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Arabica Robusta

Egyptian women: Depression or oppression? | Pambazuka News - 0 views

  • “When there is no school, my family keeps me at home and it’s like a jail. I have been depressed for a very long time now, but they would not allow me to seek help,” explains Hagar (not her real name), a 23-year old student of literature and philosophy from Cairo University. “My father beats me up because he disagrees with my ideas on everything, society and politics. The only way out I can see is to try and escape marriage and leave the house, even though for the moment I can’t even so much as suggest the idea to my family.”
  • Egypt’s high levels of domestic and gender-based violence, including mass sexual assault, are well documented by human-rights groups, with almost fifty per cent of married women reporting abuse (though the majority of cases go unreported). Mostafa Hussein, an Egyptian psychiatrist, says that this has in turn led to post-traumatic stress disorder among victims or the uncovering of existing psychological problems, triggering latent anxieties and insecurities.
  • “This young woman had taken part in the 2011 uprising; if she hadn’t, maybe she would have adapted more easily to the society,” El Qutt speculates. “Many think they are depressed, but depression is about internal conflict. They actually live in an oppressive society, with an oppressive government. All the people who supported democratic change and saw their dreams crushed may feel that they suffer from depression, when they are reacting to external circumstances.”
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  • Many young women say they are puzzled at their mothers’ reactions—mothers who at their own age worked three jobs, came home late, or themselves decided not to wear the hijab. Some attribute this shift in perceptions of women’s role to successive waves of conservative religiosity: first inspired from Saudi Arabia for Egyptian families who either fled Sadat or migrated to the Gulf for work, and later by a post-Iraq war wave of opposition to the West.
  • Another patient of Nabil El Qutt is one such reason for hope. The daughter of very conservative parents, the young pharmacist joined a leftist party and stopped veiling. Her parents railed against everything she did, and even took her to a doctor for a virginity test. She sunk into severe depression and began self-harming. Nonetheless, she eventually managed to leave her family home and no longer felt the need for therapy. She even convinced her mother to leave her own emotionally-abusive husband.
Arabica Robusta

Violence comes home: an interview with Arun Kundnani | openDemocracy - 0 views

  • President Obama continues to rely on the authorization to give his drone-killing programme a veneer of legality. This is the old colonial formula of liberal values at home sustained by a hidden illiberalism in the periphery – where routine extra-judicial killing is normalised.
  • colonial history teaches us that violence always ‘comes home’ in some form: whether as refugees seeking sanctuary, whether as the re-importing of authoritarian practices first practised in colonial settings, or indeed as terrorism.
  • What results is a mutual reinforcing of the militarized identity narrative on both sides: the jihadists point to numerous speeches by western leaders to support their claim of a war on Islam; and western leaders legitimise war with talk of a ‘generational struggle’ between western values and Islamic extremism. What is striking today is the tired rhetoric of military aggression – Hollande’s “pitiless war” – once again recycled, despite the obvious failures of the past 14 years.
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  • Empirical evidence does not support either of these assumptions – witness the European ISIS volunteers who arrive in Syria with copies of Islam for Dummies or the alleged leader of the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who was reported to have drunk whisky and smoked cannabis
  • Yet radicalisation theories have been officially accepted and popularised. This is because they provide a rationale for surveillance (it is easier for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to find ideologues than terrorists). And they conveniently disavow the cycle of violence we have entered.
  • What radicalisation theories ignore is that violence in the ‘war on terror’ is relational: the individuals who become ISIS volunteers are willing to use violence; so too are our own governments.
  • These recruits are not corrupted by ideology but by the end of ideology: they have grown up in the era of Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history”, of no alternatives to capitalist globalisation. They have known no critique, only conspiracy theory, and are drawn to apocalyptic rather than popular struggle. Nevertheless, for all its lack of actual political content, the narrative of global war against the west feels to its adherents like an answer to the violence of racism, poverty and empire.
  • The intellectual reaction to the Paris attacks has continued these patterns. The dominant feature is a narcissism that describes ISIS as simply the polar opposite of whatever we value in ourselves. For liberals, ISIS is intolerance, racism and oppression of women. For conservatives, ISIS is the ideal enemy: fanatical, non-western and barbaric. In this mode, ISIS is merely the absolute ‘other’ that enables the construction of a positive image of ourselves.
  • This means that the most appropriate response to ISIS is to see it as a symptom of the ‘normal’ functioning of the modern, global system, rather than as an external element corrupting the system from outside or from the pre-modern past. Its use of social media, its rejection of the national borders of the twentieth century and its linkages to the petroleum economy all demonstrate that ISIS is a child of globalisation.
  • ISIS is certainly a monster but a monster of our own making. It was born in the chaos and carnage that followed the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Its sectarian ideology and funding has come from the Saudi and Gulf ruling elites, the west’s closest regional allies after Israel. Russia and Iran have also played their role, propping up the Bashar al-Assad regime – responsible for far more civilian deaths than ISIS – and prolonging the war in Syria that enables ISIS to thrive.
  • The left should be much bolder in asserting that only an anti-racist, anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist politics can provide a genuine alternative to jihadism; that more radicalisation, in the genuine sense of the word, is the solution, not the problem; that terrorism thrives in environments where mass movements advancing visions of social progress have been defeated.
  • We must therefore defend the spaces of radical politics, for the right to dream of another world.
  • there are two broad approaches to making sense of ‘Islamic extremism’: there are conservatives who regard Islam as an inherently violent culture defined essentially by its founding texts, and liberals who think the enemy is a totalitarian perversion of Islam that emerged in the twentieth century.
Arabica Robusta

