Somalia flooding in the Middle Shabelle region of the Horn of Africa state. A cyclone also hit the northern region of Puntland., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Somalia: Struggling in the face of twin natural disasters
Thousands of people in eastern Puntland are trying to cope with the aftermath of a devastating cyclone. Further south, in Middle Shabelle, tens of thousands are struggling to recover from major flooding by the River Shabelle, especially in and around the town of Jowhar.
Aid for cyclone and flood victims - news release
In Puntland, a cyclone that struck on 10 November left dozens of people dead and up to a million head of livestock wiped out by freak freezing temperatures, high winds and severe floods. "The regions of Nugal and Bari were the most affected," said Abshir Omar Jama, who is coordinating the ICRC's relief effort in Puntland. "Hundreds of families have been rendered homeless, and the economy – highly dependent on livestock farming – has been shattered through the loss of so many animals."
"It was raining for three days. It was getting more and more windy and cold," said Mohamed Osman Jama, a livestock herder from Naasa Hablood. "We had 150 goats and lost half of them. We had three houses and they were all swept away by the flood. Our food was lost, too."
ICRC and Somali Red Crescent Society personnel have managed to reach the stricken areas and for the last week have been providing much-needed assistance, but access remains very difficult owing to the storm's impact on the road network. "In some places, we had to swim across flooded roads to get to the affected areas," said Mr Omar Jama.
In Middle Shabelle, the humanitarian situation is no better. Heavy rains in the highlands of the Horn of Africa over the last two months have swollen the Shabelle River massively, causing major flooding that has forced more than 10,000 people to flee to the town of Jowhar, where they are living in wretched conditions. In addition, the town is trying to cope with some 5,000 people who have sought refuge near the airstrip, 13 kilometres to the north, following violent clashes between rival ethnic groups.
"Those who have remained in flood-hit areas, especially in and around Jowhar town, are having to contend with very difficult conditions," said May Hazim, in charge of the ICRC's water and sanitation programmes in Somalia. "Their shallow wells and other sources of water have been contaminated, which represents a major health hazard."
All the standing crops in the affected areas have been destroyed. This is primarily an agricultural region, where the farmers are now facing a severe food shortage with the loss of their harvest. Recovering from this economic shock will be a challenge for the community for a long time to come.
This month, the Somali Red Crescent Society and the ICRC have:
In eastern Puntland:
distributed emergency one-month food rations and household items to more than 12,000 cyclone victims in Dhir Waraabe, Lebi Cadaad, Xoolo Keen, Balli Shilin, and Abqow;
made available water as well as chlorine tablets and other items needed to store and distribute water;
In Middle Shabelle:
provided 25,800 people with such essentials as kitchen sets, tarpaulins, hygiene items, jerrycans, clothes, buckets and sleeping mats;
distributed fortified biscuits, Plumpy'Nut and other nutritional supplements to needy people;
cleaned and de-watered 19 hand-dug wells and upgraded 13 of them;
stopped flooding and reinforced river banks at five locations;
launched a water trucking operation to distribute a survival ration of five litres per person per day to 5,000 people displaced by inter-ethnic violence;
started building 100 latrines for 5,000 displaced people at the airport;
dispatched emergency surgical supplies to Jowhar Hospital for the treatment of weapon-wounded patients and facilitated the transfer of war-wounded people from Jowhar to the ICRC-supported Medina Hospital in Mogadishu.
The ICRC and the Somali Red Crescent Society were already working in both eastern Puntland and Middle Shabelle before the recent cyclone and flooding. Both organizations have been supporting the efforts of local communities to strengthen their self-reliance, and will continue to do so.
For further information, please contact:
Fatuma Abdisalam Abdullahi (available for interviews in Somali or English), ICRC Puntland, tel: +252 90 77 94 282
Germain Mwehu, ICRC Nairobi, tel: +254 20 271 93 01 or +254 736 400 199
Jean-Yves Clémenzo, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 22 71 or +41 79 217 32 17
Zawiya Oil refinery in occupied Libya. Since the counter-revolution against Gaddafi and the Jamahiriya the country's oil production has declined by two-thirds., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Home / Op-Edge /
'Major crude oil importers won’t deal with Libya’s militia'
Published time: November 27, 2013 11:28
Libyan militia won’t be able to successfully control the assets of the country’s oil production, Mamdouh Salameh, World Bank oil expert, told RT.
Moeen Raoof, Defence consultant, believes there is nothing Tripoly can do about separatists who declared an autonomy in the country's oil-rich eastern provinces. “The central government cannot rule beyond the hotel lobby, where the Prime Minister stays in,” Raoof told RT. There will be instability for the next 10-20 years unless they come up with solution, he said.
RT: The country's oil output has plummeted to about 10% of its previous capacity - what are the immediate and long-term effects of this drop?
Mamdouh Salameh: Actually the price of oil has dropped by $2 to $3 only, but that is natural because oil is connected and receptive to political developments. However, the overall trend for the future of oil is upward. Its drop of $2 to $3 is nothing. The demand for oil is going up and that’s why I’m saying the trend is ascending. So I wouldn’t be surprised if we see the price of $120 to $130 by 2015. However, the loss of 2 or 3 dollars in the price of oil seems to be welcomed by the global economies, although it won’t have a very great impact as yet.
RT: In terms of what’s going on in Libya itself and in terms of who actually controls the oil, we do hear that breakaway militias have formed an autonomy in Libya's oil-rich east.
They want to export the crude oil for themselves. Do you think they will be able to succeed?
MS: No, they will not. Libya is a different category from the other Arab Gulf producers.
For instance, since last year when the troubles started in Libya, Libya virtually ceased to be an oil exporter. This year they are not even able to satisfy their domestic needs which amounts to around 400,000 barrels a day - they are producing 200,000, which is 50% of their needs. And they used to export 1.25 million barrels to Europe, they are not exporting anything.
The militia or the armed gangs want to control the assets of oil production so that they can finance their activities. They will not succeed and they will also have to repair the damage to the oil industry in Libya.
Furthermore, the major importers like Italy, France and Germany will not deal with them; they would rather buy oil from somewhere else but not deal with the militia.
RT: Given the huge economic problems Libya is now facing, particularly with reference to oil and gas revenues, are there any economic alternatives for Tripoli?
MS: There is no alternative because the Libyan budget depends to the tune of 85 percent to 90 percent of revenue from oil and gas export. The Libyan economy as a whole is dependent to the tune of 90 percent to 95 percent on the revenue from oil and gas.
Since there is no gas and oil revenue, no export, so there is no revenue at all. The Libyan government is in real mess because they cannot issue the budget without knowing how much oil they will be able to export and what revenue they will get.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
Damage from a rebel shoot out at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Tripoli, Libya. Violence continued in the city on the evening of November 8, 2013., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Libya struggles to pay salaries, more clashes erupt
By Ulf Laessing and Ayman al-Warfalli
TRIPOLI/BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) -
Libya's Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said on Wednesday his government will be unable to pay public salaries and may have to seek loans if armed militias blockading oilfields and ports continue to choke off crude shipments.
Zeidan's warning and renewed armed clashes, including an attack on a centuries-old shrine near Tripoli, have added to a growing sense of chaos in the OPEC producer two years after the NATO-backed ouster of Muammar Gaddafi.
