Stories from Quick Reads and Middle East & North Africa
Ahmed Marwan shares stories about a few Iraqi startups one year after the rise of ISIS, at Wamda.
But what is more uncertain than calculating the success probability of a startup working in a city less than 50 km away from the turmoil caused by ISIS?
That is exactly what it’s like to be an entrepreneur in Baghdad: they’re operating under conditions of extreme uncertainty.
Marwan sites a few examples of Iraqi startups and concludes:
These young guys and the other entrepreneurs have proved one thing: entrepreneurship in Iraq has unlimited potential in the face of adversity.
The pressing security situation, Iraq’s financial crisis and damaged infrastructure, investors’ unfamiliarity with startups, and other big obstacles are all valid arguments for the doubters and naysayers in the debate about the future of entrepreneurship in Iraq.
But entrepreneurs beg to differ and they keep doing what they are best at: surviving in this brutal market and striving to make a name for themselves.
This past Wednesday a rally gathered in New York's Time Square to oppose the nuclear deal reached between Iran and the P5+1 countries (the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China). The effort was meant to send a message to the U.S. congress to veto the deal. The Associated Press described it as a event consisting mainly “of pro-Israel supporters, though organizers said it represents Americans of all faiths and political convictions.” Congress has 60 days to review the agreement that lifts sanctions on Iran in exchange for measures by the Iranian government to prevent developing a nuclear weapon.
BBC Persian correspondent Bahman Kalbasi was in the crowd to tweet details of the event, and to criticize media outlets such as CBS for describing the event as ‘packed’.
— Bahman Kalbasi (@BahmanKalbasi) July 22, 2015
“We are letting the Persian tiger out of the cage“ says Mr. Zuckerman. The first speaker of the anti- #IranDeal protester.
— Bahman Kalbasi (@BahmanKalbasi) July 22, 2015
— Bahman Kalbasi (@BahmanKalbasi) July 22, 2015
Nope, they didn’t pack it. https://t.co/FYlAF5nGNE
— Bahman Kalbasi (@BahmanKalbasi) July 23, 2015
Saman Naseem, a juvenile Kurdish activist who went through a five month period of disappearance since his scheduled execution in February was able to call his relatives from prison this past weekend, according to Amnesty International. The day before he was due to be executed, he was transferred to an unknown location, which has now been confirmed to be Zanjan Prison. Neither his family nor lawyers were given any concrete information about his whereabouts until now.
Global Voices followed the story of the 22 year old Saman Naseem last winter as activists petitioned for the release of the Kurdish activist arrested while he was still a teenager for being a member of an armed Kurdish opposition group.
Activists and lawyers working on Naseem's case, alongside his family were left in the dark about the status of his case and whereabouts after his scheduled execution was cancelled. Working until the last minute, several campaigns placed international pressure on Iran to stop the execution on February 19. His death sentence and imprisonment is unjustified under Iran's own laws and international obligations, given that Naseem was a minor (just 17 years old) when he was arrested.
In a statement on Naseem's Amnesty Campaign page, Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa explained:
The welcome revelation that Saman Naseem was not executed and will receive a retrial is incredible news for his relatives, but raises very troubling questions about what the authorities have been doing to him while they held him in secret.
Herve Cornara's Relatives Want Him to Be Remembered as a Great Guy, Not the Beheaded Victim of a Lunatic
Herve Cornara was the manager of ATC, a delivery company in Chassieu in the suburbs of Lyon, France. More importantly, he was a father of a young man and loved by his relatives and colleagues.
Cornara was killed and beheaded by Yassin Salhi next to a ISIS flag at a factory in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, in the Isère region. Salhi is a truck driver and father of three. He was born in Pontarlier, France; his mother now lives in Morocco and his late father was Algerian.
Il était investi, c'était quelqu'un qui voulait toujours aider les gens. Je vais continuer ce qu'il a commencé
He was invested in his community. I will continue the work he started
Pascal Servino, a friend of Cornara, adds:
C'était un homme affectueux, généreux. Il était strict sur le quartier : dès que quelque chose n'allait pas, il se mobilisait pour résoudre les problèmes. Il va nous manquer.
He was an affectionate, generous man. He was relentless when it came to the community: when something went wrong, he would get involved right away to solve the issue. He will be missed.
