- Gone Girl: An Interview With An American In ISIS
And her distraught family
- Deport me!
Another post that must be read on Paper Bird
- Secret Files Reveal the Structure of Islamic State
And how much it borrows from Saddam's security services
- Islamic State leadership in Libya | TheMagrebiNote
- A Saudi war going badly wrong | Middle East Eye
- Mali: On the CMA’s Refusal to Sign the Algiers Accord
For the last few weeks – not for a lack of more serious things to talk about – the Egyptian media has fixated on two different aspects of the longstanding culture wars the country has fought over religion and public life. One is the brouhaha caused by TV personality Islam al-Beheiri and his frontal attack on al-Azhar for needing reform; the other is the lament by the writer Cherif Choubashi that Egyptian women should take off their veils. These type of storms in teacups have been standard for decades, they used to be a favorite issue for the Muslim Brotherhood to champion and embarrass the government under Mubarak. But what now that the Brotherhood is exiled and underground, and that current strongman Sisi is himself issuing calls for religious reform?
In the piece below, former presidential candidate, pre-2011 Brotherhood leader and head of the Strong Egypt party Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh gives a stab at an answer, from what we would venture to say is a somewhat post-Islamist perspective. Translation from the original Arabic is provided, as always, by the stupendous team at Industry Arabic. Please give a go for your translation needs, you won't be sorry.Read More
There has been an odd meme spreading around since the tragic deaths of hundreds of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean over the last week. The idea, widely spread by the press and politicians, is that Libya is the source of all these problems. For example, in Politico:
One EU migration official spelled out just what would be needed to stop the flood of people seeking refuge in Europe.
“You have to stabilize the situation in the countries of origin,” she said. That means figuring out a way to return order to Libya, which has descended into civil war and chaos following the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi’s dictatorship in 2011. That was the result of a NATO bombing campaign led by EU countries.
Libya is not the country of origin or the source of the migration, for the most part. It is a largely a transit country, and if you look at the country of origin of migrants you will see that many of them are not just economic migrants. Many, perhaps most, appear to be fleeing conflict zones or repressive regimes – Syria, Gaza, Somalia, Nigeria, Eritrea (where many migrants say they are escaping military service). So surely EU officials should be thinking about addressing the conflicts themselves, or at least the humanitarian crisis they engender? This seems to be particularly the case in Syria, since the humanitarian response (with chronic recurrent shortfalls in funding for refugee camps) has been largely inadequate.Read More
For three years, film-maker Kim Beamish hung out with the tent-makers in the Khaimiya district of Cairo. Three turbulent years, spanning the aftermath of the uprising against President Hosni Mubarak, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and the election of Mohamed Morsi, and the protests and coup that led to the presidency of military leader Abdel Fattah El Sisi. In Beamish' film, The Tentmakers of Cairo, all of this unfolds in the background -- most often, on a TV screen. Although their contempt for the Muslim Brothers is palpable and their relief at the ascendancy of a strongman who can restore order is clear, the men in the alley focus largely on thei craft and their business. This is a movie in which very little happens, whose highlights are snippets of overheard conversation (my personal favorite is a father yelling at his young son, while the usual nationalist anthems blare on the TV: "Put down that book and watch TV! Don't you love your country?"). The ease with which these middle-aged, reasonable, well-intentioned men can be down to earth and funny, and then repeat silly rumors or put forth nonsensical arguments, is quite dispiriting. And as the film patiently documents their largely non-eventful lives, some may hanker for a bit more narrative, a bit more drama. But for those who are interested in what the January 25 uprising felt like to the majority in Egypt who watched anxiously and rather suspiciously on the side lines, this understated film offers many insights.
The film will have its world premiere this Tuesday, 21 April in Nyon, Switzerland at the Visions du Reel Film Festival. Beamish is also hoping to organize screenings in Cairo in June or July. What follows is an email conversation between Beamish and myself.Read More
- A review of the award-winning novel The Bamboo Stalk
Set in the Philippines and Kuwait, translated by Jonathan Wright
- In Syria's war, Alawites pay heavy price for loyalty to Bashar al-Assad
- The United States and Palestine
- The Islamic State in Libya, TheMagrebiNote | Articles, Translations, Analysis, Reports on the Islamic Maghreb
- Geoff D. Porter on the price of stability in Algeria
- Her Majesty’s Jihadists
On British Muslim foreign fighters in Syria.
