Mauritania’s Bouazizi Died Today

23 01 2011

Yacoub Ould Dahoud, A Mauritanian Folk Hero

 

Yacoub Ould dahoud, the Mauritanian businessman who burned himself on January 17, 2011 in front of the presidential palace in Nouakchott, Mauritania died today.  The 41-year old wast motivated by a desire to depose Mauritania’s President, General Aziz and to democratize his country.

His body was supposed to be flown back today from Morocco where his family took him to receive better medical care. It is not clear yet whether the delay is politically motivated – Aziz’s strongest regional ally – as reports indicate that the Moroccan authorities are insisting on conducting an autopsy to determine the causes of his death.

Many Mauritanians this blogger spoke to tonight are convinced that the delay is an act of active collusion designed to help General Aziz win time to manage a public relations fiasco that could potentially lead Mauritanians to take to the streets. This is in the wake of initial protest in the capital city of Nouakchott and other cities against the skyrocketing prices of essential goods.

His death is fueling anger in Mauritania despite an age-old societal aversion towards suicide. Mauritania’s Taqadoumy news website collected reactions of Mauritanians made on Facebook and other source. They reflect a growing outrage fueled by a perceived smear campaign kicked off  by General Aziz’s earlier declarations describing Dahoud’s action as “desperate because of [General Aziz's] war on corruption as [Dahoud] hails from a wealthy family.”

Dahoud was not a poor man, nor was he unemployed like his Tunisian counterpart. His Facebook profile accessed today by this blogger shows Dahoud followed very closely the events unfolding in Tunisia culminating with Ben Ali’s ousting by his people. He came from a prominent family and many Mauritanians I spoke with agree that he was driven by the same motivation as Tunisia’s Bouazizi: making a statement about tyranny and the lack of freedom in their socieities. Not so much a question of Dollars and cents.

Influenced & Inspired By Bouazizi

Yacoub posted on his Facebook wall a link to a manifesto (also posted it on Google Docs) in Arabic and French in the wee hours of January 17, 2011 explaining his demands. Proceeded with slogans posted earlier in French calling for General Aziz’s ouster (Aziz Dégage.) His list of demands included a call to end of Mauritania’s military meddling in politics, and for the regime of (coup master) Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz to be deposed. Dahoud also denounced tribalism as well as slavery on his Facebook wall. His manifesto also included jabs at France’s meddling in Mauritanian affairs under Nicholas Sarkozy who many Mauritanians blame for the success of General Aziz’s power grab in 2008 by providing the necessary political cover internationally allowing him to conduct fraudulent elections in 2009 to legitimize his coup d’etat.

Contrary to initial reports from Reuters claiming Dahoud committed this act to protest tribal grievances, his was a genuine political act of pre-planned and meditated dissent, in fact his suicide note states clearly that he sought peaceful constitutional reform and a functioning democracy.

Dahoud's Manifesto

His manifesto opens with:

Extremism and terrorist groups are a result of 50 years of poverty and the loss of hope that rulers’ oppression will end.

Then he further clarifies:

Enough corruption, enough oppression. Mauritania belongs to the people, not to the Generals and their entourage.

To get the corrupt army band from power, enough with corruption, enough oppression. We suffered fifty years of corruption and oppression. Do we and the future generations not deserve one month of steadfastness to dash out of oppression, intellectual, material and physical oppression [?]

Dahoud then listst his demands:

- The release of human rights activists in prison [Biram Ould Dah] who are fighting against slavery

- Eliminating all taxes and tariffs on rice, wheat, cooking oil, sugar, milk and monitoring their obscene price hikes

- Replacing taxes and tariffs on basic goods through more taxation on cigarettes, luxury cars and tariffs on European ships that are pillaging our maritime wealth, as well as taxing telecom companies or Mauritania’s income from gold mining stolen by the Army commanders’ band.

