[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
In 2014, People Power Took on the State in a Battle for Minds and Streets, by Natalie Nougayrède
In the last year, the question of people power versus state hard power became more prominent. From Russia’s actions in Ukraine to Burkina Faso’s overthrow of a president whose rule had lasted twenty-seven years, from Hong Kong’s upheavals to Mexico’s demonstrations, the story has been about civic aspirations and the reactions they foster. People power has been met with hard power, but over time this comes with a cost for those who resort to the clampdown.
The Rolex Caliph’s Camel Selfie: How Iraqi Youth Are Ridiculing Daesh/ISIL Online, by Cathrin Schaer
The extremist Islamic State group has been very effective on social media, terrifying their enemies and boosting their own prestige. Now a new group of keyboard warriors are fighting back. They come via the Twitter website and they are well armed with jokes about goats and donkeys and some funny names. But their ambitions are deadly serious: to take social media back from the extremists and discourage would-be jihadis from joining the group. “In the beginning it was a way to discharge my anger by mocking their stupidity,” says one of the owners of an IS parody account who wished to be known only by his Twitter handle, ISIS Media. “Then I noticed that it can be used for a more serious, better cause. The biggest weapon of ISIS is propaganda and they can not stand effective counter-propaganda."
Police Disperse Teachers’ Protest in Ankara, Detain a Hundred, by Hurriyet
More than a hundred people were detained Saturday 20 December following a police crackdown on a demonstration in central Ankara organized by a teachers’ union. The demonstrators gathered in the morning in Ankara`s Tandoğan Square in response to a call from teachers’ union Eğitim-İş to demand “Respect to Secular Education and Labor.”
Judicial Package Authorizes Seizure of Dissenting Media Outlets, by Today’s Zaman
The government has given the authorities the power to seize dissenting media outlets with a recently passed judicial package that makes possible the confiscation of private property on such charges as attempting to undermine the constitutional order or committing a crime against the government. The package gives the police the right to operate on "reasonable suspicion," instead of legitimate evidence as was the law in the past. This shift in policy has been called a "coup on freedom of the media."
Protesters Adamant in Waiting in Solidarity With Journalists, by Today’s Zaman
After a prosecutor demanded the arrest of Ekrem Dumanlı, the editor in chief of Turkey`s largest selling newspaper Zaman, and the head of a major TV station, Hidayet Karaca, large numbers of people flocked to the main courthouse in İstanbul`s Çağlayan neighborhood in solidarity with the journalists, demanding their release. A considerable number of protesters made an unusual sight, with their prayer books in their hands, waiting in silence in a different form of protest.
The Battle of Egyptian Football Fans Against Dullness, by Dalia Abd El-Hameed
Ultras, or organized groups of football fans, represented an influential faction of the Egyptian revolutionary multitude in 2011. Ultras Ahlawi members faced a horrific massacre in early February 2012, when seventy-two fans were killed in the Port Said stadium in clashes with supporters of the other team while police stood idly by. As a result, the state banned spectators from attending local and sometimes also international matches in stadiums. Until today the Ultras struggle for their rights and the preservation of their club.
Interview: Bread, Freedom and Social Justice, by Anne Alexander, Mostafa Bassiouny, and Mariam Ali
The authors of Bread, Freedom and Social Justice discuss the lessons of the past few years for the labor movement and political activism in Egypt. When asked where the next wave of strikes will occur, Mostafa Bassiouny replied that it is impossible to tell which movement will come first. "It could be that the imprisonment of political activists and the diminishing of the democratic space created by the revolution could provoke a reaction, or the harsh economic measures taken by the government could create pressure."
Tamarod’s Arrogance Might Lead to its Division, by Reham Mokbel
On 3 December, Egypt`s Political Parties Affairs Committee rejected the application submitted by the Tamarod movement to form its party. The request by the movement to form a political party was rejected due to missing information that the movement did not provide, thinking its position in the political scene before 30 June was enough to get its demands met.
Four Years After Egypt’s Uprising, Prison Ranks Swell: A Writer’s Story, by Louisa Loveluck
Novelist and poet Omar Hazek tells the story of his arrest following a December 2013 protest, one of many in the aftermath of the military coup. Over 41,000 people are believed to have been arrested since 3 July 2013, the day former President Mohamed Morsi was ousted. Rights groups say they have documented thousands of cases like Hazek’s, in which individuals in the vicinity of demonstrations have faced seemingly fabricated charges.
Palestinian Minister Dies at Protest, by Al Jazeera
Ziad Abu Ain, a senior minister in the government of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, died on Wednesday 10 December following a violent confrontation with Israeli troops in a West Bank village near Ramallah. Abu Ein, who dealt with the issue of Israeli settlements and the separation wall, was leading that day a group of Palestinians to plant olive trees near the village of Turmusayya. He died after being beaten by Israeli security forces and inhaling tear gas.
