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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bahrain Crackdown Extends to Exhibit on Crackdown

An English-language statement from a Bahrain police spokesman on the raid on an exhibition in the capital, Manama, this week.

One day after the police in Bahrain raided the offices of an opposition party to confiscate materials being used in an exhibition on the security crackdown following the 2011 uprising, the authorities released a video statement in which a spokesman contended that the display of painting, spent tear-gas canisters and the belongings of dead protesters was being used to illegally “reinforce hatred.”

The opposition activist Ala’a Shehabi heaped scorn on the police spokesman’s attempt to justify the crackdown on remembering the crackdown, calling it a “tragicomedy.”

Two spokesmen for the party, al-Wefaq, denounced the raid on its “Revolution Museum” exhibit at a news conference on Thursday.

Before the exhibition was shut down, supporters of the uprising against the kingdom’s monarchy documented it on YouTube and in images posted on Twitter.

Video documenting an exhibition on the 2011 uprising in Bahrain that was raided by the authorities on Wednesday.

Organizers of the exhibition told The Associated Press that the panoramas and collections of personal items were inspired in part by the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem.

As my colleague Kareem Fahim reported, the crackdown on dissent seemed to escalate again last month with the arrest of Khalil al-Marzooq, a former member of Parliament and a leader of Wefaq, mainstream opposition group which had been engaged in dialogue with the government.

The struggle by activists to preserve memories of the uprisings across the Arab world in 2011 has been an ongoing theme in the region for the past two years. Last month, the British-Egyptian filmmaker Omar Robert Hamilton worked with the Cairo-based scholar and researcher Mohamed Elshahed on a video for the Guggenheim documenting the ephemeral Revolution Museum that has appeared and disappeared at moments of great upheaval in Tahrir Square.

A video report on the Revolution Museum in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

Toronto Police Chief Says Mayor Appears in Video Uncovered in Criminal Investigation

Video of Toronto’s police chief, Bill Blair, speaking to reporters on Thursday.

Toronto’s police chief, Bill Blair, revealed at a news conference on Thursday that Mayor Rob Ford “does appear” in a digital video file uncovered in the course of a criminal investigation into his friend and sometime driver.

Pressed by reporters, the chief refused to say if the images would substantiate allegations made earlier this year that the mayor had been caught on video smoking crack cocaine with drug dealers, but he called the file recovered from a hard drive this week, “consistent with that which had previously been described in various media reports.”

In May, the editor of Gawker, John Cook, reported seeing an excerpt from a video that appeared to show Mr. Ford using drugs and his site began asking for donations to raise $200,000 “to buy and publish the video.” Two reporters for The Toronto Star also described viewing a brief snippet of video “being shopped around Toronto by a group of Somali men involved in the drug trade.” The newspaper reported at the time that the video “appears to show Ford in a room, sitting in a chair, wearing a white shirt, top buttons open, inhaling from what appears to be a glass crack pipe.”

The police chief explained that the video would be presented in court as evidence in support of a charge of extortion against Alessandro Lisi, the mayor’s friend, who has also been charged with drug-dealing. Asked if he was shocked by the video of the mayor, Mr. Blair said, “I’m disappointed.”

As Toronto’s Globe & Mail reports, “The chief’s comments come on the same day it was revealed that the mayor was one of the targets of a months-long investigation known as Project Brazen 2, which resulted in charges against Alessandro Lisi, the mayor’s friend.” Surveillance images of the mayor were also released by the police along with hundreds of pages of information on the investigation into Mr. Lisi, the mayor and 17 other targets in the investigation.

The newspaper posted those court documents online and its reporters are live-blogging as they read through them.

Court documents on Mayor Ford's friend Alessandro Lisi

As journalists at both Gawker and The Star celebrated on Thursday, media observers pointed out that the case appeared to highlight the ongoing need in the Internet age of investigative, watchdog journalism to hold public officials accountable.

On a day of fast-moving news developments, Don Peat of The Star noted that reporters were waiting for the mayor to speak before a macabre, Halloween-themed backdrop.

In Saudi Arabia, Even Writing About Female Drivers Can Mean Trouble

A columnist in Saudi Arabia who published a commentary on women’s rights has been detained by the authorities as they cracked down on a campaign by the kingdom’s women this month to defy a ban on driving.

The columnist, Tariq al-Mubarak, wrote an article that was published in English on Oct. 7, and in Arabic the previous day, on the website of the international daily newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. In part, it says:

Tens of thousands of female students are learning what independence means, due to the several years they spend studying in the West. Young people, both men and women, have become responsible for building their personalities and giving a special meaning to their lives. This new self-regard is crucial to forming their hopes for the future, and it cannot be ignored simply because it is a cultural trait, especially in an open world such as ours today.

Those monitoring the language of women on social networks right now will notice a tone indicative of suppressed anger that results from the difference between their own sense of self and their position in the current social system. Their anger largely wells up from the need to recognize the individuality of women in the world we live in today, whether we like it or not. This individuality is being violated in several ways.

Women are viewed as a burden on men in many dealings with the government. They are unable to move around the cities in which they live unaccompanied by a man due to a lack of public transportation or restrictions on women driving cars. They sign up to a broken system of marriage â€" broken because of the values on which it was established and its authoritarian nature. And that is not to mention other issues, including divorce and child custody.

We need to reconsider some concepts of Islamic jurisprudence, keeping in mind the human dignity that has been endorsed by all religions.

Since he was detained, a petition calling for his release was started. Messages of support for him were posted on Twitter along with others, such as #women2drive, that are tracking the progress of and repercussions on Saudi women who have taken to the wheel to defy the ban.

Human Rights Watch, in a statement, said activists told the organization that on Oct. 27, the day after dozens of women drove in the organized protest campaign, Mr. Mubarak was summoned by the Interior Ministry’s Criminal Investigation Department to question him about his support for the movement.

Relatives of Mr. Mubarak told activists that he was taken into custody and has no access to family or lawyers, Human Rights Watch said.

Saudi women started the driving campaign in 2011, and had published videos of themselves driving in the kingdom. They announced in advance that Oct. 26 would be another attempt to get women behind the wheel.

The Saudi writer Ahmed al-Omran posted or linked to video as part of a recent report on his blog saying about 100 clerics went to the royal court just before the scheduled Oct. 26 driving protests in an effort to block them.

A Saudi writer posted on his blog a YouTube video of a Saudi cleric speaking about their opposition to women driving.

“The clerics came from around the Kingdom to meet the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and officials to indicate the serious risk facing the country,” Sheikh Nasser al-Omar said in one.

Another video of a cleric expressing the reason they were against women driving.

Sheikh Abdulrahman al-Mahmoud said, in part, “We came here for many issues, most importantly to combat Westernization and particularly women.”

Mr. Omran has also written about the Interior Ministry’s warnings before Oct. 26, which it referred to as an “alleged day of female driving.”

Mr. Mubarak, the journalist who was detained, is employed as a secondary schoolteacher. He has also written about how Islamic movements in the Gulf were engaging with the so-called Arab Spring changes sweeping through other countries.

Follow Christine Hauser on Twitter @christineNYT.