Age Islam Edit Bureau
09 June 2017
the UK Media Helps Promote Terrorism
By Dr. Azeem Ibrahim
Make Peace in Middle East, Start From the End
By Daoud Kuttab
Row Is No Passing Cloud
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Qatar and the Middle East Powder Keg
By Murat Yetkin
Should Mind Its Own Business
By Dherar Belhoul Al Falasi
Occupation: 50 Years of Palestinian Oppression
By Philip Luther
Spring and Terror through the Eyes of a Roving Reporter
By Ehtesham Shahid
When the Bliss Becomes a Curse
By Radwan Al-Sayed
Congress Resolution Slams Iran Atrocity
By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Dr. Azeem Ibrahim
8 June 2017
One of the terrorists who attacked London
last week has been revealed as a former acolyte of Anjem Choudary. This is
hardly surprising. Choudary has been at the heart of Britain’s radical Islamist
scene up until he was imprisoned for encouraging support for ISIS last year.
But how did Choudary find himself with so much power and influence over the
minds of so many young Muslims? And how did any of them get to the point of
committing terror attacks?
The tragic fact is that the media has made
Choudary what he is today. And in doing so, they have done more to help promote
militancy in Britain than most other forces that conspire against our safety.
Choudary is and never has been an imam or
cleric. He has no Islamic credentials – to be an imam one needs over a decade
of formal study of the Qur’an, and be recognised as an authority by other
scholars. He has never been taken seriously by the mainstream Muslim community
in Britain and has been expelled out of virtually every mosque in the country.
What Choudary did have, however, was a
quick tongue and a fiery demeanor. And he was wearing a traditional Islamic
robe. All he needed to qualify him as the go-to “Muslim preacher” when a
sensationalist publication or broadcast were looking for an “interesting
character” to give their news stories or their angle on the Muslim community in
Britain a bit of edginess.
The price for that “journalistic edge” has
been to give this opportunistic spiv a veneer of popularity, which has helped
him ensnare a cohort of weak-minded, troubled individuals to his hateful vision
of the world.
What is more, the media have not only given
him a presence in the public consciousness, but they also put him there as a
punch-bag. Someone towards which we could vent our disdain and hostility. And
both the disdain and hostility were well deserved.
But we have also allowed, nay encouraged, him
to portray himself, at least in the mind of some, as a representative of the
Muslim community. And this has allowed him to claim that the disdain and
hostility was not directed just towards him: but toward Muslims in general.
Another brilliant recruitment tool for Jihadism.
And Anjem Choudary is but one of example of
how the media has, with ghoulish compulsion, elevated a series of gobby
self-promoters to national prominence for no other purpose than to cause
inter-communal strife – strife which sells newspapers and TV advertisement
slots, but the price of which is now paid in blood in Britain’s streets. Omar
Bakri Muhammad, Abu Hamza and many others have graduated from the British
media’s inadvertent programme of Islamist propaganda.
Nor is there much evidence that lessons
have been learned. Or at least that the right lessons have been learned. Yes,
Islamist propaganda is given less airtime on our televisions these days. But
the tradition of elevating gobby, unscrupulous self-promoters so that we can
all collectively gawp and marvel at how awful they are while they gleefully go
about poisoning our society with bile and hate and sow deep divisions for the
future is alive and well.
Nigel Farage, Katie Hopkins and many others
of their ilk, are still allowed to broadcast hate speech and legitimize bigotry
with impunity on the national airwaves. As was Nick Griffin before them.
What exactly is the difference between
Katie Hopkins and Anjem Choudary? Hopkins is not advocating a deadly ideology?
The terrorist attack which claimed the life of Jo Cox MP stands as evidence
against that. Just in these last weeks, Hopkins advocated internment without
trial and final solutions. And she continues to be given air time by
The media keeps piling on politicians for
not doing enough to combat terrorism. But they have it within their power to do
more to combat terrorism than any individual politician: all they would need to
do is to stop advertising hate preachers of all ilks, stop lavishing individual
terrorists with hours upon hours of coverage, and stop stoking on social
tensions with that false air of naivite under the guise of “reporting the
Yes, social strife sells newspapers. And
the more contrived the conflict, the better. But surely by now we understand
how irresponsible that is. And that the cost is now counted in the lives of
The visit of Donald Trump to Israel and
Palestine showed that the return to negotiations will not be easy. But at the
same time it made everyone realise that neither Palestinians nor Israelis are
willing to refuse or ignore the wishes of the new resident of the White House.
