Saturday, August 17, 2013

My Interview with the Bedouin commander who captured Saif Al-Islam Gadhafi

Here is an excerpt from my latest piece in The Independent:

On an old Saharan road in the small hours of a cold November night, darkness cloaked a Bedouin commander and his 14 men waiting in ambush.

At 2:30 in the morning, their patience and their intelligence sources were proved justified, and two cars travelling along Libya’s borders with Niger and Algeria became mired in a depression in the sand.

One man exited the first car, immediately fell flat, and buried his face in the sand. Commander Alajmi Ali Ahmed al-Atiri raised the man to his feet to inquire who he was.

“He said: ‘My name is Abdessalam al-Tergi. I’m a camel herder and I’m going to my herd,’” recounts Atiri. “And when he asked: ‘Who are you?’ I responded: ‘We are the revolutionaries of Zintan and [the] Hutman [tribe], oh Saif,’ and that’s when he knew that we recognised him.”

To continue reading, click here.

Libya's Unarmed Revolutionaries

Here is an excerpt from my recent article in Foreign Policy:

During the more than four decades of his rule, Qaddafi succeeded in fusing his family with the state and the government. The basic building block of civil society -- associative life -- could not exist outside the regime's control. The revolution ruptured this model. Citizens, long silent, collectively asserted their right to a share in Libya. In the fight against Qaddafi, armed groups secured victory with the help of peaceful citizens' associations, a nascent civil society that provided medical assistance, food and water, and psychological treatment for those traumatized by war. Now in its second year, civil society groups are taking their first tentative steps toward an institutional role in the state. While government is at the mercy of warring militias and the private sector primarily revolves around natural resources, it is the third sector, civil society, that is laying the groundwork for an educated citizenry engaged in the rebuilding of Libya. A strong civil society is key to guaranteeing and protecting the gains of the revolution, and, in many ways, represents Libya's best hope for a genuine democracy. 

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Tunisia and 'the Egyptian Model'

Here is an excerpt from my recent analysis in the Cairo Review:

In both Tunisia and Egypt, the state’s most important and entrenched institution remains the security establishment. In the case of Egypt, this means the army. It wields enormous political power, has close relations with the U.S., oversees the complicated relations with Israel, and maintains interests in virtually all sectors of the economy. Presidents Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak were all military men, and it seems that General Abdul-Fattah El-Sisi seeks to follow in their footsteps.
In Tunisia it is the Interior Ministry that retains potentially decisive power. This is the case particularly with the police, which was led at one point by Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, before his ascendance to the presidency. Tunisia, under his rule, was rightly characterized as a police state. What we know of the Interior Ministry is more limited than what we know of the Egyptian army, and Human Rights Watch has described it as “a black box,” However, tiny slivers of light have begun to emerge, and the role of the ministry and the police in the current standoff between pro- and anti-government protesters may be key to understanding why Tunisia has not followed Egypt’s lead.

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Saturday, August 3, 2013

Tunisia and the 'Arab Spring' Reversal

The following is an excerpt from my recent analysis of Tunisia's current turmoil following another political assassination. Read the full article here at Jadaliyya.

Two years ago, hope was not only palpable in the streets of Tunis; it was infectious. Young Arabs had risen up and triumphed against a Western-supported dictator whose police state ran on fear. Similar uprisings across the region seemed to have confirmed that Tunisia had led the way towards a new, more democratic order. And Tunisia was about to lead the way again by holding a clean election, almost unprecedented in the Middle East and North Africa.

Now, hope is in rare supply across the region. Egypt’s elections yielded new leaders that blindly and illiberally ran the country along strict partisan lines until a military coup publicly reasserted old-regime institutions. Libya’s timid leaders and bold militias have hampered democracy, security and institution building. Syria’s revolution turned into a bloody war and a hellish game for external actors, while Lebanon desperately tries to quarantine itself from the neighboring chaos. Western observers use increasingly desperate euphemisms for Iraq’s escalating civil war. No one dares talk about Bahrain, or perhaps no one cares. Other Gulf countries quietly quarrel amongst themselves through political and economic maneuvering in neighboring proxy countries.

While numerous pundits bemoan “Arab Spring” fatigue, many still believed that tiny Tunisia alone might overcome its challenges to create a new inclusive, civic, stable, free, and prosperous political order. But what started in Tunisia may soon end in Tunisia as the gains of the “Arab Spring” are systematically rolled back with the help of old regime forces, ascendant ideological zealots, domestic lassitude, and powerful outside players that are uncomfortable with independent, populist politics in the region.

Read the rest here.