Protesters in Syria have a message for the world
* Assad aide welcomed as student at Columbia University (with help from Barbara Walters)
* Israel again offers medical aid for Syrian refugees
* Some Israeli doctors are already working on the Syrian-Turkish border treating victims of the Syrian violence
* Anti-Semitic entry wins Iran’s “Wall Street Downfall” cartoon contest
* Head of British intelligence: Strike on Iran likely by 2014
* Breaking: Head of Libyan Olympics committee abducted by Tripoli gunmen in broad daylight
This dispatch concerns Syria, Iran, and Iraq. It was prepared two days ago but I was unable to post it until now.
(You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please first press “Like” on that page.)
There are two other dispatches this weekend:
1. Iraqi women and girls face court-ordered virginity tests
2. WikiLeaks begins publishing two million Syria emails
3. Jordan to set up Syrian refugee camps
4. Almost no western street protests as Syrian regime commits yet another massacre
5. Amid concerns, Syria begins to move its vast stockpile of chemical weapons
6. Assad aide welcomed as a student at Columbia University (with help from Barbara Walters)
7. Israel again offers medical aid for Syrian refugees
8. Anti-Semitic entry wins Iran’s “Wall Street Downfall” cartoon contest
9. Is Iran afraid of a 12-year-old girl?
10. Media says Iranian missile with range to hit Israel tested successfully
11. Western leaders finally begin to shun Ahmadinejad
12. MI6 Chief: Strike on Iran likely by 2014
[All notes below by Tom Gross]
IRAQI WOMEN AND GIRLS FACE COURT-ORDERED VIRGINITY TESTS
Iraqi women and girls are facing an increase in court-ordered virginity tests in order to prove they were virgins until marriage, but even when they “pass” them, shame them nonetheless. Doctors at the Medical Legal Institute in Baghdad who carry out the tests on the women’s hymen confirmed the increase in the procedure in interviews with Agence France Presse.
Remaining a virgin until marriage can be an issue of life or death for women in the Middle East, where those who are seen as having dishonored the family by having premarital sex are sometimes murdered by relatives.
AFP says many virginity tests are performed daily at the Medical Legal Institute in Baghdad, in a small windowless room with blue-tiled walls and a black table with leg stirrups at one end.
“We receive most of the cases after the first day of marriage,” said Dr Munjid al-Rezali. “The husband claims that his new bride is not a virgin, and then the family bring her here, with court approval and we examine her,” Rezali said. “These tests are becoming more and more common.”
“They think that during the first day of marriage, there should be blood. They think if there is no blood, there is no virginity,” Dr Sami Dawood, a forensic doctor who has been involved in the tests, told AFP. This belief, he said, indicates that sex education and knowledge is “very poor.”
However, he said that while women were killed in the past if blood was not found on the sheets after their wedding night, people now seek recourse through the courts and the virginity tests procedure.
The test, which takes between 15 and 30 minutes, is carried out by three doctors, and the results are certified by two others, said Dawood.
WIKILEAKS BEGINS PUBLISHING TWO MILLION SYRIA EMAILS
The whistleblowing website WikiLeaks has begun publishing over 2.4 million emails from Syrian political figures. The emails from Syrian political figures, ministries and companies date from August 2006 up until March 2012, a year after the current bloody uprising in Syria began.
Some of the emails could shed light on the crackdown that has killed thousands. There are around 400,000 emails in Arabic but also 68,000 in Russian.
“The material is embarrassing to Syria, but it is also embarrassing to Syria’s external opponents,” said WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is currently holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London seeking political asylum.
The first wave of emails released claimed that Italian defense giant Finmeccanica continued to supply support for communications equipment to the Syrian regime after the unrest began in March last year.
The 16-month conflict has so far claimed more than 17,500 lives.
JORDAN TO SET UP SYRIAN REFUGEE CAMPS
Jordan has started to set up official camps to accommodate Syrian refugees who have fled into the country since the outbreak of the unrest. Over 140,000 Syrians have sought refuge in Jordan since the unrest began.
State Minister for Communications and Media Affairs, Samih Ma’ayta, said the large number of Syrian refugees is putting further strains on Jordan’s already-limited resources.
