Social Mobilization and Resistance Monthly Media Roundup:
[This is a monthly roundup of news articles and other materials circulating on Resistance, Subversion, and Social Mobilization in the Arab world, and reflects a wide variety of opinions. It does not reflect the views of the editors of this blog. It is prepared by Nada Ghandour, and published in partnership with Jadaliyya.]
News & Comments Freedom in the Middle East: There Are Still Reasons to Be Positive, by Rayan El-Amine The author argues that despite the failure of the Arab uprisings, there has been a return of grass-roots protests in the Middle East, that signifies “the revival of bottom-up politics in the Arab world.” The social mobilizations in the northern Rif region of Morocco is one example of this return of protest politics.
How the World Missed a Week of Palestinian Civil Disobedience, by Edo Konrad The Israeli government’s decision to install metal detectors at the entrance to the Al-Aqsa compound sparked outrage and protests, and eventually led to the deaths of four Palestinians and three Israeli settlers. However, the media’s coverage neglected the nonviolent aspect of the protests.
Al-Aqsa Protests Unite Jerusalemites, by Daoud Kuttab The July protests in Jerusalem over the Israeli restrictions placed on the entry of Al-Aqsa mosque became “the nucleus of a new movement for Jerusalemites.” Several religious organizations, such as the Islamic Supreme Committee, were in the forefront and provided “moral and philosophical leadership.” However, the role of young people and local civil society organizations was crucial. “The five prayers a day became the focus of organized activities, media attention and public support.”
Jerusalem’s African Community Stands with Al-Aqsa, by Aziza Nofal During the July protests in Jerusalem, members of the city’s African community offered protesters water and food. They also welcomed worshippers into their homes during the protests, as the community centre is located near Al-Aqsa. Although the African community in Jerusalem is relatively small in numbers, it is “a central part of the city’s social fabric, which is composed of many different groups that all acknowledge the sanctity of the city.”
Is Morocco Headed Toward Insurrection? by Hisham Aidi Hisham Aidi provides a detailed account of protest history in the Rif region in Morocco, since the founding of the Rif Republic in 1923 by Abdelkrim Al Khattabi, until today’s Hirak movement.
In Morocco, Press Freedom Shrinks with Hirak Protests, by Ilhem Rachidi Since the beginning of the Hirak protest movement in October 2016, eight journalists have been jailed. They were arrested while covering the news in the Rif region. Over the past years the repression of journalists has been escalating. According to the author, “after a rise in press freedom at the end of King Hassan II’s rule (in the late 1990s) and during the first years of Mohammed VI’s reign, the Makhzen (Morocco’s state and administration) has progressively silenced independent newspapers through financial sanctions, boycotts and pressure on journalists.”
Morocco: the Popular Movement in the Rif Suppressed, by Mayssae Ajzannay Ben Moussa Since October 2016, the Al Hoceima region in North East Morocco has been the scene of ongoing popular protests. The peaceful movement calls for: freedom, dignity, and social justice. However, the Moroccan government has not yet met the demands of the people, but rather has been increasing its repression.
“March for Justice” Ends in Istanbul With a Pointed Challenge to Erdogan, by Carlotta Gall On 9 July, the three-week March for Justice from Ankara to Istanbul ended. The march was organized by politicians from Turkey’s opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (also known as C.H.P.) to protest the government repression against its opponents, and calling for justice. There was an emphasis on the peaceful nature of the protest, which was the largest sign of opposition since the failed coup last July.
Battle Over the Nile, by Heba Afify President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has initiated a “large-scale national campaign to retrieve illegally occupied state land.” One of the targets of this campaign has been Warraq Island, one of dozens of inhabited islands in the Nile. The residents of Warraq Island have been protesting the demolition of their houses on the island.
Egyptian Activists Face Mounting Repression, While “Thieves” Walk Free, by Sarah Freeman-Woolpert Arrests, detention, freezing of assets, and trials for charges related to participation in anti-government protests are some of the tactics used by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s regime to suppress criticism and dissent. Yet, this repression can backfire: it can reduce the regime’s legitimacy and lay the ground for another wave of activism in Egypt.
