- Netanyahu's New and Dishonest Vision of Peace: Without the Palestinians - Haaretz
Daniel Levy: "Netanyahu has no intention of pursuing genuine de-occupation, Palestinian enfranchisement and peace under any circumstances. In reality he is attempting to prove something quite different – namely that Israel can manage and upgrade its regional relations while at the same time pursuing an ever-more aggressive and egregious set of policies towards the Palestinians."
- Turkey Chooses Erdogan by Christopher de Bellaigue | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books
Christopher de Bellaigue
- How a Secretive Branch of ISIS Built a Global Network of Killers - The New York Times
- Ethiopian regime under pressure as protests escalate - FT
Might be to Egypt's advantage.
- How Refugees Can Strengthen Economies
Research shows refugees aren't a drain, reports @ursulind in Al Fanar
- A Gloomy Egypt Sees Its International Influence Wither Away - The New York Times
Includes Issandr's thoughts.
- Egypt’s Christians lose patience with Sisi as attacks spike - FT
Last month, the Egyptian pound reached EGP13 to the US dollar for the first time, highlighting the massive stresses on the Egyptian economy and the inevitability of a further devaluation (long expected by the markets) despite the Central Bank of Egypt’s efforts to have controlled re-evaluation of the pound. Also last week, Egypt announced that it was in the final stages of negotiating an agreement for as much as $12 billion in loans (which will of course come with policy conditions) from the IMF. Yesterday, President Abdelfattah al-Sisi warned that austerity measures are coming. All of this points to the continuing fall of the purchasing power of average Egyptians, from the poorest segment of the population (only partly sheltered by price controls on basic goods) to the middle class (perhaps the most dramatically affected).
These developments have appointed once pro-Sisi commentators to lash out. Like many once pro-establishment Egyptians I have met in the last year, it is not so much that they blame Sisi for the alarming economic condition of the country (that after all is a long-term trend) but his lack of vision for the economy and indulgence in wasteful prestige projects and the lack of transparency with what is being done with money raised from the Egyptian public and foreign backers. In the piece below, the Nasserist columnist Abdullah al-Senawi (who in 2013-14 was said to have Sisi’s ears and was a major supporter from the “nationalist left” through his TV show and writings) skewers the Sisi regime for his and more, predicting that such poor economic stewardship may very well spell its downfall.
Thanks to our friends at Industry Arabic for the translation. Do check them out for your Arabic translation needs - we’re very happy with them, and the New York Times recently used them to translate an excellent piece on Saudi Arabia by our friend Ben Hubbard.Read More
- Revolutionary Salafism: The Case of Ahrar Movement
- Youth unemployment in Egypt: A ticking time bomb | Brookings Institution
- ‘Young, old, conservative, liberal’: Turkey in shock over journalists’ arrest | The Guardian
- Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s purge extends from soldiers to a stock analyst - FT
- Make Noise & Beauty on July 28, a Day of Creativity for Ashraf Fayadh – Arabic Literature (in English)
- Bets on Egypt Currency Devaluation Rise
Black market reached EGP13:$1!
- Turkish Academics Pay Harsh Penalties for the Failed Coup
A look at what is happening at universities, by @ursulind
- A reality check on the Middle East from America’s spy chief - The Washington Post
Ignatius channels Clapper.
- The Fantasy of Disengagement - The Cairo Review of Global Affairs
Blistering critique of Obama ME policy by Thanassis Cambanis.
- How Recep Tayyip Erdogan Made Turkey Authoritarian Again - The Atlantic
Last weekend's aborted coup in Turkey, and the crackdown that has followed it, has been the focus of excellent think-pieces in the last week (such as this excellent piece by Aaron Stein). Most are concerned with the domestic implications for Turkey and the ambitions of President Erdogan. In the Arab world, reaction has been divided and mostly concerned with the strategic implications for the region, particularly as it came as Ankara had announced an effort to patch up its relations with neighbors. The most concrete element of this new policy that has been achieved thus far is the discreet settlement reached with Israel over the Mavi Marmara incident, and the potentially most significant element were overtures to Russia and Syria. (Reconciliation with Egypt, also floated prior to the coup, seems unlikely after Egypt so clearly welcomed the putsch.)
