Posts Tagged ‘Arab spring’

How Twitter moved from Arab spring to Arab control

July 29, 2019

Social media platforms were essential in the Arab Spring, but governments soon learned how to counter dissent online”, writes
Twitter played an essential role during the Egyptian Revolution and was used to get info to an international audience [File: Steve Crisp/Reuters]
Twitter played an essential role during the Egyptian Revolution and was used to get info to an international audience [File: Steve Crisp/Reuters]

In a series of articles, Al Jazeera examines how Twitter in the Middle East has changed since the Arab Spring. Government talking points are being magnified through thousands of accounts during politically fraught times and silencing people on Twitter is only part of a large-scale effort by governments to stop human rights activists and opponents of the state from being heard. In the next part of this series, Al Jazeera will look at how Twitter bots influenced online conversation during the GCC crisis on both sides of the issue.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/07/exists-demobilise-opposition-twitter-fails-arabs-190716080010123.html

Morocco’s crackdown doesn’t silence human rights defenders

January 17, 2019

On 16 January 2019  (a freelance reporter based in Morocco, who worked as a correspondent at the French media site Mediapart and has written for Orient XXI, Rue89, Al-Monitor, and the Christian Science Monitor) published a long and substantive post in Foreign Policy:Morocco’s Crackdown Won’t Silence Dissent” She states that across the country, protesters are increasingly willing to criticize the government and the monarchy—even in the face of repression.

A Moroccan draped in the Berber, or Amazigh, flag shouts slogans while marching during a protest against the jailing of Al-Hirak or "Popular Movement" activists in the capital Rabat on July 15, 2018.

When she joined the National Union of Moroccan Students in 1978, Khadija Ryadi knew she’d face hardship. “At that time,” she recalled, “we were constantly followed by the police.” today life may be even harder. “Now not only are we followed but we are also listened to and photographed, and everywhere. The repression has remained, but the instruments have changed. I never feel at ease.

Recently, Ryadi, who was the president of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (also known by its French acronym, AMDH) from 2007 to 2013 and won a United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights in 2013, has raised eyebrows. In interviews with the author, she denounced “a return to the Years of Lead”—a reference to the decades of harsh oppression in the 1960s to 1990s under Morocco’s King Hassan II. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/12/05/winners-of-2013-united-nations-human-rights-prizes-announced-today/]

Today’s repression may be much less brutal, but just denouncing the recent crackdown could land critics in jail. Indeed, in recent months, human rights defenders have pointed to a major rise in harassment, arrests, and police violence against activists.

One of them, Abdellah Lefnatsa, said that “achievements such as freedom of expression [and] the right to protest” have started to be rolled back. Over the last two years, over a thousand people have been jailed on politically related charges, according to Youssef Raissouni, an executive director at AMDH.  ……

Another Hirak activist, Mortada Iamrachen, was arrested in November 2017 and later sentenced to five years in prison after making two posts on Facebook…..

Over the summer, meanwhile, Nasser Zefzafi and three other Hirak protest leaders were sentenced to 20 years in prison for “undermining state security.” Protesters staged rallies in Casablanca and Rabat last July to condemn the harsh sentences handed down to them and 49 other Hirak activists and citizen journalists. Now housed in the Oukacha prison in Casablanca, the activists have initiated several hunger strikes to denounce their sentencing and the conditions of their detention. Zefzafi was held more than a year in solitary confinement after his arrest, in violation of U.N. standards, according to Human Rights Watch. [see alsohttps://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/09/30/nominees-for-the-2018-sakharov-prize-announced-by-european-parliament/]

An appeal trial for 42 of the detained—11 have been pardoned by King Mohammed VI since the verdict last June—started in Casablanca on Nov. 14, 2018, but human rights defenders aren’t optimistic. 

….Particularly worrying for the government is the spread of social movements from the big cities to smaller towns, where locals are tired of poor living conditions.

After two miners died on the job in December 2017, residents of Jerada took to the streets to demand an economic alternative to mining coal in unsafe clandestine shafts, which is one of the few options for work there.Now more than 70 people there have been held awaiting trial since March, according to AMDH and the Unified Socialist Party activist Jawad Tlemsani. Among them, 40 have been recently sentenced to up to five years in prison. For now, such incidents are isolated, but they could portend a nationwide protest movement in the near future.

And that may be why the government’s crackdown on recent protests has been harsher in many ways than its reaction to the Arab Spring, even though the activists’ demands are less extreme. The Hirak protesters have not demanded the resignation of the government but rather more spending ….

The government responded by putting back on track an ambitious development plan that it had launched two years before but had then faced significant delays. This is part of a pattern of giving activists some of what they want before cracking down again. Beyond the rise in prosecutions, AMDH and other organizations like it have recently had trouble obtaining funding and official authorizations from local authorities. This year, out of 100 AMDH bureaus, 54 have failed to get their registration documents, which means they cannot legally work. AMDH activists haven’t had to grapple with problems like this since the 1980s, the activist Lefnatsa said, when the organization was banned and its offices closed.

