Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Freedom in Retreat

Whatever's happening in Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria, developments in two other Arab countries can only conern those concerned with democracy in the region. As Abu Aardvark has mentioned frequently, Jordan is cracking down on free speech in that country, most recently by banning political activity by professional associations. In many Arab states, such organizations represent the only secular forum for political expression by the people.

Meanwhile, in Bahrain, the government has been going after web writers. I haven't followed the details of this situation, which you can read up on at Chan'ad Bahraini and the special Free Ali blog. You should also read this post at Mahmood's Den. At the same time, the government has complained about "the misuse of Ashura commemoration to attack national figures, carry posters and flags not related to the occasion and shouting slogans that had nothing to do with the spirit associated with the celebrations." They appear to be referring mainly to people carrying pictures of foreign ayatollahs during processions, though I'm sure there were more overt political messages, as well.

These stories may not make the nightly news, but they bear watching nonetheless.


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