In the article below, the commentator Abdel Bari Atwan (whom I find relatively equidistant these days from the main Arab "concerned parties" in the new regional great game) focuses in on the potential of a reversal of Turkish policy on Syria. Atwan wagered that the issue might be addressed in Wednesday's National Security Council meeting in Ankara (it does not appear to have been) but this is one issue worth watching.
As always, our friends at Industry Arabic provided the translation. They're great, please check them out for your business (or other) needs.Read More
Sorry, we've been on holiday.
- Sisi’s New Prisons
A visit to Alaa Abdel Fattah
- A Saudi Morals Enforcer Called for a More Liberal Islam. Then the Death Threats Began
Best piece on KSA I've read in a long while
- Hundreds 'disappeared' by security forces in Egypt, says Amnesty | The Guardian
- Chilcot report: UK oil groups feared losing out on deals — FT
And some still say oil has nothing to do with it...
- Why elections are bad for democracy | David Van Reybrouck | The Guardian
This guy has been a hit in Belgium.
- In Britain, the End of the Establishment - Bloomberg View
Pankaj Mishra on Brexit as "a collective suicide bombing."
- Egyptian authorities ban feminist Mozn Hassan from travelling to Beirut | The Guardian
- A Letter From the Edge of the Abyss
This is beautiful, terrible to read.
- Egypt’s anti-corruption chief was fired. Then his daughter was, too. - The Washington Post
- The Bookseller of Algiers « LRB blog
Ursula was in Algiers for the first time recently, and wrote this
- A Tunisian professor writes about "Mohamed's Last Days"
This was an interesting read
- United Nations Chief Exposes Limits to His Authority by Citing Saudi Threat - NYT
Threat to defund Palestine, Syria, Sudan aid.
- Graft Fighter in Egypt Finds Himself a Defendant in Court - The New York Times
- Eating in public during Ramadan is an attack on Islam, declares Dar al-Ifta | Mada Masr
What a fragile religion.
- The Egyptian Satirist Who Inspired a Revolution - The New Yorker
On Abou Haddara, a late 19th c. magazine
- Morsi death sentence endorsed by Egypt's mufti, website says
- Saudi wealth fund takes $3.5bn Uber stake — FT
- Iran Bars Pilgrims From Traveling to Mecca for Hajj - The New York Times
Interesting details on hacking attacks by Saudis.
- Middle Eastern Writers Find Refuge in the Dystopian Novel - The New York Times
I am quite late in posting the translation below, which was published in May soon after the Vienna ministerial meeting on Libya in which Western powers announced that they were prepared to put in place an exemption to the arms embargo to provide weapons and training to the fledging Government of National Accord led by Prime Minister Faiez Serraj. The piece below is interesting, as an op-ed by a newspaper that while London-based is funded by Qatar. It signals the continuing exasperation in Doha with Egypt’s foreign policy, a precursor to this week’s diplomatic spat follow the sentencing of deposed President Mohammed Morsi on charges of having spied for Qatar. And, some might say, the odd kind-of-proxy war between the Egypt/UAE-backed Haftar forces and those Islamist forces in Libya closer to Qatar (who once again clashed in recent days.)
As always we bring you this translation through our partners at Industry Arabic, a professional translation service that specializes in Arabic documents of all kinds. If you or your company has an Arabic translation need, please check them out and tell them The Arabist sent you.
