[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 & Commentary
The Masked Avengers: How Anonymous Incited Online Vigilantism From Tunisia to Ferguson, by David Kushner
Anonymous might be the most powerful nongovernmental hacking collective in the world. In a series of cyber attacks undertaken in January 2011 called “Operation Tunisia,” Anons brought down the websites of the Tunisian Stock Exchange, the Ministry of Industry, the President, and the Prime Minister. More recently, Anonymous took up the cause of Ferguson, Missouri, where protesters and police were engaged in clashes over the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. As with the Arab Spring operations, Anonymous sent electronic care packages to protesters on the ground, and hijacked and released online addresses and other personal information of local officials and police officers—a punishment known as doxing.
Cairo Courtroom Erupts in Celebration at Dissidents’ Release, by Robert Mackey
After a series of verdicts that have disheartened democracy activists in Egypt, there were rare images of celebration in a Cairo courtroom on Monday 15 September when a judge ordered the release on bail of three prominent dissidents imprisoned for attending a protest last year. The dissidents, Alaa Abd El Fattah, Mohamed Nouby and Wael Metwally, shouted with joy in the courtroom after the judge announced that he was recusing himself and that the three men would be released on bail pending a retrial. The men were sentenced in June to fifteen years in prison for violating a new law banning unsanctioned street protests and have been fighting to have their convictions overturned.
Egypt Hunger Strikes Gain Momentum, by Al Jazeera
As Egypt`s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi heads to New York next week for the UN General Assembly, he leaves behind a country with a growing movement of hunger strikers calling for the release of detainees jailed under a controversial Protest Law. Several political parties and journalists began a symbolic nationwide hunger strike on Saturday 13 September to demand the release of detainees held for violating a law enacted last year that has been criticized by both domestic and international human rights groups, as well as prominent political figures, as curtailing peoples` right to protest.
Protest in Support of Hunger-Striking Political Prisoners, by Aswat Masriya
A number of activists staged a protest on Sunday 14 September outside the Journalists` Syndicate in downtown Cairo in solidarity with some of the political prisoners who have started a hunger strike against their detention and the protest law. Ahmed Douma, Alaa Abdel Fattah, Mohamed Abdel Rahman "Noubi" and Sanaa Seif and others, who are detained on charges of violating the restrictive protest law, have announced earlier going into a hunger strike to demand their release. The day before, several political parties and journalists began a symbolic nationwide hunger strike to demand the release of detainees in what they called the "battle of empty stomachs."
Anti-Protest Law Activists Begin Hunger Strike at Egypt’s Council for Human Rights HQ, by Ahram Online
Six activists being retried for breaching Egypt`s protest law have started an open-ended sit-in and hunger strike inside the National Council for Human Rights in downtown Cairo. The six men were among twenty five defendants sentenced on June 11 to fifteen years in jail for breaking a controversial law that bans protests without police authorization, the toughest sentences against pro-democracy activists since the 2011 uprising. They plan to go on with their hunger strike until the controversial protest law is rescinded and all people jailed for exercising their freedom of expression are released, one activist said. A growing number of prisoners have joined a hunger strike over the past weeks to protest their detention, with an almost equivalent number of activists and family members joining the strike outside prison.
Three Political Groups Frozen At Cairo University, by Ahram Online
The head of Cairo University on Monday 15 September made official a previous decision to ban political activity on campus by announcing a freeze on groups affiliated with three of Egypt`s most prominent political parties. Gaber Nasser said in press statements that groups affiliated with the Constitution Party, the Strong Egypt Party and the Salafist Nour Party have been frozen due to partisan activities not being allowed on campus. Earlier this month students protested at Cairo University against the decision to ban politically-linked groups on campus. Hundreds of other students have been jailed for illegal protesting or causing violence. A protest law issued by interim authorities last November banned all demonstrations not pre-approved by the police.
How Egypt’s Protest Law Brought Down The Revolution, by Mohannad Sabry
Some of the country`s most prominent revolutionary activists will continue their retrial on Wednesday 10 September after being sentenced to fifteen years in jail for breaking the controversial protest law. They were not terrorists or armed protesters, yet the current regime, which they helped seize power and topple the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013, decided to include them in a nationwide crackdown aimed at eliminating dissent. Notwithstanding the consequences of reporting on such issues in Egypt, the third most dangerous country for journalists in 2013, Mohannad Sabry decided to write the story told by some of the twenty-five fearlessly standing retrial for the crime of adhering to the revolution`s most basic demands.
