Great idea: displaced Syrians act as online Arabic tutors
- Anthropologist Seeks the Roots of Terrorism
On the challenges of studying jihadists
- Donne che mordono donne
In Italian: testimony of medieval practices of ISIS female police
- Eric Laurent interpellé pour chantage au Roi
French journalists accused of blackmailing the king of Morocco
- Vast Reserves of Natural Gas Found Off the Coast of Egypt
Great, much-needed news.
- IS posts pics of food distribution in North Sinai
- Sinai Militancy and the Threat to International Forces [PDF]
- The disgrace we should not embrace
Khaled Mansour on Egypt's human rights council.
- Egypt in Talks to Buy Mistral Warships From France
More Sisi defense spending...
- Securing the Sinai MFO Without a U.S. Drawdown
Eric Trager on MFO policy review.
- Is Alawite Solidarity Finally Breaking?
- Brookings | Rethinking Political Islam
Essays on Islamists in various countries.
- Lebanon’s Un-collected Problems
Sahar Atrache on Beirut's garbage crisis
- You Can't Stop the Signal
Great piece by Mahmoud Salem.
Our friend Sarah Carr opens a blog post about the Egyptian government's latest misguided, ineffectual attempt to legislate what women wear on their heads ("Secularisn't") with some reflection on her own distaste (and doubt over the validity of that distaste) for the niqab, the full face covering.
I mean there are a million ways to abuse a child on the abuse spectrum. Perhaps allowing/encouraging her to wear neqab isn’t that bad. I think why it bothers me is that it sexualises a child, since for women who wear it, the neqab is an interpretation of the veil, which ultimately is about modesty. No child should have to think about that, and no one should be thinking about that while looking at a child.
I think a lot of people struggle to explain why they feel so differently -- why they feel a line being crossed, or draw a line -- about the hejab (head scarf) and the niqab (full face covering). I like to keep the criminalization of fashion to a minimum, and I think the French ban on the headscarf is ridiculous and discriminatory. But there is more than a difference in degree between covering your hair and covering your face. What's troubling about the niqab is a very obvious thing: it's dehumanizing. We anthropoids acknowledge each other by looking each other in the face and in the eyes -- doing so is one of the most powerful, most meaningful and sometimes uncomfortable (as we've all experienced on public transportation) interactions we can have. To become faceless is to erase yourself and to greatly limit your capacity to relate to others and for others to relate to you.
Post-summer break link dump.
- The ‘magic words:’ How a simple phrase enmeshed the U.S. in Syria’s crisis | McClatchy DC
One of Obama's big mistakes.
- So…Yalla, Bye | Foreign Office Blogs
Funny send-off by departing UK ambassador
- Syria: The Threat of Indifference by Hugh Eakin and Alisa Roth | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books
- ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape - The New York Times
- In Egypt, Disaffected Youth Increasingly Drawn To Extremism
- Sexual harassment in Saudi Arabia is widespread
- The Launch Of The "New Suez Canal" Was Really, Really Weird
Buzzfeed gets snarky
Last month, Huffington Post launched its Arabic edition in London to great fanfare. Like other spin-offs of the American website, HuffPo Arabi is a joint venture, not under the direct editorial control of the original. It is not the first Arab world edition to launch – HuffPo Maghreb has French-language Tunisian, Algerian and Moroccan sites – but it is the first Arabic edition one. It has generated some controversy already (update: meant to link to this critical Buzzfeed piece), in part because the site is far from the liberal leanings of the HuffPo mothership, but also because of its pro-Islamist leanings. One of the key people behind HuffPo Arabi is Wadah Khanfar, a former director-general of al-Jazeera known for his support of the Muslim Brotherhood trend. The site has predictably taken the kind of positions generally associated with the Qatari-funded media (i. e. anti-Assad, anti-Sisi, pro-Erdogan, etc.)
Among one of its early coups is to secure an interview with the imprisoned leader of the April 6 movement, Ahmed Maher, sentenced to prison last year for violating the draconian protest law approved by interim Egyptian President Adly Mansour and enforced with gusto under President Abdelfattah al-Sisi. The interview does show some criticism of the Brotherhood, even if most of the vitriol is reserved for Sisi, and paints an alarming picture of the radicalization taking place in Egypt's over-flowing prisons.
