Oriente Próximo

By pulling the U.S. out of the nuclear agreement (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA) between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (the P5+1), the Trump administration has brought the U.S. relationship with Iran back to an earlier, more confrontational, era. The two states have been locked in an adversarial logic ever since the 1979 Islamic revolution (though popular grievances that fuelled the Shah’s removal date back to 1953, when the CIA helped depose Iran’s popular prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh). The fall of the U.S.-backed guardian in the Gulf, followed by the embassy hostage crisis, launched almost four decades of unremitting enmity, which only the JCPOA began to thaw.…  Seguir leyendo »

Families walk through the Abu Duhur crossing on the eastern edge of Syria's Idlib province as members of Russian and Syrian forces stand guard. Photo: Getty Images.

After successful operations to retake territory, supported by its allies, the Syrian regime now governs over the vast majority of the country’s population once again. In parallel to this military strategy, it is now trying to boost its legitimacy among that population and to present itself as the ‘saviour’ of the Syrian state.

A legitimate political regime means that people have faith in its capacity to protect their rights and maintain their state’s foundations. In general, a legitimate regime is accepted by the international community, and it is able to make people willingly obey its order as the sole representative of their interests.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Palestinian rides a donkey-drawn cart past a mural on March 30, 2016, in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip as Palestinians mark Land Day. On the annual Land Day, demonstrations are held to remember six Arab Israeli protesters who were shot dead by Israeli police and troops during mass protests in 1976 against plans to confiscate Arab land in the Galilee. / AFP / SAID KHATIB (Photo credit should read SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images)

There are signs that we’ve reached a tipping point in US public recognition of Israel’s suppression of the rights of Palestinians as a legitimate human rights concern. Increasingly, students on campuses across the country are calling on their universities to divest from companies that do business in Israel. Newly elected members of Congress are saying what was once unsayable: that perhaps the US should question its unqualified diplomatic and financial support for Israel, our closest ally in the Middle East, and hold it to the same human rights scrutiny we apply to other nations around the globe. Global companies such as Airbnb have recognized that their business practices must reflect international condemnation of the illegality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.…  Seguir leyendo »

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman waits for the family photo during the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, last month.CreditCreditAndres Martinez Casares/Reuters

In November 2015, I spent a couple of weeks reporting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It had been less than two years since my last visit to the country and just 10 months since King Salman’s ascension to the throne, but the mood among local activists and intellectuals had darkened considerably. On my final evening, my friend Fahad al-Fahad, a marketing consultant and human rights activist, offered to take me on a tour that, he suggested, might help to explain the new atmosphere.

We drove to the Jaffali mosque, where, just outside, public beheadings are carried out, and where, earlier that year, Raif Badawi, another Saudi activist, had been flogged before hundreds of onlookers.…  Seguir leyendo »

La decisión de Airbnb de eliminar de su oferta los alojamientos ofrecidos por colonos en los territorios ocupados es una decisión positiva y apropiada. De hecho, lo único que hay que preguntarse es por qué no se tomó antes y por qué otras empresas multinacionales siguen beneficiándose de los asentamientos.

Es importante destacar que Airbnb no está haciendo el boicoteo a Israel. Todo lo contrario: su nueva política establece una distinción entre Israel y los territorios palestinos ocupados por Israel. Al mismo tiempo que la empresa elimina las viviendas situadas en asentamientos ilegales, promueve Tel Aviv como una de las 23 ciudades más recomendables para visitar de todo el mundo.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Ras Laffan Industrial City, Qatar’s principal site for production of liquefied natural gas and gas-to-liquid, administrated by Qatar Petroleum, lies some 50 miles north of the capital Doha.CreditCreditKarim Jaafar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The surprising declaration by Qatar about leaving OPEC on Jan. 1 is a strategic response by the country to a changing energy landscape and the 18-month old ongoing boycott of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt.

Qatar’s decision to move away from a regionwide consensus among the Gulf’s OPEC members is a reminder of the regional tensions arising from the assertiveness of Saudi Arabia, led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

This display of autonomy spilled over into the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council to which Qatar and three of its detractors belong and which held its annual summit on Sunday.…  Seguir leyendo »

How Egypt Crowdsources Censorship

To write in Egypt and about Egypt has long meant being under the scrutiny of an authoritarian state — starting in the 1950s with President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who nationalized the press, and extending to the present. If you didn’t approve of the government’s activities, your only option, you quickly learned, was to be noncommittal.