"The next battle will be much more violent": Interview with Philip Rizk - 0 views

  • There was something very important in this phase which leads up to the mass demonstrations on June 30th 2013 and the following days: The media played an extremely different role than they did in early 2011 and then again after the military coup on July 3rd. Priot to June 30th, They actually covered these events very clearly and showed the police suppression on the streets
  • Just to give a little anecdote: Our group Mosireen, that in the past had filmed things that were for us the perspective of the street, almost did not have a role any longer because so much of this repression was being covered by television and news outlets.
  • To rephrase the question in more concrete terms: Were these mass protests a response to continuing repression and social misery or did the specific nature of the MB as an Islamic party, slowly trying to “islamicise” society, play a role? Initially opposition was growing because repression was maintained and especially because it was covered more than in any other period.
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  • The media succeeded in playing on this by portraying that what Egyptians want is by no means a kind of »secular« society, or state, but they don’t want religious extremists either. And the discourse leading up to the summer of 2013 was increasingly pointing out the extremism of the MB.
  • the armed militants in Sinai fighting the military were quickly identified with the MB although again there is no proof of this connection. The situation there is very difficult to assess and I have serious doubts about a lot of media stories, especially if they are based on statements by the Ministry of Interior or the military. They use these kinds of situations to spread rumors and fear. So, all this is happening in the background leading up to the summer of 2013.
  • But I personally do not believe that the MB had the agenda of becoming religious extremists. Up until now, all the examples the media, the military and Sisi have used to portray the MB as some kind of terrorist entity, there is zero proof of any of that. That is not to say that it could not ever happen. But I do not believe that it has happened. It wouldn't be in the interest of the MB whatsoever. But this narrative has succeeded and provided the perfect enemy required to increase patriotism and suppress a lot of civil rights.
  • t was in the interests of the security regime in Egypt, the military and the Ministry of Interior and so these apparatuses co-opted it. Fights occurred on various occasions, MB headquarters were attacked and vandalised, and every time the Ministry of Interior would support the protesters.
  • Some people would say that this kind of plan, to eventually scapegoat the MB, had already been organized when the MB came to power. I don’t think this was the case. The MB was by far the entity with the most following in the streets. When the elections happened, in 2012, the generals were not seen as that favorable. Because this was the end of the period of the military junta known as SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces), where some of their violence against the population was becoming more and more known and there was actually a growing harsh criticism. Many people opposed the idea of a new military regime taking power and I don’t think the generals considered this strategic at the time. So there was this common sentiment for civilian leadership, and the MB was the best entity to fill that role.
  • Here we cannot exclude foreign interests. The USA, the Russians, the Europeans, all of them have some push and pull. When members of the American Congress came to visit they were very happy with the MB because they agreed on all the major points. They were not going to change any of the previous agreements, so Camp David agreement with Israel was going to be maintained, according to their promises. And the MB promised to continue the neoliberalisation of the economy. There are a lot of military links between Egypt and the US, and it was clear that it was an acceptable scenario for the MB to take power at that time.
  • two things happened. One, the MB were not able to maintain enough popularity. So the streets remained unstable; protests continued, especially spontaneous protests with increasing violence. This increasing instability was to nobody’s interest. Not to any of the foreign powers interests, because anyone with money and power is interested in a stable Egypt. It does not really matter who is in power – whether they are a military dictatorship or have a religious agenda – as long as they can maintain a stable situation. And the MB were proving themselves increasingly unable to do that. Secondly, as mentioned before, a lot of the government structure that the MB inherited remained to a certain extent loyal to the old regime. So there was this constant competition, and this internal, slow, everyday opposition to what the MB could do. But at the same time, part of this opposition was also to the MB trying to place their individuals in positions of power.
