The upcoming 2013 presidential election in Iran seems to be activating and deepening the fissures within the Iranian opposition. While parts of the opposition have started deliberating and discussing about participation in the election, other sections oppose participating on principle. A prominent reformist strategist, for example, suggested that election is “an opportunity for organizing and action.” Meanwhile, another famous activist journalist wrote that the only possible election in 2013 is one with the participation of regime “insiders” and no chance for pro-democracy forces to participate. These debates about the opportunities and constraints of the 2013 election reflect a deeper divide in the Iranian opposition about the most effective strategies to transform the polity and build a democratic regime in the future.
Entries in Jadaliyya (11)
For now, it is clear that the current political system is neither monarchial nor democratic enough to exploit the benefits of either. The lesson appears to be that a country cannot balance power effectively between anappointed cabinet and an elected parliament. In an absolute monarchy, the king calls the shots and appoints who he wants to help him govern. By contrast, in a fully democratic system, competing ideologies vie for political dominance through various electoral systems, and the government branches function as a system of checks and balances. But in Kuwait, where the systems are mixed, the executive and legislative branches are inherently locked in a power struggle.
This almost guarantees perpetual confrontation rather than some degree of symbiosis. The hybrid approach does not appear to be a formula for effective governance, but may instead be a structural defect that will continue to foster the kind of political chaos for which Kuwait is increasingly known. It could be argued that the real question going forward is not how Kuwait will navigate through the current storm, but rather when (or if) it will be able to effectively repair its sinking ship.
Protest in Qatif, 11 March 2011
The main and central goal and cause that we are struggling for is the establishment of an elected government that represents the will of the people through constitutional institutions that are recognized worldwide. In the short term, we aim to establish a platform through which to achieve our main goal, and we have been largely successful in accomplishing that.
When we set out our main goal, we had to provide the necessary supporting tools to both achieve it and prepare for the period to follow, otherwise our efforts would have been in vain. First of all we need to raise awareness around our cause among the people of the region, and then to break their barrier of fear so they may stand up to the state. We have successfully achieved this first step.
The contemporary Saudi-led counterrevolution, fierce as it has been throughout the Arab world, is perhaps most relentless inside the Kingdom’s own borders. US-trained and armed security forces have been dispatched more thoroughly throughout the country to thwart any potential signs of public gatherings or protests. In the last year alone, at least eight Saudi nationals have been killed for partaking in public protests. This is in addition to the unrelenting police brutality against unarmed civilians that has injured numerous men and women.
Further, hundreds have been illegally detained across the country for supporting calls for reform and protest. Such violence and intimidation is not only reserved for those who have attempted to take to the streets. Dozens have also been forbidden from travel, placed under house arrest, or banned from writing in the Saudi press simply for criticizing the status quo. Others have been forced to sign formal pledges not to engage in acts that “challenge state laws and norms.” Several blogs have been shut down, and two twitterers have been arrested and today face the possibility of a death sentence. In short, scores of citizens have been intimidated into silence.
Dr Ali Al-Hazori appeals for help from a field hospital in Bab Amro in Homs (WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES)
Amal Hanano writes for Jadaliyya:
Before we hang up, I tell Jafaar to be safe. I tell him that I’ll call him tomorrow. I go to bed only a couple of hours before morning. My head is pounding. Fifty percent of a neighborhood is destroyed, Omar is surrounded by human limbs, Jaafar is disconnected from his friends, Yousef is missing, the people of Baba Amr are asking for safe passage for the women and children before the army enters to round up the men. They are asking for mercy from a merciless regime. The number of dead are in the seventies now. It will be higher when I wake up. People will be dying in my sleep.
Jaafar is right. What you just read will not save lives. It will not stop the attacks on Baba Amr or Idleb or Zabadani or Palmyra or Daraa. It will not change what happened this morning or what will happen tomorrow. It’s just a story of what happened, in a place called Syria, while you were sleeping.
Across the Arabian Peninsula and stretching well into North Africa and Sudan, there is a common bond, perhaps only behind religion and language in importance, that binds Arabic language speakers together. Museums across the Gulf proudly display lineage maps illustrating the family trees of ruling members, linking them through lines and photos from bygone centuries up to the current leader. Major financial institutions in Dubai and Bahrain display in their offices large-scale maps detailing prominent ruling family members of the Gulf States and their marital, government, and business affiliations. Tribalism in modern day Arabia is alive and well.
Should the production of pasta, mineral water, butane gas cylinders, and gas station services qualify as classified military secrets? And does discussing these enterprises in public pass as a crime of high treason? The leaders of the Egyptian Armed Forces believe the answer is “yes.”
So there has been an utter lack of fairness in anything that has happened. The entire state apparatus has been turned into tools of repression and persecution. As far as the types of people who have been arrested: you could be sharing a prison cell with some of the best athletes, the best teachers in the country, even the best doctors were there at one point. The dragnet just swept across the entire spectrum of society. And you must have heard of the case of twenty doctors being convicted to fifteen years in prison. These sentences were handed out like parking tickets. In fact, a parking ticket takes longer to issue than some of these sentences, given they were held in these military tribunals.
Arrest is never as scary an experience as many might suspect. Arrest is a medal that you will wear on your chest, and one whose stories you will tell to your children.
Arrest is a mixture of a strange, unknown, honorable and incredible experience. The more diverse the circumstances of your arrest, the more extended your stay, and the more people you meet, the richer and more exciting your experience will be . This is why it is important that you do not forget to write your account as soon as you are out.
When you get caught the unknown will terrify you. But be reassured. The most difficult part has already passed --- these are the moments of arrest and the first beating. Try in moments of calm to regain your self-confidence and to raise your own morale, and to enjoy while you are receiving this honor -- because there isn’t much time left until this regime will fall, and you may not get another round.
I no longer fear Death. I wait for him calmly with my cigarette and my coffee. I think that I can stare into the eyes of a sniper on the roof of a building. I stare without batting an eyelid. I go out onto the streets and stare at the roofs of the buildings, calmly, and walk. I cross the pavements and a square in the city. I think, where could the sniper be now? I think that I will write a novel about a sniper watching a woman walking calmly on the street. I think about them both, as two lonely heroes in a city of ghosts. Scenes that resemble the streets of Saramago in the film “Blindness.”
I return to the capital, and I know that this place is no longer as it once was. Fear is no longer like breathing! Life here has changed forever in a single moment.
I return, and I know that I will not despair of struggling for justice, even if my chest is opened for Death. As I said, I got used to it, no more and no less: I wait for him, and I will not carry flowers to my grave.