In the late 1920s, the Italian fascist regime implemented a campaign of ethnic cleansing in eastern Libya to create more land for Italian settlers and quell armed resistance to colonization. Ali Abdullatif Ahmida’s new book, Genocide in Libya: Shar, a Hidden Colonial History, examines this forgotten case of settler-colonial violence. Jacob Mundy talks to Ahmida about the genocide, the kind of research methods he had to develop to uncover this history and its present-day relevance.
Although settler colonies are often depicted as unique and distinctive, Muriam Haleh Davis argues that analyzing settler colonialism in a global framework reveals their multiple commonalities. Here she examines the large-scale production of citrus in Algeria, Israel and California as one fascinating example of the myriad links—both economic and ideological—that bound different settler-colonial projects. Davis also explores the serious ramifications for historical memory and contemporary politics of viewing these projects as exceptional.
With the French presidential election currently underway, Olivia C. Harrison’s timely intervention explains the central role that the history and memory of French Algeria continue to play in the country’s politics, culture and society. She shows how the perverse calls by nativist and right-wing groups for the “decolonization of France” and the repatriation of immigrants have been shaped by the experience of settler colonialism and the Algerian War of Independence, with repercussions that go beyond France.
Curtis Ryan interviews the award-winning Jordanian writer Hisham Bustani about his innovative literary works in multiple genres, the art of translation, government censorship and his political activism. This wide-ranging discussion provides an illuminating view into Bustani’s creative processes as well as insights into activism and identity in Jordan.
In the summer of 2021, street artists in Amman risked crossing the Jordanian government’s red lines when they painted murals and graffiti expressing solidarity with Palestinians in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Kyle Craig spoke with the artists about this unexpected shift in their public art practices and the sometimes contradictory responses of state officials. He examines the entanglements and power dynamics between artists, the government and institutional art patrons revealed by this unusual moment.
Like all governments, Iran’s response to the coronavirus pandemic combines public health measures with ideological messaging. Schwartz and Gölz analyze Iran’s visual iconography and the politics of the state’s early narratives of self-reliance and resistance and why these shifted when vaccines became the dominant tool to fight the virus.
The recent upsurge in analysis of Israel as an apartheid state has peaked again with Amnesty International’s February 2022 report. The willingness of mainstream non-governmental organizations to use the language of apartheid marks a shift in the terms of the debate—one that builds on a long history of analysis and activism, including by MERIP. Revisit MERIP articles that examine the parallels—and distinctions—between Israel’s system of control and that of apartheid South Africa.
The AKP’s decades-long electoral success in Turkey has been made possible by their strategic alliance with the country’s small industrialists. Utku Balaban analyzes the connection between Islamism and industrialization since the rise of these urban manufacturers in the 1980s and explains the nuances of the Islamists’ reliance on their support in working-class communities.
Providing a vital historical perspective, Benjamin Hopkins explains how the failure of the American project in Afghanistan had little to do with Afghan corruption or lack of national unity as understood in Washington. While today the problems of the Afghan state—its dependence on foreign aid, lack of legitimacy among the population and inability to deliver the public good—are viewed as elements of its failure, Hopkins shows how they are in fact consciously constructed features of its original blueprint, embedded by outside imperial powers at the modern state’s inception.
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.