Strangers in The Crowd, by Vivienne Matthies-Boon
“The system of fear is back,” whispers an Egyptian political activist. “It is showing its teeth, saying ‘I’m baaack.’” The cross-ideological ties of the late Mubarak years are badly frayed. An April 6 leader says: “We used to be in dialogue with the Islamist youth. But now, because of the frustration and rage with the current regime, they no longer listen and talk to us. We cannot control them anymore.” There is a renewed crackdown on civil society, which the media also accuses of working on behalf of “foreign elements.” As one activist sums up, “We have to go into hibernation, to regroup and reflect on all that has gone wrong over the last three years. Then, hopefully, one day we can re-emerge stronger.”
Israeli Intelligence Veterans Refuse to Serve in Palestinian Territories, by Peter Beaumont
Forty-three veterans of one of Israel’s most secretive military intelligence units – many of them still active reservists – have signed a public letter refusing to serve in operations involving the occupied Palestinian territories because of the widespread surveillance of innocent residents. The signatories include officers, former instructors and senior NCOs. They allege that the “all-encompassing” intelligence the unit gathers on Palestinians – much of it concerning innocent people – is used for “political persecution.”
Israeli Refuseniks Will Be Treated As Criminals, Says Defence Minister, by Peter Beaumont
Forty-three Israeli military intelligence reservists who signed a letter refusing to serve in the occupied Palestinian territories have been denounced as criminals by defense minister Moshe Ya`alon. The reservists` letter had alleged the intelligence unit undertook "all-encompassing" surveillance of the Palestinians and used information to blackmail individuals into becoming informants. Among those who have criticized the reservists` actions are Israel`s prime minister, the president, opposition leaders and a former intelligence head.
Yemen: Lethal Force Used Against Houthi Protesters, Says Human Rights Watch, by Eurasia Review
Yemeni authorities should immediately investigate the use of unnecessary lethal force against demonstrators in Sanaa on September 7 and 9, 2014. Altogether eight protesters and an ambulance driver were killed and at least sixty-seven were wounded. Houthis, a Zaidi Shi’a resistance group from northern Yemen, held demonstrations in Sanaa, the capital, to protest the government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi. “Yemeni soldiers firing live ammunition into peaceful crowds is all too reminiscent of the killings of protesters that marked the previous government’s attempts to crush the 2011 uprising,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director of Human Rights Watch.
Sana’a Protests Escalate as President Calls For Dialogue, by Arafat Madabish
Pro and anti-government protests continued on the streets of Sana’a on Saturday 12 September amid a heightened security presence as the central government renewed its efforts to communicate with rebels. Tens of thousands of Yemenis took to the streets the following day across the country in response to a call by the pro-government Popular Alignment Body to express support for President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. In Sana’a, pro-government protesters marched near Hadi’s residence chanting anti-violence slogans. Meanwhile, supporters of the Shi’ite Houthi Movement on Friday held funeral processions for seven of its supporters who were killed last week in clashes with Yemeni government forces. Thousands of Houthis gathered on the road leading to Sana’a’s airport demanding the overthrow of Hadi’s government, the reversal of a controversial fuel subsidy cut and the formation of a technocratic government.
Maryam al-Khawaja, The Inconvenient Activist, by Samia Errazzouki
“They keep saying I am not a citizen,” tweeted human rights defender Maryam al-Khawaja. A few hours earlier she had stepped off a plane in her home country of Bahrain, where she hoped to pay a visit to her ailing father. He is currently serving a life sentence in a Bahraini prison on trumped-up charges. His real offense: organizing peaceful protests during Bahrain`s Arab Spring uprising against the government. In Maryam’s public appearances, she has often described Bahrain`s revolution as the "inconvenient revolution" -- a reference to the many powerful countries, including the United States, that stand behind the Bahraini regime.
Tehran in No Mood to Laugh at Khomeini Jokes, by Golnaz Esfandiari
Hundreds of “Imam” jokes have been making the rounds via text messages and social media in Iran. And while the anecdotes may seem harmless enough, Iranian conservatives say they are an insult to the founder of the Islamic republic. Iranian police chief Esmail Ahmadi Moghadam warned that action would be taken against those insulting Khomeini. “The fact that our streets are open and there is freedom in our country does not mean that drivers can drive at the speed they want in the streets,” he was quoted as saying by the hard-line Tasnim news agency. “These insulting acts are considered a crime.”
Bahrain’s Arrest of a Dissident Merits a Firm Protest from Washington, by The Washington Post
The autocratic al-Khalifa regime in Bahrain has arrested scores of peaceful opponents and sabotaged a “national dialogue” it had previously pledged to carry out; in July it ostentatiously expelled the State Department’s assistant secretary for human rights after he met with members of a legal opposition party. On Saturday one of Bahrain’s — and the Arab world’s — best-known advocates of human rights, Maryam al-Khawaja, was arrested at the country’s international airport. Following the president’s new policy, the Obama administration limited itself to expressions of “concern” by low-level spokesmen.
