Syrian troops: Escalate effort to "cleanse" Homs

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BEIRUT – Civilians cowered in homes and activists recorded what they believed may be their final testaments as Syrian troops and tanks intensified their efforts to "cleanse" Homs on Wednesday.

Elite Syrian troops accompanied by tanks began a ground offensive on four fronts to crush the stronghold of a movement opposed to Syrian President Bashar Assad. The city has endured 26 days of intense bombardment that an unnamed Syrian government official told the Associated Press was meant to "cleanse" Homs of opposition.

Read more at USA Today

Syrian activists: Appeal to West to be "adopted"

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BERLIN – The website pictures show the selection up for adoption: Kobani, Al Hasaka and Barzeh. What at first glance might appear to be abandoned pets in need of good homes are actually the names of Syrian revolutionary groups asking for help from the West.

Through the "Adopt a Revolution" initiative, individuals and civil society groups abroad can "adopt" the activist group of their choice and help it to survive and succeed.

Read more at USA Today

Middle east: In once-quiet Jordan, air of unrest looms

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AMMAN, Jordan – Rain falls slowly over protesters outside a mosque nestled in the heart of downtown, where one year after political tumult shook governments across the Middle East, demonstrators continue to demand political and economic reform.

"We are here to say we are not with the government," says Rula Abdel Hamid, marching with a group of women chanting anti-government slogans on a recent Friday afternoon. "They are stealing this country."

Read more at USA Today

Syrian shelling: Decimates Homs neighborhood

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Carcasses of buildings riddled with bullet holes, flattened cars and mountains of rubble are what's left of a Homs neighborhood after an intensifying bombardment campaign in Syria that began in early February.

Baba Amr is rapidly disappearing.

"The neighborhood is a disaster," said Sami Ibrahim, an activist in Homs for the Syrian Network for Human Rights who was contacted by phone. "The streets are demolished. Buildings, even schools have been destroyed. Families have to leave their homes."

Read more at USA Today

Syrian activists: Say calls for president to quit not enough

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BERLIN – Representatives of more than 50 countries Friday called on Syrian President Bashar Assad to allow a cease-fire in his brutal crackdown on dissenters and step down, but Syrian activists say more forcefulness is needed.

"Asking Assad to step down, hand power over to his deputy, calling for reforms, we continue to ask what is there to force him to do any on these things? Nothing," said Abdul Omar, a Syrian activist based in Britain.

Read more at USA Today

Ordinary Iranians: Sanctions make life tough

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TEHRAN — Ordinary families here have begun to feel the bite of new international sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program, as basic food items have doubled and tripled in price in the past few weeks.

“Prices are going up all the time, and it’s getting really hard to make ends meet,” Bolour, a housewife, said in a downtown Tehran shop. “But what can we do? Sanctions are to blame.”

Read more at The Washington Times

Young Libyan: Finds a voice in covering revolution

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BENGHAZI, LIBYA — Malik Muhammad al-Mabrouk sat two weeks ago in a darkened corner of the Uzu Hotel cafe lounge, the screen of his propped-up iPad illuminating his face. Notepad, pen and cellphone at the ready, and wearing his trademark beige photographer’s vest, he was preparing to interview a former opposition leader who recently returned to Libya after 30 years in exile. Nothing unusual for a working journalist, except that his deadline was also his bedtime: Malik is 14 years old.

Read more at The New York Times

Syria's bloodbath: Activists ensure that the world sees it

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BEIRUT – In a secret studio jammed with video monitors, Syrian activists and journalists scan live cellphone-camera feeds of protests against Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and, in many cases, images of unmistakable atrocities and unimaginable human suffering.

Working quickly, they transmit the videos via satellite link to the Internet, where the scenes of destruction that the Assad regime is trying to conceal are revealed in full color to the world.

Read more at USA Today

North Africa: Reporting after the Arab Spring

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The protests that swept across North Africa in 2011 have done little to boost press freedom in the region, as the arrest of NM contributor Austin Mackell showed, writes Charles McPhedran.

