Oriente Próximo

Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi at the United Nations in New York in September 2019. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

For Americans, Thanksgiving week is a time of gratitude and celebration. But in Egypt, the regime of Abdel Fatah al-Sissi is using the holiday — and the fact that Washington is in transition — as a smokescreen to crack down on the opposition and civil society.

Gasser Abdel Razek, the recently detained executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), is currently sitting in a cold cell with no winter clothing after having his head forcibly shaved. This is how the military regime in Egypt is treating one of the country’s foremost human rights defenders. This treatment took place despite international condemnation of his arrest along with two senior staff last week on trumped up charges related to aiding a terrorist group.…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman walks by a street mural in Tehran on Nov. 8. (Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

After Jan. 20, what will happen to U.S. policy on Iran? On the campaign trail, Joe Biden said he would return the United States to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran so long as Tehran does the same. Iran has made a mirror-image pledge to roll back its nuclear program and return to compliance once Washington lifts sanctions.

In theory, then, returning to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — the 2015 Iran nuclear deal signed by China, France, Germany, Iran, the United Kingdom, the United States and Russia — should be straightforward. Biden could make that decision on his first day in office.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sablier pour idées noires

«De quel mal souffrez-vous le plus ? » Presque tous ceux à qui je pose la question me répondent : l’absence d’espoir. Puis viennent les récits. Avec plus ou moins d’accablement, de dépression, de grande colère. Neuf fois sur dix, la suite est confiée à « Dieu », le malheur accepté, accueilli. « Grâce à Dieu. » « El-Hamdulillah. » Les têtes ne peuvent plus réfléchir ni les yeux voir en face. Les bras n’ont plus le droit d’embrasser. Ils tombent.

Sur les visages masqués, la solitude se voit à la loupe, elle est toute concentrée dans les regards qui hésitent entre se figer et fuir.…  Seguir leyendo »

La dialectique de la rupture et de la continuité entre les administrations présidentielles américaines en politique étrangère est depuis longtemps devenue un grand classique. Non seulement le Moyen-Orient n’y échappe pas, mais il en est l’un des cas de figure les plus récurrents et les plus saillants. C’est largement à partir de ce que lègue Trump à son successeur, à l’Amérique et au monde, que la nouvelle administration devra repartir. Et le bilan est lourd, souvent irréversible, mais aussi parfois utile et exploitable.

Continuités

En termes de continuité, la présidence Biden devrait poursuivre le graduel mais inexorable désengagement américain engagé depuis Barack Obama au Moyen-Orient.…  Seguir leyendo »

On ignore l’origine de la fable, mais elle est bien connue en Egypte. C’est l’histoire du scorpion qui voulait traverser le Nile. Malheureusement il ne savait pas nager. Il rendit donc visite à la grenouille pour lui demander si elle le laisserait monter sur son dos et si elle serait d’accord de le transporter vers l’autre rive du fleuve.

« Il n’en est pas question » répondit la grenouille « si je te laisse monter sur mon dos tu vas me piquer ». « Réfléchis » répondit le scorpion « si je te pique durant la traversée tu vas certes mourir mais moi aussi car je vais me noyer.…  Seguir leyendo »

Jehad al-Saftawi A vehicle belonging to the Gaza-based press outlet Media 24 destroyed by a missile fired from an Israeli aircraft, killing its driver and injuring eight others nearby, Gaza, July 10, 2014

My name is Jehad al-Saftawi. I am a photographer and journalist. For years, I clung to the idea of fleeing my country for the Western world. There is no free press in Gaza. Most of the news channels cater to political parties that use violence to silence opposition. I come from a place overflowing with weapons, where my father could easily buy a pistol and shoot it into the air while cruising the streets of our city. A place where, on any night, you could be awoken by a bomb exploding in your neighbor’s home, stored there by a member of their family who belonged to an armed faction.…  Seguir leyendo »

DeAgostini/Getty Images Alborz Mountains, northern Tehran, Iran

I had no idea what we were doing was illegal.

I was six at the time.

And not well-versed in the milk pasteurization laws of Prince Edward Island.

And yet, there I was. With my grandfather and father. Three generations. Bandits all. Breaking the law.

My grandfather, for background, was born on his family’s farm in Sangsar, Iran, in 1911. In those days, the village had one street, one roundabout, narrow alleys, and small, clay-colored homes, all with brown doors.

That the village even existed was a miracle.

