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Counting Votes in Egypt and Practicing Return in Palestine: Interviews with Hossam El-Hamalawy and Samera Esmeir

[Kafr Bir‘im: Photo by Habib Sim‘an]

Despite massive pro-military media propaganda in Egypt, and threats of large fines against those who did not vote, the election commission had to extend the voting for a third day in an attempt to draw more people to polling booths. As predicted, ex-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was declared president of Egypt with 96% of the votes. So what was behind the low turnout at the elections? Was it apathy or an effective Egyptians boycott? What explains the lack of ...

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Why is the Dead Sea Dying? An Interview with Muna Dajani

[The Dead Sea. Image by David Shankbone from Wikimedia Commons]

The famous Dead Sea, a salt lake between Jordan to the east and the occupied West Bank and present-day Israel to the west, has been shrinking at the alarming rate of 1.5 meters a year for the past forty years. So why is the Dead Sea dying? Malihe Razazan of "Voices of the Middle East and North Africa" speaks to Palestinian environmentalist, Muna Dajani, about the Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Project, a ten billion dollar World ...

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Ten Days of Revolt In Sudan: An interview with Khalid Medani

[ protest in Sudan: Courtesy of Girifna media]

In the ten days following September 23rd, Sudan has witnessed the largest anti-government protests since the military coup that brought its president Omar Al-Bashir to power in 1989. Thousands of Sudanese protesters took to the streets chanting "freedom" and renewing calls for their autocratic ruler to stand down. The unrest, sparked off by fuel price hikes, began in the city of Wad Madani, south of Khartoum, but quickly spread to at least nine districts in ...

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The People Want: An Interview with Gilbert Achcar

[ Tunisia, 2011: photo by Amine Ghrabi via Flickr: Creative Commons]

As we are nearing the third anniversary of the Tunisian uprising, which ignited historic upheavals in the Arab world, Professor Gilbert Achcar investigates the social and economic roots of the social explosions in his new book, The People Want: A Radical Exploration of The Arab Uprising. The title of Achcar’s book is based on a slogan that first emerged in Tunisia. It echoes two famous lines by Tunisian poet Abul-Qacem al-Shebbi (1903-34) If the people want life some day, ...

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Coming Full Circle? An Interview with Egyptian Journalist Ahmad Shokr

[A supporter of Egypt's ousted president Mohamed Morsi walks through the debris following clashes with police in Cairo on August 14, 2013. Photo taken by AFP PHOTO / MOSAAB EL-SHAMY, Flickr Creative Commons. ]

Since 30 June, Egypt has seen one of its worst turmoil in the country’s modern history, with hundreds killed, dozens of police stations and churches burned, and a divided population. The Muslim Brotherhood, who were in government two months ago, are now on the run and the military are fully back in charge. From Cairo, independent journalist and political analyst Ahmad Shokr dissects the current situation in his country and explains some of the more surprising developments of ...

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Algerian Memories: An Interview with Henri Alleg

[Wikimedia Commons:Henri Alleg at the Fête de l'Humanité in 2008]

At a time when Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning are both being called traitors by their own government in the “Land of the Free,” Henri Alleg, another great whistleblower, who 55 years ago was also jailed and called a traitor by the government of France – creator of the modern human rights – just died 2 weeks ago in Paris at the age of 91. Mr. Alleg, who became famous in 1958, after the publication of his book The Question, on the systematic torture the French colonial ...

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Counting the Votes: Reflections on the Presidential Election in Iran

 [Paris, 2009: protesters holding the poster of Neda Agha-Soltan , photo by Reza Deghati via Flicker]

It is fair to say the presidency of Hassan Rohani came as a surprise to everyone. This includes 50.7% of Iranian voters, who according to government accounts, voted for him in the June 15th presidential election in Iran. Some of the attention was on the undemocratic nature of the Iranian presidential elections due to the vetting process by the Guardians Council in the last round of the candidate selection process. However, few are aware that the vetting process begins with ...

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The Season of Rebellion in Turkey: Interviews with Cihan Tugal and Erdem Yoruk

[Occupy Gezi Park solidarity protest in NY: photo taken by Elif Altinbasak via flickr]

A small scale protest which was meant to stop the destruction of what has been described as an oasis in the heart of Istanbul, replacing it with an Ottoman era-themed shopping complex, has led to more than 235 protests in sixty-seven cities in Turkey. According to the latest news reports, more than 1,700 people have been arrested. On 1 June, Amnesty International said the use of tear gas had caused an unknown number of injuries, including serious head injuries when the tear ...

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The Islamophobia Industry and Iran's First Virtual Presidential Candidate

[ Zahra for President campaign via]

The director of United for Iran, a human rights organization, and co-author of  the best-selling graphic novel, Zahra’s Paradise, have launched a virtual presidential campaign to draw attention to the lack of democratic processes and viable candidates in  this year’s carefully engineered  elections in Iran. The presidential nominee, Zahra is the heroine of the graphic novel, Zahra’s Paradise. Her nineteen-year-old son, Mehdi, disappeared after participating ...