We bring you this translation through our friends over at Industry Arabic – we heartily recommend them for any Arabic translation job big or small. Check out their website to get a quote for your needs.Read More
- Number of Syrian Refugees Climbs to More Than 4 Million
- Quick Thoughts: Nathan Thrall on the Gaza Strip One Year After Israel’s Operation Protective Edge
- Facts and footballers | Inanities
Nice vignette of Egyptian media vulgarity
- Egypt Wants To Jail Journalists For Not Falling In Line. It's Been Trained By A US Nonprofit.
- Exclusif. Forces armées/ Plusieurs changements au DRS et mécontentement du général Toufik
Exclusif. Plusieurs changements au sein du DRS/Et le général Toufik boycotte la remise de la médaille de Bravoure
- A Detailed Look at Hacking Team's Emails About Its Repressive Clients - The Intercept
- Small Arms Survey - 2015 YB released
"Business as usual for small arms exports to ‘Arab Spring’ states"
- Egypt anti-terror bill speeds trials, tightens hand on media
This ought to end terrorism in Sinai
- Egypt Warns Journalists Over Coverage of Militant Attacks
Sisi compares report to a “fourth generation of warfare, and even fifth.”
- Egypt’s Coming Chaos Steve Cook
- Egypt's Brotherhood calls for uprising after killings
It has been calling for an uprising for a while, mind.
- Assault in Sheikh Zuweid: A turning point in Egypt's fight against terrorism
- Widespread Graft Benefited Tunisian Leader’s Family, Study Says - NYT
- BREAKING: Egypt's top prosecutor killed in bomb attack
- In Morocco, It’s Jennifer Lopez Versus Jihad
Worst article I've read on Morocco in a long time. Full of errors and clichés. Reporter was flown to Morocco by PR firm.
- Alexandria's iftar event breaks world record despite the mayhem
"Scuffles broke out among attendees of the event, who smashed chairs and tables and threw them at each other."
- Senussi “claims” US offered pardon and job in new government
Claims that in 2011 US offered to drop ICC charges (improbable...)
- ‘He’s Jesus Christ’
Kristof on the Nuba Mountains conflict.
- The Massacre of Druze Villagers in Qalb Lawza, Idlib Province
By "moderate jihadi" Jubha an-Nusra
“Tell me, respectable president Sisi, why you didn’t secure the checkpoints when you knew they were targeted?” the bitter father of one of the 17 (according to the military) or 70 (according to medical sources) soldiers, who were killed in last week’s coordinated North Sinai attacks, tried to ask the camera as the CBC reporter next to him continued to talk over him.
CBC was not the only channel to choose the wrong guest in last week’s mess. Dream TV’s Wael el-Ebrashy looked regretful in his stony silence as he heard former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi say that the state’s oppression (of activists and the MB) breeds terrorism.
Politely critical voices like Sabahi’s, however, were lost in a sea of calls for revenge and conspiracies theories, with the double chin of former deputy head of the Supreme Constitutional Court Tahani el-Gabali and the wagging finger of Sada el-Balad host Ahmed Moussa taking the lead.
The former demanded that all human rights activists be silent forever and that the Egyptian government stop considering the condemnation of the international community when cracking down on its opponents (implying they ever did), while the latter all but ordered judge Nagy Shehata to find a way to legally kill deposed president Mohamed Morsi and senior members of the Brotherhood in their cells.
“It is very simple,” Shehata replied with confidence, being the reliable source that he is on the subject of killing Brothers. (Shehata has handed down over 500 death sentences to MBs.) Transfer their cases to the State Security Criminal Court, he said, so that there can be no appeals.
Impressively efficient, the fuming Moussa then showed a picture of a man he said was a former military officer, whom he said was the behind the assassination without shedding light on how he happened across this information so quickly. If it is true, shouldn’t the government make some kind of announcement and if it isn’t, shouldn’t the patriotic Moussa know better than to spread false information?
Also giving legal advice on TV lask week was el-Gabali, who told el-Ebrashy that anyone who is happy or celebrates the death of Barakat is a partner of the terrorists and should be arrested. “Don’t you want the rule of law? This is the rule of law,” she said.
- A terrible blow, but Tunisia will not buckle
- Tunisia attack: multiple deaths at Sousse beach resort
- Scott Ritter · ‘We ain’t found shit’ · LRB 2 July 2015
On why Iran shouldn’t accept ‘no notice’ inspections of its nuclear sites
- Patrick Cockburn · Why join Islamic State? · LRB 2 July 2015
On Kurdish advances on Tal Abyad, IS and Turkey
- Political TV talk shows a victim of Egypt’s crackdown on dissent — FT
- Stop Scaremongering About ISIL in Libya | Al Jazeera America
- Why We Need al-Qaeda by Ahmed Rashid | NYRblog
- A Partnership with China to Avoid World War by George Soros | The New York Review of Books
- The west opens up to Egypt’s President Sisi - FT
This gets the politics right and the economics wrong - Egypt has not "graduated from handouts" and not that many foreign companies are keen to invest.
