Broken Taboos in Post-Election Iran

by Ziba Mir-Hosseini | published December 17, 2009

The on-camera martyrdom of Neda Agha-Soltan, the 26-year old philosophy student shot dead during the protests after the fraudulent presidential election in Iran in June, caught the imagination of the world. But the post-election crackdown has two other victims whose fates better capture the radical shift in the country’s political culture. One victim was the protester Taraneh Mousavi, detained, reportedly raped and murdered in prison, and her body burned and discarded. The other is Majid Tavakoli, the student leader arrested on December 8, after a fiery speech denouncing dictatorship during the demonstrations on National Student Day.

Anatomy of a Nuclear Breakthrough Gone Backwards

by Farideh Farhi | published December 8, 2009

According to the headline writers at the hardline daily Keyhan, October 2 saw “a great victory for Iran” in Geneva. That day, Iran’s nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili had sat down with representatives of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, the contact group known as the “P5+1,” as well as the European Union, and the hardliners were in a mood for self-congratulation. Arch-conservative Keyhan editor Hossein Shariatmadari titled his commentary, “We Did Not Back Down; They Were Cut Down to Size.”

Damietta Mobilizes for Its Environment

by Sharif Elmusa , Jeannie Sowers | published October 21, 2009

In 2008, Egypt’s Mediterranean port city of Damietta saw escalating protest against EAgrium, a Canadian consortium building a large fertilizer complex in Ra’s al-Barr. Ra’s al-Barr sits at the end of an estuary, where the Damietta branch of the Nile River joins the Mediterranean. It is a prime destination for vacationing Egyptians in the summertime and the location of the year-round residences of the Damiettan elite. Fishermen ply the waters offshore. When plans for the fertilizer complex were announced, a coalition of locals feared that all three sources of income—tourism, real estate and fishing—would be jeopardized by emissions into the air and water.

Israel’s Religious Right and the Peace Process

by Nicolas Pelham | published October 12, 2009

It would be easy to describe the residents of the outpost of Amona as radicals. In February 2006 they led protests of 4,000 settler activists, some of them armed, against 3,000 Israeli police who were amassed to make sure that nine unauthorized structures in the West Bank were bulldozed as ordered. In the ensuing clashes, 80 security personnel and 120 settlers were wounded, more than the entirety of the casualties during the 2005 “disengagement” from settlements in Gaza, in a showdown that became the symbol of the West Bank settlers’ resolve to resist the state’s efforts to tear down encampments, like their own, that were erected without the state’s permission.

Norse Code

by The Editors | published October 10, 2009

A Minnesota farm boy gets accepted to Yale. On his first day on campus, ambling down the oak-shaded lanes, he meets a toothy young swell whose blood matches his navy blazer. The two exchange words of praise for the pleasant autumn afternoon, and then the Minnesotan ventures a query.

“So,” he says, with rounded vowel, “could you tell me where the library is, then?”

The Yankee’s smile fades. “Here at Yale,” he remarks, with clipped consonant, “we do not end our sentences with conjunctions.”

“Oh,” the Minnesotan replies, pausing briefly before continuing. “Well, let me rephrase that. So, could you tell me where the library is, then, asshole?”

A Precarious Peace in Northern Iraq

by Quil Lawrence | published October 1, 2009

On a stifling August afternoon in 2008, just as Iraq was recovering from the worst of its sectarian civil war, the Arab and Kurdish parties allied with the United States came to the edge of an ethnic bloodbath whose consequences for Iraq and the region would have been every bit as frightening. The trouble started when the mayor of Khanaqin, a predominantly Kurdish city in the Diyala province along the Iranian border, received a frantic call from a police station beyond the Alwand River on the west side of town. “They told me that the Iraqi army was on its way,” said the mayor, Muhammad Mula Hassan. “No one had informed me. A minute later we heard that the Iraqi army was surrounding Khanaqin.

Dismantling the Matrix of Control

by Jeff Halper | published September 11, 2009

Almost a decade ago I wrote an article describing Israel’s “matrix of control” over the Occupied Palestinian Territories. It consisted then of three interlocking systems: military administration of much of the West Bank and incessant army and air force intrusions elsewhere; a skein of “facts on the ground,” notably settlements in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, but also bypass roads connecting the settlements to Israel proper; and administrative measures like house demolitions and deportations. I argued in 2000 that unless this matrix was dismantled, the occupation would not be ended and a two-state solution could not be achieved.

