[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
War and Social Movements in the Age of Globalization, by Sidney Tarrow
Because war makers require resources with which to fight their wars, war making triggers a cascade of other processes. First, rulers build states to fight wars and manage them; second, they need to extract resources from their citizens to pay for them; third, they must protect the citizen groups who provide those resources; fourth, in order to maintain social cohesion, they must develop mechanisms to reconcile conflicts within their societies. These are sometimes despotic mechanisms, but increasingly, they take the form of what Michael Mann called infrastructural power – power exercised within civil society. Protection and reconciliation lead to the creation of the rights of citizens and thence to social movements. This chain of processes starts with the desire to make war but ends with citizen rights and contentious politics.
Resisting ISIS, by Maria J. Stephan
Acts of nonviolent defiance targeting ISIS are spreading in Syria and Iraq. In Mosul, acts of civil disobedience are expanding among the mostly Sunni population that once sympathized with ISIS’ fight against the Shia-dominated Iraqi army. In July 2014, after a prominent imam and thirty-three followers refused to pledge their allegiance to ISIS, a large number of supporters flocked to mosques to show solidarity for their act of defiance. The significant amount of global resources for waging the military campaign against ISIS should be matched by commensurate focus on the far less costly but arguably more important social and political battles being waged by civil societies.
ISIS: Nonviolent Resistance? by Eli S. McCarthy
The suggestion to use nonviolent resistance to defeat ISIS is based on the evidence of research that nonviolent resistance can be effective even against the most ruthless foes. The author argues that we need to provide funding and training for local civil society actors in the vast array of methods of nonviolent resistance. The local civil society actors need to decide what tactics would most likely be effective, fit with their culture and illuminate human dignity. There is hope as Iraqi and Syrian civil society groups have already built a base of such strategic actions (e.g., local ceasefires even with ISIS), on which to build.
How to Stop Extremism Before it Starts, by Maria J. Stephan and Shaazka Beyerle
In the global fight against violent extremism, a major element has been missing from top-down, official efforts: how ordinary citizens and communities are successfully challenging the acute corruption that drives people into the folds of radicals. In some of the world’s most repressive places, millions of people have become protagonists of successful nonviolent campaigns that challenge corruption and impunity, improve accountability, and promote political, economic, and social change. People power confronts injustice and oppression constructively, and it can proactively address a critical driver of violent extremism around the world.
Peaceful Protest – Slow and Steady – Is Winning the Race to Create Change, by Jessica Leber
Nonviolent movements have come and gone in the last century, some successful, others not. In either case, whether during Gandhi`s fight for Indian independence or the Palestinian uprising during the First Intifada, participants have questioned and debated the effectiveness of their tactics: Is protest the best way to make your voice heard? Are the tenets of nonviolence holding back change that could happen with a more aggressive fight? But only in the last few years have researchers started to answer these questions by looking at the data. And it turns out that even in the face of even the worst oppression, violence is not the answer. The tactical knowledge of nonviolence is only starting to be shared across the world, and experts believe there is still more to learn.
Social Media and the Arab Uprisings, Ursula Lindsey
Out of half a dozen Arab countries that witnessed uprisings, only Tunisia has managed to see its democratic transition through. Across the region, the bloggers and activists who helped plan and publicize protests were sidelined by Islamist parties and military regimes. They have been silenced, imprisoned, or driven into exile. How did these huge and hopeful social movements fizzle? Why were they unable to achieve political gains? How is social media being used today by resurgent autocratic governments and by terrorist groups? One theory is the ability to "scale up" quickly that social media offers to protest movements means they do not have to do the hard and necessary work of building a system that knows how to make decisions collectively, change strategies, and persevere.
Tunisia: The Arab Spring’s Only Success Needs Support, by The Guardian
The terrible attack at Bardo national museum, which killed twenty tourists and three Tunisians, casts a shadow over the last ray of hope from the “Arab Spring.” In the wake of the attack, boosting counterterrorism should not mean draconian measures that only alienate more citizens. But this attack should prompt other countries to support Tunisia’s successes instead of merely praising it. Assistance in training Tunisian security forces and improving border security will matter, but so will offering the expertise and resources it needs to develop its economy. European and United States aid falls far short of the level needed and both have yet to agree much-needed free-trade deals.
