Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Update from Egypt: More Journalists and Human Rights Activists Arrested
February 3rd, 2011 by Alec
The Washington Post’s
Bureau Chief, Leila Fadel, and a photographer, Linda Davidson
, have been arrested
, as was Sonja Verma
and Patick Martin
of the Globe, and Bert Sunstrom of Swedish TV. Others are missing, including 3 from Al-Jazeera.
Among those arrested at the Human Rights Center was the legendary human rights leader Ahmed Saif al Islam, a Human Rights Watch researcher, in addition to Mohsen Geshir and Mona Elmasri.
Update: Nicholas Kristoff
from Egypt that there are reports that police are raiding hotels in Cairo looking for journalists.
Update 2: Leila Fadel and Linda Davidson have been released according to The Washington Post.
Update 3: Lara Logan
and her crew have been detained
Egypt: Major Crackdown on Human Rights Activists and NGOs
February 3rd, 2011 by Alec
At 7:15 am EST (2:15 pm in Cairo) the Hisham Mubarak Law Center had its offices entered by military police; it is believed that the human rights lawyers and activists inside were arrested and taken away, but POMED does not know exactly where to. The military police, in uniform, were accompanied by a large group of thugs in plainclothes who did not enter the building, but remained in the street outside.
Exactly the same thing happened at the Egyptian Center for Economic & Social Rights, headed by Khaled Ali.
And more recently we were told that the Nadim Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence had a group of military police and plainclothes thugs outside their building and were expecting them to enter at any moment.
All 3 groups are reputable human rights organizations.
Also, POMED has been unable to reach this morning quite a few of our contacts at other NGOs/ human rights organizations that we have been talking to every day, which makes us worry that their offices may have also been raided and that they may have been arrested.
Reports from people in Tahrir by phone in the past couple of hours:
The army has been neutral on last night’s massacre; Checkpoints have been set up on streets leading to Tahrir, turning away people trying to reach the square, and also especially confiscating food, water and medical supplies that are being brought to the square, to try to force out those currently in the square; we’re told these checkpoints are being run by a coalition of plainclothed supporters of the regime, Min of Interior officials, and the army.
Also, contacts in Tahrir have stressed to us that the protesters now in Tahrir (our contacts estimate at least 60,000 at the moment) are primarily NOT Muslim Brotherhood - the regime is trying to circulate this and apparently some international media have been repeating it. We are told it is a diverse group of all kinds and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood are a small minority of those present, maybe 10%.
Update: Dan Williams, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, was arrested along with those at the Hisham Mubarak Law Center.
Voices From Tahrir Square - Continued (Feb 1)
February 1st, 2011 by Alec
POMED is regularly continuing to speak with activists on the ground at Tahrir Square in Cairo. Two of our contacts today gave us permission to share audio of their comments, which are available here:
Soha Abdelaty - Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)
“Everyone is making fun of him [Hosni Mubarak], mocking him, and saying this is nowhere close to satisfying our demands.”
“They are completely disconnected from the people here. No one here is backing the [traditional] opposition [Wafd Party]…They are working on their own.”
Basem Fathy - Egyptian Democratic Academy (EDA)
“They [the army] will not stand against the people, they will not use violence.”
Tunisia: Invest in Emerging Actors with a Democratic Mindset
January 20th, 2011 by Cole
After decades of oppression, Tunisia was ripe for revolution and the notion of “Arab exceptionalism” has been discredited, writes Nabila Hamza, a Tunisian gender-equality activist who is currently the President of the Amman-based Foundation for the Future. Although Arab public perception of the possibility for change has shifted dramatically, Arab regimes will likely placate the frustrations of the masses through controlled political openings and reinstating or raising economic subsidies. The U.S. and Arab civil society must seize this crucial moment to reinvigorate the public discourse to press for real political change in the region.
