[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
Letter From Western Sahara, a Land Under Occupation, by Sharif Abdel Kouddous
Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara erupted in 2005 in massive pro-independence demonstrations. It was quickly repressed by Moroccan security forces but has continued in smaller, less centralized acts of disobedience against the Moroccan administration. Mohammed Abdelaziz, a former guerrilla leader delineates the first two stages involving armed conflict, first against Spain until 1976 and then against Mauritania and Morocco until 1991. He says the third stage, of negotiations, broke down in 2003. “We are now in the stage of peaceful resistance through an uprising, coupled with ongoing talks with the UN and Morocco,” he says.
Peaceful Demonstration Organized by Sahrawi Citizens Repressed “Forcefully” in Occupied City of Boujdour, by Sahara Press Service
The Moroccan police in official and civilian uniforms repressed “forcefully” on 1 November a peaceful demonstration organized by Sahrawi citizens in front of the occupied city of Boujdour prefecture. A group of Sahrawi citizens, composed of unemployed and associative activists, chose to demonstrate peacefully, in protest against a festival organized by the Moroccan authorities in the city despite the “deterioration of the social and economic situation of the Sahrawi families that complain of deprivation and exclusion and most of its members suffer of unemployment and poverty.”
For Kurdish Women, It’s a Double Revolution, by Karlos Surutuza
Nafia Brahim is one of twelve members of the assembly that runs the Centre for Training and Empowerment of Women in Qamishli, 680 km northeast of Damascus. After the uprising of 2011 against the Syrian government, the country’s Kurds opted for a neutrality that has forced them into clashes with both government and opposition forces. In July 2012 they took over the areas where they form a majority, in Syria’s north. Today, the role played by women in Syria’s Kurdish areas is tangible from the very leadership of the Democratic Union Party, the dominant party among Syrian Kurds.
Iranian Hardliners Mark 1979 Hostage Crisis Anniversary with Huge Protests, by Saeed Kamali Dehghan
Thousands of Iranian hardliners have rallied at the former US embassy in Tehran to commemorate the 1979 US hostage crisis, highlighting the domestic challenges the country`s president, Hassan Rouhani, faces in his bid to mend ties with the west. In a nationwide event marking the anniversary of the day angry students stormed the embassy thirty-four years ago and took fifty-two diplomats hostage for 444 days, large crowds sympathetic to the Revolutionary Guards and its informal voluntary basij militia took to the streets on 4 November, chanting "death to America" and burning US flags.
Imprisoned Iranian Human Rights Lawyer Goes on Hunger Strike, by Associated Press
Abdolfattah Soltani, a prominent Iranian human rights lawyer has started a hunger strike to protest the lack of medical care for himself and other dissidents jailed in Tehran`s infamous Evin prison. Soltani was arrested in 2011 and later sentenced to thirteen years in prison on various charges, including co-founding the Center for Human Rights Defenders and endangering national security.
Syria’s Assault on Doctors, by Annie Sparrow
The Assad regime has come to view doctors as dangerous, their ability to heal rebel fighters and civilians in rebel-held areas a weapon against the government. Over the past two and a half years, doctors, nurses, dentists, and pharmacists who provide treatment to civilians in contested areas have been arrested and detained; paramedics have been tortured and used as human shields, ambulances have been targeted by snipers and missiles; medical facilities have been destroyed; the pharmaceutical industry devastated. Directly and indirectly, the attacks have had a profound effect on tens of thousands of health professionals and millions of Syrian patients, let alone the more than two million refugees who have fled to neighboring countries.
Bahraini Protesters Stage Rally South of Manama, by Popular Resistance
Bahraini protesters have staged another demonstration against the Al Khalifa regime in the village of Aali, south of the capital Manama. On 31 October, the protesters shouted anti-regime slogans and called for democracy in the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom. They also demanded the freedom of protesters detained by the regime. Since mid-February 2011, thousands of pro-democracy protesters have held numerous demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power.
“Green Intifada” in the West Bank, by Pierre Klochendler
In the village of Battir, whose 5,000 inhabitants pride themselves on their cultural and historical relation to the landscape, a peaceful form of resistance against the Israeli occupation is taking root. While Battir is the exception to Israel’s rule in the West Bank–the only Palestinian village where the Green Line doesn’t exist–Israel’s Defense Ministry has been trying to erect the wall in the Battir valley since 2006, when villagers petitioned the Supreme Court in Israel to divert the barrier and thus prevent the confiscation of land and destruction of the rich environment and its irrigation system. They gained improbable support from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, a governmental body, and in May, the court interceded on the villagers’ behalf, suggesting that the Defense Ministry propose “non-physical” alternatives to the wall.
