Great video obit by the NYT.
- US academic denied entry to Egypt told she was a 'problem for national security' | Middle East Eye
She was researching Bollywood.
- Fiji Pulls Some Peacekeepers From Egypt Amid Security Fears - ABC News
After recent mortar strikes on MFO.
- Egypt Muslims attack Christian woman, houses after affair rumor | Reuters
- Not Just Tech: Entrepreneurship in the Middle East - The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy
- How big were the changes Tunisia’s Ennahda party just made at its national congress? - The Washington Post
- French Journalist Rémy Pigaglio Barred From Egypt - WSJ
- A Window Into the West Bank’s ‘Wildest, Most Violent’ Areas - The New York Times
- Erdogan’s march to absolute power has Berlin’s blessing - FT
- Rached Ghannouchi : « Il n’y a plus de justification à l’islam politique en Tunisie »
Ahead of the Nahda Congress this weekend
- Egypt’s media bill may bring demise of small, online outlets - The Washington Post
- Steel tycoon acquires ONtv from Sawiris, sparking fears for future of Egyptian TV | Mada Masr
ONtv comes under intelligence control - note Yasser Selim involvement.
- The Strange, Unending Limbo of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak - The New York Times
- Amid Crackdown, Egypt Sentences 152 People To Prison For Protesting : NPR
Scrap that protest law.
- Engineers and Jihadists: The Curious Connection
Ursula on an interesting new study of education and extremism
- Beirut Upstarts Gain Traction in Lebanon’s Political Quagmire - NYT
- Egypt to Pay Families of 3 Mexican Tourists Killed by Military - NYT
$140,000 per victim but "no admission of guilt"
- Who becomes a terrorist, and why? - The Washington Post
An overview of the Kepel vs Roy debate.
Today is an international blogging day on behalf of imprisoned Egyptian writer Ahmed Naji, who has unfortunately become the latest poster child for the ruthless, petty and seemingly endless crackdown on freedom of expression in Egypt. Jailed on charges of offending public morals for a few scenes featuring drugs and sex in his novel "The Use of Life," Naji has just received the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award.
The blog Arabic Literature in English is the place to start to read abut Naji's case and the solidarity efforts on his behalf. I interviewed him several times for an article on writers in Cairo published in The Nation a few months back and was as shocked as everyone else by his conviction.
Here is a link to the offending chapter -- simply a rather charming description of a weekend spent partying with friends and lovers, in that most difficult of cities, Cairo -- in Arabic. There are also excellent English and French translations available, and I strongly recommend reading them.
We have let the blog lie fallow a little for the past month or two. Maalesh, more to come soon.
I just like the name of this hijab fashion tumblr.
- The Only Way to Solve Iraq’s Political Crisis - The New York Times
- In the Eye of the Storm: Algeria’s South and its Sahelian Borders - Carnegie
- Sinai insurgency: An enduring risk - Al Jazeera English
- On the avant-guarde Moroccan magazine Souffles
Banned 50 years ago as a threat to the state
- Giulio, the islands and national security | Mada Masr
Great piece by Khaled Fahmy.
- Egypt's Military Regime Grows More Brutal Every Day: Copts Likely To Find Persecution, Not Protection, Ahead - Forbes
- Egypt Extends Campaign Against Dissent to Turtle Bay | Foreign Policy
- Egypt's Hollowed-Out Society - The New York Times
- Sanders slams Clinton for ignoring Palestinians' needs and thinking Netanyahu is 'right all the time'
- Social sciences, most likely to expose society's blind spots, lacking at Arab universities
- This Saudi dance is all the rage in Arab world, but it could get you arrested
More war on youth
- Italian newspaper tribute to Regeni and all of Egypt's disappeared
- Israeli backing for PEN literary festival rejected in angry letter by authors
- The speech Bernie Sanders planned to give to AIPAC
- La Guerre Froide Des “Islamologues”
Kepel v. Roy.
