Where is our parliamentary speaker?

aziz duwek

While the UK news is full of stories about John Bercow and his role as Speaker of the House of Commons, spare a thought for his opposite number in the Palestinian parliament: Aziz Duwek (pic above).

Duwek was released today after nearly three years in Israeli prison. He was seized along with 40 others six months after Hamas won the 2006 legislative elections in the Palestinian Authority.

Duwek is lucky today, but what of the other Palestinian MPs that are part of the 10,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons?

How do we know the Iranian elections were rigged?

Highly Improbable Numbers

The numbers. Official figures claim Ahmadinejad won 63% of the vote or 24.5M ballots cast. An extra 7M people are supposed to have voted for him since the second round of the last election when there was only one other candidate, Rafsanjani, another conservative.

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Heart of Darkness

Some pictures from my past few days with Josh (and his Christian Peacemaker Team buddies) in the South Hebron Hills. All the pictures you see are taken on the Palestinian side of the so-called ‘Green Line’.

Have a look at this UN map (2 Megs) to see the area (south of Hebron). The map also gives a good idea of the current restrictions and closures in the West Bank.

Hebron Hills 2008 - 01.jpg
The crossing from Jerusalem into the West Bank (towards Bethlehem). You have to go through two rotating gates, put your bags through an unmanned x-ray machine, scan your hand, and show your documents through the bombproof glass to the Israeli soldiers on duty. The colourful poster on the wall is from the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, and it says: “Peace be with you”.
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I Am Martyr

Martyr poster of Samer in the Yarmouk camp, who died fighting for Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Will Smith in ‘I am Legend’

“Would you ever blow yourself up?” 24-year-old Ibrahim asked me over the bubbles of his water-pipe.

I had just stepped off the plane back to Damascus, having spent the flight watching Will Smith’s heroic role as suicide bomber in the Hollywood blockbuster ‘I am Legend’. At the end of the film, Smith hurls himself and a grenade at a wave of salivating zombies, enabling the other two humans to escape with the cure that will save humanity. A pretty noble act in my opinion; a view probably shared by the millions of Americans who helped it smash box-office records.
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Give An Iraqi Your Vote!


“The people of Britain and America support the Iraq war. That’s why they re-elected Blair and Bush.” (near-daily comment I hear)

“Well not really. It’s just they prioritise their own issues. Like the domestic economy or opposing abortion. You can’t expect citizens of one country to care about those somewhere else. Everyone votes for self-interest. The war in Iraq affects Iraqis; they are the ones who need a vote.” (my tortured response)

So why not? And this is the plan: to give Iraqis a vote in the forthcoming US election.

Ok, so it’ll be a publicity stunt, but it will also be real.

The idea is to connect Iraqis with Americans who either don’t want their vote, or actively wish to give a voice to those in Iraq who will be directly affected by the election outcome.

One of the main issues of the Republican vs. Democrat battle will be whether US troops should stay in Iraq.

Don’t you think it’s time we asked Iraqis?

Realistically, I can only imagine a handful of people would participate, but I’m hoping that maybe some accompanying media coverage will make people think about how national democracies are not the answer to global problems.

If you know of anyone who might give some seed funding to a crazy idea like this, let me know 🙂

Guardian’s Iran Shocker

guardians shocking iran article

I’ve been in Syria for the past six weeks so haven’t been reading the Guardian (or writing on this blog).

However, I just came across a May 22nd copy of the Guardian on Indymedia, which to be frank, was shocking.

The headline of the article reads: Iran’s secret plan for summer offensive to force US out of Iraq.

At this point, you might think: interesting story. However, at the end of the first paragraph, Simon Tisdall reveals his sources, writing “US officials say”.

Wow. How terrible is that journalism? The headline is not even in quotation marks. You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to understand the skewed interests of ‘US officials’ and the likelihood of media manipulation.

Imagine if the Guardian broke a ‘story’ on its front page about US plans to carpet bomb Damascus, only to find out further down that their source was Iranian officials.

I must say I’m quite disappointed because I generally read the Guardian, although the Independent does have better Middle East coverage.

ps went to the Iranian Cultural Institute in Damascus the other day and was invited to a recital of Khomeini’s poetry. Would have been comedy. Happy 100th birthday AK.

Mongrels and Migrants

fish and chips

Today I had lunch with two colleagues, Samir and Farid.

“He asked what caste we are – I don’t know that!” complained Birmingham-born Samir, as he nudged his battered cod with a fork.

Samir is about to get married. Or at least he hopes so. He’s lined up a girl (a friend of his sister) and he’s trying to persuade her dad that he’s good enough for her. Last weekend, Samir and his parents went round to Aysha’s house to meet her family and get to know each other.

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Iraq and the terror of war


Today’s truck bomb in Baghdad has killed well over a hundred people.

In our media, it becomes just another bomb attack in Iraq – a conflict that bores us these days. Well, to jog your memory, here’s a list of major bomb attacks in Iraq since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein:

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Israel and Apartheid

Hasan in front of demolished house Jenin

Farmer Hasan Turkmen and his son Ahmad sit outside their demolished house just north of Jenin in the West Bank, September 2003. Israeli forces had arrived that very morning giving them ten minutes to clear out the house. There are no militants in the Turkmen family, their crime was to have built the house without a permit over a decade ago.

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Iranian Politics in the New Media Age

Iranian Student Protester at Amir Kabir University in Tehran

A student at Amir Kabir University in Tehran holds up a piece of paper during a visit by President Ahmadinejad that says: “Fascist president, the Polytechnic is not your place”

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