Closing the week 12 – Featuring the Syrian Uprising
Most popular on Closer last week:
- De Mislukking van het anti-multiculturalisme IV – De seculiere intolerantie
- Egypt: After the Revolution by Samuli Schielke
- Fitna NL – Analyse van de politieke propaganda
- Two Faces of Revolution by Linda Herrera
Tunisia Uprising I – Tunisia Uprising II – Tunisia / Egypt Uprising Essential Reading I – The Egypt Revolution – A Need to Read List – Women & Middle East Uprisings. See also the section Society and Politics in the Middle East (Dutch and English guest contributions).
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Featuring the Syrian Uprising
Syria Comment » Archives » Syria Dividing: Most Large Cities Calm. The Troubles in Latakia Lead to Army being Deployed
Syria is dividing into sides – those that will fight the state and those that support the president or fear revolution. The silent majority is still sitting on the side lines, but they will not be able to do so for long if order collapses. The army is sticking by the President, a main difference with Egypt or Tunisia. So long as the army remains united and obeys the President, it will be hard for the opposition to take over parts of the country or bring down the regime.
Initially inspired by revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, protests in Syria have gained momentum since March 15, 2011 (a first call for protests on February 5 drew only a small crowd). Thousands have protested against the government of President Bashar Al-Assad in Damascus, Aleppo and several other cities – and dozens have been arrested – but the heart of the protests is currently in southern city Daraa. On March 18, news that 15 children had been arrested for writing anti-regime graffiti sparked a demonstration that led to security forces killing at least three people. In subsequent protests in Daraa, at least 37 more have been killed (some reports say as many as 150 may have died). The most extensive nationwide protests since the beginning of the uprisings were on March 25 on what is now referred to as the “Friday of Dignity” (at least 24 deaths reported so far).
The situation in Syria keeps getting more and more serious (or should I say Syrias?). Protesters burnt down a Baath party headquarters today and the protests continue to escalate in response to the governments violent attempts to suppress them.
An interesting consequence of the current situation in Syria is that Hezbollah has positioned itself very squarely on the side of Assad, a strategic decision that will probably come back to bite them in the ass later on. The Alawite sect of Islam that Assad and his core supporters belong to is viewed with some suspicion by many of the more conventional Sunni Arabs of Syria. The government’s close ties to the Shiites of Hezbollah and to the Iranian government have give the unhappy parts of the population ammunition for accusations of borderline heresy.
????????: Muhammed Radwan Arrested
The Syrian regime is just like all the other authoritarian regimes in the Middle East that fabricate stories and arrest innocent people just to cling on to power. To hell with Bashar el-Asad and his bloody regime.
Despite protests in other locations in Damascus, mostly in the “suburbs,” the first protests on March 15 and 16 took place in the heart of Damascus in Marjeh Square. As the focal point of a sit-in and demonstration, Marjeh Square briefly gave a sense of place to any would-be uprising at the urban core of Damascus. In looking to Marjeh Square as a public space intimately intertwined with Syria’s modern history, we can perhaps glean the urban context of how a city’s spaces of revolt are formed and then transformed over time.
The ubiquitous visual representations of Asad’s cult of personality are becoming the targets of demonstrations in Syria. After 11 days of demonstrations in numerous Syrian cities, the statues and posters that are a familiar aspect of every Syrian’s life are now being stripped down from their prominent locations in some central squares. No footage has been reported of this happening in Syria’s two major cities Damascus and Aleppo, but Homs and Deraa are substantial cities in their own ways.
Syria’s presence in Lebanon is both covert (with thousands of security officers, many undercover) and overt – as this billboard in Beirut attests.
In Syria, the protestors’ movement has spread from Damascus to other cities. It was reported that the Syrian security police killed more than one hundred people in Dirra city. At the same time, the supporters of the regime have started their own movement to challenge those who are opposing the regime. In the meantime, it was reported that the protestors’ movements have spread to other cities in Syria, calling for political reforms and an end to corruption. President Bashaar el Asad promised the protesters political reforms such as freedom of expression, lifting emergency law and allowing political parties to participate in future elections. Meanwhile a counter demonstration spread in Syrian cities in support of the president. However, I doubt that the protesters will be appeased by the promises for political reforms made by the president.