The Legacy of the Algerian Civil War: Forced Disappearances and the Cost of Amnesty, by Sofian Philip Naceur During the war of the 1990s, thousands of people were murdered or forcibly disappeared in Algeria. Until today, “Algerian authorities consistently neglect the demands of the families of the disappeared, refuse to acknowledge the magnitude of the crimes committed by the state, and instead praise their approach to end the conflict. Unsurprisingly, many of those families oppose the amnesty measures that relegate their quest for justice to the shadows, calling for rallies every year on September 29.” Yet, the government maintains an ambivalent approach toward the families of the disappeared. One the one hand, the protests are dispersed and activities are monitored; but on the other hand authorities refrain from closing down offices and pressing official charged after arrests.
Is There Any Point to Protesting?, by Nathan Heller The author discusses the aim and effectiveness of protesting by looking back at the outcomes of various social movements, such as Occupy Wall Street, the “Arab uprisings” and the Black Lives Matter, and providing a review of four recently published books: Inventing the Future by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams (2016, Verso), Assembly by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri (2017, Oxford University Press), Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism, by L.A. Kauffman (2017, Verso), and Zeynep Tufeksci’s Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest (2017, Yale University Press).
Art The Palestinian Museum’s Inaugural Exhibition: Jerusalem Lives On 26 August, the Palestinian Museum launched its inaugural exhibition with a highly political project focusing on the living aspects of the city and support its people. According to the curator Reem Fadda, the exhibition is meant to spark discussion of “cultural resistance” to the policies of Israel.
Rights Organizations Rally to Reveal Fate of Syria’s Disappeared, by Florence Massena According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, more than 75 thousand people have disappeared in Syria since 2011. Amnesty International started a campaign on 30 August, the International Day of the Disappeared, with the aim to push the authorities and armed groups to reveal the status of the disappeared to their families. The human rights group organized a weeklong exhibition at cultural space Station Beirut to remember Syria's missing and disappeared. The exhibition, titled “Tens of Thousands,” shows poems written by detainees and portraits of prisoners by Syrian artist Azza Abou Rebieh.
Beyond Protest Art: A New Wave of Graffiti Is Coloring the Arab World, by Zvi Bar’el In various cities around the Arab world, there have been art initiatives that aim to beautify neighborhoods, give a sense of belonging and overcome social and political divides. The article refers to examples in Beirut (e.g. the Ouzville project), Dubai (e.g. Dubai Walls), and Djerba. However, this type of graffiti seem to contradict protest graffiti that was prominent on the walls of the Middle East during the Arab uprisings.
News & Comments Not Another Story of Failed Liberation: Tensions in Bashur and Rojava in the Light of the Referendum, by Huseyin Rasit The author argues that “there are at least two Kurdistans: Bashur with its capitalist modernization, and Rojava and its allies with their democratic confederalism. It is difficult to say how the relation between these two projects will unfold in the long run. Yet we can say for now that the tensions in both of them have become more obvious during the referendum process. If we want the future of Kurdistan to be bright one, we need to discuss these tensions and how to move beyond them instead of focusing solely on the question of independence.”
Rainbow Flag at Gig Sparks Media Storm of Hostility, by Mostafa Mohie During a Cairo concert by the Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila, the rainbow flag of the LGBT movement was raised. As a consequence, Egyptian authorities arrested seven people, and Egyptian media “went into a spin.” Mostafa Mohie provides an analysis of the Egyptian media coverage of the incident. He writes that “most media coverage was hostile toward those who raised the flag, […] but more notably, writers and publications seemed confused as to what language to use to describe the Lebanese band as well as those holding the flag and the event organizers. The word shawaz, meaning deviant, was perhaps the most widely used.”
Targeting the Ultras: Why Are Security Forces Trying to Erase the Memory of the Stands? by Mai Shams El Din On 16 September, Egyptian security forces arrested one hundred and fifty Ahly Football Club fans (Ultras Ahlawy) in Alexandria. The fans “were arrested for wearing shirts bearing the number seventy-four, a reference to the fans that were killed during the 2012 Port Said stadium violence.” This incident is part of a series of continuous arrests of football fans in Egypt, and it reflects security forces’ fear “over the ways in which they organize, not only to cheer on the teams, but also to mourn fans who have died.”
