Tuesday, May 27, 2008

IRAQ SUMMER HIT - WITH SOME SUN, LIFE FEELS GREAT!

Breaking news in my native country the Netherlands: According to strong rumours (God has been speaking to me again....), temperature in Amsterdam tomorrow will hit 25 degrees Celsius (Maybe 30 degrees, maybe 22 - you never know).

Same thing in Iraq. Tomorrow Baghdad will be 41 degrees. Week from now: 45 degrees Celsius! (see graphic)

Except for hot weather, there is something else going on in Iraq.

First, it is not so extremely violent anymore.

Second: It is still pretty violent and it is still a WAR.

Journalists and audiences though are rapidly losing interest in the Iraq story. According to the New York Times, "collective coverage dropped to four minutes a week from 30 minutes a week at the height of coverage, in September 2007."

So, four minutes of Iraq news a week in every US living room...that's it! And I wouldn't be surprised if its only two or three in Holland.

That leaves you just enough time (2.39 min) to watch the following video I shot in Iraq in 2005. Story goes as follows: After Al-Qaeda guys have thrown a hand grenade towards an Iraqi family, US troops try to help these wounded Iraqi civilians. I was embedded with this American unit when it all happened. Clip is a little bit bloody. Luckily though, the lovely music makes it all worthwhile watching.

I can not agree more with this Dutch singer: Life is so much better whenever the sun shines... Please enjoy this Iraqi/Dutch Summer Hit!


You will find the full New York Times story (right click and open in new window) here

Harald Doornbos

Sunday, May 25, 2008

MUSLIMS SAVE EUROVISION CONTEST...

Our world is faced with many problems. International Terrorism for example. Or Iran's nuclear programme. Or, let's not deny it, the Eurovision song contest...

Luckily, this years contest, on Saturday in the Serbian capital Belgrade, was saved by three Muslim countries.

Bosnia, Turkey and Azerbaijan - soooo much cooler than the otherzzz...

The following guys and girls totally rock!

Bosnia:



Turkey:



Azerbaijan:



Harald Doornbos

Friday, May 23, 2008

WEEKS AFTER FITNA, ISLAMISTS EXPECT REACTION OF AL-QAEDA AGAINST HOLLAND

Geert Wilders should keep his bodyguards and wait booking an exiting holiday to Lebanon...

Because although there were, until now, no heavy handed reactions to his Fitna movie, influential religious leaders here in Lebanon are - weeks after Fitna was published - actively trying to create a response.

You can watch this all below in a reportage made by my fixer/translator Jenan Moussa. She was so friendly to give this blog the exclusive rights to her exclusive story.



Couple of main points in her seven minute reportage:

Most actively anti-Fitna is sheikh Raed Hlayhel, who also organized violent world wide protests against the Danish cartoons in 2006.

"Remember that the cartoons were published in September 2005 and the riots started in late January 2006," tells Hlayhel to Moussa (see a picture of her, on assignment in Beirut).

"Bin Laden leads certain Jehadi operations," continues Hlayhel, "He is wanted by the whole world, but still part of the Ummah [The community of Muslims]. When it comes to the prophet, what insults me also insults Bin Laden. I will respond by debating with my opponent, Bin Laden is going to respond by doing what he does." Interestingly, Hlayhel recently visited Saudi Arabia to coordinate possible actions against "those who keep on insulting the prophet".

Uuups....

Another character in Moussa's reportage is Omar Bakri, a notorious Al-Qaeda supporter who was kicked out of the UK and now lives in Lebanon.

Bakri also makes some points. First of all this: Al-Qaeda might attack Holland "to defend the honour of the prophet Muhammad".

"And", says Bakri, "The Quran clearly states: Anybody who swears or insults the prophet, kill him!" So yes, there is capital punishment [in Islam]."

On the other hand is Bakri happy with the Fitna movie "because it is part of the battle between Islam and non-Islam and the islamsts must capitalize on it to recruit more people."

