Sunday Apr 17

Recap: Revolts of the Week


Hah! Not one but TWO posts this Sunday. ‘Lucky’ you, and ‘lucky’ me for having plenty to share with you.


Show of hands- who knew that Qaddafi’s slogan is "King of Africa’s Kings"? Because I certainly did not. Of course is this as interesting as his Amazon goddess personal guard? Or how the final acts of his dictatorship are starting to read like King Lear, with infighting amongst his brood?

In so much as in Benghazi, the key rebel stronghold, the derisive catchphrase is “Qaddafi: King of Africa’s Monkeys”. In the third month of armed hostilities with a U.N. no fly zone and air bombardment from the U.S. and France overhead, the rebels are keeping their zones together as best they know how.

Only tangentially related to the ongoing war- Qaddafi wrote a book! A Green Book, not unlike Mao’s Red Book (which some clever person has turned into an English language pdf?) Qaddafi outlines his tenents of good governance, which include women breastfeeding their babies for two years, mandatory education is coercive and sporting clubs are “rapacious social instruments” and day care violates a child’s natural rights.

(I liberated these nuggets from the cliff notes version, but don’t worry I’ll hand in an updated book report later on the Green Book as well as Qaddafi’s short story collection Escape to Hell and Other Stories (1998). )

It is the social organizing structures advocated by the Green Book, that are ostensibly helping people keep the peace in the rebel zones- allowing for the reopening of banks and stores.


The National Democratic Party, which has basically ruled the political scene since Sadat founded it in 1978, was officially abolished by the High Administrative Court on Saturday April 16th.

Of course it took the old NDP about a week to change their name (now the New National Party), locate a new headquarters (after protestors took it out in earlier protests), and declare themselves completely cleansed of the old- apologizing for past mistakes and promising not to do it again. 

This may not be all  the usual political malarkey- arrests of high ranking NDP officials has increased over the last week and two of former president Hosni Mubarak’s sons are currently in jail awaiting their corruption trial.


President al-Assad has agreed to repeal the emergency laws that have been a centerpiece of his political strategy for, oh, forty-eight years in an attempt to quell a wave of anti-establishment riots that have left almost 200 people dead.

Having initially gone in guns blazing, al-Assad seems to be backing up rapidly as this show of violence only trebled the volume of protests and escalated the demands. No one knows exactly how this will shake down, but everyone is waiting.


Protests against the current president Ali Abdullah Saleh continued, with 11 people wounded today, when the police fired live rounds into a mass demonstration in Change Square, Sanaa. The protests come even as opposition Joint Meeting Party sent a delegation to Saudi Arabia to meet with mediators over the situation.

Also props to President Saleh for most ridiculous thing to be uttered by a dictator this week: women who were protesting were violating Yemeni cultural norms that prohibit women mixing with men who are not direct relatives. Women activists responded by increasing their presence at the square. Although an interesting source suggests that at the (only) fundamental Islamist opposition group is giving their fellow protestors grief for the same thing. 


Though the small country is ruled by an equally small monarchy- movements for change have been met with strident oppression. Demonstrators, lawyers, political activists, surgeons- the list is sadly long. The Bahraini opposition political group Wefaq National Islamic Society says that 499 people are currently in government custody in Bahrain, none of whom have been charged with crimes.

But the reason Bahrain has come to my attention particularly, is because the daughter of a prominent human rights activist has begun a hunger strike and has been videoing herself doing it. This is the clip from CNN:

In the video she says, among other things, that she seeks U.S. condemnation of Bahrain- not airstrikes, not invasions, but that the U.S. must denounce the Bahrani government in order for meaningful change to take place. The government hasn’t done that because Bahrain is a friend of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia- though not really friends of the U.S. government, are enemies of Ahmadinejad. For the record the CIA is still testy that their puppet ruler Shah Pahlavi, installed in a coup against the popular nationalist government in Iran, was then overthrown in the 1980’s.

Zainab Alkhawaja has the right to her opinion of course, and I wish her nothing but luck (she was hospitalized recently- and refused an I.V. Reports suggest she is incredibly ill) I also support her right to make a statement, even as reporters harangue her for “not thinking about her daughter”. Men make political statements all the time without ever being called out for being fathers. I admire her for her dedication, if grisly, to her cause.

But Zainab has brought up the paradox that is being fiercely debated over as the U.S. continues to bomb in support of the rebels in Libya.

Given our history in the area, marked by a series of bloody so-called interventions for freedom, marked by terrible suffering and erasure of social and political practices; doesn’t it make more sense to provide humanitarian aid, to support people by giving access to information on organizing, on nation building, etc?

To use a more local example, would American independence have happened if the King of France wasn’t so broke?

Sunday Apr 10

Recap: Revolts of the Week


Well, there’s good news and bad news:

Glen Beck is going to leave Fox but continue to make 30 million dollars in gross annual income. There are ongoing earthquakes in Japan but no tsunamis. The United States Congress will not be rendered obsolete by their inability to pass a budget, and Rep. Weiner (D-NY) read a children’s book on governance to snipe at House Republicans.

AND HEY! There is still ongoing warfare, strife, and U.N. sanctioned bombings in the Middle East and North Africa.


