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Revolutionary Guard Targeting Farsi Churches for Closures
Photo Credit: Washington Post
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Intelligence Organization shutdown a Farsi-language Protestant Church in Tehran last week in the latest in a string of closures. According to reports, in the last six months, the Iranian government has shut down and arrested members of several Protestant churches that practice and evangelize in Farsi “largely to prevent Muslims from learning about or converting to Christianity.” The Revolutionary Guard also recently took control of oversight of all churches in Iran, putting them under direct control of Ayatollah Khamenei.
Also, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reports that five prisoners of conscience have been moved to an unspecified location and believes they are about to be executed. The five were arrested during street protests last year and were charged in the murder of a police officer.
Additionally, imprisoned Kurdish journalist and human rights activist Mohammad Seddigh Kaboudvand started a hunger strike to visit his “gravely ill” son. Prison authorities have denied Kaboudvand leave to visit his son in the hospital and have withheld news of the boy’s condition.
In an analysis of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as he begins his last year in office, the Associated Press contrasts the President’s larger-than-life image abroad with his diminished power at home.  The article argues, however, that this “classic case of a weak office occupied by a strong personality” still leaves Ahmadinejad some power to influence the tone of domestic politics throughout his final year and he may yet challenge the power of Ayatollah Khamenei again.
By Kevin June 11, 2012 Category: Featured, Freedom, Human Rights, Iran
Bahrain: Police Raid Home of Opposition Party Leader
Photo Credit: Mazen Mahdi/EPA
Security forces in Bahrain attacked the home of the Secretary-General of Al Wefaq, Sheikh Ali Salman Sunday, in a series of systematic attacks carried out on his house.  Police assaulted the opposition party leader’s house, at a time coinciding with wide raids on houses in the same area, followed by the arrest of a number of citizens. The incident took place as thousands of Bahraini protesters were holding an anti-regime demonstration outside Salman’s house.
Meanwhile, American Police Consultant John Timoneyweighed in on his observations of institutional reform and police conduct and training in Bahrain, in an official press release by the Information Affairs Authority (IAA) Sunday. Timoney, a former Chief of Police in Miami and Philadelphia, said police “spend far too much time here [Bahrain] on public-order policing . . . There isn’t an emphasis on classroom training, academics.” Timoney highlighted the need to reform the police force through better training, community outreach, and human rights training.
According to the IAA, Timoney also noted that many of Bahrain’s recent protests have fallen outside the scope of legitimate peaceful expression. “That’s riotous behavior, illegal and violent conduct which I ve seen in the press described as reaction to police,” he said, adding, “These are unprovoked attacks on police officers who are simply going about their daily duties and face Molotov cocktails and now, in the past month, bombings.” The statement comes less than a week after the denial of allegations of killing and torture of protesters by police in recent uprisings.
Additionally, Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa announced the first batch of compensation settlements, amounting to more than $2.6 million.  The settlement funds will be paid to the families of 17 people who died during Bahrain’s unrest, and were assessed on the basis of civil court precedents to reach fair settlements.
By Brian June 11, 2012 Category: Bahrain, Human Rights, Protests, Uncategorized
Tunisian Arts Festival Elicits Support, Protests
Photo Credit: Tunisia Live
Yesterday organizers of the Printemps des Art Fair in La Marsa, Tunisia refused to take down a contemporary art exhibit that some found offensive, prompting angry exchanges between artists and their supporters and members of the public who wanted the art taken down, including Salafists. When crowds of a few hundred on each side began confronting each other, police intervened and dispersed the groups.  Last week the arts festival included a performance by hip-hop group Armada Bizerta, whose themes included politics, freedom of expression, and support for the “Tunisian underground.”
Also, Al-Qaeda released a video yesterday in which Ayman al-Zawahri called on the Tunisian people to rise up against the ruling Islamist party Ennahda for its supposed lack of Islamic authenticity. Al-Zawahri stated that Ennahda represents “an Islam accepted by the U.S. State Department, the EU and the sheikdoms of the Gulf, an Islam that accepts gambling clubs and nude beaches.”