Analysts Say Boycott Could Have Major Effect on Israeli Economy, by Ma’an News
In the last two months, Palestinians across the West Bank have begun heeding calls to boycott Israeli goods in increasing numbers as popular campaigns have taken to the street to promote the campaign. Economic analysts say the campaign could potentially have a major negative effect on the Israeli economy, and buoy the Palestinian economy as well. Azmi Abd al-Rahman, the Director-General of Policy and Economic Studies and spokesman for the Palestinian Ministry of Economy, told Ma’an that “If applied well, the boycott could create between seventy to one hundred thousand job opportunities in the Palestinian lands by providing billions of dollars annually,” which were otherwise being siphoned off to Israel.
Five Thousand Mine Workers Strike in Protest Against Arrest of Strikers, by International Campaign For Human Rights in Iran
In an increasingly tense and prolonged stand-off between striking miners, the Bafgh Iron Ore Mines, and judicial officials, which originally began in May 2014 over plans to privatize the mine, a new round of strikes at the mines began on August 19 over the arrests of some of the strikers, reportedly involving some five thousand miners, according to the Iranian Labour News Agency, and drawing in the surrounding community in sit-ins protesting the arrests. The mine company agreed to withdraw the charges against the striking miners, so that the arrested individuals could be released, but judicial officials have still refused to release them. Despite the fact that the Iranian constitution provides for peaceful protests by workers, strikers are routinely arrested and detained by the authorities in Iran, and labor activists are systematically persecuted and prosecuted.
“Only Syrians Can Free Syria:” From Assad to ISIS, a Tale of Syrian Resistance, by Julia Taleb
Since March 2011, people have peacefully protested in Syria against the regime and demanded rights and freedoms. Initially nonviolent resistance won concessions, including dismissal of a governor and the release of hundreds of political dissidents. After the resistance became armed, ISIS emerged as the strongest and most brutal force in Syria. Despite these obstacles, activists who challenged the Assad regime began to confront ISIS. From challenging Assad’s regime to facing ISIS, civil and nonviolent activities are still vigorous at the local level.
Social Media: The Weapon of Choice in the Gaza-Israel Conflict, by Yoused Al-Helou
“Since the start of the Gaza blockade in 2006, a new generation of Palestinians have come to prominence in Gaza. Articulating their message in fluent English through blogs and Twitter, they conveyed their message to the world as a means to break their isolation, not only from the outside world but also from the rest of the occupied territories in the West Bank and the capital of East Jerusalem,” said Abed al-Nasser Abu Oun, a TV correspondent and radio presenter at a local radio station. As the war progressed, it was an online battle of narratives - between heavily funded Israeli state media outlets, represented by Israeli spokespersons of the Israeli government and the army with decades of experience - versus Palestinian citizen journalists who only had their own laptops, smartphones and cameras.
Where are Morocco’s Revolutionary Activists?, by Nora Fakim and Nouri Verghese
"Freedom for all political prisoners in the Maghreb" is the new calling card of Moroccan activists, many of whom are linked to the February 20 movement, born during the mass demonstrations that swept across Morocco in 2011. Inspired by the Arab uprisings taking place in Tunisia and in many neighboring Arab countries, the February 20 movement originally regrouped young, middle-class Moroccans who wanted to change their country. But as political pressure has caused the group`s numbers to drop dramatically, and activists become increasingly disillusioned with a lack of meaningful change in Morocco, the movement is much weaker than it was in 2011. Competing agendas have sown divisions within the movement. "Some protesters want a parliamentary monarchy and some want the king to be removed completely," said Hamza Mahfoud, one of the group`s current leaders. "This is why the group is getting weaker and weaker."
An Internet Freedom Summit… in Turkey, Really?, by Eileen Donahoe
The annual Internet Governance Forum (I.G.F.) was held in Istanbul on 2-5 September. Thousands of stakeholders from around the globe gathered to discuss how to enhance digital trust, enable access, and prevent Internet fragmentation. But perhaps the agenda was most notable for what it did not include: the question of Internet freedom in Turkey. Over the past year Turkish authorities have imprisoned journalists, banned Twitter, and blocked YouTube. Yet, “country-specific” panels and workshops are not permitted in I.G.F. programs, so Turkey’s digital rights violations were missing from the agenda. Many Turkish activists chose to boycott the I.G.F.. The “Internet UnGovernance Forum” was organized as an alternative venue for activists to speak freely, and to give a voice to critics of the IGF program.