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Cyprus, Divided and Financially Broke: An Interview with Rebecca Bryant

[The Turkish Empire in Europe and Asia with the Kingdom of Greece. Engraved by J. & C. Walker. Published by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge via.]

The economic crisis in Cyprus has put the eastern Mediterranean island nation in the lime light. Cyprus has been divided for more than four decades between the Turkish north and majority Greek south. While for Greek Cypriots, the history of Cyprus starts with ancient Greece and Hellenistic culture, the Turkish Cypriot community tend to find the Ottoman invasion of 1571 as the defining moment in the history of the island. What is the history of Cyprus and what led to it's ...

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A Non-Nuclear Conversation: An Interview with Iranian Human Rights Campaigner Dr Hadi Ghaemi


Iranian activists, journalists and human rights advocates have been coming under increasing pressure by the Iranian government; at a time when the international news media is fixated on Iran's nuclear program. This week, Malihe Razazan speaks with Hadi Ghaemi, Executive Director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, about Iran's political prisoners and the campaign to hold the Iranian government accountable for violations of human ...

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The Kurdish Question and Turkish-Israeli Relations: An Interview with Professor Cihan Tugal

[Turkish Flag. Taken by Tulga

In his Nowruz message on 21 March, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, declared a ceasefire and called on armed militants to withdraw from Turkish territory. He said, “Today we are waking up to a new Middle East, a new Turkey, and a new future” and added, “The Middle East and Central Asia are looking for a new order. A new model is a necessity, like bread and water. It’s inevitable that Anatolia and Mesopotamia will be pioneers in ...

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Samera Esmeir in Coversation with Adalah's Suhad Bishara, Marking Land Day in Palestine; and Lina Attalah on the Future of Egypt Independent Newspaper

[Protest in Bil'In. Photographed by Michael.Loadenthal via flickr]

30 March marks Land Day in Palestine. On the latest edition of Voices of the Middle East and North Africa, Professor Samera Esmeir speaks with Suhad Bishara, Director of the Land and Planning Rights Unit of Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, about Israel's contemporary land policies. Egypt Independent, a weekly English language newspaper and its website have become one of the premier sources of news, information and analysis on Egyptian politics, ...

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Iraqi Tragedy; More than 10 Years in the Making: An Interview with Jadaliyya's Editor Sinan Antoon

[Najaf, Iraq, 27 August 2004.

19 March marked the tenth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq. Ten years after the invasion and occupation of Iraq, what has changed for the country and its people? To understand the legacy of the war and occupation of Iraq, Vomena's Shahram Aghamir spoke Iraqi poet, novelist and scholar, Professor Sinan Antoon.  

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Tahrir and Beyond: Interviews with Journalist, Ahmad Shokr, and Filmmakers Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer

[Protestors in Tahrir Square. Image by Hossam el-Hamalawy via flickr]

On the latest edition of Voices of the Middle East and North Africa, Cairo-based journalist, Ahmad Shokr comments on the serious unrest in the major Egyptian harbor city of Port Said over the past two weeks. The root cause is said to be from the recent court verdict condemning 21 civilians to death and acquitting 7 police officers involved in a January 2012 soccer riot that killed 74 people last year. Egyptian filmmakers Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer talk about their award ...

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Almost Two Years of Bloodshed in Syria: What End is There in Sight?

[Anti-Syrian Regime Protestor. Image by Freedom House via Flickr]

With the second anniversary of the Syrian uprising fast approaching, there seems to be no end in the near future to the nightmare the country is currently going through. What are the myths and realities of the Syrian uprising, as well as the roots and the trajectories? Professor Beshara Doumani of Brown University spoke about these issues with Syrian-born activist and sociologist Yasser Munif. VOMENA also received an update on the current Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) ...

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Law and Family (Non-)Unification in Israel: A Conversation Between Samera Esmer, Taiseer Khatib, and Hassan Jabareen

[Supreme Court of Israel, Jerusalem. Photo by Almog.]

On 11 January, the Israeli Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the 2003 Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law. This law effectively prohibits Palestinian residents of the 1967 Occupied Territories, who are married to Palestinian citizens of Israel or to residents of East Jerusalem, from entering into Israel for the purpose of family unification. This law was amended in 2007, further prohibiting the entry of spouses who are citizens of Syria, Lebanon, Iran, and ...

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The Current Media Landscape in Egypt: An Interview with Hossam El Hamalawy

[Image from]

With the first anniversary of the January 25 uprising in Egypt fast approaching, Egypt’s military junta has stepped up its media campaign against democracy activists. Since February 2011, sixteen private channels, many of them owned by bussiness tycoons, have received licences from the state. However, in September 2011, Egypt's military junta froze the granting of new licenses for private satellite TV stations. According to the New York Times, Communication Minister Osama ...

