Dignity was a principle demand of the 2011 revolution that overthrew Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia. Nadia Marzouki examines how that demand has informed the practices of youth and other marginalized groups as they mobilize for quotidian causes like clean streets. President Kais Saied’s recent power grab is a different kind of response to the demand for dignity, one that tries to erase corruption rather than confront it through transitional justice. Marzouki explains how the fluid politics of dignity make it an enduring resource for democratic revival. Forthcoming in the Winter 2021 issue of Middle East Report, “Revolutionary Afterlives.”
Soon after Libyans rose up in protest against the brutal authoritarian regime of Muammar al-Qaddafi in February 2011, the Libyan American poet Khaled Mattawa wrote “Now That We Have Tasted Hope.” His poem powerfully captured the mix of relief and anguish, despair and hope felt by many who participated in, or were inspired by, the Arab uprisings and was widely shared. In addition to presenting the poem here, Atef Said interviewed Mattawa about the poem, poetry’s relationship to revolution and his work supporting artists in Libya. Forthcoming in the Winter 2021 issue of Middle East Report, “Revolutionary Afterlives.”
The Palestinian uprising of April, May and June 2021—known as the Unity Intifada—is part of a long tradition of revolutionary political activity in which Palestinians from Jerusalem have often played a role. Akram Salhab and Dahoud al-Ghoul report from the city about the reasons youth feel compelled to act and how they are organizing. They investigate the ways this uprising builds on earlier civic action and why this intifada is so important.
In October 2021, Israel spuriously designated six Palestinian civil society organizations as “terrorist” groups, liable to suppression and severe punishment under Israel’s counterterrorism law. Joost Hiltermann analyzes why Israel is targeting these well-regarded groups—including the oldest Palestinian human rights organization, Al-Haq—and why now. Israel’s focus on crushing Palestinian nationalism, the decline of the PA’s relevance in Palestinian life and international complacency all play a role.
Tunisia’s political system is in crisis after President Kais Saied concentrated power in his office in July 2021. Robert P. Parks and Tarek Kahlaoui delve into the reasons why so many citizens support his moves and explain why they have become so disenchanted with Tunisia’s democratic system. The authors find that the governments’ emphasis on the electoral process and political theater over solving socio-economic problems and giving voice to the people are crushing the aspirations of the 2011 revolution.
The current political and economic crises in Lebanon reveal the myriad ways that the Lebanese continue to deal with the effects of the 1975–1990 civil war. Najib Hourani explores MERIP’s deep coverage of Lebanon since the early 1970s. He finds that “MERIP’s commitment to foregrounding local social struggles and their links to the global political economy, along with a sensitivity to historical context, has provided a powerful antidote to mainstream reporting and analysis.” Forthcoming in the Fall 2021 issue “MERIP at 50.”
Francesco Cavatorta examines MERIP’s 50 years of covering the complex phenomenon of political Islam and finds that much of it is based on field research, participant observation, interviews and ethnography. The result has been a rich diversity of approaches that comprehend the plural nature of Islamism, directly engage the words and deeds of Islamists and provide insights that prepare readers to understand real-world events. Forthcoming in the Fall 2021 issue “MERIP at 50.”
Although issues of domestic surveillance and discrimination faced by Arabs living in the United States became more prominent after the attacks of September 11, 2001, MERIP has been covering them continuously since the organization was founded 50 years ago. Pamela Pennock surveys how MERIP has written about issues of surveillance, struggles for justice and solidarity in the Arab American community. Forthcoming in the Fall 2021 issue “MERIP at 50.”
Twenty years after the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the US invasion of Afghanistan, Darryl Li surveys how MERIP’s deep and insightful coverage of the resulting War on Terror countered the “willful amnesia of American nationalism with a rigorous insistence on illuminating the historical continuities of imperial violence.” This essay is the first in a series reflecting on MERIP’s hard-hitting coverage of a wide range of topics since 1971, forthcoming in the Fall 2021 issue “MERIP at 50.”
