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Turkish President Says Future of Arab Spring Depends on Middle East Peace Agreement
April 22nd, 2011 by Ali
Turkish President Abdullah Gul, in a New York Times op-ed, argued that a comprehensive agreement between Israel and the Palestinian authority is necessary for regional security and democratic consolidation in the wake of the Arab Spring. Gul’s presumes that a reliable peace and stable regional democracies are complimentary, given that the “plight of the Palestinians has been a root cause of unrest and conflict in the region and is being used as a pretext for extremism in other corners of the world;” and because “[h]istory has repeatedly shown that a true, fair and lasting peace can only be made between peoples, not ruling elites.” The hypothesis linking the the Palestinian question with stability in a post-revolutionary Middle East has been rejected by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu​, though supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Gul proposed that Turkey “facilitate” negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis while conceding the chief mediating role to the United States. He toted Turkey’s mediation credentials while implicitly acknowledging the recent cooling in Turkish-Israeli relations, “Turkey’s track record in the years before Israel’s Gaza operation in December 2008 bears testimony to our dedication to achieving peace.” He acknowledged Turkey’s own stake in regional peace and stability in its eagerness to facilitate negotiations. Turkey’s geo-political interests in the region were underscored in an Al Hayat op-ed which described Syria as pulled between the influences of Anakara and Tehran.
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Mideast Peace Plan, Protests | Comment »
POMED Notes: “A Conversation with Iranian Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi”
April 22nd, 2011 by Naureen
On Thursday, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace hosted a discussion with Iranian Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi about her new book, The Golden Cage: Three Brothers, Three Choices, One Destiny about the Iranian revolution and the struggle of activists and the human rights movement. Jessica Matthews, President of the Carnegie Endowment made opening remarks and Karim Sadjadpour moderated the event.
To read full notes, continue below or click here for pdf.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in DC Event Notes, Democracy Promotion, Egypt, Elections, Freedom, Human Rights, Iran, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Protests, Reform, sanctions, Tunisia, US foreign policy | Comment »
POMED Notes: “From Revolution to Democracy: The Next Generation of Democracy Builders”
April 22nd, 2011 by Kyle
On Tuesday, Freedom House hosted an event on the political transition within Tunisia following the overthrow of President Ben Ali and prior to the Constituent Assembly elections on July 24th. The talk also addressed the promulgation of a new electoral law by the interim government that institutes gender parity in upcoming elections. The speaker was Sofiene Chourabi a journalist, blogger and civil society activist, who discussed the developments on the ground and the challenges facing Tunisians with regard to the upcoming election and the role of youth in shaping and driving forward the transition.
For full notes continue below, or click here for here.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Corruption, Democracy Promotion, Elections, Freedom, Human Rights, Protests, Reform, Tunisia | Comment »
Video: Footage of Friday Protests in Syria Including Brutal Response
April 22nd, 2011 by Kyle
Posted in Protests, Syria, Uncategorized | Comment »
Upcoming Event at American University on Afghan Women
April 22nd, 2011 by Anna
Next Friday, April 29, America Abroad Media (a non-profit organization in Washington, DC that produces a monthly, hour-long documentary radio program on foreign affairs for broadcast on NPR stations across the country) is hosting a “town hall” event at American University’s Katzen Center from 7:30-9am. They will be connecting DC’s local WAMU radio station with a radio station in Kabul to facilitate a discussion on women’s rights in Afghanistan.
The flyer for the event is available here.
Posted in Afghanistan, Events, Women | Comment »
Analyst Notes The New Age of Pan-Arabism
April 22nd, 2011 by Naureen
Writing at Foreign Policy, Parag Khanna notes the new age of Pan-Arabism that is characterized by societies demanding good governance and an inclusive political process.  He states that the anti-authoritarian revolutions are “truly borderless”  following Al Jazeera’s shaming of Arab autocrats — with the exception of Bahrain — and young activists training together across the region.  Khanna also highlights the Arab League’s backing of a no-fly zone in Libya and considerations of peacekeeping forces for Palestine and Lebanon as “examples of a meaningful transnational Arab political sphere coming into being.” Khanna states that “the next great step toward a new Arab renaissance will come through physically overcoming the region’s arbitrary political borders” following the model of the European Union which has moved towards investing in cross-border infrastructure. He states that the Gulf countries could easily finance projects such as the Palestinian Arc project and trans-Arab transport corridors.
