Friday, 25 February 2011

Fleeing by land and by sea

Fleeing Guilin by the North Station, print by Cai Dizhi, 1945.

From the book art blog, A Journey Round My Skull.

Navio de emigrantes (Ship of Emigrants), painting by Lasar Segall, 1939.

From the art blog Weimar.

La notte di San Lorenzo (The Night of the Shooting Stars), a film by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, 1982.

We watched this film last night, and the mirroring of what’s happening now in Libya was almost too painful to bear.

The dictator’s loss of power is now a certainty, so every killing by his forces in these days is a murder to no end, but still it goes on.

Make note of who still supports him, and by this know them well.

PRI’s The World produced a series of reports on migration last year centering on the story of one Somalian man fleeing war. Read and listen here, and learn how Gaddafi's thugs went about preventing migrants from reaching the EU.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Peggy is 7!

So here’s one of her favourite songs.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Revolution Overload

in Libya, Bahrain, and Iran, Iran, Iran.

Above, Bahrain roses in bloom, photo by Amira Al Hussaini of Global Voices, via Twitter.

For breadth and depth of coverage, EA WorldView continues to stand out, with live blogging today on Libya, Bahrain and beyond, and a dedicated live blog on 1 Esfand protests in Iran.

Specialist blogs well worth your time include The Arabist and Tehran Bureau.

Amongst Iranian expatriates, I recommend Pedestrian, Neo-Resistance, and Azarmehr’s blog.

In case it needs saying, I don’t agree all the time with everything in all the above blogs, but then it wouldn’t be very interesting if I did.

Some recent posts by favourites of this blog:

Terry Glavin, “Do not kill your brothers and sisters. Stop the massacre now” and Day of Reckoning In Iran?
ModernityBlog, Meanwhile in Iran, Live Ammo, 1969, and Libya, and Iran and Bahrain, What Do They Have in Common?
Bob from Brockley, Mid-week miscellany, and not unrelated, “Progressive London”: A Popular Front for reactionaries.
Shiraz Socialist, Solidarity with workers in Egypt and across the Middle East, and When some on the UK “left” supported Gaddafi – and accepted his money.

For the total revolution overload experience, follow some of the people I’m following on Twitter.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

On non-violence, and on what is possible

Iranian blogger Pedestrian writes today in reaction to a TV report on how Egyptian demonstrators organised and prepared for protest:
Of course, I couldn’t help but compare their situation to Iran, when actions of this sort would never be possible. (Ahmed would have been imprisoned and tortured for attending the workshops, for “treason and attempting to topple the Islamic Republic of Iran” long before he could put what he learned to use).

But the very interesting methods they employ during protest: they set up first aid centers, they give out food, they prepare eye drops for the tear gas, they hug militias, they have a functional group which stands strong even when one or two of them are taken into custody, etc, etc, … none of this would ever be barely imaginable in Iran or in any place where the state killing machine is leagues more lethal and vicious.

You see, it’s not just the protesters who were nonviolent, the militias stopped attacking during prayer. Fighting, like shopping in a bazaar or a first date, is a social negotiation first and foremost where conflicting worldviews translate to physical maneuvers.

This isn’t to say that outright violence is going to get anyone anywhere. But rather, quite the opposite, in what sort of setting does nonviolence as a strategy even make sense? Does it in the case of Iran?


Related, The New York Times on Gene Sharp, Shy U.S. Intellectual Created Playbook Used in a Revolution. See also comments at the Small Wars Journal.

Earlier on this blog, a post on John Runnings, an American peace activist strongly influenced by him, and a second post also mentioning Gene Sharp.

As the SWJ is paying attention to Gene Sharp, will the next big thing after COIN for the US military be training in use of non-violent strategy and tactics? It surely has a place if a force is to have full spectrum capability.

Non-violence does not necessarily indicate virtue. It is possible for organisations to adopt tactical non-violence without signing up to to a pure non-violence strategy, just as it’s possible for organisations like Hamas or previously the IRA to use both democratic and terrorist methods. From John Runnings’ writing:
There is a form of non-military strife that can register outrage that is no physical threat to the opponent. This means is overlooked by those who assume that resistance must be passive when applied to resistance to the military. This form of non-military strife was used by Tshombe in 1962 when he was trying to secede Katanga from the Congo, as reported by U. Thant in his book, VIEW FROM THE U.N. (pg. 140).

