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01 Sep 2010 - 29 Jun 2013
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Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Category: Civil Society
Clinton: Mideast Faces Disaster Without Reform
January 13th, 2011 by Naureen
On Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Arab leaders to enact political and economic reform: “While some countries have made great strides in governance, in many others people have grown tired of corrupt institutions and a stagnant political order. They are demanding reform to make their governments more effective, more responsive, and more open. And all this is taking place against a backdrop of depleting resources […] But in too many places, in too many ways, the region’s foundations are sinking into the sand. The new and dynamic Middle East that I have seen needs firmer ground if it is to take root and grow everywhere.”
She warned that “those who cling to the status quo may be able to hold back the full impact of their countries’ problems for a little while, but not forever. If leaders don’t offer a positive vision and give young people meaningful ways to contribute, others will fill the vacuum.” Clinton pledged US support for countries which make strides towards reform and called for greater cooperation between businesses, government and civil society to address the region’s problems.
Posted in Civil Society, Corruption, Protests, Reform | 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 topissues in 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 »
Iran: Reform Leaders Threatened with Prosecution
January 3rd, 2011 by Jason
At last weeks Friday Prayers, Tehran’s chief prosecutor, Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi​, announced that the leaders of the Green Movement “will definitely be prosecuted.” On Wednesday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also referenced the opposition, saying that the “seditionists” had “hurt the Islamic Revolution and the people.” In response, opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi said that he is ready to stand trial if it is open to the public. Female MP’s have also called for the prosecution of Zahra Rahnavard​, the wife of Mir Hossein Mousavi, for actions that are “anti-Revolutionary.”
Posted in Civil Society, Freedom, Human Rights, Iran, Judiciary, Reform | Comment »
Tunisia: Ben Ali Shuffles Cabinet, Freedom House Urges Restraint
December 30th, 2010 by Jason
Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali has appointed new ministers of youth and sports, trade and handicrafts, religious affairs, and communications following the recent protests. The Daily Star reports that the opposition Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) is calling for the removal of the interior minister as well. “PDP founder Nejib Chebbi told a news conference that the two ministers (of communications and interior) ’symbolize the policy of hardening, violence and media clampdown’ and said they failed to handle a legitimate protest movement and allowed it to degenerate into violence.” Freedom House released a statement today calling on the Tunisian government to “refrain from the unnecessary use of force against peaceful protesters and to respect the fundamental rights of its people, including the right to freely express dissenting opinions.” Meanwhile, Egyptian activists are planning to rally on Sunday in solidarity with the Tunisian protesters.
Posted in Civil Society, Corruption, Egypt, Freedom, Protests, Reform, Tunisia | Comment »
Egypt: “Rigging With a Hint of Elections”
December 29th, 2010 by Jason
In a new article at Middle East Report Online, Mona El-Ghobashy details the numerous flaws in Egypt’s recent parliamentary elections saying that they “defied expectations, not because the ruling National Democratic Party again dominates Parliament but because of the lengths to which it proved willing to go to engineer its monopoly.” The elections came at a time of “aggressive economic transformation,” and “intense public anger about corruption scandals involving figures at the peak of the regime,” forcing the regime to rely on its “tool kit of electoral skullduggery.” El-Ghobashy acknowledges that the regime’s desire to “stage manage” the upcoming presidential election was a factor in the heavy handed way in which it went about ensuring overwhelming victory for the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), but she adds that a desire on the part of the NDP to set up a “legal framework” that prepares “public assets for delivery into private hands,” was also a driving factor.
Posted in Civil Society, Corruption, Egypt, Elections, Freedom, Muslim Brotherhood, Political Parties | Comment »
U.S. “Hypocrisy” Damages Prospects for Democracy
December 29th, 2010 by Jason
Sarah Trister writes at The Christian Science Monitor that U.S. support for undemocratic regimes sends the message that “repressing civil society won’t interfere with a strategic relationship.” Trister cites Egypt as a prime example of a country which receives significant amounts of aid from the U.S. while effectively stifling the work of independent NGOs: “The Egyptian government has arbitrarily canceled NGO events and conferences, detained and deported NGO workers, and frozen funds of independent organizations.”