Turkey’s Unconventional Opinion Shapers, by Ahu Yigit
Given the popularity of social media and the high rates of Internet access among the population, it is only natural that political satire has found fertile ground online. This online humor has its own distinct character. In most cases it is expressed through captions of photographs and stills. The main idea behind the humor is to show well-known public figures, such as politicians, thinkers or even fictional characters saying things that contradict their persona while maintaining a link with the original character in the image. The outcome is a challenge to the established or taken for granted political identities and ideologies.
Not unlike the Gezi Park protests, online humor’s potential to contribute to a meaningful opposition movement can be questioned. Yet this would be an unfair criticism directed from a rather narrow understanding of politics that doesn’t go beyond party politics. Online satire exposes and challenges conventional wisdom and practically compels participation in the public debate. Perhaps it would be fairer to approach the online satirists as unconventional public opinion leaders.
Group of Egyptian Journalists Launch Campaign Against Protest Law, by Ahram Online
A group of Egyptian journalists have set up a new movement campaigning against a law issued last year that tightly restricts street demonstrations. The group, Journalists against the Protest Law, called for a three-day hunger strike and a sit-in at the Journalists Syndicate in downtown Cairo, in solidarity with those detained in breaches of the widely criticized law.
Artists’ Dance Implores Officials to Protect Burdur Lake From Drought, by Doğan News Agency
Lake Burdur has become the stage of an exhibition by two artists, who on 25 August danced inside its waters in an attempt to inspire officials to save it from drought. In front of locals and activists, ballerina Deniz Kılınç and choreographer Ziya Azazi, known for his special gas mask performance during last summer’s Gezi Park protests, danced on the rhythms of the folklore music of the region. Lake Burdur has suffered as the water streams feeding it and subterranean water sources dry. Ali Orkun Ercengiz, mayor of Budur, said they intended to give the locals a sense of responsibility concerning the lake.
The Future of Art in the Age of Militarized De-Production: Re-Thinking Cultural Development in Palestine, by Reema Salha Fadda
In this essay, Reema Salha Fadda examines the extent to which the culture of violence imposed by Israeli militarism disrupts and constrains creative practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Israel`s recent war of aggression against Palestinians in Gaza since early July, serves as a brutal reminder that Israel is in full control of accelerating the future of Palestine`s cultural de-development.
Inside Iran’s “Revolutionary” Rap, by Erin Neil
Blaring from car windows and thumping at private parties, Iranian rap or Rap-e Farsi is ubiquitous in Iran today, rapidly growing to become one of the most popular music genres among youth in a country where over sixty percent of the population is under the age of thirty. Iranian rap emerged hand-in-hand with the country`s vibrant underground music scene. For musicians in Iran to legally produce and perform music, they are required to obtain official approval from the Ministry of Culture and Guidance after an evaluation of the music against the values of the Islamic Republic. But rather than negotiate the rigmarole of the approval system, many musicians bypass it altogether by recording music in their homes or private studios, and uploading it directly to the internet.
This Feminist Cartoon Is changing Jordanian Society, One Comic Strip at a Time, by Noor Ali Mo’alla
Qatato’s comic strip Yamiyat Majida (Majida’s Diaries) boasts a young, female protagonist. The dialogue is in colloquial Arabic, and uses a lot of, often humorous, Jordanian slang; this is what makes Majida’s Diaries even more appealing and accessible. Majida’s Diaries is an honest portrayal of what it is like to be an ambitious independent Arab woman living in a contradictory society; a modern society in many aspects yet backwards thinking in others especially when pertaining to women.
New App Guides You to the Best of Istanbul’s Street Art, by Your Middle East
Entrepreneur and street artist Erbil Sivaslıoğlu and his team strive to make Istanbul’s art more accessible with a free app that brings the city’s street art to the user in a click. The app provides customers with a map in addition to information about the artists and their works.
Conferences & Events
The Role of Diasporas, Migrants, and Exiles in the Arab Revolutions and Political Transitions, WAFAW Conference, 15-17 October 2014, Tunis, Tunisia.
Conference on Impact of Arab Uprisings on Citizenship in Arab World, 12-14 November, University of Balamand, Lebanon.
Beyond the Arab Uprisings: Rediscovering the MENA region, Annual Conference of the Italian Society for Middle Eastern Studies, 16-17 January 2015, Ca’ Foscari University, Venice, Italy.
From Contention to Social Change: Rethinking the Consequences of Social Movements and Cycles of Protests, ESA Research Network on Social Movements , 19-20 February, 2015, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain (Deadline: 30 September 2014)
Call for Contributions: Translation and the Many Languages of Resistance, 6-8 March, 2015, Cairo, Egypt.
ICCG2015: Precarious Radicalism on Shifting Grounds: Towards a Politics of Possibility, 26-30 July 2015, Ramallah, Palestine (Deadline for submissions: 1 December 2014)