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The POMED Wire Archives
Category: Saudi Arabia
Bahrain: Protests Upset Gulf Status Quo
February 18th, 2011 by Kyle
Toby C. Jones, writing at Foreign Policy, states that, “Bahrain is burning,” in response to the recent violent repression of protesters by Bahraini police and military officials.  Jones states: “Bahrain’s rulers and their mercenaries have laid siege to their own country.” The protesters he has met with remain resolute in their non-violent goals by “emulating the example of their fellow democracy activists elsewhere in the Middle East” even in the face of a repressive security apparatus, he says. The recent events in the Bahrain have elicited a strong response from Gulf neighbors, according to Jones, including rumors that Saudi Arabia is not only strongly supporting the violent crackdown, but has also sent tactical equipment and personnel support. Amidst claims from the Bahraini government that this is a Shi’a plot with Iranian support to disrupt the gulf, Jones asserts: “For Bahrainis and for other citizens in the Gulf, this moment is not about sectarian politics, score settling against Sunnis, or advancing Iran’s interests. It is about justice, democracy and political rights.”
Posted in Bahrain, Iran, Military, Saudi Arabia | Comment »
Rentier States and Arab Exceptionalism
January 24th, 2011 by Alec
Ömer Taşpinar, in a piece for Today’s Zamananalyzes the lack of democracy in the Arab world in the context of the recent uprising in Tunisia.  Using culture and religion to explain democratic deficit is erroneous, he argues, citing the examples of Turkey, Malaysia, and Indonesia as Muslim majority democratic nations. Rather, the rentier state theory is a better explanation for authoritarianism in countries like Saudi Arabia, a country that relies entirely on oil wealth and thus does need to tax its citizens.  He draws a direct link between taxation and representative democracy: “when a state has no need to tax its people, the most important part of the social contract that defines the democratic relationship between state and society is missing.”  He extends this argument to Egypt and Jordan, with foreign aid functioning in place of a natural resource.  Both countries have what is called “strategic rent,” proximity to oil-producing states and proximity to Israel: “In that sense, foreign aid is just like oil. It creates unearned easy income, unrelated to economic productivity.”
Posted in Egypt, Foreign Aid, Islam and Democracy, Jordan, Reform, Saudi Arabia | Comment »
POMED Notes: “The Organization of the Islamic Conference: Fatwas on Freedom and Democracy”
January 23rd, 2011 by Kyle
On Wednesday the Hudson Institute hosted an event focused on the issues of fatwas and the organizations involved with speaking for the Islamic community entitled, “The Organization of the Islamic Conference: Fatwas on Freedom and Democracy.” Nina Shea, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute moderated and introduced the speaker Dr. Mark Durie who is a theologian, human rights activist, and pastor of an Anglican church. He has published many articles and books on the language and culture of the Acehnese, Christian-Muslim relations and religious freedom.
To read full notes continue below, or click here for pdf.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Freedom, Human Rights, Islam and Democracy, Political Islam, Saudi Arabia | Comment »
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.
See also the previous contributions to the Democracy Digest​-​POMED Tunisia symposium from Amr Hamzawy and Steven Heydemann and Larry Diamond.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Algeria, Democracy Promotion, Egypt, Elections, Foreign Aid, Iran, Islamist movements, Libya, Morocco, Protests, Reform, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Tunisia Symposium | Comment »
Lebanon: Renewed Attempts to Mitigate Tension Amidst Crisis
January 19th, 2011 by Kyle
Following the release of sealed indictments by the United Nations Tribunal and the collapse of the Lebanese Government, Saudi King Abdullah has declared an end to the Saudi-Syrian initiative due to lack of progress. However, the Turkish and Qatari Foreign Ministers, Ahmet Davutoglu and Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani, respectively, are attempting to mitigate tension by meeting with Hezbollah and other high-ranking officials in the Lebanese Government. Fears of potential Hezbollah actions in response to the indictments and renewed sectarian violence remain rife. The group conducted a show of force that began early Tuesday in which Hezbollah members silenty patrolled the streets of Beirut in black uniforms, causing fear and panic among city residents. The US State Department responded to recent events stating: “We do have ongoing concerns that various elements within Lebanon – both inside Lebanon and outside Lebanon – will continue to try to politicize this process.”
Posted in Civil Society, Diplomacy, Hezbollah, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Lebanon, Political Islam, Political Parties, Protests, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Nations | Comment »
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.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Egypt, Hamas, Hezbollah, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Muslim Brotherhood, Saudi Arabia | 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 »
Saudi Arabia: Reforms Fall Short
December 16th, 2010 by Evan
In a new piece for The Wall Street Journal Christoph Wilcke, Senior Researcher in Human Right Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division,  examines King Abdullah al-Saud’s record. While the King did take steps toward promised reforms in 2009, over the past year the country has experienced a series of setbacks. Journalists and professors have been arrested for writing about domestic political issues, Wilcke notes, adding that “Punishment for voicing ideas goes directly against the grain of the tolerance that King Abdullah has touted since he took the throne in 2005.” Moreover, in contrast to King Abdullah’s promotion of religious tolerance abroad, “public observance of any faith other than Islam remains prohibited” in Saudi Arabia. The two areas where the country has taken steps forward are women’s rights and judicial reform, but even in these areas the results of reform efforts have been underwhelming, Wilcke concludes.
