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DARS Media Roundup (May 2016)

[The [The "Return Train" during Nakba day protest, Bethlehem, West Bank, 15 May 2016. Image by Activestills, 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

Amid Decreasing Aid, Sahrawis Seek Self-Sufficiency, by Habibulah Mohamed Lamin
Sahrawi refugees have been dependent on humanitarian aid to meet their basic needs for more than four decades. They live on support provided by the United Nations or other civil society organizations to help improve everyday life in the refugee camps. However, as such help is decreasing with the refugee crisis spreading across Europe and the Middle East, some Sahrawis are becoming entrepreneurs. Ambarka Mohamed Salem decided to turn humanitarian assistance into an opportunity for Sahrawi women to become self-sufficient. She set up a factory that makes "melhfas," a traditional garment for Sahrawi women.

What Remains of the Gezi Movement in Turkey? by France24
Three years ago, the city of Istanbul reached boiling point. Plans to destroy Gezi Park, one of the last green spaces in the city, and turn it into a shopping complex, triggered a popular revolt. The protests, which were initially environmental, turned into large anti-government demonstrations. Unprepared, the authorities responded with force. France24 returned to Istanbul to find out what remains of the Gezi movement as President Erdogan strengthens his grip of power.

Palestinian “Return Train” Is Stopped At Israel’s Wall, by Oren Ziv
Hundreds of Palestinians gathered outside the Bethlehem-area Dheisheh Refugee Camp on Nakba Day, in order to board and accompany a symbolic “Return Train” meant to take Palestinian refugees back to their homes and villages from which they fled and were expelled in 1948. Dheisheh is home to thousands of Palestinians who fled or were expelled from some forty-five villages and cities in what is now the state of Israel. The “train” was built by local activists. When the train neared the Israeli army’s “Checkpoint 300” soldiers and Border Police officers fired tear gas toward the Palestinian youths who had started to gather while waiting for the train to arrive.

Israel Clamps Down On Nakba Day “Return Race,” by Oren Ziv
Hundreds of Palestinian and international cyclists participated on 13 May in the so-called “return ride” to mark the sixty-eighth anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba. The bicycle race kicked off in Ramallah and ended in the village of Bil’in, where grassroots protests against the occupation and the separation barrier have taken place weekly over the last eleven years. When the race ended and the participants gathered in front of the separation wall for the awards ceremony, an Israeli Border Police unit emerged from the nearby settlement of Modi’in Illit and told the crowd to disperse. Abduallah Abu Rahmah, one of the leaders of the Bil’in protest movements, was arrested.

Amid Israeli Independence Day Celebrations Thousands of Arabs Rally, by Jack Khoury
Thousands of Arab Israelis marked Nakba Day on 11 May with a march near the Negev Bedouin town of Rahat, the main event of which was a mass vow to preserve Bedouin lands and not to concede the “right of return.” The event was attended by Arab Knesset members, the heads of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, which constitutes the unofficial leadership of the Israeli Arab community, and thousands of people displaced from their original villages by the War of Independence.

Women Elected Student Body President at Three West Bank Universities, by Sheren Khalel
Three women (Dana Rwaidy, Nawras Abd Addayem, and Bahader Rezqallah) have won the position of student body president in the most recent elections at the three of the West Bank’s fourteen different higher education institutions. Most class presidents in the occupied West Bank’s universities are chosen from the senior class, and the vast majority have long been men. In the occupied West Bank these elections are the only democratic bellwether of popular opinion, and are taken seriously both by the local population, and political analysts. All three women won the presidency from within the Fatah’s youth movement. The party’s youth movement said in a statement that “giving equal opportunities for all members, from both genders, is one of Fatah youth movement’s main priorities.”

Israel Fills UN hall for Anti-B.D.S. Conference, by The Associated Press
Over 1500 students filled the United Nations General Assembly on 31 May for a conference sponsored by the Israeli mission on how best to combat a movement on many US campuses calling for a boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians. Taking place in the same hall where forty years ago seventy-two nations voted to equate Zionism with racism, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon called the conference a “historic” event. Separately, Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour dismissed the conference as “no big deal.”

