[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
Women as Tools: On the Selective Fetishization of Female Resistance Fighters, by Roqayah Chamseddine
The fetishization of women during times of war, especially women in combat, can be argued as being a reification of patriarchal power; the patriarchal view of female violence as being a demonstration of chaos reimagined as tolerable and even acceptable so long as this violence serves patriarchy, militant or otherwise. Despite the female identity being granted space for violent expression, the sexualization of these spaces and the bodies which take up these spaces, has become normalized.
Young People and the Power of Protest, by Nazli Avsaroglu
The power of young people is changing in the new era of social protests. Young people have changing demands from their governments, and an ability to connect with their fellow students–and other citizens–using mainly social media to expose their voices to the world. If the new generation is the one who is at the forefront, then it means that it is dissatisfied with the current order.
In Bahrain, Human Rights Defenders Are Under Attack–But We Will Not Be Deterred, by Maryam al-Khawaja
Last week Zainab al-Khawaja, who is eight months pregnant, was arrested again, after only recently serving one year in prison. She was attending a court hearing on charges of “destroying government property” after tearing a picture of Bahrain’s king during a protest in 2012. Zainab has rejoined a large list of human rights defenders in the country who are languishing in prison in Bahrain for their human rights work and criticism of the regime; namely practicing their right to free expression. Human rights defenders are increasingly targeted by the Bahraini government, and international pressure on the United Kingdom and the United States, the closest allies to Bahrain, is how we can have an influence.
Interview with Imprisoned Bahraini Human Rights Activist Nabeel Rajab, by Malachy Browne
On a European advocacy tour in August and September, Nabeel Rajab was outspoken about governments’ inaction in tackling human rights abuses in Bahrain. Rajab, who has some 240,000 followers on Twitter, posted an online poll asking whether his followers supported or opposed the Bahraini government. Within days, the Ministry of the Interior issued a statement warning of the consequences of “misusing” social media to “disseminate false information and news.” During an interview in Ireland that week, Rajab, who was imprisoned for two years in 2012 for his public criticism of the government, said he interpreted this as a threat to re-arrest him upon his return to Bahrain—which is what happened.
Leading Bahraini Human Rights Defender Re-Arrested, by Tamsin Walker
Leading Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab had barely arrived home after a two-month human rights advocacy tour in Europe, when he received a call instructing him to immediately appear before the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) in Manama. A statement said Rajab had been summoned in connection with "tweets posted on his Twitter account that denigrated government institutions."
Bahrain Opposition Announces Boycott of Parliamentary Elections, by Deutsche Welle
A coalition of Bahrain`s four main opposition parties vowed on Saturday 11 October to stage peaceful protests instead of participating in the November parliamentary elections, accusing the Sunni monarchy of failing to heed calls for genuine democratic reform. The Gulf kingdom`s largest opposition party by membership, the Shi’i movement known as al Wefaq, accused the royal family of "ignoring the legitimate demands of the people."
On the Possibility of Non-Violent Resistance in Palestine, by Georgia Travers
On the one hand, the adoption of collective civil disobedience strategies could have the ability to restore hope and purpose to the resistance of many Palestinians whose livelihoods are strangled by the occupation, while their leaders equivocate, mired in polarizing external (and internal) disputes. If successful, mass nonviolent organizing by Palestinians and Israeli allies could transform the face of the conflict and obligate the Israeli government to change course. However, executing such a strategy is exceedingly complex, and unfortunately, the rhetoric of nonviolence around this particular conflict is, in many cases, simplistic to the point of being counterproductive.
Hebrew University Threatens Palestinian Students With Expulsion Over Political Activities, by Rami Younis
Twelve Palestinian students are facing possible expulsion from Jerusalem’s Hebrew University for participating in an “illegal” political protest. In the past, the university only took steps against particular student groups. Now, it’s switching gears and targeting individual students.
IDF Court Convicts Palestinian Nonviolent Organizer, EU Human Rights Defender, by Haggai Matar
Abdullah Abu Rahmah, one of the central organizers of the popular resistance protests against the separation barrier in the West Bank village of Bil’in, was convicted of obstructing the work of a soldier by an Israeli military court last week. He will likely be sentenced to four months in prison.
Abu Rahmah, who was recognized by the European Union as a “human rights defender” dedicated to nonviolence, previously served over a year in prison for organizing “illegal marches” as well as for “incitement.” All political demonstrations are illegal for Palestinians under Israeli military law.
How Israel Silences Dissent, by Mairav Zonszein
Israeli society has been unable and unwilling to overcome an exclusivist ethno-religious nationalism that privileges Jewish citizens and is represented politically by the religious settler movement and the increasingly conservative secular right. Israel’s liberal, progressive forces remain weak in the face of a robust economy that profits from occupation while international inaction reinforces the status quo. In their attempt to juggle being both Jewish and democratic, most Israelis are choosing the former at the expense of the latter.
