The battle between Arab media and Arab governments took another twist today when Saudi Arabia announced it may put an end to anonymity on Twitter according to Al-Jazeera. It seems that Saudi Arabia, weary of the power of social media, has taken precautions to make sure that the criticism available in Tunisia will not be available in the land of the Al-Saud monarchy. As has been used against political parties in the past, the Saudi royal family will be using the Ministry of Interior and identification papers as a way of monitoring who is using the social media outlet. However, it is important to note that Twitter is not the only website impacted by the potential new legislation from Riyadh. Skype has also been mentioned as a popular site up for censorship as well.
It is clear that these measures are an attempt by Riyadh to concentrate power in the hands of the Saudi royal family and to maintain the status quo indefinitely. As we have seen in the Arab Spring, governments have acted in one of three ways; (1) react against a revolution/insurgency, (2) make accomodations within the goverrnment such as a new constitution, and (3) hold new elections and transfer power over to a new government. It is clear here that Saudi Arabia has chosen the first option. It will be interesting to see how everyday Saudis, who have come to use Twitter frequently as a forum for debate, will react to this legislation once it is in place. Only time will tell to see if Saudi Arabia will safely ride the wave known as the Arab Spring.
Article: Saudi Arabia ‘may end’ Twitter user anonymity
Recently Iraq was hit by a series of coordinated car bombs targeting Shia Mosques. The various scenes have been described as horrible and outrageous examples of what humans are capable of. An AFP news agency reporter described seeing “pools of blood on the ground with massive damage to nearby cars, houses and shops.”-Aljazeera
This event comes after a wave of violence surrounding the ten-year anniversary of the US invasion and comes before the elections that were scheduled to happen later in the year. So far no one has claimed the attacks, but due to the high profile of these bombings and the high coordination needed it is clear that this serious of terrorist attacks were committed by a group that has had a lot of experience.
Unfortunately the last ten years has marked almost constant violence for the citizens of Iraq. With a high crime rate and a weak government it is a bastion for political and social unrest. The United States is responsible for a lot of that unrest, destroying their government we left them with a democracy that didn’t represent the entirety of the people.
It would be easy to claim that these attacks are just simply religiously motivated, but in reality it represents the political climate of the country. A secular party does not lead the Iraqi government. After the Baath party’s dominance the political climate shifted the other way. Their parties are hyper religious and focused on the wishes of the many over the needs of the few. This act is politically charged, targeting the mosques during their time of worship is an obvious attack on the Shia Party and can only lead to more violence.
Hopefully this doesn’t spark more conflict between the Iraqi nationals and the Kurdistan autonomous region. As these events become more common, political stability seems like an uncertainty.
On April 20th, 2013, Iraq will be holding political elections in 12 of Iraq’s 18 provinces. As a result of these upcoming elections, candidate’s posters and campaign advertisements have plastered the streets of Iraq. While this is not unusual for numerous amounts of signs and posters to fill the street, what is unusual about the campaign advertisements are the images and messages featured on them. Many are claiming that a majority of the messages are bizarre compared to the traditional message and conventional images usually portrayed in political posters. What many individuals in the community believe is that these posters are purposely bizarre based on the fact that the candidate supporting the poster is trying to increase voter’s attention through abstract or unusual methods of campaigning. (http://www.arabnews.com/news/446128)
While political elections and campaigning is fairly new to Iraq, based off the fact that Iraq prior to 2003 was under the rule of a dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, many new candidates are doing all that they can to make themselves look to be the perfect candidate. It wasn’t until 2003 when Saddam was forced out of power through military involvement led by the United States that political elections for government began to take place. Prior to this April 20th election, the last election for representatives of the Iraqi Parliament was in March of 2010.