New Matilda contributor’s Austin Mackell’s first public reaction to his sudden international fame last week invoked an old journalistic cliché: "FIRST RULE OF JOURNALISM: Don’t become the story (actually it is more of a guideline)." The Australian journalist posted this on his Twitter feed just after his release from custody in Egypt.

Read more at New Matilda

Sinai Peninsula: Revolution brings instability

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NUWEIBA, Egypt — Braced by a calm, crisp breeze off the Red Sea, Bedouin Sheik Sleiman El-Sakhan, leader of the south Sinai's Muzainah tribe, offers tea in an outdoor spot beneath trees and speaks optimistically about the future.

"We do a good job at keeping the land secure but we can't do anything without the Egyptian government," El-Sakhan says of the roughly dozen tribes that sprawl Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. "I don't understand who is managing the country now."

Read more at USA Today

Exciting journey: Americans sail the Nile, document effects of Egypt revolt

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CAIRO - It was near the Nile river village of Naga Hammadi where two Nubian crew members tried to take off with the wooden sailboat, making use of a brisk wind to dart away from its American owners.

"At first, we thought there was a mutiny," recounts Joshua Maricich, one of the two adventurers who were making their way up the Nile on an Egyptian felucca named Jasmine. "But we realised it was just nerves. It was a long day and they wanted to show us that they were in control."

Read more at The National

Libyan politics: Much still to do after Gadhafi's fall

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BENGHAZI, Libya — On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the Feb. 17 revolution, residents here say that while they are thrilled their former dictator is gone, there hasn’t been enough of an effort to purge his supporters from the leadership.

“The question is whether the regime has fallen or is it still there,” said Abdel Salam El Sherif, 33, a lawyer and political activist in the city considered the cradle of the uprising that ousted dictator Moammar Gadhafi late last year.

Read more at The Washington Times

Moroccan protests: Demonstrations one year on

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CASABLANCA - Protesters are set to mark the first anniversary of Morocco's February 20 pro-democracy movement with demonstrations and strikes across the country starting Sunday. But activists say that, rather than a celebration, the protests will be a reminder to the regime that they will not give up before their calls for reform are answered. “We are advocating for a democratic constitution that will give real power to a government that currently still doesn’t have enough weight to respond to our demands,” said Youness Bensaid, 23, a Casablanca-based activist.

Read more at The New York Times

Kurdish conflict: Takes toll on Turkey's image

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ISTANBUL — Turkey’s regional status as a democratic role model is being threatened by the Muslim country’s 30-year conflict with Kurds, which now is pushing Turkey toward violent upheaval.

Turkish warplanes on Sunday bombed suspected Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq in the second cross-border airstrike in less than a week.

Read more at The Washington Times

Moroccan protests: One year on

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CASABLANCA — Protesters are set to mark the first anniversary of Morocco’s February 20 pro-democracy movement with demonstrations and strikes across the country starting Sunday. But activists say that, rather than a celebration, the protests will be a reminder to the regime that they will not give up before their calls for reform are answered.

“We are advocating for a democratic constitution that will give real power to a government that currently still doesn’t have enough weight to respond to our demands,” said Youness Bensaid, 23, a Casablanca-based activist.

Read more at The New York Times

Syrian civilians: Fight for their lives as killings rise

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WADI KHALED - As Western nations increasingly push to end the violence in Syria, dissidents on Tuesday said the killings are escalating in the city of Homs - a flash point for the uprising - where residents are fighting furiously to prevent their own annihilation. Troops under President Bashar Assad continued on Tuesday to shell the Baba Amr district of Homs, Syria's third-largest city and an area that has been under siege for months. More than 300 people are believed to have died in Homs last weekend, said Walid Saffour, president of the Syrian Human Rights Committee in London.

Read more at USA TODAY

Syrian uprising: Syrians fight for their lives

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WADI KHALED, Lebanon – As Western nations increasingly push to end the violence in Syria, dissidents on Tuesday said the killings are escalating in the city of Homs — a flash point for the uprising — where residents are fighting furiously to prevent their own annihilation.

