Tag Archives: الثورة في كل مكان

The doctor is in

23 Jun

"You have myopic astigmatism, sir."

I found this on the Middle East Institute Editor’s Blog*. This is just too laconic to neglect, as Bashar of course is an ophtalmologist. What’s more, this cartoonist seems to be irritated by Bashar’s neck. I can relate.

By the way: German news magazine “Der Spiegel” ran an interesting article in this week’s issue highlighting the difficulties specific to Syria’s opposition. The regime employs an absurd amount of  intelligence services, making trust hard to be established among activists. Yet the sheer amount of intelligence personnel also leads to competition and stalking among the services until ultimately, no information seems reliable. The Assad regime has applied this method for decades. Since the Assad family’s power is not based on religious, democratic or royal legitimacy, maybe it is based on ensuring that just very few people know enough to put one and one together.

Anyhow, I remember well the stereotype of the “wary Syrian”.

* The Editor’s Blog didn’t know who to credit for this cartoon, so neither do I. Just like them, I’ll credit as soon as I know more and hope I’m not infringing.

So what’s going on halfway between North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula…?

15 Mar

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook today, and for a moment I was impressed with what seemed like a step towards political reforms in Jordan. But then I realized this article was published five years ago, and I mean precisely five years ago. What irony, and thanks to my friend for pointing this out! What King Abdullah DID however announce this month was a “3 month deadline for political reform“.

Did he rummage in his 2005 interviews as well?

To go with the flow of this year’s Arab Spring, King Abdullah has so far appointed a new Prime Minister and eased demonstration restrictions back in February. Demonstrations did not cease however, instead the outrage in Amman now revolves around constitutional monarchy claims. Voicing public opinion also includes criticism of Jordan’s relations towards Israel (illustrated by a young Jordanian boy’s death which became more and more of a political issue). Now this Saturday, Jordanian state clerics did not exactly ban protests, but rather suggested in a Fatwa that Jordanians refrain from taking to the streets for demonstrations. Meanwhile the Hashemite-friendly Jordan Times still puts the word “reform” in quotation marks and warns about Islamists taking advantage of the public outrage.

It will be interesting to see how things will pan out in Jordan. I’m pretty sure King Abdullah can not smack down demonstrators, because he is neither a Saudi oil monarch nor a Libyan nutcase. This year’s events seem to remind him to fear his people as any leader should, otherwise he would not announce away. Let’s hope he doesn’t just announce.

Saudi-Arabien : Iran. Der Klassiker im Fussballstadion Bahrain?

15 Mar

Auf der Arabischen Halbinsel beginnt die Woche unglaublich.

Am 14. März sind etwa 1000 vornehmlich saudische Truppen über den King-Fahd-Damm in Bahrain einmarschiert. Die bahrainische “Koalition für eine Republik” bestehend aus Aktivisten, Politikern und Organisationen hat sofort gegen diesen De-Facto-Eimarsch in ihr Land protestiert und Unterstützung von der UN verlangt. Die USA wiederum haben sofort in einer Pressekonferenz festgestellt, dass der militärische Eingriff der Halbinsel-Staaten keine Invasion sei.

Interessant. Was ist es denn dann?

Schon vor Wochen sind die Proteste nach ägyptischem Vorbild auch auf Bahrain, den Nachbarstaat Saudi-Arabiens, übergeschwappt. In den westlichen Medien wird jetzt gerne betont, dass das mit dem sunnitischen Königshaus zusammenhänge, welches die vornehmlich schiitische Bevölkerungsmehrheit unterdrücke. Das ist richtig. Richtig ist aber auch, dass es in Bahrain durchaus auch arme Sunniten gibt. Und extrem wohlhabende schiitische Familien, die extrem viel zu verlieren haben.

Grosse Überraschung: Das Hauptproblem liegt auch in Bahrain in politischer und wirtschaftlicher Diskriminierung, mangelnden Perspektiven und ungleicher Verteilung von Wohlstand. Auch wenn sich der Graben zwischen Protestierenden und Konservierenden diesmal circa an der Sunni-Schi’a-Linie bewegt.

Die einmarschierten Truppen sollen nun dem bahrain’schen Königshaus zur Hilfe eilen, um die Protestierenden wieder unter Kontrolle zu bringen. Denn sollte die Situation in Bahrain weiter eskalieren und im schlechtesten Fall nicht nur die Regierung, sondern der Herrscher abtreten müssen, könnte Saudi-Arabien doch ein wenig Angst bekommen: In Nordafrika war der Krempel wenigstens weit weg, und es wurden auch nicht erhabene Herrscherdynastien, sondern korrupte, wahlfälschende Präsidenten beseitigt. Noch fordern die Bahrainer zwar keine Abdankung König Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifas, sondern die konstitutionelle Einschränkung seiner Macht sowie demokratische Neuerungen. Saudi-Arabien aber hat keine Lust auf eine royale Fortsetzung der republikanischen Experimente in Nordafrika. Auch wenn’s bisher nur um Bahrain geht. Daher die Schützenhilfe.

Auch die USA schlagen sich zumindest jetzt auf die Seite ihres wichtigen Partners Saudi-Arabien. Daher die Behauptung der Nicht-Invasion.

