaza Strip tried to kill another Palestinian Christian over the weekend, sources in Gaza City told The Jerusalem Post.

They said four masked gunmen tried to kidnap Nabil Fuad Ayad,
who works as a guard at a local church. Nabil's cousin, Rami,
was kidnapped and murdered two months ago by the same group, the
sources said.

The sources identified the gunmen as members of the radical
Islamic Salafi movement.

"They were dressed in the traditional Salafi clothes," said an
eyewitness. "They were also carrying guns."

The gunmen tried to force Ayad into their car as he was walking
in the street, but he managed to escape to a nearby shop. Shopkeepers who began shouting drove the gunmen away.

As they fled the scene, the assailants fired several shots into
the air.

Salafism represents a Sunni Islamic school of thought whose
followers argue that Islam was perfect and complete during the days of Prophet Muhammad, but that undesirable innovations have been added due to materialist and cultural influences.

The Salafis, who have become very active in the Gaza Strip in
recent months, are totally opposed to common Western concepts like economics, constitutions and political parties. They refer to the 2,500 Christians in the Gaza Strip as Crusaders and have vowed to drive them out of the area.

Hamas denied any involvement in the attack, saying its security
forces had launched an investigation after receiving a complaint from the victim.

Christians living in the Gaza Strip told the Post that they were
very worried about the increased attacks on members of their community and religious institutions. "The latest incident is aimed at sending a message to all the Christians here that we must leave," said a Christian leader. "Radical Islamic groups are waging a campaign to get rid of us and no one seems to care."
Thomas Braun, Lima, Peru.



Not a joke: UK Nurses told to turn Muslim's beds towrd Mecca

 Tuesday December 4,2007 By Paul Jeeves 

OVERWORKED nurses have been ordered to stop all medical work five times every day to move Muslim patients' beds so they face towards Mecca.
The lengthy procedure, which also includes providing fresh bathing water, is creating turmoil among overstretched staff on bustling NHS wards.

But despite the havoc, Mid- Yorkshire NHS Trust says the rule must be instigated whenever possible to ensure Muslim patients have "a more comfortable stay in hospital".

And a taxpayer-funded training programme for several hundred hospital staff has begun to ensure that all are familiar with the workings of the Muslim faith.

The scheme is initially being run at Dewsbury and District Hospital, West Yorkshire, but is set to be introduced at other hospitals in the new year.

It comes on the back of the introduction in some NHS hospitals last year of Burka-style gowns for Muslim patients who did not wish medical staff to see their face while operating or caring for them.
Last night critics slammed the procedure and claimed the NHS would be better off investing its resources in tackling killer superbugs such as C.diff and MRSA.

One experienced nurse working at Dewsbury said: "It would be easier to create Muslim-only wards with every bed facing Mecca than have to deal with this.

"Some people might think it is not that big a deal, but we have a huge Muslim population in Dewsbury and if we are having to turn dozens of beds to face Mecca five times a day, plus provide running water for them to wash before and after prayers, it is bound to impact on the essential medical service we are supposed to be providing.

"Although the beds are designed to be moved, the bays are not really suitable for having loads of beds moved around to face a different direction, and despite our best efforts it does cause disruption for non-Muslim patients."

The changes have been instigated by Dewsbury and District Hospital's chief matron, Catherine Briggs, after she held a series of consultation meetings with local Asian GPs, ethnic minority patients groups and Muslim chaplain Ilyas Dalal to find out what staff could do to further improve Muslim patients' experience of the NHS.

In accordance with the rules of Islam, Muslims are required to pray five times a day. The religion dictates they must wash themselves in running water prior to prayer and must be facing in the direction of Mecca while praying. Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, is revered as the birthplace of the prophet Mohammed, who was born around 570AD.

Turning beds so they face towards Mecca was a key proposal put forward during the hospital meetings, along with suggestions that Muslim women should only be seen by female doctors.

Although the Trust, which also oversees hospitals in Wakefield and Pontefract, could not guarantee women-only doctors, they agreed that "wherever possible" specific patient requests would be carried out.

Mrs Briggs said: "Some of our former Muslim patients suggested that a more informed understanding of the Islamic cultures would help staff to further improve their service."

Last night Conservative MP David Davies said: "Hospitals should be concentrating on stopping the spread of infections than kow-towing to the politically correct brigade.

"If the need for fresh running water is so great then perhaps family members could be on hand to assist the already overworked medical staff."