Showing posts with label Dignity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dignity. Show all posts

July 30, 2015

Beyond terrorism: Sousse attack, economic development, fair trade, and dignity

    Thursday, July 30, 2015   No comments
by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

The intent of those who planned and carried out the recent terrorist attack in Tunisia and the reactions to it, both underscore the idiosyncratic connections between economic development and terrorism. Importantly, the attack ought to remind us of the global nature and imperatives, not only of ISIL’s brand of terrorism, but also of economic development. Both problems, terrorism and lack of economic development in the Global South, must be confronted cooperatively, because European countries were indeed involved, directly and indirectly, in creating the kind of conditions that weaken their southern neighbors’ economies, which in turn have created the kind of environment most suitable for terrorism.

Zakaria Hamad
When 30 British citizens vacationing in the city of Sousse, Tunisia, were killed along with three Irish, two Germans, one Belgian, one Portuguese, and one Russian, the Foreign Office ordered all but essential travelers to leave that country immediately. Habib Essid, Tunisia’s Prime Minister, said that his government would help to evacuate approximately 3,000 Britons, but told Tunisia’s parliament that he was “dismayed by the advice from the Foreign Office.” The Tunisian government said the UK “was damaging the country’s economy,” which is heavily reliant on tourism, and may end up inadvertently fueling poverty and therefore terrorism. Oliver Miles, a former UK ambassador to Libya and Greece “found the [UK]’s response puzzling.” Other commentators and international affairs analysts contended that Britain was “wrong to bring tourists home” because it would weaken the only true emerging democracy in that part of the world.

August 8, 2014

The paradoxical nature of religious and ethnic states and the genocidal impulses

    Friday, August 08, 2014   No comments

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*
The Arab Spring that freed some of the peoples of the Middle East from state imposed fear produced an existential challenge for increasingly heterogeneous communities, forcing people to define the nature of the state and the character of the country where they live. It is true that self-rule and self-determination require a sense of self. However, building stable countries in the new Middle East is tied to the peoples’ level of awareness of the genocidal impulse espoused by certain social groups amongst them. 

The old Middle East was built on an artificial foundation imposed by Western colonial and protective powers in the form of superficial liberal thought, imported Marxist ideas, petty ethnic identities, niggling tribal structures, and a variety of downwardly managed and imposed ideas. The regimes and political forces of the pre- and post-colonial periods exerted virtual monopoly on governing institutions in most Arab countries. During the second half of the twentieth century, Islamists, like the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates, began to challenge nationalist, monarchical, and clannish regimes arguing that Islamism provides a more inclusive political ideology for the peoples of the Middle East than alien ideas or narrow Arabism.

November 25, 2012

Analysis: Recognizing the new Syrian National Coalition alone will not end the war in Syria

    Sunday, November 25, 2012   No comments

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Those who doubt Lakhdar Brahimi’s assessment of the crisis in Syria ought to rethink their position. His ostensibly naïve initiative for a ceasefire over the Eid holidays might have been a brilliant maneuver that ended the existence of the Syrian National Council, the previously prominent face of the Syrian opposition. Before proposing an ambitious plan of six or one hundred points like his predecessor, Brahimi wanted to make sure that there are reliable representatives of both sides who can exert influence and control over their subordinates. After visiting Russia and China, he proposed, from Tehran, that both the opposition forces and the government stop fighting for four days.

Apparently, he wanted to test the influence of the Syrian regime backers and the political leaders of the opposition (Syrian National Council, or SNC) who accepted the ceasefire. Even the military leaders of the FSA accepted the Eid ceasefire. He was aware that for the ceasefire to hold, the opposition groups must stop fighting. It is one thing to claim control over armed groups by simply supporting their actions, but it is a different level of credible control to actually order these groups to stop fighting and see compliance on the ground. Brahimi wanted actual proof of command and control over armed groups in the form of four days of quiet.

The result was embarrassing for the so-called opposition leaders. During the four-day holidays, more car bombs exploded in crowded cities and more attacks on military checkpoints. Worse, some of the FSA groups used the quiet time to attack Kurdish neighborhoods in Aleppo and other Kurdish majority areas to bring more territory under their control. Deadly fights erupted between FSA fighters and Kurdish neighborhood protection militias, forcing the FSA groups to retreat.

April 24, 2011

Are Arab World Revolutions different?

