Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Morocco: Protests Planned For Sunday
February 18th, 2011 by Alec
Facebook activists in Morocco, mostly young people in their 20s, are calling for protests across the country on Sunday to “demand constitutional reform and proper democracy.” This comes after several self-immolation attempts by young Moroccans over the past few weeks, inspired by Muhammad Bouazizi, whose own self-immolation ignited the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia. Osama el-Khlifi
, one of the Facebook group creators for the protests, was careful to point out that the protests are not aimed at King Mohammed VI but the “power structure” around him of wealthy interests. A government spokesman, Khalid Naciri, said that government was not concerned about potential protests: “It does not bother us that citizens express themselves freely, as long as this happens in full respect of our country’s immutable values and supreme and vital interests.”
Morocco: Banned Islamist Group Calls for Reform, Protests Planned on Facebook
February 7th, 2011 by Alec
Justice and Charity, a banned Moroccan sufi-inspired Islamist group, has called for “autocracy” to be “swept away” and that the government should undertake “deep democratic reform.” The group is believed to be the country’s biggest opposition force and draws its primary support from university students and could have up to as many as 200,000 members throughout the country, mostly in poor districts. Reuters reports that a group on Facebook has received hundreds of supporters for a protest planned for February 20th. Moroccan Telecommunications Minister Khaled al-Nasiri
apparently welcomed the report stating that protests were a normal feature of “democratic life” in Morocco and that the government has, “for years been open to freedom of opinion and expression.” Standard and Poor’s has rated Morocco as the least likely of the North African states to be affected by unrest.
Islamist Parties Choose Preservation Over Political Contestation
January 24th, 2011 by Kyle
In the new issue of the Journal of Democracy
, Shadi Hamid
argues that Islamist parties across the Arab world have a tendency to “lose elections on purpose.” He examines the behavior of Islamist opposition parties in six Arab countries and concludes that the roots of Islamist parties in broader social movements compel them to prioritize self-preservation over political contestation. However, “as Islamists have grown comfortable losing elections—and with much of the world comfortable watching them lose—Arab democracy has drifted further out of reach.”
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 »
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 »
Democracy Not Necessarily America’s Ally in the Middle East
January 18th, 2011 by Naureen
Writing at The American Conservative
blog, Patrick Buchanan argues that “in the Middle East, democracy is not necessarily America’s ally.” Buchanan criticizes the Bush Administration for its zealous calls for democracy in the region and points to the gains of Hamas, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood and most recently Muqtada al-Sadr’s party in Iraq as evidence that “when elections are held or monarchs and autocrats overthrown, the masses will turn to leaders who will pull away from America and stand in solidarity with the Palestinians.” He goes on to say that the kings of Morocco, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak
have been “more reliable friends than any regime that might come out of one-man, one-vote elections.”
“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 »
Morocco: Crackdown on Media Outlets Expands
November 18th, 2010 by Evan
, a Moroccan political analyst, has a new article in the Carnegie Endowment’s Arab Reform Bulletin on the Moroccan government’s recent crackdown on independent and foreign media outlets. The regime has become adept at “using roundabout means to portray targeted newspapers or journalists as having violated the law, morals, sacred taboos, or national values,” Monjib writes. On the other hand, officials encourage the formation of government-friendly private media groups. Foreign media outlets have not been immune to government pressure. Al Jazeera and AFP have both had issues registering journalists and maintaining offices in Rabat. According to Monjib, the crackdown is the government’s response to the “increasingly prominent political role” the independent press has played in recent years.