As repression takes root, a culture of protest is slowly emerging throughout the country. And unlike during the Years of Lead, activists and ordinary citizens are prepared to publicly criticize the government and, at times, the monarchy.

There’s no way this would have been possible” when he started out, Lefnatsa told me, looking back on his 40 years as an activist. “What people say now on social networks, it would have cost them years of prison.” Indeed, during the Years of Lead, activists were imprisoned for years simply for distributing leaflets. Even if protest remains costly today, something fundamental has changed.

Youngsters who were considered apolitical now speak up against despotism and the unequal distribution of wealth, and ordinary men and women struggle for their social and economic rights in the most remote parts of the country,” Lefnatsa said. “The repression hasn’t succeeded in suppressing the protest movement,” he added. “And that is new.”

Five Years After Tahrir Square, there is “stability” in Egypt but do not ask at what price

January 28, 2016

Five years ago, human rights defender Ahmed Abdullah was among thousands of Egyptians who took to the streets for 18 days of mass protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, eventually forcing then-President Hosni Mubarak to step down and the security forces to retreat. Today, Ahmed is on the run. He dodged arrest by the thinnest of margins on January 9, after plainclothes police in Cairo raided his regular coffee shop. The NGO which he chairs, the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, had recently exposed a surge in enforced disappearances, which has seen hundreds vanish at the hands of state security forces over the last year alone. He is not the only one whose activism has put him at risk. In recent weeks, security forces have been rounding up activists linked to protests and journalists critical of the government’s record. This how Amnesty International starts its assessment of the fifth anniversary and it concludes: “Five years since the uprising that ousted Mubarak, Egypt is once more a police state. The country’s ubiquitous state security body, the National Security Agency, is firmly in charge.”

The same sentiment is echoed in the long piece in the Huffington Post of 25 January 2016 by Karim Lahidji, President of FIDH and Bahey eldin Hassan, Director of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.

MAHMOUD KHALED VIA GETTY IMAGES

Read the rest of this entry »

More on the Tunisian winners of the Nobel Peace Prize

October 13, 2015

My short post on the Nobel Peace Prize for the Tunisian quartet [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/tunisian-national-dialogue-quartet-laureates-of-2015-nobel-peace-prize/] is better understood with the post by Dan Smith: http://dansmithsblog.com/2015/10/13/the-tunisian-spring-and-the-nobel-peace-prize/.

Tunisian national dialogue quartet laureates of 2015 Nobel peace prize

October 9, 2015

The Tunisian national dialogue quartet, a coalition of civil society organisations, has won the 2015 Nobel peace prize.  The quartet is comprised of four NGOs in Tunisian civil society: the Tunisian General Labour Union, the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, the Tunisian Human Rights League [the national affiliate of the FIDH – see press link below] and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers.

Kaci Kullmann Five, the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel committee, said the quartet had formed an alternative peaceful political process in 2013 when the country was on the brink of civil war and subsequently guaranteed fundamental rights for the entire population. Committee says the prize awarded for quartet’s decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the 2011 Jasmine Revolution

The Tunisia director of Human Rights Watch, Amna Guellali said the prize was being seen in the country as a reward for sticking with democratic principles. “The Quartet enabled the democratic process to go ahead, it was a political crisis that could have led to civil war,” she said. “People here will hope the award is not just a token celebration, but will bring Tunisia real help.

https://www.fidh.org/en/region/north-africa-middle-east/tunisia/national-dialogue-quartet-in-tunisia-2015-peace-nobel-prize-mabrouk
(French:) https://www.fidh.org/fr/regions/maghreb-moyen-orient/tunisie/le-quartet-tunisien-prix-nobel-de-la-paix-2015-mabrouk

Source: Tunisian national dialogue quartet wins 2015 Nobel peace prize | World news | The Guardian

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, 21 years old, deserves to be supported

May 11, 2015

Some NGOs of a regional character do not always get the international recognition they deserve. One example is the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies [CIHRS]  which celebrated its 21st anniversary in Tunisia on 23 may in Tunis.

It had a remarkably high level attendance including the Minister of Justice Mohammed Saleh Bin Eissa, the Moroccan ambassador, and diplomats and representatives of the embassies of the US, EU, UK, France, Belgium, Japan, Finland as well as the director of the Tunis bureau of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Dimiter Chalev. Also present were many representatives of international and local civil society, among them Idris al-Yazmi, the head of the National Council for Human Rights in Morocco; al-Mukhtar al-Tarifi, the representative of the International Federation for Human Rights in Tunisia, and Bushra Belhaj, the chair of the rights and liberties committee in the Tunisian parliament.

The occasion was inaugurated with a one-minute silence in tribute to the victims of human rights abuses and terrorism in the Arab region. This was, followed by a note sent by the High Commissioner on Human Rights Zeid Bin Raad al-Husseini, who was unable to attend. In the note, he said that the Arab world was currently facing two related challenges: the transition to more stable democratic societies and the alarming increase in violence in the context of the rise of ISIS and other extremist takfiri groups. This lends even greater importance to rights organizations in the region that can analyze these difficulties, spread a culture of tolerance, promote respect for human rights, and engage in a constructive dialogue on cultures and global human rights standards. For more than two decades, Raad said, the CIHRS has been engaged in these missions, becoming a strong advocate and defender of human rights that has won international recognition and several awards. It also enjoys credibility in the region, having given a voice to those who are afraid to speak and stood up against religious bigotry and hate speech.

