The Arab uprisings have complicated Turkey’s approach to the Middle East. Both long before and after the dynamic events of the last 18 months began, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s AKP was looked at as a model to emulate by many in the Middle East and the non-Arab world. Buoyed by strong poll numbers, a growing economy, and a record of democratic reform, there was a consensus that Erdogan himself would be the face of a new democratic Middle East. For now, the prime minister seems to enjoy playing the role of regional demagogue promising great things and standing up to Israel. But can it last? Or will fundamental antagonisms lead to tension between Turkey and the region in the future?
Entries in Council on Foreign Relations (5)
Funeral march for activist Salah Abbas Habib, slain by security forces, 26 April
You can criticize Husain for several sins of omission — like the scant attention he gives to the excessive use of tear gas in Bahraini villages, the ongoing torture of detainees, the near-complete impunity enjoyed by members of the security forces. He criticizes the "language of Shiite sectarianism," but says nothing about the state-sponsored sectarianism directed against the Shia community.
The central issue with his analysis, though, is the framing, and the focus on Sheikh Isa Qassim. It's true that Qassim can mobilize large numbers of people: his endorsement was one reason for the huge turnout during the March 9 protest on Budaiya highway. But don't confuse that with ideological influence; the protesters carried signs calling for democratic reforms, not vilayet-e-fiqh. In four trips to Bahrain since the uprising began, and hundreds of interviews with opposition members, I have never met one who endorsed theocracy.
Sondos Asem has butterflies, formulating answers to questions she expects to be asked and practicing her diction with the devotion of a high school debate champion. The gentle 24-year-old graduate student at the American University in Cairo is in a hotel room in downtown New York, figuring out what to wear on national television. ("This blazer would look good, right?" "Should I wear more color?")
Like many young Egyptians, she's been tweeting the fallout after the 2011 uprising that brought down former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The stakes are higher than 140-character dispatches might suggest. Asem has emerged as an unlikely unofficial spokeswoman for the Muslim Brotherhood, helping to run its English-language Twitter feed, @Ikhwanweb, and in turn revamp the group's image in the West.
Africa Feature: Will Fuel Protests Ignite an Opposition Movement in Nigeria? (Campbell and Gambrell)
#OccupyNigeria: An activist-produced montage of the emerging protest movement
Is this the long-awaited Nigerian Spring? The conventional wisdom (which I shared but increasingly doubt) is that the country was too divided by religion and ethnicity and with too weak a sense of national identity for a popular opposition movement comparable to those that roiled Tunisia, Egypt or Syria. Yet, the protests are nationwide and peaceful; thus far, casualties have been caused by the security services, not the protestors. In some cases, protestors have organized themselves through the use of social media. Protestors in Kano are explicitly invoking the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street movement. They refer to their encampment as "Occupy Kano" and its venue as "Tahrir Square".
[Editor's Note: Yesterday the party of President Mubarak announced that the 82-year-old will run for a sixth term.]
There are creepy things about Egypt, but we aren’t talking about North Korea, after all. So instead of lies you get truthiness: “Egypt is an emerging democracy with 24 legal political parties and 250 newspapers and magazines. The fact that people are asking questions about succession is indicative of how far the leadership is willing to go to reform Egypt. The development of democracy will take a long time; things are not perfect, but Egypt’s come a long way in the last 10 years. President Hosni Mubarak is a transitional figure.” With the exception of the last one, each of these statements contains an element of truth even though they hardly tell the whole story. Still, it seems to be enough for the regime’s constituents. What does it matter really when one’s profits are up 30 percent a year or your ministry’s share of the state budget grows bigger or those shiny new F-16s arrive or you get to be a media personality?