MENASource|News, Analysis, Perspectives

On February 14, Egypt’s parliament approved a limited cabinet reshuffle following weeks of anticipation. Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said the reshuffle was aimed at continuing the government’s social and economic reform plans, and indeed, several of the changes reflect an effort to continue to build on major reforms. Ismail began meeting with candidates for cabinet posts in January, but a number of sources reported that several candidates up for positions in economic ministries declined offers from Ismail.

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Mahmoud was supposed to travel to the US on February 7th. The 22-year-old Somali refugee had escaped forced recruitment by al-Shabab at the age of 16. He has finally allowed himself to dream of a better life, but it all came crashing down when President Donald Trump placed a 120-day ban on refugees.

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On Thursday, February 9th, the doctors and lawyers working in the Al-Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Torture Victims found that “a huge police force” had sealed their center and clinic with red wax and took their porter to the police station for questioning, the co-founders said in a statement.  Al-Nadeem is an NGO founded in 1993 that provides legal and psychological support for victims of violence and torture, including domestic and prison violence. The center is facing heavy harassment from Egyptian authorities since the Health Ministry issued a closure order and closed the center’s clinic for the first time in February 2016 on grounds that it was “breaching its license conditions.”

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US President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) on January 27, barring refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries—Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, Iran, and Iraq—from entering the United States for at least 90 days, leaving refugee and immigrant communities in limbo. Trump’s Executive Order also suspends the US refugee resettlement program for 120 days, indefinitely suspends Syrian refugee resettlement to the United States, and caps the number of all refugees admitted at 50,000 per year. On February 3, a Seattle federal judge temporarily blocked the travel ban, after which Cairo Airport issued a statement saying it will allow travelers from the seven countries to board flights to the United States. As the case makes its way through the courts, the future of Iraqi, Syrian, and Sudanese refugees in Cairo expecting to resettle in the United States, has now been called into question.

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In its first weeks, the Trump Administration openly castigated terrorism as America’s primary threat and underlined it anti-Iranian orientation. It also announced its intention to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem and its readiness for a partnership with Russia against the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). Unfortunately, taken together these moves are mutually contradictory. If the United States is to make progress against both ISIS and Iran without worsening the challenges to US interests, it must think more coherently and strategically about those challenges in the Middle East.

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While initiating political reform is difficult, sustaining it is even more so. This is not unique to Arab societies. Rather, it is a challenge that today’s well-functioning democracies had to contend with in their often-turbulent formative years. The answer is a process of smart incrementalism, which establishes and safeguards state institutions while creating the potential for additional reforms down the line.

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Six years ago today, the Yemeni people erupted in a Day of Rage against a corrupt regime to demand equal rights, but the transitional process faltered leading to the now nearly two-year-old conflict between Houthi rebels allied with former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and the government-in-exile led by President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi backed by Saudi Arabia. Continuing clashes have delivered a brutal humanitarian crisis, an economy on the verge of collapse, and over 10,000 Yemeni deaths according to UN figures. It may seem antithetical to discuss issues of transitional justice while Yemen struggles with an ongoing war, but the conflict is slowly creeping toward an inevitable stalemate.

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On January 27, President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order on immigration, titled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.” The order places a ban on the entry of foreign nationals from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen for 90 days; suspends all refugee admissions for 120 days; and blocks the entry of Syrian nationals indefinitely.  

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Tailors understand the necessity of measuring at least twice before cutting.  Good leaders and managers customarily apply the same procedure to decision-making.  “Act in haste, repent at leisure” is not just an aphorism.  It is a lesson often learned the hard way by those who cut carelessly.  Although White House reactions to the confusion and fear propagated by an executive order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” has been both defiant and defensive, the betting here is that a lesson is being learned and that regular order will, before long, return to the executive branch of the United States government.

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Regardless of whether it stands up in court, President Trump’s executive order banning the entry of refugees and nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries into the United States has done enormous harm to Muslim students who are studying or aspire to study here. American colleges and universities must react quickly and effectively to limit the damage, which reverberates well beyond the seven countries and the 15,000-plus students affected directly by the order.

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