Silencing Dissent in Israel–continued, by Mairav Zonszein
Silencing dissent does not only mean directly quashing free speech. Silencing, or a chilling effect, also take place when certain forces in society dominate and monopolize the narrative, deciding what is acceptable, what is fringe and what is mainstream.
Israel’s Left Forgot What Dissent Really Means, by Dahlia Scheindlin
Based on the debate generated by Mairav Zonszein’s article on how Israel silences dissent, the author discusses the failure of Israel’s Left to make its case more convincingly about what is wrong with Israeli policy. In addition, Scheindlin points out to a number of state-sponsored limits of freedom of expression, such as the Nakba law, the boycott law and the NGO law, that target Arabs in Israel.
Iranian Women’s Fight Against the Hijab, by Omid Habibinia
Omid Habibinia talked to Jamileh Nedai, an Iranian writer, producer, and director, about women`s historical struggle against mandatory hijab in Iran. Jamileh was among tens of thousands of women who took to the streets during the initial stages of the Islamic Revolution to demand a liberal attitude towards the traditional headscarf.
It Will Take More Than a Quiet Word in Iran’s Ear to Put Human Rights on the Table, by Azadeh Moaveni
First detained in June for trying to attend a volleyball match, Ghoncheh Ghavami remains in prison on charges of spreading propaganda against the regime, though her only real crime is one of civil disobedience. Alongside Ghavami, thousands of other ordinary Iranians are marooned in the Islamic Republic’s prisons for crimes of conscience. Iran’s extremists see themselves as permanent victims, and that view is unlikely to change if their interlocutors stop bringing up cases of genuine victims–Iranians such as Ghavami who are denied basic legal rights.
Istanbul’s Citizens Discover Green Solidarity, by Tessa Love
A year after the Gezi Park uprising–a protest that began as an act to save trees–exploded into anti-government protests around the country, the face of environmental activism in Turkey has changed. The demonstrations were ignited by concerns of rampant urban development, and later became an issue of human rights and democratization. Within twenty minutes of the arrival of bulldozers in Gezi Park in May 2013, throngs of people filled the park to block the construction, and they stayed for twenty days before being forced out by police. One year later, the movement is still alive and grass roots organizations have joined forces to make changes where they can.
Tunisia: Where the Arab Spring Still Shows Promise, by Carol Giacomo
In the chaos of the Middle East, there is still one place that’s not a disaster zone. It is Tunisia, where the Arab Spring was born and where the dream of coexistence between Islam and democracy continues to be championed by people like Rashid Gannouchi, the founder of Ennadha, the country’s main Islamist Party. The years since the 2011 revolution that overthrew Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, the authoritarian president, have hardly been smooth and there is still plenty of uncertainty as Tunisia prepares for legislative elections on 26 October and presidential elections a month later.
Muzzling Dissent: Saudi Arabia’s Efforts to Choke Civil Society, by Amnesty International
Saudi Arabia is persecuting rights activists and silencing government critics, according to a report issued by Amnesty International (AI). AI finds that members of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) have been persecuted since the start of the Arab Spring in 2011. The Saudi government has reportedly targeted eleven of the founding members of the ACPRA since 2011, eight of whom are currently detained, with the remaining three awaiting outcome of their trials. Saudi Arabia`s justice system has drawn international criticism in recent years, especially with regard to its high number of executions.
Southern Movement Stages Mass Rally in Yemen, by Peter Salisbury
Tens of thousands of people have descended on the southern Yemeni port town of Aden to agitate for secession from a twenty-four-year-old union with the north, hoping that recent turmoil in the capital Sana`a has created an opening for a movement that has struggled in the past. Pro-independence campaigners have been gathering from across the south over the past two days in preparation for what the leaders of al-Hirak al-Janoubi, or the Southern movement, say will be the biggest rally in the group`s history. It is timed to coincide with the fifty-first anniversary of an uprising that ultimately led to the withdrawal of British colonial forces from Yemen.
Path to Sanity: Political Humour in Egypt, by Amr Khalifa
The central dynamic of government repression and control has left Egyptians with negligible space for dissent. This is where political satire and humor come to the rescue, as a respite from and deconstruction of Egypt’s daily reality. Hilarity, imbued with a high dosage of cynicism towards any and all subject matter pertaining to the state, is a thin but important strand of hope. Comedy often passes through tweets, garnering hundreds of retweets. This is the danger for a regime struggling with its image as authoritarian: the more a joke spreads, the more it captures the national mood and uncovers an anger roiling beneath the surface.
Crackdown on Student Protesters in Egypt, by David D. Kirkpatrick
Egyptian security forces are tightening their crackdown on student activism by arresting scores of students at the start of the school term in an effort to crush a renewed wave of protests against the military-backed government that took power last year. At least ninety-one students have been arrested in Egypt since 10 October, according to the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression. Universities remain some of the last pockets of visible opposition to the military-backed government and they have previously been seedbeds for the collaboration among Islamist and left-leaning youth groups, who together led the 2011 uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak.