  • What was the situation like when the military began massacring people? The situation was really shocking. At the end of the day, it was a military strategy of divide and conquer. The military really succeeded in dividing the opposition, by creating a scenario where you are either with the MB or you are not. There is nothing else. Protests that were not pro-MB, but simply criticized the military, were quickly portrayed by the media but also by military spokespersonS as supporting of the MB and therefore immediately delegitimized. Sadly, a lot of intellectuals, a lot of previously very active and well-known figures in the revolution, took this position to not criticize the military yet and to rather give them a chance and see what kind of transition they would be able offer us because our main concern right now was making sure the MB do not have another chance at power.
  • Is this also true for the workers? First of all, there is no workers movement. There was a wave of workers’ strikes. I have written about this in my article '2011 is not 1968'. Tunisia, for example, has a very different historical background as far as labour organizations are concerned. In Egypt, they were very harshly suppressed. So strikes continued, but they always happened in a separate sphere from street protests. Sadly, these two processes are quite separate.
  • In my view, there wasn’t a kind of momentum of a workers’ movement. There was a very significant wave of worker actions, but it was extremely difficult to mobilize workers even to have solidarity to a nearby strike or action. Because jobs are so threatened, you do not want to lose your job. In certain periods people were willing to risk their jobs in order to improve their situation, but very rarely for political ends.
  • When the MB won, strikes quieted down for a while because there was a broad perception that things would change. I remember having conversations where people were saying: »This age of corruption is over, privatization is over.« There had been promises that there would be no more privatization …
  • As I mentioned earlier, the powerful players both inside and outside of Egypt have as their main interest a strong stable state. And the way the cards have been played is in the interests of this kind of stability.
  • Capitalism is not a thing, I would rather want to speak of the spirit of capitalism that in the Egyptian context has manifested itself as a convoluted oligarchy, where the power lies with those with capital, with control of militarized statist institutions. Capitalism in this form in Egypt will only drive people that are not a part of this club of rulers deeper into crisis. Prices are rising excessively as neoliberal policies are maintained by the Sisi government as they were by Morsi. Gas prices have gone up, transport and food prices are constantly going up and wages remain constant, jobs are hard to get ahold of. The more the guarantees for a decent way of life wane, the more capitalism approaches its end. The next battle will be much more violent.
  • A further question on the economic prospects: the general situation seems to be very shaky but there have been massive capital inflows from the Gulf states and grandiose development plans more recently. Many people are still convinced of the good interests of the current regime. With prices going up, there is a perception of foreign funds flowing into the country as a positive thing.
  • The Suez canal is seen as a national treasure. So we are going to make more money out of it? Great. As far as we know, all the income from the Suez canal used to go straight into Mubarak's coffers. I was part of a group that was working on debt in the past couple of years and we don't know where that money went. So if they are going to increase the profits from there, where is that going to go?
  • I don't think this is going to happen in the next few months, but it will come back. The conditions that brought people to the streets in 2011 are already here and so protest will return in the near future. And I think that it will be much more violent the next time, from both sides. I think you can't discredit what happened in the past three years, even though many people paid with their lives or are paying with heavy prison sentences. The kind of consciousness that has been created through these moments of revolt and the various different debates and mobilizations that have occurred, it can’t be undone. It has left a very deep impression on the population at large. We have gone through a lot of waves in the past four years. In 2011, in 2012, there were already heavy moments of depression and almost regret for what has occurred. It is far from over.
  • Looking back on the years since the so-called revolution in 2011 one can see that people were able to topple governments, there were massive workers‘ struggles and a strong youth movement striving for freedom rights. At the same time, however, people first supported the military against Mubarak, then the MB against the military and finally the military against the MB… After the coup in July 2013, there was widespread acceptance of the military’s massacres. How could the next wave of struggles look like?
  • I think the system really needs to collapse in order for some kind of better form of society to emerge. But what that means, I have no idea. And maybe that is not such a bad thing. I think one of the important lessons to learn here is that things cannot easily happen in Egypt in a vacuum, apart from what happens elsewhere in the world. Because you constantly have this influence from the outside, whether it is from the Gulf or from the western states that are sending in at this point weapons and military training and financial support and maintain their trade agreements in order to shape the power constellation. So for things to significantly change in Egypt there needs to be a significant change in those different centers of power as well.
Arabica Robusta

