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EGYPT: The “Revolution” that Never Was?



BURMA: In my very first post on 1st January 2011 I wrote about women’s rights and how by depriving women of the opportunity to play their full role in society, we waste 50% of the earth’s human resources.

Two of the women in oppressive situations that I highlighted then were Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese pro-democracy leader who was held under house arrest, on and off, for almost 24 years until her release on 13th November 2010, and Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani who was sentenced to death by stoning in Iran, despite the fact that her husband was already dead at the time of the supposed “offence”.


Aung San Suu Kyi

It is with some pleasure then to note that Aung San Suu Kyi is now free to travel, that she and her followers have won some seats in the Burmese parliament, that Burmese leaders after years of isolation are now communicating with the world (though probably through self interest), and that Aung San Suu Kyi has today arrived for a visit to the UK.

This is her first visit to Europe since 1988, although she was married to an Englishman, Michael Aris, a Tibetan scholar, who died of cancer in 1999. Fearful that the Burmese authorities would not allow her to return if she went to her husband’s bedside, she made the painful decision to stick by her people and remain in Burma.

Aung San Suu Kyi also has 2 sons based and born in the UK and during her UK visit she will make a visit to Oxford where they all lived for a number of years. Today, Tuesday, is her 67th birthday.


Michael Aris & Aung San Suu Kyi + baby

She is expected to receive an honorary degree from the university while in Oxford, meet Prince Charles and his wife Camilla on Thursday and address both houses of the British Parliament, as well as meeting David Cameron the Prime Minister. She spoke in Ireland at the weekend, HERE:

Last Saturday Aung San Suu Kyi addressed the Nobel Committee in Norway and received the Nobel Peace Prize which they awarded her 20 years ago. She said she heard about it on the radio at the time, while under house arrest, and it helped reconnect her with the wider world.  You can read more about her life, HERE:

So sometimes the world does get a little better it seems, despite all the pain, persecution, killing and torture.


Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani – guardian.co.uk

IRAN: Of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the Iranian lady sentenced to death by stoning, there is no word as far as I can trace.

In January 2012 the Iranian parliament changed the law on “adultery” to death by hanging, but that is effectively no improvement on a punishment that seems to be reserved for women and remains cruel, inhuman and unjust.

Sakineh Ashtiani, may still be alive in prison, but it would not surprise me to learn that she has been quietly and secretly executed.

EGYPT: The 2011 “revolution” in Egypt that brought down it’s long time president and dictator, Hosni Mubarak, looks as though it may have stalled.

Despite reaching the point of parliamentary elections, a “Supreme Constitutional Court” (odd when the country still does not have a constitution) declared last week that the legislative polls last year were unconstitutional because party members were allowed to contest seats in the lower house reserved for independents.


Tahrir Square in The Heady Days of Revolution

 This has led the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (Scarf), which had controlled the country since Mubarak fell, still in complete power. 

So everyone is wondering if anything has changed.

The question gains more stringency when you discover that of the 2 remaining candidates in last week’s presidential election run-off, one is a former army officer and prime minister under Mubarak, Ahmed Shafiq, and the other is the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group of whom the army are terrified.

Following the ruling by the constitutional court on the parliamentary elections, Scarf, dissolved parliament and prevented MPs from entering, and yesterday gave itself sweeping powers over legislation, the national budget and over who writes a new constitution, effectively removing power from any new president.

The Brotherhood’s presidential candidate Mohammed Mursi is believed to be slightly ahead in the polling but the results will not be declared until Thursday.


Ahmed Shafiq & Mohammed Mursi – Presidentail candidates – AP

 The former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, who was 3rd in the first round of voting, said the declaration was a “seizure of the future of Egypt”.

So far the street revolutionaries, many of whom supported Sabahi, have been restrained.

However, if Thursday’s result is suspected of being gerrymandered in favour of the ruling army council, who seem to have guaranteed themselves jobs for life and have huge and lucrative business interests all over Egypt, then the revolution in Egypt may just have to take place all over again.