Posted in Arab League, Bahrain, Civil Society, Democracy Promotion, Egypt, EU, Foreign Aid, Freedom, Gulf, Gulf Cooperation Council, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Protests, Qatar, Reform, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Youth | Comment »
Turkish Political Parties Release Election Manifestos
April 22nd, 2011 by Naureen
On Friday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan presented the Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s election manifesto in which he outlined the government’s economic vision for Turkey’s future. He also criticized the opposition party, Republican People’s Party (CHP)’s economic policy and the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP)’s incitement of violence against police officers in the southeast during protests over the ban of Kurdish candidates.  The CHP also released its election manifesto, which party chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu​stated “will bring democracy and freedom to our country.”  He stated that if the CHP comes to power, it’s first move would be to change the constitution to take “into consideration the views of all segments of the society.”  He also announced planned economic reforms.
Posted in Elections, Freedom, Kurds, Political Parties, Protests, Reform, Turkey | Comment »
Guéhenno Argues Against Western Framing of Arab Spring
April 22nd, 2011 by Kyle
Writing in the International Herald Tribune, Jean Marie Guéhenno asserts that the ‘Arab revolutions are beginning to destroy the cliché of an Arab world incapable of democratic transformation.”  In place of this narrative, she states, a new one is building and that the source of the revolutions stems from a thirst for Western style freedoms “mobilized by Facebook and Twitter.”  She refutes these claims and states that the revolutions are “about justice and equity as much as it is about democracy, because societies in which millions of young men and women have no jobs… crave justice as much as democracy.”  Guéhenno states that we have seen protests that are not only against Arab dictators, but also against Arab “profiteers” who have been supported by the West for generations.  Thus, the revolutionaries are highly skeptical of Western interference and will most likely not seek to use the West as a model as was done in 1989. Consequently, the West “must abandon the illusion that the defining issue in the region is a battle between moderates and hardliners,” and begin to engage all parties including Islamist parties.  In conclusion: “The West has to accept that it is not the central player anymore. But it need not be an indifferent and passive spectator. Finding the balance between engagement and restraint will be the policy challenge of this new phase.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Freedom, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamist movements, Protests, Reform, US foreign policy | Comment »
Syria: Violence Against Protesters Continues
April 22nd, 2011 by Kyle
On Friday, thousands of Syrians were met with live ammunition from state security after they took to the streets to demand reform and regime change. Al Jazeera reports that at least 20 people have been killed across the country. Deaths were reported in Homs, Douma, and the southern city of Azraa.  Reuters also reports that at least 3 people were injured in the Damascus suburb of Douma.
Update: The BBC reports that today’s violence has been the worst to date with nearly 60 confirmed deaths so far.
Posted in Protests, Syria | Comment »
Sec. Clinton and Former Sec. Kissinger Discuss U.S. Foreign Policy and the Middle East
April 22nd, 2011 by Naureen
Speaking on Charlie Rose series, “Conversations on Diplomacy,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger discussed U.S. diplomatic efforts.  Clinton highlighted the the new challenges facing U.S. foreign policy as the focus shifts away from state-to-state relationships to networks and multilateral relations  and organizations.  She also noted the implications of new technologies and new media.  Kissinger noted the “huge changes” in state structure taking place across Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Even amongst all these changes, the United States continues to remain a dominant power in the world that countries across the world turn to for leadership and aid.  Clinton stated however, that “one of our biggest foreign policy challenges right now is to get our own house in order…we have to consolidate our own economic and political position in order to be able to continue to influence events in the future.”
Discussing the “Arab Spring,” Secretary Kissinger stated that the revolutions are still unfolding, as such we must be cautious of being overly optimistic. He noted, however, that we must not be too hasty in judging the outcome of the uprisings based on the proclamations of a few and ensure real transitions occur.  Clinton noted that it is U.S. interest “to see a peaceful, stable transition to a more  representative form of government in which institutions are able to democratize over time.”  She also noted the lack of economic growth and development in the region as a reason for the people’s frustrations.  Clinton and Kissinger also discussed the threat of Iran and the country’s hope to take advantage of the instability in the region.  Kissinger also stated that the situation in Libya is peripheral to the events in the broader Middle East.
Posted in Civil Society, Corruption, Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Egypt, Elections, Foreign Aid, Freedom, Gulf, Human Rights, Iran, Islam and Democracy, Jordan, Libya, Military, NATO, Protests, Reform, Syria, Tunisia, US foreign policy, Yemen | Comment »
Yemen: Protests Continue as Saleh Supports GCC Proposal
April 22nd, 2011 by Kyle
On Friday, thousands or protesters gathered in the streets of Sana’a and Taiz demanding Saleh’s departure following the release of a Gulf Cooperation Council transition plan. There was also a rally held in support of President Saleh, where he announced that he supported the GCC plan. Saleh said that his government “welcom[ed]” the GCC’s initiative, and that it would deal with it with “positively … within the framework of the Yemeni constitution.” The GCC proposed plan calls for a three-month transition that would end with a presidential election. According to the plan, a unity government led by the opposition would work to organize the presidential elections two months after Saleh’s departure. A special UN Security Council meeting was held and the group urged restraint and dialogue, but failed to agree on a public statement on how best to address the unrest in Yemen.

