Many Copts have stood aghast not only at this, but over the fact that their clergy never demanded accountability from Sisi over the Supreme Military Council’s obvious direction of the massacre by the Egyptian army of demonstrating Christians at Maspero on October 9 2011. Furthermore no challenge has been forthcoming over the release from prison of ex-interior minister Habib over pretty overwhelming evidence that he was behind the 23 January 2011 Alexandria Church Bombings.
Merkel, a fervent supporter of the Egyptian junta, visiting Egypt to finalise a contract on behalf of Siemens for three power stations and for ThyssenKrupp for several 209/1400 attack submarines, makes a rhetorical demand it seems for Muslims in Egypt to ‘… support persecuted Christians’. More recent bombings in Coptic Churches in Alexandria and Tanta are blamed on ISIS, which fits in well with Sisi’s self-proclaimed mandate on the ‘war on terror’. Little evidence is provided for the accusation and little time is spent pondering on the simple fact that even a jaded Coptic population is not in a hurry to lay the blame at the door of their Muslim counterparts for the atrocities.
Now the Catholic Pope is visiting Sisi to stand shoulder to shoulder with a Coptic clergy largely believed by the Egyptian population to be a tacit collaborator with the bloody Egyptian régime in this game of charades. Meeting with al-Azhar is a meaningless gesture as this religious body has zero independence from the state, and currently zero credibility with Muslims on the ground. Is the Vatican being paid to visit Egypt and make these absurd gestures? Is this a reboot of its collaboration with the Germanic neoliberal hegemon, when it backed Franco Tujman’s ZNG neo-Ustashi blackshirts in their attacks on the Serbs living in Croatia in 1991, which started the Yugoslav Civil War? Is this Pope not aware that as yet Sisi has not properly accounted for the torture and summary execution of Italian PhD student Giulio Regeni by his thugs? Of course he is.
Assad’s crimes divide polite society. He must be enjoying it. The report by the French Intelligence services – if correct – would not only confirm Assad as the perpetrator of the Khan Sheikhun chemical attack, but would lend yet further credence to the catastrophic errors of naysayers on Assad’s role in the Ghouta chemical massacre such as Seymour Hersh and Robert Parry (the latter doubled down on Khan Sheikhun), while vindicating the view of Muhammad Idrees Ahmad that the editors of the London Review of Books were negligent in their duty in publishing Hersh’s article, and that Hersh was spectacularly obtuse in proceeding with evidence from a single intelligence source among the Western intelligence services to write his article.
The new evidence is furthermore a huge embarrassment for Putin, who has admitted to Erdoğan that he would like a solution to the Damascus problem and that he ‘… is not Assad’s lawyer’. It must be said that Russia refuses to accept the evidence in the reports on the basis that the samples tested by French authorities could have been obtained anywhere, and of course, there is always a margin of doubt. It is pushing out the meme that it has “irrefutable proof” that the Khan Sheikhun attack was a “provocation”, without supplying any evidence. This is the same face saving ploy Russia used in the case of the downed jet which “hadn’t strayed into Turkish territory”, when it said the black box was broken and couldn’t yield any information. Human Rights Watch, however, maintain that Assad’s forces not only used chemical weapons at Khan Sheikhun, but is actually using them systematically even at the present time, with evidence of this in at least four other locations. A BBC report even provides some evidence as continuing chemical weapons manufacture at three different sites (see map above).
The argument ran after Khan Sheikhun that Assad ‘had no reason to commit such an atrocity’ in view of the fact that the war was going his way and that it would cause a reaction from the West. David Morrison’s argument that ‘Assad didn’t do it’ – or indeed do Ghouta – is firmly based on this presupposition (the reference there to Hersh suffers from the problems outlined above). But these kinds of arguments display a lack of experience as to how Middle Eastern despots actually function and how they are used to promulgate fear among their populations. Watching Ali al-Dhafiri’s (Arabic) interview on al-Jazeera with Abdel-Halim Khaddam, Assad’s minister of foreign affairs until 2005, could be an education in this respect. See Part 1 (which starts with Hafez al-Assad), and Part 2
To read the actual forensic report from the French government see here, and to see the annex click here
The year is 2013, the army has just unseated Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, and pro-army and pro-MB factions clash on the streets. A reporter and photographer are arrested and thrown into the back of a police van, which is the sole camera setting; soon, other demonstrators from both sides are chucked in – along with, in one particularly chaotic scene, a lenient cop. They are crowded in there for hours in the boiling heat with no water and a plastic bottle to pee in. Through the grille-meshed window they get glimpses of the turmoil on the city streets.
At first, it looks like a no-budget movie with about a dozen people shot in a single location, but the director, Mohamed Diab, stages some spectacular riot scenes outside, which are all the more staggering for intruding on this enclosed space so unexpectedly.
