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Showing posts from October, 2012

An "Arab Autumn" in Kuwait?

Kuwait is known by some as the "most democratic country in the Gulf", which is not a lot to say, but at least means something when you talk about authoritarian/autocratic regimes like the ones installed in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain... Kuwait is a tiny oil-rich country where both freedom of press, freedom of assembly and freedom of speech are guaranteed, a country where the citizens have enjoyed for years more liberties than any of their neighbors.  The peaceful consensus is based on an agreement reached between the Royal Family and the main opposition parties in Jeddah during the first "Gulf War" on  2 August 1990 (the day Iraq invaded Kuwait ) that stipulates that all sides should respect the 1961 Constitution.  And that's the main reason why many believed the "Arab Spring" would not be successful there. But apparently they were wrong for, as of lately, more and more clashes have broken out between the 83 year old Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad (and

"If that's not a civil war, I don't know what is"

UN/LAS Special Envoy Brahimi met Russian Foreign Minister today: "the [Syrian] government says they are fighting terrorists and only terrorists, and that it is their duty to do so -- to protect their people. And the other side [the rebels] says they're fighting a very cruel government that is persecuting them, and they are just defending themselves", he said after the meeting. He also recalled talking to a Syrian woman who has one son in the Syrian regular military and another son in the Free Syrian Army, and that's when he stated the poignant truth: "if that's not a civil war, I don't know what is". Neither do we. Neither do they.

Eid Mubarak for Syria?

It seems both fronts in Syria's civil war have agreed to respect a ceasefire brokered by UN and LAS special envoy. However, jihadist groups have not. And that adds to warnings by both the Syrian army and the rebels, who have nonetheless affirmed that they will strike back if they are attacked or even feel threatened in that respect. Previous truces have been ignored, and have even been witnesses to a surge in the number of deaths. Will this time be different? It seems it won't: the ceasefire is already in tatters, as within hours of the announcement, clashes have resumed, leaving behind several people killed, and various demonstrations have broken out across the country.

A "rising star" approaches Gaza

On 16 October, Qatar (dubbed as a foreign policy "rising star" in the Arab World, as I will analyze over the next weeks) announced the launching of a $254 million plan to "rebuild and modernize Gaza", the biggest injection of aid the territory has received since the 2008 war with Israel. However, for Gaza remains under a controverted blockade, it seems the implementation of the scheme will need the cooperation of both Israel (who partially lifted the blockade in 2010) and Egypt (who has shown a somewhat incoherent stance concerning the famous tunnels), as they will have to allow the entrance of building materials and heavy machinery into the strip (instead of resorting to smuggling, like Palestinians in the Strip had to do before). The plan is aimed at improving Gaza's economic situation, badly damaged after the war and under the blockade: it will create thousands of jobs (the territory's unemployment amounts to approximately 30% of the population, and sta

Another brick in the wall

We all know Friday is a key day for everything regarding the Arab World. Last Friday was no exception. A huge car bomb exploded at the heart of the Beirut's Christian neighborhood of Ashrafiyeh (Christians were also the main target of a terrorist attack that took place yesterday in Damascus). It was the first large-scale explosion since 2008, an event that largely reminisced former PM Hariri's killing in 2005, an act that sadly reminded Lebanese people what living in fear actually is. The target of the bomb remained unclear during the first hours. 8 people died (4 of them have not yet been identified), more than 80 were injured, and a large swathe of land around the area was substantially damaged. First, people thought the bomb aimed at blowing up the Headquarters of the 14 March Movement (a coalition of the main parties in the opposition, that was able, together with the Lebanese themselves, to finally rout the Syrians in 2005) in the vicinity. But little by little rumors

What's happening in Jordan?

It seems the “Arab Spring” (or at leas part of it) has finally arrived in Jordan, even though the outcome will certainly vary from the ones we have been witnesses to in Libya, Egypt, Yemen and Tunisia. First and foremost, because (at least for now) most among the Jordanian population seem to love their King (even though a majority thinks its powers should be curtailed), their royal family, and the “stable” system the latter has been building over the last decades. But the people are not blind to what their neighbours have been fighting for and, moreover, to what they have achieved so far. It seems what Jordanians actually want is constitutional reform rather than revolution. King Abdullah II himself has admitted the country is experiencing “national challenges”. On 10 October, the latter surprisingly appointed a new Prime Minister: Abdullah Ensour, former MP in the dissolved Parliament and head of various ministries in previous governments, substituting Fayez Al-Tarawneh, who ha


I've been away for too much time and I apologize for my absence. I do not believe it has really bothered anyone, but just in case I believe I now will be able to update the blog more regularly (from Brussels!!!).

Isn't this going too far?

EGYPT Albert Saber, the man who allegedly posted "Innocence of Muslims" on his Facebook wall for the first time in Egypt has been charged with insulting religion and is still awaiting trial. School teacher sentenced to prison for posting cartoons deemed defamatory to Prophet Mohammed on Facebook. Children arrested for "insulting Islam"  by tearing up pages of Islam's holy book, despite being illiterate  and having found those papers playing near a pile of garbage. Loved this article on this issue! PAKISTAN The (also illiterate, and, OMG, also Christian!) girl accused of tearing up pages of the Quram in order to make a fire is still in danger . Weeks ago, the cleric who initially accused her was found to have been intentionally placing these pages within other rubbish items, thus setting a trap to the entire Christian community of the area. But now, witnesses willing to declare against him have backtracked and have change

Any news on Syria?

Most important data: death toll dangerously approaching an outrageous number: 35,000 (mostly civilians, and too many innocent children amongst them) since the outset of the uprising in March 2011, with countless injured and more than 25,000 detained. Moreover, more than 260,000 Syrians have fled to neighbouring countries (moreover,  the number of internally displaced persons is now estimated at 1.2 million)  and approximately 2.5 million are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, according to official UN sources. As I said in my last entry (paraphrasing the admirable Sartre), our hands (all of us') are dirty. On 24 September,  Lakhdar Brahimi , Joint United Nations and League of Arab States' Envoy for Syria, briefed the United Nations Security Council on his recent visit to the region (Syria, neighbouring countries and Cairo), announcing the situation is still "very grim", but nonetheless showed an optimistic stance, and even foresaw a solution may be

Are there jihadists in Syria?

I wake up with a poignant article by Nagib Aoun drawing a parallel between what is happening in Syria and the magnificent novel by Jean Paul Sartre "Les mains sales" (" As for myself, my hands  are dirty. I have plunged my arms up to the elbows in excrement and blood. And what else should one do? Do you suppose that it is possible to govern  innocently?" ). According to the author, the "Arab Spring" is being kidnapped by jihadist groups (definition of the BBC: " those committed to establishing an Islamic state by violent means ") with only one ambition in mind: replacing dictatorships with theocracies and removing any little remembrance of what could have been a civil society, eventually turned into an homogeneous mass following the Sharia's dictates. Are we facing the possibility of what some call an "Arab Autumn"? This has also been the ongoing warning (and justification) of the Syrian regime since the outset of the upr