VOICES FROM THE ARAB PRESS
A weekly selection of opinions and analyses from the Arab media around the world
NO INTEREST IN ISLAMIST RULE!
Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt, October 1
The Arab people do not wish to be governed by Islamist parties
When the first round of presidential elections in Tunisia took place in the middle of this month, Abdelfattah Mourou, the vice president of the Islamic Renaissance Movement, ran on a list of 24 candidates. When the result was announced, Moro was not among the two candidates that advanced to the final run-off. The Ennahda candidate, which is usually described as the Tunisian version of the Muslim Brotherhood, received 13% of the total vote in the first round, coming in third after businessman and media mogul Nabil Karoui, and renowned Tunisian law professor Qais Said, who came in first.
Interestingly, when the losing candidates came forward to challenge the results, Moro was not among them. This can only mean one thing: Moro understood what had happened and realized that his movement is simply unpopular among the people. The small share of votes given to Ennahda was commensurate with its shrinking popularity. This in and of itself was a kind of sensibility that we can only wish to see enacted by our own Brotherhood branch, here in Egypt. The Egyptian Brotherhood is still far from a point where it can reckon with its defeat. Its members still vehemently refuse to recognize their political insignificance and failure to rule the country.
After the first elections were held in Libya in the post-Gaddafi era, the Muslim Brotherhood contested the results. Their share of votes was barely enough to pass the threshold. This meant that nothing on the ground gave them the right to rule Libya. However, they did not stop protesting, and until today target the army with all sorts of baseless accusations. If elections were held in Yemen today, the Houthi group would gain a similar share of votes to those won by the Ennahda movement in Tunisia and the Brotherhood in Libya. The meaning of this would, again, be the same: The Arab people do not wish to be governed by Islamist parties! Not in Yemen, and certainly not in Libya, Tunisia, or Egypt. –Suleiman Gouda
A QUIET PRISON REFORM PROJECT
Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, September 30
“Here on the slopes of hills, facing the dusk and the cannon of time, close to the gardens of broken shadows, we do what prisoners do, and what the jobless do: We cultivate hope.” I can’t help but think of this poetic text by Mahmoud Darwish whenever I recall the smiling faces of the young inmates at the General Investigation Prison in Dammam, whom I met last July. These young men, who underwent deep intellectual and behavioral transformations in prison, cling to the future. Like an old olive tree, whose veins are increasingly rooted in the soil, no matter how strong the winds around it are, these inmates hold on to the last thing they have: hope for a better tomorrow.
Indeed, their program at the Dammam Prison is unique. It stands in complete contradiction to the old notion of “punishment” that exists in the Arab world. In the past, prisons were viewed as a space designed to break the will of the detainee, humiliate him, and turn him fragile and weak. Imprisonment, in punitive thinking, is meant to subjugate the inmate. This thinking generates an air that pollutes the minds of the detainees before their bodies, rendering them negative individuals who are able to return to extremism and violence again.
However, more and more prisons in the Kingdom now follow an opposite approach. They allow – indeed, encourage – inmates to take advantage of their time in prison, through various activities: education, sports, arts, media, and music, among others. This creates a spirit and culture of work. Inmates focus on positive ventures, not negative behavior. This change was embodied in the Kingdom's 89th National Day celebrations held in the Eastern Province and the Qatif Governorate. The streets of the province were decorated with flags made by detainees at the General Intelligence Prison, and prisoners were released that day, as part of the reform program.
The celebration ceremony held inside the prison, prepared and managed by the detainees themselves, is also a testament to the ability of these inmates, through partnership and dialogue with the prison administration, to lead better lives for themselves. This shift in inmate pedagogy and prison management is an important development that is quietly taking place, in successive steps, away from the eye of the media. What has changed is evidence of a real consciousness and will on behalf of all of those who are involved with the prison management project. These individuals are determined to give people a second chance, integrate them back into society, and build a better Saudi Arabia for us all. –Hassan Mustafa
ROUHANI AT THE UNITED NATIONS
Al-Etihad, UAE, October 2
Iran, caught in yet another misfortune caused by its reckless behavior, seems to always speak in two voices: One talks about global peace and security, and one creates problem and spews hatred in the region. At the United Nations last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani looked like a peace dove. But don’t be mis
taken: this peace dove has teeth. He wants peace in the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz through a security system linked to charters and contracts. He wants negotiations, not war.