- The Hypnotic Clamor of Morocco by Adam Shatz | The New York Review of Books
Paul Bowles' ethnomusical collection issued
- Jordan: How Close to Danger? by Joost Hiltermann | The New York Review of Books
- Online Media Expands, Digital Divide Persists
On interesting media surveys from Northwestern Qatar
- Egypt: Unprecedented crackdown on NGOs
- Tunisian Artist eL Seed Paints Manshiyat Naser With Stunning Graffiti
- This Is Why Libya Finally Cares About Migrant Smuggling - BuzzFeed News
- Kaelen Wilson-Goldie on Tamer El-Said’s In the Last Days of the City
Now I'd really like to see this
- Anatomy of an election | Mada Masr
Another epic Hossam Bahgat article on the manufacture of the "For the love of Egypt" party list.
- Moroccans protest over U.N. Ban Ki-moon's West Sahara position
- Where’s My Mercedes? Egypt’s Financial Crisis Hits the Rich - The New York Times
Declan Walsh's best piece since he's arrived in Cairo.
- Court’s Reasoning in #AhmedNaji’s Prison Sentence
Read it and weep
- Adam Shatz on "The Daoud Affair"
The Algerian writer's commentaries on the the Arab world's "sexual misery"
- Competing goals make Saudi oil policy hard to predict — FT
- Egypt Running on Empty
Great piece by Josh Stacher in MERIP
- 5 Badass Photos From Syria
Protests in cities that have been bombed and besieged
- Berbers in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains
Some beautiful images
- Restoring the world’s oldest library
- No Excuse for Domestic Violence in Morocco | Human Rights Watch
Link'em if you got'em.
- 1.5 Million May Die if Mosul Dam Fails
- Because Iraq doesn't have enough problems.
- Kamel Daoud : Mes petites guerres de libération | | 213 Info
Daoud puts down his pen, for now.
- Living-Room Democracy - The New Yorker
Peter Hessler on elections in Upper Egypt, insightful as always.
- Once I Saw Light in Iran. Now It’s Mostly Shadows. - NYT
- Hamas Commander, Accused of Theft and Gay Sex, Is Killed by His Own - NYT
- ‘Engineers of Jihad: The Curious Connection between Violent Extremism and Education’, by Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog — FT
- « Dans l’euphorie de la révolution, les blessures libyennes ont été sous-estimées »
Interview with Virgine Collombier
- Obama's Most Dangerous Legacy by David Cole | The New York Review of Books
- Photography: Leila Alaoui pointed her lens at those unseen | The Economist
- Keeping it in the family | The Economist
Too much first-cousin marriage in Arab world
- US Democrats criticise Terrorism Designation Bill to ban the Muslim Brotherhood
- H. R. 3892 [PDF]
U.S. bill to designate Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.
- ‘Engineers of Jihad: The Curious Connection between Violent Extremism and Education’, by Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog - FT.com
- The city where war is the best employer: life in liberated Aden | Cities | The Guardian
- Egypt president calls for new law to hold police accountable - The Washington Post
- L’Arabie saoudite veut cesser de financer l’armée libanaise, et compromet un contrat avec la France
I have a long piece in The Nation about writing and freedom of expression in Egypt these days, the role of the country's intellectuals and the regime's attitude to public space, culture and young people. Needless to say it is not an upbeat read (although I am always impressed when I go back to Cairo by folks' wits and guts). I started reporting it last December -- in the meantime, the writer Ahmed Naji, who was on trial for obscenity, was acquitted in his first trial and then handed a 2-year sentence in a retrial. It is a ridiculous, unprecedentedly harsh sentence for a novelist.