Because Islam never speaks with one voice, Moussa also interviews a Muslim leader who is much more moderate.

Harald Doornbos

Thursday, May 22, 2008

FITNA: IT IS NOT OVER UNTIL IT IS OVER...

Even in Holland, most people have already forgotten about Fitna, the anti-Islam movie by Dutch MP Geert Wilders. But here in the Middle East some haven't.

Tomorrow on this blog an interesting little reportage made by my fixer/interpreter Jenan Moussa, here pictured while on assignment in Beirut, yesterday.

Moussa, herself a Muslim, recently interviewed well known religious figures in Lebanon about Fitna. Among them, Raed Hlayhel, the Tripoli-based mullah who orchestrated world wide muslim protest against the Danish cartoons. And Omar Bakri, a notorious Al-Qaeda sympathiser, who lost his British passport and now also lives in Tripoli, northern Lebanon.

Hlayhel, who recently travelled to Saudi Arabia to 'discuss actions against Fitna with fellow Muslims' warns people in Holland not to think it is all over. "Remember that the cartoons were published in fall 2005 and the riots started in January 2006," he claims.

Omar Bakri expects Al-Qaeda to respond to Fitna. "Bin Laden is serious," he claims.

Says Moussa: "I don't know of course what will happen. The reaction might come with Fitna, it might not come with Fitna. But little by little there is a build-up of lava and it is only a matter of time until the volcano explodes."

So don't forget to watch tomorrow!

Harald Doornbos

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

SOME PICTURES OF LEBANON'S RECENT TROUBLES...

For now, the Lebanese troubles have been exported to Doha in Qatar. Poor Qataris...

At the other hand, according to some, the government and the opposition have reached an agreement in Qatar. If true, that would be nothing less than amazing.

So these days Beirut is suddenly nice and calm.

Below some pics I shot during the recent troubles.

[You have to realize though that it is in 99.99 percent of the cases ABSOLUTELY FORBIDDEN by Hezbollah & Sons to make any pictures of their actions, troops, movements etc. Army- and pro-government people equally aren't very excited about the camera. But Hezbollah absolutely turns mental the moment they notice somebody with a camera (still or video, really doesn't matter).

Little example.

Hamra street, West Beirut. Friday. Heavily armed Hezbollah soldiers patrol the streets. Hezbollah guy walks up to me, and shows a handful of already confiscated flash memory cards. Then points at my camera and says: "Do not even try it..." That is, making pictures of what you see around you.

Couple of days later I aim my camera at three black SUV's. Uuups...Hezbollah convoy. A fourth car immediately tries to ram me. (Great of course, because I am on foot...). Bunch of smartly dressed guys jump out of the vehicles. One carries a little machine gun, other a trendy flag jacket. "Smash his camera," one of the men suggests. My interpreter pleads for the camera, I hand them the tape. They confiscate it. "Keep an eye on the guy," one of the men says, before jumping back in the black jeep and driving off.]

Ok, enough words. Here a couple of pictures.


Nora Jumblatt, wife of Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid. Photographed on Friday May 9th, in the couples' villa in Clemenceau, Beirut.


When I parked my beloved car (Audi A8) in front of this brand new building, on May 9th in Hamra, it was still, well, brand new.

When I returned, two hours later, some guys of the SSNP (pro-Syrian Arab fascists) had shot all the windows out of the first couple of floors of the building. This because, according to some, the building belongs to the Hariri family.

Something I of course did not know. My car, miraculously, survived. Lots of glass, no holes...


In Tripoli (Northern Lebanon) pro-government supporters drive around with on their car the Lebanese flag and a picture of Saad Hariri, son of the murdered ex-PM, Rafik Hariri. Just before we arrived in Tripoli, two buildings belonging to Hezbollah were burnt down. No pictures please...


Eh...doesn't the symbol on this SSNP flag, flying last week in West-Beirut, look a little bit similar to a swastika?