- How leaked Saudi documents might really matter
By Marc Lynch
- Germany frees al-Jazeera reporter Ahmed Mansour
Instead of extraditing him to Egypt as it had hoped
- Leaks allege assassination plot hatched by Egypt and Sudan | Middle East Eye
- How security forces keep critics quiet in 'progressive' UAE
Our own Nour Youssef has a piece in the Guardian about the Egyptian media, the role it has played in the events of recent years, and the complicated system by which it stays in alignment with regime interests. It has interviews with a who's-who of prominent TV hosts and is chock-full of incredible quotes.
“I would say anything the military tells me to say out of duty and respect for the institution,” says Ahmed Moussa, one of the most popular TV presenters inEgypt.
Moussa has no qualms admitting on air his relationship with the authorities – and his vocation to serve them. He claims he would also extend the same courtesy to the police, he said but he “might stop and think a little first”.
Sharing Moussa’s sense of duty towards the military is the veteran talk show host Mahmoud Saad, from Al-Nahar TV. “The military should never, ever, ever be covered,” he says, shaking his head. “You have to let them decide what to say and when to say it. You don’t know what will hurt national security.”
But it’s also the power to influence people that appeals to him, he says. “It’s a beautiful feeling knowing that when you swing right,” he says as he swivels his upper body right, “the people will swing right. “And when you swing left,” he goes on, swivelling in the opposite direction “the people will swing left.”
- How security forces keep critics quiet in 'progressive' UAE
One tactic: kidnappings
- The Moral Conflict of Living and Working in Qatar
Interesting discussion of the personal pros and the ethical cons
- Water In Crisis - Spotlight Middle East
Apparently desalination is not the answer
- The Rhetoric of Egyptian Reaction
A new post by Baheyya
- Smuggling books across the border: PalFest 2015
Leila Abdelrazaq puts the experience into drawings
- 'One Thousand and One Nights won’t be any less impressive than Hollywood movies': Nicole Saba
Ahram Online on what may be the Ramadan serial of the year
- Why Obama’s Plan to Send Advisers to Iraq Will Fail - The New York Times
Compare to what Iran's "advisers" do in Iraq...
- Clans du pouvoir : les masques sont tombés
Algerian Kremlinology - the comments are out there.
- U.S. Embracing a New Approach on Battling ISIS in Iraq - NYT
- Israeli exonerates itself over killing of Gaza boys on beach
- A Room Of Their Own: Makeshift Schools Help Syrian Students
- Egyptian Muslim Brothers launch “fierce” attack on Tunisia’s Ennadha, Ghannouchi
- The Guardian view on the flogging of Raif Badawi: Saudi Arabia is in the dock | The Guardian
- Egypt says terror attack foiled at temple in tourist city of Luxor | The Guardian
- Five takeaways from the Turkish election
- One Egyptian novelist takes another to task for accepting $60,000 Qatari literary prize
- Mysterious Disappearances of Egyptian Youth Continues
Egypt more and more resembles Pinochet's Chile
- On being transgender in Egypt
- How Teaching in English Divides the Arab World - Ursula on a growing trend at universities in the middle east
The number one topic of conversation in Morocco in the last few weeks has been the film Much Loved, by director Nabil Ayouch. The film tells the story of prostitutes in Marrakesh; it premiered at Cannes and some scenes were leaked -- and widely viewed -- online. These include a scene featuring a gay prostitute, rich Gulf clients who mock the Palestinians as a bunch of parasites, some explicit dancing, and some more explicit dialogue (I believe the words the women speak are the most shocking element in fact).
Judging from the snippets I've seen, the movie's style is naturalistic, almost documentary; the dialogue is reportedly based on research the director and lead actress carried out with sex workers.
Before the director even presented his official request to screen the movie in Morocco, it was banned here, for being "une atteinte a l'image du Maroc," ("an insult to Morocco's image"). The lead actress has received death threats.
