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11 Jan 2011 - 13 Dec 2011
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Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Month: January, 2011
Tunisia: Violent Unrest Continues
January 11th, 2011 by Kyle
In response to continued riots, the Tunisian government has closed all schools and universities indefinitely in an attempt to quell the unrest. Maya Jreibi, a leader of the opposition Progressive Democratic party demanded​, “The president should order an end to the firing on protesters, a fight against corruption and a political opening. Two decades of frustration have led to this explosion.” The US State Department recently summoned the Tunisian Ambassador to Washington to express concerns over protests and recent events in Tunisia, and released a statement: “We, again, affirmed our concerns not only about the ongoing violence, the importance of respecting freedom of expression, but also the importance of the availability of information.”
Posted in Human Rights, Political Parties, Protests, Tunisia | Comment »
Clinton Makes Surprise Visit to Yemen
January 11th, 2011 by Naureen
On Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, made a surprise visit to Yemen to meet with President Ali Abdullah Saleh. In addition to the US-Yemen security relationship, Clinton affirmed support for a number of reforms, including “an inclusive political process that will, in turn, support a unified, prosperous, stable, democratic Yemen.” The US has rebalanced Yemen’s aid package accordingly so “it is not so disproportionately consisting of funding necessary for the counter-terrorism agenda but also includes the other priorities.” Clinton also met with opposition leaders, nongovernmental organizations and students in Yemen to draw focus to women’s and children’s rights. She is the first US secretary of state to visit Yemen in 20 years.
Posted in Foreign Aid, US foreign policy, Yemen | Comment »
Addressing the Foreign Aid Budget Debate
January 10th, 2011 by Naureen
Rich Tafel, writing at the Huffington Post, called on Republicans and the Obama administration to join forces to sharpen USAID’s focus, and establish relationships between the agency and the private sector to make it more innovative and effective.  In response to calls to dramatically cut foreign aid, Tafel argues: “Bring a butcher knife to US foreign aid? Not a good idea. Sharpen it? Yes, make it a double-edged sword to address America’s economic health and security.”
Appropriations Chairs Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Harold Rogers (R-KY) have recently called for cuts and increased scrutiny on the foreign aid budget. Speaking on the Hugh Hewitt Show, Rogers stated, “I’m no big foreign aid person […] we will fund what we have to fund, but not a penny more.”
Posted in Foreign Aid, US politics | Comment »
Algeria: Protests a Reflection of Country’s Own History
January 10th, 2011 by Alec
In a piece for Foreign Policy’s The Middle East Channel, Hugh Roberts​asserts that although the current riots in Algeria have been linked to steep increases in food prices, the riots reflect a broader sense of Algerian society morally revolting against the regime.  Roberts further argues that Algerians have long given up hope on the country’s official institutions, the parliament in particular. “So the Algerians in their majority have learned the hard way that direct action — making a nuisance of themselves to the authorities in one way or another — is the only tactic that works.”  In comparing current unrest to the 1988 October riots, Roberts notes that although the current rioting is larger in size and scope, the government has dealt with them much less aggressively.
Posted in Algeria, Protests | Comment »
Sudan: Arab Leaders Uneasy Over Referendum
January 10th, 2011 by Alec
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit stated that the government would respect the results of the referendum despite fears that a vote for independence could spark the disintegration of Sudan and threaten Egypt’s economic and security interests. Nasr Farid, Egypt’s former grand mufti, joined other prominent Islamic scholars to state that independence for southern Sudan “contravenes Islamic law.” Emile Hokayem, writing for The National, elaborates on Arab fears over the possibility of a North-South split in Sudan: “Sudan would be breaking up just as Kurdish self-determination sentiments in Iraq are rising,” and the continued history of inter-Arab sectarian conflict in Lebanon and the independence movement in Western Sahara remain troubling.  Arab leaders fear that southern Sudanese independence could re-energize and exacerbate these sentiments.
Posted in Egypt, Elections, Sudan | Comment »
Iran: Sotoudeh Sentenced to 11 Years in Prison, Banned from Travel and Practicing Law
January 10th, 2011 by Naureen
On Sunday, Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was sentenced to 11 years in jail for “anti-regime propaganda, acting against national security and failing to wear Islamic cover in a film.” Sotoudeh has also been banned from practicing law and leaving the country for 20 years. According to her husband, Reza Khandan, the main charges against Sotoudeh were a result of interviews she gave to foreign news outlets and allegations that she was a founding member of the Defenders of Human Rights Center, an association of lawyers led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi. Khandan also said that Sotoudeh believed her sentence was politically motivated, as she was told by interrogators before her trial that her sentence would be “guaranteed to be more than 10 years.”
