Tunisia's Wall Has Fallen

by Nadia Marzouki | published January 19, 2011

For the first time in decades, Tunisia is free of one-man rule. The extraordinary events of December 2010 and January 2011 have been nothing less than a political revolution: The consistent pressure of popular fury forced President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali first to make an unprecedented promise to relinquish power; then pushed him to step down; and finally halted an attempt at unconstitutional transfer of power, setting the stage for elections to be held at an undetermined date in the near to mid-term future.

A State of Sectarian Denial

by Mariz Tadros | published January 11, 2011

On the afternoon of January 6, a number of youths found a suspicious-looking cardboard box inside the Church of St. Antonious in the Upper Egyptian city of Minya. From its appearance, the box seemed to contain explosives, so the youths slowly removed it from the church, placing it in the middle of the street. They then phoned the police, who arrived immediately and whisked the box away.

The Liquidation of Egypt's Illiberal Experiment

by Mona El-Ghobashy | published December 29, 2010

The Egyptian parliamentary elections that ended on December 5 defied expectations, not because the ruling National Democratic Party again dominates Parliament but because of the lengths to which it proved willing to go to engineer its monopoly. Official and unofficial ruling-party candidates garnered 93.3 percent of the seats in the national assembly, while marginal opposition parties received 3 percent and the Muslim Brothers got a lone seat to be occupied by a member who would not abide by the Brothers’ boycott of the runoff. While these results are identical to the outcome of the 1995 elections, the reaction this time has been much more severe.

The Long, Steep Fall of the Lebanon Tribunal

by Heiko Wimmen | published December 1, 2010

After five long years, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon is expected to hand down its indictments at long last. By the end of 2010, or perhaps the beginning of 2011, the Tribunal will accuse a number of individuals of direct involvement in the murders of former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri and several other prominent Lebanese political figures between 2005 and 2008. Officially, the investigators keep mum about the identity of their targets. Unofficially, a steady stream of “insider information” has converged into a kind of received wisdom: High-ranking members of the Shi‘i Islamist party Hizballah will be indicted for association with the engineering of the assassinations. The various actors in Lebanon now treat the “leaks” that formed this received wisdom as a set of established facts.

Economic Prison Zones

by Sam Bahour | published November 19, 2010

When a project mixes the feel-good words of jobs, economic development and Israeli-Palestinian cooperation, how can anyone complain? These things are some of what the international community has been promising to deliver through the construction of industrial free trade zones in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The free trade zone model has been promoted locally and globally by powerful third parties like the United States, France, Germany, Turkey and Japan for two decades, but none has much to show for the enormous efforts and amounts of money spent to bring these zones to life. Nonetheless, the project’s proponents expect the zones to constitute the economic foundation for a future Palestinian state. They hope that, by bolstering Palestine’s economy, the zones will make Palestinians less prone to social upheaval, less insistent on their national rights and more amenable to the status quo. The idea is that a peace agreement with Israel will ensue.

Unpacking Turkey's "Court-Packing" Referendum

by Aslı Bâli | published November 5, 2010

The news reports and commentary on Turkey in the middle months of 2010 have sounded alarmist themes. Analysts have warned that Turkish foreign policy is undergoing a reorientation away from the West, ominously foreshadowed by deteriorating relations with Israel. Commentators worry about creeping Islamization in domestic and foreign policy, a concern captured by pictures of headscarved women accompanying articles about Turkey’s eastward turn. Elsewhere, descriptions of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s increasingly assertive policies toward the Middle East are paired with allegations of a more authoritarian style of government by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Turkey’s September 12 referendum -- resulting in the passage of a package of constitutional amendments with support from 58 percent of voters -- offers the most recent occasion to revisit this increasingly critical portrait of Turkey in Washington and beyond.

Behind Egypt's Deep Red Lines

by Mariz Tadros | published October 13, 2010

For six weeks, Egypt has been sitting on top of a sectarian volcano. Protesters, men and women, have been exiting mosques following prayers almost every single Friday since the beginning of September to demand the “release” of Camillia Shehata, a Coptic priest’s wife who they believe has converted to Islam and is now incarcerated by the Coptic Orthodox Church.

