Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
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.
New POMED Policy Brief: Confronting Egypt’s Dangerous Decline
January 6th, 2011 by Anna
POMED launched its new Policy Brief series today. The Policy Briefs are short analysis pieces for U.S. policymakers on issues of core relevance to democratic development in the Middle East and North Africa. The briefs feature leading American, European, and regional authors from academia, think tanks, practitioner organizations, and human rights groups. The inaugural policy brief by Cairo-based journalist Issandr El Amrani examines U.S.-Egypt relations in the wake of last week’s tragic bombing in Alexandria and fraudulent parliamentary elections. Click here for the full text, and click here to sign up to receive future briefs via email.
El Amrani writes that Egypt’s recent parliamentary elections and the exacerbation of sectarian tensions with the Alexandria church bombing confirm fears that the Egyptian regime has little interest in genuine reform, and that its attempts to maintain stability through repression are failing. Efforts by both the Bush and Obama administrations since 2006 to encourage political reform and address human rights concerns have essentially been ignored by the Egyptian government, demonstrating the need for an alternative framework for U.S. engagement with Egypt on these issues. While radical changes to the underpinnings of the U.S.-Egypt relationship are unlikely at this time, El Amrani suggests several modest but meaningful steps to uphold the credibility of American democracy promotion goals in the country. These steps include enhancing engagement with a variety of Egyptian opposition actors, downgrading U.S. relations with institutions such as the People’s Assembly, and encouraging the Egyptian government to address key concerns of the Coptic community.
Iran: USIP Releases “The Iran Primer”
October 18th, 2010 by Jason
The United States Institute of Peace announced the release of “The Iran Primer: Power, Politics, and U.S. Policy
” today. The primer includes pieces from over 50 foreign policy experts including Daniel Brumberg
, Juan Cole
, Haleh Esfandiari
, Karim Sadjadpour
, Steven Heydemann
, Richard Haass
, and Anthony Cordesman, among others. The book includes short sections by each author on a range of topics involving Iran, including the Islamic Revolution of 1979, opposition movements, economic issues, and the inside perspectives of individuals involved in the formulation of policy towards Iran from every U.S. Administration since Carter. The collection was edited by Robin Wright
, and is now available online with a print edition due in December.
New Resource on Egyptian Elections
October 6th, 2010 by Anna
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has launched a new guide providing background and analysis to Egypt’s upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. The resource, which is published in both English and Arabic, draws on the assessments of experts from the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut and the Carnegie Middle East Program in Washington. It will profile political actors and opposition movements, describe legal developments, analyze election monitoring and explore other factors influencing the elections. In addition, the website provides a history of contemporary politics in Egypt, including parliamentary electoral results for the last few decades.
Iran: “Post-Islamism” as the Path to Democracy
August 24th, 2010 by Jennifer
Nader Hashemi writing at Democracy Journal argues that “Americans have a unique responsibility to support democracy in Iran” and calls for “a new U.S. policy toward Iran that finds a central place for democracy support.” Hashemi proposes that Iran has been undergoing a significant intellectual transformation over the past two decades toward “post-Islamism” and pro-democracy philosophies. Pointing to the Green Movement as a manifestation of this transformation, he observes that “the Islamic Republic now faces a major crisis of legitimacy, unprecedented since the 1979 revolution,” due to widespread public belief that the 2009 elections were rigged, as well as in response to the harsh government crackdown on reformist protesters.
Moreover, reviewing Ali Mirsepassi’s new novel Democracy in Modern Iran: Islam, Culture, and Political Change, Hashemi notes that Mirsepassi places “the intellectual roots of the Green Movement in the reform process of the late 1990s that brought Iran’s liberal president, Muhammad Khatami, to power.” According to Hashemi, Mirsepassi uses interviews with key intellectuals involved in this trend– including Alireza Alavi-Tabar, Mustafa Tajzadeh, Hadi Khaniki, Reza Tehrani, and Abbas Abdi –to show that prominent figures of the Iranian intellectual elite “embraced political Islam, underwent a process of questioning and disillusionment, and then began to explore and engage seriously with democracy, political pluralism, and human rights.” Regarding the implications of this transformation for U.S. policy, Hashemi points out that Mirsepassi “is sharply critical of an American foreign policy that [has] directly bolstered political authoritarianism in Iran,” arguing that it is not sanctions, but “the eventual triumph of [the pro-democracy] movement that holds the best prospects for moderating” the Iranian regime. In that light, Hashemi suggests that the U.S. consider several policy tools for supporting the reformist movement, including protecting free internet communication in Iran; highlighting the government’s human rights abuses; and listening to the democratic opposition.
