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Showing posts from January, 2013

Elecciones en Jordania: ¿qué ha cambiado?

A pesar de que el Rey Abdalá llego a plantearse un aplazamiento de las elecciones en vista de la creciente polarización entre el gobierno y la oposición y las crecientes protestas a las que se ha visto enfrentado, estas tuvieron finalmente lugar en la fecha prevista, el 23 de enero, y miles de votantes acudieron a las urnas para elegir un nuevo Parlamento. Hasta el momento, los observadores extranjeros consideran que la votación ha sido libre y justa, únicamente empañada por disrupciones menores. El Estado también decidió reforzar en gran medida la seguridad, con un ojo puesto en una posible reanudación de las protestas a lo largo del país.

Jordan also held elections. Did anyone notice?

Previous articles about the situation in Jordan here and here . Despite King Abdullah's considering a postponement in view of the growing polarization between the government and the opposition and the widespread popular protests (some of them including people actually  burning their voter ID cards) , elections in the country were held as scheduled on 23 January, and thousands of voters went to the polls to vote for a new Parliament amidst non-abating calls for reforms. So far, foreign observers have characterised the vote as a free and fair one, only marred with minor disruptions, and security was beefed up with an eye on the eventual resumption of protests throughout the country.

Two years after the "Revolution"...

This is the best article I found so far about how Egypt is faring and how Egyptians are feeling nowadays, written by a brilliant analyst, Bassem Sabry. The best part? The encouraging conclusion. You can make it, Egypt, you know you can!! "Of course, it is not all bad. In fact, I began the year with an article explaining why I still see an incredible amount of hope in Egypt, and why I feel the historic momentum is still largely on the right side. There is a resilient private media, an increasingly aware and sophisticated society, more people getting deeply involved in politics, impossible courage and determination, a strong movement to grow civil society despite the hurdles, an opposition that is finally working together, an explosion of creativity and free expression and a growing realization by everyone that vacuous slogans and mere political positioning will not guarantee you political power. Democracy, in many ways, is still showing signs of forcing itself — apparent

Murder in Paris

Three Kurdish female activists, including a founding member of the Kurdistan's Workers Party militant group (PKK), were mysteriously shot dead in Paris recently. An unsolved assassination (the French authorities are carrying out an in-depth inquiry on the murders) that has sparked rumours throughout Turkey and the region, where the central Government, particularly nationalist figures within it that receive the name of "the deep state" (it wouldn't be the first time this type of accusations have been heard), has been accused of trying to jeopardize the peace process that kicked off weeks ago bearing promises of stability, through disarmament, and greater autonomy as well as the granting of more rights for the Southern Kurdish region. Meanwhile, the Turkish Government is blaming an internal feud, precisely regarding peace negotiations, within the rebel group PKK . Most are already blaming both sides for speaking publicly about the negotiations too soon, thus alienatin

Is the war in Syria tantamount to Lebanon's civil war?

A devastating phrase in an enlightening article in L'Orient-le Jour strikes me: "nous avons nous aussi préparé nos examens sous les obus, et pointé au travail après des nuits blanches dans les abris de fortune. Oui, nous avons essuyé quelques tirs de roquettes sur les campus des facs où logeaient aussi, parfois, des réfugiés. Mais non, nous n’avons jamais perdu 80 étudiants d’un coup. Des architectes. Des qui espéraient un jour participer à la reconstruction d’un pays dont on ne compte plus les ruines. Et non, il n’y a plus matière à comparaison depuis longtemps".

A probable shift in Turkey's stance on Syria, too?

