Morning Report: November 19, 2006

One day at a time. Iranian refugees need your help, Egyptian bloggers speak out against arrests and oppression, Pakistan takes a small step forward, and women in the Netherlands need to show their faces. Some thoughts on moving forward in a ruthless world.

Iranian refugees stranded in Moscow airport. This isn't some nice fairy tale from Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. Azarmehr: 'I read about the heart wrenching plight of this family on Ardeshir Dolat's weblog. Watching the video of the mother describing the plight of the family is even more disturbing. I curse every day those who have reduced the children of Cyrus to such misery. I have no first hand knowledge of this family. My information comes from Ardeshir Dolat's weblog and the video on youtube. However I do believe that we owe much of our misery to our proximity with the Russians.' Ardeshir Dolat:
An Iranian refugee family has been imprisoned in the Russian capital for 18 months. Zahra Kamalfar is an Iranian citizen made a refugee claim, together with her two minor children, Ana (DOB 1367-11-02) and Davood (DOB 1373-3-25) through UNHCR in Russia on or about May 3, 2005.

Originally, Zahra and the children were being kept at a hotel at the airport. However, several months ago, they were evicted from the hotel and forced to sleep in the open terminal. They have not had access to shower facilities and are restricted to public toilets.

Zahra and her husband were involved in demonstrations in Iran in the year 2000. In July 8 2004, Zahra was arrested and held in jail. Zahra was in jail for 8 months. Then she was released on a 48 hour pass to visit her family. She immediately fled Iran with her two children on April 6 2005. She and her two children went to Turkey on a false Bulgarian passport arranged by a smuggler. Zahra and her children then traveled from Turkey, transiting through Russia on their way to Germany. When they arrived in Germany, the authenticity of their passports was questioned. Zahra made asylum claims but their asylum claims were refused by German immigration authorities and then they were sent back to Russia. When they returned to Russia, they were detained by the Russian authorities. The Russian authorities then assaulted her and her daughter. The Russian authorities want to send Zahra and her children back to Iran. Zahra is afraid to return to Iran as she believes she will be sent to jail and run the risk of rape, torture and possibly death. She also fears her daughter will be at risk of being sexually assaulted and raped.

The Russian authorities now want to deport the family to Iran; something that the family is convinced will be devastating to their lives and safety. The Russian authorities are imposing pressure on the family by having them stranded in the transit hall of the Moscow International Airport for months, denying them all access to the most basic needs, including shower, proper food, etc. Regardless of the legalities of their case, this is a clear breach of all human rights principles.

Azarmehr brings us up to speed with a bit of Russian/Iranian history. Ardeshir Dolat has a link to a petition which I strongly encourage you to use. Also follow AD's link to Amnesty International and send them a nice note asking them to get hot on this. (Azarmehr, Ardeshir Dolat)

Asghar Akbarzadeh, another Iranian dissident you should know about. Shiro-Khorshid Forever posts this human rights item:
A student was detained by plain clothes individuals and is believed to be held incommunicado at an unknown location.

AI Index: MDE 13/124/2006

17 November 2006

UA 309/06
Incommunicado detention/ fear of torture

Asghar Akbarzadeh (m), student, aged about 21

Iranian Azerbaijani Asghar Akbarzadeh is believed to be held incommunicado at an undisclosed location, where he is at risk of torture.

Go to the link for full details on the case. (SKF)

Pakistan to stop punishing rape victims. Vital Perspective: 'MediaLine reports that Pakistan has changed its rape laws to prevent women from being punished even though they were the victims of sex crimes. Until now, rape was a crime tried in Islamic courts, where any woman found guilty of having sex outside of marriage received stiff punishments, even if she was forced to have sexual relations. Among the changes, the death penalty for extramarital sex has been abolished. Pakistani lawmakers had previously attempted to change the law, but delayed the move because of vocal opposition from Islamist politicians. Women's rights activists welcomed the reform, but said far more must be done to redress the injustices still found in the law.' (Vital Perspective)