Residents of Firing Zone 918 Invite Guests to “Water the Tree of Nonviolent Resistance,” by Jesse Gonzalez
“Nonviolent resistance is like a tree: it needs water to grow.” That was the motto of a gathering of Italians and locals in the Bedouin community of Al-Mufaqara, which lies just inside Firing Zone 918, in the South Hebron Hills. Two Italians came to share their experiences participating in nonviolent resistance, and to show solidarity with the resistance of local Palestinians, who are currently fighting for the right to stay on their ancestral land.
Saudi Women Drivers Not Deterred by Arrest, by Eman Al-Nifjan
No one expected the success of the 26 October Women Driving Campaign. As the actual date of 26 October drew nearer, things started to become tense. The success of the campaign drew accusations of conspiracies and political agendas. Who knew that a woman driving a car could be so dangerous? More than a hundred fundamentalists went to the king to ask that he crack down on the campaign. Women who had posted videos with their names started to get death threats. But the threat of arrest won’t deter the campaign. It is continuing, and will continue to push for women’s right to drive in Saudi Arabia.
When Saudi Women Get Behind The Wheel, Male Supporters Are Jailed, by David Kenner and Catherine A. Traywick
Saudi authorities have found a novel way of punishing women who defy the country`s driving ban: jailing the men who support them. Around fifty women got behind the wheel on 26 October, in an act of civil disobedience. While some of the women were stopped and fined, none were arrested. Instead, police apprehended Tariq al-Mubarak, a male columnist who worked closely with organizers and who had penned an op-ed promoting women`s rights. "This time they are not after women, they are after men who supported the women," women`s activist Manal al-Sharif told Foreign Policy.
Egypt: Protester Killings Not Being Investigated, by Human Rights Watch
Egypt’s authorities have yet to announce any move to investigate security force killings of protesters on 6 October 2013. Almost four weeks after police used lethal force to break up protests by Muslim Brotherhood supporters, the authorities have not said they have questioned, or intend to question, security forces about their use of firearms that day. “In dealing with protest after protest, Egyptian security forces escalate quickly and without warning to live ammunition, with deadly results,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Thirteen hundred people have died since July. What will it take for the authorities to rein in security forces or even set up a fact-finding committee into their use of deadly force?”
Egyptian Students Protest after Brotherhood Leader Arrested, by Hadeel Al Shalchi
Egyptian police fired teargas at protesting students at Cairo`s al-Azhar university on 30 October hours after authorities announced the detention of Muslim Brotherhood leader Essam El-Erian, part of a crackdown against the Islamist movement. Students at Egypt`s top institution for Islamic teachings have demonstrated for weeks in support of Morsi, who was toppled by the army after mass protests against his rule.
Female Muslim Brotherhood Protesters Arrested in Alexandria, by Patrick Kingsley
Egyptian police have taken the unusual step of detaining twenty-two female supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, raising tensions before 4 November’s much-awaited trial of the party`s Mohamed Morsi. Thousands of Morsi`s supporters have been arrested and more than 1,000 killed by state officials since his overthrow. But few women have been detained for any extended period, which makes 31 October’s round-up of nearly two dozen women in Alexandria–Egypt`s second city–a significant escalation. It is also seen as a warning from the security forces that further protests in the build-up to Morsi`s trial will not be tolerated.
A Place for Women in Egypt’s Transition, by Nancy Messieh
Women, who stood side-by-side with men at the frontlines of Egypt’s uprising facing off with Central Security Forces, have found themselves marginalized over the past two years. Issues relating to women’s rights have been side-lined as discussions over legislation under successive regimes instead focus on measures that would stifle civil society in Egypt, and crack down on street protests. But as women have taken their rightful place alongside men in the struggle for their basic rights, the movement has given way to a discussion about their role in the constitution, legislation and beyond.
HRW Slams Egypt’s Draft Protest Law, by Rana Muhammad Taha
The draft Protest Law, awaiting the president’s ratification to pass, gives the police a “carte blanche” to ban protests in Egypt, according to Human Rights Watch. The international human rights watchdog organization said in a statement that the draft law could “severely restrict” political parties’ and non-governmental organizations’ freedom of assembly.
Sisi’s Egypt, by Sameh Naguib, Rosemary Bechler and Rana Nessim
This is a follow-up interview with leading member of the Revolutionary Socialists in Egypt, Sameh Naguib, where he discusses about Sisi`s Egypt, the new alliance around the general, what challenges face opposition parties and movements, and the future of Tahrir Square.
Can Unarmed Peacekeeping Work in Syria? It Has in South Sudan, by Stephanie Van Hook
Over the past few months there have been many discussions about alternatives to war and armed military intervention in light of the ongoing crisis in Syria. Those opposing military force have made alternative proposals that have included the work of unarmed civilian peacekeeping. In order to better understand what this might mean, the author interviewed Lisa Fuller, a field team leader for Nonviolent Peaceforce. Her work as an unarmed civilian peacekeeper has taken her to Sri Lanka and, most recently, to South Sudan.