Western powers worry the North African state may slide into anarchy as Zeidan's government struggles to rein in militias who helped topple Gaddafi but have kept their weapons and still control parts of the vast country.
Militias, tribesman and ethnic minorities have seized oilfields and ports to make demands, drying up the main cashflow for the budget, much of which is spent on state subsidies to stave off popular discontent or to buy the loyalty of the militias.
"We are facing a financial crisis," Zeidan told reporters, adding that the government might be forced to borrow. "Oil revenues are down to 20 percent."
He did not give further details. Libya had been exporting more than 1 million barrels of oil a day until summer, when the protests and strikes escalated, and output is now down to a fraction of that.
A government deadline to end the oil strikes expired last week but Zeidan only repeated that the authorities would take unspecified "measures". He declined to elaborate.
Libya might also start facing power cuts as the oil strikes hamper gas production at several fields, Electricity Minister Ali Muhairig said.
Hours before Zeidan spoke, new clashes broke out between army special forces and Islamists in Benghazi, the largest city in the oil-rich east.
Fighting on Monday between the army and members of militant group Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi left at least nine dead before the Islamists retreated from their main base.
Gun battles erupted in parts of the port city in the early hours of Wednesday when members of Ansar al-Sharia threw a grenade at a patrol of special forces, a security official said. He later said it was not clear who was behind the attack.
Three soldiers were also killed in Benghazi in what city officials described as assassinations. The security situation in Libya's second-biggest city has sharply deteriorated in the past few months. Islamists run their own checkpoints, and assassinations and bombings occur daily.
In Tajoura outside the capital Tripoli, unknown attackers blew up part of a 16th century shrine, the mausoleum of an Ottoman ruler, witnesses said.
Western powers have promised more aid to the army and police to militants who control much of the vast desert country.
But popular anger is also growing against the militiamen and former fighters, and Zeidan's fragile government hopes to use that discontent to wrest back control from armed groups.
Hoping to co-opt former fighters, the government has hired militia groups to provide security. But they remain loyal to their commanders or tribes and often clash in disputes over territory or personal feuds.
(Additional reporting by Ghaith Shennib; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Patrick Markey and Mark Trevelyan)
Page of Obamacare website which has been temporarily closed down for maintenance. The has had problems since going online in October 2013., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Another HealthCare.gov delay announced
Kelly Kennedy, USA TODAY 5:48 p.m. EST
November 27, 2013
Online enrollment for small businesses being pushed back a year
Paper enrollment still available, as are state exchanges
Republicans say it is more evidence the health care law is fatally flawed
WASHINGTON — Small businesses will not be able to enroll online in the new health insurance exchanges until November 2014, the Obama administration announced Wednesday.
Online enrollment was originally slated to begin this month. However, businesses may continue to sign up for the Small Business Health Options Program through paper applications, as they have been since Oct. 1, said Julie Bataille, director of the Office of Communications for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
They will also be able to enroll using agents and brokers or directly through an insurer.
"Many of them today are already served by using agents and brokers," Bataille said.
She also said tax credits would be applied when businesses turned in their taxes.
The announcement immediately drew outcry from Republicans, who said the delay was a sign that the website is still not up to par.
"With each passing day, it's clear how much worse ObamaCare is than a website full of glitches," said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus in a statement. He called for the whole program to be scrapped. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Speaker John Boehner issued similar statements.
Bataille said the delay isn't an indictment of Healthcare.gov.
"The website is working already," she said. "Consumers every day are shopping and enrolling in coverage."
By this weekend, the website is expected to handle 800,000 people a day "smoothly," officials have said.
Business groups also expressed concern about the SHOP delay.
Kevin Kuhlman, manager of legislative affairs for National Federation of Independent Business, a conservative lobbying organization, said the announcement showed the administration doesn't care about small business.
"It probably matters little to people in Washington that the failure to get the small business exchanges online adds yet another onerous paperwork requirement for job creators," he said. "The continued delays add to uncertainty and contribute to the decision of many owners to take early renewals of their small-group plans."
But the Main Street Alliance, a more liberal national small business association, saw the option to enroll directly with insurers as a plus.
"While we're disappointed that the ability to enroll online on the Healthcare.gov website has been pushed back for small employers, starting in December Healthcare.gov will offer small businesses a better comparison shopping experience," reads a statement from the Alliance. "Most, importantly, today's announcement allowing direct enrollment ensures that small businesses will be able to access the benefits of the Affordable Care Act in 2014, including expanded health care tax credits."
The government announced in April that small businesses would be able to enroll in the SHOPS, but delayed until 2015 small business employees' ability to choose from more than one plan. Instead, the businesses would choose one plan for all of their employees, which was the case for most small businesses before the SHOP launched.
States offering SHOP coverage through state-based exchanges are not affected by Wednesday's announcement.
Egyptian pro-Morsi demonstration on Aug. 10, 2013. The military-backed regime has ordered the protesters off the streets within twenty-four hours., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Full English translation of Egypt's new protest law
Ahram Online, Monday 25 Nov 2013
Ahram Online translates the text of Egypt's new law on protests and demonstrations
The new protest law consists of 25 articles, which outline in detail the conditions that must be met before a protest, political meeting or march is held. It also details the penalties for violations of the law.
Chapter 1: General rules and definitions
Article 1: Citizens have the right to hold and join public meetings, marches and peaceful protests in accordance with the provisions and regulations of the protest law.
Article 2: A public meeting is any gathering in a public location or place wherein persons may enter or be allowed entry without a personal invitation and whose number is no less than 10, for the aim of discussing or exchanging opinions about a subject of a public nature.
Electoral meetings are considered part of general gatherings in the application of this law when the following conditions are met:
1. That their aim is choosing a candidate or candidates for parliament or hearing their electoral programmes.
2. That it only includes the voters and the candidates or their representatives.
3. That the meeting is held during the period allotted for election campaigning.
Article 3: A march is a procession of at least ten persons in a place, road or square, to peacefully express non-political opinions and aims.
Article 4: A protest is a gathering of at least ten persons in a public place or moving in roads and squares, with the aim of peacefully expressing their political opinions, demands or objections.
Article 5: Prohibition of any political gathering in houses of worship, their vicinities or buildings associated with them, in addition to barring houses of worship from serving as meeting points for marches.
Article 6: Participants in protests, meetings or marches are prohibited from carrying any weapons, explosives, fireworks or other items that may put individuals, buildings or possessions in danger.
Wearing masks to hide the face during such actions is prohibited.
Article 7: Violations of general security, public order, or production are prohibited, as well as calling for disrupting public interests. It also forbids actions which could impact on public services, transportation or the flow of traffic, as well as assaults on security forces or exposure of danger to individuals, public or private possessions.
Article 8: Anyone wanting to organise a public meeting, march or protest must notify in writing the police station whose jurisdiction includes the public meeting's location or the starting point of a march or protest, the notification must be given in a minimum of three working days prior to the public meeting, march or protest, and a maximum of 15 days, and this period is reduced to 24 hours if the meeting was an electoral meeting, on the condition that the notification be given first-hand or through a marshal, and must include the following statements and information:
1. The place of the public meeting or route of the march or protest.
2. The start and end time of the public meeting, march or protest.
3. The subject of the public meeting or march or protest, its aim and the demands and slogans adopted by the participants in them.