Fox reports on persecution of Christians in Egypt. Freedom for Egyptians: 'Shepard Smith's Fox Report ran a report today [Friday, November 17] on Egyptian Christians and on the treatment they receive from the Egyptian government when it comes to building their own churches, torture, arbitrary arrests...etc. Some Egyptian Copts and priests were interviewed and described their struggle to live in Egypt. The report referred to the Alexandria sectarian violence last April, as Egyptian churches became target for extremists.' I'll be posting a round-up on this subject soon - watch Dreams Into Lightning for more. (FFE)

State's James Jeffrey talks Iran. Vital Perspective has a full transcript of a press briefing by Ambassador James Jeffrey, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs. Excerpt:
Q Thank you very much. My name is Ibrahim Bidarva from Persian Service of VOA. In today's meeting between President Bush and Prime Minister Olmert, Iran's controversial nuclear program is at the top of the agenda. Since it's less than a week after the election, this visit is taking and already Robert Gates, nominee for Defense Secretary, said sanction against Iran has not been in the interest of the United States of America. Congress is starting January going to be controlled by Democrats and other developments. What do you think, Mr. Ambassador, about the American policy in the future, starting in January? Is Israel worried to see a change in American policy towards Iran?

MR. JEFFREY: That's about six different questions and three or four comments, several of which I don't agree with, so I'm going to give a scattershot approach to the set of questions.

First of all, I don't think Mr. Gates -- but I could be wrong, but I just went through the 2004 Council on Foreign Relations Report -- I don't think Mr. Gates has said that sanctions don't work. I think Mr. Gates proposed that the United States look for ways to engage Iran, which of course is exactly what we have done since. And the Secretary of State twice, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Iraq and before the press and me on the nuclear issue, raised the willingness to sit down and speak with the Iranians. So I think that we have responded in part to much of that report long before we knew that Gates was going to become the Secretary of Defense.

I think in terms of what will happen in January, I think we should wait till January. I think January is quite a ways away. I would make a comment that it would be -- regardless of how you interpret Iraq in the election and the congressional makeup vis-a-vis Iraq, I would be very cautious about extending that to the question of Israel in general.

And thirdly, it is absolutely proper and fitting that Prime Minister Olmert, a good friend of the United States and we think a good friend of international stability, is here to talk about a country which has threatened to destroy Israel, wipe it off the face of the earth and is busily working on long-range missiles and nuclear weapons. That is an appropriate theme. It would be quite incomprehensible if Mr. Olmert did not want to talk about the existential threat to his country raised by Iran, particularly under this leadership, following these policies.

Full transcript at the link. (Vital Perspective)

Another Egyptian blogger arrested. Sandmonkey: '3arabawy has the news. It's worth noting that he was arrested for walking in the streets of downtown late, and the police who arrested him claimed there was some sort of curfew in effect that justifies his arrest. He should be released soon, because they have no case and they know it. It is however a telling sign of the panic that is undergoing the egyptian police and their fight to still seem to have control on the streets of Cairo, despite all the growing signs to the contrary!' 3arabawy: 'Egyptian blogger Rami Siyam, a.k.a. Ayoub, is currently in Qasr el-Nil Police Station, and will be transferred to Belbeis Prosecutor’s office in the Sharqiya Governorate. Ayoub and and a number of bloggers were leaving Sharqawi’s place around 4 am, when police rounded them up, and took them to the notorious Qasr el-Nil Police Station. They were all released except for Ayoub, who is to be transferred to Belbeis Prosecutor’s Office.' Commenter Purple Rose says: 'The bloggers have scared the hell out of security forces … They have established that they are the free alternative to media in Egypt and are being cracked down on. Blogger solidarity is the only way of standing up against this crack down. All bloggers remember Karim Amer and now Ayoub in your posts'. (Sandmonkey, 3arabawy)

