Libya’s Future and Iranian-American Protest Art

One of Azin Seraj's banknotes from Taraneh Hemami's Fabrications exhibitOne of Azin Seraj’s banknotes from Taraneh Hemami’s Fabrications exhibit

Last Friday, September 19, has become known as “Black Friday” for Libyans — and not because of shopping. A series of assassinations in Benghazi on Friday, including those of two teenage activists, shook a nation already rocked by violent tensions. As world media attention has focused once again on deepening tragedies in Syria and Iraq, another country transformed by the 2011 uprising has been rapidly descending into chaos. The situation in Libya has become increasingly unstable. Rival militias have been openly fighting on the streets of Tripoli, Libya’s capital. As scores of activists and political figures have been assassinated, those who are able have been fleeing to Tunisia and Egypt. With so many factions fighting, it is unclear who is responsible for these killings, and often just plain difficult to understand who the various forces vying for power in Libya are, and what motives they have.  

To unravel the tangle of militant players in Libya and understand what lies in store for the country’s future, Khalil Bendib spoke with Patrick Haimzadeh, a former French diplomat in Libya, political analyst, journalist, and author of In the Heart of Gaddafi’s Libya

Bay Area-based Iranian-American artist Taraneh Hemami has always tried to be a bridge for creative exchange between multi-generational artists. Her new exhibition, Theory of Survival: Fabrications, is a pop-up bazaar featuring the works of 12 local Iranian-American artists who explore revolution, repression, and cultural representation before and after Iran’s 1979 revolution. The artists transform, appropriate, and comment upon the commodification of protest culture imagery

The exhibition opened at San Francisco’s Southern Exposure Gallery on September 5 and runs through October 25.

Additional Readings …

On Libya:

Two Teenage Libyan Activists Killed On September 19; additional details from The Guardian

News from Libyan Youth Voices

Libya asks a global chemical weapons watchdog to ship its stockpiles out of the country

Oil output still climbs

Leaving Libya and violence proves difficult and dangerous

Good news: Libyan poet and translator living and teaching in the U.S. wins a MacArthur Fellowship

Iranian-American Artists Featured in the Exhibit:

Ala Ebtekar; Ali Dadgar; Sanaz MazinaniMorehshin Allahyari; Amir H. Fallah; Arash Fayez; Gelare Khoshgozaran; Hushidar Mortezaie; Amitis Motevalli; Haleh Niazmand; Azin Seraj; Taravat Talepasand

More on the Fabrications Project, from Creative Capital

Salaita vs University of Illinois and global sex trafficking

Photo by John Dixon for The News Gazette/AP

Continuing our coverage of Professor Steven Salaita’s case with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, we spoke this week with UIUC professors Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi and Linda Herrera. On August 1st, the University rescinded its offer to hire Professor Steven Salaita. The University President and Board of Trustees claimed in an open letter that his Twitter presence, where he is highly critical of Israel’s massacre of Gaza, represents “disrespectful and demeaning speech that promotes malice.”

Professor Tabrizi speaks to the question of external political influence on university decision making processes. Letters made public by the Freedom of Information Act show that the University President Robert Easter, Chancellor Phyllis Wise, and Board of Trustees reveal that a number of influential donors threatened to stop funding the university, and even threatened to pull their children out of the school. Professor Herrera discusses the way that online footprints via social media (and the culture of social media) have contributed to a neo-McCarthyism and has made Salaita and other figures the subjects of lampooning and intimidation.

Lynda Herrera is a Social Anthropology professor at UIUC specializing in the Middle East and North Africa. She is also a contributor at Jadaliyya.  Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi is a Professor of Sociology at UIUC, and is currently completing a book manuscript called Foucault, the Iranian Revolution, and Enlightenment.

We also aired the second part of our revealing interview with photojournalist and documentary filmmaker Mimi Chakarova. In this interview she discusses why it was necessary for her to pose as a prostitute in order to reveal what happens to women forced into the global sex trade industry. The industry’s continued existence is fueled by a combination of greed, corruption, supply and demand, and male desire. “Just because this girl comes from another country does not mean that she is an other,” she says, adding that it is possible to halt the sex trade cycle by shifting the psychology of demand.

Mimi Chakarova is  one of 10 world renowned photographers whose work is showcased in the UC Berkeley Human Rights Center’s Envisioning Human Rights Photo Exhibition which kicked off on Thursday, August 28th and is running through October.