More than 23000 People Sign UN Appeal on #RightToBoycott, by Palestinian B.D.S. National Committee
More than 23000 people have signed an appeal urging the UN to take measures to protect the rights of Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights defenders who campaign nonviolently for Palestinian rights, including through the B.D.S. movement. The appeal is organised by the Palestinian B.D.S. National Committee, the broadest coalition of Palestinian civil society organisations that leads and supports the BDS movement. The appeal urges UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein to publicly state his opposition to Israel’s ongoing efforts to criminalize and demonize the B.D.S. movement, pressure governments to protect the right of activists to campaign for Palestinian rights through B.D.S. tactics, activate relevant UN mechanisms to defend B.D.S. human rights defenders everywhere.

Interview With the B.D.S. Co-Founder Omar Barghouti: Banned by Israel from Traveling, Threatened With Worse, by Glenn Greenwald
Omar Barghouti was denied the right to travel outside the Israel. As one of the pioneers of the increasingly powerful movement to impose boycotts, sanctions, and divestment measures (B.D.S.) on Israel, Barghouti, an articulate, English-speaking activist, has frequently traveled around the world advocating his position. The Israeli government’s refusal to allow him to travel is obviously intended to suppress his speech and activism. In this interview, Barghouti discusses about this travel ban, the growing extremism in Israel, and broader trends with free speech and B.D.S. activism.

Egyptians Detained Over Islands Protest Start Hunger Strike, by The Associated Press
Over a dozen Egyptians detained for planning a demonstration last month have gone on hunger strike in protest at what they describe as their "unfair trial." A hundred and fifty-two persons were convicted for demonstrations planned on April 25 to protest the government's surrender to Saudi Arabia of two Red Sea islands. All of them were convicted on a single day, in three mass hearings, for breaking a law that effectively bans demonstrations. Some were sentenced to up to five years in prison.

Egyptian Satirists Arrested for Mocking President, by Associated Press
Police have arrested four members of a satirical street group that mocked Egypt’s president and his supporters in video clips posted online. The move is part of an escalating crackdown on dissent that lays bare the government’s diminishing tolerance for criticism. The group, Awlad el-Shawarea (Street Children) has a large social media following. It shoots selfie-style clips on the streets that deal mostly with social and political issues.

Egypt’s Activists Turn to Social Media to Call for Satirists’ Release, by Associated Press
Egyptian activists are using social media to demand the release of five detained members of the satirical street performance group Awlad el-Shawarea (Street Children) whose video clips mocked the president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. The activists posted pictures on Facebook of themselves holding mobile phones in front of their faces with the caption: “Does a mobile phone camera rattle you?”

Understanding the Latest Developments in Egypt’s protests, by Nariman Youssef
The author analyses the 25 April protests and poses the question, was April 2015 a victory or a defeat for the pro-democracy groups? He argues that we need to view these protests as one battle in the ongoing war. In that sense, he sees the events of 25 April as an important step in the process of forming a radical opposition to the July 2013 regime.

Egypt’s Endangered Journalists Help Foster Next Generation, by Amr Eltohamy
Egypt is known for its suppression of the press. Yet, in Minya governorate of Upper Egypt, a small initiative is schooling youngsters in the art of journalism. The project has featured stories on journalistic topics and is run by a team known as the Minya Youth, whose members range from twelve to seventeen years old. The group began operating after its members took a series of journalism workshops. The majority of their news reflects the reality of marginalization that the region has experienced over the past several decades, by recording stories narrated by young people there.

Bahrain Releases Activist Zainab Al-Khawaja, by Agence France Press
Bahraini authorities have released the opposition activist Zainab al-Khawaja, who had been imprisoned with her toddler son since March, on “humanitarian” grounds, a public prosecution official has said. Khawaja, who also holds Danish nationality, had been convicted of insulting King Hamad by ripping up a picture of him, and had chosen to keep her seventeen-month-old son with her in jail. Moreover, she is the daughter of prominent rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is serving a life sentence for plotting to overthrow the Sunni regime.

