Wednesday, September 26, 2007

HOE EEN IRAANSE NEDERLANDER MIJ DREIGT AAN TE GEVEN BIJ HET IRAANSE REGIME!

(Normally I write this blog in English, this though concerns very much a Dutch topic. So today only in Dutch)

Je mag me uitschelden, me belachelijk maken, mijn stukken slecht vinden. Allemaal geen probleem. Maar als een artikeltje op dit blog je niet zint, dan moet je niet gaan dreigen om mij aan te geven bij de Iraanse overheid in een poging om me ongewenst verklaart te krijgen in Iran. Dat overschrijdt niet alleen een grens, dat is simpelweg ranzig verraders gedrag.

Toch meent de Nederlandse Iranier Reza Atlaschi uit Rotterdam (zie foto) dat hij zo moet reageren op een van mijn vorige postings op Harryzzz (Ahmadinejad visits New York - lock up your daughters!). En voordat half Nederland direct weer gaat zeiken over moslim fundamentalisten - Reza Atlaschi is GEEN islamist, maar een radicale Perzische nationalist. Hij werkt als consultant bij het bedrijf Inter Access in Hilversum.

Onder het pseudoniem “Nederanier” laat Atlaschi op het weblog van NRC correspondent in Iran, Thomas Erdbrink, veelvuldig allerlei commentaren achter. N.a.v. mijn Iran stukje op Harryzzz schrijft Atlaschi op het weblog van Erdbrink:

“Ik zou wel eens ongevraagde adviezen willen geven aan de Iraanse overheid welke NLse journalisten/media als “ongewenst” te verklaren en niet toe te laten…. hij zou zeker op zo’n lijstje komen.”

En voor de duidelijkheid; “hij” ben ik.

Omdat ik journalist ben, bel ik Reza Atlaschi op vanuit Beirut, waar ik woon. Atlaschi is, vanzelfsprekend, in eerste instantie verrast dat zijn "Nederanier" dekmantel voorbij lijkt.

"Eh...Hallo," zegt hij.

Aangezien ik geen zin heb in een eindeloze welles-nietes discussie over de situatie in Iran, stel ik hem slechts een vraag: "Staat u nog steeds de woorden die u over mij schreef?”

“Ik heb natuurlijk geen direct lijntje met de Iraanse autoriteiten,” aldus Atlaschi, telefonisch vanuit Nederland, “Maar ik sta voor de volle honderd procent achter mijn woorden.”

Vervolgens begint Atlaschi me uit te schelden: “Klootzak! Wie denk je wel dat je bent?! Mijn land zo beschrijven! Steek het maar in je reet! Je zet het leven van hoderdenduizenden mensen op het spel met die vuilspuiterij over Iran.”

Terwijl Atlaschi woedend door blijft schreeuwen hang ik maar op.

BIZAR

Wat het allemaal nog een beetje extra bizar maakt, is dat Reza Atlaschi zelf op z’n 16e (hij is nu begin 40) vanuit Iran naar Nederland is gevlucht en de Nederlandse nationaliteit heeft aangenomen. Goh, wat ontzettend joviaal om een journalist uit het land dat je heeft opgenomen, nu te willen aangeven bij de autoriteiten waar je destijds zelf voor bent gevlucht. Merkwaardige gast die Atlaschi.

Voor de duidelijkheid: Meneer Atlaschi hoeft heus niet iedere dag op z’n knieen omdat hij destijds door Nederland is opgenomen. Verre van dat. Net als iedereen heeft Atlaschi het volste recht om kritiek te uiten op Nederland, de Nederlandse media en dus ook op mij. Maar dreigen met aangeven bij de Iraanse autoriteiten – dat gaat niet een, maar tien stappen te ver!

Maar het wordt nog gekker. Want Atlaschi is de initiatiefnemer van het droommuseum. Dit is een virtueel museum dat via een website zich ten doel stelt: “(…) de mispercepties en de eenzijdige beeldvorming rond immigratie en immigranten in Nederland te neutraliseren door juiste informatie, aantrekkelijke presentatie en vroegtijdige educatie.”


Een journalist aangeven dus. Of “neutraliseren”. In deze context een veelzeggende woordkeuze.

Atlaschi deed met zijn idee van het droommuseum mee aan de Inspiratie en Integratie Award, een competitie die ieder jaar wordt georganiseerd door De Baak, het management centrum van het VNO-NCW. Atlaschi haalde met zijn droommuseum-idee de finale, maar won - de 10.000 euro prijs - niet.

CULTURELE WEERWOLF

Maar het blijft niet bij het bedreigen van een journalist. Noem Atlaschi een culturele weerwolf. Want overdag hangt hij de voorbeeldige migrant uit. Multi-culti tot op het bot, zo lijkt het. Interviews in Trouw en het AD over het belang van integratie en wederzijds begrip. Vloeiend Nederlands, een goede baan als consultant bij een computerbedrijf in Hilversum. En niet te beroerd om een oranje sjerp aan te doen tijdens de VNO-competitie.


Maar 's avonds, wanneer hij achter z'n computer kruipt, verandert Atlaschi in 'Nederanier', een, op z'n zachts gezegd, rancuneus en haatdragend figuur.

Afgezien van de bedreiging aan mijn adres, een paar voorbeelden:

Tijdens een discussie over de hoofddoek bij vrouwelijke politieagenten in Iran, meent "Nederanier" op 14 september van dit jaar dat zoiets ook een goed idee zou zijn voor Nederlandse politieagenten.

“Voor mannenelijke [sic] agneten [sic] ben ik meer voor een Burka, om de lelijke provinciale besnorde inteeltkoppen uit het zicht te onttrekken.”

Goh - Inteeltkoppen? Leuke taal van Mr. Droommuseum.

Atlaschi is fel anti-Arabisch. Iran is namelijk Perzisch, niet Arabisch. Op 17 september laat 'Nederanier' zich wel heel minachtend uit over die Arabieren die vanuit Irak naar Iran zijn gevlucht:

"(...) Iran is een soevereine staat en baas in eigen land, over haar grondgebied en haar onderdanen, als het die Arabieren niet bevalt kunnen ze lekker naar het democratische Irak voor een veilig en voorspoedig leven onder de militaire bezetting van hun meesters.

Ze mogen blij zijn dat ze gratis onderwijs kunnen genieten in Iran, thuis kunnen ze lekker Arabisch praten, Iran kent een officiele taal en dat is Perzisch, dus logisch dat de taal in het onderwijs Perzisch is."


Goh - volgens het droommuseum was de komst van alle migranten (dus ook Arabieren) toch zo'n positieve ontwikkeling. Of bedoelt Atlaschi eigenlijk alleen zichzelf?

In een discussie over een Iraanse strategie tegen het "vijandige Westen", stelt "Nederanier" geen olieboycot voor maar "een narco oorlog". Hij schrijft op 18 september dat Iran heroine uit Afghanistan moet doorlaten zodat Europa wordt overspoeld met drugs. Dit zal hier dan mooi leiden tot een groot aantal extra heroineverslaafden.

"Met olieboycot benadeel je ook jezelf, wat veel beter is: alvast een narco-oorlog. West Europa laten overspoelen met goedkope Afghaanse heroine. Waarom Iraanse levens op het spel zetten (bestrijden van drugssmokkel) om levens in het vijandige westen te besparen?"

Een vrijgeleide verlenen aan de Afghaanse drugssmokkel/druglords, vanaf de grens met Afgh. helemaal naar grens Turkije, rechtstreeks naar de Turkse drugsmaffia, misschien wel onder escorte.