Exciting? Yes. Contagious? No. First Make it Happen in Tunisia
January 20th, 2011 by Cole
We should not let the dramatic and exhilarating events in Tunisia cloud a realistic analysis of the prospects for democratization, writes Kamran Bokhari, Middle East and South Asia director at STRATFOR. While experts conflate what is happening with what they want to happen, western NGOs are focusing on making it happen – translating an anti-autocratic insurgency into a democratic transition.
Political Reform the Antidote to the Arab Youth Bulge as a “Ticking Time Bomb”
January 19th, 2011 by Alec
, writing in the Arab Reform Bulletin, outlines how the Tunisian uprising has confirmed yet also debunked some conventional wisdom about the region. She argues that the notion of the “youth bulge” as a ticking time bomb has been proven true. However, the idea that there must be a cohesive political opposition in order to overthrow an authoritarian regime has been proven false. Although other Arab countries are experiencing a similar youth bulge, many lag far behind Tunisia in education, relative equality of the sexes, and secularist tendencies which were key to the success of the Jasmine Revolution.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton echoed these sentiments: the best way to deal with the “pent up desires” of unemployed Arab youth is to, “create inclusive, participatory government that can deliver results for people.” Responding to claims that the opening of political space will empower extremists, she countered “Not if you are giving support to NGOs and others who are looking for democratic participation where voices are heard, not silenced the way the extremists eventually choose to do.”
U.S. “Hypocrisy” Damages Prospects for Democracy
December 29th, 2010 by Jason
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.”
“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 »
Reactions to the QDDR
December 16th, 2010 by Jason
The release of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) has so far been received with cautious optimism. Josh Rogin writes that several development NGOs have “praised” the QDDR, while also expressing skepticism
: “Paul O’Brien, vice president of policy and advocacy campaigns for Oxfam America, noted that while the QDDR clearly puts ambassadors and chiefs of missions at the head of country teams as the so-call ‘CEOs’ of American diplomacy, it doesn’t tackle how the inevitable conflicts between short-term foreign policy objectives and longer-term development goals are resolved.”
, writing at the Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance blog, says that there are “many things to like,” including a “focus on improving hiring, staffing, and filling the mid-level gap through more flexible mechanisms.” However, she does list several points of “unfinished business,” including “how will State and USAID grapple with managing more than two dozen government agencies engaged in some type of foreign assistance program?” Siddartha Mahanta
sounds a pessimistic note: “the United States diplomatic corps might get a major boost in power and personnel. Realistically? They probably won’t.” He goes on to describe the political roadblocks facing the reforms, and how Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who has advocated for cuts in the State Department budget and is set to become the chairperson of the House Foreign Services Committee, may prove to be uncooperative.
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
Egypt: Domestic Monitors Face Challenges
November 22nd, 2010 by Jason
Bahey el-din Hassan
writes in Al Masry Al Youm that civil society and human rights organizations face three major challenges in monitoring Egypt’s November 28 elections: First, the groups must obtain permits from the High Elections Commission (HEC), a process that has become increasingly opaque. “Although the HEC set 7 November as the deadline for human rights groups to submit applications to monitor elections, it set no date for the issuance of permits,” he writes. Also, the HEC “mandates that monitors be impartial, but how can the commission, with its limited resources, evaluate thousands of monitors for bias? Or is it planning to outsource the job to the security apparatus?” The second major hurdle for groups is a lack of accurate information, a problem exacerbated by the “deplorable state” of the HEC itself. The third challenge are the restrictions placed on the press. “The regime launched a quiet coup in October that restructured TV and print media and placed enormous restrictions on the free flow of information. This means that election monitors will do their job in the dark,” according to Hassan.
Al Masry Al Youm
that the head of the HEC, Al-Sayed Abdel Aziz, has now “definitively” stated that “there would be ‘no monitoring’ of Sunday’s parliamentary elections, stressing that the role of civil society and human rights organizations would be limited to ‘following’ the elections rather than ‘monitoring’ them.”
