[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
Nonviolent Resistance in Yemen Defies Western Stereotypes, by Stephen Zunes
Despite the unfounded negative stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims as somehow being more prone to violence than other peoples, there has been a long-standing tradition of nonviolent action and unarmed civil resistance struggles in the region. A contemporary case in point is Yemen, where—despite the media focus in recent months on armed clashes and other violence—there has also been widespread and ongoing acts of nonviolent civil resistance. In fact, the most significant setbacks to the Houthi militia in their march southward across the country have come not from the remnants of the Yemeni army or Saudi air strikes, but from massive resistance by unarmed civilians.
Saudi Girls Finally Get to Drive, But in a Videogame, by Sarah E. Needleman
Saudi Arabian women this year will finally get the right to drive. It will just have to be in a post-apocalyptic world filled with baboon kings, crystal giants, fire dancers, mutants and zombie cybersoldiers. That’s the setting for the coming mobile videogame “Saudi Girls Revolution,” in which a group of young Saudi women race souped-up motorcycles to fight the evil tyrannical rulers of a corrupted Arabian Empire. It is being made by NA3M, a company with offices in Jordan and Denmark whose founder and chief executive is Saudi Arabian Prince Fahad bin Faisal Al Saud, grandson of the brother of the king.
A Call to Resist Saudi (and US) Aggression in Yemen, by Sheila Carapico
Along with civilian suffering, protests against the Saudi assault on Yemen are mounting, and with good reason. Progressives and antiwar groups in the United States, Britain, Arab countries and the rest of the world must oppose the Saudi-led attack on its impoverished neighbor. Operation Decisive Storm is, as the London-based Saudi scholar Madawi al-Rashid has written, the latest stage in an aggressive military interventionist policy in the Arabian Peninsula. It is also, as John Willis points out, a counterrevolutionary offensive.
The African Union Should Show Solidarity With Western Sahara, by Agaila Abba-Ali
Critics argue that any engagement with Morocco over Western Sahara`s resources is necessarily antithetical to Saharawi interests as it indirectly supports the massive military occupation of the territory and the 2700 km long wall that separates Moroccan-controlled from Sahrani Arab Democratic Republic-controlled Western Sahara. African states should take their solidarity to the next level and work to actively sanction companies exploiting Western Sahara`s resources. Africa should be prepared to ratchet up sanctions, if necessary, to demonstrate solidarity, if no movement is forthcoming in the peace process and Saharawis continue to be denied self-determination.
Has The West Given Up on Democracy? by Mathew Burrows and Maria Stephan
Around the world, aggrieved citizens are standing up to challenge power structures, demanding basic freedoms. But aggregate Freedom House scores on political rights and civil liberties have declined each of the past nine years. What can be done to reverse the tide? Can we avoid citizen challenges leading to bloodbaths and prolonged chaos? How can democratic movements lead to reforms that encourage more durable stability? The authors’ book Is Authoritarianism Staging a Comeback? analyzes authoritarian resilience in places like Central Asia, Syria, and the Gulf, highlighting the dilemmas and possible solutions.
Documenting the Perpetrators Amongst the People, by Shadi Sadr
The Data Bank of Human Rights Violators identifies perpetrators and collects evidence about their roles in gross human rights abuses in Iran. The information about two hundred and sixty six perpetrators, including evidence, photos, and testimonies, is stored in this databank. So far, based on this evidence, more than seventy profiles have been published and are available on the web site. The perpetrators listed in the databank have committed crimes against diverse groups such as women, political prisoners, members of Baha’i faith, ethnic minorities, and human rights defenders. According to the author, by naming and shaming the perpetrators, the databank offers the opportunity to break through state-wide impunity.
Why Governments Target Civil Society and What Can be Done in Response, by Sarah Mendelson
Chief among the current challenges facing the global human rights community (and broader civil society) is a contagion growing in intensity and described best—if inelegantly—as the closing space around civil society. Drawing on a literature review and on discussions with activists from around the world, this report identifies five causal factors affecting closing space—in some cases hastening it, in other cases, helping to keep it at bay—that merit extensive, systematic inquiry. These various lines of inquiry provide a rich, new agenda that if addressed can help generate remedies to improve the conditions under which citizens organize in support of human rights.
Anti-Regime Protests Rock Kurdish-majority Northwestern Iran, by Asharq Al-Awsat
Violent protests rocked the Kurdish-majority city of Mahabad in northwestern Iran, after the death of a twenty-five-years-old woman whom sources say died after an Iranian intelligence operative attempted to rape her. The protests spread to other cities in the country with large Kurdish populations. The situation in Iran’s northwest appears to be quickly escalating, and the incident which sparked the initial protests has tapped into Kurdish resentment in the region, according to an opposition leader.
