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MiddleEast

How to Recapture the Muslim World’s Lost Hope

1979
Understanding the events of 1979 is crucial for those trying to figure out a better future for today’s Middle East.

What happened to us? The question haunts us in the Arab and Muslim world. We repeat it like a mantra. You will hear it from Iran to Syria, from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, and in my own country, Lebanon. For us, the past is a different country, one not mired in the horrors of sectarian killings. It is a more vibrant place, without the crushing intolerance of religious zealots and seemingly endless, amorphous wars. Though the past had coups and wars too, they were contained in time and space, and the future still held much promise. What happened to us? The question may not occur to those too young to remember a different world, whose parents did not tell them of a youth spent reciting poetry in Peshawar, debating Marxism in the bars of Beirut, or riding bicycles on the banks of the Tigris in Baghdad. The question may surprise those in the West who assume that the extremism and bloodletting of today have always been the norm.” SOURCE: The Atlantic

This opinion piece is a somewhat controversial, but that is part of its value.  The core of the author’s thesis is that to understand the modern Middle East, especially if one is searching for a way to create a more democratic Middle East, we must look to the past to see how we got there.  1979 is seen here as the pivotal year that changed the trajectory of the Middle East, in large part because of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, but for many other region-wide changes.  A nice pairing would be to also read this discussion from the NY Times about the rise of MBS as the key prince in Saudi Arabia, looking to reform society and reform movements in Saudi Arabia while crushing his opponents.  Both are articles are book excerpts.

Questions to Ponder: What were the big shifts that occurred in 1979?  What are things that you think that the author gets correct about their historical analysis of the Middle East? What are some positions where you disagree with the author?

GeoEd Tags: Middle East, political, Iran, Saudi Arabia.

Trump: Time to recognise Golan Heights as Israeli territory

“Israel has occupied the strategic plateau since capturing it from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war. There are more than 30 Jewish settlements on the heights, with an estimated 20,000 settlers.

There are some 20,000 Syrians in the area, most of them members of the Druze sect.”

Source: www.bbc.com

I had my class all ready to go, and then this happened. The Golan Heights is a small chunk of land, 3 times larger than Rhode Island, is far more important geopolitically than its size would indicate. This land is Israeli controlled, but internationally still considered a part of Syria, much like Russia controls Crimea, but it is still internationally recognized as a part of Ukraine.   Not surprisingly, Syria has condemned these statements from the President of the United States as have many members of the international community

GeoEd Tags: Syria, Israel, political, MiddleEast, geopolitics.

Scoop.it TagsSyria, Israel, political, Middle East, geopolitics.

Gender and Mobility in the Middle East

"The adult daughter of Dubai’s ruler tried to escape a life of stultifying restrictions. She was captured at sea, forcibly taken back, and has not been heard from since. For all its megamalls, haute cuisine and dizzying skyscrapers, Dubai can flip at speed from international playground to repressive police state."

Source: www.nytimes.com

Both of these particular case studies are incredibly interesting but I want to talk about how this is connected to a larger cultural and political issue: that of female mobility in Persian Gulf countries.  The ability to move freely without familial supervision or approval is something that adults in most countries take for granted, but that is not the case in some countries in the Middle East.  How we experience place is dependent of our mobility—this is why there is no one singular geography or story of any given place, but there are many geographies that help to explain a place.  The story of the ‘vanished princess’ of Dubai and the woman seeking a divorce but trapped by her family cast a different light on the glamorous and glitzy reputation of the United Arab Emirates.    

 

GeoEd Tags: culture, cultural norms, gender, mobility, UAE, MiddleEast, political.

Scoop.it Tagsculture, cultural norms, gender, mobility, UAE, MiddleEast, political.

How to tell when criticism of Israel is actually anti-Semitism

Calling out human rights violations shouldn’t stray into bias against Jews.

Source: www.washingtonpost.com

This is a very partisan article, but some of the ideas brought up in it are worth discussion in non-partisan settings as well.  The author takes a very liberal perspective critiquing Israeli policies, while loving Judaism, Jewish history, and the right of the Israeli state to exist.  Blanket "good guys" and "bad guys" narratives are always sloppy, but in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict it may be even more pernicious.  

