Monday, September 19, 2005

Shiítes in Saudiarabia

It seems that i unintentually will have a Gulftheme today, with my latest piece on Yemen, and this one on Saudiarabia. The Gulf region is very interesting politically right now, but dosent recieve as much attention as it deserves.

Today ICG realeased a report on the shiítes in Saudi Arabia. Interesting to read about a subject that has been disscused lately, Even King Abdullah of Jordan has been talking about a shíite crescent with Iran , Iraq, Syria and Lebanon as fertile ground for a shift in the geopolitical balance between Sunnis and Shiites. I believe that the kind of talk that the King and indeed many more use is exaggerated, and could actually be rather counterproductive.

The report describes the discrimination of the 2 milion shiíte community in Saudiarabia. The Wahabbi creed witch merely tolerate other Sunni creeds has made life tough for the minority. Encouraging signs from the begining of the 1990´s show´s an attitude of understanding of the problems the community are facing. King Abdullah of Saudiarabia has been instrumental in this. Since 2004 , the shiítes can commemorate Ashura publicly. And it seems that the shíite religious rites are tolerated by the state, and in an promising ongoing dialogue the small steps taken leads in the right direction. The government however , needs to open up the local and national council for active participatition, and it also needs to tackle the sharpened attitude of the militant sunni islamists in the context of hightened tension in the region between Sunni and Shia, some Saudi militants fighting currently fighting in Iraq will ultimately return to Saudiarabia , and the government needs to try and stop these militants from opening up another theather of secterian violence in the Kingdom.

Dar al Hajar reopens in Sanáa, Yemen, while the yemeni authorities is sending economical migrants, and fugitives from violent conflicts and financial harship back to Africa, more than 100 persons drowned in September alone, while trying to cross over to Yemen by boat from the horn of Africa, in hope of Getting to the rich Gulf States or Europe. The authorities has detained more than 10.750 illegal african imigrants in 2005. The bulk of people comming to Yemen this way are Somali, they are held at a detention camp in the country, while other Africans have been repatriated. According to the UNHCR there are more than 50 000 registered Somali refugees in Yemen. This is actually a European problem just as much , as it´s a local Yemeni problem. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Rock the Casbah

Rachid Taha - Södra teatern
Stockholm 16 September

Yesterday evening i had the opportunity to see The king of Punkrock-rai ! It was actually not my first time - this was a happy reunion. My first live experience of Rachid was 33 months ago on the 18 of December 2002. He gave a fantastic concert here in Stockholm and it was a vintage moment for me, absolutely a top 5 of all the concerts i´ve seen in my life, toghether with Prince, Michael Jackson, Khaled, Marcel Khalife and Imperiet. I knew from the outset, that this would be a different experience, a new venue, altough in the same house as before. The acronym for the venue is KGB, wich is preety close to the truth of the place itself, it could actually be misstaken for being a long lost warehouse, somewhere in the middle of nowhere, used by clandestine agencies for interegation purposes. Minimalistic in terms of furniture or decore, the bar in the other room reminds me more about my family´s pharmacy in upper Egyypt with the simple wodden bardesk in some shade of grey, than a concert hall that is about to be conquered by the unrivaled superstar Rachid. And then the concert begins, with a song that actually feels more like a continuation of the soundcheck, a rather slow, soft song , not the usual Rachidobasitc trademark, and one starts to ponder about him being to high, or just high enough to make this concert a fantastic memory that one can remember and cherrish during the ordinary, boring days and nights ahead of us. Suddenly the intro to Barra Barra, the crowd goes ballistic for the first time , and two minutes later, my thoughts disorient and dissolves somewhere in the back of my mind , never to return during the comming two hours. The band is so intuned, Hisham , the Oud player, charismatic and starqualitylike. Rachid in a of psychedelic-hawaian shirt that would have made Nelson Mandela proud, sunglasses and the tormented face of a man who carries the collective responsibility of our planet on his shoulders just minutes after world war III begins.
His communication with the crowd, as usual problematic, not as political, still confusing, mostly because of the less than perfect english blended with french urban slang and algerian machinegunarabic.

Rather early in to show comes ya Rahya, his emencely popular cover of an arabic folk song. To slow version i think, but the crowd goes ballistic once again ! Now the party is on, and after that we are given five or six trademark Rachidopowersongs, and then Medina another favourite of mine. I totally forget that he has not played Ida, my special favourite yet, and then he says, this is the last song....
He plays another song and leaves. The crowd calls out for RACHID,RACHID

The intro to Ida , lovely but to slow, anyhow very nice and then Voila Voila - the crowd reaches it´s peak, and the final song another cover.......... Rock the casbah , and rather than being a clash of Civilizations , this is the perfect mix of Racidoian reorientpunk and Clash´s urban revolution.

here you can read about Rachids concert in Beirut two months ago

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Demdigest Nr 9 on Egyptian elections

Demdigest Nr 9/Vol 2, from the transatlantic democracy network is out now and has a long piece on the Egyptian elections, all the usual stuff, but also on continuing pressure on the civil society.

