DARS Media Roundup (February 2015)
[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
Israeli Defense Forces: Palestinian Nonviolent Protest Is an Ideological Crime, by Yael Marom
Diplomats from the European Union, Sweden, France, the United Kingdom, Finland and Spain were present at a sentencing hearing for Palestinian nonviolent protest leader Abdullah Abu Rahmah, along with international and Israeli activists. Abu Rahmah is a central figure in the protests in the West Bank and has been recognized by the European Union as a “human rights defender”. In October 2014, a military court convicted Abu Rahmah of obstructing the work of a soldier for trying to stop a bulldozer that was constructing a separation barrier. Abu Rahmah said his trial is proof that the army is punishing him for his nonviolent resistance.
A Decade of Anti-Wall Struggle, by Activestills Collective
This year marks the tenth anniversary of weekly demonstrations against the Israeli Separation Wall in the West Bank village of Bilin. That is more than five hundred Friday protests since Palestinians, usually accompanied by international and Israeli solidarity activists, began marching towards the barrier that divides their village.
SOAS Votes for Academic Boycott of Israel, by Middle East Monitor
SOAS students and staff have endorsed an academic boycott of Israel, after the results of a week-long referendum were released Friday 27 February. The vote, open to students, academics, and all other staff and management, finished with seventy-three percent for the "Yes" campaign and twenty-seven percent for the "No" campaign. The referendum asked members whether they think SOAS should fully join the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign, and implement academic boycott following the guidelines of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).
Rachel Corrie’s Family Loses Wrongful Death Appeal in Israel’s Supreme Court, by Peter Beaumont
Israel’s supreme court has rejected the appeal by the family of Rachel Corrie – the US activist who was crushed to death by a military bulldozer in Gaza twelve years ago – which had sought to hold Israel liable for her death. The court upheld a decision which invoked the “combat activities exception” that the Israeli military cannot be held responsible for damages in a war zone.
Negev Bedouin Resist Israeli Demolitions “To Show We Exist,” by Silvia Boarini
Lehavim junction in the northern Negev in Israel has been the backdrop to protests against home demolitions in Bedouin localities for the past four and half years. Every Sunday, inhabitants of the Bedouin village of Al Araqib and their supporters stand behind a large banner reading “Stop Demolishing Al Araqib” in English, Arabic and Hebrew. A website called the “Arab Bedouin Villages in the Negev-Naqab” helps make the Bedouin more visible, and their experience of state power public.
Turkey’s Protests by Women: Jihad of a Different Sort, by The Christian Science Monitor
Millions of women have taken to the streets and Twitter in protest of the murder of a young woman by a minibus driver who attempted to rape her. The size of Turkey’s protests are perhaps the biggest sign yet of how much Muslim women today are challenging not only traditional patriarchal dominance but old interpretations of gender roles within Islam. Turkey’s protests were in sharp contrast to a document released by Islamic State that describes life for women under the “real men” of the militant group and in “the shade” of a budding caliphate.
After Years of Silence, Turkey’s Women Are Going into Battle against Oppression, by Elif Shafak
Turkey’s women are publicly sharing stories of sexual harassment, opening up and speaking out. The murder of Özgecan Aslan unleashed an unprecedented storm of protest throughout Turkey. A social transformation is taking place that many analysts, focused on politics rather than culture, are failing to notice. Turkey’s women are becoming more openly politicized than its men. Half of the protesters at the 2013 Gezi park demonstrations were women. In the social media most of the critical campaigns are led by women.
Reactions, Massive Protests Condemning Slaying of Aslan Continue, by Today’s Zaman
Massive demonstrations condemning the brutal killing of Özgecan Aslan took place, calling on authorities to introduce harsh penalties to deter further acts of violence against women. Women from the pro-Kurdish Peoples` Democratic Party and Democratic Regions Party held a massive demonstration to protest the slaying of Aslan. About a thousand women marched, shouting slogans such as “Rape is a crime against humanity.” Members of various civil society organizations also held a protest against violence against women in Turkey and to condemn Aslan`s murder.
Turkey’s New Policing Law – Another Blow to Democracy? by Cagri Ozdemir
The Turkish government decided to revise the existing laws for the prevention of crime and terror activities. The preamble of the bill states that the government aims to deter violence in mass demonstrations as well as protect public order. For this reason, the bill gives further rights to police forces for detention procedures and use of violence. However, since the drafting process, it has been highly criticized by the opposition parties as well as the Union of Turkish Bar Associations, Turkey`s largest professional organization in the judiciary.