    Sunday, April 24, 2011   No comments
by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Family members mourn during a funeral for slain anti-government protester Ali Ahmed al Muameen on February 18, 2011 in Sitra, Bahrain. Credit: Photo by John Moore/Getty Images
by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*
When the first demonstration took place in Sidi Bouzid after Tarek (Mohamed) Elbouazizi ignited the Arab revolutions by setting himself on fire in protest, the Tunisian government played down the event claiming that it was a local matter. Two weeks later, the protests became an uprising and spread to most Tunisian provinces forcing the head of the authoritarian regime, Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, to seek refuge in Saudi Arabia.

February 14, 2011

Egypt reclaims its dignity

    Monday, February 14, 2011   No comments

To help make sense of last week's announced resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, I turned to Ahmed Souaiaia, a University of Iowa professor who teaches classes in Religious Studies, International Programs and Law.

• Q: What do you think was the final straw to trigger the recent revolution in Egypt that led to last week's resignation by President Hosni Mubarak?

• A: I am surprised by the quick success of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, but I was not surprised by the launch of the uprisings. Anyone who follows the Middle East news on a regular basis and who takes the time to read the comments on Aljazeera and Alarabia websites would see the disconnect between the rulers and the ruled. The success of the Tunisian revolution, which was ignited by Mohamed Elbouazizi's dramatic self-immolation, was the singular event that pushed the Egyptians beyond the threshold fear and into hope.

The Arab world was the only block of countries to not experience political reform. It was a matter of time, not a matter of whether a revolution would take place.

• Q: What role has the media played in bringing out this transformation?

• A: Social networks have played a major role during the events (updates and coordination), but I am not sure that these tools played a major role in preparing Arab societies for transformative events.

I do believe, however, that Aljazeera television stations have played a major role in shaping public opinion. Aljazeera is the only Arab television channel that is credible enough to be trusted by millions of people across the Arab world. Aljazeera achieved its status because of its consistency. For more than a decade, Aljazeera was subjected to repeated bans by authoritarian regimes, which only added to its credibility.

• Q: What happens next? If Tunisia led to Egypt, what does Egypt now lead to?

• A: That is a little difficult to predict, but if I were to try, I would look at countries whose governments have banned Aljazeera now or in the past. This is not to say that Aljazeera is orchestrating the events, but regimes that ban Aljazeera are afraid of free access to information, they are paternalistic, they have marginalized their citizens, they rule with fear and deception, they assassinate the spirit of belonging in their peoples, and they abuse human dignity.

Another way of gauging where the wave of change is heading next is to look at countries where one person or one party exerts an exclusive monopoly on power: they are the police, they are the judges, they are the legislators, and they are the administrators. They benefit from having that much power, but that makes them the focus of peoples' rage and anger. They are the only available targets for blame, especially in a climate when there is no credit to be gained.

This means that Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Libya and other Gulf states will have to adjust and allow the emergence of civil society institutions and share governance power or suffer the same fate.

The Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions should teach the rest of Arab authoritarians that if they do not reform today, they will go tomorrow just like Ben Ali and Mubarak did. The reform cannot be cosmetic, it must be substantive, real and systematic. The rest of the Arab rulers must cede some power to their peoples or lose it all.

• Q: What should the position of the Obama Administration be right now in regards to the transition of power in Egypt?

• A: Nothing more than a declaration of respect for the will of the Egyptian people. The U.S. administration needs to realize that just as it was incapable of predicting the fall of the Tunisian and Egyptian authoritarians or managing the direction of their transitions, it will be unable to influence the future of these emerging democracies. The U.S. administration must respect the will of the peoples, as I believe most Americans do, and must not dictate the terms of transition. Tunisians and Egyptians have risen up because their regimes stripped them of their dignity.

The U.S. should not remind them of the paternalistic mode of thinking and doing things; dictating did not work in the past and it will not work in the long run. The U.S. administration ought to trust that the Egyptians will do the right thing. The mutual respect that President Obama had promised the Islamic world in his first State of the Union Address must be practiced today with the peoples who rose up against dictators and tyrants.

• Q: If the Obama Administration does decide to take steps to ensure that the next Egyptian government is friendly to the U.S. (including giving access to the Suez Canal and maintaining peace with Israel), does it still have the leverage necessary to take any of those steps?

• A: I think that the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions were uprisings against fear. Tunisians and Egyptians rose up to reclaim their dignity as human beings, as citizens; not as subjects or as helpless children.

Contrary to what many claim, it was not a revolt primarily for bread, jobs, democracy or religion. They rose up to reclaim their dignity.