The fact that both parties understand the
dangers of rejecting gestures from Washington provides a unique opportunity for
the Trump administration to provide a blueprint for a solution. This requires a
change in approach, something that President Trump has said in Saudi Arabia
that he is open to.
Instead of working hard to get the Israelis
and Palestinians to the negotiating table, what the US president needs to do
now is to huddle with his advisers, look up the archives of many of the nearly
agreed plans and devise a "Trump plan".
Such a plan, if it is fair and generally in
synch with accepted international guidelines, should be announced unilaterally
by the White House and even presented to the UN Security Council for
ratification. The parties will then be asked to implement a plan instead of
creating one. If Israel refuses to do so, someone will remind them that the
state of Israel was established following a UN resolution in 1947 - something
Jews in Tel Aviv celebrate to this day.
This process may be arduous, but it will
probably be much more effective than trying to accommodate preconditions of all
parties and working on useless and unimportant confidence-building measures.
Some of these supposed confidence-building measures are nothing more than
attempts to avoid dealing with the main issues that separate the two sides.
The basic plan for a Palestinian-Israeli
deal already exists. It calls for a contiguous, independent Palestinian state
roughly within the 1967 borders with some land swaps. It also calls for
Jerusalem to be an open city and capital to both states, and a fair solution to
the refugee problem. In fact this is pretty much what the Arab Peace
initiative, which has been awaiting Israeli response since 2002, states.
This is not to say that some of the details
are not important. During the Clinton and Bush administrations, the two major
sources of disagreement were the issue of the return of the refugees and the
status of Jerusalem. The latter being the one that is more difficult.
On the refugee issue, the Clinton
Parameters called for Israel to accept 100,000 Palestinian refugees over ten
years under a family reunification scheme.
On Jerusalem, the parameters suggested that
Arab neighbourhoods of the city were included into the state of Palestine, that
Jewish ones were part of Israel and that the old city was governed under a
While Palestinians accept that the city
should be open and the holy sites should be available to followers of different
faiths, Israel has been adamant about not sharing the holy city with anyone
Today, with such an international vision
already on the table, the parties should be asked, cajoled and pressed to sit
down and work out the details of implementing it rather than waste their time
in talks ad nauseam on what the result of the talks should be.
The fact that neither side wants to anger
Donald Trump might be useful in this instance.
While the issue of settlements is
important, it is mostly an internal Israeli problem. It is understood that the
bulk of settlers living near the green line would be absorbed into Israel, but
settlements around the West Bank and especially in the centre of Hebron pose a
bigger challenge to the success of any peace plan.
Palestinians have accepted that settlers
can live in the state of Palestine as long as they are not living on stolen
Palestinian land and they abide fully to the sovereign Palestinian government.
The challenges listed above reflect the
complexity of the problem that Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt are facing as
they get into the details of peacemaking.
Based on so many lost opportunities, it is
clear today that the most efficient way forward is not pressuring the parties
to go back to direct talks. Instead, the US and the international community
should act as an active facilitator rather than a neutral observer in this
conflict. The US should be cognizant of international law and fairness while
facilitating a deal, since it knows very well that a bad and unfair deal will
not stand the test of time.
One possible interim way to break the
logjam might be to agree to a plan to end the occupation and to place the
occupied territories under a third party trusteeship for a short and agreed-to
The UN, the US, and NATO, as well as other
international forces, can be made available to safeguard the occupied
territories during this transitional period.
While the Trump administration is keen on
getting the talks started, it should give serious consideration to a new
strategy. Instead of leaving everything to the parties to the conflict that are
negotiating on uneven ground, the US should adapt a more creative strategy.
Reversing US foreign policy on this issue and beginning with an endgame plan
and a timeline would allow everyone involved in the conflict to know where the
peace process is going. This would be a much smarter and practicable path for
President Trump to follow, if he really wants to oversee the "ultimate
Political rows between countries happen
every now and then. But in Qatar’s case, the disputes have proved enduring,
harmful and inexcusable.
The disagreements were for a time viewed as
fleeting and as short-lived inconveniences. But with over 20 years of not
seeing eye-to-eye, Doha’s destructive policies grew inescapably consistent.
