Friday 20 February 201517.45 GMTLast modified on Saturday 21 February 201500.25 GMT
The al-Jazeera journalistMohamed Fahmy, who is awaiting retrial after more than a year in an Egyptian prison, has accused the network of “epic negligence” and said it was partially to blame for his arrest and imprisonment.
Fahmy called it naive and misleading to see the case purely as a crackdown on press freedom because Qatar, which funds the al-Jazeera network, used it to “wage a media war” against Cairo.
Fahmy, who had both Egyptian and Canadian nationality before giving up his Egyptian passport in an attempt to speed up his deportation in December, and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian, are due back in court next week following the release of their Australian colleague, Peter Greste, earlier this month. The three al-Jazeera English (AJE) employees were jailed last June on trumped-up charges of helping terrorists and spreading false news.
Fahmy’s comments follow several attempts to present his case in a more favourable light to the Cairo establishment in recent months, including an opinion piece in Egypt’s leading private broadsheet that expressed his support for the army’s overthrow of ex-president Mohamed Morsi.
On the other hand, there are now a number of apps and Internet-based services that you can run on your smartphone that will give you much, much more secure communications. So, Apple has built iMessage into its iPhone product for several years. If you have an iPhone and you’re sending a text message to someone else who has an iPhone, this is used by default. Those messages are encrypted in a strong way. They’re sent via Apple’s system, and it’s very, very difficult for governments to intercept those. If you’re using WhatsApp, which is a service now owned by Facebook and used by hundreds of millions of people around the world, if you’re using WhatsApp on Android, it’s encrypted, again, in a very strong way. And if you have an Android or iPhone, you can download third-party apps, the best of which are called Signal for iOS and TextSecure, T-E-X-T Secure, from Android. These are best-of-breed free applications made by top security researchers, and actually subsidized by the State Department and by the U.S. taxpayer. You can download these tools today. You can make encrypted telephone calls. You can send encrypted text messages. You can really up your game and protect your communications.
To be clear, if you are a target of a law enforcement or intelligence agency and they really care about you, they can hack into your phone, and these tools won’t stop that. But you can make it much more difficult. You can make it so that they have to work really hard. And, you know, it’s unfortunate that the phone companies, that AT&T and Verizon haven’t warned their customers. They should be telling the public. They haven’t. But we can do things right now to make wiretapping much more difficult and much more expensive.
CHRISTOPHER SOGHOIAN: So, if you have an Apple device, you could download—so FaceTime is already installed in your iPhone. It’s built by Apple. It’s built into the iPhone. If you make a FaceTime audio or video call from your iPhone to someone else’s iPhone or iPad, it’s encrypted with very strong technology, and it will be very, very difficult for a government to intercept. If you have an—if you don’t want to use an Apple encryption product, there’s a fantastic app in the app store called Signal, S-I-G-N-A-L. It’s free. It’s open source. It’s very, very good. That makes encrypted telephone calls anywhere in the world for free. Even if you’re not worried about security, it’s actually a way of saving money on your phone bill. And then if you’re using Android, there’s a great app by the same people who do Signal called RedPhone, R-E-D-P-H-O-N-E. Again, it’s free. It’s supported by the U.S. government. So you’re paying for it anyway; you might as well use it. And that will also let you make free encrypted telephone calls. These tools work, and they make—they make wiretapping much more expensive, which is what we want. We want governments to have to focus their resources on the people that really matter, the real threats, but they shouldn’t be able to spy on everyone at low cost.
The Schleswig-Holsteinischer Kunstverein is showing a temporary installation by the Syrian artist Khaled al Khani (b. 1975) which was especially made for the space in the Kunsthalle zu Kiel.
Khaled al Khani studied painting in Hama and Damascus. In 2011 he fled from Syria and is now living in exile in Paris. The artwork he has created for the Kunstverein with the title The Beginning is Khaled al Khani’s first museum presentation in Europe. It draws on the existential experiences of the artist in his homeland, the Syrian civil war and his hopes for a future of peace.
