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DARS Media Roundup (January 2016)

[Young unemployed revolting in the town Nasrallah, in Tunisia in January 2016. Image by Marko Ionnqvist, via Flickr.] [Young unemployed revolting in the town Nasrallah, in Tunisia in January 2016. Image by Marko Ionnqvist, via Flickr.]

[This is a monthly roundup of news articles and other materials circulating on Resistance and Subversion in the Arab world and reflects a wide variety of opinions. It does not reflect the views of the DARS Page Editors or of Jadaliyya. You may send your own recommendations for inclusion in each monthly roundup to DARS@jadaliyya.com.]

News & Comments

The Arab Spring Is Not Dead, by Soumaya Ghannoushi
What is left of the "Arab spring" today? Physically, it is Tunisia. But that is not all that remains. The profound sense of entitlement to freedom and dignity and shared consciousness of injustice and humiliation, which had triggered the great movement of mass protest and rebellion around the Arab world is still very much there. Rather than the collapse of the "Arab spring," what we are witnessing today is the retreat of its first wave. And with a catastrophic reality and a deepening feeling of humiliation and despair, the likelihood is that higher, stronger and more encompassing waves are yet to come.

The Arab Winter, by The Economist
The hopes raised by the Arab spring—for more inclusive politics and more responsive government, for more jobs and fewer presidential cronies carving up the economy—have been dashed. The wells of despair are overflowing.

The Arab Spring, five years on: A season that began in hope, but ended in desolation, by Patrick Cockburn
Arab Spring was always a misleading phrase, suggesting that what we were seeing was a peaceful transition from authoritarianism to democracy similar to that from communism in Eastern Europe. The misnomer implied an over-simplified view of the political ingredients that produced the protests and uprisings of 2011 and over-optimistic expectations about their outcome. Five years later it is clear that the result of the uprisings has been calamitous, leading to wars or increased repression in all but one of the six countries where the Arab Spring principally took place.

Egypt Five Years On: Was It Ever a “Social Media Revolution?” by Maeve Shearlaw
Almost a year after Tunisia had erupted in mass demonstrations, the central Cairo protests triggered further waves of change across the Middle East and North Africa, in what became known as the Arab Spring. But while the nature of each pro-democracy uprising, and their ultimate success, varied wildly from country to country, they had one defining characteristic in common: social media. At times during 2011, the term Arab Spring became interchangeable with “Twitter uprising” or “Facebook revolution,” as global media tried to make sense of what was going on. But despite western media’s love affair with the idea, the uprisings did not happen because of social media. Instead, the platforms provided opportunities for organisation and protest that traditional methods couldn’t. 

The Great Civil Society Choke-Out, by Kenneth Roth
Civil society is under more aggressive attack than at any time in recent memory. Facing independent civic groups that have further reach, and more outlets to publish their findings and make their case, governments around the world have begun working to silence them by depriving them of their right to seek funding abroad, even when domestic funds are unavailable. From Africa to Eastern Europe to Asia, autocrats have claimed that they are fighting foreign interference to brush aside domestic and international protest over these restrictions. This effort to choke off funding of civil society is replete with hypocrisy and violates basic rights of expression and association. At its heart, it is an attempt to avoid organized oversight of governance.

Tunisia Unemployment Protests Spread to Capital, by Al Jazeera
Protests over unemployment rates in Tunisia, which started in the western Kasserine province, have intensified and spread to other parts of the country. The city of Kasserine is near the Algerian border, and like in many of the country's peripheries, locals feel neglected by the government. Solidarity rallies were held in cities including Tunis, Sidi Bouzid and Gafsa on Thursday, with several reports of suicide attempts as frustration over the lack of jobs boiled over.

Tunisia’s Protests Are Different This Time, by Noah Feldman
Events in Tunisia look, on the surface, like a replay of 2011. However, Noah Feldman argues that the situation in 2016 is fundamentally different. The reason is democracy. There is no doubt that the Tunisian revolution, and the successful constitutional process that followed it, had serious shortfalls. The greatest is unquestionably the lack of meaningful economic reform; the protesters are justified in their demands for transformation.

Tunisia Sets Nationwide Curfew Amid Growing Unrest, by Carlotta Gall and Farah Samti
The Tunisian government imposed a nationwide curfew on 22 January after protests against unemployment spread across the country and grew more violent, in an echo of the Arab Spring uprising five years ago. The Interior Ministry announced the measure on its Facebook page, warning of “danger to the security of the state and its citizens.” A spokesman said violent jihadist groups could take advantage of the chaos created by the protests to cause more violence. Demonstrations were growing all week, after an unemployed man died in the western town of Kasserine.

This Uprising Is About More Than Knives, by Budour Youssef Hassan
Mobilizing mass protests in the face of Israel’s extreme repression has become even harder for Palestinians in Jerusalem since October. Israel has deliberately targeted leading activists in the city by jailing them, putting them under house arrest, threatening arrest, or handing down orders to expel them from the city. These measures did not stop Hijazi Abu Sbeih and Samer Abu Eisheh from setting up a protest tent in the yard of the International Committee of the Red Cross building in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. While the tent was initially erected to provide the two with shelter when they rejected Israel’s order to banish them from Jerusalem, it was soon transformed into a vibrant space of civil disobedience. One cannot yet speak of an organized mass movement among Palestinians, but this current uprising has much more to it than knife attacks waged by individuals. And Israel’s repression goes far beyond bullets and checkpoints.

Academic Boycott of Israel Takes Off in Italy, by Stephanie Westbrook
More than two hundred academics from fifty Italian universities have signed a call for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions until Israel complies with international law. This is the first time a significant number of Italian academics have taken a public stand in support of the Palestinian-led campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). The move comes just months after Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi lashed out at the BDS movement as “stupid and futile” in a speech to the Israeli parliament.

Campaigns

Fed-Up Iranian Women Organize to Take More Seats in Parliament, by Sahra Alipour
Nine women and 281 men. Such is the composition of the Iranian parliament. Rights activists believe this lopsided gender imbalance is one reason why so many discriminatory laws against women have been passed by the current legislature, in office since 2012. Ahead of the upcoming 26 February parliamentary elections, a group of women's rights activists organized Changing the Male-Dominated Face of the Parliament, a campaign to address the dearth of women in the legislature.

Art

Sliman Mansour and the Art of Steadfastness, by Linda Paganelli
An interview with Palestinian artist Sliman Mansour.

Portraits of Palestine’s Youth Rebellion
A series of photographs taken by Activestills at protests in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the past four months.

  

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