POMED Notes: “Egypt’s Political Future: The Parliamentary Elections and Beyond”
November 18th, 2010 by Jason
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace held an event on Thursday titled “Egypt’s Political Future: The Parliamentary Elections and Beyond.” The speakers for the event were Michele Dunne, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment and editor of the online journal, the Arab Reform Bulletin, and Amr Hamzawy, research director and senior associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. The discussion was moderated by Jennifer Windsor, the associate dean for Programs and Studies at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown.
(To read full notes, continue below the fold or click here
Posted in Civil Society, DC Event Notes, Egypt, Elections, Freedom, Islamist movements, Muslim Brotherhood, NGOs, Political Parties, Reform, US foreign policy | Comment »
Egypt: Mubarak Insists Elections Will Be Fair, NGOs Disagree
November 10th, 2010 by Anna
At an NDP conference today, Hosni Mubarak said: “I reiterate the desire, of myself and my party, for free, transparent elections, conducted under the oversight of the High Elections Commission and civil society.” Various civil society groups, meanwhile, have called attention to shortcomings in the electoral process. Yesterday, the Forum of Independent Human Rights NGOs criticized the government’s crackdown on media and civil organizations, predicting in a report titled “Rigging the 2010 Parliamentary Elections in Egypt” that the upcoming vote “will not meet the international standards for free and fair elections.”
Bahrain: Election Monitoring Efforts Announced
October 8th, 2010 by Evan
Bahraini officials recently announced the details of domestic electoral monitoring efforts for the October 23 parliamentary election. Justice Minister Sheikh Khalid Bin Ali Al Khalifa said that 300 citizens, four NGOs and the Bahrain Human Rights National Commission will monitor the vote. In an interview in The National
, Al Khalifa dismissed the calls for international monitors, saying “It’s a matter of educating our people. We are a national institution and we are organising for the national election.” Opposition leaders responded to the announcement by saying that while the government goes to great lengths to create the illusion of legitimacy, the electoral process in Bahrain remains deeply flawed. Districts have been drawn to give the ruling Sunni minority an advantage, the country’s convoluted polling system gives the regime the ability to influence elections, and the government recently took control of the Bahrain Human Rights Society, one of the key NGOs tasked with monitoring the election.
Egypt: No Free and Fair Oversight of Elections
September 27th, 2010 by Jason
The lack of independent judicial oversight during the November parliamentary elections “raises expectations of fraud,” according to an article
in Al-Masry Al-Youm. The lack of oversight can be traced to the 2000 elections when “‘…the country experienced its first ever free elections, as the constitutional court had decided that each ballot box had to be supervised by a judge,”’ says Nasser Amin, the general director of the Arab Center for Independence of the Judiciary and Legal Profession. In part because of this rule, the Muslim Brotherhood was able to mount a real challenge to the NDP in 2005. This precipitated the amendment of Article 88 of the Egyptian constitution in 2007, which established an “11-member official electoral monitoring committee, composed of judges and non-partisan public figure,” that the opposition views as corrupt. Leftist Tagammu Party leader Refaat al-Saeed said the committee resembles a secret organization: “’Where is the headquarters of this committee? What phone number does it have, or email address?’”
The article goes on to list other concerns, including the presence of government backed NGOs, the use of manual voting lists rather than computerized lists, and the possibility that the NDP is actively negotiating with opposition groups to simply award them a set number of seats in parliament: “‘…it (the government) will distribute the 100 seats that it won’t keep for the NDP between the Wafd, Tagammu and Nasserist Parties as well as independents, keeping 344 seats for members of the dominant party,’” Amin, told Al-Masry Al-Youm.
Egypt: US “Interested in the Integrity of These Elections”
September 27th, 2010 by Anna
Speaking at the US Embassy in Cairo over the weekend, the State Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Tamara Wittes emphasized
the need for Egypt’s upcoming elections to be free and fair. According to Al-Masry Al-Youm, Wittes asserted that Egyptians should be allowed to participate peacefully in political activities, and that “[i]t is important that we see an open electoral process that the Egyptians feel is fair.” She also spoke about US support for nongovernmental organizations in the country, saying: “We firmly believe that civil society plays a powerful role in holding the government accountable.” In addition, Wittes stressed that the United States, as well as other governments, are “interested in the integrity of these elections” and will continue to engage with the Egyptian government to ensure that democratic principles are upheld.