Iran Arrests Models in Renewed Crackdown on Unlicensed Industry, by Saeed Kamali Dehghan
Judicial authorities in Iran have launched another crackdown on modelling, arresting at least eight people–most of them women–for activities deemed “un-Islamic.” After years of operating underground, Iran’s fashion industry has been booming for the past two years following a religious edict by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that modelling is permissible under Islam, a move which prompted fashion weeks and catwalks to pop up across the country. But the revival has also led to a spike in the number of independent models working outside the auspices of licensed agencies, relying largely on their following on social networks such as Instagram and Telegram, an online messaging app used by one in four Iranians. Iran’s hardliners view online social networks with deep suspicion, and its judiciary has tasked a special unit with policing them.

UN Condemns Sixteen-Year Jail Sentence for Iranian Activist Narges Mohammadi, by Saeed Kamali Dehghan
The international community has reacted with outrage after Narges Mohammadi, the ailing Iranian human rights activist already serving a six-year jail term, was given a further sixteen-year sentence by a revolutionary court in Tehran. Mohammadi was found guilty of “establishing and running the illegal splinter group Legam,” a human rights movement that campaigns for the abolition of the death penalty.

Repression on the Rise in Algeria as Peaceful Protesters Face Imprisonment, by Amnesty International
The Algerian authorities must end their relentless efforts to silence peaceful protesters, said Amnesty International ahead of the start of the trial of four protesters from the southern city of Ouargla who are facing up to a year in prison for taking part in protests against unemployment in Algeria’s oil capital, Hassi Messaoud.

Protests, Strike Shut Down Tunisian Town Over Libya’s Halt of Border Trade, by Middle East Eye
The town of Ben Guerdane, in southern Tunisia, went on strike again on 11 May, days after clashes broke out with police over an earlier strike. Residents were protesting against a decision by Libyan authorities to halt cross-border trade, on which the town’s economy depends.

From Mobilization to Counter-Revolution: The Arab Spring in Comparative Perspective, by the Project on Middle East Political Science
On 3-4 May, 2016, the Project on Middle East Political Science held a workshop, “From Mobilization to Counter-Revolution: The Arab Spring in Comparative Perspective,” in conjunction with Oxford University’s Middle East Centre at St. Anthony’s College and Department of Sociology. Drawing from a wide range of methodological and theoretical perspectives, participants contributed short memos that examined topics like revolutionary failure, de-democratization, counter-revolution and authoritarian retrenchment. The papers presented at the workshop are available in the POMEPS website.

Art

Iranian Filmmaker Sentences to 233 Lashes for Documentary About Graffiti in Tehran, by Agence France Press
Iranian director, Keywan Karimi was sentenced to 233 lashes by Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards over a documentary he shot called "Writing on the City" about graffiti in the capital Tehran. He spent fifteen days in solitary confinement in 2013 and was accused of making "propaganda against the regime" and "insulting religious values". Karimi said that he could have immigrated "quite easily but I want to remain to defend my right to live my life." “The fact that my artistic activity is seen as an act of political opposition says a lot about the situation in Iran," he added.

Art Is a Window to the Arab World’s Soul, by Kim Ghattas
Before the uprisings, art in Arab countries was usually confined to state sanctioned galleries or museums and the rarefied circles of elites who patronized them. Independent art operated within the limits of state censorship, while anything potentially considered subversive art was forced underground. In Gulf countries, this is still the predominant model. In much of the region, however, art has been a catalyst for change. The regional upheaval has acted as fuel for artists working to reclaim contested public spaces and give a voice to a new generation’s hopes. 

Events & Conferences

Tunisia: A Conservative Revolution? 30-31 May 2016, European University Institute, Florence, Italy.

Digital Activism and Civil Society in the Middle East, 3-4 June 2016, American University of Beirut, Lebanon.

Five Years After the Revolution: Where Does Tunisia Stand Today? 9 June 2016, Hertie School of Governance, Berlin, Germany,

Rethinking Social Movements in the Digital Age: Activism, Dissent and Rebellion in the Post-Arab Spring, 29 July 2016, Orient-Institut Beirut, Lebanon. 

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