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Tunisia Police Brutality, Morsi Bashing And Other News Stirring The Arab World

ARABICA: Your weekly shot of what the Arab world is saying, hearing and sharing.

In Tunis
In Tunis
Laura Thompson

Tunisian Police: Old Habits Die Hard
"Torture and murder by torture continues after a revolution that rose up against these practices." This could be read on the "Free klay bbj et weld 15" Facebook page — dedicated to freeing two Tunisian rappers sentenced to prison sentences for a song insulting police after a young man died while in police custody.

Walid Denguir was arrested on Nov. 1 by what critics describe as a group of "gangster police," known for their involvement in drug and alcohol trafficking. Denguir died during a subsequent interrogation at a police station in a southern neighborhood of Tunis. Investigative journalists, lawyers and angry Tunisian Internet users have posted graphic photos of Denguir's mutilated body, declaring that Denguir clearly died from torture. Here is the main Facebook page, "We are all Walid."

According the Tunisian site Nawaat, policemen told Denguir's sister that he had "died of a heart attack," while Nawaat calls the signs of torture "irrefutable." Journalist Ramzi Bettaieb posted a message on Facebook about Denguir's funeral, writing, "And as for the policemen Omar Al-Jebri and Faouzi Achouri, responsible for Walid's murder, I'll be right behind you until I bid you farewell in prison."

Ghazi Mrabet, a Tunisian lawyer known for his human rights and freedom of expression work, wrote on his Facebook page, "Tunisian police have not yet decided to change its practices … The Islamists in power — after having been the principal victims (though not the only) of this abjection for years — now close their eyes."

Three Signs Geneva 2 is an uphill climb
Geneva 2 is a set of U.S.-Russia organized talks to be held between the Syrian opposition and Syrian regime in the hopes of negotiating a peaceful resolution to the civil war. Despite some initial optimism, Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN-Arab League envoy on Syria, indicated Tuesday that there is no date yet set for the peace conference.

So why is Geneva in trouble?

1) Divided Opposition. The Syrian National Coalition has recently confirmed its refusal to participate in the talks unless President Bashar al-Assad steps down. This follows individual declarations rejecting the Geneva 2 talks by leaders of opposition militias, such as that of Ahmed Eissa Al-Sheikh, leader of the powerful Syrian Suqour al-Sham brigade and head of the coalition Syrian Islamic Liberation Front.

2) Skeptical Regime. The Syrian regime remains very wary of international meddling in the negotiations and continually expresses skepticism of the UN-Arab League envoy Brahimi, who is slated to head the talks.

3) Iran. The two main organizers of the talks, the U.S. and Russia, have seemed unable to agree on the thorny issue of Iran's presence — a presence Russia has called essential and that the Syrian opposition has flatly refused.

Twitter lampoons and laments Mohamed Morsi
Morsi supporters came out in force on Nov. 4, the starting date of the deposed president's trial for the alleged killing of protesters last December — and not just in protests outside of the constitutional court.

"يسقط حكم العسكر" In front of the Constitutional Court.#DemocracyOnTrial#MorsiTrial#Cairo#Egypt#Morsi#Sisi#مرسيpic.twitter.com/2vIUaDD4Zo

— Bieber hater™ (@MedoShnider) November 4, 2013

"Down with Military Rule"

Al Jazeera Arabic journalist Ali Al-Dafiri mused, "Morsi was not alone behind bars yesterday. If you looked a bit closer, you would have found many: All those who dream of democracy were in prison with him, the whole nation was imprisoned." Al-Dafiri's message was retweeted almost 1,000 times. His employer, Al Jazeera, is known for its sympathy for the Muslim Brotherhood and its opposition to the military-backed coup, resulting in the expulsion and harassment of its journalists.

Another Twitter user posted a picture of Morsi flanked by military leaders, with the words: "Lions will remain lions, and dogs dogs."

Photo:

One critical tweet painted Morsi as a greedy madman living outside reality, intending to resurrect a role he had completely destroyed.