While there are a numerous number of bizarre posters, two poster have been prominent and most widely spread. The first poster contains a picture of a female dressed in traditional Iraqi clothing with the caption in Arabic stating “Salam Kurdi Abbboud is dead”. The poster is claimed to ask voters to vote for Sauasen Abduladhaim Ahmed, who is the widow of Salam Kurdi Abboud and a member of the secular sunni party. However, what makes this poster bizarre is the fact that the female candidate (Sauasen Abduladhaim Ahmed) does not appear anywhere on the poster. The second major poster involves a current Member of Parliament (Aytab Al-Duri) satnding next to her husband with her hand over her heart. Underneath the two individuals Arab text reads “The candidate Karim Khalaf Mohammed Hussein is the husband of MP Dr. Aytab Al-Duri”. However, many claim this to be bizarre because no credentials or policies are expressed or associated with the poster; the candidate has simply made the connection to the voters with who his wife is. (http://www.arabnews.com/news/446128) The following are the two most promiement examples of the posters plastered around the provinces and one other popular poster found in Iraq:
Although many candidates believe that they are attracting voters through the use of these bizarre and unusual posters, many people of the voting public still see this as a political strategy and way for candidates to simply get elected. Many Iraqi’s have turned to social media to both bash as well as mock the candidates because majority of society has lost confidence in the electoral process as well as elected officials. Many individuals have stated that the electoral process has become too greedy and quote “these candidates want to create political families on the expense of the voters”. (http://gulftoday.ae/portal/e20f6414-8636-40d8-aacb-fde02e3967ce.aspx) On one source of social media, one candidate’s slogan has been the topic of conversation as well as the source of mockery. The slogan is featured in Arabic stating “My province comes first”, however, many have played on the fact that the word province in Arabic with one letter removed turns the word in wallet. Other candidates that have found themselves very popular in the social media realm have been the candidates that pose themselves with prominent figures of society. Many have bashed these individuals for attempting to prove their political connection, for example by linking themselves with Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, when in reality majority of the candidates have not even met these figures or been supported by this individual. Through this spread on social media as well as society’s loss of confidence in politics, many have turned to spreading the word of corruption and state on these sources that candidates are only in it for themselves. Iraqi society has now reached a point where power and wealth are seen as the goal of political figures rather than the focus on helping individuals of society. (http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?method=home.regcon&contentid=20130327158671)
Our textbooks have discussed how Western Media has come to cover more domestic Middle Eastern events and helped to bring further awareness of these issues to a wider global audience. This has become bluntly obvious in the aftermath of the Arab Spring in which the global audience was fascinated by the toppling of three major Middle Eastern regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. However, the initial success of the Arab Spring has waned over the past year and a half as the Assad Regime, which was better prepared to combat a rebellion than say Mubarak was, has fought a brutal struggle for power that has caused more than 70,000 casualties according to the New York Times. The violence has escalated to a point where Damascus University has sustained mortar fire over the past couple of days signalling that the war could begin to enter an even bloodier chapter. The other tragedy in this conflict is the growing refugee crisis and large number of IDPs coming out of Syria into neighboring countries such as Turkey and Jordan.
I found a great article this morning that brings this conflict to light in a more dramatic way. On BBC world news, I found an article dedicated to pictures of refugees holding their most valuable items from their homes in Syria as they stay at UNHCR camps in Turkey and Jordan. The link to the article is at the end of this post. But, I find it important to show some of the pictures here as well.
In this picture, a young Syrian woman holds her personal quran while enjoying some time with her two young children.
This man holds a picture of his wife whom he lost contact with as he fled from Syria. This occurred, according to BBC, about 20 days after she gave birth to his child. The sad reality of war is the separation of loved ones.
This young Syrian woman brought her diploma with her to Turkey. She clearly values her education and is a staunch parallel to the more religious woman we saw in the first picture.
In Pictures: Syrian Refugees’ most important things
I was looking through Al-Jazeera English online yesterday when I suddenly stumbled upon a very interesting article. The article brought to light the fact that Egyptian authorities had recently issued an arrest warrant against Bassem Youssef for insulting his country and Islam. This article was an interesting find for two reasons; (1) Bassem Youssef was shown in class as being the “Arab Jon Stewart” and (2) this shows another chapter in the ongoing post-revolutionary saga in Egypt.
