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.
In Iraq, birth defects are a visible embodiment of the enduring toxic legacy of war, burn pits, sanctions and other military interventions. War and occupation shattered public infrastructures necessary for health and well being, but also triggered cascades of environmental degradation. Kali Rubaii investigates the consequences for the forthcoming MER issue 296, “Nature and Politics.”
Responses to the tragic death of the Egyptian leftist and queer activist Sarah Hegazy reflect a significant transformation in the desire of individuals in the Middle East to claim queer identities. Zeina Zaatari places this moment in the historical context of decades of activism and struggle for freedom and social justice that continue despite tremendous backlash from governments and society.
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. Forthcoming in MER issue 296, “Nature and Politics.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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 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.
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.
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 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.