Meanwhile, Tunisian authorities have unveiled a draft of the preamble to the new constitution. Significantly, it includes references to Islam but not Sharia, and observers see Ennahda as having to negotiate a balance between the country’s Islamists and secular-minded citizens. Elsewhere on the legal front, a battle between journalists and the military prosecutor continues as activists call for the right to publicly broadcast proceedings from the trials of former regime figures.
Synda Tajine writes in Al-Monitor the Tunisian populace is growing increasingly frustrated with high unemployment, the state of the economy, and the deteriorating security situation. “Despite the positive attitude of the government and its attempt to pretend that everything is under control,” Tajine writes, “real difficulties seem to impair its legitimacy.” She does note, however, that tourism is returning and the financial sector seems to be faring well.
By Andrew June 11, 2012 Category: al-Qaeda, Civil Society, Featured, Freedom, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Journalism, Tunisia
Libya Detains ICC Envoy
Photo Credit: AFP/Gianluigi Guercia
An envoy from the International Criminal Court was placed  in “preventive” detention for 45 days in Zintan, Libya  after one of its lawyers, Melinda Taylor, was accused of carrying suspicious documents for Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. Ahmed Jehani, Libya’s envoy to the ICC, alleged that Taylor was carrying a pen camera and a letter from Mohammed Ismail, Saif’s former right-hand man who is now on the run. ICC president Sang-Hyun Song expressed “concern” for the envoy and demanded the delegation’s immediate release, while Australia’s foreign minister, Bob Carr, urged the Libyan government to “facilitate full consular access to Ms Taylor,” an Australian citizen.
Meanwhile, Libyan election commission chief Nouri Al-Abbar announced that Libya’s landmark elections would be postponed to July 7th to give voters more time to register and authorities more time to examine the qualifications of candidates. The U.N. mission in Libya praised the decision to delay the election, saying it will “enable essential preparations to be completed prior to voting.”
Finally, the BBC reports that at least 16 have died in the last two days in fighting between government forces and tribal fighters in the southern town of Kufra. Much of the fighting is believed to be related to a turf war over smuggling routes used by tribes in the city.
By Hart June 11, 2012 Category: Elections, Featured, Libya
Freedom of Speech Disappearing in Turkey
Photo Credit: Atlantic Council
Mehdi Hasan reports in The Guardian on what he calls “a new climate of fear” in Turkey due to escalated arrests of students, journalists, and artists who have spoken out against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government. The number of journalists in prison has doubled since last year to 95, the highest number in the world, while other journalists have lost their jobs due to government pressure on media organizations. Meanwhile, two students received 8 year prison sentences last week for “membership in a terrorist organization” because they held a banner saying  “We want free education, we will get it” at an event hosted by Erdogan.
Also, hundreds protested a proposed law limiting abortion Sunday in Istanbul.  The Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe criticized the proposed law, calling it “regressive” and said that it would not decrease the number of abortions. She went on to add “I don’t want to say that Turkey is becoming more conservative… but there are also areas where we have serious concerns.”
Additionally, Christopher Torchia and Emrah Betos write how Islamic Ottoman era reverence is slowly replacing the secular “cult of Ataturk” in Turkey. Whereas in the past the Turkish founder was treated as inviolable, Torchia and Betos argue that Islamist politicians have inaugurated a new era of questioning Ataturk’s image and values, which could have severe implications for Turkey’s future as a model secular nation in the Middle East.
By Kevin June 11, 2012 Category: Articles, Featured, Freedom, Human Rights, Islam and Democracy, Journalism, Protests, Turkey, Women
Weekly Wire – June 11th
POMED’s Weekly Wire for June 11 is now available. This week’s edition includes the following top stories.
Top Stories This Week:
Legislation - There was no relevant legislation introduced this week
Committee Hearings - The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Brett H. McGurk as ambassador to Iraq
From Washington - Posner Visits with Libyan Civil Society Members
From the Middle East - Bahraini Activist Nabeel Rajab Jailed over Tweet
In Case You Missed It - The Center for American Progress held a presentation entitled, “U.S. Policy on Egypt’s Transition”
To view the fully Weekly Wire, click here.