“Islamic Feminism and Beyond”
November 15th, 2010 by Jason
The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Middle East Program released a new paper (pdf) today, titled “Islamic Feminism and Beyond: The New Frontier.” The introduction is written by Haleh Esfandiari
and Margot Badran, and the paper includes six sections covering a range of topics and countries. The articles include “Feminist Activism for Change in Family Laws and Practices: Lessons from the Egyptian Past for the Global Present” by Margot Badran, “Recent Amendments in the Turkish Civil and Criminal Codes and the Role of Feminist NGOs” by Binnaz Toprak
, “Women and the Politics of Reform in Morocco” by Souad Eddouada, “Beyond Islamic Feminism: Women and Representation in Iran’s Democracy Movement” by Nayereh Tohidi
, “The Personal Status Code and Women’s Celibacy in Tunisia” by Lilia Labidi
, and “Analyzing Reform Successes and Failures: The Personal Status Regime in the Arab World” by Amaney Jamal
Morocco: “Let Democracy Reign” in Western Sahara
November 10th, 2010 by Anna
At Foreign Policy’s Middle East Channel, Carne Ross
of the diplomatic advisory group Independent Diplomat criticizes
a recent article that calls for autonomy for Western Sahara under Moroccan sovereignty. He describes “the devastating violence unleashed by Moroccan authorities against the indigenous Saharawi people of Western Sahara in recent days,” including against Sahrawi protesters earlier this week. He argues that “the autonomy proposal is completely at odds with the peace agreement” signed in 1991, and charges that Morocco has undermined progress on the deal, including by challenging the voter registration process. He calls on human rights organizations and foreign governments to condemn the violence and affirms the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination. Ross proposes: “let democracy reign. Give the people a vote. Let them decide between Morocco and independence.”
Morocco: Confrontation in Laayoune
November 8th, 2010 by Jason
The BBC reports that three people have been killed in a confrontation between Moroccan security forces and Saharawi protesters in the capital of Western Sahara, Laayoune. The security forces reportedly entered the camp, named Gadaym Izik and housing 12,000 protesters, early in the morning “using helicopters and water cannon to force people to leave.” The violence comes as talks between the Moroccan government and the Polisario movement, which seeks the full independence of Western Sahara from Morocco, are scheduled to begin at the United Nations in New York City. The Polisario’s representative at the talks, Ahmed Boujari
called the forced removal of the protesters “‘a deliberate act to wreck the talks.’”
Human Development Report Finds Inequality Persists in Arab World
November 5th, 2010 by Anna
The United Nations released its 2010 Human Development Report yesterday, titled “The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development.” This year’s report, which includes new indices to adjust for inequality, women’s disadvantage, and multidimensional poverty, found that of the countries measured, Oman’s Human Development Index (HDI) score improved the most over the last 40 years. Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco also improved considerably. Overall, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Bahrain ranked
the highest in the region; Egypt
came in 101 out of 169, and Sudan ranked close to the bottom.
Inequality remained a significant issue, and Jeni Klugman, the report’s lead author, observed that “the most significant losses for Arab countries in the Inequality-adjusted HDI can be traced to the unequal distribution of income.” Yemen and Qatar ranked very low on gender equality, but the report also notes that women’s representation in Arab parliaments has risen in recent years. On civil and political liberties, the authors report that there is considerable room for improvement across the region.
Morocco: Al Jazeera Suspended Over “Tarnishing Image”
November 1st, 2010 by Anna
The Moroccan government reportedly suspended Al Jazeera’s service in the country on Friday, a move the satellite television network condemned. The government charged the network with deviating from accepted standards of journalism, adding that its “refusal to be objective and impartial systematically tarnishes Morocco’s image.” One unnamed official stated that the government objected to “the way Al Jazeera handles the issues of Islamists and Western Sahara,” where over 2,000 Islamists have been detained since 2003. Magda Abu Fadil
, director of the Journalism Training Program at the American University of Beirut,writes at Huffington Post that “[r]un-ins with Arab governments have been a trademark of the channel, whose motto ‘the opinion, and opposite opinion,’ has often landed it in hot water in a region where personality cults and state-run media are standard fare.” Al Jazeera got in a spat with the Jordanian government last month over the jamming of World Cup broadcasting, and officials in Cairo have criticized the network’s editorial policies and “anti-Egyptian reports,” according to Abu Fadil.
