Women’s football in Sudan has grown significantly since the 2000s, with more than 720 players and 21 teams now participating in the women’s national league. Yet attitudes toward women’s play vary across the country, with many footballers facing religious condemnation, social stigmatization, police harassment and even arrest. Players also point to “gender washing” by the Sudanese Football Association, an organization that diverts funds dedicated to developing women’s football from international bodies like FIFA. Based on interviews with women football players in Khartoum, Sara Al-Hassan and Deen Sharp highlight the challenges to women’s pursuit of the beautiful game, and their tenacity in continuing to play.
COP27, Alaa Abd El-Fattah and the Dreams of the Revolution—A Conversation with Omar Robert Hamilton and Ashish Ghadiali
On November 6, 2022, COP27 will begin in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, with the aim of delivering on the Paris Agreement and the intention to acknowledge the disproportionate effects of climate change on the Global South, through “Loss and Damage.” On the same day, British-Egyptian political prisoner and revolutionary activist, Alaa Abd El-Fattah, will escalate his over 200-day hunger strike and stop drinking water. In the context of these events, MERIP invited racial and environmental justice activist Ashish Ghadiali to speak with novelist, filmmaker and cousin of Abd El-Fattah, Omar Robert Hamilton, about the tensions that underpin “the African COP.’”
While the World Cup constructs and fortifies a distinctly Qatari nationalism, the tournament has not erased the underlying tensions and inequities in Qatar’s migration system and citizenship policies. Beginning with the “Hayya Card,” a new visa tied to the purchase of a FIFA ticket, Jaafar Alloul and Laavanya Kathiravelu consider how ambiguous legislation is being used to differentiate and divide resident groups for purposes of retaining control. At the same time, they highlight emerging spaces for everyday solidarity between Qatari citizens and migrant communities made possible through generational change.
With the approach of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Natasha Iskander speaks to Arang Keshavarzian about the politics of labor that underpin the tournament – and their devastating effects. From the deliberate framing of migrant workers as “unskilled” to the regulation of workers protests, minimal reforms to the kafala system and strategic recruitment from climate damaged areas, Iskander highlights how calculated policies and practices shore up power at the cost of human life. The conversation provides a reflection on the often violent mechanisms that sustain “the beautiful game.”
Legacies of colonialism and decolonization have long shaped what football means to the large shared population of binational citizens between France and Algeria. One in every ten people in France has a direct familial connection to Algeria, complicating any distinction of national belonging and clouding footballing loyalties. Fans decide which national side to back, or opt to support both, in international tournaments. In the case of professional footballers, they must choose which nation to play for. This tense footballing relationship, rooted in colonial France’s civilizing mission, reverberates in social life in France today. Meanwhile, the sport itself grows increasingly enmeshed in systems of global capital.
Recent protests mark a tectonic shift in the method and rhetoric of expressing dissent in Iran. For over four decades, the Islamic leadership has fostered a culture of debate without delivery, using student debate tournaments and TV programs as an outlet for narrow critique. Previous protest movements—like the Green Movement in 2009—argued with the Islamic Government, largely on its terms and with its terminologies. The 2022 protestors have given up on persuasion.
Zachary Lockman speaks to Lori Allen about the history of Jewish support for Israel in the United States. They discuss Lockman’s views on the changing attitudes towards Zionism among American Jews over the course of the twentieth century and the new spaces for criticism that have emerged over the past twenty years. This is the first of a two-part series of interviews on the topic.
On September 27, 2022, Iranian musician Shervin Hajipour posted a song to his instagram compiled of tweets from Iranians detailing the reasons they are protesting. The song quickly went viral across social media. Within days of the video’s release, Shervin Hajipour had been arrested, and the original post was taken down. But like the Persian protest songs of the past, albeit in digital form, the video continues to circulate and resonate in digital and physical space. Zuzanna Olzsewska translates the song from Persian into English and discusses its significance amidst ongoing demonstrations in Iran. [Photo: Iranians protesting the death of Mahsa Amini on a street in Tehran, October 1, 2022. Getty Images.]
Özlem Kayhan Pusane argues that the Kurdish question in general, and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in particular, will occupy a critical place on the Turkish political agenda in the run up to the summer 2023 presidential and parliamentary elections. After the leader of Turkey’s main opposition party publicly validated the beleaguered and oppressed HDP as a legitimate political actor, other opposition parties signaled their willingness to grant the HDP a more central role in Turkish politics. While the broader political atmosphere in the country is conducive to such a change, considering that all sides need Kurdish votes for victory in 2023, there are major challenges ahead.
The Egyptian military’s massacre of nearly 1,000 supporters of deposed president and Muslim Brotherhood leader Muhammad Mursi at Rabaa al-Adawiyya square in August 2013 continues to reverberate. Abdullah Al-Arian explains the massacre’s long-term impact on the Muslim Brotherhood movement and Egyptian society. He shows how President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi’s regime continues to use the memory of Rabaa along with the extreme violence initiated by the massacre to extinguish Egyptians’ revolutionary ambitions, discredit opposition to its iron grip on state and society and silence dissent to its decimation of social welfare.
Many movies, television shows and advertisements film on location in the busy and crowded streets of Cairo. Mariz Kelada explains with ethnographic detail the complex and multilayered work of production assistants, fixers and sub-fixers to create the right conditions and relationships for filming in diverse neighborhoods and navigating inevitable tensions. Despite their precarious status as informal workers, she makes the case that their labor is integral to the formal system of media production in Egypt.
Could the use of Bitcoin allow Palestinians to escape Israeli control over the economy and money in the West Bank and Gaza Strip? Hadas Thier examines the arguments of the crypto enthusiasts and finds serious problems with their vision of liberation via Bitcoin. Thier talks to political economist Sara Roy, whose scholarship on de-development in Gaza is being used by some Bitcoin boosters, about the real roots of Palestinian oppression and why cryptocurrencies are not the solution.
State-sponsored credit campaigns are not a new strategy for Turkish governments but the low-interest consumer loans that were extended to almost 7 million people in the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic surpassed all earlier financial inclusion programs. Inviting masses into the financial sector amid stagnating or declining real wages and expecting people to reinvent themselves as entrepreneurs or small-scale investors were the main pillars of the project. It did not, however, solve the problems faced by low-income groups, women and minorities. Ali Rıza Güngen examines the state’s shifting approach to debt and the consequences for borrowers.
With Lebanon’s crumbling power sector in crisis and unable to meet even a fraction of demand, the government and reformers offer competing visions for how to fix it. Zachary Davis Cuyler delves into the country’s currently dire financial and energy situation, the proposed solutions and their implications for the ruling elite and the increasingly impoverished Lebanese people.
The Club (Kulüp), produced by Netflix, is set in the mid-1950s among the cast, crew and management of a trendy nightclub in the Beyoğlu district of Istanbul. In addition to the use of Ladino, the language of Turkey’s Jewish population, the show uniquely represents Istanbul’s minority populations, their contributions to cultural life and their experiences of persecution. James Ryan elucidates these unusual characteristics that distinguish the show from a typical Turkish soap opera and provides fascinating context to its real-life historical elements.
Genocide, Historical Amnesia and Italian Settler Colonialism in Libya—An Interview with Ali Abdullatif Ahmida
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.