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Arab views on democratic citizenship – and on EU support

Arab Citizenship review n.11 by Rosa Balfour and RIchard Youngs a(October 2015)

Much has been said about the EU’s general response to the Arab spring. And much has been written about regimes’ resistance to the far-reaching reform demanded by protestors across the Arab world. We have been engaged in a project ( exploring one very specific dimension of these political trends and social debates: the question of how citizens in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) understand the concept of democratic citizenship.

Within our project, our local affiliated research organizations ran throughout 2014 a series of focus groups in Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia with a range of civic stakeholders. The aim of these meetings was to explore how citizens in the three countries understand democratic citizenship and how they view EU efforts to support political reform.

Under the rubric of its European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) review, the EU has promised to adjust its policies better to listen to citizens in the neighbourhood. There is broad agreement that the EU needs to make greater effort to fit its support around the priorities identified by local civil society organizations. This in turn raises a broader question of what Arab reformers themselves understand by democratic citizenship. Our project sheds light on the nature of these ‘local’ views – on the issue of democratic citizenship and on the kind of support that Arab reformers seek from the EU and member states.


Thu 22 Oct 2015, 17:33 | Tags: Egypt, Morocco, Arab Citizenship Review

Morocco’s illiberal regime and fragmented political society

Arab Citizenship Review n.10 by Maati Monjib (October 2015)

In February 2011, citizens in Morocco – much like their counterparts elsewhere in North Africa and the Middle East – poured into the streets in protest against corruption, economic hardship and a lack of freedom. These series of ‘uprisings’ or protests were quickly categorized as a general ‘Arab awakening’, or ‘Arab Spring’, but evolved in very different directions throughout the region; from the rise of parliamentary democracy in Tunisia to the outbreak of civil wars in Syria and Yemen. In Morocco, the post-Arab Spring period can be divided into different stages, based on the regime’s response to the demands of the protesters. During the first stage, starting with the protests in February 2011 and lasting until the summer of 2013, the ruling elite in Morocco implicitly, yet officially, accepted the public’s critique on its governance practices, and promised to change public policies related to civil, political and social rights.

But the government reshuffle and political crisis in the latter half of 2013 prevented the implementation of the promised reforms, and protesters became impatient with the slow pace of change. The ensuing unrest and chaos heralded the beginning of a gradual decline of newly-gained freedoms and citizenship rights and, because of the increasing threat of violence in the region, a renewed focus on internal stability and security. The situation worsened after the summer of 2014, with a further regression in terms of human rights, and growing restrictions on the use of public space. More worryingly is that the zeal for protest seems to have lessened, with many people in Morocco believing that the overall situation in their country is still far better than in most other Arab countries, and that the cost of protesting and calling for political change appears to outweigh potential marginal improvements.

Thu 22 Oct 2015, 16:12 | Tags: Morocco, Arab Citizenship Review

Citizenship in the discourse of Egyptian political parties


Text Box: INTRODUCTION  The concept of citizenship is one of the most complicated in political and social sciences. Its long process of historical development makes dealing with it particularly complicated.

Citizenship is by nature a multi-dimensional concept: there is a legal citizenship, referring first to the equal legal status of individuals, for instance the equality between men and women. Legal citizenship also refers to a political dimension, the right to start and/or join political parties, or political participation more broadly. Thirdly, it has a religious dimension relating to the right of all religious groups to equally and freely practice their religious customs and rituals. Finally, legal citizenship possesses a socio-economic dimension related to the non-marginalisation of different social categories, for instance women. All of these dimensions, far from being purely objects of legal texts and codifications, are emerging as an arena of political struggle within the Egyptian society.

Citizenship as a concept has its roots in European history and, more specifically, the emergence of the nation state in Europe and the ensuing economic and social developments in these societies. These social developments and the rise of the nation state have worked in parallel, fostering the notion of an individual citizen bestowed with rights and obligations. This gradual interaction was very different from what happened in the context of the Arab world. The emerging of the nation state in Egypt was an outcome of modernisation efforts from the top-down; it coercively redesigned the social structure, by eliminating or weakening some social classes in favour of others. These efforts have had an impact on the state-society relation at least in two respects. First, on the overlapping relation between some social classes and the state, and second, on the ability of some social groups to self-organise, define and raise their demands.