“It was in Finland, where I arrived on the night of July 11, 1962, that I received the most disturbing news from the Congo. The message was to the effect that Mr. Tshombe had changed his tactics.

On that day, a planned and viciously conceived assault by thousands of Katangese women and children was made on Indian troops at a roadblock in Elisabethville. These troops - cursed, abused and spat upon by the Tshombe-organized women and children - displayed a most remarkable restraint and discipline under extreme provocation, and never fired on the mob. I also received report from Robert Gardener, United Nations representative in the Congo, that Mr. Tshombe had informed him that he would employ civilian demonstrations, especially women and children, instead of troops, to provoke the United Nations force, in cynical contempt for the safety and well-being of his own people. This change of tactics posed new problems for the force and put a very great strain on the troops.”

I was disappointed in U. Thant that he failed to admire the courage displayed by the women and children that were able to stand up to armed threat of the United Nations of the world and defy them. He later spoke of Tshombe and his colleagues as “a bunch of clowns”. (I would propose that some of the attributes of the clown might be encouraged in anti-warriors. The charm of the clown is that they do the unconventional with elan, to make people laugh, in contrast to the military whose efforts are seldom amusing.)

And suppose Saddam Hussein had withdrawn his military, and sent women and children to occupy the Iraq-Kuwait border to get in the way and to spit upon the American tanks and soldiers. Would Clinton have had the political climate to fire on them? What fun the world media could then have had, showing the United States military in confrontation with little boys trying to spit on the tanks, though they had not yet learned to spit over their chin?

This is not to play down the many virtues of Gandhi’s more pacifist approach. But it is important to know that vulnerable challenge may be successfully used by people who are not saints(...)

Added: Nonviolence in the Arab streets, with Gene Sharp, Sherif Mansour & Mubarak Awad, from Radio Times on WHYY. Mubarak Awad is a Palestinian campaigner promoting non-violent methods. He’s also a supporter of Iran’s Green Movement: see this earlier post for more.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Bo is 10!

He’s chosen the film, and the popcorn is ready to pop. The show starts straight after school.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Professor Potts on the phone

English Idioms Illustrated by renowned cartoonist Aidan Potts is now available on iPhone and iPad, and I’m told the first twenty-five idioms are free when you download the app.

But as to developing a version compatible with my phone, that problem has the boffins stumped.

More wonderfulness at

Dartford Warbler and friends

25 Bahman in Iran, 14 Feb in Bahrain


Live blog at Tehran Bureau and EA WorldView.

Comment from Gene at HP. More from that quarter on selective solidarity.

More from Azarmehr on Egyptian solidarity.

Committee to Protect Journalists on Iran’s imprisonment of journalists.


Today’s Egypt and Beyond live blog at EA WorldView turns to Bahrain.

Glen Carey at Bloomberg, Bahrain Human-Rights Organization Urges King to Free Detainees, and Omar Al-Shehabi at CIF on Bahrain, both via Iraqi American Mojo.

From Foreign Policy magazine last December, Why the Bahrain elections matter, by Kristin Smith Diwan, and from September, Bahrain's Shia crackdown, by Steven Sotloff, and The Internet in Bahrain: breaking the monopoly of information, by Fahad Desmukh.

Ali Abdulemam, blogger and Global Voices contributor, imprisoned in Bahrain since 5 September.

Meanwhile . . .

 . . . in Yemen (more), in Algeria (more), in Libya, in Morocco . . . and what now in Gaza? Also, more from Mojo on why democracy in Iraq has been difficult.

Old fellow you’d best step away

From Victorian valentines you haven’t seen, at Uncle Eddie’s Theory Corner.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Friday, 11 February 2011

Gone. Next?

Four weeks after, and Mubarak follows Ben Ali*. Next up, the revolution comes home?

At International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Egyptian Activist’s Message to Iranians: Learn From Egyptians, And We Learned From You.

