- Millions flow from Gaddafi’s ‘frozen funds’ to unknown beneficiaries – POLITICO
- As Trump Wavers on Libya, an ISIS Haven, Russia Presses On - The New York Times
- nisralnasr: Rage, Fear, Hope and the Emotions of Revolution
- Toughing It Out in Cairo | by Yasmine El Rashidi | The New York Review of Books
- The State of Emergency in Egypt: An Exception or Rule?
- The West’s war on itself | Synaps
This is a great critique of CVE/PVE by Peter Harling, Alex Simon & Ben Schonveld
- How Italy’s interior minister tackles illegal migration - Charlemagne: The Minniti method
- MEI Editor's Blog: I'm Retiring as Editor
Michael Collins Dunn is retiring - but will continue blogging
- Rien ne va plus en Arabie saoudite – Culture et politique arabes
The Saudi media scene post-Ritz Carlton
- failure to learn from history will exact a heavy price – maegdi
On Egypt's farcical elections
- Tensions au sommet de l’Etat égyptien | Un si Proche Orient
- 'Everyone is trying to get a slice': The gold rush for Saudi cinemas | Middle East Eye
- Au Liban, des hommes politiques chrétiens et chiites jouent un mauvais remake de « L’Insulte »
- Arabie saoudite : les mystères de la purge du Ritz-Carlton
- L’Etat islamique en 2018, vu par les services secrets - Page 1 | Mediapart
- Egypt welcomes US listing of Hasm and Liwa al-Thawra as terror groups | Middle East Eye
- Thousands of ISIS Fighters Flee in Syria, Many to Fight Another Day - The New York Times
- The Sufi-Salafi Rift - Carnegie
Katherine Pollock and Frederic Wehrey on Libya
- Au Maroc, le ras-le-bol des « gueules noires » de Jerada
On social protests in Moroccan coal mining town
- Yemen Dispatch | Middle East Research and Information Project
On Aden and UAE-backed southern separatists
- EFFERVESCENT EGYPT: Venues of Mobilization and the Interrupted Legacy of 2011 | Arab Reform Initiative
- Egypt bulldozes zone by Sinai airport, displacing thousands
- The Donald Trump of Philosophy
- Tunisie : la « démocratisation » ou l’oubli organisé de la question sociale - AOC media
Le président Macron entame ce mercredi une visite d\'État en Tunisie. Sept ans après, que reste-t-il vraiment d\'un changement de régime survenu à la faveur de nombreux mouvements sociaux ?…
- No Winners in Turkey’s New Offensive into Syria | Crisis Group
Interesting details on the fighting in Afrin by Noah Bonsey
- Why the Palestinians Are Boycotting the Trump Administration | The New Yorker
Robin Wright interviews Palestinian ambassador to the US Hosam Zomlot
- Tiny, Wealthy Qatar Goes Its Own Way, and Pays for It - The New York Times
Long piece by Declan Walsh.
Recently on the arabist
- Bulaq Podcast #6: Court Jesters and Black Mirrors
- Robert Caro handwrites to slow down
- On the politics behind Tunisia's protests
- L’armée égyptienne perd pied au Sinaï | Un si Proche Orient
- The Rise of Transnational Kleptocracy – Power 3.0: Understanding Modern Authoritarian Influence
- J’ai vu pleurer les enfants du Rif !
- Egypt’s Sisi Fires Spy Chief as Shuffle of Top Aides Continues - The New York Times
- Trump Administration Accelerating Israeli Embassy Move - WSJ
US Embassy to OneStateLand could open in a year
- Edward Saïd vu par Dominique Eddé | L'ORIENT LITTERAIRE
Said as seen by his lover.
- New Security Solutions for a Middle East in Crisis
First in a series of essay on regional security
- Egypt Raises 'Extreme Concern' About Nile Dam With Ethiopia
I wonder if this linked with the firing of Sisi's intelligence head
- Jadaliyya | An Interview with Amr Hamzawy: Reflections on the Future of Democracy in Egypt and Beyond
- Activists condemn Tripoli militia action, call for legitimate army | Libya Herald
- The Rise of “Bad Civil Society” in Israel - SWP
- Egypt: The Battle Over Appointing Judicial Bodies’ Chief Justices - Carnegie
- Rivalry for Religious Dominance in Egypt - Carnegie
- ISIS Claims Responsibility for Baghdad Bombings
First since fall of Mosul
- La justice rouvre l’enquête sur l’assassinat d’Henri Curiel | Mediapart
Who killed the Egypt-born communist activist?
- How the Muslim Brotherhood's women activists stepped up in Egypt | Middle East Eye
- Salafi mission calls into question Saudi concept of moderation – LobeLog
MBS spreading Salafism in Yemen.
- Algérie, une capitale interdite de manifestation
Stirrings of unrest in Algeria.
- The Others: Foreign Fighters in Libya - The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
- On the Politics behind Tunisia’s Protests – The Cairo Review of Global Affairs
My and Michael Ayari's piece reproduced here.
- China bans Muslim children from Quran classes | Al Jazeera
This is ill-advised.
- Ethiopia, Egypt, Sudan, and Eritrea tensions over Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on Nile river — Quartz
- Revolt Does Not Always Mean a Revolutionary Road - Carnegie
- Tuesday Becomes Execution Day in Egypt - The New York Times
To think Egypt used to quite rarely execute people.
- Riyadh Ritz, Converted to Posh Prison by Saudis, Is Reopening to Guests - The New York Times
The line on Valentine's Day is gold.
- Donald Trump thanks Qatar for combating 'terrorism' | Al Jazeera
Well that's a change of tune.
- How a Palestine activist became chief of 'Fox News' | al-bab.com
This is quite a story by Brian Whitaker.
