Live from Brussels

Musings from a bored analyst/project-manager.
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Thursday, March 11, 2004
Blast in Madrid: Whodunnit?

Today's explosions in Madrid were immediately blamed on the Basque separatist terror group ETA, under the often correct assumption: explosion in Spain = ETA attack.

Yet some interesting questions arise:
  • ETA has in the past mainly targetted politicians and police/army personel. These attacks were against civilians.
  • ETA often warned before major attacks. This time, nothing.
  • ETA attacks have been in decline the past few years, with many in the leadership being arrested. This is completely against that trend.
  • ETA almost always claims 'credit' shortly after the attacks it perpetrates. This time, nothing.

    On the other hand, various Islamist terror organisations:
  • Target mainly civilians.
  • Tend to coordinate multiple attacks for bigger effect.
  • Don't always claim credit, or only do so a long time after the attacks (via grainy Al-Jazeera videotape or audio recording).

    Then again:
  • In the past weeks and months, various explosives shipments and planned attacks by ETA were stopped by Spanish authorities.
  • ETA has tended to step up the violence in the run-up to general elections in the past.
  • There have been news reports about radicals gaining more power in the ETA leadership recently.

    So this leaves us with four possibilities:
  • It was ETA, but with a new tactic.
  • It was an ETA faction, operating outside the group and with a new modus operandi.
  • It were Islamist terrorists bent on revenge after Spain stood with the U.S.A. in Iraq.
  • It was some other group entirely.

    Me, I think two and three are the most likely. But in the coming days and hours more information will undoubtedly turn up and clear things up a bit.

  • Wednesday, March 10, 2004
    98 Days...

    That's how long two sisters have been stuck in a diplomatic limbo already (the article is from when the affair began).

    The two, Yasmine (15) and Sara (7) Pourhashemi, have been kidnapped by their Iranian father to Iran. The mother, Zahra, is living in Belgium. More than three months ago, the girls managed to escape from the village they were being held and got into the Belgian embassy.

    According to Iranian law, they have the Iranian nationality because their father has, and so the Iranians won't let them leave the country. But the Belgian embassy also doesn't want them to go back to Iran, because they are behind the mother.

    The standoff has been going on for 98 days, I read today in Gazet van Antwerpen, a Belgian newspaper (online version of the article not available). They reprinted a part of Yasmine's diary. It really got to me. Can you imagine what it is to be a 15 year old girl, stuck in a Belgian embassy, with no friends your own age, and no perspective of going to your mother anytime soon?

    I wish we could do something for her. If you are in Iran, please go to the Belgian embassy and show her there are people on the outside who care. Get her a nice gift or something. It doesn't have to be expensive... Here is the address:

    Avenue Shadid Fayazi 155-157
    Shemiran - Elahieh
    16778 Teheran

    If you're outside Iran, here is a mailing address for the Belgian embassy:

    P.O. Box 11365 - 115 Teheran

    If you want to send a message to the embassy that they can forward to her and her sister, here is their e-mail...

    Tuesday, March 09, 2004
    Belgian State Radio...

    While being stuck in traffic today I heard on the news that Iraq finally has an interim constitution. And that this is somehow bad news. Bad news? Yes, that's how it sounded on Belgian state radio anyway...

    First of all, they mentioned that there was no response from Iraqi's, no parties, no celebrations... They made it sound like no Iraqi cared at all. Well, they must have missed this one, this one or this one.

    Secondly, they mentioned that the surrounding Arab countries were only moderately enthusiastic about it. But they didn't mention why! If I was an authoritarian ruler, I'd get nervous if my neighbours started going democratic. If I was an Islamist woman-represser, I'd get nervous if the folks next door started to let their women vote (and even put equality of the sexes in their constitution). If I were repressing minorities, I'd get nervous if right next door there would be a federal state where those minorities suddenly enjoy rights.

    Thirdly, they commented that Bush's new vision for the Middle East had leaked, and that his plans for more democracy and equality for women weren't very popular there. With the rulers and the mullahs I guess... but they didn't mention this at all!

    Just your daily portion of Iraqi doom and gloom... paid for by me.