News & Comments
Not Another Story of Failed Liberation: Tensions in Bashur and Rojava in the Light of the Referendum, by Huseyin Rasit
The author argues that “there are at least two Kurdistans: Bashur with its capitalist modernization, and Rojava and its allies with their democratic confederalism. It is difficult to say how the relation between these two projects will unfold in the long run. Yet we can say for now that the tensions in both of them have become more obvious during the referendum process. If we want the future of Kurdistan to be bright one, we need to discuss these tensions and how to move beyond them instead of focusing solely on the question of independence.”
Critical Voices in Critical Times: Fanon, Race, and Politics: an Interview with Mireille Fanon-Mendès France, by Linda Herrera
In this interview, Mireille Fanon-Mendès France, an activist, scholar, and daughter of Frantz Fanon, talks about the enduring relevance of his ideas and passions in contemporary political life. The “Arab Spring,” the Black Lives Matter movement and the recent migration crisis in Europe are amongst the topics she discusses. Part two of the interview can be found here.
Rainbow Flag at Gig Sparks Media Storm of Hostility, by Mostafa Mohie
During a Cairo concert by the Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila, the rainbow flag of the LGBT movement was raised. As a consequence, Egyptian authorities arrested seven people, and Egyptian media “went into a spin.” Mostafa Mohie provides an analysis of the Egyptian media coverage of the incident. He writes that “most media coverage was hostile toward those who raised the flag, […] but more notably, writers and publications seemed confused as to what language to use to describe the Lebanese band as well as those holding the flag and the event organizers. The word shawaz, meaning deviant, was perhaps the most widely used.”
On Not Being Here: Human Rights and Solidarity in Egypt’s LGBT Crisis, by Scott Long
Scott Long criticizes “international” human rights groups for neglecting Egypt’s LGBT community. Moving away from formal international human rights groups, he suggests other directions that “truly principled activism can take.”
Targeting the Ultras: Why Are Security Forces Trying to Erase the Memory of the Stands? by Mai Shams El Din
On 16 September, Egyptian security forces arrested one hundred and fifty Ahly Football Club fans (Ultras Ahlawy) in Alexandria. The fans “were arrested for wearing shirts bearing the number seventy-four, a reference to the fans that were killed during the 2012 Port Said stadium violence.” This incident is part of a series of continuous arrests of football fans in Egypt, and it reflects security forces’ fear “over the ways in which they organize, not only to cheer on the teams, but also to mourn fans who have died.”
State Surveillance and Protest: “They Try to Make People Think Twice Before Taking to the Streets,” a Centro de Estudios Legales Y Sociales (CELS) interview with Ramy Raoof.
In this interview, Ramy Raoof, a digital security expert who helps activists and journalists to protect their privacy, speaks about the use of surveillance technologies by states to limit the right to protest, and how can activists protect themselves.
How Egyptian Activists Are Trying to Curb Polygamy, Rami Galal
Social media activists in Egypt have been calling for an additional condition in marriage contracts, “requiring the first wife’s prior consent in the event that her husband seeks a second wife under a polygamy arrangement.” Following this social media campaign, member of parliament Abdel Moneim al-Alimi, submitted a draft law to Egypt’s parliament to amend the law regulating marriage contracts. The campaign has been very controversial and it remains to be seen if the Egyptian parliament will pass this legislation.
Egypt Detains Nubians During a Peaceful, Singing Protest, by Salma Islam
On September 3, on “Nubian Assembly Day,” Nubians in the city of Aswan, Egypt, marched peacefully for the right to return in their ancestral land in Egypt. The protesters demanded that the Egyptian government delivers on a relevant article of the constitution, and revokes another decree that allowed the establishment of military zones in parts of Nubia. The protest was repressed by Egyptian security forces, and several Nubian activists were arrested.
Iraq’s Female Booksellers Turn the Page on Gender Roles, by Mustafa Saadoun
Books Town is a bookstore in the Iraqi city of Baqubeh in Diyala governorate, which is known for sectarian violence and the Islamic State. Tayseen Ameer, the young woman who owns Books Town, is one of several women who opened bookstores in Iraq. Many of them consider the “presence of women in bookselling – a role that has been reserved traditionally for men – a defiance of the traditions and norms that have contributed to the isolation of women.”
Turkey’s “Resistance Media” Refuses to Buckle, by Sibel Hurtas
While Turkey’s repression of the media continues, popular news sites, such as Sendika.org, are resilient in the state’s harsh crackdown. After each government order blocking access to their sites, they create a new site. Sendika.org, for example, since 2015 has been revived sixty-one times so far.