Zo zal de straatprijs van heroine hier aanzienlijk dalen, waardoor heroineconsumptie enorm zal toenemen. Een deel van de potentiele soldaten die misschien wel ingezet zullen worden in operaties tegen Iran, zullen nu in een ander leger terecht komen: verslaafdenopvang bij Het Leger des Heils"


Goh - Wat een goed plan. Lekker veel junkie's - Fiets kopen!

Decennia van verblijf in Nederland heeft van Atlaschi een fan gemaakt van de omstreden Iraanse president Ahmadinejad.

Op 24 september schrijft "Nederanier":

"Dit is niet van mij maar van Hoder: Ik wou dat we een president hadden met A’nejads ballen en Khatami’s hersens

Op 27 september:

"Vind het wel heel slim van A’nejads regering om in Z. Amerika sterke banden aan te knopen met Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Cuba, Bolivia. VS zit in MO, Iran moet ook in de achtertuin van VS gaan zitten wroeten. Verder kan IRI een belangrijke/leidersrol spelen binnen de G15 landen."

En in de wereld van "Nederanier" is alles een complot natuurlijk. Op 28 september:

(...) Wat blijkt; Birma/Myanmar heeft de grootste gasreserves in Zuidoost Azië. (...) Ik zie toch echte veel parallellen met Iran….. begin argwaan te krijgen over de geode bedoelingen van die onschuldige monnikken en mevr. Suu Kyi(die als exlie jarenlang in UK heeft gewoond), en de krokodilletranen hier in het Westen."

Goh - leuke opmerking van iemand die destijds zelf gevlucht is voor de despoten. En uiterst verdacht natuurlijk: Suu Kyi heeft jarenlang in het Verenigd Koninkrijk gewoond!? Toe maar. Is dus niet meer te vertrouwen.

Gelukkig is Atlaschi een ware revolutionair in hart en nieren, een man van de barricaden! Hij zal heus niet jarenlang in het Westen zitten of bijvoorbeeld vijf dagen per week tussen Rotterdam en Hilversum op en neer reizen om zijn geliefde Iran te verdedigen.

SPAGAAT

Op 26 september legt 'Nederanier' uit wat zijn dilemma is (IRI is trouwens: Islamic Republic of Iran):

En dat is de moeilijke spagaat waar ik me in bevind, steun voor IRI tegenover zoveel agressie, propaganda en dubbele agenda vanuit VS-kamp enerzijds, en tegelijkertijd de misstanden in IRI waar Iraniërs slachtoffers van zijn moeten aanzien en zwijgen. Mijn keus is duidelijk: het gaat om een existentiële zaak, Iran zoals we nu kennen kan uiteen worden gereten door de necon agressie (zie Irak). Eerst moet dit gevaar gaan wijken (hopelijk definitief in 2009), dus eenheid is geboden. Daarna kan de kritiek weer op IRI (binnenlands) worden gericht.

He, he - eindelijk eens iets oprechts van Atlaschi. Natuurlijk zit iemand die geboren is in Iran maar woont in Nederland tussen twee vuren wanneer er een conflict dreigt uit te breken. Grote levensvragen dringen zich op als: Wie ben ik? Waar behoor ik? Moet ik nu kiezen tussen twee werelden? En zo ja - waar ligt dan mijn hart, waar mijn verstand (en vaak belangrijker nog: Waar mijn ziel, m'n gevoel?).

Wat ik zelf heel vaak zie, is dat migranten in het Westen zichzelf ook nogeens opzadelen met een enorm schuldgevoel. Immers, zij zijn zelf vertrokken uit hun land van oorsprong en leiden nu een, relatief, gemakkelijk leventje. Dit terwijl al die anderen nog steeds in de bagger zitten en nu zelfs, heel misschien, gebombardeerd gaan worden.

Dat leidt opnieuw tot vragen, verwijten zelfs. Ben ik eigenlijk geen verrader van mijn oorspronkelijke cultuur? Over het algemeen zie je dat mensen dan - vanuit het veilige Westen - heeeeeel hard roepen dat ze voor iemand als Ahmadinejad zijn en juist heeeeeel erg tegen het Westen. Op deze manier weet iedereen tenminste dat je dan wellicht aan de verkeerde kant woont, maar heus wel aan de goede kant staat. Want, en dat is vervelend, meneer Atlaschi moet vanuit Rotterdam bewijzen dat hij pro-Iran is, een Iranier in Iran hoeft dat niet.

Op Atlaschi's droommuseum website, heeft hij, met grote letters, artikel 13 gezet van de Universele Verklaring Van De Rechten Van De Mens. Te lezen valt: Een ieder heeft het recht welk land ook, met inbegrip van het zijne, te verlaten en naar zijn land terug te keren.

Helemaal mee eens. Ik ben hem al veertien jaar geleden genokt uit Nederland omdat ik dat geleuter zat was. En de afgelopen jaren lijkt iedereen massaal moslim-afzeiken als hobby te hebben gekozen, dus gaat het nergens anders meer over. Geen probleem hoor. Maar postzegels verzamelen of, desnoods, golfen lijkt me beter.

Ik kan Reza Atlaschi hetzelfde aanbevelen. Als je zo intensief met Iran bezig bent (en overduidelijk Iran vreselijk mist), ga dan in Iran wonen en blijf niet in Nederland. En tegenwoordig is het nou niet heel ingewikkeld om gewoon te vertrekken uit Nederland. Een enkeltje Amsterdam-Teheran, vijf uur vliegen en je bent er.

NIET LEUK

Terug naar het dreigement van meneer Atlaschi aan mijn adres. Hij vond mijn Iran verhaal op Harryzzz niet leuk. Opnieuw, dat mag natuurlijk. Toegegeven, mijn woorden waren niet de meest gebalanceerde analyse van de huidige situatie in Iran. Maar gewoon een grappig, informatief en soms cynisch verhaaltje over en vanuit Iran. Ik bedoel dit is een blog – niet de New York Times of een zeventig pagina’s tellend rapport van een Iran studiegroep.

In de commentaar-sectie van de weblog van Thomas Erdbrink (de NRC correspondent in Teheran), begon Atlaschi, onder het pseudoniem “Nederanier”, over dat stukje op Harryzzz als volgt te zeuren:

“Stukje Harald Doornbos: Povere poging tot cynisme en hij heeft er weinig van begrepen getuige ”By the way, hardly anybody speaks English ” en nog in diezelfde alinea ” For instance, concerning Iran’s nuclear programme, many young Iranians in Tehran told me: “You really think Ahmadinejad only wants nuclear energy? Yeah, right - are you stupid or so? Of course he wants The Bomb!” In welke taal hebben die jongeren hem dat verteld dan??? Doorsnee NLse perssukkel die voor komiek wil doorgaan blijkbaar, waardeloos stuk, zonde van mijn tijd.

Daarop reageert “Loes” (Loes Bijnen, voormalig mensenrechtenspecialiste van de Nederlandse ambassade in Teheran)

"@Nederanier
Harald Doornbos schreef al eerder stukjes vanuit Iran waaruit bleek dat hij weinig van het land begreep. Ik wist soms niet wat ik las, zulke onzin was het. Toch waren zijn reportages uit Zuid-Libanon tijdens de Israel-Hezbollah confrontatie heel aardig, spannend zelfs. Hij kan wel schrijven, maar schoenmaker blijf bij je leest. Ik geef ook geen commentaar op artikelen over Paraguay, om maar eens een land te noemen.”



