One might forgive Middle Eastern and African dictators for finding a great deal of confusion in the messages they receive these days from the West. How would the West — that part of the world that loudly proclaims its devotion to human rights, due process of law and democratic freedoms — respond to a government-ordered detention, framing and torture of half-a-dozen visiting medical workers? The answer, of course, came through from Libya last week, and was heralded as a major victory for European diplomacy. The West, as it has done for centuries, is speaking loudly to the developing world. But […]

WASHINGTON BLOCKED AFGHAN KING — Did the Americans foist Hamid Karzai on the Afghan people even though Zahir Shah, the former king of Afghanistan who died this week at 92, would have been the far more popular choice? Yes, says Ishak Shariar, Afghanistan’s first ambassador to the United States following the 2001 defeat of the Taliban. At the December 2001 U.N.-sponsored conference in Bonn to plan Afghanistan’s future and appoint an interim government, the two main Afghan political blocs were the so-called Rome group, which supported the king, and the Northern Alliance of mainly smaller ethnic groups that had spearheaded […]

Editor’s Note: Rights & Wrongs is a weekly column the world’s major human rights-related happenings. It is written by regular WPR contributor Juliette Terzieff. WORLD’S UNIONS RALLY FOR IRANIAN LABOR LEADER — Labor unions from around the world have joined forces with human rights groups to protest the detention of Mansour Osanloo, head of the Union of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, who was reportedly abducted as he stepped off a bus on July 10. Osanloo had previously been held in Tehran’s Evin for most of 2006 for organizing a bus driver walkout in December 2005. The union […]

Earlier this month, on July 11, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier announced the release from Iraqi captivity of German-born hostage Hannelore Kadhim — or, as he called her, “Hannelore Krause.” The now 62-year-old Kadhim and her son Sinan were reported to have been kidnapped from their Baghdad home in early February. Speaking before the assembled media at the Foreign Ministry in Berlin, Steinmeier noted: “At the present time, I can tell you nothing about the background to the release,” before adding: “And I ask you please to refrain from any speculations. . . .” Most of the German media obediently […]

Last week in Lake Seliger, Russia, 10,000 Russian youth gathered for a two-week summer camp that involved volleyball sessions, morning exercise, sailing, and in-depth ideological instruction on President Vladimir Putin’s policies. As Russia’s government relations with Europe and particularly Britain are entering a new hostile stage, a pro-Putin youth movement called Nashi is playing a uniquely visible role in the Kremlin’s campaign against its opponents. Nashi, or “our guys” in Russian, claims 100,000 members across Russia. The movement emerged in 2005 following the youth-led protests in Georgia and Ukraine in 2004, when the Russian government took a series of measures […]

Whether the new British Labour Party government headed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown will seek to distance itself from the policies of U.S. President George Bush remains uncertain. So far, however, Brown seems to be resisting calls for significant change to Britain’s core foreign policies, despite a political atmosphere that is conducive to such a break. Many British people disapprove of recent U.S. policies regarding Iraq, climate change, and other issues. Moving away from Washington also would allow Brown to differentiate himself from his predecessor, Tony Blair, underscoring his authority and credentials. Several recent statements by newly appointed members of […]

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ISTANBUL, Turkey — They have lived for almost a thousand years around the remains of Istanbul’s Byzantine walls, but when the time came to remove them, the Gypsies of Sulukule claim that they only found out about their intended future from the journalists flocking to their shantytowns to cover the story. “We heard from the media that the neighborhood would be destroyed to make way for residential developments,” said Mehmet Asim Hallaq, 55, a spokesman for the ongoing campaign opposing the removal. “This is a kind of aesthetic assimilation they’re trying to impose on us.” Istanbul’s Gypsies have lived in […]

SARKO THE PERSUADER — That French President Nicolas Sarkozy was going to be the Energizer Bunny of international politics was clear from the moment he first bounced up the steps of the Élysée Palace in his jogging shorts. But he has also shown strong powers of persuasion. One prime example: Sarko persuaded the European Union — over breakfast, no less — to back France’s candidate for managing director of the International Monetary Fund in Washington. The governments of Italy, Poland, and the Netherlands all had their own nominations to succeed the Spaniard Rodrigo Rato, who is resigning in October. But […]

