Water in the Middle East: A Primer

Jessica Barnes 09.15.2020

Water is a prominent topic in discussions about the Middle East. Yet media coverage, policy reports and scholarly works often fall into simplistic accounts of scarcity, imminent crisis and potential water wars. “Water in the Middle East,” a primer in PDF format by Jessica Barnes, offers a valuable introduction to the topic that challenges these dominant narratives.

Going to War with the Coronavirus and Maintaining the State of Resistance in Iran

The Iranian government is fighting against the coronavirus pandemic not only with travel restrictions and social distancing rules, but also with ideological tools that promote unity and resistance. Through the production of posters and other media, Iran is creating connections between earlier battles, such as the Iran-Iraq war, and the current health crisis. Kevin Schwartz and Olmo Gölz trace the lineage of the iconography used in these images and the ideological efforts behind them.

The Armenian Genocide in Kurdish Collective Memory

Adnan Çelik 08.4.2020

Kurdish acknowledgement of participation in the Armenian genocide of 1915 along with Kurdish municipal efforts to atone have grown tremendously in the past 20 years. Adnan Çelik draws on his fieldwork and personal experience to explain how Kurdish memory work—drawing on knowledge transmitted for more than a century through Kurdish language, communal memories and traces left in the landscape—is making space for all oppressed groups in Turkey to seek justice. Forthcoming in MER 295, “Kurdistan, One and Many.”

Big Village Interactive Documentary Tells Small Stories of a Rebel Kurdish Village

Peyman Jafari 08.4.2020

After the 1979 Iranian revolution, Iranian Kurds fighting for autonomy moved to the village Gewredê in Iraq. The online, interactive documentary Big Village reconstructs life in Gewredê in the mid-1980s, as remembered by the residents. The viewer can click on interviews, pictures, videos and texts, which makes Big Village an excellent teaching tool for studying Kurdish history and the Iranian revolution. Forthcoming in MER 295, “Kurdistan, One and Many.”

Arabs Across Syria Join the Kurdish-Led Syrian Democratic Forces

The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) defending it were established by Kurdish political and military forces. But the SDF also attracts recruits from all over Syria. Why do Arabs from areas both inside and outside SDF control join this military force? Drawing on her field research, Amy Austin Holmes presents the stories of six Arab men and women that shed light on their motivations and the circumstances surrounding their choices. Forthcoming in MER issue 295 “Kurdistan, One and Many.”

Why Civil Society is Libya’s Best Defense Against the COVID-19 Pandemic

Nada Elfeituri 07.23.2020

With its national government in fragments and fighting ongoing, Libya was in an extremely vulnerable position when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in March. Four months later, however, infection rates have been kept relatively low. Nada Elfeituri explores the crucial role of post-Qaddafi civil society in confronting the coronavirus and the still precarious position of the Libyan people.

The Kurdish Freedom Movement, Rojava and the Left

Efforts by the Kurds to put revolutionary ideals into practice in Rojava captured the imagination of anarchists and leftists in Europe and North America. Thomas Jeffrey Miley explains the left’s fascination with Rojava, the ties of solidarity that connect the Kurdish freedom movement to Europe, Öcalan’s embrace of a new paradigm of struggle and the dilemmas facing Rojava now. This article is from the forthcoming issue of Middle East Report, “Kurdistan, One and Many.”

The Elusive Quest for a Kurdish State

Kurdish communities in the Middle East have been struggling for independence, autonomy and civil rights since at least the 1880s. While Kurdish movements across the region have suffered from fragmentation, the more formidable obstacle to fulfilling Kurdish aspirations are regional and global geopolitics. Djene Rhys Bajalan explains the many challenges, both historically and in the present day. This article is from the forthcoming issue of Middle East Report, “Kurdistan, One and Many.”

Turkish Intervention in Syria Heightens Authoritarianism in Turkey and Fragmentation in Syria

Sinem Adar 07.14.2020

Turkish military incursions into Syria since 2016 are shaping power dynamics not only in Syria but also domestically. Turkish state building practices in Syria are changing the demographics of the border area in Syria and benefiting Turkish industry and political elites. At home, Ankara is suppressing Kurdish political power and cracking down on anti-war activists. Sinem Adar explains who gains and who loses from the cross-border interventions.