Tot zover heb ik absoluut geen probleem met “Nederanier” en “Loes”. De eindeloze stroom bagger die journalisten over zich heen krijgen is niets nieuws. De boodschapper heeft het toch altijd gedaan. Met de intrede van Internet is dat alleen maar erger geworden. Lekker anoniem commentaar leveren vanuit je luie stoel op al die journalisten die eindeloos hun best doen om door allemaal kut landjes te reizen (die over het algemeen helemaal geen pottekijkers willen hebben) in een poging de rest van de wereld tenminste een beetje te informeren. Dat dit niet altijd een perfect gebalanceerd en volledig verhaal oplevert – tja. Big deal. Dit gebeurt al eeuwen en overal.

(Trouwens, ik ben nu al geinteresseerd in het laatste artikel dat de Iraanse media hebben gepubliceerd over Nederland. Hoofdstad: Eindhoven. Bevolking: 10 miljoen hoeren, zes miljoen homo’s, 86 procent Joden. Bijnaam: Sodom en Gomorra). Natuurlijk hoor je Reza Atlaschi nooit over het volledig ontbreken van enige persvrijheid in Iran.

Maar goed – kritiek geven vanuit de luwte is een stuk makkelijker dan berichten uit de storm, iets dat ik nu al 14 jaar doe - permanent leven en werken in Bosnie, Kosovo, Pakistan, Afghanistan en nu het Midden Oosten.

Maar de daarop volgende reactie van de “Nederanier” op “Loes” schoot me dus echt in het verkeerde keelgat.

“@Loes:
Ik zou wel eens ongevraagde adviezen willen geven aan de Iraanse overheid welke NLse journalisten/media als “ongewenst” te verklaren en niet toe te laten…. hij zou zeker op zo’n lijstje komen.”


Vervolgens reageert Erdbrink, de maker van het blog, met een waarschuwing aan het adres van “Nederanier” en met het verzoek om dit soort dreigementen achterwege te laten.

"Nederanier” reageert daarop als volgt:

@Thomas:
"Ik sta 100% en onvoorwaardelijk achter wat ik heb gezegd.
Uit respect voor je persoonlijk en dit forum beperk ik met tot:
27 jaar leugens en desinformatie en beledigingen aan het adres van Iran moeten aanhoren en lezen via de NL pers…. dat laat pas een nare bijsmaak na."


Daarop roept Thomas Erdbrink de “Nederanier" nogmaals op om hiermee te stoppen. Waarop “Nederanier” schrijft:

"1)Alsof ik een directe lijn heb met de iraanse veiligheidsdienst.
2)Harald Doornbos is meerdere keren in Iran geweest, dus hij heeft z’n ontgroening al gehad. En het gaat om niet om die sukkel, het gaat me om gemakzucht van clowns die jouw vak bedoezelen en besmuiken en mijn land te kakken zetten."


Sorry meneer Atlaschi, Iran te kakken zetten is mijn goed recht. Dat heet vrijheid van menigsuiting en persvrijheid. Niets in mijn verhaaltje over Iran is gelogen, alleen de laatste alinea betreffende president Ahmadinejad is door mij een beetje overdreven neergezet. Maar nogmaals, dit is een blog.

Tot nu toe ben ik in mijn leven alleen maar joviale Iraniers tegen gekomen. Reza Atlaschi is de eerste tegenvaller. En omdat hij me dreigt aan te geven bij de Iraanse autoriteiten, zeg ik tegen meneer Atlaschi: Succes er mee, als u het op prijs stelt stuur ik u een copie van mijn paspoort.

Maar wanneer ik tijdens mijn volgende bezoek aan Iran ergens in de gevangenis beland en word opgesloten met een stel Britse matrozen of Iraans/Amerikaanse wetenschappers, dan weten we wie we daarvoor kunnen bedanken.

Handige weblinks bij dit verhaal (gebruik rechtermuisknop, klik 'open in nieuw venster'):

Droommuseum van Reza Atlaschi hier

De zeer leesbare weblog Onze man in Teheran van NRC correspondent Thomas Erdbrink hier

Ook zo'n hekel aan je buren of andere vervelende figuren? Verklik ze of geef ze aan hier.

Word lid van de NSB - duizenden gingen u reeds voor! Hier.

VNO site met de Inspiratie voor Integratie wedstrijd hier.

De fascinerende wereld (overdag tenminste) van Reza Atlaschi hier.

He, he - eindelijk een serieus verhaal over Iran op Harryzzz hier.

De reden van Atlaschi's woede hier.

Laatste nieuws - Stop de perzen! Vergeet Volkskrant of NRC (en al helemaal de NY Times), blijf op de hoogte van ontwikkelingen in de wereld middels de Tehran Times, hier.

Harald Doornbos

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

These funny Iranians...

Iranian president Ahmadinejad doesn't seem like the funniest guy in the world. But luckily, humour can be found on the streets of Iran. Here three pics I took during a trip to Iran...

No VIP, but CIP at Imam Khomeini International Airport, Tehran.


At the Imam Khomeini mosque in Tehran, a salesman offers religious souvenirs and, of course, Darth Vader - the Master of Darkness.


A bus, parked in front of the burial site of Imam Khomeini, just outside Tehran.

Harald Doornbos

Monday, September 24, 2007

Ahmadinejad in New York - lock up your daughters!

As you are reading these words, you will hear a part of a rather famous song about New York. Don't worry, it only lasts for 30 sec.
(And I'll remove this song on Tuesday. In case you want to cut it now, hit 'pause' on the right side of your screen).

Anyhow...

I always like to travel to Iran, so I guess Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is equally exited about his trip to New York. I mean, a change of environment keeps life interesting, doesn't it?

And interesting it will be for Mr. Ahmadinejad. Not only because of his speech at the United Nations, but also because - holy moly - Tehran seriously differs from New York.

While New York never sleeps, Tehran seems to do mainly that: Sleep.

Bloody hell, it is just such a booooring city. This of course viewed from a Western perspective (I can't help it - I'm European).

If you want to escape the rat-race in the West, please visit Tehran.

First, the pro's. It has wonderful museums, beautiful mosques, extremely friendly people and you can ski during winter.

Iran is surprisingly modern. No, this isn't Afghanistan or the Arab world. Iran reminds me more of Turkey or, let's say, current Bulgaria. There are flat screen TVs in the metro, loads of people have computers. And while the girls carry headscarves, most guys carry cellphones with (illegal) porn movies on it. The countryside of course is more backward. That is not typically Iranian though. Try Kentucky.

The girls in Tehran are - believe it or not - very flirty. And beautiful too. Looking is ok, but touching is out of the question. According to Iranian law, sex between a muslim and a non-muslim is punishable by nothing less than death. This though might be another reason to visit Iran: If you are into risky sex, this could be your walhalla.

But let me continue with the positive points. Tehran's metro is ten times cleaner and more modern than the tube in NYC (There is a catch though - just like with buses, women and men travel in separate carriages. For some kind of reason the Iranian government seems to think that their own population will organise massive orgies the moment the sexes are mixed). But there is hardly any crime and ten dollars gives you around 250 glasses of orange juice, although I might be exaggerating a little now.

But this all comes with a price.

No bars (not allowed). No alcohol (banned - no problem for this total abstainer..). No concerts (western music forbidden, some sitar stuff allowed). No free press (it takes honestly less time to read an Iranian newspaper than to turn on my computer - only Ahmadinejad stories, quran quotes and soccer). Endless and utterly boring documentaries on TV (or soccer matches from Germany's third league...truly fascinating). No normal Internet (most things 'unmoral', like sex or democracy are blocked).

