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Because the government has failed to “dislodge insurgents from Fallujah and Ramadi…neither city will be able to vote in Wednesday’s polls.” These cities are “among a number of Sunni-dominated areas across central Iraq where election officials will be unable to open polling stations.” This will potentially deprive “hundreds of thousands of the right to vote.” Despite criticisms of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki‘s “handling of the security crisis in Sunni areas,” he is still “considered the favourite” to win upcoming elections.
Nayla Razzouk, Khalid al-Ansary, and Dana El Baltaji write that, “al-Maliki is banking on sales from the highest crude oil output in 35 years to earn him a third term even as he struggles against an emboldened al-Qaeda and surge in political violence.” They also say, “Maliki’s relations with Sunnis and the country’s Kurds have become strained….political in-fighting is likely to continue after the elections and may delay the formation of any future cabinet for months.” Ahmed Ali writes that “Iraq’s 2014 national elections are taking place at a difficult time…the disenfranchisement of Iraq’s Arab Sunnis; the rising threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS); and the activation of Ba’athist groups …
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On Wednesday, April 23, the Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University hosted a briefing entitled, “Vying for Allah’s Vote: Rising Political Islam, Causes and Consequences.” Scholar, U.S. diplomat and field researcher Dr. Haroon K. Ullah discussed the key concepts in his new book focusing on the rise of political Islam in Pakistan and the Arab Spring. Dr. Jonathan Brown from Georgetown University moderated the event.
For full event notes continue reading or click here for the PDF.
Jonathan Brown introduced Haroon Ullah. Ullah then began his presentation by telling a story about his observations in Pakistan during the time that Salmaan Taseer was assassinated by his own security guard. He said that the shooter was “showered with rose petals” and “celebrated as a national hero” after killing the politician for criticizing blasphemy laws. Ullah attributed this to the “toxic environment created by political religious organizations.” Ullah also said that he decided to use Pakistan as a case study because Islamic parties have been competing the longest there—since 1906.
Haroon Ullah then presented five myths of political Islam using Pakistan as a case study. The first myth was that extremist violence is ad-hoc. …
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A Kuwaiti court “temporarily suspended the publication of two independent newspapers over articles about a secret probe into allegations of a coup plot to overthrow the Gulf monarchy’s government.” Al Watan and Alam Al Yawm were suspended by the Information Ministry “because they had violated a prosecuter-ordered media blackout of the investigation.”
Meanwhile, a Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) report examines ”the restrictions placed on freedom of expression, the misuse of the judicial system to attack human rights defenders, in particular those advocating for the rights of the Bidoon community,” in Kuwait. The report finds that “protests have taken place in relation to political opposition, the passage of laws disenfranchising the electorate and the lack of rights of the Bidoon.” In addition, “human rights defenders, including lawyers and journalists face on-going trials on trumped-up charges which have little adherence to international judicial fair procedures. Many go about their peaceful human rights activities under fear of being intimidated, harassed, detained and tortured.”
The report “calls on the government of Kuwait to revoke articles 25 and 111 of the penal code” which “[outlaw] objecting to the rights and authorities of the Emir” and “criminalizes anyone ‘who mocks God …
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During a mass pro-reform demonstration in Casablanca earlier this month, nine February 20 activists were arrested. The government recently rejected their request for bail. The demonstration, which 10,000 people took part and was organized by Morocco’s three main unions “targeted the policies, and especially the austerity measures, introduced by Islamist Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane,” but activists also “shouted slogans ‘against the regime as a whole.”
George Joffé argues that, “the reformers have not abandoned their objectives.” In describing Morocco’s long and incomplete transition to a liberal democracy, he said that “the monarchy had survived…because it was weak and legitimate and, as such, became the indispensable mediator.” He added that “the very strength of the monarchy was also its greatest weakness,” and “its ultimate survival would depend on its ability to share power. In the context of the modern state…it had to constitutionalize itself…through a process of slow and guided political liberalization.” He concludes, “In the end those reformers will achieve their goals, for they coincide with the palace’s own ultimate objective for survival.”
In contrast, Mohamed Daadaoui asserts that “Morocco is a carefully engineered political scene where the regime is, for now, virtually uncontested.” He …
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On Wednesday, April 23, the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution held an event entitled “Understanding Tahrir Square: The Prospects for Arab Democracy.” Tamara Cofman Wittes, Senior Fellow and the Director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy gave opening remarks. Stephen R. Grand, Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World was the featured speaker. Jackson Diehl, Deputy Editorial Page Editor for The Washington Post, moderated the event.
For full event notes keep reading or click here for the PDF. Wittes gave brief opening remarks, congratulating Grand on the success of his new book, and acknowledging his comparative perspective that spread beyond just Tahrir and Egypt. She also mentioned his extensive experience “in scholarship and in practice” that lent itself to “re-thinking people power movements” in the Middle East and across the globe.
Grand then gave his opening statement. He began by quoting one of his colleagues saying: “You can tweet a revolution but it is much more difficult to tweet a transition to democracy.” He acknowledged the difficulties in creating a “liberal democracy” and governments that hold regular elections, uphold rights and …