 

Recommended Readings

On the Salaita case, freedom of speech, and anti-semitism:

Letters to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign released via the Freedom of Information Act

“Antisemitism and Salaita” – A letter from UIUC English Department head Michael Rothberg to Chancellor Wise

A look at the legal issues and implications of Salaita’s hiring and firing via Al Jazeera

The American Historical Association to Chancellor Wise

A general overview

On Global Sex Trafficking

Five things you didn’t know about human trafficking via Rolling Stone

 

8.27.2014 – Academic freedom in the US and global sex trafficking

Earlier this month, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign rescinded its offer to hire Professor Steven Salaita. The University President and Board of Trustees claimed in an open letter that his Twitter presence, where he is highly critical of Israel’s massacre of Gaza, represents “disrespectful and demeaning speech that promotes malice.” He is by no means the first professor who has come under attack for criticizing Israel’s colonial policies. In 2009, UC Santa Barbara sociologist William Robinson came under attack for his commentary on Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip. Professor Robinson discusses the Israel lobby’s organized attacks on academic freedom in the United States.

William Robinson is professor of sociology, global and international studies, and Latin American studies at UC Santa Barbara. His latest book is Global Capitalism and the Crisis of Humanity.

Photo by Mimi Chakarova

In this week’s second segment, Malihe Razazan spoke with award winning investigative photojournalist and filmmaker Mimi Chakarova about her decade-long investigation into the world sex trafficking industry. In this interview, which will be continued on next week’s show, Chakarova discusses the importance of her photojournalism work. In order to gain access to victims of the sex trafficking industry for her documentary, The Price of Sex, Chakarova posed as a prostitute herself. In this way, she was able to present these women from a perspective of empathy; something that, she says, male journalists posing as clients could not do. In the interview, she explains why it is nearly impossible for women to escape once they have been enslaved in the industry and gives us a more in-depth understanding of how underlying systems of corruption and capitalism make Turkey and Dubai have become hubs for women subjected to sex trafficking.

Mimi Chakarova is  one of 10 world renowned photographers whose work will be showcased in the UC Berkeley Human Rights Center’s Envisioning Human Rights Photo Exhibition which kicks off on Thursday, August 28th and it runs through October. The exhibit features photos from Bosnia, Guatemala, Bolivia, Brazil, Angola, Uganda, Tanzania, Burma, Vietnam, Moldova, Iraq, and the United States

 

Recommended readings

On the Steven Salaita case and the Zionist impact on academic freedom:

University of Illinois defends pulling job offer over tweets critical of Israel

Letter from over 350 Holocaust survivors, descendants of survivors, and victims condemning Israel’s assault on Gaza as Genocide

On Mimi Chakarova and her work on global sex trafficking:

on ‘The Price of Sex’

Photographs by Mimi Chakarova

VOMENA 6.11.14 – “Human Rights in Iran and speaking out against the Zionist hegemony in the US”

June 12th marks the 5th anniversary of 2009 post-presidential election protest movement in Iran.

 It was a watershed moment in Iranian history, when millions of Iranians took to the streets to protest the fraudulent re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Thousands of people were arrested, tortured or killed, and many disappeared, while thousands of young Iranians were forced to leave the country – and Ahmadinejad was never ousted. Five years later, in the aftermath Hassan Rohani’s election, what, if anything, has changed?

Malihe Razazan spoke with Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran

According to Ghaemi, almost a year after Rohani’s election, not much has changed: “It was just a year ago that [Rouhani] created a lot of hope, especially for the young population who voted for him to ease the restrictions and improve the human rights situation. Unfortunately, not much has happened. There is a minority clique who is controlling the security, intelligence and judiciary. And they don’t seem to be wanting to relinquish power. And if anything, they have increased their oppression and human rights violations.”

Later in the show, Khalil Bendib interviews Allan Brownfeld about zionism in Jewish-American communities.

Years before the tide of overwhelming pro-Israel sentiment within the Jewish community started turning in America, Allan Brownfeld had been commenting on the myriad signs of growing disaffection with Israel in the pages of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs magazine. Khalil Bedib spoke with Mr. Brownfeld about a recent article in which he documents several incidents of rebellion against the heavy-handed Zionist hegemony within the organized Jewish-American community, and the increasingly frequent failure to stifle all dissent when it comes to the issue of Israel-Palestine.

In a speech for the National Summit to Reassess the Special Relationship between the U.S. and Israel, he says:

…First, Judaism is a religion, not a nationality, that American Jews are American by nationality and Jews by religion, just as other people are Protestant, Catholic, or Muslim… It is my opinion that what has happened to American Judaism has completely corrupted its religious nature. What we are witnessing today, synagogues flying Israeli flags, programs urging American Jews to immigrate to Israel, their real homeland, is a form of idolatry, making the sovereign state of Israel the object of worship, rather than God.

