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The POMED Wire Archives
Category: Tunisia
State Department Launches Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society
February 17th, 2011 by Naureen
Wednesday marked the launch of the U.S. State Department’s launch of Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society.  Under Secretary for Political Affairs William J. Burns opened the event by stating: “In recent weeks, we have been awed by the power of committed citizens to effect change in their societies.  We’ve borne witness to a remarkable triumph of human spirit and human courage in Cairo and in Tunis. ”  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton echoed his remarks and also expressed U.S. support for democratic change stating: “Our support for democracy and human rights is not about siding for or against either governments or citizens. This is about standing up for universal principles and for those in and out of government who support them.”  Clinton also discussed the use of diplomatic channels “to engage with civil society as a cornerstone of our diplomacy,” stating that “the transition to democracy is more likely to be peaceful and permanent when it involves both the government in power and the broad cross-section of the governed.”  She said that the Strategic Dialogue will focus on issues like governance, accountability, democracy, human rights and women’s empowerment.  USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah also discussed the agency’s new approach to development which prioritizes democratic governance and its desire to continue to work with and support civil society organizations.
Sherif Mansour, a prominent Egyptian activist, also made a statement calling for the U.S. aid package to Egypt to reflect the administration’s commitment to civil society.   He criticized the State Department for conceding to “pressure from the Egyptian government to cut down funds for democracy and to make it only available for government-approved NGOs.”
Posted in Civil Society, Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Egypt, Foreign Aid, Protests, Reform, Tunisia, US foreign policy | Comment »
Writing A New Political Narrative in the Middle East
February 17th, 2011 by Naureen
Writing at The Huffington Post, Lebanese-American political analyst and POMED board member Randa Slim argues that the events in Tunisia and Egypt have “dealt a heavy blow to old myths about democracy and political transformation in the region” and have constructed a new political narrative for the regime with four major themes emerging.  The recent uprisings in the Middle East demonstrate that democracy is not a Western concept. In the past the region has seen democracy in two forms: imposed by the West as in Iraq and the “lip-service democracies of most Arab governments, repressive and corrupt.” We are now seeing a third form emerge in which democracy is “the right of the people to live their lives, and decide their fate without heavy-handed control by a police state.”
These uprisings also show us that real change can come through non-violent means and that a regime which emerges through peaceful uprisings will have “more authenticity and credibility” than those in Iran, Syria and Lebanon.  It is also clear that these movements are not Islamist in nature and while Islamists will have “a seat at the table,” moving forward, leaders of both the Ennahda movement and Muslim Brotherhood have announced that they will not seek to gain presidency or majority seats in parliament. These movements were about governance and spurred by the people’s frustrations over corruption, unemployment and poverty and desire for good change and participation in the decision-making process.  Now, Slim says, the  hard work of nation-building begins; she calls on the West to help these “stories end well.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Egypt, Freedom, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Muslim Brotherhood, Protests, Reform, Tunisia | Comment »
Algeria: Anti-Government Protests Broken up in Algiers
February 14th, 2011 by Naureen
Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Algiers and Oran this weekend to participate in planned demonstrations against the government.  Small groups of demonstrators angry at President Abdelaziz Bouteflika gathered in May 1 Square in the center of Algiers shouting “Bouteflika out!” and waving front pages of newspapers reporting Friday’s overthrow of Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak.  Thousands of police officers quickly dispersed the crowds and arrested many of the demonstrators.  In response State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley stated: ”We note the ongoing protests in Algeria, and call for restraint on the part of the security services.  In addition, we reaffirm our support for the universal rights of the Algerian people, including assembly and expression.  These rights apply on the internet. Moreover, these rights must be respected.”
The turnout for protests has exceeded analysts’ expectations who believed that Algeria’s weak civil society and divided political landscape would prevent large scale protests like those seen in Tunisia and Egypt. Kal writing at The Moor Next Door also notes that the “Algerian regime is more effective at manging popular protests and riots than either Tunisia or Egypt, having done so for the last twelve years.” Additionally, he states, “the Algerian regime has something neither Tunisia nor Egypt has: piles and piles of gas money ready to be dumped on the right opposition and social players as needed.” Opposition groups have said that they will follow up this weekend’s protests by calling for demonstrations to take place in Algiers, every Saturday “until the regime steps down.”