The U.S. administration can be best served by respecting the Egyptians and treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve. I honestly believe that the millions of Egyptians who have slept in the cold in the streets for 18 consecutive nights, resisted the provocation and brutality of the regime and its thugs, and kept the protest peaceful and orderly, are also capable of respecting the rights of other nations.

I am confident that Egyptians will stand for world peace, but not at the expense of their own dignity and interests. If the U.S. secures its rights, the Egyptian people, represented by democratically elected government, will be a constructive partner and ally. In other words, the U.S. can no longer buy consent and compliance, it must negotiate respectfully.

We now know the fate of trusting one person or one party at the expense of the rights and dignity of people. Kings and authoritarians are destined to go, but the people will remain. For a long-lasting peace and stability in this important place in the world, I advise the U.S. administration to do the right thing, not the expedient thing.

Opinion editor Jeff Charis-Carlson can be contacted at or 319-887-5435.

February 13, 2011

Egyptians are taking their country back

    Sunday, February 13, 2011   No comments

Source: • GUEST OPINION • Press-Citizen FEBRUARY 12, 2011

Three Thursdays ago, I made a bet with one of my students in front of all his classmates: Hosni Mubarak will be out of power in less than 30 days.

Today, I know that I will be eating my pizza soon.

On the third Friday since the beginning of the uprising, at 10 a.m. CST, Umar Suleiman emerged on state television to say, “The Egyptian president, Mohammed Hosni Mubarak, has resigned and handed over the administration of country to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. May God help us all.”

Immediately thereafter, the millions of Egyptians who filled the streets for nearly three weeks hugged one another crying and declaring, “Mabruk! (Congratulations!)”

For 18 days, thousands of Egyptians slept on cold concrete, lost more than 300 of their brethren, nursed the wounds of nearly 5,000 friends, and shared dried loaves of bread and bottled water. On the third Friday, they reclaimed ownership of their country and recommitted themselves to a pluralistic society.

Listening to the reaction of Egyptians to the announcement for which they waited for three weeks, one can sense the rebirth of Egyptian pride and Egyptian citizenship. One can sense that this revolution was not primarily about democracy, it was not about bread, it was not about jobs, and it was not about religion. It was about reclaiming dignity and defeating fear first and foremost.

Soon Egyptians will begin cleaning their streets and mending relationships. They will begin the long and arduous task of rebuilding a nation for every Egyptian. They will begin a new future not just for themselves, but the rest of the Arab world.

The rest of the world should give the Egyptians time to mourn and time to celebrate. They should be given the time to breathe the air of freedom without fear. They should be given the time to find themselves, again.

Egyptians will need to put their house in order and they deserve the consideration to do so without interference and without pressure. Tomorrow, Egypt will be back as a member of the world community that respects others, but more than anything else, respects its citizens.

Ahmed Souaiaia, teaches classes in the department of Religious Studies, International Programs and College of Law at the University of Iowa. Opinions expressed herein are the author’s, speaking as a citizen on matters of public interest; not speaking for the University or any other organization with which he is affiliated.

February 11, 2011

Building civil society institutions in post-authoritarian regimes

    Friday, February 11, 2011   No comments

by Ahmed E, Souaiaia*
Regardless of what would happen in the next months, the year 2011 will enter the history books as the breakthrough year for Arab societies. On January 14, 2011, the Tunisian people ended the reign of a ruthless dictator and with it ended fear. The Tunisian revolution soon inspired peoples of other Arab countries to take charge of their own destiny. On January 23, thousands of Egyptians launched a similar revolt to bring an end to Hosni Mubarak’s reign. There are indications that Yemen, Algeria, Morocco, and Jordan will be transformed with or without protests. The Gulf states, too, will not remain unaffected by revolutions that are not only bringing about political change but also psychological transformation in the soul of Arab citizens; people taking charge of their own destiny and taking full ownership of their state of affairs.

The future of Arab societies is dependent on the transition from authoritarian rule to pluralism. There are many who are calling on the creation of civil society institutions starting with political parties, NGOs, and free press. In fact, just today, it was reported that a group of Saudis formally requested from the King permission to allow them to form a political party. Establishing political parties is a positive change, but it may be placing emphasis on the wrong priorities. Establishing these entities immediately may have a long term negative impact on issues of social justice and rule of law. Replacing one-man Arab regimes by multi parties regimes can be just as oppressive and perhaps more suffocating. Instead, it is argued here that the transition to self-governance can be achieved when the separation of powers takes precedence over partisan power sharing.