- The Authoritarian Resurgence: Saudi Arabia’s Anxious Autocrats - Carnegie Endowment
- Gasser Abdel Razek: Interview with prominent Egyptian human rights activist
The first in a series by Mada Masr
- NBC Alters Account of Correspondent’s Kidnapping in Syria
Seemingly only after other media investigates
- Egyptian court sentences American to life in prison
Mohammed Soltan is the son of an MB leader
- 7 books to help you understand Libya
- Police allowed to deport gay foreigners, rules Egypt court
- Confusion regarding Egypt's new capital after Sisi announces lack of funds
- Syria: Death from Assad’s Chlorine by Annie Sparrow | The New York Review of Books
- Putting Palestine on the Map…and the Jersey
Great long read about Palestinian-Chilean soccer team
- Understanding Kafala: An archaic law at cross purposes with modern development | Migrant Rights
- Yémen : une faillite américano-saoudienne
- Saudi Shiites worry about backlash from Yemen war - The Washington Post
- In Egypt, ex-military men fire up Islamist insurgency | Reuters
- Arab Peacemaker
Cairo Review interview with Lakhdar Brahimi
- Expedited Weapons Deliveries to Saudi Arabia Signal Deepening U.S. Involvement - NYT
Sending weapons but not bothering to help stranded Americans.
- What really happened in Tikrit after ISIL fled - Al Jazeera English
- 600 days in jail for taking pictures: A letter from an Egyptian prison
- Perfectly Reasonable Question: Did The Times ‘Self-Censor’?
In the UAE, its partner did.
- The Unknown Man, and the Deaths at Abu Zaabal
Excellent reporting on a massacre of Egyptian prisoners
Contributor Paul Mutter writes about an overlooked participant in Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen: President Omar Bashir's Sudan. The isolated regime has been happy to win some legitimacy through its token participation. Gulf countries meanwhile appear eager to move it out of Iran's sphere of influence.
Compared with the Emirati and Saudi contributions to Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen, the Sudanese contingent is a mere token force. Yet the four Soviet-era Sukhoi Su-24 bombers now operating out of King Khalid Airbase carry weight well in excess of their bomb loads. Khartoum did not send over its ramshackle, barrel-bombing Antonov transports. It sent a full third of its most modern air assets to fly against the Houthis. Many of their victims will probably be civilians, as has been the case back home in the Nuba Mountains since the Su-24s were deployed two years ago, according to Nuba Reports and National Geographic.
Their presence serves little military purpose, given the firepower available to the GCC. Instead, by committing to the campaign, Omar al-Bashir’s clique has once again demonstrated the adaptability that has kept it in power since 1989. Focused on wooing their partner away from the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Saudi-led coalition has surely promised the ostracized president military, diplomatic, and economic aid in exchange for his assistance. Already, the Saudis have lifted banking restrictions against Khartoum, imposed in 2014. For the Sudanese regime, which seems to uncover coup plots within its ranks every few months, pours 25% of the national budget into fighting insurgencies it cannot decisively beat, and still cannot cope with the loss of most of its oil fields, such help is quite welcomeRead More
Northwestern University in Qatar has just released its latest survey on media use and attitudes in the Middle East. It finds, among other things, that:
The survey is full of nifty graphics and has a lot of interesting findings. Folks say they support freedom of expression and internet regulation. They are increasingly worried about surveillance and hesitate to share their views online. Egyptians have a low opinion of their media, Emiratis think very highly of theirs. A majority of Saudis and Lebanese believe the international media is biased against them. The most in-demand content is comedy. The #1 media source remains television. (Unfortunately, given what TV talk shows in the Arab world are). There is a section just on Qatar (in which citizens are asked if they are comfortable criticizing "powerful institutions" rather than, as with other countries, "the government" -- and of course forget about the emir).