Two hours north were the lush green valleys and rainforests of Mazandaran Province on the southern coast of the Caspian Sea.…  Seguir leyendo »

El primer ministro israelí Benjamín Netanyahu declaró que Israel está lista para avanzar con un proceso de «paz a cambio de paz» en vez de «tierras a cambio de paz» (la intención original del proceso de paz en Oriente Medio). Incluso cuando el gobierno del presidente estadounidense Donald Trump le ofreció a Israel anexar más de un tercio de la ocupada Cisjordania en su plan de paz, garantizando el control perpetuo de los israelíes sobre los palestinos y sus tierras, la coalición del gobierno no logró aceptar la oferta ni llegar a un consenso sobre el plan.

Da igual, a principios de este mes se llevó a cabo un debate en el Knesset (parlamento) israelí para aprobar el acuerdo que normaliza las relaciones diplomáticas con los Emiratos Árabes Unidos al mismo tiempo que Israel aprobaba casi unidades de 5000 asentamientos ilegales en menos de 48 horas.…  Seguir leyendo »

Las imágenes fueron conmovedoras. A comienzos de octubre, el ministro de Relaciones Exteriores alemán, Heiko Maas, visitó el Monumento al Holocausto en Berlín con sus pares israelí y emiratí. ¿Qué mejor manera de celebrar la reciente normalización de las relaciones entre Israel y los Emiratos Árabes Unidos? En efecto, el establecimiento de vínculos diplomáticos según los Acuerdos de Abraham de este verano poco tuvo que ver con honrar el pasado. En todo caso, el acuerdo es un intento por escapar directamente de la historia.

Durante gran parte de mi vida, el conflicto palestino-israelí fue la cuestión definitoria en Oriente Medio. Desde la perspectiva occidental, garantizar el derecho de Israel a existir fue una manera de saldar una deuda histórica con el pueblo judío: Israel, como patria de la judería global, fue una garantía contra un futuro antisemitismo.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Sept. 15, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Israel formally signed the “Abraham Accords,” establishing normal diplomatic relations. Supporters like President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented the agreement as an unprecedented step toward peace.

Not everyone agrees. A number of prominent public figures and civil society groups argue the move is aimed at pressuring Palestinians to accept a state without sovereignty, while granting authoritarian Arab Persian Gulf nations international legitimacy and greater access to new technologies for repression.

What do ordinary Arabs think? The 2019-2020 polling data of the Arab Opinion Index suggests that many Arabs are at odds with their governments on the question of Israel.…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman walks in the old city of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa. July 2019. CRISISGROUP/Peter Salisbury.

In December 2018, Western and international policymakers demonstrated something that Yemenis had long suspected: when motivated by developments on the ground or at home, they can produce (some) diplomatic results, as the United States did by pressuring Saudi Arabia and by extension the internationally recognised government of Yemen into accepting the UN-brokered Stockholm Agreement. The deal, which averted a battle for the Red Sea port of Hodeida, is the signature diplomatic success story to date in the ongoing Yemeni conflict that began in late 2014. For the warring parties and to Yemeni and international observers, however, the agreement also symbolises the limits of external mediation in resolving the conflict: international pressure forced the parties to endorse the deal, but not to implement it.…  Seguir leyendo »

Saudi women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul is seen in an undated photo. (Reuters)

This week, some of the most powerful women from around the world attended the virtual Women20 (W20) conference, part of the Group of 20 summit, hosted by Saudi Arabia. But who was missing? For one, my sister Loujain al-Hathloul, an award-winning women’s rights activist, who is in a maximum-security prison cell only 25 miles from Riyadh.

In recent years, my sister was one of the only Saudi women who dared to attend international conferences outside of the kingdom to discuss the truth about women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. She spoke out about the injustice of the repressive patriarchal systems in the kingdom, which grant men almost total superiority before the law and give them the absolute right to guardianship over their wives and children.…  Seguir leyendo »

En el inicio del nuevo año judío a fines del mes pasado, Israel sufría su segundo confinamiento a nivel nacional después de que las tasas per cápita de contagio y muertes por la COVID-19 alcanzaran uno de los niveles más altos del mundo. ¿Cómo pudo fracasar de manera tan espectacular a la hora de contener la pandemia un país con fronteras prácticamente cerradas, sofisticadas tecnologías y capacidades institucionales, un sistema de salud eficiente y de alta calidad, y una cultura de solidaridad en épocas de guerra?

Aunque muchos años de economía neoliberal ciertamente incidieron sobre el sistema de bienestar del país, la respuesta no está allí.…  Seguir leyendo »

Images of the singer Mohammad Reza Shajarian on the cellphones of fans gathered outside the Tehran hospital where he died. Credit Majid Asgaripour/West Asia News Agency, via Reuters

Within minutes of the death of the Iranian vocalist Mohammad Reza Shajarian last week, thousands streamed into the streets surrounding his hospital in Tehran, openly wept and sang his songs in unison.