Tunisian Minister of Defense Farhat Horchani also sent a note of congratulations to the CIHRS, expressing his regret for being unable to attend. This may be the first time a rights group has received such a missive from a defense minister in the region. Horchani, who has no military background, was the dean of the Faculty of Law and Political Science in Tunis, the chair of the Tunisian Association for Constitutional Law, and a member of several other civic associations. A UN expert, he was also a member of the High Body for the Realization of the Objectives of the Revolution in Tunisia. The Ministry of Women apologized for not attending, but also sent its congratulations and wished the CIHRS the best for its new start in Tunisia.

During the celebration, special tribute was paid to Minister of Constitutional Bodies and Civil Society Kamal Jendoubi, the chair of the CIHRS board of directors.

CIHRS director Bahey eldin Hassan expressed his gratitude to all those who supported CIHRS in its long journey on the regional and international levels, and noted that this is an historic moment for the Arab region, with increased concern for the respect for human rights. It is no coincidence, Hassan added, that the collapsed states (Syria, Libya, and Iraq) in which terrorist chose to settle, were ruled by the worst of the dictatorships for more three decades.

[Founded as a regional organization in 1994 in Cairo, the CIHRS developed its perspective on change and its priorities and strategies based on its vision of the nature of the human rights problem in the Arab world. It began to expand with the goal of strengthening its capacities to defend human rights, establishing an office in Geneva to promote coordination and ties between rights organizations in the Arab world and the OHCHR and the UN Human Rights Council. In 2014, it opened a regional branch office in Tunis and appointed a permanent representative in Brussels; it intends to soon open a branch office in another country.]

CIHRS celebrates its 21st anniversary in Tunisia and honors chair Kamal Jendoubi » Press releases » News – StarAfrica.com – News – StarAfrica.com.

2013 report by Euro-Mediterranean Foundation of Support to Human Rights Defenders

October 1, 2014

The Euro-Mediterranean Foundation of Support to Human Rights Defenders (EMHRF) today released its 2013 Annual Report detailing its activities in support of individuals, groups and NGOs who are defending human rights in a wide variety of distinctly challenging contexts across the Arab region. In 2013, when access to internal and external funding sources in the region remained limited and difficult, the Foundation faced the dual challenges of protecting defenders in increasingly repressive and violent environments and of consolidating positive civil society dynamics in countries where tentative steps were taken toward democratisation.

In countries such as Syria, Libya, Algeria and Egypt, Read the rest of this entry »

Bahrain: Travails of a Family of Human Rights Defenders

September 12, 2014

On Tuesday, 16 September, Maryam Al Khawaja, the Bahraini human rights defender will return to court for her second hearing on charges of assaulting a police officer, which she denies. It’s now been nearly two weeks since Maryam was arrested at the airport following her return to Bahrain to visit her father. She was initially detained for seven days, but over the weekend a Bahraini judge ruled to extend her detention by an additional 10 days. This is a good occasion to draw your attention to a long but fascinating piece by Lawrence Weschler on Truthdig of 11 September 2014. Under the title “Terrorizing a Family of Human Rights Champions” he describes in detail what happened to the remarkable al-Khawaja family of democratic non-violent human rights defenders [it is rumored that for the first time a family as such was considered for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize].  Read the rest of this entry »

Human Rights lawyer Salwa Bugaighis killed in Libya

June 29, 2014

Salwa-Bugaighis-Anderson.jpg

(Salwa Bugaighis in March 2014. – Photograph: National Dialogue Preparatory Commission/AP)
On 25 June 2014, the human rights lawyer, Salwa Bugaighis was killed in the Libyan city of Benghazi,, reports Jon Lee Anderson in the New Yorker of 27 June. NDERSON. Bugaighis, fifty years old, was fighting for a democratic, open society. “Along with her husband, Issam, and her sister Iman, she was at the forefront of the uprising against Muammar Qaddafi; later, she sat on the hastily declared transitional council that sought to bring order to the excited anarchy that followed Qaddafi’s fall. As that anarchy turned to bedlam, Bugaighis worked to reconcile Libya’s feuding groups—even as her life was threatened, and as other critics of the militias were murdered. She had been spending time abroad, because of such threats, but came home for the elections.Yesterday, just after she returned from voting in parliamentary elections, gunmen surprised her at her house and shot her to death. Issam, who was abducted in the incident, is still missing. 

“We are the Giant” – film about the Arab spring – here is the trailer

January 23, 2014

WE ARE THE GIANT by Greg Barker, former war-correspondent-turned-filmmaker, is a full-length documentary about human rights people in the context of the Arab spring. It comes out in the Sundance Film festival 18-26 January. English and Arabic with English subtitles, 2014, 90 minutes, color, U.S.A./United Kingdom.

http://filmguide.sundance.org/film/14064/we_are_the_giant