By Nada June 11, 2012 Category: Weekly Wire
Omani Police Apprehend Protesters
Photo Credit: The Slate
Omani riot police on Monday detained some 30 activists during a peaceful protest near police headquarters in Muscat. Activists said Monday’s protest was the third since Saturday to press for prisoners’ release, job creation and faster reforms. “They put them on a bus and took them away,” Zaher al-Abri, a local journalist at the scene, told Reuters by telephone. “Some were handcuffed but most were not,” he said, adding that seven women and 22 men had been taken away.
Ten people were arrested in Oman in the past two weeks in a police crackdown on dissent amid rising discontent. Among the six arrested Friday night were blogger Hassan Rukaishi, authors Hammoud al-Rashedi and Nabhan al-Hanashi and poet Hamad al-Kharusi. The campaign comes four days after Oman Attorney General’s threat on June 6 to arrest those whom he called “agitators”, while demands increased for the release of activists Habiba al-Hana’i, Yaqoub al-Kharusi and Ismail al-Meqbali. The Gulf Center for Human Rights reported that on May 31, the three activists were arrested by security forces as they were on their way to cover an open labor strike in the main oil production areas of Fohod and Marmu. The Arab Network For Human Rights denounced crackdown as an escalation by authorities on freedom of expression and opinion. “This unbelievable campaign proves how the authorities have zero tolerance for any opposing view” said ANHRI.
Meanwhile, in nearby Bahrain, 11-year-old Ali Hasan was released without bail following nearly a month in police custody. Hasan’s lawer, Mohsen al-Alawi, told Al Jazeera that judges had decided to release the boy but that his trial was set to continue on June 20.  The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expressed concern about the government’s targeting of children under the age of 15 in its crackdown. There are a “growing number of children detained for investigation in security cases,” said The Bahrain Rehabilitation and Anti-Violence Organization.
By Brian June 11, 2012 Category: Bahrain, Freedom, Human Rights, Oman, Protests
Iraqi No Confidence Motion Falls Short
Photo Credit: AP
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani announced Sunday that opponents of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki lack enough support for a no confidence vote. Maliki opponents say they delivered their petition to the president’s office last week with signatures from 176 lawmakers, but over the weekend many of the signatures were either suspended or withdrawn, bringing the total below the 163 needed to force the vote. While this stalls efforts to unseat Maliki, other constitutional methods remain. President Talabani called on Maliki and the opposition to work out their differences.
Meanwhile, Abed Hamoud,  Saddam Hussein‘s former private secretary, was executed Thursday in Iraq for “orchestrating a crackdown against rival political parties in Iraq in the 1980s and 1990s, including assassinations and unlawful detentions.” Hamoud was number four on the U.S. most wanted list in Iraq, and is the fifth former official to be executed after Hussein’s death.
Also, the nomination of Brett McGurk to be the next U.S. ambassador to Iraq may be in jeopardy following a scandal with a reporter. Senator James Inhofe of the Armed Services Committee said he will not meet with McGurk until what he calls “concerning issues” are cleared up.
Additionally, the New York Times published a report investigating the alarming suicide rate among women in the Sinjar region of northern Iraq, where arranged marriages are customary. Local officials cite the introduction of satellite TV and the internet after the war as the cause. “This has given young women glimpses of a better life, unencumbered by the traditions that have constricted women for centuries to a life of obedience and child-rearing, one devoid of romance.”
By Kevin June 10, 2012 Category: Articles, Featured, Iraq, Kurdish Region, Political transition, Women
“Alarm”, “Genocide”, “Bosnia”, Reactions to Syrian Shelling
Photo Credit: Khaled al-Hariri
The Syrian military continued heavy shelling of Homs and Deraa throughout the weekend, killing at least 50 people on Saturday. The Russian foreign minister called the violence alarming, but reiterated Russia’s opposition to intervention by the U.N. Security Council. In Israel, the Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz accused the Syrian government of genocide and called for intervention. Meanwhile, the British Foreign Secretary William Hague compared the situation to Bosnia in the 1990′s and refused to rule out intervention as a possibility.