How Egyptian Activists Are Trying to Curb Polygamy, Rami Galal Social media activists in Egypt have been calling for an additional condition in marriage contracts, “requiring the first wife’s prior consent in the event that her husband seeks a second wife under a polygamy arrangement.” Following this social media campaign, member of parliament Abdel Moneim al-Alimi, submitted a draft law to Egypt’s parliament to amend the law regulating marriage contracts. The campaign has been very controversial and it remains to be seen if the Egyptian parliament will pass this legislation.
Egypt Detains Nubians During a Peaceful, Singing Protest, by Salma Islam On September 3, on “Nubian Assembly Day,” Nubians in the city of Aswan, Egypt, marched peacefully for the right to return in their ancestral land in Egypt. The protesters demanded that the Egyptian government delivers on a relevant article of the constitution, and revokes another decree that allowed the establishment of military zones in parts of Nubia. The protest was repressed by Egyptian security forces, and several Nubian activists were arrested.
Iraq’s Female Booksellers Turn the Page on Gender Roles, by Mustafa Saadoun Books Town, a bookstore in Iraqi city of Baqubeh in Diyala governorate, which is known for sectarian violence and the Islamic State. Tayseen Ameer, the young woman who owns Books Town, is one of several women who opened bookstores in Iraq. Many of them consider the “presence of women in bookselling – a role that has been reserved traditionally for men – a defiance of the traditions and norms that have contributed to the isolation of women.”
Turkey’s “Resistance Media” Refuses to Buckle, by Sibel Hurtas While Turkey’s repression of the media continues, popular news sites, such as Sendika.org, are resilient in the state’s harsh crackdown. After each government order blocking access to their sites, they create a new site. Sendika.org, for example, since 2015 has been revived sixty-one times so far.
The Israeli Algorithm Criminalizing Palestinians for Online Dissent, by Nadim Nashif and Marwa Fatafta Israeli intelligence has developed a predictive policing system – a computer algorithm – that analyzes social media posts to identify Palestinian “suspects.” The algorithm-based program monitors tens of thousands of young Palestinians’ Facebook accounts, and those of relatives, friends, classmates, and co-workers of recent Palestinians killed by Israel to assess their potential risk. The authors argue that “even if such algorithms deter attacks, imprisoning Palestinians based on a probability created by a machine is a clear violation of Palestinians’ rights. The expansion of the Israeli occupation’s oppression of the Palestinian people, now in its fiftieth year, to the cyber sphere is an alarming trend. Every and any Palestinian is now a suspect simply by exercising their freedom of expression online.”
Surveillance of Palestinians and the Fight for Digital Rights, by Nadim Nashif “Surveillance of Palestinians has always been part of Israel’s colonial project, but new technologies have made this surveillance even more intrusive and widespread. Israel particularly uses social media to monitor what individual Palestinians say and do, as well as to gather and analyze information on attitudes among the Palestinian public more broadly.”
Palestinian Campaign to Force UK to Cancel Balfour Celebrations, by Middle East Monitor The Popular Conference for Palestinians Abroad and a number of Palestinian groups are gearing up for a coordinated digital campaign to mark 100 years since the Balfour Declaration was issued by Lord Arthur Balfour, promising the Jews a national home in Palestine. Using the hashtag #Balfour100, social media users will be calling on the UK government to apologize for the Balfour Declaration and the British colonization of Palestine and demanding the cancellation of one of the largest Zionist celebrations of the Declaration, set to take place on 7 November at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The social media activity is part of a broader campaign launched by PCPA two months ago entitled “Balfour: A Colonial Project.”
“It Is Being Done to Intimidate Us:” Israeli Anti-Occupation Groups Face Crackdown, by Peter Beaumont Israeli MPs are considering two initiatives “aiming at shutting down one of the country’s most high-profile anti-occupation groups, Breaking the Silence, which records the testimonies of Israeli soldiers operating in Palestinian territories. […] The moves come amid increasingly harsh rhetoric from Israel’s right wing, which has sought to cast Breaking the Silence and other anti-occupation groups including B’Tselem as ‘traitors.’”
Women March Through Desert for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, by Reuters Thousands of Palestinian and Israeli women have joined together to march through the desert for peace. The march was organized by Women Wage Peace, an organization established after the fifty-day Gaza war of 2014 when more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed. Israel put the number of its dead at sixty-seven soldiers and six civilians.