Here's an excerpt:
Naji’s novel is a surreal tale of Cairo’s future obliteration and features illustrations by the cartoonist Ayman al-Zurqani. The narrator, speaking from the future, reminisces about the impossible city he lived in as a young man. In the chapter that landed Naji in court, the narrator recounts staying up all night smoking hashish and drinking with his friends; the next day, he meets his lover for brunch and mid-afternoon sex. Then two female friends pick him up and they drive through streets empty of the usual traffic, to drink a beer at sunset on cliffs overlooking the city:
Mona’s wearing a long skirt of some light fabric. I stick my head between the seats and see she’s bunched up her skirt in her lap and is rolling a joint. I’m distracted by the glow of her knees, and Samira’s turning up the music. Jimi Hendrix’s guitar shrieks like a hen laying its first egg. I open the window as we pass over the Azhar Bridge, and imagine I catch a whiff of cumin, pepper and spices. As we exit the bridge and enter the Husayn district, I smell some burnt coffee beans that, without being an expert, I can tell are of poor quality. The scent fills my nostrils. Among the tombs in the City of the Dead, the smell of liver fried in battery acid lingers like a rain cloud.
In describing the sex scene between the narrator and his lover, Naji uses the Arabic words for “cock” and “pussy.” In August of 2015, a middle-aged man from Cairo’s Bulaq neighborhood filed a claim against Naji. In his complaint, Hany Salah Tawfiq spun a lively tale himself, one designed to appeal to the most paternalistic and moralistic impulses of Egypt’s judicial system. He claimed that reading the story after his indignant wife pointed it out to him, and before his innocent daughters could be exposed to it, caused him such consternation that “his heartbeat fluctuated and his blood pressure dropped.” The prosecutor who took the case to trial that November seemed to treat the novel as a factual description of Naji’s own immoral behavior. To restrained titters from the author’s friends in the audience, the prosecutor delivered a long indictment tinged with religious rhetoric and mixed metaphors on the poisonous effect of such filth.
The prosecutor spoke entirely in fusha. Traditionally, there has been a divide between fusha—formal Arabic—and amiya, colloquial Arabic. Although they’re derived from the same sources, the first is closer to the Arabic of the Koran; different forms of it are used in religious and official discourse, the media, and literature. Naguib Mahfouz, Egypt’s 1988 Nobel laureate, wrote his dialogues in fusha even though amiya is what everyone actually speaks. Ahmed Naji is part of a generation of younger Egyptian writers whose work increasingly includes dialect, allusions to pop culture, profanity, and the funny neologisms created by the Arabicization of foreign words. The spread of this new, young, colloquial, “vulgar” Arabic is a democratic phenomenon linked, in part, to the online world, where people tend to write as they speak. Using slang is a way to puncture the disingenuousness of official discourse. The use of profanity can also be deeply political. For many of the online activists writing in the years before Mubarak fell, it was a purposeful choice to insult his regime in the foulest terms possible—to deny figures of authority the linguistic deference that, no matter how unpopular they may be, they expect to be shown in public forums.
Naji argues that the terms he uses for the male and female anatomy not only can be heard on every street corner in Cairo, but also appear in classical Arabic literature. It was only in the 19th century, he says, that “middle-class Egyptian intellectuals,” fresh from visits to Victorian England, popularized the euphemisms that became common in literature. Nasser Amin, Naji’s lawyer, argued the point in his trial, presenting the judge with books of classical Arabic literature and Islamic exegesis containing the vulgar terms in question.
You can read the rest here.
Your every-once-in-a-while, small batch, artisanal, handcrafted link dump. OK, this time it's meager returns, we've been distracted and have neglected this a bit.
- Egypt: Order to Shut Clinic for Torture Victims | Human Rights Watch
Nadeem Center, one of the best.