Also, as the violence escalates, reports show President Bashar al-Assad‘s core Alawite base may be fracturing. While some are impatient with the president for not crushing the opposition fast enough, others fear anti-Alawite reprisals will threaten the community’s future in an increasing sectarian conflict.
Meanwhile, the Syrian National Council elected Kurdish activist Abdul Baset Saida to be its new leader. According to reports, the Muslim Brotherhood selected Saida to succeed Burhan Ghalioun after activists objected to a third term for Ghalioun. Some in the opposition see the move as an effort by the SNC to recruit more Kurds, who have not protested with the same intensity as others. Saida said he believes the regime is on its last legs, and called to reform and restructure the Council.
Also, Nicholas Kristof criticized President Obama for “dithering” on stopping killings in Syria and Sudan, saying the current inaction will put the U.S. “on the wrong side of history.” Anne-Marie Slaughter echoed Kristof’s call to action in a response to Henry Kissinger‘s opinion piece last week. Slaughter argued that the Obama administration must defend the sovereignty as responsibility principle, perhaps not in an effort to topple Assad but to at least stop the killing.
By Kevin June 10, 2012 Category: Articles, Featured, Protests, Sudan, Syria
Bahrain Police Continue Crackdowns
Photo Credit: Mazen Mahdi
More protesters were injured Saturday by tear gas, sound bombs, and bird shot as police continued their crackdown on demonstrators following Friday’s major protests. An exact number of those injured has apparently been difficult to ascertain as many avoid hospitals for fear of being arrested.
Meanwhile, the Bahrain Rehabilitation and Anti-Violence Organization issued a demand for the release of an 11 year old that has been in prison for 25 days for “protesting in a public place and the intention of committing crimes and disrupting general security.” Ali Hasan is a 6th grader and has been detained since May 14th.
Additionally, Reporters Without Borders released a report expressing “alarm” at threats made by the Bahraini government against civil society members involved in the U.N.’s Universal Periodic Review of human rights in the country. According to the account, some of the journalists, doctors, activists, lawyers, and human rights defenders present at the review in Geneva have been called traitors in pro-government media, while others have since been imprisoned with lengthy sentences.
Speaking with NPR in Washington, human rights activist Maryam al-Khawaja, daughter of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, dicussed the recent U.S. arms sale to Bahrain, as well as last week’s arrest of Nabel Rajab. Al-Khawaja also expressed concern that the world had lost interest in her country.
By Kevin June 9, 2012 Category: Articles, Bahrain, Featured, Freedom, Human Rights, Protests
Egypt to Attempt Constitutional Assembly Yet Again
Photo Credit: Suhaib Salem
Speaker Saad El-Katatni announced Saturday that parliament will try again Tuesday to form a 100 member constitutional assembly. This follows the failure of Wednesday’s constitutional assembly agreement under the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’s  48 hour deadline. The majority-Islamist body created under that agreement prompted non-Islamist members to walk out in protest. Katatni said that parliament will seek to create an assembly representative of “all powers and interests” in Egypt.
Meanwhile, protests continued in Tahrir Square calling for the disqualification of presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq. Many are also contesting last week’s verdict in the trial of ousted president Hosni Mubarak. However, some 200 people began another protest Saturday calling for Mubarak’s transfer from prison to a hospital following reports of the former president’s ailing health. The pro-Mubarak demonstrators vowed to remain in front of the Prison Authority until he is transferred.
Also, as Egyptian expatriates finish voting abroad this weekend, voting data showed no significant drop in voter turnout due to boycotts. Around 260,000 Egyptians living abroad have voted in the second round of the election, compared to 305,000 during the first round.
Additionally, Omar Ashour argues that last week’s verdicts in the Mubarak trial has severe consequences in the transition going forward. Ashour believes that the verdict will solidify perceptions of the judiciary as biased, will reinforce a “culture of impunity” among security services, and will empower anti-reform factions in the Interior Minister, thus making reform that much more difficult.