Update:  Philip J. Crowley, State Department spokesman, condemned the verdict and called for her immediate release stating, “Ms. Sotoudeh is a strong voice for rule of law and justice in Iran. We are dismayed by her continued detention and loss of the right to practice law. Her conviction is part of a systematic attempt on the part of Iranian authorities to silence the defense of democracy and human rights in Iran.”
Posted in Freedom, Human Rights, Iran, Middle Eastern Media | Comment »
Lebanon: Hariri Meets with World Leaders on Special Tribunal, Internal Deadlock
January 10th, 2011 by Naureen
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed support for the UN tribunal investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri after meeting with the current Prime Minister Saad Hariri.  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also reiterated his support for the independent tribunal and his hope that it “would help end impunity in Lebanon.”
Hariri also met with King Abdullah bin Abdel-Aziz of Saudi Arabia to discuss the Saudi-Syrian-brokered accord aimed at reducing political tension and maintaining stability in Lebanon. Saudi Arabia and Syria have been attempting to mediate the dispute between Hezbollah and Hariri’s government since July, with both sides accusing the other of stalling.
Posted in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Sectarianism​, Syria | Comment »
Sudan: U.S. Leaders React to Referendum
January 10th, 2011 by Alec
President Barack Obama, in an editorial, stated that if Khartoum fulfilled its obligations to ensure peace the U.S. could remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism but warned, “In contrast, those who flout their international obligations will face more pressure and isolation.”  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stressed the importance of development aid to both southern and northern Sudan: “We also have to work with, and invest in, the north in Sudan so that they see the benefits of having done a very courageous action.”
In Sudan, Senator John Kerry​praised Sudanese leaders, the U.N., and the Obama administration for helping make the referendum a “reality.”  He also reiterated the need to remain engaged in Sudan and help the parties negotiate unresolved issues including the final status of the Abyei region.  Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen​, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, cautioned “The U.S. and other responsible nations must not ease the pressure on the regime in Khartoum, or provide any concessions, until the result of the referendum in South Sudan is assured [and] peace has been achieved in Darfur and throughout Sudan.”
Posted in Elections, Foreign Aid, Sudan | Comment »
Egypt: Mohamed ElBaradei Calls for a Boycott of Presidential Election
January 10th, 2011 by Alec
Mohamed ElBaradei called for a “popular boycott” of the upcoming Egyptian presidential election on Sunday via Twitter: “When only 5 people out of 85 mill. are eligible to run for presidential elections: boycotting this deception is key to regain our rights.”
Posted in Egypt, Elections | Comment »
Kay Granger to Chair State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee
January 7th, 2011 by Kyle
House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers today announced the Appropriations subcommittee Chairs and members for the 112th Congress. Congresswoman Kay Granger was selected to serve as the Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations.  The State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee has the responsibility of overseeing and allocating all foreign aid spending. In addition, Granger will continue to serve as a member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. With the two subcommittee assignments, Granger will oversee nearly $750 billion in government spending with the combined defense and foreign operations budgets.
Posted in Congress, Foreign Aid | Comment »
Egypt: Suspect Tortured to Death
January 7th, 2011 by Naureen
The Alexandria District Attorney’s Office is investigating the death of Sayed Bilal, a Salafi preacher, who was arrested by State Security Investigation officers  for questioning over the New Years Eve church bombing. Bilal was reportedly tortured to death on Wednesday, 24 hours after being arrested and was buried against the consent of the family. While authorities have claimed that torture and fatal beatings of suspects are isolated events, human rights organization have called them systematic. According to a 2009 Human Rights Watch report, “Torture in Egypt has become epidemic, affecting large numbers of ordinary citizens who find themselves in police custody as suspects or in connection with criminal investigations.”