Teacher Protests Sweep Iran Despite Threats by Officials Not to Participate, by International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran
Another nationwide protest by teachers swept through dozens of cities in Iran on 7 May, drawing attention to wages below the poverty line. About three thousand teachers gathered in front of the parliament in Tehran. The protests were also in support of the release of teachers who were imprisoned because of their activism. President Rouhani told teachers, “I recognize the right of the teachers to protest…You saw this year that for the first time Iranian workers took to the streets and demonstrated; something that was unprecedented in the past.” Nevertheless, independent unions remain banned in Iran, strikers and protest participants are often fired, and labor leaders face long prison sentences.
Egyptian Authorities Using Sexual Violence on “Massive Scale,” by BBC News
Egyptian security forces are using sexual violence against detainees on a massive scale, according to the International Federation for Human Rights. A report by the organisation suggests men, women and children are being abused "to eliminate public protest." Many are subjected to virginity tests, rape and gang rape after arrest. The study notes a surge in sexual violence after the Egyptian military takeover in July 2013. The perpetrators are rarely held to account and the impunity points to a "cynical political strategy aimed at silencing all opposition."
Israeli Extremism Will Encourage Global Boycott, by Omar Barghouti
Israel has elected the most fanatic government in its history. But many Palestinian human rights activists and politicians expect this government, an unpalatable cocktail of right, far-right and fundamentalist Jewish parties, to be the mother of all silver-lined clouds. Israel’s shedding of democratic pretenses and adoption of unmasked colonial policies will also enhance the already impressive growth of the global, nonviolent, Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (B.D.S.) movement.
The Boycott of Israeli Goods, by Sawsan Ramahi
There is no doubt that Israel`s increasing attacks on the productive capabilities of the Palestinian people and its efforts to obliterate Arab identity by any means possible make a boycott of Israel in every sense a necessity. It is a peaceful way for the Palestinians and their supporters to fight back against Israel`s daily killings; destruction of Palestinian infrastructure and land; the apartheid wall; and settlement expansion that has changed the landscape of Palestine and isolated the people in small islands surrounded by Israeli colonies. Since the Palestinian market is the second largest for Israeli products after the United States, the boycott of those goods could have a catastrophic effect on Israel`s economy.
Palestine: Students Detained for Political Opinions, Human Rights Watch
Palestinian Authority security forces have detained at least four West Bank students over the past six months, apparently for their affiliation with Hamas or political criticism. Two have alleged ill-treatment in detention. “It is deeply worrying that students are being held by Palestinian forces for no apparent reason other than their connection to Hamas or their opinions,” said the Middle East and North Africa director of Human Rights Watch. “Palestinians should be able to express critical political opinions without being arrested or beaten.”
Turkish Court Rules Peaceful Demonstrators Do Not Need Permission, by Doğan News Agency
An Istanbul court that acquitted twenty-six people detained during the Gezi Park protests in the summer of 2013 has stated in its reasoned ruling that people do not have to get official permission for peaceful demonstrations, and demonstrations held without permission are not necessarily violent. In his ruling, the judge said: "the right to freedom of assembly does not protect only ideas and opinions approved by wider society. Apart from these, it also can be used to express opinions that might cause discomfort, concern, or shock among wider society. The right to freedom of assembly might take different forms. Sit-ins, road-blocks, and even occupying an area.”
Activists Occupy Camp Armen to Prevent Demolition of Hrant Dink’s Former Home, by Zeynep Karatas
Activists occupied the former Armenian orphanage known as Camp Armen in İstanbul to prevent the former home of prominent Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink from being demolished. Opposition members of Armenian descent have shown their solidarity to resist the destruction of the former home of Dink, who was assassinated in 2007.
The Nonviolent Palestinian Activists Working for Peace in the West Bank, by Batya Ungar-Sargon
Fifteen-year-old Ahmed said he doesn`t throw rocks during protests. "Why should I give them an excuse to kill me?" he said. "It is not our way. We at Youth Against Settlements do not throw stones." Youth Against Settlements is one of dozens of groups across the West Bank and East Jerusalem using nonviolent tactics, civil disobedience, and direct action to challenge Israel`s occupation. For eight years now, the group has been working to instill the principles of nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience in Hebron`s Palestinian youth.