Not to suggest that power sharing among various political parties and representatives of interest groups is not a good thing, for it is. But the power sharing model is also susceptible to creating elite that could--and in most cases did--fence out marginalized minorities and the vulnerable groups and individuals.
What is proposed here is to focus the energy of change ushered in by these popular movements to create safeguards that shore up the rule of law, separate governing authorities, and empower watchdog organizations. The first step for establishing stable self-governing societies in the Arab world is to use the transitional period to draft constitutions, subject to popular referendum, that enshrine the independence of the judiciary, the sovereignty of the legislature, and the service-centered authority of the executive power.

To begin by establishing political parties and NGOs before securing the separation of powers is similar to placing the chariot before the horse. After all, one could ask, how effective can a human rights organization be in a paradigm where the judicial authority answers to the executive officer whose agents are generally the main culprits of committing human rights violations? The authoritarian Arab regimes were able to oppress with impunity because the legislature and the judiciary were tools in their hands. They used these branches of government to provide them with legal and legislative covers even as they arbitrarily arrested citizens, tortured political opponents, and misused public funds.

It will be utterly misguided if the new ruling elite that will emerge after these popular revolutions are allowed to create a new paradigm that would give the illusion of pluralistic governance but in reality preserve a power structure that marginalizes vulnerable social groups.

Civil society institutions are strongest when the legal and judicial mechanisms upon which they are founded are sound. Practically, this can be achieved by recognizing the various layers of civil society institutions.

First, constitutional and legal separation of powers must be guaranteed and established in reality. Moreover, leaders must find creative ways to evaluate and tenure judges. The less politics is involved in identifying, reviewing, and conferring tenure for judges the more empowered the judiciary will be in its application of the law and in preventing abuse of power.

The second important layer of civil society institutions consists of the presence of free and independent press. In most Arab countries, there are many news and media outlets that claim to be free and independent. A close examination of the structure of these institutions and the control over them reveal that they are not necessarily free and independent. Media and press outlets in Arab countries are either state owned or privately controlled. The privately controlled outlets include newspapers and other media that are owned by political parties, unions, associations, and businesspersons. While the government controlled media are essentially propaganda tools, the privately held outlets promote the narrow interests of the shareholders and owners. Given that the press’ mission is to inform the public, one can hardly believe that an entity thus structured could indeed fulfill its mission with integrity. After all, how could such an institution faithfully serve two masters—the shareholders/owners and the public?

A free and independent press should have as primary mission the dissemination of critical information to citizens. It should exist to inform and to keep the governments’ dealings open and transparent. That goal cannot be achieved if the media or the press answers to shareholders or to political parties’ leaders. Creative and imaginative ways must be used to categorize and license free and independent press—perhaps relying on a combination of public funding, education, training, and legal regulations.

The last layer of civil society institutions would consist of any and all social groups representing all kinds of interests. This layer will be critical in providing services and empowering minorities, but as stated above, it cannot perform its functions if there is no rule of law or if the branches of government are not separate and sovereign.

Islamic societies are at a critical juncture. They could use this opportunity and build forward looking societies. They have a chance to learn from the mistakes of other societies: they can draft better constitutions, they can elect better leaders, and they can establish stronger foundations for the emergence of civil society institutions. They can turn the disadvantage of their late embrace of pluralistic governance by learning from the mistakes of those who preceded them. They could rely on hindsight to move beyond the shortcomings of older systems. They can reflect on the decades of hopelessness, marginalization, oppression, and denial of basic rights to create inclusive, civil, and proud peoples. They can give meaning to their existence in the clarity of collective wisdom, in the soberness of knowledge, and in the hopeful determination of dreamers.

* Professor Souaiaia, teaches classes in the department of Religious Studies, International Programs, and College of Law at the University of Iowa. he is the author of Contesting Justice. Opinions expressed herein are the author’s, speaking as a citizen on matters of public interest; not speaking for the University or any other organization with which he is affiliated.