According to this article , this shift is not an option to dismiss. "Last week's visit to Washington by Feridun Sinirlioglu, undersecretary in the Turkish Foreign Ministry, has attracted attention. Informed sources in the Ankara beltway say that two issues need to be separated in discussing Turkey’s Syria approach. “Erdogan has to continue the tough talk on Syria because the catastrophe goes on there, but Sinirlioglu was trying to figure out a way both saving Erdogan’s face for its tough tone [on] engagement, and sorting out a deal between the Assad regime and the opposition." Maybe Erdogan, alongside other Arab leaders, were acting ahead of themselves when they started to bluntly criticize Assad's regime and calling for his ousting, barely weeks after the onset of the uprising. I had to post this photo of Erdogan! (photo by REUTERS/Kayhan Ozer/Handout)

An end to the stalemate in Bahrain?

Apparently, and according to the BBC , Bahrain's Justice Minister has invited a string of opposition representatives to enter into "peace talks", that is, negotiations with the aim of  putting an end to the impasse that has plunged the tiny country into instability and frustration. Nonetheless, I highly doubt talks may one day lead to the authorities' making the kind of concessions the opposition (and notably, the Shia community) have been demanding for years within the framework of their own characteristic " Bahraini Spring ", moreover if we take into account politically motivated arrests go on (and several activists remain in jail), public gatherings are still banned, torture is widespread and freedom of expression has never been granted to the island inhabitants. 

Overhaul of the Penal Code in Morocco

And what's the most important news? The Government has announced they will eliminate a paragraph in Article 475 that currently allows those convicted of corruption or kidnapping of a minor to go free if they marry their victim, a provision everyone throughout the world discussed about last year after a 16 year-old teenager killed herself out of desperation being confronted with a forceful marriage with the man that raped her.

Elecciones en Israel. Nada cambia; ¿todo sigue igual?

Israel celebra hoy, 22 de enero de 2013, elecciones anticipadas y el país se ha estado preparando para ello durante las últimas semanas (algunos maliciosamente murmuraron que la guerra con Gaza en noviembre pasado representó un mero acto de campaña para el gobierno de turno). El actual Primer Ministro  Benyamin Netanyahu convocó elecciones legislativas anticipadas principalmente debido a un aumento preocupante del déficit presupuestario y la consiguiente incapacidad del Gobierno en el poder para sacar adelante delicados recortes al estilo de los que hace dos años llevaron a un pseudo-levantamiento que algunos denominaron, quizás precipitadamente, la “ Primavera israelí “.

Elections in Israel: will anything change?

Israel will hold elections today, 22 January 2013, and the country has been preparing for it over the last weeks (some maliciously mutter the 8 day war with Gaza was just a campaign act for the incumbent Government), after an early vote was called, mainly because of an increased worrying budget deficit and the consequent inability to push through delicate budget cuts in the style of the ones that two years ago triggered what some called an " Israeli Spring ". Public opinion surveys indicate that PM Benyamin Netanyahu's center-right Likud Party, running in a join list (scarily dubbed "Biberman" or the right wing Big Bang) with a secularist ultra nationalist party called Yisrael Beitenu ("Israel, our home") headed by the controversial former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, are likely to win enough votes to form a new Government, but opinion polls have also shown recently that the creation of such an extremist block may however scare off voters

Syrian refugees' ordeal

A devastating article in L'Orient-Le jour plunges me into sadness: a Syrian refugee in Lebanon kills himself, out of desperation for not being capable of cater to his family's needs. He's not he only one, he won't be the last one, he's one out of thousands, and that´s the most discouraging thing. When will they plight end? When will we realize we are partially responsible for this?

First Islamic café in Egypt... the beginning of the end?

