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Jordan and Tunisia

According to Al Jazeera, in Jordan King Abdullah has changed his country’s prime minister following a vote that revealed the majority of the parliament wanted the change.  The parliment is frustrated by the slowness of the reforms that the prime minister is responsible for administering.  Next up is Awn Khaswaneh.

Khaswaneh, 61, who has been a member of the International Court of Justice since 2000, is a former chief of the royal court and legal adviser to Jordan’s team that negotiated a peace treaty with Israel in 1994.

Al Jazeera has also posted an opinion piece regarding the public mood in Tunisia as its first major election approaches.  The author writes

The optimism I witnessed in January, immediately following Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s fall, has faded into a jaded scepticism. The disappointing performance of the interim government has not helped matters. Made up largely of the same ageing bureaucrats who ruled the country through decades of dictatorship, and are accustomed to regarding people as mere subjects rather than citizens.

and also that

After decades of silence, the sight of armies of volunteers distributing leaflets, knocking on doors and papering the walls with posters is a beautiful one to behold. Having long lived in a seasoned democracy in which the right to vote is taking for granted, it is utterly thrilling to experience democracy anew, to see it as if for the first time and truly understand its fundamental significance. The very act of choosing is giving Tunisians the chance to experience what they had risked their lives for – a sense of dignity and self-respect.

The election will be held on October 23rd.


Jordan (and Libya and Syria and Yemen)

There is continued violence occurring in Libya, Yemen, and Syria, but nothing that represents a political turning point, so instead this post will focus on Jordan.  Yesterday, in discussing the social indicators of several countries, I wavered on whether or not I should point to Jordan as my next most likely candidate to undergo drastic change.  The poverty level is what kept me from identifying Jordan as potentially problematic.  Today, in a class, Professor Szyliowicz suggested that Jordan is a state to watch, so I’m going to take that as license to discuss the country here.

The New York Times reported today on a man, loyal to the monarchy, wearing a fake explosive belt trying to intimidate the Islamic Action Front.  The action reveals that there is conflict in Jordan between reformers, who include both Islamists and liberals, and those who are loyal to the status quo.  Among most Jordanians the King remains popular, so the likelihood of his being overthrown is low.  Instead, protesters are seeking greater democracy among the day to day policy makers, perhaps even to create a constitutional monarchy where the King remains but becomes a largely symbolic figure.  The other cause for concern is the role of Palestinians.  There is a very large Palestinian population in Jordan, possibly outnumbering the Jordanians themselves, and they are treated as second class citizens.  Jordanians do not like the poor Palestinians (I say this based on my own experience in the country).  While the Jordanians themselves may effect peaceful, moderate changes in their government, the Palestinians, if they organize, will seek a much more radical change.  My suspicion is that even Jordanian reformists would react strongly, perhaps violently, against any Palestinian push for greater political power.  Professor Szyliowicz even went so far as to say civil war in Jordan is not unthinkable between the Bedouins and the Palestinians.  So, as the events in Jordan continue to evolve, pay attention to the Palestinians.

Friday protests

There were protests through out the Middle East today, it being Friday.  In Egypt, protesters gathered to express a desire that Mubarak be put on trial.  In Jordan, authorities are working to keep competing groups of protesters seperate.  In Syria, despite the President’s speech on Wednesday, protests occured, with several dying (one estimate was four people) as the protesters were disperesed.  The largest protests occured in Yemen, where to rallies supporting opposite views occured a mile and half away from each other, as explained in this BBC News article.  Bahrain’s protesters continue to face a growing crackdown.  Meanwhile, in Kuwait, the whole cabinet resigned, as reported in this Al Jazeera article.  While Kuwait has not yet had any major popular protests, it is certainly a state to keep an eye on.  Another state to keep an eye on is Algeria, and Professor Rob Prince has an article up on his blog pertaining to that state.

Updates on protests throughout the Middle East

Instead of making four separate posts, I’m going to cover a few hot spots in one post.  Obviously, all of these stories have to do with the protest movements in the region (I feel like we need to name the general movement, maybe The 2011 Arab Wave?).

Syria Twenty protesters were killed in a government crackdown yesterday, according to this article from Al Jazeera.  Obviously, there has been a rise of popular anger.  There has also been a rise in support for the government.

Significantly, people do not want regime change at this point of time but want to protest peacefully to achieve their rights, our correspondent said. People want corruption to end, more political reforms and freedom of expressions, she said.

Libya The New York Times is reporting that rebels in Libya have taken back the town of Ajdabiya.  The news suggests that Western air support may succeed in reversing the course of the conflict.  The article also updates the American political situation facing Obama.

Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh is officially negotiating a transition of power to take place this year, reports BBC News.  The article doesn’t give much information on who might recieve that transfered power, which  is the main item of concern for the US government.  The article notes that 50 died in protests last week in Yemen, and also mentions that two of President Saleh’s relatives are equally unpopular and can be expected to go, they being


  • the president’s son Ahmed, who is in charge of the Republican Guard

  • his nephew and son-in-law Yahia Saleh, who heads the security forces


    Jordan The Jordan Times reports that pro-reform protesters were met with opposition from pro-government protesters in Amman yesterday.  As police tried to separate the groups, the scene grew violent, with many injured and one (another source reports two) dead.  The prime minister is blaming the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan.

    “Stop playing with fire! Where are you taking Jordan?” the premier asked, addressing the Islamists, who also issued a statement later in the day accusing the authorities and groups of thugs of attacking peaceful protesters.



    Some protests in Jordan, Syria makes the Political Fail Blog

    I’m only going to give the link to the Al Jazeera article.  There were more protests in Jordan, less than 1,000 people but protests nonetheless.  The issue continues to be disdain over the King’s choice of replacement PM.  Islamist groups, including Jordan’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, have taken the lead on the Jordanian protests.  It’s worth noting that

    The action comes a day after King Abdullah of Jordan met with Muslim Brotherhood leaders at the royal palace, in an attempt to defuse tensions in the country.

    Meanwhile, protests in Syria fell flat.

    “Syrian dissidents, including Kurds, did not respond to this call because they are convinced protests would be inefficient under the current conditions,” Abdel Karim Rihawi, president of the Syrian League for the Defence of Human Rights, was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.

    The current conditions that he is referring may well be the existence of a tough security force and a lack of fellow protesters.

    Jordan has protests and drama too

    In all of the excitement about Tunisia and Egypt, what would be the biggest story of the week most weeks is at risk of going unnoticed.  People in Jordan are unhappy too.  Now, King Abdullah is appointing a new Prime Minister to address the unemployment and rising prices that have led to recent protests, reports BBC News.  But don’t expect a revolution in Jordan to appear on the horizon. The monarchy is popular in Jordan.  There is a large, poor Palestinian population that a change of government risks unleashing.  The protests in Jordan are being led by the Islam Action Front, an Islamist group.  The center piece of their demonstrations is the right to elect the Prime Minister, rather than risk a corrupt man being appointed by the King.  The new guy’s name is Marouf Bakhit.

    Jordanians protest the poor economy

    Al Jazeera is reporting that Jordanians hit the streets of Amman today to protest prices, unemployment, and freedom (sounds like a Tea Party protest, eh?).  Actually, unlike the Tea Party, the Jordanians look to their government to fix the problems, rather than as being the cause of them.  Jordan’s government is taking some action:

    In the face of popular discontent, Samir Rifai, the Jordanian prime minister, announced a $283 million plan on Thursday to raise salaries of government staff as well as the pensions of retired government employees and servicemen.

    However the article also notes that Jordan is about to begin running up its deficit.