Free Markets, Free People

Arab spring


Egypt, “Arab Spring” and International Women’s Day

Gotta love it (he said sarcastically):

The Freedom and Justice Party, political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, says it does not endorse gender discrimination, although the Brotherhood argues women should not be allowed to rule the country.

The party is the dominant bloc in both houses of parliament after a sweeping victory in a multi-phase general election that began in November. Women hold just two percent of the seats in parliament.

Because, you know, not allowing women to rule the country isn’t “gender discrimination” as the Muslim Brotherhood sees it (they too are adept at redefining words apparently).

A women’s conference organized by the dominant Islamist bloc in the Egyptian parliament has called for a council for families to replace the existing National Council for Women, a state-owned daily reported on Friday.

The conference, held Thursday on International Women’s Day, also condemned the 1978 U.N. convention against gender discrimination saying it was “incompatible with the values of Islamic sharia” law, the Al-Ahram newspaper reported.

Remember, the Muslim Brotherhood is a moderate organization, or so say our apologists in the West.  And, as all can see, it is taking a very moderate position by making women 2nd class citizens in their own country again.

But *cough, cough* they don’t “endorse” gender discrimination.  Got it?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Islamists tighten grip in Egypt with 2nd round of elections, violence flairs

Well “Arab spring” is going swimmingly in Egypt.  The second round of elections were just completed and guess who has taken even more control?

The Muslim Brotherhood party secured 39 percent of the vote, while the Salafi Al Nour party won 31 percent of the vote in the second stage of Egypt’s landmark post-Mubarak elections, according to unofficial results published on the website of Egypt’s Al-Ahram newspaper on Sunday.

The unofficial results for the second stage of elections for the lower house of the Egyptian parliament also showed that the secular, liberal Wafd party won 22 percent of the vote.

Islamist parties won some 70 percent of the total vote, a similar result to the first stage of elections, which took place on November 28.

Of course this wasn’t supposed to happen this way and apologists for it are left with trying to pretend that the Muslim Brotherhood is a “moderate” organization.  It’s history tells a completely different story.  The classic wolf in sheep’s clothing in this situation.  With over 70% control, the Islamists will easily control any legislative body with very little need to compromise with the secular side of the house.

Meanwhile what had begun as peaceful protests in Tahrir Square have turned violent:

Egyptian security forces fought opponents of army rule in Cairo for a fourth day on Monday and the United States, worried by the violence, urged the generals to respect human rights.

Medical sources said the death toll had risen to 13 since Friday. Hundreds have been wounded and scores detained.

Police and soldiers using batons and teargas drove stone-throwing protesters out of Cairo’s Tahrir Square, hub of the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in February, overnight.

Hundreds had returned to the square by morning after security forces retreated behind barricades in streets leading to parliament, the cabinet office and the Interior Ministry.

The photos of the violence are shocking.  But they give good evidence of the fact that any “spring like” feeling is gone from this revolution.  It has, as expected, turned toward a military/Islamist takeover as expected and the Egyptian military is now showing its true colors as its powerbase is challenged.  This link from the UK’s Daily Mail contains photos and a video that show the results.   The photo I’ve included is just an example.

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Perhaps now, instead of apologizing for the outcome, those who’ve tried to blind themselves to its reality will face it square on.  Egypt is going to end up worse off than it was before Mubarak was deposed.  That doesn’t mean Mubarak was someone to support, it is simply a statement of fact.  Oppression is likely to be followed by even more oppression.  And, as the picture above demonstrates, one of the greatest losers in this particular mess is likely to be women.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 04 Dec 11

This week, Bruce Michael, and Dale record talk about China, illegal immigration, and Egypt.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


Arab "Spring”? Or Arab Fall?

Last week I pointed out how Tunisia is starting the seemingly inevitable slide toward Islamic extremism.

Egypt too has failed to keep the promise of the “Arab Spring” uprising that saw Hosni Mubarak ousted from power.  There the Muslim Brotherhood has gained power and the Army seems intent on keeping power – at least in the short term.  We now are seeing deadly riots again in Tahrir Square in Cairo where the Army is clashing with protesters.  Thus far it is reported that 35 are dead in the three days of those clashes.

The eruption of violence, which began Saturday, reflects the frustration and confusion that has mired Egypt’s revolution since Mubarak fell in February and the military stepped into power.