Comment from Potkin Azarmehr and Alan A. at HP.

Al-Masry Al-Youm reports, Group of Egyptian protesters call on Iranians to revolt against Tehran govt.

Pedestrian on Iranian state media coverage of Egypt.

Iran’s Green Movement plans to rally on February 14th/25 Bahman in solidarity with the people of Egypt and Tunisia. More at Tehran Bureau and EA WorldView.

*Caution from Max Fisher at The Atlantic, After Mubarak, Egypt’s Revolution Is Far From Over, and at Global Voices, Egypt: A List of Demands from Tahrir Square.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

The regime sheds its skin?

Breaking via Lindsey Hilsum of Channel 4 News, Lyse Doucet of BBC News. More at NY Times Live blog and EA WorldView live blog.

Wael Ghonim tweets, “Revolution 2.0: Mission Accomplished #Jan25,” but from past experience, the phrase “mission accomplished” means “real fight just beginning.”

Highter Military Council statement.

Context: At PRI’s The World, Robert Springborg of the Naval Post-Graduate School in Monterey outlines the persistence and depth of the military’s political control of Egypt.

Update: So Mubarak spoke, “like a father to his children”. Abu Muqawama comments, “well, I think we can all agree that speech will calm everyone down,” and Abu Aardvark looks at options for responding to the worst speech ever.

Robert Springborg, via Reuters:
It’s an enormously provocative step. There are desperate men, willing to gamble the fate of the nation for their own personal interest. It's a very sad historic moment for Egypt.

The speeches tonight are not intended to bring an end to the crisis in a peaceful way but to inflame the situation so there is justification for the imposition of direct military rule. They are risking not only the coherence of the military but even indeed, and I use this term with advisement here, civil war.

I think it needs to be made perfectly clear (by outside powers) that Mubarak and his regime are forfeiting Egypt’s future. Egypt is in an economic crisis. It is going to have to be bailed out and the short answer to what they are doing now is that it will not be bailed out with anything like a military regime in place that is associated with Mubarak, Omar Suleiman and these people who are part of this regime.
More reactions.

In the Maxwell Smart department, this from FP’s The Cable:
CIA Director Leon Panetta was forced to clarify his statement earlier today when he said, “I have heard there's a strong likelihood Mubarak will step down this evening,” explaining that his comment was based on news reports, not intelligence data.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

No one on a horse

The heroes are the ones in the street. The heroes are each one of us. There’s no one on a horse, smacking his saddle and moving the people. Don’t let anyone deceive you and tell you that. This is the revolution of the youth of the internet. This is the revolution of the youth of the internet, which then became the revolution of the youth of Egypt. And now it’s become the revolution of all of Egypt. There is no hero here, and there is no one who should take the seal. We are all heroes. That’s it.
In case you haven’t yet seen the Dream TV interview with Wael Ghonim following his release Monday, you can watch and read about it in this post at The New York Times news blog, The Lede. An alternative translation is available as a YouTube playlist here, but I think it’s incomplete. Wael Ghonim’s Twitter feed is here. Today’s clips of his CNN interview and his address at Tahrir Square are in today’s live blog on Egypt by The New York Times.

See also EA WorldView for more on this and other events, including new protests in previously quiet Upper Egypt, new strikes, and a new focus of protest in Cairo outside the Parliament. More on the Parliament protest in this NY Times video. Reports on Monday described a government strategy of constraining and isolating the Tahrir Square protest, while normalising the rest of the city. The Parliament protest is one way of countering that. Egypt’s decentralised mass movement is not playing chess, it’s playing Go.

An extra link from The Wall Street Journal, Thugs-for-Hire Leave Mark on Protests, Egyptians Say, by Sam Dagher. The opening:
As popular anger against the Egyptian regime swelled last month, Saeed was locked up in a prison at a Cairo police station. The station's chief approached him with a bargain: Saeed would attack and help disperse the protesters that were converging on Cairo's Tahrir Square—and in return, Saeed recalled, the chief would erase the drug and illegal-arms-possession charges pending against him.

Image from The Game of Go, the National Game of Japan, by Arthur Smith, available for download at the Internet Archive.

