[This is a bi-weekly 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 bi-weekly roundup to DARS@jadaliyya.com by Sunday night of every second week.]
News & Commentary
Palestinian Youth Assert Right of Return With Direct Action, by Nadim Nashef
During the summer of 2013 a new grassroots movement burst onto the scene and announced itself as a major development in the long struggle for the right of return for Palestinian Refugees. Activities occurring throughout the Galilee region of present-day Israel have been held which reaffirm the connection of the younger generation of internally displaced Palestinians to their ancestral villages.
Syrian Anarchist Challenges the Rebel/Regime Binary View of Resistance, by Joshua Stephens
As the US intensifies its push for military intervention in Syria, virtually the only narrative available swings from the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad to the role of Islamist elements within the resistance. But as Jay Cassano recently wrote for tech magazine Fast Company, the network of unarmed, democratic resistance to Assad`s regime is rich and varied, representing a vast web of local political initiatives, arts-based coalitions, human rights organizations, nonviolence groups and more.
Syria’s Nonviolent Resistance Is Dying to Be Heard, by Rania Khalek
Much of the debate over U.S. intervention in Syria reduces the conflict there to a clash between the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and an armed rebellion in which al-Qaeda affiliates play a significant role. Typically ignored in that conversation are the voices of the nonviolent opposition movement that took to the streets to challenge Assad in March 2011, and which has persisted against great odds.
Syria: It’s Still a Revolution, My Friends, by Mohja Kahf
In Syria, a revolution has been happening, and the will to freedom that began it will not simply be erased; it is a bell that cannot be unrung in the hearts of young Syrians. That is why Syria is not now and will not become, despite all the chaos that has ensued inside the revolution, “like Iraq.”
Welcome to Post-Gezi Turkey, by Orhan Kemal Cengiz
A number of factors will determine how much the Gezi protests will affect the future of Turkish democracy. The first major factor will be how legal cases involving the protests turn out. Second, it will be important to see what climate will prevail in the already troubled realm of freedom of expression.
With a Burst of Color, Turkey’s Public Walkways Become a Focus of Quiet Protest, by Sebnem Arsu and Robert Mackey
Turkey`s walkways generally attract little notice, but that changed last week, when a retired forestry engineer decided to paint stairs in the central district of Beyoglu in all the colors of the rainbow — an act of guerrilla beautification that unintentionally triggered a fresh ripple of anti-government protests. To the mainly young, educated and liberal Turks who rallied this year against the autocratic tendencies of the ruling party, the covering of the rainbow stairs seemed to be yet another sign of intolerance and a lack of respect for their right to claim public space.
Turkey: What Lies Behind the Nationwide Protests? by Ayse Bugra
The nationwide demonstrations were spontaneous, universal and beyond class characteristics. What we witnessed was the self-protection of society against a particular form of “governance” which neutered politics and silenced voices of dissent. There was a point at which the threshold of fear was overcome. Unionized workers demonstrated with the self-employed, informal sector employees with medical doctors, architects and lawyers. Women who were conspicuous among the protestors particularly resented the Prime Minister’s statements condemning abortion as murder.
Istanbul: Living Off the Fear, by Yvo Fitzherbert
In terms of policing in Turkey, there is a common misconception that they have been the same since the start of the protests in June, but it’s important to recognise the shift which has taken place since the protests began. While police have always been brutal, they were never so willing to pursue protesters as they are now. When the protests started, protesters felt no fear, they refused to retreat from the police, and they even managed to drive the police out in Taksim for 10 days. But now, there is no room for peaceful protesters on the streets. What we have seen in Turkey is a perfect example of how oppression works, how it erodes all the issues into a vast amalgamation of violence.
What happened to the Green Movement in Iran? by Hamid Dabashi
What exactly happened to that Green Movement? Where are those millions of Iranians who almost two years before the rise of the Arab Spring poured into their streets and demanded their civil liberties? On June 23, 2009, a spontaneous mass demonstration erupted in Iran against the officially declared victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in perhaps the most publicly contested presidential election in the history of the Islamic Republic.
Iran Cabinet Ministers All Sign Up to Facebook - Despite Social Media Site Being Banned, by Majid Mohamed
Iran`s entire cabinet has opened Facebook pages in a move that could signal greater openness from the new government - even though the social media site is blocked in the Islamic Republic. The pages of 15 ministers could be viewed in Tehran through a proxy server. Newspapers have hinted that the move might herald the lifting of some internet barriers. Hard-liners see the internet as a possible corrupting force, but many Iranians use proxies to access banned sites.
Victory for Iran Protesters As govt Closes Polluting Factory, by France24
Tired of the air pollution caused by a factory in the city of Zanjan, local residents twice took to the streets in the past two weeks, prompting the government to finally shut it down. According to local residents, about 10,000 people turned out for the first protest on August 11, which ended in clashes with the security forces. Despite a ban, a second demonstration was held September 6, this time with about 5,000 people, and again ended in clashes. However, the authorities then quickly moved to shut the factory down.
