May 4, 2011
Posted: 1053 GMT
By Jenifer Fenton
The justice ministry in Bahrain said 47 medical professionals will be tried for crimes that include incitement to overthrow the regime, deadly assault and refusal to help persons in need.
Twenty-four doctors and 23 nurses and paramedics have been charged.
During the protests in the Gulf kingdom, witnesses say security forces in Bahrain stormed the Salmaniya Medical Complex in Manama beating doctors and demonstrators. Bahraini officials deny those accounts.
Activists and human rights groups have alleged that medical personnel have been targeted by Bahraini officials for treating protestors.
“We found doctors were simply providing ethical and life-saving medical care to patients whom Bahraini security forces had shot, detained and tortured,” wrote Richard Sollom, Deputy Director of Physicians for Human Rights, in an email to CNN.
“We documented a systematic attack on medical staff in Bahrain including the beatings, torture and disappearances of more than 30 physicians,” Sollom wrote.
Approximately 30 people have been killed since the protest began on February 14. Hundreds have been detained.
April 25, 2011
Posted: 744 GMT
The Emirates are promising reform while at the same time suppressing dissent
By Jenifer Fenton
Last week the United Arab Emirates dissolved the elected board of directors of the Jurist Association, a prominent civil rights organization, replacing the board with state appointees, according to Human Rights Watch.
The group was one of four nongovernmental organizations that signed a petition to President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the members of the Supreme Council of the seven Emirates on March 9 asking for direct elections. The petition also asked that the Federal National Council (FNC) be granted legislative powers. The body is only an advisory one.
According to Human Rights Watch, the Jurist Association was said to have violated the UAE’s Law on Associations, which bans NGOs from interfering "in politics or in matters that impair State security and its ruling regime."
Four activists have also been arrested recently. Three are still in detention and one has been released, according to activist Mohammed al-Mansoori.
There are seven emirates, including Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Each is ruled by an Emir – and together they choose a President for the UAE. Analysts say they appear to be adopting a twin-track approach to political activity – clamping down on dissent while promising reform and taking steps to stave off the potential for unrest. The UAE have not seen street protests, but are sensitive to the unrest sweeping the Arab world.
The UAE have said they plan to hold elections in September to select representatives for the FNC. The last elections were in 2006. Currently there are 40 members of the FNC: half are elected by the electoral college and the other half are nominated by their Emirate. The electoral college, which includes a small percentage of women, is chosen by the rulers of the UAE and its members are the only ones allowed to vote or run for office. The UAE have also said that they plan to increase the size of the electoral college, which has 6,689 members.
“We are confident that increasing the number of electoral colleges will promote political participation,” said Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs said in a statement to WAM, the Emirates’ news agency. “It reflects the spirit of the political program of UAE and we expect that the electoral colleges will bring in more expertise, representing the significant evolution of the UAE society. The latest developments in the region validate the wise approach adopted by the UAE leadership to make sure that change is in perfect harmony with progress."
Ahmed Mansoor, an Emirati blogger who signed the petition to the UAE president asking for direct elections was the first known activist to be detained. Mansoor is being held in Al Wathba prison in Abu Dhabi, according to his wife Nadia. He has not been charged with a crime.
Fahad Salem al-Shehhi, a friend of Mansoor's who helped him with his website, and Nasser bin Ghaith, an Emirati writer who also maintains a website, have also been detained, according to al-Mansoori.
A fourth activist, Abdullah al-Shehhi was taken from the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. Al-Shehhi previously served in the UAE armed forces and has been arrested three times before, al-Mansoori said. He was released due to ongoing health problem, al-Mansoori said.
None of the activists has been charged yet, according to al-Mansoori.
“The prosecution in the UAE has sent subpoenas to a number of people,” Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs, said last week at a press conference. “This is fully in procedure with the laws and rules of the UAE. We have full trust that our laws are clear and transparent,” he said. “I do not believe that any person is above the law.”
Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, Professor of Political Science at Emirates University, said he believed that it was time for the Emirates to change. An ideal situation would be one were “there will be complete elections for everybody. There would be an elected FNC,” Abdulla said. “The sooner the better for the UAE.”
When asked about the arrest of the activists Abdulla said, “It shows that the UAE probably is not in their political reform mind. They are falling behind. I think they are sending messages that they are not buying into this reform that is sweeping the Arab world. And they think that we are happy with the stability that we are in. That we are happy with the way things are.”
More than eight million people live in the Emirates, but Emiratis account for only 11.5 percent of that number. Most are migrant workers.
Recently the UAE has announced changes meant to improve the lives of Emiratis.
In March, the Emirates ordered a 70 percent increase in pensions for retired military personnel. The WAM statement said “The President's generous gesture is given as part of his keenness to ensure ways of decent living for the citizens.” The same month the UAE president ordered that $1.55 billion be invested in the expansion of water and electricity supply sector in the northern emirates, which are less developed and less affluent.
Other recent directives have included: approving the construction of hundreds of villas for citizens throughout the UAE and increasing job opportunities for Emirates.
But as events elsewhere in the Middle East have shown, such largesse has not always mollified those whose grievances are principally political.
April 24, 2011
Posted: 1202 GMT
Yemen's embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh has accepted a deal brokered by neighboring Persian Gulf nations to step down, Yemeni officials said Saturday.
