< HOME  Sunday, December 26, 2010

Meet the Oppressed - The People of the Year in the Middle East

By RANNIE AMIRI, CounterPunch

The 2010 Middle East People of the Year are:

The Palestinians in Gaza, desperate to let the world know that nearly two years after the end of the 2008-2009 war, the cruel embargo on the territory persists; the siege by air, land and sea continues; and the impoverished population is still held captive in their land.

The Bahraini Shia, the island’s indigent and marginalized majority, ruled by the wealthy Sunni al-Khalifa royal family who routinely orders an imported security service to round up and torture democracy and human rights advocates. Excluded from government, the public sector and law enforcement by overt sectarian discrimination, they have risked life and limb to protest their disenfranchised state.

The Egyptians, who have suffocated under a repressive U.S.-backed regime that has governed by Emergency Law for 30 years and stifled the freedom of expression, assembly and press. The inability to replace their parliamentary representatives by a fair ballot this year makes voting a cruel reminder that the “status quo” is the only candidate ever up for election.

The Iraqis, who endured seven years of occupation and a few daily hours of electricity under a blistering summer sun as unrelenting as the explosions, bombings and suicide attacks that wracked cities and killed thousands. The simple will to stroll on neighborhood streets, take a trip to the market, drop the children off at school or attend Friday prayers are testaments to bravery that should put Iraqi politicians only interested in retaining power to shame.

The Saudi Ismaili, Shia and Sufi Muslims, harassed, arrested and jailed for practicing their religion or demanding the right to do so. The doors of their mosques have been sealed shut by the Interior Ministry as has the potential for civic and socioeconomic advancement. They are the “apostates” denied basic dignities enjoyed by other citizens.

The Yemenis of Saada governorate, who became the malnourished “internally displaced” refugees caught in the country’s long civil war. Pummeled by Saudi airstrikes to the north and shelled by Yemen’s army from the south, they suffered famine and destruction in a humanitarian catastrophe ignored by the world.

The 2010 Mideast People of the Year? The Oppressed.

Rannie Amiri is an independent Middle East commentator.

Egypt building watchtowers near Gaza

Egypt is building surveillance towers along the border with the Gaza Strip as part of its measures to step up restrictions on the besieged coastal enclave.

Egyptian security officials said on Saturday that the first of the steel and concrete towers, measuring almost 100 feet (30.5 meters) in height, near the Rafah Crossing, is almost completed, the Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the structures were being built to improve the monitoring of movements along the border.

Cairo is also constructing an underground steel wall to disrupt a network of tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border, which the Palestinians use to import basic food items and other supplies into the blockaded territory.

Egyptian authorities regularly fill the tunnels with gas or flood them with water and the underground lifelines are frequently bombed by Israeli fighter jets.

The construction of the steel wall and observation towers has caused tension between Egypt and other countries in the region.

In 2009, Hezbollah Secretary General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah criticized Egypt over the construction of the underground steel wall, saying it would "terminate the thin veins, which are giving some life and some hope to Gaza."

Israel has imposed a crippling land and sea siege on the Gaza Strip for over three years, pushing the densely-populated coastal sliver, which is home to 1.5 million Palestinians, to the verge of starvation.


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