Yes. And that is not a coincidence.

Because the SSNP (the Syrian Social Nationalist Party) isn't a hardcore Hindu party, but was created in the 1930's, inspired by, well, you guessed it, Hitler and Mussolini.

The SSNP fuhrer was a Christian Lebanese who wanted to create Greater Syria (Syria including current Lebanon, parts of Iraq, Turkey and Jordan).

The SSNP is, together with AMAL, one of the main allies of the Hezbollah-led opposition. Their gunmen played an important role in the capture of West-Beirut.

A serious plus with the SSNP is that they aren't a religious organisation like many Lebanese political parties (For example, you have to be a Shi'ite Muslim to become member of Hezbollah's armed wing, the Islamic Resistance).

But a rather serious minus is the SSNP's adoration of extreme nationalism...

Didn't anybody tell these guys that Hitler LOST WW II?

BTW: Don't think that only Lebanon's opposition flirts with fascism. The current Lebanese government is supported by the, mainly christian, Falange party. Literally 200 meters from my house there's a statue of some Falange-leader doing the Hitler salute...To be fair though, the current Falange party is much more moderate than the guys who started it in - again - the thirties.

But, frankly, everyday I drive passed this Hitler salute-statue, I feel the urge to crash my (German made) Audi into it...

Harald Doornbos

Sunday, May 18, 2008

SILLY STUFF: HARRYZZZ NOT ONLY BAD SPELLER

Here clear evidence that Harryzzz isn't the only one with spelling problems in this world.



What to think of, according to AP, "a first FFFFFFFFisit" by Myanmar's top general to a relief camp....

Harald Doornbos

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

OPPOSITION CELEBRATES IN BEIRUT, AIRPORT TO REOPEN ON THURSDAY

At this moment (Wednesday night), I can hear very loud celebratory fire coming from the Shi'ite suburbs. According to Naharnet, the government of PM Siniora has revoked two measures concerning Hezbollah telecommunications network and the reassignment of the head of the airport security.

According to a good source of mine: Beirut international airport will reopen tomorrow.

So after a week of launching a mini-civil war, Hezbollah and their allies have won the telephone network and the general back. Wow, they must be so happy. Especially because they lost the respect of almost all other Lebanese...

Hezbollah said over and over again (for literally 19 years, since Taif-agreement): "We will never use our weapons against fellow Lebanese, only against Israel."

Really?

I was Friday in Hamra street. I saw heavily armed Hezbollah fighters with RPG's and machine guns. I walked with them. Saw how they arrested local guys. Saw and heard how they shot in the air. How they aimed their machine guns at anybody moving. How they shouted "We're gonna get the dog!" (Dog = Saad Hariri, who was 70 meters down the road stuck in his castle).

Anyhow.

The world is flat. Bush is a clever guy. Iran only wants nuclear energy. Hezbollah will never use its weapons against fellow Lebanese.

Harald Doornbos

THE WAR DIARIES - A CAR, A WOMAN AND A CAT

Beirut, last Thursday night. It is war so you have to adapt to the situation.

1. First, machinegun fire and a car without lights...


2. Second, a car drives fast, a woman runs fast and and a cat run fast...


3. Third - around ten minutes later: The return of the Cat!!!


Harald Doornbos

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

TRUCE IN TRIPOLI SINCE TODAY 06.00 AM, BEIRUT MORE OR LESS QUIET

Important development in Tripoli, northern Lebanon, where Al Qaeda affiliated groups have declared Jihad against Hezbollah and allies...

A truce is holding in the city between pro-government (Hariri etc) and pro opposition (Hezbollah etc) groups.

This after a meeting, last night, in Tripoli's Serail between both sides. Al Qaeda-like Salafites were present during this meeting.

For the last couple of days the fighting is taking place in two area's in Tripoli; Bab el Tabani (Alawite area, pro-Hezbollah) and Jabal Mohsen (Sunni area, pro government).