- Egypt orders arrest of Facebook administrator after unfaithful wives comments | Reuters
- Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Former U.N. Secretary General, Dies at 93 - The New York Times
- New Report of U.S.-Made Cluster Bomb Use by Saudis in Yemen - The New York Times
- A list of interesting new books (in English and Arabic) from the Cairo Book Fair
- Harried by police, Egypt's Brotherhood torn by divisions
@SameralAtrush with some rare MB quotes inside Egypt
- As Syria Devolves Further, Allies Criticize American Policy - The New York Times
- The Right Way to Intervene Against ISIS in Libya | Foreign Affairs
Wehrey and Lacher
- On Giulio Regeni and the cost of doing business in Egypt
- Khayam Turki : « Il existe un racisme social et régional en Tunisie »
Excellent interview with former Ettakatol leader
- En Egypte, fin de l’utopie pour les Frères musulmans
Good long piece.
- The one thing in Saudi Arabia that works well is under threat
Steffen Hertog on ARAMCO
- Syrie : dans l’univers fracassé de la Ghouta, la vie s’est organisée
- In Egypt, second life for independent trade unions
Giulio Regeni's last article
- Tunisia’s Periphery Rises Up Again
- To End Syria’s War, Help Assad’s Officers Defect - NYT
Seems a bit late.
- Al Jazeera Journo Mohamed Fahmy’s Egypt Hell Memoir ‘The Marriott Cell’ Being Developed Into Feature Film | Variety
I just got back from another quick visit to Cairo, where I visited and wrote about the annual book fair for Al Fanar:
Unlike the well-known Frankfurt Book Fair, the Cairo fair is not a networking event for publishers but rather an opportunity for individuals and institutions to find new books at the best prices. Many buyers are students, professors and university administrators stocking up on textbooks and reference books. At the outlet of the Egyptian Book Organization, a government-owned publisher that releases deeply discounted no-frills editions of hundreds of classics and works of history, sociology and literary analysis, the staff can barely keep the shelves stocked. This year the Egyptian Ministry of Social Solidarity has also introduced an initiative to allow less well-off Egyptian families to use their food-subsidy cards to buy some books at reductions of 90 percent off the usual prices.
For many, the fair is also an opportunity for an inexpensive, pleasant outing. By the late afternoon, the streets surrounding the fairgrounds in the suburb of Nasr City are packed with traffic, and families carrying food are coming in to picnic on the grass between the book stalls and listen to free evening concerts.
The theme of the fair this year is “Culture on the Front Lines”—the implied front lines being those of the country’s ongoing crackdown on the ousted and outlawed Islamist party the Muslim Brotherhood, and of the military conflict with terrorist groups taking place largely in the Sinai peninsula.
The fair also commemorates Egyptian writer Gamal El Ghitany, who passed away in 2015. Collections of El Ghitany’s works—including acclaimed novels such as Zayni Barakat, which is set in medieval Cairo and based on extensive archival research by the author—are some of the fair’s new releases.
The article also covers the many, seemingly daily, violations of freedom of expression that are taking place at the same time as events as these. One of the latest was the detention of cartoonist Islam Gawish -- although that allowed many more of us to discover his work.
I've just published a review in The Nation of the first two volumes of French-Syrian cartoonist Riad Sattouf's The Arab of the Future (volume 1 is out in English). Sattouf grew up in Ghaddafi's Libya and above all in Hafez Al Assad's Syria and has penned a disturbing, affecting and darkly funny childhood memoir.
It’s 1983, and a family has landed at the Damascus airport. The father, who has avoided military service, bribes his way into the country. Accompanying him are his foreign wife and small blond son. Outside the airport, Syria assails them. A scrum of screaming cab drivers fights over the startled new arrivals. Cabbies abandon the brawl and compose themselves on the sidelines, combing their hair and smoking cigarettes, until the last one left shouting—and close to keeling over from his exertions—hustles the family into his taxi. He ashes his cigarettes through the moving vehicle’s missing floorboard.
