Mark your calendars.

April 13, 2008 § 1 Comment

The anniversaries of two equally impactful and violent events in the Arab world took place this week.

April 9, 1948: Over half a century ago, Jewish soldiers killed over 200 Palestinians in the village of Deir Yassin. The village was completely demolished and the land today is a part of the state of Israel. (The above cartoon is from al-Hayat and the text reads: Anniversary of the Deir Yassin Massacre, the massacre continues after 60 years.)

April 13, 1975: The 33rd anniversary of the breaking out of the Lebanese Civil War. On this day 33 years ago, the Christian Phalangist party (Kita’ib) killed 30 Palestinians on a bus in the Beirut neighborhood Ain al-Roummaneh. The group of Palestinians was returning home from a commemoration of the Deir Yassin Massacre. Hours earlier, gunmen had fired on a church, killing four Christians. (The above image is from al-Hayat and the text reads: Beirut, 1975.)


Key to the Kaaba sold to anonymous bidder

April 10, 2008 § 1 Comment

Al-Jazeera reports that one out of the 58 keys to the Kaaba was sold to an anonymous bidder at Sotheby’s for $18.1 million. All the other keys are currently in museums and this is the only known key to be in the hands of an individual.

The key is 37 cm long, made of iron, and dates back to the Abbasid era.

Eighteen-million is a lot of money, so shouldn’t we be able to narrow down a list of possible bidders? No?

No more new episodes of LOST this Thursday

April 9, 2008 § Leave a comment

So, that means you can come listen to a talk from Iraqi poet and activist Sinan Antoon on the University of Texas campus. The talk is titled “Debris and Diaspora: Iraqi Culture Now.” Here’s a quote from an interview he did with Democracy Now in 2007:

AMY GOODMAN: And your response to proposals like those of Senator Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, to divide Iraq up, forget trying to keep it together, let there be a place of the Shia, a place of the Sunni, a Kurdistan?

SINAN ANTOON: I even wrote an article about that. First of all, it is not up to Senator Biden or any other senator to tell Iraqis how they should live their lives or divide their country. That’s number one.

Number two is the problem of this perspective of Sunni, Shiite and Kurd. It’s been repeated ad nauseum so that now it seems real. The fact is, these categories are not functioning categories, as well. And these are the product of the United States’ imperialist look upon Iraq. Sadly, since the invasion and because of the political system that Bremer put in place, he turned these ethno-religious identities into political identities, because they put the quota system in the governing council. But ten or fifteen years ago, people did not define themselves primarily as Sunni or Shiite and Kurds, you know. There were other kinds of identifications.

But, about LOST. The Washington Post did a “March Madness”-type bracket to determine the audience’s favorite character. Out of 64 characters, it came down to a battle between the Scottish character Desmond and the “Iraqi” character Sayid.

Of course, ABC did not choose an Arab to play the Arab character. They chose British-born (possible Indian roots) Naveen Andrews, as seen here in the English Patient:

And here, looking all sweaty and torturey on the beaches of LOST:

Sayid did not win the LOST bracket, but he did have some impressive victories over some other popular characters which at least shows that Sayid is not only a central character in LOST, but he is also well-liked. Besides the ultimate cop-out of ABC hiring an Indian actor to play an Iraqi, Sayid is an attractive character because he possesses some of the most admirable characteristics: He is loyal; He has useful skills; And he is courageous.

I fell into ABC’s trap, but there are still major issues I have with Sayid’s character. One, in his non-island life, he was a “torturer” for the Republican Guard. He tortured hundreds of people and then, on the island, he tortured some more people. He is the only character with a military background and there are repeated references to Sayid being a “torturer.” I don’t think this takes away from his affability, but it is a well-trodded stereotype.

I’m sure there is much more to be said about this, but I’ll just leave you with this photo of Sawyer from his pre-LOST days. He was the guy that stole Alicia Silverstone’s purse in the Cryin’ Aerosmith video! Thanks to this person for the find.


“Debris and Diaspora: Iraqi Culture Now” Thursday, April 10 at 7PM in the Pharmacy Building (PHR) 2.114
“الشيوعي العراقي الاخير” Friday, April 11 at 11AM in the Chicano Culture Room in the Texas Union.

Yemen is the poorest country in the Arab world

April 6, 2008 § 24 Comments

At least that’s what this AP article would have us believe! The article ends with this charming description of Yemen:

Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, is Osama bin Laden’s ancestral homeland and has a persistent al-Qaida movement that has attacked and killed foreigners on several occasions.

It is true that either al-Qaida or a movement inspired by al-Qaida has attacked and killed foreigners in Yemen. But — the “poorest country in the Arab world” and “Osama bin Laden’s ancestral homeland” — that’s just lazy and incomplete journalism.

By what standard is Yemen the poorest country in the Arab world? Is it because every single hectare of land has not been penetrated by Western development agencies? Is it based on some World Bank calculation of GDP and other bullshit statistics? To label a country as the “poorest country in the Arab world” is placing all kinds of Western-guided standards on a population which has seemingly rejected many of these practices.

Furthermore, the discussion of “poverty” in the context of “terrorism” (the AP article was a brief on an explosion at a foreigner housing compound in Sanaa) is fraught with all sorts of errors and latent suggestions for “solutions” to this poverty. Specifically, the World Bank is already very active in Yemen — so, by connecting “poverty” with “terrorism” could be a possible impetus for the Bank’s further encroachment on Yemen’s local economic structures. Poverty is not at the root of terrorism.