tabula gaza - 0 views

  • The widespread indifference toward the August 14 massacre that accompanied a rising fascistic spirit just confirmed that fall from grace.
  • Though I do not affirm the Brotherhood's cause to return to power, I believe in their right to dissent. All those that risk their bodies, like Bassem, risk the bullet. I will by no means try to justify the shocking actions of Egyptians that started the morning of June 30, the rise of the fascistic, the acceptance of the torment of others. The most powerful tool to these ends is the discourse of terrorism that has fed into the deep fear in the hearts of so many living inside a regime of terror. 
Arabica Robusta

2011 is not 1968: an open letter from Egypt | ROAR Magazine - 0 views

  • These news agencies interviewed political commentators or activists — increasingly becoming celebrities in their own right — to decipher the actions behind the images seen. As interpretation and then meaning were layered onto the images, a significant distortion took place to the acts behind the scenes. Non-Arabic language media outlets relied primarily on English-speaking activists, many of us middle class, many of us already politicized before January 25. Arabic-language news stations similarly turned often to middle class activists to speak on behalf of the revolution, each of whom interpreted every moment according to their respective ideological perspectives.
  • Our explanations also satisfied the practical requirements and standards of a media industry with a target audience accustomed to an interlocutor with a particular profile using a specific political discourse. This process drowned out the voices of the majority. No matter how hard we tried to argue otherwise, we fit the part — middle class, internet-savvy, youth, and thus revolutionary.
  • Other industries soon followed suit: right after journalism, academia, film, art, the world of NGOs relied on us as the ideal interpreter of the extraordinary. They all eventually bought into and further fueled the hyper-glorification of the individual, the actor, the youth subject, the revolutionary artist, the woman, the non-violent protester, the Internet user.
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  • Revolution became unimaginable without the imagery of a model demonstrator who protected you from the potential of being faced with the unknown: a collectivist uprising against a global system of domination within which there is no place for an onlooker.
  • There was no ideology but the ideology of desperation, the unbearable weight of hypocrisy and the limits of a people living in denial of it. The rising militancy amongst organized workers, and the growing opposition through small middle class movements like Kefaya — “Enough”– and the 6th of April movement, as well as through internet-based groups like Kolina Khaled Said (“We are all Khaled Said”) came about in direct reaction to the political ruling class’ ongoing repression of an entire population.
  • Similar to the uprising in Argentina in 2001, street protests in Egypt were marked by widespread participation across class, generational and gender lines. Like in 1968, students and workers both participated but in Egypt never as workers and students, but rather, and simply, as part of a collective and popular movement.
  • A significant moment that made the January 25 revolution thinkable was the rising wave of worker protests that started in 2004. The 27,000 textile workers that went on strike in the industrial city of Mahalla al-Kobra in Egypt’s Nile Delta in December 2006 enabled countless Egyptians that caught a glimpse of that mighty act, or of the multitude of protests that followed, to begin to imagine revolution.
  • The insults of a police officer towards an elderly woman on the street sparked an uprising. April 6 was significant in that the protest moved beyond the geographical lines of one industrial site and was carried out by an entire community. In 2006 workers had broken the social rules of conduct through their public protest.
  • 1968 would have been impossible without the waves of worker strikes and factory occupations in parallel with student protests. In the case of the January 25 revolution, while participants spanned all social classes, bringing together the middle class, the unemployed, workers and farmers, it was precarious workers and not Egypt’s traditional working class that acted as the radicalizing factor of the revolution. This may sound like a trivial differentiation but it is at the crux of the distinction between 2011 and 1968.
  • Workers reacted directly — even if rarely specifically articulated in these terms — to the implementation of the Western economic paradigm of neoliberalism. This meant the government eased the entry of foreign capitalists into Egyptian industry, they privatized factories and public sector enterprises, reduced subsidies while strongly encouraging production for export markets.
  • Precarious workers often maintain two or three jobs in order to make ends meet. Compared to them, Egypt’s traditional working class lives in more secure conditions. Though for usually pitiful pay, outrageous hours in the private sector, poor working conditions and minimal benefits, the traditional working class has fixed contracts and steady incomes which gives them a luxury standing within a working class milieu with few guarantees. Consequently, the working class begin to mimic the middle class’ cautious life style unwilling to risk losing their jobs.
Arabica Robusta

