The Middle East Channel

Suicide Attack Hits Damascus Meanwhile U.N. Implicates Assad for War Crimes

Suicide Attack Hits Damascus Meanwhile U.N. Implicates Assad for War Crimes

A suicide bomb attack hit a defense ministry office in the center of the Syrian capital of Damascus Tuesday, killing at least four people, according to Syrian state television. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported two people killed, and SOHR Director Rami Abdul-Rahman said the office was not a military site, but was used for administration purposes for families of deceased soldiers. On Monday, the SOHR said it estimates 125,835 people have died in the over two and a half year conflict, with over a third of those killed civilians. Sporadic fighting has continued in Maaloula, the historic Chrisitian town north of Damascus, which was overtaken by Islamist rebel fighters Monday. Mario Zenari, Vatican Ambassador to Syria, reported 12 nuns have been kidnapped by rebel fighters. Febronia Nabhan, mother superior at the Saidnaya Convent, also said the nuns had been abducted, however the SOHR said there are conflicting reports, stating that the nuns’ fate is unknown. The capture of Maaloula has come amid a government advance in the surrounding area, where regime troops have gained control over the towns of Qara and Deir Attiyeh. Meanwhile, Navi Pillay, U.N. high commissioner for human rights, has for the first time directly implicated Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for war crimes. She said an inquiry into Syria has produced "massive evidence" of war crimes and crimes against humanity. While there has been evidence of abuses on both sides of the conflict, investigators said the government appears to be responsible for the majority, and that evidence shows responsibility "at the highest level of the government, including the head of the state."


  • Lebanon has put its army in command of the northern city of Tripoli for six months after weekend clashes between rival neighborhoods killed an estimated 12 people.
  • In aims to repair ties, Britain’s new envoy to Tehran will travel to Iran Tuesday for the first diplomatic visit since its embassy was stormed by protesters and subsequently closed in 2011.
  • Attacks across Iraq killed an estimated 19 people Tuesday, including an assault on a government complex in the mainly Sunni town of Tarmiya, 30 miles north of Baghdad.
  • Five Arab countries including Syria, Iraq, and Libya are among the top 10 most corrupt countries according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.
  • A Bahraini court has rejected a request for early prison release for activist Nabeel Rajab, who Amnesty International said has been detained in "inhumane and humiliating conditions."

Arguments and Analysis

Egypt: Disorganization‘ (Steven Cook, From the Potomac to the Euphrates – CFR Blog)

"As the protests, which have been small by recent Egyptian standards, got going much of the commentary focused on the heavy hand of the Ministry of Interior.  ‘Haven’t they [the police] learned their lesson?’ was a common refrain among the Twitterati and Facebook users.  The lesson that the Egyptian police should have learned, but had not, was that the use of force would not intimidate activists, but rather galvanize them and their fellow Egyptians.  That is what happened during the January 25 uprising and subsequent rounds of demonstrations. That is certainly true for the protests that brought down Hosni Mubarak, but it was not quite the same afterwards.  Besides the big Mohammed Mahmoud Street demonstrations in late November 2011 and the protests against Morsi’s November 22 decree, which morphed into anger over the December 2012 constitution, lots of Egyptians tended to stay on the sidelines when activists took to the streets.  This does not include the mass mobilization of June 30, of course, but until then (with the exceptions noted just above), people came to regard street politics and the response to it as an elite-on-elite affair that had little to do with them.  This is neither to suggest that the anti-protest law is not an affront to every Egyptian who wants to live in a democracy nor the hoary image of ‘the Egyptian’ who just wants stability above all else is accurate, but rather that the activists/instigators lost the revolutionary thread not too long after they brought Mubarak down.  It was clear what January 25 was about; the same cannot be said about what came after it."

Women’s human security rights in the Arab world: on nobody’s agenda‘ (Mariz Tadros, OpenDemocracy)

"Security breakdown has brought life to a standstill, and women have born disproportionately the greater burden of it — from the shores of Benghazi through to the city centre of Cairo, and down to the heart of Sanaa. Its impact has been devastating on every aspect of their lives. First, there is the issue of safety in public space. In Egypt, women have been subjected to more frequent and more aggressive forms of sexual harassment. True, sexual harassment in crowded and empty spaces had been a growing problem for many years, but the absence of the police (or their inaction) after the revolution sent signals to men that they can, and will, get away with it. There is simply no law and order. Sexual harassment in the subway has become such an acute problem that many women who cannot afford private forms of transport (micro and mini buses) are cursing the day they have had to go out to work. Women in Benghazi who worked night shifts (for example as doctors and nurses) are no longer able to do their jobs.

Women working in the informal sector whose livelihood requires a high level of mobility (purchase of goods in bulk from central markets, or making home visits to clients or sitting in the streets) are exposed to all kinds of violence: the imposition of levies by thugs, the confiscation of their goods, theft, and sometimes sexual violence. This is not new, women have always been vulnerable to such forms of violence, but it has increased dramatically.  Women’s mobility by and large has become deeply constrained, even in rural areas. Whereas they could commute outside their villages or neighbourhoods alone in broad daylight, in many parts of Egypt this has not been possible for some time. As the economic situation is worsened by the
absence of security, it is having its toll on gender relations at home, as well as on parental relations with their offspring."

–Mary Casey & Joshua Haber