Posted in Algeria, Egypt, Protests, Reform, Tunisia | Comment »
POMED Notes: “After the Uprisings: U.S. Policy in a Changing Middle East”
February 11th, 2011 by Naureen
On Thursday, the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) hosted a discussion on recent and ongoing events in Tunisia and Egypt and their influence on U.S. relations with the region’s governments and people and what steps the U.S. government can take to support democratic transitions in Egypt and Tunisia. POMED Executive Director Stephen McInerney made opening remarks and introduced panelists: Larry Diamond, Senior Fellow at Hoover Institution at Stanford University and founding co-editor of the Journal of Democracy; Tom Malinowski​, Washington Director at Human Rights Watch; and Mona Yacoubian​, Special Adviser at the Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention, United States Institute of Peace. 
To read full notes continue below, or click here for pdf.
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Posted in Algeria, Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Egypt, Event Notes, Events, Freedom, Human Rights, Islam and Democracy, Jordan, POMED, Protests, Reform, Tunisia, Yemen | Comment »
Durbin Applauds Facebook’s Role But Questions Protections for Activists
February 11th, 2011 by Naureen
On Friday, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) applauded the role Facebook played in Egypt and Tunisia, in a letter addressed to Facebook co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg stating, “I commend you for providing an important tool to democracy and human-rights activists.” He also stated, however, “as millions of people around the world use Facebook to exercise their freedom of expression, I am concerned that the company does not have adequate safeguards in place to protect human rights and avoid being exploited by repressive governments.” He called on Facebook to allow activists to use pseudonyms to protect them from government monitoring. In response to the letter, Andrew Noyes, a Facebook spokesman, said “the trust people place in us is the most important part of what makes Facebook work. As demonstrated by our response to threats in Tunisia, we take this trust seriously and work aggressively every single day to protect people.” As for pseudonyms, Noyes said: “Facebook has always been based on a real name culture, and we fundamentally believe this leads to greater accountability and a safer and more trusted environment for people who use the service.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Egypt, Freedom, Human Rights, Tunisia | Comment »
POMED Event: “After the Uprisings: U.S. Policy in a Changing Middle East”
February 10th, 2011 by Naureen
POMED will be hosting an event today, Thursday, February 10th, at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 419 from 1:00pm-2:30pm to discuss recent and ongoing events in Tunisia and Egypt and how they will influence the state of U.S. relations with the region’s governments and people and what steps the U.S. government can take to support democratic transitions in Egypt and Tunisia. Panelists include: Larry Diamond, Senior Fellow at Hoover Institution at Stanford University and founding co-editor of the Journal of Democracy; Tom Malinowski​, Washington Director at Human Rights Watch; and Mona Yacoubian​, Special Adviser at the Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention, United States Institute of Peace. For more information, please click here.
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Egypt, Events, POMED, Protests, Tunisia, US foreign policy | Comment »
POMED Notes: “The Role of Citizen Journalism and Social Media in the Middle East and North Africa”
February 10th, 2011 by Naureen
On Monday, the National Democratic Institute hosted a discussion about the role new and social media has played in the dissemination of information and in supporting offline mobilization across the region. Joelle Jackson, senior program officer at NDI made opening remarks. Chris Spence, chief technology officer at NDI moderated the event and introduced the panelists: Houeida Anouar, a Tunisian digital activist; Golnaz Esfandiari, senior correspondent for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and editor of the Persian Letters blog; and Raed Jarrar, Iraqi-American blogger and political advocate based in Washington.
To read full notes continue below or click here for pdf.
