VOICES FROM THE ARAB PRESS

A weekly se­lec­tion of opin­ions and analy­ses from the Arab me­dia around the world

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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

(Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters) (Faisal Al Nasser/Reuters)

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.

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