Tunisian women’s victory


This video says about itself:

2 August 2017

In Tunisia, the Parliament has passed a new law to protect women and girls from violence including rape. Rape survivors and civil society organisations have welcomed the new legislation as a progressive step for the country. Adnen Chaouachi has the details.

Translated from Dutch daily De Volkskrant:

Tunisian Muslim women can now marry non-Muslims. The 1973 ministerial circular prohibiting such mixed marriages has been revoked.

While Muslim men had always been free to marry non-Muslim women. So, this anti-women government decision was by the pre-Arab Spring regime, known from dictator Ben Ali. A regime, often praised as ‘moderate’ and ‘secular’ by NATO country media, because wearing headscarves was illegal. In fact, stopping women who themselves want to wear headscarves is just as dictatorial as stopping women who themselves want to wear miniskirts.

The spokesman for President Béji Caïd Essebsi announced that on Thursday.

By Rob Vreeken September 14, 2017, 19:00

A month ago, on the occasion of the Women’s Festival on August 13, Essebsi had asked the government to annul the circular. That has happened now. …

Following the 2011 Arab Spring, which led to a democratic transition only in Tunisia, new steps were taken to anchor women’s rights.

A ‘historical project’

In July, Tunisian adopted a law that extensively prohibits all forms of violence against women. Not only physical violence is more harshly punished, but all acts of “moral, sexual, psychological and economic aggression” against women are now punishable. Human Rights Watch (HRW) human rights organization spoke of a “milestone” for women’s rights. Minister of Women’s Affairs Neziha Labidi calls it a ‘historical project’.

Tunisian women‘s groups had fought for a long time for such a law.

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Tunisian conservation after the Arab Spring


This video says about itself:

20 January 2017

Watch our short documentary about the Bou Hedma National Park! in June 2016 we released this short film “Forgotten places of Tunisia – Wild Bou Hedma”. It is an appeal to save this unique wild habitat and endangered species.

The Bou Hedma NP has never enjoyed a fraction of the support it deserves from government. It has always been treated as an afterthought, falling victim to the misguided philosophy that it should cost very little to maintain a mountain range, an acacia savannah or threatened native wildlife species.

Please share this video and help to save one of Tunisia’s last wild and exceptional habitats. The park is not going to survive unless we can convince more people of its value. I think we need to make a better case that Bou Hedma NP needs more resources, more love, more attention and more active scientists and researchers. We should not let things come so far as to be lost forever.

By Shaun Hurrell:

11 Aug 2017

After the Arab Spring: Learning to love nature again

From “protect by punishment” to “protect by involving people”: read about the peaceful revolution that is changing nature conservation in North Africa and the Middle East

Our relationship with nature is dependent on more than the way the wind blows and the flowers bloom. During a period of societal turmoil, for example, nature can become an unlikely political symbol.

In Tunisia, Awatef Abiadh saw it happen during the Arab Spring: “The Protected Area system was established by the government without any consultation with local communities”, she says. “Declared by law. Full-stop.”

As such, during the Tunisian revolution, people turned their resentment of an oppressive regime to collateral damage. “Locals ransacked Ichkeul, Bouhedma and Chaambi National Parks, taking threatened species like oryx and gazelle, and cutting many trees in anger against the government”, she recalls.

For Abiadh, this showed there was a lack of harmony between local people and nature across the region, and today inspires her work for the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), which has invested in bringing people together for conservation in the Mediterranean for the last five years.

“I grew up in the countryside in Kairouan where I learned my first lessons about nature,” says Abiadh. “We needed to use and exploit nature to earn our life, but we loved it and kept it close.”

Abiadh started a career as a teacher, but in 2007 whilst working as a lecturer, she became involved with a series of wildlife surveys on Tunisian islands, because her supervisor was seasick and suggested she go instead.

Volunteering and a passion for conservation followed, and today she works as the Programme Officer for North Africa for the CEPF Mediterranean Hotspot, granting projects and helping non-governmental organisations (NGOs), large and new, with their social and environmental challenges.

“Since we started in the hotspot, we have contributed to a 180-degree change in conservation, from ‘protect by punishment’, to ‘protect by involving more local peoplee’”, she says.

The project closest to her heart, and family home, is led by Notre Grand Bleu (NGB; “Our Big Blue”), a local group of nature enthusiasts and divers that emerged out of the Arab Spring into a fully-fledged NGO, and were granted by CEPF to protect the Kuriat Islands – and their Endangered turtles – from bad tourist management and fishing.

Kuriat is a positive story of hope, where NGB succeeded in forming the first ever co-managed committee for nature conservation in Tunisia. Jamel Jrijer, NGB, said: “Engaging locals in conservation activities gives them a sense of belonging and creates commitment to good environmental practice.”

Together with 18 stakeholders including government, research, tourism, and fishing, NGB are close to creating a Marine Protected Area that everyone is behind. Whilst the Arab Spring helped mobilise North African civil society, some organisations of course already existed.