Das ist nicht überraschend, aber vielleicht eine riskante Entscheidung. Iran findet den Einmarsch nämlich eine Mistdee, weil Iran für die Schiiten ist und sowieso alles Mist findet, was Saudi-Arabien betrifft. Ausserdem drohen jetzt Bürger in Oman und Kuwait zu protestieren, sollten ihre Regierungen ebenfalls Truppen schicken um die Anti-Demokratie zu unterstützen. Derweil hat Bahrain heute den Notstand ausgerufen, und angeblich wurde bereits ein saudischer Soldat erschossen.

Bahrains Freiheitsbewegung könnte zum winzigen geostrategischen Fussballfeld verkommen.

Are Saudi-Arabia and Qatar weatherproof?

3 Mar

While the world continues to worry about the violence in Libya and how to face it, concerns about Saudi-Arabia mainly circle around its oil output. Little is heard of serious protesting in the kingdom, and close to nothing is heard about protesting in Qatar.

Umm. Does that mean Qatar really is the only Arab country with no revolt at all?

Compared to the wild bunch Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Jordan and all the others, Saudi-Arabia’s position seems pretty comfortable: Profiting from the current high oil prices on the one hand, the swing producer did on the other hand raise its own oil production to compensate for the market’s loss suffered by the Libyan violence. Because excessive up and down in the price, of course, is just as much a drawback as a low price.

So no need to worry for the kingdom? Wrong. Because albeit Saudi Arabia can swing produce and is rich enough to hush its population by announcing to spend around $ 35 billion on job creation, affordable housing and social security programs, it knows some of its neighbors’ problems all too well: Inefficient structures of distribution and a high percentage of young population without prospects.

How much of the $ 35 billion will indeed benefit the average Saudi citizen? It’s safe to assume that the ruler’s spending largely ends up in the pockets of members of the royal family or in pockets of those loyal to the king’s family. So a sharp increase in spending cannot safely lull a public unless accompanied by structural reforms ensuring that this money actually serves its lulling purpose. But this would imply that the money had to reach broad parts of the population. Yet Saudi Arabian political structures are, big surprise here, not designed to fulfill this condition, and reforming structures would in turn imply actual political concessions to broad parts of the population. King Abdullah will surely not enact a loss of his own power.

But he did feel the need to spend extra, and the world around him is on fire, and there are poor people in Saudi Arabia, unbelievable as this may sound. King Abdullah fears the spillover of the revolt into the heart of the Arabian Peninsula. It’s the same dilemma his ousted fellows have faced in the North African countries. The recent declines on the Saudi stock market additionally reflect investors’ fear of revolt. Reports on Saudi Arabia of course are humble compared to what we hear about the North African countries. Only little gets out of the country, and most of what does get out is oil. We should however not mistake sparse coverage for calm waters. And King Abdullah could indeed err and assume that $ 35 billion will do the trick, although that would be really surprising.

Interestingly, coverage about possible protests in Qatar is even scarcer: Is there even anything going on over there at all? Or is it to do with al-Jazeera? The current news outlet of choice on the Arab uprise is after all the brain child of Hamad bin Khalifa, the Amir of Qatar. Never a bad word about Qatar out of al-Jazeera’s mouth, I suppose. Even peninsular wunderkind Oman has to deal with its own share of uprise. For news on Qatar, we could for example turn to the fellows over at the Lebanese Daily Star, who report about spreading demands to oust the Amir of Qatar. To face this „first call for change“, Qatar’s Prime Minister announced that consultative council elections are to be held soon. However, activists announced on Facebook that Qatar’s March of Revolt is to be held on March 16.

Let’s wait and see.

Arab unrest visualizations

23 Feb

In one of its previous issues, the Economist has published its own index of unrest probability in the Arab states, the shoe thrower’s index. I haven’t studied the index extensively, but its authors state that factors include “the share of the population that is under 25, the number of years the government has been in power, corruption and lack of democracy as measured by existing indices, GDP per person, censorship and the absolute number of people younger than 25”.

The index, published in the beginning of February, actually managed to predict the current events in Libya. It did not however list a high probability of public unrest in Bahrain – yet public unrest is exactly what we’re witnessing in Bahrain. Therefore some factors still seem to be missing. Nonetheless, visualization is a neat idea, and the Economist encouraged its readers to leave comments to improve and fine-tune. The index is now updated daily. Interestingly, Bahrain is now second on the list, topped only by Mauretania and followed by Saudi Arabia…

The Guardian provides an interactive map of the Middle East and North Africa keeping track of developments and color-coding the number of leaders ousted. It also has a second graphic illustrating Twitter activity within the region.

Kovas Boguta comes up with a very interesting graphic illustrating the cross connections of Twitter users documenting the Egyptian revolt. His graphic shows two things: On the one hand, he determines the communicational influence of individual Twitter users through the amount of times their tweets have been cited, or retweeted. On the other hand, he provides a beautiful depiction of the English-Arabic language barrier. Or rather the lack thereof, since Twitter users seemingly manage to create a cloud of information that downright floats from Arabic (red) to English (blue) and vice versa.