Breaking Through the Iron Ceiling: Iran’s New Government and the Hopes of Iranian Women Movements, by Rochelle Jones
Iranian women’s rights activist Sussan Tahmasebi shares her insights on Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani, and what this could mean for Iranian women. According to Tahmasebi, Iranian women would like to see two things. Firstly, a reversal of the policies under Ahmadinejad’s government that pushed women back, and secondly, accelerative steps for women’s rights such as a reform of the legal system giving women equal rights, employment and social opportunities.
Morsi Loyalists Call for Double Evening Protests, by Ahram Online
The Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Anti-Coup Youth group called for a protest in Downtown Cairo`s Talaat Harb Square against the removal of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. Extensive police special and central security forces are being additionally deployed around the vicinity of Talaat Harb Square. Meanwhile, the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy also called for demonstrations on September 10th under the banner "Support the Dignity and Freedom of Egyptian Women” in protest of what it calls anti-women policies by the interim government.
A People’s History of the Egyptian Revolution (Part 7), by Hani Shukrallah
The Egyptian revolution did not merely make use of the rifts within the various power structures it came up against from 25 January 2011 onwards, but was the formative element in creating them. By their very nature, power structures sit on fault-lines made up of the diverse interests and orientations of the groups and institutions amalgamated within them. For fault-lines to become deep schisms, in power structures as in the Earth’s crust, you need pressure from below, in the shape of volcanic activity or indeed, popular uprisings.
Tunisia Opposition Rallies to Street, Pressure Government Over Crisis, by Patrick Markey and Tarek Amara
Tens of thousands of Tunisians took to the streets on Saturday to renew their demands that the Islamist-led government step down and end a political deadlock threatening the North African country`s fledgling democracy. It was the largest protest since Tunisia`s crisis erupted over the killing of an opposition leader in July, increasing pressure on the ruling Ennahda party to make way for a caretaker government before proposed elections.
Tunisian Journalists on Strike to Protest Pressures, by AFP
Tunisian journalists went on strike Tuesday to protest pressures imposed on them by the authorities, after a reporter was arrested for accusing the public prosecutor of fabricating evidence against a cameraman. The country`s newspapers all ran with headlines announcing the strike. "Tunisian journalists are sick and tired, but they are not giving up," Le Temps announced on its front page, with Le Quotidien proclaiming that "The battle for freedom of expression rages."
A Bahraini Activist’s Message From Prison, by Natalie Kitroeff
Zainab al-Khawaja, an opposition activist in Bahrain who charted the uprising in the country on her twitter feed until she was detained this year, has sent an audio message to her supporters from prison. In it, Zainab al-Khawaja recites what she says is one of her father’s favourite poems and dedicates it to “to the brave people of Bahrain who I miss greatly, and to all freedom-loving people of the world.”
Jailed Emiratis on Hunger Strike for Alleged Mistreatment, by Reuters
Eighteen jailed United Arab Emirates nationals are on hunger strike in protest at what they say is ill-treatment following their conviction of plotting to overthrow the government, an activist said on Thursday.
Is Jordan’s ‘Arab Spring’ Over? by Osama Al Sharif
A year ago, anti-government protests took place regularly across Jordan, most organized by the Muslim Brotherhood, but some led by the Jordanian Youth Movement, or “hirak,” whose slogans often called for regime change and accused King Abdullah II of corruption. Despite worsening economic conditions Jordanians have become wary of instability and chaos that has gripped neighbouring Syria and Egypt, and indeed, most Arab Spring countries. But it is too early to sign the death certificate of Jordan’s Arab Spring. The government is equally unpopular, and unless economic life improves soon, Jordanians will go back to the street in protest.
Israel’s Checkpoint Princesses, by Inna Lazareva
The members of Israeli women`s group Machsom Watch (Checkpoint Watch) are ladies with a reputation. Every morning by the crack of dawn, these mostly retired grandmothers travel to the epicenter of the daily conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Their stated purpose is to monitor checkpoints scattered between Israel and the West Bank and within the West Bank itself, but their role is far from that of a silent observer. Today, the women tackle some of the most sensitive challenges faced by the Palestinians and Israeli soldiers. This has earned them mixed accolades — including praise not only from the Palestinians but also from the highest echelons of the Israeli defense and military establishments. Meanwhile, others have criticized them for well over a decade.
Checkdesk: Arabic Live Blog Breaking New Ground in MENA, by Bayan Itani
As part of its project entitled ‘Middle East Citizen Journalism Project’, Meedan launched last July a professional digital platform to promote citizen journalism in the MENA region. The platform, Checkdesk, was developed by Meedan in cooperation with six leading media outlets in the region. Checkdesk is a live blog that allows citizen journalists to cover events and document their coverage with first account material or with content from online and social media. In addition, it puts citizen journalists in direct contact with newsrooms, and thus the probability for covering citizen-reported issues in major media outlets increases.