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The Current Political Situation in Libya: An Interview with Ali Ahmida

[Map of Libya. Image from]

Libya is back in the news with increasing tensions among various militia groups and political factions struggling for power, sometimes through street battles. Three months have passed since the regime of Muammar Qaddafi was dislodged in Libya. So what is happening in Libya today? What forces are in play, wand hat has become of the revolutionary militias? And what about the issue of outside influence in today's Libya, given the crucial role played by NATO forces as well as ...

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Sanctioning Iran: An Interview on Iran's Ruling Bloc, Internal Strife, and International Pressure

[Image from]

On the last day of 2011, US President Obama signed into law a military authorization bill containing a provision that imposes new sanctions presumably in order to punish Iran for its nuclear program. The sanctions force foreign financial institutions that do business with Iran’s central bank to choose to either end that business or be blocked from the US economy. In a parallel development. On 3 January, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé said he had no doubt that Iran was ...

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Voices of the Middle East and North Africa (VOMENA) also be heard live on-line at The Middle Eastern and North African Perspectives (MENAP) produces Voices of the Middle East and North Africa that is aired on KPFA 94.1 FM in Berkeley, KFCF 88.1 FM in Fresno every Wednesday at 7 PM (PST). This program is also aired on Tampa’ WMNF 88.5 HD3 every Thursday at 6PM (EST) To contact us, please call 510-848-6767 ext. 632, or send us e-mail to


Voices of the Middle East and North Africa is an eight-year-old radio program produced by a diverse group of individuals from various lands in West Asia and North Africa. Several essential features distinguish our program from others currently available in North America: its scope, its magazine format, its authenticity and its philosophy and perspective.

An alternative perspective:

Voices of the Middle East and North Africa has consistently brought listeners deeply informed and authentic voices that take listeners beyond the headlines into the richly diverse and fascinating world of culture and politics of the Middle East and North Africa, exploring the complex web of class, gender, ethnic, religious and regional differences which separate and distinguish the ways of life and political and ideological perspectives of people in that part of the world.

Through the fine lens of academic scholarship, grassroots activism, artistic and intellectual interpretation, our radio program goes beyond the reductive stereotypes of the Sword and the Veil, oil riches and terrorism, backwardness and war to help create a fuller understanding of reality, deconstructing in the process the artificial duality of the so-called “clash of civilizations” and bridging the chasm of misunderstanding that currently exists between our native and adoptive lands.

It is our belief that humanizing and understanding others is essential to understanding ourselves, that factual information and education are essential to a true democracy and that a truly informed public is our best defense against war and tyranny. Our nation’s increasing involvement in the Middle East and its dramatic consequences for us and others are dictating that we, the People, can no longer afford the luxury of indifference or ignorance in matters Middle Eastern.


While there may be a handful of radio shows across the country whose focus is the “Middle East,” none of those seriously covers the countries of North Africa, which are usually lumped in the broad category of “Middle East” and are not covered on a consistent, on-going basis. For example, regular in-depth stories on the history of French colonialism in the Maghreb (Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia) and how that history relates to current foreign occupations in the Middle East are a staple of our program. We are also the only radio program in the country to delve into the fascinating culture and history of the native Berber (Amazigh) people in the Maghreb, as well as such usually shunned topics as the rich and long history of Jewish culture in the Middle East and North Africa, the Armenian genocide and other unique and important subjects such as labor struggles and queer rights in those countries.


Ours is a program, which pointedly and systematically gives a platform to native voices – thus our program’s title – whether they are based within the countries we cover or in the international diaspora. Our hosts and producers are all immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa (Iran, Kurdistan, Algeria, Morocco, Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Afghanistan) and the overwhelming majority of our guests are credentialed scholars, activists, writers, musicians, artists, etc. with roots and expertise in the lands of the Middle East and North Africa. It is also our policy to always include representative voices from both genders in each and every program.

Weekly magazine format:

Ours is an attractively produced, entertaining one-hour weekly program produced in the studios of Pacifica’s original station, KPFA-94.1FM in Berkeley, the first-ever listener-sponsored community radio station in the country. One unique feature of our show is that it highlights, every single week, both the political and the cultural together, always combining a public affair segment (politics, history, analysis) of approximately 30 minutes with an art and literature (cinema, theatre, etc…) segment of approximately
22 minutes, complemented with short commentaries and a weekly community calendar of events. We strive to maintain a good geographic balance in each weekly program (e.g., if the public affairs is on Iran, the arts and literature might be on Morocco, and so on) to showcase the cultural diversity of the region every week and interest potential listeners from many different backgrounds. This balanced format has been key to our success and popularity with the listening audience.

In conclusion:

Where else in North America can you hear, on a regular basis, about issues of feminism, labor, grassroots democracy, AIDS and gender issues as they pertain to the lives of Middle Easterners and North Africans as well as local diaspora communities? By going in depth into such varied and otherwise untapped issues, and by covering the arts, poetry and literature of those countries, we are able to demystify the Arab, Iranian, Turk or Berber as the “Other,” and thus further the cause of mutual understanding, world peace and freedom.

VOMENA's website can be found here.

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