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Libya Tourism: We do not speak about Bani Walid

9 Nov Bani Walid

Libya, still off-limits to British travellers according to the Foreign Office, is one country you probably wouldn’t expect to see being touted as a tourist destination among the more unusual locations being showcased at the 2012 World Travel Market, a holiday trade show at ExCeL London. RT sent a camera crew there and found exhibitors avoiding the subject of the ongoing violence in Libya, and travel industry visitors seemingly unaware.

“The places where the tourists are interested in, the sites, are completely safe. I can recommend the east of Libya for anyone to come there and I can guarantee it’s going to be safe even more than cities like London or New York.”

Tour guide

But somewhere that’s not mentioned in the tourist guide is Bani Walid – a desert town that’s remained loyal to former leader Colonel Gaddafi, and has become the scene of some of the fiercest fighting since the Libyan uprising last year. Despite reports of indiscriminate shelling and gas attacks on the local population at the hands of the Libyan army, there’s been an almost total media blackout in the UK. RT ran the story for more than a fortnight, before anyone else picked it up.

We’ve got to sort of package this as a success. It’s very important for NATO, wherever NATO intervenes, no matter what the reality is, they’ve got to promote it as a success. So we have this sort of spin of these countries that have been “liberated”, as great places to go and great places to invest. And the reality for the everyday person in this country is a living hell.

Neil Clarke, journalist

The travel information packs are filled with reasons to visit Libya – and undoubtedly there are many. But there’s also a silence, one that’s echoed by the UK media – a seeming refusal to talk about what’s been happening in places like Bani Walid as Libya tries to entice travellers and reignite tourism that has all but died after nearly two years of civil unrest.

The silence on the subject is perhaps not surprising. For a tour operator trying to drum up much-needed business, the sights of bodies and homes burned to the ground are no selling points.

The reality is that the new government is struggling to control it’s militias and to bridge the deep divides that remain in the country – but none of that you’ll read about in a glossy brochure.

But what’s deeply disturbing is that despite a growing body of evidence about crimes against civilians, and increasingly vocal concerns from human rights organizations the UK media and government remain resolutely silent on the issues, creating a space for the pro-tourism message.

The tactic appears to be working. In a survey of 1,300 tourism chiefs attending the conference, more than half believed Libya had the potential to become a popular tourist spot, with just one in 10 dismissing the idea entirely.

“Libya could be one of tourism’s most exciting destinations in the future,” WTM director Simon Press told the Telegraph. “Many destinations such as Vietnam and Croatia have repositioned from conflict zones to tourism hotspots, and there is no reason why, over time, Libya cannot do the same.”

Libya’s presence at the World Travel Market comes despite the fact that the Foreign Office (FCO) currently advises against all but essential travel to the settlements of Zuwara, Az Zawiya, Tripoli, al Khums, Zlitan and Misrata, and the coastal towns from Ras Lanuf to the Egyptian Border, with the exception of Benghazi, which is in the group of areas for which the FCO advises against all travel.

The warnings mean that travellers will struggle to find travel insurance if they do decide to visit the country. However, British Airways has already resumed flights to Tripoli.

Several operators, including Exodus, Intrepid, Abercrombie and Kent and Responsible Travel, have previously offered trips to Libya, usually including a sightseeing tour of Tripoli and a visit to Leptis Magna.

A spokesman for Intrepid said it was hopeful of restarting tours of the country if the Foreign Office relaxed its advice.

Libya: situation remains difficult for the people of Bani Walid

The humanitarian situation remains difficult for the people of Bani Walid in Libya. To help people who fled the city after violent clashes last week, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is working with the Libyan Arab Red Crescent to distribute food, drinking water, the medicines and other essential items to more than 10,000 people in the neighboring towns of Tarhuna and Urban

Many had to leave Bani Walid since the resumption of fighting in the city a month ago. The number of displaced persons has increased, especially since the intensification of fighting in mid-October. They are likely to have sought refuge in neighbouring towns, including Tarhuna (100 kilometres north-west of Bani Walid) and Urban (90 km north-west of Bani Walid). “These people are upset, disturbed and angry. They left their homes with very little and need help,” says Asma Khaliq Awan, the ICRC delegate in charge of aid coordination in the region.

Video transcript:
Woman:When I saw the stand, it was a good surprise and I came to have the feedback on the situation at the moment in Libya, and if we have so many people here at this, it means that the situation is becoming more stable and we can think for next season to do something with Libya. It’s a wonderful country.RT: What about what’s happening in Bani Walid at the moment?

Woman: Bani Walid? What do you mean?

RT: There’s been fighting in Bani Walid, do you know about that?

Woman: No, not at all.

RT: You haven’t heard about that?

Woman: No.

RT: But you work for a travel company?

Woman: Oui

RT: And they haven’t told you what’s been happening in Bani Walid?

Woman: No, what’s happened?

RT: A lot of fighting in last couple of weeks.

Womanoman: No.

We went to confront the tour operator.

RT: You’re promoting tourism in Libya at the moment?

Man: Yes, that’s right.

RT: I saw you were speaking to some people, are you telling them what’s been happening in Bani Walid at the moment?

Man: No. Actually this is about travel and what will happen in the future. We do not speak about Bani Walid.

Related

Greece: Mass anti-austerity protest during visit of Germany’s Merkel

9 Oct Protesters clash with riot policemen in front of the Parliament building in Athens.

The latest estimate is that 50,000 people took to the streets of Athens today to protest against Angela Merkel’s visit, with only a small fraction throwing stones and molotov cocktails at the riot police. 30 protesters (including two with serious head injuries) and 2 policeman were hurt.

12 people have been arrested for specific offences, and a further 193 detained by police.