Both Saleh and the Yemeni opposition have agreed to the deal in principle. But Saleh has yet to sign the agreement, which stipulates he leave office within 30 days and provides complete immunity for him and those who served in his regime, said a senior foreign ministry official, who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
Mohammed Albasha, spokesman for the Yemeni Embassy in Washington, said the opposition has to accept the final deal before Saleh will sign.
The agreement also calls for a unity government to be formed within seven days. Read more...
April 5, 2011
Posted: 1016 GMT
April 3, 2011
Posted: 1050 GMT
The anti-regime demonstrations pulsating across Syria have resulted in a security hunt for snipers and a wave of arrests Saturday.
Syrian security forces are searching for members of an "armed group" that killed "a number of citizens and security forces" in the Damascus suburb of Douma on Friday, the Syrian Arab News Agency reported on Saturday.
SANA cited an unidentified official source as saying that snipers from the group fired at civilians and security forces from rooftops. This is disputed by activists and eyewitnesses who told CNN that government snipers fired shots at unarmed protesters and government forces beat demonstrators.
"Security forces are pursuing the members of the armed group that terrorized the citizens through firing randomly," SANA reported, citing the source who doesn't identify the group in question.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said security forces in the volatile southern city of Daraa and in Homs arrested on Saturday about 20 people who had demonstrated the day before.
Protests on Friday swept through Syria, one of the latest Arab countries to endure grassroots discontent.
Another person was killed in Al Sanameen near Daraa. SANA reported that a girl was killed when the armed group opened fire on civilians in the city of Homs. Read more...
March 27, 2011
Posted: 1041 GMT
Violent protests erupted Friday in Syria, with dozens of people killed in and around the restive city of Daraa and a boy slain in the coastal town of Latakia, reports said.
"The situation in Syria has worsened considerably over the past week, with the use of live ammunition and tear gas by the authorities having resulted in a total of at least 37 people being killed in Daraa , including two children," said Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the U.N.'s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Among the dead were 15 people who tried to march to Daraa, sources said, and nine others who died when security forces fired on demonstrators in Daraa's main square, said Wissam Tarif, a human rights activist.
There were many casualties in Daraa, said Abdullah, who asked that his full name not be reported due to security concerns. He said he saw Friday's events in the city, where deadly clashes have taken place in recent days between security forces and protesters. Read more...
March 22, 2011
Posted: 845 GMT
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and a top military general are discussing a deal for a peaceful transition of power that would allow Saleh to stay in place for the rest of the year, a Yemeni official and senior U.S. official said Monday.
The discussions come amid cracks in support for Saleh's 32-year rule after weeks of anti-government protests.
Three top generals declared their support for the protests Monday, including Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar, the man now discussing the deal with Saleh.
Al-Ahmar, who belongs to an important tribe whose backing is significant for Saleh, also said he will order his troops to protect civilians demonstrating against the president. Read more...
March 20, 2011
Posted: 757 GMT
Syria's Ministry of Interior set up a committee to investigate Friday's deadly demonstrations in Diraa, the Syrian news agency SANA reported Saturday.
Anyone who is proven responsible for having committed abuse during the protests will be punished, the news agency reported, citing an unnamed source.
Meanwhile, during the funeral Saturday for two people reportedly killed during the clashes in Diraa, hundreds of people gathered to call for freedom and reforms.
"The general atmosphere was tense," one participant told CNN, referring to demonstrators and security forces, "but no serious clashes occurred."
Said another participant: "None of the slogans were against the president, but all are asking for more freedom and putting an end to the current corruption."
The United Kingdom's Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt said Saturday that he was "extremely concerned by reports of increasing violence and the excessive use of force by security forces, apparently resulting in the death of a number of protesters yesterday."
"I am also disturbed by reports of the arrest and prosecution of around 20 human rights activists who attempted to conduct a peaceful protest outside the Interior Ministry on Wednesday," Burt said. "This, along with reports of demonstrations in towns around Syria being broken up with lethal force is very worrying. Read more...
February 28, 2011
Posted: 803 GMT
Clashes between protesters and police in the Omani industrial town of Sohar wounded about 10 people Sunday, state media reported Sunday.
At least two protesters were killed, Oman TV editor Asma Rshid told CNN.
"The police shot them because they burned shops and cars in Sohar," Rshid said. Another source said it was rubber bullets that the police fired. A number of police had also reportedly been injured, but numbers were not confirmed.
The protests started Saturday and were ongoing Sunday, said Zamzam al Rashdi, editor-in-chief of the state-run Oman News Agency.
There were about 1,000 protesters in Sohar, calling for more jobs.
The demonstration started peacefully before a couple of groups split off and started attacking a supermarket and a police station, and members from the Shura Council, al Rashdi said.
One of the targeted buildings was the Walli House, where the governor who represents the sultan in Sohar lives, a witness told CNN.
February 20, 2011
Posted: 934 GMT
More than 1,000 protesters clashed with security forces in Kuwait on Friday, demanding greater rights for longtime residents who are not citizens of the country.
The crowd - initially 300 people before quickly growing - was attacked with water cannons.
The "security forces on the ground talked to the protestors in a nice and civilized way," said Col. Adil Al-Hashash, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry. Members of the crowd were told "that they should go to the legal channels for their demands rather than protesting."
Al-Hashash said the demonstration was eventually dispersed and that several protesters were arrested and questioned by the security forces.
The protest took place in Al Jahra province north of Kuwait City, Al-Hashash noted.
Kuwait has been wrestling with the question of rights for non-citizen residents for decades. The country is believed to have roughly 100,000 residents who are not citizens.