10 Apr 2017 - NPWJ News Digest on Middle East and North Africa Democracy


German deportations ignore risks LGBT asylum seekers face at home
By Politico, 08 Aug 2017

 Before she fled her home country of Lebanon, Eliana could only find work as an escort. As a trans woman, she faced the constant threat of arrest and torture at Beirut’s notorious Hbeish prison. In Germany, where she applied for asylum in October 2015, Eliana worked at a beauty salon, went to German language classes and wore what she wanted. For the most part, she felt accepted. That feeling of security was shattered earlier this year, when she received a deportation letter from the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, known locally by its German acronym, BaMF.

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Sinai Rocket Strikes Israel Moments After Egypt Border Shuts for Fear of Imminent Attack
By Haaretz, 10 Apr 2017

Militants in Sinai fired a rocket at Israel on Monday, the army said, moments after Israel closed its southern border with Egypt for fear of an imminent attack. The rocket hit a greenhouse in a southern Israeli community near the Egypt and Gaza borders. No injuries were reported in the rocket attack, but one person suffered from shock. A police force and sapper were making their way to the scene. The rocket was fired at the community in the Eshkol region, moments after Israel announced that it is barring Israelis from crossing the Taba border point into Egypt, following an alert against an attack targeting Israelis. Israeli citizens will not be allowed to cross into Sinai, but will be allowed to return to Israel. Israelis currently in Sinai were requested to leave the area and return to Israel. Foreign nationals would still be able to cross the border. Israel decided to shut the border in light of concrete information received about a planned attack against Israeli targets in the Sinai area. It follows two bombings of Egyptian churches a day earlier and threats by ISIS, which claimed responsibility for the deadly attacks that killed nearly 50 people. The Israeli announcement also referred to increased ISIS-affiliated activity in Sinai.

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Rage at abandonment by the state as Egypt's Christians dig graves after bombing
By Reuters, 10 Apr 2017

Egyptian Christians wept with rage on Monday as they recovered the bodies of loved ones killed in twin church bombings, furious at a state they believe will no longer protect them from neighbors bent on their murder. Forty-four people were killed in the attacks on Palm Sunday, a joyous festival a week before Easter when Christians celebrate the triumphant arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem. At Tanta University hospital morgue, desperate families were trying to get inside to search for loved ones. Security forces held them back to stop overcrowding, enraging the crowd. Hours after the attack, Kerols Paheg and other young Coptic Christians were already digging graves in the basement of the devastated St. George Church in the northern Nile Delta city, where the first of the bombs exploded, killing 27 and wounding around 80. He showed photos on his phone of the carnage: human remains, blood and shattered glass strewn across the floor of the church on one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar. "Today was supposed to be a day of festivity," he said. From now on, Christians will have to protect their churches themselves, rather than rely on the police, "because what's happening is too much. It's unacceptable," he said. Copts make up about 10 percent of Egypt's 92 million people, the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. Yet despite a presence dating back to the Roman era, the community feels increasingly ostracized and has repeatedly been targeted in attacks, including by Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for Sunday's bombings. Though Islamic State has long waged a low-level war against soldiers and police in Egypt's Sinai peninsula, its stepped up assault on Christian civilians in the mainland could turn a provincial insurgency into wider sectarian conflict.

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Muted start to election campaigning in Algeria
by Aljazeera, 09 Apr 2017

Campaigning for Algeria's May 4 parliamentary elections got off to a muted start on Sunday, with the public showing little interest in the poll despite government efforts to persuade voters to participate. It's the first election since the legislature's powers were boosted by amendments to the constitution last year. Over the next three weeks, 12,000 candidates will vie for 462 seats in the People's National Assembly, with 23 million Algerians registered to vote. But in Algiers, few parties posted candidate lists on the boards reserved for them. Analyst Rachid Tlemcani predicted a "morose" election campaign and the lowest turnout in the country's electoral history, blaming "the economic and political situation and the fact that the public is fed up". Government-sponsored advertisements play in a continuous loop on Algerian television in a bid to attract a larger turnout than about the 43 percent who voted in last legislative poll in 2012. Today, with its coalition ally the Rally for National Democracy (RND), the FLN has a majority of seats in the house. Observers say they are likely to keep their majority after other parties said they would boycott the polls.

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Allies Of Syria’s Assad Say U.S. Attack Crosses ‘Red Lines’
By The Huffington Post, 09 Apr 2017

AMMAN (Reuters) - A joint command center made up of the forces of Russia, Iran and militias supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said the U.S. strike on a Syrian air base on Friday crossed “red lines” and it would respond to any new aggression and increase its support for its ally. The United States fired dozens of cruise missiles at a Syrian air base on Friday from which it said a deadly chemical weapons attack had been launched earlier in the week, escalating the U.S. role in Syria and drawing criticism from Assad’s allies including Russia and Iran. “What America waged in an aggression on Syria is a crossing of red lines. From now on we will respond with force to any aggressor or any breach of red lines from whoever it is and America knows our ability to respond well,” said the statement published by the group on media outlet Ilam al Harbi (War Media). U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, meanwhile, blamed Russian inaction for helping fuel the chemical weapons attack it had reacted to, saying Moscow had failed to carry out a 2013 agreement to secure and destroy chemical weapons in Syria. He said the United States expected Russia to take a tougher stance against Syria by rethinking its alliance with Assad because “every time one of these horrific attacks occurs, it draws Russia closer into some level of responsibility.” 

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