Merkel announced the start of two concrete European Union projects to be supported by Germany. One project would support regional administration while the other would seek to improve health care. Together the projects carry a total value of €30 million ($38 million).

2012 Oslo Freedom Forum Against Dictatorship, Censorship, and Slavery

6 Apr

Oslo Freedom Forum logo

The fourth annual Oslo Freedom Forum—to be held on May 7, 8, and 9—will bring the most daunting humanitarian issues of our time out of the shadows and into the forefront of global discussions.

In the course of the three-day event, speakers will expose repression in Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, West Papua, and Zimbabwe. They will be joined by an array of human rights defenders and activists from Bahrain, Cambodia, China, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Kosovo, Liberia, Libya, Morocco, Russia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United States, and several other nations.

Drawn from the fields of academia, advocacy, business, media, policy, and technology, speakers will include: Wikipedia creator Jimmy Wales; Google Ideas principal Scott Carpenter; embattled Singaporean opposition leader Chee Soon Juan; Pakistani women’s rights champion Asma Jahangir; the “Gandhi of Western Sahara,” Aminatou Haidar; Canadian political prisoner defender Irwin Cotler; anti-slavery pioneer Somaly Mam; and the authors of Consent of the NetworkedThe Shadow World, and You Can’t Read This Book.

“The individuals who gather each spring in Oslo are the ones creating change and influencing public opinion. They are at the top of their respective fields and they come together to learn from each other and collaborate on how to make the world a more just place—how to defeat the dictators of the world and how to build democracies, in some cases, from the ground up. Through their differences, they are bound by a respect for the most fundamental and universal human rights,” said Thor Halvorssen, founder and CEO of the Oslo Freedom Forum.

Topics addressed this year will include a spotlight on modern-day slavery; exposés on how Western PR firms, IT companies, and arms manufacturers support dictatorships; a focus on Russia’s burgeoning democracy movement in the face of Vladimir Putin’s regime; an examination of global censorship; and an update on the revolutions still unfolding in the Arab world.

The Oslo Freedom Forum is produced by the Human Rights Foundation, a New York-based non-profit, and is made possible in part by the Brin Wojcicki Foundation, the Thiel Foundation, Color Line, the City of Oslo, Fritt Ord, and the Norwegian Foreign Ministry. Musical entertainment for this year’s event will be provided by Leah Siegel of Firehorse and Fugees collaborator John Forté.

Videos of past speakers—including Izzeldin Abuelaish, Elena Bonner, Shirin Ebadi, Mona Eltahawy, Leymah Gbowee, Wael Ghonim, Václav Havel, Anwar Ibrahim, Garry Kasparov, Yoani Sánchez, Peter Thiel, Alejandro Toledo, Lech Walesa, Elie Wiesel, and Jody Williams—can be found at www.oslofreedomforum.com.

The 2012 Oslo Freedom Forum will be streamed live and in its entirety online. Updates can be found on Twitter @OsloFreedomFrm and on Facebook. For more information, please contact info@oslofreedomforum.com. Press inquiries can be sent toalex@oslofreedomforum.com.

#OWS محتجو (احتلو وول ستريت) يعودون إلى حديقة زوكوتي في نيويورك

12 Jan
قدم نحو 40 شخصا إلى الحديقة يوم الأربعاء ، ولكن المزاج كان مفعما بالتفاؤل. وبدا الناس غاية في النشاط والإثارة بحصولهم على إمكانية العودة إلى الحديقة.وسبق وأن قال بعض المنتقدين للحركة أنه ليس من سبيل لصمودها حتى شهر كانون الأول الماضي، وكانوا يأملون بأن المتظاهرين لن يعودوا بعد طردهم في منتصف شهر نوفمبر الفائت. لكن الحال لم تكن كذلك.

” حتى لما كانت المتاريس هنا فقد كنا دائما موجودين في هذا المكان، وأحيانا كان بعضنا موجودا في المقدمة، ولكننا كنا هنا دائما ” ، قال الناشط خوسيه ميديافيللا.

“لدينا الآن فسحة للتجمع، فهناك مركزنا الروحي ، إنه المحور الروحي للحركة، والناس رجعوا إلى هنا ” ، أضاف توني زيلكا، وهو ناشط آخر.

ومع ذلك ، فإن إحدى القوانين الجديدة للمحتلين هو أن ليس بإمكانهم إحضار الخيام أو أكياس النوم إلى الحديقة.

via #OWS Returns to Zucotti Park – YouTube.

#OWS-Demonstranten kehren in den Zucotti-Park in New York zurück

12 Jan

Rund 40 Menschen gingen am Mittwoch in den Park, aber die Laune war sehr optimistisch. Die Menschen schienen wieder Energie zu haben und waren aufgeregt, wieder in den Zuccotti-Park zu kommen.

Kritiker haben gesagt, dass die Wall-Street-Bewegung (OWS) auf keinen Fall bis Dezember aushalten würde; sie haben gehofft, dass die Demonstranten nach der Vertreibung Mitte November nicht mehr zurückkommen würden. Aber dies war nicht der Fall.

„Sogar als die Barrikaden noch da waren, waren wir immer dort, manchmal gab es nicht viele Leute, aber wir waren immer dort“, erzählt Jose Mediavilla, ein OWS-Aktivist.

„Nun haben wir einen Ort für Versammlungen, dort ist unser geistiges Zentrum, das ist das geistige Zentrum der Bewegung, und die Menschen sind zurück“, sagt Tony Zilka, ein anderer Aktivist.

Jedoch gibt es eine Regel für die Besatzer – sie dürfen keine Zelte aufstellen und keine Schlafsäcke in den Zuccotti-Park bringen.

via #OWS Returns to Zucotti Park – YouTube.

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