Cairo Uses Haftar to Prevent Libyan Reconciliation
Editorial, Al-Quds al-Arabi, 19 May 2016
The Libyan crisis has witnessed a new development: The United States and the countries of the European Union have announced that they are prepared to arm the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA). Meanwhile, the option of direct Western military intervention has receded (despite the presence of American and European special forces on Libyan territory). After the GNA took over most ministry headquarters, it announced the names of its ministers. Then, forces loyal to this government began to clash with “Islamic State” forces—the main point of focus for Western powers—and to retake areas, checkpoints and border posts. The major difficulty that the GNA faces, though, is approval of its legitimacy by the recognized Tobruk-based House of Representatives. Despite a majority of representatives agreeing to this, having signed statements and announcing their explicit desire to recognize the GNA, the House of Representatives continues to refrain from doing so, for reasons that are quite clear.
The matter is related, of course, to the military control that the Commander-in-Chief of the Libyan National Army, Khalifa Haftar, enjoys over the eastern region of Libya, where the House of Representatives is located. From a regional perspective, it is also related to approval by the authorities in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates—the actual sponsors of General Haftar—of the international plan to move from civil war to reconciliation.
In a recent statement made by General Haftar to a Libyan television channel, he said, “It is unheard of for a government to be established during a time of terrorism.” He means by this, of course, the GNA. He further stated that he “has nothing to do with political dialogue” and that what he is interested in is “imposing security and stability and ridding Libya of the Muslim Brotherhood.” Furthermore, he argued that “democracy will come to pass over the generations,” but that he believes in it because he experienced it for 25 years in the West! Haftar’s statements contradict one another and undermine any credibility he has.
Collectively, his statements clearly express his enormous disdain for his supposed partners in Libya in his rejection of political dialogue and his acknowledgement of only one solution, the one that he imposes with his military forces and that eliminates the Muslim Brotherhood. After he establishes security and stability, he sees nothing wrong with promising Libyans (or those that are left) with democracy, which “he alone knows because he lived for 25 years in the West,” but in the generations to come!
In their cartoonishness, these statements made by General Haftar do not diverge from those of another general, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. This is the man in whose footsteps Haftar had hoped—and continues to hope—to follow in moving from military control on the ground and over the government and the House of Representatives to the Libyan presidency. This has eluded him, however, for the simple reason that Libya is not Egypt and because the éradicateur solution did not work. This is what pushed the United Nations and the international community, in the end, to resort to the current compromise scenario.
Support for the Haftar option for Libya has led, in practice, to significant tragedies inflicted on the Libyan state and society. This has strengthened the hardline Salafist movement, as represented by the Islamic State. Furthermore, it has contributed to destabilizing the security of countries both close by and in Europe and to enabling gangs of smugglers to traffic across the Mediterranean those seeking refuge in Europe.
The only reason for this option to remain active on the Libyan scene is that its collapse would reveal the absurdity of the Egyptian model on which it was founded – something that Cairo is trying to postpone as much as possible.
Nobel Literature Prize winner J.M. Coetzee spoke in Ramallah recently as part of the Palestine Festival of Literature, an event I cannot recommend following and (if you are as lucky as I was a few years ago) participating in enough.
- US academic denied entry to Egypt told she was a 'problem for national security' | Middle East Eye
She was researching Bollywood.
- Fiji Pulls Some Peacekeepers From Egypt Amid Security Fears - ABC News
After recent mortar strikes on MFO.
- Egypt Muslims attack Christian woman, houses after affair rumor | Reuters
- Not Just Tech: Entrepreneurship in the Middle East - The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy
- How big were the changes Tunisia’s Ennahda party just made at its national congress? - The Washington Post
- French Journalist Rémy Pigaglio Barred From Egypt - WSJ
- A Window Into the West Bank’s ‘Wildest, Most Violent’ Areas - The New York Times
- Erdogan’s march to absolute power has Berlin’s blessing - FT
- Rached Ghannouchi : « Il n’y a plus de justification à l’islam politique en Tunisie »
Ahead of the Nahda Congress this weekend
- Egypt’s media bill may bring demise of small, online outlets - The Washington Post
- Steel tycoon acquires ONtv from Sawiris, sparking fears for future of Egyptian TV | Mada Masr
ONtv comes under intelligence control - note Yasser Selim involvement.
