3.26.14 – “Tunisia’s New Constitution and Twitter Banned in Turkey”

Protesters hold placards reading “Do not touch my Twitter” during a protest against the Turkish government’s Twitter ban. [CNN]

Unlike its less fortunate neighbors to the east, since the fall of its long-time dictator Tunisia has so far managed to stay free of major violence and disorder. Host Khalil Bendib interviews Tunisian political scientist, Nadia Marzouki, a Jean Monnet Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, about the recently passed Tunisian constitution.

Last week, Prime Minister Erdogan waged – as some have called it – a digital coup d’etat by banning the widely used social media network Twitter. On March 20th, during a campaign rally for the March 30th local elections, he said “We now have a court order. We’ll eradicate Twitter. I don’t care what the international community says. Everyone will witness the power of the Turkish Republic!”

On Thursday evening, Twitter users in Turkey were welcomed to their screens by the message “Twitter is blocked in Turkey by court order.” What was behind this daring move by the Turkish government and why has Prime Minister Erdogan decided to lash out primarily at Twitter? Host Malihe Razazan put these questions to Alexander Christie-Miller, a Turkey-based freelance journalist who writes for the Times of London and Christian Science Monitor.

A Turkish court just overturned the ban, and the government has 30 days to restore Twitter service to the country. Global news network, Vocativ, recently revealed that despite Erogdan’s dislike of the social media network, he has an “army” of fake accounts posting content supportive of the Prime Minister’s party and politics.

 

VOMENA 3.19.14 Why is the Dead Sea Dying and the 11th Anniversary of War in Iraq

Views of the Dead Sea in 1972, 1989, and 2011. NASA Earth Observatory / Wikipedia.

The famous Dead Sea, a salt lake between Jordan to the east and the occupied West Bank and present-day Israel to the west, has been shrinking at the alarming rate of 1.5 meters a year for the past 40 years. So why is the Dead Sea dying?

On this week’s show, Malihe Razazan talks to Palestinian environmentalist, Muna Dajani, about the Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Project, a 10 billion dollar program attempting to revive the Dead Sea, sponsored by the World Bank. She says that 80% of the water from the Jordan River, which normally fills the Dead Sea, is being diverted by Israel for agricultural and domestic use.

The 110-mile pipeline, which will be laid on Jordanian territory, will pump 200 million cubic meters from the Red Sea, half of which will go towards the Dead Sea. The other half will be desalinated and sold by Israel to Jordan and Palestine.

However, the proposed plan is raising concerns among environmentalists – namely, how will mixing water from another sea affect the unique chemical and biological composition of the Dead Sea? The project would supply less than 100m of the 800m cubic meters of water needed each year to stabilize the Dead Sea – and doesn’t address the root causes of the declining water levels, according to Friends of the Earth Middle East.

Later in the program, we will mark the 11th anniversary of the war Iraq with Sinan Antoon reading from his book of poems, Baghdad Blues. He is an Iraqi poet, novelist, scholar, and an associate professor at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, New York University and editor/cofounder at Jadaliyyah.

VOMENA 3.12.14 – “Palestinian soccer players under attack and social justice worker detained in Cairo”

The Palestinian national soccer team, a source of pride for many, has been under attack by the Israeli state. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)

In our show this week, Khalil Bendib speaks with Dave Zirin, The Nation‘s sports editor, about the shooting of two teenage Palestinian soccer players by the Israeli occupation forces as well as a famous Palestinian soccer team in Chile, Club Deportivo Palestino, which also came under attack for printing the map of Palestine on their soccer jerseys.

On January 31st , two teenagers, Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17, were walking home from a training session when Israeli forces opened fire on them without a warning. They lived, but neither will ever be able to play their chosen sport again.
In a recent column in The Nation magazine, Zirin writes,
“Death, injury or imprisonment has been a reality for several members of the Palestinian national team over the last five years.”Just imagine if members of Spain’s top-flight World Cup team had been jailed, shot or killed by another country and imagine the international media outrage that would ensue.”
The recent shooting has intensified the campaign for FIFA to expel Israel from the football federation before the World Cup in Brazil in 90 days.
Further afield, in Santiago, Chile, another Palestinian soccer team has come under attack, but only rhetorically this time. The Club Deportivo Palestino is accused by Chilean Zionists of spreading hatred and even fomenting terrorism, by proudly wearing soccer jerseys depicting a map of historical Palestine. We discuss the significance of Club Deportivo Palestino.

Later in the program, Khalil interviews co-founder of the social justice group Code Pink, Medea Benjamin, who was beaten and detained upon arrival in Cairo. She was in transit to a Palestinian solidarity delegation and then to the Palestinian territory of Gaza for a women’s conference.

Listen to our show on SoundCloud, embedded below.

