Citizens speak out – 14 June 2011

Citizens speak out. People across the globe
are continuing to stand up to oppressive regimes in their quest for improved lives and greater
basic freedoms as they gather in countries such as Afghanistan, Bahrain, Greece, Iran,
Jordan, Libya, Palestine, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. AFGHANISTAN – The International Committee
of the Red Cross (ICRC) has reported to Xinhua News Agency that approximately 2,000 Afghans
are disabled each year due to millions of land mines and other unexploded munitions
left behind from 30 years of conflict. In an effort to help victims recover from their
often-incapacitating injuries, the ICRC has set up seven orthopedic centers across the
country to provide prosthetic limbs and physiotherapy. IRAN – Jailed Iranian journalist and activist
Reza Hoda Saber died of a hunger strike Saturday, June 11 in which he had protested the death
of activist Haleh Sahabi, who had been jailed and may have been beaten by security forces
as she attended her father’s funeral two weeks ago. Iranians also stood together in a silent
march on Sunday marking the two-year anniversary of the 2009 disputed election, which police
later dispersed using clubs. GREECE – Over 20,000 people demonstrated in
Athens on Sunday in continued protests of the government’s debt repayment plans that
include more budget reductions and the sale of state-owned companies, with the protesters
saying that the government should further tax the wealthy rather than impose measures
that most adversely affect middle- and low-income citizens. SUDAN – Following two days of talks in Ethiopia,
north Sudan has agreed to withdraw troops from the disputed oil-rich Abyei border region.
Representatives from the north and the south have agreed that the area is to be demilitarized,
with Ethiopian peacekeepers who will ensure the safety of residents wishing to return. JORDAN – For the first time in six months
of protesters demanding greater democratic representation, Jordan’s King Abdullah announced
support for a new electoral law that will lead to a government cabinet elected by Parliament
rather than appointed by him. BAHRAIN – Activists state that an estimated
400 people are being tried in military courts on charges relating to their participation
in peaceful protests over the recent months, with many who are given very little if any
notice of their trials, leaving no time to prepare a legal defense. SYRIA – According to Syrian state television,
the army has taken control of the northern city of Jisr al-Shughour. Witnesses and activists
report that all men between the ages of 18 and 40 are being arrested, with 10 people
who have been killed by sniper fire as both homes and crops are being destroyed. BBC reporter
Owen Bennett-Jones stated that at least 5,000 Syrians have crossed the border into Turkey
so far. Many more have gathered outside Jisr al-Shughour with what they could carry, ready
to similarly flee if the Syrian army continues to occupy the town. Activists also report
that the death toll since the uprising began three months ago has risen to 1,300 people.
On Monday, the United States again spoke out against Syria’s recent crackdown in Jisr
al-Shughour, this time calling on President Bashar al-Assad to cease all violence and
either lead the necessary political reforms, or step aside. YEMEN – Clashes in southern Yemen have intensified,
with seven people killed Sunday in Zinjibar as a military official stated that at least
140 have died in the past two weeks of clashes there with armed men. Concerned at the deteriorating
situation, Russia sent two planes to remove the country’s nationals. On Monday, in the
first meeting of its kind, activists reported fruitful discussions with acting President
Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi about the transfer of presidential power to a transitional government,
saying that they would be meeting again soon to begin the process. LIBYA – During a Monday visit to the activist-administered
Libyan city of Benghazi, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle conveyed his country’s recognition
of the National Transitional Council as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people.
He also announced that Germany would be joining several other countries and the United Nations
in opening a diplomatic office in Benghazi. With deep sorrow for the loss of precious
lives and the struggles of the people, we pray for a ceasing of strife in every nation
and that all citizens may choose lives of dignity, peace and freedom�

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