On Saturday, June 20, human rights expert and activist Suad Missini ended the hunger strike he started six days prior in protest of inhumane treatment of migrants passing through Macedonia. Mr. Missini issued the following statement [links added]:
While the effects of the changes of the Asylum Law are yet to be seen in practice, the conditions in the migrant center in Gazi Baba has not been improved. The refugees are still kept in the center which gains characteristics of a concentration camp, under impossible, inhuman and degrading conditions, out of the legal framework and international human rights standards which are part of the national legal system.
Authorities in Republic of Macedonia chose to remain deaf to the demands for solving of this problem by numerous international organizations and institutions. They act blind to the fact that the UN Committee Against Torture characterized the treatment of refugees in this center as torture and breach of the UN Convention Against Torture in its latest report. And all this while our country is a member of the UN Human Rights Council.
On the other hand, I'd like to stress that Macedonia, as member of Council of Europe (CoE), received a visit by the CoE Committee for Prevention of Torture, which included a visit to Gazi Baba center. This summer, the president of this committee Mikola Gnatovskij visited Macedonia and also talked to the authorities about this center, among other things. I emphasize that Macedonian authorities have still not issued approval for the report of this visit to be published.
Finally, two days before the start of the hunger strike, the Ombudsman of Republic of Macedonia presented the catastrophic situation and lawlessness that rule in this center.
Today, we can acknowledge that the public in Republic of Macedonia, as well as the international public and foreign media and organizations, are fully aware and informed about the problem with this center. These days, Gazi Baba center is an international topic. If the government decided that this catastrophic problem should not be a subject of immediate reaction and subsequent solution, then this definitely puts our country among those which openly and unscrupulously conduct torture, while the authorities are legitimized as institutions lead by persons which have no respect for human lives. The lives of hundreds of people detained within this center. And finally, about my life.
Therefore, on this day I end the hunger strike. Because the limits of health risks are already surpassed, and because the potentials of this strike are fulfilled.
My demands, which are demands by an enormous part of the public in Republic of Macedonia, are partially fulfilled.
My civic act was a drop which made waves, which, I sincerely hope, together with all the other efforts, will lead to solving of this problem which turns our country into an uncivilized space.
I am immensely grateful to the thousands who sincerely and unambiguously expressed their support, making this civil act as much theirs, as it was mine.
Meanwhile, Twitter users continue sharing leaked photos showing the conditions of detained refugees.
The growing migration crisis has recently also affected countries in southeastern Europe, with new issues arising almost daily. Reacting to the inhumane treatment of migrants who pass through Republic of Macedonia, renowned human rights activist Suad Missini started a hunger strike in front of the Parliament building in Skopje. He began the strike immediately after publishing his three demands in a Facebook post on Sunday, June 14, which garnered almost 300 likes and over 90 shares in just the first day.
I am just starting a hunger strike.
In front of the Parliament.
I demand urgently and immediately:
- Urgent adoption of the changes of the Asylum law, that would enable safe transit or temporary stay of refugees passing through the Macedonian territory, as well as free use of all publicly available means of transport.
- Concrete and publicly announced measures by the Ministry of Interior in view to safeguard the life, security and possessions of refugees passing through Macedonia.
- Immediate liberation of all refugees and migrants detained in the Gazi Baba center and its immediate closure.
The strike will not end unless these demands are fulfilled.
Thousands of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Nigeria and other war zones pass through Macedonia, traveling from Greece towards Serbia on a path to try to reach Germany or other well-off EU countries. The migrants used to follow the railway tracks on foot, suffering horrific “accidents.” Lately the migrants buy bicycles, reportedly at inflated prices, in southern Macedonian towns and cycle on the main highway. Many of them fall victim to human trafficking rings and gangs of robbers. Some of the refugees are held as “witnesses” in the Reception Center for Foreigners “Gazi Baba” in Skopje in what Macedonian Ombudsman Idzhet Memeti has called “inhuman, unhealthy, and undignified” conditions.
The Government is supposed to discuss the amendments to the Asylum Law on June 16.
On Global Voices Checkdesk, a collaboration project between Meedan Checkdesk, an online news verification tool, and Global Voices Online, Joey Ayoub charts the initial reactions on the bombing of a second Shia mosque in Dammam, in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, for the second Friday in a row.
Three people were killed in the suicide bombing, which the ISIS Saudi branch Walayat Najd, has claimed responsibility for, and some 10 people have been injured.