The director's protestations of shock sound hollow to me; you don't screen a movie with this style and subject at Cannes and expect no blowback back home. But of course the ban is ridiculous. Those who support the director -- like the editorialists of the liberal magazine Tel Quel -- have pointed out that as usual decision-makers and public opinion are much more concerned with the representation of social problems than with the problems themselves (an attitude that is frequently found in the Arab world). There is a significant amount of prostitution in Morocco, and Moroccan women have a reputation of being both terribly attractive and immoral in other more conservative Arab countries (whose men come here to take advantage of these qualities). But as Omar Saghi writes in Tel Quel, Moroccan women are considered "loose" only by the standards of Gulf Arabs, and why should they interiorize these views? He writes that "Egypt, close to the Gulf, has long paid dearly for this comparison: after having veiled its women, decreased salaried female employment, and lowered a lead cloak on its beaches, Egypt remains, for the Gulf, a pagan country with shameless women who speak too loud and have the regrettable tendency to go out in public. To fix the problem of prostitution in Morocco, we should abandon an apocalyptic vision and come back to our senses: end the prostitution of minors, punish pimps and trafficking networks, spread information about health hazards...As far as defending the image of Moroccan women, let's stick to two things: keep demagogues out of this, and stop comparing ourselves to Yemenis."
I have a new piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education about the spread of English at universities in the middle east. This is a world-wide phenomenon, and the main reason for it is that working in English helps academics access the latest research and to publish (because most journals are in English). It also often helps students land better jobs after graduation. And there are other more ambiguous gains to English: access to Western culture generally, a different and often more open teaching style (since more professors might be foreign), and a general aura of "modernization."
I reported in Qatar, Egypt and Morocco, and there are some big variations -- in the Gulf the concerns regarding English are tied up with anxieties about identity, being a minority in one's own country and the pace of change. In Egypt English has theoretically been part of the curriculum and a language of instruction for decades but the real problem is the abysmal quality of education, growing privatizations, and the gap between rich and poor (which foreign language universities and programs can exacerbate). In Morocco there is a growing interest in introducing English -- something that is somewhat surprising given that the country is already dealing with a very complicated post-colonial linguistic tangle, with the educational system divided between Arabic and French and with the place of darija (the local dialect) and Berber languages (recently recognized) to be ascertained. In all countries the feelings about languages taught and used at schools are of course passionate, because they are feelings about identity and the future opportunities of one's children.
The piece is behind the paywall. For those interested (in this and other coverage of scholarship, ideas, academia, including my own reporting on the Arab world and the debate over rules on sexual conduct, feminism and freedom of speech on campus triggered by this essay), think about subscribing.
I had the pleasure of seeing the movie Timbuktu recently at the Cinematheque of Tangier (a beautifully restored old movie theater). It's not to be missed. A film full of grace and depth. I wrote about it for the LRB blog:
In his film Timbuktu, Abderrahman Sissiko shows a traditional Muslim society overrun by outsiders claiming they have the God-given authority to tell everyone what to do. The film is inspired by the 2012 takeover of much of Northern Mali by jihadist and other rebel groups. It is both specific to its setting and raises questions about struggles playing out across the Muslim world. I can’t think of another creative work that takes such an imaginative, subtle, assured look at Islamist militancy and its effects.
The landscape that Sissiko films, dramatic and simple as a stage, is naturally abstract: a lake with perfectly flat shores; a hillside of dunes with a few tents and a few trees; a city of narrow sandy lanes and earth-colored rooftops (Oualata in Mauritania, standing in for Timbuktu).
At first the masked outsiders with their flags and announcements seem bumbling and almost ridiculous, actors playing their part with fragile confidence. A veteran jihadi tries and fails to coach a young member into recording a convincing recruitment video. Fighters track forbidden music floating over the rooftops, only to have to call their superiors for instructions, at a loss when they realise the criminals are singing the praises of the Prophet.
The Arabist's editors have been on the move lately, traveling and showing visiting friends around Morocco. Hence, a few pictures and a very late, large set of links.
- The Algerian Exception by Kamel Daoud - NYT
- Battle to write constitution for a Libya at war with itself - FT
- Missed this interview with Tarhouni
- Egypt: 2,600 Killed After Ouster of Islamist President
- Entangled | The Economist
America and the the Middle East.
- Syria’s Sunnis and the Regime’s Resilience | Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
On Sunni support for Assad.
- Yemeni officials under ex-president Saleh 'worked with al-Qaeda' | Middle East Eye
- CIA duped.