Jay, owl, and crow


A peek over my shoulder - this is part of a rather complicated drawing in progress.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Endgame in Egypt?

In Foreign Affairs magazine, Egypt’s Democratic Mirage: How Cairo’s Authoritarian Regime Is Adapting to Preserve Itself. Joshua Stacher argues that the army has actively and successfully protected the regime, while playing the part of protector of the people:
Despite the tenacity, optimism, and blood of the protesters massed in Tahrir Square, Egypt's democratic window has probably already closed.
Although many of the protesters, foreign governments, and analysts have concentrated on the personality of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, those surrounding the embattled president, who make up the wider Egyptian regime, have made sure the state's viability was never in question. This is because the country's central institution, the military, which historically has influenced policy and commands near-monopolistic economic interests, has never balked.
More, via The Arabist.

Is it over? And even if this event is over, is it all over?

To the question, is the army on the side of the people, or on the side of the regime, the answer always has to be the army is on the side of the army. The real question always was and still is, where does the army believe its interests lie? Not with Mubarak for much longer, but then what? It depends on how strong the forces of change are. If those forces are strong enough, the army will change in order to preserve itself.

The army is not an individual, but a group, and it cannot wholly isolate itself from wider changes in the nation, and in the global culture. The national culture has shown itself to be capable of radical changes, and those changes are obviously linked to broad long term escalating international technological and cultural forces.

Alongside that, the army’s closest international ally is the US, and this must be important culturally as well as economically. How do younger members of the Egyptian military regard their organisation compared with the US military: the world’s most advanced, and under democratic control?

The army entered the square. But in this future-now world everywhere becomes part of the public square, even the army, even the barracks. Change won’t be shut out.

More on the Egyptian army in The New York Times: Egypt Stability Hinges on a Divided Military, by Elisabeth Bushmiller.

My 36 Hours in Egyptian Captivity, by Dan Williams of Human Rights Watch:
There was no doubt that the army was in charge of the raid. At one point, a major general showed up at the Hisham Mubarak center and other officers worked hand in glove with a uniformed policeman, plainclothes state security agents and assorted abusive henchmen.
More. See also: Two Detained Reporters Saw Police’s Methods, from Friday’s New York Times.

Egypt: Revolution Pessoptimism, from The Traveller Within, refering to the release of blogger Wael Ghonim.

Al Jazeera: Blogger’s release ‘reignites’ Egypt.

The Guardian: Facebook campaigner Wael Ghonim strikes a chord on Egyptian television.

The Wall Street Journal: Google Executive Emerges as Key Figure in Revolt.

Also in the WSJ: Foreign Islamists Get Little Support in Egypt.

At Foreign Policy, Is it time to send in the lawyers? Nathan J. Brown on Egypt’s boobytrap constitution.

On revolutions and what follows after, The revolution of flowers: to thaw in dancing jasmines, by Bob from Brockley.

On the BBC World Service, Mubarak’s Egypt, from 2009, on lots of stuff, including the army.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Battery Powered Mystery Action

John Dog’s recent songs are now being served up together on a long playing virtual platter, Battery Powered Mystery Action! Cover art is by yours truly, as seen earlier here.

Hear it streaming for free, or download at a modest price, all at, where you’ll also find free downloads of early rare recordings by the canine troubadour.

“Greetings from the center of the world.”

So begins The Tahrir Show, a post by Blake Hounshell, managing editor of Foreign Policy magazine, on arriving in Cairo.

I’m too overwhelmed by it all today to pick out many individual items. Bob has a good set of links, and kindly points to my twitterings, but if you want to keep up don’t follow me on Twitter, follow some of the people I follow.

This exchange between David Brooks and Gail Collins at The New York Times site lays out an optimistic view on wider implications for the Middle East, and it’s an optimism I share for what that’s worth.

But the Middle East is not the only context. Tunisia and Egypt are African countries. From an editorial in South Africa’s Mail & Guardian:
. . . the tinder was stacked dry and ready for decades in Egypt. The levels of poverty, frustration and repression are if anything higher further south. Is it too much to hope that Africans choose to treat the Egyptian and Tunisian protests, with all their peril and potential, as our own?
More, via Al Jazeera live blog.

