Posts tagged ‘democracy’

February 14, 2011

The unrest continues in the Arab World.

The frustration of citizens that caused major changes in Tunisia and Egypt continues to be heard across the Middle East  with protests in Algeria, Yemen, Bahrain and Iran. Each nation is unique and each state will undoubtedly employ whatever weapons of oppression it may have in order to quell the voices of the people.

Riot police in Bahrain used tear gas and runner bullets on protesters today and  government supporters in  Yemen hurled broken bottles and rocks at protesters there. It is uncertain if the protest movement has reached the critical mass required to cause change in these two places. Algeria has also seen its share of  unrest which saw a massive turnout of security forces to prevent a few thousand people from protesting.

By most accounts the theocracy of Iran is the most brutal in treating with the concerns of  those who object to the conduct of the government.  Today the PBS.org blog noted that the turnout of protesters was large:

Iran Standard Time (IRST), GMT+3:30

10:30 p.m. From a Tehran Bureau correspondent: It was amazing today. About 350,000 people showed up. The crowds came from the sidewalks. There was no chanting on the main avenue. The security forces would try to disperse the crowd once in a while by firing tear gas. People would move to the side streets and start bonfires.

It was beyond anything we had expected. They didn’t shut off the mobile phones so word spread quickly [that they were not cracking down hard] before they shut them off around 4 p.m.

It seemed like the Basij were ordered not to act until ordered. They just stood around looking bewildered. When the riot police would drive by on their bikes, they just put the fires out.

Rarely did they arrest. I saw 10 people arrested; this means probably up to 1000 were arrested.

I was all over on foot and on the rapid transit buses. The crowds were EVERYWHERE. They were remarkable for their peacefulness. They filled a radius of about half a kilometer to 400 meters on both sides of Enghelab Avenue. It looks like for the first time people from working class areas were involved too.

Read more here.

Unfortunately, unlike Egypt, Iran is largely closed to outside media and it is unlikely we will see these protests play out live on our TV screen.

Those unfamiliar with the situation in Iran and its history of oppression might do well to have a look at the excellent 2009 short documentary Iran, Gay and Seeking Asylum by filmmaker Glen Milner .  The film has been shown worldwide and has received awards including Best Short Documentary Film at the Phoenix Film Festival.

Advertisements
February 10, 2011

Human Rights First looks at the Muslim Brotherhood

Human Rights First has posted an interesting true or false series of questions about the Muslim Brotherhood ( no women there I guess) as it relates to the current struggle in Egypt.

I read the post from HRF earlier but after watching a discussion on Anderson Cooper 360 which included Somalia born Dutch feminist Ayaan Hirsi Ali and her concerns about the effects that the Muslim Brotherhood government could have on the rights of women and LGBT people I thought it was important to post it.

The Neil Hicks article paints the overall picture and then goes on to answer the questions:

A major problem with speculations about the future role of the Brotherhood is that they are just that—speculations. This is uncharted territory for Egypt. No one—possibly not even the Brotherhood—knows right now what it might do if it is presented with an opportunity to run openly in free elections. Bold assertions of what they will or will not do should be viewed with skepticism. The Brotherhood have already stated that they do not intend to run a candidate for the presidency. There is no doubt that in a future, more open political climate in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood will be a force on the scene.

There are valid concerns about what the impact of the Muslim Brotherhood might be, and there are steps that responsible authorities in Egypt (whoever they might be) would be well advised to take to guard against threats to human rights and the development of an enduring democratic system in a new Egypt.

Interestingly, while the article paints a picture of the Muslim Brotherhood as moderate it notes that when it comes to the rights of women and religious minorities ( and one would assume other minorities too) there needs to be constitutional protection ASAP.

A stronger role for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt’s government presents a potential threat to women’s rights, the rights of religious minorities and basic political freedoms. TRUE

    The Brotherhood has an ambiguous position on many human rights issues, notably on the rights of women and religious minorities and on freedom of expression. For example, a policy platform that was released in 2007 required that the President of the Republic could not be a woman, and provided for a Council of Islamic scholars who would vet legislation for its compatibility with Islam, following the pattern of the Council of Guardians in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The publication of this regressive platform caused rare open disputes between Brotherhood leaders, some of whom objected strongly to its contents. One can speculate about what the public platform of a free Muslim Brotherhood would include, but there’s no question that the tendency of the Brotherhood to arrogate to itself the right to judge what constitutes proper Islamic practice and to condemn practice it finds un-Islamic presents risks to the enjoyment of basic rights and freedoms by many Egyptians. Brotherhood supporters speak of “Islamic democracy;” they note that the overwhelming majority of Egyptians are Muslims (which is true) and that many are pious believers (also true). Some take the leap of suggesting that as the Brotherhood is the party of Islam, they automatically speak for this majority and should therefore prevail. Such thinking is a threat to democratic principles.

    Read the full Q & A here.

 

February 7, 2011

Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin speaks about his detention

Ayman Mohyeldin was held by the Egyptian authorities for several hours on Sunday – one of many journalists who has been the victim of the government’s  crackdown on the media.

Via Al Jazeera

February 4, 2011

Shooting the messenger

Today was not a good day in Egypt for either the current regime and its credibility or for journalists who seek to tell the story of what is happening.

Based on coverage online and traditional media such as Al Jazeera, CNN, BBC, ABC, And CNN-IBN it is fairly safe to say that the regime has decided that attacking journalists and  trying to cut off media coverage of what has been happening is the best way to achieve their objectives.  Journalists, like me, are being detained, beaten up and generally stopped from doing our job. The police are searching for us and attempting to intimidate us into being silent. Just to make sure it works they are also  closing down bureaus and confiscating cameras and equipment as they did with the BBC today. Al Arabiya had its staff brutalized and bloodied.  Anderson Cooper had his head punched yesterday and today (according to his Twitter feed) had his car windows smashed in. This evening he had to do his program from a sealed off hotel room.

Al Jazeera, the hero of this revolution,which  has been banned from Egypt, and  told its bureau had to  close down,  had four of its journalists held today. If this is what Mubarak wants to show the world –  then he has achieved  a  perfect picture of what life under Mubarak means. In their usual ‘screw you’ manner Al Jazeera has continued their coverage and will, no doubt, be back live in Cairo tomorrow.

There is no more live footage of what is happening in central Cairo because Mubarak and his goons have made it so. Remember  Tiananmen Square where the man stood in front of the tank and  stopped – the next step was to remove the media and then exact carnage on protesters.  Even when when we are disliked  the media keeps governments honest. That is what we do at best. In most democracies we don’t have to fear for our lives but Egypt, just in case anyone didn’t know it, is NOT a democracy.

Perhaps the most telling thing today was  that Nile TV reporter, Shahira Amin, who has been with the station since 1989  decided that enough was enough and chucked her job and joined her people in the square. I hope she is safe.

Those of us who demand human rights in other areas are familiar with the fact that we have to deal with being targeted by governments. Mubarak may well end up destroying protests but he will be be doomed regardless. The world has seen his evil and brutality.  The world and the people of Egypt have seen his methods and have seen how desperate he is not to see those methods exposed to the light of day.

When you target journalists and shut down the internet you show only that you operate best in darkness.  Most things don’t survive in darkness- and they shouldn’t.

To my colleagues in the mainstream media forced to risk their lives to cover the story – I salute you – I only wish I were there to tell the story with you.

( Thanks to Eric in NC for checking my post written in a state of extreme anger)