Posted in Egypt, Human Rights | Comment »
State Department Takes Questions on QDDR, Critics Say Reforms Ineffective
January 7th, 2011 by Alec
The US State Department broadcast its seventh live webcast in its Conversations with America series on Thursday.  Dr. Anne-Marie Slaughter, Director, Policy Planning; and Donald Steinberg, Deputy Administrator, both of USAID discussed the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR).   Philip J. Crowley, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Public Affairs moderated the event.  Slaughter commented that the QDDR was an answer to the question of how to make government more efficient and effective.  Steinberg noted, “international development, that is sustained economic growth in poor countries abroad, isn’t just a question of reflecting our national values but our national interests as well.”
Helle Dale and James Roberts claim in a Heritage Foundation report that the QDDR represents an expansion of government bureaucracy and a waste of taxpayer funding. Implementation of the review’s recommendations will, “make more bureaucrats less accountable by further diluting and expanding the government’s development bureaucracy.”  Dale and Roberts further argue that the review fails to solve the “longstanding turf wars” between the State Department and USAID, ignores the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and fails to adequately address the, “need to reform the public diplomacy and strategic communication tools of the U.S. government.”
Posted in Diplomacy, Foreign Aid, US foreign policy | Comment »
POMED Notes: “Waging Peace in Sudan: The Inside Story of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the Prospects for Sudan’s Future
January 7th, 2011 by Alec
The Brookings Institution hosted a panel discussion on Thursday on the upcoming referendum on independence in southern Sudan entitled, “Waging Peace in Sudan: The Inside Story of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the Prospect for Sudan’s Future.”  Michael O’Hanlon, senior fellow in Foreign Policy at Brookings moderated and introduced the panelists: Hilde Johnson, former Norwegian Development Minister and current Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, Gayle Smith, special assistant to President Obama and senior director at the National Security Council, Richard Williamson​, nonresident senior fellow in Foreign Policy at Brookings and former US special envoy to Sudan under President George W. BushThe fourth panelist, Congressman Donald Payne of New Jersey (D-10), was called back to the House floor before the session began and was unable to participate.
For the full notes, continue reading below. Or, click here for the PDF. Or, click here for full audio.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Civil Society, Elections, Foreign Aid, Sudan | Comment »
Secretary Clinton’s Upcoming Visit to the Middle East
January 7th, 2011 by Kyle
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet with King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia and Prime Minister Saad Hariri of Lebanon in New York City on Friday. Clinton will then travel to the Middle East from January 8th to January 13th visiting the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar. Mark Toner, acting deputy department spokesman, said the focus of the trip is to, “consult with government officials on a full range of regional and bilateral issues and emphasize the importance of government - civil society engagement.” Clinton will, “engage with civil society and community leaders in each country working to help citizens realize shared aspirations for progress.” The top issuesin her agenda will be Middle East peace, Iraq, and Iran and will be addressed at the seventh Forum for the Future in Doha, a meeting of government, civil society, and business leaders from around the region to promote reform in the Middle East.
Update: Senior US State Department Officials gave a background briefing on Clinton’s visit, and answered questions regarding recent political developments in the region.  In regards to Tunisia, one official stated the US “expressed our concern about both what is happening with regard to the demonstrations and encouraged the Tunisian Government to ensure that civil liberties are protected, including the freedom to peacefully assemble.”  In response to criticism that the Forum for the Future had not produced valuable outputs in past meetings, one official noted, “One of the biggest [outcomes] is the Foundation For The Future, which is based in Jordan and which is an independent NGO that supports civil society development throughout the BMENA region.”
Posted in Civil Society, Diplomacy, Oman, Qatar, Reform, UAE, US foreign policy | Comment »
POMED Notes: The Crisis in the Arab World’s Aging Leadership
January 7th, 2011 by Kyle
On Wednesday, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars hosted a discussion focused on the issues of succession, authoritarianism and democracy in relation to Arab leaders entitled, “The Crisis in the Arab World’s Aging Leadership.” Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, Director of the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center introduced the speaker David Ottaway, former Cairo Bureau Chief of The Washington Post and current Senior Scholar at the Wilson Center.
For the full notes, continue reading below. Or, click here for the PDF. Or, click here for full video.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Civil Society, Egypt, Events | Comment »
Algeria: Riots Continue in Algiers
January 7th, 2011 by Kyle
In response to rising food prices, housing shortages, and wider social and political grievances, Algerian youths rioted for the second night in a row in Algiers. Although these riots seem to bear no direct connection to the recent protests in Tunisia, Burhan Ghalioun, Director of the Centre for Contemporary Oriental Studies at the Sorbonne in Paris stated, “These populations live in geographic proximity, but also inhabit similar political, psychological and economic spaces. They see what is happening, understand that something needs to be done and join in.” At the blog The Moor Next Door, the author noted these “riots seem to be spontaneous […] whether that crystallizes into any unified political movement or platform with durable group feeling remains to be seen.”