Whether the people have enough energy or stomach for that remains to be seen.

The Alternative Vote l And The End of Bin Laden


Peter Clifford

2/5/11 Peter Clifford –



As I have said a number of times, democracy is not a perfect system but when embraced by the vast majority of a country’s population it generally provides the best protection for a free parliamentary consensus where unpopular governments can be removed by popular vote.

All political systems are open to manipulation of course and democracy is no exception. Here in the UK, arguably the seat of democracy, virtually every major government to hold power has redrawn parliamentary boundaries in their favour (it’s called “legal gerrymandering”!), so that they increase the chances of the majority of the votes going to their own candidates at the next election.


Vote YES TO AV - Time for a Change

Until now in the UK we have had a “first past the post” system at elections i.e. the party that wins an absolute majority of seats, over  all other parties combined, even by one, gets to form the next government (even though it may not be supported by a majority of voters).

Combined with the “legal gerrymandering” mentioned above, this has meant that unpopular and sometimes incompetent governments get to stay in power for several 4 year terms and/or for much longer than they should.

It has also meant effectively that the same two big parties get to run the country in turn for long periods of time, swapping occasionally from side to side with much the same long term result – a promising start (usually lots of promises!), followed by years of stumbling, followed by more years of a government that long ago passed its “sell by date”.
It was refreshing then to see the last election in the UK in 2010 so close to call that no party ended up with an absolute majority and in the end David Cameron’s Conservatives entered into a coalition with the Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats.


UK Government by Coalition

Many people in both parties were not happy with this as it involved a large number of reluctant compromises on each side; but compromise does have the advantage of modifying and preventing the worst extremes on the right or the left from dominating the agenda, and that, in my view, is all to the good.

Part of the coalition deal between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats was that the Government would look at an another voting system and put it to a national referendum. There are a number of different voting systems and some are clearly better than others, but it is definitely time for a change rather than no change at all.

On May 5th we have a national referendum (as well as voting in District and Parish elections) on whether we should adopt AV, The Alternative Vote, as our new system of democracy.



While it is still not an ideal system (probably nothing is), it at least ensures that the majority of people in any given constituency have some sort of preference for the elected candidate and everyone’s vote counts.

Under the current system of “first past the post”, two thirds of MPs elected in 2010 did not have the majority support of their constituents  – in other words most people got the MP they did not want! This cannot be right and is profoundly undemocratic.

The following points make the case for AV:

  • Under AV redrawing of constituency boundaries becomes unnecessary ( money will be saved therefore and political gerrymandering prevented)
  • Under AV extreme and diversive candidates/parties are less likely    to gain power as they are unlikely to get many 2nd preference votes.
  • The need for tactical voting is eliminated and voters know that their vote (even through a second or third choice) will count somewhere – every vote really does count under the AV system!
  • AV lessens the need for negative campaigning, i.e. attacking other candidates, because you may need the votes of their supporters to get elected.
  • AV is already used in the leadership elections for the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties and a form of it for the Conservative Party leadership election.
  • AV is used in the House of Commons to elect UK parliamentary officials including the Chairman of Select Committees.
  • Interestingly, AV, the Alternative Vote, is used by the committee that awards the Oscars, the Academy Awards for Best Pictures.
  • AV has been used for more than 80 years in parliamentary voting in Australia.
  • AV is already used by millions to vote in membership organisatons, businesses and trade union internal elections and in most Student Union elections.
  • And lastly the AV system is used to elect the Irish President and in the USA for most City, Mayoral and district elections.





And lastly, whatever the outcome of the vote, I was amused to see that the “Yes” and “No” AV campaigns produced some unlikely bedfellows.

The “rabid” Labour politician John Reid appeared on the same platform alongside “solidly conservative” David Cameron and the “scruffy gentleman” Vince Cable (Liberal Democrat) appeared alongside “learner Labour leader Mr Who?” Ed Miliband plus better known comedian Eddie Izzard.