Doctors Draw Contradictory Conclusions After Autopsy of Palestinian Official, by Isabel Kershner and Said Ghazali
Israeli and Palestinian pathologists offered contradictory interpretations of a joint autopsy report on Ziad Abu Ein, the prominent Palestinian official who died after a confrontation with Israeli security forces at a West Bank demonstration a day earlier. The episode has increased internal pressure on the Western-backed Palestinian Authority to halt security coordination with Israel and to consider other protest steps. Azzam al-Ahmad, a Fatah leader, said the Palestinian leadership was “seriously studying the option of ending all forms of coordination” with Israel, including security coordination.
Palestinian Non-Violent Activists: Army Violence Will Not Stop Our Resistance, by Yael Marom
The recent death of Palestinian Minister Ziad Abu Ein, who died during a protest marking International Human Rights Day has highlighted the Palestinian resistance movement and Israel`s response. Issa Amro, one of the leaders of Youth Against Settlements, an organization that practices nonviolent resistance in Hebron, explained the need for nonviolent resistance: “[Israeli armed forces] don’t want this type of struggle because if there is a nonviolent movement it will weaken the occupation. They say the occupation is there for security, but if the struggle is nonviolent then they can no longer justify the occupation.”
The Palestinian Who Will Not Give Up on the Power of Nonviolence, by Meir Amor
Dr. Mubarak Awad is a Palestinian psychologist who founded the Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence in 1983, teaching methods of resisting the Israeli occupation. In an interview with Israeli Professor Meir Amor, Dr. Awad discusses the necessity of nonviolent action to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict while explaining the challenges to spreading the nonviolent movement: that both Palestinians and Israelis struggle to accept to nonviolence as a method that will be successful in causing change.
Israel Exiles Nonviolent Palestinian Activists, by Charlie Hoyle
Israel has recently exiled several Palestinians from Jerusalem, barring them from the city until months in 2015. None of the deportees were interrogated before the orders were issued or given a reason for their exile, and some believe that the deportations are part of an attempt to maintain order in Jerusalem through punitive means and to undermine activists working for Palestinian rights in the city.
Canada, Australia Boycott “Anti-Israel” Geneva Conference, by Lazar Berman
Canada and Australia announced that they would not attend a Geneva Convention conference hosted by Switzerland on the situation in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. The conference had been planned by Switzerland to discuss the Fourth Geneva Convention and the situation in the Palestinian areas, despite American and Israeli pressure to cancel it. Israel voiced strong opposition to the Swiss government’s decision to convene the conference, saying the move brought into question Bern’s historic neutrality.
Israel Responding to Boycott Waves Like Saddam Hussein or Khamenei, by Zvi Bar’el
The world, Naftali Bennett says, cannot exist without Israel. “Look, if today you pressed the button, and you stopped using Israeli products, you wouldn’t wake up in the morning because the chip in your cell phone doesn’t work, because it’s made in Israel.” This was one of the 10 plagues that Israel will bring on the world in response to a boycott over Israel`s plan to annex sixty percent of the West Bank. Israel is beginning to respond to the wave of boycotts just like Saddam Hussein or Iran’s Ali Khamenei. Saddam was certain the world was wrong, and Khamenei is careful to demonstrate Iran’s technological abilities as proof of its superiority.
Why Tunisia Succeeded Where Egypt Failed, by Mark LeVine
There are many structural reasons why Tunisia has progressed politically while Egypt has seemingly returned to its pharaonic roots. The most prominent are the exponentially greater power of the Egyptian military vis-a-vis its North African counterpart and its far larger, and poorer, population. But, LeVine argues that the centrality, at least politically, of human rights to the national discourse has been one of the unheralded heroes of the post-revolutionary period.
State Crime, Civil Society and Resistance: Lessons from Tunisia, by Penny Green
Mohamed Bouazizi’s public act of self-immolation in December 2010 ignited insurrection precisely because it took place in the context of a deeper level of popular civil opposition. This was often conducted clandestinely. In 2008-2009, however, the country witnessed more open opposition in the traditionally militant phosphate mining region of Gafsa, where widows embarked on a sit-in to challenge corruption in hiring and to demand jobs for their children. The initial concerns of the protesters soon gave way to more generalized critiques of Tunisian state criminality and demands for justice. The Gafsa mining basin protests of 2008-2009 arguably paved the way for the revolution in 2011.
The Incredible Courage of Women Human Rights Defenders in the Middle East, by the Gulf Center for Human Rights
On International Human Rights Day, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) paid tribute to the courage of women human rights defenders across the Gulf region and its neighboring countries. The region is not hospitable to human rights defenders in general and women are even more at risk in some of the most dangerous countries in the world. GCHR chronicles the struggles of courageous women in Iraq, Syria, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Iran, and commends the brave work of women such as Bahraini Zainab Al-Khawaja, Saudi Souad Al-Shammari and Iranian Mahdieh Golrou.
