Today, two years after the beginning of the “Arab spring”, the region is torn apart by a series of conflicting forces, which go much beyond those who toppled the then current regimes, first in Tunisia, then in Egypt. The clashes witnessed first along Avenue Bourghiba, then in Tahrir Square at the beginning of 2011 pitted authoritarian and largely secular regimes against a protest movement, largely composed of young educated people, who demanded freedom, dignity, justice and, by implication, a measure of democracy. The impression one could receive was that a new generation was in the making that - while not yet a majority in the respective societies - was an indication of their progressive transformation along more modern and open lines, in part thanks to the Internet and the social networks.
Freedom and Democracy
Doha – In Qatar the world’s wealthiest citizens live alongside those now considered to be among the most exploited in the world. The emirate has the world’s highest per capita GDP of over $100,000 according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), thanks to the 77 million tons of LNG (liquefied natural gas) the country produces every year from the world’s largest reserves of natural gas. According to data in the 2013 Report on Wealth in the Middle East published by the Qatar Financial Center Authority in cooperation with Campden Wealth, there are over 4,000 millionaires in Qatar, out of a local population of about 300,000 Qataris and 290 so-called “ultra-rich” citizens with assets worth more than $30,000,000.
On March 18 a symbolic funeral march was staged in front of Turkey's historic left-wing newspaper, the Milliyet, for the silent “death” of one of its most honorable authors. Hasan Cemal, 69 years, “dies” as a provocative columnist after having defended the disclosure of the minutes from a meeting between the representatives of the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and PKK's leader Abdullah Öcalan. The leaked record helped the nationalist front to criticize the government's negotiation with the Kurdish leader. “If this is journalism, down with it!” cried Prime Minister Erdoğan, and the writer was suddenly suspended.
In less than one month, they have already collected more than 3 million signatures. In a moment of increasing delusion for the social, political and economic evolution of the country, Egyptian activists decided to get back to the street. This time they do not march in the usual demonstrations. They are asking commuters to fill out photocopied pieces of paper with the heading: “Rebel campaign: to withdraw trust from the Brotherhood’s regime.”
Egyptian Islamists do not have a sense of humour. While one of the Muslim Brotherhood government’s first provisions was to delete the anti-regime graffiti painted on the walls of central Cairo during the 2011 uprisings, in recent months censorship has been imposed on the independent press, films and lastly on the two best known Egyptian comedians. Adel Imam played a leading role in the history of the country’s cinema while Bassem Youssef implemented a new way of presenting political satire that was instantly a success.
Slaheddine Jourchi thinks that the remaining priorities for Tunisia are to conclude the Assembly’s work for the new Constitution and to set a date for the next parliamentary elections. He also maintains that there is no risk of civil war: “It is true, there are divisions within the ranks of elites and the phenomenon of violence is creating worry – he says – but there is a collective conscience on the need to return to the ballot box and that condemns the use of violence as an instrument of change”. Meanwhile, President of the Republic Moncef Marzouki, has assigned the post of Prime Minister to the Minister of the Interior, Ali Laarayedh, following Hamadi Jebali’s resignation in the aftermath of his unpopular proposal to establish a technocratic government. Laarayedh was nominated by the majority party Ennahda to draft a list of new ministers in ten days.
It will be necessary to wait until March to know the names of those accountable for the atrocities committed in Syria over the past two years, but information already published by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry for Syria is very clear. War crimes, torture, individual and mass murder, the involvement of minors in the conflict, should all result in the Security Council deferring Damascus to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
"The European sanctions against Saderat Bank are illegal." The announcement was made just days before the anniversary celebrations of the Islamic Revolution in Iran and was welcomed like a birthday present. And not only in the halls of power and of diplomacy. The gift, direct from Luxembourg and the European Union General Court, states that the EU has not provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate the involvement of Saderat Bank in Iran's nuclear program and has asked for restrictions be dropped. Just last week, the court made a similar decision regarding Mellat Bank.
Since November 2011 Laurent Gbagbo, the former president of Côte d’Ivoire, has been detained at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, accused of being an “indirect co-author” of serious crimes against humanity during the post-election crisis in his country. But many people ask why and doubt the legitimacy of these charges. For many it is his political opponent of the 2010 presidential elections, Alassane Ouattara, that should be in his place detained at the Hague, along with Guillaume Soro, the current President of the National Assembly, who headed the 2002 rebellion that divided the country in two.
On January 23rd the Jordanians went to the polls to elect a new parliament, and, in spite of the opposition’s boycott campaign led by the Muslim Brotherhood, these elections have confirmed the large majority of parties loyal to the monarchy. This is no coincidence according to the Muslim Brotherhood and other left-wing groups, which unsuccessfully attempted to have amendments made to the current electoral law assigning only 27 seats of the 150 available ones to national lists, allocating the rest through local constituencies closely linked to Abdallah II’s family.
Father Paolo Dall'Oglio has lived in Syria for over thirty years and is certainly an expert on the Syrian situations with all its lights and shadows. The founder of the Deir Mar Musa monastic community, in the desert north of Damascus, Father Paolo has always been committed to interreligious dialogue with the Muslim world and until last June, when he was sent away by the regime, he personally reported the tragedies he saw every day. Reset-DoC has interviewed him.
The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting is a tragedy that obliges us to question the relationship between freedom and security, between democracy and violence. Political theorist Benjamin Barber and Jim Sleeper from Yale explain why, at last, the American establishment should find the courage to defy society's steadily advancing culture of death and to confront the powerful gun lobby that fuels and exploits it. For Giancarlo Bosetti, the discussion on the relationship between the use of freedom and responsibility aroused by this terrible event can also help us better understand the challenges newborn Arab democracies will soon have to face.The First Amendment, something too hot from Newtown to Tunis?Giancarlo BosettiGun Lovers, as 'Normal' Now as Segregationists Once Were Jim SleeperObama's Speech in the Wake of the Newtown Massacre Benjamin BarberWhat We Should Tell the Gun Lobby and Producers/Editors Jim Sleeper