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DARS Media Roundup (April 2016)

[Protester in Cairo, Egypt, during the anti-government demonstrations in 15 April 2016. Image by Abdelrahman Sameer, via Flickr.] [Protester in Cairo, Egypt, during the anti-government demonstrations in 15 April 2016. Image by Abdelrahman Sameer, 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

Refugees Make Real News with a Fake Camera in Idomeni, by Conor Dillon
As the Idomeni refugee camp in Greece fades from the 24-hour news cycle, three refugees are filling the (absent) reporters' shoes. What began as a parody with a fake camera has become a real online news outlet. Two Syrian refugees, Basel Yatakan of Damascus and Mahmoud Abdalrahim from Aleppo, began conducting "interviews" throughout the camp, where thousands of refugees remain stranded. The fake newsmen parodied reporters who'd just departed the bottlenecked transit zone, conducting mock interviews and mimicking real journalists. But they also tried to fill a very real news void those journalists left behind.

Syria Protesters Brave Streets After Five Years of Carnage, by Noam Raydan and Erika Solomon
After five years of war, the Syrian streets that were once filled with peaceful protesters demonstrating against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule have long since emptied. A shaky “cessation of hostilities” imposed by world powers two months ago has sparked an equally fragile resurgence of peaceful protests. In an echo of the 2011 mass protests that swept Syria before the uprising degenerated into civil war, some towns have even revived the custom of naming their Friday demonstrations; the theme on 22 April was: “By unifying our ranks we will topple Assad.”

Month of Protests Force Concessions From Nusra in North Syria, by Alex MacDonald
A month-long protest against the Nusra Front in the northern Syrian city of Maarat al-Numan has won concessions from the militant group as locals continue to push for the return of the Free Syrian Army. According to analysts on Twitter, the al-Qaeda affiliate has now released a number of prisoners belonging to the FSA Division 13 brigade, following pressure from locals.

On-going Protests in Syria Are Being Ignored Across the World, by Riad Alanan
One might argue that the on-going war is sapping media attention away from civil disobedience in Syria. But, while demonstrations on the outskirts of major cities like Aleppo, Idlib, and Hama were being ignored, a mass protest held in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, on 26 March, marking one year since Saudi Arabia’s invasion of the country, received extensive press coverage. To watch the protests in Sanaa with one eye while ignoring Syria with the other is unjustifiably hypocritical – and points to another culprit.

“It Is as if the Arab Spring Never Happened,” by Megan O’Toole
Five years after the Arab Spring, a majority of people throughout the Middle East and North Africa region believe that corruption is on the rise, according to a new survey. Results of the poll by Transparency International, released on 3 May, revealed that 61 percent of people in a cross-section of MENA countries saw an increase in corruption over the past year, while nearly a third said they had paid a bribe in order to access basic services. The survey included close to eleven thousand respondents from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen.Although corruption was one of the catalysts that drove people to the streets during the Arab Spring uprisings, the results indicate that governments "have not listened" to what their people want.

“There Is Always an Intifada Inside the Prisons,” by Patrick Strickland
Anger has spread among Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, with several inmates on long-running hunger strikes in a number of prisons and clashes erupting in the Nafha jail in southern Israel. The prisoners’ branch of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a leftist political party, released a statement on 20 April calling for "massive popular anger against the occupation's attacks on prisoners" in Nafha. "These days of anger come in support of the prisoners struggling to confront the attacks by the Zionist prison administration and to support the prisoners in Nafha prison facing violent attack[s]." 

Palestinians Take to Streets to Mark Prisoners Day, by Dalia Hatuqa
Thousands of Palestinians took to the streets across the West Bank and Gaza Strip on 17 April to mark Prisoners Day, to shed light on the plight of seven thousands compatriots who are incarcerated by Israel. Prisoners Day has been commemorated annually since 1974, after the first Palestinian detainee—Mahmoud Hijazi—was released in a swap deal with Israel.

Lessons in Resistance from the Palestinian Village of Nabi Saleh, by Zachary Faircloth
The residents of Nabi Saleh protest against the forcible confiscation of their land. They march every Friday opposite the town, towards the base of a hill where the Israeli settlement of Halamish is located. The object of these demonstrations is not the settlement itself but rather a natural spring at its base, which once provided nourishment to the village’s inhabitants, animals, and crops, including its invaluable olive trees. 
During the weekly Nabi Saleh protests, young Palestinians flip the script and control the movement of the same soldiers who man the checkpoints and roadblocks that regularly block their travels. They reclaim sovereignty over their movement; they assert their village’s autonomy; and they are able—if only briefly—to go head-to-head with the Israeli soldiers.

“Death to the Arabs” Rally Draw Thousands in Tel Aviv, by Ali Abunimah
In Tel Aviv’s Yitzhak Rabin Square on the evening of 19 April, thousands of Israelis rallied in support of Elor Azarya, the soldier filmed executing a gravely wounded Palestinian last month. Rally-goers shouted anti-Arab slogans and attacked persons perceived as being leftists or journalists. Hours earlier, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a call for leniency for the soldier.