Allan Brownfeld is a syndicated columnist and a contributing editor to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

 

VOMENA 6.4.14 – Practicing Return and Voting or Not Voting in Egypt

Today we will discuss the recent presidential elections in Egypt.

Despite massive pro-military media propaganda in Egypt, and threats of large fines against those who did not vote, the election commission had to extend the voting for a third day in an attempt to draw more people to polling booths. As predicted, ex-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared himself the president of Egypt with 96% of the votes. So was it apathy or an effective Egyptians boycott? What explains the lack of voter turnout when the military has been getting support from a huge sector of the Egyptian public?

Khalil Bendib posed these questions to Cairo-based activist and journalist, Hossam El-Hamalawy.

 

Later in the show, we discuss the creative ways Palestinians have used to practice their right of return over recent years.

We will speak with Samera Esmeir, associate professor at the department of Rhetoric at UC Berkeley about her recent article, “A Guide for the Perplexed: On the Return of the Refugees” published on the Middle East Research and Information Project. In this text, professor Esmeir focused on the the the return of some of the Palestinian refugees to their village Kafr Bir’im, located in northern Palestine in the Galilee, whose residents were expelled in 1948.

“Refugees no longer, we have returned!” a group of Palestinian youths declared in 2012 as they decided to practice their right of return by going back to their village of Iqrit in northern Palestine.A year later, some of the refugees from the neighboring village Kafr Bir’im declared their return to their village. Announcing that they were no longer refugees, to Israel’s consternation, they moved to live in the church and in the two-room school structure of the village, holding gatherings, parties, events and concerts.

Kafr Bir’im’s history and refugees struggle with the Israeli courts as they continued occupying their land. Samera Esmeir started taking us through the village which was declared by the Israelis a national park in the aftermath of the 1948 Nakba.

Read Samera Esmeir’s article, “A Guide for the Perplexed: On the Return of Refugees” here. 

VOMENA 5.28.14 – Coal mine tragedy in Turkey and correcting ancient Persian history in schools

On May 13th, a mine explosion in the western town of Soma, Turkey, triggered an underground fire which killed more than 300 coal mine workers. This was not the first coal mine disaster in Turkey but it’s the deadliest mining disaster in Turkey’s history. The tragedy has raised questions about the impact of neo-liberal and privatization policies of the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) and its far reaching impact on the lives of millions of workers in Turkey.

On this edition of Voices of the Middle East and North Africa, we will have a conversation with Erdem Yörük, an assistant professor of sociology at Koç University in Turkey about the the impact of the politics of the AKP party on workers’ rights and safety in coal mines and other hazardous industries in Turkey.

According to a report on the BBC, mining safety incidents are not new to Turkey - Around 13,000 miners suffered accidents at work in 2013, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute. On average, for every million tons of excavated coal, more than seven miners die every year, according to a report by the Economic Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV).

Many blame these accidents on loose regulatory standards and privatization. Since the state leased the mine to the Soma Holding Company in 2005, the company has cut mining costs by up to 80 percent – most likely at the cost of worker safety.

“Work safety? There is no work safety. They cut corners wherever they can,” Veli Yilmaz, a coal miner in Soma for nine years, told the Guardian. “The foremen receive a bonus if we produce more coal than planned. So all they worry about is working faster and extracting more coal.”

Just weeks before the disaster, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) voted against a motion in parliament calling for a thorough inspection of mines throughout the country.

“We are sick of going to the funerals of miners. We have to do something to stop these fatalities,” said Ozgur Ozel, an MP from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), who called for the inspection.

Five company officials, including the mine’s operating manager, Akin Çelik, have been arrested on charges of causing death by negligence as part of an investigation into the disaster.

 

Later in the program we will have a conversation with John Lee, Associate Professor of history at UC Santa Barbara and Dr. Jaleh Niazi of HistoryAdvocates, about a new campaign to bring radical change in the way ancient Persian civilization is being taught in California K-12 public education.

Jaleh Niazi is a member of the History Advocate campaign, an effort to correct California schools’ biased representation of ancient Persian civilization. You can learn about the campaign at historyadvoctes.com.

5.7.14 – Ilan Pappé and the foundation myth of Israel

In this week’s program, we’ll have a conversation with prominent Israeli scholar Ilan Pappé about his new book The Idea of Israel: A History of Power and Knowledge. In it, Pappe examines the way successive generations of Israeli historians have framed the 1948 conquest as a “liberation campaign,” and created a foundation myth that went unquestioned in Israeli society until the 1990s.