4. The names of the individuals or organising organisation of the public meeting or march or protest, their description, place of residence and communication information.
Article 9: The interior minister shall issue a decree forming a permanent committee in each governorate presided over by its security director, its mission being to establish procedures and measures to secure public meetings, marches and protests that have given notice, and the modes of operation to deal with violent protests, in accordance with the provisions of this law.
Article 10: The interior minister or the security director may authorise a reasoned decision to prohibit or postpone or change the location or route of a public meeting or march or protest before its stated start time if serious information or evidence of threats to security or peace are obtained by them, notifying the organisers of the decision a minimum period of 24 hours in advance.
Without prejudice to the purview of the Administrative Court, the organisers may appeal the decision to ban or postpone decision.
Chapter 2: Procedures and regulatory controls
Article 11: Security forces in official uniform should disperse protests, meetings or marches in the event of a crime at the order of the field commander.
The field police commander can ask a judge to determine the non-peaceful state of a meeting or protest. A decision should be issued immediately.
Article 12: Security forces must utilise methods of gradual dispersal for protests in breach of the law.
Authorities must first ask participants to voluntarily leave through audible verbal warnings, which should be repeated several times whilst indicating and providing secure paths out of the venue of assembly.
If participants refuse to leave, security forces have the right to use water cannons, batons, and teargas to disperse protesters.
Article 13: In the case of security forces failing to disperse gatherings through afore mentioned measurements, or if violent assaults erupt against security forces, escalatory measures may be taken.
In this case, security forces should first fire warning shots, then escalate by using rubber bullets and finally metal pellets.
If participants use weapons, security forces should respond using means proportional to the danger imposed.
Article 14: The Minister of Interior, in coordination with the concerned governor, should designate a safe space for protesters in front of vital institutions.
Such institutions include government, military, and security buildings, as well as courts, prosecution centres and museums.
Article 15: Protests in specific spacious venues will be allowed to take place without prior notification. Such spaces will be defined by the governor.
Chapter 3: Penalties
Article 16: The following states the penalties in the case that earlier articles are violated.
Article 17: Whoever possesses weapons or explosives while participating in a protest, meeting or march could face imprisonment of seven years and pay a fine of between LE100,000 and LE300,000.
Article 18: A participant who has received or given money and/or benefits to protests, meetings or marches is to face prison and a fine of between LE100,000 and LE200,000. The same penalty will be imposed on whoever is responsible for inciting such a crime.
Article 19: A participant who violates Article 7 in the protest law could face 2 to 5 years of imprisonment, in addition to the possibility of paying a fine of between LE50,000 and LE100,000.
Article 20: Violating Articles 5 and 14 or wearing masks while committing a crime during a protest could lead to a maximum sentence of a year in prison and a fine of between LE30,000 and LE50,000.
Article 21: Holding a protest, meeting or march without giving prior notification as dictated by Article 8 could result in a fine of between LE10,000 and LE30,000.
Article 22: For any of the listed crimes, the courts can order the confiscation of tools or money used during protests or marches. However, this article excludes those who act with good intentions.
Chapter 4: Procedural provisions
Article 23: Law 14, issued in 1923, is to be annulled, in addition to the cancellation of any laws that contradict the new protest law.
Article 24: The cabinet is to issue decisions regarding the implementation of the provisions of the protest law.
Article 25: This law is to be published in the official gazette, and will be in effect the day after publication.
This is not an official translation.
The Egyptian pyramids were built by skilled tradesmen according to the recent excavations done inside the area., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Egyptian archaeologists refute claims by German amateurs on Great Pyramid
Nevine El-Aref, Wednesday 27 Nov 2013
Head of ancient Egyptian antiquities explains why he thinks claims by two German amateurs concerning the construction date of the Great Pyramid are wrong
In response to the alleged stealing of samples from the Great Pyramid by two German amateur archaeologists, Egypt's antiquities ministry issued a press release Wednesday discrediting all findings by the German pair.
The archaeologists took a piece of Kufu's cartouche from a small compartment above his burial chamber and smuggled it to Germany for study, the Ancient Egyptian section of the Ministry of State of Antiquities (MSA) reported.
The results announced by the two Germans cast doubt on the construction date of the Great Pyramid and consequently the Pharaoh for which it was built.
The results suggest that the pyramid was built in an era preceding Khufu's reign. It also suggests that the Pyramid is not the burial place for a king but a centre of power.
Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, head of the ancient Egyptian department, asserted in a press release on Wednesday that a multitude of scientific research from the past two centuries shows that the Great Pyramid belongs to King Khufu, the second king of the fourth dynasty, and that it was built during his reign to be used as his royal burial place for eternity.
A pyramid is not a sole object; it is part of a structural complex connected to each others. This includes the pyramid itself, the funerary temple, the side pyramid, solar boat pits, the ramp and the valley temple, Maqsoud said.
He emphasised that Greek historian Herodotus, who visited Egypt during the fifth century BC, said that the ramp of King Khufu's Pyramid took 20 years of construction work and its walls were painted with scenes from Khufu's era.
The original blocks, many of which bore the King's name, were reused in the construction of the pyramids during the Middle Kingdom in the Lesht and Dahshur areas.
Archaeologist George Raisnerdiscovered the tomb of Khufu's mother, Queen Hetep Heres, to the east of the Great Pyramid, and archaeologist Ferdinand Debono found engravings of King Khufu's at Wadi Hamamat, now displayed in the Egyptian museum in Cairo, Maqsoud added.
The cartouche that the German archaeologists sampled was scrawled in red by the Great Pyramid builders in the 17th year of Khufu's reign.
According to the custom at the time, workers used to write on the walls of the structures they built in order to assert their belonging to an individual or king. Such cartouches were found in the entrance of Khufu's solar boat pit.
Maqsoud asserted scientific evidence shows that the pyramid builders' necropolis was found at the eastern rock of the Giza Plateau in 1990, and that each tomb contains details of its owner and his job description, as well as his or her skeleton and funerary collection.
"The most important archaeological evidence that Khufu is the king that built the Great Pyramid is the discovery carried out in 2012 by French archaeologist Taleit in a rock cave at Al-Ein El-Sokhna heights," Maqsoud concluded.
He added that Taleit found a collection of papyri dated to the reign of King Khufu mentioning the number of workers, artisans and boats that were used to transport the pyramid's blocks to the Giza plateau.
According to studies carried out by the French mission, these papyri were part of the diary of an engineer who was involved in the construction of the Great Pyramid.
The papyri also show the engineer's working plan and a description of the way the ancient Egyptians transported the blocks.
German archaeologist Rudolf Cooper also uncovered graffiti in the Western Desert at the Dakhla oasis revealing that Khufu and his son Djedef Re sent missions to import colours and oxides for decorating the Pyramid's inner walls.
Ahmed Saeed, professor of ancient Egyptian civilization at Cairo University, supports Abdel Maqsoud, saying thatwhat the German amateurs have claimed is totally false and nonsensical.
