Week of July 13

The trials and death sentences of Amirhossein Moradi, Mohammad Rajabi and Saeed Tamjidi – who participated in anti-government protests in Iran last November – may be reviewed after a massive social media campaign in their defense. The men deny the charges against them. Credit: BBC.

On July 13th, Egypt’s parliament authorized the deployment of troops outside the country. The authorization, coming immediately after the Egyptian president threatened military action against Turkish-backed troops in Libya, has been seen as further escalating Turkish-Egypt tensions in Libya. Egypt, which backs Khalifa Haftar, leader of the rebel Libyan National Army, used national security threats to justify deployment. In light of this escalation, Turkish leaders are calling for the abandonment of support for Haftar’s forces; meanwhile, the acting head of the UN Support Mission to Libya called for an immediate ceasefire. The increasing presence and strength of the internationally-recognized Government of National Accord’s military force has caused Egypt to become more concerned about the potential loss of its influence and oil prospects in Libya.

On Wednesday, July 15th, Iran’s judiciary suggested it might halt the executions of three young men convicted in connection with November’s mass anti-government protests, in the wake of a massive social media campaign. BBC reported that the Persian hashtag #do_not_execute was used five million times after it was announced on Tuesday that the Supreme Court had upheld the protesters’ death sentences. Many celebrities backed the campaign. The chief of the judiciary will now consider any request from the men to review their sentences. Lawyers for the three men also were reportedly told that they could for the first time examine the court papers and evidence against their clients. The three men in their twenties allege forced confessions and torture during throughout their detention. The BBC report noted that, “Millions of Iranians poured into the streets of cities and towns across the country to protest against poverty, inflation and economic mismanagement. They were met with violence by security forces and hundreds were killed.”

A commotion breaks out among ministers of the Tunisian parliament on July 16th, a day after the prime minister resigned. Credit: Noureddine Ahmed via Facebook

Also on Wednesday, Tunisian Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh resigned amidst a protracted political crisis and parliamentary fragmentation. Fakhfakh stepped down as the parliamentary vote of no confidence championed by Ennahda garnered 105 signatures. According to Reuters, if that process had succeeded, it would have given Ennahda the right to nominate a new prime minister. Fakhfakh will continue to lead the government until a new prime minister is nominated by President Kaïs Saïd in a 10-day delay according to article 89 of the Constitution. The article stipulates that “concertation among parties, coalitions and parliamentary blocs” is needed to inform the executive nomination. The designated prime minister will be given a month to obtain the absolute majority vote to confirm the ministerial cabinet. The prospects of forming a functioning coalition are slim as the biggest party, Ennahda, failed in its own attempts to build a coalition in 2019. At a parliamentary session on July 16th, a physical confrontation of ministers illustrated the deep fracturing of the Tunisian political scene. Hijam Ajbouni, a representative of the Democratic Current party, commented that “Ennahda has aimed since day one to bring down the government” and  “Ennahda’s failure to appoint its own members in key positions “ is to blame for the current parliamentary upheaval.

A protester is detained by Israeli police during a demonstration in Jerusalem last week. Credit: Menahem Kahana/AFP

In Jerusalem, thousands of protestors have demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netenyahu had received significant praise for his initial handling of the coronavirus: he quickly closed the borders and enforced strict social distancing requirements; however, he has rapidly reopened the economy – too rapidly in the opinion of many Israelis. The coronavirus has caused a skyrocketing in the unemployment rate, jumping from 3.4% in February to 27% in April. In addition, Netanyahu faces several corruption charges, though it is unlikely that these corruption charges will force him from office any time soon. Israeli law requires that a prime minister must resign only if convicted for a criminal offense with all appeals exhausted. This process could take years for Netanyahu.

Campaigns to silence critics of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi have extended beyond Egypt’s borders. Self-exiled dissident Mohamad Ali, currently residing in Spain, is facing the threat of extradition due to his anti-regime rants on social media, which have included videos denouncing the rampant corruption in the upper spheres of Sisi’s regime. Extraditing Mohammad Ali to Egypt signals the prospect of a trial with possible harges of money laundering and tax evasion. A preliminary hearing was held on June 9 through a video conference in Spain. Ali has affiliations with the Egyptian military and worked closely with the government for over 15 years. As an insider of the regime, he describes the extradition attempt as a “thinly veiled effort to punish him for his activism.” He further declared that “Egypt is a dictatorship. There are no human rights. They torture people, they execute people… What can happen if they extradite me?” Egypt and Spain have no formal extradition treaty and Pedro Sanchez’s government can repeal the decision of the court. Mohamad Ali remains an affluent public figure in Egypt despite the regime’s attempt to discredit him domestically. Under Sisi’s rule, a massive crackdown on journalists, activists, critics and academics is occurring to crush any expression of dissent. The short video below has more background on Ali’s case.

On July 17th , the prime minister of Lebanon called for Syrian refugees to leave Lebanon and return to their country. Michel Aoun’s statement came as Lebanon’s economic crisis grows increasingly desperate. Syrian refugees comprise one-third of Lebanon’s population, and many Lebanese believe that their needs for humanitarian aid, employment, and housing are contributing to the country’s economic crisis and a looming famine. Aoun’s plan for Syrian refugees claims that the Syrian government will “welcome” the Syrian refugees home, though he noted that there are some areas that are not safe to return to in the country. American officials expressed discontent with the plan, reminding Aoun that the United States is willing to continue supplying humanitarian aid to the country to alleviate any burden caused by Syrian refugees. Though some refugees have returned to Syria from Lebanon, most remain in Lebanon, citing fears of coronavirus, economic instability, and political repercussions as reasons for not returning to Syria.

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