- The Strange, Unending Limbo of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak - The New York Times
- Amid Crackdown, Egypt Sentences 152 People To Prison For Protesting : NPR
Scrap that protest law.
- Engineers and Jihadists: The Curious Connection
Ursula on an interesting new study of education and extremism
- Beirut Upstarts Gain Traction in Lebanon’s Political Quagmire - NYT
- Egypt to Pay Families of 3 Mexican Tourists Killed by Military - NYT
$140,000 per victim but "no admission of guilt"
- Who becomes a terrorist, and why? - The Washington Post
An overview of the Kepel vs Roy debate.
Today is an international blogging day on behalf of imprisoned Egyptian writer Ahmed Naji, who has unfortunately become the latest poster child for the ruthless, petty and seemingly endless crackdown on freedom of expression in Egypt. Jailed on charges of offending public morals for a few scenes featuring drugs and sex in his novel "The Use of Life," Naji has just received the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award.
The blog Arabic Literature in English is the place to start to read abut Naji's case and the solidarity efforts on his behalf. I interviewed him several times for an article on writers in Cairo published in The Nation a few months back and was as shocked as everyone else by his conviction.
Here is a link to the offending chapter -- simply a rather charming description of a weekend spent partying with friends and lovers, in that most difficult of cities, Cairo -- in Arabic. There are also excellent English and French translations available, and I strongly recommend reading them.
We have let the blog lie fallow a little for the past month or two. Maalesh, more to come soon.
I just like the name of this hijab fashion tumblr.
- The Only Way to Solve Iraq’s Political Crisis - The New York Times
- In the Eye of the Storm: Algeria’s South and its Sahelian Borders - Carnegie
- Sinai insurgency: An enduring risk - Al Jazeera English
- On the avant-guarde Moroccan magazine Souffles
Banned 50 years ago as a threat to the state
- Giulio, the islands and national security | Mada Masr
Great piece by Khaled Fahmy.
- Egypt's Military Regime Grows More Brutal Every Day: Copts Likely To Find Persecution, Not Protection, Ahead - Forbes
- Egypt Extends Campaign Against Dissent to Turtle Bay | Foreign Policy
- Egypt's Hollowed-Out Society - The New York Times
- Sanders slams Clinton for ignoring Palestinians' needs and thinking Netanyahu is 'right all the time'
- Social sciences, most likely to expose society's blind spots, lacking at Arab universities
- This Saudi dance is all the rage in Arab world, but it could get you arrested
More war on youth
- Italian newspaper tribute to Regeni and all of Egypt's disappeared
- Israeli backing for PEN literary festival rejected in angry letter by authors
- The speech Bernie Sanders planned to give to AIPAC
- La Guerre Froide Des “Islamologues”
Kepel v. Roy.
- The Hypnotic Clamor of Morocco by Adam Shatz | The New York Review of Books
Paul Bowles' ethnomusical collection issued
- Jordan: How Close to Danger? by Joost Hiltermann | The New York Review of Books
- Online Media Expands, Digital Divide Persists
On interesting media surveys from Northwestern Qatar
- Egypt: Unprecedented crackdown on NGOs
- Tunisian Artist eL Seed Paints Manshiyat Naser With Stunning Graffiti
- This Is Why Libya Finally Cares About Migrant Smuggling - BuzzFeed News
- Kaelen Wilson-Goldie on Tamer El-Said’s In the Last Days of the City
Now I'd really like to see this
- Anatomy of an election | Mada Masr
Another epic Hossam Bahgat article on the manufacture of the "For the love of Egypt" party list.
- Moroccans protest over U.N. Ban Ki-moon's West Sahara position
- Where’s My Mercedes? Egypt’s Financial Crisis Hits the Rich - The New York Times
Declan Walsh's best piece since he's arrived in Cairo.