He elaborates on the writing of the King's name in graffiti, maintaining it could have been written by the pyramid builders after construction, which might also explain why the king's short name and not his official title is inscribed.
Alternatively, he suggests the cartouche could have been written during the Middle Kingdom era, due to the style of writing used.
He said that graffiti left by visitors on the walls of monuments have helped Egyptologists to know the short names of several kings that they otherwise wouldn't have known, among them Djoser. New Kingdom graffiti left on the walls of the monuments at Saqqara revealed that King Nesri-Khet was in fact Djoser.
Vendor on the streets of Cairo, Egypt with an enlarged US dollar advertisement in the background. Egypt is facing a renewed economic crisis due to its alliance with imperialism., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Experts connect Egypt PM gaffe with stocks fall
Ahram Online, Wednesday 27 Nov 2013
A series of stark statements by Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi coincided with poor trading this week, with some experts seeing the premier as partially responsible
Egypt stocks sank into the red Wednesday for the fourth trading session in row, with analysts putting blame partially on several “ill-fated” statements of the country’s interim premier, Hazem El-Beblawi.
The market’s benchmark EGX30 fell 0.6 percent, recording 6,205 points, whilst the broader EGX70 index shed 0.5 percent.
“The strange statements that came from El-Beblawi on several occasions coincided with daily incidents, affecting trading over the week,” Eissa Fathi, vice head of the securities division at Cairo Chamber of Commerce, told Ahram Online.
“So, the prime minister is somewhat responsible for the stocks’ bearish trend in the last sessions.”
Fathi went on to point out the most influential statements made by El-Beblawi, starting with his interview with AFP Sunday when he revealed the governmental plan to phase out energy subsidies before leaving office in 2014.
On Monday, El-Beblawi tried to bolster an optimistic sentiment among investors, saying: “Who is the donkey that will buy high-price shares unless they are sure that there will be a better future for the Egyptian bourse?” Many misunderstood him.
According to Ashraf Abdel-Aziz, head of institutional sales at Arabeya Online Securities, El-Beblawi was meaning that investments in Egypt are recovering, citing investors’ purchases in the bourse, but that he misused the word “donkey.”
Domestic investors were net sellers with some LE31 million. Foreign and Arab investors were net buyers with LE1.8 million and LE29.3 million respectively.
“It is noteworthy that the Egyptian stock market has been witnessing poor performance in the last week of the last two months. Maybe it will turn up by December’s opening week,” Abdel-Aziz added.
Market bellwether Commercial International Bank (CIB) rose slightly, up 0.5 percent ahead of the dividend to be distributed in December.
Global Telecom (GT) declined two percent.
Property shares Talaat Mustafa Group (TMG), Palm Hills Development Holding (PHD) and Six of October Development and Investments Company (SODIC) were all down at 0.2 percent, two percent, and 2.3 percent respectively.
Wednesday’s session saw a total daily turnover of listed securities worth some LE431.8 million.
Egyptian women held in prison cage in Alexandria. The military regime gave them 11 year sentences., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Egyptian court gives female Islamist protesters harsh jail terms
El-Sayed Gamal Eddin
Wednesday 27 Nov 2013
An Alexandria Misdemeanour Court sentences 14 female Islamist protesters to 11 years and one month in jail and sends seven female minors to youth detention centres
An Alexandria Misdemeanour Court slammed Wednesday 14 female Islamist protesters with 11 years and one month in jail and ordered that seven female minors be placed in a youth detention centre, the lawyer of the accused, Mahmoud Gaber, told Ahram Online.
The 21 female protesters who took part in a demonstration late October calling for the reinstatement of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi were arrested during clashes with local residents in the Alexandria. Authorities accused the demonstrators of inciting violence, blocking roads and damaging shop facades.
In its ruling Wednesday, the court slammed 14 female protesters with 11 years and one month in jail for destruction of private property, attacking security forces and stirring violence.
Six male protesters were sentenced in absentia to 15 years in jail for inciting violence.
The court also ordered that seven female minors be placed in a detention centre until they reach the age of majority. The underage girls' ages range from 15 to 17 years.
Earlier in November, a court sentenced 12 university students to 17 years in prison over riots at Al-Azhar Institution, stiring criticism over the harshness of the sentence.
The students were found guilty of attempting to storm the headquarters of the institution, inciting riots and attacking Al-Azhar employees and security personnel, as well as sabotaging public and private property. They were ordered to pay a fine of LE64,000 each.
Muslim Brotherhood supporters have been staging near daily protests calling for the reinstatement of Morsi who was deposed by the military 3 July amid mass protests against his rule.
Pro-Morsi protests chanting against the military have often descended into clashes with security forces and local residents with anti-Brotherhood sentiments.
Egypt's interim authorities have cracked down hard on Islamists since Morsi's ouster. Large numbers of Muslim Brotherhood members are detained on charges of inciting violence, including the group's top leaders.
Egyptian protesters being detained by the police. Women have been arrested and sentenced to prison., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Egyptian female detainees released in desert following downtown clashes: Activist
Ahram Online, Wednesday 27 Nov 2013
Salma Said, one of activists detained following clashes between police and demonstrators protesting against military trials, says she and other female detainees were freed in desert
Female activists who were arrested while protesting in Cairo’s downtown Tuesday were released several hours after clashes with security forces, only to find themselves in the desert, according to activist Salma Said.
Said, one of the prominent activists who were arrested while protesting against a constitutional article that allows military courts to try civilians, was one of tens who were captured by police forces in front of the Shura Council’s headquarters in downtown Cairo.
“We were thrown in the desert, our friends found us and we are all ok,” she tweeted, adding that their friends came to pick them up.
Police forces dispersed the protest 30 minutes after it commenced, using water cannons and teargas two days after a new controversial protest law was issued. Videos showed the police physically assaulting protesters.
The interior ministry justified the dispersal, saying the gathering broke a newly enforced protest law since the organisers did not notify authorities of their actions as the new legislation stipulates.
An earlier protest against the new anti-protest law was similarly dispersed on Tuesday. The demonstration was led by the Martyr Gaber Salah Movement, a group named after 16-year old activist Gaber Salah ("Jika"), who was killed in clashes with security forces in November 2012.
Hazem El-Beblawi, has been appointed interim prime minister by the Egyptian military in the aftermath of the coup. Others have refused to join the new regime., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Police tried to 'protect' protesters Tuesday: Egypt PM
Ahram Online, Wednesday 27 Nov 2013
Interim Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi says Egypt's police was trying to alert protesters on Tuesday to issue notification whilst protecting them
Interim PM Hazem El-Beblawi said Wednesday that Egypt's police had attempted to alert protesters to issue a notice for demonstrations whilst protecting them on Tuesday.
The Prime Minister expressed his regret at witnessing "protests to destroy the democratic path."
Tuesday protests were held in defiance of the newly implemented protest law, which was issued by Interim President Adly Mansour on Sunday.
Protesters did not apply for permission, and therefore were breaking the new law, which demands that any gathering of over ten people be announced and approved three days in advance.
Police dispersed hundreds of protesters outside the Shura Council using teargas and water cannons. Twenty-four activists are currently being detained for four days pending investigations, while female protesters, initially detained, were released alone in the desert.
