Catalonia’s Decisive Week for Independence

On Tuesday, Catalan President Puigdemont “declared Catalonia’s independence,” but soon after suspended its effects in favor of dialogue with Spanish authorities. His decision came after numerous international actors suggested that mediation would only be possible if he halted independence as a sign of good faith.

Nevertheless, numerous members of parliament, who were informed about Puigdemont’s decision only 45 minutes before his intervention, expressed their disagreement and threatened to boycott his speech, as well as threatening to break the pro-independence absolute majority in Parliament. They stressed that they had agreed on a different declaration earlier in the day.

To address this alarming situation, President of Parliament Forcadell decided to suspend the plenary for 1 hour. While the disagreements remained, everyone present in the meeting finally accepted Puigdemont’s changes to the speech in order to maintain unity. Additionally, they agreed to hold a ceremony to sign an unofficial declaration of independence in another building after the plenary in order to give more solemnity to the day.

Tens of thousands of people who gathered around the parliament to celebrate the proclamation of the new Catalonian Republic ended up with mixed feelings. At first, when Puigdemont declared independence, they felt very excited, but this turned to disappointment when he suspended its legal effects without setting a deadline a few seconds later.

Most experts saw Puigdemont’s move as a wise one because it served to show the international community that Catalonia is seeking dialogue until the very end, which favours future international recognition of Catalonia as an independent country.

On Wednesday, Spanish PM Rajoy refused Puigdemont’s latest offer of dialogue and activated Article 155, which can be fully implemented a few days after Puigdemont responds to a mandatory request for information as to whether he has declared independence. He was given until Monday to respond; if it is in the affirmative, this period is extended until Thursday, with the option of altering the decision.

With Article 155, Rajoy can suspend Catalonia’s government, intervene in the education system and the police, and even call for an early election while installing technocrats from the central government to rule Catalonia for at least 3 months. In parallel, pro-independence parties and organizations may also be barred from participating in any eventual general election for at least 4 years.

Major pro-independence organizations are preparing a proportionate response to the implementation of the Article 155 and the possible arrest of Catalonia’s President and vice-president, which includes mass protests, and an indefinite general strike. The main idea would be to collapse the Spanish and European economies and eventually force an international intervention/mediation in Catalonia.

The response may be precipitated by Spain this Monday, because the leaders of the two major pro-independence organizations, Cuixart and Sanchez, have been summoned by the Spanish National Court to testify about “sedition charges” (punishable by up to 15 years in prison + a fine). According to some journalists with contacts in the Spanish government, the judges who are hearing these two cases have already made the decision to jail them in order to smash their respective organizations and thus spread fear across Catalonian society.

Against this possible outcome, Cuixart and Sanchez named their replacements on Saturday. In the meantime, pro-independence organizations and parties such as the ANC, Omnium, ERC, CUP, Democrates and several MP’s from the PDECAT have called on Puigdemont to lift the suspension of Catalonia’s declaration of independence and implement its legal effects as soon as next week. If possible before the Spanish implementation of Article 155.They believe there are no longer grounds for mediation or negotiations as equals with Spain, and that the only way to bring about international mediation/negotiations is by formally declaring independence first.

With this in mind, Puigdemont will have to make the most important decision of his life tomorrow morning. He must decide whether to go all-out to respect the will of the Catalonian people and face a prison sentence of up to 15 years or to surrender, refuse to declare independence, and thus comply with the Spanish government’s will.

Whatever Puigdemont’s decision may be in the coming hours, the worsening of the conflict between Catalonia and Spain appears to be inevitable, given that if he surrenders the independence process, millions of Catalans will then feel betrayed, resulting in the radicalization of many who would rise up against the Spanish government in order to defend the newly promised Catalonian Republic.

Perhaps the only thing that can stop this upcoming clash would be Spain’s acceptance of international mediation. Although, I must admit that I do not have much hope of that happening.

 

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1 Million People Attend a Pro-Independence Rally in Barcelona

On Monday, one million pro-independence supporters gathered in Barcelona for the National Day of Catalonia, three weeks before the key independence referendum on October 1st.

The city’s streets were flooded with hundreds of thousands of people several hours before the rally organized by the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Òmnium Cultural was set to begin. According to the organizers, up to 2000 buses from cities all over Catalonia made the journey to the capital.