As usual, in depth live blogging by EA WorldView, The New York Times, and The Guardian, along with live coverage from BBC News and Al Jazeera, provides more detail than I can keep up with.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Egyptian blogger Sandmonkey arrested

The Guardian Live Blog of today’s events reports that Egyptian blogger Sandmonkey has been arrested and his blog suspended. News of his arrest came in a tweet from his friend Ramy Yaacoub.

Update - he’s been released. @RamyYaacoub:
OnPhone W/ @SandMonkey: "We were just released after a 2 hour arrest, the beating came before the arrest" #SandMonkey
More at Global Voices. See also their story on Egyptian blogger and Google Middle East staffer Wael Ghonim, missing since Thursday of last week.

Below is Sandmonkey’s last post before his arrest, recovered from Google’s cache.

Mubarak’s mob rule

Live blogging: EA WorldView, The Guardian, The New York Times.

BBC News live coverage, Al Jazeera English live stream.

BBC News this morning:
Early-morning gunfire has rung out around Tahrir Square in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, killing several people. Sustained bursts of fire lasted for two hours as anti-government demonstrators tried to stay in control of the square.

Guardian journalist Jack Shenker this morning, tweeting as @hackneylad:
Egyptian doctor in #Tahrir says 7 dead overnight from clashes with pro-Mubarak thugs, reports sniper fire
After seeing Mubarak shut down phone, internet, and train services, and attempt to maintain rule through mob violence and murder on the streets, can anyone still seriously argue that he stands for stability?

No stability for the economy, from Alex Evans at Global Dashboard, Egypt: cash gets scarce as banks stay closed.

Marko Attila Hoare lays it out, Egypt: The West faces another Bosnia moment.

Paging Malcolm Gladwell. Photo © Lauren Bohn.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011


Live coverage of Egypt from BBC News, The New York Times, EA WorldView, The Guardian. Al Jazeera’s live stream.

Danger Room: Horses, Camels, Rocks, Molotovs: Egypt’s Thug Tech.

CNN reports attacks on ambulances, intimidation of doctors, Cairo hospital: Ambulances rolling nonstop; menacing crowd outside.

Committee to Protect Journalists: Journalists under physical assault in Egypt.

It’s not orderly, it’s not stability, it’s not working. ABC News on frustration in the White House: President Obama ‘Very Concerned’ About Mubarak Delaying Transfer Of Power.

Jeffrey Goldberg: The Neocons Split with Israel Over Egypt, via HP.

Also at Harry’s Place, Perspectives on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which links to a number of arguments, and a news story I’ve been waiting for - Avi Issacharoff writes in Haaretz, Hamas worried upheaval in Arab world will spill into Gaza:
Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip are concerned about the effects of the upheaval in the Arab world, as Facebook messages call on Gaza residents to demonstrate against Hamas rule on Friday.

Several thousand people have joined the Facebook group calling for a protest against Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip. Another Facebook group is calling for protests against the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Far fewer people have expressed interest in that page, but Palestinian leaders in the West Bank also recognize that the protests in Tunisia and Egypt could spill over into Palestinian territory.

In what seems to be an effort to hold off possible demonstrations, PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said the Palestinian Authority will hold municipal elections in the near future, and senior Fatah officials said they are considering general elections as well.

In Gaza City, Hamas police used force earlier this week to disperse a small rally showing solidarity with Egyptian protesters. Police officers dressed in civilian clothing arrested six women and detained some 20 others, according to Human Rights Watch.

The women were taken to a police station, where policewomen insulted them and slapped one of them during an interrogation, according to the report. The protesters were told not to demonstrate again without Hamas police authorization.

ModernityBlog has a round up of blog analysis, opinion, and speculation: Egypt, What Will Happen Next?

Bob from Brockley is on a million link march: Freedom’s Flame.

All Egypt posts here.

Heart full of leaves

A lady in Paris photographed by Shaun Downey, from his new site. Be sure also to see his flowers and bees, spiders and caterpillars.

Copyright © Shaun P Downey.