POMED Notes: “What’s Next? Prospects for Iraq’s Democratic Future.”
September 20th, 2010 by Jason
The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) held a panel discussion today to discuss the ongoing political impasse in Iraq. The event was moderated by Michael Svetlik, the Vice President of Programs for IFES. The speakers for the event were Ted Galen Carpenter, Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy at the CATO Institute, Perry Cammack, a professional staff member for Senator John Kerry who focuses on the Middle East, and Sean Dunne, IFES Chief of Party in Iraq.
(To read full notes continue below the fold or click here
Posted in Civil Society, DC Event Notes, Elections, Foreign Aid, Freedom, Iraq, Judiciary, Kurds, Military, NGOs, Political Parties, Public Opinion, Sectarianism, US foreign policy | Comment »
POMED Notes: “Egypt at the Tipping Point?”
September 17th, 2010 by Anna
On Friday, David Ottaway gave a talk at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars titled “Egypt at the Tipping Point?” Ottaway – who is a senior scholar at the Wilson Center and the former Bureau Chief for the Washington Post in Cairo – discussed the findings from his recent paper, published in the Wilson Center Middle East Program’s Summer 2010 Occasional Paper Series. The talk was introduced and moderated by Haleh Esfandiari
, the director of the Wilson Center’s Middle East Program.
(To read the full event summary, continue below. Or, click here to read the pdf
Posted in DC Event Notes, Democracy Promotion, Egypt, Elections, Events, Freedom, Human Rights, Islamist movements, Journalism, Middle Eastern Media, Military, Muslim Brotherhood, NGOs, Political Parties, Protests, Public Opinion, Reform, US foreign policy | Comment »
Syria: Egyptian Activists to Protest Detention of Syrian Blogger
September 17th, 2010 by Anna
of Daily News Egyptreported yesterday that a group of Egyptian activists from the Arab Network for Human Rights Information and the April 6 Youth Movement plan to demonstrate outside Syria’s embassy in Egypt on Sunday. They are calling for the release of 19 year-old Syrian blogger Tal el-Melouhy, who has been in detention for nine months. El-Melouhy reportedly wrote and published pieces in support of the Palestinian cause on her blog “Medawwenty,” and was arrested last December. A few weeks ago, the blogger’s mother wrote an open letter to President Al-Assad
in which she stated that she received promises from security officials that her daughter would be released by the start of Ramadan. According to Egyptian activist Mohamed Maree, al-Melouhy’s young age is part of the reason that Egyptians are protesting, and said: “Tal will be a symbol of human rights abuses in Syria. During the protest we will call for her release in addition to the release of other prisoners of conscience.”
Afghanistan: Time to Negotiate With the Taliban?
September 15th, 2010 by Jason
With parliamentary elections
three days away and the beginning of a major offensive outside of Kandahar, worries about the coalition’s mission in Afghanistan are growing. Gilles Dorronsoro spotlights the deteriorating security condition in the country: “While it is still safe in Kabul, you can feel the Taliban tightening its hold around the capital.[…] The Taliban have a great deal of influence, but even where they haven’t established control, the Afghan government doesn’t enjoy any support.” Even NGOs are beginning to acknowledge the Taliban’s influence in the country: “The NGOs negotiate directly with Taliban leaders to ensure access to the Afghan people and carry out their programs. The process has become so formalized that international groups can now expect to receive a paper that is stamped and sealed by the Taliban outlining the permissions granted.” Dorronsoro concludes that it is time to begin negotiating with the Taliban and possibly bring them into a new coalition government, “…with assurances that Al Qaeda will not operate in Afghanistan again…”as part of the agreement.
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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