The rally began at 5.14 PM with one minute’s silence held in remembrance of the victims of the Barcelona and Cambrils terror attacks. Spirits were high as the atmosphere changed from one of anticipation to eager excitement and optimism with hopes for a positive result in the coming referendum.

Four banners with messages of peace, independence and liberty were passed along by the protesters in a show of unity.

Voting has never been a crime,” President of Òmnium Cultural, Jordi Cuixart, addressed the crowd of thousands. “In spite of their fears and threats, we have our own laws based on international legislation. The Spanish courts no longer defend the collective interests of the Catalan people… They want to silence democracy.”

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and representative of the Tunisian Human Rights League Ahmed Galai was also present. A key supporter of Catalan independence, he inspired crowds with his speech stating that “referendum is democracy.” After key speeches made by organizers and pro-independence politicians, crowds began to disperse at around 7 pm.

This year, the annual pro-independence rally was more crucial than ever, since it came in the context of an all-out confrontation between the Spanish and Catalan governments. A few days before the rally was held, the international community said that a low turnout would weaken the legitimacy of the Catalan government‘s disobedience of the Spanish government and Supreme Court in holding the independence referendum set for October 1st.

Nevertheless, the spectacular turn out of 1 million people demanding that the Catalan government hold the referendum, no matter what, appears to have given the necessary legitimacy to the Catalan President to disobey the politicized Spanish Supreme Court and the Spanish government.

After Monday’s mass rally, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont said this morning during an interview that he and his government will not accept a hypothetical suspension of their mandate by the Spanish Supreme Court. He added that from now on, he will only follow the Catalan legislation which stipulates that he can only be suspended by the Catalonian people. He also stressed that not only is holding a referendum on independence not illegal, but a right spelled out in the two 1966 UN Conventions on Human Rights which the Spanish Constitution recognizes as the supreme law of the land.

Last week, Catalonia’s parliament passed two crucial laws: the law of the referendum, which allows the government to hold the unilateral independence referendum in October, and the law of “transitorietat” that will only be applied if most Catalans vote in favor of the independence in the referendum. This law would serve as a new constitution until the new one is written, approved, and voted via referendum by the Catalonian people.

It is expected that the tension between the Spanish and Catalan governments will grow to limits never before seen in democracy during the days prior to the referendum. The Spanish government will try to prevent the referendum from happening by all means, but, if it is held in the end, the most important indicators for the international community to validate the results will be the turnout, the opinion of the international observers, and the transparency of the process.

Poor Media Coverage of the Barcelona Terror Attack

On Thursday, CNN, Fox News, ABC News, BBC, CBS, The Guardian, and Telecinco’ coverage of the terror attack in Barcelona, in which fourteen people died and a hundred were injured after a van plowed into crowds of tourists in Las Ramblas, appeared to be inaccurate and harmful to the victims.

CBS News, CNN, and FOX News were the first to broadcast videos of the victims bleeding to death, causing trauma for families who discovered through TV that their loved ones had died. These networks also spread falsehoods such as that there was a hostage situation in a restaurant and that numerous fugitive terrorists were carrying long-range weapons through Barcelona’s streets, which caused terror and endangered the ongoing police operation.

Sadly, the same media had already misreported previous terror attacks such as the latest in London and Manchester. This time, however, thousands of people complained about what they saw as a ratings grab. However, the aforementioned media justified their misreporting, suggesting that in the aftermath of a terror attack it is normal that witnesses give them false information because they are confused.

All of this despite the fact that the Catalonian government had enabled numerous communication lines with the press from where it was giving regular updates about the ongoing investigation and the police operation in order to prevent the media misreporting. The government asserted that the only reliable information was what they were providing through the aforementioned channels.

It is also important to highlight that part of the media did a great job by verifying all the information before broadcasting it. The lack of seriousness of some ‘prestigious’ media has as its ultimate goal to grow their audiences regardless of the veracity and the possible negative consequences that their actions may have in the aftermath of a terror attack.

This sort of coverage has raised many questions about the implementation of new restraints on the media; for example, to pixel the faces of victims of terrorism in the aftermath of terror attacks in order to respect their families and prevent these episodes from happening again.

Indeed, if implemented a new regulation should always respect the freedom of the press in all cases. This would only be to protect the victims of terrorism and their families because they deserve to be the first to know how their loved ones are without watching their mutilated bodies on TV.

