The lack of democratic breakthroughs worthy of mention in Arab countries has spurred debate about barriers to change. The debate would be incomplete, however, without a discussion of the means by which authoritarian Arab regimes control their societies, particularly the critical roles performed by security services.
Human Rights in the Arab World: Independent Voices offers perspectives from those at the forefront of research and debate at the intersection of human rights and Islam, globalization, transnational advocacy, and the politics of key states such as Egypt, Morocco, and Yemen.
The Democracy and Rule of Law Project hosted a roundtable discussion with Hisham Kassem about the political developments in Egypt over the last year.
U.S. efforts to promote democracy in the Middle East have several components.
In view of the recent victory by Hamas in Palestine and the electoral success of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, understanding the thinking of Islamist movements is more important than ever. Experts are trying to move beyond stark views of the Islamist challenge as either a democratizing force or an extreme threat to democracy, to present a nuanced view of the position of Islamist parties.
Authoritarian leaders around the world have recently started to crack down on democracy-promotion efforts in their countries. The Bush administration's pro-democracy bombast has not helped matters, but has contributed to the false idea that political liberalization is a U.S.-driven phenomenon.
Concern in the U.S. for Arab liberals has taken on a desperate edge, as though all this activity were a last ditch attempt to support a political alternative that ballot boxes in the Arab world have proved too fragile to sustain. The Carnegie Endowment's Amr Hamzway comments on the numerous factors that contribute to this misreading of current political trends in the Arab world in a new editorial.
The victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections has given rise to much soul searching in Washington about who lost Palestine. The main problem, however, is not U.S. policy but the underlying conditions in the last few months that have led to the victory of Hamas and to the impressive showing by both Shia and Sunni religious parties elsewhere in the region.