- A constitutional amendment to be submitted to parliament in an emergency session containing the following points:

a- No current or ex member of the military shall be eligible to be elected President of the Republic

b- An independent electoral committee that will organize and supervise elections without intervention from the Interior Ministry- the source of all ills undermining freedoms in our country.

c- Imposing that the choice of the prime minister be the prerogative of the parliamentary block holding the majority in parliament

d- The nomination ministers of: justice, interior, finance, education shall be contingent upon parliament’s approval

e- The nomination of judges and the attorney general shall be contingent upon parliament’s approval

f- The nomination of the members of the constitutional council [the highest court of the land] shall be contingent upon parliament’s approval

g- Calling via a presidential decree for legislative and presidential decree within six months from the decree’s issuance

h- calling parliament in an emergency session to ratify: the constitutional amendments, an amnesty law for the General [Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz], members of the High Council [military junta ruling body] and the ministers in his government before and after the 2009 elections

If you do not accept this offer, then you should face the people’s wrath and be forced out as Ben Ali was.

I take this occasion to beg the people of France to force its rulers to accept the Mauritanian people’s right to self-determination.

Our lives are a small price to pay for Mauritania so that our sons can live in a country with social justice, liberty and democracy.

Yacoub Dahoud

A simple citizen demanding legitimate rights.

Hasn’t the time come for the Mauritanian people to chose freely and seriously who will preside over its destiny, and manage its resources that can easily service its needs instead of alms of hostile foreign governments?

 





Inner-Workings of A Police State: Foreign Ministry

20 01 2011

 

Guilt By Association: A State Policy Under Ben Ali

This is a summary translation of a document  (the picture above) found after the fall of Ben Ali’s regime in Tunisia. It is a report from the Tunisian Consul in France to the Interior Ministry asking for instruction about issuing a passport to the daughter of a Tunisian man living in France. The document shows the consul asking for instructions on how to proceed with the passport application given that the little girl’s father is a political refugee in France.

This is how the Ben Ali regime kept a vindictive eye on dissidents living abroad. Even if a tunisian left tunisia, he or she, will still be under surveillance and subjected to the arbitrary rule of Ben Ali. Most importantly, that this document shows the complicity of in Ben Ali’s crimes and abuses in the foreign ministry. The current foreign minister and his predecessor, are as complicit as Ben Ali himself in the repression and terrorization of the people of Tunisia.

Again, I could have written a longer and more detailed analysis of what is behind this, but I choose not to.The document speaks for itself. The banality of evil..

 

 

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Consulate of The Republic of Tunisia

Pantin [France]

 

List of documents addressed to

The Minister of Interior and Local Development

(Borders & Aliens Directorate)

Under supervision of the Minister of Foreign Affairs

[Stamp]

000829

Documents Number Notes
Passport Application for Bilqees Bousshaqi Born on on 1/27/2009 registered at our service under the number 100528 

Supporting documents:

-Parent Authorization

-Copy of the father’s national ID Card

-Copy of father’s residency card

-Birth Certificate

4

 

Awaiting your authorization as the father is a political refugee in France.
Total 5

The above mentioned documents were received

Date [Blank]

Signature

Pantin, April 3, 2009

Consul

[Signature & Seal]

Abderazaq Ben Faraj





تضامنوا مع المدونة طل الملوحي

13 09 2010

Free 19-year old Syrian Blogger Tal Al-Molohe

وقفة إحتجاجية أمام السفارة السورية بالقاهرة للمطالبة بالإفراج الفوري عن طل الملوحي

طل الملوحي مدونة سورية عمرها أقل من 19 عاما إعتقلت منذ 11 شهراً من قبل أجهزة الأمن السورية وحتى الآن هي قيد الإحتجاز والتحقيق في المعتقلات السورية في مكان غير معلوم ولايدري عنها أحداً .. أقصى نشاطات طل الملوحي تنحصر في كتابة قصائد شعرية في حب فلسطين
آن الأوان لكشف إنتهاكات حقوق الإنسان البشعة في سوريا وتسليط الأضواء عليها .. وحيث أن أشقائنا أحرار سوريا في الداخل يستحيل عليهم في ظل النظام القمعي العنيف القايام بأي أنشطة تعمل على الكشف على مصير طل .. قرر النشطاء الأحرار المصريون بكافة ميولهم السياسية تجاوز الحدود الجغرافية والتضامن الإنساني مع قضية حقوق الإنسان في سوريا والمطالبة بالكشف عن مصير طل والإفراج الفوري عنها من خلال وقفة إحتجاجية سلمية يوم الأحد 19 سبتمبر 2010 أمام السفارة السورية في القاهرة في 18 شارع عبد الرحيم صبري بالدقي من الساعة الثالثة ظهراً ولمدة ساعتين حتى الخامسة عصراً
قضية الحريات قضية إنسانية تخص كل حر شريف تتساقط معها الحدود الجغرافية .. وأحرار مصر دائما هو أول من يناصرون حرية الإنسان وحقوقه في داخل البلاد وخارجها
الوقفة الإحتجاجية السلمية .. حق دستوري كفله لك القانون .. للتعبير عن مطالبك امام سفارة الدولة المعنية





Digiactivism Alive in Mideast

26 07 2010

Doesn’t  Sound “Passive”, eh?

Every now and then, someone in the West comes to make some outlandish claim about the use and potential of Social Media in the Middle East, hint: the Iran Twitter Revolution. This time, it comes from the Middle East from Rami Khouri who writes for Lebanon-based Daily Star. His central claim, in his piece picked by the New York Times (..) is that Arabs who are using social media tools are largely spectators:

Blogging, reading politically racy Web sites, or passing around provocative text messages by cellphone is equally satisfying for many youth. Such activities, though, essentially shift the individual from the realm of participant to the realm of spectator, and transform what would otherwise be an act of political activism — mobilizing, demonstrating or voting — into an act of passive, harmless personal entertainment.

This claim does not stand the test of reality, take for example the recent anti-censorship protest in Tunisia reported on this blog, or even closer to Mr Khouri’s levant, the case of Egyptian citizen Khaled Said whose killing at the hands of Egyptian police officers became a rallying point for those same “passive” Arabs. Khaled Said’s murder was quickly picked up and relayed via twitter, Facebook where a group for him quickly grew to include over 200000 users. Later on, those same “passive” youth took their online virtual activism to the real world by organizing protest demonstrations, sit-ins- flash mobs. Now, hold your breath, just last Sunday the latest protest demonstration took place thousands of miles away from Khaled Said’s native Alexandria, it happened here in the US in New York.

Many of us have grown so used to seeing this cycle unfold in the Middle East over the last few years, however, what is remarkable is that the time it took in 2005 to start an advocacy campaign  has been considerably shortened, primarily, due to the scale of users and the growing skill pool: thousands and thousand more Arabs are in fact using Social Media tools. For instance, the Khaled Said tragedy broke out in June, we’re now in the end of July and protest has already been exported outside of the Middle East.

So, it would not be very hard to see why Khouri’s claim here seems bizarre:

We must face the fact that all the new media and hundreds of thousands of young bloggers from Morocco to Iran have not triggered a single significant or lasting change in Arab or Iranian political culture. Not a single one. Zero.

if we only considered the full impact of the Khaled Said campaing (which is just the newest of many): it allowed Egyptian activists to force the government’s hand, the killers are facing trial, and there is an entire new discourse emerging in Egypt crystalizing young Egyptian hopes for their civil rights to be respected: a demand to stop police brutality.

Interestingly, the protest and the sit-ins that happened in Egypt itself were largely driven by young activists without any implication of the existing political parties, thus, it is interesting how new media is giving these activists a voice. Consider for example this new tactic used by young Egyptians to identify  police officers who are involved in torture and compiling their names. See the growing “piggipedia” archive on Flickr tracking those police officers. Talk about crowd-sourcing justice..

Without belaboring the point here, Rami Khouri misses the mark entirely on the realities of Middle East Digiactivism.

On the geopolitical side of Mr Khouri’s piece, chiefly his complaint, heard ad nauseam in the region among those very same activists he dismisses so lightly, about the “hypocrisy” of American government’s interest in social media while it supports the very same dictatorships that crush liberties:

One cannot take seriously the United States or any other Western government that funds political activism by young Arabs while it simultaneously provides funds and guns that help cement the power of the very same Arab governments the young social and political activists target for change.

My answer is very simple, these activists might actually NOT, I repeat, NOT NEED US government’s funds or support. They have done fine for themselves so far and grew their skills tremendously. most of them factor already in their game plans that there is no cavalry that will be forthcoming from DC to do a job they already figured how to do for themselves, thank you very much!

Otherwise, check for yourself the scores of Arab bloggers and  journalists who are rotting in jails or facing harassment without a peep heard from Washington about them.

