Archive for April, 2020

U.S. Policy on Human Rights in the Middle East

Thursday, April 30th, 2020

[On November 21, 2019, the National Interest Foundation held program on “U.S. Policy on Human Rights in the Middle East.” These notes summarize my impression of highlights of the presentation and are not an attempted transcription.]

Opening Remarks by Congressman Gerry Connolly (D – Virginia), House Committee on Foreign Affairs

No American, no resident of America should feel threatened. Despite its contradictions, America was meant to be a place where one must feel free. Human rights abuses in Syria and Egypt are routine. We still don’t have justice for his constituent Jamal Kashoggi, whose criticisms of the Saudi government were moderate. The Saudis have lied at every step since his murder. The fifteen assassins were flown in on planes owned by the crown prince, and Saudi denials ring hollow.

Panel I: “Human Rights in the Middle East” Moderator: Kelley Beaucar Vlahos (The American Conservative)

Areej Al Sadhan (Human Rights Activist) is a Saudi/American dual citizen whose brother, a humanitarian aide worker for Red Crescent, had been held for twenty months by the secret police, brutally tortured, and denied any contact with his family for social media postings on human rights issues.

Matthew Hedges (Durham University, UK) spoke as a victim of a false charge and of forced medication at the hands of the UAE. Although the UAE was founded by Shaikh Zaid bin Sultan Al Nahyan in alignment with the West, his successors have turned authoritarian. They originally charged him with distributing secret information, but on demonstration that the information was open, they changed the charge to distributing sensitive information. His case is not unique: He met a man who had been detained without charge for two years. He has now been under detention for ten years and does not expect ever to be released. He believes that the persecutors now have new tools and are emboldened by the complete absence of an international reaction. He alleges that Abu Dhabi uses its seat on the NYU board to suppress criticism. Although the charges against him have not been made clear, the evidence was completely on his masters thesis and why it is part of an MI-6 report. People he had met had been picked up by various securities services and his family had to leave the area.

Amel Ahmed (Nala Films for HBO) was in Sana working as a journalist and she saw Yemenis take to the streets. America took no action regarding Ali Abdullāh Salih and the Saudis installed Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, who attempted to split Yemen into six disproportionate regions for the benefit of the Saudis. When the Houtis rebelled the Saudis declared Yemen a battleground in the fight against Shia regional influence. Twenty million of the twenty nine million residents are now suffering what the UN calls the worlds worst humanitarian crisis. Terrorist groups have been given American weapons and victims taken to black sites. Many do not realize that Saudis participated in the Arab Spring. One imam who urged demonstrators to respond to Saudi violence only with their voices has been executed. You cannot obtain justice for Kashoggi without demanding justice for the others who have been detained or driven underground for demanding the change that President Obama advocated.

Abdullah Alaoudh (Georgetown University) says that the same individuals who murdered Kashoggi are the ones waging war in Yemen, persecuting critics, and who are behind his fathers arrest, mistreatment, and secret trial, seeking a death sentence on bogus charges including “seeking to establish a constitutional monarchy” and “possession of banned books.” There is no due process. They expected a verdict on his father later that month. He believes the people who extra-judicially killed Kashoggi are capable of anything, including judicially killing his father.

Panel II: “U.S. Foreign Policy and Human Rights” Moderator: Bruce Fein (Fein & DelValle PLLC) asks, “Do we have the credibility to put human rights above crass national interests?”

Former Congressman Nick Rahall (D–WV) said that in his time in Congress he saw human rights become more and more of an issue. The U.S. was good about speaking up for human rights, except for the Israeli-Palestinian issue. We know the Gazans live in sewage conditions and the human rights of Palestinians are unrecognized. There is more debate about US policy in the Israeli Knesset than in the US Congress. He doesn’t say that the US could be a panacea, only that we have no right to claim any moral superiority. In regard to Saudi Arabia and “moderate” Arab allies, we let them get away with anything. We overlook a lot in the Saudi rivalry with Iran because we want them to ally with Israel.