Photo courtesy of Reuters.

Posted in Diplomacy, Gulf Cooperation Council, United Nations, Yemen | Comment »
U.S.-Netherlands Commit to Supporting Women’s Empowerment in MENA
April 21st, 2011 by Naureen
Following a bilateral meeting, Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued the a statement declaring support for women’s political participation in emerging democracies in the Middle East. “The Netherlands and the United States share the view that the participation of women in political and economic processes is particularly urgent in the MENA region in these times of transition and reconciliation. We intend to work together to promote women’s empowerment in the region.” They hope to draw from local expertise and networks and leverage resources to address women’s participation in the reform processes in the region.  Key areas for collaboration include: ensuring women’s human rights, fostering women leaders and political leadership training, technical and capacity building assistance to women-led and women-focused NGOs, and engaging in civic education initiatives to raise awareness about “women’s participation as key to a stable and prosperous society.”
Posted in Civil Society, Democracy Promotion, Freedom, Human Rights, Protests, Reform, US foreign policy, Women, Women's Rights | Comment »
Syria: Assad Names New Governor of Homs, Clinton Condemns Violence Calls for Reform
April 21st, 2011 by Naureen
On Thursday, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad swore in Ghassad Abdul Aal as the new governor of Homs following clashes between demonstrators and security forces which resulted in the death of 17 protesters and scores of arrests. Najati Tayara, an activist in Homs, stated that the city was quite on Thursday but that security forces are stationed on the outskirts of impoverished neighborhoods with the expectation that protests will continue tomorrow.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the ongoing violence  and arbitrary arrest of protesters in Syria and called for a “political process that can respond to the legitimate needs, interests, and aspirations of the people” who are seeking “substantial and lasting reform.”  She also noted the U.S.’s particular concern about the situation in Homs given reports of violence and casualties among both civilians and government personnel.
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Freedom, Human Rights, Protests, Reform, Syria | 1 Comment »
Scholars Discuss the Arab Spring in the Context of Lebanon’s 2005 Emancipation
April 21st, 2011 by Naureen
Last week, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy hosted an event entitled, “Lebanon Today: Internal Politics and the Arab Spring.”  Speaking at the event were May Chidiac, president of MCF Media Institute; Michael Young, opinion editor for the Beirut Daily Star; Hisham Melhem, Washington bureau chief of Al-Arabiya; and Michael Doran,  visiting professor at New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service.
May Chidiac noted how protests in the Arab world echo “the spirit of the Lebanese model” as they abandoned anti-Israel and anti-West rhetoric for legitimate demands of good governance, economic opportunities and political freedom.  Chidiac also called for the U.S. and international community to support the March 14th movement.  Michael Young discussed three lessons for the Arab Spring from Lebanon: first, that foreign intervention is often necessary for liberation movements to succeed; second, the liberation may clash with Western interests; and third, the importance of luck. Young discussed how many in the Arab world fail to acknowledge the importance of the 2005 emancipation as they see a weak Syria as advantageous to the West and Israel.  Hisham Melham stated that the Arab Spring differs from the events in Lebanon in 2005 as they represent a social and political revolution rather than an emancipation from foreign occupation.  He also notes the reversion to sectarianism in Lebanon.  Melham also called on the Obama Administration to take a stronger stance on the situation in Syria.  Melham along with Michael Doran argued that regime change in Syria could benefit the U.S. as it would improve dynamics with Lebanon, Palestine, Israel and Iraq.
Posted in Civil Society, Democracy Promotion, Egypt, Freedom, Hezbollah, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Libya, Military, Palestine, Protests, Reform, Syria, Tunisia, US foreign policy, Yemen | Comment »
Cook Criticizes WaPo Article on U.S. Democracy Promotion in Syria
April 21st, 2011 by Alec
Steven Cook, of the Council on Foreign Relations, heavily criticized Monday’s Washington Post article on U.S. funding to Syrian opposition figures and groups.  He says that the tone of the article makes U.S. intentions and actions regarding democracy promotion sound “sinister” despite USAID and State Department programs like MEPI (Middle East Partnership Initiative) having broad, public bi-partisan support.  Cook states: “The Post turned something for which Americans should rightly be proud—advancing the cause of democracy and freedom in a country that has precious little of both—into something that seems pernicious.”  He also called the Post article, “journalistic haymaking.”
