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The Rebellion in the Middle East and North Africa

    January 25, 2015

    Joint Press Release by Amnesty International Canada and the Egyptian Canadian Coalition for Democracy
    25 January 2015

    Several student unions in Canadian universities across Canada have adopted a statement of solidarity “with Egyptian students' right to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly”, and to a “campus environment that is free from fear, intimidation and police abuse.”

    The statement, signed by Ryerson Students’ Union, University of Regina Students’ Union, University of Victoria Students’ Society, University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union Executive Committee, Carleton University Graduate Students' Association, and Post Graduate Students’ Society of McGill University, called on the Canadian Government, civil society and human rights groups to exert all possible pressure on the Egyptian authorities to “drop all charges and immediately and unconditionally release all students arrested solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly.” The statement was co-drafted by Amnesty International Canada and the Egyptian Canadian Coalition for Democracy (ECCD).

    January 25, 2015

    By Tarek Chatila, Montreal-area activist and writer for Amnesty Canada’s Isr/OT/PA co-group

    “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” wrote French critic Alphonse Karr in 1849. Turbulent change, he observed, has a counterproductive tendency to reinforce the status quo.

    A truism which precisely reflects the state of human rights in Egypt today.

    Four years after electrifying scenes beamed around the world from Tahrir Square - a vast ocean of people congregating and chanting defiantly for democratic reform - the aspirations of the Egyptian people and the ‘January 25 Revolution’ have yet to be realized.

    And while the Egyptian popular uprising succeeded in deposing long-serving President Hosni Mubarak, successive administrations have failed to adequately address the endemic human rights violations which continue to plague the country.

    The faces have changed, but the policies remain much the same.

    January 21, 2014
    Thousands are held in Syria’s state-run detention centres ©APGraphicsBank

    Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International, comments on a recent report on Syria by three former war crimes prosecutors

    Beaten, burned, bruised, strangled bodies lying on a dirty floor. Some show signs of starvation, others are missing their eyes, a number of them appear to have been electrocuted. The horror is nearly impossible to describe… but it is hardly surprising.

    The thousands of photographs, part of a report published today, provide evidence of the torture and killing of around 11,000 individuals detained in Syria between the start of the uprising in 2011 and August last year.

    While we cannot authenticate the images, the allegations are consistent with aspects of Amnesty International’s own research into the widespread use of torture and enforced disappearance by the Syrian authorities, as well as deaths in custody.

    The extensive experience and reputation of the international lawyers and forensic experts in charge of the investigation also contribute to its credibility.

    November 21, 2013

    “[S]exual violence has played a prominent role in the conflict…It occurs during raids, at checkpoints, and in detention centres and prisons across the country. The threat of rape is used as a tool to terrorize and punish women, men and children perceived as being associated with the opposition.”
    Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria

    Since the start of the uprising in Syria in March 2011, some 100,000 people have died. More than 2 million people have fled across Syria’s borders to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. A further 4.25 million are displaced from their homes and communities within Syria. The conflict has been marked by a wide range of abuses by all parties, some of which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    July 25, 2013

    Security forces must do more to protect protesters from violent attack and avoid the use of excessive force against peaceful gatherings, Amnesty International said as Egypt braces for major rival political rallies on Friday.

    “Security forces have repeatedly failed to protect protesters, bystanders and residents from attacks by armed assailants. They have also failed to intervene effectively to end violent clashes between rival groups”, said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program.

    More than 180 people have been killed in violent clashes or other political violence since 30 June, when mass demonstrations were held calling for the fall of former President Mohamed Morsi. Since then political violence has escalated between supporters and opponents of the deposed President leading to an increasing loss of life.

    “Continued failure to properly police rival street protests will lead to further bloodshed and an escalation of human rights abuses,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

    May 07, 2013

    “We ask for a reform of all sections of the law that are detrimental to women's rights, such as the ones that favour the honour of the family at the expense of women’s dignity.” Khadua Ryadi, President of the Moroccan Assoc of Human Rights

    In March 2012, 16-year-old Amina Filali swallowed rat poison and killed herself after being forced to marry the man she said had raped her. Amina’s tragic story is not uncommon in Morocco: the law explicitly allows rapists to escape prosecution by marrying their victim.

    The public outcry around Amina’s death led prompted initiatives to amend the law. On January 8, 2014, Morocco’s Lower House Justice, Legislation and Human Rights Commission adopted a proposal to remove paragraph 2 of Article 475 of the Penal Code, which allows a rapist to escape prosecution by marrying his victim if she is aged under 18. A crucial vote in the Moroccan Parliament is scheduled for January 22, 2014.

    Genuine progress towards ending violence and discrimination against women in Morocco requires widespread reform of both long held attitudes and legislation.

    May 03, 2013

    “It’s ironic that May 3rd is World Press Freedom Day and I’m facing trial the next day just for posting a video.” Egyptian blogger Ahmed Anwar

    In Egypt, making fun of the authorities is no laughing matter. It’s a criminal offence.

    When blogger Ahmed Anwar posted a video of belly-dancing policemen on-line, he expected to get some laughs. Instead, he’s on trial for “criticizing” the Interior Ministry and “misusing” the Internet.

    In March 2012, Ahmed Anwar posted a video on-line which made fun of police officers giving an award to an actress, calling them “the ministry of belly dancers”.  The video, showing police officers dancing, criticizes police brutality and impunity for human rights abuses. The Tanta Public Prosecution bought a case against him after the Ministry of Interior complained about the video. Ahmed Anwar was arrested by police at his house on March 17, 2013 and referred for trial ten days later. His trial started on May 4. The next hearing is scheduled for June 1.

