Maryam Al-Khawaja is Acting President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and head of the Gulf Center for Human Rights’ international office (GCHR). Based in Copenhagen, she comes from one of the most prominent dissident Bahraini families .She loves reading, travelling and speaking frankly. Speaking at a Festival on international journalism organized by the weekly magazine Internazionale in Ferrara, Italy, she openly criticized Western support for the Bahraini regime. “The last time I cried was when I read the report about my father torture” said Maryam. “But my family is just one of a long list.”
Freedom and Democracy
Kabul - The process of transitioning from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to the government and security forces of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is approaching its final phase, with the handover expected to be completed by 2014. However, in spite of the results achieved so far in training Afghan troops in joint operations and in handing over a number of Forward Operating Bases such as Bala Murghab (in the province of Badghis) which until last August was under Italian control, events in recent weeks confirm that the country’s stabilization cannot be taken for granted, not can security or freedom of movement.
Diplomatic relations between the Ivory Coast and Ghana have seriously deteriorated in the past few weeks, caused by a series of events that have destabilized relations between the two countries. On the night between September 20th and 21st, the small border town of Noé, which lies about 170 km east of Abidjan, was the scene of a bloody and violent clash between an unknown armed group and Ivorian soldiers. About 50 masked men attacked the border post, retreating into the surrounding bush. A few hours before this attack, about a dozen men armed with AK47s attacked a police station in the Port- Boué quarter of Abidjan, killing three people.
Nahr El Bared, Tripoli - Milal lives in an unfinished building near the sea, it is small and un-plastered and from the outside one catches a glimpse of a staircase leading to the first floor. A small, well-tended garden separates the house from a room that perhaps might have become a garage or a tool shed. It is instead a sort of kitchen-hobby room with a small gas cooker, a few pieces of furniture and the walls covered in photographs. These are memories of friends, relatives and moments of life. While she prepares zaatar tea, a mixture of thyme, sesame and sumac, Milal shows me three aerial photographs. In the first, one can see houses, in the second, clouds of black smoke rising from the buildings and in the third, nothing remains, only grey patches and heaps of rubble. These three images are enough to portray what happened in 2007 at the Nahr El Bared Palestinian refugee camp, 16 km from Tripoli, in northern Lebanon.
The alarm has been sounded not only by Human Rights Watch, but also by many Tunisian citizens who have taken to the streets to protest, in particular the young, women and activists, who had not been overjoyed by Ennahda’s victory in the October elections. The draft of the new Tunisian constitution being prepared by the Assembly, elected less than a year ago, is causing concerns due to, let us say, regression as far as human rights are concerned.
To date, the victims of the Syrian regime's bloody crackdown have surpassed twenty-two thousand while refugees from the fighting have grown to over two-hundred thousand. International pressure on Bashar Al-Assad is mounting, but little tangible progress has been made. Meanwhile, the regime's growing isolation and the increasing number of defections affecting its leadership have led Syrian authorities to escalate their repression, dragging the whole of the country into a bloody civil war. Today, a peaceful solution appears unlikely and remote. Ilaria Romano analyzes the latest developments in Syria's tragic predicament for Resetdoc.Post-Annan Mission ImpossibleVictims and RefugeesAssad, between defectors and loyalists
The Syrian state’s leadership is the result of a complex mix of President Assad’s family interests and the military’s strict control over intelligence. Bashar Al Assad inherited the presidency from his father Hafez in 2000, but his family has always played a fundamental role in the country’s politics since 1971, when Bashar’s father became president. In recent times this has not however prevented defections from within the apparatus. In Syria political and government organisation consists of a cabinet, parliament, a military network of agencies responsible for internal and external security and a diplomatic corps.
According to information gathered by the Centre for Documentation of Violations in Syria (http://vdc-sy.org/index.php/en/), which processes data from local committees of anti-government activists, updating them on a daily basis, so far 22,176 people have died in the Syrian civil war. Data indicates that 19,883 of those killed were civilians, of which 18,872 were men and 1,236 women. The victims also included 1,467 boys and 601 girls.
The political atmosphere, created by the sexual liberty debate in Morocco, is reminiscent of the early 2000, when the then brave Family, Childhood and Social Solidarity Minister, Professor Said Essaidi, proposed and staunchly defended his National Plan for the Integration of Women in Development. This latter would have assuredly catapulted Moroccan women into the heart of the socioeconomic development of the country; had it been passed the way it was drafted, it would have allowed Moroccan women to be on the foot of equality with men and would have allowed them to acquire more clout in economy and politics.
In the last week of June, Khartoum and other cities in the Sudan experienced a new wave of protests caused by President Omar Al-Bashir’s announcement of a new austerity plan. On June 18th the president had announced the progressive abolition of fuel subsidies as well as higher taxes and customs duty on luxury goods. With this plan, the dictator, in power since 1991 and wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for crimes against humanity perpetrated in Darfur, is desperately attempting to increase revenue to reduce the country’s $2.4 billion deficit.
Radwan Masmoudi is the director of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy. A dual Tunisian-American citizen, he has worked tirelessly to improve cooperation between the two countries and to promote a moderate vision for the co-existence of democracy and Islam. As the Arab world’s best candidate for democracy, Tunisia is seen as a crucial test case – the success or failure of Tunisian democracy, Masmoudi believes, could create either a pro- or an anti- democratic wave across the Arab world. “In the end, democracy has to deliver,” he says. “It has to improve the economic situation of the people. So this is the real test: Freedom has to improve the quality of citizen’s lives.” A year after Tunisia’s unprecedented revolution, the economic turbulence threatens to spoil the democratic experiment and possibly represent a fatal setback to democratization in the Arab world. To address this risk, Masmoudi is promoting an ambitious plan to ensure Tunisia’s success: a New Marshall Plan for economic development, on the order of 5 billion dollars for 5 years.
Many countries in the south-Mediterranean region have been experiencing profound changes in 2011 and 2012, and young Arab democracies will have to deal with problems and debates related to the relationship between religion and democracy, Islam and secularism, citizenship and the rights of minorities. People will have to chose between new or maybe existing “models” of democracy: will they chose to live in a secular democracy? If yes, which kind of secularism will they chose? Or will people rather prefer to build a “religious democracy?” To address these questions, Resetdoc has interviewed Rajeev Bhargava, currently Senior Fellow and Director of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in New Delhi. He has previously been a Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University and Head of the Department of Political Science at the University of Delhi. He has been a fellow and visiting professor in many international universities, including Harvard and Columbia University. His research and publications focus on secularism, multiculturalism, political theory and India’s democracy.