Also the first ever non -muslim women in the Gulf to become head of a humanrights group. The Bahraini Huda Azra Noono, of the jewish faith, is leading the Bahrain Human Rights Watch.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Egyptian Bloggers part 2

While waiting for the result of the elections , why not go read another article about the Egyptian bloggers. Almost all of the familiar names, Baheyya, Aláa & Manal, Big Pharoh, Sandmonkey, Josh, Karim , digressing , and from Cairo are interviewed or mentioned. It´s a week óld, but i´l just happend to stumble on it , right this minute.

One of my new favouritz is my fellow blogspoter, Ritzy at

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

BBC gives me a bad morning

My favourite newsoutlet the classic, legendery, stiff upper lip, no nonse kind of news surprised me yesterday morning. BBC world´s covering of the Egyptian elections started with the sentence "For the first time in 7000 years Egyptians can choose from among several candidates. " In the evening CNN´s Ben Wiederman claimed the same thing. Nobody seemed to have heard about Egypt prior to 1952, while it´s true that is the first presidential elections with several candidates, indeed this is the first presidential election. When Egypt became a republic on 18 June 1953, by decree of the Revolutionay Commamd Council . General Muhammed Naguib was appointed president by the same body. When ousted from power, the precidency was vacant until the new constitution came in place in Janyary1956, stipulating a popular referendum where the people endorse the only candidate. Gamal abd al Nasser was proclaimed the second president of the republic on 23 of June 1956. This has been the process ever since, until the referendum onthe 25th of May this year when article 76 was changed. The multicandidate elections is the first since elections to the upper house in 1952 and the lower house in 1949. After the 1919 revolution and independence from the British in 1923. In what was a somewhat flawed atempt at parliamentarism. Egypt held regular elections from 1924 until 1952. The struggle between the three important political forces, The Wafd, The monarch and the british hampered the parliamentary system. Several elections where rigged, the king played a very negative role especially during the primeministership of Ismail Sidqi 1930-33. The king had the right to appoint and dissmiss the government , and missused his power in that regard on several occasions. The Wafd during the 17 years from 1919-1936 was the popular choice of the people, and the only way of stopping them from claiming electoral victory was by rigging the elections or changing the election rules, Anyone familiar with Egyptian history, would never claim that Saád Zaghloul was not elected by the people.

Election day

Voting started at 8:00 am local Cairo time and will continue for 14 hours until 22:00 pm. So what should we look for:

Voter turnout - If this election campaign has really changed anything, as claimed by many, voter turnout will be higher than usual. The turnout is about 10 % in the past presidential plebiscites, i would think today´s turnout will be much larger than that.

Monitoring - Indicatations by the judges and NGO`s concerning eventual election fraud. The NGO-monitoring teams will not be permitted to enter the voting stations, but in the past many irregularities happend outside the stations. Another parameter will be if most people who votes are state employes , who have been bussed to the votingstations. This will be a sign of voter apathy.

Election violence - Usually during the parliamentary elections there is always fatal casualties during the campaign and election day. This has not been the case during the presidential referendums until today. The situation in today´s elections resembles the parliamentary elections more than past presidential referendums though. With ten candidates actually campaigning for the first time there is probably going to be some violence, for instance it will be interesting to follow develepments in Bab al Sha´riyya in Cairo, the homeground of Ayman Nour , and in Suez and Port Said, traditional strongholds of al Wafd. During the referendum on the constitutial ammendment of article 76 on the 26 of May (Changing the presidential plebiscate to a multi-candidate presidential election) , two demonstrations by the opposition coalition Kifayya , was attacked by the governing party NDP-thugs, who focused their attention on Women partakeing in the demonstrations. They where sexually assualted and verbally atacked. In late July another Kifayya demonstration was targeted, while protesting after the announcement by President Mubarak, that he would be a candidate for the presidential elections. Several high profile Kifayya leaders where briefly held by the police ,and several activists where arrested. Other Kifayya demonstrations has been targeted as well. Ayman Nours newly established(November 2004) has also been a target , Ayman himself was arrested for 45 days in late January, and then on trail in June, on charges of falsefiying the signatures on the Ghad party application for a party licence, something the political party committee is responsible for in the first place, before approving the party in the first place. The trial is postphoned until after the election. The leadership of the party was targeted in a hotel by plainclothes NDP thughs. One al Ghad supporter was killed during a Ghad party meeting in the countryside. The Muslim brotherhood has been rounded up in numbers unprecidented since the time of Nasser. Among them two of their leaders.
Today ,potential violence might be at the Kifayyademonstration at Midan Tahrir or at voting stations, between police and NGO monitors, eventough it´s seems unlikely. The police have recieved strict orders, but judging from PM Ahmed Nazif´s words yesterday, demonstration will not be tolerated.

Oh, i almost forgotten about the result
President Mubarak NDP 75-80 %
Nouman Gouma 10-12 %
Ayman Nour 7-10 %

The rest between 0-1 %