Dutch government backs burqa ban. BBC: 'The Dutch cabinet has backed a proposal by the country's immigration minister to ban Muslim women from wearing the burqa in public places. The burqa, a full body covering that also obscures the face, would be banned by law in the street, and in trains, schools, buses and the law courts. The cabinet said burqas disturb public order, citizens and safety. ... Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk, who is known for her tough policies, said it was important that all people in the Netherlands were able to see and identify each other clearly to promote integration and tolerance.' (BBC)

Arab/Israeli group blog: "Good Neighbours". Via Michael Totten, here's a homepage link to Good Neighbours. Bookmark it! The all-star lineup currently comprises Big Pharaoh, Drima, Free Cedar, Ramzi.S., Shifaa, Tif, Yaeli, and Yasser. Here's Yasser on democracy and peace:
I believe you can’t have democracy if you don’t support democracy in other counties,so its natural to see the United States concerned about democracy in the world particularly in the Middle East also Europe ; take Turkey for example and look how the Turks received huge assistance and incentives from the Europeans to the end of achieving reforms regarding human rights and freedom of expression .

Of course I am not in any way denying or ignoring the fact that you have to build your own democracy but what I am saying is that you can’t possibly have an isolated democratic country amidst a sea of tyranny and that is why success of Iraqi democracy is so important and vital and that is why we have to support the Iraqi people as hard as we can so they can overcome the problems hindering them from establishing a free and democratic state

Contrary to what some people say that all the talk about democratizing the ME is just propaganda to justify American interference in the region I think that the west interest in seeing a democratic ME is a great opportunity that we have to capitalize on.

Yasser takes encouragement from this report at Freedom House. Follow the links for the rest. (GNB via MJT)

Silicone breast implants OK'd by FDA; Tammy PO'd. Tammy Bruce: 'Women surgically mutilating themselves to conform to a media and pornography-driven sick view of what a woman's body should look like is bad enough. For the FDA to approve a device that even the agency admits is faulty and only 'reasonably safe' (whatyever that means), is absurd. But then again, the FDA is now more concerned with the health of pharmaceutical companies and medical profits than they are with the health of individual Americans. ... lastic surgeons love the decision. Silicone implants are more expensive. And the same surgeon, of course, is returned to for the additional surgeries that are needed to remove the ruptured 'device.' Lots more money all around. Plastic surgeons and other 'experts' also hail the decision because silicone implants 'feel more natural' than saline-based. That's great--for the men who want to be feeling them. Here's a Newsflash for that 'feels more natural' crowd--surgically unaltered bodies not only 'feel' more natural, they actually are.' Morning Report seconds Tammy. (Tammy Bruce)

Abizaid on confronting islamist ideology. Via the Standard, Reuters reports:
Army Gen. John Abizaid compared the rise of militant ideologies, such as the force driving al Qaeda, to the rise of fascism in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s that set the stage for World War Two.

"If we don't have guts enough to confront this ideology today, we'll go through World War Three tomorrow," Abizaid said in a speech titled "The Long War," at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, outside Boston.

If not stopped, Abizaid said extremists would be allowed to "gain an advantage, to gain a safe haven, to develop weapons of mass destruction, to develop a national place from which to operate. And I think that the dangers associated with that are just too great to comprehend."

Abizaid said the world faces three major hurdles in stabilizing the Middle East region: Easing Arab-Israeli tensions, stemming the spread of militant extremism, and dealing with Iran, which Washington has accused of seeking to develop nuclear bombs.

More links at the post. (Worldwide Standard)

US, EU to improve anti-terror ties. Victor Comras at Counterterrorism Blog: 'I have often written criticizing shortcomings that have hampered close US- EU information sharing and cooperation related to the investigation of terrorism and terrorism financing. So it’s a real pleasure to write now on steps recently taken by both sides of the Atlantic to try and improve this situation. Last week the EU and US agreed to establish a new high level “contact group” which will focus on overcoming current information sharing and judicial cooperation impediments. A new agreement was also signed during meetings in Washington November 6th between the US Justice Department and European counterparts. The agreement engages both the Justice Department and Eurojust to “to foster the exchange of information between law- enforcement communities in the US and the EU and strengthen co-operative efforts to prevent and prosecute organised crime, human trafficking, cybercrime and terrorism.” (CTB)

Bolton speaks, American media blackballs. Via Gateway Pundit, Democracy Project makes a passage to India to report what the MSM don't want you to hear:
The U.S. Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, launched a scathing attack on the United Nations Friday.

