Al Jazeera discusses Islamism and the Arab revolutions

The Al Jazeera Center for Studies is hosting a two day conference (Sept 11-12) aimed at reflecting on the relation between Islamism and the Arab revolutions.

Leader of Tunisia`s Islamist party Al Nahda, Rachid Ghannouchi opened the conference yesterday, in a curious tandem with Syrian secular scholar Burhan Ghalioun, who has been heading the Syrian National Council (SNC) for almost one year before leaving office.

A focus on the relation between revolutions in Libya, Yemen, and Syria has been hosted in yesterday`s sessions. Today`s discussion is aimed at discussing Islamists` views on economy (neo-liberalism or protectionism), foreign relations, human rights and civil liberties.

 

A program for the conference can be found here.

Besides this initiative in Doha, Al Jazeera English` s The Stream has hosted a debate on the same topic featuring controversial scholar Tareq Ramadan, who is professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University. He recently wrote a book called “Islam and the Arab Awakening”, exploring the relation between Islamist movements and political awakening in 2011`s Arab revolutions.

During the unfolding of the Arab revolutions — and particularly in the Libyan case and in Tunisian elections- Al Jazeera has been accused to be bluntly supporting Islamist movements against more the liberal and secular opposition.

Al Jazeera center for studies` focus on this very topic is definitively something to follow closely in order to get  a better understanding of the network`s view over one of the most relevant issues in the Arab region these days.

2011: Year of the Protester

Since this is the last post of 2011, I`d like to take few minutes to say goodbye to an year that has been truly amazing (sometimes in a scary way, too).

Most of the things I thought would be very unlike actually happened in 2011, the good and the bad things. When I first got an sms by a Tunisian friend last 14 January 2011 I could not believe what I saw on the mobile screen: we, the Tunisian people, are going to celebrate tonight for the dictator is gone.

credit: Time.com

I screamed and cried when I saw my computer screen streaming pure live joy from Tahrir square in Egypt, on February 11th cause another dictator was gone.

I walked the streets of my dear Damascus last February, curious to see what would happen in the Syrian days of rage and saw nothing. Yet, only few days later, and few meters away from my house, I saw a spontaneous explosion of anger, a protest for dignity called by real streets and not by Facebook. Then, again, as unexpected as that one, another unexpected thing happened, again near my house, again in Old Damascus. It was the 15th of March, and people said Syrian revolution was beginning.

I dont believe in slogans and in Internet calls for revolutions, but what I saw was the street revolting, real people being hurt, not avatars.

Since then, Syria has never been the same. People are still fighting for their freedom and dignity, in many ways, the most unexpected, the most creative, the bravest.

illustration by Khalid Albaih licensed under Creative Commons

illustration by Khalid Albaih licensed under Creative Commons

And then Libyans won their fight against Gheddafi and started to rebuild their country. The brave people of Yemen have been hitting the streets since January and are still there. A tough crackdown on Bahrain and the silence of international community have not stopped the people from asking their rights to freedom and equality. Women have been driving change in Saudi Arabia, and Kuwaitis have occupied their Parliament to demand reforms and an end to corruption.

And then Jordan, Morocco, Algeria. And Palestine, of course, always in our hearts.

The most amazing thing is that Europe for the first time took the energy out of the Arabs and shouted. Spain has been leading with the indignados. In my home country the situation is different, and I wish I could tell you we the people ousted Berlusconi -and not the international finance-. But we occupied public spaces and gave them back to the citizens. And we still have our jewel up working, Teatro Valle Occupato in Rome, where a new form of collaborative art and culture has born, and more to come.

There is something I will always remember of this almost gone 2011. When I was in DC, a month ago, at the #occupyDC camp, a blond haired guy told me, proud of himself: “I do not fear teargas: I am Egyptian”. So I answered in Arabic and I was surprised to hear that he didnt speak any. Then I discovered he was not even of Arab origin. He was just pretending to be an Egyptian, this guy, a W.a.s.p. American!

This solidarity, this empathy, this brotherhood I saw throughout the world, from the Arab Springs to the #occupy movement to the indignados, is the hope I want to take with me in 2012, despite all the bad things still happening and yet to happen.