Troops under President Bashar Assad continued on Tuesday to shell the Baba Amr district of Homs, Syria's third-largest city and an area that has been under siege for months. More than 300 people are believed to have died in Homs last weekend, said Walid Saffour, president of the Syrian Human Rights Committee in London.

Read more at USA Today

Post-Tahrir: Egyptians roiled by lawlessness

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CAIRO — Egyptians are becoming incensed by rising lawlessness and falling security — evidenced by last week's deadly post-soccer match melee — as protests mount against the military council that has ruled the country since the ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak last February. Meanwhile, tensions between Cairo and Washington heightened Sunday, when Egyptian investigative judges referred 19 Americans and 24 other workers for nonprofit groups that promote democracy to stand trial on charges of using foreign funds to incite unrest.

Read more at The Washington Times

Arab revolutions: Christians fear future

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CAIRO – From her home in a labyrinth of stonewalled alleyways, Samia Ramsis holds a key chain bearing the face of the Virgin Mary as she sits in her yellow pajamas on the morning of Orthodox Christmas.

Sunlight pours in through a window. Outside, visitors come to look upon the spot where Egypt's Christians — most known as Copts — believe the Holy Family found refuge after fleeing Bethlehem and assassins sent by King Herod to kill the baby Jesus.

Read more at USA Today

Egypt's uprising: Back to square one?

The revolution isn't over, say activists at Tahrir Square. Photo: G. David CampbellCAIRO - Amal Sharaf opens her third pack of cigarettes of the day before drinking a Turkish coffee inside a smoky cafe. She hasn't slept in 24 hours, busy planning protests the day before the one-year anniversary of Egypt's 18-day revolution.

"We're starting from scratch, from zero," said Sharaf, 37, who co-founded the April 6 Youth Movement that led last winter's revolt.

Read more at USA Today


Morocco trial: New constitution under spotlight

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CASABLANCA - In a packed courtroom, Mouad Belrhouat, 24, an anti-monarchist rapper who performs as El-Haqed was convicted of assault and sentenced to prison and a fine. On the surface, a banal enough affair. But for many observers the proceedings were more a trial and conviction of Moroccan justice - and, by extension of the country's new Constitution, which guarantees the independence of the judiciary. After the verdict was announced, Mr. Belrhouat’s supporters jumped on their seats in the Ain Sbaa courtroom, on the outskirts of Casablanca, shouting “long live the people.”

Read more at The New York Times

Syrian risk: Broadcasters reporting on conflict

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At 8:30 p.m. in a makeshift newsroom on the top floor of a nondescript building, Syrian news anchor Qutaiba Al-Khatib tapped away on his laptop, writing a script for a newscast. The lead story: the killing in Houla of 108 civilians, including dozens of children, allegedly by supporters of the regime.

Within hours, this secret broadcast operation had beamed news and videos on the massacre to Syrians and to points throughout the Arab world. Worldwide, the story dominates headlines.

Read more at USA Today

Islamist victories: Voters seek change

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CAIRO — Long-oppressed Arabs may be supporting Islamist political parties, but that does not mean the United States needs to fear a new rash of governments imposing strict Islamic law, according to some analysts who reviewed voting patterns after the Arab Spring uprisings.

“What voters are doing is voting for a clean break with the old regimes,” saidFawaz Gerges, director of Middle East studies at the London School of Economics.

Read more at The Washington Times

Egyptian election: Muslim Brotherhood on top

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CAIRO – Parties that want an expansion of Islamic law captured a clear majority of the votes in Egypt's first election since the uprising that ousted longtime authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak, according to results released Sunday.

The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party topped winners with 37% of the nearly 10 million valid ballots cast for party lists in the first of three electoral rounds for the Egyptian parliament.

Read more at USA Today

Egyptian poll: Protests halt for ballot

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CAIRO — The second day of parliamentary elections here passed without incident Tuesday, with millions of Egyptians taking part in their country’s first clean voting in decades and Egypt’s military rulers taking credit for the relative calm and massive turnout.

Meanwhile, many voters said the protests in Tahrir Square, which launched Egypt’s revolution in January and resumed this month against the military rulers, now can cease if a democratically elected government represents the will of the people.

Read more at The Washington Times

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