The first tangible difference took place in
1990 — the year Kuwait was invaded, uprooting at least a million citizens and
residents and sending its government to exile.
Given that Kuwait is a key member of the
Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), regional leaders convened in the Qatari
capital, Doha, for a summit devoted to freeing the GCC state from Iraqi
The then heir apparent of Qatar, Sheikh
Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, shocked Gulf leaders by leading discussions away
from freeing Kuwait, and giving priority to a Doha-Bahrain quarrel over
ownership of the Hawar Islands — which paled in comparison with Kuwait’s
predicament at the time.
Gulf leaders, particularly the late Saudi
King Fahd (may his soul rest in peace), were infuriated by the apparent conceit
shown by the Qatari party to advance personal agendas at such a critical time.
King Fahd threatened Sheikh Hamad with
withdrawing from the summit, and so did the rest of the GCC leaders.
From that day onward, Qatar’s rifts with
everyone never ended.
They only worsened when Sheikh Hamad
overthrew his father in bloodless palace coup d’état in 1995, and later
appointed his son Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, the current emir of Qatar.
Two decades worth of Sheikh Hamad policies have fed disagreement and undermined
Doha increasingly began to be a backdoor to
the region by playing host to Saudi Arabia’s enemies. It took in protesters who
wanted coercive regime change, and sponsored the alliance between Iran, the
Lebanon-based Hezbollah and Syria’s regime head Bashar Assad for a whole 10
Qatar’s provocations left it at odds with
most regional states. And in response to its exceedingly dangerous behaviour,
several major Arab countries have finally decided to sever diplomatic relations
with Qatar. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain announced on Monday they
were cutting all land, maritime and transport ties with Qatar.
The decision was not based on the long
record of dispute, but a conviction of there being no hope in changing the
irreversible course the Doha authorities have set out on.
The fights Qatar is picking are juvenile,
but also very risky.
Doha’s continued funding of organizations,
individuals, media channels and social media networks that are blatantly
campaigning for violent anti-government movements has only destabilized the
Qatar has presented itself as an ally to
groups like the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), which is on a constant quest to
establish a self-styled religious ruling system, resembling Iran’s theocracy.
Despite the MB’s failures in Palestine, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, it resumed the
agenda of spreading chaos across the region.
The final nail in the coffin of the
Gulf-Qatar friendship was struck last week, when the Doha state-owned media
agency carried a statement allegedly by Sheikh Tamim that apparently saw him
endorse Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah.
Among Qatar’s most dangerous ploys is that
which is being played out in Bahrain, where it has not stopped funding both
armed and peaceful oppositions. Yet its pitch to overthrow Bahrain’s government
remains a failure.
On the other hand, Doha’s investment in
disrupting Lebanon received better results, where it frankly supported the
Assad regime and Iran proxy Hezbollah during their assassination campaigns
against Lebanese leaders and occupation of West Beirut. Until this very day,
Hezbollah and its allies maintain the upper hand in Lebanon.
Taking things a step further, Doha recently
embarked on reviving communications with Iran, an arch foe of the Gulf
As for its endgame in Bahrain, Qatar might
be deluded into believing that toppling the regime would play out positively
for its expansionist ambitions. The same is evident with its attempt to spur
chaos in Saudi Arabia, another neighbouring state.
Qatar is apparently willing to go to great
extremes in doing everything and supporting everyone without distinction. It
backs religious extremist groups, Arab fascists and nationalist parties and
Paradoxically, while it hosts one of the
largest US military bases in the region, Qatar did not hesitate in broadcasting
videotapes in which Al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri
openly called for American bloodshed. It is worth noting that US operations
against Afghanistan and Iraq are launched from this base.
Qatar also funds paramilitary militias that
attack American troops in Iraq.
Taking into consideration all of Qatar’s
irrational policies, it is clear that the logic behind Doha’s decision-making
is impossible to grasp, and arriving at a truce with its government impossible.
During what is perceived as a critical
time, Doha’s approach threatens to dismantle the last of whatever stability the
Middle East has known since World War II.
The methods adopted by Qatari authorities
are nothing short of delirious — in what could loosely be termed as a “nut job”
approach taken by Doha.