This study identifies how different political parties in Egypt envision the multi-dimensional concept of citizenship. We focus on the following elements:

  • Nature of the state (identity, nature of the regime)
  • Liberties and rights (election laws, political party laws, etc.)
  • Right to gather and organise (syndicates, associations, etc.)
  • Freedom of expression and speech (right to protest, sit in, strike, etc.)
  • Public and individual liberties (freedom of belief, personal issues, etc.)
  • Rights of marginalised groups (women, minorities, etc.)
Mon 07 Sep 2015, 11:18 | Tags: Egypt

Women's Rights in the Aftermath of Egypt's Revolution


Text Box: INTRODUCTION  Addressing the issue of “women’s rights” in Egypt may seem like an easy topic from a purely legal standpoint, but the most enlightening way to do so is to adopt a holistic approach by understanding the political, social, cultural and class effects of this issue.

Since 1952, people in Egypt have looked at “women’s rights” as a purely state matter, one characterised mainly by legal reforms. Until 2011, women’s rights were manipulated via a top-down approach by making changes in some policies and laws. Since 2011, with the emergence of the question of social movements, tackling women’s rights has been transformed via the use of certain tools and different perspectives. This is clearly manifested in the vast mobilisation that took place in governorates outside Cairo, which featured the use of artistic tools such as graffiti, story-telling performances, the production of feminist songs, open-microphone sessions, etc., in addition to the extensive use of social media and online campaigning to mainstream feminist ideologies and highlight violations experienced by women.

Before 2011, the public space in Egypt was limited to citizens, political groups and civil society for employing legal approaches such as litigations and policy changes by direct pressure on authorities. The 2011 revolution opened the public space to the use of new tools that are not limited to protests and sit-ins, but also new media windows and new political forces who carried the question of certain rights in their agendas as well as the accessibility of different governmental actors.

This paper will highlight different topics around women’s rights and gender issues in Egypt after 2011.

This paper will review different gender issues after 2011, including the targeting of women in public spaces, women’s representation in decision-making bodies, legal reform, economic and social rights, and sexual and reproductive rights. It will also investigate how the feminist movement has changed and evolved since 2011, and to what degree women's issues and feminism can be analysed in a multidisciplinary way.

Wed 26 Aug 2015, 09:04

The debates on citizenship in Morocco


Text Box: A) SUBJECTS AND CITIZENSText Box: INTRODUCTION  The current debates on citizenship in Morocco are taking place in a political context marked by the events of the Arab Spring. How are political, social, legal, and identity-related dimensions of citizenship formulated in the context of a monarchy that has a long continuity in Moroccan history?

Tue 11 Aug 2015, 13:33 | Tags: Morocco

Discussing Citizenship in Egypt: A comparative study of the post-2011 political debate


Having simultaneously evolved theoretically and in political practice over centuries, the concept of citizenship is one of the most complex in political and social sciences. It correlates and intersects with another set of concepts and values, especially the rule of the law and democracy. Its historical evolution, thanks to individuals and citizens’ movements’ struggle to gain equal rights in their political communities, needs to be captured by theory.

Citizenship is by nature a multi-dimensional concept. Legally, it refers to the equal legal status of individuals, for instance the equality between men and women. The political dimension is related to the practice of politics, joining parties, and participation in general. The religious dimension relates to the rights of all religious groups to practice their religious customs and rituals equally. The economic dimension is related to the non-marginalisation of different social categories, for instance women.