- Court’s Reasoning in #AhmedNaji’s Prison Sentence
Read it and weep
- Adam Shatz on "The Daoud Affair"
The Algerian writer's commentaries on the the Arab world's "sexual misery"
- Competing goals make Saudi oil policy hard to predict — FT
- Egypt Running on Empty
Great piece by Josh Stacher in MERIP
- 5 Badass Photos From Syria
Protests in cities that have been bombed and besieged
- Berbers in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains
Some beautiful images
- Restoring the world’s oldest library
- No Excuse for Domestic Violence in Morocco | Human Rights Watch
Link'em if you got'em.
- 1.5 Million May Die if Mosul Dam Fails
- Because Iraq doesn't have enough problems.
- Kamel Daoud : Mes petites guerres de libération | | 213 Info
Daoud puts down his pen, for now.
- Living-Room Democracy - The New Yorker
Peter Hessler on elections in Upper Egypt, insightful as always.
- Once I Saw Light in Iran. Now It’s Mostly Shadows. - NYT
- Hamas Commander, Accused of Theft and Gay Sex, Is Killed by His Own - NYT
- ‘Engineers of Jihad: The Curious Connection between Violent Extremism and Education’, by Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog — FT
- « Dans l’euphorie de la révolution, les blessures libyennes ont été sous-estimées »
Interview with Virgine Collombier
- Obama's Most Dangerous Legacy by David Cole | The New York Review of Books
- Photography: Leila Alaoui pointed her lens at those unseen | The Economist
- Keeping it in the family | The Economist
Too much first-cousin marriage in Arab world
- US Democrats criticise Terrorism Designation Bill to ban the Muslim Brotherhood
- H. R. 3892 [PDF]
U.S. bill to designate Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.
- ‘Engineers of Jihad: The Curious Connection between Violent Extremism and Education’, by Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog - FT.com
- The city where war is the best employer: life in liberated Aden | Cities | The Guardian
- Egypt president calls for new law to hold police accountable - The Washington Post
- L’Arabie saoudite veut cesser de financer l’armée libanaise, et compromet un contrat avec la France
I have a long piece in The Nation about writing and freedom of expression in Egypt these days, the role of the country's intellectuals and the regime's attitude to public space, culture and young people. Needless to say it is not an upbeat read (although I am always impressed when I go back to Cairo by folks' wits and guts). I started reporting it last December -- in the meantime, the writer Ahmed Naji, who was on trial for obscenity, was acquitted in his first trial and then handed a 2-year sentence in a retrial. It is a ridiculous, unprecedentedly harsh sentence for a novelist.
Here's an excerpt:
Naji’s novel is a surreal tale of Cairo’s future obliteration and features illustrations by the cartoonist Ayman al-Zurqani. The narrator, speaking from the future, reminisces about the impossible city he lived in as a young man. In the chapter that landed Naji in court, the narrator recounts staying up all night smoking hashish and drinking with his friends; the next day, he meets his lover for brunch and mid-afternoon sex. Then two female friends pick him up and they drive through streets empty of the usual traffic, to drink a beer at sunset on cliffs overlooking the city:
Mona’s wearing a long skirt of some light fabric. I stick my head between the seats and see she’s bunched up her skirt in her lap and is rolling a joint. I’m distracted by the glow of her knees, and Samira’s turning up the music. Jimi Hendrix’s guitar shrieks like a hen laying its first egg. I open the window as we pass over the Azhar Bridge, and imagine I catch a whiff of cumin, pepper and spices. As we exit the bridge and enter the Husayn district, I smell some burnt coffee beans that, without being an expert, I can tell are of poor quality. The scent fills my nostrils. Among the tombs in the City of the Dead, the smell of liver fried in battery acid lingers like a rain cloud.