By Kevin June 9, 2012 Category: Articles, Egypt, Elections, Featured, Muslim Brotherhood, Political transition
POMED Notes: “Understanding the Syrian Opposition”
On Friday, the Rethink Institute hosted an event titled “Understanding the Syrian Opposition: A Turkish, American, and Syrian Dialogue.” The discussion was focused on the current status of both the internal and foreign-based Syrian opposition movements. The talk was moderated by Fevzi Bilgin, Director of the Rethink Institute. The panelists were Hussein Sayyed, President of the Supreme Revolutionary Council, Andrew Tabler, a Senior Fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Kadir Ustun, Research Director at SETA-DC, Radwan Ziadeh, Executive Director of the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies, Burak Kararti, a counselor at the Turkish Embassy, and Louay Sakka, from the Syrian Support Group.
For full event notes, continue reading below or click here for the PDF version.
Read more…
By Hart June 8, 2012 Category: Diplomacy, Freedom, Human Rights, Iran, Israel, Political transition, Reform, Syria, UN Security Council, United Nations, US foreign policy
Tunisia Seeks Support from West During Critical Time
Photo Credit: AP
In an interview with NPR, Tunisian President Moncef Marzoukidescribed the challenges the country faces in preventing a reversion to dictatorship.  Marzouki spoke about the country’s efforts to balance the power of the president and prime minister so that “no one can become a dictator.” Marzouki called on Europe and the U.S. to support Tunisia during what he described as the most dangerous time in the post-revolution period. He cited the country’s high unemployment rate and the need to match people’s expectations for the revolution.
Tunisia, like other Arab countries today, faces significant obstacles in tracking down the illicit wealth accumulated during years of corrupt rule explained an article in the New York Times. The Tunisian government was able to recover two aircraft owned by Ben Ali but lawyers representing the new government said that they have been opposed at every step in trying to recover frozen assets held in Swiss bank accounts.
Members of Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly Committee on Legislative and Executive Power and the National Council on Tunisia’s Jewish Citizens are promoting a proposal to designate two seats in parliament for Jewish members reported Haaretz.
By Alex June 8, 2012 Category: Featured, Foreign Aid, Political transition, Tunisia, Uncategorized
“Lack of Accountability” in Libya Threatens Progress
Photo Credit: Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters
Libya’s lack of accountability and ineffective judiciary is leading to an environment of impunity among former rebel fighters said a Los Angeles Times article. According to Amnesty International’s Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, the failure to investigate abuse on both sides is preventing the country from “turning the page on decades of systematic human rights violations”.
Additionally, in Benghazi hundreds of armed men rallied in support of Islamic law in the run-up to the country’s elections for a constituent assembly, AFP reported. Many of the demonstrators came to Benghazi’s Freedom Square on vehicles mounted with anti-aircraft guns and heavy weapons leading to a counter-demonstration over the presence of the weapons which eventually succeeded in peacefully pushing the men out of the square.
In the trial of Saif Al Islam Gaddafi, the U.S. voiced support for Tripoli’s preference to try the son of the former Libyan Dictator in Libya rather than at The Hague. Gaddafi was captured by a revolutionary militia who has refused to hand him over to either Tripoli or the International Criminal Court. Meanwhile, a bomb exploded next to a wall of the U.S. consulate in Benghazi but did not cause any casualties reported AP. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said that reports have surfaced from groups claiming responsibility for the attack but the investigation is ongoing.
By Alex June 8, 2012 Category: Featured, Libya, Political transition
Diverse Jordanian Opposition Demonstrate in Solidarity
Photo Credit: The Jordan Times
Diverse political and social forces from across Jordan plan to march in solidarity Friday in a unified demonstration. Islamists, leftists, nationalists, youth and tribal activists will rally in cities across the Kingdom in protest over rising prices and a proposed elections law, under the slogan “Our Goal is One,” the Jordanian Times reports. “We will show that we speak in one voice, move as one movement, and will not rest until the Jordanian people secure their political and economic rights,” said former Muslim Brotherhood leader Salem Fallahat.
Meanwhile, a Royal Decree was issued Wednesday approving a new Constitutional Court Law for 2012 as passed by the Senate and the Lower House. State Minister for Media Affairs and Communications Samih Maaytah said issuance of a Royal Decree approving the Constitutional Court law after it was endorsed by the Parliament, is huge step toward political and constitutional reform, adding that the law is one reform upon which all factions, leadership and opposition alike, could agree.