As an article in Scoop Empire announces, the Islamist's grip in Egypt is increasing by the day (it's not just about politics) and a true "Islamic café" has been inaugurated in Cairo. In this new hipster place, there is Islamic music in the background, a no smoking policy has been imposed, there is an area for children (well, for whole families to hang in) and, above all, gender mixing has been banned (how do they actually check if a couple is married or not? Please people get back to me on this). I do agree with Dania Younis when she states "the question is, if those people are that much religious, how do they manage to avoid all the smoke, gender mixing and music in the streets on their way to the café?". Video reported by BBC News


Abbas and Meshal meet (a step forward Palestinian Reconciliation?) Palestinian Authority under threat because of economic hardship What America should do concerning the MEPP Moving article on the surfers in Gaza Brave Malala left hospital Iraqi poetry describing the disintegration of the country A precious cooperation between Spain and Lebanon may be under threat Mubarak asked about media gifts A great article on the Jewish minority in Egypt New leader for the Salafists Avaaz petition to ask the EU to help saving Egypt The Arabist's view on Egypt's cabinet reshuffle Great article: wasn't there a revolution in Egypt? Brilliant article on why the MB are afraid of "Les mille et une nuits" Egyptians pay price for tumultuous year (the title says it all) How to lie and remain pure , by the great Al-Aswany The decline and fall of the MB A first for KSA: women in a representative body Does Israel have a corruption problem? Will Israel build a f

A Jordanian-Palestinian confederation?

I had saved this article because the headline had very much caught my attention. Apparently, in a controversial recent meeting between Netanyahu and the King of Jordan, both leaders mentioned the possibility of building a confederation between the West Bank and Jordan, that would find its origins in the British-dominated protectorate of Transjordan created in 1921, after WWI. That would be one of the main talking points in future peace negotiations and "would leave the core disputes on permanent borders, Jerusalem, the Palestinian refugees and the future of Israel’s settlements in Judea and Samaria to a later round of negotiations at some unspecified time in the future" (evidently!). This way, Israel won't feel obliged to recognise the existence of a Palestinian state (even though the Palestinian Authority already vowed to recognise the Jewish state) and Hamas won't have to recognise the state of Israel. According to the article, "in early December, the Palest

Is KSA shifting its stance on Syria?

A great article in Al-Monitor (undoubtedly one of the best sources of information concerning MENA affairs), that also interestingly enough tackles the foreign policy shift of other countries in the region (namely Jordan, Kuwait and even Egypt). I keep wondering why these countries could not foresee in the past some of the factors they are now taking into account, notably the presence of extremist forces on the ground. Has that been a surprise to anyone? In his outrageous speech , many were surprised after "Assad did not mention Saudi Arabia despite the fact that he talked about countries financing, arming and supporting insurgents". Indeed, it appears the Saudi has renewed contacts with the Syrian regime over the last weeks and that's apparently because of various reasons: "• The steadfastness of Assad and his army over the past 22 months. • The growing role of Salafist forces in Syria and the fear of the spread of this role to Saudi Arabia and other count

A tale of two Iraqs

A brilliant explanation about what is actually happening in Iraq : "On the left, where one would expect it, is “Irak [sic] Arabi,” between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.  But, if you look to the left, south of Teheran, you will see “Irak Ajemi” right in the centre of modern Iran.  In the middle is Arabistan, the Arab region of Iran the British have been trying to destabilise.  So what gives?  Even in those times, the two Iraqs were parts of different nations, Arabi under the Ottoman Turks and Ajemi in Persia.  The one thing the two places have in common are the holy Shi’ite cities in or around them: Arabi has Najaf, Samarra and Karbela (Karbala) and Ajemi Kum (Qom.) The purpose of showing this map is to illustrate the basic truth about modern Iraq: it is an artificial creation, one concocted by the British after World War I.  With the Sunni and Shi’ite Arabs, the Kurds, the Assyrians and all of the other groups, real nationhood as understood in the West is, to misuse

Violence in Jerusalem part II

You can find part one here . I read an article in El Pais that's too familiar and devastating at the same time. The Israeli army killed a 17 year old Palestinian teenager in the West Bank, adding to the at least two deaths that have occurred in similar circumstances in recent days. Samir Awad died after he and other students began throwing stones at soldiers, who responded with gunfire. There's no need to add any comments. Photo ATEF SAFADI (EFE)