The deadly raids on the Iranian Parliament
and the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran on June 7, which claimed 12 lives,
are grave contributions to the escalation of tension in the Middle East amid the
Qatar crisis. The fact that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), or
DAESH, has claimed responsibility for the attacks makes it even worse.
The attacks were the first known ISIL
attack in the Iranian capital, at least at this scale. Iran has been in a fight
against ISIL (and al-Qaeda affiliated groups) for the past couple of years,
with thousands of Revolutionary Guards in Syria and Iraq supporting Shiite
militant groups. However, this attack may have bigger consequential outcomes
and may even trigger a chain reaction in the region if Iran and pro-Iran groups
decide to retaliate.
The attack also took place at a time when
the U.S.-led coalition has just launched its offensive on June 3 to take the
city of Raqqa from the hands of ISIL, amounting to another factor of strain in
The Pentagon announced on June 6 that the
U.S.-led forces have been effectively using Turkey’s strategic Incirlik air
base in the Raqqa operation. This means that despite all objections to the U.S.
over its partner against ISIL, the Turkish government has been keeping the base
open. Ankara sees the U.S.’s ground force partner in the Raqqa operation, the
People’s Protection Units (YPG), as the Syrian extension of the outlawed
Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been in a fight with Turkey for over
President Tayyip Erogan said during an
iftar fast-breaking invitation in Ankara on June 6 that he has told U.S.
President Donald Trump about the future drawbacks of trying to defeat one
terrorist organization with the help of another. But he also said “may it be
for the good,” indicating that Ankara is not likely to escalate the YPG debate
until the end of the Raqqa operation, or until a direct threat is posed by the
YPG against Turkish interests.
In the same speech Erdogan also said he saw
the Saudi-led sanctions against Qatar as wrong. Underlining his efforts to
start dialogue for a solution to the problem, he vowed that Turkey would
continue to improve its relations with Qatar.
There is nothing wrong with that. Actually,
relations with Qatar were discussed together with Iranian Foreign Minister
Javad Zarif, who paid a short working visit to Ankara on June 7 despite the
terrible terror attack back in Tehran.
But Erdogan and the Justice and Development
Party (AK Parti) government should know that Qatar is no longer the Qatar of
three days ago. Saudi Arabia, with the backing of the U.S., reiterated on June
7 that its relations with Qatar could not return to normal unless Qatar
“withdraws its support for terrorism” and stops leaning toward Iran.
Saudi Arabia’s counting of the Muslim
Brotherhood as a terrorist organization like ISIL or al-Qaeda is a matter of
disagreement with Erdogan, who sees the Brotherhood as an “ideological”
movement rather than a terrorist organization. But under the given
circumstances, it is uncertain for how long Qatari Emir Thamim al-Thani will be
able to continue supporting and harbouring the Muslim Brotherhood in his
country. What’s more, the Brotherhood statement on June 7 which almost declared
war on Saudi Arabia is not likely to help either itself or its sympathizers.
It is uncertain whether al-Thani or another
name to possibly take his place will continue the same economic cooperation
program with Turkey. So it is better for the Turkish government to be prepared
for the new Qatar, for better or for worse.
The Qatar crisis, the Saudi escalation and
the Tehran terror attack have further increased uncertainties in the Middle
East, which is becoming a powder keg that could go off at any moment with new,
Dherar Belhoul Al Falasi
June 8, 2017
Monday's decision to cut ties with Qatar
was not a surprise. It was long time coming and here's why
What happened last Monday was both
foreseeable and inevitable. Over the past 22 years since the 1995 coup d'etat,
Qatari politics has gone astray. Its interests no longer seem aligned with its
neighbours and natural allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council.
The regime in Doha has sought alliances and
partnerships in the alternative politics arena, with the likes of the Muslim
Brotherhood, Al Qaeda, Taleban, Hamas, and most recently, Al Nusra and Daesh.
Naturally, it is not possible for countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia to
tolerate such partnerships, especially as Doha offers these groups a safe
Monday's decision to cut ties with Qatar
was not a surprise. It was long time coming and here's why: In May, Qatar was
part of the US-Arab and Islamic Summit held in Riyadh on terror. The summit
unanimously identified Iran as the regional sponsor of terrorism. Despite that
Qatar shocked the region after two days when its Amir Sheikh Tamim made a
statement calling Iran a brotherly country and one that 'we should maintain
good relations with'. Saudi Arabia and the UAE were among the many other
nations that felt betrayed. In fact, Qatar's Foreign Minister, who is also the
Amir's cousin, was in Baghdad the day before for secret talks with Iran's top
terrorist and commander of Quds Forces, Brigade Major General Qasem Soleimani.