- "Kamayanbaghi", le 8e album qui signe avec force le retour des Hoba Hoba Spirit
A great Moroccan band
- Virtual Caliphate Rebooted: The Islamic State’s Evolving Online Strategy
Jade Parker and Charlie Winter
- Egyptian parliament steps closer to banning journalists from court
- Qatar may ask Iran for help in hosting the World Cup
- Egypt approves cabinet reshuffle ahead of elections
Why would you have a reshuffle a few months before presidential elections - unless you already knew the outcome?
- En Tunisie, « le risque d’une dérive autoritaire »
Michael Ayari and Issandr El Amrani
- Gulf tension: Are Egypt and Sudan about to go to war? | Middle East Eye
- Yennayer: Between Algeria's politics, popular celebration and 'invented tradition' | Middle East Eye
Claudia Dreyfus interviews Robert Caro, the author of the monumental biography of LBJ, for NYRB - I found this bit fascinating:
Is it true that you write your books by hand?
My first three or four drafts are handwritten on legal pads. For later drafts, I use a typewriter. I write by hand to slow myself down. People don’t believe this about me: I’m a very fast writer, but I want to write slowly.
When I was a student at Princeton. I took a creative writing course with the literary critic R.P. Blackmur. Every two weeks, I’d give him a short story I’d produced usually at the last minute. At the end of the semester, he said some complimentary words about my writing, and then added, “Mr. Caro, one thing is going to keep you from achieving what you want—you think with your fingers.”
Later, in the early 1960s when I was at Newsday, my speed was a plus. But when I started rewriting The Power Broker, I realized I wasn’t thinking deeply enough. I said, “You have to slow yourself down.” That’s when I remembered Blackmur’s admonition and started drafting by hand, which slows me down.
I wrote the piece below with my colleague Michael Ayari, to touch on the politics behind the scenes of the ongoing protests in Tunisia, which are examined at length in a new Crisis Group report, Stemming Tunisia’s Authoritarian Drift. (Update: Michael and I also have a different piece in Le Monde: En Tunisie, « le risque d’une dérive autoritaire ».)
The protests and rioting that have raged in parts of Tunisia since last week are sometimes branded, both inside the country and abroad, as signs of a new revolutionary moment similar to the 2010-2011 uprising that launched the Arab Spring. The images circulating, after all, give a sense of déjà-vu: young men burning tires at impromptu barricades, throwing stones at police; the army deploying to secure public institutions and banks, etc. This is indeed familiar: it has taken place at regular intervals, especially in winter months, for the last few years. As before, it will most likely die down: protestors are largely driven by specific socio-economic grievances, not a desire to overthrow the regime. Even if there is some continuity -- frustration with social injustice and corruption -- today’s Tunisia is not ruled by a dictator.
The immediate trigger for the current protests was the new state budget for 2018, whose implementation began on 1 January. It introduces tax hikes on a number of consumer goods (especially imports) and services, as well as a one-percent increase in value-added tax, contributing to a pre-existing rise in the cost of living that, in a gloomy economic context for most Tunisians, is understandably unpopular. The government says it needs to raise income to balance its finances, and especially to pay for public sector salaries (which account for over half of expenditures). This budget, passed in December 2017, received the support of the Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail (UGTT), the main trade union federation. In most respects it is more protectionist than liberal, and was opposed by business lobbies.
The government has not been deft in selling its policies: claims that the increases won’t affect the poor have fallen on deaf ears (perceptions of cost-of-living increases are much higher than the 6-percent official inflation rate), and the minister of finance sounded rather Marie-Antoinette-ish when he impatiently suggested in a recent interview that mobile-phone recharge cards, whose prices have increased, were not a basic necessity.
At its core, anger against the government’s austerity policies is driven by an overwhelmingly young population with few prospects, especially in the long-neglected interior part of the country. Successive governments have had little success in changing this since 2011, and the current one must reconcile pressure from the street with that coming from its international partners, including the IMF, which has called for accelerated reforms and greater fiscal responsibility.
The protests are mostly non-violent -- the large protests during the day have been well-organized and peaceful, expressing the general frustration of the population about the meager returns of the 2011 revolution when it comes to living standards. At night, however, a different crowd comes out, often engaging in looting and attacks on public buildings, stealing from stores or taking advantage of localised chaos for criminal purposes. The rage against the system that periodically erupts in the most deprived areas of the country -- and has done so before, during and since the 2011 uprising (indeed there have been similar protests every January for the last three years) -- often targets security forces, as the arson of police stations attests.
The police, which must address the rioting, is showing signs of panic and over-reach: among the over 700 persons arrested since the unrest began are left-wing bloggers and activists who have conducted no illegal acts. This reversion to bad old habits of the era of dictatorship is dangerous, as it may encourage further escalation and shift the framing of current unrest in a more anti-state direction. It is also yet another sign of the lack of reform and capacity-building that has plagued the ministry of interior.
There are subtler political dimensions to the unrest. The protest movement is, unsurprisingly, being encouraged by the opposition, especially the far-left, some of whose activists have been arrested. Tunisia is entering a two-year electoral cycle (local in May 2018, parliamentary and presidential by the end of 2019) and the opposition has an interest in positioning itself against the current governing coalition, led by the secular nationalist Nida Tounes and Islamist An-Nahda parties. It is also supported by elements of civil society and activist groups such as the “Fech Nestannew?” (”What are we waiting for?”) campaign, which is expressing a widely-felt resentment against austerity policies.