In a related article, Moataz A. Fattah, an associate professor of political science at Cairo University and Central Michigan University, looks at the effect that Western support of despotism in the Middle East has on democratic movements in the region. Fattah argues that “a number of studies found that the chances of success for home-grown spontaneous popular democratic movements are considerably lower than those for movements that enjoy regional or international support.” He then asks what conditions lead to Western support for democratic movements, saying that it is a “simple calculation of the balance of power,” where “Western condemnation […] of election forgery in the Arab world is never as strong […] because the oppressor is a friend and (the) aggrieved is a foe.”
Posted in Civil Society, Democracy Promotion, Egypt, Foreign Aid, Freedom, NGOs, Reform, US foreign policy | Comment »
“Party Building in the Middle East”
December 22nd, 2010 by Jason
The National Democratic Institute (NDI) has released a new article titled “Party Building in the Middle East.” Written by Les Campbell, NDI’s senior associate and regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, the article seeks to “enumerate some of the key achievements of democracy assistance in the Arab world over the past decade; describe the strategies democracy assistance practitioners employ in their work; and explain, through four case studies and the voices of recipients, how specific interventions have contributed to the advancement of democracy in the Middle East and north Africa.” The case studies include Yemen, Morocco, the West Bank and Gaza, and Egypt.
Posted in Civil Society, Democracy Promotion, Egypt, Elections, Foreign Aid, Morocco, NGOs, Palestine, US foreign policy, Women, Yemen | Comment »
Iran: A Divided Nation
December 17th, 2010 by Jason
In two new pieces, Mehdi Khalaji and Abbas Milani explore cultural and political divisions in Iran.  Khalaji focuses on the growing split between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini. “Tension between the president and the Supreme Leader is built into the Islamic Republic’s core,” Khalaji writes, because the Supreme Leader is chosen, while the President “emerges from an electoral process.” This natural tension has caused conflict between Khameini and the two previous presidents, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami. Khalaji concludes that “[t]he history of the Islamic Republic indicates that the power struggle between the Supreme Leader and the president never abates. It also suggests that the Supreme Leader will prove to be stronger.”
Milani takes a sociohistorical view of the divided Iranian identity. Looking back over the country’s history, Milani sees “a bifurcated, tormented, even schizoid cultural identity: pre-Islamic, Persian-Zoroastrian elements battling with forces and values of an Arab Islamic culture.” Milani goes on to detail the the struggle between the two identities, which conflict through art, film, language, and the meaning of modernity. Post-1979 Iran can be seen through this lens of bifurcation. Ayatollah Khomeini advocated for a Shi’ism that rejected modernity (i.e. the Shah and his insistence on a Persian national identity) and established a strong state that clashes with calls for greater democratization from many citizens. “[A] critical look at the past shows the bleak future of Khamenei and other champions of despotism. Violence can only delay but not destroy the rights of man in a nation that has embraced the cultural ethos of modernity.”
Posted in Civil Society, Iran, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Political Islam | Comment »
Iran: A History of “Underground Media”
December 16th, 2010 by Jason
In a three part series at Tehran Bureau, Dr. Afshin Marashi explores the complex relationship between the rulers of Iran and the press going back to the early 19th century. The establishment of newspapers by the expatriate communities in places like Baku and London helped spread discontent with the Qajar Dynasty (1794-1925), eventually leading to the Constitutional Revolution (1905-1911). In the early years of the Pahlavi Dynasty (1935-1979) the number of media outlets began to shrink as a result of the centralization enforced by Reza Shah Pahlavi. Under Reza’s son, Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, newspapers again flourished until the overthrow of Mosaddegh in 1953 and the re-establishment of state controls. Prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran saw an explosion of “underground media,” perhaps best exemplified by spread of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini​’s sermons on tape. Since the Revolution, tensions between Conservatives and Reformists have maintained a vacillating balance between state controlled media and underground media. Most recently, blogs and YouTube videos have taken the place of tape cassettes and pamphlets. Marashi writes that “the current phase of state control of the Iranian media should be seen in the broader context of the country’s modern history. […] As in earlier stages of Iran’s history, today’s democratic opposition has made extensive use of the latest technologies to circulate news, opinions, and calls for reform.”