The Dynamics of Egypt's Elections

by Mona El-Ghobashy | published September 29, 2010

No one thinks parliamentary elections in Egypt are democratic or even semi-democratic. The elections do not determine who governs. They are not free and fair. They install a parliament with no power to check the president. The government National Democratic Party (NDP) always manufactures a whopping majority, never getting less than 70 percent of the seats. The opposition is kept on a tight leash, restrained by police intimidation, rampant fraud and severe limits on outreach to voters. And citizens know that elections are rigged, with polling places often blocked off by baton-wielding police, so few of them vote.

Contesting Past and Present in Silwan

by Joel Beinin | published September 17, 2010

On September 1, Elad -- a Hebrew acronym for “To the City of David” -- convened its eleventh annual archaeological conference at the “City of David National Park” in the Wadi Hilwa neighborhood of Silwan. Silwan, home to about 45,000 people, is one of 28 Palestinian villages incorporated into East Jerusalem and annexed by Israel after the June 1967 war. It lies in a valley situated a short walk beyond the Dung Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City. Elad, a militant, religious, settler organization, claims that Silwan is the biblical City of David mentioned in the second book of Samuel and that the Pool of Shiloah (Siloam) located there watered King Solomon’s garden.

Hizballah's Domestic Growing Pains

by Marlin Dick | published September 13, 2010

The term dahiya (suburb) is a staple of Lebanese political discourse, practically shorthand for Hizballah, the Shi‘i Islamist party seated in its infamous headquarters just south of Beirut. Before the civil war, the suburb, or more precisely suburbs, consisted of several small towns surrounded by orchards that began where the capital ended. Today, it is a heavily congested urban sprawl replete with higher-income neighborhoods, such as Jinah, where international chains such as Burger King, BHV, Monoprix, Spinneys and the Marriott have opened since the end of the civil war in 1990. Administratively, the dahiya lies in a half-dozen municipalities, and only one of these, Harat Hurayk, home to Hizballah’s party offices, is usually the “dahiya” that politicians and pundits have in mind.

Hamas Back Out of Its Box

by Nicolas Pelham | published September 2, 2010

Every year or so the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas confounds the Western policymakers who have worked to deny it power since its electoral triumph in January 2006. If the goal of Western policy is to keep the Islamists out of sight, out of mind, then Hamas is like a jack-in-the-box, periodically jumping out of its confines to general surprise and consternation.

Disaster Strikes the Indus River Valley

by The Editors | published August 17, 2010

The flooding of most of the Indus River valley in Pakistan has the makings of a history-altering catastrophe. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that 20 million Pakistanis are in dire need, many of them homeless or displaced, others cut off from help by fallen bridges and submerged highways, untold numbers lacking supplies of food and potable water. In the August heat, waterborne disease is a mortal peril, especially to children, 3.5 million of whom are said to be vulnerable. Measured in numbers of people affected, says OCHA spokesman Maurizio Giuliano, “This disaster is worse than the tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake and the Haiti earthquake.”

The PKK and the Closure of Turkey's Kurdish Opening

by Alexander Christie-Miller | published August 4, 2010

At a community hall in Diyarbakır, a majority-Kurdish city in southeastern Turkey, a shrine is draped with the illegal flag of the Kurdistan Workers Party, otherwise known as the PKK. On top of the flag is a framed photograph of Özgür Dağhan, a young man who died fighting for the outlawed rebel group. Looming above, a poster shows the grinning visage of the imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, whose organization’s war with the Turkish state has so far claimed more than 40,000 lives. Since the PKK canceled its one-year ceasefire on June 1, scenes such as this one are once again common.

Travesty in Progress

Omar Khadr and the US Military Commissions

by Lisa Hajjar | published July 26, 2010

At 23, Omar Khadr is the youngest of the 176 people still imprisoned at the US military’s detention facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He has been there for eight years, one third of his life.