The POMED Wire

Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry Warns Women Against Protesting Driving Restrictions

Saudi Arabia - Hasan Jamali Photo credit: Hasan Jamali

Today Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry issued a warning to women not to drive after a renewed social media campaign urged women to challenge the men-only road rules. The announcement comes just ahead of the one-year anniversary of a demonstration in which dozens of Saudi women got behind the wheel in protest of the ban on female drivers.  In a statement, the Interior Ministry emphasized that any such attempt by women to drive in public in breach of the laws is an opportunity for “predators to undermine social cohesion.”

In other news, a Saudi court has sentenced 13 men and 4 women to up to 30 years in prison in two separate cases involving an al-Qaeda plot to attack U.S. soldiers in Qatar and Kuwait. The Special Criminal Court ruled that the defendants had used Saudi territory to “form a terrorist cell seeking to carry out a terrorist operation [...] against American forces, supplying the cell with arms and money for that operation, recruiting people for that cell.”  On Tuesday, the court also convicted 14 people on similar charges. The Saudi Embassy in Washington said the accused were among a group of 41 people arrested in …

Egyptian Minister Urges Civil Society Groups Not to Fear Draft NGO Law

2014-635496901649090407-909Photo Credit: Al-Ahram

Egyptian Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Wali urged civil society groups a not to “prejudge” a new draft law governing civil society and NGO activist activity. Activists fear that, if enacted into law, the bill would impose crippling restrictions on the freedoms Egyptians feel they “won” in the 2011 uprisings against former President Hosni Mubarak.

Civil society groups played an important role in the 2011 revolution, but since then have become targets of Egyptian authorities. Minister Wali told Reuters that 40,000 NGOs are registered with the Egyptian government, but that some groups attempt to avoid regulations by registering as private companies or law firms. Wali said she wished to see more comprehensive application of the registration statue. All NGOs or groups involved in civil society activities have until November 10 to register with authorities. The current statue, Law 84/2002, empowered law enforcement with the ability to “shut down NGOs at will, freeze their assets, confiscate their property and block funding.”

Earlier this month, the Carter Center announced the closure of its field office in Egypt in response to what it called “an increasingly restrictive environment.” Former U.S. President Jimmy Cater said, “the current environment in Egypt …

Iranian Human Rights Lawyer Stages Sit-in at Bar Association

iranian-rights-lawyer-nasrin-sotoudeh-freed-1379536266-6263Photo Credit: The Nation

Yesterday, Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh staged a sit-in outside the Iranian Bar Association office in Tehran to protest the three year ban that will prevent her from practicing law. Sotoudeh was joined by 15 other activists for human and women’s rights. Law enforcement took no action to stop the protest.

Sotoudeh was arrested in September 2010 for “acting against national security, collusion and propaganda against the regime, and membership in the Defenders of Human Rights Center.” She was sentenced to six years in prison, although she was released three years early, ahead of then-recently elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani‘s visit to the United Nations in 2013. After she was released, the Iranian Bar Association enacted the ban on Sotoudeh’s legal practice, despite court authorizations for her to return to work.

“For years, the Iranian government has been trying to deny dissidents the right to live, the right to education and employment. I am protesting this,” Sotoudeh wrote in a Facebook post on Monday. Sotoudeh is not the only dissident to face discrimination from the Iranian authorities. A Bar Association spokesman also said Sotoudeh was not the first Iranian lawyer to have their …

POMED Notes: “Iranian Policy Toward the Iraqi And Syrian Crises”

Woodrow_Wilson_Center_logoOn Tuesday, October 21 2014, the Wilson Center hosted an event titled “Iranian Policy Toward the Iraqi and Syrian Crises.”  The event featured Jubin Goodarzi, the Deputy Head of the International Relations Department at Webster University. Mr. Goodarzi was introduced by Haleh Esfandiari, the Director of the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center.

For a full summary of the event, continue reading below or click here for a PDF.

Mr. Goodarzi analyzed the roots of the Syrian uprising and focused on the Syrian state’s retreat from its socialist roots in the past two decades, which he regarded as a major factor in the rebellion. He explained that as the Syrian state withdrew from public provision of goods, it allowed Islamic charities and social services to fill this vacuum and concomitantly relaxed previously-standing restrictions on religious groups.  Mr. Goodarzi also pointed to Syria’s support for Al-Qaeda throughout the U.S. invasion of Iraq as a key precursor to the rise of ISIS.

In addition to these issues, Mr. Goodarzi identified a number of other factors that influenced the Syrian crisis, including the droughts of 2006 and 2011, the wave of regional Arab uprisings, the lack of political liberalization in …

Libya’s Elected Parliament Declares Alliance With Operation Dignity Militia Forces

Ex-general Khalifa Haftar speaks during a news conference after surviving an assassination attempt, in Al Marj Photo Credit: Reuters

Libya’s House of Representatives formally declared an alliance with renegade former general Khalifa Haftar and his militia, Operation Dignity, in a bid to counteract Islamist influence in the country. According to parliament spokesperson Farraj Hashem,  parliament gave Operation Dignity an official role leading officers and soldiers of the Libyan army. The move further pits the internationally recognized government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni against the rival government set up in Tripoli. This shake-up comes just as the Turkish Prime Minister’s special envoy to Libya, Emrullah Isler, is in the midst of peace talks with Prime Minister al-Thinni and the rival power base controlling Tripoli and Benghazi.

In the midst of these developments, a cousin and former aide of president Muammar Gaddafi said he wants to take part in proposed peace talks hosted by Algeria that aim to bring together Libya’s warring parties.  Ahmed Gaddaf al-Dam spoke from his position in exile in Cairo, saying he had no illusions of returning Libya to the past, but that elements of the former regime deserved to be heard and ought to regain influence. Liberal political analyst Hafed al Ghwell argued that while Gaddaf was controversial, …

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