The PM, speaking at a press conference at Cairo's Police Academy, defended the law, stating that it was made to protect and secure citizens' rights to freedom of expression.
The law underwent a civil consultation process; passing through the Egyptian National Council of Human Rights and then being subject to discussions in the Cabinet, which considered laws similar to the French and Italian versions, Beblawi added.
The PM said there's space for critique but not for defying the authorities. "There's no perfect law, but there are channels for talks and adjustments," he elaborated.
"The law provides safety to protesters, it's not a law of punishment," he continued, adding that, although freedom of expression is a human right, those who endanger the state should be punished.
The protest law has received criticism domestically and internationally.
Along with local calls for further protests defying the law, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights criticised it as "seriously flawed," urging the government to amend it.
Following the dispersal of Tuesday's protests, US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said the newly enacted law restricts freedoms.
"New law regulating peaceful protests in #Egypt simply doesn't meet intl standards," she tweeted on Tuesday. "Gov't must protect freedoms, and this law restricts them."
Egyptians clash with security forces in Cairo on July 15, 2013. Demonstrators expressed opposition to the military coup that displaced President Mohamed Morsi., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Tuesday's arrests reveal divisions in power: Analysts
Osman El Sharnoubi, Wednesday 27 Nov 2013
The new protest law has created a rift among the supporters of Egypt's current interim government
The Egyptian police tried for the first time on Tuesday to implement a controversial law on protests which was issued by the president earlier this week.
The result -- the arrest of dozens of protesters in downtown Cairo -- triggered a backlash from political groups and figures close to the government, showing a serious rift among supporters of the interim authorities for the first time since the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi this summer.
The arrests were met with instant condemnation from the major parties who have been supporting the authorities since July, when the army stepped in to remove Morsi after mass protests calling on him to step down.
Security forces have been cracking down on Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters in recent months, with hundreds of protesters killed or arrested during the dispersal of pro-Morsi demonstrations.
Many of the activists detained by police on Tuesday, however, were members of parties in power or allied with the government.
The new law gives the interior ministry the power to ban unauthorised public gatherings and imposes harsh penalties on violators.
Despite Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi -- a senior member of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party (ESDP) -- passing the law, his party opposed the legislation and declared that some of the detained activists were members of the party.
Party representatives has said the party will continue demonstrating against the law.
Leading member of the ESDP Ziad El-Eleimi told authorities on Tuesday that he had called for the protest without the interior ministry's permission, a move taken by him and other activists to challenge the law.
"There are disagreements within the ESDP itself and within the government about the law," political activist Mohamed Waked – who challenged the law along with El-Eleimi - told Ahram Online, saying that Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Bahaa El-Din, who is also deputy head of the ESDP, had long been opposed to the law.
Indeed, Bahaa El-Din had announced in October that political and rights groups he met with had said that a repressive protest law would not be publicly accepted and that it was best to wait until a parliament was elected to issue one.
Waked said that other people within the administration, such as presidential advisor Mostafa Hegazy, are defending the law.
He believes Hegazy represents a group in power that wants to use the law to suppress those opposed to its plans to seek power at the next elections.
Sources in the government told Ahram Online that a proposition is being discussed that the law be suspended until a wider discussion on it is carried out and a guarantee is given by the government that the law not be used to quell freedom of expression.
It is not clear whether this guarantee would include amending the law, but Minister of Higher Education Hossam Eissa, a former member of the liberal Constitution Party, said Wednesday that the law isn't as stringent as it is made to look by its opponents and that the government is insistent on implementing it.
Agreeing with Waked, political analyst Mohamed El-Agati said the law and Tuesday's events impacted current power alliances and brought some contradictions to light.
"The rejection of the law will show who in the government will respond to demands by democratic forces to withdraw it, and who is merely seeking power," he said.
He told Ahram Online that despite the government's National Council for Human Rights and its Committee to Protect the Democratic Path having opposed the law, it was passed anyway.
Emad Gad, a senior member of the ESDP, said that previous meetings with the government and rights groups and councils resulted in 16 recommended changes to the then-draft law, only one of which was adopted by the government.
Many figures and groups that had supported the current authorities came out strongly against the law and Tuesday’s arrests, such as leftist former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi, the Egyptian Popular Current movement he founded and the Tamarod (“Rebel”) movement which was at the forefront of the summer’s anti-Morsi protests.
Two major liberal and leftist parties who are allied with the government -- the Constitution Party and the leftist Socialist Popular Alliance Party -- demanded the release of the protesters detained on Tuesday and the withdrawal of the law.
To complicate matters further, the constitution-amending committee briefly halted its work after a number of members threatened to step down in objection to the arrest of the protesters. Committee member director Khaled Youssef described the decision to pass the law at the current time as "politically stupid."
The committee resumed work on Wednesday, despite member Diaa Rashwan saying the committee would suspend work until all arrested protesters were freed.
Twenty-four protesters remain in custody, although dozens of others were released late on Tuesday.
“This Draconian System of Punishment and Abuse”: An Interview with Former Political Prisoner Ray Luc Levasseur
The following is a partial transcript of an interview with Ray Luc Levasseur, a former political prisoner who spent over fifteen years in solitary confinement, primarily at USP Marion and ADX Florence. Levasseur was raised in Maine, born to a working-class family of Quebecois origin. He became politically radicalized about race and class at a young age, first after serving a term of duty in Vietnam, and again after he spent two years in a Tennessee prison. After his release in 1971, Levasseur worked with Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), as well as a prisoners’ rights group Statewide Correctional Alliance for Reform (SCAR). In 1975, Levasseur and several others founded the United Freedom Front (UFF), a revolutionary Marxist organization aimed at challenging racism, imperialism and corporate greed, primarily by targeting institutions complicit in South African Apartheid and regime brutality in Central America. Levasseur and his comrades conducted a series of robberies and bombings against military facilities, military contractors and corporations, always forewarning the selected sites in an effort to avoid casualties. UFF members lived underground for nearly a decade before eventually facing arrest.
After his 1986 conviction for the bombing offenses, Levasseur was sent into solitary at the Control Unit at USP Marion. In 1994 he was transferred to the newly built ADX Florence, most likely for refusing to work for the Federal Prison Industries (UNICOR) since it produced military equipment for the Department of Defense. Levasseur was released from prison in 2004 and now lives in Maine. He continues to organize against solitary confinement and support political prisoners on the inside.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
AS: First, I’d like to hear a little bit about the work SCAR did, because I found it really fascinating and inspiring. Maybe for people who don’t know as much about working from a prisoner abolitionist or a prison justice perspective, could we here a little more about the political perspective you worked from in SCAR?
RL: This was back in the early 1970s, where there was a surge of anti-prison activism in the US at the time, because this was still in the years of the Attica Rebellion, and George Jackson, there was a lot of revolts and rebellions throughout the US prison system, culminating in the massacre of prisoners in Attica. But this set the stage for people being more interested in alternatives to this draconian system of punishment and abuse. And there was more about it in the media – there was an opportunity there to do community organizing that had some roots in prison work, jail work, working with former prisoners, and generally criminal justice issues.