Heritage Foundation: U.S. Foreign Policy Must “Advance Liberty”
August 19th, 2010 by Jennifer
A new policy brief by The Heritage Foundation, entitled “A Conservative Foreign Policy,” argues that “defending liberty should be the central goal of [U.S.] foreign policy and the organizing principle for the alliances, international institutions, and treaties we join,” adding that “our role as leader of the free world will not endure unless others know that America still stands for liberty and justice for all.” The brief calls for broad American efforts on behalf of human rights and freedoms, stating, “We must take the lead and increase cooperation with like-minded nations to advance liberty in every form—e.g., a Global Economic Freedom Forum to advance free markets, a Liberty Forum for Human Rights to promote individual freedoms and human dignity, and a Global Freedom Coalition to advance global security.” On Iran specifically, the brief says that the U.S. “should expose Iran’s human rights abuses and support democracy activists.” Criticizing President Obama’s policy of engagement, the piece says that “engagement assumes that we must appease the anxieties of dictatorial states and international institutions as well as friendly nations,” asserting that this strategy “has not worked.”
Islam and Federalism
August 19th, 2010 by Farid
The Daily Star presents
excerpts from a recent book published in Iraq entitled, “Islam and Democracy.
” The book “provides the first serious scholarly assessment in the Middle East” and addresses issues of central vs. regional governance and socio-political constituencies. The Iraqi-born author of the book, Hasan Bahr al-’Ulum,
spent time in Qom, Iran, as well as in London and Canada. Assessing the theoretical aspects of federalism and Islam, Al-’Ulum also describes federalism in an Islamic context as a model for coexistence and as a means “to protect and respect the rights of various religious minorities in the Islamic state, to guarantee their right to practice their own rituals and worship, so as to retain the social and national [ethnic] habits and values in a general framework that doesn’t conflict with retaining the general outward expressions of Islam.” The book was published by the
University of Utah.
Arab Public Opinion: No Love for Liberal Democracy?
August 11th, 2010 by Jennifer
Barry Rubin writing at the blog for the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center argues that the data in the recently released 2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll reveal “the realities of the Arabic-speaking world: the hegemony of radicalism among the masses, passionate hatred for Israel and the West, and lack of sympathy for democracy or liberalism.” Noting that participants in the survey registered high approval ratings for the Turkish and Iranian premiers, but not for any moderate Arab leaders, Rubin points to “a decline in Arab nationalism that would have been unthinkable during the 1950-2000 era.” He goes on to harshly criticize the poll’s conductors at Brookings, who he said attempted to spin the study’s results to suggest that the Obama administration’s overly “friendly” stance toward Israel was the primary cause of negative sentiment toward the U.S. He says that this conclusion is untenable, arguing that the real problems faced by the Arab world are not Israel, but the “failure of Arab statist dictatorships and Arab nationalist ideology”; a “stifling traditional culture that clashes with modernity”; and “internal group conflicts,” among other challenges. According to Rubin, the U.S. cannot change trends in Arab public opinion by distancing itself from Israel, achieving a two-state solution, or practicing engagement and “appeasement,” since “the only solution is internal and it will take decades at best.” Instead, he urges the West to “defend itself, help the most relatively moderate forces (both governments and mass opposition movements as in Lebanon and Iran), and stand up for its own values.”
Arab Public Opinion: Policy and Polls
August 10th, 2010 by Jennifer
Will Inboden writing
in Foreign Policy
argues that while recent polling data indicates a troublesome drop in Arab public opinion of the Obama administration and U.S. policy, the significance of these statistics should not be overinflated. Inboden suggests that policy gains trump popularity increases, stating, “The task of statecraft is not to chase the whims of public opinion, but to pursue policies that serve the nation and that over time will create a more stable, free, prosperous, and peaceful world.” Calling opinion polls in the Middle East “fickle, elusive, and unreliable indicators of true beliefs,” he praises a recent study– entitled “Actions, Not Just Attitudes,” and undertaken by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy –that claims that quantifiable measures of Arab behavior toward the U.S. in fact show a positive outlook among Arabs toward the U.S. since 2003. Inboden concludes that the administration should focus on hard policy achievements in the region, including “successfully completing the mission in Iraq so that it becomes a nation peaceful, secure, and free; promoting political and economic reform among the region’s many repressive regimes and stagnant economies; addressing regional threats such as the Iranian nuclear program; and yes, patiently pursuing a fair and durable two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.”
Egypt: Local Paper Picks Up on U.S. Policy on Democracy Promotion
August 9th, 2010 by Jennifer
Egyptian daily newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm
has run stories on two key policy decisions that occurred in Congress in recent weeks: the referral of a Senate resolution in support of human rights in Egypt to the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs; and the Senate Budget Committee’s decision to reduce funds to be made available to the administration for democracy promotion in Egypt in FY11, from the $25 million requested to only $20 million. The first article observes that “the resolution was based on the premise that support for regimes that do not respect human rights serves to jeopardize the credibility of the US,” while the second piece notes that “observers say the move [to cut funding for democracy] reflects a trend within the U.S. administration to reduce pressure on the Egyptian regime to carry out political reforms and promote civil liberties,” mentioning that Congress has earmarked $250 million in regular economic aid to Egypt and $1.3 billion in military aid.