IMF loan could be back on the table for Egypt | The National - 0 views

  • In the political upheaval that followed the revolt of 2011 and the army takeover two years later, as investors fled and currency reserves plunged, Egypt turned to the GCC. First Qatar and later Saudi Arabia and the UAE obliged, with more than $40bn in grants, loans and investment to prop up sympathetic governments. Meanwhile, repeated talks with the IMF broke off short of a loan accord.
  • Mr El Sisi is already enacting some policies the IMF typically requires as conditions for loans. Egypt slashed fuel subsidies last year and aims to cut its budget deficit by at least 1.5 percentage points to 10.5 per cent of economic output this year.The fund would be likely to require faster action on that and other issues, and that would be a good thing, according to Lutz Roehmeyer, the director of fund management at Landesbank Berlin Investment.“Investors so far have the impression that politics and reforms are moving too slowly in Egypt,” he said. “An IMF programme would increase certainty that there will be a reform agenda.”
  • Many economists, though, believe that the squeeze on Egypt’s finances will force the government to overcome any such scruples.“Sooner or later, we will have to resort to the IMF,” said Omar El Shenety, the managing director at the Cairo-based investment bank Multiples Group. “For credibility first, before its money.”
    "In the political upheaval that followed the revolt of 2011 and the army takeover two years later, as investors fled and currency reserves plunged, Egypt turned to the GCC. First Qatar and later Saudi Arabia and the UAE obliged, with more than $40bn in grants, loans and investment to prop up sympathetic governments. Meanwhile, repeated talks with the IMF broke off short of a loan accord."
Arabica Robusta

The New World Disorder » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names - 1 views

