Tag Archives | Arab Spring

Egyptian Women Rally Against SCAF

Thousands of Egyptian women took to the streets Tuesday to protest their  brutal beatings and repression at the hands of the military council.  Historians had to look back almost a century to find any precedent for the rally for and by women in opposition to the SCAF governing council.

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Egyptian Violence & No US Response

So far, at least, I haven’t heard of any response from the US government regarding the escalating violence and suppression by the SCAF, or military council, in Egypt.  Demonstrators at Tahrir Square now call for the military council to step down and let the newly elected (last round of voting in January) Parliament choose an interim civilian government to oversee the drafting of a new constitution.

The violence is some of the worst of the last year, as the video below shows.  And the state-run media, despite scenes like these, are claiming the demonstrators are rioting and killing each other (!).  Egyptian propagandists are creating the same ‘blame the demonstrators’ narrative that Mubarak tried to derail democratic demands.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood, is not participating in the demonstrations but focusing on another strong showing in the third round of voting.  But both the Tahrir groups and the Brotherhood are demanding that a civilian government, not the military council, draft the new constitution.

The timing of the military crackdown is skillful.  Knowing that the Brotherhood would likely focus on elections, they have viciously confronted Tahrir groups temporarily isolated from allies.

Below is one of the most graphic, explicit videos to come out of Egypt since Mubarak thugs rode camels and horses through Tahrir Square last winter.

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Human and Economic Rights Inseparable

In some ways, Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street merchant whose business was confiscated by the Tunisian police, is like Rosa Parks.  Both were apolitical citizens living under oppressive conditions.  Both had enough of the humiliation and injustice that followed them since birth.

Both took one dramatic step against the local power structure.  Parks refused to move to the back of a segregated bus and unknowingly sparked the 1950s civil rights movement in the US.

Mr. Bouazizi set himself afire, a more dramatic protest against an Arab autocracy that ruled on behalf of its elite supporters and against the millions of Tunisians trying to make a living in a society stacked against them.

Comparing the two, of course, is somewhat ham-fisted.  A modern, developed, democratic country is far different from a post-colonial Norther African state that achieved formal independence from France a few decades ago.  Refusing to move to the back of a bus is not the same as self-immolation.  Yet the actions of both – as the most ordinary of citizens in their society – changed the worlds they lived in.

This week’s article in Foreign Policy by Hernando De Soto does justice to the martyrdom of Bouazizi.  It does justice to the Arab Spring.  The hundreds of millions of Arabs who rallied for democratic change over the last year weren’t inspired by politicians and elites but by the brave and desperate act of someone they didn’t even know, a no-body, just as Rosa Parks sparked an out pouring that no US politician could

This article demonstrates what’s at stake in American foreign policy.

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Egyptian Election Off to Good Start

According to Al Jazeera:

Egyptians have started casting their ballots in the first parliamentary elections since former president Hosni Mubarak was toppled in a popular uprising earlier this year.

Long queues were seen outside many polling stations amid tight security arrangements as voters flocked to the polls on Monday morning. Voting in this round of the elections last for two days.

It appears any problems so far are related to ballots and/or judges being late to polling places.

However, Tadros {Al Jazeera reporter-ed} added: “The mood is very much upbeat. I really have not seen this kind of voter turnout.”

Al Jazeera’s Rawya Rageh reported from Assiut, one of the most significant governorates in the Upper Egypt region, that there appeared to be an exceptionally high turnout by the standards of the country’s previous votes.

“The lines have not stopped outside the polling centres,” she said. “If we’re judging by the turnout, this has been by all accounts a success.”

Women were turning out in high numbers, unusual for such a conservative region, she said.

There were no signs of violence or coercion, she reported, but there were campaign violations as some parties continued to campaign even as voting was underway.

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Media Bias on Egyptian Violence

The Nightly News at NBC is a perfect example of unbalanced reporting – it’s not that they slanted the news toward a liberal or conservative narrative.  They slanted it toward cynicism by focusing on the violence at Tahrir Square over the last few days and under-reporting the reasons for that violence.

