The degree of freedom in Egypt is declining steadily, and took another large step downward yesterday with the adoption of a law limiting political protests.
The new law, adopted by the Shura Council, requires three days’ notice to the police for any demonstration of more than 20 people–and the notice must name the organizers of the demonstration. Moreover, demonstrators must keep 600 feet away from any government building–making them invisible to the officials in that building in many cases. The punishment for “harming citizens’ interests” or posing a risk to national security is a fine and possible jail time at hard labor, as the Egypt Independent reports. Terms like “harming citizens’ interests” are purposely vague enough to permit officials to act against any protests they find inconvenient. Read more »
The continuing, and worsening, crisis in Syria leaves some analysts confused and their writing not very useful. The best guide to what is happening, and what the United States should do, is the writing of Fred Hof of the Atlantic Council. Hof was until last year a key figure in the making of American policy toward Syria, though we can see from his analyses that all too often his excellent advice was rejected by the Obama Administration. Read more »
The President leaves for Israel tomorrow. Here are eight suggestions for what he should say when there. No doubt his speechwriters could improve on the language, but these are thoughts it would be very useful for him to express. Such statements would have a serious impact in Israel and in the entire Middle East. Of course, it would be even better if these thoughts really reflected the President’s views and policies. Read more »
Two recent developments suggest that the long stand-off in Bahrain between the royal family and Shia political groups may be moving toward resolution–or at least a chance of progress.
First, the Saudis appear to have changed their own position. Instead of urging confrontation (and indeed, sending troops to Bahrain), the Saudi royals are said now to favor conciliation. The Financial Times reported this week that
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During the years when the late Hugo Chavez ruled Venezuela and attacked human rights there, the UN Human Rights Council was unable to adopt one single resolution about Venezuela. To this sad record a final note was added this week: a moment of silence in his honor. Read more »
Last week the Castro brothers announced the name of the man who, they said, will succeed Raul Castro when–or if–he retires at the end of the new five-year term as president to which he has just appointed himself.
The name is Miguel Diaz-Canel. He’s an apparatchik in the best Soviet style: thirty years in the Communist Party, starting with its youth groups. He’s not particularly well-known on or off the island, which may have recommended him to the Castros: previous heirs apparent sometimes got too big for their britches and had to be dumped. Of course, Canel may be dumped too, at any moment. He has no power base, and no apparent close ties with the Army and security services–who will be critical once the Castros are dead. The day Raul or Fidel is tired of him will be the day his “elevation” is undone. It will be interesting to see whether, in his new post as vice president, Canel is handed any real responsibilities by the Castros. This much is clear: nothing this man has ever done in his life suggests he believes in freedom, democracy, or human rights–or the Castros would never have selected him. Read more »
Pressure Points tracks developments in the Middle East and democratization and human rights issues globally.