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Melantrys’ Page » politics

Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

The neverending story

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

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In his post Benghazi Now!!!!! my blogging friend PH writes about the escalating violence in Libya.
He wishes his post to be spread to embarrass the western governments.

Well, I doubt they’ll need our help for that.

Such a short time since the conference here in Germany at which they all announced that they should also consider ethical factors in their dealings with foreign leaders.
This month it was, to be precise.

And today?
Gaddafi celebrated himself on state tv with pictures from a pro government rally in Tripoli a few days ago. What has been happening elsewhere, like in Benghazi, has only been available on Youtube. The foreign press has been forced to leave the country.

Now the internet has been cut.

Still, some people manage to upload cell phone videos or give accounts of what’s going on to foreign tv stations via telephone. This of course means that no news from Libya can be independently verified, but the accounts - sadly - seem to be genuine enough.
In one word: slaughter.

So.

Does our chancellor condemn Gaddafi and demand that he stop the violence? No, if course not. Ever since he has distanced himself from terrorism we can finally get at his oil again he’s been our friend.
The same pathetic wishy-washy statements we got while protesters were being attacked in Egypt.
Let’s not say anything that might offend Gaddafi, after all we’ll still want the oil if he manages to kill and frighten off all the protesters.

So, PH, there’s nothing more we can do to make those western politicians look any worse than they are already managing on their own.

Meanwhile things also appear to be rather tense in Bahrain. Since the camp of the protesters in Pearl Roundabout has been removed by force, protesters seem to have chosen a hospital as their rallying point. Al Jazeera has been talking to overwhelmed doctors in that hospital in the capital city Manama. There has also been footage of doctors breaking down under the continuing strain of treating so many people.

It remains to be seen what the latest news that the military was ordered off the streets will mean.

Edit: Riot police seems to have been ordered off from guarding Pearl Roundabout as well. The last few police officers were chased off by protesters “armed” with flowers. The roundabout has been reclaimed by the protesters.

“The new weapon of choice is the broom”…

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

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… someone is being quoted on Twitter as having said to his cousin.

Apparently some are choosing brushes and paint though.

The Egyptians are incredible.

First they cleaned up their country figuratively, now they’re doing it literally.

Bless them, and let us hope the other people in other countries struggling for freedom and peace will score wins just as amazing.

Mabrook!

Friday, February 11th, 2011

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I can’t post as fast as things are happening.

So while I was away at work, Mubarak decided to go on a hurried and unexpected vacation in Sharm el Sheikh. ;)

He handed the power to the military and actually stepped down.

I will refuse to worry at the moment about the possibility of the military establishing a military regime instead of handing the country over to the people and a democratic process in due time.

*raises a glass of sherry in toast*

Well done, people of Egypt and good luck with all the work that’s still ahead of you.

You are incredible!

Unprecedented stupidity or deliberate provocation?

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

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Either Mubarak is totally far gone and playing with the fairies in some happy place, or today has been really, really well-planned.

First high ranking military people announce on Tahrir Square that the protesters’ demands will be met and a news station gets “leaked” info on Mubarak’s speech which will allegedly announce his resignation.
Then the speech is broadcast an hour late and contains…. well, tons of Blah, for one thing. Praise for himself, of all things. Assurances that “his children” have been heard and that the deaths will not have been in vain. Also repeated hints at “outside forces”, which reminds one strongly of the misinformations that have been spread via state tv of Hamas, Israel, the US, whoever paying for and directing the revolution.

He will delegate some authorities to Suleiman (yeah, right, as if he is any better than him) - but not step down - and will not run for elections in September.
Dude, did you even hear half of what your people are asking??

The people are angry now, so very angry. Everyone was so sure he’d step down and then this.

I fear this is a ploy to make them so angry they’ll become violent, so the government will have a “valid” reason to crack down on the revolution with all “necessary force”.

It doesn’t help dissipate that fear that only this morning I read an article in The Guardian about the military being involved in abducting and severly torturing protesters, with people being unaccounted for and being suspected to still be in the hands of the military.