Qatar claims the Amir's statement was a result of a cyberattack on the official
news website - a claim that hasn't been proven yet.
Qatar government has repeatedly failed to
honour its obligations as a member of the GCC. The council requires its members
to work for the common good of the six allied countries. Qatar, however, has
interfered in Bahrain's anti-terror efforts, encouraging Iran-backed groups to
perform several acts of terror against the country. In case of Saudi Arabia,
Qatar encouraged destabilising activities by Muslim Brotherhood activists and
harbour many convicted terrorists. Similar accounts of damaging Qatari
behaviour have also been noticed in the UAE, Kuwait and Egypt.
Qatar has also launched and financed
several terror-supporting media outlets that functioned as an alternative
propaganda voice for many terror groups. From Osama bin Laden's video messages
to the recent coming-out of Al Nusra's leader Joulani, Qatar affiliated media
didn't shy from showing sympathy to these groups, justifying their actions and
portraying them as legitimate opposition groups; something they are not.
As per WikiLeaks document, Qatar provided a
safe haven to the 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Another WikiLeaks
document showed evidence of cross border human trafficking to help infiltrate
terrorists into Saudi Arabia.
The fact that Qatar has provided a regional
centre and safe haven for Muslim Brotherhood is a source of concern. Also,
Qatar seeks to help terrorist groups thrive everywhere they exist. From Ansar
Al Sharia and its affiliates in Libya, to Jabhat Al Nusra in Syria to Al
Shabaab in Somalia, Qatar's fingerprints are too clear to ignore. Even the
charities in the country are being used as channels for funding terrorist
organisations such as Al Shabaab.
At the time of so-called Arab Spring in
2011, Qatar tried tirelessly to stoke instability in the GCC countries in
cooperation with Muslim Brotherhood conspirators. Acts of vandalism were
encouraged in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait. Qatar funded media,
including Al Jazeera, served as a platform to promote these acts.
There is also credible evidence of Qatar's
strong relations with the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. These are the
same people the Arab Alliance, which incidentally includes Qatar, is fighting
against to reinstall the legitimate government. Some reports say Qatar has
helped cement a de facto alliance between the Houthi rebels and Al Qaeda in the
Arab Peninsula (AQAP) to fight against the Arab Alliance.
In 2014, the GCC trio (Saudi Arabia, UAE
and Bahrain) withdrew envoys in protest of all of these activities. Several
months later, at a summit in Riyadh Qatar's Amir pledged to stop such
suspicious activities and work on building good relations with brotherly GCC
countries. Almost three years later, nothing seems to have changed.
What we demand today is very simple: a
friendly, brotherly neighbour that minds its own business without hurting ours.
Is that too much to ask for?
"Everyone has a right to live in his
home and no one may uproot him."
These were the words of Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Knesset event this week marking 50 years of
Israel's military occupation of the Palestinian territories in which he vowed
to strengthen Israel's "settlement enterprise".
The right elucidated in Netanyahu's speech,
it would appear, however, does not extend to Palestinians in the occupied
Israel's unlawful construction and
expansion of settlements and their related infrastructure on Palestinian soil
is one of the most defining features of Israel's occupation and has bred mass
violations against Palestinians over the past five decades.
Tens of thousands of Palestinian homes and
properties have been demolished, displacing entire communities from their
homes, and at least 100,000 hectares of land have been seized for Israel's
settlement project, including for construction and agricultural use.
Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian
land do not just amount to war crimes under international law, they violate
fundamental principles of international law triggering additional
responsibilities among all states.
Yet, for decades, Israel has openly defied
international law by ruthlessly pursuing its settlement expansion.
Palestinian natural resources such as
fertile land, water and minerals have been extensively and unlawfully
appropriated to sustain the Israeli settlements. At the same time, Israel has
imposed restrictions on Palestinians' access to - and use of - water, land and
other natural resources, as well as restricting Palestinians' freedom of
movement, tearing families apart, stopping farmers from accessing their
farmland and preventing people getting to work or earning a living.