Posted in Algeria, Human Rights, Protests | Comment »
Egypt: Sectarianism Caused by Lack of Equality and Political Space
January 7th, 2011 by Naureen
In a video released (Arabic) earlier this week by opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei, he blamed the Alexandria church bombing on “an education and religious atmosphere that fosters hatred.” He called for the creation of an environment where “everyone sees himself as Egyptian without consideration to his religious beliefs,” and have equal opportunities and freedom to establish places of worship.
In The New York Times, Michael Slackman writes about the growing awareness of religious strife in Egypt following the bombing and the likelihood that Hosni Mubarak will seek a sixth term, instead of passing the reins of power to his son in order to maintain the status quo. However, many commentators argue that the status quo of corruption, vote rigging, and discriminatory laws is the nation’s greatest problem. Gamal Assad, a Coptic Christian and member of Parliament, stated “This sectarian atmosphere is driving young people to retreat and lock themselves within the framework of the church. There is no room for political participation, which makes them susceptible to the conservative religious discourse. If there were real elections, if there was real representation, if there was any real participation by the people, then the political decisions could be more appropriate and address all these problems.”
Posted in Egypt, Elections, Sectarianism | Comment »
Sudan: Referendum Overshadows Internal Problems in North
January 6th, 2011 by Alec
Andrew Natsios, former Special Envoy to Sudan for the Bush administration, argues internal divisions and pressures in Northern Sudan are being overlooked.  He points to growing criticism of President Omar al-Bashir’s government from “Islamist and Arab nationalists” who lament the potential loss of oil resources to an independent South and fear that other rebellious regions will seek to break with the North as well.
Sudanese opposition leaders have threatened to topple Bashir’s government if their demands of political reform are not met.  Faruq Abu Issa, coordinator of the National Consensus Forces, has called on the government to hold a “national constitutional conference to create a new democratic constitution” in addition to addressing Darfur, public freedom laws and rising prices of vital commodities.  Other opposition party leaders are worried about the potential implications the referendum will have on the North’s territorial integrity and economy.
Posted in Political Parties, Sudan | Comment »
Kuwait: Prime Minister Survives No-Confidence Vote
January 6th, 2011 by Naureen
On Wednesday, Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Ahmed al-Sabah, narrowly survived the no-confidence vote. Twenty-five MPs voted in support of al-Sabah while 22 voted against, with one abstention. Opposition politicians have vowed to continue efforts to unseat the premier, with Islamist MP Jamaan al-Harbash saying the “crisis will only end when this government reaches its end.” Elliott Abrams praised the vote as a strong signal for democracy in the region: “It’s a laudable effort, and sooner or later the parliament is going to get Sheik Nasser, the prime minister. And that will be a landmark day in the development of democracy and popular rule in Arab lands.”
Posted in Kuwait, Legislation, Reform | Comment »
Bahrain: Trial of Imprisoned Activists Postponed
January 6th, 2011 by Naureen
The trial of 25 activists, accused of plotting a coup against Bahrain’s rulers, was postponed again Thursday, after nearly all the court-appointed defense attorneys dropped out when the suspects rejected them in favor of their original defense team. The original defense team walked out after the court disregarded requests to investigate torture claims. The next hearing is scheduled for January 13th.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information called the trial “a serious test to Bahrain’s credibility, judiciary integrity and the extent of respect shown to local and international laws and the international covenant for civil and political rights.”
Posted in Bahrain, Human Rights, Judiciary | Comment »
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Tunisia: Violent Unrest Continues
Clinton Makes Surprise Visit to Yemen
Addressing the Foreign Aid Budget Debate
Algeria: Protests a Reflection of Country’s Own History
Sudan: Arab Leaders Uneasy Over Referendum
Iran: Sotoudeh Sentenced to 11 Years in Prison, Banned from Travel and Practicing Law
Lebanon: Hariri Meets with World Leaders on Special Tribunal, Internal Deadlock
Sudan: U.S. Leaders React to Referendum
Egypt: Mohamed ElBaradei Calls for a Boycott of Presidential Election
Kay Granger to Chair State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee
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