Social Media Images of Antiterrorism Rally in Tunis, by Robert Mackey
Tunisians rallied against terrorism, hours after an assault by militants on a museum in the center of the capital, Tunis, left at least nineteen people dead, mainly foreign tourists. Outraged residents of the capital gathered on Avenue Habib Bourguiba, where protesters rallied in 2011 against the autocratic rule of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, toppling him and setting off the “Arab Spring” uprisings across the region. The demonstration was partly organized and extensively documented on social networks by citizens who used hashtags in Arabic, English, and French. Among the slogans was #JeSuisTunisien, echoing the phrase of solidarity used in France after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.
No Panic, But Frustration and Defiance Prevail in Tunis, Says Analyst Erbel, by Mark Hallam
Tunis-based expert Ralf Erbel says in the aftermath of the terrorist attack at a national museum, Tunisians have reacted with relative calm. “Tunisians are extremely upset about what happened… and we are starting to see this anger translating into public displays of defiance. Thousands of people spontaneously demonstrated in rejection of extremism, and there has been a campaign to encourage Tunisians to visit the targeted museum in a symbolic display of resistance against terror,” he said.
Algeria: Fracking and the Ain Salah Uprising, by Alexander Reid Ross
The anti-fracking movement in the town of Ain Salah has two main concerns: preventing pollution to the aquifer and keeping out foreign oil giants like Total and Halliburton. This is the second time serious unrest has been caused in Ain Salah over gas companies – the first having occurred in 2002, due to widespread unemployment and the stringent demands of foreign gas companies. The economic issue stands side-by-side with the environmental one, as civil society searches for better ways of living sustainably outside of the control of corrupt foreign multinationals and a distant government. Fracking and resistance against an effective gas grab in Algeria has become an issue for the opposition to utilize in its attempt to develop another kind of politics in the country.
A Question of Sovereignty, Justice and Dignity: the People vs. the Government on Fracking in Algeria, by Rachida Lamri
Although the regime is betting that the anti-fracking movement will lose steam with time, the reality on the ground says otherwise. What we have seen over the last weeks is a clear attempt by the authorities to draw the peaceful people of Ain Salah into violent clashes, to put an end to this national citizen’s movement, which represents a serious threat to the regime’s interests. By trying to turn the movement violent, the authorities want to provoke the Algerian people to turn against this movement by instilling fear of further civil unrest, which has been cited as one of the main reasons the Arab Spring never managed to take root in Algeria.
“We Want to Avoid an Ecological Disaster,” by Al Jazeera
Abdelkader Bouhafs is a leading figure of the grassroots movement. In this interview with Al Jazeera, Abdelkader Bouhafs, a leading figure of the grassroots anti-shale gas movement in Ain Salah, Algeria, speaks about his movement’s goals and the mediation efforts conducted by the military between anti-shale gas activists and the police.
Pro-Bedouin March Winds Up at Israel Presidency, by Agence France Press
A four-day march led by Arab Israeli MPs in solidarity with Israel’s impoverished Bedouin community wound up on 29 March at the Jewish state’s presidency. The march started in the Bedouin village of Wadi al-Naam near the southern Israeli city of Beersheba but not recognized by the authorities.
Under Constant Attacks; Palestinians, Israeli Activists, Guard Palestine Property in Jerusalem, by Saed Bannoura
Amidst repeated invasions, assaults, and attacks by extremist Israeli colonialist settlers attempting to displace a Palestinian family and occupy their building, Palestinian residents and Israeli peace activists started guarding a Palestinian building, inhabited by the family for more than sixty years. The activists gathered in ‘Aqbat al-Khadiyya, just a few meters away from the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem, drumming and chanting “No to the occupation,” expressing solidarity and support with the Palestinian family.
Netanyahu’s Win Is Good for Palestine, by Yousef Munayyer
Netanyahu’s victory is actually the best outcome for those seeking to end Israel’s occupation. This might seem counterintuitive, but the political dynamics in Israel and internationally mean that another Netanyahu term could actually hasten the end of Israel’s apartheid policies. The biggest losers in this election were those who made the argument that change could come from within Israel. Change will have to come from the outside. The boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign has thrived while Netanyahu has led Israel. He has become the internationally recognized face of Israeli intransigence, settlement building, and brazen disregard for Palestinian human rights.