MORE ODD BEDFELLOWS! guardian.co.uk

We won’t see this lot agreeing very often, if ever, again!



Ironically, Osama Bin Laden, who was killed by US Special Forces yesterday, was the antithesis of democracy in any form and the prophet of rule by terror, control and suppression, all in the name of Allah/God.

Few in the world, other than his supporters, will mourn the passing of a man that was directly responsible for the killing of least 3,000 people and indirectly for many more through his followers and affiliate groups.


Osama Bin Laden - AP US

Oddly, the pictures of him always struck me as someone who had intelligence, with quite a kind face and soft brown eyes – but clearly his actions and fanaticism don’t bear that out.

Just shows what religious extremism (of any sort) can do when you can go through life justifying your actions in the name of any remote and ultimately unknowable god.

While I am glad that the hunt for Bin Laden is at an end, I felt slightly “sick” watching the “celebrations” at his reported death infront of the White House in Washington on TV. No man or woman should have an untimely and violent death, though it happens everyday.

Like everyone else, Bin Laden was an innocent child once. The big question for me as a psychotherapist is what extreme anger, violence, abuse or terrror was visited on him as a small child to turn him into the international serial killer he turned out to be?  An inability to deal with this leads men (and women) to turn their suppressed anger outwards.

And what outpourings of distorted anger, rage and violence will now be visited upon the innocent of the world in his name by his misguided followers?  The world needs to be on its guard – very much so – I fear some difficult days lie ahead.

Until the next time,



Peter Clifford: www.petercliffordonline.com


If you value what I have written please click on the “Like” button and Tweet my short link – http://bit.ly/petercliff – onto your friends.

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Does The Western World Have a Conscience? l Egyptian Women


Peter Clifford

28/1/11 Peter Clifford –


Does The Western World Have A Conscience?

As protest and revolution rumbles on across North Africa and through the Middle East and beyond, I can’t help wondering what is the role of Western countries in all of this?

Pausing just long enough to test which way the wind was blowing, western society has been quick to take up the side of the protestors and to support them verbally and morally at least.

And the western digital world (hail Facebook, Twitter and Youtube) has clearly been instrumental in aiding the protesters to spread their message rapidly and effectively and to give them a platform to air there grievances. It has also made fascinating and often gripping news for all of us westerners  sitting safely at home.

In western civilisation we like to promote democracy, freedom of self expression, the rule of law, protection of the disadvantaged etc. and quite rightly so.  However, at the same time western governments have a habit of cosying up to any government or dictatorial and repressive regime whom they want something from.

If your country has vast resources of oil or minerals which the West needs in order to fuel its economies, or there is the potential for rich trade opportunities, then it is very likely, no matter how repressive your regime, that you will get a call from western leaders and their ministers inviting you to do business.

It is extremely easy for governments in the western world to condemn repressive regimes that they do not, at present, want anything from e.g the military government in Burma, the communist regime in Cuba or nuclear threatening Iran.

It is also extremely easy it seems to embrace two way trade with China while at the same time completely ignoring its suppressive behaviour towards the people and culture of Tibet.


East - West Togetherness

Not only do western governments turn a blind eye to the behaviour of the oppressive regimes they choose to do business with but the cherished keystone values of western culture i.e. freedom, justice and equality go completely out of the window at the first sniff of a trade deal.

Not only do western nations love buying oil and other resources from repressive regimes that practice detention without trial, torture and political imprisonment but they love selling them the arms and weapons to carry out this oppression effectively!


Libyan Dancing Partners

One of their best customers, since his rehabilitation in 2004, has been Colonel Gaddafi who is now undoubtedly using those same weapons against his own people. And the The Irish Government, in their recent acute financial crisis even sent their financial representatives to Libya to try and secure multi – billion dollar loans from Gaddafi’s International Investment Fund!

Meanwhile in Saudi Arabia for example, women are still not allowed to drive a car or go out alone and at the first hint of protest opposition leaders are hauled in for questioning, yet the West craves their oil and sells them (in particular the US, the UK and other western European governments) vast amounts of weaponry. No doubt it offsets the oil trade deficit.