A man climbed on an ambulance and yelled to applause: “It is the right of the Iranian people to give him a majestic funeral. He belongs to all the people.” Another person called out for three days of mourning, a suggestion that drew cheers from the crowd.

A state funeral would have befit Iran’s most beloved public figure, who died at age 80 after a six-decade career. Mr. Shajarian’s music and message, drawn from the humanist canon of Persian poetry, unified people of all generations and political persuasions.…  Seguir leyendo »

Bekir Kasim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images Syrian National Army soldiers praying before an event mark the first anniversary of the Turkish-backed Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria Tal Abyad, Syria on October 13, 2020; many former SNA fighters are now deployed as mercenaries in Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan

“They sent us directly to the front lines. The situation is terrible. Terrible. There is fighting every day. We are charged with storming. There is no rest. There are many men missing and we can’t get to them,” explained Abdel Basit, a Syrian mercenary speaking from Azerbaijan (for their safety, I have altered the names of all living Syrians in this report). What made this former Syrian rebel, displaced from his home in Rastan, in rural Homs, decide to sign up to fight in a foreign country? His father, who is still in Rastan, had to take out a large loan because of a family emergency, but “his salary is not enough [to pay it off].…  Seguir leyendo »

A view of Jerusalem: the Israel/UAE agreement ‘threatens the status of Jerusalem’s holy sites’. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Tomorrow, the Israeli parliament will be voting on the agreement to normalise relations with the United Arab Emirates. A large majority will approve a hugely favourable step towards the Israeli government’s goals: perpetuating its systematic violations of international law and of the Palestinian people’s inalienable rights. Those parliamentarians who believe in justice and equality are going to vote against this agreement. I’m afraid, though, that we are a tiny minority.

This week, we were given copies of the agreement, which I read in the three languages (Arabic, Hebrew and English) and figured out a few things. First of all, those who wrote it in different languages tailored it to their audiences.…  Seguir leyendo »

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) shakes hands with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at Irqah Palace in the capital Riyadh on 20 February 2020. ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / POOL / AFP

The Washington Post reported on 25 September that U.S. officials are considering a potentially consequential new step in Washington’s approach to Yemen: either designating the Huthis – the term used by most Yemenis to describe the rebel group that controls the capital Sanaa and much of north-western Yemen and calls itself Ansar Allah – as a foreign terrorist organisation or naming particular Huthi leaders as specially designated global terrorists. When Washington designates a group as a foreign terrorist organisation, it makes material support for that group a crime, freezes its assets and bars its members from entering the U.S. The consequences of an individual designation are similar but slightly less onerous.…  Seguir leyendo »

With Afghan peace talks underway, those seeking to undermine the process are targeting Afghan women in hopes of derailing it. The US embassy in Afghanistan warned last month that extremist organizations are planning attacks that take direct aim at women, including teachers, government workers, and human-rights activists. The threats underscore how central Afghan women’s rights are to the success of the Afghan peace process and to the country’s future.

The Afghan government and the Taliban are currently meeting for the first time since a United States-Taliban deal in February promised intra-Afghan negotiations and a gradual withdrawal of US forces. Many criticize the US government for failing to secure more from the Taliban in its initial deal — including any guarantees for Afghan women, despite years of bipartisan promises to protect Afghan women’s rights.…  Seguir leyendo »

The agreements between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain on the one hand and Israel on the other, brokered by the Trump administration and signed at the White House on Sept. 15, attempted to normalize the abnormal in spite of their misleading declarations about realizing peace.

In fact, they succeeded in normalizing occupation, oppression, annexation, and grave violations of international law, including international humanitarian law.

We must call things by their real name. The UAE and Bahrain agreed to open regular diplomatic ties with Israel, but these were not «peace treaties.» They ended no wars, as the three countries have been engaging in secret security, intelligence, and economic deals for years.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Taliban need to spell out their ideas about the role of Islam in society and governance. Credit Hussein Sayed/Associated Press

As the major warring parties in Afghanistan sit down for peace talks in Doha, Qatar, an old, unresolved debate is emerging as the central question: What should be the role of Islam in Afghanistan? A humid seaside resort on the Persian Gulf, where the delegates are gathered, has become the unlikely venue for a search for answers acceptable to most Afghans.

The Taliban, who fought for decades to establish an Islamic political system, struck a deal with the United States in February that calls for American troop withdrawals conditioned on the Taliban engaging in peace talks and promising not to allow the country to be used by transnational terrorists.…  Seguir leyendo »