- Matariyya, Egypt's New Theater of Dissent | MERIP
- Good reporting by Amira Howeidy
- Saudi Arabia Shoots Down Missile Fired From Yemen - NYT
- Surprising Saudi Rises as a Prince Among Princes - NYT
On Muhammad bin Salman
- Why Jihadists Write Poetry - The New Yorker
- The Administration Should Not Meet With the Muslim Brotherhood in Washington - WINEP
Because if you ignore it all will be well?
- Mohamed Morsi is no Nelson Mandela
@belalfadl on MB: "All they have left now is empty threats of revenge against everyone, if their deluded fantasy of returning to power ever comes true"
- Illegally detained activists summoned by prosecutor amid wave of forced disappearances | Mada Masr
- Orwellian Times in Egypt: A Conversation with Emad Shahin - YouTube
- Saudi Arabia's Widening War - Gary Sick - POLITICO Magazine
- Rethinking nations in the Middle East - The Washington Post
POMEPS collection of essays on nationalism.
- Defense Minister exempts 574 military installations from real estate tax | Egypt Independent
- Moroccan Film About Prostitution Creates Uproar - NYT
- Congress seeks to lift last restrictions on aid to Egypt - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East
No longer requires HR progress, free elex.
- New Left Project | The End of Empire?: Violence and US Hegemony in the Middle East
Gilbert Achcar on Kaplan's plea for a more assertive US imperialism in the Middle East
- A League of His Own | Bloomberg Business
Great profile of Sepp Blatter, much mention of Arab money in FIFA.
- From Belgium to ISIS
Great, strange, sad story of one wannabe jihadi
- Partition en vue d’une succession contrôlée - Actualité - El Watan
- U.S. citizen Mohamed Soltan freed from Egyptian prison
After such an ordeal
- Opening the black box of Egypt's slush funds | The Angaza File
- Egypt's military establishes multi-industry company - Ahram
- Egypt's new justice minister called for hardline Sharia - Telegraph
And considers citizens "slaves".
- Libyan Prime Minister Survives Assassination Attempt Amid Protests - NYT
Just as likely Haftar as it is Fajr Libya
- It’s Time to Bring Imperialism Back to the Middle East | Foreign Policy
Robert Kaplan, being a silly neocon.
- Maybe He Found Gaddafi's Billions. Or Maybe It’s All a Giant Scam
Bizzarre con seems to have worked in Washington
- “Cairo," cityscapes by cartoonist Mohamed Wahba Elshenawy
I want this.
- Islamic State "institutionalizes sexual violence" and sexual slavery
Interview with head of UN sex crime investigators
- Obama to the Arabs: We don’t care - Al Arabiya
- Obama Upgrades Tunisia’s Status as a U.S. Ally - NYT
- الدولة ترد على تحركات شفيق «المريبة»: إنسى - بوابة الشروق
Sisi regime tells Shafiq to fuggedaboutit.
- Egypt Nile water pollution on the rise - Al-Monitor
- The challenged kingdom | The Economist
- World's biggest hotel to open in Mecca
Saudis go on desecrating holy city with crassness
- Egypt’s cyber crime bill
It's open season on all forms of online expression
- Egypt: Rape and sexual violence perpetrated by security forces 'surges' under el-Sisi's regime
But nobody wants to know
- Egypt Tax Delay Means Rich Pay Less to Cut Deficit: IMF
- Clinton Friend’s Memos on Libya Draw Scrutiny to Politics and Business - NYT
- Elite Iraqi units abandon Ramadi in biggest Islamic State win since Mosul
- Meet the director of the BuSSy Project, Egypt's answer to the Vagina Monologues
Good interview with Sondos Shabayek
- Egyptian court labels Ultra soccer fans as terrorists
Why not, who's next?
The latest mass death sentence handed down in Egypt received a fair amount of press. (Enough to incense Egypt's Foreign Ministry, which has released its usual ridiculous statement sniffily calling for the respect of non-existent "international conventions" not to ever question the ruling of any judge anywhere).
I wrote about mass sentences and the role of the Egyptian judiciary over a year ago. Since then the sentences have continued apace. The only reason this one has received particular attention, in fact, is because the convicted included former president Mohamed Morsi. Those sentenced to death also include Freedom and Justice Party spokeswoman Sondos Asem and Professor Emad Shahin who having fled the country is currently teaching at Georgetown. The Atlantic Council's EgyptSource blog has an excellent round up of the cases, charges, and reactions here.
As I've written before, I can think of few things more destructive to a social peace than the belief that there is no possible recourse to justice. All judicial systems are imperfect, but citizens must at least harbor the hope, the delusion even, that there are avenues for redress.Read More