    May 03, 2013

    In November 2012 Libyan journalist Amara Abdalla al-Khattabi, editor-in-chief of al-Umma newspaper,   published the names of 84 allegedly corrupt judges in his newspaper. Just a list of names. The newspaper had obtained the list from a confidential source.

    One month later, Amara Abdalla al-Khattabi was arrested, charged and detained under Article 195 of the Penal Code for the “insulting of constitutional or popular authorities”. Article 195 was frequently used to repress freedom of expression during the Gaddafi era. Amara Abdalla al-Khattabi is now facing 15 years in prison. Amnesty International believes that he is being tried solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.

    April 08, 2013

    Amnesty's Egypt researcher Diana Eltahawy blogs from Cairo

    On Sunday I attended the Cairo funeral of four Coptic Christians killed on Friday night in Khousous, a small town north of the city.

    I had been planning to travel to Khousous to find out more about the sectarian violence which led to the deaths there.

    Instead, I found myself caught up in more violence at the funeral itself — with mourners on one side, and unknown assailants and, later, security forces on the other.

    Before the clashes erupted, feelings of grief, anger and injustice were palpable inside Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo, which was filled with mourners. Tears, prayers and wailing were drowned out by chants against the government and the Muslim Brotherhood, and vows to avenge the dead.

    Shortly after the caskets and funeral procession made their way out of the cathedral, violence broke out nearby between some of the mourners and assailants reported to be residents of the area.

    April 02, 2013

    By Amnesty Canada Secretary General Alex Neve

    Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s current trip through the Middle East offers a tremendous opportunity to press a strong message that increased respect for human rights – by all governments and by all parties to the region’s various conflicts – provides the road map for lasting peace and security. It is also an opportunity to restore Canada’s standing in the region as a determined champion of human rights; a reputation that has been considerably strained in recent years. 

    Canada has staked out a clear human rights position in the Middle East, marked by unflinching reticence to criticize the Israeli government.  Along the way Canada has come to be seen as intensely partisan and even polarizing.  This is the Minister’s chance to demonstrate that the only side that Canada will take in the Middle East is the side of human rights. 

    December 17, 2012

    By Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s North Africa Researcher

    Arriving in Cairo a few days before the constitutional referendum held on Saturday 15 December, I couldn’t remember a more bitterly divided and polarized Egypt.

    During my last visit to the country as part of an Amnesty International delegation to document human rights violations committed during the 18 days of the “25 January Revolution”, there was a palpable sense of unity among protesters despite the suffering and violence.

    Egyptians from all walks of life – women and men, Christians and Muslims, young and old, liberal and Islamist, affluent and poor – stood together against the government and its tactics to crush the uprising. They put aside their political, religious and ideological differences to fight for a common cause, and they were successful.  

    Today, these differences have pitted regular Egyptians against each other and led to bloody clashes in the streets which left at least 12 people dead in the last few weeks. Protesters – who just months ago stood side by side to confront the security forces and the army – found each other on opposite sides of violent clashes.

    December 06, 2012
    Demonstrators and security forces outside the presidential palace ©Amnesty International

    From the Amnesty International Egypt team.

    When he took office just a few months ago Mohamed Morsi promised to be the president of all Egyptians.

    But hopes that he would take steps to resolve the current situation and give up the wide-ranging powers that triggered this latest crisis have been dashed after a bitter and bloody night of clashes between the president’s opponents and supporters.

    The clashes followed an attack by the president’s supporters – believed to be largely made up of members of the Muslim Brotherhood – on a sit-in staged by his opponents outside the Presidential Palace in Heliopolis.

    November 29, 2012

    Post by Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa team, on the ground in Cairo.

    Egyptians have returned to Tahrir Square many times since Hosni Mubarak fell, but rarely in these numbers.© Matic Zorman / Demotix

    Egyptians have returned to Tahrir Square many times since Hosni Mubarak fell, but rarely in these numbers.

    After the massive protest on Tuesday 27 November, some are even beginning to talk of a second uprising, a “November revolution”.

    Meanwhile President Morsi’s supporters are planning their response – a gathering in Tahrir on Saturday raising fears of clashes between the different camps.

    Not long ago, protesters were calling for an end to military rule. Today, large numbers are chanting against President Mohamed Morsi – the country’s first elected president and the man many had hoped would finally restore the rule of law.

    November 08, 2012

    One year after protesters ended the repressive rule of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisians are still waiting for their human rights to be guaranteed.

    A National Constituent Assembly (NCA) was elected in October to write a new constitution for Tunisia. Amnesty International is calling on it to ensure that the constitution includes the basic guarantees that would protect Tunisians from the abuses they suffered under Ben Ali: human rights violations like torture, arbitrary arrests and unfair trials.

    This post is from Amnesty International's Livewire team.

    Protesters on a tank in Cairo ©Amnesty International

    President Mohamed Morsi decision to give the army new policing powers has raised new concerns about Egypt’s future, raked up painful memories of the past.

    In protests around the Presidential Palace on Friday, we saw tanks and armoured vehicles belonging to the Presidential Guard parked in the streets.

    Protesters were climbing on them and taking pictures. A few fearless parents even let their children climb on them, posing with the soldiers.

    The scenes were eerily reminiscent of the days after the “25 January Revolution”, when many welcomed the army on the streets after the 18 days of mass protests that ended the rule of Hosni Mubarak.

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