  • Too many of those who participated didn’t see – for generational reasons, largely – that in order to hit home you have to have some form of political movement. It wasn’t surprising that the Muslim Brotherhood, which had taken part in the protests in Egypt at a late stage, took power: it was the only real political party in Egypt. But then the Brotherhood played straight into the hands of the military by behaving like Mubarak – by offering deals to the security services, offering deals to the Israelis – so people began to wonder what the point was of having them in power. The military was thus able to mobilise support and get rid of the Brotherhood. All this has demoralised an entire generation in the Middle East.
    • Arabica Robusta
      Interesting, and questionable, assertion.  Did "the people" really have much to do with the downfall of the Brotherhood?
  • At the lunch, he said: ‘Now it’s time for questions – I’ll start off. Tariq Ali, I read the piece you wrote in the Guardian arguing that Tony Blair should be charged for war crimes in the International Criminal Court. Do you mind explaining why?’ I spent about ten minutes explaining, to the bemusement of the Syrian guests. At the end the ambassador said: ‘Well, I agree totally with that – I don’t know about the rest of you.’ After the guests had left, I said: ‘That was very courageous of you.’ And the MI6 man who was at the lunch said: ‘Yeah, he can do that, because he’s retiring in December.’ But a similar thing happened at the embassy in Vienna, where I gave a press conference attacking the Iraq war in the British ambassador’s living room. These people aren’t fools – they knew exactly what they were doing. And they acted as they did as a result of the humiliation they felt at having a government which, even though the Americans had said they could manage without the UK, insisted on joining in anyway.
  • The Greeks are being punished not so much for the debt as for their failure to make the reforms demanded by the EU. The right-wing government Syriza defeated only managed to push through three of the 14 reforms the EU insisted on. They couldn’t do more because what they did push through helped create a situation in Greece which has some similarities with Iraq: demodernisation; totally unnecessary privatisations, linked to political corruption; the immiseration of ordinary people.
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  • So the Greeks elected a government that offered to change things, and then they were told that it couldn’t. The EU is frightened of a domino effect: if the Greeks are rewarded for electing Syriza other countries might elect similar governments, so Greece must be crushed. The Greeks can’t be kicked out of the European Union – that isn’t permitted by the constitution – or out of the Eurozone, but life can be made so difficult for them that they have to leave the euro and set up a Greek euro, or a euro drachma, so that the country keeps going. But were that to happen conditions would, at least temporarily, get even worse – which is why the Greeks have no choice but to resist it.
  • The danger now is that, in this volatile atmosphere, people could shift very rapidly to the right, to the Golden Dawn, an explicitly fascist party. That is the scale of the problem, and for the Euro elite to behave as it’s doing – as the extreme centre, in other words – is short-sighted and foolish.
  • In a poll taken in January, 82 per cent of respondents in the old East Germany said that life was better before unification. When they were asked to give reasons, they said that there was more sense of community, more facilities, money wasn’t the dominant thing, cultural life was better and they weren’t treated, as they are now, like second-class citizens.
  • Not only do the former East Germans prefer the old political system, they also come at the top of the atheism charts: 52.1 per cent of them don’t believe in God; the Czech Republic is second with 39.9 per cent; secular France is down at 23.3 per cent (secularism in France really means anything that’s not Islamic).
Arabica Robusta

Pambazuka - US and NATO policy underlines instability in Libya and Tunisia - 0 views

  • Although Tunisia is often cited by the Western media as the most stable state among those that experienced upheavals and regime-changes in 2011, the country has experienced political unrest and assassinations. Two leading left-wing politicians, Mohamed Brahmi and Chokri Belaid, members of the same Popular Front alliance, were killed by gunmen just months apart during 2013.
  • The EU along with NATO and led by the US are responsible for the current chaos in Libya. This pattern of sanctions, massive bombings, ground interventions through direct occupation or proxy forces have failed throughout the entire region of North Africa and the Middle East. Any real reversal of the political crisis in the regions must take on an anti-imperialist character stressing the necessity of genuine political independence and territorial sovereignty designed to break with the legacy of imperialism.
Arabica Robusta

Hamza's Story: a Jihadi Who Left ISIS » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names ... - 0 views

  • In addition, they were giving small lectures and sermons after prayers. Most of the lecture topics were about how to reform and improve society, using the Koran and Hadith [traditional Islamic teachings] to support their arguments. “This was like some kind of brainwashing but it happened slowly over  six months. I was attending many of those lectures and, after a time, I was preparing in advance the Koranic verses and Hadith texts relevant to the topics. There were weekly competitions between groups of youths. I won two competitions on these religious topics and each time I received 300,000 Iraqi Dinars.”

Syria 'informed' about US-led strikes on IS: Assad - 0 views

    BEIRUT, Feb 10, 2015 (AFP) - Damascus receives "information" about air strikes by the US-led coalition against the Islamic State group in Syria, President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview published on Tuesday.

Nigeria delays elections as Boko Haram conflict spirals - 0 views

    ABUJA, Feb 8, 2015 (AFP) - Nigeria has postponed its presidential election on security grounds as the Boko Haram conflict intensifies, handing a potential lifeline to the ruling party as it battles a tough challenge from the opposition.

Jordan executes two jihadists in response to pilot murder/ Obama condemns - 0 views

    AMMAN, Feb 4, 2015 (AFP) - Jordan executed two jihadist prisoners at dawn on Wednesday after vowing a harsh response to the Islamic State group's murder of a Jordanian pilot, government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani said.
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