Author Topic: Emirates Balk at Activism in Region Hit by Uprisings  (Read 353 times)

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Emirates Balk at Activism in Region Hit by Uprisings
« on: June 09, 2013, 06:44:14 AM »
Via the New York Times:

RAS AL KHAYMAH, United Arab Emirates — The white mosque, soccer field and wedding hall are still there.

But Islah, the Islamist group that once ran the social complex at the entrance to this city, is all but gone.

Its entire board has been replaced by government decree, scores of its members have been put on trial and even its name has been changed.

The government of the United Arab Emirates has moved aggressively to shut it down, charging 94 of its members with conspiring with another Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, to overthrow the government. The defendants, facing up to 15 years in prison, include prominent jurists, academics, even relatives of one of this country’s royal families, who say they were not looking to overthrow the leadership, but asking for democratic reform and a more Islamic government.

“It’s a social organization, not political or economic, and it worked with the people for the goal of preserving the Emirates as a Muslim country with an Arab character,” said Khalid Alroken, whose brother is a prominent lawyer and among those on trial. “The authorities saw our activities as the first link in a chain towards toppling the government and weakening the state.”

For the Emirates, the case is unprecedented in the gravity of the charges and the prominence of the defendants. But it is also part of a broader trend in the region, where kingdoms that dodged the calls for democracy that inspired the Arab Spring have moved aggressively to stamp out hints of political activism.

The Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf have long used petrodollars to placate calls for political change, and are once again relying on the threat of prison to silence dissent. In Qatar, a poet was sentenced in February to 15 years for a subversive poem. Saudi Arabia has suppressed protests by its Shiite minority and prosecuted rights activists.

The case in the Emirates — a federation of seven dynasties that has rocketed to prosperity thanks to vast oil wealth and business-friendly policies — is perhaps the most sweeping, where the government is trying to quash calls for change among Islamists and others. All three countries are American allies, important as oil suppliers and as regional counterweights to Iran.

Even while calling for reforms elsewhere, the United States has largely remained silent on the gulf monarchies’ profoundly undemocratic governments, and few observers believe their leaders will voluntarily share control

More at link.

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