Somewhat paradoxically, the anti-government protests are convenient for Nida Tounes and An-Nahda, perennial rivals who nonetheless share a common foe: Youssef Chahed, the prime minister appointed in August 2016 who must now deal with the unrest. Originally seen as subservient to Béji Caid Essebsi, the Nida Tounes leader who was elected as Tunisia’s president in 2014, Chahed has grown in stature and popularity, especially after he launched an anti-corruption campaign in summer 2017. In recent weeks, Chahed is said to have threatened to arrest senior members of both parties and their allies in the public administration -- but has been blocked from doing so. More generally, he has begun to build political alliances in anticipation of 2019’s presidential election, especially with the powerful UGTT. His relationship with Essebsi and An-Nahda leader Rached Ghannouchi has now significantly soured, and they may hope to use the unrest as a pretext to justify his removal or at least dent his appeal.
Previous protests died down after political leaders mobilized to calm the situation or the government granted concessions; this may yet still happen. If not, they carry a risk of amplifying the increasingly prevalent idea that Tunisia’s democratic transition is failing, particularly if security forces over-react and political bickering allows the situation to fester, providing an opening for a wider crackdown in the name of public order. The diffuse sense that the freedoms gained since 2011 are weakening the state and an authoritarian restoration of some sort is necessary is spreading. As Crisis Group argues in its latest report, the danger is that this will encourage political adventurism by would-be saviours on horseback; the resistance any such attempt would engender would likely create far greater unrest, violence and economic misery than the ongoing, often plodding and frustrating, democratic transition.
Tunisia’s leaders, in other words, has little choice but to move forward and work harder to strike a compromise on the social contract -- and especially address the historic neglect of parts of the population -- as they did on their political transition. Nostalgia for the era of dictatorship or the revolutionary fervor of early 2011 will bring only problems, not solutions.
Issandr El Amrani and Michael Ayari are respectively North Africa Project Director and Senior Tunisia Analyst at International Crisis Group.
- Egypt First | Foreign Affairs
Michael Wahid Hanna and Daniel Benaim on Sisi's foreign policy
- D’Ahmed Abou Hashima au Septième voisin : la nationalisation des pertes des médias égyptiens – Culture et politique arabes
- CURIA - OPINION OF ADVOCATE GENERAL WATHELET delivered on 10 January 2018
Western Sahara legal ruling on Morocco-EU fisheries deal
- A week of Province of Sinai attacks on Egyptian and Palestinian targets | MadaMasr
Interesting and rare reporting by Mourad Higazy and Omar Said
- Libya's Monetary Crisis - Lawfare
- U.S. Counterterrorism Forces Are Active in Many More Places Than You Know | US News
- Tunisian anti-austerity campaign leader says social contract is broken | Middle East Eye
- The Militarization of the Red Sea – LobeLog
- ‘Make Egypt Great Again’: Israeli experts question neighbor’s military buildup
- Violences sexuelles : « La nature a remplacé la culture comme origine de la violence »
A delightfully intelligent, erudite and provocative piece on #balancetonporc and the fallout of the Weinstein affair by Olivier Roy.
- How Egyptian security dealt with IEDs threat? - Egypt Today
This is a useful overview of the official perspective.
- Egypt Opens Criminal Inquiry Over New York Times Article - The New York Times
- Legal advisor says EU fisheries deal with Morocco invalid - The Washington Post
- Saudi prince 'fired after audio tape contradicts state' | Saudi Arabia News | Al Jazeera
- Tunisian Jewish school burned as anti-austerity riots rage elsewhere
- Why has Israel banned Jewish leftists but not members of Nazi-linked groups?
- Tunisian opposition calls for protests until austerity plan scrapped | Middle East Eye
- Shafiq quit Egypt election bid after threats of 'sex tape' and corruption slurs: Sources
- Egypt court jails hundreds for offences at 2013 Cairo sit-in | Middle East Eye
- Al Jazeera bureau in Yemen forcibly closed | Al Jazeera
- A flammable peace: Why gas deals won’t end conflict in the Middle East | European Council on Foreign Relations
Interesting on east Med gas geopolitics that could be a boon for Egypt.
- The Origins of Modern Kleptocracy – Power 3.0: Understanding Modern Authoritarian Influence
- Egyptian spy ordered TV smears against presidential hopeful Shafiq | Middle East Eye
More of this "Ashraf al-Kholy" character
- Russia Says Its Syria Bases Beat Back an Attack by 13 Drones
- Sudan turns to UN over territory dispute with Egypt
- Man killed as Tunisia anti-austerity protests spread
- Why are tensions rising in the Red Sea region?
- Iranian lawmaker says 3,700 arrested in days of violent protests
- Deadly protests grip Sudan over rising bread prices
- How the Tariq Ramadan Scandal Derailed the #Balancetonporc Movement in France | The New Yorker
Had forgotten to link to this excellent Adam Shatz piece of how France turned discussion of sexual abuse against women into a controversy over Islam
- Full Court Press - Carnegie
On changes to the Saudi judiciary
- Turkey-based TV airs Egypt tapes on Jerusalem
Same as obtained by NYT presumably, suggesting MB link
- Atheist mother loses custody of children in Egypt
But Sisi is leading religious reform and a secular spring..
- Human rights chief embezzled $1 million to cover losses on internet gambling, police say
Quite an investigation by Brian Whitaker on UAE-linked Palestinian fraudster
- Qatari-owned jewels stolen in audacious heist in Venice | Middle East Eye
It's comforting to know that there are still jewel thieves plotting heists
- As a 2-State Solution Loses Steam, a 1-State Plan Gains Traction - The New York Times
Of course, the Palestinian one-staters are far more democratic than their Israeli counterparts.