Soldier Becomes Unlikely Face of Ethiopian-Israeli Discontent, by Isabel Kershner and Jodi Rudoren
Demas Fikadey, a twenty-one-years-old soldier of Ethiopian descent, has become the unlikely and unwitting face of an outburst of anger and violent protests that have shaken Israel. On 26 April, he was beaten by two Israeli police officers and the seemingly unprovoked assault, caught on video, was broadcast on national television and went viral on social networks, unleashing the pent-up rage of a young generation of Ethiopian-Israelis who have taken to the streets in recent days. There are about 135 000 Ethiopian Jews in Israel, and many speak of discrimination and police brutality. Leaders say the community also faces discrimination in housing, education and employment, painting a bleak picture of the group’s position in society.
Anti-Police Protest in Israel Turns Violent, by Isabel Kershner
A protest by thousands of Ethiopian-Israelis and sympathizers against police harassment and brutality turned into a chaotic and unusually violent confrontation with the police in the center of Tel Aviv. The trigger for the rage now spilling onto Israel’s streets came just a week earlier, when a police officer was caught on a security camera beating an Ethiopian-Israeli soldier in uniform in the city of Holon, in the Tel Aviv suburbs, for no apparent reason.
Turkey’s June Elections: The Last Chance to Save Democracy? by Maria Margaronis
Founded two years ago by members of the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party and various left, green, feminist, LGBT, and ethnic-minority groups, the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) has become the last, best hope for Turkey’s liberals and leftists of blocking Erdogan’s drive to rewrite the Constitution and concentrate yet more power in his own hands. If his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) wins a large enough majority, Erdogan plans to establish an executive presidency to “strengthen the national will,” removing what he calls the “obstruction” of a “multi-headed” Parliament and allowing Turkey to “leap forward and beyond the level of contemporary civilizations.” To stop him, the HDP has to win at least 10 percent of the vote. If it fails to pass that threshold, Turkey’s electoral system gives all its ballots to the next party in each district, which in most cases will be the AKP.
Nakba 48 Naksa 67… Resistance changes equations
Palestinian activists along with media men launched a media campaign to commemorate the Palestinian Nakba which occurred on May 15, 1948 and Arab Naksa on June 05, 1967 under the theme “Nakba 48 Naksa 67..Resistance changes equations”. The campaign aims at commemorating both Nakba and Naksa due to their significance to the Palestinian Question.
With the support of the Arab-Bedouin citizens of Umm al-Hiran, and partners in Israel and abroad, on Sunday, May 17, the NGO Adalah launched a campaign to raise public awareness of the village’s struggle and bring about the scrapping of the government’s plans to evict its residents and entirely demolish their community.
Iranian Artist Goes on Trial for Cartoon Mocking Draft Law, by BBC News
An artist and political activist has gone on trial for a cartoon criticising draft laws which would restrict access to birth control. The image by Atena Farghadani depicted Members of Parliament (MPs) casting votes on the proposed legislation as animals. Farghadani faces charges of spreading propaganda, insulting MPs, and insulting the supreme leader. The laws would end decades of family planning in Iran, outlawing vasectomies and restricting contraception.
The Flute at the Checkpoint: Music and Confinement in Palestine, by Sandy Tolan
Politicians supporting Israel often say that “Israel has a right to defend itself.” Seldom does anyone ask if Palestinians have that same right, or even the right to enjoy freedom of movement. Ramzi Aburedwan has a dream of building a music school that could provide Palestinian children with an alternative to the violence and humiliation that is their everyday lives. Ramzi, like many of his music students, sees himself as part of a larger movement of nonviolent action to protest the occupation.
Egypt’s Artists Face Nuanced Challenges in Post-Revolution Climate, by Lewis Sanders
Following Egypt`s 2011 revolution, artists enjoyed a brief moment of unbridled freedom of expression. After assisting the military in ousting Mohammed Morsi, the political establishment and former military chief, now president, Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, have continued to violate citizens` rights. "It is not stable for us to do art and film," said one filmmaker. "Or at least to do it in a free way, especially if it is connected or deals with politics." For many, emerging spaces provide some form of freedom of expression. But due to policing and stringent laws, the streets pose a different issue altogether.
Events & Conferences
The Arab Revolutions: Five Years On, 21-23 January 2016, Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, Doha, Qatar. Call for Papers deadline: 15 June 2015.
ICCG2015: Precarious Radicalism on Shifting Grounds: Towards a Politics of Possibility, 26-30 July 2015, Ramallah, Palestine.