Posted in Civil Society, Freedom, Iran, Journalism, Technology | Comment »
Egypt: Opposition Woes
December 16th, 2010 by Jason
In a letter written shortly after the parliamentary elections, Issandr El Amrani analyzes how the outcome will effect Egypt’s opposition, saying that the Muslim Brotherhood was “reeling,” the Wafd Party may be preparing to “fold back and regroup, preparing for the post-Hosni moment,” and Taggamu is in the middle of a “leadership crisis.” Opposition groups “have little choice but to retreat and wait out succession, and work on their grassroots.” Amrani argues in the letter that the possibility of an opposition “grand coalition” is unlikely due to a lack of leadership. He does say that members of the opposition that advocated for a boycott were “vindicated” by the results, and that this might increase the influence of Mohamed ElBaradei, especially if ElBaradei “show[s] a greater willingness to lead the opposition.”
Posted in Civil Society, Egypt, Elections, Muslim Brotherhood, Political Parties | Comment »
IFES Releases First Paper in Series on Electoral Fraud
December 15th, 2010 by Jason
The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) has released the first (pdf) in a series of three white papers on electoral fraud. From the introduction: “IFES is producing this white paper series to address the rising concern throughout the democracy and governance (D&G) community about the effects of electoral fraud on developing nations. […] Through this paper series, IFES seeks to…provide the D&G community with the necessary tools to combat electoral fraud.” The first paper focuses on “fraud in new democracies, provides a definition for fraud (as opposed to corruption or malpractice), and assesses how international democratic standards intersect with the prevention of electoral fraud.”
Posted in Civil Society, Corruption, Democracy Promotion, Elections, Reform | Comment »
Egypt: ElBaradei’s Leadership in Question
December 15th, 2010 by Evan
Writing in Al-Masry Al-Youm, Amr Abdulrahman argues that the  National Association for Change is too reliant on the charisma of its leader, Mohamed ElBaradei. While ElBaradei likes to cite Nelson Mandela in South Africa and Mohandas Gandhi in India as examples, Abdulrahman contends that Egypt would be much better off following the Chilean and Brazilian examples where broad political movements gradually brought change. Al-Masry Al-Youm also published a new interview with activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim. When asked about ElBaradei, Ibrahim said “he’s overcautious and expects too much from the people. He doesn’t appear to want to take risks, and this is very disappointing to many people. […] I wish he was bolder and more ready to assume a leadership role, rather than waiting for the people. The leader’s role is to mobilize the people, but, if he wants the people to come ready made, this is too much, and it reflects a lack of adequate understanding of Egyptian society.”

Posted in Civil Society, Egypt | Comment »
Jordan: HRW Calls for Release of Former Parliamentary Candidate
December 13th, 2010 by Jason
Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a statement Sunday calling for the release of  Tahir Nassar, who unsuccessfully ran as an independent in the November parliamentary elections. Part of his platform called for the end of “discrimination between citizens on the basis of the birthplace.” Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch, said that the authorities “waited for the international election monitors to leave before clamping down on a candidate who sought reform […] The authorities persist in using criminal laws to stifle unwelcome views.” Nassar was charged under article 150 of the penal code for “undermining national unity and ’stirring up sectarian strife.’”