“Three years after the uprising in Yemen and Music Freedom Day”

Three years after the beginning of the Yemeni revolution, little has changed in the country, writes Alwazir [AFP/Getty Images]

February 11th marked the 3rd anniversary of the popular uprising in Yemen, which, after a long drawn-out process lasting almost a year, led to resignation of the long time dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh. According to government’s own figures, more than 2000 unarmed protesters and military defectors, as well as more than 120 children and a total of 22,000 people were wounded over the year long protest.

In a recent piece on Aljazeera, Sanna-based activist and researcher Atiaf Zaid Alwazir writes that “While many positive steps have been taken in the past three years, including the official removal of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh from power, the creation of a transitional unity government, and the completion of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC), a complete break with the past is yet to be seen.” She also co-founded the media advocacy group #SupportYemen.

Our Shahram Aghamir speaks with Alwazir about the socio-political situation in Yemen. What has changed as a result of the historic uprising?

Later in the program, we will mark Music Freedom Day by featuring the prominent Iranian folk band, the Shanbezadeh Ensamble, led by Saeed Shanbehzadeh. The group originates from the southern city of Busher in Iran.

And the program ends with Sinan Antoon reading the poem “A Letter to Al-Mutanabbi Street,” excerpted from the book, “Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here”, a project of Beau Beausoleil and Sarah Bodma.

On March 5, 2007, a car bomb exploded on al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad, killing over 30 people and injuring more than 100. Al-Mutanabbi Street is the historic center of Baghdad bookselling, with bookstores, outdoor bookstalls, cafes, and stationery shops. The street has been the heart and soul of the Baghdad’s literary and intellectual community.
An exhibition of Al-Mutanabbi street is currently taking place at the San Francisco Center for the Book. More details can be found here.
Thanks for listening!

VOMENA 2.27.14 – Syria’s “Second Front” and Al Mutanabbi Street

As we approach the third anniversary of the Syrian uprising and the resistance against the genocidal regime of Bashar El Assad, the civil war has now further devolved into factional war. We will talk with Syrian-born Frontline correspondent Muhammad Ali about his latest reporting trip from the town of Al Atarib near Aleppo in northern Syria, which is the subject of his Frontline documentary, “Syria’s Second Front”. Rebel forces are no longer simply fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, they’re also fighting a “war within a war” against a notoriously brutal Islamist group known as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). You can watch the report here.

Later in the program, we will have a conversation with local poet, book seller and activist Beau Beausoleil, who asks the deceivingly simple question, “Where does Al Mutanabbi Street start?”

Beau Beausoleil founded the Al Mutanabbi Street art project in 2007 after reading about news of the atrocious bombing that gutted part of the famed street and killed over 30 people, book sellers, printers, writers and poets.

This project, which was started in San Francisco but has since spread its wings across the world, has taken on many different manifestations in various countries, from poetry readings to art exhibits, a film and a book, as well as a print-making project involving some 300 artists. Project founder Beau Beausoleil, who is also the co-editor of the book Al-Mutannabi Streeet Starts Here, came to the KPFA studios to tell us more about this unique project.

To learn more about the book project or see if the exhibit is coming near you, please check out the website here.

Vomena 1.29.14 – Erdem Yörük on the corruption scandal in Turkey and Sinan Antoon on his new novel, “The Corpse Washer”

Cover image from Sinan Antoon's new novel, "The Corpse Washer"

Cover image from Sinan Antoon’s new novel, “The Corpse Washer”

On this week’s program, we will be talking about the latest corruption scandal engulfing Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government. Shahram Aghamir fills in for Kahlil Bendib to speak with Erdem Yörük, an assistant professor of sociology at Koç University in Turkey about the political graft in that country and how it all unfolded.

Last summer it was the Gezi park anti-government that rattled the Turkish government. Today, Turkish Prime Minster Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party AKP are facing another crisis brought about by a corruption scandal and a power struggle between the self-exiled influential US based religious leader Fethullah Gülen and  Prime Minister Erdogan.

For more background reading about Turkey’s latest political crisis, visit Jadaliyya.com.

In the second part of the program, Malihe will speak with acclaimed Iraqi novelist Sinan Antoon about the inspiration for his new novel. News from Iraq has been reduced to daily reports of bombings and carnage. Seeking to explore the emotions of those still alive, Sinan Antoon writes about the accumulated tragedy of loss in his novel, “The Corpse Washer”. The protagonist Jawod is pressured by his father, a corpse washer, to take over the family job. But Jawod has different plans for his life – he wants to become an artist, a sculptor. But growing up during the Iran-Iraq war of the 80’s and witnessing the invasion of Kuwait in the 90’s, he is exhausted by death, and wishes to shape his future in other ways. But his future does not pan out as he plans.