Youssef is an ideal example of the changes that social media has brought to the Arab World before, during, and after the Arab Spring. His show is a very popular broadcast in Egypt and uses multiple outlets such as television, tweets, and more to comment on the daily events in Egypt. He is a fierce critic of the military and status quo in Egypt and also not an advocate of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is clear that Morsi’s government is also beginning to crackdown on opposition and criticism of the government. This could be the start of a new phase in the Egyptian Revolution in which Islamist and conservative elements of the military begin to lash out against the by products of the Arab Spring in Egypt; in particular the social media network that formed out of it.
If this is a part of a widening campaign, Egypt could be entering a volatile political state in which the Ikhwan fights the military and secular nationalists for power by crushing the voices of the opposition. This is just another step in which Egypt tries to figure out whether she will return to the military rule of the Mubarak era, move on to a stable secular democracy, or follow an islamic model of government whether that’s a democracy, theocracy, or something else has yet to be determined.
Egypt issues arrest warrant for satirist
In Egypt, three divers were arrested near the Meditteranean port city of Alexandria. They were caught undersea cutting internet cable, but this incident might have been going on for days that involved “severed connections and disruptions to online services.” It all happend when the patrol coastguard of Egypt spotted a fishing boat, an army spokesperson said. But there were not specific details on to whether or not that the divers motive was to tamper with Egypt’s Telecom which is the country’s only landline provider. This incident was not clear whether it “was related to disruptions of Egypt reported by cable operator SEACOM last week that it said hit several lines connecting Europe with Africa, the Middle East and Asia.” SEACOM did not come foward and explain the reason for the cuts but they did come foward and say that the cables and the other network systems that are “funneling telecoms traffic backwards and forwards in the early hours of Friday.” People have expressed that the connections have been slow across Egypt since this incident.
This telecom infrastructure under the Mediterranean has been an ongoing problem in recent years. The people in Egypt have suggested that the cables could have been getting caught up with propellers of boats that are passing above the cables. What will Egypt do now to prevent this problem from occuring frequently? It will be interesting to see whether or not if Egypt revamps there telecom system. If the cables keep on getting cut on purpose or accidential, there is a problem here and they need to address it. A possible idea in fixing this is to not have the cables run underneath the water. According to this article, there has been a rise in the crime rates across Egpyt and “amid wider disorder triggered” by the unseated Hosni Mubarak in 2011 which made a lot of people upset. I find it very interesting how these two divers were able to locate one of these cables, the telecom infrastructure needs to be better protected if three people with Scuba gear and some cutting tools can break a major undersea cable.
Egypt’s tourism minister, Hesham Zaazoua spoke out during an interview with the Associated Press in Cairo, Egypt. He stated that allowing Iranian tourists to come visit Egypt will not be a threat even after being banned for nearly three decades and could make a rise in the tourism industry seeing that it has been struggling for some time now. This interview with the Associated Press brought a lot of “controversy over allowing Iranians to visit Egypt after decades of frozen diplomatic relations suspicion – especially among ultraconservatives – that Iran aspires to spread its Shiite faith to the Sunni world.” Egypt is still working to “normalize relations” with Iran, long after Egypt signed it’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel and Iran. The relations between Iran and Egypt have begun to improve drastically after the former President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt stepped down in 2011 due to a “popular uprising.”
The new Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran have “exchanged visits, which have opened new avenues of cooperation between the former foes.” Zaazoua stated that Iranians are tourists and that they are not coming to Egpyt to create a revolution. He also said that Iranian visitors “would be restricted in their movements, would not be visiting religious sites.” This will be interesting to see the outcome of this. But seeing how Egypt is struggling, they could use all the help they can get. Egypt needs to develop tourism and air traffic and as well as econonmic and commericial ties with Iran. Both Iran and Egpyt could have a lot to gain from this move. If they increase there relations it could create a “power equation” that could help benefit the region and could as well shape the balance of power in the Middle East.
It would make sense if Iran and Egypt improve relations between each other and could prevent the possibility of western expansion over the region. ” The expansion of relations between Iran and Egypt as two powerful regional countries will have positive impact on the region and can prevent further expansion of the Western domination over the region,” said Ahmadreza Dastegheib, deputy chairman of Iran Majlis Foreign Policy and National Security Committee. With this, it would be greatly recommendable to also strengthen political, economical and military ties between both of these nations.