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

    Candidates' Comments Fly Like New Hampshire Snowflakes

    Four days ahead of the country's first-in-the-nation Republican and Democratic party primary elections, surveys show the parties' contests tightening

    South Korea Says North Korea Moving Closer to Rocket Launch

    In phone call, US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agree that Pyongyang's move would be 'provocative'

    Australian Commander: IS Changing Tactics

    Head of Australian forces in Middle East talks with VOA about training Iraqi troops, countering evolving Islamic State efforts and defeating extremism

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.