It comes only a week before Egypt is to begin the first post-Mubarak parliamentary elections, which many have hoped would be a significant landmark in a transition to democracy. Instead, it has been clouded by anger at the military’s top body, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which will continue to rule as head of state even after the vote. Activists accuse the generals of acting increasingly in the same autocratic way as Mubarak’s regime and seeking to cling to power.

The military says it will only hand over power after presidential elections, which it has vaguely said will be held in late 2012 or early 2013. The protesters are demanding an immediate move to civilian rule.

Again, in a country which has no democratic traditions or institutions the “hope” is the parliamentary elections will be “a significant landmark in the transition to democracy” has no foundation in reality.  Right now it appears that the Egyptian people have simply exchanged on boss for another.  And the result of the parliamentary elections, if they’re ever held, may see the ushering in of a third “boss”- the Muslim Brotherhood which has not really promised “secular democracy” if they take the majority in the Egyptian Parliament. Instead it seems clear they intend a steady move toward an Islamic state.

And the traditions of the Islamic state are to pay lip service to “democracy” (see Iran), no secularism (in fact one of the only secular Arab states, Syria, is in deep trouble right now – any guess what may replace that government?) and rule by Islamic law. 

I don’t think that the “spring” most of the initial protesters (and their supporters in the West) were hoping for when they turned out to oppose Mubarak and call for secular democracy.

As usual, it is the most organized and ruthless who will claim power.  Right now that’s the Army.  If and when an election is held and the Muslim Brotherhood takes enough seats to form a government it is likely the Army will reach an agreement with them to somehow share power.  And secular democracy?

No time soon in Egypt, count on it.  And watch Libya carefully as well.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Tunisia heads toward Islamist extremism – but don’t worry, they voted

Tunisia, cited by the “Arab Spring” crowd as the democratic and secular example to which all Arab countries should aspire has suddenly begun showing distinct Islamic tendencies:

Secular Tunisians are expressing concerns after a leader of the country’s Islamist Al-Nahda movement said Tunisia’s emerging government marks "the Sixth Righteous Caliphate."

The fifth caliphate, an Islamic imperial governing system, was abolished by Turkish secular Kemal Ataturk in 1924. In a speech posted on YouTube Sunday, Hamadi Jbeli also pledged that "we shall set forth with God’s help to conquer Jerusalem, if Allah wills… From here is conquest with the help of Allah Almighty."

Somehow this tendency to go in the Islamist religious direction has been discounted by those in the West who were sure that countries with no democratic traditions and intuitions and cultural and religious biases against both would suddenly flower into model representative democracies.

Those who had serious doubts for the reasons stated were dismissed as cynical and not able to understand the new world as it was forming, apparently driven by Twitter.  Pointing out that the most ruthless best organized usually prevail in any sort of revolution and that those traits were enjoyed mostly by Islamists was waved away as overly pessimistic and indicative of a fundamental misunderstanding of the power of the technologically driven secular youth movements taking the lead in each of these countries.

And one by one those movement have foundered and Islamists, in one guise or another, have emerged to take control.  Tunisia, though, where it all began, was held out as the one example of where the wished for model was working.

Yeah, not so much.  6th Caliphate?  Conquer Jerusalem?   Sounds like secular democracy to me, how about you?

Jbeli’s party, Al-Nahda, won 98 of 217 parliamentary seats in Tunisia’s first election.  And naturally, he was hailed by the usual suspects as being a “moderate”:

The group’s electoral success won international praise as a "moderate" movement promoting a democratic form of political Islam. Headlines in mainstream media outlets like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and CNN called Al-Nahda moderate.

Read that quote again.  Is that what is considered moderate in the Arab world?  In any world?

Tunisians certainly don’t:

Leading secularist party Ettakatol suspended its participation in committees to form a governing coalition. "We do not accept this statement," said Khemais Ksila, an executive committee member of Ettakatol. "We thought we were going to build a second republic with our partner, not a sixth caliphate." Issam Chelbi of the secular PDP party called the speech "very dangerous."

"This is what we feared," Chelbi said.

Tunisian women’s groups also have been skeptical of Al-Nahda’s moderation, saying there has been an increase in verbal and physical abuse since President Zine Abidine Ben Ali resigned in the wake of a popular uprising.

This is like an Arab “Ground Hog Day” – the same story repeated in country after country where “Arab Spring” has occurred.

The party leader and ideologue is a piece of work too:

The Arab Spring "will achieve positive results on the path to the Palestinian cause and threaten the extinction of Israel," Party leader and ideologue Rashid Ghannouchi said in a May interview with the Al Arab Qatari website. "The liberation of Palestine from Israeli occupation represents the biggest challenge facing the Umma [Muslim nation] and the Umma cannot have existence in light of the Israeli occupation."

Further, in the same interview, Ghannouchi said: "I give you the good news that the Arab region will get rid of the bacillus [bacteria] of Israel. Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the leader of Hamas, said that Israel will disappear by the year 2027. I say that this date may be too far away, and Israel may disappear before this."

Additionally:

Ghannouchi has also given his support to specific types of terror carried out by Hamas, including rocket attacks against Israeli civilians and "martyrdom operations."

In June 2001, Ghannouchi appeared in an al-Jazeerah panel discussion in which heblessed the mothers of Palestinian suicide bombers:

"I would like to send my blessings to the mothers of those youth, those men who succeeded in creating a new balance of power…I bless the mothers who planted in the blessed land of Palestine the amazing seeds of these youths, who taught the international system and the Israel (sic) arrogance, supported by the US, an important lesson. The Palestinian woman, mother of the Shahids (martyrs), is a martyr herself, and she has created a new model of woman."

Ghannouchi has even gone beyond rhetoric, calling for Muslims to fund and provide logistical support for Hamas. He signed the controversial "Istanbul Declaration," issued by Muslim clerics in support of Hamas after Israel’s January 2009 war in Gaza. The declaration stated that there was an "obligation of the Islamic nation to open the crossings – all crossings – in and out of Palestine permanently" to provide supplies and weapons to Hamas to "perform the jihad in the way of Allah Almighty."

This is Tunisia’s elected majority party.  This is the party which will form the government and name the Prime Minister.    This is the party which has the following stated goals:

Ghannouchi’s statements are consistent with Al-Nahda’s platform, which declares that the party "struggles to achieve the following goals … To struggle for the liberation of Palestine and consider it as a central mission and a duty required by the need to challenge the Zionist colonial attack. The platform also refers to Israel as an "alien entity planted in the heart of the homeland, which constitutes an obstacle to unity and reflects the image of the conflict between our civilization and its enemies."

In September, the organization stated that it "supports the struggle of peoples seeking liberation and justice and encourages world peace and aims to promote cooperation and collaboration and unity especially among Arab and Islamic countries and considers the Palestinian struggle for liberation to be a central cause and stands against normalization."

Peace?  Democracy?  Tunisia first?  Secularism? 

Is this the moderate, secular “Arab Spring” that the supporters imagined?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Libya – Now what?

After months, not weeks, of a NATO bombing campaign, it appears that the regime of Libyan strong-man Moammar Gaddafi is about to end.  Rebels have advanced into Tripoli, the capital, and Gaddafi is said to be cornered in his compound.  When last heard from his advice to his remaining supporters was to take to the streets:

In a brief broadcast on state television, Gaddafi made what came across as a desperate plea for support. “Go out and take your weapons,” the Libyan leader said. “All of you, there should be no fear.”

But the opposite seems to be what his loyalists are doing:

But reporters traveling with rebel forces said Gaddafi’s defenses were melting away faster than had been expected. There were reports of entire units fleeing as rebels entered the capital from the south, east and west, and his supporters inside the city tearing off their uniforms, throwing down their weapons and attempting to blend into the population.

A Tripoli-based activist said the rebels had secured the seaport, where several hundred reinforcements for the opposition had arrived by boat, and were in the process of evicting Gaddafi loyalists from the Mitiga air base on the eastern edge of the city.

There are also reports that a safe haven is or is still being negotiated for Gaddafi.  South Africa has been identified as a participant in those negotiations with Zimbabwe and the Congo as two possible destinations.

Obviously Gadaffi’s reign is within hours, if not days of ending.