Revolution, now?

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

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Bear with me, dear friends, as I fear this will become a post filled with disjointed ramblings.

As a comment on current events it is certainly long overdue, but now, just like as when it all started, I am still at a loss for proper words.

So, the people have taken to the streets in various countries in the Middle East and North Africa, from Tunesia, over Egypt, Jemen, Jordan and Syria to Saudi Arabia. (Although I suppose it remains to be seen whether the 40 women protesters and the 200 and something online activists are going to stay isolated incidents or will be the start of something big in Saudi Arabia.)

And suddenly our politicians realize….. “My gosh, we have been actively supporting dictatorships all those years! How could that happen?! Let’s make sure we’ll find a way to combine our egotism and laziness with ethics and human rights - where possible. What’cha saying, Mr Representative from Saudi Arabia? No, no, of course we’re not talking about your country, hahaha, nothing wrong with the way you guys are handling things over there, eh?”

Oh, could this be any more pathetic?

Meanwhile, in Tunesia, the police shoots and kills 4 protesters. The good news is, they arrested the chief of police afterwards for it.

Meanwhile, in Egypt, Copts pray in Tahrir Square and not only hold up crosses, but also the Q’ran. “Hand in hand.”

Furthermore, Egyptian blogger Sandmonkey doesn’t appear to have been cowed by his arrest a couple of days ago and today not only analyses the possibilities that have been presenting itself from outside of the protest movement but comes up with ideas of his own as to how they themselves could bring about an efficient transition to democracy.

I wish all those countries all the luck in the world and will leave you with a simple, yet beautiful protest song from Tahrir Square. Apparently this has been recorded last Friday.

(link to video on youtube)

A sad day for Europe

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

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The Swiss were asked today to vote on a referendum that was mainly brought in by the nationalist Swiss People’s Party (SVP) concerning whether the building of minarets should be forbidden and this ban added to the constitution.

Early polls showed a 37% minority in favour of the referendum.

All other political parties called upon the Swiss people to vote against the referendum.

Today 57.5% voted in favour of the minaret ban.

The four (!) minarets that are already in existence (and don’t broadcast the call to prayer outside of the mosque, mind you) are allowed to stay, but there will be no new ones.
This goes against the Swiss constitution (freedom of religion, human rights anyone?), but the will of the Swiss people as expressed in a referendum carries more weight than even the constitution, someone explained on tv today.

The only hope for a reversal of this decision would be if the Swiss supreme court or the European Court of Human Rights ruled this illegal.

If not, this will be used by anti-Islamic groups all over Europe (I could name a few here….) to further their cause.

The vague fear of the Islamisation of the western world that’s been flowing through Europe has borne the first ugly political fruit.

This is a very sad day for Switzerland, and it will have repercussions in the whole of Europe.

I am saddened, shocked and appalled.

Trip to Damascus - Epilogue

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

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Ok, as I already said in my Amman travel log, this is the next day, which means post-holiday, so the rest of the journey home will be part of the epilogue.

.

Saturday, June 16th, 2007

Customs held a nice surprise in the form of some weird customs tax that people leaving the country have to pay.
If I recall correctly that was 200SP1, which of course wasn’t a high amount for me, but that wasn’t the problem.
I had given all the money I had left over to Caesar, so that he wouldn’t have to pay for the long and expensive ride back into the city all by himself. After all, he’d only made the long journey to the airport because of me.
Plus, I didn’t need any SPs anymore, did I? :wait:

You know, it would really have been nice if the people from the Syrian embassy in Germany had mentioned this to me.
Or someone at the airport when I arrived.
Well, luckily I do tend to keep some local money as a souvenir, so when the lady refused to take Euros instead I unhappily dug out a 200 note and handed it over.