The Israeli Algorithm Criminalizing Palestinians for Online Dissent, by Nadim Nashif and Marwa Fatafta
Israeli intelligence has developed a predictive policing system – a computer algorithm – that analyzes social media posts to identify Palestinian “suspects.” The algorithm-based program monitors tens of thousands of young Palestinians’ Facebook accounts, and those of relatives, friends, classmates, and co-workers of recent Palestinians killed by Israel to assess their potential risk. The authors argue that “even if such algorithms deter attacks, imprisoning Palestinians based on a probability created by a machine is a clear violation of Palestinians’ rights. The expansion of the Israeli occupation’s oppression of the Palestinian people, now in its fiftieth year, to the cyber sphere is an alarming trend. Every and any Palestinian is now a suspect simply by exercising their freedom of expression online.”
Surveillance of Palestinians and the Fight for Digital Rights, by Nadim Nashif
“Surveillance of Palestinians has always been part of Israel’s colonial project, but new technologies have made this surveillance even more intrusive and widespread. Israel particularly uses social media to monitor what individual Palestinians say and do, as well as to gather and analyze information on attitudes among the Palestinian public more broadly.”
Palestinian Campaign to Force UK to Cancel Balfour Celebrations, by Middle East Monitor
The Popular Conference for Palestinians Abroad and a number of Palestinian groups are gearing up for a coordinated digital campaign to mark 100 years since the Balfour Declaration was issued by Lord Arthur Balfour, promising the Jews a national home in Palestine. Using the hashtag #Balfour100, social media users will be calling on the UK government to apologize for the Balfour Declaration and the British colonization of Palestine and demanding the cancellation of one of the largest Zionist celebrations of the Declaration, set to take place on 7 November at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The social media activity is part of a broader campaign launched by PCPA two months ago entitled “Balfour: A Colonial Project.”
“It Is Being Done to Intimidate Us:” Israeli Anti-Occupation Groups Face Crackdown, by Peter Beaumont
Israeli MPs are considering two initiatives “aiming at shutting down one of the country’s most high-profile anti-occupation groups, Breaking the Silence, which records the testimonies of Israeli soldiers operating in Palestinian territories. […] The moves come amid increasingly harsh rhetoric from Israel’s right wing, which has sought to cast Breaking the Silence and other anti-occupation groups including B’Tselem as ‘traitors.’”
UN Sends Warning Letters to Firms that Trader in Occupied Palestinian Territories, by Peter Beaumont
The UN human rights commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, has sent letters to an estimated one hundred and fifty international and Israeli businesses warning them that they may be included in a UN database of companies involved with illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Women March Through Desert for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, by Reuters
Thousands of Palestinian and Israeli women have joined together to march through the desert for peace. The march was organized by Women Wage Peace, an organization established after the fifty-day Gaza war of 2014 when more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed. Israel put the number of its dead at sixty-seven soldiers and six civilians.
How Can Women “Wage Peace” Without Talking About Occupation? by Orly Noy
Orly Noy provides a thorough criticism of the Women’s March organized by Women Wage Peace. While he welcomes a mass movement of women in support of peace, he is critical of what was absent in the activists’ calls for peace, and especially that the word “occupation” was entirely absent from this group that aims to end the conflict.
Palestinians Get Helping Hand As Olive Harvest Begins, by Ahmad Abu Amer
The olive harvest is a great symbol of Palestinian resilience. Israeli settlers’ attack Palestinian farmers, uproot olive trees, burn and confiscate land and obstruct olive harvesting. This situation gave rise to three campaigns aimed at helping Palestinian farmers harvest olives. One was supported by the British Consulate staff, another was launched by the Wall and Settlement Resistance Committee of the PLO, and the “We Are With You” campaign was initiated by the Agricultural Development Association (PARC).
Palestine’s First Female-Run Cookery School is “A Labour of Love,” by Naima Morelli
Bait Al Karama, the first Women’s Centre in the hear of Nablus, combines a culinary social enterprise with art and cultural activities. Through its activities, the centre is trying to preserve the traditions of Palestinian cuisine, challenge gender roles, and resist movement restrictions throughout the West Bank.
In Morocco, Press Freedom Shrinks With Hirak Protests, by Ilhem Rachidi
Since the start of the Hirak protests, the repression of journalists has increased dramatically in Morocco. In the absence of clear laws and a just judicial system, journalists often hinder their own opinions in a practice of self-censorship to ensure the continuity of their work and publications.
