Citizens speak out – 13 Jul 2011

Citizens speak out. People’s demands for greater
basic freedoms, improved living conditions and a more representative voice in their governments
continue as they gather in countries such as Afghanistan, China, Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq,
Libya, Palestine, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, United States and Yemen. UNITED STATES & PALESTINE – Following discussions
last week in which legislators considered suspending aid to the Palestinian Authority,
officials from the US State Department on Tuesday testified that continued assistance
is very important for stability and fostering peace with Israel. CHINA – As part of the government’s 9-month
crackdown on intellectual property rights infringements, Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce
Jiang Zengwei announced on Tuesday that police have arrested more than 9,000 people suspected
of piracy or counterfeiting. CYPRUS – In the southern city Zygi, a massive
explosion occurred on Monday at a naval base where munitions had been stored since being
seized during illegal transport in 2009. At least 12 people died, including Cypriot navy
chief Andreas Ioannides, with 62 others injured. In deep regret for the tragedy, which experts
had warned of due to unsafe storage of the munitions, two top Cypriot officials, Defense
Minister Costas Papacostas and National Guard Commander Petros Tsaliklides, resigned the
same day. PAKISTAN – As US military in Pakistan used
unmanned drone planes to attack the tribal areas of South and North Waziristan, a method
of war that has been criticized by both the Pakistani government and citizens, an estimated
50 people were killed on Monday and Tuesday alone. SUDAN – Despite UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s
request that Sudan retain some 10,000 UN peacekeepers already in the country to assist as remaining
issues with South Sudan are worked out, the Sudanese government decided to have them removed. EGYPT – Frustrated by the lack of real action
by the government in realizing the goals of the revolution earlier this year, a number
of protesters in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez have gone on hunger strikes, with at least
two in Alexandria who were admitted to the hospital on Monday, July 11. On Tuesday, tens
of thousands of people answered calls for a “million-man march” to protest the government’s
slow pace of reform. In response to revolutionaries’ calls for his resignation, Deputy Prime Minister
Yehia el-Gamal stepped down, while the High Judicial Council sentenced several members
of the former regime and addressed demands for greater transparency in the trial process
by ordering that it be made fully accessible to the public. IRAQ – Agence France-Presse reports that
on Sunday, dozens of Iraqi farmers blocked a border crossing with Iran, preventing around
360 Iranian pilgrims from visiting religious shrines in Iraq as they protested Iran’s
diversion of the Al-Wind River to benefit Iranian crops at the expense of farmers downstream
in Iraq. AFGHANISTAN – Around 500 Afghans demonstrated
peacefully in Jalalabad on Monday to protest the ongoing activities of the US military
in their country as well as cross-border rocket attacks from Pakistan, which have caused an
estimated 42 citizen deaths in the past month alone. Meanwhile, French President Nicolas
Sarkozy announced on Tuesday that France is withdrawing 1,000 of its 4,000 troops from
Afghanistan by the end of 2012. LIBYA – US President Barack Obama stated Monday
that the US government is ready to support Russia’s offer to negotiate Libya’s democratic
transition, as long as leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi leaves. Also on Monday in Egypt, a
court ruled that Libyan government-run TV stations should be removed from airing in
the country. Meanwhile, French Prime Minister François Fillon stated Tuesday that a political
situation is beginning to take shape in Libya as he reaffirmed his government’s support
of both the African Union and Russia’s mediation efforts. SYRIA – On Monday, the US and French governments
spoke out strongly against the Syrian government after its supporters stormed their embassies
in Damascus, damaging the buildings, before going on to attack the residence of US Ambassador
Robert Ford. Calling the incidents at the diplomatic facilities “absolutely outrageous,”
the US State Department joined the French Foreign Ministry in stating that international
law was violated by the Syrian government’s failure to protect the two embassies, and
that Syrian officials were attempting to divert people’s attention away from the real problems
of deadly crackdowns in the country. Both the French and US governments have made repeated
calls for President Bashar al-Assad to halt citizen repression and begin reforms, with
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton further stating on Monday that the Syrian president
has lost legitimacy. Meanwhile, also on Monday, Syrian activists said that at least two people
were killed and 20 more wounded in Homs as the Syrian army entered the city that day. YEMEN – US President Barack Obama’s aide
for homeland security John Brennan traveled to Yemen on Monday to meet with the country’s
interim leader, Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. There, he reiterated requests
made the previous day to President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is still recovering in a Saudi
hospital, that the Yemeni government agree to a swift transition of power, including
the stepping down of President Saleh. With grief for the precious lives lost and
fellow humans injured and suffering, we pray that the conflicts may cease in all nations
for people everywhere to choose peaceful shared existence in dignity and freedom�

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