Like many of the paintings of the artist, the mural in the Kunsthalle zu Kiel depicts the adumbrations of groups of people against a light background. The faces of the figures are only vaguely defined. Al Khani’s expressive and figurative painting style encompasses the entire walls of the room as well as most of the ceiling. At many points it oscillates between figuration and abstraction. Painting with acrylics directly on the wall, the artist has created a space that allows beholders to individually experience and interpret what is depicted in the installation: in their perception inside and outside, the past and the future merge. Only an oval in the middle of the ceiling has been left unpainted. This compositional device opens up the pictorial space into a realm above, and alludes once again to the title of the installation.
A lot has been going on on the diplomatic front over the U.S., Israel, and Iran over the weekend. Things are on a boil because of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming speech to Congress in March, the Israeli elections that month, and the impending deadline at the end of the month on the P5+1 talks with Iran.
Here are some of the reports. First, David Ignatius in the Washington Post has published a widely-circulated story ona supposed breakdown in confidence between the U.S. and Israel because Netanyahu allegedly leaked details of the U.S. negotiating position that President Obama had conveyed him in confidence to Israeli journalists.
The decision [by the U.S.] to reduce the exchange of sensitive information about the Iran talks was prompted by concerns that Netanyahu’s office had given Israeli journalists sensitive details of the U.S. position, including a U.S. offer to allow Iran to enrich uranium with 6,500 or more centrifuges as part of a final deal….
An initial report Sunday by Israel’s Channel 2 news that the administration had cut all communications with Israel about the Iran talks was denied by White House spokesman Alistair Baskey. Sources here said that Philip Gordon, the Middle East director for President Obama’s National Security Council, would see Israeli national security adviser Yossi Cohen and other senior officials on Monday. The discussion would include Iran policy, but U.S. officials aren’t likely to share the latest information about U.S. strategy in the talks.
Ignatius’s tick-tock on the spat goes back before the invitation from the Republican leadership of Congress to Netanyahu to speak following Obama’s State of the Union speech.
This latest breach in the U.S.-Israeli relationship began around Jan. 12 with a phone call from Netanyahu. Obama asked the Israeli leader to hold fire diplomatically for several more months while U.S. negotiators explored whether Iran might agree to a deal that, through its technical limits on centrifuges and stockpiles, extended the breakout period that Iran would need to build a bomb to more than a year. But Netanyahu is said to have responded that a year wasn’t enough and to have reverted to Israel’s hard-line insistence that Iran shouldn’t be allowed any centrifuges or enrichment.
Obama was concerned because the United States had shared with Israel its goal of a one-year breakout period since the beginning of the talks. The White House saw Netanyahu’s comment as a change, one that could potentially scuttle the negotiations. The Israeli response is that Netanyahu has always argued for “zero enrichment.”
Relations began to unravel quickly after the phone call. On Jan. 21, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) invited Netanyahu to address Congress and share his concerns about the talks. The invitation hadn’t been pre-negotiated with the White House, as is usually the case when foreign leaders are invited to address Congress.
Then came the alleged leaks about the nuclear talks. On Jan. 31, the Times of Israel reported that an unnamed senior Israeli official had told Channel 10 TV news that the United States was ready to allow more than 7,000 centrifuges and had “agreed to 80 percent of Iran’s demands.” Channel 2 reported that the U.S. offer was 6,500 centrifuges. U.S. officials believed that Netanyahu’s office was the source of these reports and concluded that they couldn’t be as transparent as before with the Israel leader about the secret talks.
Ignatius sees it all coming to a head in March:
The Iran issue will come to a head next month. Netanyahu’s speech to Congress is scheduled for March 3. Israeli elections, in which Netanyahu is running against a coalition of more moderate Israeli politicians, will take place March 17. The deadline for reaching a framework deal in the Iran negotiations is March 24. It’s a month that could shape the future of the Middle East, not to mention the U.S.-Israeli relationship, for years to come.