By the way, hardly anybody speaks English (English in Iran is kind of politically incorrect, the regime promotes Farsi - foreign influences are discouraged). But don't think Iranians aren't aware of what is happening around the world. Most people are, for instance, very, very critical of their own president. For instance, concerning Iran's nuclear programme, many young Iranians in Tehran told me: "You really think Ahmadinejad only wants nuclear energy? Yeah, right - are you stupid or so? Of course he wants The Bomb!"

On the streets of the capital, the only thing you see are veiled women (veil is compulsory, for non-muslim women as well). Highly moralistic religious slogans on every street corner (aren't they ever getting tired of all that preaching?). And, the only thing people seem to eat are pistachio nuts (actually, after oil and gas, pistachio nuts are Iran's second most important export product worth 700 million usd a year; oil/gas yearly around 55 billion usd).

So, yes, Iran - and I am not cynical now - is a beautiful and fascinating destination. And - again surprise, surprise - people from Europe and the US get a visa upon arrival at Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKIA, not IKEA). Yes, you heard it correctly - even US citizens DON'T NEED a visa to visit Iran; you'll get it immediately the moment you get to immigration (cost of a visa is around 50 usd, max seven days stay, not possible to extend).

Those seven days are perfect. Enough to get a glimpse of Tehran and other parts of the country. And just not enough to get you killed by this disease called Iranian boredom. Because there ain't any nightlife in Tehran. Sunset means prayer time and then either to bed or watching TV (another three hour nature documentary on the Divine Beauty of Clouds).

That is why I would not be surprised when president Ahmadinejad, after arrival in his hotel room in New York, will stay up the whole night.

Endlessly ordering popcorn and hamburgers and checking out pay-TV. Having wild pyjama pillow fights with his bodyguards and checking this website (like all blogspot.com's blocked in Iran) to listen again and again to that fascinating song called New York, New York.

Because:

"If I can make it there,
I'll make it anywhere.
It's up to you,
New York..New York."


Harald Doornbos

Saturday, September 22, 2007

For a lazy weekend: The first three minutes of 'The Hunting Party'

Here the first three minutes of The Hunting Party. The movie - starring Richard Gere - is very loosely based on the experiences of me and four friends in Bosnia.



A recent post on Harryzzz explains the story behind The Hunting Party, click here.

Thanks to Erik Schmidt for info.

Harald Doornbos

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Great news for Lebanon's opposition - another MP is killed!

Here in Beirut - chaos. Another MP has been killed in East Beirut, where I live. This time Antoine Ghanem, a pro-government MP.

That is great news for the Aoun-Hezbollah opposition here.

Why? Because the opposition now only needs to kill another four pro-government MP's and, voila, the government will have lost its majority in parliament. Long live Middle Eastern democracy!

(Aoun is anti-Lebanese government and neutral towards Syria, Hezbollah is very anti-Lebanese government and very pro-Syrian, and Iranian, of course).

Just take a look at the list of Lebanese politicians killed since 14th februari 2005 (The day ex-PM Rafik Hariri was blown up). Although nobody has ever claimed responsibility for any of the killings it is pretty obvious who is behind all the killings...

Antoine Ghanem, MP (Maronite christian, pro government, anti-Hezbollah, anti Syrian)

Walid Eido, MP (Sunni muslim, pro government, anti Hezbollah, anti Syrian)

Pierre Gemayel, MP and Minister of Industry (Maronite christian, pro-government anti Hezbollah, anti Syria)

Gebran Tueni, MP (Maronite christian, pro-government, anti Hezbollah, anti Syria)

Rafiq Hariri, former PM (Sunni muslim, pro-government, anti Hezbollah, anti Syria)

Outside politics:

Baseel Fleihan, ex-Minister, wounded during Hariri attack, died later in hospital (I mistakenly took Mr. Fleihan for a Sunni muslim, he was though a protestant [see comments], pro-government, anti Hezbollah, anti Syria)

George Hawi, ex-leader Communist Party, (had problems with Syria)

Samir Kassir, writer/ journalist ( pro government, anti Hezbollah, anti Syria)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Give Fatah al Islam a phone call….

Salim Abu Taha, the spokesman of the Al-Qaeda inspired group Fatah al Islam in Lebanon, was supposed to be dead. He died, according to the Lebanese media, a couple of weeks ago during heavy fighting around the Nahr al Bared refugee camp in the north of the country.

That obviously wasn't true. Because Abu Taha was arrested this saturday by Lebanese authorities, hiding in the bushes outside the camp. This all two weeks after the Lebanese army defeated Fatah al Islam and took the camp. A couple of days ago we saw the same saga concerning Al Absi, the leader of the group. First he was killed, then he escaped, later he was dead again and his body identified by his wife. DNA made it eventually clear that it wasn't Al Absi after all.

So HARRYZZZ now gives you the unique opportunity to check yourself what happened to Abu Taha. Here is his mobile telephone number:

Readers in Lebanon call: 70-816085
Readers outside Lebanon call: 00 961 70-816085

I've spoken to Salim Abu Taha a couple of days before the fighting broke out in May this year. He is somewhere in his late twenties, early thirties. And to me he was very polite and friendly.

I can guarantee this is his cell phone number, but I have no clue if he will pick up the phone. Last time I tried (during the fighting) a recorded voice said: "This telephone is switched off, please try again later."

Well, good luck and let me know if you managed to speak to the guy! Please ask him if is he is free, arrested or dead (or went undercover to Kenya).

Harald Doornbos

Friday, September 14, 2007

INSIDE AL-QAEDA'S BRAIN (III)

If you haven't read part I and II of INSIDE AL-QAEDA'S BRAIN, you first might want to read part I here and part II here.

III

This feeling of loneliness and of isolation does not lead to any despair among the faithful. On the contrary. Over and over, Al-Qaeda-members are taught about the year 622. In that year, as the story goes, during the hijrah (the emigration), the prophet Muhammad was thrown out of Mecca by its city council. Muhammad and his followers – who literally were the fist muslims on earth – were banned from Mecca and fled to the city of Medina.

Two years later, the Mecca city council sent its army into the desert (towards a hamlet called Badr) hoping to permanently crush Muhammad and his, by then, army of a few hundred muslims. Although Muhammad was outnumbered by the Meccan attackers, the prophet of Islam won the Battle of Badr. This was of course the best PR Muhammad could have wished for. “Look,” he and his followers said, “God is obviously on our side! How is it otherwise possible that we defeated a much stronger enemy force?” Six years later, Muhammad – backed now by a much larger army – conquered Mecca and safeguarded Islam.

The Battle of Badr plays a crucial role in Al-Qaeda’s philosophy. It isn’t a coincidence that the perpetrators of the attacks of 9/11 were told by the leadership to mumble Badr-related verses from the quran right before hitting their targets
“This battle gives Al-Qaeda enormous inspiration,” according to Yosri Fouda, a journalist for Al-Jazeera and himself a muslim. He wrote a book about two of Al-Qaeda’s top commanders responsible for the preparation of 9/11. He writes: “They view themselves as a small group of fighters who, just like Muhammad, will be victorious against all odds and safeguard Islam.”

But, please, do not view Osama bin Laden as a primitive who still lives in the seventh century. He might be hiding in caves, for ever talking about the year 622 and using horse and donkey as means of transportation, but he isn’t the backward one.

The backward, the ignorant people are you – christians and Jews. Those who keep on living in the past, in a primitive state of rejection of the truth.