How Can Women “Wage Peace” Without Talking About Occupation? by Orly Noy Orly Noy provides a thorough criticism of the Women’s March organized by Women Wage Peace. While he welcomes a mass movement of women in support of peace, he is critical of what was absent in the activists’ calls for peace, and especially that the word “occupation” was entirely absent from this group that aims to end the conflict.
Palestine’s First Female-Run Cookery School is “A Labour of Love,” by Naima Morelli Bait Al Karama, the first Women’s Centre in the hear of Nablus, combines a culinary social enterprise with art and cultural activities. Through its activities, the centre is trying to preserve the traditions of Palestinian cuisine, challenge gender roles, and resist movement restrictions throughout the West Bank.
In Morocco, Press Freedom Shrinks With Hirak Protests, by Ilhem Rachidi Since the start of the Hirak protests, the repression of journalists has increased dramatically in Morocco. In the absence of clear laws and a just judicial system, journalists often hinder their own opinions in a practice of self-censorship to ensure the continuity of their work and publications.
Why Tunisia Just Passed Controversial Laws on Corruption and Women’s Rights to Marry, by Nadia Marzouki On September 14, President Béji Caïd Essebsi announced he would repeal a 1973 law that prevented Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men. This announcement came one day after the Tunisian parliament passed another piece of legislation granting amnesty to corrupt civil servants, which triggered a nation-wide wave of protests. While these current “legislative battles” suggest that while the old regime tactics remain active in Tunisia, movements like Manich Msamah, civil society organizations and the “collective public energy of the 2011 revolution is still alive.”
The Socio-Economic Roots of Syria’s Uprising, by Alice Bonfatti In this piece, Alice Bonfatti provides an overview of the various socio-economic factors that contributed to the “inevitable” uprising in Syria in 2011. Among those are: the emergence of a state bourgeoisie, the impoverishment of rural areas, the increasing growth in unemployment, the strengthening of the military and security apparatus, and the repression of freedom.
Art Constructing and Echoing Social Perceptions: Gay Characters in Egyptian Film, by Adham Youssef This survey of films argues a lack of progress in when it comes to filmic depictions of LGBTQI characters. This essay was written in the wake of a media ban on the appearance of homosexuals and homosexual “slogans,” that came amid arrests, prison sentences, anal examinations, public shaming, accusations of mental instability, and general incitement against people based on their perceived sexuality, an attack that started after rainbow flags were raised at a concert on 22 September in Cairo.
Jailed Kurdish Leader Keeps in Touch with Supporters Through Arts, Literature, by Sibel Hurtas For Selahattin Demirtas, leader of Turkey’s main Kurdish political movement, art and literature have become a form of resistance. He has produced paintings, poems and most recently a collection of stories, in resistance against his own incarceration and Turkey’s increasingly authoritarian government despite behind bars on terror-related charges for almost a year.
Palestinian Orchestra Uses “Music As Resistance,” by Nigel Wilson The Palestine Youth Orchestra (PYO) was founded in Birzeit in 2004 and its members live in the occupied Palestinian territories, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, but also Australia, and are aged 14 to 26. However, reading the orchestra’s headquarters at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music in Birzeit, or joining concerts within or outside the occupied Palestinian territories is always a challenge due to entry and travel permits. Zeina Khoury, PYO manager, says “It’s not easy to make this happen. It’s our message to the world, music if our form of resistance, and making it happen in Palestine.”
“Less-Lethal” Weapons in Jerusalem: “The Purpose of These Bullets Isn’t Corresponding to the Reality,” an opendemocracy interview with Tali Mayer Israeli photojournalist Tali Mayer, 28, was shot by a black-tipped sponge bullet while reporting on a demonstration. This led to her project with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), photographing Palestinians injured by these crowd-control bullets. The ultimate goal of the project is policy change regarding the use of these bullets. In this interview, Mayer speaks about the use of these “non-lethal” weapons by Israeli security forces, their impact on people’s bodies and lives, and the lack of state regulations.
How Art Is Blooming Amid the Gaza Wasteland, by Donald Macintyre In this excerpt from his book Gaza: Preparing for Dawn, Donald Macintyre demonstrates the richness of art and culture in the Palestinian enclave of the Gaza Strip.