HRW Documents Human Rights Abuses in Morocco, Saudi Arabia
October 26th, 2010 by Evan
Human Rights Watch (HRW) released two reports this week documenting human rights abuses in Morocco
and Saudi Arabia. According to HRW, the Moroccan authorities routinely detain and abuse suspects arrested under counter-terrorism statutes. Such treatment continues despite legislation adopted in Morocco to protect the rights of detainees. In Saudi Arabia, HRW called on King Abdullah
and Interior Minister Prince Naif
to halt the scheduled execution of Rizana Nafeek, a Sri Lankan housekeeper who was convicted of killing a 4-month old baby when she was 17.
Egypt: The Power of Statistics
October 25th, 2010 by Jason
Writing at The Guardian’s
Comment is Free, Brian Whitaker takes Egypt to task for its failure to report basic statistics about its economy: “Imagine trying to govern a country that lacks adequate statistics about economic activity, healthcare, crime, education, urban development and environmental pollution. Imagine a country that relies heavily on tourism but has no figures showing why people visit or what they think of their stay. Imagine a country that relies heavily on agriculture, and yet has produced no data on the quality of cultivable land since the 1970s.” Whitaker cites a recent report by the Egyptian government that exposes the lack of reliable information on a number of issues. The selective usage of statistics by governments to control perceptions about their country is common throughout the world. Whitaker lists Lebanon’s failure to conduct a census since 1932, the lack of data on the number of Coptic Christians in Egypt, and the sensitivity of regimes in Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan to opinion polling as examples of the power of statistics.
Morocco: Monarchy Ups Pressure on Independent Media
October 1st, 2010 by Evan
Writing in The Atlantic
, Max Fisher describes recent government pressure on independent media outlets in Morocco. Nichane, a popular Arabic-language news magazine with a history of addressing taboo social and political topics, has been forced to close, Fisher reports. The magazine and its publisher Ahmed Benchemsi have been harassed repeatedly by the government in recent years and ultimately succumbed to an advertising boycott led by the Omnium Nord Africain Group—a powerful holding company with close ties to the Moroccan royal family. Benchemsi promised to continue publishing his French-language magazine TelQuel
in spite of the advertising boycott.
Morocco: Saudi Restrictions on Moroccan Woman an “Insult”
August 30th, 2010 by Anna
Nesrine Malik argues
in The Guardian
that Saudi Arabia “is failing in its Islamic duties” by banning (Arabic) some Moroccan women from undertaking the umra (the lesser pilgrimage to Mecca). According to Saudi authorities, women “of a certain age” might abuse their travel visas “for other purposes” while abroad. Malik claims that this is meant to reference the sex industry, which is stereotypically staffed by North African women. Suggesting that Moroccan women might use a religious ritual as a guise for engaging in illicit sexual activity is, in Malik’s view, a charge that “summarily insult[s] the [Moroccan] nation.” Rather than using national stereotypes that draw on the perception of Morocco as being morally lax to justify restrictions on some travelers, Malik asserts, the Saudi government should be facilitating pilgrimages to Mecca for all Muslims. Political parties in Morocco have reportedly called on the parliament to intervene.
Morocco: Civil Society as a Catalyst for Change?
July 13th, 2010 by Farid
An interesting article
in The Daily Star
assesses the role that civil society has played in reforming Moroccan politics since the 1990’s. According to Moha Ennaji
, once “the electoral law was revised so all members of the country’s Parliament were elected by popular vote,” then under this democratic atmosphere, “a multitude of civil society organizations and associations emerged on the national scene, improving human rights, women’s rights, economic development, education and health.”
Ennaji describes two main types of civil society organizations in Morocco: One filling the gap where the government has failed to provide, and the other being human rights groups who have strengthened the democratic nature of the country. “Civil society organizations have become real schools of democracy by training youth to be more engaged in community work and collective action in pursuit of the common good,” she says adding that the current challenge that civil society in Morocco is facing the need to become innovative and form a “genuine partnership with the state” while while still working independently to fulfill the needs of the people.
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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