At the moment there is a, so called, Separation Force, placed between both areas. The Separation Force does consist of neutral men from the Ministry of Interior (police), not the army.

According to a well informed source, who was present at last nights cease fire talks the "truce is stable but fragile".

"It can collapse if anything happens in other parts of Lebanon," he adds.

According to him, the Salafists (so bascially pro-Al Qaeda sunni radicals) in and around Tripoli are "medium armed".

"They carry their individual weapons," he says, "An most of them have medium heavy weapons like RPG's, hand grenades, M-16's and Kalashnikov."

Here a round-up of the situation in Beirut:

I've just driven around town.

There are still many roadblocks blocking traffic between West and East Beirut and between Down-Town and the Airport.

But situation in Hamra (Sunni, west Beirut, attacked by Hezbollah on Thrusday night) is slowly improving. Around 15 percent of shops open. Much more traffic on the streets of Hamra than yesterday. Pro-Syrian SSNP party though still openly active in Hamra. Every now and then, some armed men, but considerably less than on Friday and during the weekend.

Christian areas of Beirut are, more or less, normal.

As I haven't been to the Druze area's (mountains east and south of Beirut), I can't say anything about the situation there.

additonal:

At 17.00, Lebanon time, speech of Saad Hariri.

Harald Doornbos

Monday, May 12, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: IN TRIPOLI 500 SALAFISTS DECLARE JIHAD ON "HEZBOLLAH, SHI'ITES AND ALLIES"

With urgent peace talks currently taking place in Tripoli (Northern Lebanon), 500 heavily armed Salafist fighters in and around this city have decided, on Monday, to declare Jihad against "Hezbollah, Shi'ites and their allies".

This according to a very well informed source in Tripoli.

The fighters, who all are armed, are ideologically close to Al Qaeda.

Salafists are spread over Lebanon's north. Mainly in Tripoli city (in an suburb called Abu Samra) and north of Tripoli, in an area called Akkar (very close to Nahr al Bared, the Palestinian refugee camp which saw one year ago heavy fighting between Salafists of Fatah al Islam and the Lebanese army).

To avoid certain bloodshed in Tripoli, THERE IS CURRENTLY A CRUCIALLY IMPORTANT MEETING TAKING PLACE between pro-government and pro-opposition supporters in Tripoli's Serail(government building). Present as well is general Ashraf Rifi, head of Lebanon's Internal Security. The Salafists too have sent their representatives to the meeting. The idea is to create a ceasefire in the city and let a neutral force patrol in tense area's to keep the peace and both sides apart.

Until today, Salafists were strongly opposed to the pro-American, pro-Saudi Lebanese government of PM Siniora. But in the wake of a sudden military offensive throughout the country by Hezbollah (Shi'ite), and its allies Harakat Amal (Shi'ite) and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (fascist, secular), the Salafists have decided to stop fighting the, mainly Sunni, government, and declare jihad on Hezbollah and its allies.

Additional info: As there are hardly any Shi’ites living in Tripoli, Hezbollah here uses its regional allies. These pro-opposition, anti government groups are mainly Sunni, Christian or Alawite.

Opposition forces (so pro-Hezbollah, anti-government) in Tripoli are the following:

The Syrian Social National Party (SSNP);
Al-Tawhid Movement headed by Bilal Shaaban;
The Islamic Action Front headed by Fathi Yakan;
The Arab Baathist Party;
The Arab Democratic Party headed by Ali Eid.

Over the weekend, two offices of Hezbollah and one of the SSNP were burnt in Tripoli city by Hariri supporters.

[This is an exclusive story which might be updated shortly.]

Harald Doornbos

BANG!, BANG!, BANG! - HOW TO PICK UP A PHONE IN A WAR ZONE....

You wanna hear how war sounds?

