Hot off the Arab press 470007

What citizens of other countries are reading about the Middle East.

Republican US presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton shake hands at the conclusion of their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, US, October 9, 2016 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Republican US presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton shake hands at the conclusion of their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, US, October 9, 2016
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Al-Youm al-Sabe, Egypt, October 2
Egypt has long been the target of international investigations on human rights abuses and torture within its prison service. For international human rights organizations, investigating complaints on human rights abuses in Egypt had been a rather difficult task, since authorities in Cairo prohibit lawyers and activists from visiting jails.
This week, Human Rights Watch, an American-based NGO, is expected to release a first-ever investigative report on one of the Egypt’s most notorious penitentiaries, the Tora Prison. Known as the “Scorpion Prison,” the super-maximum security detention center consists of seven compounds that hold around 300 inmates each. It houses both criminal and political prisoners, and has been the target of widespread public criticism.
While this report is an important initiative and an imperative milestone in the oversight of our prisons, there is no doubt that its findings are going to be tainted by bias and misperception. When Human Rights Watch’s investigative committee visited the prison, Tora officials insisted on only presenting its members with one single section of the compound, which was set up to seem more like a hotel than a jail. Due to the public uproar that soon ensued, the committee was invited again to Egypt, only to be presented with a very limited number of cells that were decided upon by the prison’s commander. In fact, several members of the committee were even barred from entering the compound altogether. To say, therefore, that anything will change as a result of this report is foolish.
At the same time, this is a first step. It is an important stepping stone toward greater transparency and accountability in the Egyptian jail sector specifically, and Egyptian government services more broadly. Prisoners in Tora have not only been stripped of their basic human rights, abused, and tortured, but also forgotten about by the public. This report reminds us that we must fight for their basic human rights.
– Hani Bashir
Al-Okaz, Saudi Arabia, October 3
A recent survey in the Kingdom, distributed by an Islamic research center, asked Saudi citizens what is more important to them: security or freedom? The vast majority of respondents chose the former.
While I am extremely pleased by these results, I am not happy with the question. In my mind, this question is misguided from the outset. It presents two fundamental elements of our lives as inherently contradictory. In reality, however, security and freedom are two interrelated concepts. We cannot truly enjoy freedom – freedom of movement, of speech, of worship, and of religion – without having security to back it up.
The Arab Spring saw millions of citizens taking to the streets and demand freedom. However, it also proved to us that freedom cannot be achieved without political stability, without properly functioning state services, and without effective military and police forces.
Different people can interpret freedom in different ways. To some, it means establishing an Islamic caliphate.
To others it means establishing a secular state.
In order to ensure that those on the fringes do not force themselves upon the rest of the public, security is essential. Therefore, I would not depict the two as opposing concepts.
If I had to answer the question in the survey, just like the respondents did, I would answer one thing, and one thing only: security. I am glad that the Saudi public felt this way as well.
– Turki al-Dakhil
Al-Hayat, London, October 1
The United States has been rapidly preparing to launch a ground offensive against Islamic State in the Iraqi city of Mosul. Just like previous ground operations in Iraq, the battle is planned to begin with Iraqi forces circling the routes leading in and out of the city, in preparation for American troops to move in. In order to assist current forces already the ground, President Obama authorized the deployment of additional soldiers to Iraq this week.
Undoubtedly, Iraq will become a bigger and bigger issue in American foreign policy in months to come.
Therefore, it is inevitable that this topic will come up in the next presidential debates set to take place next week. Whether American voters are aware of this or not, the world is looking at Washington in order to understand what will happen next in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, several key actors in the region are already preparing a “Plan B”: a plan of action that would be implemented against ISIS in case the American-Russian cooperation fails. For too long, these actors claim, Russia and the United States have used Syria and Iraq as a battleground for their own power struggles. Now it is time to step up the game and ensure that a viable cease fire is achieved in the region.
Gulf states, together with Turkey and several European actors, have been working on exactly that. They key elements of their plan are the enforcement of a no fly zone over Syria and the establishment of a safe zone for refugees in neighboring countries. Granted, the United States is too preoccupied with the presidential elections to care. But the preoccupation with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton does not excuse the American administration from responsibility. All eyes are set on Washington, and only time will tell whether it will step up to the plate and take action, or not.
– Raghida Dagham