Democracy, Lebanese-Style

by Melani Cammett | published August 18, 2009

Just as reports from Lebanon were indicating that a cabinet would be finalized within days, the notoriously fickle Druze leader Walid Jumblatt announced, on August 2, that his Progressive Socialist Party would withdraw from the governing coalition. Jumblatt criticized his coalition partners in the March 14 alliance, which had claimed victory in the June 7 parliamentary elections, for a campaign “driven by the re­jection of the opposition on sectarian, tribal and political levels rather than being based on a political platform.”[1] This view could apply to the campaigns of both major alliances that ran in the elections.

The Day After “Victory”: Kuwait’s 2009 Election and the Contentious Present

by Mary Ann Tétreault , Mohammed Al-Ghanim | published July 8, 2009

The May 2009 parliamentary election in Kuwait produced a number of surprising results. Occurring on the fourth anniversary of the achievement of full political rights for Kuwaiti women, the outcome attracting the most commentary was the victory of four female candidates. But there were other happenings of note. Doctrinaire religious candidates ran behind women in several districts. In fact, all of the “political groups” that function as Kuwait’s substitute for political parties did poorly on May 16, whether their orientation is center-left or religious. Even more telling is the fact that so many candidates, including several who had run as group representatives in previous elections, chose to run as independents.

Tehran, June 2009

by Kaveh Ehsani , Arang Keshavarzian , Norma Claire Moruzzi | published June 28, 2009

The morning after Iran’s June 12 presidential election, Iranians booted up their computers to find Fars News, the online mouthpiece of the Islamic Republic’s security apparatus, heralding the dawn of a “third revolution.” Many an ordinary Iranian, and many a Western pundit, had already adopted such dramatic language to describe the burgeoning street demonstrations against the declaration by the Ministry of Interior that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the sitting president, had received 64 percent of the vote to 34 percent for his main challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi.

An Artist as President of the Islamic Republic of Iran?

by Shiva Balaghi | published June 8, 2009

Something’s happening here. In one of the largest street demonstrations in Tehran since the 1979 revolution, thousands filled Vali Asr Street (formerly known as Pahlavi Street) on Monday, forming a human chain nearly 12 miles long and stopping traffic for nearly five hours. They wore strips of green cloth around their wrists and heads in support of presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi. They sang “Ey Iran,” the unofficial national anthem composed in the Pahlavi era by one of the leading figures of classical Persian music, the late Ruhollah Khaleghi. Banned for a time by the Islamic Republic, the song’s lyrical melody touches a deeply patriotic vein.

Old Wine in Older Skins

Lebanon Elects Another Parliament

by Heiko Wimmen | published June 3, 2009

On June 8, when all votes are cast and counted between the glitzy urban quarters of Beirut and the dusty hamlets of the Bekaa valley, the Lebanese elections will have produced one certain winner: the local advertising industry. Despite a newly imposed cap on campaign spending, candidates have been falling over each other to plaster the billboards along the roads and highways of this miniscule country with their oversized likenesses and airy slogans.

The Shi‘a of Saudi Arabia at a Crossroads

by Toby Matthiesen | published May 6, 2009

Deep in the morass of YouTube lies a disturbing video clip recorded in late February at the cemetery of al-Baqi‘ and on surrounding streets in Medina, Saudi Arabia. An initial caption promises images of “desecration of graves.” Al-Baqi‘, located next to the mosque of the prophet Muhammad in the second holiest city of Islam, is believed to be the final resting place of four men revered by Shi‘i Muslims as imams or successors to the prophet: Hasan ibn ‘Ali, ‘Ali ibn Husayn, Muhammad ibn ‘Ali and Ja‘afar ibn Muhammad. The prophet’s wives, as well as many of his relatives and close associates, are also said to be buried here, making the ground hallowed for Sunni Muslims as well.

Pakistan’s Troubled “Paradise on Earth”

by Kamran Asdar Ali | published April 29, 2009

Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes in areas of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP) as the army has launched ground operations and air raids to “eliminate and expel” the Islamist militant groups commonly known as the Tehreek-e Taliban or the Taliban in Pakistan (TIP). The targeted districts border Swat, a well-watered mountain vale described as “paradise on earth” in Pakistani tourist brochures, where the provincial government tried to placate the Taliban by agreeing to implement Islamic law (sharia). The February agreement, the Nizam-e Adal regulation, was approved by the lower house of the Pakistani parliament on April 12 and signed into law soon afterward by the president, Asif Zardari.