The artist Sandow Birk spent 9 years handwriting and illustrating an American Quran, featuring scenes from his native California. From the artist's site:
I love this, and you can see it all here. HT Simon.
The crisis in Yemen, coming just as a breakthrough in negotiations between the West and Iran over its nuclear program took place, appears to encompass the entire region's strategic dilemmas. Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies see it as a direct expansion of Iranian power, via the Houthis, on the Arabian Peninsula, right on their border. Iran sees the Saudi-led offensive as further signs of anti-Shia rhetoric and militarisation of the Gulf region, and confirmed again its ability to extend its perceived infuence throughout the Arab world (whatever the reality of Tehran's support for the Houthis is). The US, which had blithely backed a deeply flawed Saudi-directed transition in Yemen while it focused on counter-terrorism, is caught in the middle of its desire for a deal with Iran and its strong backing of the Saudi offensive. This is nothing to say of Yemen's own internal dynamics: the remarkable rise of the Houthis, the return of the prospect of two distinct Yemens, the opportunism of deposed president Ali Abdallah Saleh, the irony of the Yemeni Muslim Brothers now finding themselves on the Saudi side (alongside al-Qaeda and the Islamic State). One could go on.Read More
The Palestine Museum -- a new museum that should open in Birzeit in 2016 -- has created a collection of images that mash up contemporary photographs with Baroque religious paintings. (Another series, also at this link, juxtaposes photos from the refugee camps today and decades ago).
The Deposition (c. 1507) Raphaello Sanzio da Urbino
Photo: Israeli soldiers kill a Palestinian and detain others, downtown Ramallah. 31 Mar. 2002
In a new book, Au sujet de l'Islam ("Speaking of Islam"), Rachid Ghannouchi, the head of the Ennahda party in Tunisia, give his opinions on a number of contemporary issues. Here are a few quotes translated from a press summary:
On blasphemy: "It's forbidden in Tunisia, although freedom of conscience and opinion are protected by the Constitution. You have the choice to be Muslim or not, but you don't have the choice to mock the beliefs of others."
On homosexuality: "We don't approve it. But Islam does not spy on folks. It preserves privacy. Everyone leads his/her life and is responsible before his/her creator."
On equality: "Inheritance does not reflect the value of women versus men. They are equal in terms of their human value, but don't have the same rights and responsibilities in society."
I wonder if the seemingly liberal position on homosexuality is a reaction above all to the pervasive spying under Ben Ali and the way the intelligence services used people's private lives, including real or false sexual allegations, as ammunition against them. On the old Islamist chestnut that men and women don't need to be equal in everything, just to have an equitable distribution of obligations -- What about the many men who live off their wives' work, or systematically refuse to pay alimony? Shouldn't they lose the rights of "breadwinners" when they shirk their obligations?
A Yemeni reporter for the Washington Post talks about a war that is not too close for comfort:
Increasingly, Sanaa is turning into a ghost town. The universities, once bustling with students, have closed. So, too, have many businesses. People are packing their belongings into their pickup trucks and sedans and driving to far-away villages, hoping to avoid the air raids that have turned the mountains surrounding Sanaa into fiery-orange volcanoes.
The campaign, with a coalition of Arab nations, is an effort to dislodge Houthi rebels sweeping through Yemen.
The evenings are what alarm me most. That’s when the bombings intensify.
With Sanaa increasingly deprived of electricity, the lack of lighting creates an eerie darkness that is punctuated by the flashes — and explosions that quickly follow — that briefly illuminate my home town.
I’m also increasingly away from my wife. I’ve moved her family into our home because of the air raids. To make room, I’ve been staying at my father’s house, which is across town. I think that the family is safer this way, but all I want is to be home with my wife.
I spend my evenings trying to sleep, but often I can’t. I think about how I’ll report on the following day’s events. Will the Houthis capture the southern port city of Aden? I then inevitably ponder my own mortality. Will my family be killed in the attacks? Will I wake in the morning?