- Tapes Reveal Egyptian Leaders’ Tacit Acceptance of Jerusalem Move
- Saudi attorney general: 11 princes arrested after crowding near palace - Al Arabiya English
They were protesting being made to pay their utility bills 9allegedly - dissidents say this is made up)
- Palestinians rally against Greek Orthodox patriarch
Over alleged sale of land to Israelis
- Cleric Salman al-Awda 'held over Qatar tweet'
"Salman al-Awda detained over refusal to tweet specific text to support the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar, his family says."
- Egypt refutes NYT report on tacit acceptance of Jerusalem move
NYT should release the recordings it obtained.
- Gulf Crisis Expands into the Horn of Africa
James Dorsey on Turkey's entry into the Egypt-Sudan-Ethiopia-Gulf nexus
- La monarchie marocaine, ce vecteur de la contamination
Excellent post on corruption as a mechanism of control
- Parfum de scandale dans une ferme royale - Le Desk
Exploitation of women laborers in king of Morocco’s farms.
- Au Yémen, les Emirats arabes unis se rapprochent des Frères musulmans
UAE joins KSA in engaging Yemeni MB party Islah.
- Disparition de Gilbert Meynier, « passeur » de l’histoire algérienne
- « En Syrie, le viol était le maître mot »
Utterly devastating accounts of systematic rape in Assad's jails
Maged Atiya on Nasser's legacy:
If great theater is catharsis for the audience, then Nasser provided a partial version for all the Egyptians, regardless of how they felt about him. This giant shadow forces a question: Does today’s Egypt represent Nasser’s success or his failure? An answer is difficult to come forth because the relationship between the man and his nation is fundamentally that of betrayal. Nasser’s errors betrayed the unreserved trust Egyptians placed in him. Similarly, Egyptians failed to rise to Nasser’s exhortation of their innate greatness, most of all by failing to hold him to account and to limit his power and hence the consequent damage of his errors. Nasser longed to be a great hero and he needed a great people to lead, while the Egyptians hoped for national greatness and signed up with the man who promised it. This is hardly a unique arrangement in the history of nations, and on many occasions such arrangements either work well or fail disastrously and thus force a reckoning and subsequent improvements. In Egypt’s case neither happened. Nasser’s project of national greatness was too farcical to be a tragedy and too grim to be a comedy. The drama he put forth provided no resolution, only an abrupt end. Nasser’s catharsis was incomplete, failing the Emile Durkheim final stages of integration and renewal of self-confidence and internal strength.
Five decades after the actor left the stage the theater lights have come on. The audience members stare at their neighbors scarcely able to discern what relations they might have with each other and what might have brought them together in the first place. They stare blankly at the empty stage and try to decide if this is merely an intermission or if the performance is truly over, in which case they should rush the doors and explore the freedom and chaos of the world outside them.
Nasser is responsible for his (many) failures, but Egyptians bear a collective responsibility for the failure to get out from under his long shadow. That they have willingly surrendered to a wannabe Nasser like Sisi since 2013, almost grateful to be relieved of any responsibility (beyond wanting to be saved from uncertainty or the Muslim Brotherhood), is part of that failure. And that many have not is what gives one hope.
Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo, commenting on Ulysses Grant's memoirs, on what makes for good writing:
The essence of all good writing is clarity. Style seems like a separate attribute of good writing. But it’s not. Style is really just a byproduct of clarity and concision. It is the personality or other uniqueness of the writer coming through on the page because they write clearly.
So how does one write clearly? The writing is the easier part of it. Once you know precisely what you mean to say, writing it is usually straightforward if not always easy. At least 90% of poor writing stems from the writer not knowing exactly what it is they mean to say. We’re all lazy like this. Half-formed thoughts pop into our heads and we push them out as words that have some relation to the hazy ideas and feelings in our minds. This may do in talking to your coworker or spouse about simple topics over the course of the day. The points are simple. In speaking we have physical cues and intonation. If you’re not clear the first time you can try again.
Writing is different. If you are writing it down the ideas must be significant or else you wouldn’t be writing them down. You only have one shot to make your meaning clear. There is no follow-on interaction to fill in the gaps. Often what you mean to say is still more a feeling than a thought or a not fully worked through set of ideas and connections between them. Jargon and vaguenesses are added to the mix to cover spots in the writer’s thinking that aren’t clear in their own head. Or they paper over things the writer means but is not ready to say.
Take a wordy or clumsy sentence you may write. Examine it and you will almost always see that it is wordy or clumsy because the idea is unclear in your head. Fuzzy parts of your thinking, connections that don’t fully bear out or don’t connect in a clear way end up on the page in fuzzy or vague groupings of words. If you work at the idea in your head long enough that you know exactly what it is, precisely how one idea or action connects to the idea or actions that came before and after it, the language can be direct, brisk and clear. It all but writes itself … once you know precisely what you mean to say. Absent that clarity it never can because the language you use to express your ideas can never be clearer than the ideas or thoughts as they exist in your mind. Work over the ideas, how each connects to each other, the order and progression that connects them and the words will, largely, take care of themselves.
Clarity is simply taking the meaning in the writer’s head and conveying it as clearly as possible in words. This kind of directness is the power and force driving Grant’s Memoirs.
This is the point that every good editor I've had and every writing guide I've read comes back to.
I try to blog the links I bookmark (and that get automatically posted to the @arabist Twitter account) every couple of weeks. Those links are usually things I think are worth highlighting for one reason or another. For the last two weeks I was traveling a lot, and have decided to give up on the 40+ tabs I have open in Safari and simply dump them below. So only a few proper links:
- En défense d’El Mortada Iamrachen, victime de l’impéritie du régime - Le Desk
Powerful editorial on Morocco Hirak activist condemned to 5 years prison.
- Motives in Egypt’s Deadliest Terrorist Attack: Religion and Revenge - The New York Times
Great reporting by Nour Youssef.
- Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Flexes His Muscles - SPIEGEL ONLINE
- His books are maps, painstakingly pieced together, of loss @ursulind on Palestinian author Raja Shehadeh, in @thenation magazine
- She Accused a Moroccan Pop Star of Rape. Online, She Was Vilified. - The New York Times
- The Politics behind Morocco’s Entry into ECOWAS | THISDAYLIVE
- Rebuilding a Space for Thought in Cairo
@ursulind on the persistent Townhouse art gallery, for @alfanar
and a huge Safari tab dump:
- La maladie de Bouteflika ne cache plus celle du régime | Mediapart
- Algérie : quand gronde la rage sourde du boycott et de l'abstention | Le Point Afrique
- Culte/ Des chiites algériens de retour de Karballa malmenés par la PAF - Algérie Focus
- La situation en Algérie vue par les autorités belges — TSA
- To find the extremism behind the Egypt terror attack, start with anti-Sufi preachers | HA Hellyer | Opinion | The Guardian
- Egypt Mosque Attack Highlights Misunderstanding of Sufis - The Atlantic
- En Algérie, la corruption dépasse l'entendement (Yasmina Khadra)
- Saudi -6 Factors for MbS's Changes & 5 Against | Tarek Osman
- Was the mosque massacre in Egypt preventable? - The Washington Post
- The Problematics of Governance in the Human Rights Movement in Tunisia | Arab Reform Initiative
- How the Tariq Ramadan Scandal Derailed the #Balancetonporc Movement in France | The New Yorker
- Red Sea: Connecter and Divider - SWP
- Stage One of the UN Libya Action Plan: The Likelihood of Failure and the Need for Review | Arab Reform Initiative
- The Authoritarian Roots of Contemporary Islamist Discourse | Arab Reform Initiative
- Introducing Power 3.0: Reevaluating Authoritarianism in an Era of Globalization – Power 3.0: Understanding Modern Authoritarian Influence
- What Is Populism? - The American Interest
- Why Populist Nationalism Now? - The American Interest
- In Yemen, Mothers Of Detained Won't Stop Protests Till Their Sons Are Freed : Parallels : NPR
- CIDOB - War in Peacetime. Russia’s Strategy on NATO’s Eastern and Southern Flanks
- In Egypt, Furious Retaliation but Failing Strategy in Sinai - The New York Times
- Meet the Masters of the Underworld: | Rawi Magazine
- Le Maroc et les nouvelles routes de la soie : la troisième voie
- Egypt's War on Books - The Atlantic
- Selon Moncef Marzouki, le conseil de sécurité nationale serait un gouvernement parallèle pour contrecarrer Youssef Chahed
- UN voices alarm about spread of HIV in Egypt | News & Observer
- False Promises to Egyptian Youth - Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
- Can Tunisia Break With Its Past? | zenith.me
- Cheap Havoc: How Cyber-Geopolitics Will Destabilize the Middle East | The German Marshall Fund of the United States
- Spain / Morocco | Borders | Vox
- Mohammed VI débranche enfin le général Benslimane - Le Desk
- Former Egypt premier says he's 'fine' and still mulling election bid
- Qatar says 2018 budget will focus on resisting economic boycott
Above, gratuitous feature of The Prisoner's opening theme in honor of Saad Hariri's "resignation" – but mostly because I'm rewatching at the moment.
Recently on The Arabist:
And the links:
- Des drones armés français et américains dans le ciel ouest-africain: cela vous rassure, vous?
- The Complete Writings of a Revolutionary
On Ghassan Kanafani's life and writings, out in a new Arabic edition
- Water Is Scarce in Egypt; So Are Research Funds
While Scientists work on solutions to water crisis, authorities slash budgets to research centers. Egypt: The flatworm's revenge | Nature
Louise Sarant on bladder cancer in Egypt.
- “It Started With Conversations — And Then They Started Hitting Each Other”
Important story on ISIS and MB in Egyptian jails by Borzou Daragahi.
- A Huthi Missile, a Saudi Purge and a Lebanese Resignation Shake the Middle East | Crisis Group
- A New Generation of Protests in Morocco? How Hirak al-Rif Endures | Arab Reform Initiative
- King Salman and his son: Winning the US and losing the rest
- The Remaking of the Saudi State - Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
- Saudi Billionaires Said To Move Funds To Escape Asset Freeze - Bloomberg Quint
That giant sucking sound? Capital flight...
- Saudi barred Yemeni president from going home, officials say
- Egyptian activists pan US actress Helen Hunt in open letter - The Washington Post
- Key Saudi source, Mujtahidd, alleges Saudi King-to-be delivered $1bn to Trump Organization during Trump visit | The Mideastwire Blog
- Camp Speicher massacre: Retracing the steps of Isis's worst-ever atrocity | The Independent
- The Saudi Royal Purge—with Trump’s Consent | The New Yorker
- Trump’s Bet on Saudis Looks Increasingly Dangerous, and the $110 Billion Payoff? Unlikely.
- Former Salafist cleric stuns Morocco with calls for gender equality
On Abu Hafs.
- Egypt President Al-Sisi says he will not seek a third term as leader
Let's see how this works out.
- Purge of Saudi princes, businessmen widens, travel curbs imposed
- On not being there | MadaMasr
- What Saudi Arabia’s purge means for the Middle East - The Washington Post
- La contre-révolution arabe empêtrée dans ses contradictions
Moulay Hicham Alaoui.
- Diaries of a garbage bag
Synaps' Ranine Awwad on Lebanon's trash.
- Saudi Prince, Asserting Power, Brings Clerics to Heel - The New York Times
Ben Hubbard continues hus sterling reporting on Saudi.