And our program with SCAR was based on the early Black Panther Party programs, what they called “survival programs”. So that instead of just going into a neighbourhood or a community and spouting a bunch of radical rhetoric – or rhetoric of any kind – it was like we felt we had to have some programs that addressed some needs in the community.
For example… there was a problem in poor communities. They have a bail program in the United States, where if you were accused of an offense, there was supposed to be a monetary bail placed on you, so that can be secured and you can be released before your trial. A lot of youngsters were being held in jail because they couldn’t afford the bail money. If bail is 50 or 100 dollars and you don’t have it, it might as well be 100,000 dollars, so we started a community bail fund, and we would screen people that were arrested and put into country jail to try to get them out trough this bail fund, and then work to see that they had proper legal representation and get them employment if they needed it, or other basic needs, and try to work it from that angle, in terms of keeping them from falling any deeper into the system.
AS: Something that really struck me while I was reading your trial statement from ’89, where you talked about being inside and fighting the KKK and the prison administration, and not even being able to tell the difference between the two at times. I wondering if you could speak about how your time in prison shaped you as an anti-racist activist.
RL:. …[T]here’s a convergence of class and race in the American prison and it was extraordinarily clear to me when I was in this Southern prison that first of all – almost everyone that’s in there is from a working class background, and second, there’s a large disproportionate number of Black prisoners in there. And to see the abuses and the awful conditions under which we were kept… Prisons in this country are like concentration camps for the poor. We are the surplus value of the capitalist system. They don’t have any need for us. We’re expendable. You spent too much time hanging on street corners, and they think you’re potentially a threat to them. They need the prisons, and the prison gulag in this country has exploded in population since the prison experience you were referring to back in 1971.
Concurrently, with this direct experience inside, I was doing a tremendous amount of reading on my own, and talking to other prisoners. So my political ideas were being further formulated, based on that experience. And the reading and studying that I was doing – I read Marx, I read Lenin, I read Ho Chi Minh, I read Che Guevara, I read anthologies of labour history, feminist history. And I was trying to come up with an alternative vision of society based on historically what had happened after that point, and this was in the wake of major anti-colonial struggle around the world.
You don’t see this a lot today. I find that in a lot of activists there’s a lack of vision of what’s possible. But back then, a lot more seemed possible to more people…
AS: I wanted to talk to you a bit about your time in prison in the 80s and the 90s. First, could you talk a bit about your time in Marion – your most vivid memories, or anything else you’d like to share?
RL: Well, I was in Marion almost five years, and at the time that I was there, it was the government’s most extremely punitive prison that kept you in your cell 22 ½ hour a day, basically solitary confinement. Marion was never designed with that in mind, but that’s ultimately what it was used for. The physical structure – it was not initially built for extreme isolation.
So after I’d been in there for almost five years, they built a new scheme, the federal government. They build a new prison from the ground up that, from the time the first brick was put down, it was physically designed for extreme isolation. That was ADX, that’s what they’re using as supermax today. And so when ADX was completed, those of us in Marion were the very first prisoners sent to ADX.
AS: And what were your first impressions of Florence were when you were transferred there, after being at Marion?
RL: Would you like me to read you something I just wrote? I’ll just read an excerpt — as part of my writing a section on Marion and ADX, and I just finished, this is my second draft….
So the section I’m going to read to you starts up from the day I arrived at ADX…[Levasseur’s description of life inside ADX Florence has been posted separately as a Voices from Solitary, and is available here.]
AS: And when you were in Marion or ADX, around all of that, what tactics did you use to stay as safe or as sane as you could?
RL: First of all, solitary confinement does not respect any ideology, or any idealism, religion. It doesn’t respect any of that because it doesn’t respect a person’s basic humanity. It’s designed to basically erode a person’s sense of worth as a human being. And to be a healthy functioning human being. So whoever’s in that situation, there is no immunity. It’s going to affect different people in different ways. My position is that nobody should be subjected to long-term solitary confinement – its anti-human. But, there are certain people that are more vulnerable than others to its effects….
…The first thing [that helped me stay sane] is knowing why I was in prison. I think if I had gone to prison for stealing or slinging drugs, I think it would have had even more of negative impact on me. If I had been in that situation for doing something strictly for my own benefit or profit. But I had come off a commitment and a sacrifice where I was part of a group that was challenging, trying to expose the criminal activity of the United States government, and to bring that to the public’s attention, and to try to be part of a larger movement to bring an end to these crimes…
I always kept in mind why I was there, I felt like people had questioned my tactics, but they can’t question our hearts, that we felt we were on the right side of history, no matter if we lost this battle, we were fighting for the people that mattered most…
… So, I think that was a big factor right there. When I got to Marion a good friend of mine wrote to me and he said, “alright, now you no longer have access to all the militant tools in your political toolkit you have to write”. I did a lot of writing when I was on the inside. I stayed as politically engaged as I could.
I think that my political identity and my political life – that was a big part. It’s a political identity, not a criminal identity. And the more I wrote, the more I got published, mainly essays and some collections, the more those circulated, the more people wrote to me, the more they wrote to me the more correspondence I had, I was dialoguing with activists all over the country, essentially. They couldn’t visit me, but at least I could write…
AS: When you heard the ECHR [European Court of Human Rights] ruling about Florence [ADX], tell me how you felt about the ruling itself. Whether you were surprised, and also in the judgement, how they talked about the “step-down” program meaning that isolation wasn’t indefinite, or that isolation wasn’t complete because prisoners were able to shout through the rafters, all of that.
RL: ADX opened in 1984 and there were people there like me, who arrived at the beginning of it. Those people are still there. Not all of them, no, but I know individuals who have never gotten out of it, from the time it opened up. ’94 is… 18 years ago. And they did the same thing at Marion. The program in terms of how you can get out of there is so arbitrarily instituted that for any and no reason they can just keep you there…
And as far as the ruling goes, was I surprised? I wasn’t surprised by the ruling. I mean, it’s the Europeans. They’re not noted for their humanity. Obviously the prison policies in a number of European states are much better than in the American prison system, there’s no doubt about that. But it didn’t surprise me because I think the US, the power of the United States government reaches into every other country on this globe, and extrapolate that into their institutions, their influence is tremendous…
What I took away from [the ruling] was essentially that the European Court [the ECHR] took every affidavit submitted by the Federal Bureau of Prisons in this country saying, “there’s nothing wrong with ADX or the way we implement long-term solitary confinement”. They took every one of those affidavits and credited them, completely, without question… Which is what you see the courts in this country do. And [the ECHR] discredited, basically, anything that came from a prisoner or a critic or a human rights organization about the policies and practices at ADX.
AS: You were transferred out of ADX into the general population in a prison in Georgia. What was it like to go into general population?
RL: It was challenging for a couple of reasons. One that was when I got there, to Atlanta Georgia, which is a maximum security prison, but it’s what you call “open population”, people have jobs, recreation yard, some educational activities, you go to a mess hall to eat, but it’s still maximum security.
The first was that they wouldn’t let me into [general] population, they kept me in solitary, what you call the hole, sometimes they’re called special management units – segregation units, essentially….[But] after months of pressuring and lobbying from people outside, they finally relented and let me into the regular part of the prison.
