Although news about ruthless killing of 16 innocent Afghan women and children by a US soldier in Kandahar has shocked the world, the incident was by no means unexpected. A statement issued by NATO head command in that region noted that the assailant committed the crime in a fit of nervous breakdown. A mother, whose young child was killed in the incident, was crying out asking if her two-year child has been a Taliban fighter to deserve such a death? The bereaved mother knew better than NATO commanders that the attack was not the result of a nervous breakdown, but the result of Islamophobia to which this region, especially Afghanistan, has been a victim during the past 10 years. This process of Islamophobia can be clearly seen in the disastrous events which have befallen Afghanistan in the past few months.
Freedom and Democracy
Elections in Iran have always had a contradictory meaning. On one hand, they have always been less than free and fair, even when the polls were basically correct, (meaning not materially rigged), because of the vetting of candidates by the Guardian Council. On the other, they have been a flexible mechanism measuring the relative strength of the different components of the regime. Not a democracy, certainly, but a sort of pluralistic oligarchy.
There are over 3400 candidates in the Iranian elections, the ninth in the history of the Islamic Republic. Many consider these elections a test of the presidency’s political health, since they mark the end of a period of extremely intense clashes in the Majles where the conservative front has shown little unity. The March 2nd elections are being held at a rather delicate moment for the country, not only due to the still open debate on the nuclear issue, but also because of threats coming from Israel and the situation faced by Iran’s historical ally, Bashar al Assad’s Syria. Furthermore, these are the first elections held since the 2009 presidential elections and are a test of the people’s involvement in political life, following the Green Wave protests and after the alienation of important reformists.
After a long wait and avid speculation, the Benkirane government has been officially announced and sworn in. National and international commentators point out what appears to be this government’s most distinctive feature: it only has one female minister, Bassima El-Hakkawi. This is, of course a regression as far as female representation at the highest levels of power is concerned. It not only violates the wishes of females activists and the statements of successive governments for almost half a century, but it also disregards the commitment to gender equality proclaimed in the new constitution.
The political landscape of the Arab world has been dramatically transformed by the events of 2011. After decades of sterile politics and engrained authoritarianism Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria have embarked on a courageous journey aimed at fostering inclusive societies based on the rule of law and accountable governance. While we are only at the beginnings of what will be a long and arduous process, it is hard to believe that things will ever go back to the way they were. From Morocco to Bahrain the Arab public is on the march, and representation through elections is what they demand.
Egypt is generating a continuing stream of news that keeps us worried about its supposed transition to democracy and about its future stability. The latest being the bloody soccer riots in Port Said, the demonstrations that followed across the country, the twelfth bombing of the pipeline to Israel in the Sinai, the abduction of two American tourists between St Catherine's Monastery and Sharm el Sheik, not to speak of its aggression to foreign NGO's, which is endangering its relations with the United States.
The Centre for the Documentation of Violence in Syria has published figures concerning the number of people killed in the repression. Data is updated to January 8th 2012 and indicates 6,062 dead, of which 4,923 were civilians and 1,139 were soldiers and police officers. The civilians are said to include 496 minors and 149 women. According to the international organization Avaaz, which also recently published a report on detention centres in Syria, 6,237 people have been killed. The High Commission for Refugees has reported that about 7,000 Syrian refugees have fled to Lebanon and 7,600 to Turkey.
The revolutionary atmosphere is everywhere in Tunisia. According to some, the real revolution has only just begun, and in the widespread chaos, there are many who have clear ideas both about the future and about Tunisia’s identity. It is sufficient to glance at Facebook, where on many ‘walls’ one can read messages such as: “We are Muslims not Islamists.” “We are moderates and not extremists.” “We dream of democracy.”
“Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country.” It was May 1st 2003 when, speaking these words on board the USS Abraham Lincoln, President George W. Bush declared the end of military operations in Iraq and began to talk about security and reconstruction. So-called reconstruction soon revealed its darker aspects: car bombs and sectarian clashes, Abu Ghraib and a still impassable Green Zone surrounded by a T-wall.
The rain was pouring down on a crowd of thousands of people who gathered at Chiysty Prudy on December 5th during an unprecedented rally in Russian history for its scope and scale. For the first time since the early 1990s, protesters challenged Putin’s power as his new rule as President could enable him to stay in power until 2024. The number of demonstrators in street rallies has grown approximately to 100,000. Mostly political activists, professionals and intellectuals expressed their dissent as a result of alleged falsifications during latest parliamentary elections, though suspected frauds were only the last trigger. Since he took power in 1999, it seems that Putin has not changed his politics: a Leviathan’s deal of order over democracy. Meanwhile, many Russians have changed.
The prospects look increasingly dire for the protesters of Tahrir square, who are still insisting on an immediate transfer of power from the military establishment to a civilian government. Once that the elections are successfully taking place, their criticism of the electoral process has largely isolated them and diminished their credibility. They now face the preposterous accusation, by Prime Minister Ganzouri, of being "counter revolutionary", that is to oppose the transition to democracy (as engineered by the SCAF, naturally!). The very harsh repression they had to suffer on December 16th and 17th at the hands of the military (not only of the police!) seems to underscore this point. The leadership of the Muslim Brothers has condemned the repression perpetrated by the Egyptian military, but one may doubt about the restraining effect it might have achieved. One may therefore conclude that, after the first round of voting there are two winners; the Islamists and the SCAF, and two losers: the liberal/secular movement, and the would be heirs of the Mubarak regime.