This scene of homecoming and culture shock falls about halfway through the first volume of The Arab of the Future, a graphic memoir by the French-Syrian cartoonist Riad Sattouf. The book delivers a vision of childhood that is both extreme and familiar: its terrors and painful revelations, the utter mystery and absolute power of adults, the sensory details that lodge forever in the memory. But Sattouf’s vision is also of the unusual childhood he lived in Moammar El-Gadhafi’s Libya and Hafez al-Assad’s Syria, as well as in the shadow of his father and his delusions. The Arab of the Future blends a rueful backward glance at the early days of two dictatorships that finally imploded in the Arab Spring and an intimate indictment of the way boys were taught to be men.
Sattouf, who is 37 and lives in Paris, has directed two movies and written dozens of graphic novels, many of them focused on adolescence and sexual losers (one is called Virgin’s Manual, another No Sex in New York). Other work is drawn from life: For one piece, he spent 15 days in an elite French high school. Between 2004 and 2014, Sattouf contributed a weekly comic called “The Secret Life of Youth” to the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Based on scraps of life seen and heard on the streets and subways, it was preoccupied, like much of Sattouf’s work, with observing those moments of cruelty, violence, or strangeness that happen in plain sight but are generally passed over in silence, purposely ignored.
- How to rescue Egypt - The Washington Post
Amr Hamzawy and Michael McFaul
- Saudi Arabia and UAE rethink their relationship with Egypt
- More Is Needed to Beat ISIS, Pentagon Officials Conclude - NYT
Capt. Obvious just promoted at Pentagon.
- Did the Arab uprising destroy the Muslim Brotherhood? - The Washington Post
Another good piece by Steven Brooke.
- Contrary to popular opinion, Egypt’s transition wasn’t always doomed to fail - The Washington Post
Very much agree with Michael Hanna here.
- [TIMELINE] Morocco: Political Repression in the Era of Social Media · Global Voices
- China’s Stance on East Jerusalem | MERIP
Interesting background on China's Arab policy.
- Vice Asked Refugees in Denmark to Show Their Most Valuable Possessions
Shame on Denmark
- The Future of the Arab
Ursula on the graphic novels of Riad Sattouf
Bidoun, a ground-breaking magazine about the arts and culture of the middle east -- and much more -- is celebrating its tenth anniversary by making available a huge digital archive. (Issandr and I have contributed several reviews articles and interviews over the years). You can browse by issues, articles or authors. Under "Collections" you can see specially curated tours of the archive by the likes of Etel Adnan, Lynne Tillman, Orhan Pamuk and Hans Ulrich Obrist.
In addition to this week's In Translation article, today has been the day of "five five years since..." articles. Here's a few out today:
- Five Years Since Tahrir Square: Egypt's Revolution Behind Bars - The Atlantic
- Egypt Adrift Five Years After The Uprising (PDF)
- Unmet Needs, Tenuous Stability - The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy
- The Egyptian revolution: What went wrong? - Al Jazeera English
- “This Land is their Land”: Egypt’s Military and the Economy
(If you're wondering why the title, it's a reference to Private Eye's Colemanballs.)
The Egyptian authorities were so worried about the anniversary of the uprising against Hosni Mubarak that they reportedly inspected hundreds of apartments Downtown and forced young people to show their social media accounts. They also shut down many cultural venues that are gathering places (being young, being online, and hanging out Downtown are now explicitly grounds for suspicion).
A lot of media is publishing eulogies of the 2011 Egyptians uprising, asking those who supported it to reflect on its disappointing denouement. It can be painful and a bit frustrating to read these pieces (I think media professionals themselves -- and I include myself -- as well as pundits and Western politicians, could just as well be asked what they got "terribly wrong"). That said we have one of our one, translated as usually by the professional team of Industry Arabic.
Rabab El Mahdi is a professor of political science at the American University in Cairo. She was also an active participant in post-2011 politics, notably when she acted as an advisor to the presidential campaign of moderate Islamist Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh (El Mahdi herself is a staunch leftist). This piece takes a brooders view at the current moment of crisis, not just in the middle east but in the world's economic and political systems.Read More