Bahrain: Increasing Resort to Judicial Repression Against Dissenting Voices, by the International Federation for Human Rights
Judicial harassment has increasingly become common practice in repressing dissenting voices in Bahrain. The series of sentences issued by the Bahraini courts against activist Zainab Al Khawaja represents a flagrant illustration of this trend. On 9 December, Al Khawaja was sentenced to sixteen months in prison on charges of “destroying government property” after she ripped up a picture of the King of Bahrain whilst in detention in 2012. The International Federation for Human (FIDH) is calling upon the Bahraini authorities to put an immediate end to judicial harassment against human rights defenders and peaceful activists.
Saudi Activists Call for the Release of Women Detained for Driving, by Robert Mackey
Saudi activists appealed to their country’s ruler to free two women who were detained after taking part in an ongoing campaign to challenge the conservative kingdom’s ban on “driving while female.” In their open letter to the ninety-year-old King Abdullah, the activists behind the 26 October driving campaign said that Loujain al-Hathloul and Maysaa al-Amoudi, who both have valid driver’s licenses from the United Arab Emirates, were arrested at a border crossing between Saudi Arabia and UAE after they were tricked by the authorities. The women`s action comes amidst increasing civil disobedience against the Saudi driving ban.
Four Years After the Uprising, Where is Yemen Going? by Global Voices
Yemen`s popular uprising in 2011 helped oust President Saleh after thirty-three years in power. Yet, activists say the revolution`s goals were never accomplished. Inflation and unemployment is still high, and the government is still pouring resources to fight Al Qaeda, while attempting and failing to crush Houthi fighters in the country. In this episode of GV Face, activists Hisham Al-Omeisy and Afrah Nasser are interviewed about the National Dialogue Conference outcomes and whether they think these meet Yemen`s current urgent needs. They also discuss the current activism scene in Yemen and what hopes and dreams Yemen`s youth have for their future.
Jordan: Assault on Free Expression, by Human Rights Watch
Jordanian authorities have broken reform promises by arresting and charging activists for speech-related offenses. At least three activists were arrested in recent months and charged with speech-related offenses under vague terrorism legislation and are being tried in Jordan’s State Security Court. “Labeling speech ‘terrorism’ doesn’t hide the reality that Jordan still intends to muzzle its citizens who speak freely,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
Radio-Free Syria, by Eliza Griswold
Raed Fares is a Syrian activist whose video protests skewer ISIS and President Bashar al-Assad alike. Beginning in 2011, Fares and his friends made short videos to comment on the revolution brewing in Syria. Most Fridays he films his band of activists holding banners on which he has scrawled caustic and sometimes shocking messages, and he later posts the results on YouTube. Using felt-tip pens, bedsheets and messages of generally less than 140 characters, Fares figured out how to tweet to a world that was not following him. One of his videos, titled “Kafranbel: The Syrian Revolution in Three Minutes,” has more than one hundred thousand views on YouTube.
Video Offers New Look at the Day Iran’s 2009 Protests Turned Deadly, by Robert Mackey
The Iranian-born journalist Maziar Bahari, detained in Tehran in 2009, has released previously unseen footage he recorded during the first deadly clashes between Green Movement protesters and security forces. He was filming as some of the protesters tried to storm a base of Basij militiamen, who had been firing tear gas and warning shots, and then began “shooting indiscriminately into the crowd.” Opposition leader Mir Hussein Moussavi said later that the men who instigated the violence by attacking the base were agitators from a banned Iranian exile group. “I think that moment really played into the hands of the government,” Mr. Bahari said. The large and completely peaceful protest that came before the violence that day, he said, was far more threatening to the authorities.
#FreeAJstaff: One year on
From London and Sydney to San Francisco and Sarajevo, journalists around the world have stopped work and called on Egypt`s government to set free three Al Jazeera staff detained in Cairo last year.
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign 2014 Achievements
This is a roundup of some of the key B.D.S. developments in 2014.
Ten Artists Engaged Against Torture in Libya & the Arab World
On the occasion of Human Right’s Day, on 10 December 2013, the World Organization against Torture (OMCT) promoted four-days of artistic activism for human rights in Tripoli, Libya. One year later, on 10 December 2014, OMCT released a documentary film about these events, called “No to Torture – A Libyan Experience.” The film captures the hope and energy felt by artists and activists in Libya only one year ago.
Egypt Singer Who Led 2011 Protesters in Song Finds Audience Has Thinned, by Raja Abdulrahim
Since he first began performing in a tent in Cairo`s Tahrir Square and soon went on to sing to hundreds of thousands of demonstrators each day, Essam has continued to write songs charting Egypt`s political and social tumult. Now, he is playing far smaller venues in North America, recently in Los Angeles at the Levantine Cultural Center. His songs that once were played widely are now found at the bottom of political playlists, having been replaced by nationalistic tunes.
This Photographer’s Provocative Work Evokes the Arab Spring and Occupy Movement
The work of artist Roya Falahi is stark, evocative and raw. She uses a pretty limited palate: black, white and blood red. The photographer and multimedia artist draws from the global movements of her generation, like the Arab Spring, Occupy and more recently the Ferguson protests. She currently has an exhibit in Los Angeles, at the Vincent Price Art Museum, called “Study of Studs.”
Conferences & Events
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
The Only Thing Worth Globalizing is Dissent. 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.