On May 22, a suicide bomber detonated himself in a busy mosque in Al Qadih, in Qatif, killing at least 21 people, including a child, and injuring 120, in the worst attack on Saudi Arabia in a decade.
In November, eight people were killed in Al Ahsa, also in the Eastern province, when gunmen attacked a Shia community centre, where a religious ceremony was taking place.
Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Al Anbar province, has been captured by ISIS fighters. Joey Ayoub is putting the story together, tracking citizen journalists reports, news and testimonies, on Global Voices Checkdesk, a partnership project between Global Voices and Meedan's Checkdesk.
The city, in central Iraq, is about 110 kilometres west of Baghdad and 50 kilometres west of Fallujah. Hundreds of people have reportedly been killed, and thousands forced to flee their homes.
ISIS, an Al Qaeda off-shoot, has come to control larges swathes of land in Iraq and Syria, attracting news headlines for the horror it has waged against civilians in areas they have occupied.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UN Assistance Mission for Iraq:
UN agencies are rushing humanitarian assistance to people fleeing Ramadi for the second time in a month.
Close to 25,000 people have fled Ramadi following ISIL attacks and fierce fighting in the city. Most of the displaced are fleeing towards Baghdad, with many trying to enter through security checkpoints.
The report adds:
Within the past month, UN agencies and non-governmental organisations have provided life- assistance to more than 130,000 people who fled Ramadi following ISIL attacks in April. Tens of thousands of kits and rations have been distributed to more than 35 locations across Anbar Governorate. Thousands of families who had fled earlier had returned to their homes in Ramadi, when fighting again broke out, forcing them to flee a second time.
In July, the food pipeline will break. “Nothing is more important right now than helping the people fleeing Ramadi. They are in trouble and we need to do everything possible to help them.” Lise Grande, the UN's Humanitarian Coordinator said. “Thousands of people had to sleep in the open because they didn't have places to stay. We would be able to do much more if we had the funding.”
Beirut-based journalist Adam Rasmi shares an infographic from Visualising Palestine which tracks how much Israeli settlements have expanded since 1948:
— Adam Rasmi (@AdamRasmi) May 15, 2015
Check out Visualizing Palestine for more infographics here.
Discussions regarding the implementation of “intelligent” filtering have proliferated Internet policy discussions within Iran. “Intelligent” filtering is a process whereby they filter select content on a social media platform, rather than the entire site. Our recent research covered the extent of this program on Instagram. In response to “intelligent’ filtering discussions, Abdolsamad Khorramabadi, an advisor to the Committee Charged with Determining Criminal Content (CCDOC) told Tabnak news on May 5, “Facebook will definitely not be included in this type of [smart] filtering, and will remain completely blocked.”
Commenting on the policy on May 14, the New York based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran stated,
The continuation of the Facebook ban reflects the profound fear with which Iranian officials view social media networks, which have proved enormously popular in Iran, particularly among the younger generation.
Previous Iranian discussions of “intelligent” filtering on social networks never breached how the government would implement this program on networks that use HTTPS protocol, such as Facebook. The only known implementation of this program has been through the unencrypted Instagram API.
For further information on this announcement see the International Campaign for Human Right's recent report: “Iranian Officials Re-Affirm Facebook Will Remain Completely Blocked in Iran.” For technical understanding of “intelligent” filtering, see Frederic Jacob's Instagram testing and analysis on GitHub.
Fashion designer and innovator Danit Peleg, 27, is giving the world something to talk about. The creator of the world's first 3D printed clothing collection, Peleg explains:
My goal was to create a ready-to-wear collection printed entirely at home using printers that anyone can get. I've spent the past year searching for the best solution.
Just imagine the potential… if you're cold, print your own jacket. Traveling with no luggage? Just print your clothes in the hotel room. Will we soon be able to design, share, and print our own clothes directly from home?
Posted on YouTube on July 22, 2015 and on Start-Up Nation's Facebook page on July 29th, Peleg's two-minute promotional video displaying the line and explaining her process has garnered 2.8 million views and 50,000 shares to date.
The collection is made out of a plastic thread-like material called Filaflex using a Witbox printer. Three dimensional printing is done through a series of layering and binding of materials to create a stacking effect of each successive layer. Fashionista reports that each of Peleg's outfits took 400 hours to print; printing out the shoes took longer.
As 3D printing technology advances and becomes quicker and more affordable, users could download and print files at home as they do with two dimensional clothes patterns. Peleg predicts:
I think this is just the beginning. As technologies evolve, we will soon be all printing our own clothes at home.