The question then becomes, “now what”?  While this is supposedly a flowering of the Arab spring, there have been disturbing reports of Islamist radicals in leadership positions within the Rebel alliance.   Additionally, there have been various councils and groups claiming leadership.   Once Gadaffi is ousted and the capitol taken, the hard part begins – governing.   Who or what band or group is likely to emerge as the leadership group.   While there is a lot of talk about “revolutionary youth”, etc.,  in cases like this the most ruthless and best organized group usually take charge.

The “Twitter revolution” started by “revolutionary youth” in Egypt has since yielded to the Muslim Brotherhood – a well organized Islamist group which has seemingly reached an accommodation with the army and will apparently take power there after the next election.  The secular and democratic activists have been pushed to the side.

There’s also the question of “now what” for the West.   Does NATO tip its hat to the rebels and wish them good luck, or does it plan on some sort of post-Gaddafi role?   France has a historic interest in Libya.   Will European nations simply walk away or will they attempt to help craft a solution in Libya?

Finally, is the collapse of the Gadaffi regime a vindication of Obama’s “leading from behind” strategy?  It certainly forced NATO to do more than has in quite some time and the campaign got the desired result.   Does that make it a good strategy for the future, or a one-of-a-kind campaign that got lucky given the weakness of the target and the geography of the nation?

All of these questions and more will be answered in the next few weeks.  One has to wonder how many of the answers will come as a surprise.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


About Egypt’s “Arab Spring”

It’s not much to look forward too.   Tony Blankley makes the pointthat many of us have been making as we’ve watched this little drama unfold in Egypt – it ain’t about “democracy”:

That "democratic revolution," as the administration persistently called it, seems to have settled down into an ugly accord between the Army-run government, the Muslim Brotherhood and the fanatical salafists — which the new regime has been releasing from the prisons into which Mubarak very usefully had sent those dreadful men. Killing Coptic Christians, attacking women on the street for non-Muslim garb and other pre-Mubarak attitudes are thus now back in vogue in "democratic" Egypt.

Whether the administration will admit it or not, the fact remains that democracy isn’t set up to succeed in Egypt.  By “democracy” I mean institutions that are structured to both support a democratic nation and ensure the success of such a system.  It is simply another in a long line of swapping one oppressor for the other.  While Mubarak may not have been anyone’s ideal, what may follow, given the indications, may be worse.

Two weeks ago, the administration was "surprised" at the Egyptian-brokered accord between the terrorist Hamas and the West Bank Fatah Palestinian factions — ending even a theoretical chance of Israeli/Palestinian negotiations.

Indeed.  And now with Egypt firmly moving to the “other side” after years of peace with Israel, the future looks even more bleak and any peace accord becomes even more unlikely.

And with Obama yesterday essentially demanding the ‘67 borders as a peace concession by Israel any settlement became virtually impossible.  No wonder Middle East peace envoy, George Mitchell is resigning.  He recognizes a dead end when he see’s one.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


In Egypt, “Arab Spring” begins to turn into winter

For those of us actually somewhat tuned into the region, the dynamics of the power structure there, grounded in reality and, well, basic human nature, what is now happening in Egypt comes as no surprise:

Demonstrators burned cars and barricaded themselves with barbed wire inside a central Cairo square demanding the resignation of the military’s head after troops violently dispersed an overnight protest killing one and injuring 71.

Hundreds of soldiers beat protesters with clubs and fired into the air in the pre-dawn raid on Cairo’s central Tahrir Square in a sign of the rising tensions between Egypt’s ruling military and protesters.

Armed with sticks and other makeshift weapons, the protesters vowed not to leave until the defense minister, the titular head of state, has resigned.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.  And the boss is now starting to exert control.

The troops dragged an unknown number of protesters away, throwing them into police trucks, eyewitnesses said.

The military issued a statement afterward blaming "outlaws" for rioting and violating the country’s 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, and asserted that no one was harmed or arrested.

"The armed forces stress that they will not tolerate any acts of rioting or any act that harms the interest of the country and the people," it said.

Sounds pretty, oh I don’t know, 2010 in Egypt to me.  The point, of course, is the military, who has essentially been in control of Egypt for the past 60 years was willing to trade Hosni Mubarak to retain control over the government.  It took a neutral stance during the riots, threw Mubarak under the bus, put itself in charge of the “interim government” and now is exerting control.

“Arab spring” has sprung and it is now turning into the usual totalitarian winter but this time with elections!  Well, at least one.

~McQ