 

Tagsop-ed, Israel Judaism conflict, political, Middle East.

Za’atari Camp

“Spongebob Squarepants has been painted on the entire side of one caravan, and an Arabic phrase has been gracefully painted on another. This kind of incongruity I see throughout the camp. Two women are dressed in traditional full-length hijabs, for example, but the man behind them is wearing a Golden State Warriors t-shirt. A man in a robe encourages a donkey to pull a cart, yet right past him are young boys with smartphones huddled near a fence looking for better cell reception. A little further down the road and on my right I see a shoeless kid laughing and rolling a tire, but on my left, I spot a vast number of solar-powered panels. This constant juxtaposition is jarring and yet beautiful, and I am taken back by the energy of the place.”

Source: askmrlanguageperson.blogspot.com

This is from the other Professor Dixon, my brother Shane, an ESL professor at Arizona State who travels abroad frequently to train ESL teachers around the world (he’s taught MOOCs and is a rock star in the ESL world–trust me–he’s awesome).  I was thrilled to hear that he would not only be going to Jordan, but working within the Za’atari refugee camp.  He’s a keen observer of the cultural and urban landscapes. 

 

TagsMiddleEast, Jordan, political, refugees.

Pro-Israeli perspective in UNHRC

Source: www.youtube.com

Admittedly, this is not a neutral perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth sharing if you properly contextualize the statements.  UN Watch is “a non-governmental organization based in Geneva whose mandate is to monitor the performance of the United Nations by the yardstick of its own Charter.”  UN Watch works to oppose what they see as chronic anti-Israeli bias in the UN.   

 

Tags: Israel, PalestineNGOs, political, Middle East.

Capital Jerusalem

“Because Israel refused to recognize the U.N. plan for an internationalized Jerusalem and because of its annexation of occupied East Jerusalem in 1967, no country in the world has offered legal and diplomatic recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Most states, however, have unofficially acknowledged Israel’s sovereignty and actual possession, without recognition of lawful title.”

Source: beitemmett.blogspot.com

That is, until now.  The United States is planning to move it’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in a move that will have far more reaching implications than the relocation of just about any other embassy on Earth could have, given the geopolitical significance of Jerusalem to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the broader international ties.  Below are some resources to contextualize this shift: 

 

Questions to Ponder: How does this change the status quo at the local, national and international scales?  What might be some of the consequences of this move?  What would you recommend and why?  

 

Tags: Israel, Palestine, borders, political, Middle East, geopolitics, historical.

Jordanian parliament repeals rape law

“The Jordanian parliament voted on Tuesday to abolish a provision in the penal code that allows rapists to escape punishment if they marry their victims – a move that is being hailed as ‘historic’ by activists and locals. Article 308 permit[ed] pardoning rape perpetrators if they marry their victims and stay with them for at least three years.  The controversial provision has for decades divided Jordan between those who believe the law is necessary to protect women’s ‘honour’, and others who see it as a violation of basic human rights.”

Source: www.aljazeera.com

Cultural norms and political practices are so often intertwined that understanding local laws means that one has to understand the cultural context within which they were created, and in this case, the cultural processes that led to a political will to change them.  

 

Tagsculture, cultural norms, gender, MiddleEast, Jordan, political.

Same again: Turkey’s emergency rule

​The state of emergency in place since last summer’s coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan resumes today for another three months, following a decision by the country’s security council. Emergency rule has now been extended four times. Over its course, more than 50,000 people have been arrested, and twice as many sacked from government jobs, including over 7,000 dismissals over the past week. On the anniversary of the coup Mr Erdogan said emergency rule would lapse only when “we no longer need to fight terrorism”, and vowed to reinstate the death penalty and “rip off” the coup plotters’ heads. Using the crisis as cover, the government has already locked up leading Kurdish politicians; the secular opposition may be next. Mr Erdogan accuses its leader, who recently led the biggest protest in years, of siding with Turkey’s enemies. The failed coup increasingly resembles a successful one—for the other side.

 

Tags: politicalMiddleEast, Turkey.

Source: espresso.economist.com

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