In describing the sex scene between the narrator and his lover, Naji uses the Arabic words for “cock” and “pussy.” In August of 2015, a middle-aged man from Cairo’s Bulaq neighborhood filed a claim against Naji. In his complaint, Hany Salah Tawfiq spun a lively tale himself, one designed to appeal to the most paternalistic and moralistic impulses of Egypt’s judicial system. He claimed that reading the story after his indignant wife pointed it out to him, and before his innocent daughters could be exposed to it, caused him such consternation that “his heartbeat fluctuated and his blood pressure dropped.” The prosecutor who took the case to trial that November seemed to treat the novel as a factual description of Naji’s own immoral behavior. To restrained titters from the author’s friends in the audience, the prosecutor delivered a long indictment tinged with religious rhetoric and mixed metaphors on the poisonous effect of such filth.
The prosecutor spoke entirely in fusha. Traditionally, there has been a divide between fusha—formal Arabic—and amiya, colloquial Arabic. Although they’re derived from the same sources, the first is closer to the Arabic of the Koran; different forms of it are used in religious and official discourse, the media, and literature. Naguib Mahfouz, Egypt’s 1988 Nobel laureate, wrote his dialogues in fusha even though amiya is what everyone actually speaks. Ahmed Naji is part of a generation of younger Egyptian writers whose work increasingly includes dialect, allusions to pop culture, profanity, and the funny neologisms created by the Arabicization of foreign words. The spread of this new, young, colloquial, “vulgar” Arabic is a democratic phenomenon linked, in part, to the online world, where people tend to write as they speak. Using slang is a way to puncture the disingenuousness of official discourse. The use of profanity can also be deeply political. For many of the online activists writing in the years before Mubarak fell, it was a purposeful choice to insult his regime in the foulest terms possible—to deny figures of authority the linguistic deference that, no matter how unpopular they may be, they expect to be shown in public forums.
Naji argues that the terms he uses for the male and female anatomy not only can be heard on every street corner in Cairo, but also appear in classical Arabic literature. It was only in the 19th century, he says, that “middle-class Egyptian intellectuals,” fresh from visits to Victorian England, popularized the euphemisms that became common in literature. Nasser Amin, Naji’s lawyer, argued the point in his trial, presenting the judge with books of classical Arabic literature and Islamic exegesis containing the vulgar terms in question.
You can read the rest here.
Your every-once-in-a-while, small batch, artisanal, handcrafted link dump. OK, this time it's meager returns, we've been distracted and have neglected this a bit.
- Egypt: Order to Shut Clinic for Torture Victims | Human Rights Watch
Nadeem Center, one of the best.
- Egypt orders arrest of Facebook administrator after unfaithful wives comments | Reuters
- Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Former U.N. Secretary General, Dies at 93 - The New York Times
- New Report of U.S.-Made Cluster Bomb Use by Saudis in Yemen - The New York Times
- A list of interesting new books (in English and Arabic) from the Cairo Book Fair
- Harried by police, Egypt's Brotherhood torn by divisions
@SameralAtrush with some rare MB quotes inside Egypt
- As Syria Devolves Further, Allies Criticize American Policy - The New York Times
- The Right Way to Intervene Against ISIS in Libya | Foreign Affairs
Wehrey and Lacher
- On Giulio Regeni and the cost of doing business in Egypt
- Khayam Turki : « Il existe un racisme social et régional en Tunisie »
Excellent interview with former Ettakatol leader
- En Egypte, fin de l’utopie pour les Frères musulmans
Good long piece.
- The one thing in Saudi Arabia that works well is under threat
Steffen Hertog on ARAMCO
- Syrie : dans l’univers fracassé de la Ghouta, la vie s’est organisée
- In Egypt, second life for independent trade unions
Giulio Regeni's last article
- Tunisia’s Periphery Rises Up Again
- To End Syria’s War, Help Assad’s Officers Defect - NYT
Seems a bit late.
- Al Jazeera Journo Mohamed Fahmy’s Egypt Hell Memoir ‘The Marriott Cell’ Being Developed Into Feature Film | Variety