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Posted in Egypt, Event Notes, Freedom, Iran, Iraq, Journalism, Middle Eastern Media, Protests, Reform, Tunisia | Comment »
Tunisia: Interim President Granted Wide Powers, Military Reservists Called Up
February 9th, 2011 by Alec
Interim President Fouad Mebazaa was unanimously granted wide powers by the Tunisian Senate on Wednesday.  The vote reaffirmed an earlier vote in the lower house of parliament that allows Mebazaa to rule by decree.  The new powers will allow Mebazaa to largely sidestep the RCD-dominated parliament on transition and election issues which include: general amnesty, human rights legislation, the organization of political parties and a new electoral code.  Meanwhile, violence has continued in the country since the fall of Zine Ben Ali, with police injuring and killing several people during protests and clashes. In response to the continued unrest, the interim government on Tuesday called military reservists to report for duty to help restore order.  The police are widely distrusted by the majority of Tunisians for their role during the Ben Ali regime.
Posted in Protests, Reform, Tunisia | Comment »
Tunisia: Ben Ali’s Party Banned As Interim PM Receives Emergency Powers
February 7th, 2011 by Alec
The new Tunisian Interior Minister, Farhat Rahjiordered ousted President Zine Ben Ali’s former party, the Constitutional Democratic Assembly (RCD), to close its offices and cease all activities.  Rahji has been viewed as a “zealous advocate” of forcing regime loyalists from power.  The order is viewed as a first step to fully dissolving the party which is viewed as an impediment to reform.  Meanwhile, legislation was introduced into the lower house of parliament to give interim President Foued Mebazaa emergency powers allowing him to rule by decree, thereby sidestepping the RCD dominated legislative body.  Rachid Ghannouchi​, leader of the Islamist Ennahda party, has said that the group is being shut out of the interim government.  Ghannouchi called for a more inclusive cabinet and the dismantling of the police state.  He also stated that Tunisia should adopt the parliamentary system of government in order to ensure that power is not concentrated into a singular head of state and government.
Posted in Islamist movements, Political Parties, Reform, Tunisia | Comment »
POMED Notes: “From Tunisia to Egypt: Protests in the Arab World”
February 4th, 2011 by Naureen
On Monday, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace hosted a discussion of the developments in Egypt and their implications of the Arab world, where protests began in Tunisia and have spread to Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, and Algeria. Marwan Muasher, Vice President for Studies at the Carnegie Endowment, moderated the event and introduced the other panelists: Amr Hamzawy, Research Director and Senior Associate of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut who joined the panelists from Midan Tahrir in Cairo, Michele Dunne, Senior Associate in the Middle East Program at Carnegie Endowment, and Marina Ottaway, Director of the Middle East Program at Carnegie Endowment.
To read full notes continue below or click here for pdf.
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Posted in Democracy Promotion, Egypt, Event Notes, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Journalism, Muslim Brotherhood, Protests, Reform, Tunisia | Comment »
Yemen: Tens of Thousands Turn Out for Rival Demonstrations
February 3rd, 2011 by Naureen
On Thursday, major demonstrations took place in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a both against and in support of of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime. The opposition coalition held nationwide demonstrations despite a plea issued by Saleh on Wednesday asking for a freeze of all planned protests, rallies and sit ins. Around 20,000 protesters gathered in the three major roads surrounding Sana’a University. Protests also occurred in other Yemeni cities including Ibb and Taiz. Protesters seem to have differing demands with some calling for Saleh to step down while others call on him to form a new government to address issues of poverty, corruption, and injustice. While anti-regime protesters initially hoped to demonstrate in Liberation Square in Sana’a, echoing protests in Egypt, government authorities beat them to it by filling the square with pro-regime demonstrators. Unlike protests in Egypt and Tunisia, the protests in Yemen have unfolded largely peacefully with no major arrests or clashes between pro and anti-regime groups.