Posted in Civil Society, Freedom, Human Rights, Jordan, Judiciary | Comment »
Saudi Arabia: Pro-Democracy Group Plans Protest
December 13th, 2010 by Jason
The Associated Press reports that the the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association plans to lead “the kingdom’s first sit-in protest this month to demand radical political reforms, a constitution and elections.” The article also discusses how Saudi Arabia has handled internal dissent saying, “Saudi authorities usually deal harshly with opposition but in recent years liberal-minded figures have been petitioning King Abdullah for reforms.” Also, the editor of the magazine Umma Conference, Mohammed al Abdul Karim, was arrested last week for writing an essay questioning “why ordinary Saudis have no choice in selecting their leaders,” and speculating on “how the kingdom’s security might be affected if rival factions within the royal family began fighting amongst themselves.”
Posted in Civil Society, Freedom, Islam and Democracy, Reform, Saudi Arabia | Comment »
Egypt: Opposition Protest Highlights “Illegitimate” Parliament
December 13th, 2010 by Evan
Opposition party members took to the streets of Cairo to protest Egypt’s new parliament on Sunday (BBC video here). The demonstrators represented a wide spectrum of Egypt’s opposition, including the Muslim Brotherhood, the liberal Wafd and Ghad parties, and the leftist Tagammu. “All political factions are here to announce the illegitimacy of the ruling regime. These shameless elections were the final nail in this regime’s coffin,” activist Gamal Fahmi told Al-Masry Al-Youm. At Time, Abigail Hauslohner described the protests and the opening of the new parliament Monday as the “first day of a new era.” There is a growing consensus in Egypt that the regime went too far in rigging the parliamentary vote: “Both the Brotherhood and the liberal Wafd boycotted the run-off vote; others had boycotted the entire process. The bulk of Egypt’s opposition now finds itself on the outside of parliamentary politics, with some of the unlikeliest of allies now apparently joining hands to craft a new strategy for what may be a moment of opportunity.”
Posted in Civil Society, Egypt, Elections, Muslim Brotherhood | Comment »
POMED Notes: “Corruption Challenges in Yemen”
December 10th, 2010 by Jason
On Friday the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) joined with the Embassy of Yemen to present “Corruption Challenges in Yemen,” a presentation by Dr. Bilkis Abouosbaa​, Vice-Chairperson of the Supreme National Authority for Combating Corruption (SNACC). A portion of the documentary film “Destructive Beast: Corruption in Yemen” was also shown.
(To read full notes, continue below the fold or click here for pdf.)
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Civil Society, DC Event Notes, Foreign Aid, NGOs, Reform, Women, Yemen | Comment »
Egypt: U-Shahid Report on Run-Off
December 10th, 2010 by Jason
The Egyptian civil society organization U-Shahid has released a report on the run-off election describing “82 cases…of riots that escalated to the exchange of gunfire,” and “52 reports of vote tampering, whether ballot-stuffing the ballots for whole polling stations or in the presence of large numbers of ballots thrown out of the polling stations.” The Egyptian Association for Supporting Democratic Development (EASD) also released a report on the same time period describing “587 instances where observers were not allowed to freely observe the voting process…205 incidents where voters were not permitted to cast their ballot without a legal reason…327 cases of group voting…259 instances of illegal voting, 237 cases of ballot box stuffing, 315 instances where candidate campaign materials were allowed inside polling stations, 437 cases of influencing voter choices during the vote, and 193 instances where voters with disabilities were not offered assistance.”
Posted in Civil Society, Egypt, Elections | Comment »
Saudi Arabia: Human Rights First Society Report
December 9th, 2010 by Jason
The Human Rights First Society-Saudi Arabia has released a report titled “Unholy Trespass: How the Saudi Legal Code Violates International Human Rights Law.” The report seeks to “serve as a roadmap for the Saudi officials, so that they will know where the Saudi laws are either in violation of international conventions or treaties,” according to the group’s president, Ibrahim Almugaiteeb​. While the report acknowledges that “[g]overnment and societal tolerance for the public discussion of human rights and civil liberties in Saudi Arabia has increased substantially in the last decade,” Saudi Arabia’s human rights record remains troubling.
Posted in Civil Society, Freedom, Human Rights, Judiciary, Saudi Arabia, Unions, Women | Comment »
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