Then I installed myself at the gate and waited.
At one point some airport employee came and chatted me up a bit; if I was travelling to Turkey then, where I was from, etc.
Before he left he gave me a tiny package of hazelnuts because at this time of night I must surely have been starving. Well, I was indeed starving a bit, so thank you. :)

The flight to Istanbul was uneventful, as was the plane switching…. as such.
My flight from Istanbul back to Germany got cancelled though and thrown together with another flight. The plane for this “double flight” was bigger and left about half an hour later than the original one would have.

So when the plane touched down in Düsseldorf, I was already late.
I claimed my luggage2 and trundled over to customs.
First a young man stopped me and enquired after souvenirs and the monetary value of them, but when I started throwing out prices in SP, converting them to Euros and adding them out loud, he soon lost interest. The overall value of my souvenirs apparently was way below the amount of what is permissable.

So I staggered on, vaguely bemused by the labelling of the exits, and when I was just about to leave, another young man stopped me.
He leafed through my passport and asked if I was travelling alone3.
Then he asked me over to a sort of desk/bench and started going through my bags. First my carry-on luggage and the plastic bag stuffed full of souvenirs, then the big travelling bag.
When he was done un- and repacking all of my clothes - all the while keeping up a chat on the purpose of my trip - he suddenly remembered the camera he had seen in my carry-on luggage and asked, no, stated: “That’s a digital camera, isn’t it? You wouldn’t mind if I looked through your photos, would you?4 I mean, it’s not as if you have anything to hide, right?”
I told him; yup; sure, go ahead; and indeed, not.

Guess it’s a good thing he didn’t start at the back where he would soon have been confronted with a bearded, grumpy Arab :P but at the beginning with photo over boring photo of the house. I guess it is not very surprising that he soon lost interest and re-packed the camera.
It seems that my boring, non-terrorist-camp pictures made him lose all interest in me, as he didn’t even go through the last side pocket of my big bag, which was probably just as well as I am still not 100% clear if it was ok to bring the spices and the garlic, lol.

By now I was about an hour late though and wondering if my sister who was going to pick me up again had already chewed her nails down to the quick, fretting for me.
I needn’t have worried.
When I switched on my cell phone, the first thing I got was an oldish message from her, informing me that she was stuck in a traffic jam. Two further messages and traffic jams later she finally arrived.

Not that I cared much one way or the other by that time.
I was sitting in the main hall, my feet propped up on my luggage, reading one of the numerous books I had bought and flying high on having been awake for more than 24 hours by then.
That’s a real odd state to be in, seriously.

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Concluding remarks:

As I already said in my prologue I am not too fond of the political system in place in Syria, and seeing some of the workings up close and in person sure did nothing to change that point of view.

Only recently, when he saw the drafts for my last postings, Caesar told me that I had it wrong about the situation at the bus station.
He said that at the time Syrian authorities were rather keen on hunting down Iraqis with expired residence permits.
So the people at the office inside the bus station were kind of torn. They should have notified the authorities that they had an Iraqi there who had no papers to prove he had permission to stay in the country.
On the other hand that Iraqi was with a European tourist (who was obviously already pretty pissed), and the image Syria presents to foreign countries is important to the authorities as well.

If Caesar really is right in claiming that I (or rather my presence) saved him that day, I suppose it’s just as well I wasn’t quite aware of that, or I may have looked too worried instead of annoyed and angry.

But nevertheless it is a beautiful country, stuffed chock-full of really, really ancient history, and I definitely want to visit it again (that time including places like Palmyra, and that is not a dig at you, Caesar, it was not your fault things went wrong).
Hell, just seeing the Old City again would be worth a trip.
I loved it there.

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  1. € 2.94 or $ 4.00 [back]
  2. which had not got lost unlike at my return journey from Amman… [back]
  3. a bad combination, coming from Syria, having been in Jordan the year before and travelling all alone, it seemed [back]
  4. Of course I’d bloody well mind, Mr Customs Officer; photos are kind of… private?! [back]

Got any lawn to mow?

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

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What with the Federal Elections looming on the horizon at the end of this month, all parties are busy holding rallies to catch more voters.

All parties?
Yes, all parties, unfortunately so, including the far-right NPD (Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands - National-Democratic Party of Germany).

