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More Bad News for Arab Freedom


Since Bush reversed course on Libya and Iran, regimes across the Middle East believe they have a green light to repress liberals, dissidents, and free speech activists.  In private conversations, many liberals feel had.  They draw comparisons between Bush’s recent about-face and his father’s February 1991 call for Iraqis to rise up and throw off dictatorship, only to stand aside when the dictatorship started killing those who believed him.  I received by e-mail this morning the following report from the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate about my friend Hafez al-Bukari:

Secretary General of Yemeni Journalists Syndicate (YJS) and the coordinator of solidarity center programs in Yemen was detained at the Sana’a International Airport for two hours as he was returning from Tunisia on Thursday morning, May 24.

“Hafez Al-Bukari was subjected to an unprecedented abuse at the airport after authorities searched his documents and other objects for two hours as they also confiscated all his belongings. The Secretary General left the airport with his personal clothes,” Yemeni Media reported.

Yemeni media obtained information that Security authorities at the airport quizzed Al-Bukari about the nature and purpose of his visit to the US last month, which was one of a series of visits and meetings organized by American Enterprise Institute (AEI) on the democracy and reforms in the Arab world. The victim was threatened not to speak of any procedures taken against him at the airport.

Al-Bukari narrates his ordeal:

“As I arrived at the Sana’a International Airport at 2:30 a.m. on the 24th of May following a journey to Tunisia for work with Solidarity Center (of the AFL-CIO) for which I work as a coordinator for Yemeni program in the Department of Middle East and North Africa, I was interrogated by police, detained for more than 2 hours and my luggage was confiscated.

“I submitted my passport to the airport security authorities for entry; they asked me to surrender my luggage. Three officers searched my handbag thoroughly. After that, two officers viewed my personal notes and drafts while a third one was viewing my CDs in a computer…

“The search of my documents and CDs lasted for more than one hour and a half. One of the officers tried to return some newspapers and reports concerned with textile industries in the Middle East and other ALSC documents. But after making a telephone call, the officers took all my documents and magazines and summoned me to an office for investigation. They give me the following questions: What have you been doing in the U.S.?  What did you say in the U.S.? Whom did you met there…?

It is because of episodes like this—and the silence from the White House and State Department—that platitudes such as Rice’s statements of support for the Iranian people are so roundly dismissed by dissidents and dictatorships both.  Credibility is earned, not penned by a speech writer.


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