Palestinian Grassroots Resistance to Occupation Growing, by Mel Frykberg
Although the Palestinian territories are not a huge part of Israel’s domestic market, the ongoing boycott of Israeli products is part of a number of grassroots campaigns of defiance by Palestinians against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and its siege of Gaza. Every Friday, dozens of villages throughout the West Bank and Gaza take part in protests against Israel’s expropriation of Palestinian land and the occupation despite the toll this has taken on Palestinians in the number wounded and killed. Another act of defiance has been the building of protest tents and villages, in protest against Israel’s forced removal of Bedouins and other Palestinians.
Palestine Field Post: “I Am Not Your Normal Human Rights Campaigner,” by Issa Amro
Two years after the start of the second intifada the Israeli army designated the Palestinian Polytechnic University a military zone and sealed all its gates. Issa Amro, in this article discusses the resistance actions to reopen the university. “For six months we moved into classrooms, organized protests and demonstrated. We agreed that our resistance had to be peaceful and non-violent, and in the end we won. The advantage of non-violent resistance is that it forces your institutions to be active and strong in the face of the occupation, which in effect helps us to build our state.”
Israeli Forces Arrest Two Shepherds in the South Hebron Hills, by International Solidarity Movement
Residents of the South Hebron hills experience continual harassment from settlers in nearby settlements and outposts, but remain steadfast in their commitment to nonviolent resistance. Each day that they graze their sheep in contested areas and the shepherds continue to resist settler attempts to drive them away from their lands. International volunteers have witnessed shepherds chased from the area six times since the start of the year. Recent arrests are examples of the commitment of the South Hebron hills people to use nonviolence to resist the occupation, both in their own communities and throughout Palestine.
Thirty-Seven Students and Teachers Charged with Insulting Erdoğan, by Today’s Zaman
Thirty-seven students and teachers have recently appeared in court on charges of insulting President Erdoğan, while criminal complaints have been filed against eleven others accused of breaking the law on public assemblies and demonstrations while attending a protest in Trabzon. In February, a crowd of students, teachers and union members staged a demonstration there against the government to call for an education system based on “secular and scientific” principles. Soon afterwards, it was revealed that the Police Department had launched legal proceedings against some of the protesters.
New 4G Is Taking Western Sahara’s Protests Beyond Refugee Camps, by Red Herring
Morocco has not honored its commitment to a referendum by the Sahrawi people on governance of their homeland. The situation has reached a stalemate, not helped by the creation of an almost three-thousand-kilometer–long wall, the “Berm,” built to keep the POLISARIO liberation movement out of Western Sahara. Today around two-thirds of the Sahrawi people live on the Moroccan side of the Berm, known locally as the “occupied territory.” Another 150000 or so live in refugee camps in southern Algeria. jA 4G communication network, installed six months ago, has made their cause a lot easier. Internet cafes, while infrequent, are increasing in number. Since three months ago, when connections began to spread, the camps have been spreading the word of their plight online.
Making Egypt’s Streets Safe for Women, by James Estrin
While public harassment of women has been commonplace, it was not until an incident four years ago, while covering a peaceful protest on International Women’s Day, that photographer Eman Helal started documenting these encounters. Dismayed by her editors` refusal to publish the photos, Helal pursued the story during a World Press Photo multimedia workshop for photographers from the “Arab Spring” countries. Her project on sexual harassment and assault in Egypt is just the start of her work on the issue. Intent on spurring societal change, she is raising money for an anti-harassment billboard campaign featuring portraits and interviews with Egyptian women.
Egypt: Scattered Thoughts on a Counter-Revolutionary Moment, by Mona Abaza
Egypt, standing at the crossroads of a counter-revolutionary moment, seems to suggest that the future appropriation of the post-revolutionary city of Cairo will arise from the struggle between two opposing “subjectivities." A struggle between preserving the memory, knowledge and experience of urban wars and performative revolutionary advocacies and neo-liberal agendas obsessed with erasure. A struggle today confronted by a neo-liberal gentrification supported by a military “order." Parallel to the neo-liberal agenda, the aggressive politics of the “war of terror” might end up inviting even more terrorism to Egyptian cities in retaliation for the unresolved economic crisis.