The “Color Revolutions” that swept through Eastern Europe and Central Asia in 2004-2005 have mostly faded out. Ukraine’s Orange Revolution has given way to political clan warfare and hopes for reform have been put on hold. The Tulip Revolution brought little more than a change of personnel to Kyrgyzstan. Only Georgia’s Rose Revolution has maintained its hue. Why has Georgia been able to maintain its revolutionary spirit despite several setbacks over the past three years? One reason seems to be the talented, young technocrats the revolution placed in Georgian ministries. Just as the “Chicago Boys” famously helped right Chile’s economy […]

PERUGIA, Italy — Back in the good old days, European unity was all about energy. The European Union’s original ancestor was the European Carbon and Steel Community, established in 1951. Six years later, on March 25, 1957, leaders signed Euratom, an agreement on atomic energy, along with the other, better-known Rome Treaty. Fifty years of peace and wealth are a testament to a convergence of fundamental interests, which would be better represented by a common European energy policy than by tomato quotas. Yet today, while the agricultural trade restrictions remain in place, energy policy has taken a back seat in […]

HIRED GUNS IN IRAQ — Two years ago, the United Nations set up the U.N. Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries, hoping to discourage the use of private armies, and to push more nations to sign the 1989 U.N. Mercenary Convention. Mercenaries in the classic definition of proxy fighters are not very much in evidence these days, but the United Nations has broadened the term to include hired guns for protection — and that business is booming. Some 48,000 foreign civilians are employed as security guards in Iraq alone, where they provide protection for government officials, businessmen, journalists, industrial […]

Paradoxically, the Libyan supreme court’s verdict Wednesday confirming the death sentences of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor found guilty of infecting children with the AIDS virus may be the beginning of the end of their eight-year ordeal and not the final step towards their death. The five nurses — Snazhana Dimitrova, Nasya Nenova, Valya Cherveniashka, Valentina Siropulo, and Kristina Valcheva, and the Palestinian doctor, Ashram Juma Hajuj, were arrested in 1999 and charged with injecting 438 children with HIV-tainted blood in a hospital in the Libyan coastal town of Benghazi. Fifty-six of the children have since died. At […]

President Bush’s meeting with Vladimir Putin last week found U.S.-Russian relations in a far different state than six years ago, when President Putin was the first leader to call the Oval Office and pledge his support following September 11. While there is yet no real basis for proclaiming a new Cold War, a long list of thorny issues includes sanctions against Iran, location of the proposed U.S. missile defense system, and the unresolved question of Kosovar independence. Perhaps the most important recent change U.S.-Russian relations, however, is Russia’s much greater reluctance to support the Bush administration’s Middle East and Europe […]

On June 7, at the G-8 summit in Heiligendamm, Putin surprised his fellow heads of state by offering to provide the United States with unprecedented access to real-time data from the Russian-leased Gabala radar station in Azerbaijan. In return, Putin proposed that Washington freeze its plans to deploy a ballistic missile defense (BMD) radar in the Czech Republic and BMD defensive interceptor missiles in Poland. Putin and other Russian officials argued that, by using the Gabala complex, the United States would be able to closely monitor missile tests in Iran and would have ample time to deploy BMD against an […]

Editor’s Note: Corridors of Power is written by veteran foreign correspondent and World Politics Review Editor-at-Large Roland Flamini and appears every Monday. FOREIGN OPINION ON LIBBY — Lewis “Scooter” Libby is the Paris Hilton of Washington politics. Luckily for him, his local sheriff was more powerful than Hilton’s sheriff, and the commuting of his sentence can’t be reversed, as hers was. That view is scattered through foreign (and for that matter, domestic) editorial comment on President Bush’s decision last week to quash Libby’s jail time. Other points widely made were (1) that Vice-President Cheney’s disgraced chief-of-staff had lied to the […]

Editor’s Note: Rights & Wrongs is a weekly column covering the world’s major human rights-related happenings. It is written by regular WPR contributor Juliette Terzieff and appears every Friday. ICRC BREAKS SILENCE OVER BURMA — In an extremely rare move, the International Committee of the Red Cross June 29 issued a harsh public censure of the Burmese government over systematic human right abuses of civilians and detainees, including forced relocations, arbitrary detentions and murder. “The ICRC has repeatedly drawn attention to these abuses but the authorities have failed to put a stop to them. . . . The continuing deadlock […]