The movie stunningly replicates that sense of inside and outside that must be felt by witnesses to any historic moment: the private debate, the enclosed conflict, and the theatre of confrontation unfolding beyond. What a dynamic piece of cinema.
This centre spread in the BILD newspaper led the German, Austrian and Dutch media onslaught telling Turkish voters to vote NO in their referendum on constitutional change (in both German and Turkish). A YES vote would see a separation of legislative and executive powers in Turkish governance, both currently in the gift of the Prime Minister’s Office, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would thus consolidate his presidency. BILD, owned by the media giant Axel Springer, is the largest circulation newspaper anywhere outside East Asia.
The question has to be asked why this newspaper told Turkish voters that the founder of their new Republic, Mustafa Kemal “Atatürk” (pictured) would have voted NO in this referendum. Read full article here. A short version is also available on openDemocracy here.
Coptic demonstrators cry out the name of Magdi Abd el-Ghaffar in anger outside the bombed churches.
Mina Thabet, a Coptic Egyptian and director for the minority and vulnerable groups programme at the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), says …’We blame the security services. In the Tanta incident, the terrorist [as seen on camera] went through the front door of the church and moved all the way to the front without the security guards even stopping him’
Astonishingly there had been an earlier warning. A senior police official told Reuters that a bomb was discovered and disabled just outside the Tanta church about a week ago. “That should have been an alarm or a warning that this place is targeted,” said Amira Maher, who was waiting for her injured brother at a nearby hospital.
Both Thabet and Maher were part of groups of worshippers digging graves for the victims of the bombings in the basements of the devastated St George Church in Tanta and at Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria.
Unprecedented coral bleaching in consecutive years caused by rising water temperatures has damaged two-thirds of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, aerial surveys have shown. If normal conditions return, the corals can recover, but it can take decades, and if the stress continues the corals can die
Rania al-Malky writes: ‘As I understand, Your Holiness plans to visit Egypt on 28-29 April. While as an Egyptian Muslim citizen, I would be honoured by your visit to my country, I beseech you to reconsider this trip.
My reasoning is clear and simple: apart from the palpable physical danger of being in Egypt at this volatile moment (note that Coptic Pope Tawadros was the target of Sunday’s Alexandria bombing as he was inside St Mark’s Cathedral when it happened), such a trip could only serve to legitimise a murderous administration that is complicit in the killing of tens of Christians and hundreds of Muslims.
Your Holiness is best advised not to associate with ruthless dictators like Sisi who will be the only one to gain from your visit at the expense of thousands of unjustly incarcerated Egyptians with no recourse to a fair trial and often with false charges levelled against them.’
Twenty-six people have been killed and more than 70 others were injured during a bomb explosion inside the Church of Mar Girgis (St. George) in Tanta. The device was placed under the first row of pews inside the church. Meanwhile a second explosion occurred outside the Saint Mark’s Church in Alexandria, where Coptic Pope Tawadros II was leading a Palm Sunday service.
DEASH/ISIS has supposedly claimed the attacks, but a rush to judgment on mere claims is unwise, given that terror attacks on churches in Egypt have in the past been linked with government figures seeking to garner additional support from the West.
Putting aside the widespread killing and torture of Egypt’s Muslim population, we should not forget that in October 2011, 27 Coptic protesters were crushed to death by Egyptian armoured personnel carriers guarding the state television building (Maspero). To this day, not a single army officer has been held accountable for that atrocity (as for any other).
The timing of the two recent Church attacks, immediately after Trump’s raid on Syria, appear to signal a deep anxiety on the part of the Egyptian junta to keep the US on side in its ‘war on terror’. The fact that Trump called Assad’s bluff is significant in the eyes of the Egyptian junta leader, because Sisi and Assad support each other and follow each other’s bloody progress closely.
Nevertheless, Sisi was unable to criticise his masters in Washington and Tel Aviv over the ill-treatment of his brother-in-arms in Damascus… in fact, no official statement was made at all – as if nothing had happened.
While Russia continues to spin yarns about Assad’s atrocity in the town of Khan Sheikhun, the US has carried out a justified missile attack against Ash Sha’irat air base in Syria 38km southeast of Homs. The Pentagon said 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired at 04:40 Syrian time (01:40 GMT) from destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean. In a televised address, Trump said the base was the launch point for the chemical attack.
Russia also now puts itself in an awkward position as Rex Tillerson criticises Russia’s role in enabling Assad. According to a 2013 deal between Russia and the Obama administration, Assad was supposed to have eliminated his chemical weapons stockpile, while Russia was supposed to act as guarantor. So as Tillerson points out ‘Russia has failed in its responsibility to deliver on that commitment from 2013. Either Russia has been complicit or Russia has been simply incompetent…’