Adonis Diaries

Archive for March 20th, 2012

Western States penalize “Arab Spring States” nationals for revolutionary zeal

Tough new visa rules have been introduced for travellers from countries caught up in the Arab Spring unrest.

If you can make sense of  British Home Secretary Theresa May, please clarify me.  She told MPs: “We see the transit visa regime as a necessary measure to protect the security of our borders.  The situation in Syria continues to pose a serious concern to us and the wider international community. Libya and Egypt are emerging from a period of instability.

“We therefore assess that requiring nationals of these countries to obtain a visa for transit through the UK is both a sensible and proportionate response to the threat posed to the UK’s national and border security.”

Under the changes Syrian, Libyan and Egyptian citizens will have to apply for a visa if they are travelling through UK airports.

The transit visa regime, introduced in response to threats to national and border security, covers passengers who are only in the UK to change flights and never leave the airport.

The three countries, which have seen major upheaval following the Arab Spring wave of protests, have been added to the list of nations covered by the Direct Airside Transit Visa (DATV) requirements.

Mrs May said that since the introduction of the DATV regime in 2003, a number of countries have been added to the list of those required to obtain a transit visa.  She told the Commons in a written statement: “This has been done as a direct response to emerging security and immigration threats to the UK, and we will continue to monitor risks and threats.  The implementation of the DATV regime allows us to run comprehensive checks on those transiting the UK, and prevents high harm individuals from travelling here.

“Since the original introduction of the DATV there has been a noticeable fall in transit passengers destroying their travel documents before claiming asylum. The visa process means that we are able to collect pre-travel information as part of the application process which makes identification and checks more robust.” End of quote

A month ago, many Lebanese organizations covered these indignities subjected to.  I decided to re-edit an article on that subject that I had posted.

Visa to where?  Dignity deficiencies, official pre-humiliation tactics
If you are a European, US, Canadian…citizen, you have no idea what many other citizens have overwhelming beefs related to visas problems, passports, and headaches for traveling overseas.  These problems of ridiculous delays for a stupid visa can linger for months. And if the visa is denied? You are not entitled for refunds, and all your expenses go down the drain.
Harassment of “foreigners” from States considered not to be “true democracies” have emerged acutely after the 9/11/2001 attack on the Twin Towers… The western States, including other smug States, rekindled their racist tendencies under smokescreens of preserving “Home Security” from potential terrorists…
Ramez, a friend of mine from Lebanon, published his beefs.  He wrote:  “I have three beefs with the embassies.
First beef is related to the cost of visas. A European Schengen tourist visa (for entering and traveling in the European Union States, excluding England) costs about $80.  A cost compared to the zero or $10 that Europeans or U.S. citizens pay at the airport for their entry visas to Lebanon, and they have not to apply for visas prior to entering.  If you apply for a visa to Europe or the United States their embassies will inform you, rather haughtily, that you won’t get the money back if your request for a visa is denied!
A visa application to the United States costs $140 and to the United Kingdom can get into the hundreds of dollars depending on length of validity.  For most of the embassies you also have to come prepared with the exact change, or lose your turn and be asked to come back later. Next in line?
My second beef is the amount of documents you have to show to get a visa to spend a measly week-long vacation! Passport, photos of a specific size, letter of employment, a document attesting to the financial status of the company employing you, a family certificate, a statement of your bank account for the last few months, travel insurance including repatriation coverage, in case your bladder burst while hunting for a toilet in Rome.
All of these documents will set you back at least another $60 and must be translated by a sworn translator – and don’t forget to bring photocopies.
What documents does a European or US citizen need to get into Lebanon? Just a passport, carrying a photo of the holder smiling smugly.
My third beef is the process. To apply for a visa to most European countries one must first call a pay-per-minute number to obtain an appointment. You appear on the set time and wait an hour or two outside in the open air, rain or shine. Then, you wait indoor for another 30 to 60 minutes.
My worst experience has been with the German Embassy who once gave me an appointment for 9:00 am and when I arrived precisely at 9:00 am was informed that I should have been there at 8:45 am, so they could look at all my papers before my 9:00am appointment!
Here is a suggestion, Herr Ambassador: make the appointment at 8:45.” (End of quote)
Mind you that we are asked to go to these horrendous processes even if we are invited by organizations to attend conferences or we have to deliver a talk to conventions…
Lebanese are promptly punished by Arab States for one reason or another.  It is like: “We don’t like the politics of your current government.  All Lebanese are denied visa for an unlimited period.”  Lebanese residents in these Arab States are harassed and warned to leave their businesses and years of connections and vacate the country within a few days.  Whatever dignities these dictators and absolute monarchs have for human rights are denied the Lebanese.
That is why Turkey and Egypt are excellent destinations: Lebanese need not apply for a visa to these wonderful countries, far more exciting, varied cultures, with cheerful people.
If we ever manage to have a State, reciprocity should be the norm, and the cost of the European and American not responding is minimal; we may generate millions in saving redundant expenses by stopping applying for expensive visas and the humiliating processes and procedures.
If we had a State we could take a stand and be rewarded for our stand…Dignity in this century is to just show your passport and enter any country you like…
We permitted to be the mockery of smug States, simply because we gave up our responsibility to demanding to have real governments and not a ridiculous multi-theocratic political system…
I suggest that the UN deliver UN passports to all developing States citizens.  If we have to submit to these humiliations, let us submit to them once for all to a world organization that should be representing and honoring recognized States.
How prison system in Syria coping? How detainees are handled?
Occasionally, a few former prisoners would relate the process of torture and detention they had to submit to. Most often, much of the account could not be independently verified, ask the Iraqi prisoners in Abu Gharib (Iraq), guarded and supervised by the US units. In any case, a few cases of mishandling and brutality is far than enough to raise outcries on failing to observe the UN charter on human rights.
  •  Syrian rebels, government trade blame for Homs killings 
I have posted one such account, and what follow is an article reported from Aleppo, Syria:

“Al Deen (middle name and 30 of age) occasionally let out a goofy, drawn-out laugh when he recalled some of the absurdities he had witnessed during his three months of torture and humiliation in Syria’s brutal prisons.  Like the blind man accused of being a sniper. The sightless prisoner was subjected to a month of interrogation and beatings before intelligence officers finally concluded that he was in fact blind and released him.

Al Deen, originally from the area of Jabal Zawiya in the northwestern province of Idlib, began attending antigovernment demonstrations in April, not long after the uprising against Assad began. Soon he was posting protest videos online and organizing meetings in his apartment in Aleppo’s Salahuldeen neighborhood.

On a mid-July morning, he awoke to knocking at the door and faced 30 security officers toting Kalashnikov rifles. Al Deen thus began his sojourn through Assad’s prison system, being shuttled from Aleppo to Damascus to Homs and back again, often being held below ground, sometimes in isolation, sometimes with others, always facing beatings, interrogation and torture.

Al Deen grimaced when he talked about the teenager from the southern province of Dara who had been shot three times, in his shoulder, chest and hand, and was given only a sling — no treatment or pain medication. “I swear when he moaned in pain the walls would cry for him.”

In a recent interview, Al Deen described a regimen of torture and beatings during his imprisonment last year, providing a glimpse of a detention apparatus that has imprisoned tens of thousands since the uprising against President Bashar Assad erupted last March, 2011.

Fellow activists confirmed that Al Deen had been detained, but much of his account could not be independently verified. However, his description of captivity jibes with reports gathered by human rights groups.

In an August report, Amnesty International examined the cases of 88 prisoners, including 10 children, believed to have died while in detention. In at least 52 of the cases, torture or other ill-treatment probably caused or contributed to their deaths, Amnesty concluded. The bodies bore signs of burns, blunt force injuries, whipping and slashes.

Even estimating the number of Syrian detainees is difficult. The government gives no official accounting, and many prisoners are held incommunicado. Families often have no idea whether they are alive or dead. New security sweeps have followed periodic amnesty of prisoners, keeping the system in constant flux.

Human rights groups have obtained the names of about 17,000 detainees, but that probably accounts for only 50% of those held, said Neil Sammonds, a researcher with Amnesty.

For a follow-up report in February, Sammonds spoke with former detainees who recounted some of the same torture methods that Al Deen detailed, including the shabeh, being hung by the hands.

Al Deen said he was first taken to a military security branch, the building that months later would be blown up in twin bombings in Aleppo. Within a few hours of arrival, Al Deen was hanging from the ceiling by handcuffs, his toes just grazing the ground. He was left in that position for 14 hours the first time.

When he would shift his weight down slightly to relieve his feet, the handcuffs would cut deeper into his wrists. Standing on his toes to take pressure off his wrists would send excruciating pain shooting through his feet and legs.

“Are your hands more important than your feet? Are your feet more important than your hands? You don’t know what to do,” he said.

When he was taken down he was put into a room and ordered to kneel. He was blindfolded but said he could sense several men circling him. One asked Al Deen a question and, before he had finished his answer, the others began pummeling him with fists and sticks. The pattern was repeated over and over, he said.

In his first days in Aleppo, Al Deen was accused of orchestrating explosions and arson and taking part in armed resistance at a time when Aleppo was calm and mostly unengaged in the uprising.” End of quote




March 2012

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