#WhereAreOurGirls? Escaped Schoolgirl Shares Account of Boko Haram Abduction

In Washington, D.C. this week, Saa*, an 18-year old student, will recount her recent escape from the Boko Haram. Saa is part of the group of 300 schoolgirls who drew worldwide headlines when they were abducted by the Islamic terrorist group. This will be the first public appearance by any of those girls in the United States.

International human rights lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe recently concluded a one-month investigation into the suspected use of the Christian schoolgirls by Boko Haram in the rash of suicide bombings by young females reported this summer. Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, will moderate a panel with Saa and Ogebe to discuss the ongoing violence of Boko Haram. (*Real name withheld.)

Friday, September 19, 12:00-1:00 pm

Register Here

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Why does West repeatedly get China so wrong?

chinacongressWhy does doubt and conjecture still shroud a nation that for six decades we have studied, worked against, then allied with, then clashed with again?

The answer that I’ve come to after studying the Chinese for 40 years is that the problem is not China, but us, says Michael Pillsbury, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a consultant to the U.S. Defense Department.

For six decades we Westerners have looked at China through our own self-interest—as a potential check against the Soviets, or a source of American trade and business investment, he writes for the Wall Street Journal:

We have projected on the Chinese a pleasing image—a democracy in waiting, or a docile Confucian civilization seeking global harmony. We have been reassured by China’s leaders seeking our economic, scientific and military assistance, and have ignored writings, actions and declarations that warn of growing nationalism. After 65 years, we don’t know what China wants because we haven’t truly listened to some of the powerful voices that undermine our wishful thinking.

“As China continues its rise, our first step should be to dismantle comfortable assumptions and false realities,” Pillsbury argues. “We must study China anew and recognize that its Communist rulers are determined not to fade into history.”


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Time for realism on building new democracies?

democracyWhat has gone wrong with the dream of democracy’s transformational potential? What stands out is a generalized disillusionment with the ability of democracy to provide public goods, the key functions that people expect of their governments, argues Alina Rocha Menocal, a research fellow at the London-based Overseas Development Institute:

While state capacity remains persistently weak, especially in new or emerging democracies, more and more citizens expect better services and enhanced ability to respond to their needs and demands, she writes for Foreign Policy’s Democracy Lab:

As our recent research here at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) shows, people tend to value political freedoms and democracy mostly in instrumental terms: How well do democracies perform? Do they successfully provide expected levels of economic growth, health care, or education? The inability of many democracies to “deliver the goods” has put them under considerable strain.

In the current period of global turmoil, support for democracy abroad may seem a misplaced priority, if not a luxury we cannot afford, says a leading democracy advocate. But the tepid approach we take now is shortsighted, Freedom House’s Daniel Calingaert writes for The Hill blog:

Democracy support deserves a strong emphasis in U.S. foreign policy, because it serves U.S. interests, extends U.S. influence in the world and strengthens our ties to people abroad who share our values.

Our greatest adversaries are authoritarian regimes, which instigate or exacerbate regional conflicts, increase the risks of nuclear weapons proliferation, defend the perpetrators of mass atrocities, launch cyber-attacks on American institutions, allow large-scale theft of U.S. intellectual property or otherwise thwart U.S. foreign policy goals….

Support for democracy abroad is intensely challenging and rarely pays off in the short term. It may not seem worthwhile, particularly at times of democratic setbacks, as in the Middle East today. But the challenge of supporting democracy is insufficient reason to let up.


Democratic processes have opened up new opportunities for participation and the alternation of power, while also showing that they can deliver, in countries as diverse as Brazil, Ghana, and, most recently, Tunisia, Menocal suggests:

Citizens now have significantly higher expectations, and even in the Middle East this is likely to entail more responsive systems over the long term. The pull of China may be strong, but its model too conceals deeper problems, with profound inequality being merely one of many.

Yet the triumph of democracy is far from assured. Higher expectations are difficult to satisfy. Clientelistic systems continue or can even intensify in newly democratic systems where accountability and checks and balances remain weak.


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Tying up the internet, Balkanizing the digital world

iraninternet freedom ftConcerns are rising that efforts to protect citizens from foreign surveillance will Balkanize the digital world. Blocking websites, bottling up information so it cannot flow freely around the world and ramping up the monitoring of people who are online are becoming increasingly common ways to manage the internet – and not just in authoritarian countries, according to a special FT report: .

Developments such as these are often depicted as a fight between the forces of darkness, represented by reactionary governments, and the forces of light, in the form of internet idealists trying to keep the medium open, says Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, a professor of internet policy at Oxford university.

But that perception is a fiction, he says. “A global commons of the internet was something that never existed. It was a useful aspirational thing for internet companies.” In reality, he adds, “there were always vacuums of power on the internet, which were seized by different organisations”.

One danger, however, is that the cause of defending a nation’s citizens is being used as a pretext for repressive political action. This year Turkey banned YouTube and Twitter for carrying allegations of political corruption, though the bans were overturned in the country’s constitutional court.

“The law used to be about protecting children from harmful content,” says Yaman Akdeniz, a law professor at Istanbul’s Bilgi university. “Now it is all about protecting government from content they deem undesirable.”

If even democracies cannot be trusted as stewards of an open internet, the power of all governments must be kept in check by companies and civil society through processes based in a common commitment to keep cyber space free and interconnected, argues Rebecca MacKinnon, the author of ‘Consent of the Networked’ and director of the Ranking Digital Rights project at the New America Foundation:

But if companies are to win civil society over to their side, activists must be able to trust them not to violate their privacy or restrict speech. Strengthening trust in public and private institutions that shape the internet should be a priority for anyone with an interest – commercial, moral or personal – in keeping global networks open and free.


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Refuting jihadism

guide-to-refuting-jihadism-300x184Western policy-makers and academics have focused in recent years on the need to provide an effective counter-narrative to the global jihadist movement, say two leading analysts. The common threads in radicalization literature suggest a critical element of the counter-narrative should be undermining the theological authenticity of jihadist ideology, Rashad Ali and Hannah Stuart write for Current Trends in Islamist Ideology.

The ideas outlined in their article show the type of arguments that can be used to refute claims made by Islamist militants and extremists, they write, noting that the original report published by the Henry Jackson Society (UK) on which the paper is based received endorsements from Muslim scholars in the UK, former leaders of European jihadist networks, and academics and security experts across Europe.

Jihadists are heretics

Understanding he traditional plurality of views and interpretations of the primary sources of Islamic law is crucial to undermining the legitimacy of jihadist ideology, Ali and Stuart observe:

The purpose is to demonstrate that jihadist claims to represent “authentic Islam” as it is found in the traditional sources and interpretations of Islamic law are false. In fact, as many scholars have argued, the jihadist understanding of Islam and edicts on warfare are actually heterodox innovations. Traditional legal opinions directly refute the jihadist movement’s claim to represent the only acceptable theological approach to these issues just as they challenge the extremist idea that traditional Islam mandates or requires jihadist struggle against modernity. Most important, this helps to undermine the main source of jihadism’s current ideological and religious strength—that is, the extremist claim to be the “true Muslims” who are fighting modernity—and it helps to show that the jihadists are, in fact, heretics.


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