That is the unspoken code many of the shakers and movers of Mideast Digiactivists agree on, and Mr Khouri completely ignores: “we don’t care for what you want, we’re doing our own thing, leave us alone.”, I heard that for myself while attenting the Arab Bloggers conference back in December 2009 where I ran a session precisely discussing the issue of funding.

As of now, it looks to me like Washington DC politicians need Middle East activists a heck lot more than Middle Eastern activists need them..





Dummies Guide to Constitutional Fraud

13 01 2010

Colonel Ould Taya

As an activist interested in issues of reform in the MENA region, I was grabbed by a commentary at the Maghreb Blog on a paper entitled “Constitutional Reform in the Arab World” by Professor Amina El Messaoudi of the Mohamed V University in Rabat. A quick glance on the section dedicated to Mauritania reveals serious factual flaws:

The introduction to the Mauritanian constitution assured its commitment to democratic values as defined in the International Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the African Covenant for Human Rights (1981). The constitutional amendment of 1991 defined a variety of rights which are guaranteed to the Mauritanian people, including the right to equality, freedoms and basic human rights, the right to property, political freedoms, freedoms for trade unions, economic and social rights

Understandably, the chronic shortage of research material on Mauritania produces this assessment which is factually and historically wrong. The author seems to not know that when Mauritanian’s 1991 constitution was put on referendum, the citizens voted for a constitution of 103 articles. After the vote, Mauritanians were surprised by the addition of a 104th article stating:

La législation et la réglementation en vigueur dans la République Islamique de Mauritanie restent applicables tant qu’elles n’auront pas été modifiées dans les formes prévues par la présente Constitution.

This meant that in effect, the 1991 constitution was emptied of any perceived gains in terms of  protections and guarantees for political freedoms. By adding article 104, the laws promulgated under the CMSN (military junta ruling since July 1978) regime were maintained. These were the laws that former President Taya used to repress his opposition and retain extraordinary powers of arrest, surveillance and detention from 1991 until 2005.

It is no accident that the constitutional reform of 2005-with its problematic article 102- removed article 104 at the request of all political actors in the country. See for example this quote from Le Calame published on the UFP’s site concerning the infamous article during the post 2005 coup transition:

Pour ce qui est du fameux article 104, les participants ont exigé son abrogation, car il est jugé illégitime pour avoir été ajouté au texte de la constitution de juillet 91. L’article qui portera désormais (à titre symbolique) le numéro 103 sera reformulé pour garantir à la fois la continuité du droit, et la nécessaire adaptation des lois et règlements antérieurs aux nouveaux droits et libérés consacrés par la Loi fondamentale.

The issue at hand is not that a professor got her history wrong, it is rather that this blatant violation of the principles of constitutional rule was largely ignored by Mauritania’s main donor countries. between 1991 and 2005 the Taya regime-fraudulent elections included- was considered legitimate and legal by many in the west  because of larger interests and geopolitical realities. Mauritania’s political class is not blameless,  it never managed to formulate a cohesive vision convincing enough to foreign powers to contemplate an alternative to Taya’s authoritarian rule. Naturally, it paid the price in the form of the 20 years of Ould Taya’s dictatorial reign.

Alas, this is not an issue of the past: the same pattern is discernible in big powers’ choice to ignore massive fraud that “legitimized” General Aziz’s election back in July 2009. Interestingly, Aziz’s newest tool, the anti-terror law, reflects some of the same murkiness as Ould Taya’s constitution; an elastic definition of terrorism that also allows up to 4 years of preventive detention in “terrorism” cases. It even has a vague reference to constitutional rights without any specifics.  Today as well, it remains to be seen whether big powers will yet again be content with the appearance of legality over legitimacy in order to pursue vital interests.

Just to name a few names: Jemal Mubarak, Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, Seyif Alislam Qaddafi are real reminders that the challenge of realpolitik does apply beyond to Mauritania to the entire Arab region as many regimes are nearing their biological expiration date; many leaders are aging and are busy engineering their monarchical succession under the cover of republican constitutional legality…





Hunger Strike Over

12 01 2010

The House of Bliss

After a major scare, reported in the previous post, Hanevy issued a letter announcing his decision to end his hunger strike. While his decision is wise given his health situation, and despite the government’s determination to keep him in jail where he remains.