Over the years, as the Palestinian economy
has steadily declined under the strain of these restrictions Israel has
simultaneously built a multibillion-dollar business out of Palestinian
suffering - exporting hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of settlement
goods internationally each year.
This thriving enterprise helps to sustain
the presence and the expansion of settlements and is a key driving force for
the systematic violations we continue to witness against Palestinians today.
For five decades, the world has stood by and watched as Israel has exploited
Palestinian people, land and natural resources for profit to support its
illegal settlement expansion, offering little more than condemnation of
Israel's unlawful acts.
Lack of Action
Unless concerted international action is
taken to stop and remove settlements, the already dire human rights situation
for Palestinians in the occupied territories will only get worse.
Under international law, states have an
obligation to recognise and to render aid or assistance to the illegal
situation created by Israeli settlements - yet many states continue to allow
imports from settlements and permit their companies to operate on occupied
The vast majority of states, including all
EU member states, publicly acknowledge Israeli settlements as illegal under
international law and have been nearly unanimous in their condemnation of the
There have also been many UN resolutions
passed demanding an end to settlement construction and expansion. As early as
1980, UN Security Council Resolution 465 called on all states not to provide
Israel with any assistance "to be used specifically in connection with
settlements in the occupied territories".
Yet, time and again, the global
condemnation of Israel's settlement policy has fallen on deaf ears. Israel has
repeatedly made it clear that it couldn't care less what the world thinks and
is doggedly determined to continue its expansion of settlements in flagrant
violation of international law.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech
pledging his continued commitment to expanding settlements proves just that.
Israel's military-run Civil Administration is also set to approve thousands of
new homes in existing settlements in the occupied West Bank announced earlier
this year as well as plans to establish two new settlements, the first in
It has become increasingly evident that
merely condemning Israel's settlement expansion is not enough. That's why, to
mark the 50 years of occupation Amnesty International is making a call, for the
first time in the organisation's history, on governments worldwide to uphold
their obligations by banning settlement goods from their markets and putting in
place laws and regulations to stop their companies from operating in
settlements or trading in settlement goods.
Governments worldwide have the
responsibility to ensure that goods grown, produced or manufactured on stolen
Palestinian land do not end up on our supermarket shelves. They have to show
that their verbal condemnation of Israel is more than hot air. Failure of
states to do so would undermine the legal principles that they claim to uphold.
Fifty years on, it's easy to feel helpless
about what can be done to address decades of injustice and Israeli violations
against Palestinians. Banning settlement goods and stopping companies from
operating in settlements are concrete steps that governments must take to meet
their international obligations and to help to end an inherently discriminatory
system that has brought suffering to millions of Palestinians.
Jenan Moussa’s twitter page opens a unique
window to her life and times. The young and happening Dubai-based roving
reporter with a regional news channel is completely different from the armchair
journalists most of us have become in Dubai.
She isn’t found on front seats of press
conferences nor does she seek PR contacts on social media. Instead, she
cultivates sources far away from her comfort zones, and frequently flies out to
dangerous places such as Idlib, Aleppo and Benghazi to pursue and document
The thrill for her is talking to common
folks on the ground. “I don’t believe a word of what is said unless I have
experienced things first hand,” Jenan says.
Jenan’s forays into troubled hotspots keep
her on the edge though. There is always a possibility that the official who has
promised access could turn out to be a dreaded terrorist or a mere
ransom-seeker looking for a high-value target.
As they say, where there is a will there is
a way. Seeing her determination, local commanders and activists come forward to
help with information and documents. She has developed such close contacts with
some that even their staff know that in the worst of circumstances “Madam
Jenan” can be trusted with documents.
Sometimes, terrorists who are on US
watch-list “criticize” her reports. After all, in her own words, she
specializes in “checking garbage bins for secret documents and ISIS laptops”.
Jenan has been doing this for seven years
now – almost coinciding with the so-called Arab Spring – and wants to continue
for a long time. In a way she embodies the spirit of youth in the Middle East,
working hard and trying to make a mark yet not too optimistic about the future.
Back in the secure space of Dubai, and away
from the shadows of al-Nusra and al-Qaeda, I managed to take Jenan down memory
lane last week. Our conversation mostly veered around the youth of the region
and what they have been through since Tunisia went up in flames in the winter
According to her, political affiliations
and scepticism apart, Arab Spring at least ignited hope among the youth that
something will change for the better. Needless to add, those hopes were not
just mercilessly dashed most youth would probably wish this had never happened
However, it is today’s climate of terror
that Jenan is most worried about. She is aware that it is this menace that
keeps her relevant to us all, yet longs for the day when violence ceases to be
a daily headline.
