Middle East Research and Information Project: Critical Coverage of the Middle East Since 1971

Activism

“It is still early to write the history of Gezi”

Mücella Yapıcı is an architect and activist, known for her work against urban renewal projects and environmental destruction in Turkey. She is the secretary and spokesperson of the activist group Taksim Solidarity, which was one of the leading organizations during the June 2013 Gezi Park protests. MERIP editorial committee member Elif Babül spoke to Yapıcı on June 22, 2018 in Istanbul at the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects, shortly before the 2018 presidential elections took place. The interview has been edited and condensed for publication.

From Gaza to Jerusalem to Iran

Joel Beinin 07.12.2018

By forging a regional alliance aimed at confronting Iran and its allies, the new coalition of the US, Israel and allied Sunni Arab regimes intend to relegate the Palestinian issue to collateral damage in order to succeed.

Latin America-Middle East Ties in the New Global South

Over the past several years, posters of a gray Chinese terracotta warrior have caught the eyes of travelers in international airports. Hung on walls alongside moving walkways, the posters advertise the London-based bank HSBC and feature photographs ironically labeled...

Justice and/or Development

Emilio Spadola 12.24.2017
`Ash al sha`ab! `Ash! `Ash! [Long Live the People!] `Ash! `Ash! Maghariba mashi “awbash!” [We Moroccans are not “trash!”] Ra’s al-mal?! [Where’s our capital?!] -Hirak protest chants in Fez, June 2017 What began in late October 2016 with protests over the horrific...

The Thorns that Exist and Resist

On August 12, 2017, more than 1,200 people gathered in Chicago to bid farewell to Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian-American community organizer facing deportation due to US government efforts to repress struggles for social justice and support for Palestinian freedom. At the gathering, Angela Davis honored Rasmea’s lifelong commitment to revolutionary struggles against racism, Zionism and imperialism. A week later, Kristian Davis Bailey, a Detroit-based activist with the Black4Palestine network, stood outside Rasmea’s sentencing hearing with banners that declared: “From Assata to Rasmea, We Fight for Freedom/Hurriya.”

In 2015, Tunisia’s President Beji Caid Essebsi proposed a draft economic reconciliation law to forgive graft and other corrupt acts committed by civil servants and businessmen under the regime of ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in exchange for closed-door confessions and return of ill-gotten gains. Such economic crimes were a major trigger of the 2010-2011 protests that led to the Tunisian revolution—and Essebsi’s bill provoked a powerful response, a campaign called Maneesh M’sameh (I Will Not Forgive). The campaign’s initial goal was to protect the integrity of investigations of economic crimes by the Truth and Dignity Commission (L’Instance Vérité et Dignité), created in the summer of 2014.

The University of Toronto is not known as a particularly progressive institution. Like many universities, it has adopted neoliberal thinking and practice, becoming part of Academia, Inc. But two seemingly unrelated events during the 2014-2015 academic year showcased the increasing political activity of the school’s graduate student body.

Yemeni-American activist Rabyaah al-Thaibani was born in Ta‘izz, Yemen’s largest city, in 1977. She moved to the United States as a child to join her father, who was working nights cleaning office buildings in Manhattan. She grew up in Brooklyn, attended Columbia University and since has worked in community development in New York City. In 2011, she helped establish the Yemeni-American Coalition for Change, and in February 2017 worked to bridge Yemeni and American concerns by co-organizing the Yemeni bodega strike, mounted in protest of President Donald Trump’s first attempt at a “Muslim ban.” A named plaintiff in New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s effort to challenge the second “Muslim ban” in court, al-Thaibani agreed to talk with MERIP about how her childhood in Yemen and her experience as part of a wide Yemeni diaspora have influenced her activism in the US. She also spoke about what she would like outsiders to appreciate about Yemen and its current conflict. In a wide-ranging conversation of more than two hours with Stacey Philbrick Yadav, associate professor of political science at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, al-Thaibani described the connections she sees between her home and her homeland, the optimism she feels about Americans’ “accidental awakening” since Trump’s election, and the ways in which Yemenis are represented in American policy debates. The following is an edited excerpt of the conversation.

Change looms on the horizon in Algeria—change that could well touch the edifice of the country’s framework of governance. In the short term, given the protracted period of low international oil and gas prices, the state is likely to introduce economic reforms that will modify its expenditures on popular distributional and social welfare programs. And in April 2019, an election will likely usher in a successor to the sitting fourth-term president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who first took office in 1999.