 

Is the UN a Useless Organization?

WWII was the real reason that the US, the UK, and the Soviet Union formed the original UN declaration. The document was signed by 26 countries in January 1942 and lead to the creation of the official UN in 1945, as a formal act of opposition to Germany, Italy, and Japan, the Axis Powers.

The United Nations, an international organization, was officially founded at the UN Conference on international organization in San Francisco, California in June 1945, replacing the failing League of Nations as an organization able to maintain international cooperation, peace, and security. However, regular disputes between its members with veto power such as the US and Russia, which have always been butting heads with one another, has led the UN to fail in solving most of the global conflicts, resulting in the deaths of millions of innocent people, including children worldwide.

SOME OF THE UN’S FAILURES SINCE ITS CREATION:

SYRIA

The UN has failed in solving the Syrian conflict due to the regular confrontation between the US and Russia which defend different solutions for the Syrian war. According to the UN, the war has already caused more than 500.000 deaths and hundreds of thousands of casualties and refugees. Last year, more than 200 civil society organizations from around the world issued a statement demanding a real solution for the Syrian conflict from the UN. However, it has not formally responded yet. Sherine Tadros, Head of Amnesty International’s UN Office, said:

It is becoming clearer every day that the UN Security Council has failed the Syrian people. There have been almost half a million deaths, and each one is a stark rebuke of the Security Council, the supposed guardian of international peace and security, which has allowed a political deadlock to stand in the way of saving lives.”

This is why we, along with 224 civil society organizations, are urgently calling on UN member states to take action and request an Emergency Special Session of the UN General Assembly to demand an end to all unlawful attacks in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria. They must call for immediate and unhindered humanitarian access so that life-saving aid can reach all those in need.”

UN member states can and should use all the diplomatic tools at their disposal to take action towards ending the atrocities in Syria – the inaction we have seen over the past five years is a shameful chapter in the history of the Security Council.”

YEMEN

The civil war in Yemen has already killed more than 12.000, mainly by the Saudi-led coalition, displacing millions and destroying most of the nation’s infrastructure. It has also left some 21 million people dependent on foreign aid to survive. Out of 27 million people in Yemen, 20 million are starving, including 400,000 children, and some 2.2 million are in need of urgent care.

The Saudi blockade of drinking water across the country has caused an outbreak of cholera that has already infected more than 300,000 Yemenis and killed 1,500 people, 55% of which were children. More than 600,000 people are expected to contract the disease before the end of the year. 

The UN is led by the US, which is a fierce ally of Saudi Arabia. This has blocked any agreement on solving the Yemeni conflict, stopping Saudi Arabia’s war crimes across the country and solving the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

RAPE AND CHILD SEX ABUSE

UN Peacekeepers were accused of raping and paying young girls for sex in Cambodia in 2005, Since then similar cases have also been found in Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, and other places. The UN has yet to condemn these criminal acts in order to preserves its “high reputation” worldwide.

SREBRENICA

The war in Bosnia began in 1992 in an effort to separate Serbs from other ethnicities. In 1993, the UN named Srebrenica a safe zone and sent 400 soldiers from the Dutch United Nations Protect Force in order to protect civilians and refugees living in the city. In 1995, however, some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men were slaughtered by Serb forces. The UN Dutch commander did not order his troops to defend the innocent people against the Serbs. Instead, he was later pictured with the leader of the massacre, the Serb commander, Ratio Mladic in a celebration.

RWANDA GENOCIDE

In 1994, the UN which was on a mission in Rwanda failed to prevent the Hutus from killing almost a million people of the Tutsi minority. The conflict began in the capital Kigali when the Hutu power government and officials incited civilians to take up arms against the Tutsis. The conflict rapidly spread throughout the country and resulted in the slaughter of a million and caused more than 2 million refugees.

IRAQ OIL FOR FOOD PROGRAM

The UN began the Oil-for-Food program in 1996 to allow Iraq to sell oil to pay for food and other necessities for its population. However, numerous corrupt UN employees mismanaged the program for their own benefit. Saddam Hussein also earned some $1.7 billion through kickbacks and surcharges.

There is no doubt that the UN has sometimes succeeded, but it has always been useless as a peace-keeper due to the diversity of positions between its members. The UN was founded to maintain international cooperation, peace, and security. However, it has become a slow, ineffective, and corrupt organization unable to bring peace, cooperation, and assist millions of people and refugees suffering from wars worldwide. The UN has failed as the old League of Nations did, so the questions now are: Should the UN be reformed to become an effective organization able to bring peace worldwide? or should the UN disappear instead?