Ok. Last week, Thursday. Me, my camera and Lebanese colleague, photographer Joe (for some kind of reason with blue UN helmet), in Beirut. The area is between Achrafieh and Basta. Bang, bang, bang!. The fighting between Hezbollah and pro-government Sunni groups (Hezbollah, as we know won). The guys hiding in the garage are the rather not so courageous soldiers of the Lebanese army.

Lesson one: In case of shooting, stay behind a wall!

Lesson two: Don't move the camera toooooo much!

Lesson three: Always pick up the phone, even when they keep on shooting!

Here's the video:



Harald Doornbos

Sunday, May 11, 2008

MP MUSTAFA ALLOUCH: "IT IS TIME FOR MILITARY ACTION AGAINST SYRIA AND IRAN"

As government controlled areas are getting smaller and more under pressure in Lebanon, I made today (Sunday early evening) this interview with pro-government member of parliament Mustafa Allouch. He is an MP for the Future Movement, the mainly Sunni Muslim party, of Saad Hariri and Prime Minister Siniora.

The interview took place minutes after Mr. Allouch heard that the Druze mountains (his allies Walid Jumblatt) had fallen into the hands of a pro-Hezbollah Druze party.



Harald Doornbos

BREAKING NEWS: IN NORTHERN LEBANON, 22 SUNNI OFFICERS QUIT LEBANESE ARMY

I just came back to Beirut from a trip to Tripoli, northern Lebanon. After the loss of government area's in West-Beirut, on Friday, and, today, of the Druze mountains outside Beirut, the mostly pro-government people of Tripoli are seriously getting worried.

A well informed source in Tripoli told me this: "22 Sunni officers have filed their resignation and quit the army."

All officers are Sunni Muslims and most are from the north.

This because "the army is not doing anything against Hezbollah, thus making it a pro-Hezbollah tool".

Shortly more on the situation in Tripoli.

Harald Doornbos

Saturday, May 10, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: HEZBOLLAH WILL START NEW PHASE OF 'WAR' IN CASE SINIORA DOES NOT RESIGN TODAY

I just spoke to a very reliable source within the opposition (so that is within Hezbollah/Harakat Amal/Syrian National Socialist Party alliance)

Here his remarks, or better, threats: "Siniora [Lebanese PM] is shortly going to appear today on TV. If he does not resign TODAY, things will get really NASTY."

I'm now going to the city. Down Town. Around the Grand Serial, where PM Siniora and other ministers are present...

This crisis is not over yet. Its only beginning...

Harald Doornbos

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH WALID JUMBLATT: "NASRALLAH IS INSULTING HIS SACRED TURBAN"

I've been extremely busy, running and driving around crazy Beirut. Yesterday afternoon, two Spanish colleagues and me interviewed Walid Jumblatt, leader of the Progressive Socialist Party. He is one of the main partners in the current Lebanese government.

To end all rumours: Jumblatt did not escape to the mountains. He is still in his villa in West-Beirut. Hezbollah soldiers around 300 meters away from the house. Between Jumblatt and Hezbollah, a couple of neutral Lebanese army soldiers.

The sound of the interview is pretty bad. I'm a newspaper journalist, I'm only carrying a little sony camera with me.

At around 6.01 min in the interview rather harsh remarks on Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah.



Harald Doornbos

Thursday, May 08, 2008

LEBANON PREPARES FOR THE WORST SCENARIO

On Tuesday morning I left Lebanon and flew to Belgium, to meet some friends.

24 hours later Lebanon exploded.

Because of the seriousness of the current situation, I decided to return to Beirut. Today, Thursday, I took a flight from Brussels via Vienna to Damascus. This of course because Beirut airport is closed. From Damascus to the Syrian-Lebanese border. Had to pass eight burning barricades in the Beka'a Valley to get back to Beirut where heavy fighting continues.

Keep on checking this blog for frequent updates on the situation as I've been driving around Beirut on Thursday night...

Later more details..

Harald Doornbos