Additionally, a graduation ceremony was held on Thursday in honor of 31 newly appointed female magistrate judges from all over Jordan who completed a six-month training program in which they learned from the experience of veteran judges.
By Brian June 8, 2012 Category: Elections, Featured, Jordan, Legislation, Protests
UN Monitors Reach Site of Hama Massacre
Photo Credit: Reuters
Yesterday the US and Syria both made statements on the deteriorating situation in Syria. The White House condemned the recent killings in Hama province and the Syrian government’s previous refusal to allow UN observers access to the site to investigate. Iran also condemned the violence in Hama and Houla but cautioned against “rushing to any judgment that the Syrian Government is behind the killings and therefore Kofi Annan’s plan is dead.” For his part, Kofi Annan said Thursday that he wanted Iran to be involved in any resolution to the conflict. As of today, UN monitors were finally able to reach the site of the massacre at Hama, as reports of fresh fighting elsewhere in the country came in, and anti-government protests erupted in Damascus. Syrian troops have reportedly shelled a neighborhood in Homs held by rebels.
Meanwhile, Channel 4 News chief correspondent Alex Thomsonclaimed that Syrian rebels tried to lead him into a trap in an effort to discredit the Syrian regime. ”I’m quite clear the rebels deliberately set us up to be shot by the Syrian army,” Thompson said. Dead journos are bad for Damascus.”
Elliot Abrams writes that there is a lack of leadership and determination from the White House on the Syria issue, while Ivan Eland contends that the US should take a hands-off approach and let regional powers such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia sort out the situation. Hassan Hassan writes in The National that diplomacy has not yet failed, and the UN mission to Syria “is essential in building an  international consensus to exert more pressure on Damascus.”
By Andrew June 8, 2012 Category: Featured, Syria, United Nations
Police Confront Bahrain’s Largest Demonstration in Weeks
Photo Credit: Reuters
Riot police broke up Bahrain’s largest demonstration in weeks using tear gas and sound bombs Friday. Witnesses said there were demonstrations in nearly a dozen locations, the largest being a group of thousands who marched down Budaiya highway, a major road outside the capital which has seen frequent unrest since the outset of Bahrain’s uprising. Clashes were also reported in Jidhafs, near the capital Manama, and Abu Saiba.  At least one person in Jidhafs was injured by birdshot fired by police, according to Yousif al-Muhafdah, a Bahraini human rights activist.
Meanwhile, the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies, an international group of scientists, engineers, and doctors, issuedstatement and letter calling on Bahrain’s king to clear 20 medics of all charges and allow them to return to their jobs. The group urged the king, “sincerely to use your good offices, on humanitarian grounds and out of respect for the importance of medical neutrality, to ensure that the Bahraini medics are accorded the full range of their fundamental rights.” A week remains in the appeal process for 20 medics, and the letter asks the king to “Ensure that the 20 health professionals, most and perhaps all of whom have been tortured to extract confessions and whose sentences range from 5 to 15 years in prison, are pardoned and enabled to immediately return to their important medical work.”
Additionally, 11-year-old Ali Hasan is reportedly scheduled for a court hearing next week after being detained for allegedly taking part in anti-government protests. His lawyer said the boy was arrested last month and took his school exams behind bars.
Finally, the Bloomberg editorial board addresses Bahrain’s ongoing unrest, pointing to the need for Saudi Arabia’s complicity if true reform is to occur. The article proposes a number of changes for Bahrain, suggesting it draw upon the “pledges already made by the kings of Morocco and Jordan, [and] move toward becoming a constitutional monarchy, one where a fully elected National Assembly appoints a prime minister who then appoints a cabinet.” The author adds, “U.S. officials should strive to convince the Saudi royals that a fairer deal for Bahrain’s Shiites, not to mention Saudi Arabia’s, would strengthen their position and lessen the odds of meddling by Shiite-majority Iran.”