Doug Bandow (Cato Institute) says human rights is a stepchild of US foreign policy even under the best of circumstances, and these are not the best of circumstances. In Egypt, thousands are yet detained under conditions far worse than they were under Mubarak. In Turkey, tens of thousands have lost jobs and/or are in detention. In Israel/Palestine, the State Department no longer views the settlements as illegal. We seem to sanction our adversaries over everything except human rights. The more insecure you make a country, the less likely they are to take risks involved in improving human rights. Of tools, the US has the bully pulpit, and the President should be able to employ high sanctimony, despite the role we have played in those problems. We have aid, military security guarantees, arms sales, and sanctions. Bandow would argue the US should disentangle itself and first do no harm. We should recognize that these countries will continue to trade with us. They will sell oil irrespective of our position on human rights. The mere statement of interest in the subject, especially by US civil society, is essential.

Mohamed Soltan (The Freedom Initiative) says that two months after he got out of prison, the US wanted a photo op to show it could engage with the other side. He met with Sec. Kerry and was baffled not only that he didn’t see the human side of things, but that recruitment in prisons leads to radicalization. Although Soltan’s presence at the program is living testimony to the Obama administration policy, the region is a hot mess from policy developed under a national security lens. On his way to a meeting with the Trump administration, he got a message about a woman from Lancaster, PA, arrested in Egypt and separated from her children because of a tweet. Understanding our leverage requires understanding how much these regimes depend on us for their legitimacy. He believes the Arab Spring is alive and will come back depending only on the US government being true to its values. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died in sectarian violence that was the consequence of our intervention. It doesn’t matter that it was not intended. Much of what we think are legitimate tasks for the world’s policeman has horrible consequences.

Sarah Leah Whitson (Human Rights Watch) encourages reflection on the absence of accountability in US foreign policy. It must grapple with the violation of human right for which we are responsible. The grave crimes committed by American military and intelligence personnel in Iraq have not been reckoned with. The US is currently responsible for the violations of human rights and international law, for example, in Yemen. It is a party to the conflict. She is happy Pompeo ended refueling support, but intelligence support continues, which has been so dumb as to result in bombing of schools, hospitals, and funeral homes. The US continues to provide support and cover for the continued occupation of the Palestinian Territories, and the murder of demonstrators at the Gaza border. All who claim to be foreign policy realists abandon their realism when it comes to Israel. Their challenge is to justify assistance to an apartheid state. Put aside the myth of nonintervention in Syria; Egypt after overthrowing Egypt’s only fairly elected government uses its weapons against its own people in Sinai as well as in its interior. She does not look to the US to fix human rights problems. Pompeo weeping with Iranian demonstrators while demonstrators in Gaza are cut down just doesn’t cut it. She wants the US to realize that while it can’t fix everything, it must stop ruining so much.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute

News and Analysis (4/29/20)

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

Zainab Ramahi explains why the Court has, once again, as with its decision, failed in its Constitutional duty to protect minorities from majoritarianism :

In a statement Monday, Kuwait appealed to the Organisation of International Cooperation (OIC) to cease its toleration of Indian crimes against the rights of its Muslim:

A BJP legislator does the those who terrorize Muslim meat producers one better, personally threatening a Muslim vegetable vendor:

China’s fear of American sanctions is shrinking its bilateral trade with Iran:

As coronavirus and the economy threaten Trump re-election, he is desperately eyes a war with Iran to boost his Presidential campaign:

A pregnant woman is among the activist charged under a draconian anti-terrorism law for campaigning against the Citizenship law aimed at India’s large Muslim minority:

Nichola Profitt, arrested and charged in the arson fire Friday at Cape Girardeau Islamic Center, is held without bond:

News and Analysis (4/26/20)

Sunday, April 26th, 2020

India’s recent discrimination against Muslims and accusing them of deliberately spreading the virus, complicates the country’s fight against the pandemic:

[P]olice allow[ed] Hindu mobs to roam the streets freely to target the Muslim community” and since have focused their investigation on Muslim and student activists who have protested the Citizenship Amendment Act”:

With coronavirus coming on top of a political lockdown, “local medical professionals say they are seeing a rise in suicides and an increase in already disturbingly high rates of domestic abuse”:

Coronavirus is a common enemy to Israelis and Palestinians, but will annexation destroy the opportunity it provides?