My first encounter with the red lines of authority was in the early 2000s, as a young writer at a weekly paper in Cairo. One day my editor, a well-respected journalist who stood apart from his submissive state-appointed colleagues for his outspokenness and professional rigor, called me into his office after an editorial meeting.…  Seguir leyendo »

U.N. envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths speaks to the media during a visit to the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, Yemen November 23, 2018. Picture taken November 23, 2018. REUTERS/Abduljabbar Zeyad

Preliminary peace consultations on Yemen are scheduled to start in Stockholm on 6 December. This is the second attempt in three months to jump-start talks. Crisis Group consultant Peter Salisbury explains why the Sweden talks are so important and what could go wrong.

What are the talks in Stockholm expected to achieve?

In September, the UN envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, failed to bring the parties to the table in Geneva after last-minute wrangling. This time he hopes to have better success. The Huthis arrived in Sweden on 4 December, with the internationally recognised government due to arrive the next day.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rashida Tlaib, an incoming Democratic House member from Michigan. She and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota have said they support efforts to pressure Israel economically.CreditCreditCarolyn Kaster/Associated Press

On Monday, in an interview with The Intercept, Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat who in November became the first Palestinian-American elected to Congress, went public with her support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which seeks to use economic pressure on Israel to secure Palestinian rights. That made her the second incoming member of Congress to publicly back B.D.S., after Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar, who revealed her support last month.

No current member of Congress supports B.D.S., a movement that is deeply taboo in American politics for several reasons. Opponents argue that singling out Israel for economic punishment is unfair and discriminatory, since the country is far from the world’s worst violator of human rights.…  Seguir leyendo »

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Nov. 25.CreditCreditRonen Zvulun/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

This should have been the end of Benjamin Netanyahu’s career. His coalition is down to the minimum number of seats in the Knesset necessary to hold on to power, his ministers at war with one another and with him, and remarkably, the police have recommended indicting him on serious corruption charges three separate times, the most recent on Dec. 2.

Yet despite all this, polling concurs that Mr. Netanyahu is on course to win a fifth election next year and surpass David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding father, as the country’s longest-serving leader. Meanwhile, he has more power than ever. When Avigdor Lieberman resigned on Nov.…  Seguir leyendo »

Saudi-led coalition forces on patrol in Yemen earlier this year.CreditCreditNariman El-Mofty/Associated Press

The people of Yemen have had enough. More than three years of war have killed thousands, displaced more than 500,000, created the worst cholera epidemic and brought about 14 million Yemenis to the brink of starvation.

Desperate to escape famine, to be reunited with their loved ones, to mourn the dead, to save the future of their children, Yemenis are picking through the scattered signs of hope that this conflict might end.

On Thursday, for the first time in two years, the government of Yemen will sit down with Ansar Allah, who are commonly referred to as the Houthis, in Sweden.…  Seguir leyendo »

A father gives water to his malnourished daughter at a feeding center in a hospital in Hodeida, Yemen, in September. (Hani Mohammed/AP)

Analysts have long argued that, if left unchecked, Yemen’s political, economic and fiscal crises were all but certain to cause a massive, debilitating famine. As Yemen barrels toward this worst-case scenario, what is most disturbing is that there is no indication the trend will be stopped, even when people start dying in unprecedented numbers.

Almost four years into the country’s civil war, 22 million people in Yemen now require some sort of assistance. About 10,000 people contract cholera every week; there have been more than 1.2 million cases of the disease and more than 2,500 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.…  Seguir leyendo »

Photo prise le 23 novembre 2018 montrant les funérailles à Kafranbel (nord-ouest de la Syrie) de Raed Fares et Hammoud al-Jneid, deux figures du soulèvement contre le régime syrien en 2011, également critiques des groupes jihadistes, tués dans ce même village Photo Muhammad HAJ KADOUR. AFP

Raed Fares était le fondateur de la station indépendante Radio Fresh FM ayant pour rôle d’alerter les habitants d’Idlib des attaques du régime de Damas, mais aussi des dangers des groupes extrémistes circulant dans la région. Il était aussi connu pour avoir ouvert le Media Center de Kafranbel, cette petite ville du nord de la Syrie devenue célèbre pour ses banderoles percutantes et souvent humoristiques en faveur d’une Syrie libre et démocratique. Le caractère original et efficace de cette communication avait fait de ce lieu un emblème de la résistance pacifique face au régime Al-Assad et aux groupes jihadistes hostiles à la révolution.…  Seguir leyendo »

Environmentalists are the latest target of crackdowns by a powerful yet paranoid faction of the Iranian regime that seems to believe that progress of any kind is a threat to the Islamic Republic’s national security. This assault on science is the most ridiculous of many such campaigns conducted by hardliners in the past, but the stakes, arguably, have never been higher.Several conservationists were arrested earlier this year. One of them — Kavous Seyed-Emami, a dual Iranian-Canadian national — died mysteriously after several weeks in custody. Iranian authorities say he died by suicide, but few are convinced.