As so far all plans and/or attempts to forbid the NPD have led to nothing1 holding rallies is their protected right as a registered political party.

So on the 28th of last month the NPD was holding a rally in Kochel am See in Bavaria.
The original plan had been to simply ignore them, mayor Thomas W. Holz (33, CSU) told newspapers in an interview.
This was proving difficult though, as the NPD came “armed” with megaphones and huge loudspeakers, effectively drowning Town Hall and the surrounding area in their right wing drivel.

Not easy to ignore such a racket.

And then…2

… a resident started mowing his lawn.

Another one “remembered” he had some urgent work to do that required the use of a buzz saw.

This inspired another to do some serious work in his garden with a chainsaw.

Other residents got out their lawnmowers and chainsaw as well.

Yet others drove by Town Hall with their tractors and cars, honking their horns.

According to the mayor the NPD could not interest anyone in their flyers either, and “Kochel has never been mowed so tidily before”.

:applause: :unworthy: :rofl:

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Sources (in German):

Politblogger

tz-online

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  1. only due to
    1. some formalities, not to the party not being a danger to our constitution and
    2. the thought that a registered party is easier to monitor than the members of a forbidden party gone underground [back]
  2. says mayor Holz [back]

A global post

Monday, April 21st, 2008

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Zimbabwe

I have been closely following this year’s elections in Zimbabwe, southern Africa.
It was an all-in-one election: on March 29th the people of Zimbabwe went out to vote on the president, the House of Assembly and the senate.

For those of you who don’t know, the president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, ruling for 28 years now, and his Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party have been rigging the last few elections and have been in the habit of killing, beating, torturing and displacing the poor, people of and people supporting the opposition party MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) and white farmers.

A combination of blatant mismanagement, bad timing (raiding farms and killing and displacing farmers during harvest times) and nepotism (giving the farms seized from the hated “colonial white farmers” to his cronies instead of people who know about farming) and a lot of other things I am surely missing, has led the country into ruin.
At the time of the election Zimbabwe had an inflation rate of 100,000% (One hundred thousand percent!); the unemployment rate is at 80%, the most basic food is either unavailable or too expensive for people to buy and the rampant number of HIV infections and an appalling sanitary/hygiene situation have led to the incredible life expectancy of around 34 years for women.

If this country and its people are to survive, Mugabe has to go - the sooner, the better.

Voting proved to be difficult, in some cases impossible. Voters were turned away from polling stations for various reasons, ranging from alleged additional nationalities which would (unlawfully) exclude them from voting to not being on the list for the polling station they’d been going to all their lives. Some of the voters with the latter problem managed to vote at other stations.
The stations themselves were often hidden away from view, as were the posters pointing to them.
If you had managed to find a polling station and were on their list of registered voters, you might still have found yourself in the company of a good many intimidating police officers who were present at polling stations “to assist disabled or illiterate people to cast their votes”.

After two days of suspence and rumours of Mugabe having fled the country to varying destinations, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) started releasing results for the House of Assembly votes in a slow and irregular trickle, strangely enough always with ZANU-PF being one or two seats in the lead.
By April 2nd the official results for the House of Assembly votes were released:
94 seats went to ZANU-PF,
98 seats went to MDC Tsvangirai, and
7 seats went to MDC Mutambara (not a wise choice to split the MDC if you ask me…).


© 2008 by Zapiro

As of today the other results have not been officially released.
Yet Mugabe accuses the MDC and even members of the ZEC (a ZANU-PF controlled institution after all) of vote rigging and has contested part of the House of Assemby votes and the presidential vote.
Not only the people of Zimbabwe wonder how he can contest numbers that nobody knows.


© 2008 by Zapiro

Some ZEC officials have been arrested.
MDC party members and people of the regions that very strongly voted for MDC have been beaten and burned.
Houses have been destroyed, more white farmers threatened.
Do I have to mention that harvests have been destroyed?