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

Yemen: The Forgotten Conflict

Since Yemen’s civil war began in 2015, the Saudi-led coalition has regularly conducted lethal air strikes throughout the country, killing thousands of innocent Yemenis. Further, Saudi Arabia has implemented a blockade of basic supplies against Yemen, including drinkable water, resulting in rampant cholera, leading to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The Saudi-led coalition was initially created seeking to support the deposed President, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, after the Houthi rebels had taken key positions all across the country, including the capital Sana’a and his Presidential palace, forcing him to flee to Saudi Arabia.

Since then, Saudi Arabia has justified its lethal attacks on civilians by accusing the Houthis, without any evidence, of being endorsed by its arch-enemies, Iran and Hezbollah.

According to the UN, the Saudi-led coalition regularly kills innocent people, including children. For example, a Saudi air strike killed 140 people and injured some 600 mourners at a funeral in Sana’a last October.

The United Nations’ World Health Organization has reported that the outbreak of cholera in Yemen caused by the Saudi blockade of drinking water has already infected more than 300,000 Yemenis; killed 1,500 people, 55% of them children.

The Red Cross has predicted that one out 45 people in Yemen will contract cholera. More than 600,000 people are expected to contract the disease before the end of the year. Some worrying reports show that a child dies in Yemen every 10 minutes from preventable causes like diarrhea, respiratory infections and malnutrition.

According to the UN, since March 2015, 3.2 million Yemenis have been displaced; 13,000 civilians have been casualties; 2 million children cannot attend schools;  and nearly 15 million people have no access to basic medical care. Out of 27 million people in Yemen, 20 million are starving, including 400,000 childrenand some 2.2 million are in need of urgent care.


“In the last two years, more children have died from preventable diseases than those killed in the violence. This is why vaccination campaigns are so crucial to save the lives of Yemen’s children and to secure their future,” said Dr. Meritxell Relaño, UNICEF Representative in Yemen.

Children are dying because the conflict is preventing them from getting the health care and nutrition they urgently need. Their immune systems are weak from months of hunger,” said Dr. Relaño.”

Saudi Arabia has also imposed a strict journalist embargo on Yemen, seeking to hide its acts of barbarism. It only grants sporadic access to the country to a few journalists from the mainstream Western media. On many occasions, they are indirectly endorsed by the Saudi-led coalition.

Despite the embargo, some independent journalists have risked their lives to enter the country covertly. They regularly show the Western world what the mainstream media refuses, the Saudi atrocities in Yemen.

The mainstream Western media regularly ignores the Yemeni conflict by ensuring that it is not attractive enough for the Western audience, which supposedly prefers those in Iraq and Syria because there are more parties involved.

Nothing is expected to change soon; the Saudi-led coalition will still commit atrocities across Yemen. The Houthis and the official Yemeni government will repress and kill thousands of innocent people, worsening the living conditions of innocent Yemenis. In addition, Al-Qaeda and ISIS are expected to increase their influence by taking key positions across Yemen, leading to a possible further American military intervention in the country.

Latest Israeli Provocation in Jerusalem

On Friday, three Palestinians and three Israelis died after the Netanyahu Administration infringed the status quo of the Temple Mount by installing metal detectors and banning Palestinian men under the age of fifty from entering the holy site.

Thousands of Palestinians were gathered in the area when Israeli security forces began to use force against the demonstrators, who responded by throwing stones at police.

In an ‘attempt to control the situation,’ numerous Israeli policemen used tear gas, water cannons, and fired real bullets randomly against the demonstrators, causing the death of three of them, and injuring hundreds more.

The demonstrations spread rapidly to Gaza and the West Bank, where a young Palestinian stabbed three Israelis to death in revenge for Netanyahu’s decision to violate a Muslim holy place.

Abbas announced, “the suspension of contacts with Israel on all levels and the suspension of coordination until all the measures currently being taken at al-Aqsa mosque are stopped.”

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres issued statements condemning both incidents. He called “on all to refrain from any actions or words that could further escalate an already volatile situation.”

UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said, reporters, that “ultimately, what is important is for all of the people at the holy sites, including all the worshipers at the holy sites, to feel that their religious freedoms are being respected.”