His death rightly unleashed an uproar.…  Seguir leyendo »

Bahraini election officials wait for voters at a polling station in Manama. Photo: Getty Images.

Bahrain’s lower house and municipal council elections on 24 November have been heralded a success by the ruling Al Khalifa family and the government, who had hoped to use a successful election outcome to erase the public and international memory of Bahraini instability after the 2011 Arab Spring protests.

This narrative, however, provides a one-sided account of the election that seeks to paper over a boycott from banned opposition parties Al Wefaq and Al Waad and a long-standing government-led crackdown on popular dissent.

The Arab Spring: a turning point

During the over 200-year rule of the Al Khalifa family, Bahrain has had a unique and vibrant scene of domestic politics and protest, at least as compared to the rest of the Arab Gulf states.…  Seguir leyendo »

An undated photo of Syrian activist Raed Fares. Fares was fatally shot on Nov. 23. (Kafranbl News/AP)

On Friday, Raed Fares — a Syrian revolutionary, citizen journalist and civil society leader — was assassinated in northern Syria by masked gunmen suspected of being affiliated with al-Qaeda. He was 46 years old. Hammoud Jneed, Raed’s friend and photographer, was also killed.

The news came as a gut punch to me and many activists around the world: Raed was a friend, an inspiration, and a teacher. If I am to speak about what he taught me, I wouldn’t know where to begin, and wouldn’t know where to stop. But I write these lines to try to tell you who he was, why we are shattered by his loss, and why we were lucky to have had him.…  Seguir leyendo »

Newly graduated Afghan National Army cadets march during a graduation ceremony in Afghanistan’s Herat province on Nov. 19. (Hoshang Hashimi/AFP/Getty Images)

In recent days, President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan has met with civic and political actors here to discuss the formation of a team to negotiate peace with the Taliban insurgents who have subjected the country to decades of violence. The U.S. special representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said at a Nov. 18 news conference that he is “cautiously optimistic” about peace prospects. He even urged all sides to work toward getting a deal by the spring presidential elections.

As a human rights advocate for many years before I joined the Afghan government in 2016, I used to struggle to imagine how we could ever reconcile with a group that has for so long contravened basic human rights principles.…  Seguir leyendo »

Daniela Tejada, wife of Matthew Hedges, speaks outside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office after meeting with Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on 22 November. Photo: Getty Images.

The pardoning of a British student sentenced to life imprisonment in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for spying has been welcomed by the UK government. But the balance of power between the countries is changing.

The imprisonment of Matthew Hedges posed a real dilemma for the UK. It had to decide whether to stand up to the UAE, a country with which it does £15 billion of trade, or cave in and risk the perception that it is now the junior partner in the relationship.

Its strong response – and the fact Hedges can now return home – is testament to the UK’s diplomatic weight; this time the UAE flinched.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pope Tawadros casts a vote in Egypt's 2018 presidential election. Photo: Getty Images.

The head of the Coptic Church in Egypt, Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria, is attempting to lead reforms that would redefine his church’s relations with other Christian denominations. But he now faces internal opposition that is not just doctrinal, but political, focused on the contrasting approaches of Pope Tawadros and his predecessor, Pope Shenouda III, towards the Egyptian state.

For over four decades and until his passing in 2012, Pope Shenouda acted as the political representative of the Coptic community. He perceived the relation between church and state, and by extension between political leaders and himself, as that of equals.

Pope Shenouda gave his relationship with the state a political slant by both applying and releasing pressure and exchanging political support from the church for religious benefits for the Coptic community.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Yemeni child after receiving treatment for malnutrition in a hospital in Taiz on Wednesday. (Ahmad Al-Basha/AFP/Getty Images)

Today, the Yemeni people are suffering from the actions of outsiders. Regional powers have turned the country into an arena for proxy conflicts that have little to do with the actual interests of the Yemeni nation. Large parts of the country have been devastated, including much of its vital infrastructure. Millions are threatened by starvation and disease. The fighting has left tens of thousands of others dead or wounded.

This appalling tragedy should have never been allowed to happen. In March 2015, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and their regional and international allies (including the United States and the U.K.) decided to intervene militarily in Yemen.…  Seguir leyendo »