For the first time ever the ballots were counted at each polling station right after the elections and the results publicly displayed.
Indepentent observers and MDC members photographed those results and counted voters.
There are variations in the House of Assembly results but all in all the numbers tally - ZANU-PF votes due to “helpful police officers aiding the disabled and illiterate” notwithstanding.

The Independent Results Center webpage of the Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) has long since published the results of the presidential vote as well, unofficially declaring Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC the winner with 50.3% of the votes.

The people of Zimbabwe know the results of this year’s elections. Oh, they knew them last time as well, but last time there was no proof. This time there is.
The Zimbabweans are desperate and have had enough.
I am afraid that if Mugabe doesn’t decide to go of his own free will after all, there will be a bloody and probably long civil war. Just what this struggling country needs…

The High Court in Zimbabwe rejected the MDC’s demand for an immediate release of the vote count on April 14th.
By now a recount (read: rigging) in 23 of the 210 constituencies has begun.
Violence, lies (Tsvangirai a puppet of the old colonial masters) and threats have been stepped up.

The last time I saw the inflation rate mentioned it was at 164,800%.

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South Africa

As in the past during the bouts of violence and oppression following elections in Zimbabwe the South African president Thabo Mbeki stood close to his buddy Mugabe, denying there being any crisis in Zimbabwe, while government spokesman Themba Maseko called the situation dire.

When Zambian president Levy Mwanawasa called for an extraordinary summit of the Southern
African Development Community (SADC) in Lusaka, Zambia, on the 13th Mbeki made a short detour to Zimbabwe, amiably joked with Mugabe, and then went on to Lusaka to tell everyone there to wait for election results.

Although he had first said he would, Mugabe did not grace the summit with his presence but sent his foreign minister instead.
Oh, and 27 busses filled with people paid to cheer for him at the summit…

Despite the host’s urging the SADC to take action the SADC let themselves be convinced by Mbeki to do nothing.


Mbeki (left) & Mugabe (right)

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China

I’ve been wondering for quite some time now why the Olympics are going to happen in China.
There were certain conditions that the Chinese government was supposed to stick to in return for the honours, right?
Like, paying a bit more attention to human rights and freedom of the press.

As nothing seemed to be happening in that direction people started to call for a boykott of the Olympics.
“No, no, we can’t do that,” came the answer from both politicians and Olympic committee members. “The Olympics are a unifying sporting event and should not be politicised!”

Then the Chinese were paying a lot of attention to human rights and to the freedom of the press by sending all reporters out of the region on the anniversary of the occupation of Tibet and stamping out every bit of protest by brutal force, but I somehow doubt that was quite what the international community had had in mind…

So - naturally, in my opinion - more and more people were calling for a boykott of the Olympics.
“No, we still can’t do that, but maybe, possibly, we could skip the party events. But we should really think about this some more before we do that. We definitely can’t boykott the Olympics. See, by letting the Chinese government host such a big international event, we are getting levers in to put pressure on them to change things.”

Um. But the Chinese just did everything they weren’t supposed to do. Isn’t the idea of such levers that if “the evil state” doesn’t comply, there will be consequences?
Where are the consequences? You can’t just make a press statement condemning what they did and let them go on as they please.

Everyone should withdraw from this year’s Olympics. And I don’t just mean politicians attending the event.
The athletes should not show up. Or show up, but do no sports and protest.
Anything but pretending that some stupid global sports event is more important than human rights.

“Ok, very valid reasoning,” you will be saying, “but what is this doing in a post about southern Africa?” Ah, let me enlighten you.

On April 14th a Chinese ship, the “An Yue Jiang”, arrived at the port of Durban, South Africa, carrying a shipment of arms for Zimbabwe.

On April 15th the presence of Chinese soldiers was reported from Mutare, Zimbabwe.

It seems human rights abuses on their own soil aren’t enough to keep them occupied anymore…

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South Africa - again

As I said, the “An Yue Jiang” arrived at Durban on the 14th.

