Egypt’s Ministry of Justice is due to start discussions with the National Council for Human Rights, as well as other rights groups, to draft an anti-terrorism law “specifying terrorism crimes and penalties facing the perpetrators,” state-owned Al-Ahram daily reported on Wednesday, as civil groups denounced Tuesday the draft protest law. Approved by the cabinet and currently under review by the interim president, Egypt’s Youth Revolutionary Block argued that it would enable the return of the police state. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information has said that a new law passed by Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawy’s government to ban protests is similar to legislation drafted under “Hosni Mubarak’s oppressive state.” [Ahram OnlineAswat Masriya, 10/16/2013]


Tamarod backtracks, says will back Sisi for president
A group of Tamarod campaign leaders announced Tuesday their endorsement for Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for president through a statement published on their Facebook page, calling on Sisi to run the presidential race. The Tamarod leader Mai Wahba clarified to Al-Masry Al-Youm that the statement published Monday evening on the movement’s official Facebook page does not represent the whole movement as it was not discussed by the members of the central committee before being posted on Facebook. [Egypt Independent, 10/16/2013]

Solidarity minister says government surveillance of NGOs is temporary
Social Solidarity Minister Ahmed al-Boraei said that government monitoring of NGOs would continue as temporary measure to prevent what he described as the “groups of evil.” Boraei said on Tuesday that he supported the unrestricted freedom of NGOs in Egypt before he assumed his post, but after he took responsibility he realized the threat the “groups of evil” posed to the country’s security. Boraei said monitoring NGOs’ activities would be temporary to reach the funding sources of NGOs which he claims go to supporting terrorists in Egypt. [Egypt Independent, 10/16/2013]

Egypt-US relations in turmoil, says Egyptian foreign minister
The current strain in US-Egyptian relations is more critical than ever because it comes at a crucial time for the entire Middle East, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said on Wednesday.
In an interview conducted by the state-owned daily Al-Ahram, Fahmy said the current Egypt-US tension will reflect on the whole region and impact US interests there, adding that Egypt’s “forthcoming success,” however, will also influence the area. Nonetheless, Fahmy said that the United States will continue to maintain communication with, and interest in, Egypt because it is “the heart and mind of the Arab world” and, similarly, Egypt realizes that the United States is a key world power. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, AP, 10/16/2013]


Libyan pleads not guilty to terrorism charges
The alleged al-Qaeda figure known as Abu Anas al-Liby, who was apprehended in a raid by US special forces in Libya, pleaded not guilty to bombing-related charges in court on Tuesday. The case has drawn criticism from congressional Republicans who say the defendant should have been sent to Guantanamo Bay for indefinite interrogation, while Democrats are defending the Obama administration’s decision to try him in a civilian court. [AP, Libya Herald, 10/15/2013]

GECOL warns of more power cuts as some contractors quit over security
Electricity supplier GECOL has warned in a recent statement that power cuts in Libya could continue throughout the winter, as foreign firms working on maintenance and expansion of power stations pull out of the country as the security situation deteriorates. A source at the ministry of electricity has confirmed that staff of the German firm Siemens have been withdrawn. Reports say that employees of Florida-based APR Energy have also pulled out of Libya, which the firm has denied. [Libya Herald, 10/14/2013]

Libyan oil fields increasing supplies
Prime Minister Ali Zidan says that, after a significant slowdown in oil production due to armed labor strikes and other disruptions, Libya is currently producing between 600,000 and 700,000 barrels of oil per day. According to Zidan, his cabinet and the General National Congress are working to resolve the issue. Talks to reopen major oil export terminals in the east are taking a long time, as some protesters have linked their demands to the direction of Libya’s political future. [Libya Business News, 10/15/2013]