Posted in Egypt, Protests, Reform, Tunisia, Yemen | Comment »
POMED Notes: “The Breakdown of Autocracy in Tunisia”
January 31st, 2011 by Naureen
On Monday, The Maghreb Center hosted a discussion at Georgetown University on the causes of the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia and the role of the United States and France before, during, and after the revolution. Dr. Néjib Ayachi, founding President of the Maghreb Center and International Development Consultant at the World Bank, opened the discussion and introduced the panelists: Stephen King, Professor of Government at Georgetown University, Robert Prince, Lecturer in International Studies at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, and Rust M. Deming, former Ambassador to Tunisia from 2000 to 2003. The event was moderated by Ahmed El-Hamri, Economist at the World Bank and Associate at the Maghreb Center.
To read full notes continue below, or click here for pdf.
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Posted in Democracy Promotion, Event Notes, Human Rights, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Political Parties, Protests, Reform, Tunisia | Comment »
POMED Notes: “Tunisia and the Arab Malaise”
January 31st, 2011 by Naureen
On Tuesday, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars hosted a discussion on the uprising in Tunisia and the prospects for the Tunisian example spreading across the Arab World. Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, Director of the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center moderated the event and introduced the speakers: Alan Goulty, former British Ambassador to the Republic of Tunisia and current Senior Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center, and David Ottaway, Senior Scholar at the Wilson Center and former Cairo Bureau Chief of the Washington Post.
To read full notes continue below or click here for pdf.
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Posted in Egypt, Event Notes, Jordan, Protests, Reform, Sudan, Tunisia, Yemen | Comment »
Tunisia: Leader of Formerly Banned Islamist Movement Returns
January 31st, 2011 by Alec
Rachid Ghannouchi​, leader of the Ennahda movement, previously banned under the Ben Ali regime for being Islamist, returned to Tunisia on Sunday from London.  He stated that his movement would help build Tunisian democracy but has ruled out running for elected office himself.  Ghannouchi also insisted that his portrayal in Western media as another “Khomeini” were untrue and that his movement was committed to protecting women’s rights.  Prior to his arrival on Sunday, women’s groups in Tunisia protested in the capital of Tunis saying they were worried about an Islamist revival in the country.  In an interview prior to his return, Ghannouchi said the revolt in Tunisia against Zine Ben Ali was a popular revolution and not an Islamist one.
Posted in Human Rights, Islam and Democracy, Political Islam, Political Parties, Reform, Tunisia | Comment »
Iranian Government and Opposition Leaders Support Arab Protests
January 29th, 2011 by Naureen
On Saturday, Iranian opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi issued a statement supporting the Tunisian revolution and the protests in Egypt against the Mubarak regime. He linked the struggles for freedom in the Arab world to the popular revolt against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009: “What is underway is aimed at changing the tyrannical order gripping a large number of nations in the region and doubtlessly, whatever we are witnessing in the streets of Tunis, Sana, Cairo, Alexandria and Suez take their origins from the millions-strong protests in Tehran in June 2009.” In contrast, Secretary General of the Iranian High Council for Human Rights Mohammad-Javad Larijani stated that, “In my opinion, the Islamic Republic of Iran should see these events without exception in a positive light.” Iranian officials have claimed that people in Tunisia and Egypt are clamoring for Islamic rule. However, writers at Babylon and Beyond argue that “even as Iran’s Persian and English-language news outlets describe an Islamic upheaval, its Arabic language al-Alam channel makes no such claims, knowing well that viewers in the Arab world would dismiss such claims.”
Posted in Egypt, Elections, Iran, Protests, Reform, Tunisia | Comment »
New POMED Policy Brief: Tunisia’s Moment of Opportunity
January 28th, 2011 by Alec
Today, all eyes are on Egypt, where citizens have defied government warnings and intimidation by courageously protesting against their repressive, authoritarian government.  This follows on the heels of the historic uprising that ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, a popular revolt that has reverberated throughout the Arab world.  The Tunisian people have set an inspiring example for their neighbors, but their path to successful democratic transition is fraught with challenges.  To address the situation, POMED presents the second piece in its policy brief series, an analysis of the recent events in Tunisia and the difficulties that lie ahead, written by leading Tunisian democracy activist Amine Ghali.  Click here for the full text, and click here to sign up to receive future briefs via email.
To read full post, click below.