Mr. Pappe’s new book has been described as a powerful and urgent intervention in the war of ideas concerning the past, and the future, of the Israel and Palestine.

To continue to support this kind of programming, we need your help! VOMENA’s home station, KPFA 91.4FM, is in the midst of ap ledge drive. Call 510 848-5732 or toll free 1-800-439-5732 to donate, or contribute through our site, kpfa.org.

[Audio will be uploaded soon]

VOMENA 4.30.14 – A Lecture from Ali Abunimah: The Battle for Justice in Palestine

On today’s show, we’re broadcasting the lecture from Ali Abunimah on the failure of a two-state solution, which was given to benefit the Middle East Children’s Alliance. As Israel and its advocates lurch toward greater extremism, many ask where the struggle is headed. Abunimah offers a clear analysis of this crossroads moment and looks forward with urgency down the path to a more hopeful future.

Ali Abunimah is the author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli Palestinian Impasse and newly released The Battle for Justice in Palestine. He co-founded and directs the widely acclaimed publication The Electronic Intifada. Based in the United States, he has written hundreds of articles and been an active part of the movement for justice in Palestine for 20 years.
This lecture was originally given on April 22nd, 2014, and was sponsored by the Middle East Children’s Alliance and KPFA, the home of Voices of the Middle East and North Africa. To continue to support this kind of programming, we need your help! Call 510 848-5732 or toll free 1-800-439-5732 to donate, or contribute through our site, kpfa.org.

VOMENA 4-23-14: US-Iran relations and more

Last week, in accordance with a court document filed in New York, the Department of Justice agreed to distribute proceeds from the pending sale of an Iranian-owned 36-story skyscraper in Manhattan. Proceeds would go to the families of victims of various alleged attacks by Iran-backed militants in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Israel, among others.

In this week’s show, Shahram Aghamir speaks with Mansour Farhang, professor emeritus of international relations at Bennington College in Vermont, about current US-Iran relations as well as the US plan to sell the building housing owned by the Alavi Foundation and Assa Corporation.

The Alavi Foundation is a private not-for-profit organization devoted to the promotion and support of Islamic culture and Persian language, literature and civilization. Iranian foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said on Saturday, ”Confiscation of the properties of an independent charity organisation raises doubt about the credibility of US justice.”

The plan is the latest in a legal battle over the skyscraper, known as the Piaget Building, which was built in 1978 under the Shah of Iran. In a 2009 lawsuit, the Manhattan US attorney’s office claimed the Alavi Foundation was controlled by Iran. The court ruled that that Assa Corporation and Assa Company Limited, who own less then half of the building, were a front for Iran’s national Bank Melli. Last year, a federal court ruled that the skyscraper was subject to government forfeiture for “shielding and concealing Iranian assets” in violation of US sanctions law. According to The Guardian, Iran has called the seizure illegal and a violation of religious freedoms. So what is behind the recent dispute over the Alavi Foundation?

4.16.14 Personal Status Law in Iraq and Iran funding Iraqi Shia militias to fight in Syria

from Al Jazeera

On this week’s show, we look at the Iraqi cabinet’s approval for a new personal status legislation, called Ja’fari law, named after the sixth Shi’ite imam Ja’afar al-Sadiq. He established a school of jurisprudence (Shi’ite) in Madina in the 8th century. The draft law is now awaiting a final vote by the Iraqi Parliament, and has created an uproar among Iraqi women’s rights and civil rights community.

If approved, the Ja’fari law will abolish the current Personal Status Law No 188, which is considered one of the most progressive in the Arab world. The new law will roll back the right of women in marriage, divorce and child custody, as well as inheritance. It will lower the age of marriage for girls from 18 to 9 and for boys to 15.

In this week’s show, Malihe speaks with prominent Iraqi women Rights’s activist, Basma AlKhateeb, who volunteers with Iraq 1st CEDAW, Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women Shadow Report Coalition as expert and trainer. She spoke from Baghdad about who initially proposed the law and what the implications of this law are for Iraqi women.

Shahram Aghamir speaks with Martin Chulov, the Guardian’s Middle East correspondent, about one his recent reporting trips to the Iraqi city of Najaf. Iraqi Shia militias killed in Syria are the newcomers to the city’s cemetery, the biggest in the world. They discuss the growing political force Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq’s connections with Iran and thousands of Iraqi Shia militias funded by the Iranian government to fight on the side of Bashar Al Assad, who is predicted to win the next election in Syria.

Chulov writes, “The newest occupants of the cemetery were killed not here in Iraq but in Syria, where they fought under the green flag of the Middle East’s most potent new Shia Islamic political force, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous).”

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