The Odyssey of Iranian Sociologists Under Pressure

US sanctions on Iran, along with the COVID-19 pandemic and domestic political restrictions, are shrinking the public sphere in Iran, including sociological research and study. The Iranian Sociological Association, a large organization working all across the country, is a research hub that engages the public and the government in tackling society’s problems. Shahrokni explains how its important role is, however, being undermined by immense internal and external pressures.

Anti-Racism and Political Contagion From Save Darfur to Black Lives Matter

Hisham Aïdi 07.2.2020

Fifteen years after his classic essay for Middle East Report, “Slavery, Genocide and the Politics of Outrage: Understanding the New Racial Olympics” Hisham Aïdi reflects on what has changed, and what has not, in the intertwined dynamics of Islamophobia, solidarity movements and anti-racism in the United States and the Middle East.

Palestine on the Brink of Crisis

Colin Powers 06.30.2020

Palestine is heading into a disastrous recession brought on by the coronavirus pandemic’s paralysis of economic life combined with structural factors specific to the Palestinian economy. Colin Powers explains why the Palestinian Authority is unable to generate the necessary level of revenue to support its citizens, including the pernicious role of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the PA’s misguided choice to hand economic management to Palestinian business elites.

Mourning the Loss of the Berber Troubadour Idir

Nabil Boudraa 06.23.2020

For nearly 50 years, Idir’s music has resonated deeply with his Kabyle listeners: His lyrics not only recall the power of their ancestral traditions, they also serve as a reminder that Kabyle resilience transcends the ages. His music and his novel musicality completely revolutionized Kabyle song, breathing a fresh modernity into the old songs that were sung for centuries in mountain villages.

The Oil for Security Myth and Middle East Insecurity

Jacob Mundy 06.9.2020

Since the end of World War II, US policy toward the Middle East has ostensibly been dedicated to protecting the free flow of hydrocarbons to sustain the global economy. In reality, America’s pursuit of energy security has increased insecurity in the region through conflict, militarization and support for neoliberal authoritarians. Jacob Mundy explains why oil for security is a myth and how the current glut of oil presents a dangerous new twist.

The Muslim Ban and Trump’s War on Immigration

Louise Cainkar 06.1.2020

Trump’s war on immigration from the Middle East, enacted through multiple executive orders and proclamations since January 2017, is collectively known as the Muslim ban. Eventually approved by the Supreme Court, it hit the Yemeni community particularly hard with overwhelming costs and other hurdles to family reunification. Louise Cainkar explains the evolution of the Muslim ban, its unconscionable effects and what is being done to contest it. This article is from the forthcoming issue of Middle East Report, “Exit Empire – Imagining New Paths for US Policy.”

Rethinking US Policy Toward Iran: A Forum


The Trump administration’s aggressive stance toward Iran defines much of US policy toward the Middle East. Any effort to imagine new paths for US policy in the region will need to reformulate US-Iran relations. Middle East Report reached out to seven scholars and policy analysts for their thoughts on some critical questions. This forum is a preview of MERIP’s forthcoming issue, “Exit Empire – Imagining New Paths for US Policy.”

From the Archive: Political Aspects of Health

Joe Stork 05.21.2020

The coronavirus pandemic is highlighting glaring inequalities and the lack of resources for vulnerable communities worldwide. Joe Stork, in a prescient analysis from 1989, explains how health care is always mediated through politics and power. With vivid examples from across the Middle East, this article from the MERIP archives is indispensable to understanding the current crises in public health.

The Challenges of a Public Health Approach to COVID-19 Amid Crises in Lebanon

Jocelyn DeJong 05.8.2020

Lebanon’s highly privatized system of health care is presenting challenges to implementing a public health approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the country already suffering from multiple political and economic crises, containment of the coronavirus has been more effective than expected. But serious obstacles to the public’s health and well being remain.


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