- Revealed: male rape used systematically in Libya as instrument of war | The Guardian
This commentary was contributed by friend of the blog Dr H.A. Hellyer, who is senior non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council in Washington DC and the Royal United Services Institute in London.
One would think the whole 'Arabs aren't ready for democracy' shtick would get old at some point. But it doesn't. The virus of this strand of pseudo-intellectualism is an equal opportunity one, across the board, whether the carriers are politicians, diplomats, journalists or just your average taxi driver (that last one, not really; that’s just an additionally problematic way of understanding the region, but I digress).
When the claim of ‘they’re not ready’ comes from within the region, it's simply a way for autocrats, dictators and worse to justify their abuses and maltreatments. When it comes from outside of it, it's merely a new way of expressing a 'bigotry of low expectations', underpinned by a skewed and self-serving cultural relativism. Or, to put it bluntly: “what kind of standards can you really expect these kinds of people to uphold? I mean, after all, they are what they are…”
The Complacency of ‘Within’: Colonel Jessup is at the party, not just in Gitmo
We’ve seen that from rulers and officials from within the region, of course. To defend, excuse and minimise the seriousness of abuses they oversee or have responsibility for, they revert to this crude style of orientalism. They caricature their own people, so that their own problematic rule is justified. “Yes, we’re abusing our own people – and so what? This isn’t the West, and they’re not Westerners. We’re in a rough neighbourhood, we’re not all educated, and you need to understand what we are going through – the responsibilities we have – the challenges and problems we face – so leave us be.”
It reminds me so much of that scene in that 1992 movie, A Few Good Men, where Colonel Nathan Jessup, played by Jack Nicholson, defends his ordering of an abuse of a soldier (Santiago) under his command:
Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines…You have the luxury of not knowing what I know; that Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall!”
How many times have we heard the autocrats and their domestic apologists use the same logic. But the situation is worse. Because they’re not just talked about at the parties, like Colonel Jessup is talked about – they are at those parties, as honoured guests.
The Complacency of ‘Without’: ‘The natives said they aren’t ready, and they’re right!’
And when it comes to the advocates for these kinds of figures, who will do the party invites, write the raving reviews and the delirious declarations – they will just say, ‘well, they’re not ready for democracy. They even said so themselves, and they’re right.’
How convenient, of course – especially when we, as governments, want to sell weapons and arms to these autocrats, with no strings attached. When we, as writers and journalists, want to act as propagandists for the same. At so many levels, this skewed ‘cultural relativism’ is deployed, time and again. It has nothing to do with respect for difference and pluralism, and everything to do with shirking basic human responsibilities.
Pragmatism isn’t evil. To minimise further damage to regional stability, to ensure lives are saved rather than slaughtered by the likes of ISIS and worse; sometimes, it is necessary to work with unsavoury characters. But there is a clear difference between engaging in order to reduce harm and increase benefit – and engaging because we essentially don’t care about anything more than the bottom line.
So, let us be frank – the ‘not ready’ argument is little more than a 21st century version of that old ‘civilising mission’ rhetoric that underpinned the colonialist endeavour. It is just a shallow and thinly disguised regurgitation to justify our complacency, our lack of care, our rank disinterest in the well-being of the peoples of this region, all the while we seek to benefit ourselves by them.
Has anywhere ever been ‘ready’? No: we all makes mistakes and we all learn
But here's the truth of it - has there ever been a place that has been 'ready' for 'democracy'? Or, let's break it down, to avoid the tired old tool of ‘democracy is a Western, imperialist, non-universal way of governing’. Indeed, the Arab world ought to be able to produce its own indigenous ways of governing, without fetishizing the modern nation-state model. So, let’s ask: has any place in the world – in human history – been ‘ready’ for respecting the fundamental rights of all, while choosing their representatives openly and freely?
No, of course not. Was the United States 'ready', when it started out with slavery, and systematic exploitation of Africans on its soil for centuries? Was it ‘ready’ for democracy, when it elected a man who is daily chipping away at its fundamentals? Was the UK ‘ready’, as we colonised much of the known world? Is the United Kingdom 'ready', when we voted 'yes' in a referendum that is leading us to economic turmoil, a referendum tainted by xenophobic memes? Was Europe ‘ready’, as we perpetrated the Holocaust? Is Europe 'ready', when the bigoted populism of the far-right is the fresh new game in town?
No, there's no place that is 'ready'. We all learn – by being given chances, and opportunities, and options. We might all make mistakes, and grievous ones at that. We might make mistakes with Islamists; with anti-Islamists; with right-wingers; with left-wingers; across the board. But they will be our mistakes, and no one else's.
We all have the right to have that chance: stand for that, or be silent We all have the right to have that chance - and if the comfortable, privileged few within these lands of the Arab world want to disavow their own right to have that chance, that's their choice. But they do not have the right to negate that choice for the rest.
For those of us outside of the Arab world, who find it easy to accept the supercilious worldview of these few; those of us who are comfortable in accepting the 'barbaric Arabs who need a strong man to control them’, because it makes it easier to ingratiate the autocrats... well. You ought not to be surprised when you're called out on it.
And when you are called out – don’t act so wounded. Long after your emotional bruises are healed, there will be people fighting & struggling; pushing & pulling; to fight the good fight & to hold back the tide, to hold the line & to keep the faith. All to make a difference; all while you're back on your comfortable couch in suburbia, pontificating about these ‘objects’ of discussions. They’re not objects – they’re human beings, with their own dreams and the right to have those dreams.