By Todd June 8, 2012 Category: Bahrain, Featured, Human Rights, Saudi Arabia
Iran, UN Criticized for Afghan Discrimination
Photo Credit: AP
The group Justice for Iran released a report on human rights violations committed by the Iranian government against Afghan refugees in the country. According to the report, Iran has called for the deportation of all single Afghan men by the end of the month, relocated 5,000 refugees to a former POW camp, and denied recognition of mixed marriages and the rights of resulting children. The group also alleges that the U.N. Human Rights Commission has cooperated with Iran by handing refugees over to the government.
In Washington, Congressman Chris Smith, chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Comission, expressed ”grave concern” for Hossein Ronaghi-Maleki, an imprisoned Iranian blogger reportedly close to death. Ronaghi-Maleki is in jail for “insulting” Ayatollah Khomeini and Rep. Smith urged the Iranian government to provide him medical care for his failing kidneys. Meanwhile, Iranian political prisoner Mohammad Mehdi Zalieh Naghshbandian has died from health complications. Despite his deteriorating health, officials waited until two weeks ago to bring him to a hospital.
Additionally, Christopher Thornton published an article in The Atlantic on Wednesday entitled “The Iran We Don’t See” in which he argues “probably no country in the world is more mischaracterized in Western eyes than Iran.” Rather, Thornton found on a recent visit to the country that many Iranians admire the U.S. and hope for better relations.
By Kevin June 7, 2012 Category: Afghanistan, Articles, Featured, Human Rights, Iran
Judicial Recommendations Potentially Disqualify Shafiq, Parliamentary Election Law
Photo Credit: Arabic Edition
The commissioners of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) recommended that the court invalidate the Presidential Electoral Commissions’ referral of the Political Isolation Law. If the SCC accepts the recommendation, current presidential candidate and former Prime Minister during the Mubarak regime Ahmed Shafiq, could be disqualified. The commissioners also provided a recommendation regarding the country’s parliamentary elections law which they stated are unconstitutional and should be overturned. The commissioners’ recommendations are non-binding but, if accepted by the SCC, could potentially undue the presidential and parliamentary elections.
The question of the constituent assembly was apparently resolved as political parties announced they had reached an agreement determining the composition of body. The meeting’s delegates agreed to allocate 37 of the Constituent Assembly seats to political parties, 20 to youth and public figures, nine to legal experts, six to judicial bodies, five to Al-Azhar, four to the church, one seat each for the ministries of interior and justice, and one for the armed forces. Legal scholars and political parties continue to debate the question of whether Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces retains the right to issue a constitutional addendum to the constituent assembly article.
By Brian June 7, 2012 Category: Egypt, Legislation, Presidential Candidates
“Strategic Adaptation: Toward a New US Strategy in the Middle East”
On Wednesday, the Center for a New American Security published a paper entitled “Strategic Adaptation: Toward a New U.S. Strategy in the Middle East.”  In the paper, authors Bruce W. Jentleson, Andrew M. Exum, Melissa G. Dalton and J. Dana Stuster argue that “the United States must recalibrate its strategies to address the sweeping changes across the Middle East.”
Jentleson et al assert the Arab Spring in particular exposes what they believe are a number of false assumptions that the United States has based its foreign policy on. These include: that Arab regimes could be relied on for security/economic cooperation without implementing reforms, that relations with Israel would continue to be grounded by a uniform strategic outlook, and finally that the United States is the primary actor in the region and capable of effectively countering adversaries and antagonists. Acknowledging these false assumptions would, in the near term, allow the United States to address Iranian nuclear proliferation, Israeli-Egyptian relations, and the crises in Syria and Yemen.
In the long term, the paper argues, a shift in U.S. strategy would involve acknowledging the return of politics to the Middle East by engaging the Arab public rather than regimes, reducing dependency on the Persian Gulf and revitalizing Arab-Israeli peace efforts.
By Hart June 7, 2012 Category: Diplomacy, Islamist movements
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Bahrain: Police Raid Home of Opposition Party Leader
Tunisian Arts Festival Elicits Support, Protests
Libya Detains ICC Envoy
Freedom of Speech Disappearing in Turkey
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