The POMED Wire

POMED Notes: “Tunisia’s Historic Elections and Coming Challenges”

logoOn Wednesday, October 29, 2014, the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy hosted a panel discussion at the National Press Club titled, “Tunisia’s Historic Elections and Coming Challenges.”  The event featured Tunisian Ambassador to the United States, Mohammad Ezzine Chelaifa , Deputy Regional Director for MENA at the National Democratic Institute, Jeffrey England, Executive Director of the Project on Middle East Democracy, Stephen McInerney, and Special Advisor the United States Institute for Peace and Georgetown University professor, Daniel Brumberg. The panel was moderated and introduced by Dr. William Lawrence, the Director for Middle East and North Africa Programs at the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy.

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

Ambassador Chelaifa acknowledged the importance of the elections, which were judged to be free, fair, and transparent. He also noted that the peaceful transfer of power marked by the elections heralded the rise of a democratic culture in Tunisia. He then discussed the election results, asserting that though they may have seemed to perpetuate polarization along ideological lines, he believed that ultimately, doctrinal differences would be largely peripheral. Instead, he believes dialogue …

McCain, Menendez and CTC Congratulate Tunisian Elections; ISIE Releases Preliminary Results

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Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) and Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) who co-chair the Congressional Tunisian Caucus (CTC) “commended the Tunisian people on their highly successful legislative elections,” stating they were “certain that these historic elections will help to lay the foundation for a democratic and prosperous future in Tunisia,” and looked “forward to working with the newly elected officials to forge closer bonds between,” the two nations. Hastings added that he looked “forward to the opportunity to meet and work with our newly elected counterparts in the Parliament of Tunisia in order to continue strengthening the longstanding strategic partnership between our two countries.”

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) also “congratulated the Tunisian people on the successful conclusion of the first legislative elections conducted under Tunisia’s new constitution,” and hoped that “the new parliament will work to achieve the aspirations of the Tunisian people,” urging them to “undertake the difficult reforms that will be necessary to create economic opportunities and a better quality of life for the people of Tunisia.”

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also congratulated “the people of Tunisia on the peaceful and democratic election of their …

Iran Detains Journalists Covering Acid Attacks on Women

aria jafari Photo Credit: Mehdi Sayyari

Iranian authorities detained at least five journalists this week who covered the events surrounding more than half a dozen acid attacks on women earlier this month. The journalists were affiliated with the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA). Although four of the journalists were released shortly after their arrest, Aria Jafari, a photojournalist who covered the protests against the acid attacks in Isfahan, has been in detention for almost a week.

ISNA criticized the Iranian government for its reluctance to prosecute perpetrators of the attacks in a report it published on October 19 entitled “Isfahan’s Acid Climate.” The report included methods to minimize damage caused by acid burns and interviews with victims. Government officials and media outlets such as Tasnim  and FARS accused critical news agencies of “excessive” coverage of the attacks. The day the journalists were arrested, Ebrahim Raissi, Iran’s prosecutor-general, said that Iran “cannot close [its] eyes to the media crime of disturbing public opinion.” Tehran’s Friday prayer leader Ahmad Khatami also said that “media that accuse the people who monitor observance of proper social behavior, blaming them for the attacks, must be prosecuted.”

Many Iranians believe that government policies helped set the …

Egypt Sentences 23 Pro-Democracy Activists to Three Years in Prison

egypt Photo Credit: Systemic Capital

An Egyptian court sentenced 23 pro-democracy activists who were arrested this summer for participating in unauthorized demonstrations to three years in prison. The activists’ defense lawyer Ahmed Ezat called the verdict “legally flawed.” Before the sentence was announced, Amnesty International issued a press release condemning the case as a “show trial, based on highly questionable evidence,” in the words of Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

Amnesty reported that one of the defendants, Yara Sallam, a well known human rights defender, was arrested with her cousin at the site of the protest buying a bottle of water. Sallam’s cousin was released the next day, but Sallam was kept in detention after authorities found out she worked at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. The law the activists were accused of violating is known as the “Law Regulating the Right to Public Gathering Processions and Peaceful Protests,” which was enacted under former president Adly Monsour in 2013.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said the U.S. is “deeply troubled by the harsh prison sentence.” Psaki urged “Egypt’s leadership to quickly complete its review of the demonstration law and to release an amended version that will enable …

Bahrain: Opposition Group Al-Wefaq Banned by Court

_78577366_024287180-1Photo Credit: BBC News

A court in Bahrain banned leading Shia opposition group Al-Wefaq, a month before the parliamentary elections are due. The group’s defence lawyer, Abdullah al-Shamlawi told the Associated Press that al-Wefaq’s activities would be frozen for three months. The group “condemned the suspension as ‘irrational and irresponsible’ and said it appeared to be a move by the government to ‘destroy political and social life by blocking the people out.’” According to a copy sent by Al-Wefaq’s lawyer to Reuters, Al-Wefaq was “in violation of the law concerning political societies, which also says the justice minister can request the High Civil Court to stop the activities of a society ‘for a period not exceeding three months during which it removes the reasons for the violation.’” The Court also accused the group of carrying activities out in a “fog, without any legal supervision.”

Human Rights First (HRF) warned that the suspension of Al-Wefaq would most likely lead to more friction and instability in the country as it prepares for parliamentary elections. Brian Dooley from HRF said that “the decision to suspend Al-Wefaq looks far from coincidental. Stifling peaceful dissent is inviting trouble, especially when political tensions are so …

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