Turkish Authorities Use Charges of Terrorism to Silence Free Speech, by Lamiya Adilgizi
It has already become the norm to repress journalists via harsh measures such as lawsuits, criminal complaints, dismissals and charging journalists with terrorist acts and the imperilment of national security. These charges aim to present Turkey as different from countries that restrict freedom of speech and expression. While Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu stood shoulder-to-shoulder with world leaders who called for freedom of speech and expression on Paris streets, the truth is that the media is intimidated, as journalists who attempt to address the government and its high ranking officials are regularly detained and jailed.
Security Laws Taking Turkey Backward in Terms of Freedoms, by Barçın Yinanç
New security laws that will grant law enforcement officers the discretion to detain citizens without court orders are taking Turkey backward in terms of freedoms. There is an overall effort toward the society to intimidate. People living in a neighborhood hit the street to protest a decision taken about the place they live, and at the beginning, there are five hundred demonstrators, but there is such a violent intervention that 450 people stay in their homes for the next demonstration. And since fifty people do not have a big voice, arbitrary decisions are taken despite objections from the neighborhood.
Egypt Restricts News Coverage of Slain Activist Shaimaa El-Sabbagh, by David D. Kirkpatrick
Authorities have barred the news media from discussing the case of a prominent activist whose killing last month has aroused outrage over the civilian deaths from police violence. The activist, Shaimaa el-Sabbagh, a mother and a poet, was participating in a procession to lay flowers in Tahrir Square when she was killed by a shotgun blast. “They want the people to forget this case,” said an Egyptian lawyer, adding that he believed most people would comply for fear of a jail sentence. “Every day we have some additional people die,” he added, “so people will make noise about the new victims and forget the old ones – this is their policy now.”
Egyptian Court Orders Release of Two Al Jazeera Journalists, by David D. Kirkpatrick
A court ordered the release of two Al Jazeera journalists jailed in Egypt for more than a year on charges of broadcasting false news in a conspiracy with the Muslim Brotherhood, evidently moving to try to end international criticism over the case. The release followed the publication of an opinion by Egypt’s highest appeals court condemning the journalists’ conviction as baseless. The release also comes at a time when the Egyptian government appears to be attempting to allay some of the international criticism it has received after a series of harsh criminal convictions issued during a crackdown on dissent after the military takeover in July 2013.
Two Hundred and Thirty Egyptian Activists Jailed for Life Over 2011 Clashes, by Associated Press
A court has sentenced 230 people, including one of the leading activists behind the 2011 uprising, to life in prison after finding them guilty of taking part in clashes between protesters and security forces. Among the 230 was the secular activist Ahmed Douma, who is already serving a three-year-sentence for breaking a draconian law regulating protests. It is the heaviest sentence yet against those who spearheaded the mass protests four years ago that forced Hosni Mubarak to step down.
Coming to Mourn Tahrir Square’s Dead, and Joining Them Instead, by David D. Kirkpatrick
By mid-afternoon on 24 January, protester Shaimaa el-Sabbagh lay dead on a crowded street, a potent symbol of the lethal force the Egyptian authorities have deployed to silence the protest and dissent still shown here after four years. Seldom has a needless death by police gunfire been so thoroughly and movingly documented, rights advocates say, citing both photographic evidence and multiple witnesses. In “a moment of collapsing freedoms,” Sabbagh has become “a symbol of the revolution,” said a friend who held her in the moments after she was shot.
Egypt Customs Officials Seize Street Art Books for “Instigating Revolt,” by Benjamin Sutton
Egyptian customs officials have reportedly seized a shipment of four hundred copies of the art book Walls of Freedom: Street Art of the Egyptian Revolution, over fears that it might incite rebellion. Ahmed al-Sayyad, the Undersecretary of the Finance Ministry, said that the book, which features images of murals and tags that appeared on Egyptian streets during and in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution, is “instigating revolt” and offers readers “advice on confronting police and army forces."
Syria’s Digital Civil War, by Maria Xynou and Hadi Al Khatib
Militarized spyware and targeted malware attacks against members of the opposition, activists and journalists have been at the heart of Syria`s digital civil war. The government uses advanced surveillance equipment to intercept communications, some of which was bought from US companies – even though Syria is embargoed by the United States. Numerous cases of surveillance and phishing campaigns targeting email and social media accounts of Syrian opposition groups as well as NGO workers and journalists have been reported since 2011.
Teddy Bears Face Off with Police as Bahrain Masks its Fourth Anniversary of Anti-Regime Protests, by Amira Al Hussaini
For the past four years, Bahrainis have been marking Valentine`s Day with massive protests, which are faced with a brutal clampdown by the regime. This year is no different, except that protesters, in keeping with the spirit of Valentine`s, took with them stuffed teddy bears to face off with the riot police. The teddy bear has become a “political icon” used by the protesters for political satire.