 Kull 3amm w entu be kheir.


illustration by Khalid Albaih licensed under Creative Commons

Creative Revolutions! user-generated videos from the Arab revolutions

I`m currently preparing an evening dedicated to the creativity of the Arab revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Yemen. I`m trying to pull together a program of cartoons, songs,parodies, short film, showing how brave the Arabs have been not only in the streets, but even in art. There is an incredible amount of creativity coming out from the Arab revolutions and I`d like to pay tribute to this. The program will be built around a screening of user-generated videos and live performances of music, dance and theater put together by Arabs resident in Italy.

“Creative Revolutions!” will be hosted in the beautiful space of Valle Occupato which is the most significant #occupy movement in Italy.

If you have any suggestions of creative videos coming out from the Arab Springs please do not hesitate to contact me. The show will be repeated in Paris early next year and hopefully in other places. I`d love to pay tribute as much as I can to this brave creative youth.

Here below some of the examples I`m planning to show on the 27th Nov:

La chaise renversee, by Dani Abo Louh et Mohamad Omran (Syria/France)

Abou Naddara (Syria) 

Dans la tete d`Aziza.. by Astrubaal, Nawaat (Tunisia)

Asmaa Mahfouz, a video message (a truly creative girl who contributed with the power of her words to call upon the Egyptians to hit the streets on Jan25)

Syrian Rap from the strong heroes of Moscow (Syria)

Rulers street fighters from the incredibly creative team of Kharabeesh.com (Jordan)

 

Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Kuwait..and Citizen Tube

Unrest continues in the Arab world and more countries are joining the “wave” of protests which started last December in Tunisia, then reached Egypt. Now Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Kuwait, Algeria and tomorrow probably Morocco,too, are joining.

It`s very critical to get information from these countries where foreign news  correspondents on the ground are few or none (like Libya), or even Arab news channels as Al Jazeera are banned or do have problems with the local government (like in Bahrain).

But thanks to user-generated media and social networks we are overcoming this problem (at least a bit).

I got this shocking video from Libya first via a Twitter user that I`m following, much before it was published on “official” news outlets.

So watch out for Twitter users from Libya like @ChangeinLibya or @ShababLibya or from Bahrain like famous bloggers @Mahmood and @JustAmira .

Twitter is, I guess, in this moment, the best source on what`s happening if you choose the right network to follow.

There is also an interesting You Tube channel where most of these videos from Libya, Bahrain, Algeria etc are being posted: have a look at Citizen Tube to stay updated.

 

A (surreal) virtual tour of Arab satellite TV channels during the “revolution” days..

Let me guide you on a quick virtual tour  through some Arab satellite TV channels tonight, while protests are escalating in Yemen, Libya and Bahrain and people being injured and even killed by army or thugs.

Let`s start from Libyan state TV. At the same time when videos like this one (“Protesters in Libya shot and killed by Gheddafi thugs”) are being circulated through social networks and many active Libyan tweeps like @ShababLibya are spreading real time news of  protesters being killed,  state TV was broadcasting patriotic folk songs in honour of the “leader” Gheddafi (malik al-muluk, “the king of the kings”). After the folk show was over, a mass demonstration was broadcast immediately. Not the same one we were informed about through Twitter or the Guardian or  BBC though: a very different one, populated by Gheddafi`s pictures and overcrowded by supporters of the regime.

Using the power of my remote control, I`ve jumped to Yemen state TV. This was much more interesting and engaging than hearing folk patriotic songs! Yemen Tv was broadcasting a Japanese TV anime dubbed in classical Arabic. Not even Russian film director and theorist Ejzenstein could have been so clever to alternate this gentle Japanese TV manga with Al Jazeera Arabic`s images from the Yemeni capital Sana featuring one of the opposition leaders and showing huge anti-regime mass protests. I love Japanese TV cartoons, but I have to admit I was a bit shocked by the courage shown by the Yemeni broadcasters to calm down its viewers with a Japanese-classical Arabic dubbed TV “placebo “.

Finally I`ve jumped into the more realistic TV images of this night spent watching the incredible TV offer of more than 500 Arabic satellite channels. Saudi state TV was broadcasting Tash ma tash, the controversial Saudi musalsal which in the past has dealt  with “hot potatoes” like religious diversity in the Kingdom, women`s and human rights, religious extremism.

Finally, a glimpse of reality-TV in this surreal performance of Arab TV channels during day #feb17 of “revolution”!