Some proponents of a nuclear deal with Iran may welcome this news as demonstrating that Netanyahu is a bad actor who should be sidelined from the negotiations process. But this would be misguided, and even proponents of a deal should worry about this development. One reason that Iran is willing to negotiate at all is that the US has succeeded in putting enormous pressure on the country and its nuclear program — often with crucial Israeli help. That has meant both gathering intelligence and, in cases such as the 2010 cyberattack on centrifuges via the Stuxnet virus, offensive operations.
Yes, what a great partnership. At Lobelog, Jim Lobe hasrerun a post he first ranthree years ago, detailing Netanyahu’s horrid advice to the U.S. on the urgent need to invade Iraq. Excerpt of Netanyahu’s counsel in 2002:
the question of time [for taking preemptive action], I think the sooner the better. But now the question is when you choose a target, I think Iraq brings two things, a confluence of two things. One, it is sufficiently important in this network to have a tremendous effect. If it collapses, it will have a beneficial seismic effect
Lobe’s piece is titled, “Lest We Forget: Bibi’s ‘Wisdom’ on Iraq.” Lobe writes:
Republican members of Congress say they are eagerly waiting to hear directly from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on why the nuclear deal being negotiated between the United States and its P5+1 partners (including its three closest NATO allies) and Iran is so dangerous…. Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) [wrote] in alettersigned by 47 of his House Republican colleagues in support of Speaker Boehner’s invitation to Bibi last week. “It is necessary now for Congress to hear from Prime Minister Netanyahu, and welcome his expertise on Iran’s regional designs.”
Which, of course, brings to mind once again Netanyahu’s demonstrated regional expertise in his enthusiastic promotion of the invasion of Iraq in testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on September 12, 2002. His appearance was transparently part of the Bush administration’s (and the neoconservatives’) campaign to persuade Congress to approve the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) against Iraq—which it did one month later, on October 16, 2002.
Bibi’s timing was superb; he spoke on the day after the first anniversary of 9/11 and five days after Vice President Dick Cheney told “Meet the Press” that, “We do know, with absolute certainty, that he is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment he needs in order to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon.”
The excerpts of Netanyahu’s “wisdom” are to die for. Chris Matthews really owes it to his viewership to air this testimony in advance of Netanyahu’s visit.
More in the unhinged department. Former NY Mayor Rudolph Giuliani met Netanyahu two weeks ago (above). Now he calls Obama a “moron” for dealing with Iran.
[Talking to Iran] is like playing poker with a guy who cheated you twice before. You know who does that? A moron. An agreement with Iran in to regard to nuclear power should be very simple. Iran should not be allowed to have any form of nuclear power…. The Ayatollah is insane. He’s like the guy walking around Bellevue Hospital thinking he’s George Washington. He’s a madman.. And we’re upset that Prime Minister Netanyahu wants to come here and defend his country?
The Netanyahu speech is doing great things for our country. It’s allowing Americans to talk about what’s in our interest and what’s in Israel’s, and distinguishing between the two categories. Thanks to Annie Robbins
CLICK ON IMAGE Thousands gathered on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill last night to remember the three Muslim students shot dead by a gunman who had posted anti-religious messages online. The victims were two sisters — 19-year-old Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha and 21-year-old Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha — and Yusor’s husband, 23-year-old Deah Barakat. Suspected gunman Craig Stephen Hicks has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder. Hicks had frequently posted anti-religious comments on his Facebook page and was a supporter of the group Atheists for Equality. On Wednesday, police said the killings resulted from a dispute over a parking space. But Mohammad Abu-Salha, the father of Razan and Yusor, described the shootings as a hate crime. The killings in Chapel Hill have sparked an international outcry, with the hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter spreading across social media. A community Facebook page was set up Wednesday in memory of the three victims, called “Our Three Winners.” We are joined by two guests: Amira Ata, a longtime friend of Yusor, and Omid Safi, director of Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center. TRANSCRIPT This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form. SEE ON DM
Yazidis freed from ISIL captivity are still haunted by their memories and wondering about the fate of their loved ones.
Ayshan Feli, 52, and her husband lay down on a white mattress on the floor of a building inside the complex of the Yazidis’ holiest temple site, Lalish. Their faces were at times expressionless, and at other times gripped with sorrow.
