On July 24, 2020 the Turkish government opened Hagia Sophia in Istanbul to prayer for the first time in 86 years, reverting the building’s status from museum back to mosque. Blessing and Yaycıoğlu explain the politics behind this decision and explore the ramifications for Hagia Sophia and other monuments with similarly rich and multilayered histories.
MERIP’s coverage of the First Gulf War sought to understand the crisis beyond the battlefield kinetics: from Iraq’s August 1990 invasion of Kuwait to the US-led Desert Storm military operation liberating Kuwait and looking beyond to the regional aftermath. Our authors and editors offered historically-grounded analysis of the invasion, they measured the nascent waves of misery and violence that would radiate from it and offered clear-eyed commentary on the costs and risks.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s appointment of Melih Bulu as the new rector of Boğaziçi University on January 1, 2021 provoked outrage among students and faculty in Turkey. Alemdaroğlu and Babül explain the anger behind the continuing protests and how Boğaziçi’s struggle fits into a long history of government control over higher education as well as the ruling party’s desire to attain cultural hegemony by cultivating what Erdoğan calls pious, homegrown and national youth.
Hakim Addad has been a political activist in Algeria for decades. In this interview with Thomas Serres he discusses the increasing repression of peaceful demonstrators under President Tebboune, the positive role of a new generation of activists in the Hirak movement, his arrests and imprisonment and the challenges of being binational. Forthcoming in MER 298, “Maghreb From the Margins.”
Fruzan Afshar traces the contested politics and complex law of setting the minimum wage and cost of living figures in Iran. She shows how Iranian labor activists are making innovative use of the state’s labor laws to secure political inclusion and a platform to voice demands.
Laleh Khalili draws on memories from childhood, her experience of leaving Iran and her ongoing interest in cooking to review a series of classic and contemporary Iranian cookbooks. Through them she reflects on the politics of identity in the Iranian diaspora and the global circuits of foodways reflected in Iranian regional cuisines.
Although Meir Kahane was assassinated 30 years ago, the violent and hateful legacy of his ideology continues to shape Israeli politics. David Sheen’s in-depth and long-term investigative reporting sheds light on how the intricate web of Kahanist influence is pulling Israel further and further to the far-right. Unabashedly Kahanist politicians have made hateful speech and action toward Palestinians by the government and within society increasingly visible and acceptable.
Revolutions are the singular political events that “confront us directly and inevitability with the problem of beginning,” argued Hannah Arendt. MERIP’s coverage of the uprisings of 2011 struggled intensely with this conundrum while cross-regional mobilizations, alliances and confrontations emerged at a pace that ignited promise for meaningful change. Revisit MERIP’s essential coverage in the wake of the 2011 toppling of Tunisia’s President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Egypt’s Husni Mubarak and the massive rallies in Yemen through this selection of key articles.
Anna Simone Reumert reviews Darryl Li’s book The Universal Enemy: Jihad, Empire and the Challenge of Solidarity, an eye-opening ethnographic history of the experience and fate of foreign fighters acting in the name of global Muslim solidarity in the Bosnian war of the 1990s.
The Sahrawi people have been struggling for self-determination in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara since 1975. Despite years of nonviolent resistance, there has been no significant change in the stalled process of decolonization. Until now. The sudden end to the long-running ceasefire and Trump’s tweet recognizing Moroccan control over Western Sahara and Morocco’s normalization of relations with Israel have suddenly altered the political dynamics. Mark Drury explains what this means for Sahrawi aspirations.
Humanitarian medical aid was developed to provide life-saving assistance to populations suffering from war and disease. What happens when this model is applied to help those living under occupation and coping with chronic deprivations and long-term siege conditions? Osama Tanous, a Palestinian pediatrician in Israel, recounts how he saw the logic of medical aid shattered during trips to Gaza and reflects on the limits of humanitarianism. Forthcoming in MER issue 297 “Health and the Body Politic.”
The epidemic of cancer in Iraq that emerged after the 1991 Gulf War has afflicted nearly every family. In response to a health care system devastated by sanctions and war, Iraqis acquired decades of experience piecing together novel mechanisms for obtaining treatment. The tendency of families to rely on their own knowledge and practices around disease is, however, no match for the coronavirus pandemic and the corruption of political elites that enables its spread. Forthcoming in MER issue 297 “Health and the Body Politic.”
Registered Syrian refugees in Turkey are allowed to access free state health care. But the language barrier, registration difficulties and prejudice led to the emergence of informal clinics run by refugee doctors. Although the government has opened Migrant Health Centers to ease access and replace informal clinics, unregistered refugees continue to face challenges. Nihal Kayali interviewed doctors, patients and clinic staff to find out how Syrians strategically navigate Turkey’s shifting health care terrain. Forthcoming in MER issue 297 “Health and the Body Politic.”
Daniel Neep reviews Lisa Wedeen’s book Authoritarian Apprehensions: Ideology, Judgment, and Mourning in Syria and finds it a “serious, powerful work operating on multiple levels: it speaks to an impressive range of debates in the Anglophone academy and the Syrian artistic field without losing sight of the visceral suffering of Syrians both inside and outside the country.”
November 2020 is election season not only in the United States, but also in Jordan where the prospects for a shakeup in parliament are quickly receding. Based on interviews with Jordanian political leaders, E.J. Karmel explains the shifting dynamics among candidates, lists, parties and currents that are undermining the potential for a changed parliament and seem to be leading to another business-as-usual election next Tuesday.
The discovery of oil in Turkey’s southeast encouraged state elites to imagine that development would lead to the assimilation of Kurds into Turkish culture and language. Instead, oil infrastructures and the resulting social changes had very different consequences. Zeynep Oguz explains the historical dynamics of the quest for oil and how it nurtured Kurdish dissent and critique of the state. Forthcoming in MER issue 296 “Nature and Politics.”
When the massive explosion in Beirut’s port ripped through the city on August 4, 2020, members of the Palestinian Civil Defense Lebanon sprang into action. Although based in Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps and despite entrenched suspicion and bias against refugees, the group immediately rushed to help their Lebanese neighbors. Erling Lorentzen Sogge tells their story.
Morocco’s massive Noor solar power installation in Ouarzazate is celebrated as an important step in the transition to renewable energy. But the benefits are not flowing to all citizens. Rural unrest and other demonstrations of discontent in recent years are piercing the government’s techno-optimism. Long-standing repression, economic marginalization and lack of investment in services or infrastructure as well as water pollution are among the local realities faced by residents. Forthcoming in MER 296 “Nature and Politics.”
The idea that the Syrian civil war was partly caused by climate change induced drought is widely repeated and yet deeply flawed. Jan Selby excavates the sources of misleading information and dismantles the simplistic cause and effect argument. Most importantly, he explains the real political and economic reasons behind agricultural crisis in Syria’s northeastern breadbasket region. Forthcoming in MER issue 296, “Nature and Politics.”
As Turkish scholars residing in the United States when the pandemic began to curtail normal life, Ergin Bulut and Başak Can signed on to take the Turkish government’s evacuation flight home. This experience and their time spent in government-managed quarantine yielded interesting insights into the state’s intense efforts to rebrand itself as caring and effective, particularly after consolidating power during the 2018 switch from a parliamentary to presidential system.