Rights Groups Urge Bahrain to Restore Dissidents’ Citizenship, by Al-Akhbar
Amnesty International urged the government to restore the citizenship of dozens of dissidents stripped of their nationality in a government decree that handed them the same punishment as suspected jihadists. Bahraini authorities have recently granted Bahraini citizenship to tens of thousands of people, most of them Sunni Muslims, in an attempt to create a new sectarian majority, which would deny Bahrain’s Shia majority their rightful representation in the state’s institutions. Opposition group Al-Wefaq has said that most of those stripped of their citizenship were dissidents living in exile.
Ali Abdulemam: I Have Not Lost My Identity. I am Bahraini, by Index on Censorship
Bahrain revoked Ali Abdulemam’s citizenship along with seventy-one other Bahraini citizens, many of whom are journalists or bloggers. Reflecting on this, Abdulemam states "I am sticking with my identity…I have my own definition of the `identity` that I love and the main part of this identity is not `lost` it is `Bahraini.’ It is not for the government to give it or take it away, it is not for them to take me from my roots, I will not accept to be unrecognized by the world. I will keep telling myself, my kids, and my friends that I am from the country that created the ‘Lulu’ revolution.”
Bahraini Police Violently Disperse Anti-Government Protest, by Albawaba
Demonstrators have taken to the streets to protest the detention of Sheikh Salman, the leader of the opposition Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society. However, the demonstrations turned violent after security forces fired teargas to disperse the protesters. The regime forces fired rubber bullets and teargas at the demonstrators. The protesters chanted slogans in support of senior Shia opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman and slammed the ruling Al Khalifa regime for the ongoing crackdown on the opposition voices in the country.
Saudi Women Free After Seventy-Three Days in Jail for Driving, by Robert Mackey
Two Saudi women detained since early December for challenging the conservative Kingdom’s ban on female drivers, were released after seventy-three days. Activists behind the latest campaign to challenge the driving ban, the only prohibition of its kind in the world, wrote on Twitter that it was unclear if the case against the two women had been closed or if they still might face trial.
Algerian Authorities Foil “Historical” Opposition Rallies, by Adam Al-Sabiri
Algerian opposition forces have called for demonstrations in solidarity with the people of Ain Salah in southern Algeria, who protested the government’s decision to authorize shale gas exploration. Although the call did not receive much attention, the demonstrations were quelled by anti-riot and police forces. Large numbers of security personnel cordoned off the main entrances of Algiers, starting in the early morning, in anticipation of the demonstrations called for weeks ago. Despite the wave of arrests targeting them, the opposition parties saw the demonstration as a successful historical achievement.
Protests in Algeria Intensify as Shale Gas Drilling Continues, by Rachida Lamri
Despite the ongoing anti-shale gas protests in the province of Ain Salah, the government is pressing ahead with its shale gas development plans. The people responded by taking the protest from the town square (now known as “Place Somoud” or Resistance Square) to the drilling site twenty-eight kilometers away. They occupied the site, bringing rig activities to a halt. The people of Ain Salah and Ouargla (and other towns of the Sahara) are proving to be determined and are becoming a symbol of resistance, an inspiration for the people of Algeria.
Civil Marriage Struggle in Lebanon Back to Square One, by Eva Shoufi
Under the pretext of “fighting extremism” by “eliminating excuses,” Minister of Interior and Municipalities Nouhad al-Machnouk is determined to return the issue of civil marriage to square one, reversing all the progress made by non-sectarian forces. Former interior ministers Ziad Baroud and Marwan Charbel confirm that the procedures they followed to cross out confessional identities on civil registry records, and allow the registration of civil marriage contracts in Lebanon, were entirely legal, and that the reluctance to implement (or desire to annul) them is tantamount to stripping a segment of Lebanese citizens of their civil rights.
Iranian Translator of Blue Is the Warmest Colour “Declared Persona Non Grata,” by Saeed Kamali Dehghan
Iranian poet Sepideh Jodeyri, who translated the prize-winning French graphic novel Blue Is the Warmest Colour into Persian, has claimed she is the target of a smear campaign for supporting homosexuality, punishable in the country by a hundred lashes or even death. Jodeyri, who is based in Prague and is also a prominent poet, said she has been distressed by the criticism her translation had received in Iran, where the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community face systematic persecution. However, despite the penalties for gay people in Iran, the underground LGBT community in the country is thriving and has won praise worldwide for defying draconian legislation.