He said that the Iranians had treated the European initiative positively, but the Europeans could not deliver on what they had promised. Just as Iran accepts negotiations in every way, it has commendable efforts to cooperate in solving problems. From Syria to Lebanon, Palestine to Yemen, it is ready to help achieve peace!
Rouhani began his speech with prayers for the martyrs of the revolution. I tried to understand which “revolution” he was referring to. He spoke about the martyrs in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine and Afghanistan. But he neglected to mention that in all of these places, Iran has committed massacres either directly or indirectly, through its proxy militias. In Syria and Iraq, Iran participated in the killing of hundreds of thousands and the displacement of millions of others.
Just a few days ago, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah called on the inhabitants of the Syrian town of Qusayr (which housed more than thirty thousand citizens) to return to their homes, from which Iranian and Syrian militias had kicked them out. The very same martyrs Rouhani was talking about in Syria and Iraq are those murdered by ISIS, the Popular Mobilization, the Revolutionary Guards Corps, and Hezbollah – all of which are supported by Iran. And who carried out the coup in Yemen, which killed and displaced thousands? They are the Houthis trained and armed by Iran. But Rouhani, for some reason, wants to be a negotiator who solves these problems.
Needless to say, this makes absolutely no sense. Iran is the problem. It is Iran that is influencing the militias to reject any diplomatic solution, even the Hodeida agreement, which Rouhani praises and extols. He would have been “proud” if the Houthis had cooperated in its implementation, but they – unbeknownst to him, of course – did not. In Afghanistan, Iran is involved in working with the Taliban against the legitimate government. In Palestine, where Israel is maintaining its brutal occupation of the Palestinian people, there have been several wars Iran needed in its bargaining with the United States.
Rouhani came to the United Nations after Iran targeted Saudi oil installations with guided missiles. The Europeans condemned the strike, but French President Emanuel Macron remained determined to get Rouhani and Trump in the same room. Rouhani refused until Trump promised to ease the sanctions on Tehran. Eventually, it was Teheran who came out with the upper hand. Wouldn’t it have been wiser for the Europeans to come to terms with Iran’s true identity, instead of rushing to embrace Rouhani at the UN? Iran needs to be spoken to in the language it best understands: that of threats and force. –Radwan Al-Sayeed
400 MILLION POUNDS FOR A BRITISH FEMALE PRISONER
Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, October 2
Did you think that ISIS and other terrorist groups are the only ones to kidnap innocent people and ask for money in return for their release? Well, think again. You might be surprised to hear that Iran adopted the same modus operandi. The British government recently revealed that Iranian Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif asked Britain for 400 million pounds in return for the release of a British woman of Iranian origin who has been jailed for extortion charges in Tehran.
"We have never, and will never, accept any suggestion that the UK government should pay Iran to release its nationals who have been arbitrarily detained in the country," the British government, which exposed the negotiations, said in a statement. They must be released unconditionally. The UK will not be blackmailed, and the comments of the Iranian foreign minister will only further discredit the Iranian government.”
Indeed, Minister Zarif, with his usual double tongue, to which his listeners are accustomed, said his request for money in exchange for the release of the British detainee was meant to convince the Iranian court that the release of the prisoner is an exchange of British money owed to Iran, and that these funds accumulated and accrued interest! But we all understand that this is plain old ransom.
This is Iran's old-fashioned approach. Indeed, its first "diplomacy" was the detention of 52 employees of the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979 for 444 days. Subsequently, it carried out several kidnappings, mostly through its proxy Hezbollah, which targeted Western civilians in Lebanon in the early 1980s and bargained against them.
This behavior continued during the war in Syria. The notorious Evin Prison in Tehran hosts dozens of detainees of British, Australian and other Western nationalities, most of whom were arrested for the purpose of bargaining. In this ongoing series of bullying as a state policy, we should not rule out the possibility that Iran, through its organizations in Iraq and Lebanon, abduct Americans with the sole hope that this would embarrass US President Donald Trump and push him to make more concessions vis-a-vis Tehran. This is Iran's ideology, and without the world sending it a strong message of deterrence, it will continue to practice this diplomatic terrorism.
–Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed
More and more prisons in the Kingdom encourage inmates to take advantage of their time there
ABDELFATTAH MOUROU of the Ennahda Party and his wife show off their ink-stained fingers after casting their vote at a polling station during the presidential election, in Tunis on September 15. SAUDI PRISONERS play volleyball at Ha’er Prison in Saudi Arabia.