A two pound baby prevails over pandemic and sanctions:

While the rest of the world grapples with an oversupply of fuel, Venezuela, with one of world’s largest oil reserves, crushed under US sanctions, cooperates with Iran on oil refining, agriculture and COVID-19:

Dr. Siddiqui, director of Dessert Valley medical group in Victorville, and thousands Muslim first responders are facing challenges of fasting Ramadan while making critical decisions fighting coronavirus:

Advice for non-Muslim colleagues on how to communicate with and be supportive to Muslim counterparts during Ramadan:

Rouhani stresses Iran’s right to defend itself against any threat to its security while calling for stability in the region:

News and Analysis (4/25/20)

Saturday, April 25th, 2020

Cancelling Islamic rituals has precedents in Islamic history such as the pilgrimage cancellations during the cholera outbreaks of 1837 and 1846:

“The state has silenced politicians, the pulpit, and other sections of the society” and now goes after the “few independent media voices”:

As different states look at different scapegoats for their failures in dealing with the Coronavirus, India blames it favorite target:

Because of the Palestinian population’s young average age, only two of the “484 reported coronavirus cases as of April 24 … have died so far”…

… but while Israel’s stranglehold on the Occupied Territories has delayed the outbreak of Coronavirus there, but will leave them “weakly positioned to cope when contagion kicks in more forcefully”:

President Rouhani promises Iran would never be the one to shoot first, but IRGC leader General Hossein Salami has ordered the navy “to destroy any American terrorist force in the Persian Gulf that threatens .. Iran’s … ships”:

Goldblum hedged, “I’m just … thinking out loud and maybe being stupid,” but when a non-religious Iranian wears a “red and white striped kaftan and a blue hijab outlined with 50 stars,” is s/he inviting the questions?

News and Analysis (4/22/20)

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020

An earlier victim says “that Israel tends to prosecute Palestinians who have contacts with the Arab world and the Middle East region to avoid admitting the separate national character of its Arab Palestinian citizens”:

Although Muslims mainly were the victims of violent Hindu mobs,” Delhi police are using the incident as a pretext to stifle peaceful protest against Indian citizenship act”:

“Cases filed against three Kashmiri journalists in less than a week as media and rights groups decry ‘misuse of power”:

“During the gunfight, troops blew up the house with explosives, a common tactic by security forces, residents said”:

Palestinian officials hold the UN responsibility to any Israeli annexation of the West Bank and warn annexation is a threat to peace in the region:

Under the recommendation of the Health Ministry, Palestine approved economic relaxation, the opening of vital economic establishments with a strict coordinated way:

Three centuries after Howard’s study of the association between prison and infectious disease, amid the pandemic, many Western countries still treat prison as usual:

In an apparent reference to harassment of big US Navy ships by small Iranian speedboats, Trump “has given orders for the US Navy to ‘shoot down and destroy” any Iranian gunboats found to be harassing US ships'” …

… but while “the Trump administration tightens the screws on Iran, Biden and the Democratic establishment dither, or worse”:

This is Iran’s first successful satellite launch since 2017:

News and Analysis (4/20/20)

Monday, April 20th, 2020

Her “work has appeared in several publications including The Washington Post, The New Humanitarian, TRT World, Al Jazeera, The Caravan and others”:

Iran’s FM “said his country would soon start exporting ventilators to the rest of the world” and that “the United States should stop interfering in the affairs of other nations”:

Myanmar’s immigration chief says the prisoners released “after fears that its overcrowded prisons could become hotbeds for runaway coronavirus outbreaks” will be quarantined, but offered no details:

“[M]any other prison systems seemed to almost view the situation as business as usual” …

… yet despite Iran’s temporary release of “some 85,000 inmates, including political prisoners,” the director of the prison where Fatemeh Khishvand is reportedly quarantined denies she has the coronavirus:

In the face of the pandemic challenges compounding the challenges of the occupation, Palestinians adopt new ways to observe Ramadan:

Bahrain released political prisoners and resumed flights to Iran to bring Bahrainis home:

CAIR alleges a Muslim health care worker and customer of La Mart wearing covering for protection from COVID-19 was tased by store security for declining to the covering:

To underline the role of the military staff working in the front line fighting coronavirus, Iran demonstrated medical equipment in its National Army Day:

An ‘asymmetric” outcome if a US-Iran clash breaks out with Iran targeting US interest abroad:

News and Analysis (4/18/20)

Saturday, April 18th, 2020

Forget fake news about coronavirus being invented in a weapons lab; the real news is how Israel is weaponizing the virus …

… leaving Palestinians to fight “the coronavirus crisis using familiar tactics from half a century of Israeli military occupation”:

The state denies it is happening, but a doctor reports, “Certain patients from the majority community were not comfortable being in the same ward with patients of the minority community”:

“[J]ournalists, human rights activists and Kurdish politicians languish in prison on terrorism charges. Yet …, Istanbul has become a beacon of safety for persecuted people across the Muslim world”:

“Grocery shop owners … donate PPE to health workers, food to the elderly and even Easter eggs to local children.” A customer says, “That man deserves a knighthood”:

“You don’t ask what I have to say, / but judge what I wear with pride. / I can climb mountains and cross oceans. / My spirit is free from prejudice freedom that Islam gives” — from a poem she wrote, recited at her funeral:

Emgage supports Biden despite his snub of their the forum they co-hosted at ISNA’s last annual convention that “left some Muslim leaders feeling that” he was among “the contenders … all but ignoring them”:

The coronavirus lockdown in Kashmir has paused neither the Indian aggression or the rebel insurgency:

Iran partially lifts its lockdown …

… while Pakistan permits congregational prayers on conditions including that “worshippers would maintain a 6-foot … distance from each other instead of … praying shoulder-to-shoulder”:

Acquiring combat drones …

… and aspirating to nuclear subs, Iran explains, “We are at our own home, while they (Americans) have come from the other side of the world and are creating problems for the regional countries with threats and sanctions”:

News and Analysis (4/15/20)

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

Juan Cole analyzes Trump’s totalitarian view of the power of the President:

“This is so frustrating. Trying to download the guidelines for intensive care management as proposed by docs in England. 24 Mbs and one hour. Still not able to do so” — a Kashmiri doctor:

The moments it took “to find the harasser and expel him from the room … felt like a lifetime as he spewed hate with a voice that sounded empty, almost soulless. Even as none of us were surprised, all of us were stunned”:

Having won a legal case against the U.S. effort to use Tehran $1.6 billion, frozen in Luxembourg, to pay victims of Sept. 11, Iran seeks to use the funds to buy medicine and other essentials to fight the pandemic …

… and now, the US alleges Iran would use released money to fund terrorism:

WHO advises burial of corona victims is as safe as cremation, but Sri Lanka authorities defend the imposition of cremation by citing the country’s groundwater level and time:

Because there were “no other relatives except his wife and young children;” Muslim neighbors made arrangements for Hindu rites and cremation for the Hindu cancer victim:

Israeli officials disagree on dismantling of Iran’s nuclear capability before it reaches “a point of no return;” could Kochavi stop Netanyahu from starting a broader war:

News and Analysis (4/12/20)

Sunday, April 12th, 2020

In “the seventh century, when the Greek Orthodox gave the key to the family”:

“Everybody wants to control us but nobody wants to help us”:

Biden says that Sanders has given life to some previously taboo issues; many “Sanders’ supporters would add Palestinian human rights to that list”:

Will the coronavirus outbreak urge Iran and the Gulf countries to open window for diplomacy?

“Now that face covering is seen everywhere” Muslim women veil is no longer a security threat:

“For the time being, in keeping our churches and mosques closed, we fulfill this commandment by keeping our neighbors safe from contracting disease. What’s more Christian than that?”:

“Each side accused the other of starting the shelling and targeting civilian areas in violation of the 2003 cease-fire accord along the so-called Line of Control that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan”:

As Pakistan is hit by an economic slowdown and widespread of corona, Pakistani interfaith volunteer group joined hand with other faith group to fight the common enemy:

News and Analysis (4/9/20)

Thursday, April 9th, 2020

FBI investigation of Americans nonviolent group supporting Palestinians relied heavily on biased right-wing claims:

With the coronavirus “the world is getting a taste of what daily Palestinian life has been like for decades”:

“Pakistani troops downed the drone when it “intruded 600 meters inside Pakistan’s territory” for surveillance along the Line of Control that divides the Pakistani- and Indian-controlled portions of Kashmir”:

Iran works with Interpol to exchange prisoners, after some 100,000 have been released:

Regardless of political differences, U.A.E. is the first country to send aid for Iran to fight coronavirus:

Arrested on “allegations of [child] abuse …later concluded to be unfounded” the woman was left in tears at having to remove what she sees as “not a fashion accessory but important to her religious faith”:

You’d think Muslims would know: Ingesting alcohol doesn’t cure you; it kills you: