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ISRAEL ACCUSED OF MISTREATING WOMEN PRISONERS Asharq al-Awsat - July 16, 2009 Jerusalem - A human rights group slammed Israeli treatment of Palestinian female prisoners in a UN-sponsored report released, saying pregnant women are often shackled on their way to hospitals to give birth. The women prisoners are held in "Israeli prisons and detention centers which were designed for men and do not respond to female needs," said a report by the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, which was sponsored by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). Pregnant detainees "do not enjoy preferential treatment in terms of diet, living space or transfer to hospitals," it said. "Pregnant prisoners are also chained to their beds until they enter delivery rooms and shackled once again after giving birth. "The unbalanced diet, insufficient amounts of protein-rich foods, lack of natural sunlight and movement, poor ventilation and moisture all contribute to the exacerbation and the development of health problems such as skin diseases, anaemia, asthma, and prolonged stomach aches, joint and back pains." In addition, the majority of the prisoners were "subjected to some form of mental pressure and torture through the process of their arrest," including beatings, insults, threats, sexual harassment and humiliation techniques. The vast majority of Palestinian women in Israeli prisons are young -- some 13 percent of those arrested in 2007-2008 were under the age of 18 and 56 percent were between 20 and 30 years of age. The detainees are often denied means to study, which violates their rights to a higher education and suffer from restrictions on visits. In September 2008, some 60 percent had at least one family member who was not allowed to visit them. Open visits were restricted to mothers once their children reached the age of six. Female prisoners with a husband or other relatives also in jail were "accorded the right to family visits... after months of delays." In addition, the Israeli prison authorities do not provide gender-sensitive rehabilitation programs, it said. The report was based on interviews with 125 Palestinian women who were arrested, detained or imprisoned in Israeli jails between November 2007 and November 2008. Of those, some 65 remain in prison -- part of some 9,000 Palestinians currently incarcerated in Israel. A spokesman for the Israeli prison authorities said he was not aware of the report and could not comment. WOMEN STILL FACING UNEQUAL RIGHTS IN LEVANT The Daily Star - July 16, 2009 With less access to politics, education, employment, females are underperforming – UN by Dalila Mahdawi Beirut - Women in Lebanon and other Western Asian countries still face unequal access to politics, employment and education, the UN’s latest report on fighting poverty has said. The Millennium Development Goals Report 2009, launched last week by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, found that the global financial crisis is exacerbating negative social, economic and political trends in the Western Asian region, where a disproportionally low number of girls attend school and prospects of paid work for women are meager. Western Asia, as defined by the UN, encompasses the Levant, the Gulf countries, Iraq, Turkey, Israel and Cyprus. “Women have struggled to advance in political representation, holding only 9 percent of parliamentary seats” in the Western Asia region, stated the 56-page report, suggesting the implementation of temporary quotas to boost women’s participation. Only four out of 12 women candidates secured seats in Lebanon’s Parliament in the country’s elections this June. The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) were endorsed by 189 countries in 2000. Women’s empowerment is one of eight targets set out by the UN with the intention of improving health, quality of life, gender equality and wealth in poor and developing countries by 2015. The other goals include achieving universal primary education, reducing child and maternal mortality rates by two thirds, reversing the incidences of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other major diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability, and halving the proportion of people who earn than $1 a day. Although the number of people living in extreme poverty – defined by the UN as less than $1.25 a day – decreased from 1.8 billion to 1.4 billion between 1990 and 2005, the number of those living in poverty in Western Asia nearly quadrupled from three million to 12 million during the same fifteen year period.” The poverty gap fell between 1990 and 2005 in all regions except Western Asia,” found the report. It estimated 17 percent of the world’s 6.8 billion people will be considered as extremely poor by the year end, a 6 percent increase from today’s figures. The number of poor people in Western Asia who have jobs but are unable to support their family rose by 15 percent to 25 percent from 2007-08, the report added. Employment opportunities for women in the region “remain extremely low,” said the report, putting the female employment-to-population ratio at 45 percentage points below those of men. Only 21 percent of working-age women in the region are employed. The MDG report also expressed concern that Western Asia’s goal of meeting its target to reduce hunger could be threatened by the current global food and economic crisis. No progress on curbing the amount of hungry people in the region, which rose between 2004 and 2006, was accomplished between 2006 and 2008. “The numbers of people going hungry and living in extreme poverty are much larger than they would have been had progress continued uninterrupted,” said Ban in the report’s introduction, drawing attention to the recent fall in foreign aid to developing countries. He was nevertheless optimistic the MDGs could still be achieved “if the global community responds constructively to the downturn.” Especially disturbing was Western Asia’s progress on the UN goals to empower women and achieve gender equality, according to the report. Lebanon and its Western Asian counterparts continue to have among the lowest gender parity indexes in the world for primary and secondary education. According to one leading women’s rights activist in Lebanon, the UN’s dismal results on Western Asia come as little surprise. “The issue here is what we’re going to do about it,” said Lina Abou-Habib, director of the non-governmental rights organization Collective for Research and Training on Development-Action. “How is it that we’re going backwards after decades of social development?” she asked. Rather than pump millions of dollars into “quick-fix” solutions, countries in Western Asia should rather “question the way in which social institutions operate on the basis of patriarchy,” Abou-Habib said. “The problems are now so entrenched” in Western Asia that it is only with a radical shake-up of social and political norms, coupled with genuine political reform that countries in the region will achieve greater gender equality, she said. EUROPE CAN DO MORE IN THE MIDDLE EAST The Daily Star - July 16, 2009 by Rami G. Khouri The call by the European Union’s foreign policy chief for the United Nations Security Council to recognize a Palestinian state by a certain deadline, even without any Israeli-Palestinian agreement, is intriguing and unimpressive. On Saturday, Javier Solana stated at a lecture in London that, “[a]fter a fixed deadline, a UN Security Council resolution should proclaim the adoption of the two-state solution,” which he said should address border parameters, refugees, control over the city of Jerusalem, and security arrangements. The move should also accept the Palestinian state as a full member of the UN, set a calendar for implementation, look to resolve other remaining territorial disputes, and “legitimize the end of claims.” Solana went on to say that if the parties were not able to stick to a timetable, “then a solution backed by the international community should be put on the table.” This intriguing approach has been gradually adopted in recent years by many serious students of the Arab-Israeli conflict who despair of ever seeing the Palestinians and Israelis moving towards a resolution of their conflict on their own. It is also probably unrealistic as a mechanism to resolve the conflict, given the limited ability of external powers to force local actors into specific modes of behavior when the locals are not convinced of the wisdom of such behavior. Putting a solution on the table would only result in a crowded table that generates much discussion, but not a workable solution that resolves the conflict. The more realistic approach would be for the major global players – the European Union, the United States, Russia and the United Nations, conveniently packaged in the “Quartet” of would-be Middle East peacemakers – to use their moral, political, economic and military and peace-keeping muscle to push, prod and cajole the parties into a serious negotiation. This would require all Arabs and Israelis to end the use of violence, in return for the expectation that diplomacy would meet their bottom-line needs – as in the Northern Ireland negotiations two decades ago. Solana’s call is unimpressive, though, because it captures the self-emasculation of that otherwise remarkable and powerful group of countries when it comes to Arab-Israeli issues. Rather than calling on the elusive “international community,” it would be much more powerful if the EU were to take unilateral actions and show the way for others who are hobbled either structurally (the UN) or politically (the US), or simply do not have the interest or punch to prod serious mediation (Russia). An important but now vacant diplomatic space that needs to be filled involves the political, legal and moral affirmation of what is the right and decent policy to pursue, suggesting three ways the EU can act. The first is simply to affirm the requirements of existing law and UN resolutions related to settlements, land annexations, terrorism and other such acts by both sides. The EU should have no problem playing the role of self-appointed monitor of the parties’ compliance with international legal norms. The parties and the world would welcome such a move to reclaim that crucial middle ground of law-based conflict resolution that could trigger realistic and mutual political compromises. The EU would do everyone a great service by adopting a policy that, at its most simple, rewards law abiders and punishes law breakers. A second way for the EU to act is to remind the principals and the world that peace and security will prevail only when Arabs and Israelis are treated equally, with both having the same and simultaneous rights to basic needs like security, sovereignty and water. The US unfortunately has caved in to Israeli blackmail in recent decades and has tried to make conflict-resolution a matter of assuring Israeli security before any other advances. Europe can accurately reframe the conflict as two peoples’ quest for secure statehood. The third step that Europe can take is simply to sit down and talk with all legitimate parties, and end the nonsense of boycotting groups like Hamas and others that fight Israel. A good first step is for the EU to suspend its participation in the Quartet, and then quietly let this diseased body die a merciful death. It is precisely the militants on both sides who use violence who have to be brought into the talks for peace and coexistence. The castrated American political system lacks the ability to act with conviction on the really tough issues and talk to all actors. Europe is not so emasculated, and should avoid at all costs following the US’ route to impotent self-marginalization. Europe was once respected by all in the Middle East. Today it is largely ignored by all, which is unfortunate and unhelpful. It should not look for salvation or redemption from the international community, but rather in its own heart that still beats, even if faintly. NABUCCO HAS HIGH CHANCE OF SUCCESS Today's Zaman - July 16, 2009 by Lale Sariibrahimoglu Those who closely followed the long process that culminated with the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline beginning to carry the first Caspian oil to the international markets in 2005, will have more confidence than others about the success of the Nabucco gas pipeline project. During the approximately 10-year-long negotiations, the Bakü-Ceyhan pipeline project has faced thousands of snags while intrigues became a very common practice. This was because of the very nature of the critical importance of hydrocarbon resources both for users and for those who supply them. Therefore, Baku-Ceyhan, being the first project by-passing Russia, though it has a longer route, than carrying oil via the strategically important and highly busy Turkish Straits making it less economic, was subject to close scrutiny. But strong US support lent to the project, with the aim of preventing Russia becoming the sole source of the then newly discovered hydrocarbon riches of the Caucasus and Central Asian countries by the West after the demise of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, has played a significant role in turning Baku-Ceyhan into a viable and feasible project. Turkey, an amateur at the time to be engaged in such critical diplomacy as energy, made many mistakes during the negotiations for this first pipeline project. On the Nabucco negotiations, too, there have been times that energy-scarce Turkey has come up with demands, such as a 15 percent claim of Nabucco gas, while busying itself with some political details that played a role in jeopardizing the gas deal. Turkey has, at the last minute, abandoned its demand of 15 percent of the gas at discounted prices, either for domestic consumption or for re-export. But the Turkish pipeline company BOTAS' general director, Saltuk Duzyol, told the press on Monday that it was impossible to talk about a sacrifice made by Turkey. “But we will continue working [with other Nabucco partners] on a viable mechanism in the markets,” he said. The Turkish demand could have killed off Nabucco as a viable business proposition, a Western energy expert believed. Finally, however, the Nabucco gas pipeline received a political boost after almost seven-year-long negotiations, when the prime ministers of Turkey, as well as European Union (EU) members Austria, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary approved the deal in Ankara last Monday. The 3,300-kilometer-long Nabucco is intended to supply some of European energy needs reducing its reliance on Russia which provides over a quarter of Europe's gas. The volume of gas from Nabucco in the best case is no more than 5 per cent of Europe's consumption. Nabucco will stretch from the Azerbaijani oil fields in the Caspian Sea region to western Europe. The pipeline construction is planned to begin in 2011 with the first gas to flow in 2014. Once the governmental agreement was signed last Monday, the biggest question mark now raised is the absence of supplier contracts to fill this pipeline intended to have the capacity of carrying 31 billion cubic meters of gas per year. Added to the problem is the financing of the project though European investment banks who made a pledge of earmarking certain amounts for the project. In addition, Turkey has been engaged in a dispute with Azerbaijan, a major potential Nabucco supplier, complicating Europe's efforts to secure Azerbaijani gas delivery pledges. Turkish diplomatic sources