Growing Up in Wartime

Images of Refugee Children’s Education in Syrian Television Drama

by Hayden Bates , Rebecca Joubin
published in MER278

For years prior to the March 2011 uprising in Syria, writers of the sketch comedy series Buq‘at Daw’ (Spotlight) used symbolism and wordplay to mount a not-so-subtle challenge to the regime on state television. [1] In a 2002 skit, written by Samir al-Barqawi and directed by Layth Hajju, a teacher chalks tumuh (ambition) on the board and asks his pupils to tell him what theirs might be. One boy, Sa‘id, duly jots down his life goal on a piece of paper. The camera never shows what the child has written, but the teacher is so frightened by what he sees that he calls in the school’s principal to deal with the “disaster.” The boy’s father is summoned, and he is likewise terrified.

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Five Exciting Developments from Across the Middle East in 2015

by Jessica Winegar | published January 6, 2016

Negative stories about the Middle East dominated Western news headlines in 2015. It’s easy for Americans, especially those who listen to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his supporters, to get the impression that the region is just one miserable homogeneous place of violence, terror, religious fanaticism and authoritarianism.

From the Editors

by The Editors
published in MER119

On Sunday night, November 20, we paused along with millions of others in the US to watch ABC’s television drama of nuclear devastation. “The Day After” abstracted its fictional crisis from current headlines by having its US-Soviet confrontation occur over Berlin rather than Lebanon or Nicaragua. On the other hand, it faithfully portrayed ordinary people’s frustrating and fruitless dependence on television itself to understand and know what was supposedly happening to trigger such a deadly duel. In its own way the day before was as harrowing as the day after.

The Politics of Iran's Satellite Era

Turkish Serials, Safety Valves and Youth Culture

by Rebecca Joubin
published in MER274

“Once,” the Iranian comedian Mehran Modiri notes, “our marital relationships were formed over long distances. An Iranian man would explore the world abroad with his father’s money. When the money ran out, he would suddenly miss home-cooked qormeh sabzi and ask his family to send him a pure Iranian bride, so innocent she has seen neither sunrise nor sunset.” Today, Modiri continues, Iranian marriages are long-distance even when the couple is in the same room: “The husband is on Facebook while the wife watches Turkish serials. He might be 90 years old, and she’ll be on Instagram. He orders out for dinner, but she’s on a diet. The children are away at nursery school.

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Jerusalem Mixed and Unmixed

by Michelle Campos | published August 8, 2014

The popular Israeli television series, Arab Labor, follows the lives of the fictional journalist Amjad and his family, all of whom are Palestinian citizens of Israel. Season one of the series, which first aired on Israeli public television in 2007, introduces Amjad and his endearingly unquenchable faith in humanity. Tired of living in his natal village, Amjad moves his family to a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem, replete with strong water pressure in the shower, manicured parks and gardens, and what he thinks is the freedom to live out his dream of integration into Israeli society.

Syrian Drama and the Politics of Dignity

by Rebecca Joubin
published in MER268

Undeterred by pleas for mercy, the high-ranking intelligence officer Ra’uf pushes the junior ‘Azzam to his knees. Ra’uf forcibly shaves the young man’s head as other officers look on. He commands ‘Azzam to remove his shirt and pants, do pushups, jump up and down, and slide across the ground on his elbows. When another officer pounds him with a bat, ‘Azzam breaks down. Crying that he has had enough, he grabs a gun, shooting into the air and then at Ra’uf’s feet. He orders Ra’uf and the others onto the ground, gathers his clothes and runs away. When Ra’uf presses charges, an exceptionally kind mukhabarat officer says, “I saw how you humiliated him and induced him to carry a gun.”

Interventions

Interventions is a feature in Middle East Report Online offering critical reviews of important Middle East-related books, films and other cultural production. Click here for past Interventions articles.

Dramas of the Authoritarian State

by Donatella Della Ratta | published February 2012

During August of 2011, which corresponded with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, viewers of the state-run satellite channel Syrian TV might have stumbled upon quite a strange scene: A man watches as a crowd chants “Hurriyya, hurriyya!” This slogan -- “Freedom, freedom!” -- is a familiar rallying cry of the various Arab uprisings. It was heard in Syrian cities, including Damascus, when protesters first hit the streets there on March 15, 2011. But it was odd, to say the least, to hear the phrase in a Syrian government-sponsored broadcast. Until that moment, state TV had not screened any such evidence of peaceful demonstrations in Syria.

The More You Watch, the Less You Know

by
published in MER171

The Persian Gulf crisis received massive and sustained coverage in the American media. As numerous critics have pointed out, television network news in particular largely parroted the Bush administration’s line, accepting and passing on its version of reality as the truth. A study released in March by the Center for the Study of Communication at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst adds a new dimension to our understanding of television’s role in shaping public perceptions of the Gulf crisis and enhancing support for the war.

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"Images from Elsewhere"

An Interview with Serge Adda

by Miriam Rosen
published in MER180

“You chase colonialism out the door, it comes back through the sky,” observed the Algerian Press Service several years ago, alluding to the phenomenon of satellite broadcasting that has literally brought European television into the living rooms of North Africa. [1] More than 95 percent of urban households in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco have televisions, and more than 30 percent have video decks. Parabolic antennas are sprouting like inverted mushrooms on rooftops around the southern Mediterranean (estimates for Algeria alone range between 1.3 and 2.2 million households, or 8 to 17 million viewers). [2]

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From Broadcasting to Narrowcasting

Middle Eastern Diaspora in Los Angeles

by Hamid Naficy
published in MER180

Transnational media conglomerates and television networks from RCA to Associated Press to CNN have created and dominated a model of broadcasting which might be called “centralized global broadcasting.” Worldwide restructurings and rapid technological advances, though, have ushered in a new model of television which could be termed “decentralized global narrowcasting.” Middle Eastern television programs in Los Angeles are an example of developments in mass media which have led to the emergence of so-called minority and ethnic television and video. Their programs constitute part or the dynamic and multifaceted popular cultures produced and consumed by immigrant and exile communities in southern California.

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