Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
President Obama Condemns Violent Repression of Protesters
February 18th, 2011 by Kyle
President Barak Obama
, issued a statement condemning the violence that took place across the region on Friday in Yemen, Bahrain and Libya. President Obama stated: “I am deeply concerned by reports of violence in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen. The United States condemns the use of violence by governments against peaceful protesters in those countries and wherever else it may occur.” He went on to say: “Wherever they are, people have certain universal rights including the right to peaceful assembly.” President Obama urged these governments to use restraint in their response to peaceful protesters and to respect their rights.
Libya: Regime Threatens Protesters Amid Rising Death Toll
February 18th, 2011 by Alec
As protests in Libya continue
on Friday, with funerals for some of the killed protesters, loyalists of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi
have threatened protesters with violence through the Revolutionary Committees, considered the backbone of the regime, which released this statement: “The response of the people and the Revolutionary Forces to any adventure by these small groups will be sharp and violent.” Twenty-four people have died since anti-government protests began on Tuesday with the fiercest violence in the cities of Benghazi and al-Bayda as the government cracked down. Exiled opposition groups claimed
that protesters had taken over the city of al-Bayda after being joined by policy but Al Jazeera’s live blog is reporting that government militias have been reinforced and that there are fierce clashes in the city.
Photo: Free Libya
February 18th, 2011 by Alec
Libya Update: Videos Show Protesters Shot
February 17th, 2011 by Alec
Protester shot in Benghazi
Protester shot in Darnah (Derna)
The following map of Thursday’s reported protests is provided by Twitter user Arasmus
Libya Update: Demonstrators Torch Police Stations, Protests Spread, More Deaths Reported
February 17th, 2011 by Alec
that hundreds of protesters have turned out in the Libyan city of Beyida and have torched a number of police “outposts” in the city. Similar incidents are occurring in other cities like Zentan in the south. Security force have also used rubber coated bullets and water cannons on growing protests in Benghazi as the unrest spreads westward and southward throughout the country.
Meanwhile, the Libyan government has reportedly been arresting activists since February 1st, for attempting organize anti-government rallies and protests. The Guardian’s live blog reports that the government has brought out pro-government supporters to counter the “day of rage” protesters. CNN says that it has received unconfirmed reports that as many as 16 people may have been killed on Thursday.
Libya Update: Six People Reportedly Killed in Benghazi Protests
February 17th, 2011 by Alec
The Guardian’s live blog
of protests around the Middle East reports that a caller on Al-Jazeera has reportedly witnessed six people shot to death during Thursday protests in Benghazi. The caller also claimed that the government was releasing criminals from prisons to attack anti-government protesters.
Video: Wednesday Protests in Libya
February 17th, 2011 by Alec
This video shows demonstrators protesting, reportedly outside a police training facility in the city of Darnah in eastern Libya.
Libya: Protests In Benghazi, 2 Killed
February 16th, 2011 by Alec
With Egypt style protests taking place in Bahrain and Iran this week, demonstrations have also surfaced in Libya. On Wednesday, about 200 hundred protesters, according to CNN, demonstrated
in Benghazi, the country’s second largest city, in support of detained human rights lawyer Fathi Terbil
. Media reports claimed
that protesters threw stones at police who fired rubber bullets to disperse the crowds. So far, 38 people have been reported injured. Libyan state television further claimed that the protests were actually in support
of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi. Regime opponents are reportedly using Facebook to organize a “day of rage” scheduled for Thursday. Benghazi has a reputation as a stronghold of regime opponents. According to the website BikyaMasr, two protesters were killed
Video believed to be of Benghazi protests
A Democratic Tsunami? No Chance
January 19th, 2011 by Cole
The Arab world is not about to experience a 1989-style democratic contagion. Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution is a one-off event, writes Arun Kapil, a political science professor at the Catholic University of Paris (Institut Catholique de Paris-FASSE). He is skeptical that the regime’s old guard could yet make a comeback, but believes prospects for successful democratization hinge on the behavior of the Islamists and the shape of the pact negotiated by the major political actors. Posted in Algeria, Democracy Promotion, Egypt, Elections, Foreign Aid, Iran, Islamist movements, Libya, Morocco, Protests, Reform, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Tunisia Symposium | Comment »
Will Tunisian-Style Revolution Spread?