#مرسي من داخل الق�ص :أنا الرئيس الشرعي للبلاد وأطلب من رئيس المحكمة تمكيني من ممارسة صلاحياتي كرئيس pic.twitter.com/VezAOJ8SDu

— تعب كلها الحياة (@Hameess) November 4, 2013

Translation: The Mahmoudiyah Canal." (a polluted canal in Northern Egypt)

"What about it?"

"I want to buy it and get clarified butter and salty sardines out of it."

Another Twitter picture mocked Morsi's righteous declaration to the constitutional court: "I am your president!" The image reads:

"A security officer among Morsi's bodyguards: "What would you like to drink, doctor?"

Morsi responds, "Why aren't you calling me president!?""

Saudi Arabia's mass arrests of migrant workers
In a country where more than half the workforce are foreigners, thousands of undocumented workers have been arrested following the end of an amnesty period in early November. In an attempt to lower the unemployment rate among native Saudis, the Saudi government declared a limited grace period of several months before cracking down on workers without correct documentation. Human Rights Watch has criticized Saudi Arabia's program for foreign workers, in which the Saudis who sponsor migrant workers also have complete power over their workers' job changes and residency status.

The plight of migrant workers in the Gulf has recently come to international attention, after the UK newspaper The Guardian published an exposé of the "slave treatment" of migrant workers preparing Qatar to host the World Cup.

Headscarves return to Turkish Parliament
Four Turkish women parliamentarians wore headscarves to work, following the October lifting of a 90-year old headscarf ban in some governmental buildings. In an unexpected move, Turkey's Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan indicated that anyone interfering with a woman's now broadened right to cover her hair in public would face a prison sentence of three years.

The Turkish opposition criticized the lifting of the ban, arguing that it eroded the country's secular foundations.The ban remains for other public employees, including prosecutors, judges, police officers, and soldiers.

Armed heist highlights Libya's security woes
In an indication of growing insecurity, a Libyan central bank van was robbed of a reported $52 million in cash by a group of heavily armed gunmen. This late October robbery took place in the city of Sirte, the birthplace of foreign president Muammar Gaddafi, as well as the site of his death in 2011. Sirte remained a pro-Gaddafi stronghold until the end of the Libyan civil war, which left the city virtually destroyed.

Libya's struggle with ensuring security during the post-revolutionary transitional period has been complicated by a number of factors, including the proliferation of arms and arms trafficking; porous borders that allow the relatively easy transit of extremist groups; and finally the activities of armed groups which can easily overpower the comparatively weak and underpaid army and police forces.

Smiling martyrs on Facebook, Skyping the jihad
In a reported effort to attract more volunteers, al-Qaeda in Syria has invited members to post smiling images of fighters who have died in combat. The smile is intended to convey the joy achieved through martyrdom in the holy fight against Assad.

According to an Al-Arabiya article, al-Qaeda and other extremist groups in Syria have broadly made Internet technology a central tool in their fight, using Skype, for example, to recruit volunteers and to discuss battle tactics.

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Geopolitics

Patronage Or Politics? What's Driving Qatar And Egypt Grand Rapprochement

For Cairo, Qatar had been part of an “axis of evil,” with anger directed at Al Jazeera, the main Qatari outlet, and others critical of Egypt after the Muslim Brotherhood ouster. But the vitriol is now gone, with the first ever visit by Egyptian President al-Sisi to Doha.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met with the Emir of Qatar in June 2022 in Cairo

Beesan Kassab, Daniel O'Connell, Ehsan Salah, Hazem Tharwat and Najih Dawoud

For the first time since coming to power in 2014, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi traveled to Doha last month on an official visit, a capstone in a steadily building rapprochement between the two countries in the last year.

Not long ago, however, the photo-op capturing the two heads of state smiling at one another in Doha would have seemed impossible. In the wake of the Armed Forces’ ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013, Qatar and Egypt traded barbs.

In the lexicon of the intelligence-controlled Egyptian press landscape, Qatar had been part of an “axis of evil” working to undermine Egypt’s stability. Al Jazeera, the main Qatari outlet, was banned from Egypt, but, from its social media accounts and television broadcast, it regularly published salacious and insulting details about the Egyptian administration.

But all of that vitriol is now gone.

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