Egypt to Charge Officer in Killing of Shaimaa El-Sabbagh, by David D. Kirkpatrick
Prosecutors said that they were charging a police officer with a type of manslaughter in the shooting of a poet and activist Shaimaa el-Sabbagh whose killing at a peaceful demonstration made her the latest symbol of police abuse. In a statement, prosecutors said they were charging the officer with “battery causing death” in the killing of Sabbagh with a shotgun blast of birdshot. Prosecutors also said that they would charge some of Sabbagh’s fellow protesters with staging an unauthorized demonstration and threatening the public order, crimes punishable by years in prison under a law passed shortly after the military ouster of President Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
After Arab Spring, Surveillance in Egypt Intensifies, by Sam Kimball
It has been four years since the “Arab Spring,” and yet leading information activists say that Egyptian government surveillance is getting worse, not better. The establishment of the High Council for Cyber Crime by decree of the Prime Minister last December cemented control of already tightly constrained Internet activity, according to one of the founders of Motoon, which provides information security consulting to non-governmental organizations. “The whole idea of [the Cyber Crime Council] is to make repression clearer and organized for the state,” he says. The announcement of the Council for Cyber Crime is part of a government shift toward greater surveillance of opposition figures and activists.
Construction Workers Stage Rare Protest in Dubai, by Al Jazeera
Hundreds of migrant workers from South Asia have staged a rare protest in Dubai over a pay dispute with a construction firm employing them. Public protests are prohibited in the United Arab Emirates, and riot police were deployed. The protest ended without any violence or arrests, and Dubai’s government said the dispute has been resolved.
NYU Professor Is Barred by United Arab Emirates, by Stephanie Saul
The United Arab Emirates, where New York University opened a new campus last year, has barred an NYUprofessor from traveling to the monarchy after his criticism of the exploitation of migrant construction workers there. The professor, Andrew Ross, specializes in labor issues. Ross has been an open critic of the use of underpaid and poorly treated migrant laborers in the UAE. Last year, a New York Times article chronicled the harsh conditions facing workers who built NYU campus there, including punishing work schedules, underpayment of wages and deportations of laborers who protested. Other professors said the development renewed questions about academic freedom in the university’s vision for a global university system when large units operate in countries controlled by autocratic governments.
Bahrain: Rights Defender’s Appeal Hearing Postponed, by Danielle Quijada
Followinh his appeal, Nabeel Rajab had the final hearing delayed for a third time until 15 April. Rajab, who is appealing his sentence over a tweet, remains under a travel ban. Index’s CEO said “the continual postponements of Nabeel’s court dates is another example of how justice is not being served in Bahrain. While his case is still pending, Nabeel is not free to travel, and kept in perpetual uncertainty about his future.
Shakespeare in Tehran, by Stephen Greenblatt
Stephen Greenblatt discusses his experience of delivering a keynote address to the Iranian Shakespeare Congress. Although he knew that censorship in Iran is draconian, he entered in a hall filled with eager faces. He told them that, “Early-seventeenth-century England was a closed and decidedly un-free society.” Views that “violated the orthodoxy of Christian church authorities were frequently denounced and could lead to terrible consequences…It is astonishing that in King Lear Shakespeare goes so far as to show a nameless servant rising up to stop his master…How could Shakespeare get away with it? The answer must in part be that Elizabethan and Jacobean society, though oppressive, was not as monolithic in its surveillance or as efficient in its punitive responses as the surviving evidence sometimes makes us think.”
Africa: Index Announced Winners of Fifteenth Annual Freedom of Expression Awards, by All Africa
A Kenyan woman speaking out for women in one of the world`s most dangerous regions and a female journalist who exposed an unreported uprising in Saudi Arabia are among the winners of this year`s Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards. Awards are presented in four categories: journalism, arts, campaigning, and digital activism. The winners were Saudi journalist Safa Al Ahmad and Angolan reporter Rafael Marques de Morais (journalism – jointly awarded); Moroccan rapper "El Haqed" (arts); Kenyan women`s rights campaigner Amran Abdundi (campaigning); and Hungarian freedom of information website Atlatszo (digital activism).
Access to Blocked Sites Restored by Reporters Without Borders, by BBC
Reporters Without Borders has set up mirrors, or copies, of nine websites that are banned in eleven countries, allowing people there to see them. They include the Tibet Post, which is blocked in China, and Grani.ru, which is blocked in Russia. The group said it would maintain the sites for several months as part of Operation Collateral Freedom. It stated that the intention was to provide citizens with access to independently reported news and information. A spokesman for the campaign group explained that it had set up "proxy/mirrors" – essentially replica websites updated in real-time – on Amazon Web Services, a division of the online retailer that sells cloud-based computing services to third parties. Websites will also be unblocked from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Vietnam, Cuba, Iran, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.