Therefore, there are various alternatives when it comes to defining citizenship. Some approaches see citizenship as a synonym for democracy. Another approach considers citizenship to be the process of creating a good citizen. There are more definitions of citizenship that regard it as the full and equal membership of the society of individuals, with all the rights and obligations this entails, regardless of one’s religion, gender, ethnicity, economic status, or political and intellectual affiliation.[1] Finally, there are approaches that define it in a dynamic way, as the everyday practice of and by the people to gain their economic, political, cultural, civil, and social rights without discrimination and based on the inclusion of citizens in the production process, which allows the fair distribution of resources.[2]

[1] For more information: “Bashier Nafea. Samir El-shimary. Ali Khalifa El-kwari. “Citizenship and Democracy in Arab countries”. Center for Arab Unity Studies, 2001.

[2] For more information: Samir Morcos, “The citizenship and changing: concept authentication and activating the practice”, Shorouk international Bookshop, 2006.

Mon 20 Jul 2015, 08:47 | Tags: Egypt

The National Constituent Assembly of Tunisia and Civil Society Dynamics


The Tunisian constitution of 27 January 2014 was deemed essentially compatible with international human rights principles and standards. These were adopted at the outcome of a dual process, which was underway both inside the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) and outside it, between the NCA and civil society stakeholders. Three successive drafts fell considerably short of expectations (6 August 2012, 14 December 2012 and 22 April 2013). The fourth draft (1 June 2013) was still fraught with 20 or so fundamental divergences. These were resolved, thanks to the National Dialogue in cooperation with the ad hoc “consensus commission” (lajnet tawafuqat) within the NCA, which is chaired by Mustapha Ben Jaafar (President of the NCA). The final text was overwhelmingly adopted on 26 January 2014 by 200 votes, with 12 against and four abstentions. It was promulgated on 10 February.

Wed 08 Jul 2015, 10:16 | Tags: Tunisia

US Democracy Promotion Bush to Obama

Working Paper No.1

Throughout the twenty-first century the United States (U.S.) has attempted to balance its traditional national security interests, whilst also seeking to promote the long-term transformation of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) towards democracy based on liberal values. With the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks providing a catalyst for policy change, the U.S. has moved away from its twentieth-century policy of pursuing a regional status quo and instinctively balking at political change. Yet, the U.S. has not abandoned its reliance on autocratic regimes that cooperate on more immediate national security interests such as counter-terrorism, counter-proliferation, and the free-flow energy sources into the global market. Rather, U.S. democracy promotion in the MENA has become incremental by design and is characterized by its gradualist and often-collaborative nature. U.S. foreign policy in the MENA is, therefore, depicted by a cautious evolutionary stance rather than supporting revolutionary shifts in power.

Wed 15 Apr 2015, 17:10

Supervising Tunisian Elections by civil society: How to improve it?

Arab CItizenship Review No 7 - Tunisia

by Hamadi Redissi and Nihel Ben Amar

On October 26, 2014, Tunisia held its second democratic legislative elections. Participation among more than 5 million registered voters was at about 60%, a relatively good turnout for the country, compared to the 52% voters in 2011. Preliminary results for the 33 constituencies (27 within the country and 6 for expatriates) reveal that secular frontrunner Nidaa Tounes (Call of Tunisia) won around 37% percent of votes while moderate Islamist party Ennahdha, winner of the 2011 elections and leader of Tunisia’s post-revolution government, received 27% of votes.

The Return to Authoritarianism and the Crisis of Citizenship Rights

Arab Citizenship Review No. 6 - Egypt

By Moataz El Fegiery

Political and civil rights have deteriorated since the election of Field Marshal Abd El Fattah El Sisi
as president of Egypt. And there is no prospect for significant political changes any time soon in
Egypt. The public space is currently more restricted than any time after the 25th of January
Revolution, with increasing reprisals against pro-democracy activists and civil society.
Thu 23 Oct 2014, 21:44 | Tags: Egypt, Arab Citizenship Review