Eid in Benghazi marked by killings and violence
Violence has continued in Benghazi during Eid al-Adha, with two soldiers being killed early Tuesday morning, a parcel bomb exploding near a hospital, and a fire sweeping through a warehouse, although it is unknown whether that was caused by arson or a short circuit. Libyans are now bracing for more turmoil after Prime Minister Ali Zidan, in an interview with Al-Arabiya, promised to implicate political rivals in his abduction last week, saying it was a coup by his adversaries in the General National Congress. [Libya Herald, 10/15/2013]


US urges Syrian opposition to join peace talks; More rebel groups reject opposition coalition
The United States is trying to persuade a key Syrian opposition group to drop its refusal to join planned peace talks, saying its participation is essential. The Syrian National Council, which is the biggest bloc within the Syrian opposition coalition, said over the weekend it would not attend the talks planned for next month and threatened to quit the umbrella group. George Sabra, the president of the Syrian National Council, said on Sunday it was impossible to carry out negotiations given the suffering of people on the ground. Meanwhile, rebels groups in southern Syria said Wednesday the main opposition National Coalition had “failed” and announced they no longer recognize the Western-backed group. The video statement, filmed in front of the banner of the mainstream Free Syrian Army (FSA), was endorsed by nearly seventy groups and comes after a group of key rebel groups in the north of the country announced their rejection of the National Coalition in late September. Elsewhere, General Salim Idris, nominal leader of the FSA, spoke publicly about political and military matters. [AFP, 10/16/13]
At least forty-one killed in Kurd-jihadist fighting
At least forty-one fighters have been killed in violent clashes pitting Kurds against jihadists and Islamist rebels in northeastern Syria. Kurdish fighters from several villages in oil-rich Hasake province are engaged in combat against al-Qaeda affiliated groups the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Nusra Front. Among the Islamists killed was a local al-Nusra leader of Egyptian origin. Clashes have raged in majority Kurdish areas for months, as the jihadist ISIL has sought to expel the Committees for the Protection of the Kurdish People from areas under its control. Analysts say ISIL aims to crush competition from other armed groups active in areas out of the control of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and that its war with the Kurds is part of its strategy for control of territory and resources. [The Daily Star, AFP,10/16/13]

Minibus blast kills twenty-one in southern Syria
Twenty-one people, including four children and six women, were killed when a minibus hit a mine and exploded in the southern Syrian town of Noa on Wednesday. Opposition activists said the minibus drove over a mine planted by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. The explosion occurred in rebel-held territory in Deraa province nearby the regime military base of Tel al-Jumaa, which is besieged. [Reuters, 10/16/13]

Crush of Syrian refugees overwhelming efforts to help
Only weeks ahead of what forecasters say could be a brutal winter, humanitarian aid agencies working on the Syrian conflict are sounding the alarm that little is being done to provide assistance to a refugee population that’s expected to reach three million by the end of the year.
The United Nations has collected only half of the $5 billion it needs to provide assistance, and humanitarian aid groups say they’re resigned that they’ll be able to provide help to only a portion of the two million refugees outside Syria and the millions more who’ve fled their home but remain in Syria. [McClatchy, 10/14/13]


Ennahda urges Tunisian public not to answer calls for protests
In a statement signed by leader Rached Ghannouchi on Monday the ruling Ennahda party stressed dialogue as the only way to settle the country’s political issues, and urged the public not to attend protests planned for October 23. The statement also asked the National Salvation Front, a coalition of opposition parties who issued the call to protest, to avoid dramatizing the situation and to “justify” its calls for mass protests. [TAP, 10/15/2013]

Elections committee meets, prepares proposals to resume work this Thursday
On Monday the committee tasked with selecting candidates for the Independent Higher Authority for Elections met to discuss options to resume its work, following an administrative court order to suspend work on account of procedural errors in September. The commission will meet next on Thursday to review these proposals prior to their submission to the National Constituent Assembly. [TAP, 10/15/2013]