Posted in Freedom, Human Rights, Islam and Democracy, Saudi Arabia | Comment »
Instability Ahead for Authoritarian Regimes in Egypt and Saudi Arabia
December 14th, 2010 by Evan
In a recent piece, Daniel Brumberg argues that Egypt’s rigged parliamentary elections threaten to destabilize the country. “When there is no honest mechanism by which citizens can create a moral, ideological and/or institutional connection to the state, society will go in its own direction. This is a prescription for mass apathy, out of which mass resentment could suddenly explode, especially during moments of crisis.” Meanwhile, John Bradley has a new article on the “looming” succession crises in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Despite their historical and rhetorical differences, these two powerful Arab states “increasingly resemble each other…in terms of populist Islamist fervor and limited political representation,” Bradley writes.
Posted in Egypt, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Saudi Arabia | 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 »
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 »
POMED Notes: “Crisis in Lebanon: Sectarian Politics, Regional Dynamics, and the U.N. Special Tribunal”
December 8th, 2010 by Jason
The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) held a panel discussion Wednesday titled “Crisis in Lebanon: Sectarian Politics, Regional Dynamics, and the U.N. Special Tribunal.” The speakers were Aram Nerguizian​, a scholar with the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Randa Slim, an independent consultant and a board member of the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue and the Project on Middle East Democracy, Andrew J. Tabler, a Next Generation Fellow in the Program on Arab Politics at The Washington Institute, and Mona Yacoubian​, head of the Lebanon Working Group at USIP and special adviser to USIP’s Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention.
 (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, Hezbollah, Israel, Judiciary, Lebanon, Military, Political Parties, Saudi Arabia, Sectarianism​, Syria, US foreign policy, United Nations | Comment »
Saudi Arabia: Facebook Briefly Banned After Having “Crossed a Line”
November 15th, 2010 by Anna
On Saturday, a Saudi official announced that Facebook would be blocked for not conforming with the government’s conservative values. According to the Associated Press, the official claimed that Facebook had “crossed a line.” The ban, however, was temporary. Yesterday, a spokesman for the Communications and Information Technology Commission denied having blocked the site, calling the access problems an “accidental” glitch, and the site is now operational again.
Posted in Saudi Arabia, Technology | Comment »
Lebanon: Tensions Over the STL Continue to Build
November 9th, 2010 by Jason
Sami Moubayed writes at the Asia Times Online that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) has pushed Lebanon to the “verge of a major explosion.” According to Moubayed, Hezbollah has been attempting to block the tribunal by removing the “state financing of the United Nations-backed court in parliament, claiming it had become politicized.” Saudi Arabia, an ally of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, has also been working to stall the STL using “its heavyweight influence in the world community to secure a postponement of the indictments until next March.” The legality of the STL has been questioned as well, an issue that recently reemerged when Italian judge Antonio Cassese, President of the STL, said that “in his capacity as a law professor and not as president of the tribunal, he acknowledges that the agreement to establish the STL was not concluded in compliance with the Lebanese Constitution,” but that the Lebanese government’s staffing of the tribunal means that it is nevertheless “bound by the agreement.”
Posted in Hezbollah, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia | Comment »
Iraq: Mixed Reactions to Saudi Offer for Talks
November 1st, 2010 by Anna
On Saturday, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah offered to host talks in Riyadh between the leaders of Iraq’s main political factions. The talks, which would be under the Arab League’s auspices, would take place at the end of this month. The reactions to the offer were mixed. The Iraqiya party welcomed the initiative and called on other political blocs to take part. The National Alliance turned down the offer, expressing confidence that the political stalemate could be resolved in Baghdad without outside “​interference​.” The Kurdish bloc also reportedly rejected the offer, contending that King Abdullah’s involvement would only complicate the problem. Outside Iraq, the Arab League’s Secretary General Amr Moussa seemed to welcome the idea, and Egypt likewise expressed support for the initiative and urged Iraqi politicians to make the necessary compromises in order to end the political impasse.
Posted in Arab League, Iraq, Political Parties, Saudi Arabia | Comment »
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.
Posted in Human Rights, Morocco, Saudi Arabia | Comment »
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.
Posted in Civil Society, Egypt, Freedom, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia | Comment »
Christians Face Oppression in the Gulf
October 8th, 2010 by Anna
A Reuters report today focuses on the difficulties Christians in the Arab Gulf states face in practicing their religion. The region is home to at least 3.5 million Christians, mostly Catholics from the Philippines and India. Gulf governments often restrict their ability to worship by limiting access to space and arresting Christians for allegedly proselytizing. In Saudi Arabia, control is especially tight – Christians often hold services in diplomats’ homes or hotel conference rooms. There has been some slow progress: Ibrahim al-Mugaiteb​, head of the Saudi-based First Human Rights Society points out that “[t]en years ago a Saudi who said he was a Christian would have had his head cut off,” adding “[t]he problem is not the government, but the religious police.”
Posted in Freedom, Gulf, Saudi Arabia | Comment »
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.”
Posted in Civil Society, Freedom, Iran, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Technology | Comment »
Saudi Arabia: HRW Report “Five Years of King Abdullah’s Reforms”
September 28th, 2010 by Jason
Human Rights Watch has released a new report entitled “Looser Rein, Uncertain Gain: A Human Rights Assessment of Five Years of King Abdullah’s Reforms in Saudi Arabia.” The 57-page report looks at four key areas: women’s rights, freedom of expression, judicial fairness, and religious tolerance.
(To read the full summary, continue below.)
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Civil Society, Freedom, Human Rights, Islam and Democracy, Journalism, Judiciary, Reform, Saudi Arabia, Sectarianism | Comment »
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