The Revolution That Wasn’t, by Hugh Roberts
The cheerleaders for what was transacted in Egypt on 3 July have presented it as the renewal of January and February 2011. The revolution, hijacked and perverted by the Muslim Brothers, their Freedom and Justice Party and Mohamed Morsi, had been retrieved by the people and the army – one hand! – and put back on track. A feature of this story is that it elides what happened in Egypt in the months following Mubarak’s fall, when, again and again, Tahrir Square and other public spaces were re-occupied by demonstrations expressing impatience with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ management of l’après-Mubarak. So how did Egypt travel from Tahrir Square on 31 December 2011 to Tahrir Square on 30 June 2013?
The Fantasy Buffer Zone: Baghdad Youths Plan a ‘Mini-Iraq’ the Way It Should Be, by Ahmad Al-Rubaie
“I am an Iraqi and I demand a buffer zone”. This is the name of a new campaign launched by a group of young Iraqis on Facebook on August 28. It may sound confusing at first but what the young campaigners are asking for is a United Nations-sponsored buffer zone, where they will be safe, free from violence and political or religious trauma and able to live in relative safety and prosperity.
Empower Thousands of Bedouin to Stop Demolitions
A fundraising campaign organized by Adalah to stop the ongoing forced displacement of the Bedouin.
When Seeing Is Belonging: The Photography of Tahrir Square, by Lara Baladi
Egyptian activist Hossam el-Hamalawy, blogged in 2008, “The revolution will be flickrised,” pointing to the need to document and disseminate the regime’s repressive procedures. Seeing would mean believing and revolting for those blinded by the national media, which persistently concealed the reality in place for 30 years. This was never truer than in Tahrir Square during the 18 days of the 2011 revolution. Here, and in the whole region during the Arab uprisings, the act of photographing became not only an act of seeing and recording; it was also fully participatory. It constituted civil disobedience and defiance of the regime.
A Canvas of Turmoil During Istanbul Biennial, by Rachel Donadio
Back in January, Fulya Erdemci, the curator of this year’s Istanbul Biennial, decided to focus the exhibition on art in public spaces. “When Gezi happened, we were so excited,” Ms. Erdemci said. Given the volatile climate, with more demonstrations erupting in Istanbul and the crisis in Syria leading to an influx of refugees, the city did not grant the exhibition permission to show works in public areas, out of fear of protests, which meant that many artists had to rethink their contributions or produce works that commented on the dynamics of public space, rather than actually use public space.
Pop, Sex and Politics, by T.F.
Mashrou` Leila, a Lebanese indie band, dances all over conventions of Arab pop culture. The group’s third album, "Raasuk (They made you dance)", is its most political yet. As Egyptian security forces began a crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Cairo in July, the band released on YouTube “Wa Nueid (And we repeat)”, a song about resilience in the face of repeated failure. The songs address other big shifts in the lives of young Arabs, too. While some Lebanese psychiatrists opposed the recent legal classification of homosexuality as "unnatural", Leila sang about gay seduction.
Mashrou’ Leila: the Lebanese Band Changing the Tune of Arab Politics, by Jad Salfiti
Mashrou` Leila are one of the most notable indie pop bands in the Middle East – and one of the most controversial. With a lead singer who is openly gay and lyrics sung in Arabic that satirize Lebanese society and politics, the band are overturning the status quo in Arab pop. The band are part of a rebellious surge of new bands in the Middle East, such as El Morabba3 in Jordan and Lebanon`s Zeid and the Wings. They all emerged around the time of the Arab spring, creating a potent fusion of pop and politics.
Arab Hip-Hop: Weapon Without Borders, by Raya Saksouk
Hip-hop may have been born and raised in the Bronx, but its influence extends far beyond the limits of New York. In the Middle East and North Africa, rap is an accessible and well-established platform for political protest and artistic expression. The most striking feature of Arab rap is that it has managed to preserve the spirit of subversion so central to the hip-hop genre as a whole. From its inception, rap has been a means of powerful political expression for the socially, politically, and economically marginalized. This was true for African American artists when the genre emerged in the 1970s and ‘80s, and it continues to be true for artists in Palestine, Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon, and other countries across the region.
Winter of Discontent, a film by Ibrahim El Batout
Wildly inventive, Winter of Discontent stands at the intersection between fiction and historical artifact. Filmed during the early days of the Egyptian revolution in winter 2011, the film takes you to Tahrir in the midst of real-life protests. The tale it weaves is one of three fictional characters: Amr, an activist; Farah, a journalist; and Adel, a state security officer. Ibrahim El Batout blurs the lines between fiction and reality, skillfully building (and sometimes improvising) the story of a society where, according to the film’s official statement, “love and joy were flouted” in exchange for “fear and corruption.”
Conferences & Events
Iraqi Social Forum, 26-28 September 2013, Baghdad, Iraq
Contentious Politics in the Middle East, LSE Middle East Centre, London, UK
Revolt and Revolution, 4-6 November 2013, Athens, Greece
Art and Resistance in the Middle East: History and Change, 16 November 2013, University of Edinburgh, UK