Tunisian rappers form ‘trade union’
Rappers in Tunisia have formed a union after several recent arrests prompted fears about their security of artistic expression. The National Rap Union will be linked to the larger General Confederation of Tunisian Workers, and according to the new group’s secretary general, “the rappers’ union has little to do with work contracts and a lot to do with sending a signal to the powers that be [who] appear unable to take any criticism.” [Magharebia, 10/15/2013]

Tunisian students face conflict, hardships in third post-revolutionary year
Three years after the revolution Tunisian students still face hardships, including inadequate housing aid and rising tuition, and conflict between students who oppose and those who support the government. A university student said that “students feel oppressed… we may even be worse off than before,” while another countered that the education system was witnessing profound changes, including “the entry of politics into university… I think this is positive, especially as I lived under Ben Ali’s rule when students were completely excluded from public affairs.” [Magharebia (Arabic), All Africa 10/15/2013]


Hadi declares Socotra an independent province
On Tuesday, President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi announced that the administrative independence of the Socotra archipelago province during a visit to Socotra island. Residents of Socotra called for the administrative and financial independence of the archipelago during Yemen’s 2011 popular uprising. Hadi said that the announcement would allow for more development and progress in Socotra. [Al Masdar (Arabic), Mareb Press (Arabic), 10/15/2013]

International report says Yemen is among ten worst countries for child labor
A report issued by the the Maplecroft Institute placed Yemen on the list of the ten worst countries in terms of child labor, particularly in dangerous occupations. The report noted that poor families are more likely to send their children into the labor force to procure extra income. The report surveyed child labor in 197 countries and ranked Yemen ninth on the list. [Mareb Press (Arabic), 10/15/2013]

President Hadi visits Aden
President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi arrived on Wednesday in the southern city of Aden on a visit to inspect the conditions of the greater Aden province. During his visit, the president will meet with leaders of the executive, local, military and security authorities, and political and social actors. The visit comes days after mass demonstrations in Aden for the independence of South Yemen. [Saba Net, 10/16/2013]

Women’s rights advocates push to secure women’s rights through the constitution
The Yemeni Scholars Body recently issued a statement condemning efforts to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women. As Yemenis enter a new transitional period following the end of the country’s comprehensive National Dialogue Conference (NDC), women’s rights activists say the time is now to push for guaranteed protections and equality of women. The way to do that, they say, is through the constitution, slated to be drafted following the end of the NDC. [Yemen Times, 10/15/2013]


As UN makes new Western Sahara peace bid, Morocco under fire for human rights history
United Nations envoy Christopher Ross began talks with government ministers in Rabat on Monday as the first step in a push for peace for the disputed Western Sahara territory. Ross is trying to break a decades-long deadlock between Morocco, which annexed the territory in 1975 in a move never recognized by the international community, and the pro-independence Polisario Front, backed by neighboring Algeria. A report by the US State Department last month detailed Morocco’s harsh repression of public advocates of independence for the territory. [Al Arabiya, 10/15/2013]

Algeria moves to curb Morocco’s smuggled oil trade
A decision by Algeria earlier this summer to curtail hydrocarbon trafficking has increased tension and caused prices to soar as smugglers attempt to transport the fuel across the border and into neighboring Morocco. With so much oil smuggled over the border, there have been shortages in Algeria and authorities are determined to manage hydrocarbon resources more efficiently. [Guardian, 10/15/2013]

Business rebuilds in a thriving city in Iraq
Cranes dot the skyline in Erbil, the political and business capital of the autonomous Kurdish region in the north of Iraq. Enormous construction projects are underway to increase investment and tourism in the city of 1.3 million. Among the largest developments is Empire City, which, if completed as planned in 2017, will give Erbil a skyline resembling a small-scale Dubai. Numerous hotel chains and oil companies have also signed deals to expand in the city, demonstrating the success of a highly effective campaign by Kurdish leaders to make Erbil a haven for Western business in a tumultuous country. [NYT, 10/14/2013]