According to her, if at one level, terror
is the outcome of Middle East’s political failures then its recent
manifestations in Europe are as much about their failures on the social front
and their inability to nip extremism in the bud.
This stirring conversation meant there were
bound to be takeaways. A real reporter, with feet on the ground and antenna up,
is almost like a soldier who guards the borders while we sleep. What Jenan
gathers from the ground are valuable facts that have become sacrosanct in
today’s post-truth era.
I remember I heard this phrase about Qatar
when disputes between it and its ally Bashar al-Assad worsened at the end of
2011. What happened to Qatar also happened to its ally Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The Turkish and Qatari regimes bet on the “strategic relation” which has linked
them to the new Syrian president since 2004.
Through this relation based financial
generosity, the Qataris and Turks advised Bashar to make reforms and not use
violence against his people. However when he did not take their advice into
consideration, they resorted to the same methods they had advised Assad
They armed extremists who destroyed the
Syrian revolution without causing the least damage to Assad.
The entire world thus came to combat
terrorism alongside the peaceful, secular and enlightening regime that cannot
harm a fly! What happened in Syria also happened in Lebanon and Qatar had a
hand in it.
After the 2006 War and Hezbollah’s claims
that it achieved “divine victory,” Qatar’s former emir visited Lebanon and
toured Beirut’s Dahiyeh (southern suburb) in solidarity with the resistance.
Meanwhile, the resistance accused the
Lebanese government, which helped reach the UN Security Council Resolution 1701
to protect Lebanon from Israel, of working for the enemy.
When the Lebanese government began
collecting donations to rebuild what the Israeli aggression had destroyed,
Qatar refused to donate funds to the Lebanese government but directly donated
to Hezbollah and to the Amal Movement to rebuild four towns in South Lebanon.
Qatar was rewarded with banners lifted in
Dahiyeh. The banners read: “Thank you Qatar.” Qatar was thanked again later
when Hezbollah invaded Beirut to force the Lebanese cabinet to quit. Back then
Hezbollah rewarded Qatar by holding a meeting in Doha for rival Lebanese
parties and Hezbollah took what it wants from the defeated parties of the March
and the Muslim Brotherhood
The third and more important incident
related to these Qatari policies is Qatar’s stance from the fall of the Muslim
Brotherhood in Egypt and the people’s election of a president to replace
Mohammed Mursi. Qatar viewed what happened as a coup and harbored Brotherhood
fugitives and their leaders. For more than three years now, Qatar has been
launching a massive campaign against Egypt.
It also equipped and funded the Brotherhood’s
activity. Qatar claims its interest in the Brotherhood has humanitarian basis.
However Qatar’s actions went way beyond that when it considered itself
launching a military campaign to bring Mursi back to power through Al-Jazeera
television channel. And what’s greater than Al-Jazeera channel!
No one must be fooled into believing that
Qatar’s stance from Egypt is based on concern over legitimacy as it’s claimed.
In Libya, for example, Qatar stands with different armed groups against the
elected parliament and the Libyan national army.
Let’s go back to the major subject which is
the Iranian one. More than two years ago, news about an agreement – that
resembled an alliance – between Iran and Qatar was leaked. Among the
agreement’s items is training the Qatari navy in the Iranian island of Qeshm.
This was surprising because between 2011 and 2013, the two parties publicly
clashed due to Qatar’s stance from the Syrian revolution and Iran and its
militias’ interferences in favour of Assad.
Back then, someone told me that Qatar
shares a gas field with Iran and does not want to harm relations with it. This
is definitely not an excuse because sharing a gas field must not push towards
allying against Arab and Gulf neighbours! What was a mere piece of news became
a public behaviour clearly seen in the massive transactions and deals in Syria
and Iraq. These deals were against the interest of the Syrian and Iraqi people.
The result of these deals were seen through
al-Nusra Front’s release of Lebanese soldiers and an Iraqi Shiite militias’
release of Qatari “fishermen.” Displacing people and altering Syria’s
demography is happening by Qatari arrangements which the Iranians and their
militias, including Hezbollah, and the Syrian regime benefit from.
