Image Credit: Atlantic Council
On Wednesday July 30, 2014, the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East hosted an event on “Tunisia’s Political Prospects.” The discussion featured Duncan Pickard, Nonresident Fellow at the Rafiki Hariri Center, and Fatima Hadji, Program Officer for the Maghreb at the National Endowment for Democracy. The conversation was moderated by Karim Mezram, Senior Fellow at the Rafik Hariri Center.
For the full notes continue reading or click here for the PDF.
Duncan Pickard spoke first, describing the political process in Tunisia as being in a “formative stage,” with implementation of the newly drafted constitution still in progress. The constitution outlines a timeline for upcoming elections: parliamentary elections to take place in October, followed by presidential elections consisting of an initial one then a run-off. In the new constitution, Pickard explains that the prime minister and the president are “significantly different,” however each possess strong powers in system that Pickard labels “dual executive.” Parliamentary powers, too, were bolstered in the new constitution, because the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) now has the power to override presidential vetoes. In all, the PM, president, and parliament are three important components of the new constitution.…
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Senator Bob Casey Jr. (D-PA), sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry expressing alarm over the “reports that an American journalist, Jason Rezaian, was detained in Tehran last week with his wife and two others.” Noting that press freedom in Iran has not had a secure record, Casey suggests that “this move clearly demonstrates that the Iranian regime’s efforts to stifle dissent are not limited to local publications.”
Casey continues to specifically praise U.S-Iranian Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian’s work as offering “insight into one of the most repressive governments in the world.” Sponsored by Senator Casey, S. R. 447 on global press freedom recently passed the senate, and notes Iran as being in the ”top five countries with the highest numbers of journalists in prison.” Casey concludes by asking Kerry to “undertake every diplomatic effort to ensure that the Iranian regime does not unjustly punish [Rezaian] and his colleagues for their reporting.”
Elsewhere the editorial board of the Washington Post have since called on the Iranian government to “free Jason and his colleagues immediately” and publicly questioned whether “Rouhani’s professed policy of ‘constructive engagement’ is still in effect.” Post editors ask “why …
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The State Department called on Iran to release detained American Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and three others after they were arrested last week. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a press briefing that “we call on the Iranian Government to immediately release Mr. Rezaian and the other three individuals,” and that the State Department “continue[s] to monitor the situation closely.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) also released a statement calling on the Iranian government to ”immediately ensure the release of” the detained journalists, ”unless they plan to bring recognizable criminal charges against them and guarantee them fair trials.” Deputy Middle East and North Africa director at HRW, Eric Goldstein said the recent arrests and “Iran’s abysmal record on press freedom…raises a red flag,” and calls on Iran’s judiciary to “quickly investigate and order” the release of the journalists “unless there is hard evidence that they have committed substantive crimes, not merely exercised their right to free speech.”
Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Sherif Mansour called on “Iranian authorities to immediately explain why” the journalists have been detained, “and we call for their immediate release.” In …
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Violence in Libya continues to escalate as Libyan Special Forces and Islamist militants clashed on Saturday night and Sunday morning. According to Reuters, the country has “descended into its deadliest violence since the 2011 war” in the last two weeks. The death toll has exceeded 150, including many civilians.
A rocket was fired at a farmhouse in Tripoli’s Kremia region, killing 23 Egyptian workers. This incident came just days after the Egyptian Foreign Ministry warned its citizens against “any travel” to Libya where at least four Egyptians have been killed amid deadly militia violence. Meanwhile, Libya’s interior ministry denied the claim on Monday, saying “one Egyptian was injured in the attack,” without specifying whether there were victims of other nationalities.
Two rocket attacks hit huge fuel depots late Sunday and early Monday, causing “out-of-control” fires near Tripoli’s international airport. The government warned of a “disaster with unforeseeable consequences,” and called for “international help.” An official noted that “the only option left was intervention by air.”
The State Department announced on Saturday that “all personnel” have been “temporarily relocated” out of Libya, reiterating it “will continue to engage all Libyans and the international community to …
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The State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2013 was released, highlighting threats to religious freedom in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, and Bahrain. The release of the report coincided with the nomination of David Saperstein for Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, who Secretary of State John Kerry noted in a press conference, has been one of the “most compelling voices” on religious freedom around the world. The following are highlights taken from the Executive Summary.
On Syria, the report emphasizes the “Christian presence…becoming a shadow of its former self,” as it has “in much of the Middle East.” Furthermore, President Assad’s regime has “increasingly characterized the conflict in sectarian terms and targeted religious groups it considered opposition-aligned.” While both regime forces and rebels target religious groups they perceive to be against them, “Syrian Christians have fled the country.”
On Saudi Arabia, the report notes that “the public practice of any religion other than Islam is prohibited” and that “freedom of religion in neither recognized nor protected under the law,” resulting in religious minorities, such as Shia Muslims, facing discrimination. Additionally, individuals have been detained “on charges …