Sinan Antoon is an Iraqi poet, novelist, scholar, and an associate professor at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, New York University. “The Corpse Washer” is his second novel.

Vomena 1.22.14

A still from "The Big House", Musa Syeed's short film up for an award from the Sundance Film Festival

A still from “The Big House”, Musa Syeed’s short film up for an award from the Sundance Film Festival

On today’s episode, we’ll hear a lecture from Israeli historian Ilan Pappe about the the fallacy of the two-state solution to resolve the conflict between Israel and Palestine. The lecture was originally given in December 2013 at Cambridge. Dr. Pappe is a professor of history, director of the European Center for Palestine Studies and co-director for the Exeter Center for Ethno-Political Studies. Among his ground-breaking books is The Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine, which has documented the historiography and mythology around the creation of the state of Israel.

Also in the episode, we discuss the future of Middle East studies classes at San Francisco City College with faculty member Dr.Abdul Jabbar and student Ashely Suarez. For the past two years, San Francisco City College, the biggest community college has been in danger of losing its accreditation, but earlier this month a San Francisco judge ruled that closing city college would have a “catastrophic” effect on the city. We’ll talk about the importance of this vital community institution of higher learning, which is currently under attack. The fear of a possible shutdown has resulted in a 30% decrease in enrollment. Various departments at San Francisco College are now campaigning to make sure students continue to be able to receive a diverse and quality education. To learn more about Middle East studies at San Francisco City College and to enroll, please visit www.ccsf.edu.

Finally, we have an interview with award-winning independent filmmaker Musa Syeed. His film,”The Big House”, is one of the 15 short films selected in this year’s Sundance Film Festival. “The Big House” is the story of a Yemeni boy who finds the key to an empty mansion, which is a far cry from his impoverished living conditions. This 5-minute film has been called an allegory for the revolutionary struggles currently occurring in the Middle East and North Africa. You can watch and vote for the big house by going here. You have until January 24th to cast your vote.

VOMENA 1.15.14

Thousands marched on May 6 on the parliament, denouncing the army’s crackdown on the Abbassiya protesters and calling for the release of the detainees. Hassam el-Hamalawy.

Nearly three years after the fall of Mubarak, with the deep state and the military openly back in control, Egypt seems to have come full circle. How did that happen and what is the situation on the ground really like, as Egyptians go to the polls again to vote on a new proposed constitution? Vomena’s Khalil Bendib speaks with Egyptian activist, blogger and journalist, Hossam el-Hamalawy.

Selma Debbagh wanted to explore the conflict in Palestine from a different angle: the struggle between the personal and the political. She wrote a contemporary novel about what it means for individuals to constantly weigh up the competing demands of the Palestinian cause and society, on the one hand, and their own individual wishes and desires on the other. “ I wanted to present a state of war, a state of being, a state of pressure, of siege.” Malihe Razazan speaks with Selam about her background shaped who she is today and how it has influenced her writing. Selam Dabbagh is the author of Out of It.

VOMENA 9.18.2013

[Beirut train station brought to ruins during the Lebanese Civil War. The station used to link Bhamdoun to Beirut, though it was abandoned when cars became popular. Photo courtesy of rabiem22 via Creative Commons]

Earlier today, 11 well known political prisoners including prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudhe were released from the notorious Evin prison in Tehran. In spite of today’s welcome development, there are still hundreds of prisoners languishing in Irans prisons. This week, we will have a conversation with United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, about his investigation into human rights abuses in Iran.

Later in the program, we will speak with French-Lebanese AFP photojournalist Patrick Baz, whose work is featured in the  “Generation War” photo exhibit that documents 1980s wartime Lebanon. As a young man, Baz photographed the Lebanese Civil war and in 1989, he documented the First Intifada in Gaza and the West Bank for Agence France Press. He has also captured images of the war zones in Kurdistan, Somalia, Sarajevo, Iraq and Libya. In 2009, he published “Don’t Take My Picture, Iraqis Don’t Cry,” a photo book focusing on children affected by the war. 

VOMENA 9.11.2013

This week, Bassam Haddad, director of Middle East Studies at George Mason University, had a conversation with Shahram Aghmir about the transformation of the Syrian uprising from a peaceful movement against Bashar Al-Assad’s dictatorial rule to a proxy war among regional and international players. Later in the program, we spoke with Palestinan visual artist Khaled Jarrar about his award-winning documentary film, “Infiltrators.” Shot over the course of 4 years, the film documents the illegal crossing of Palestinians over Israel’s 20-foot apartheid wall by jumping over the wall or going through underground tunnels. Palestinians who cross in search of work, a short visit with loved ones or medical treatment they cannot receive in the West Bank, risk arrest or worse.

 

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