When the couple was released on Saturday night along with nearly 200 followers of the ancient Mesopotamian faith, the fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) took away their one-year-old granddaughter.
“They asked me to give them my granddaughter. I refused,” recalled Feli, who was wearing the typical Yazidi black dress and white scarf. “They pulled her out of my arms and said if you protest, we will kill you.”
Hama Faris Khudeda, 58, Feli’s husband, who lay covered in a blanket with only part of his face visible, added: “I said, ‘Why are you taking away our granddaughter? She is ours.’ One of them said, ‘Shut up or I will shoot you. If you talk more, we will take your wife too.'”
The family was abducted from the Nisiri village, south of Mount Sinjar, by a group of ISIL fighters in early August. The villagers were allowed to stay at their homes for a few days if they converted to Islam to save themselves from ISIL’s wrath.
“We converted so they wouldn’t harm us,” said Khudeda, a disabled man sporting a thick white moustache.
But one day, ISIL fighters ordered Khudeda and other villagers into trucks and stripped them of all valuable belongings such as money and jewelery, and took their cars.
They were kept for three months in the nearby village of Kucho, the site of a reported massacre where hundreds of male Yazidis were slaughtered by ISIL in August.
Then, along with scores of other Yazidis, the couple was moved to Talafar, a town northwest of Mosul, which has witnessed its share of ISIL brutality as many Shia Turkmen residents were killed and the rest had to flee.
Later, the family was moved to Mosul, the largest urban centre under ISIL control with a population of nearly two million.
While younger Yazidi women were taken as wives or sex slaves by ISIL fighters, many men were killed. Younger boys have been put through ideological training by the group in the hopes of detaching them from their roots and turning them into future fighters.
The group that was released on Sunday was a mix of elderly, ill and mentally or physically disabled individuals.
The area of Sinjar, in the western part of Iraq’s Nineveh province, had the largest concentration of Yazidis in Iraq and the world until last August, when the area was attacked by ISIL fighters. The group has been subjected to extensive brutality by ISIL, which deems them “infidels”.
Maltreatment was the norm for the freed Yazidis, who were held in a wedding hall in Mosul for the last month of their captivity.
Those Al Jazeera spoke to unanimously said they were given “dirty”, low-quality food, often improperly cooked. They were scarcely allowed to take a shower. One woman said she did not get a chance to shower for 28 days, and even when they were allowed to do so, there was no warm water.
As a result, some of the detained Yazidis developed skin diseases. Some of the children and elderly could be seen with skin ulcers. As aid workers roamed around to distribute food and water, some of them covered their faces with masks for fear of contagious diseases among the released Yazidis.
Mayan Faris Qassim, 45, and her two sons were among the group released by ISIL while her husband, three sons and two daughters, one aged nine, remain in ISIL detention.
Qassim and her two sons have all developed skin ulcers. Her four-year-old son is in serious condition as his cheeks, forehead and nose are covered with severe ulcers. Now free, the priority for Qassim is to get her sons and herself treated.
For a community whose identity has been shaped for millennia around their religion first and foremost, being forced to change that religion has been psychologically and emotionally devastating.
For a community whose identity has been shaped for millennia around their religion first and foremost, being forced to change that religion has been psychologically and emotionally devastating.
Qassim says her nine-year-old son even went to the mosque to pray, but she did not. “We never converted deep in our hearts. We are Yazidi,” she said.
The members of the group were notified on the night of their release that they would be set free “because Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi [ISIL’s leader] had issued a pardon”.
Many did not believe the fighters and as they were forced into buses, they feared something ominous was awaiting them. But relief took hold when the Yazidis were ordered off near a position of Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Kirkuk province, a key battleground between ISIL and the Peshmerga.
The trauma they endured and the painful memories of loved ones still in captivity has left the Yazidis here overwhelmed with sorrow, despite being free at last.
As she sips from a small water bottle, Feli sums up the mood here.
“Our life is no more,” she says, overwhelmed by emotions. “We cry so much. We grieve so much.”