October 22, 2003


Whispers of democracy across the Middle East (John Hughes, 10/22/03, CS Monitor)

Ever so gently, the breezes of change - we can't yet call them "winds" - are rippling across hitherto repressed parts of the Islamic world.

• Saudi Arabia announced last week it will hold elections for municipal councils within a year - its first flirtation with real elections.

• In Morocco, King Mohammed VI outlined sweeping changes in polygamy, marriage, and divorce laws, proclaiming: "How can society achieve progress while women, who represent half the nation, see their rights violated and suffer as a result of injustice, violence, and marginalization?"

• In Iran, the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi - the first Muslim woman to win it - gave heart and a fillip to the embattled reform movement. Ten thousand Iranians turned out at the Tehran airport to welcome her home.

• Arab intellectuals, in cooperation with the UN, released a report Monday calling for reforms that would advance the cause of women's rights in Arab lands and make governments more accountable.

• Afghanistan has virtually finished a constitution that will affirm adherence to Islam, but provide for national elections in 2004, and set up a two-chamber parliament in which women would have a significant role. The draft constitution guarantees the protection of human rights.

• In Iraq there's movement toward swifter empowerment of the Iraqi Governing Council, to be followed by a new constitution and national elections, perhaps in 2004.

We can be heartened, but not too euphoric.

The most important thing to realize is that only the events in Morocco would be proceeding had 9-11 never occurred, and perhaps not as quickly there.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 22, 2003 4:33 PM

You sure about the Nobel?

Anyhow, your point is obscure. Are we supposed to be thankful?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 22, 2003 6:15 PM

No, sullen.

Posted by: oj at October 22, 2003 6:20 PM

Actually, I think we would have seen some movement towards pacifying the (growing) Saudi masses via some degree of "democractic" reform with or without 9-11 (and have been predicting the same for a while). The royal family is facing a demographic problem, and the revenues they have always used to buy off the masses are not keeping pace. They have a Hobson's choice of opening to greater foreign direct investment (the Saudi gas initiative is a taste of that) in order to raise more revenue (but allowing more Western involvement brings... well, more Western involvement for radicals to agitate against) or hoping some small measure of democratic reform will be enough to pacify the masses.

I don't think either is going to be enough -- and then all of those folks who keep advocating the overturn of the House of Saud are going to get their wish, and see it replaced with something much worse.

Posted by: kevin whited at October 22, 2003 8:16 PM

Harry I think the point is that these profoundly ignorant, vicious and stupid men, through their profoundly ignorant, vicious and stupid actions, have ended up pushing the world in precisly the opposite direction to the one they intended.

We can take some satisfaction in that, also in that it refutes the moronic bleatings of our lunar left that fighting terrorists would only create more terrorism, and that's 'what Osama would want'.

Utter bull[wash], as we are now seeing.

I don't know what Osama envisioned himself getting out of 911, but it wasn't him dead, his organisation smashed and democracy spreading across the Middle East.

Posted by: Amos at October 22, 2003 9:18 PM

bullwash!? Patton would not approve

Posted by: Amos at October 22, 2003 11:00 PM

With the Bomb in development in Iran and Lybia, but not quite yet there, and the utter craziness (or sanity, depending on how you look at it) of their beliefs in full, majestic view, while, on the other hand, the might of the US unleashed, somewhat, it is in their interests to try to tone down the rhetoric a bit, and show that they're trying oh so hard to behave.

It's way too soon to "be heartened," though the euphoria of apocalypse may well be nigh.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at October 23, 2003 3:01 AM

At a very minimum, I interpret oj's point to mean that OUR actions post 9/11, not the lunatics, are beginning to have the opposite impact of what the afore-referenced madmen expected (pre-9/11), and (I am sorry to have to believe) what quite a few in the loyal opposition (as we approach 11/04) are counting on happening. (Let alone what a lot of the punditry have been predicting since 10/01 in terms of the Arab street, etc...)

Posted by: MG at October 23, 2003 8:14 AM