His decision came after his former Qur’anic teacher Sheikh Mohamed Vall Ould Abddallhi Bah (a prominent cleric) asked him to do so to preserve his life arguing that “all Abrahamic faiths forbid the infliction of self-harm.”

After providing the context of his decision to enter a hunger strike to protest his arbitrary detention, Hanevy thanked all those who supported him and showed solidarity with him, he further explained his decision saying:

I cannot turn down the request of my teacher, a man of God, who never sought the favor of any ruler nor any proximity to his court. I decided that as of today, 1/12/2010 I shall cease my hunger strike.

I recall here the advice I received through an intermediary from my friend, the great Tunisian human rights activist Moncef Marzouki; he recommended that I limit the period of my hunger strike given the severe health complications that might ensue. He gave me this advice as one of the most brilliant physicians in the Maghreb, and not as a courageous human rights advocate.

I took this decision in consultation with the Mauritanian Journalist Union

Contrary to earlier reports, his jailers refused to allow him to be transported outside the prison to receive treatment after his fall:

I cannot but state for the record the inhumane treatment I received in prison after I lost consciousness yesterday [Monday]  I was not transported outside of the prison to receive healthcare. The prison doctor turned off his phone all day long. This allowed the prison guards and the warden to hide behind the excuse that only the doctor could allow me to be moved to the National Hospital Center.

While courageous and inspiring, Hanevy clearly understands that we do not need martyrs, but outspoken journalists to keep rulers in check. After all, in the eyes of a despot, the only good journalist is a muzzled journalist.





Haram in the House of Bliss!

11 01 2010

Hanevy on the day he was arrested

The news from the House of Bliss (Dar Naim Jail) is not good; Hanevy fell on his head on his way back to his cell and is semi-comatose according to the latest reports. The government sent a military doctor to asses his status. The verdict is that he needs x-rays to evaluate any possible internal injuries. A great source of concern is that the authorities blocked any visits to Hanevy since his fall which raises grave concerns over his prognosis: What is there to hide?

Interestingly, a cleric urged Hanevy to end his hunger strike because it is a form of suicide. This blogger’s response: is it Haram to combat injustice? Isn’t silence in the face of tyranny a sin?

Today, the head of Mauritania’s opposition, former presidential candidate and chairman of the RFD party, joined a sit-in at Nouakchott’s courthouse. The event was called for and organized by the Journalist Union to demand Hanevy’s release.

Daddah was not the only political leader to advocate for Hanevy, in fact, Noma Bint Mogaye (featured previously on Dekhnstan) among others, demanded his release in an interview where she attacked General Aziz. To them his case is about the future of freedoms and liberties of Mauritanians under the increasingly authoritarian General Aziz.

He was featured extensively during the parliamentary debate over the new Anti-Terror Law. In the process of the debate, private sources in the opposition informed this blogger that the said law is plagiarized from Tunisia’s own anti-terror law with the difference that the Tunisian version had relatively more protections for the citizens. It should be said that while Tunisia is not exactly a model on civil liberties, General Aziz is drawing on the example of some of the worse human rights abusers in the world; it gives observers insights into his real ambitions.

In other news, if you type Mauritania in Google News, or twitter, most of the return hits you will get are about the unfortunate westerner hostages (Spaniards, French, Italian) kidnapped by Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb in November and December of last year. This is a far cry from the content of Mauritanian news sites where the issue has been given minimum attention.

These hostages’ plight deserves our sympathy and our prayers go to them and their families in the hope for their safe return to their homes and families. We also hope that the Mauritanian government will get its act together and wipe out from the face of the earth, once and for all, those terrorists behind these acts.

Unfortunately, the reality is such that Mauritanians are focused on their own domestic problems trying to fight off a tyrannical regime with every legal and peaceful venue amidst international indifference.

While, the world’s concern over the growth of Al-Qaeda in the Sahel is commendable and justifiable, policy makers ought to remember that terrorism is not vanquished only by bombs and guns. The best hope to prevent this criminal gang from growing is winning the goodwill of local citizens by showing-  rather than talking- a commitment to their liberties and freedoms.








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