AREA-ED, in neighbouring Algeria, was founded in 1998 and has worked to create the National Parks Babor and Tadabort, providing crucial high-altitude habitat for an endemic and Critically Endangered Algerian fir tree, resident fluffy monkeys, barbary macaque (Endangered), and bark-climbing Algerian Nuthatch Sitta ledanti (Endangered) – all threatened by fire, illegal logging and overgrazing.

A CEPF project in 2014 allowed AREA-ED to work in new ways. “Both of these projects are the first times a participatory approach has been used in creating protected areas in North Africa,” says Abiadh. One lesson that has emerged from all 106 CEPF grants in the Mediterranean is that nature conservation is a powerful way of bringing diverse people together, and even just time spent in nature can be transformational for some.

When you see the smiles on people’s faces at a turtle hatchling release on the Kuriat Islands, it’s easy to understand; but perhaps nowhere is it more important than in trying to rebuild a country in civil war: Libya. …

Despite a low level of species endemism (4% unique to the country) Libya certainly has some great natural assets. With nearly 200 km of Mediterranean coast and a vast semi-arid region leading to the Sahara Desert, there are coral reefs, ponds and mangroves; plus salt marshes and mud flats for migratory birds. “Ecotourism is a realistic opportunity for Libya once conditions allow,” says Abiadh.

Sadly, ever since NATO’s 2011 war on Libya, conditions clearly do not allow.

“Wherever people have free time, they enjoy spending it in nature. In Tunisia, we have ecotourism projects that are still receiving a lot of local visitors, and from abroad e.g. Algeria.”

Bahrain’s Arab Spring, new book


This video says about itself:

The Revolt That Never Went Away — Bahrain: An Inconvenient Uprising

10 November 2014

Like many countries in the Middle East and beyond, Bahrain erupted with anti-authoritarian protests in 2011 when the Arab Spring took the region and many of its repressive leaders by surprise.

While Arab Spring uprisings found favor with many in the West, unfortunately for the people of Bahrain, their own revolution was largely forgotten. But it never went away — for three years, near-nightly protests have been brutally quashed by militarized security forces.

Earlier this year, VICE News correspondent Ben Anderson travelled to London to speak with Nabeel Rajab, the unofficial leader of Bahrain’s uprising, and then headed undercover to Bahrain, where he met activists, protestors, grieving parents, and alleged torture victims.

Check out “Bahrain’s Human Rights Activist Faces Jail Time — for a Tweet” – here.

Watch “The VICE News Interview: Abdullah Elshamy” – here.

By Andrew Murray in Britain:

Timely reminder of Arab Spring‘s forgotten casualty

Thursday 14th January 2016

Bahrain’s Uprising

Edited by Ala’a Shehabi and Marc Owen Jones

(Zed Books, £18.99)

BAHRAIN, where more than anywhere else along the Persian Gulf the people rose up against their regime to assert their democratic and human rights, is the forgotten calamity of the Arab spring.

They were met by rigid repression on the part of the ruling Khalifa family.

But behind the Bahraini dictators stood still more potent opponents of democratic advance.

The Saudi tyranny sent its armed forces across the causeway connecting the two states to provide the military coup de grace to the democratic movement.

And then there is the British government. Under successive imperialist foreign secretaries William Hague and the incumbent Philip Hammond, every nerve has been strained to support the Khalifa regime and to rehabilitate its reputation as speedily as possible after the 2011 suppression of the people’s uprising.

British support is far more than diplomatic. A Scotland Yard policeman John Yates, who loomed large and obtuse in the Murdoch phone-hacking saga, has been dispatched to advise the Bahraini authorities on policing techniques.

The British navy has gone “east of Suez” by reopening its Bahraini base this year. And the present employment minister Priti Patel was a PR shill for the regime before entering Parliament.

As Hammond publicly assured the Bahraini ruler 12 months ago: “Your security is our security, your prosperity is our prosperity, your stability is our stability.” That is indeed the policy Britain has been following towards the notional rulers — marionettes, more realistically — of this Gulf statelet for the past 200 years. He could have added: “Your torturers are, in fact, our torturers.”

For Bahrain is ruled by terror and torture, as this excellent collection of articles on the country’s uprising for freedom and its repression amply exposes. Democracy activists are routinely tortured, sometimes to death, and almost all political activity crushed.

This is justified on the sectarian grounds that because most of Bahrain’s people are Shi’ite Muslim they are, unlike its Sunni ruling family, therefore susceptible to Iranian influence.

In fact, the sectarian game being stoked up across the Middle East by Saudi Arabia, with US acquiescence, finds little echo in Bahrain. The 2011 movement was explicitly non-sectarian, aiming to unite all behind democratic demands. No more was it “terrorist,” the catch-all smear of imperialism and its stooges to cover any and every movement for liberation in the region.

