The 27th UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) opened Nov. 6 in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh—in an atmosphere of censorship and repression. In the weeks prior to the summit, Egyptian authorities arrested hundreds of people for allegedly planning protests, with at least 151 currently detained by the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP), according to Amnesty International. The Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR) reported that in the final days of October, the SSSP ordered at least 65 people detained for 15 days on charges including publishing "fake news" and misusing social media platforms. (Jurist)
In Episode 139 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg marks the 10th anniversary of the 2012 Daraya massacre, in which the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad killed some 700 civilians while taking back the city from the secular pro-democratic revolutionary forces that had seized power there. These early Syrian revolutionaries were inspired by the grassroots-democratic vision of the anarchist thinker Omar Aziz, and the ethic of nonviolent resistance propounded by Jawdat Said, the "Syrian Gandhi." Daraya was re-taken by rebels later that year, but fell a second time in August 2016, putting an end to the experiment in parallel power and direct democracy. Most of the remaining inhabitants were evacuated to Idlib province in the north, which remained in rebel hands, and the model of parallel power survived there for another two years—before extremist factions linked to the Nusra Front began to take over. The November 2018 assassination of civil resistance leader Raed Fares was another turning point. The following year saw a popular uprising in idlib by the pro-democratic resistance against jihadist rule. But the legacy of Daraya, once the frontline of a peaceful revolution, is largely forgotten history, its true heroism betrayed by the world.
Human rights organization the Syrian British Consortium on Aug. 25 published the findings of its investigation into the massacre of civilians by the Syrian government and allied forces in the town of Daraya a decade ago. The investigation found that in August 2012, government forces killed at least 700 people, including women and children, through indiscriminate shelling and mass executions.
Tunisian President Kais Saied officially dissolved the Supreme Judicial Council on Feb. 6, sending police to seal the chamber where the body meets. The Council's head, Youssef Bouzakher, called the dissolution "illegal," and said it is aimed at bringing Tunisia's jurists under control of the executive. Established in 2016, the Council is a constitutional body entrusted with ensuring the independence of the judiciary, responsible for appointing judges and taking disciplinary action. Bouzakher said the Council intends to continue working in defiance of the president's announcement.
A coalition of 15 human rights and civil society organizations on Jan. 25 published a joint statement protesting the United Arab Emirates' new cybercrime law, saying it "severely threatens and unduly restricts the right to freedom of expression (both online and offline) and the rights to freedom of association and of peaceful assembly" in the country.
Tunisia's former president Moncef Marzouki was sentenced in absentia to four years in prison by the Tunis Court of First Instance on Dec. 21. Marzouki was convicted of "undermining the external security of the State," according to Tunisia's national press agency. Marzouki served as Tunisia's president from 2011 through 2014. Most recently, Marzouki has received attention for his criticism of Tunisia's current President Kaïs Saied.
An Egyptian court on Dec. 20 sentenced prominent activist Alaa Abd El Fattah to five years in prison after he was convicted on charges of "spreading false news undermining national security." Alongside Abd El Fattah, the New Cairo Emergency State Security Misdemeanour Court also sentenced human rights lawyer Mohamed El-Baqer and blogger Mohammed "Oxygen" Ibrahim to four years each in Case 1228/2021. All three defendants faced charges concerning their social media posts on human rights violations. Both Abd El Fattah and his lawyer El-Baqer had been held in pretrial detention for more than the legal limit of two years. Verdicts issued by the emergency court cannot be appealed. Human rights groups have criticized the use of "emergency trials," due process violations, and general repression of freedom of expression in Egypt under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's government.
Sudan's ousted Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who had been placed under house arrest with last month's military coup, appeared on TV Nov. 21 to sign a new power-sharing agreement with putsch leader Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. But the deal officially restoring Hamdok as prime minister was immediately rejected by the pro-democracy movement in the streets. Just after the announcement, security forces in Khartoum fired tear-gas at protesters marching toward the presidential palace to demand the military's complete withdrawal from politics. "The future of the country will be determined by the young people on the ground," said Siddiq Abu-Fawwaz of the Forces for Freedom & Change coalition.