And when you finally start to ponder, ponder this: if your assertion really is that this region is not 'ready', then explain why so many in 2011 insisted - nay, they revolted - in order to have a chance to say 'no: we demand the right to choose; and to be treated as human beings.' What, because they are tired, six years later, exhausted and healing, they are suddenly domesticated pets? Is your view so shallow, your perspective so narrow, your outlook so self-serving?
If you would not stand with them, that's fine. It's your choice. It would be a credit to you if you did, and an honour you would earn nowhere else. But if you wouldn't, then respect their struggle, admire their sacrifice, and remain silent, without implicitly or explicitly admiring their oppressors. Decency demands no less.
A visiting professor at the Centre for the Advanced Study of Islam, Science and Civilisation in Kuala Lumpur, Hellyer is the author of several books including A Revolution Undone: Egypt’s Road Beyond Revolt, Muslims of Europe: the ‘Other’ Europeans and the forthcoming A Sublime Path: the Way of the Sages of Makka. You can follow him on Twitter at @hahellyer.
I am so pleased and excited to be co-hosting a new podcast on books in, from, and about the Arab world with M Lynx Qualey of ArabLit. I read many more interesting books than I am able to review or write about and I can't think of anyone I'd rather discuss them with than MLQ. It should also be an opportunity to look at literary news, cases of censorship, and the kinds of debates and exchanges that books provoke in the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. Our first episode focuses on a novel about gay life in Cairo, "In The Spider's Room," and much more.
This is an experiment and a labor of love. With the help of our producer (my amazing husband Issandr El Amrani) we are still working on improving the sound quality (i.e. soundproofing my small office). We will also be tweaking the format as we go along. We hope you'll join us for the ride. You can subscribe in the iTunes Store.
For the Pyramids nerds among you, read more about the new cavity found in Khufu with cosmic rays (which alone should revive a whole genre, popular in the 1970s, of aliens-build-the-pyramids literature) in Nature and the researchers' press release.
And now for the rest of the links:
- Egyptians use social media to mock government’s youth event
- Egypt is in danger of becoming a failed state—and western leaders are mishandling the crisis | Prospect Magazine
Robert Springborg on the Sisi disaster.
- How a state of emergency became Egypt’s new normal - The Washington Post
Nathan Brown and Mai Sadany.
- Egypt election in view, Sisi supporters fire up campaign for mandate
- Sun, Sea and Robots: Saudi Arabia’s Sci-Fi City in the Desert
- How Iran is winning game of chess in Kirkuk
Long term operatives on the ground, that’s how.
- Commentary: In Sunni North Africa, fears of Iran’s Shi’ite shadow
- Steve Bannon’s already murky Middle East ties deepen
UAE, Erik Prince, Cambridge Analytica, etc.
- Beyond the Caliphate: Foreign Fighters and the Threat of Returnees - The Soufan Center
- ISIS Jihadis Have Returned Home By the Thousands | The New Yorker
- Iran Saps Strength of Revolutionary Guards With Arrests and Cutbacks - The New York Times
- Dans la région de Sfax, les familles entre colère et deuil après le naufrage de leurs enfants partis pour l’Europe
Over 50 dead after migrant tragedy in Tunisia
- Militants rob bank, attack church in Egypt's Sinai; 7 dead - LA Times
- Inspection battle threatens Egypt's wheat supply
Wheat inspector on paid junkets would delay shipments over late breakfast.
- Rex Tillerson and the Unraveling of the State Department - The New York Times
- City | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Cairo is most dangerous megacity for women.
- ‘Allah’ Is Found on Viking Funeral Clothes - The New York Times
By Thor's Hammer!
- Death toll from Somalia bomb attacks tops 300
Terrible attack in Mogadishu
I was just in Cairo, a visit that inspired the usual mixed feelings: the aching pleasure of the familiar; the somewhat dulled pain at the loss of all the hopes that burned so bright here just a few years ago; the awe that this city-to-end-all-cities inspires (and the suspicion that I couldn't survive its daily grind anymore).
I was there to talk about writing an editing with my former colleagues and all-the-time heroes at the one-of-its-kind independent web site Mada Masr (blocked in Egypt until now but still publishing there on Facebook and running a full operation).
In our discussion, I used several readings that the Beirut-based research and analysis organization Synaps has shared online. Developed out of their own grappling with the writing/editing process, these materials are very well written and engaging and pushed me to think about my own writing -- about how often I struggle, when starting a piece, with answering the basic questions, because they are the hardest. For anyone writing journalism, analysis, or research, I strongly suggest checking them out and sharing them.
And it was just neat to be at one unique venture in Cairo using materials from another original and self-reflective organization in Beirut. Right now in terms of intellectual and cultural and media life in the region it seems like we are in a phase of survival -- just hoping some bright spots can hold on and last long enough to see us through, keep open a little space for thought and hope and discussion.
Another overdue link dump:
- Patrick Cockburn · Underground in Raqqa · LRB 19 October 2017
- The beauty and mystery of Arabic calligraphy
- Adam Shatz and Olivier Roy · Living Orients · LRB 11 October 2017
Good podcast on Roy's youth.
- Egyptian Activist Receives a Top Human Rights Award - The New York Times
Mohamed Zaree receives Martin Ennals prize.
- La structure tribale en Libye : facteur de fragmentation ou de cohésion ? - Fondation pour la recherche stratégique
Mohamed Ben Lamma.
- Tunisie, vers le rétablissement d'un pouvoir personnel
- Abdellah Tourabi: la dernière chance de l'école publique - H24info
- UAE official says Qatar giving up World Cup may end ‘crisis’ - The Washington Post
Don't worry it's just Emirati clown/police chief Dhahi Khalfan
- The Amateur Fiction of Arab Dictators - BLARB
- Ancient Maps Are Mirrors for the Ancient Psyche | JSTOR Daily
On "The Book of Curiosities"
- Translating ″Mein Kampf″ into Arabic: Hitler′s paperchase - Qantara.de
Hans Wehr's surprising Nazi past
- Europe Slams Its Gates: Imperiling Africa — And Its Own Soul
“Europe wants to use Libya as its Berlin Wall to divide Africa from Europe.”