Tunisia celebrates a key anniversary

Today, 14th of January, marks a remarkable date: two years have gone by since the overthrow and exile of former Tunisian President Ben Ali, a momentous moment for both the birthplace of the Arab Spring and the whole region. Tunisians feel there is little to celebrate, though, as things are not getting any better. Young people, the ones who mainly started the revolution, are frustrated at the Government´s lack of political and economic vision (for instance, because unemployment has risen, specially amongst graduates). Ruling Islamist party Ennhada is showing no willingness of actually changing the status quo, and that is considered by many a symbol of what Islamists throughout the Arab world may do in the coming years. The revolution goals remain unaccomplished and citizens grow unsatisfied. Does that ring a bell to anyone? Background on how Tunisia is faring  here . Photo: Search for Common Ground

Is there a pinch of truth to the warnings of an "Iraqi Spring"?

Since 2003, Iraq has been regularly, though mildly, appearing in the news every other week. Stability has not taken hold in the country, sunk into sectarian violence, misery and civilian dissent over the last years and even decades, constantly on the brink of civil war. What is exactly happening nowadays, and how can it be linked to the country's recent history? Over the last weeks, thousands of protests, including strikes and sit-in, have taken place in Sunni-dominated areas, notably north and west of Baghdad, calling for the satisfaction of mainly two demands: the release of hundreds, if not thousands, of prisoners charged with terrorism by virtue of Laws adopted under the umbrella of the "war on terror" but according to many, arrested out of sectarian animosities (most of them have been freed this week-end, the authorities having admitted that some of them were arrested "unlawfully" though blaming bureaucrats for this) and the resignation of the Shiite

NYT: "Palestinians Set Up Tents Where Israel Plans Homes"

Remarkable article on The New York Times: "Activists [...] issued a statement announcing the establishment of a village named Bab al-Shams (Arabic for “Gate of the Sun”), after the title of a novel by a Lebanese writer, Elias Khoury, that portrays Palestinian yearnings through a metaphorical story of love for the land" "Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization ’s executive committee, said in a statement: “This initiative is a highly creative and legitimate nonviolent tool to protect our land from Israeli colonial plans. We have the right to live anywhere in our state, and we call upon the international community to support such initiatives”" Picture Jim Hollander/European Pressphoto Agency via NYT

Syria to the ICC?

According to Le Monde , several countries (mainly European countries, spearheaded by Switzerland)) will request that the UN Security Council refers Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC). It is beyond doubt the initiative won't bear its fruits: partly because of Russia, the only ally (alongside Iran) Assad has left, but apparently also because of the US, which consider this move could further hinder the possibility of Assad's stepping down. All in all, it seems like a pretty laudable initiative, for it allows the Syrian dossier to remain on the table and puts additional pressure on an already besieged regime. Picture: The Telegraph  

Should I stay or should I go?

According to UN numbers, more than 60,000 people had already lost their life when a tired but impassive at the plight his compatriots are going through Bashar Al-Assad delivered, for the first time since June, a speech (that was announced as the "discourse of the solution") that hasn't convinced anyone (barring the dozens of staunch supporters gathered at the Upper House that cheered and acclaimed the President like a hero), neither internally nor abroad, where the address to the nation has been dismissed as a complete disconnection from reality. One more time, Assad put the blame on terrorist elements backed by external forces (calling them "puppets of the West") he refuses to negotiate with. Even though it is beyond doubt a certain amount of foreign intervention is being felt on the ground, we all know this accusation, this blatant justification is non-sense. He nevertheless acknowledged the need for a dialogue "the regime has been looking forward sinc

¿Construir una nación requiere un sistema educativo unificado? El caso de Líbano

Esta pregunta tan general puede plantearse cuando se habla de cualquier país del mundo (y en particular, a la hora de hablar de España en la actualidad), pero un supuesto que puede ilustrar a la perfección este debate es seguramente el Líbano, un país increíblemente heterogéneo del que podría decirse que ha estado (y sigue) en construcción desde hace varias décadas. ¿Y cuál es uno de los elementos más importantes cuando se aborda la creación de una identidad nacional, de acuerdo especialmente con la denominada “doctrina alemana”? Exacto: la Historia. En efecto, las autoridades en Líbano han luchado por crear una historia unificada desde el fin de la sangrienta  Guerra Civil  que asoló el país y dejó a su paso muchas cicatrices, tanto físicas como psicológicas (algunas de ellas se abren de vez en cuando, como ocurrió por ejemplo con el atentado que tuvo lugar en Beirut en el mes de octubre) .