Digital Revolution in Reverse: Syria’s Media Diversifies Offline, by Armand Hurault
Whether digital tools and internet 2.0 was one of the causes, necessary conditions, or just a facilitator for the success of the Arab Spring–their importance is undisputed. During the first year and half of the uprising in Syria, citizen media activists used digital platforms and tools to coordinate their actions remotely–setting up efficient organizations of people who had never physically met. This “all-digital” model worked as long as the objective was to leak information out of Syria and to an international audience. Today, citizen journalists are now are making efforts to switch their audience from an international one to a domestic one. What has gone nearly unnoticed in Syria is an increase in the traditional means of media dissemination: FM radio and print.
Beyond Civil Resistance: The Case of Syria, by Maged Mandour
Civil resistance is not sufficient to bring down a ruthless regime, as one can see in Bahrain or in Yemen. But dismantling the ideological base of the regime is an essential first step before commencing with an outright attack on the state, whether violent or nonviolent.
Ruthless Regimes Not Impervious to Civil Resistance: A Reply to Maged Mandour, by Stephen Zunes and Jack Duvall
The failure of the nonviolent phase of the Syrian uprising was not in its choice of nonviolent resistance but rather in its rush to confrontation with a brutal state apparatus prior to the necessary steps of broadening citizen participation. In the latest wave of people’s movements civil resistance has been the most commonly chosen means of conflict. Their rise has not been stopped by ruthless force, and their fate is likely to be decided by an equation of force and strategy in which arms are not the pivotal factor.
The Grapes of My Country: Syrian Journalism Baptized in Blood, by Syria Untold
From the beginning of the uprising, Darayya was known for its massive peaceful demonstrations against the Assad regime. To challenge the regime’s four-decade-long monopoly over communications and repression against media activists, a group of young men and women from Darayya decided to join efforts to provide the city with a different kind of news reports and analysis, called “The Grapes of My Country.” Ten months after leaving Darayya, the team is now preparing its re-launch, following petitions from residents. The project has faced endless repression and obstacles, but it has persisted and it continues to work on the ground.
The Success of Nonviolent Civil Resistance, by Erica Chenoweth
This is a TEDx talk by Professor Erica Chenoweth on her research on the impressive record of civil resistance in the twentieth century. She focused on the so-called “3.5% rule”–the notion that no government can withstand a challenge of three-and-a-half percent of its population without either accommodating the movement or (in extreme cases) disintegrating. In addition to explaining why nonviolent resistance has been so effective, she also shares some lessons learned about why it sometimes fails.
Wanted for Justice in Bahrain
Human Rights Defenders in Bahrain have launched a new campaign “Wanted for Justice in Bahrain,” calling for an end to the climate of impunity which has seen leading human rights defenders arrested, tortured, denied due legal process and sentenced to lengthy prison terms after unfair trials.
Stop the Shipment of Tear Gas to Bahrain
A global campaign has been launched to stop the flow of tear gas to Bahrain, after research and advocacy group Bahrain Watch published a leaked official document showing that the government may be planning to import 1.6 million tear gas canisters and 90,000 tear gas and sound grenades.
Art Revolution Blooms after Arab Spring, by Tell Me More
During the Arab Spring, artists say city walls were often the only places where they could talk back to tyrants. Street art can be found across the Middle East and North Africa, and the Arab Spring protests inspired an artistic revolution. The "Creative Dissent" exhibit at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan is putting that art on display.
Yemeni Street Artist Uses Sana’s Walls to Remember the Disappeared, by Abubakr Al-Shamahi
The faces belong to Yemeni political prisoners who simply vanished, leaving behind families who have little or no knowledge of their fate. Some go as far back as the 1970s and some date to the Yemeni revolution against former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011. They are part of a campaign called The Walls Remember Their Faces, the brainchild of a twenty-six-year-old street artist, Murad Sobay. "The meaning of the word `wall` has changed. A wall was a prison, a barrier – now a wall is a way of expressing yourself, a wall is inspiring. The walls hold the memory of the disappeared political detainees better than people can," he explained.
Saudi Soldier Questions Authority with Art (and Plastic Wrap), by NPR
Abdulnasser Gharem is a lieutenant colonel in the Royal Saudi Arabian Armed Forces, but Gharem`s true passion lies in a decidedly less rigid field—contemporary art. His paintings, performances and installations, which have transformed the Saudi art scene, challenge people to question the same authority he upholds in his day job. Because of his artistic critique of the Saudi government, Gharem is careful about which works he shows in his home country, and which he saves for exhibits outside its borders.
Conferences & Events
She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World, 27 August 2013–12 January 2014, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA
Creative Dissent: Arts of the Arab World Uprisings, 8 November 2013–9 February 2014, Arab American National Museum, Michigan, USA
Art and Resistance in the Middle East: History and Change, 16 November 2013, University of Edinburgh, UK