According to the SA Explosives Unit in Durban “There was a problem with the documents they submitted and we have directed the matter to the Chief Inspector of Explosives in Pretoria, Senior Superintendent van Sittert and it may take days for them to get clearance”

On April 16th Transnet and National ports authority of South Africa cleared the ship to begin the offloading of arms and ammunition.

On April 17th the general secretary of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU), Randall Howard, made a public statement, announcing that they did not agree with the South African government’s position and that their members employed at Durban Container Terminal “will not unload this cargo neither will any of our members in the truck driving sector move this cargo by road.” He suggested the ship should return to China. (my source via)

On April 18th the Anglican bishop Rubin Phillips with the backing of the SA Litigation Centre (SALC) went to the Durban High Court which granted an interim order stating that the shipment of the “An Yue Jiang” would be placed under the curatorship of the Sheriff of the Court, meaning that the court would seize the cargo the moment the ship docked.

The world should applaud the SATAWU, the bishop, the SALC and the High Court in Durban for standing up against the official position of their country’s politicians, or - more correctly - the position of Thabo Mbeki.

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the end

Sadly, the ship is either on its way to Mozambique or Angola now, although it has been registered as a casualty today. Everyone is wondering if it really is in trouble or just pretending - or chancing - to be adrift without fuel in order to force being refuelled.

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sources

Main source for my information for this article - apart from the news - was the “This is Zimbabwe” blog I am linking to in my blogroll as well.
That’s also where I found the pictures I used in this post. There was no source given for the photo, but the cartoon I put in the first South Africa bit seems to be a Sokwanele creation and people are encouraged to use it as an ecard.
I wrote to Sokwanele, but I suppose they have more important things on their mind right now than weird German bloggers asking about using their stuff.
Until I hear otherwise I will consider this blog post my ecard to you then. ;)

The two cartoons I added in the Zimbabwe bit I was allowed to use with kind permission of Zapiro, or rather of the person who answers his emails. ;)
The cartoons are perfect for describing the situation regarding the vote counts, so I am truly thankful I was granted permission to use them.

Secure country?

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

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Dear Audience, you may or may not have noticed the link in my blogroll to a German Omar who - surprise - mainly blogs in German.

He now posted that he recently married a Muslim woman - Kathrin - whom I remember seeing commenting on his blog.
What does one do after a marriage? Right. Go on a honeymoon.
So they rented a house for a week in a small village in the Lüneburger Heide, which is supposed to be a very nice region in Germany. (I wouldn’t know; I have never been there.)

On the evening of day 5 someone was suddenly hammering on their door. The wife had been lying on the sofa (probably dozing off; she didn’t elaborate) and was too stunned (her heart was beating wildly, she wrote) to move and open the door.
Omar came hastening from the bathroom and after a shout of “Police! Open the door!” opened said door just in time, or else it would have been kicked in.

Several police officers pushed past him, without a warrant, the second one vaguely waving a badge in his face, pushing his arm and his plea to wait while his wife finishes dressing aside.
In spite of this Kathrin had succeeded in covering her hair in time and approached the leading officer who was entering the living-room with Omar and offered him her hand in greeting, which he pointedly ignored.

All in all there were four officers searching the house, while a further four had the house surrounded. All of them in bulletproof vests.

After they were done searching the house they told the couple that they had received the information that an Oriental looking couple had arrived on Saturday night without a car and in the dark.

Yes.

So??? :-??

Apparently that combination already makes you look like terrorists.
The police officers themselves had been dragged from bed to perform this anti-terrorist measure.
Omar and Kathrin had to explain why they had arrived at that late time and without a car, and the officers called in to have their passport numbers checked for any convictions against the two.

The wife demanded to know what this whole affair was supposed to mean and was told that this was a routine check, comparable to checking for drunk drivers….

Finally the phone rang with the info that the two had a clean record. The officers made ready to leave, now being able to shake their hands.
Kathrin asked the final question “What kind of country are we living in?”, to which she got the reply “A safe/secure one”.

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If you understand German, you can read a short summary on Omar’s blog and a longer version on Kathrin’s.
Newer post by Omar here.