On Saturday, Netanyahu said that the metal detectors will remain at the entrance of the Temple Mount, despite the fact that numerous advisors had recommended their removal. They also believe that Netanyahu’s unilateral action will worsen the Palestine-Israeli conflict, leading to unpredictable consequences.

Despite the different versions of the facts, many still believe that the second intifada began in September 2000 when Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount, seen by Palestinians as desecration and which has resulted in the death of thousands of Palestinians and Israelis.

The Temple Mount is one of the holiest places in Islam and in Judaism. According to Judaism, this is the place where God’s divine presence is manifested more strongly than at any other holy site. For Muslims, the site is one of the first places where God was worshiped. They believe it was from here that the Prophet Muhammad ascended to the “Divine Presence” on the back of a winged horse.

Over the last few years, the Palestinians have accused PM Netanyahu of planning to build a Third Temple on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, which is currently illegal under Israeli law. However, Netanyahu’s coalition with the far right-wing leader Avigdor Lieberman, who supports the construction of the new Jewish temple in the compound has many Palestinians concerned that Netanyahu will soon change the law in order to allow it.

Several international human rights organizations have said that the current situation in Jerusalem has deteriorated to the point that if it does not soon improve a new uprising may occur.

Some have suggested that Netanyahu and Lieberman are intentionally instigating the current increase in violence in Jerusalem with the intention of using it as a pretext to occupy the Temple Mount compound and expand what many consider to be their ethnic cleansing operations in Palestine.

The international community, however, has yet to condemn PM Netanyahu’s actions, which are currently illegal under Israeli law.

Over the next several weeks, several countries will likely be involved in the conflict. Until then, more incidents, which could occur in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as well as in Jerusalem, are expected.

 

New US Travel Ban

On Thursday night, the US partly restored the so-called Muslim travel ban against citizens from Libya, Syria, Iran, Somalia, Yemen and Sudan, which imposes a 90-day ban on citizens from these countries and 120 days for refugees.

Legally permanent residents, current visa holders, visa applicants who were in the US as of June 26, dual nationals, anyone that has been granted asylum, refugees who have already been admitted to the US and foreign nationals with “close” family, educational or business ties to the US will be exempt from the ban. However, refugees currently awaiting approval for admission to the country will be banned.

The new executive order considers “close” family to be a spouse, child, son or daughter of age, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, and siblings. However, it excludes fiancées, grandparents and grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, which had until now been considered “close” family.

The Supreme Court garnered the green light to the Trump administration to reinstate part of the travel ban on Monday and said that it would make a final ruling on the executive order in October.

The first Muslim travel ban had been halted in the lower court for months after it caused massive protests and chaos at all international airports across the entire country, which resulted in the illegal retention of thousands of US legal residents who were born in any of the aforementioned banned countries.

Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration law at Cornell University said the wording of the decision left the upholders of this law plenty of room for interpretation in terms of enforcement.

How individuals will prove such a [bona fide] relationship, and whether the burden of proof will be on the government or the individuals seeking entry, remains to be seen,” Yale-Loehr said. I predict chaos at the border and new lawsuits, as foreign nationals and refugees argue that they are entitled to enter the United States.”

The prediction of more discord at airports was mirrored by Amnesty International USA executive director Margaret Huang.

Rather than keeping anyone safe,” Huang said, “this ban demonizes millions of innocent people and creates anxiety and instability for people who want to visit a relative, work, study, return to the country they call home, or just travel without fear.”

Several experts have suggested that the fact that those people who have been working with the US in its secret operations in the fight against ISIL will also be banned is very worrisome. And it also endangers their lives.

Furthermore, a travel ban which will not allow grandparents to meet their grandchildren in the US will be catastrophic for many families. However, the worst part of it will be for those refugees who are trying to flee from certain death in their countries to the US. They will now have to face threats, torture, abuse, and death.

Most of the population of the US opposes to what they think it is an unfair Muslim travel ban, which will cause suffering to thousands of families, and which could backfire in the form of terrorism.

Although it is still too soon to know the real impact of the new travel ban on people’s lives, numerous human rights organizations think that this one will be more chaotic than the previous one.

Awaiting the final decision of the Supreme Court in October, human rights organizations and NGO’s will keep fighting against every Muslim travel ban in order to guarantee people’s human rights.