Democracy protesters sexually assaulted, beaten in Iraq
The takeaway for Iraq's leaders: the authoritarian tactics seem to be working.
The Arab League observer mission in Syria is likely to fail
Egypt's military rulers crack down on democracy groups
Iran's threats over Strait of Hormuz? Understandable, but not easy
Eastern Libya poll indicates political Islam will closely follow democracy
Iraq's Maliki threatens, Sunnis grumble, and Baghdad goes boom
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While the country may be better off without Hussein, the sorts of tactics he relied on are increasingly being used by the powers that replaced him. The semi-autonomous Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq's north has been suppressing activists demanding free and elections and an end to the feudal politics of the region. It appears the central Iraqi government has been going the Kurds one better.
"It’s pretty worrying," says Joe Stork, the head of the Middle East department at Human Rights Watch. "There are a few things that we hadn’t seen before, like the sexual molesting, that kind of thing. The pattern of using plain clothes people who to all appearances were working with the connivance of the security people, that’s certainly not new … we saw that when the so-called Arab spring protests started in Baghdad in February. This use of 'thugs' who may or may not be security is itself not unique to Iraq; in fact, it seems to be right out of the Egyptian playbook."
But while popular uprisings toppled Egypt's Hosni Mubarak in February and Tunisia's Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the news from Iraq is just the latest reminder that authoritarian methods remain surprisingly effective. While Muammar Qaddafi's grip on Libya is looking shaky (thanks to a massive NATO bombing campaign), Bashar al-Assad's brutal tactics in Syria appear to be helping him hold on (and he doesn't have to fear NATO).
In Bahrain, where Saudi Arabia helped a fellow Sunni monarchy put down a democracy movement led by Shiites, Saudi troops are going home. The Bahraini demonstrators' moment seems to have passed, with torture, long jail sentences, and other forms of intimidation taking a heavy toll. Today, police using truncheons and tear gas broke up a demonstration in Manama, the Associated Press reports. (Though as we reported from Cairo yesterday, those methods remain popular in post-Mubarak Egypt, too.)