You still follow? Let me explain. Al-Qaeda fully understands that there weren’t any muslims before the year 622. Monotheistic, Abraham-inspired religion, starts with Judaism around 5000 years ago. Abraham (Ibrahim in Arabic) is considered a prophet in Islam and by Al-Qaeda.

Then, around 2000 years ago, Jesus showed up. In Islam, he is considered a prophet too (Isa in Arabic). With the appearance of Jesus, Jews should have made the “logical step” of becoming followers of Jesus (in other words, become christians). By refusing to do so, Jews rejected the prophet Isa (Jesus) and clung to their – by now – backward religion. Rejecting Isa turned Jews into ignorant people.

Only a handful of Jews did support Isa (Jesus) and they created, against all odds, a very successful religion called Christianity. No problem with that, Al-Qaeda says. But then, in the year 622, the prophet Muhamamd appeared. As Muhammad is considered the last prophet (and the one who received god's final words - the quran), this moment should have signaled an en masse conversion of christians to Islam. So while Jews made a catastrophic mistake by not accepting Christianity, christians made an, equally, crucial mistake by not converting to Islam. This, In Al-Qaeda’s worldview, makes Jews and christians backward, ignorant people. They, willfully, refuse to see the truth.

Actually, mainstream Islam in the Middle East considers Jews and christians very much the same. The main difference though between Al-Qaeda and mainstream Islam is seen in its response towards kaffirs or non-believers. While Al-Qaeda will actively hunt (and kill) for christians and Jews, the vast majority of mainstream muslims in the Middle East shrug their shoulders and have basically no real problems with local christians and Jews (which isn’t the same as lacking negative feelings towards The West or Israel of course. And there is more: Converting from Islam to any other religion is in all Middle Eastern muslim countries forbidden by law and - in most cases - punishable by death. And muslims will - hardly ever - marry a christian. Same the other way around by the way. "If my daughter ever marries a muslim - I will kill her," a maronite Arab told me recently here in Beirut. Don't forget, this is the Middle East).

That said; even to Al-Qaeda, christians and Jews – being monotheistic religions based on Abraham - are people of the book (mentioned in the quran). This is not the case with Hindu’s, Buddhists or – the worst – communists, secularists or atheists. Members of these religions or ideologies are, principly, Al-Qaeda's biggest enemies. To believe in the wrong god is one thing, to believe in no god, goes beyond their belief. If I ever will be captured by Al-Qaeda (which I sincerely do NOT hope), I’d rather tell them the story of how I attended a christian high school than how I, as a university student, worked for a semi-communist newspaper.

After the weekend: part IV

Harald Doornbos

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Is Lebanon becoming a country of SUV-driving beggars?

What's new? Well, Lebanon wants money - again.

This time the Lebanese government wants 400 million dollars from the international community to rebuild the Nahr al Bared camp. Saudi Arabia is considering the request. 400 million dollars? That would equal 100 usd for every Lebanese, or 13.000 usd for every Palestinian (Now I understand why having 12 children is a smart move!)

This of course, after, in June this year, the Lebanese government wanted to have extra weapons, jeeps and ammunition, worth millions, from the international community to fight Fatah al Islam extremists in the camp.

Two weeks ago, Lebanon wanted - and received from the US - a few hundred brand new four wheel drives for the Lebanese army.

Last year, Lebanon wanted - and received - 4 billion dollars from the international community to rebuild the destruction created by the summer war between Hezbollah and Israel.

This has been going on already for many years. UN, IMF, Worldbank, US, Saudi Arabia, EU, Iran. Mention the word Lebanon and they all are getting acute headache. Every time the 'poor' Lebanese screw up their own country, the rest of the world has to pay for it.

Every time something goes wrong here - the government or Hezbollah (thanks to our Iranian friends) go on an international begging spree and collect again several hundreds of millions of dollars.

And they are smart (and corrupt), these Lebanese.

Hezbollah says to Iran: "You want the US and these Sunni bastards to win in Lebanon?". And here come the suitcases with euro's from Tehran.

The government says to the US and Saudi Arabia: "You want the Shi'ite scum or Al-Qaeda to win?" The next day, it is raining checks signed in Washington and Riaad.

This beggar-mentality, in the long run, doesn't lead anywhere. Of course, now its great to get all this cash. Shopping, new cars, fancy dinners, real estate - lovely. But the world is quickly loosing its respect for this country and its inhabitants.

Especially if you consider that 15 percent of all cars in Beirut are, almost all, brand new SUV's! Around 5 percent is either a new Porsche, Mercedes or BMW. Man, there are more Hummers (shiny yellow or i-have-got-a-small-penis black) driving around in Beirut than in Baghdad (dusty army green).

My suggestion: Confiscate every SUV, Porsche or Hummer. Sell that stuff and rebuild the Nahr al Bared camp, fix the army, pay policemen and teachers a decent salary, get electricity to poor areas and start factories to create jobs! It also might help to stop kidnapping Israeli soldiers.

The Lebanese can endlessly complain about foreign interference in their country. Strange, isn't it? When everybody else (except you) is paying the bills - don't be surprised when these powers want and get influence. In life, nothing comes for free. It is either shopping and SUV's or real independence.

Harald Doornbos

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Good news from the Middle East: Harryzzz on CNN website

More and more blogs and news sites all over the world are referring to harryzzz! Especially from Turkey - which is a huge honour! But now even mighty CNN.com started linking to this little blog.

The thing is though, that CNN still owes me 40 usd. Why? Well, in my, by now, rather extended life, I have done ONE story for CNN. And no, it wasn't recently. Somewhere in the last century, there was news from Kosovo. The CNN correspondent was on a holiday, his replacement absent, the third guy didn't pick up his phone (or was dead, I really don't know). So they eventually called me.

It went like this. My phone rang, I heard a male voice saying: "Hello, is that Harald Door... (inaudible)..whatever...this is CNN in Atlanta."

I said: "Yep, very funny Chris." And hung up..

I was convinced the caller was Chris Stevens, a rather hilarious correspondent working in Kosovo for The Scotsman and other British newspapers. He was a notorious joker (until he threatened an Albanian guy who turned out to be a violent local rebel commander).

One minute later my phone rang again

"Hey, this is CNN from Atlanta, don't hang up. I am not Chris."

I thought: "D'OH."

One hour later I, nervously, filed a little report over the phone. I never got paid for it (as so often in journalism). A couple of days later, somebody told me that CNN pays around 40 usd. "That's even worse than Radio Rotterdam," I said and forgot about it.

Well, eventually, ten years later CNN has "paid" by linking harryzzz. Check it out here (click on from the blogs at bottom of CNN page and the link will appear)

Harald Doornbos

INSIDE AL-QAEDA'S BRAIN (2)

In case you haven't read part I, it might be a good idea to read yesterdays posting first (just scroll down a little)

II

Because of Bashir Uddin’s silent nature, it makes more sense to take a left and visit Bin Laden’s friend Khalid Khawaja. This former ISI officer and ex-air force man makes up for Bashir Uddin’s absence of words. Because Khawaja, in his mid-fifties, is a talker. Oh, a big talker.

He helped Bin Laden during the jihad against the Russians in Afghanistan. And more recently, in 2001, Khawaja was the mediator between the Al-Qaeda/Taliban regime and a group of infuential Pakistani religious leaders. The aim was to get Bin Laden to leave Afghanistan and avoid, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, an American onslaught on Afghanistan. That mission failed miserably. Since then, Khawaja has been helping Al-Qaeda members and their families in Pakistan who ran into trouble with the law.