Wael Eskandar is a Cairo-based independent journalist who blogs at Notes from the Underground. He has written for Ahram Online, al-Monitor, Daily News Egypt, Counterpunch and Jadaliyya, among other outlets. He has also contributed to Egypt’s Kazeboon campaign and other projects that focus on youth and digital information. Eskandar spoke with Jessica Winegar, associate professor of anthropology at Northwestern University and an editor of this magazine, in April 2017.

In January 2011, hundreds and sometimes thousands of Jordanians began protesting like clockwork on Friday afternoons; they continued to do so for nearly two years. The crowds were small compared to those in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Bahrain, but the turnout was sustained and marked a significant uptick for Jordan, where peaceful protest had not been uncommon. But by 2013 the demonstrations declined in both size and frequency. The regime weathered the main storm of the Arab uprisings, and without having resorted to violent repression. Many in the regime credited top-down reforms, including a revised constitution and amended laws on parties, public gatherings and elections. The political elite, including King ‘Abdallah II, spoke in terms of a reformist democratic march, through which Jordan would show the region a third way between the stark alternatives of revanchist authoritarianism, on the one hand, and upheaval and civil war, on the other. Jordan’s “Arab spring” would be about evolution, not revolution.

In early 2011, the world watched as millions of people took to the streets across the Arab world to demand the fall of regimes, or at least substantial political reforms. As the weeks and then months unfolded, the broadcast media adopted split screens to show simultaneous live footage of crowds in multiple countries. Some regimes were toppled and many were seriously shaken, but no regime in the region was left untouched. The high visibility of the uprisings, together with massive street protests on nearly every continent, led Time to name “the protester” as the 2011 Person of the Year.

Lodge 5 at Swarthmore College is a dignified building in gray stone, the aesthetic match of much of the rest of the bucolic campus located 20 miles outside Philadelphia. The structure houses three floors supporting Jewish student life: a kosher kitchen, a lounge and a library whose walls are heavy with such texts as the Talmud and Midrash. It is the natural place for Kehilah, Swarthmore’s Jewish student group, to meet in order to plan events and attend to other business.

Repression and Remembering in Kent and Cairo

Joshua Stacher 05.5.2015

Yesterday was the forty-fifth anniversary of the day when Ohio National Guardsmen fired 67 rounds of live ammunition into a crowd of peaceful protesters at Kent State University. The crime took 13 seconds. The tragedy endures.

As usual, the campus I call home closed for half of Remembrance Day. Many separate remembrances take place each May 4, as well as in the days leading up to it. Student organizations, such as the May 4 Task Force, remain vigilant and active even if the student body’s politics have quieted and atomized since 1970.

Not Running on Empty

Curtis Ryan 04.16.2015

A grassroots movement has been growing in Jordan, aimed at putting a stop to a major gas deal between Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom. In the wake of the Israeli elections, which returned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to power, this movement can be expected to get larger still.

The Battle of Egyptian Football Fans Against Dullness

Ultras, or organized groups of football fans, represented an influential faction of the Egyptian revolutionary multitude in 2011. The ultras’ long experience of street fights with police at stadiums aided the revolutionaries in achieving many victories over riot cops in the early days of the January 25 uprising and subsequently. And the ultras’ combat prowess was not their only contribution to the uprising. More important was the carnivalesque character of their resistance, which transformed the protest scene into something more colorful, vital, choreographed and performative.

Ferguson to Palestine

The world’s attention again shines on Ferguson, MO, where Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American 18-year old was shot by white police officer Darren Wilson on August 9, 2014. This time, the occasion is the grand jury’s failure to indict the officer. There will be no trial. There will be no opportunity for Brown’s family to defend their son’s reputation and see justice served.

Women’s Rights Activists Between State Violence and Intervention

The November 15 attack on an armored car transporting Shukria Barakzai, a women’s rights activist and parliamentarian in Afghanistan, shook me to the core. The attack, which Barakzai survived but three passersby did not, took place shortly after my return from a women’s rights meeting in Turkey. Several Afghan activists were in attendance, and they face similar risks each day. As I read the news, I thought, “It could have been any one of them.”

Taking Back the Village

On January 25, 2011, like most of the rest of the world I watched the uprisings in Egypt on television. I was struck by the consistent vantage point: a reporter speaking from a balcony or rooftop overlooking the masses in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo. There was an occasional interview with a member of the crowd. Sporadic reports appeared from the streets of other cities — Alexandria, Suez or Port Said — where people were demonstrating.

Strangers in the Crowd

“The system of fear is back,” whispers an Egyptian political activist. “It is showing its teeth, saying ‘I’m baaack.’” The protest veteran speaks sotto voce even though he is sitting in his living room. And that, he points out, is the biggest change since the heady days of 2011, after the fall of Husni Mubarak, and even since the more somber times of 2012 and 2013.

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