In Syria, the faces of President Bashar al-Assad and his father, former President Hafez al-Assad, are regularly seen on billboards, buildings, and in the form of statues. Visitors to the country are often surprised by the prevalence of such images, while Syrians have grown used to them as a daily feature of life. Yesterday, a number of videos surfaced in which protesters tear down the symbols of the regime: posters and statues of the ruling Assad family.
Several Iranian bloggers reacted to a slogan of Syrian protesters during Wednesday’s march where people chanted “Neither Iran, nor Hezbollah!” Syria is an ally of Iran and is also friendly with the militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon.
It has been a season of earthquakes, and the political ones in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere in the Middle East may have shifted the moral high ground within Islamic opposition movements. Put simply, Tahrir Square may have trumped jihad.
In post-revolutionary Egypt, where hope and confusion collide in the daily struggle to build a new nation, religion has emerged as a powerful political force, following an uprising that was based on secular ideals. The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group once banned by the state, is at the forefront, transformed into a tacit partner with the military government that many fear will thwart fundamental changes.
There is an ongoing spasm of activism in Lebanon directed towards changing the sectarian structure and ethos of the state. For the past five weeks, growing numbers of people have taken to the streets stating their refusal of both the March 14 and March 8 coalitions and demanding the end of sectarianism in Lebanon. It has been inspiring to see men and women from all age groups, areas and socio-economic strata march together through parts of Southern Beirut, East Beirut, West Beirut and the rest of the country shouting slogans such as “we want the end of political sectarianism”. By some counts (although it is always prudent to be wary of protestor counts) more than 10,000 people participated in the last protest. While it is still early to call what is happening a “movement” and it is definitely too early to call it an uprising, what is happening cannot, and should not, be discounted or cynically dismissed as doomed to failure. Even if it does fail in its stated goal of “overthrowing political sectarianism” it will have succeeded in inspiring thousands of people across Lebanon and its diaspora. It will have succeeded in being the impetus for the formation of networks that will last far beyond these weekly protests. However, before predictions of this group’s failure or success are made it is incumbent upon us to think seriously and critically about what ending political sectarianism entails, and consequently, about what sectarianism is and the myriad ways in which it functions to produce and animate the conditions of possibility for both “Lebanon” as a nation state and “Lebanese citizenship” as a category of everyday practice. Before entering a more in-depth analysis of these questions, I begin with a table that summarizes some of my claims.
The extraordinary events that have been gripping the Arab world since December 2010 have demonstrated the steadfastness of Arab citizens across the region in the face of despotic regimes. But they have also demonstrated that Arab despots indeed engage in authoritarian learning. From Tunisia to Egypt to Bahrain to Libya to Morocco to Yemen to Syria (and the list goes on), Arab rulers have followed a peculiarly familiar pattern in the way they have—and are—responding to the protests calling for regime change.
Al-Jazeera English is the latest media outlet to run an article on Human Terrain Systems (HTS) claiming “A new phalanx of anthropologist-warriors are being recruited, carrying ‘cultural scripts’ to battle”. Written by historian Mark LeVine, the article describes a brochure he received asking him to send job-hungry social scientists this way.
The unfolding of the Arab revolution is thus objectively and increasingly subjectively anti-imperialist. Washington’s system of domination in North Africa and the Mideast has been shaken. Israel’s role in this system has likewise been weakened. The Israeli ruling class feels itself becoming isolated by the rebellion, and its spokespeople are squealing in alarm. Israel is reacting by renewing attacks on Gaza and further settlements in the West Bank, driving to consolidate its rule from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River.