And it was clear, right away, even from the other prisoners, one look at me and they know that I came from ADX, because I was totally wired. I was hard wired for – I wasn’t used to being around all these other men. I wasn’t used to being around everybody moving at one time to go to the mess hall, and I’d get into the mess hall and the noise level… in a place like ADX your senses start to constrict, because that’s the purpose of a boxcar cell and the whole isolation regime, is to reduce your senses to the absolute lowest common denominator, and between the pressure of isolation and your own withdrawing senses… then you get into a regular prison, and all those things – sight, smell, sound, movement… it all grates at you. You’re not prepared for it. It’s like, my head was on a swivel…
AS: And did that just take time to adjust to?
RL: Yeah, that takes time. All you’re doing is adjusting to a maximum security prison! But when I got out, mind you later, I had to make significantly more adjustments, because behind of that I had years of being in Marion and ADX and various segregation units. The residue of that never completely leaves you, it never does, and it never will.
I would defy anybody who spent years in supermax cell to say that it had absolutely no effect on them. Everyone comes out scarred or burned to some degree – it’s a question of degrees and how that meshes with the individual, and how that individual carries it to the outside world.
AS: My last question – I read in Becky Thompson’s book that the first time you got out of prison, you really saw the importance of having prisoners be key leaders in social movements, and the importance of engaging in solidarity with prisoners. I was hoping you could just talk a little bit about your experiences of solidarity – your perspective as someone who’s engaged in work both from the outside and from the inside….
RL: When I first got out of prison in was in the early 1970s, and it was a much different political climate then. I’m a believer in self-determination – that communities of people that are oppressed, that are being exploited, the leadership and direction for that [these political struggles] – change – should come from those people.
..And that’s why I think with Muslim prisoners it’s necessary that people from the Muslim community get more directly involved in supporting these prisoners and around issues related to the whole spectre of federal agents and others saturating Muslim communities and infiltrating and spying and all of this. Like I said the leadership and direction has to come out of those communities.
As far as supporting people on the inside, there’s a lot of things to do… One of the ways I survived was all that people that wrote to me – sent me cards, sent me books, sent me photographs, stayed in consistent contact with me through letters. And I did a speaking gig in some college in Boston about a month ago and I mentioned that when I was at ADX, I had received a letter out of nowhere from a Vietnam vet I didn’t know. He was in Canada at the time and he had put a maple leaf that was changing colour into the letter. Now they don’t allow things like that at ADX, they don’t allow – you don’t see a blade of grass in ADX. I got a letter with a leaf in there, they’ll call it a “nuisance item”, they’ll remove it as contraband but somehow, some way the mail room missed this leaf, and I got it in my cell and it was red and orange and yellow, it was changing colours. And the fact that I can talk about it twenty years later – that’s something that no matter how lonely I got, I know that I’m not alone. Because there’s people like that that remember you. They found that in a cell search a few days later, they found that leaf – I couldn’t hide it well enough, and they took it. But that was an important strand in the web of humanity that reached out to me and that I reached out to, that enabled me to get through those days and weeks and months and years in there.
So I don’t think anything should be thought of as too trivial or too small. That kind of human contact is essential to get yourself through a dehumanizing situation. Not just to survive it, but to survive it with your own humanity intact…
Former political prisoner Ray Luc Levasseur was raised in Maine, born to a working-class family of Quebecois origin. He became politically radicalized at a young age, first after serving a term of duty in Vietnam, and again after spending two years in a Tennessee prison. In 1986, Ray Luc Levasseur was convicted for militant activities conducted with the United Freedom Front. He would ultimately spend about 15 of his 18 years in prison in solitary confinement. First sent to the Control Unit at USP Marion, he was transferred to the federal supermax, ADX Florence, after refusing to work for the Federal Prison Industries (UNICOR) since it produced military equipment for the Department of Defense. Levasseur was released in 2004 and now lives in Maine. (For more on Ray Luc Levasseur, see the interview published in conjunction with this piece.)
The following is an excerpt from a larger piece that Levasseur is writing. It describes the day he arrived at ADX Florence and his initial experiences at the prison. –Aviva Stahl
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Approaching the federal prison complex, I saw majestic snow capped mountain peaks in the distance, an image to cherish when all else disappears behind closed walls. We rode through the complex: minimum security camp, medium security prison, maximum security prison, and continued to the end of the compound of the federal prison system.
ADX, administrative maximum, a prison where the building becomes the shackles. From outside ADX look half-buried, built against an earth berm. It wasn’t underground but might as well have been, once you’re inside. The mountains and the reminder of the outside world were erased as were entered the first door. We were led through a maze of polished hallways and bright lights, bar grills, steel doors and ubiquitous surveillance cameras. My travelling companion and I were placed in cells on an unoccupied tier. The cells were brand-spanking new, never before occupied. I had never had a new house, a new car or a new apartment but I now had a new prison cell.
This is a boxcar cell, designed to suppress human sound and constrain the five senses. I spoke to the walls. “Ray Luc, present and accounted for!” My voice echoed throughout the cell, a cough sounded like a racket ball carom. There would be no casual conversations with my one neighbour.
When fed through a shoe-box sized slot in the door the meal looked like dog-food on noodles. We missed the regular feeding time and this tray was sitting around somewhere. I hadn’t eaten all day so despite my trepidation I pushed the dog food aside and ate the noodles with a plastic spoon. I spent most of that first night retching and vomiting into the stainless steel commode. Food poisoning. Forty-eight years old and I’ve entered a new phase in my life – a mid life crisis embodied in a techno-fascist architectural wet dream.
Society reflects the self in a microcosm of prison. In a class based, economically driven, racially motivated life, devolved of a series of Chinese boxes. A set of boxes decreasing in size so that each box fits in the next larger one. I’m in the smallest box.
The essence of ADX is the boxcar cell. This boxcar doesn’t move. It is a cage within a box encased by concrete. Entry is through a solid steel door that contains a small Plexiglas observation window. And then the trap – dead space. Then a series of vertical steel bars which forms the front of the cage and a second door. I am confined to the boxcar cell 157 hours of each 168 hour week. I am allowed 11 hours a week into a barren concrete area adjacent to the cellblock between Mondays and Fridays. The rec space (i.e. recreation space) is like the deep end of a dry swimming pool with walls. I see only walls, except straight up through the wire mesh, steel cables and joists a section of sky. That’s the term, ‘outside rec’.
Other men begin occupying the cells on my tier. The boxcar cell is designed to gouge prisoner’s senses by suppressing human sound and communication with others. It puts blinders on one’s eyes and limits on touching to that which is lifeless. A boxcar cell is designed to inflict physical, psychological, and spiritual isolation. You will feel the pain. You will not leave the boxcar cell except in restraints. Within months it seems endless. Every morning begins with a loud grating of the steel gate opening to the tier. One at a time, each of the electronically controlled doors opens, a guard steps to the second barred door and slides the food tray through the slot, then steps back while the door is closed, with a vengeance. On down the line, until the last tray is delivered. A half hour later we go through the paces again until the last tray is retrieved, followed by silence.
At my first visit with a friend and lawyer from Chicago, she said, “Ray, you seem agitated.”
I had a thousand yard stare by then, and responded: “Hey, you’d be agitated too if you felt like your face was slapped every morning you get up in this shithole.”