Khawaja isn't liked by Pakistan's military any more. Especially because he once was one of them. And his, suspected involvement, in the beheading of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, hasn't helped either. His open adoration for Bin Laden is a huge embarrassment to Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf. This because Khawaja isn't some kind of village idiot who resides in a remote part of Pakistan. No, Khawaja speaks perfect English, lives in Islamabad and - as stated before - loves to talk to anybody who wants to hear his voice. Every now and then, Khawaja gets arrested, to be release a couple of weeks later.

Khawaja is waiting for me outside the door of his apartment. For some kind of reason, in the hall next to the stairs, somebody has put a table tennis table.

“Oh, the attacks in Madrid [the Al-Qaeda trainbombing in 2004, killing 191, wounding over 1000] were an enormous success,” he begins, “An eye for an eye. The Spanish government has pulled its troops out of Iraq. I’m telling you [With you he doesn't specifically mean me, but the West, or more generally: Unbelievers, h.d.]: This is the beginning of our victory, just like our fight against the Russians in Afghanistan.”

Khawaja goes on: “There will be hundreds of attacks in Europe – another hundred Madrid's. And you can not beat us. We have a superior ideology. Who the hell are you guys? Where do you stand for? Your soldiers don’t have a heart for the matter, they only fight for money, which makes them professional killers. We fight for God and for God only.”

In order to avoid his wife, mother and daughters, we now move to the guest room of the apartment. Khawaja orders a servant to bring tea and cake. In the meantime, I show Khawaja an issue of Newsweek containing a cover story on the Al-Qaeda attack in Madrid. Pictures of total destruction and utter suffering. Images of the dead, the wounded and the shocked. I tell him I see madness, innocent people, terror.

Khawaja doesn’t agree. “The real perpetrators are responsible for this,” he claims, “America, the Jews, Satan.”

As Khawaja looks at the pictures in Newsweek, I ask him:

“What does Europe have to do to avoid such Al-Qaeda attacks in the future?”

“Madrid,” answers Khawaja, “was the result of the battle between the slaves of God and you – the slaves of Satan. Surrender to God and the attacks will stop.”

“But religion isn’t important for us,” I try, “And nobody wants to become a muslim.”

“Look,” Khawaya says, “That is your big problem. That is the power of Satan over you. Islam gives you the right for liberation. Nobody deserves to be ruled by the devil. Accept Muhammad, peace be upon Him, as the last prophet and as the messenger of God. We will help you to reach justice. The time will come that we shall liberate you from your oppressors. We will liberate you from democracy. People do not have the right to rule, that is only to God.”

The battle between good and bad, between God and Satan, truth and lie, and believers and kaffirs – unbelievers – are already central themes in the Quran, let alone in Al-Qaeda’s beliefs. Al-Qaeda considers itself an organisation of hardcore idealists, of Utopians. They only want to do good by implementing God’s laws on earth.

Its members ask themselves often the following question: How is it possible that the rest of the world doesn’t see the truth; doesn’t want to accept God’s will on earth?

Worse even: Many muslims willingly choose the wrong side.

The governments of Saudi-Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan are all pro-American and serve Satan. Even the Syrian government is satanic. For sure, they might be enemies of the US. But the Syrian government is secular. Just as bad. Or take Iran. Very, very anti-America. But its inhabitants and government are shi’i, not sunni. In other words: Satan-worshippers. Even the Hamas government in Gaza is quickly loosing Al-Qaeda's support. "We caution some of the Islamic groups, among them Hamas, which are risking the bloods of their sons ... to cleanse and purify their jihad of contemporary jihadi pollutants," said Abu Yahia al-Libi in a 90-minute videotape, posted on the net, last Monday. "Patriotism, nationalism, shared unity, the supreme interest and other slogans ... none of these have any space in the religion of Allah the Glorious and the Great," he said, criticizing groups such as Hamas for "abandoning jihad and jumping into the ballot boxes." Another reason for Al-Qaeda's anger at Hamas is this: Hamas gets most of its money from "Satanic Iran". This qualifies Hamas, in Al-Qaeda's eyes, to be branded "heretics".

Sorry for delay, during the weekend: Part 3

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

My private Al-Qaeda plane...

It is a little freaky - especially on a day like September 11th. But I have my own Al-Qaeda plane.

I found this wooden, handmade, airliner in an Al-Qaeda compound, in December 2001, in Eastern Afghanistan. The village was called Hada, a couple of kilometers outside the town of Jalalabad.

In December 2001, the Al-Qaeda/Taliban regime had just been overthrown. Al-Qaeda militants (basically Arab-, Chechen- and Uzbek militants) were on the run. Local people informed me and some colleagues that Al-Qaeda families (the fighters lived in Afghanistan with their wives and children) stayed in one of the compounds.

As I entered the abandoned place, I could see rubble everywhere. Documents, papers, pillows, books, blankets. The place was a mess.

Then, my eye caught this wooden plane, laying somewhere in the rubble. It measured about 40 cm by 40 cm. The person that made the plane painted it half white, half blue. He put as well little windows on the side.

Wow, I thought, this is bizarre.

I don't know why this plane was made. To me, it looks like a children's toy, maybe made by one of the militants. But was it made before 9/11 so that the children could play with it and say: "Look, here goes daddy next week!". Or was it made after 9/11 so that the children could say: "Look, here went daddy!"

I don't know. But I remember that it freaked me out the moment I found it. I decided to take the plane with me and it now sits on a bookshelf in my study. A souvenir of the longest war the world will ever experience...

Harald Doornbos

INSIDE AL-QAEDA'S BRAIN (1)

The biggest misconception about Al-Qaeda is that its members are politically motivated. Of course, political Islam plays a role (especially in radicalizing future members). But Al-Qaeda is very much a medieval Doomsday cult with surprisingly little politics in it.

If you really want to understand what Al-Qaeda is all about, you have to step away from politics, away from life in the 21st century. Al-Qaeda is all about religion (rigidly imitating the Prophet Muhammad), cultural elements (keeping the Arab world and muslim South Asia as backward as possible) and an immense fear factor (for Western-led globalisation and its effects on the muslim mind).

It may sound a little cheap or simple, but basically Al-Qaeda consists of a bunch of madmen. Please read the follwing article I wrote on Al-Qaeda. It is based on a long article I wrote in 2004 for a Dutch magazine. I've added some new material. Due to its length, I will publish the text in four or five parts (otherwise it gets all too long - nobody will read it). Please find below, part one of:

INSIDE AL-QAEDA'S BRAIN

It may sound strange, but I can visit Al-Qaeda on foot.

Whenever I leave my street in the F-8 sector of the Pakistani capital Islamabad, I can either take a right or left turn. Going right leads me, within 500 meters, to the house of Sultan Bashir Uddin Mahmood, a nuclear scientist who once headed Pakistan’s nuclear programme but started freelancing for Osama bin Laden. Taking a left gets you, within 300 meters, to the apartment of Khalid Khawaja, a personal friend of Bin Laden and a suspect in the murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl.

Left or right - a former head of Al-Qaeda’s nuclear unit or a personal friend of Bin Laden? Not an easy choice.

Many times I have taken the right turn and visited Bashir Uddin’s house. But he, a friendly looking elderly man, isn’t the most talkative person in the world. Because not long after 9/11 he was picked up by the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, after the Americans found out that this nuclear scientist had met Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan (In the meeting Bin Laden had asked Bashir Uddin to build a nuclear device). During weeks of interrogation the ISI made it very, very clear Bashir Uddin should refrain from contact with the outside world. Since his release, he has, more or less, been placed under a light form of house arrest.