Three Years On and the Copts’ Plight Continues, by Mina Fayek
On 9 October 2011 a group of Egyptians organized a protest from Shubra district to Maspero, the headquarters of the Egyptian Radio and Television Union, to protest an attack that had taken place on a church in the Upper Egyptian city of Aswan. The goal was to also demand the resignation of the Governor, the end of discrimination against Copts and the enactment of a unified law for building houses of worship. Shortly after the march reached its destination, the military forces violently attacked it with live ammunition and by running over protesters, leaving more than twenty-five dead and hundreds injured, most of whom were Copts. This was a state crime, and three years later, justice has still not been served.
The Common Factor: Sexual Violence and the Egyptian State, 2011-2014, by Heather McRobie
The “epidemic” levels of sexual harassment and sexual assault of women in Egypt have been a defining feature of the revolutionary and post-revolutionary period, extensively documented by activists and civic initiatives working to mitigate against it, yet a phenomenon that has persisted for the last three years since the revolution. Although the sexual violence of the revolutionary/post-revolutionary period developed from the pre-existing, alarming levels of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the Mubarak era, revolutionary/post-revolutionary sexual violence also had its own causes and dynamics, due to the politicized public space attained during the revolution.
The Obliteration of Civil Society in Egypt, by Amira Mikhail
With over eighty million citizens and around forty thousand registered local NGOs, despite a history of highly restrictive NGO laws, Egypt is described as having “one of the largest and most vibrant civil society sectors in the developing world.” Following the Egyptian revolution and despite a rapid and insistent expansion of civil society, the government’s relationship with NGOs only worsened, due to multiple attempts to pass more restrictive laws and an actual physical crackdown on existing NGOs. A new draft law could further restrict civil society by requiring human rights groups to request permission from the government to collect and document the human rights violations committed by the government.
Salman Rushdie to Share PEN Pinter Prize with Mazen Darwish, by Alison Flood
Salman Rushdie hopes to dramatize the plight of the imprisoned Syrian human rights activist Mazen Darwish by sharing his PEN Pinter prize with the journalist and lawyer. Darwish, founding president of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression, a ten-year-old organization that has documented human rights abuses in Syria since 2011, was arrested in February 2012. “Darwish courageously fought for civilized values—free expression, human rights—in one of the most dangerous places in the world,” said Rushdie.
Infographic – Protests: Measuring People Power, by The Economist
How do Hong Kong’s protests stack up against other displays of people power? They are brave and important, posing the biggest challenge from the streets to China’s government since Tiananmen Square in 1989. But in absolute numbers they are small: 100,000 is a fraction of the number of Catalans who marched in Barcelona last month seeking a referendum on independence from Spain; of Brazilians who demonstrated against corruption and poor public services in June 2013; or of Egyptians who took to Cairo’s streets a few days later to demand the resignation of the president, Muhammad Morsi.
Saudi Activists Step Up Women’s Right-to-Drive Campaign, by Al Akhbar
Activists in Saudi Arabia are revving up a right-to-drive campaign using social media in the world`s only country that bans women from getting behind the wheel. An online petition asking the Saudi government to "lift the ban on women driving" has attracted more than 2,400 signatures ahead of the campaign`s culmination on October 26.
Music Plays Crucial Role in Non-Violent Civil Movements, by Viola Gienger
For hundreds of years, music has been integral to rebellion, resistance and revolution. USIP is highlighting the power of a melody to inspire alternatives to violence. “Music and the arts are strategic tools of nonviolent action and need to be financed as such,” says USIP Senior Policy Fellow Maria Stephan, one of the world`s leading scholars on strategic nonviolent action, in a new audio podcast.
Through These Mind-Blowing Paintings, Shurooq Amin Fights for the Underdog in Arab Society, by Your Middle East
Interview with Kuwaiti-Syrian artist Shurooq Amin on the responsibility to tackle sensitive issues in society.
Conferences & Events
Nonviolent Movements from Arab Street to Wall Street and Further, 30 October 2014, UCL, London, UK.
Painting Change: Creative Resistance in Egypt and Beyond, 30 October 2014, The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, Washington D.C., USA.
The Arab Uprisings in Comparative Perspective, 7 November 2014, George Mason University, Center for Global Studies, Arlington, USA.
Conference on Impact of Arab Uprisings on Citizenship in Arab World, 12-14 November 2014, University of Balamand, Lebanon.
The Gulf Monarchies: From Arab Spring to Counter-Revolution, 11 November 2014, University of Bath, Bath, UK.
T.E. Lawrence and the Third Arab Uprising, 17 December 2014, Council for British Research in the Levant, London, UK.
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
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).