January 19th, 2011 by Alec
A piece in Foreign Policy outlines possibilities for a Tunisia-style revolt happening elsewhere in the Arab world. Five countries are singled out as particularly ripe for such events: Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, and Jordan as they share many of the same problems at the root of Tunisia’s revolt – a government legitimacy deficit, economic stagnation, endemic corruption, high unemployment, and a demographic youth bulge. Laurie A. Brand
, also writing
for Foreign Policy, argues that a replication of Tunisia will not happen in Jordan. She states that current protests in Jordan are targeting the government led by Prime Minister Samir al-Rifai
. However, the PM and his cabinet have little real influence on policy matters, as they are decided by the King and his close advisors in practice. In Jordanian society, however, the King is usually viewed as “being above the fray” she argues. Amr el-Shobaki
, in a piece for AlMasry AlYoum
, also openly doubts that Egypt will follow the path of Tunisia. El-Shobaki cites Egypt’s highly sectarian and divided society, poverty, illiteracy, and underdevelopment as reasons why Egyptians cannot unite in the same way Tunisians did.
The Jasmine Revolution’s Democratic Prospect: Too Early to Say?
January 19th, 2011 by Cole
Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution has captured the imagination and raised the hopes of democracy advocates across the Arab world and beyond.
Within days of being warned by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that citizens had “grown tired of corrupt institutions and a stagnant political order,” the Middle East’s authoritarian rulers watched one of the Arab world’s most repressive and supposedly stable regimes become the first to be ousted by a genuine people’s power movement.
Given the region’s profound malaise, the elation felt by Arab democrats, human rights activists and civil society groups is merited and understandable. References to a coming democratic tsunami
, of Tunis as the Arab world’s Gdansk
, of another Arab Spring
in prospect, all testify to an appetite for freedom that gives the lie to claims of Arab exceptionalism
But many democracy advocates remain cautious, recalling the painful lesson of the post-Soviet world’s color revolutions: that regime change does not readily or necessarily lead to democratization. Others will remember a broader lesson: that history rarely repeats itself, except as farce – or tragedy.
When asked to assess the impact of the 1789 French Revolution, Zhou Enlai is said to have replied, “It is too early to say.”
Posted in Algeria, Democracy Promotion, Egypt, Human Rights, Iran, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Reform, Syria, Tunisia, Tunisia Symposium, US foreign policy | 8 Comments »
Libya: Government-Critical Journalists Detained
November 8th, 2010 by Anna
Authorities in Libya have reportedly
arrested 10 journalists affiliated with the Al Ghad media group. The agency was founded by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi (the reform-oriented son of Muammar Gaddafi), who has been openly critical of the government’s conservative old guard. The agency reported
: “[The detention] was carried out by the Internal Security Agency on Friday evening, violating the law on the promotion of freedom … and all international norms and conventions signed by Libya.” The arrests come as Saif al-Islam Gaddafi has become increasingly critical of the Libyan government, calling it inept and nonexistent.
Last week, the print version of the weekly Oea newspaper (also part of Al Ghad) was blocked after publishing an article that urged a “final assault” on the government for its failure to address corruption.
Transparency International Releases Corruption Rankings
October 26th, 2010 by Evan
Transparency International (TI) released its annual Corruption Perceptions Index today. In the Middle East, little changed over the past year. Iraq, Sudan, Yemen, Iran and Libya continued to experience dangerous levels of corruption all scoring 2.2 or under on TI’s 10 point scale (10 being “very clean” and 3, “very corrupt”). Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Israel once again led the region in transparency, all scoring above 6.
