Middle East Roundup

Washington Post: Kuwaiti elections.
June 28 -- Kuwaiti women will be able to take part in parliamentary elections as candidates and voters for the first time on Thursday. Following are some key facts about the vote:

A total of 253 candidates, including 28 women, are contesting Kuwait's 25 constituencies. Two parliament seats are up for grabs in each constituency.

Parliament passed a law in May 2005 giving women the right to vote and stand as candidates in elections for the 50-seat National Assembly.

Kuwait tolerates some informal groups but does not allow parties; security forces are not eligible to vote. Read the whole thing at the link.

Body of Eliyahu Asheri believed found; terrorist leaders arrested.
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Israeli forces rounded up dozens of Palestinian Cabinet ministers and lawmakers from Hamas, increasing pressure on the Islamic militants to release a captured Israeli soldier, and witnesses said tanks moved into northern Gaza, widening Israel's largest military operation in the year since Israel pulled out of the seaside territory.

Adding to the tension, a Palestinian militant group said it executed an 18-year-old Jewish settler kidnapped in the West Bank. Palestinian security officials said they believed the body of Eliahu Asheri had been found in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Hamas officials said more than 30 lawmakers have been arrested in the West Bank.

Amarji: Syrian government crackdown bodes ill.
Dr. Radwan Ziadeh, my dear colleague and good friend and one of the main figures behind the Damascus Declaration and the more recent Damascus-Beirut Declaration has recently been slapped with a travel ban on account of his continuous involvement in civil society activities around the region and the world.

Indeed, and over the lat two months alone, Radwan came to the US twice to take part in various meetings and seminars. He also gave a few of lectures in Washington D.C., Chicago, and elsewhere.

The move comes as part of the Assads regime’s ongoing crackdown against activists and opposition figures in the country, a development destined to witness further escalations in the days and weeks ahead, as the regime continues its reversion to old-style totalitarian rule. ...

"Find and destroy."
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered special services to "find and destroy" the killers of four Russian diplomats taken hostage in Iraq. The head of Russia's security services immediately pledged to see Putin's order carried out. The Russian government confirmed the four men's deaths this week, after an insurgent group released a video showing two of them being killed. ...

Olmert briefs Annan, Mubarak.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke on Wednesday evening with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who telephoned in order to receieve updates on the
situation in the Gaza Strip. ...

Olmert said the PA was doing nothing to either bring about the release of Shalit or to halt the firing of Kassam rockets at Israeli communities.

Olmert also spoke today with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and thanked him for Egypt's assistance in the efforts to lower tensions and to
bring about the release of Shalit.

When a reporter in London asked me if I could define the difference between the two Israeli blogospheres, I told him that Anglo bloggers are mostly concerned with "explaining" Israel to the outside world, whereas Hebrew bloggers rarely write about politics - preferring to concentrate on personal issues and tech issues. The reporter found that hard to believe: Isn't Israel a highly politicized society? he asked. Yes, I answered. In a way, it is. But it is also a society that is exhausted by politics. In fact, I almost never discuss the subject with my native-born Israeli friends. We talk about everything but - and that is not a conscience decision. ...

Amongst the Hebrew bloggers who have written about Gaza, some are against the IDF invasion, others are in favour and still others are indifferent. I haven't found anybody who is concerned about what the rest of the world thinks - whether they be mainstream media, Arab bloggers or other. Below are some translated excerpts of posts about Gaza that I read today. ...

Iran: Almost 500 anti-regime protests in past month.
London, Jun. 28 – There have been some 480 anti-government protests in Iran since in the Iranian calendar month ending June 21, according to a tally provided to Iran Focus by Iranian dissidents.

Students were the most politically active group in the past month, having organised at least 136 demonstrations, sit-ins, gatherings, and strikes.

Workers took part in some 60 protests.

Among the month’s major protests was a 100,000-strong anti-government rally by ethnic Azeris in the city of Tabriz against the publication of an insulting cartoon in the official daily Iran.

Interrogations of Iranian women continue.
Activists of the women’s movement in Iran have been under interrogations by security agents since their last rally in Tehran on June 12. According to a Rooz reporter from Tehran, two of the activists who are also founders of the Women’s Cultural Center Nooshin Ahmadi Khorasani and Parvin Ardalan received their arrest warrants after participating in the June 12th demonstration. They appeared at the designated security center and were interrogated. At the same time former member of Parliament and former member of Daftar-e Tahkim Vahdat student organization Mousavi Khoeini who was arrested during the rally continues to be in detention.

Nasrin Sotoodeh and Zohreh Arzani who are the defense attorneys for Ardalan and Ahmadi Khorasani told Rooz that they would like to not respond to press questions before they have received the questions from security authorities. These attorneys have already been denied access to their clients. Both Khorasani and Ardalan have appeared everyday at a security center to answer questions posed by security officials.