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Egypt’s deeply flawed draft constitution

by Isobel Coleman
This article originally appeared on CNN.com, December 5, 2013

Egypt’s constitutional assembly pulled an all-nighter last week to hastily approve a controversial draft of a new constitution. However, the constitutional battle is far from over. Yesterday, protests rocked the country, and a crowd of some 100,000 people staged a so-called “last warning” demonstration near the presidential palace against President Morsy’s heavy-handed tactics. In addition, hundreds of journalists marched on Tahrir and at least a dozen of the country’s independent newspapers did not publish to protest against Morsy’s “dictatorship.”


Drafting Discord: Why Egypt’s next constitution won’t fulfill the democratic dreams of the revolution.

by Isobel Coleman
This article originally appeared on ForeignPolicy.com, December 2, 2013

In the midst of violence and counter-revolution, Egypt’s military-backed government is about to present a new constitution to the people — the country’s second in a year. On Dec. 1, a 50-member committee, tasked by the government with making “revisions” to the 2012 constitution, voted on the final draft and will submit it to President Adly Mansour this week for ratification. Later this month or next, the Egyptian people will be asked, again, to approve the constitution in a referendum.


Will Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood survive?

by Isobel Coleman
This article originally appeared on CNN.com, July 5, 2013

In a stunning reversal of fortunes, Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsy was deposed by a military coup just one year after being sworn in as president. The Egyptian protesters who took to the streets by the millions over the past several days to demand Morsy’s resignation were jubilant as news spread Wednesday that their goal had been met: Morsy’s Muslim Brotherhood-backed government was gone, along with its creeping authoritarianism and mismanagement.

The leaders of the protest movement are insisting that what happened was not a military coup, but rather a remarkably peaceful demonstration of the will of the people to achieve the original goals of the revolution: bread, freedom, social justice and human dignity.


Egypt’s Protests: Three Things to Know

by Isobel Coleman
This video originally appeared on CFR.org, July 2, 2013

Isobel Coleman, CFR’s senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy, highlights three things to know about the political upheaval in Egypt. Watch the video here.

The World Next Week: Kerry Visits Asia, Obama Proposes a Budget, and Egypt Retries Mubarak

by Isobel Coleman
This podcast originally appeared on CFR.org, April 5, 2013

Isobel Coleman and James M. Lindsay, Senior Vice President and Director of Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, discuss Secretary of State John Kerry’s trip to East Asia, President Obama’s forthcoming budget proposal, and former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s re-trial in Cairo in this CFR.org podcast .

Egypt’s Financial High Noon

by Isobel Coleman
This article originally appeared in Foreign Policy, March 21, 2013

With another meeting earlier this week in Cairo, the Egyptian government continues its tortuous negotiations with the IMF about a $4.8 billion loan. The loan discussions have been ongoing for nearly two years, since soon after the fall of President Mubarak in February 2011. During that time, Egypt’s foreign currency reserves have declined from roughly $36 billion to only $13 billion today, and the country faces an increasingly severe balance of payments crisis. It is literally running out of hard cash — a dire problem since it imports much of its food and fuel. Egypt currently has less than 90 days of supply in its strategic wheat stock, an unnervingly small safety net for the world’s largest wheat importer.

Despite a growing sense of urgency, the Egyptian government has not been able, or willing, to close a deal with the IMF. In fact, in the most recent round of talks, the government back-pedaled away from the set of economic reforms it put on the table last November, and now proposes more gradual steps to combat its fiscal deficit. Among the major sticking points with the IMF is Egypt’s costly and unsustainable regime of subsidies, which currently consumes close to a third of the government’s budget.

While it is widely recognized that food and fuel subsidies are expensive and inefficient, Egyptian leaders do not want to touch the political third rail of subsidy reform. Who can blame them? Seared into the memory of just about every Egyptian politician is the winter of 1977, when bread riots nearly toppled the government of Anwar Sadat. At the behest of the IMF, Sadat tried to roll back state subsidies on food staples and cooking fuel. It took the army — and the re-imposition of the subsidies — to restore order, but not before scores had died and hundreds of buildings had been sacked.

Women’s Security in the Middle East and North Africa

by Isobel Coleman
This article originally appeared on Middle East Voices, March 12, 2013

“It is time for an uprising of women in the Arab world,” writes Hanin Ghaddar, managing editor of NOW News in Lebanon in the second annual publication to mark International Women’s Day by the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Middle East Program. (more…)

Challenges to Women’s Security in the MENA Region

by Isobel Coleman
This article originally appeared on Wilson Center Middle East Program, March 8, 2013

In the chaos of political change in the MENA region today, women face a number of security challenges, from rising lawlessness to backsliding on legal rights. But the rising incidence of politically motivated sexual violence against women is especially worrying, particularly in Egypt where women have been the victims of horrible and systematic mass sexual assaults. (more…)

Ongoing Struggles for Women’s Rights in Libya and Egypt

by Isobel Coleman
This article originally appeared on her blog Democracy in Development, March 8, 2013

This week at the Council on Foreign Relations, I hosted two women’s rights leaders visiting New York from Libya and Egypt for the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The two leaders, Zahra Langhi and Fatemah Kafaghy, are participating in the CSW as part of a delegation from Karama, a nonprofit that aims to empower Arab women leaders. (more…)

Struggling With Free Speech in Egypt

by Isobel Coleman
This article originally appeared on her blog Democracy in Development, January 31, 2013

The second anniversary of Egypt’s revolution brought with it significant violence, a state of emergency in three cities, and a welcomed moment of “back from the brink” political unity. Today, opposing groups from across the political spectrum (including Coptic Christians and members of the Muslim Brotherhood) gathered for talks facilitated by the grand imam of Al-Azhar and denounced violence in a signed declaration. (more…)