Why Tunisia Just Passed Controversial Laws on Corruption and Women’s Rights to Marry, by Nadia Marzouki
On 14 September, President Béji Caïd Essebsi announced he would repeal a 1973 law that prevented Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men. This announcement came one day after the Tunisian parliament passed another piece of legislation granting amnesty to corrupt civil servants, which triggered a nation-wide wave of protests. While these current “legislative battles” suggest that while the old regime tactics remain active in Tunisia, movements like Manich Msamah, civil society organizations and the “collective public energy of the 2011 revolution is still alive.”
The Socio-Economic Roots of Syria’s Uprising, by Alice Bonfatti
In this piece, Alice Bonfatti provides an overview of the various socio-economic factors that contributed to the “inevitable” uprising in Syria in 2011. Among those are: the emergence of a state bourgeoisie, the impoverishment of rural areas, the increasing growth in unemployment, the strengthening of the military and security apparatus, and the repression of freedom.
Constructing and Echoing Social Perceptions: Gay Characters in Egyptian Film, by Adham Youssef
This survey of films argues a lack of progress in when it comes to filmic depictions of LGBTQI characters. This essay was written in the wake of a media ban on the appearance of homosexuals and homosexual “slogans,” that came amid arrests, prison sentences, anal examinations, public shaming, accusations of mental instability, and general incitement against people based on their perceived sexuality, an attack that started after rainbow flags were raised at a concert on 22 September in Cairo.
Jailed Kurdish Leader Keeps in Touch with Supporters Through Arts, Literature, by Sibel Hurtas
For Selahattin Demirtas, leader of Turkey’s main Kurdish political movement, art and literature have become a form of resistance. He has produced paintings, poems and most recently a collection of stories, in resistance against his own incarceration and Turkey’s increasingly authoritarian government despite behind bars on terror-related charges for almost a year.
Palestinian Orchestra Uses “Music As Resistance,” by Nigel Wilson
The Palestine Youth Orchestra (PYO) was founded in Birzeit in 2004 and its members live in the occupied Palestinian territories, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, but also Australia, and are aged 14 to 26. However, reading the orchestra’s headquarters at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music in Birzeit, or joining concerts within or outside the occupied Palestinian territories is always a challenge due to entry and travel permits. Zeina Khoury, PYO manager, says “It’s not easy to make this happen. It’s our message to the world, music if our form of resistance, and making it happen in Palestine.”
“Less-Lethal” Weapons in Jerusalem: “The Purpose of These Bullets Isn’t Corresponding to the Reality,” an opendemocracy interview with Tali Mayer
Israeli photojournalist Tali Mayer, 28, was shot by a black-tipped sponge bullet while reporting on a demonstration. This led to her project with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), photographing Palestinians injured by these crowd-control bullets. The ultimate goal of the project is policy change regarding the use of these bullets. In this interview, Mayer speaks about the use of these “non-lethal” weapons by Israeli security forces, their impact on people’s bodies and lives, and the lack of state regulations.
How Art Is Blooming Amid the Gaza Wasteland, by Donald Macintyre
In this excerpt from his book Gaza: Preparing for Dawn, Donald Macintyre demonstrates the richness of art and culture in the Palestinian enclave of the Gaza Strip.
Campaigns, Events & Conferences
Peace and Justice Studies Association Annual Conference, 25-28 October 2017, University of Alabama, Birmingham, USA.
Digital Campaign: “Balfour: A Colonial Project,” until 20 November 2017, worldwide.
The Contentious Politics of Higher Education. Student Movements in Late Neoliberalism Conference, 15-16 November 2017, Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences, Scuola Normale Superiore (SNS), Florence, Italy.
Rethinking Pacifism for Revolution, Security, and Politics Conference, 22–24 November 2017, University of Otago, New Zealand.
Women and Liberation Struggles: Palestine and the Global South. Rethinking Revolutionary Histories and Futures, 11-13 December 2017, A.M. Qattan Foundation and the Institute of Women Studies, Birzeit University, Palestine.
Art & Activism: Resilience Techniques in Times of Crisis, 13-15 December 2017, Research Center for Material Culture, the Museum Volkenkunde (National Museum of World Cultures), Leiden, The Netherlands.
Orientalism, Neo-Orientalism and Post-Orientalism in African, Middle East, Latin American, Asian/Chinese Studies, 17-18 May 2018, Center for Global Studies, Shanghai University, China. (Call for Papers Deadline: 29 February 2018)