Not the usual media roundup, this report focuses on some of the questions raised in “The Libyan Revolution is Dead,” as part of a broader critique on the foreign military intervention in Libya, one week after it began. In particular, we examine:
* the political implications of the war in Western nations;
* the nature of the media spectacle, and how it resembles/differs from wars of the last 20 years;
* assessing the “successes” of the no-flight zone (NFZ) and what it allegedly prevented;
* the human rights frame, and the problem of evidence for “crimes;”
* the strategy behind the foreign military intervention, and the increasingly rapid slippage from one goal to the next;
* the slow but growing media analysis of “the rebels” in Libya, getting underneath some of the insurgents’ claims, followed by an examination of some of the promotional propaganda designed to sell them to Western audiences;
* growing critiques of the war, with perspectives from those outside of Western Europe and North America—one might say, from experts on imperialism for having been at its receiving end for many generations;
* and, finally, the folly of the late humanitarian project, that refuses to recognize its own complicity in creating the object of its destructive desires.
Links to the relevant articles are to be found throughout.
Have you tried googling “Japan” “earthquake” and “no looting”? Or “Libya” and “tribes”? It’s no big surprise to see stereotypical representations of other people in the news, but the ongoing historical developments in Libya and Japan might provide especially interesting examples.
The protests that have swept Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya have brought Arab women out in numbers. No longer are they relegated to the sidelines. In Cairo, Rihab Assad, a 40-year old office manager, was astonished when she saw another woman with a megaphone shouting out chants to a largely male crowd, who echoed her calls. “To me,” said Assad, “this was something entirely new.”
Is the new boss the same as the old boss?
As protest rolls through the public squares of the Middle East one of more unusual sights is women standing shoulder to shoulder with men, risking their freedom and their lives.
Yusra: I thank the media for keeping its radar on Libya, especially as the situation gets more and more desperate. I would of course liked to have seen more detailed reports, which would include specific stories about Libyan women and the strife and daily hardship and unbearable conditions Gaddafi’s regime has brought upon them; however this is Libya–getting reporters in and getting reports out is extremely difficult.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has correctly warned that women’s rights in Tunisia and Egypt risk being undermined, endangering reforms to gender discriminatory laws and jeopardizing the vital social, economic and political contribution of half the population.
I gave the keynote address to the Model Arab League at Miami University. The address was entitled “Egypt’s Uprising: What’s Next?”
Egyptian women might be free from Mubarak, but their fight is not over. A women’s rights demonstration in Cairo, celebrating the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, ended in shouting, violence and sexual harassment.
With their husbands, sons and brothers at the frontlines, the women of Benghazi are busy supporting them with meals and supplies, preparing thousands of sandwiches and warm meals daily.
Hoda Abdel Hamid reports from Benghazi, where the uprising began.
In Kuwait, some young Bidun men and women often wonder what more they could offer the country to get accepted as one of its own. Their fathers had lost their lives liberating Kuwait from the Iraqi invasion in the 1990 Gulf War.
Tawakkol Karman sat in front of her laptop, her Facebook page open, planning the next youth demonstration. Nearby were framed photos of her idols: the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. These days, though, Karman is most inspired by her peers. “Look at Egypt,” she said with pride. “We will win.”
Why has the Libyan revolution of 2011 has unfolded the way it has? Why now? What concerns do ordinary Libyans have? How do they see the world? Who are the people willing to put their lives on the line to get rid of Qaddafi? Why do some Libyans remain loyal to the Qaddafi government? And what factors might determine whether this revolt succeeds? To answer such questions, we need a textured understanding of Libyan society in 2011, and of the way revolutions happen in the age of Facebook, satellite TV, and mass media. That’s why I’m here.
When a group of young Jordanians from various backgrounds decided to hold a sit-in at the Interior Circle on March 24, the first thought that occurred to me was that this was a recipe for disaster. Given the security apparatus’s history with crowd control, there was no way a sit-in would be allowed outside the governorate office and so close to the Ministry of Interior. I was also filled to the brim with drawn out cliche conclusions about who these guys were and what their demands would be. I am generally weary of most protests, demonstrations and rallies in a country like Jordan as I feel they yield little results beyond getting some minor international media coverage. But I do understand the need for them in a country like Jordan where all other effective mechanisms of accountability are closed off to the public. In other words, unless people take to the streets there is little they can do by way of holding the political apparatus of this country accountable. In other words, these demonstrations do play their role in acting as organized pressure groups, in the total absence of actual organized pressure groups.
With stereotyped conclusions on one shoulder, and a low bar of expectations on the other, I decided to pay the sit-in a visit at 1am on a Thursday night after reading several “reports” that trucks filled with rocks were being mysteriously transported to the Interior circle to arm other groups aiming to attach the March 24 shabab. Not one to buy in to conspiracies, I went. And what I saw was quite baffling.
Friday night marked the violent defeat of protests that began on March 24 (#March24) in Amman, Jordan. On Thursday night, protesters for democratic reform had camped out at the Dakhliyeh Circle (Ministry of Interior Circle). Throughout Friday more and more citizens gathered at the Dakhliyeh Circle raising their voices for political reform. They were met with counter-demonstrators holding up pictures of Jordan’s King Abdullah and throwing rocks.
Moroccan police clashed with teachers demonstrating for better benefits Thursday, seriously injuring several people in the capital Rabat, participants said.
Various groups have stepped up protests in recent weeks, emboldened by successful uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. Tens of thousands gathered in cities across the kingdom Sunday in one of the largest anti-government protests in decades.
An inside look at Morocco’s youth-led revolt, where a group of activists, formed on Facebook, organize nationwide protests demanding democracy.
Tunisians, Free but Still Without Work, Look Toward Europe – NYTimes.com
The revolution has changed much in this low-slung, whitewashed city on the Mediterranean coast. Residents no longer live in fear of the secret police, and speak openly of politics. Devout Muslims say they feel a new freedom to practice their faith. The red national flags that hang almost everywhere are no longer joined by the portrait of the ousted president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.
But scores of unemployed young men still slouch in the cafes in the afternoons, smoking water pipes, playing cards and sipping coffee. And at night, the fishing boats still ferry thousands of desperate workers across the Mediterranean to Europe.
While the world focuses on bombing raids in Libya, a different scenario has been unfolding in Yemen, which would be the first country outside of North Africa in this recent era of uprisings to lose its long-term strongman, Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Fascinerend om opnieuw en in detail te lezen hoe tijdens en na de Eerste Wereldoorlog het Midden-Oosten geschapen werd, door voornamelijk Engeland en Frankrijk en dan ook nog eens op advies van een handjevol diplomaten en arabisten (de Engelse Sykes en Franse Picot verdeelden in het pact met hun naam in 1916 Noord-Afrika en het Midden-Oosten in hapklare brokken voor eigen gebruik). Wie nu de loodrechte grenzen in het Midden-Oosten bekijkt, wordt meteen herinnerd aan Bell, Laurence, Sykes en Picot.
De volksopstand die Hosni Mubarak van zijn troon heeft gestoten, was slechts het begin van een golf van onrust in bijna alle regio’s van de Midden-Oosten. En het lijkt al weer tijden geleden dat in Tunesië president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali de vlucht moest nemen, toen begin februari de vonk vuur over sloeg naar Jordanië, Libanon en Soedan. En er zouden nog veel meer landen volgen.
Slate heeft een mooie animatiekaart met daarop de getijden van de demonstraties en de vergeldingen van de regimes van dag tot dag. Het begint in Tunesië en eindigt met het onopgeloste conflict in Libië. Je kunt met de groene pijl doorklikken voor de gebeurtenissen op de dagen of kies ‘Autoplay’.
Voor journalisten levert deze aanhoudende onrust een bijna onhandelbare stroom van informatie aan. Voor de lezer is het dan misschien moeilijk om uit alle artikelen en achtergrondverhalen nog een goed overzicht te krijgen over wat er nu allemaal waar aan de hand is.
erontrustend is ook dat deze niet eens zo sluipende islamisering van het Midden-Oosten heeft plaatsgevonden in een tijd waarin het Westen oppermachtig was en de moslimwereld zwak, afhankelijk en deels door Europese machten gekoloniseerd. Deze ontwikkeling, die feitelijk reeds heeft plaatsgevonden, geeft veel meer te denken dan de vooralsnog hypothetische gevaren voor de islamisering van West-Europa (waar geen enkel zinnig mens trek in heeft). Wie het laatste wil keren, moet meer oog hebben voor het eerste. Dat vraagt om een brede en – vloek in de neo-nationalistische kerk – kosmopolitische blik.