Iraq: Sadr Supporters in Mass Protest for Political Reform, by BBC
On 26 April, hundreds of thousands of supporters of the Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr marched towards the Green Zone in Baghdad, where the government is based. Al-Sadr wants Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to press ahead with a plan to replace ministers appointed on the basis of political affiliation with technocrats. According to the BBC correspondent Ahmed Maher in Baghdad, this is one of the Iraq’s worst political crises since the US-led invasion and downfall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Egyptians Denounce President Sisi in Biggest Rally in Two Years, by Kareem Fahim
More than a thousand people gathered in downtown Cairo on 15 April, chanting slogans denouncing President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and protesting his decision to transfer sovereignty of two islands in the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia. The demonstration was the largest in at least two years in Egypt. And it was the most significant public challenge to President Sisi by antigovernment activists who have been all but forced into the shadows by a state crackdown on dissent.

Egypt Police Suppress Protests Against Sisi Government, by The Guardian
On 25 April, security forces in Egypt have used teargas to disperse small protests against the president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, witnesses have said, deterring what opposition groups had expected to be a day of large demonstrations against his rule.

“We Are Ridha Yahyaoui”–Kasserine and Tunisia’s Ongoing Revolution, by Bryan Burgess
On 16 January, almost exactly five years after Mohamed Bouazizi lit himself on fire in Ben Arous, Tunisia, Ridha Yahyaoui committed suicide by climbing an electrical pole to protest the Tunisian government’s corruption and failure to combat unemployment. That Yahyaoui’s suicide resembles Bouazizi’s, and that protesters have taken up similarly drastic measures, speaks to the similarity between conditions in Tunisia today and those in 2010.

Enough with the “Jasmine Revolution” Narrative, by Mabrouka Mbarek
Mabrouka Mbarek argues that Tunisians need to own their own revolutionary narrative, rather than the international observers’ narrative of the Tunisian “Jasmine Revolution,” which has been widely rejected in Tunisia since the symbolism of the jasmine flower evokes touristic coastal areas and fails to include the underdeveloped Tunisian interior, the incubator of the Tunisian revolution. She concludes by saying that the emphasis should be put on dignity, which is the objective of the revolution at the first place.

Moroccan Street Vendor Commits Self-Immolation in Protest to Government Oppression, by Maayan Groisman
Wide protests against "repression and corruption" have been taking place in Morocco in April after a street vendor set herself on fire in the northern city of Kenitra in protest of the confiscation of her wares by the local police. The sixty-year-old street vendor, nicknamed in the Moroccan media as "The Baghrir (Moroccan pancake) vendor Umm Fatiha," committed self-immolation on 9 April, after a Kenitra police officer confiscated her stall because she refused to move it. Two days afterward, she died of burns at a local hospital, unknowingly becoming a symbol of governmental heartlessness.

From Opacity to Complexity: the Resilience of the Algerian State, by Rasmus Alenius Boserup and Luis Martinez
In this interview, the editors of the book Algeria Modern: From Opacity to Complexity, discuss the role of security services in Algeria, social movements and political unrest, and compare the Algerian case with other cases in the region.  

Art

Drawing Dangerously: Arab Comics Push the Boundaries, by Emmanuel Haddad
In recent years, comic publications throughout the Arab world have provided cartoonists with a much-needed space to express themselves. Joseph Kai, a Lebanese cartoonist, wrote in the recent issue's editorial that "comics are no longer just a form of expression. They can also have a political role, or even in extreme cases, they can be a tool to shape history and the map of the world." Certain Arab countries, however, maintain their censorship apparatus which often tries to discipline Arab cartoonists and their work.

Illegal Projections on Guggenheim Museum Protest Labor Practices in the Middle East, by Daniel Grant
A group protesting poor labor conditions in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates where the Guggenheim, the Louvre and the British Museum are in the process of building museum outposts, projected words and images onto the exterior of the Guggenheim in New York. The images were the faces of museum director Richard Armstrong and members of the board of trustees, and there were comments in English (“Ultra Luxury Art, Ultra Low Wages,” “1%,” “You Broke Trust” and “Bad Move!”) as well as other phrases in Arabic, Hindi, Telgu, Punjabi and Bengali. The projections were the work of a group called Gulf Labor Luxury Faction (GULF), consisting of “artists and activists who carry out active interventions.” The principal concerns of the Gulf Labor Coalition have been the recruitment fees that foreign workers are required to pay in order to be employed in the United Arab Emirates, the low wages paid to these foreign workers and the fact that they are not permitted to form a union.

Events & Conferences

From Protest to War: Understanding the Uprisings and their Aftermath in Syria and Yemen, 5 May 2016, George Mason University, USA.

Rethinking Social Movements in the Digital Age: Activism, Dissent and Rebellion in the Post-Arab Spring, 29 July 2016, Orient-Institut Beirut, Lebanon (Call for Papers Deadline: 8 May 2016).  

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