News / Middle East

Mideast Experts Warn of Dangers for Democracy Movements

Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright (file photo)
Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright (file photo)

A former U.S. Secretary of State warned on Wednesday that democracy in Egypt and Tunisia is still threatened by entrenched powers and extremism, while Arab democracy activists urged the new governments there to guarantee justice, transparency and minority rights.  

The revolutions in the Arab world dominated discussion at the annual U.S.-Islamic World Forum.  The event, sponsored by the Washington-based Brookings Institution and the government of Qatar, drew lawmakers, diplomats, and regional experts.

Although some participants worried that the uprising in Libya might turn into a prolonged civil war and that the Persian Gulf monarchy of Bahrain might exacerbate the regional rift between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims, others warned that Egypt and Tunisia's revolutions have not yet ushered in full democracy.

Madeleine Albright was U.S. Secretary of State during the Clinton administration.

"The danger is that people get dissatisfied," said Madeleine Albright. "It does happen and this is true wherever in the world, that people who are left out of it get disillusioned by everything.  Or that there are extremists that take advantage of it."

Albright said the United States should try to approach the changes in the Middle East with a consistently moral foreign policy.

"But - and this is the big 'but,' and it's always very hard to admit - not all policies are consistent all the time," she said. "And we have to be worried about some of the sectarian aspects of what's going on in the [Persian] Gulf, and what the influence of Iran might be."

In a speech at the forum a day earlier, current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rejected what she called a "one-size-fits-all approach" for U.S. foreign policy toward countries facing change.

But Hossan Bahgat of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights alleged that the United States uses different human rights standards for different Arab countries and for Israel.

"Unless you are going to apply the same values systemically and consistently in the region, the United States is not going to have the ability to be an advocate for reform in the region," said Hossan Bahgat.

Bahgat said that despite the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, authorities in his country still have too much arbitrary power and are not transparent enough.

He said the government's response to the anti-Mubarak protests that erupted in January must be investigated.

"I still don't know who ordered the snipers that executed people before my own eyes on the square [in Tahrir Square in Cairo]," he said.

Saad Eddin Ibrahim is a longtime pro-democracy activist who was imprisoned by the Egyptian government in 2000.

He said that in Egypt, Coptic Christians, women and young people have been grossly underrepresented in government.

"And therefore, building an Arab democracy in the 21st century has to have a deliberate attempt to empower these previously marginalized groups," said Saad Eddin Ibrahim.

Ibrahim said the principle of "one man, one vote" would not work in the Arab world, and proposed that 40 percent of the seats in Arab parliaments be reserved for people under 40 to address unbalanced representation in the past.


Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid