Politics

Populist Passions or Democratic Aspirations? Tunisia’s Liberal Democracy in Crisis

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.

Understanding the Diversity of Political Islam

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.”

The Collapse of Tunisia’s Party System and the Rise of Kais Saied

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.

Selling Normalization in the Gulf

Elham Fakhro 06.23.2021

When the UAE and Bahrain normalized their relations with Israel, the countries’ leaders justified their actions as beneficial to the Palestinian struggle for statehood. Elham Fakhro explains how this rationale quickly fell apart and shifted, revealing deeper economic and strategic goals. Fakhro also illuminates how the history of Gulf support for the Palestinians created a space for the diverse responses of civil society to the Abraham Accords.

Intellectual Traditions and the Academy in Turkey — An Interview with Evren Altınkaş

MERIP editors interview Evren Altınkaş, a Turkish scholar who was pushed out of his academic position by his university’s administration as a consequence of participating in the Gezi Park protests of 2013. Altınkaş discusses his work on the intellectual tradition in Turkey, the role of the ruling AKP party in society and the challenges he and other academics face.

Political Assassinations and the Revolutionary Impasse in Lebanon and Iraq

In the midst of deepening political and economic crises, the recent assassinations of two intellectuals—Hisham al-Hashimi in Iraq and Lokman Slim in Lebanon—have shaken the popular protest movements that are pushing for fundamental change in both countries. Haugbolle and Andersen consider the consequences for those who challenge the status quo of government corruption and crumbling public services, both in the streets and through documentation and scholarship.

Cultural Heritage and the Politics of Sovereignty in Palestine

Elif Kalaycıoğlu reviews Chiara de Cesari’s book Heritage and the Cultural Struggle for Palestine, which explores the complex and shifting terrain of Palestinian heritage politics at work in both the Palestinian Authority and civil society organizations over time and under the conditions of settler colonialism.

Minorities in Libya Marginalized by the Revolution

Despite a decade of attempts to create a new democratic system of governance based on respect for human rights, efforts by non-Arab groups and other minorities in Libya to end discriminatory practices have been unsuccessful. The continued marginalization of minority groups is largely due to the persistence of historical divisions and rivalries between communities on the local level and the struggle over resources and wealth on the national level—both exacerbated by the policies of the former regime of Muammar al-Qaddafi (1969–2011).

Health and the Body Politic

This issue of Middle East Report explores the interactions of the body politic with health and medicine and examines the entanglements of physical bodies in the institutional and political processes that govern them. Articles in this issue explore a range of different landscapes and ecologies of politics and health care. In this way, we aim to bring the questions and problems of health and illness into the analysis of geopolitics and political economy, while situating the Middle East in broader global health conversations. 

Ambivalence and Desire in Revolutionary Syria

Daniel Neep 11.10.2020

Daniel Neep reviews Lisa Wedeen’s book Authoritarian Apprehensions: Ideology, Judgment, and Mourning in Syria and finds it a “serious, powerful work operating on multiple levels: it speaks to an impressive range of debates in the Anglophone academy and the Syrian artistic field without losing sight of the visceral suffering of Syrians both inside and outside the country.”

Jordan’s 2020 Election Shifts from Landmark Poll to Business as Usual

E.J. Karmel 11.5.2020

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.

“Turkey Wants to be Part of the Nuclear Club” An Interview with Can Candan

Kenan Behzat Sharpe spoke with Candan about his latest film project Nuclear alla Turca, a documentary on the history of atomic energy in Turkey, a country on the verge of building its very first nuclear plant despite a growing anti-nuclear movement.

On Blaming Climate Change for the Syrian Civil War

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.

On Blaming Climate Change for the Syrian Civil War

Jan Selby 09.29.2020

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.”

The New Wave of Politics in the Struggle for Self-Determination in Rojhelat

In an attempt to decolonize Kurdistan, at least discursively, Kurds refer to the Kurdish region of Iran as Rojhelat, instead of Iranian Kurdistan. Rojhelat, meaning “the place where the sun rises,” refers to the eastern portion of Kurdistan—the Kurdish homeland that...

Where Will You Find That Many Women?

Aysel Tuğluk is a Kurdish politician, a founding member and the first co-chair of the Democratic Society Party (DTP) in Turkey. She was elected as a member of parliament in 2007 and banned from politics for five years when the Constitutional Court outlawed the DTP in...

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 Brotherhood Goes to Parliament

Sitting on a comfortable fake leather couch in the lobby of Cairo’s four-star Ma‘adi Hotel on a spring evening, we watch tourists mill around. Asian, European and Sudanese businessmen and holidaymakers casually eat a buffet dinner or browse in the souvenir shop...
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