Continued Challenges to Internet Freedom
October 7th, 2010 by Jason
Repressive regimes in the Middle East continue to find ways to control the flow of information in their countries. Al-Masry Al-Youm
reports that the Mutaween,
or religious police, in Saudi Arabia are now monitoring “social internet networks like Facebook, Twitter, and chat rooms.” There is even a program at King Abdul Aziz University that teaches the religious police how to use the applications in order to censor them. In Libya, the government has begun removing access to url shortening sites due to the “adult-friendly” nature of one of the services. Meanwhile, the Iranian government has accused Facebook and Twitter of being “hidden enemies” that are “tools used by Western intelligence agencies in order to recruit new members and gather data on individuals.”
Squandered Resources and Arab Cynicism
September 7th, 2010 by Evan
In an opinion piece
in the Daily Star
, Rami Khouri cites the ongoing leadership struggle in Egypt and the 41st anniversary of Muammar al-Gaddafi’s rise to power in Libya as two prime examples of why the Arab world remains so cynical: “In these two tales, and many others like them in the Middle East, we witness one of the essential attributes of the modern Arab world, namely sovereign but disenfranchised citizens, which explains so many of our weaknesses and mediocrities. National leaderships that rule by coercive security methods that are in turn camouflaged by the thin cloak of hero-worship demagoguery have no serious capacity to engage with other countries in a meaningful manner; at least beyond short-term deals negotiated from positions of weakness, dependency and vulnerability.” According to Khouri, both Egypt and Libya have squandered their exceptional resources by relying on “political governance anchored in the narrow ruling elite’s contempt for the governed” instead of pursuing democratic and economic reforms to better society as a whole.
Obama Weak on Human Rights?
August 16th, 2010 by Jennifer
Writing in The National Review online, Jacob Mchangama argues
that activists who believed that “the so-called Obama effect would lead to America’s championing a new golden era for international human rights” have faced a “rude awakening,” adding that “under Obama, things have taken a turn for the worse.” Mchangama argues that the Obama administration has engaged in
the “coddling of tyrants at the U.N.” by proving unwilling to stand up against non-democratic countries such as Russia and China, which have come to dominate the UN Human Rights Council. Mchangama highlights several Arab nations as an example of the U.S.’s failure to criticize “the worst human-rights violators.” He notes that the U.S. was “unable to prevent Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya from becoming a member of the council,” and adds that “the Obama administration has also accepted seemingly harmless compromises that actually chip away at human rights. The best example came in October 2009, when the U.S. and Egypt cosponsored a resolution on freedom of speech that condemned ‘negative religious stereotyping.’” According to Mchangama, this resolution may further enable Egypt to oppress bloggers and other dissidents under bogus charges such as “insulting Islam.” Ultimately, he concludes that the administration must stop “sitting on the fence” and choose between one of two options: either “it must champion the cause of freedom at the U.N. by actively leading a coalition of democracies, confronting authoritarians, and shaming the spoilers”; or it must “build a credible alternative” to the UN as a forum for supporting human rights worldwide.
Libya Yields to International Pressure on Refugees
July 13th, 2010 by Jennifer
Following recent international criticism of its human rights abuses and deportation of refugees to home countries where they may face torture, Libya announced yesterday that it will allow approximately 400 Eritrean refugees to remain in the country, and promised that the government will “ensure them a decent life and access to employment suitable to their professional abilities.” The International Organization for Migration affirmed Libya’s commitment to find employment for the refugees. Amnesty International’s
Middle East and North Africa Director, Malcolm Smart
, had called
for Libya to protect the migrants and asylum seekers earlier this week.
Freedom House: 5 GMENA Countries Among “Least Free” in the World
July 7th, 2010 by Jennifer
In a piece
in Foreign Policy, Freedom House highlights the twenty nations it has identified as the “least free” in its 2010 Freedom in the World report. Six nations and territories in the Greater Middle East and North Africa (GMENA) are featured in the piece: Libya, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and the Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara.