Any violence in Tahrir Square is a result of the military council’s refusal to move promtly towards fullfilling the democracy it claims to protect.  The last straw was the SCAF’s guidelines for a new constitution that earmarked military prerogatives over civilian rule.  That was exactly the model Mubarak used to control Egypt for 40 years. And this model would destroy any moves towards real democracy in Egypt.

The violence was in reaction to a police route of peaceful demonstrators demanding an end to military rule.  But at least the Western media echoes the fears of President Obama and others that things may get out of hand with elections in Egypt taking place over the next month.

The US government can’t straddle this issue.  If it doesn’t come full force in favor of the democratic demands of the reform movement, it sides with the resurfacing of the old regime.  Sec. Clinton can’t say the delay of elections by the military council if ‘appropriate’ and still claim the US is behind the protesters.

The American people were transfixed with the Egyptian Arab Spring, but now the news media makes it look like that Spring is going nowhere.  Once again, the Middle East is being profiled as irreparably violent and sectarian.

Expect the Obama Administration to go easy on the military council, SCAF, in fear of ‘democratic chaos’.  The chaos, however, will continue until the Egyptian people elect their own civilian government.




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Moderate Islamic and Secular Center Left Win in Tunisia

Although final results are not yet tallied, the center-left PDP party in Tunisia conceded ‘defeat’.  The moderate Islamic party, Ennahda, as expected, received a plurality of the votes.  Both are committed to a democratic Tunisia and strong supporters of the Arab Spring

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Vote to Victory in Tunisia

One of the many Tunisian polling sites where 90% of pre-registered voters cast their ballot.  A mere 11,000 candidates from 81 parties participated.  Both the moderate Islamic party al Nahda and a left leaning secular party seemed to be gathering the most votes.

The whole world is watching Tunisia today.  The fact that the vote comes only 10 months after Tunisia sparked the Arab Spring is remarkable.  The assembly elected Sunday will write a constitution and set up Parliamentary elections.  That is expected to take a year.

The mother of Mohamed Bouazizi, the young vegetable seller whose self-immolation last December set of the Tunisian revolt, said that the elections were a victory for dignity and freedom.

"Now I am happy that my son's death has given the chance to get beyond fear and injustice," Manoubia Bouazizi told the Reuters news agency. I'm an optimist, I wish success for my country."

(photo: Fethi Belaid/AFP)

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Tunisians Vote Sunday

“Even if this choice of opting for peaceful political engagement doesn’t bear fruit very quickly, we believe that in the longterm, it is good for the people and for the country.” -  Rachid Ghannouchi

Tunisians go to the polls this Sunday.  Voting by Tunisians overseas began Thursday.  Strict rules are in effect.  According to Al Jazeera:

Election day inside Tunisia is on Sunday, and the results are expected to be announced the following day.

The ISIE, the Tunisia electoral authority created earlier in the year to oversee the electoral process, has introduced strict rules to govern campaigning. Some, such as the ban on campaign advertising ahead of the official campaign period (October 1-21), were introduced only weeks ahead of the election.

This is the first democratic election coming out of the Arab Spring, as Tunisia was the spark that started a region-wide democratic uprising.  I can’t help to put a bit of subjectivity into this post.  I am excited.  I can’t wait for the results.   But Ghannouchi’s quote above is realistic.

Tunisia and Egypt almost made ousting autocrats ruling for 30 to  40 years look easy.  It’s not.  Egyptian democrats are right now confronting the Egyptian Military Council’s (SCAF) postponement of presidential elections until 2013 and the multiple delays on ending Mubarak’s emergency laws.

Nevertheless, one of Tunisia’s front runners has laid the gauntlet down”

In a meeting on Thursday, al-Nahda, the pro-democratic Islamist party headed by Rachid Ghannouchi that polled highly in the run-up to the election, warned that if the party suspected the election results were rigged, they would take to the streets. (Ed: the party is committed to non-violence and democratic rule.)

Tunisia’s democratic transition is being watched throughout the region, with many considering it a trial case for genuine democracy in the Arab world.

In other words, there is no turning back.  The Arab Spring successfully drew a line between the post-independence autocratic rulers in Northern Africa and the Middle East and a future of democratic sovereignty. Nevertheless, set-backs are inevitable.  The Tunisian elections are a test.  May they deliver the leadership and promise of the Arab Spring!

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