ALMOST NO WESTERN STREET PROTESTS AS SYRIAN REGIME COMMITS YET ANOTHER MASSACRE
Pro-Assad forces reportedly killed between 120 and 220 adults and children in an assault on the Syrian village of Tremseh on Thursday. Yet, as usual, there have been virtually no demonstrations against the Assad regime on the streets of London and other European capitals.
Reuters reported that the bodies of 60 men, women and children were found at one mosque alone on Saturday, with others dumped in fields, rivers and forests.
Among other recent massacres which have led to demonstrations of precisely zero persons outside Syrian embassies in most European capitals:
* April 3: A mass graves with 57 people was found in Taftanaz in Idlib.
* May 25: 108 were killed in Taldou, in Houla region, many of them women and children.
* June 6: At least 79 people, many of them women and children, were killed in a village in Hama province.
AMID CONCERNS, SYRIA BEGINS TO MOVE ITS VAST STOCKPILE OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS
The Wall Street Journal on Thursday quoted intelligence reports as suggesting that Syria was moving its chemical weapons, amid fears the government could use them against rebels or civilians.
The country’s stockpiles of sarin nerve agent, mustard gas and cyanide have long worried U.S., Israeli and other officials, who have watched anxiously during the conflict in Syria for any change in the status or location of the weapons.
Some said that Mr. Assad may not intend to use the weapons, but instead may be moving them as a feint, hoping the threat of a chemical attack could drive Sunnis thought to be sympathetic to the rebels from their homes.
“The fact they are now being moved is incredibly dangerous to our national security,” one U.S. official told The Wall Street Journal.
Damascus is believed to possess one of the largest stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons in the world. Syria has refused to sign the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention, the arms-control agreement that outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of such weapons.
ASSAD AIDE WELCOMED AS A STUDENT AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY (WITH HELP FROM BARBARA WALTERS)
In September, five years to the month after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was warmly welcomed by Columbia University in New York, a woman linked closely to the atrocities of another murderous Middle East dictator, Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad, will be welcomed as a student at the prestigious university.
Emails leaked last month revealed that American TV personality Barbara Walters had helped the student in question, Sheherazad Jaafari, Assad’s former aide and daughter of Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, gain admittance into Columbia’s graduate School of International and Public Affairs, regarded as the equivalent of a finishing school for future diplomats.
Jaafari worked closely with President Assad for over a year to help him reach out to and spin foreign press as his regime slaughtered and tortured thousands of its own people.
News of Jaafari’s admittance shocked various Syrian expatriates; a petition calling for “Columbia University to adhere to general ethical principles and rescind admission to Jaafari,” has been signed by over 2,000 Syrian-Americans.
Other emails obtained by a Syrian opposition group reveal that Jaafari coached Assad for his “propaganda” interview with Barbara Walters last year.
For more on Barbara Walters’ interview with Assad, please see:
In 2006, Yale University allowed Taliban spokesman Rahmatullah Hashemi to attend the university as a non-degree student.
ISRAEL AGAIN OFFERS MEDICAL AID TO SYRIAN REFUGEES
Appalled by the most recent wave of atrocities in Syria, Israeli leaders have again offered medical aid to Syrian refugees and said the world is not doing enough to stop the killing of civilians there.
“We are all human beings,” Israeli President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Peres said last month. “Who can be indifferent to the sight of this horrible massacre, the sight of children in small coffins, and of screaming mothers?” Peres said the international community would sooner or later have to intervene. “I hope that it will be sooner,” he said.
“Israel is ready to receive casualties who are evacuated from Syria to Israel, and alternatively we are ready to send medical assistance through Jordan,” deputy cabinet minister Ayoub Kara, a member of the Israeli Druze minority, told Israel Radio. He added that some Israeli doctors are already working on the Syrian-Turkish border treating victims of the Syrian violence.
ANTI-SEMITIC ENTRY WINS IRAN’S “WALL STREET DOWNFALL” CARTOON CONTEST
A cartoon by an Iranian illustrator that portrays stereotyped ultra-orthodox Jews worshipping at the New York Stock Exchange has won first prize at the inaugural “International Wall Street Downfall Cartoon Festival” in Tehran.
