Women leaders in seven Arab countries were asked what political, social and economic changes they expect to see in 2013. Most expected to see political infighting, backsliding in women’s status, or an economic downturn in their respective countries.
Tunisians want their government to focus on employment, economic development and security, according to a new poll by The International Republican Institute. Some 77 percent of respondents said Tunisia is moving in the wrong direction.
Ennahda, the moderate Islamist party leading Tunisia’s coalition government, has prudently managed radical religious groups through dialogue, persuasion and co-optation, according to a new report by the International Crisis Group. But the recent assassination of opposition politician Chokri Belaid has thrown the country into a crisis, and raised the threat of violence.
On February 12, President Obama pledged to “stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights, and support stable transitions to democracy,” in his State of the Union Address. “We’ll keep the pressure on a Syrian regime that has murdered its own people, and support opposition leaders that respect the rights of every Syrian,” he said.
On February 10, U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson outlined realistic steps Egypt can take to move forward economically and politically. Elections and constitutions “are not enough,” she told members of Alexandria’s Rotary Club. She stressed the importance of a healthy and active civil society to the country’s democratic transition. Patterson said that Cairo also needs to ensure the protection and political participation of religious minorities and women.
Qatar has seized the opportunity of the Arab uprisings to expand its influence across the region. It moved into the vacuum after the revolutions caught the United States and other major powers by surprise. Despite its small size, it now aspires to a play a leading role in Arab politics.
In early February, Human Wrights watch released its new World Report. The following are excerpts from chapters on Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey and Yemen.
Many young Saudis admire the youthful protesters of Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, and Bahrain. But they don’t seek to imitate their tactic of massive street protests. One reason why is that they still hope—despite the lack of available evidence—that the Saudi royal family will voluntarily begin to share power with the Saudi people. Presumably then, the government can rest easy? Not necessarily.
Egypt’s new constitution was adopted on December 22, 2012 amid intense political tensions and deep rifts between Islamists and liberal forces. Several articles include a stronger emphasis on religion than the 1971 constitution but its character is largely secular.
Al Qaeda and its affiliates may exploit the limited ability of new Arab governments to control their territory, according to the United States Institute of Peace's Dan Brumberg. Now the organization and its affiliates have no incentive to directly challenge the new governments. But they are likely establishing local cells that could pose a security threat.