Shortly before President Bush showed up in the region last week, human rights activist Abduljalil Alsingace tried to deliver a petition to the U.S. Embassy complaining about the lack of democracy in his native Bahrain. He thought he might have some hope, given the strong language coming from the White House on the need for political reform in the Middle East.
But as he tells it, the U.S. Embassy was cool to his plans to deliver a petition, accepting his document only grudgingly after several days of negotiations. Then he was astounded to hear Bush’s description of Bahrain as an example of positive democratic reform. “All the wealth and power are with the royal family,” Alsingace said in an interview.
Adam Ereli, the U.S. ambassador in Bahrain, disputed Alsingace’s account, saying the embassy was happy to accept the petition and sees its job as listening to “all sides of the political spectrum.”
Still, the episode underscores the sharp disappointment with Bush among democracy advocates and dissidents in the region, who were buoyed by Bush’s clarion call in 2005 for freedom and democracy in the Middle East. They say the White House has backtracked because of a need to cultivate an alliance against Iran with the region’s autocratic leaders and, perhaps, because elections in the Palestinian territories did not go the way it had wanted. [complete article]
President George Bush is under pressure from human rights groups to use his visit to Saudi Arabia today to seek the release of the pioneering blogger Fouad al-Farhan, who has been jailed without charge for more than a month.
The human rights groups, including Amnesty International and the Committee to Protect Journalists, are urging the president to raise Mr Farhan’s case with King Abdullah today. They also want him to appeal for the release of an Egyptian blogger, Abdel Karim Suleiman, the first to be jailed in Egypt, when he meets President Hosni Mubarak at Sharm-el-She-ikh on Wednesday. The Egyptian blogger is serving a four-year sentence for insulting President Mubarak. [complete article]