The New Tunisian Constitution and Citizenship Rights

Arab Citizenship Review No.5 - Tunisia

By Ahmed Driss and Fadhel Blibech

On 26 January 2014, a new constitution was adopted in Tunisia. This is the fourth fundamental law of the country's history. The new constitution represents a compromise negotiated between the Islamist party Ennahda – which has a plurality in the Constituent Assembly - and opposition forces, led by a quartet from civil society.The document enshrines important freedoms, sets up a dual executive, commits to constitutional justice and, without precedent in the Arab world, promises gender parity.
Thu 08 May 2014, 20:03 | Tags: Tunisia, Arab Citizenship Review, Constitution

Egypt’s Transition in Crisis: The Decline of Citizenship Rights

Arab Citizenship Review No.4 - Egypt

By Moataz El Fegiery, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

Egypt’s possible transition to democracy has recently witnessed its most critical moment since the revolution of 25th January 2011. The ousting of President Mohammad Morsi in July 2013 jeopardised the democratic aspirations of many liberals, despite their joining the protest against the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood. On the contrary, political and civil rights have suffered a severe downturn and the prospect of establishing democratic institutions has become more distant.

Wed 02 Apr 2014, 20:34 | Tags: Egypt, Arab Citizenship Review, Constitution

Citizenship in post-awakening Tunisia: power shifts and conflicting perceptions

Arab Citizenship Review

By Fadhel Blibech, Ahmed Driss and Pietro Longo

CEMI - University l'Orientale in Naples

With the passing of its new Constitution, Tunisia is rightly celebrated as the Arab state that has advanced the most in strengthening democratic rights provisions. The Constitution formally enshrines the progress Tunisia has made especially on women’s rights; the rights of expression and assembly; freedom of the press; the rights of political parties; and the formal recognition of social and economic rights. However, the Constitution does not definitively resolve tensions between individual and religious rights. In order to maintain consensus between the differing opinions in Tunisia, the document remains ambivalent on the state’s precise role in protecting the ‘sacred’. Tunisia has made much progress, but the Constitution is likely to perpetuate rather than close debates over different concepts of rights.

Fri 07 Feb 2014, 13:18 | Tags: Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Arab Citizenship Review, Constitution

Citizenship in post-awakening Egypt: power shifts and conflicting perceptions

By Ragab Saad and Moataz El Fegiery - Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

This report links Egypt’s shifting political phases to debates more specifically about citizenship rights. It offers a general overview of Egypt’s recent political trajectory, before unpacking the various dimensions of debates over citizenship rights. In each of the three political phases since Mubarak’s ousting, citizenship rights have been curtailed. Crucially, the reasons for their constriction have been different in each phase. Some limitations have derived from largely political power plays, others from more philosophical-theological factors. It is important to distinguish between these different forms of debate if we are better to understand prospects for the future of citizenship rights in Egypt.

Sat 18 Jan 2014, 09:22 | Tags: Egypt, Arab Citizenship Review, Constitution


Arab Citizenship Review No.3 - Tunisia

By Ahmed Driss, Centre for Mediterranean and International Studies

This series of policy briefs provides a regular update of debates concerning key rights issues in three Arab states, Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia. In a first round of briefs on the three countries, we provide background on these debates since the beginning of the Arab spring.

Thu 22 Aug 2013, 17:08 | Tags: Tunisia, Arab Citizenship Review


Arab Citizenship Review No.2

By Ward Vloeberghs and Youssef Benkirane, CERAM / Ecole de Gouvernance et d’Economie de Rabat, Morocco

This series of policy briefs provides a regular update of debates concerning key rights issues in three Arab states, Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia. In a first round of briefs on the three countries, we provide background on these debates since the beginning of the Arab spring.

Thu 22 Aug 2013, 17:06 | Tags: Morocco, Arab Citizenship Review


Arab Citizenship Review No.1

By Moataz El Fegiery and Ragab Saad, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

This series of policy briefs provides a regular update of debates concerning key rights issues in three Arab states, Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia. In a first round of briefs on the three countries, we provide background on these debates since the beginning of the Arab spring.

Thu 22 Aug 2013, 17:01 | Tags: Egypt, Arab Citizenship Review