Freedom House offers harsh criticism of the human rights and democracy records of the regimes in these areas. Regarding Libya, the piece argues that “despite Libya’s new, more positive image, gross abuse of human rights endures. Organizing or joining anything akin to a political party is punishable with long prison terms and even death.” The piece criticizes President Omar Hassan al-Bashir
of Sudan, pointing to the fact that al-Bashir rules as a military dictator, is accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, and oversaw “highly flawed” elections earlier this year. While giving a nod to some steps at reform recently taken by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah
, it points out that critics view these measures as aimed at consolidating Abdullah’s power, and calls Saudi Arabia “an authoritarian monarchy in which all political power is held by the royal family.”
Regarding Syria, the piece observes that President Bashar al-Assad’s “early presidency saw a brief political opening that was quickly replaced by a return to repression. Freedoms of expression, association, and assembly are now tightly restricted.” It emphasizes the high numbers of political prisoners held by the Syrian regime, specifically pointing out the cases of prominent activists Ali al-Abdallah
, Muhannad al-Hassani
, and Haitham al-Maleh
, whose sentencing was recently condemned by the U.S. government. Finally, the article designates the Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara– the site of a long-running territorial dispute between Algeria and Morocco -as one of the least free areas in the world, commenting that local “Sahrawi activists, human rights defenders, and others continue to face harassment and arbitrary detention and torture. Moroccan authorities regularly use force when quelling demonstrations in Sahrawi villages.”
Libya: New Amnesty Report Condemns Human Rights Abuses
June 23rd, 2010 by Jennifer
Amnesty International has released
a new report criticizing human rights abuses in Libya, highlighting in particular violations of the rights of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, in light of Libya’s recent decision to expel the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. Stating that refugees “live in constant fear,”Amnesty said that migrants in Libya receive no protection from abuse, and reported that many are indefinitely held in crowded detention centers or otherwise forcibly returned to their countries without due consideration of their requests for asylum.
The Amnesty report also describes other human rights violations in Libya, including the harassment and arrest of political activists, unexplained disappearance of dissidents, and continued detention of prisoners past the term of their sentences. On the other hand, the report acknowledges that overall, “The climate of fear and repression that prevailed in Libya for more than three decades is subsiding gradually.” Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui
, the deputy director for Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa program, blamed the continuing problems on Libya’s extensive internal security apparatus. “What is striking in Libya is the omnipresence and the total power that security forces have, especially the internal security agency,” she commented. “There are no accountability, no checks, no oversight. And this really needs to stop.”
Libya: Snapshot of the Regime, Prospects for Reform
February 24th, 2010 by Josh
In an interesting feature
’s March issue, Michael Moynihan draws upon his recent trip to Tripoli in order to elucidate what he views as Libya’s continuing stagnation despite both its tremendous oil wealth and recent efforts to engage in dialogue with the West. Highlighting notable contradictions between the government’s rhetoric of reform and ground-level realities, Moynihan recounts a number of conversations with ex-terrorists who, although touted by the government as fully rehabilitated, were actually taken off death-row or promised reduced prison sentences in exchange for renouncing political violence and aiding anti-terrorism investigations. One such individual, claiming he “saw the light” and had abandoned Islamism to work for Colonel Qaddafi’s government, defended Libya’s freedom of the speech and journalistic diversity — but when asked if one would be allowed to print an anti-Qaddafi slogan, he recoiled questioned why anyone would do that, which Moynihan interprets as an unintentional barometer of Libya’s true level of liberalism.
Despite these encounters, Moynihan retains some hope that Saif Qaddafi, Muammar Qaddafi’s son and presumed heir, will issue in a new generation of leaders that will “loosen their chokehold on power in exchange for a seat at the adult table of international politics.” But the current wave of superficial and cosmetic reforms, he says, “have brought [the Libyan people] no closer to the representative democracy Qaddafi promised 40 years ago.”
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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of POMED as an organization