POMED Wire Available in Arabic
August 6th, 2010 by Jennifer
POMED’s weekly newsletter, The Weekly Wire, is now available in Arabic. To follow the latest developments on democracy and human rights in the Middle East, click here
to subscribe to the Arabic version. To receive the original English version of the Wire, click here, or follow the registration link on the left-hand side of our website.
POMED Notes: “The View From the Middle East– The 2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll”
August 6th, 2010 by Jennifer
The Brookings Institution hosted a presentation by Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland and Senior Fellow at Brookings, on the 2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll. Kenneth Pollack, Senior Fellow and Director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, moderated the event.
2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll: Palestine-Israel, Not Democracy, Takes Center Stage
August 5th, 2010 by Jennifer
The Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings released
the 2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll
today and held an event (full notes forthcoming from POMED) marking the publication of the results. The poll– conducted in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon, and the UAE from June 28-July 20 of this year, in conjunction with Zogby International — recorded a striking drop in optimism among Arabs toward American policy in the Middle East. While at the beginning of the Obama administration’s term, 51% of respondents expressed a positive outlook on U.S. regional policy, the new poll indicates that only 16% still felt hopeful, with 63% describing themselves as “discouraged.”
Shibley Telhami, nonresident senior fellow at the Saban Center and conductor of the poll, commented that “the data leaves little doubt that the deciding factor in the shift of opinion toward the Obama administration is disappointment on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.” Analyst Laura Rozen
confirms in a piece at Politico that “hopes in the Arab world about how much Obama might transform U.S. foreign policy may have been unrealistically high as he came into office, and considerable disappointment has set in as the administration encounters difficulties in making significant progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, among other issues.” In another significant finding, 57% of participants in the survey said that Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons would prove “positive” for the region, versus only 29% in 2009.
Meanwhile, Marc Lynch writing
in Foreign Policy highlights changes in Arab opinion as indicated in the poll regarding a number of important issues. Lynch points out that only 20% of respondents expressed positive views of President Obama versus 45% in 2009, while negative opinion of Obama rose from 23% to 62%; additionally, 12% registered favorable views toward the U.S. in general, versus 15% during the final year of President George W. Bush’s administration. Significantly, 61% of those polled pointed to a continuing lack of progress on the Palestine-Israel front as the area of their greatest disappointment, whereas a mere 1% cited failures in “spreading democracy” as their major concern. On the other hand, Lynch cites encouraging data from the survey showing that 20% of respondents indicated that they were the most pleased with Obama’s attitude toward Islam and Muslims, while those expressing “very unfavorable” views toward the United States dropped from 64% in 2008 to 47% in 2010.
According to Lynch, the survey’s results “should be sobering for supporters of the administration’s foreign policy. The perceived failure to deliver meaningful change has taken its toll.” Nevertheless, he cautions against focusing exclusively on the statistical data, stating, “Public opinion surveys are only one part of the story — the goals of engagement are always broader than ‘moving the numbers’,” and adding that “if the administration begins to deliver — on Israeli-Palestinian peace, on the withdrawal from Iraq, on engagement with Iran — then the numbers will change.”
Lebanon: Time to Move Forward on Human Rights
August 3rd, 2010 by Jennifer
Lebanese MP Fouad Siniora, head of the Future Movement parliamentary bloc, chaired the first of a series of planned meetings yesterday in an effort to reach a unified stance among the parliamentary majority regarding the draft law to grant Palestinian refugees greater rights and improve their humanitarian situation. March 14 Secretariat Coordinator Fares Souaid, representatives from the Lebanese Forces, and several members of the Future Movement, as well as a number of experts on Palestinian issues, all attended the meeting
Meanwhile, the Beirut Bar Association (BBA) forwarded a report to the UN Human Rights Council arguing that Lebanon should work toward a number of reforms on broader human rights issues. The report covered six topics: equality, right to life, public safety, treatment of human beings, status of the judiciary, and private and public freedoms. On women’s rights, the report called for gender equality in taxation, penal codes, nationality and citizenship, social protection laws, judicial rights, and personal status code. It also highlighted the need for encouraging expanded participation of women in politics and decision-making processes. Regarding the judiciary, the report pointed to a need to strengthen the unity, independence, and organization of the judicial authority. On public and private rights and freedoms, the findings emphasized the need for reform of electoral laws to ensure fair representation; urged the abolishment of capital punishment and torture, and suggested that Lebanon should adopt a “health and social safety network” for its citizens. It also called for setting up a special fund to provide such services to Palestinian refugees. The report concluded with a call for the state to sign all relevant international agreements relating to human rights. The Lebanese government is scheduled to discuss the report in September.