- The UAE Secretly Picked Up the Tab for the Egyptian Dictatorship’s D.C. Lobbying
- The Children of the Arab Spring Are Being Jailed and Tortured | The Nation
Scott Long on Sisi's war on youth
- Enigma: The anatomy of Israel’s intelligence failure almost 45 years ago
- Do you still remember him?
On Muhammad al-Durrah
- The mass arrests in KSA include ultra-reactionary preachers and reformist scholars, writes @ursulind in @alfanarmedia
- Hold the Egg Sandwich: Egyptian TV Is Calling - NYTimes.com
This is a great New York story and a great Egypt story.
- Egyptian intelligence services extend control over media | RSF
- Saudi Arabia Detains Critics as New Crown Prince Consolidates Power - The New York Times
- Pioneering Egyptian Painter’s Legacy
@ursulind in @alfanarmedia on great new book on Mahmoud Said
- A Dissident Cartoonist Wades into the United States’s Toxic Relationship With Israel - Los Angeles Review of Books
- La Tunisie prisonnière d'une bipolarisation mortifère
This, by former Marzouki advisor Aziz Krichen, is brilliant on Tunisian politics
- Egypt says police killed 10 suspected militants in Cairo - The Washington Post
Alleged to come from Sinai for attacks in Cairo
- Synaps | Black holes
What satellite light signatures tell us about Syria.
The In Translation series, in which we publish translations of commentaries from Arabic, is brought to you courtesy of our partners at the excellent Industry Arabic translation service. In this installment researcher Rasha Al Aqeedi takes to task the Iraqi newspaper Al-Nahar for its coverage of the recent referendum on independence in Kurdistan.
Al Hurra newspaper, September 28, 2017
By Rasha Al Aqeedi
The result of Kurdistan’s referendum, in which the “yes” vote exceeded 90%, was no surprise to observers of the Kurdish issue. The Iraqi response was also expected. Feelings of suspicion, fear, and legitimate anger were mixed with Arab chauvinism and abhorrent anti-Kurdish racism – practices that are easily denied yet experienced by every Kurd carrying an Iraqi passport at least once in his life. But as with all forms of defamation, the reaction of the Baghdad-based al-Nahar newspaper summarizes not only the tragic relations of the Kurds with their partners at home, but also the depth of nationalism’s moral decline.
An image implying a young woman’s gang rape by a group of men headlined the page. The page designer intended the young woman to represent Kurdistan, and the men the neighboring countries of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Jordan, and Turkey, in a vulgar and macho display unbecoming of a newspaper bearing the logo of the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate or of a society calling for moderation. The controversial Al-Nahar newspaper does not represent the Iraqi press, but its choice to use that image requires all of us to face a difficult truth: Iraqi society is still chauvinistic from top to bottom, and the “female” is still used to insult the “male.”
Rape has historically been a deliberate military strategy used to strike fear into the hearts of societies and to instill a feeling of defeat in the enemy by insulting his honor, making rape, or even the threat of rape, a form of broad-based psychological warfare last used in Iraq when thousands of Yazidi women were abused. They were humiliated and repeatedly raped by ISIS militants in the name of religion after their men were slaughtered. What would prompt al-Nahar to brandish the image of the rape of Kurdistan in the name of nationalism?
Systemic anti-Kurdish racism is the legacy of generations of Arab chauvinism, which sees other nationalities as outsiders who do not deserve first-class citizenship. In an outpouring of racial spite, derogatory discourse is immediately invoked anytime the “intruders” do not please the “masters.” Even clerics do not hesitate to provoke rivalries overflowing with anti-Kurdish hate, as some call the Kurds “demons” and see it as their moral duty to fight them.
Interjecting women into the political debate to extort the “other” is nothing new. Eastern society is both obsessed with, and afraid of, sex. The issue most often revolves around the honor of women: violating it where it is associated with the enemy and seeking to defend it where it is associated with oneself. As sectarianism in Iraq deepened following the fall of the former regime, Saddam loyalists and Arab sectarian groups began to call Iraqi Shias the “sons of mutaa.” After a decade, the oldest Shia chauvinists fired back, calling Sunnis “sexual jihadists.” Both counteracted the other side’s disparagement by accusing its women of immoral and indecent behavior.
This is not the first time “free” pens in Iraq have expressed a political opinion about a region or sect by portraying the “other” as a sinful or raped woman. During the liberation of Fallujah, the hashtag #fallujah_washes_away_its_shame (الفلوجة_تغسل_عارها#) and a caricature of a young woman returning home, with her head down as her father waits to discipline her for the “shame” she has inflicted on him, spread across Twitter.
Rejection of the referendum and Kurdish independence can be expressed in measured words, a targeted image, or constructive criticism, but invoking this superficial notion of honor, designed to threaten and intimidate, reflects only the weakness of the argument and the weakness of the individual. It is not possible to see inside the mind of the designer, but one can make some assumptions as to the angry neighbors that await an independent Kurdistan.
The implication that rape and sexual violence is somehow a legitimate form of punishment is an expression of a societal malady deeply rooted in history. All human societies have suffered from this disease, which has not been fully treated but has been contained in many cultures. The culture of the Middle East, however, is not among them. Al-Nahar owes an apology to all Kurds, and to the countries whose names it has involuntarily attached to an offensive image. Print media is a source of reform: Iraq’s ills cannot be addressed if the media is a source of corrosion.