Investigative journalists and people interested in social media in Lebanon are in for a treat at the end of this month.
The hands-on training will take place from 2pm to 6pm and covers topics related to the emergence and development of citizen journalism in the MENA region, reporting for the Web and online media verification.
Launched in March 2015, Global Voices Checkdesk is powered by the globally minded team at Meedan; working from San Francisco, Cairo, Vancouver, London and Beirut. It is a multi-year project combining research and open curriculum development with our University partner Birmingham City University, open curriculum development and training with a set of community media initiatives, and content creation through a growing network of regional media partners.
GV Checkdesk is run by Global Voices Lebanese author Joey Ayoub and Global Voices Bahrain author Faten Bushehri, who, along with a team of volunteers, have been tracking citizen media reports on breaking news across the Middle East and North Africa region. The goal is to collect witness accounts and other reports under one platform, and then verify the news, before it is used as part of our coverage at Global Voices Online. To join our GV Checkdesk team, please sign up here.
To find out how Checkdesk works, sign up here for the workshop. Hurry up as seating is limited.
The ISIS cyber army has allegedly hacked the website of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog on July 8, 2015, and threatened its Syrian director, Rami Abdelrahman, for his role in documenting human rights abuses committed by all parties in the ongoing war in Syria.
The news was confirmed by Reuters. SITE Intel Group also reported the hack on the UK-based site:
— SITE Intel Group (@siteintelgroup) July 8, 2015
The cyber attack was made by the group, affiliated with ISIS, which calls itself the Cyber Army of the Khilafah, or the self-proclaimed Caliphate, which covers large swaths of territory across Syria and Iraq.
Below is a screenshot of the site, which is now down.
Global Voices collaborators the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran released a newly written report yesterday entitled “High Hopes, Tempered Expectations: Views from Iran on the Nuclear Negotiations.”
The report engaged with 28 members of Iranian civil society including former members of the Iranian Parliament, journalists, academics, lawyers, economists, filmmakers, writers, publishers, actresses, playwrights, activists, and family members of political prisoners. The key finding was unanimous support for the nuclear negotiations and an agreement to lift sanctions. The following are some of the key findings made from this sample group.
• Seventy-one percent of respondents expect economic benefits from an accord, typically citing increased investment and oil revenues, and gains to employment, manufacturing, and growth. However, one-fifth of those expecting economic gains believe these benefits could be lost to ordinary Iranians due to governmental mismanagement.
• Twenty-five percent of all respondents expect any economic benefits would reach only the upper levels of society and those connected to power, due to entrenched and rampant corruption and the administration’s lack of authority to confront rival centers of power.
• Sixty-one percent of the respondents believe a deal would improve the chances of achieving political and cultural reforms, as the administration could now turn its attention to such issues and it would be significantly strengthened politically in its ability to enact change.
• Thirty-six percent expected no improvement in political or cultural freedoms. Some cited the Rouhani administration’s lack of power and authority, especially vis-à-vis the legislative and judicial branches and Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. Others questioned Rouhani’s willingness to push forward with reforms, noting his few efforts even in the spheres that are under the president’s direct control.
Mohammad Moghimi, the attorney of the Iranian activist and cartoonist Atena Faraghdani was arrested on 10 June following a visit to his client in jail. His charges are based on the fact that he shook Faraghdani's hand. Faraghdani was recently sentenced to 12.5 years in prison for posting drawings and content critical of the government on her Facebook page.
According to the Human Rights Activist News Agency, Moghimi has been transferred to ward 10 of Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj. His bail has been set to 20 million tomans -approximately $7000 USD. It is likely Faraghdani will face similar charges.
— Mansoureh Mills (@Mansourehmi) June 14, 2015
— Katniss/Lisbeth (@shokufeyesib) June 16, 2015
The social media campaign for Faraghdani's release can be followed under the #freeAtena hashtag.
This post first appeared on Arseh Sevom's Dar Sahn page.
Iran’s deputy interior minister announced that the police and the intelligence ministry would be monitoring the internet and social media for activity regarding the upcoming elections in the country.
In a press conference in Tehran during the week of June 1, 2015, Deputy Interior Minister Hossein Zolfaghari announced that a “Security Committee” to monitor election-related activities would be created earlier than expected. “The security committee will be made up of representatives from the police, Revolutionary Guards, army, and state radio and television.” Zolfaghari also added that similar committees would be created throughout Iran.