Envoys for peace from a coalition of African nations has arrived in Libya, with the aim of starting a dialogue between the transitional National Council in Benghazi and the forces loyal to Gaddafi in Tripoli.

Meanwhile the deputy foreign minister of Gaddafi (because the actual foreign minister defected last month) has been making the rounds of Libya’s EU allies- Turkey and Greece. The Italian government, taking a break from Berlusconi’s dirty laundry; has recognized the National Council as the legitimate government and is refusing to help Gaddafi (joining France and Qatar).

So as of right now, Gaddafi’s seven sons are his best allies- each one conducting part of the war effort. One to run a martyr’s battalion (Mutuassim), one to terrorize people (Hannibal), one to play soccer professionally (Saadi), two for window dressings (this is an inference), and one to stage a coup.

Saif (sometimes Seif) al-Islam Gaddafi, more commonly known as Gaddafi’s most liberal son, has been outed by the New York Times for plotting a conciliatory coup-d’etat. The tentative plan is that the longtime dictat will be ousted and a democratic state implemented- with Saif at it’s head.

Although educated at the fabled London School of Economics its clear that Saif has a tenuous grasp on the machinery of democracy. Rumors have been flying around that the Gaddafi family have been added as the authorized holders of Libya’s Swiss bank account. Rumors have also suggested that Saif is “urban, charming and psychotic”, confirmed by Saif’s recent statement that the international media is wronging the Gaddafi family and instigating the riot.  

Dictators being what they are its probable that Saif’s apparent defection is just another misdirect, a way for Gaddafi’s legacy to live on in Libya.


Hosni Mubark is being called in to answer questions about the death of protesters during the Egyptian riot, as well as being subjected to a long overdue inspection of his finances. Currently under house arrest in Cairo, Mr. Mubark is (shockingly!) claiming that this is all unwarranted persecution. The process of dismantling the Egyptian security state continues.

Thursday Feb 10

Nina is an adorable girl growing up in Japan. Though she has trouble articulating some words, she already has a clear grasp of the situation in Egypt between President Mubarak and the “No-Money Persons”. 

One Disgrasian commenter stated, “I would watch Nina news over FOX any day.” I have to agree. I wish I was as cute and as knowledgeable as a kid! I wonder if she’s even 6 years old yet? 

(Source: The Huffington Post)

Friday Feb 4

The Egypt and North Korea Connection


The outbreak of protests in Egypt have been astounding audiences worldwide - audiences including those in North Korea.

So what do these protests to overthrow Hosni Mubarak and the current situation in North Korea have in common? 

The Egyptian regime faced much opposition when President Mubarak tried to transfer power to his son. Similarly, North Korea’s infamous Kim regime has been transferring power for three generations and with the talk of Kim Jong Il’s son, Kim Jong Un, taking over the deal leader’s position, the current North Korean regime may have every right to feel uneasy about the democratic protests happening in Egypt.

The protests have shown incredible strength in their effects and in their message to the world - the power of democracy. Radio Free Asia reported that a number of North Korean citizens have been secretly listening in on the Egyptian protests through their cellular phones, which are harder to regulate than regular landline phone calls. Other ways in which North Korean citizens may hear about the protests are through international phone calls from relatives in other countries or by secretly tuning into South Korean television news programs. It is a widely known fact that the North Korean government heavily regulates the information that its citizens have access to, perhaps largely for the fear of the influence that might cause an outbreak of some sorts. Thus, one can understand why the North Korean regime, as RFA speculates, are taking the current Egypt very seriously. 

All the more reason for the North Korean government to worry is the friendly ties between them and Egypt. On January 26, the day after the Egyptian revolts began, the CEO of Egypt’s Orascom Telecom, which owns a majority of North Korea’s sole 3G cellular network, met and dined with Kim Jong Il.

The bigger picture amongst these revolts in the influence in thought and the potential for change that citizens possess. Over 100 protestors have died in these past few days and chaos has gone loose in the streets of Cairo, but their message is still one that brings hope to even America, arguably the most democratic nation in the world. South Korean bloggers have been writing about the connection between the two nations and how the uprising in Egypt may potentially bring about a change in North Korea. GangPitDae, in a public online discussion forum, says it best:

이번 사태는 지역과 종교, 문화를 막론하고 민주주의는 거스릴 수 없는 시대정신 이며, 인류사회의 대세임을 보여주고 있습니다. 당연히 북한도 예외가 될 수 없습니다. 북한주민이라고 해서 주민들의 기본적인 생존조차 보장해 주지 못하는 형편없는 못난 정권에 마냥 복종하지는 않을 것입니다. 다음차례는 바로 김정일 정권이 될 듯 싶네요.

This (protest) shows that democracy is the irrevocable spirit of our time and is the mainstream of human history regardless of the geography, religion and culture. North Koreans will no longer succumb to an incompetent regime who can’t even guarantee them the basic means of survival. Next [to be deposed] is the Kim Jung-il regime.

Whether one agrees with these thoughts or not, the immense effect of the Egyptian protests are influencing not only their own government but of their immense audience worldwide.

(Those interested in this issue regarding North Korea are welcome to join NYU’s Freedom4NorthKorea on Mondays, 6:30 PM, Kimmel 904.)