Egypt: No Sense of Citizenship?
August 3rd, 2010 by Jennifer
A recent study carried out by the National Center for Social and Criminal Research reports that those in Egypt’s socio-economic elite as well as its extreme poor do not have a strong sense of citizenship, due to a number of factors including the lack of democracy, political and civil rights, and basic freedoms in Egypt; the state media’s failure to inculcate a sense of national citizenship; the absence of “civic principles” such as justice and equal rights; the 3-decades-old emergency law; economic alienation; and a disconnect between the individual and the state in terms of common “dreams and hopes for the future” of the nation. Several local activists and experts weighed in on the report’s findings. According to Sami Omar, a sociology professor at the American University in Cairo, “Allowing Egyptians the right to express themselves freely without fear is an excellent tool for shaping the Egyptian identity,” adding, “These days, unfortunately, this identity is in tatters.” Omar continued with comments that the continuous state of emergency in Egypt is “abnormal” and “only increases the public’s sense of alienation.” Commenting on democratic governance, Adel Ramadan, a lawyer at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said, “Living in a country in which the state always acts unilaterally makes people feel estranged; makes them feel like they don’t belong.” On economic issues, Ramadan explained that Egypt’s wealthy often choose to focus their lives and business investments abroad rather than in their homeland, while the poor and underprivileged seek shelter and assistance above all, weakening any sense of particular loyalty to the Egyptian state.
Egypt: Human Rights Report Paints Ugly Picture
July 14th, 2010 by Jennifer
The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) held a press conference yesterday to announcethe completion of a 578-page report on torture, detention, and human rights abuse in Egypt. According to the annual report, in 2009, 12 people were tortured to death by Egyptian police; 63 cases of torture in detention occurred; 530 cases of mistreatment of prisoners were recorded; 113 people were detained arbitrarily; 20 “disappearances” occurred; the police carried out ten cases of “collective punishment” to extract information; 3 civilians were tried before military tribunals; 82 peaceful demonstrations were put down; 190 instances where freedom of expression was repressed or blocked were recorded; and 148 reporters were tried on charges of libel or spreading “rumors.” Other violations in 2009 mentioned in the report include widespread arbitrary arrests; detention of prisoners in inhumane conditions; physical and sexual harassment, and verbal humiliation of detainees. The report also documented 125 cases of death resulting from torture in the period between 2000-2009. Hafez Abu Saada, an attorney and chairman of the EOHR, blamed the longstanding Emergency Law for the prevalence of human rights violations in Egypt. He also indicated that the report’s conclusion includes a set of demands for constitutional, legislative, and human rights policy reform, while expressing his hope that the report “will have a positive effect on the improvement of democracy and human rights situation [sic] in Egypt,” according to the organization’s website. The report comes at a time of heightened international and U.S. focus on human rights abuses in Egypt, following the death of Khalid Said
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.”
Egypt Ranks Worst on Rule-of-Law Index
June 28th, 2010 by Jennifer
Egypt received the worst ranking among Arab states on the World Justice Project’s (WJP) 2010 rule-of-law index, announced at a MENA conference on the rule of law held by the organization in Morocco over the weekend. Egypt received low scores in a number of categories, including government accountability and security and stability. The report also ranked Egypt the lowest among Arab states on government transparency, legal competence, official corruption, international law, and freedom of expression.
POMED Report Now Available in Arabic
May 19th, 2010 by Josh
One month ago, POMED released its annual report
on the Obama administration’s FY 2011 federal budget request for democracy, governance, and human rights in the Middle East. Today, as part of our efforts to expand access to POMED’s publications, we held an event in Cairo to launch an Arabic version of the report.
The full Arabic report is now available on our website to download as a pdf.
POMED Notes: “FY2011 Appropriations and Middle East Democracy”
April 19th, 2010 by Josh
The Project on Middle East Democracy and the Heinrich Böll Foundation co-hosted an event on Capitol Hill to mark the release of a new publication, The Federal Budget and Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2011: Democracy, Governance, and Human Rights in the Middle East. What are the most significant changes in these portions of the budget request, as compared with the appropriations made in previous years? How does the budget impact U.S. efforts to support democracy in the Middle East and North Africa? To answer these questions, Michele Dunne, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, moderated a discussion among three panelists: Stephen McInerney, POMED’s Director of Advocacy and author of the just-released report; Geneive Abdo, fellow and Iran analyst at The Century Foundation; and Scott Carpenter, Keston Family Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
for POMED’s notes in PDF, or continue reading below the fold.
Posted in DC Event Notes, Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Egypt, Elections, Foreign Aid, Freedom, Human Rights, Iran, Iraq, Military, NGOs, Palestine, Political Parties, Publications, Reform, Reports, Technology, US foreign policy | 2 Comments »
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