But I kept trying to interview him. I would knock on the gate of Bashir Udin’s property, but every time his servants told me to leave. Or I would approach him while Basir Uddin drove his car in or out of his compound. Again to no avail. He never said a word.

Basir Uddin was not only Al-Qaeda’s main nuclear specialist (it kind of helped that he had been the director of a nuclear power plant in Pakistan), but he was a writer too.

Mainly, his topics dealt with three things: God, the sun and pseudo-science. God – because Bashir Uddin was obsessed with God and seemed in love with the prophet Muhammad (He of course had written a book about the prophet). The sun – because, fascinatingly, the bringer of life was basically a star where thousands of hydrogen bombs exploded every second. Bashir Uddin had written a book about his theory that increased sunspots create war and violence in this world. And pseudo-science – because Bashir Uddin strongly believed in a combination of Islam and science, also called Koranic science. For instance, he suggested that energy could be extracted from Jinns (ghosts). This because, according to the Quran, Jinns might appear in the form of fire. And since fire is energy, Bashir Uddin was convinced that Jinns could be used to solve Pakistan’s energy problem. The Jinns, using special energy tapping machines, could as well fight along the Pakistan Army in a war against India.

His theories, especially the one with the Jinns, let other Pakistani scientists to the conclusion that religion had made Bashir Uddin barking mad. They called him professor crackpot.

At one afternoon though, a car stopped in front of my house and somebody stepped out carrying a couple of books. This person approached me and said: “Please take this as a gift from Mr. Bashir Uddin.”

I was given three books, all written in English by Bashir Uddin. One of them was called: Doomsday and life after death. According to the preface, the book is "A systematic study of the complex realities of life, life-after death and Doomsday; the ultimate faith of mankind and of the Earth, the Solar System and the Universe, in the light of the Holy Quran and the latest scientific findings; pointing out new horizons of thought for science; and developing a conprehensive understanding of the future, for believers and non-believers alike."

In the book, Bashir Uddin had written a message for me: “May Allah guide us on the right path”. Below the text, he had placed his signature.

After I received his books, I took a right turn, and visited – again – his house. He just had visited the mosque (something he very frequentely did) and I thanked him for his books. He never said a word. He only smiled and nodded.

Tomorrow part 2

Harald Doornbos

POLL RESULT: LET HARRYZZZ DEAL WITH THE SCUMMIEZZZ

There could, of course, only be one answer possible to the question on the right of your screen. 77 percent of voters would contact harryzzz in case they met Radovan Karadzic and Osama bin Laden in a bar (see poll, on your right). And, even better, they would hit both men in the balls.

Twelve percent of voters would arrest Bin Laden instead of Karadzic, six percent would go for Karadzic. Only one vote for the option: "Arrest Karadzic because he is a Serb". To me that seems a rather odd reason to arrest somebody.

Anyhow. I was called by a German/Spanish/Slovenian friend who came up with the best solution. Use the one set of handcuffs as follows: One goes on the wrist of Karadzic and one on Bin Laden's. That way you get rid of both scummiezzz and make 55 million usd (5 million for Karadzic, 50 million for Bin Laden).

Thanks to the voters and keep on hunting! BTW: Because of the low dollar and the strong euro, I might wait some time before apprehending both men.

Harald Doornbos

Monday, September 10, 2007

Pakistan: Politics and planes

He flew, he landed...and he got deported.

For sure the shortest, but not the best comeback for Pakistan's ex-PM Nawaz Sharif (Well, compared to Benigno Aquino, an opposition leader from the Philippines, Mr. Sharif got away pretty easily. Remember? Mr. Aquino was shot and killed right outside his plane, after he returned in 1983 from exile).

But why is president Musharraf so tough on Mr. Sharif? I mean, Mr Sharif is about Pakistan's dullest politician. Still, there are enough reasons.

First, Mr. Sharif had promised, in 2000, to stay in exile in Saudi Arabia for ten years. Second, he was told by a Pakistani judge to give up politics. Third, the political party supporting Musharraf, the PML-Q, derives from Mr Sharif's party, the PML (Pakistan Muslim League). And fourth, not unimportant, Mr Sharif tried to get Musharraf (and 200 others) killed in 1999.

This last point is the most important reason behind Mr. Musharrafs utter dislike for Nawaz Sharif.

Let's go back to 1999. In that year PM Sharif fired Mr. Musharraf, who was at that time the army chief of Pakistan. Musharraf was on a visit to Sri Lanka when he heard he got fired. Immediately after, an angry Musharraf boarded a commercial airliner and tried to get back to Pakistan. Just before the pilot of the plane carrying Musharraf (and 200 others - mainly tourists, workers and Pakistanis living in Sri Lanka) tried to land at Karachi airport, he was told by traffic control that the plane did not have permission to land. Earlier, traffic control received an order from PM Sharif not to allow Musharraf to set foot on Pakistani soil.

As it goes with planes, you only have fuel for a certain distance. So the pilot tried to go for another airstrip in the area. But again: No permission to land. By now rather desperate, the pilot tried to land at Karachi airport. But again, the control tower did not give permission. Only after troops loyal to Pervez Musharraf stormed the airport, the plane could touch down. The fuel level was so low, that the plane could have stayed only another seven minutes in the air. Sharif was immediately arrested and Musharraf staged his, bloodless, coup.

Read the details of this fascinating story here.

Pakistan Army song:


And because if was such an amazing event - The killing of Beningo Aquino:


Harald Doornbos

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Transcript of speech Osama bin Laden

I'm preparing a rather lengthy article on Al-Qaeda, to be published on - surprise, surprise - September 11th. It is based on my experiences and interviews with members and sympathisers of Al Qaeda in Pakistan and in Lebanon.

Due to popular believe, Al Qaeda is seen in many circles as a mainly political movement with a political agenda. Basically, these people say, Al Qaeda is an organisation which uses terror (or resistance) to give a voice to oppressed muslims. The moment the West stops oppressing muslims, Al-Qaeda will stop too.

I wish that was true. But it is, unfortunately, not the case.

Al-Qaeda is very much a medieval Doomsday sect with surprisingly little politics in it. If you really want to understand what Al-Qaeda is all about, you have to step away from politics, away from life in the 21st century. Al-Qaeda is all about a mix of religion (rigidly imitating the Prophet Muhammad), cultural elements (keeping the Arab world and muslim South Asia as backward as possible) and an immense fear factor (for Western-led globalisation and its effects on the muslim mind)

I wish Al-Qaeda was political. Then at least there would be an end in sight to the war. But, as I said, it is not and thus much more difficult to stop.

In his latest speech Bin Laden immediately makes my point. He asks himself how the War in Iraq can be stopped?

You might answer: Well, maybe if the Americans pull out of Iraq.

Or if the US would stop supporting Israel.

Or if the Palestinians get their own state.

Well, Osama's answer is none of the above. His solution: Either we step up our attacks and win the war militarily or you Americans reject your democratic system and embrace Islam.


Wow - that is soooo realistic. Luckily he doesn't want us to perform the silly walk during weekdays.

Anyway, hope you will read my article on September 11th(Tuesday). For those interested in Bin Ladens weird world, please read the full transcript of his speech:

"All praise is due to God, who built the heavens and earth in justice, and created man as a favor and grace from Him. And from His ways is that the days rotate between the people, and from His Law is retaliation in kind: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth and the killer is killed. And all praise is due to God, who awakened His slaves’ desire for the Garden, and all of them will enter it except those who refuse. And whoever obeys Him alone in all of his affairs will enter the Garden, and whoever disobeys Him will have refused."