The festival was co-sponsored by Iran’s Fars news agency “in an attempt to show solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement and help people in the United States take their message out to the world.”
The winning entry by Mahmod Mohammad Tabrizi depicts New York’s Wall Street as Jerusalem’s Western Wall.
As reported at the time on this dispatch list, Iran held a cartoon contest to deny or minimize the Holocaust in 2006, in which the first prize was awarded to a Moroccan artist who drew Israel’s security barrier as the equivalent of the Auschwitz extermination camp.
IS IRAN AFRAID OF A 12-YEAR-OLD GIRL?
This is the question asked by Iranian exiled writer Golnaz Esfandiari of Radio Farda, who writes:
“A court in Tehran has banned the 12-year-old daughter of jailed Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh from leaving Iran. Sotoudeh, a prominent lawyer who defended political activists, opposition members, and juvenile offenders on death row, has been in jail since September 2010.
“Even in prison, the 47-year-old mother of two has remained defiant by going repeatedly on hunger strike to protest her detention and alleged ill-treatment.
“Iran has a long track record of preventing political activists from foreign travel and of official harassment directed at the relatives of political prisoners, rights activists, and members of the media.
“The travel ban for Sotoudeh’s daughter, however, marks the first time that the Islamic republic has targeted a minor child of a prisoner of conscience, according to Hadi Ghaemi of the U.S.-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.”
(Golnaz Esfandiari is a subscriber to this email list.)
MEDIA SAYS IRANIAN MISSILE WITH RANGE TO HIT ISRAEL TESTED SUCCESSFULLY
Iranian media report that the Islamic republic’s military has successfully test-fired a medium-range Shahab-3 ballistic missile capable of striking Israel.
Iran says the Shahab-3 has a range of up to 2,000 kilometers. Israel is some 1,000 kilometers away from Iran.
The missile was tested as part of the “Great Prophet 7” military exercises that began on July 2. The Fars news agency said that “dozens” of different types of missiles were fired from different parts of Iran at a single target in the Kavir Desert.
A recent Pentagon report to Congress signed by U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also confirmed that Iran’s military continues to improve the accuracy and killing power of its long- and short-range ballistic missiles, including designing a weapon to target vessels.
WESTERN LEADERS FINALLY BEGIN TO SHUN AHMADINEJAD
When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Rio for the U.N. sustainability conference last month, instead of finding himself at the center of the political and media spotlight, as he has become accustomed, he was snubbed by many of the world leaders in attendance who declined to meet him.
Shortly before, on June 26, Iranian vice president Mohammad Reza Rahimi delivered an anti-Semitic speech in front of dignitaries at an international drugs conference.
He blamed the spread of drugs worldwide, including in Iran and Afghanistan, on the teachings of the Talmud. Rahimi said that the Talmud teaches how to kill non-Jews. And in a new variation of the traditional blood libels used to later justify the mass murder of Jews, he claimed that Jews had sterilized thousands of Native Americans.
“This was definitely one of the worst speeches I have heard in my life. My gut reaction was: why are we supporting any cooperation with these people,” a European diplomat told The New York Times.
However, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the new Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi are both said to be willing to meet Ahmadinejad at next month’s conference of the Non-Aligned Movement which has 120 member nations and 21 observer nations
Earlier this month, the speaker of the Iranian parliament, Ali Larijani, said the entire West as well as Israel should “disappear.”
MI6 CHIEF: STRIKE ON IRAN LIKELY BY 2014
Sir John Sawers, the head of the British spy agency, MI6, said that Iran is likely to obtain a nuclear weapon by 2014, making an Israeli or American strike on the Islamic Republic more likely by then, The (London) Daily Telegraph reported on Friday.
“The Iranians are determinedly going down a path to master all aspects of nuclear weapons; all the technologies they need,” the spy chief said. “It’s equally clear that Israel and the United States would face huge dangers if Iran were to become a nuclear weapon state.”
According to the report, Sir John made his views known a week earlier in “Civil Service Live,” a meeting of senior civil servants, during which he credited covert operations (including those in which Britain participated) from preventing Iran from having already developed nuclear weapons. Without intervention by various countries, he was quoted as saying, Iran may have gone nuclear as early as 2008.
[All notes above by Tom Gross]