The Qatari wealth was a bliss to the Qatari
people and to all Arab and foreign workers in the country. However, due to
playing smart and the determination to increase influence, Qatar’s bliss turned
into a curse on the Qatari people and other Arabs.
We used to say so about Qaddafi’s regime as
Qaddafi used to break the norm and harm brothers and close ones for no logical
Qatar must return to its senses and look
after its commitments and respect its sense of belonging. This is what must be
done for the bliss to remain a bliss and for Arabs to remain brothers. We are
in no need for further exhaustion by supporting extremist groups.
It’s not right to be biased towards the
rival and the enemy, be it Iran or Israel, to be spared from evil because by
doing so, one brings trouble upon himself.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
A resolution recently introduced in the US
House of Representatives condemned an atrocity that most Americans, indeed most
Westerners, have never heard of: The 1988 killings of approximately 30,000
political prisoners in Iran.
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle chose
to try to right that wrong by introducing Resolution 188, which deplores the
murder of victims who “included thousands of people, including teenagers and
pregnant women, imprisoned merely for participating in peaceful street protests
and for possessing political reading material, many of whom had already served
or were currently serving prison sentences.”
The massacre was carried out in such a way
that word spread throughout Iran, terrorizing the populace and paralyzing
thousands of families, neighborhoods and communities with grief. The cruelty
was extreme. As the resolution noted, “the families of the executed were denied
information about their loved ones and were prohibited from mourning them in
public.” But the outside world was kept pretty much in the dark, or when
confronted with flashes of reality, many chose to close their eyes.
Amnesty International said the vast
majority of the executed were affiliated with the main opposition People’s
Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI/MEK). The House resolution noted that prisoners were
“brought before the commissions and briefly questioned about their political
affiliation, and any prisoner who refused to renounce his or her affiliation
with groups perceived as enemies by the regime was then taken away for
The lawmakers were pushed to act in part by
the shameless audacity of the government of recently re-elected President
Hassan Rouhani, who appointed as his justice minister one of the detested
members of Tehran’s “death commission,” Mostafa Pourmohammadi.
Even more galling, Supreme Leader Ali
Khamenei’s pick to succeed Rouhani in last month’s presidential elections,
Ebrahim Raisi, had already been rewarded for his long years of allegiance by
being named custodian of the Astan Quds Razavi foundation, the wealthiest
charity in the Muslim world.
Charity here is a relative term. Under the
mullahs, the mega-millions all end up in the coffers of the supreme leader to
fund Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its terrorist, fundamentalist
Khamenei sought to manipulate the election,
and thereby shore up his wretched regime, by imposing Raisi on Iran’s unwilling
people as their president. He did not calculate that the campaign rivalry
between the self-described “moderate” incumbent and his “hard-liner” rival
would bring the 1988 massacre to the surface, prompting public outrage so
extreme that even powerful mullahs within Khamenei’s faction distanced
themselves from Raisi.
Khamenei backed down — a big loss for him,
but not a big change for Iran’s people. Rouhani, also a veteran of the
bloodthirsty regime, got another term that will likely differ little from his
first four years, which saw more than 3,000 executions, an intense crackdown,
rampant poverty, domestic injustice, escalating foreign meddling, skyrocketing
military and security budgets, and a drive to advance the regime’s ballistic
But it was a rude awakening to the ruling
mullahs of how their past crimes against humanity can come back to haunt them.
In light of how deeply Iranians reacted to the re-emergence of the 1988
massacre, overturning efforts at the highest level to engineer the “election,”
Resolution 188 — condemning the massacre and calling for justice for the
victims — is timely and right.
Fearful of the spread of the campaign for
justice, the authorities have begun desecrating the unmarked mass graves of
those executed in different cities. On June 1, Amnesty International expressed
alarm, saying: “The desecration of a mass grave site in Ahvaz, southern Iran,
that contains the remains of at least 44 people who were extrajudicially
executed would destroy vital forensic evidence and scupper opportunities for
justice for the mass prisoner killings that took place across the country in
The legislators cited in their resolution
an Amnesty report, concluding: “There should be no impunity for human rights
violations, no matter where or when they took place. The 1988 executions should
be subject to an independent impartial investigation, and all those responsible
should be brought to justice, and receive appropriate penalties.” I second