UK PM in Tahrir Sq. Cairo

David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister, was very quick this week to visit Egypt and a number of other undemocratic regimes in the Middle East with pro-democracy protestors making themselves heard currently on a daily basis.

It was rather bizarre therefore to see him striding across Tahrir Square in Cairo with a gaggle of British businessmen in tow, eight of whom represented British arms and weapons systems manufacturers.  No doubt US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, President Obama and other western leaders are all ready making their travel plans.

But are their also deeper lessons in all this for the West? These arab world revolutions have been led by their disaffected youth, the so called Facebook generation. In some western countries our youth are also equally angry.


Student Protests London 2011

Witness the anger of students in the UK recently at the Coalition Government’s decision to increase university fees – fierce and destructive demonstrations in the streets of London and elsewhere over a number of days.

Currently the UK unemployment rate for 16 – 24 year olds is 20% and rising under the present harsh economic climate. I hope the UK’s senior politicians, many of whom are millionaires and telling us “we must all share the (economic) pain” are seriously taking note of the consequences of complacency.

Democracy Is ……..

……. the right to make fun of your ruling elite without fear of reprisal or a knock on the door from the Security Services.

So on a lighter {!} note, can someone tell me why so many Middle Eastern potentates seem to be critically overweight?  A great business opportunity for WeightWatchers perhaps?


Royal Wedding Sick Bag - copyright Linda Leith

And British designer Lydia Leith as an andidote to all the somewhat questionable quality of the memorabilia currently in full production for the wedding of Britain’s Prince William and his fiance, Kate Middleton, this coming April, has produced the Royal Wedding Sick Bag, in case you want to “Throne up”!  As they are of a certain age I think the Royal couple are laughing at this one themselves – at least I hope so, and I wish them every sucess with their marriage.


Uniform Kitsch

In Libya, we can but pray that Gaddafi’s uniform designer has now got the sack and that the rest of his administration will follow soon.

And lastly, clearly the Arab world is catching on quickly to the idea of freedom of self expression with this effort recently posted on YouTube – Colonel Gaddafi’s recent “clayman” rant turned into “DJ Gaddafi Rocks” Zenga Zenga!


Without wishing to be cynical, as I expressed in my last post, I am not entirely convinced that the ruling Army Council in Egypt will let go of the reins of power easily, despite making some of the right noises.  Certainly, when it comes to the rights of Egyptian women, they still do not seem to have got the message.

This week in Cairo, the Army Council appointed a judge, Tarik al-Bishry to set up a Constitutional Panel to draw up a new constitution for the country. Bishry then went on to choose all the members of the Panel himself, not one of which was a woman.

One of the appointees was a Christian Copt, who represent 10% of the Egyptian population.  Women  in Egypt, of course, represent 50% of the country’s population but that still does not gain them the right apparently to having a say in shaping the future of the new state.


Women Protesters Tahrir Sq. Cairo

Worryingly, in a survey conducted in Egypt shortly before the recent revolution 90% of those who took part still thought stoning for adultery was a “good idea”.

Similarly, in Malaysia on February 14th, Valentine’s Day, hotels in Kuala Lumpur were raided by the “religious enforcement police” and over 80 people detained for being unmarried and sharing a room or being “alone and in close proximity to a member of the opposite sex”. They can expect up to two years in prison if convicted. The law does not apply to non – muslims.

Clearly, for muslim women in particular and arabic women in general throughout the entire world the Revolution is only just about to begin.

Until the next time,



Peter Clifford: www.petercliffordonline.com


If you value what I have written please click on the “Like” button and Tweet my short link – http://bit.ly/petercliff – onto your friends.

Lastly, don’t forget to sign up (Top Right) for my mailing list for future information, advice, tips and reviews – for a limited time only there is a FREE copy of my 40 page ebook on “Love Relationships – The 10 Step Guide” which I have written especially for this website.