As for the claim of Yemen being Bin Laden’s “ancestral homeland” — this might be true, but it’s probably also true for, like, half of the Arabs in the Middle East! Many of the Shi’a of Jabal Amal (southern Lebanon) also claim ancient roots in Yemen from companions of the Prophet Mohammad, but this fact is not mentioned in every article about southern Lebanon! The attempt to portray Yemen as this dark country, full of “poverty” and relatives of Bin Laden is irresponsible at best, and a propaganda tool for Western companies and development agencies at worst.

Sectarian Battles on YouTube

April 3, 2008 § Leave a comment

While watching al-Jazeera’s exclusive interview with Muqtada al-Sadr (his first televised appearance in about a year) on YouTube, I scrolled down to read the comments. We all know anonymous commenting on YouTube empowers assholes to be bigger assholes and I don’t want to provide a platform for the hatred and prejudice that some people espouse (since these people are usually a minority), but I do want to highlight how sectarian tensions have manifested themselves on YouTube.

Here is the comment from YouTube user “TruthDaTruth” which prompted further investigation:

dirty filthy muqtada the aeroplane of sadri is worthless

The YouTube user “TruthDaTruth” obviously typed his original Arabic into a bad online translator which resulted in “al-Tiyyar al-Sadri” or the Sadr Current/Wing being translated into the “aeroplane of sadri.” In Arabic, “tiyyar” literally means current, like an air or water current, but it used to mean political currents as well. So, the “aeroplane of Sadr” is literally the “Sadr current.”

Anyways — I checked out the guy’s profile and there is an interesting mix of insults and compliments being hurled at TruthDaTruth. (It appears possible that TruthDaTruth is Sunni and harbors some resentment toward Shi’a, but I, nor any of the commenters, know this person’s true identity.)

The comment breakdown:

1) Insults from Shi’a or supporters of Shi’a who do not appreciate his Shi’a bashing.

saudi wahabi lozer,,, saudi wahabi lozer to hell with zarkawi el zarbawi haha and to hell with bin laden bin monkeys hahahaha

2) Insults from individuals who are anti-Muslim and not discriminating between sects.

fuck you, why u named after a Christian rapper u dumb fucked up muslim hahahaha go suck off ya imam u faggot ass bitch

you muslim prick. if you fuckers didnt fly planes into the twin towers there wouldnt be wars all over the shit muslim countries…..
3) Compliments and support from people who appear to be anti-Shi’a. One commenter posted a link to his anti-Shi’a blog which I will not link to here because it is hate speech. Another uses a photo of Bin Ladin as his user photo and expresses support for TruthDaTruth.

Internet as “Real” Speech

I think that many of us define certain Internet spaces as a “community” of sorts. We post videos, photos, and journals on the Internet and many times, people respond. The purpose of this post is to show how certain types of Internet communities are host to some very negative and racist ideas and how they do not serve any constructive purpose whatsoever. I think we have to ask how these Internet “communities” translate into “real” life — but at the same time — I think this question is problematic since the Internet is becoming more integrated into our everyday lives. By this, I mean that the “anonymous commenter” may appear to be a faceless, distant Internet user, but in many societies where the Internet is pervasive, the speech that is made online may just as well have been made face-to-face. Speech made on the internet is “real” speech and should be treated as a tangible phenomenon and not something that exists in some “digital” world of little consequence.

Are you a Badri or Sadri?

April 3, 2008 § 3 Comments

Leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council Abdul Aziz al-Hakim meets with George W. Bush in 2006.

Muqtada al-Sadr did not meet George W. Bush in 2006.

Both Muqtada al-Sadr and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim represent the Shi’a in Iraq. But they represent the Shi’a in very different ways — through their conflicting political movements and military wings.

Sadr’s military wing — or Jaysh al-Mehdi — is in direct opposition to Hakim’s (and the SIIC’s) Badr Wing. One of the factors which creates a divide between the two is relations with the Occupying Forces. Despite anti-Occupation rhetoric and conflict with the United States, Sadr’s movement surely has ties with the US and has engaged in different agreements with the US, as seen by Sadr’s recent cease-fire. Yet Hakim and the SIIC (formerly SCIRI) have cultivated ties with the US since Shock and Awe.

Badri vs. Sadri*

An al-Hayat article from Husayn Ali Dawod explains this internal Shi’i division in light of the recent battles between Iraqi Forces and Jaysh al-Mehdi. He says that differences between the groups have intensified since the recent fighting.

The author explains that individuals who are loyal to Sadr but live in areas controlled by the Badr wing conceal their loyalties to Sadr, and vice versa. For example, if a person has a photo of Sadr on their car and are coming to a government checkpoint, the photo must come down. Sources say that both factions have elaborate intelligence networks which determine people’s allegiances.

Some common slogans seen on building walls in areas loyal to Sadr are: Bring Down the New Maliki dictatorship; Bring Down Hakim — an agent (‘ameel) of the US. Meanwhile, in the Hakim-loyal districts of Karada and Washash in Baghdad, you find slogans that express support for the government

*In Arabic, you can create an adjective by adding an “ee” sound to many words. So, if one is loyal to the Badr Wing, then you can be called a “Badri,” the same is true for “Sadri.” The female form would be “Badriyeh” or “Sadriyeh.”

This picture of Sadr is in not really relevant to anything, but I just wanted to remind you all that he is RADICAL and EVIL and HATES AMERICA and wears a BLACK CAPE.

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