- News and Notes
On March 4, during the opening ceremony of the One World human-rights film festival in Prague, People in Need, a Czech NGO, presented its 2012 Homo Homini human-rights award to Intigam Aliyev, a lawyer from Azerbaijan.
Aliyev has brought hundreds of cases before the European Court of Human Rights and has won a number of them. In January, he was detained for participating in a Baku protest of the crackdown on demonstrations in the northern town of Ismayilli.
On December 12, at a ceremony held at the European Parliament, the 2012 Sakharov Prize was awarded to two Iranians: Nasrin Sotoudeh, a human-rights lawyer, and Jafar Panahi, a filmmaker.
Just over a week before the ceremony, Sotoudeh, serving a six-year sentence on charges of threatening national security, ended a 49-day hunger strike after officials agreed to waive travel restrictions on her husband and daughter. Sotoudeh has drawn the ire of authorities for providing legal representation to victims of the crackdown on 2009 postelection protests and to other dissidents, including 2003 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi.
In 2010, Panahi was charged with “propaganda against the state,” banned for twenty years from making films, and sentenced to six years in prison. Allowed to remain under house arrest rather than behind bars, Panahi has produced two films in defiance of the ban, including Closed Curtain, which won an award for best script at the Berlin International Film Festival in February.
On February 19, a group of 23 NGOs held the fifth annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy.
The Summit featured remarks [End Page 187] by Cuban poet Regis Iglesias, a close associate of the late Oswaldo Payá, and by Payá’s daughter Rosa María, who called for an international investigation into her father’s suspicious death. It also featured remarks by former North Korean political prisoners Kang Cholhwan and Shin Donghyuk, whose speech is excerpted on pp. 185–86 above.
New Online Platform for Arab Democrats
In late February, Moroccan journalist Ahmed Benchemsi launched the website Free Arabs under the banner “Democracy, Secularism, Fun.” According to Editor-in-Chief Benchemsi, an award-winning journalist and founder of two Moroccan investigative-news magazines, “The goal of Free Arabs is to provide democratic- and secular-minded Arabs with a global platform. . . . The site offers a digital haven in which they can find mutual comfort, build ties, and develop a strong network.” It features material—essays, videos, and artwork—in English and Arabic. Free Arabs can be accessed at http://freearabs.com.
National Dialogue in Yemen
On February 6, President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi announced that Yemen’s much-anticipated National Dialogue Conference (NDC) would begin on March 18.
The NDC marks the beginning of the second stage in Yemen’s political transition as laid out by the agreement that helped to push longtime president Ali Abdullah Saleh from office.
Slated to last six months, the NDC, with 565 official participants, is supposed to culminate in the drafting of a new constitution and preparation for elections to be held in early 2014. The NDC is also expected to focus on the grievances of citizens in the country’s restive regions.
NED’s International Forum
On January 18, the Forum hosted a lecture by Ashraf Ghani, former finance minister and chair of the Transition Commission in Afghanistan. It was the first in a series entitled “The Role of Economics in Democratic Transitions,” a joint-initiative with the London-based Legatum Institute, Foreign Policy, World Affairs, and Democracy Lab.
On January 23, the Forum and NED’s Eurasia program organized a panel entitled “A New Chance for Georgian Democracy.” The panel featured Charles H. Fairbanks, Jr., senior fellow at the Hudson Institute; Thomas de Waal, senior associate in the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; and Miriam Lanskoy, director of Russia and Eurasia programs at NED.
On February 7, the Forum hosted a discussion on “China at the Tipping Point?” based on a cluster of articles published in the January issue of the Journal of Democracy. [End Page 188] The panel featured Andrew J. Nathan, Class...