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Posted in POMED, Publications, Tunisia | Comment »
Tunisia: Cabinet Reshuffle As Protests Continue, Calls for More U.S. Support
January 27th, 2011 by Alec
Key cabinet ministers held over from the Ben Ali regime have been replaced in an effort to appease protesters who continue to rally against the interim government.  Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi​, also a holdover from the Ben Ali government, will be staying on as PM despite calls for him to step down.  He has appointed independents to the Interior, Defense, and Foreign Affairs ministries.  Kamel Morjane, the outgoing Foreign Minister, said he was stepping down, “so that the popular revolution can bear fruit.”  Michael Allen, editor of Democracy Digest, writes that Tunisia represents an opportunity for the West, “to support a democratic transition that could serve as a model for the rest of the Arab and Muslim world.”  Despite being a “home-grown” revolution, Tunisians will need U.S. support and Western assistance so that the newly empowered opposition does not fracture he argues.  Shadi Hamid says that the U.S. has found itself in a weak position reacting to rather than influencing events, particularly as the Tunisian influence spreads to Egypt and Yemen.  The State Department maintains contacts with the regimes in power but rarely with opposition parties and thus it will be hard for the U.S. to “shift gears.”  However, he states that Arab democracy is in desperate need of advocates and the U.S. needs to stop sending mixed signals to Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere.
Posted in Protests, Reform, Tunisia | Comment »
POMED Notes: “Tunisia: Protests and Prospects for Change”
January 27th, 2011 by Kyle
On Tuesday, the Project on Middle East Political Science and the Institute for Middle East Studies at The George Washington University hosted an event focused on reactions to the popular uprising in Tunisia entitled , “Tunisia: Protests and Prospects for Change.” Marc Lynch, associate professor of political science and international affairs at The George Washington University, and director of the Institute for Middle East Studies moderated the event. He is also a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. The two other speakers were Christopher Alexander, Associate Professor of Political Science and Associate Dean for International Programs at Davidson College and John P. Entelis, Professor of Political Science and Director of the Middle East Studies Program at Fordham University.
To read full notes continue below, or click here for pdf.
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Posted in Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Political Islam, Political Parties, Protests, Reform, Tunisia, US foreign policy, Unions | Comment »
US Officials Call for Calm in Egypt, Support for “Democratic Aspirations”
January 26th, 2011 by Kyle
Press Secretary Robert Gibbs​urged all parties in Egypt to refrain from violence and called for the Egyptian Government to respond to protests peacefully: “We have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and free of corruption; and the freedom to live as you choose – these are human rights and we support them everywhere.” Phillip J. Crowley, US State Department spokesman, stated: “We want to see reform occur, in Egypt and elsewhere, to create greater political, social, and economic opportunity consistent with people’s aspirations.”
Although President Obama did not address Egypt directly in his State of the Union Address on Tuesday, he did support democratic freedoms generally: “We saw that same desire to be free in Tunisia, where the will of the people proved more powerful than the writ of a dictator. And tonight, let us be clear: the United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of all people.  We must never forget that the things we’ve struggled for, and fought for, live in the hearts of people everywhere.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Egypt, Human Rights, Protests, Tunisia, US foreign policy, US politics | Comment »
Tunisia: Path to Democracy Including Islamists and Labor Groups
January 25th, 2011 by Kyle
Christopher Alexander writing in Foreign Policy warns against calls for the total dissolution of the RCD party as “unrealistic and potentially dangerous.”  He highlights the positive steps that have been taken to open up the political arena to include Islamist factions, but cautions, “a bipolar standoff between Ennahda (Islamist Group) and the RCD would not be a healthy development.” Instead, he supports the creation of opposition coalitions until a succesful and functional political landscape can be created. Michael Allen notes the growth of the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) as a serious political force in Tunisia with, “currently unmatched organizing capacity and national reach.” For example, Allen attributes the recent cabinet resignations to pressure from the UGTT.
Posted in Civil Society, Democracy Promotion, Reform, Tunisia, Unions | Comment »
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