state, however, that problems among the two nations were overcome. Turkmenistan on Friday said it is prepared to provide natural gas to the project while Azerbaijan signaled a possible contribution and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki stated they will supply gas to Nabucco. US special energy envoy Richard Morningstar on Sunday, however, reiterated Washington's opposition to the possible use of Iranian gas in Nabucco until Iran's nuclear program issue is settled. He did say, however, that Russia could possibly join the project. The Nabucco pipeline is seen as a rival to Russia's South Stream pipeline, which is to route Central Asian gas through Russia, Ukraine and the Balkans to Italy. However, the Nabucco consortium believes that Russian involvement in Nabucco will help Moscow to learn how to play the game on free market rules. Despite gas supply concerns over Nabucco, since there are no agreements signed to this end, there is an increased belief that in the coming 10 years Iraq, after Azerbaijan, will become a major gas supplier despite concerns over the former's ongoing serious inner conflicts and the poor state of its hydrocarbon infrastructure. The hopes are that Nabucco will turn into a reality rather than staying as a dream project despite existing serious road blocks. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recalled in his remarks during the signing ceremony for Nabucco in Ankara that once the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan project was also defined as a dream, too, and he believed that Nabucco will also be a success story. As has been the case in the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline, US support will be important in making Nabucco a success story. OPEN LETTER CALLS ON MOROCCAN MONARCH TO GUARANTEE PRESS FREEDOM Magharebia - July 16, 2009 by Naoufel Cherkaoui A journalist's open letter to King Mohammed VI is calling attention to the plight of the press in the country. Khaled Al Jamai published the letter on Saturday (July 11th) under the title, "It has become unbearable and aggravated, and we can wait no more". "Today, you're the authority," Al Jamai wrote, addressing the monarch, "and as the only owner of this authority, we are calling on you to stop the oppressive attacks and persecution which affect the independent press." The journalist continued: "We are not begging for any privileges; rather we are demanding a right. You alone can guarantee the press its rights, pending the creation of an independent justice system that can guarantee it. When politics finds its way into the courtroom, justice finds its way out." Al Jamai said a free press is essential to democracy, providing the transparency to uncover abuses of power and bribery. Nevertheless, he wrote, "These dailies and weeklies with all their journalists and employees knocked on all doors, and went to officials in order to guarantee their rights and ensure their freedom of expression, but in vain." Due to this perceived democratic deficit, the journalist called Morocco "a country whose people no longer believes in anything". In the recent elections, Al Jamai ventured, "the people showed their rejection of a political class that has turned the Moroccan political scene into 'a market of middlemen and brokers'." Speaking to Magharebia, Al Jamai said he didn't write the letter expecting a reply from the king. "Rather, I wrote it because I saw something wrong and I wanted to change it, because no one here has the courage to speak to him and tell him how bad the condition is." He also argued that it is not the Moroccan press that "lives in crisis", but the regime itself. "Therefore, the regime has to find a solution... because the press is only doing its job." Driss Chahtan, editor of Al-Michaal weekly, told Magharebia there has been a "dangerous retraction" in the freedom of expression. He said journalists want to know who is truly behind the legal actions taken recently against them. "We don't have anyone in particular whom we can address; we know that the judiciary is not independent, and is subject to certain instructions. This makes us question the source of these instructions. When things become unclear, the last resort we have is to speak to the king to let him know that there are parties that are dragging the country downward," Chahtan concluded. Said Ben Jebli from the Association of Moroccan Bloggers told Magharebia that many Moroccans share the opinions expressed in the letter. "However, these initiatives usually have no effect because they aren't received with the required response," he said. "They don't have any political force like that of political parties. The king is still the real actor in Morocco." Ould Al Belad commented on the letter on the Hespress news website. "It's an influential letter that expresses the feelings of 35 million Moroccans," he wrote. "I don't understand this dangerous retraction that Morocco is witnessing now, despite moving on the right track." Khaled Al Jamai – a former member of the Istiqlal Party's executive bureau – has previously written similar letters in which he called on King Mohammed VI to make reforms.

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