¿Construir una nación requiere un sistema educativo unificado? El caso de Líbano (español)

Esta pregunta tan general puede plantearse cuando se habla de cualquier país del mundo (y en particular, a la hora de hablar de España en la actualidad), pero un supuesto que puede ilustrar a la perfección este debate es seguramente el Líbano, un país increíblemente heterogéneo del que podría decirse que ha estado (y sigue) en construcción desde hace varias décadas. ¿Y cuál es uno de los elementos más importantes cuando se aborda la creación de una identidad nacional, de acuerdo especialmente con la denominada “doctrina alemana”? Exacto: la Historia. En efecto, las autoridades en Líbano han luchado por crear una historia unificada desde el fin de la sangrienta Guerra Civil que asoló el país y dejó a su paso muchas cicatrices, tanto físicas como psicológicas (algunas de ellas se abren de vez en cuando, como ocurrió por ejemplo con el atentado que tuvo lugar en Beirut en el mes de octubre) .

Mubarak authorized repression, really?

We everybody knew that, but it´s good to know the truth is coming to light. According to an excellent article in the NYT (based on a supposedly leaked secret report recently presented to Mr Morsi), "President Hosni Mubarak watched live video feeds of the demonstrations in Tahrir Square and the brutal response by his security forces" and "authorized the use of any means to stop the demonstrations", being aware of "the government’s widespread use of plainclothes thugs". It has to be reminded that Mubarak was sentenced (alongside  his former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly) to life imprisonment for "failing to stop the killing of demonstrators" during the uprising (furthermore, Cairo´s Criminal Court acquitted his sons for corruption charges) and that only a handful of police officers are imprisoned, while significant top security officials were blatantly and outrageously acquitted. Could this information lead to a badly needed reconciliation pro

Another war is being waged on Palestinian soil

An article in El Pais recently attracted my full attention. Similar articles can be read every other day, but that´s precisely what disturbs me the most. People may not die, but individuals are deprived from their basic rights, and that´s also a kind of war for me: ongoing instability and fear haunting the legitimate inhabitants of a territory. And the situation is getting worse: clashes between Palestinians and settlers have increased in the West Bank in recent months, with a radical fringe of Israelis (settlers armed with guns and other kind of weapons!) attacking Palestinian property, including olive trees ( according to OCHA, approximately 100,000 Palestinians are economically dependent on these trees olive ) and cars. Couldn't that also be considered by the ICC as a war crime? Food for thought...

Palestine's new year's resolution: unity?

When Hamas celebrated its 25th anniversary in Gaza back in December, several rallies were also authorized and held for the first time in years in the West Bank , sparking (again) rumours about an eventual badly needed Palestinian reconciliation . This type of comments are again all over the media on the occasion of the (first-time since Hamas came to power) holding of another rally, this time a Fatah rally in Gaza, marking the 48th anniversary of the founding of the rival political movement by Arafat, celebrated with a sea of yellow banners, T-shirts and flags (some of them shyly hung on Gazan windows over the last years).  The event featured participating members of Hamas, but it was the delegation having crossed the Rafah border crossing that attracted all the attention, mainly composed of Abu Ali (nom de guerre Abdul Aziz Shahen) historical founder of Fatah, Jibril Rajub, member of the Central Committee of the party and Osama Al Kuasmi, spokesman in the West Bank. The motto of t