Iran Election Guide

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Entries in Christian Science Monitor (18)


Yemen Feature: A Snapshot of the "National Dialogue" (Baron)

Photo: Hani Mohammed/APOutspoken feminists rub shoulders --- metaphorically, at least --- with Salafis. Youth activists mingle with establishment politicians. A representative of the Houthis, a rebel group turned political movement that has fought with the government for the past decade, helps run the show. Delegates from the southern provinces constantly vying for autonomy casually cross conversational red lines on independence talk as others in the room veer on declaring secession treasonous.

It will be months before anyone can say whether Yemen's ambitious national dialogue conference, slated to tackle major issues such as constitutional reform and restructuring the government, was a success. But the conference, which began last week and will last into the fall, can already celebrate one achievement: In this divided country, it has managed to get representatives from the bulk of the key factions in the same room.

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Iran Analysis: Reading the Lack of Progress at This Week's Nuclear Talks

Why is Iran choosing to give a message this way --- through an unnamed source --- rather than criticising the West's proposals more directly via named officials speaking to State media?

The answer is likely because Iran at this stage is seeking only to test the waters before the more serious resumption of negotiations in Almaty next month.

If the West does not budge on its proposals, we are likely to see a stronger, official response from Iran at that stage.

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Syria 1st-Hand: Opposition Tries to Implement Justice Through Courts in Aleppo (Chick)

Insurgent in Aleppo (Manu Brabo/AP)The legal council hears about 15 new cases a day, says Abu Ibrahim. It has recognized marriages and divorces and mediated family disputes. There have been many cases of theft, but in each case the council has ordered the thieves to return what they stole, and has declined to punish them because of the difficult circumstances of war.

In fact, the council has yet to punish anyone. That's partly because it has little power to enforce its rulings, or to force an armed group to turn over prisoners.

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Sudan Feature: Can Activists Maintain Hope Amid Waning Protests? (Peterson)

France 24 on "Khartoum's Revolution"

"They are geniuses, we must admit this," says an engineering student activist, about the regime's ability to survive political and economic crises. "They manipulate Sudanese minds and know how to do it, to tell people what they want to hear. Now, for example, people are tortured, but you would not know it unless it happened to a relative. But the economic crisis has made people open their eyes more."

Those who have taken to the streets are mostly activists, says this student, who like other activists interviewed for this story asked not to be named. "But a regular Sudanese is just sitting in his house saying, 'Good work,'" says the student. "They are not physically engaged."

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Bahrain Feature: The Underground Network of Doctors (Wellman)

Makeshift Clinic in BahrainIt is Friday night and Dr. Mohamed is on standby.

“It’s always the busiest day of the week for us,” he says as he holds out his cell phone to show a photo he received seconds earlier. The image is of a young man with birdshot embedded in his leg. It is a call for help.

The government has been using a lot of birdshot on demonstrators lately,” he explains, “and the wounded come to us for treatment.”

Dr. Mohamed, who asked to have his full name withheld, is part of an underground network of medics in Bahrain who provide illegal care for anti-government protesters injured in nightly clashes with security forces. Most of those hurt refuse to go to either public or private hospitals, no matter how grave their wounds, fearing they will be arrested there.

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Iran Feature: A Cleric's Best-Selling DVD Guide "Lovemaking is Like Jihad" (Valinejad)

“Love” may be one of the most heavily used words in Persian literature. Famous poets Rumi, Hafez, and Sa’adi obsessed about “eshq” centuries ago, though their words most often referred to divine and spiritual emotions.

Discussion of physical love was another matter. As in many cultures, it was long a taboo subject, and the advent of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution did little to change that. The trend for decades has, in fact, been evident in annual police crackdowns that target women showing too much hair, or boy-girl handholding in the streets.

So it might be a surprise that one of the hottest-selling DVDs in Tehran --- at least at souvenir stores that cater for Shiite religious pilgrims to the Shah Abdol-Azim shrine, south of the capital --- is one that seems to encourage something of a sexual revolution, Shiite-style.

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Syria Feature: Activists to Insurgents "We Want Our Revolution Back" (Van Langendonck/Lynch)

Photo: AFPMohamed Alloush is part of the movement of young revolutionaries who began the protests against the Assad regime in March last year in the wake of similar uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. They feel sidelined by the violent turn the conflict in Syria has taken since the Free Syrian Army (FSA) was formed last summer. An armed group comprised mainly of former Army soldiers who defected from the regime, it is also reportedly cooperating with Sunni jihadis from abroad and many brigades have adopted an increasingly sectarian tone.

“Our revolution has been stolen from us by people who have their own agenda,” says a singer who uses the pseudonym ‘Safinas’ because she still lives in Damascus. “We are not violent people. We want to get back to the real thing. It was a clean thing when it started, but it has become something else now. I am against the regime, but I am also against the armed rebels.”

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Israel Feature: As World Worries About Iran, Netanyahu Expands Settlements (Lynfield)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is moving to expand Israeli settlements in the West Bank at a time when international attention is focused elsewhere, with President Obama gearing up for reelection and the West targeting Iran's nuclear program.

Last week, the Netanyahu government took a variety of steps that, taken together, amount to a significant strengthening of Israel's hold in the West Bank, the biblically resonant territory occupied in 1967, which Palestinians claim as the heartland for their future state.

For Netanyahu, who heads a right-wing coalition with a strong pro-settler contingent, it was a delicate dance of one small step back and six larger steps forward for settlements.

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Iran Feature: Is This How Tehran Took Down the US Drone? (Peterson/Faramarzi)

Iran guided the CIA's "lost" stealth drone to an intact landing inside hostile territory by exploiting a navigational weakness long-known to the US military, according to an Iranian engineer now working on the captured drone's systems inside Iran.

Iranian electronic warfare specialists were able to cut off communications links of the American bat-wing RQ-170 Sentinel, says the engineer, who works for one of many Iranian military and civilian teams currently trying to unravel the drone’s stealth and intelligence secrets, and who could not be named for his safety.

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Iraq Feature: The Collapse of the "Kurdish Spring" (Peterson)

Photo: Shwan Mohammed (AFP/Getty Images)Tucked away in an often-overlooked arc of northern Iraq, Kurds launched their "Kurdish Spring" simply enough in mid-February, in solidarity with Tunisians and Egyptians who had toppled dictatorial rulers. 

But the result here was very different, and hardly looked like an unfolding of freedom. Washington’s close Kurdish allies cracked down hard. After 62 days of street protests, 10 people were dead. The carefully crafted image of Kurdistan as a democratic island in an ocean of regional dictatorship was in tatters.

All that visibly remains of the uprising are a few faded posters of its first victim --- a 16-year-old --- and scorch marks where security forces burned the tents of protesters. But it has deepened the political crisis in this semiautonomous region of northern Iraq.

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