In view of the sensitive situation on Iran’s western borders and the movements of terrorist groups such as IS in the area, the upcoming Iranian elections will take place in an atmosphere of security.
The deputy interior minister has informed the Persian-language media that 60,000 polling stations would be set up for the elections of members of parliament and members of the Assembly of Experts and 300,000 people will be working with the government in this process.
A growing number of social media users in Iran combined with speedy information circulation have Iranian authorities seriously concerned. In addition to monitoring online sources, the security committee will create a “security map” to identify sensitive areas for upcoming elections.
Unconfirmed reports say that Saudi coalition forces, which have been bombing Yemen for more than two months have targeted the Marib Dam, one of the engineering wonders of the ancient world.
On Twitter, Hussain Albukhaiti claims:
— Hussain Albukhaiti (@HussainBukhaiti) May 30, 2015
In a follow up tweet, Albukhaiti posts a photograph of ruins, of what he describes as the dam, which dates back to the 8th century BC and is considered the oldest known dam in the world:
— Hussain Albukhaiti (@HussainBukhaiti) May 31, 2015
The size of the destruction of Yemeni infrastructure and history is still unaccounted for. We are gathering information and leads here on the damage on Global Voices Checkdesk, a collaboration project between Meedan Checkdesk, an online news verification tool, and Global Voices Online.
Leave a comment here to contribute tips to this story or to join our team.
Faten Bushehri tracks reactions to the trial of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, who was sentenced to death on May 16, on Global Voices Checkdesk, a project in partnership with Meedan's Checkdesk to verify news.
Morsi is being charged with collaborating with foreign militants to free Islamists during a prison break from the Wadi Natroun prison amid the Egyptian revolution in January 2011. Among his 105 co-defendants were some 70 Palestinians, accused of being members of Hamas, who were charged and tried in absentia. And among the Palestinians sentenced to death, Hassan Salameh has been in an Israeli prison since 1994, and Raed Attar is already dead.
Morsi was the president of Egypt for one year after the revolution, which overthrew Hosni Mubarak early 2011, who ruled Egypt for more than 30 years. Morsi's reign was cut short in July 2013, following massive protests calling for his ouster. Then, the Egyptian Army took command, under the leadership of Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces and Minister of Defence General Abdul Fattah El Sisi, who is now Egypt's president.
The next hearing is set for June 2.
Follow the link to add more stories and help verify them. Please contact me if you are interested in joining the team.
This post first appeared on iranhumanrights.org and is published here in collaboration with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said last week that the Tehran Municipality is prepared to enter negotiations with the Iranian Judiciary to convert the Evin Prison complex in northwestern Tehran into a public park.
For decades, the notorious Evin Prison has been one of the primary facilities where Iranian political prisoners have been detained, interrogated, tortured, and executed. Some of the worst testimonies about torture and forced confessions at Evin are related to at least three separate wards Iran’s Intelligence Ministry and the IRGC operate within the complex, unmonitored by the Iranian Judiciary.
On January 21, during the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei penned an open letter to the ‘youth in Europe and North America’ defending Islam, and the Western world's skewed reception of the religion. He also started tweeting the sentiments of the letter on his @khamenei_ir twitter account, starting the hashtag #Letter4U. A closer look of this hashtag indicates it remains active through bots, which are still crawling through Twitter four months after the launch of the campaign.
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) January 21, 2015
In late March Morgan Carlston noted that spam bots were promoting the hashtag on Twitter.
Morgan elaborated in a blog post:
There are hundreds if not thousands of accounts, most of them with over 10000 tweets. Twitter has a limit of 1000 tweets per day, and the accounts seem to have been created with this in mind.
Many of the accounts use fake photos taken from a variety of places. Some of them show celebrities, while others journalists or other media personalities.
— Morgan Carlston (@MorganCarlston) March 22, 2015
David Masad, a computational science researcher retrieved the tweet rhythm for the hashtag between May 8th to the 11th, and found the image below, which indicates that bots are still being deployed to spread tweets with the #letter4u hashtag, along with a link to Khamenei's website. Mason explained in an email to Global Voices,
The chart shows the exact same number of tweets using the hashtag being tweeted at precise, regular intervals, with no changes based on the time of day. Human conversations go in bursts, exhibit cycles based on times of day that people are in Twitter, and in general are *not* regular.