For rest of speech: click here

You can get it as well in a pdf file, although the text is not very clear. for pdf, click here.

Harald Doornbos

Thursday, September 06, 2007

From Hollywood, with Love...

Thank god there is more in this world than the Middle East. So today a posting about my beloved Bosnia, where I lived for about eight years.

And it is a funky story. Because me and four journalist friends tried, in 2000, to catch Bosnian Serb war criminal Radovan Karadzic. You might remember this fascist asshole - responsible for the killing and cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Bosnian Muslims in the '90s. We didn't get Karadzic (Nor the 5 million dollar bounty), but we came pretty close (At least closer than the UN or NATO).

The hilarious part of it all is that Hollywood picked up the story and made a 40 million dollar movie about it called The Hunting Party. The main actor in the movie is nobody less than Richard Gere. And yes, I had to get a picture of me and Gere while we met at the set in Sarajevo.

The movie is currently shown to the public at the Venice Film Festival and will open today, Friday, in Los Angeles and as of September 14th in the rest of the US. Europe and other parts of the world will follow soon.

During shooting of the movie we, me and my four journalist friends, met Richard Gere and the other main actors, Terrence Howard and Jesse Eisenberg. All were actually really nice guys.

To spice it up a little, the five of us were invited by director Richard Shepard to play a very small role in two scenes. Man, acting ain't easy even if you only have three lines. But anyway, it was a great (though nerve wrecking) experience.

My buddy Philippe Deprez (one of the journalists) is currently in Venice to check the movie out, so I will hear from him if it is actually any good. As I am in Beirut, I haven't seen the movie yet. But I've been told our scene wasn't cut out. See below the trailer of The Hunting Party:

The movie is very, very loosely based on our real story. That doesn't matter though. It is already a huge honour for a journalist, especially if you're from a rather anonymous place like the Netherlands, when Hollywood picks up your story. Watch below Richard Gere on The Late Show talking to David Letterman about the movie:



To me the trailer looks great and I hope the movie is as good. I can't wait to see The Hunting Party. And I hope you will do the same. That said: Real life and Hollywood, unfortunately, differ. Karadzic still hasn't been caught. But I would love to see The Hunting Party II. Revenge is a strong motivator. So to everybody...Keep on hunting! (Karadzic is the right prick on this picture, Ratko Mladic the other one)

Here is a link to the story behind our Hunting Party.

This get's you to the official website of the movie.

Sarajevo Siege:

Miss Sarajevo (U2 and Pavarotti...who sadly passed away on Thursday):

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Army enters Tripoli

I kind of had upload problems, so here (a little late, but still nice to see) a 2.5 min video I shot of the Lebanese army entering Tripoli after the defeat of Fatah al Islam. Following is text and video I prepared on Monday:

So I thought the Lebanese army was a small army!? Well, no longer.

It looked like an endless stream of soldiers and their gear drove passed us in Tripoli, in Lebanon's north, on Tuesday. Jeep after jeep, tank after tank, APC after APC. If this is a small army, how does a large army look like?

But enough words. Just watch below a, rather chaotic, video I shot in Tripoli of the victorious Lebanese army entering town. Loud Arabic music (a little bit repetitive - guess the music guy had only one tape in his speaker system). Still, very good street party.



Later that day, this huge army convoy moved partly towards Beirut. Everywhere they arrived - again - large crowds along the Beirut-Tripoli highway. It took me around four hours to get back to Beirut. Who says people in the Middle East can't have fun? (Eh...30.000 Palestinians now without a home, Lebanese shiia who weren't celebrating at all, the war in Iraq, position of women in Saudi Arabia - and in every other Arab country, etc, etc.).

But enough with these depressive topics, today was finally time for some serious happy faces!

Harald Doornbos

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Exhausted


After having run around the Nahr al Bared camp for most parts of Monday, I'm kind of exhausted. Nothing compared to the soldiers of course, whose faces here show signs of total happiness or utter exhaustion. It is very clear the camp has been liberated. Most soldiers extremely relaxed. Saw long columns of Lebanese army tanks and trucks leaving the area.

During the afternoon though, a sudden fire fight erupted. Around half way the main highway (the one leading right next to the camp), around seven militants suddenly appeared and attacked some soldiers. Five militants were killed, two escaped. At the moment of the fighting me and my translator were around three kilometers away from the place where it all took place. So we couldn't see it. But we heard - for about half an hour - sporadic machine gunfire and around five loud explosions.
"Oh, don't tell me that it is still not over," my interpreter said.
"Oh please," I replied.

But after a while it was all quiet again. Due to this incident though, the main road was closed for around two hours. It just shows how volatile the situation here still is.

Well, it was a day filled with happy soldiers, although many had hearing problems. "Oh man," soldiers would tell you, "All these explosions during all these weeks kind of fucked my ears up."

A lot of walking too as we tried to get closer to the fighting and had to cross a lot of mud and the Nahr al Bared river - my shoes and pants are screwed now.

And - especially - a lot of waiting in insane traffic. It seems every Lebanese with a car wants to be around the camp.

Nahr al Bared is still strictly off limits for everybody except the Lebanese army. I have no clue when they are going to allow us in. Need some sleep now.

Big congrats though to all Lebanese soldiers who so bravely fought Al Qaeda - the Army of Mordor!

Harald Doornbos

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Nahr al Bared liberated - Northern Lebanon becomes one huge street party!

Well, it took a while. But after exactly 15 weeks the Lebanese Army has defeated Al-Qaeda inspired militants in the Nahr al Bared refugee camp (or what is left of it) in northern Lebanon. Fatah al Islam is no longer, the islamists have been crushed. Here is the story and some pictures I took.



I am currently (Sunday afternoon/evening) in the north and I can tell you: It is a total mess here! Literally thausands of civilians are standing, jumping and singing on the roads here in Tripoli, around 10 kms away from the Nahr al Bared camp. It looks like Lebanon has won the world cup soccer. A huge street party.




And Lebanon wouldn't be Lebanon if many civilians didn't run around with their private Kalashnikovs. Sooooo much shooting going on. This time not because of war, but because of celebrations. Man, my ears still hurt from all this firing in the air. That, by the way, doesn't only proof that the mainly Sunni population in Tripoli knows how to throw a party, it also shows that Shi'a Lebanese aren't the only ones owning guns in this country.




Anyhow, it is so completely crowded on the roads here (cars, army checkpoints, jubilant crowd) that I'm kind of stuck in Tripoli. Unfortunately I cant upload some pictures and video's I shot today. So the moment I arrive back in Beirut, hopefully later tonight, I'll post some nice pics and video's on this blog (I'm back in Beirut now. Put pics on this blog, video isn't gonna work - can't get my clips from my mobile phone uploaded to youtube. Some kind of different system...)




The party here will last until late. Soldiers are being hugged by the crowds. Everywhere a sea of Lebanese flags. People here are truly happy - and relieved - that it is all over. 158 deaths on the side of the Lebanese army - that's a lot. That's why Samir, 23, told me just now: "Fatah al Islam? - well fuck these guys. We won and we are very, very happy."




According to the Lebanese Army: Fatah al Islam leader Shaker al-Abssi was killed on Sunday. I'll try to visit Tripoli's morgue tomorrow to see it for myself.

Harald Doornbos