Oil workers in Iran have been striking since June 19, 2021, leading some observers to ask whether protests are becoming routine within the existing political system or are a prelude to a bigger uprising. The authors explain what makes these strikes remarkable, why Iran’s neoliberal policies pushed workers to organize and how the state and society are reacting.
Ten years after the Tunisian people overthrew the country’s authoritarian ruler, their democracy is in crisis. On July 25, 2021, Tunisian President Kais Saied invoked Article 80, the emergency clause in the constitution, to sack the prime minister and freeze the activities of parliament. Nate Grubman and Aytuğ Şaşmaz examine the role of the political party system in preparing the ground for this dramatic move.
Yemenis forced to leave their war-torn home not only flee to neighboring countries, they also head south across the Indian Ocean to the European Union’s furthest outpost: the French-administered island of Mayotte. Bogumila Hall tells the stories of migrants who make grueling journeys south and north only to be trapped by EU policies that severely limit their mobility. Despite the hardships, Yemenis continue to create vital social bonds and dream of freedom.
The dire financial and political crises in Lebanon have made migrant domestic workers even more vulnerable to abuses of the kafala system of sponsorship. Kassamali explains the history of this labor system in Lebanon and the intersecting roles of race, class, nationality and gender in the hierarchies it produces.
The groundbreaking work of the Collective for Black Iranians is the first and only effort of its kind in Iran that brings together the voices of Black and Afro-Iranians, sharing their stories and experiences to foster greater racial consciousness and combat the anti-Black racism endemic to the Iranian community. Beeta Baghoolizadeh interviewed a founding member of the Collective, Priscillia Kounkou Hoveyda, in April 2021.
When the UAE and Bahrain normalized their relations with Israel, the countries’ leaders justified their actions as beneficial to the Palestinian struggle for statehood. Elham Fakhro explains how this rationale quickly fell apart and shifted, revealing deeper economic and strategic goals. Fakhro also illuminates how the history of Gulf support for the Palestinians created a space for the diverse responses of civil society to the Abraham Accords.
How do race and racism operate in the Gulf? Neha Vora and Amélie Le Renard closely examine how the term “Indian,” as it is used in the United Arab Emirates, refers to much more than national origin. They trace the role of colonialism, capitalism and the state in creating “Indian” as a racialized category in contrast to an imagined pure Gulf Arab identity. Attempts to police the boundaries between citizens and non-citizens obscures the Gulf’s truly multicultural and multiracial history and present.
As Iran’s elections approach (June 18, 2021), MERIP revisits recent articles that provide a deeper context for understanding politics in Iran today. The pieces gathered here include a forum re-thinking US-Iranian relations as well as articles examining key elections in Iran over the last 20 years, from 2001 to 2021.
Alex Lubin interviews Ussama Makdisi about his work on sectarianism and coexistence in the Middle East, the subject of his most recent book. Makdisi also addresses the role of race and colonialism and explains the importance of seeing these ideological formations in historical and geopolitical context. Forthcoming in the next issue of Middle East Report, “Race—Legacies and Challenges.”
MERIP editors interview Evren Altınkaş, a Turkish scholar who was pushed out of his academic position by his university’s administration as a consequence of participating in the Gezi Park protests of 2013. Altınkaş discusses his work on the intellectual tradition in Turkey, the role of the ruling AKP party in society and the challenges he and other academics face.
Begüm Adalet reviews Burak Erdim’s “Landed Internationals: Planning Cultures, the Academy, and the Making of the Modern Middle East.” As in past decades, universities in Turkey are venues of contestation between authority and resistance, with the government imposing its singular vision of a “pious, homegrown, national youth” on a diverse student body. Erdim’s book is the story of one such institution, the Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara, which was an iconic site of leftist student mobilization and anti-US protests in the late 1960s and early 1970s.