My column this week focuses once again on human rights issues in Saudi Arabia. I actually had a different column on an entirely different topic written and ready to run -- look for it next week. But then I ran into the Saudi lawyer Abd al-Aziz Hussan here in Washington, and heard more about how he has been harrassed for his defense of human rights activists. I thought it was more important to point some attention to these issues, which have largely fallen out of the international spotlight since the mid-March detention of Mohammed Fahed al-Qahtani and Abdullah al-Hamed. His case is only one small example of a much broader repressive trend across the Gulf which deserves more sustained attention and action.
Thanks to to all those Saudis who have already commented on the essay. I'd like to quickly point over to an excellent piece by former ambassador Richard LaBaron on a similar topic today, and also acknowledge Dwight Bashir's note that the U.S. Committee on International Religious Freedom did comment on Qahtani's and Hamed's detention in March. I hope you'll go over to the FP main page to read it, and I look forward to more discussion.
For some reason, this seems like a good time to post the video of my POMEPS Conversation with Christopher Davidson, author of After the Sheikhs, recorded during his visit to GW in March. Remember, you can subscribe to all the POMEPS Convos here (they will be sporadic over the summer, most likely, and then return regularly in the fall).
Meanwhile, it's been another great week of fantastic reporting and analysis on the Middle East Channel. Be sure to read them all:
- Andrew Lebovich, Confronting Tunisia's Jihadists, a carefully reported, detailed essay on Tunisia's simmering battles over salafism and new jihadist groups.
- Aaron Stein, Turkey Waits on Washington, reading the tough choices and limited options on Syria available to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan.
- Nathan Brown and Mokhtar Awad, The Egyptian Judiciary Between a Japanese Tea Ceremony and World Wrestling Entertainment, diving deep into the political issues confronting the Egyptian judiciary
- Kirk Sowell, Provincial Elections and Iraq's Never Ending Crisis, a very sharp reading of how Iraq's electoral results will play out in the context of its growing violence and ongoing political struggles.
- Brian Dooley, Diplomacy, Threats, and Bahrain's Cabinet, on the remarkable criticisms of the U.S. ambassador by Bahrain's Cabinet.
Elsewhere on FP, don't miss Alia Malek's dispatch from Syria's Alawi community; Marwan Muasher's skeptical take on the attempted revival of the Arab Peace Initiative; Michael Knights' alarming take on Iraq's spiraling crisis; Thanassis Cambanis' analysis of Iran's potential quagmire in Syria; Mohamed Eljarh on the pushback against Libya's extremists; and this great photo-essay from Aleppo.
UPDATE: I just found out officially that I've been promoted to full professor here at GWU. That's a double L to the F U y'all!
-- Marc Lynch, Middle East Channel Editor