Posted in Democracy Promotion, Journalism, Syria, US foreign policy, US media | Comment »
Syria: Emergency Law Lifted, Security Court Abolished
April 21st, 2011 by Alec
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad lifted the country’s emergency law on Thursday in an attempt to placate Syrian protesters.  The repeal of the law has been a major demand of opposition and pro-democracy protesters.  Assad also abolished the Higher State Security Court and also issued a decree declaring the right to protest as a “one of the basic human rights guaranteed by the Syrian Constitution.”  Protesters and opposition members are also demanding other changes in the political system including the release of political prisoners, the lifting of travel bans, and the right to establish political parties.  Amnesty International welcomed the move but other human rights activists remain skeptical of the regime’s motivations for doing so.
Posted in Protests, Reform, Syria | Comment »
Oman: 234 Protesters Pardoned by Sultan
April 21st, 2011 by Alec
Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said pardoned 234 people who were arrested in anti-government protests in February.  Demonstrations broke out in the port city of Sohar in support of greater freedom of expression, higher salaries, and against government corruption.  Two people died during the unrest.
Posted in Oman, Protests | Comment »
Egypt: Amnesty Calls for Lifting of Emergency Laws
April 21st, 2011 by Alec
Amnesty International has urged Egypt’s interim government, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), to lift the emergency laws that were put in place under the regime of Hosni Mubarak.  The group further called for a thorough investigation into abuses carried out under the law by the state and its agents.  Amnesty International also claims they have documented further abuses and the continuing use of torture and arbitrary detention under the laws.  The SCAF has stated it will scrap the emergency law ahead of September elections.
Posted in Egypt, Human Rights, Reform | Comment »
For Egypt, Lessons From Iraq
April 21st, 2011 by Alec
Ziad Al-Ali, writing at OpenDemocracy, argues that Iraq’s trials and tribulations of drafting a new constitution can provide Egypt with valuable lessons on pitfalls that should be avoided.  Al-Ali states that Iraq and Egypt share enough basic similarities and needs that allow for Egypt to take stock of Iraqi failures and hopefully avoid them.  He cites the current timeline of six months to draft a new permanent constitution as insufficient given the “wealth of constitutional and legal scholars to draw from.”  Al-Ali fears that like Iraq’s six month deadline, the constitutional drafting committee will end up stacked with political appointees that possess little to no experience in constitutional law.  In contrast, South Africa’s constitutional process, regarded as a resounding success, took around seven years to complete.  Iraq’s quick nature of transition from a one-party system to a diverse multi-party system left many political leaders and parties unprepared with the realities of how such a system should function.  Iraqi political leaders were unable to establish a “proper framework” for how political parties should operate; this includes an initial and extreme hesitation on issues of financial transparency, which in turn prevented Iraq from developing any proper enforcement mechanisms to ensure adherence to political rules and regulations.  Ziad closes by calling for Egypt to allow the constitutional drafting committee the necessary amount of time it needs to properly engage on pertinent issues to avoid repeating Iraq mistakes.
Posted in Constitutional Issues, Egypt, Iraq, Reform | Comment »
Secretary General of Génération Tunisie Libre Discusses Role of Al-Nahda in Tunisia
April 21st, 2011 by Naureen
Rajaa Basly, writing at the Arab Reform Bulletin, discusses the role Islamist party, al-Nahda, has played in the revolution thus far and what it’s future contributions look like.  Basly states that while the party did not play a role in the uprisings that overthrew President Zine Ben Ali, it has since become an influential player, especially now that it has joined the Committee for the Protection of the Revolution and the Political Reform Committee, which may be granted executive powers.  He notes, however, that many Tunisians remain cautious of the party given the accusations of terrorism following incidents in the 1990s when al-Nahda activists attacked a RCD office in Tunis.  Basly discusses the party’s “flexible political discourse” which continues its Islamic tradition while making reassurances that its committed to democracy, human rights, non-violence and equality.  He also discusses how the party  has sided with protesters in its critiques of the current government but notes the threat of fragmentation given the legalization of nearly 50 political parties, some of which are Islamist in orientation and potential competitors for al-Nahda.  Basly states that the party will have to clarify its stance on state secularism especially following the rise of the Salafi youth movement, Hizb al-Tahrir.
Posted in Civil Society, Democracy Promotion, Elections, Freedom, Human Rights, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Protests, Reform, Tunisia, Turkey, Women's Rights | Comment »
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Turkish President Says Future of Arab Spring Depends on Middle East Peace Agreement
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POMED Notes: “From Revolution to Democracy: The Next Generation of Democracy Builders”
Video: Footage of Friday Protests in Syria Including Brutal Response
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