Bolton was furious over the adoption by the General Assembly of a resolution which said the assembly regretted the deaths of 19 civilians in an attack by the Israeli military in the town of Beit Hanoun last week.

Despite the resolution being significantly watered down at the behest of the United States, and being passing by 156 votes to seven, Bolton launched a blistering attack on the UN, and many of its members.

"Many of the sponsors of that resolution are notorious abusers of human rights themselves, and were seeking to deflect criticism of their own policies," he said.

"This type of resolution serves only to exacerbate tensions by serving the interests of elements hostile to Israel's inalienable and recognized right to exist."

"This deepens suspicions about the United Nations that will lead many to conclude that the organization is incapable of playing a helpful role in the region," Bolton continued.

Atlas Shrugs: 'Another Jew hating, Israel bashing resolution passed by the corrupt world body that ignores the Islamic Jihad of the Khartoum Government in Sudan, ignores the oppression of non Muslims in Muslim countries, ignores the mad ravings of Islamic Iran bent on annihilating the West, ignores the brutal killings in Indonesia, ignores their own peace keepers' acts of child rape and slavery - but the light unto nations? That is what they wish to extinguish.' (various)

Wretchard on the absurdities of the Third World. The Belmont Club:
All too often normal Americans make the mistake of going through the front door of the Minister's office to get cooperation. Ministers will tell you what you want to hear; and he will tell the next man something different. Cooperation is often better obtained by building up the trust of key persons who will perform tasks, not for their country or America, but out of a loyalty to you in ways that many Westerners find hard to understand.

But Americans who persist eventually do and the day finally comes when they are equally at home dealing with poor men swathed in the rags that keep out the oily mist of grit and diesel exhaust in which they must stand the all day and looking down from some high apartment window at the snake-line of European luxury cars vaguely visible through the smog, their yellow lights pausing at the port-cocher as they unload their jeweled cargos of local politicians and dubious businessmen at a fine restaurant; knowing that terrorists who threaten all that he knows and loves, all that he has sworn to protect -- are out there. And that he will defeat them.

Commentary. This weekend, the captured fighter pilot Bulldog was rescued from his three-year captivity with the Cylons. Once aboard the Galactica, though, he discovered that he owed his capture and captivity to a decision by Admiral Adama. Enraged, he attacked Adama, but was stopped by the executive officer Tighe, Adama's sometime friend and second-in-command. And here's what the cranky old bastard Tighe - who had no shortage of grievances against Adama himself - had to say:
We're all soldiers, Danny. We're all expendable. And we did what we had to do to protect the mission. It's ugly, but there it is. The Cylons let you go. The question is, Why? Because up until a minute ago, you were doing exactly what they wanted you to do: come here and learn the truth, and seek revenge. And that's exactly what you did. You almost gave them what they wanted.

I'll tell you a dirty little secret. The toughest part of getting played is losing your dignity. Feeling like you are not worth the oxygen you are sucking down. You get used to it. You start to believe it. You start to love it. It's like a bottle that never runs dry. You can keep reaching for it, over and over and over again.

Now Adama asks: "So how do you put that bottle away, Sol?" Tighe answers:
I don't know. One day, you just decide to get up and walk out of your room.

If we want to, we can always retreat into self-pity at real or imagined betrayals. But what will keep us going is our loyalty to the persons and ideals we know and have reason to believe in. This is the test of our character and our faith, and it is the path to victory.

Note to readers. I will be taking a break from posting for a few days. Morning Report is going on leave. Many thanks to all regular and new readers of this site. Regular posting will resume before too long.