Reuters blog archive
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
In all the casting-about for comparisons to the confusing events in Egypt, three come easily: Pakistan, where coups were celebrated and later regretted; Algeria, where a cancelled election led to a vicious civil war; and Turkey, where the army repeatedly intervened to nudge along multi-party democracy while retaining power behind the scenes.
None are particularly apt, not just because of national differences but also because of changes across time – Egypt’s was the world’s first coup to unfold live on Twitter, connecting people in ways that would have been unthinkable in the days when army interventions were imposed on bewildered populations.
And the choice of parallel is essentially political. Optimists might prefer the Turkish model, where the army ousted governments which had lost popular support over corruption, polarising politics or violence - and then forced early elections to retain at least a facade of democracy which was eventually allowed to take root.
Their optimism, though, hardly translates to Egypt. For a start, Turkey's aspirations to join the European Union anchored its democratic reforms. Moreover, it was never colonised, unlike Egypt, Pakistan and Algeria, where armies inherited power structures set up for the benefit of a foreign elite rather than the people, making transitions to democracy all the harder.
from David Rohde:
The partisan political theater, of course, was top-notch. Rand Paul’s declaration that he would have fired Hillary Clinton; her angry rebuttal of Ron Johnson’s insistence that the administration misled the American people about the Benghazi attack; John McCain’s continued – and legitimate – outrage at the slapdash security the State Department provided for its employees.
Amid the posturing, though, ran a separate question: what strategy, if any, does the United States have to counter the militant groups running rampant across North and West Africa? Clinton herself summed up the sad state of play during her tense exchange with McCain.
from Global Investing:
Truly, oil can be a curse. Having it may enrich a country (more likely its rulers) but it does not seem condusive to democracy. And the more oil a country produces, the less likely it is to make the transition to democracy, according to research from investment bank Renaisssance Capital.
So as Iran goes to the polls today, what are the chances it will become a democracy? (Iran itself could argue, reasonably enough, that it is the most democratic country in the region -- everyone over the age of 18, including women, are allowed to vote, though the choice of candidates is restricted)
from Full Focus:
Born in Algiers in 1968, Zohra was recruited as a stringer photographer for Reuters by Mallory Langsdon in 1997 during the last years of the conflict in Algeria. In 2000, Zohra was sent on her first assignment abroad for Reuters to Macedonia where ethnic Albanians were taking refuge from Serbian forces. In 2003 she went to Iraq while Saddam was still on the run. In Najaf, Iraq, in 2004 Zohra was made staff photographer from Reuters.
Zohra won the European Union prize for the best African press photographer in 2005. Still based in Algiers she continues to cover some African and Middle East countries. Last year she documented Sudan’s referendum, Tunisia’s uprising and Libya’s revolution. In the following showcase, Zohra recounts her experience as an Arab woman photographer.
Middle East Christians are struggling to keep hope alive with Arab Spring democracy movements promising more political freedom but threatening religious strife that could decimate their dwindling ranks. Scenes of Egyptian Muslims and Christians protesting side by side in Cairo's Tahrir Square five months ago marked the high point of the euphoric phase when a new era seemed possible for religious minorities chafing under Islamic majority rule.
Even the winner risks ending up among the losers in France's Muslim council election on Sunday as the organisation meant to represent Islam here is torn apart by rivalries, boycotts and bitter attacks. Incumbent Mohammed Moussaoui will be returned as head of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), but a boycott by the two rival Muslim federations competing with his Rally of French Muslims (RMF) group makes the victory a hollow one.
The spiritual leader of Algeria's influential Salafist movement has issued a 48-page fatwa, or religious decree, urging Muslims to ignore calls for change because he says that democracy is against Islam. The fatwa by Sheikh Abdelmalek Ramdani, who lives in Saudi Arabia, comes at an opportune time for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika as Algerians watching protests in other Arab states have begun pushing their own political and economic demands.
When thousands of young Algerians rioted earlier this year over price rises and living conditions, the government asked state-employed Muslim clerics to preach sermons in the mosques appealing for calm. Now, two months later, the clerics themselves are protesting. "We are very angry, and our daily living conditions are bad," said Hajaj El Hadj, an imam at a mosque near the capital for over 20 years. "We demand a significant pay rise."
(Photo: An Algerian stands near the newly restored Notre Dame D'Afrique Basilica in Algiers December 13, 2010/Zohra Bensemra)
A Catholic church that has been a landmark in Algeria's capital for over a century has officially re-opened after restoration work, providing a symbol of religious tolerance in the mainly Muslim country. Algeria is emerging from a nearly two-decade-long Islamist insurgency, but the Catholic community has maintained a presence, even though several Christian clergymen have been among hundreds of thousands killed in the violence.
The Notre Dame d'Afrique basilica was built by French settlers in the late nineteenth century. An inscription running around the inside of the dome reads: "Our Lady of Africa, pray for us, and for the Muslims."
(Photo: Customs officers inspect books purchased at an Islamic book fair in Algiers, searching for Salafist books, October 29, 2010/Zohra Bensemra)
Concerned by the growing influence of the ultra-conservative Salafist branch of Islam, Algeria has this year been cracking down on the import and distribution of Salafist literature. Salafist publications, most printed in Saudi Arabia, are still available in some specialist bookstores. See our feature on this crackdown here.