UN: Palestine Marathon Draws Attention to the Right to Freedom of Movement
On 27 March, some thirty-two thousand international and Palestinian runners took to the streets of Bethlehem to highlight the Right to Movement campaign.
West Bank Boycott of Israeli Goods Makes Headway, by Ben Lynfield
One month after a West Bank boycott of Israeli products was launched, it appears to be seeing some success. A new non-governmental body, called the National Higher Committee, launched the boycott as retaliation for Israeli actions since January, including withholding tax revenues that the Palestinian Authority needs to pay its 155,000 employees. Palestinian organizers said the majority of shops in the Ramallah area are co-operating with the effort. Many shop owners had already begun reducing their Israeli stocks during last summer’s war in the Gaza Strip and the boycott campaign has since accelerated the process.
Rocking the Casbah: the Gig of a Lifetime that Put Iranian Women Back on Stage, by Alexis Petridis
The singer and composer Sara Najafi had the idea of hosting a concert – “a festival of the female voice” featuring not just Iranians, but artists from France and Tunisia too. Nothing like it had been attempted in Iran since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, because women were banned from singing solo in public. Najafi was inspired by the Green Movement, the mass protests of Iran’s 2009 presidential election result. “I wanted to make music for that movement,” she says. The result is captured in “No Land’s Song,” a film that weaves a history of female singers in pre-revolutionary Iran around Sara’s struggle to do her show.
The Art of Drone War: Drone Art and Lit from the Middle East, by Nahrain Al-Mousawi
Perhaps least covered in the media are representations of drones from the Arab world, particularly Yemen and Gaza. Being under "the shadow of the drone" emerges as a real threat in Yemen for artists like Murady Subay, who led a street-art campaign called "12 hours" in Sana`a, Yemen`s capital. The art is not intent on imagining the drone as an object or one with a particular vision but rather on depicting the effects on the lived experiences of their targets. Drones are depicted or heard in the work of Gaza-born artists Laila Shawa and Basma Alsharif. While Gaza is not perceived as a target of drone strikes but rather of drone surveillance, it has been reported that strikes in the Strip have involved drones and resulted in a number of deaths.
Sara Taksler: “Bassem Youssef Made an Impact Far Beyond Egypt,” by Anne-Sophie Brändlin
In a new documentary called "Tickling Giants," filmmaker Sara Taksler covers satirist Bassem Youssef, whose show was canceled last summer due to increasing pressure from the government. "Political satire has been around forever, even if it`s not televised. And I think it`s really important to have, even though it`s not absolutely essential. But satirical hosts are shining the light on certain things that you might consider to be injustices. Bassem Youssef and his team had an impact,” Taksler said.
The Wanted 18: A Tale of Talking Cows and Palestinian Rebellion, by Killian Fox
The Wanted 18 tells the true story of a Palestinian committee in the town of Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem, that purchased a herd of cows from a friendly kibbutz owner and used them in a bid to undermine Israeli control. It was a step towards self-sufficiency beset by problems: Palestinians are not a cow-rearing people, which accounts for some agricultural hiccups along the way, and the Israeli authorities did not look kindly even on the smallest gestures of independence – the cows were declared “dangerous for the security of the state of Israel” and became fugitives from the law.
Laughing at ISIS: Syrian Video Artists Go Beyond Fear to Ridicule Jihadists, by Constanze Letsch
Settled in a makeshift studio in the Turkish city forty miles from the Syrian border, four refugee filmmakers decided ridicule was an effective way of responding to Islamic State and its grisly record of extreme violence. “The entire world seems to be terrified of ISIS, so we want to laugh at them, expose their hypocrisy,” says one filmmaker. The films and videos of the refugees` website mock the Islamist extremists and depict them as naive simpletons, hypocritical zealots and brutal thugs. It’s a high-risk undertaking. They have had to move houses and keep their addresses secret from even their best friends after receiving death threats. But the video activists will not be deterred.
Conferences & Events
Fanonian Nonviolence: After the African Spring, 6 April 2015, Center for Middle East Studies, Harvard University, Cambridge MA, United States.
ICCG2015: Precarious Radicalism on Shifting Grounds: Towards a Politics of Possibility, 26-30 July 2015, Ramallah, Palestine.