Sudanese Feminists, Civil Society, and the Islamist Military, by Sondra Hale
An irony of Sudanese feminist politics is that when parties were banned by the Islamist military government in 1989, many women found new spaces for activism. Civil society participation of women has become a quasi-movement in and of itself, displacing the more ideologically-inclined party participation. Women political actors have moved into creative modes of political expression, buoyed by use of social media and the taking and converting of public space.
Sudan Cracks Down on Press Seizing Entire Print Runs of Fourteen Newspaper Titles, by Agence France Press
Sudanese security officers seized the print runs of fourteen newspapers in one of the most sweeping crackdowns on the press in recent years. Media watchdog Journalists for Human Rights said the move “represents an unprecedented escalation by the authorities against freedom of the press and expression." Around fifty journalists held a sit-in outside the press council in protest at the confiscation, dispersing peacefully an hour later.
Two Alternative Paths Separate the Arab World, by Rami G. Khouri
The contrast between recent political decisions by the governments in Tunisia, Bahrain and Egypt capture vividly the two available pathways for Arab national development. For the first time ever in modern Arab history, Arab citizens can witness how life, politics and citizenship operate in alternative systems based, respectively, on the rule of law and democratic pluralism, in the case of Tunisia, and on top-heavy, security-managed governance systems in most Arab states, with Bahrain and Egypt offering the most recent unfortunate examples.
Trust the Dissidents, Not the Diplomats, by Natan Sharansky and David Keyes
After the Arab Spring, many of the same experts and policymakers who had insisted that the region was stable claimed that no one could have foreseen the uprisings. But this is untrue. A chorus of uniquely insightful individuals predicted exactly what would happen: the democratic dissidents who languished in prison cells in Tunisia, Libya, Syria and Egypt. If history is any judge, the world should bet on the dissidents, not the diplomats. Dissidents know how difficult it is to suppress the longing to live freely.
Turkish Women Launch Twitter Campaign Against Sexual Violence, by Jim Roberts
Women in Turkey have begun a social media campaign to share their accounts of sexual harassment and violence in the wake of the brutal murder of Özgecan Aslan. Women are using the hashtag #sendeanlat (tell your story) to describe experiences of sexual harassment. The brutal murder has spawned another hashtag campaign, #Özgecaniçinsiyahgiy (Wear Black for Özgecan).
Iranian Woman Wins Rights Award for Hijab Campaign, by Saeed Kamali Dehghan
Journalist Masih Alinejad has received a human rights award at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy for creating a Facebook page inviting women in Iran to post pictures of themselves without their headscarves in defiance of rules requiring them to wear a hijab. She launched Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women last year, attracting more than half a million likes on Facebook in a matter of weeks. Thousands of women took off their veils in public and sent in their photos to be published.
Iranian Film “Taxi” Goes Beyond Political Resistance, by Jochen Kürten
Jafar Panahi`s "Taxi" is a tremendously courageous act of resistance against the ban imposed on him from making films by the Iranian authorities. Panahi was banned from making films and travelling abroad. International protests put enough pressure on the courts, so in the end, his prison sentence was stayed. Beyond the political statement and the artistic expression delivered by the film, "Taxi" transmits an incredible feeling of warmth and humanity, offering wonderful depictions of the people of Iran and engaging reflections on art.
Artists against Erdogan’s Censorship, by Ceyda Nurtsch
These last few years, an independent theater scene has been emerging in Istanbul. These small independent theaters question the authority of the state through their plays.
Reflecting on Art in Post-Revolutionary Tunisia, by Shams Abdi
In Tunisia, art has always been a vocation fraught with difficulties. Before the Tunisian revolution of 14 January, Tunisian artists were censored and marginalized. In its aftermath, they have benefited from an expansion of their freedom of expression, but they are still morally and physically under threat. Now that the country has emerged, relatively speaking, from the three-year transitional period that followed, Tunisian artists are considering the changing role of their art and its relationship to the socio-political context of their country.
Artist Banksy Releases a Satirical Film of Gaza, by Alartemagazine
Street artist Banksy has gone undercover in Gaza to make a short satirical documentary about the war-torn region. “Make this the year you discover a new destination,” it says, in the style of a tourism video.
Conferences & Events
The Only Thing Worth Globalizing is Dissent. Translation and the Many Languages of Resistance, 6-8 March 2015, Cairo, Egypt.
Algeria: A State and its Discontents, 10 March 2015, LSE, London, United Kingdom.
Empire, Revolt and State Formation in the Middle East and North Africa in the 1920s, 17 March 2015, LSE, London, UK.
The Arab Uprisings and the New Middle East, 26 March 2015, Rhodes College, Memphis, United States.
ICCG2015: Precarious Radicalism on Shifting Grounds: Towards a Politics of Possibility, 26-30 July 2015, Ramallah, Palestine.