February 2, 2010

Under international law and treaties, children should have rights to culture and ancestry

    Tuesday, February 02, 2010   No comments

Haitian children sit in the Canadian run Masion Enfants Espoir orphanage Friday, Jan. 29, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Haitian children sit in the Canadian run Masion Enfants Espoir orphanage Friday, Jan. 29, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz.
It is being reported in the news this week that Baptist missionaries from Idaho have been accused of attempted kidnapping. They were detained as they tried to transport 33 Haitian orphans to the Dominican Republic. The Haitian government contends that the children were not orphans. This is not the first time that children in countries with unstable governments or in war zones fall victims of illegal transfers.
In October 2007, Chadian police arrested nine French nationals as they prepared to fly more than 100 children to France. At the time, Chadian President, Idriss Deby, said, "it's inadmissible in the 21st century. The entire world needs to witness this. We are going to take all the necessary steps, administrative and judicial to shed light on the kidnapping of the children from Chad and Sudanese refugees."
The French aid group, Zoe's Arc, said it had arranged French host families for the children. The group's secretary-general said the group asked host families for $3400 each to pay for the operation's logistics. Most children interviewed said they are not orphans, and their parents are still alive.
Reports of child kidnapping in Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, and Somalia have increased in the last decade. But even in countries with stable governments, too, children are kidnapped and either sold as sex slaves or for organ harvesting.
The danger facing helpless children should make everyone more careful, and that includes those so-called well-intentioned individuals who think they are “just trying to help.” In fact, as a society, we should reevaluate the adoption process and make it more humane and not merely a solution for groups to please their gods or couples to make their families whole.
Undoubtedly, it is a heinous crime that only a deranged, savage individual could commit when they take away children for profit or pleasure. But I would argue that it is still immoral, unethical, and illegal to uproot children from their natural environment under the pretext of providing them with “a better life.”
We can learn more about the ethics and legality of child-uprooting from the well-publicized cases when “celebrities” adopt children from Africa.
Standing in a Malawi court next to the famous singer, the father of the child Madonna wanted to adopt, Yohane Banda, who can barely read or write, said, “I looked directly into her [Madonna’s] eyes and said, “Although I am giving you my son I want you to look after him well as he is the only one I possess. I want you to keep this boy, raise him, educate him - but you have to know he is my son and he is a Malawian.””
When interviewed by the media then, Banda, whose wife Marita, died a week after their son was born, admitted that he did not fully understand what was happening when he went to court to see for the first (and only time) the woman who was offering his 13-month-old son, David, a new life in the West. He claimed that he thought that Madonna will send his son back to him and his country when David is an adult. It must be noted that Madonna was able to adopt a child from a country where the law prohibits adoptions by non-residents.
Other famous and rich Westerners have always gone south or east to adopt children. Angelina Jolie reportedly indicated that she wants to adopt a child from each continent. Considering the wealth of some of these individuals, they can adopt the children of an entire tribe or an entire country if they wanted to do so. But for many, adoption is not about offering poor children from the jungle “a better life;” it is about self-fulfillment.
An African child should not be a ticket to redemption, social rehabilitation, or personal project. A child is a person, with rights to culture, ancestry, family, and identity. It may be the case that a poor child is better off in the West than in the jungle, but no one has the right to make that decision on his behalf.
A child is naturally someone’s son, someone’s nephew, someone’s niece, someone’s grandchild, someone’s friend, someone’s neighbor. A child, (to quote Mr. Banda) is Malawian, Nigerian, Sudanese, Brazilian, Asian, or Chadian. He has the right to a culture, to roots, to ancestors, to identity. A child from African has a right to be named (and keep the name) Adegoke, Buziba, Ngozi, Uzoma, or Zuberi; not renamed to become Edwin, Kevin, Jared, John, or Scott.
Those who are sincere about helping the poor and the needy should be able to help them while keeping them in their natural environment, among their biological relatives, among their friends, among their people.
It is feared that Westerners are seeking foreign children for adoptions not just because it is cheaper, but also because they want a child who will be totally cut off from her roots; a child who will be given a new name, a new identity, and a new reality. A child has rights to her ancestry, roots, and culture. Moreover, the idea that a Westerner is better able to offer an African or Asian child a better life, may be practically and materially true, but it is also is patently arrogant, stunningly dehumanizing, and selfishly opportunistic.
In the U.S., there are thousands of children waiting adoption and since, as it is popularly said, charity starts at home, Americans wanting to adopt should adopt from home. People generally justify favoring foreign children over Americans by arguing that it is legally complicated and financially expensive to adopt American children. It should be. Adopting a child, a human being, is not and should not be a simple matter. And no one should look to Africa and poor countries such as Haiti as the Wal-Mart of adoption either. In fact, the U.S. should pressure other countries to adopt the same standards to protect children and children’s rights.
International institutions, too, should establish laws and instruments that standardize the respect of rights and dignity of children around the world. Among these rights that ought to be protected is the preservation of the cultural and ethnical heritage of the adopted child, including her or his family name.

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