“Okay, I understand but why don’t you sit down while you’re talking? You step left to the wall, then right to the wall, you don’t sit still.”
“You see what I got to sit on? A concrete stump – it’s a ******* post- same as in my cell. Why would I wanna sit on that?”
“But you’re unfocused at times, you’re jumping all over while you’re talking. First you talk about your kids one minute, then tell me about a prisoner in seg [segregation] who’s tearing his flesh with his teeth. Then without missing a beat you’re into Agent Orange and Vietnam.”
“Look, there’s nothing wrong with me, alright, nothing that the shining light of freedom wouldn’t fix. I know why I’m in prison in ADX, I’ll be a witness to what’s happening here. That’s what I’m doing, that’s what I’m writing about. They’re keeping that segregation prisoner in four point restraints, you understand. He’s four pointed to a concrete slab. They say every time they unchain him, he’s back to tearing at his flesh. Even the hacks are spooked by him. You know, what is it about this place that makes a man do that to himself. Several prisoners have already been a packed off to the pscyh ward at Springfield.”
“How do you know this?”
“I know it from prisoners rotating in and out of segregation unit, otherwise there could a major riot in the cellblock next to mine and I wouldn’t know about it, sound doesn’t travel far here. You can’t see beyond immediate walls and doors.”
“You’re in the same environment Ray, it’s got to affect you.”
“It does, it ******* enrages me, I get homicidal thoughts and migraines that begin with a spider crawling up my cervix and injecting a twelve load jolt of mind-******* pain into my skull. But you know what, in the immediate aftermath of physical pain I feel good. It takes the absence of pain to feel good here. It’s scary, the psychological is not always as evidence as the physical.”
“Unless you’re eating your own flesh.”
“Right, unless you’re eating your own flesh, or your own shit, I saw that in MCC [Metropolitan Correctional Center] in New York.”
I didn’t dwell on if or when I’d extricate myself from ADX because this line of thinking would drive me into deeper depression.
The post Voices from Solitary: “A Prison Where the Building Becomes the Shackles” appeared first on Solitary Watch.
Ahmed Maher, of the April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt, has had an investigation dropped by the interior ministry of the North African state., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Egypt orders arrest of two symbols of anti-Mubarak revolt
By Yasmine Saleh
CAIRO (Reuters) - Two Egyptian pro-democracy campaigners renowned for their role in the popular uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak are to be arrested for inciting protests, a source in the prosecutor's office said on Wednesday.
The arrest orders for Ahmed Maher, head of the April 6 youth movement, and Alaa Abdel Fattah were issued a day after they joined demonstrations outside parliament in defiance of a law passed by the army-backed government on Sunday to curb protests.
Scuffles broke out on Wednesday between protesters and security forces in the northern port city of Alexandria during a demonstration against the new law and against the arrest of 24 activists on Tuesday, the state news agency MENA said.
Rocks were thrown back and forth and security forces used teargas to try and disperse the crowd, it said.
The 24 activists are to be detained for four days pending investigation of allegations of thuggery, attacking public employees, stealing wireless devices and protesting without permission from the Interior Ministry, said the source in the prosecutor's office.
Four women activists who had also been detained were released on a desert highway, said a security source.
Egypt has seen some of its worst civilian violence in decades since the army ousted a freely elected Islamist president, Mohamed Mursi, in July following mass protests against his rule. The military has introduced a political roadmap meant to lead to elections next year.
Mursi's supporters have staged frequent protests across Egypt, many of them after Friday prayers, since the army deposed him on July 3 in response to mass protests against his rule.
BLOW TO FREEDOM
The new law restricting protests has angered some Egyptians and drawn fire from human rights groups who describe it as a blow to freedom in the most populous Arab country.
Liberals and activists who backed Mursi's overthrow are now becoming more vocal against the military, which has pursued a tough security crackdown against Islamists, in which hundreds have been killed and more than 2,000 arrested, including Mursi.
An Alexandria court jailed 14 women for 11 years on Wednesday for obstructing traffic during a pro-Mursi protest that took place late last month, judiciary sources said. Seven others under the age of 18 were sent to a juvenile prison.
Some 17 clerics linked to the Brotherhood were arrested in the Nile Delta town of Gharbeia for using mosques and sermons to incite worshippers against the army and police, MENA said.
The public prosecutor also transferred to a court two people seen as pro-Mursi, lawyer Mahmoud el-Khodeiry and Ahmed Mansour, a presenter on al-Jazeera satellite channel.
They were accused of abducting and torturing a lawyer, MENA said.
Mohamed Fawaz, a member of the April 6 movement, told Reuters the new anti-protest law could lead to the "fall of the current regime" by igniting more unrest and public discontent.
"It is the Egyptian people's right since January 25 to protest and we are keen to maintain this right and fight for it until the last drop of blood," Fawaz said, referring to the date when the 18-day uprising that toppled Mubarak began in 2011.
Maher's April 6 movement and Abdel Fattah helped organize the vast demonstrations against Mubarak in Cairo's Tahrir Square and elsewhere.
'BATTLES AGAINST TERRORISM'
The government has shown no signs of caving in to growing pressure to scrap the anti-protest law.
Deputy Prime Minister Hossam Eissa said the cabinet was "committed to implementing the protest law strictly", while at the same time respecting freedom of expression.
"The Egyptian army is waging battles against terrorism, and some factions are trying to tamper with the status of the state and prevent it from observing its duties," he said.
Islamist militants based in the unruly Sinai Peninsula have stepped up attacks on security forces since Mursi was ousted. The Brotherhood denies any link to the militants, but the authorities lump them together as terrorists.
The government has said it is not opposed to peaceful protests and it wants to restore order in Egypt, which has a peace treaty with Israel and is home to the Suez Canal.
The law will further squeeze the Brotherhood, which had hoped mass protests would reverse what it calls a military coup.
The restrictions have set off a public debate in Egypt, where demonstrations brought down Mubarak and encouraged army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to remove Mursi.
"This law is bad and the minister of interior has done enough and should change," said an engineer calling in to a discussion of the topic on state radio.
"Our penal law had many articles that they (the authorities) could have used to ban violent protests but instead they issued a new law that only brought us more protests and tension, a very stupid call."
The next person to dial in, a police officer, said: "What do people want? We either implement the law or not."
(Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Alistair Lyon)
Egyptian student rebellion at Al-Azhar University on October 20, 2013. The students were protesting against the military coup of July 3., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Egypt: 21 Women Received 11 Years in Prison
CAIRO November 26, 2013
By MAGGIE MICHAEL Associated Press
An Egyptian court has handed down heavy sentences of 11 years in prison to 21 female supporters of the ousted Islamist president, many of them juveniles, for holding a protest.
The court in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria issued the ruling Wednesday, weeks after the women were arrested during a protest demanding the reinstatement of Mohammed Morsi, ousted in a July 3 coup.
They were convicted on multiple charges, including holding a demonstration, sabotage and using force. Seven of them are under 18 years of age.
The court also sentenced six members of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood to 15 years in prison in absentia for inciting the protest.
The verdict comes as security forces have cracked on small protests by secular activists, implementing a new law putting heavy restrictions on protests.