Bahrain’s Uprising details the aspirations and activities of the uprising which, as elsewhere during the Arab spring, aroused so much hope. It also outlines the continuing work being done, particularly among the large Bahraini exile community in Britain, to keep those hopes alive and maintain pressure on the regime.

Essays detail the history of British neocolonial supervision of Bahrain — which has really not changed essentially down the years — and the history of brutal policing there, generally under the watchful eye of Scotland Yard and other foreign experts.

This book is to be recommended as an introduction and guide to the struggle for freedom in Bahrain, one which the progressive movement in Britain has a particular responsibility to embrace and support. Democracy and human rights will come to the suffering people of Bahrain through the defeat of British imperialism.

Bahraini human rights activist speaking


This video, recorded in Italy, says about itself:

When I saw courage: Maryam Al Khawaja at TEDxLecce

2 February 2014

By Maryam Al Khawaja from Bahrain, in the Providence Journal in Rhode Island state in the USA:

Maryam Al Khawaja: Fighting my country’s rights abuses

Aug. 24, 2015 at 2:01 AM

Last September, I was sitting in a Bahraini jail. I had been arrested for my advocacy of human rights, which, over the past seven years, has led me to the halls of Congress, the United Nations and around the world in an effort to publicize the abuses committed by the Bahraini government and other repressive regimes in the region.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., is one of the few U.S. leaders who wrote to the Bahraini government urging it to drop all the charges against me and to let me leave the country.

The government of Bahrain treats human rights defenders as criminals. In an attempt to silence the peaceful movement for democratic reform, the authorities harshly punish those of us who work to advance liberty, democracy and free expression with lengthy prison sentences and no due process. I was eventually released, but sentenced in absentia to a year in prison. I have been effectively exiled from my home. If I ever go back to Bahrain I could be sent straight to jail the moment I step foot off of the plane.

When Senator Whitehouse stood in my defense, it was an important statement of support and encouragement. I’d taught at Brown University in 2010 and still have close connections with the school. Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., has also condemned government violence in Bahrain and has been outspoken about the need to protect peaceful protesters.

But there are many others in the U.S. government who simply don’t understand the situation in Bahrain. They focus mainly on Bahrain as a military ally, host of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, an ally against Iranian aggression, and falsely conclude that it is better for U.S. interests to avoid criticizing the regime for its awful human rights record. In June, the State Department decided to lift the ban on arms sales to Bahrain’s military that it had imposed in 2011, citing “meaningful progress on human rights reforms” that remain unseen. Reforms promised by the Bahraini government have yet to materialize, the jails are full of political prisoners and reports of torture in custody are rampant.

Bahrain, the smallest country in Middle East, had the largest pro-democracy demonstrations of all the Arab countries in early 2011. However, while Egypt removed its dictator, President Hosni Mubarak, and Tunisia managed to achieve a fledgling democracy, the Bahraini regime violently suppressed peaceful calls for change and continues to do so.

Human Rights First and other U.S.-based organizations have been documenting abuses by the Bahraini regime for several years. In a country ruled by a family where the king’s uncle has served as the un-elected prime minister for 43 years, the State Department is clearly wrong to claim there has been meaningful progress, and Congress is right to challenge the lifting of the ban.

Last week Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced legislation to ban the sale of tear gas, small weapons, ammunition, Humvees and other things that might be used against protesters until all the recommendations on reform made to the Bahraini government by international lawyers at the end of 2011 are fully implemented.

This is a smart move and an important opportunity for Senators Whitehouse and Reed to engage on a larger scale on human rights issues in Bahrain. By signing onto the bill, S.2009, they can help to persuade the government of Bahrain to reform, while showing that the United States won’t reward human rights abuses with weapons. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., has said he will introduce similar legislation in the House of Representatives, which also gives Representatives Jim Langevin and David Cicilline, both Rhode Island Democrats, the chance to support this ban.

I know from my time in jail, and from years of documenting unfair trials, arbitrary arrests and torture in Bahrain, that the regime needs more than gentle encouragement to reform. There must be consequences for its criminal behavior, and Rhode Island’s members of Congress now have the chance to do something about it. I hope they will do the right thing and continue to stand up for Bahrainis’ achieving their rights.

Maryam Al Khawaja, a former Brown University teaching assistant, is co-director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights and a Bahraini human rights defender.

Saudi Arabian repression in 2011


This 2015 video is called The Indian Maid Who Had Her Arm Chopped Off In Saudi Arabia.

5 December 2011: A report by human rights organization Amnesty International records the wave of repression unleashed by Saudi authorities in response to the “Arab Spring” uprisings: here.

Yemen dictatorship’s crimes should be investigated, November 2011


Yemen

Nobel laureate Tawakkul Karman urges probe of Yemeni dictatorship’s crackdown on dissent: here.

United Arab Emirates repression in November 2011


United Arab Emirates

In the United Arab Emirates, five pro-democracy Internet activists have been sentenced to prison sentences between two and three years for criticizing the absolute monarchy: here.