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Freedom House's Annual Report on Political Rights and Civil Liberties: Freedom in the World 2015

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Regional Trends
The negative pattern in 2014 held true across
geographical regions, with more declines than
gains in the Middle East and North Africa,
Eurasia, sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, and the
Americas, and an even split in Asia-Pacific.

Middle East and North Africa:  Tunisia a bright spot in troubled region
Although Tunisia became the Arab world’s only Free
country after holding democratic elections under
a new constitution, the rest of the Middle East
and North Africa was racked by negative and often
tragic events. The Syrian civil war ground on, the
Islamic State and other extremist militant factions
dramatically extended their reach, and Libya’s tentative
improvements following the downfall of Mu’ammar
al-Qadhafi rapidly disintegrated as the country fell
into a new internal conflict. Rival armed groups also
overran a fragile political process in Yemen, and the
effects of the Syrian war paralyzed elected institutions
in Lebanon. Egypt continued its rollback of post-
Mubarak reforms and solidified its return to autocracy
with sham elections and a crackdown on all forms of
dissent.
Following high-profile killings of Israeli and Palestinian
civilians and a campaign of rocket attacks on Israel
by Gaza-based militants, the Israel Defense Forces
launched a 50-day air and ground offensive in Gaza
over the summer. More than 2,200 people died, mostly
Gazan civilians, and tens of thousands of homes in
Gaza were damaged or destroyed. Israel was criticized
for responding to attacks by Hamas militants in a
disproportionate way, while Hamas was criticized for
entrenching rocket launchers and fighters in civilian
neighborhoods.
 

Notable gains or declines:
BAHRAIN'Spolitical rights rating declined from 6 to 7
due to grave flaws in the 2014 legislative elections
and the government’s unwillingness to address
long-standing grievances among the majority Shiite
community about the drawing of electoral districts and
the possibility of fair representation.

 

Egypt received a downward trend arrow due to the
complete marginalization of the opposition, state
surveillance of electronic communications, public
exhortations to report critics of the government to
the authorities, and the mass trials and unjustified
imprisonment of members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Iraq’s political rights rating declined from 5 to 6 due to
the Islamic State’s attempts to destroy Christian, Shiite,
Yazidi, and other communities under its control, as well
as attacks on Sunnis by state-sponsored Shiite militias.

Lebanon received a downward trend arrow due to the
parliament’s repeated failure to elect a president and
its postponement of overdue legislative elections for
another two and a half years, which left the country
with a presidential void and a National Assembly
whose mandate expired in 2013.

Libya’s political rights rating declined from 4 to 6,
its civil liberties rating declined from 5 to 6, and its
status declined from Partly Free to Not Free due to the
country’s descent into a civil war, which contributed to
a humanitarian crisis as citizens fled embattled cities,
and led to pressure on civil society and media outlets
amid the increased political polarization.

Syria received a downward trend arrow due to
worsening religious persecution, weakening of civil
society groups and rule of law, and the large-scale
starvation and torture of civilians and detainees.

Tunisia’s political rights rating improved from 3 to
1 and its status improved from Partly Free to Free
due to the adoption of a progressive constitution,
governance improvements under a consensus-based
caretaker administration, and the holding of free and
fair parliamentary and presidential elections, all with a
high degree of transparency.

Yemen received a downward trend arrow due to the
Houthi militant group’s seizure and occupation of the
capital city, its forced reconfiguration of the cabinet,
and its other demands on the president, which
paralyzed Yemen’s formal political process.

Courtesy: Freedom House - Freedom in the World 2015: Regional Trends - Middle East and North Africa/ Bahrain

Click here to view the full report

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