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.


VOMENA 8.28.2013

[Demonstrators in Iran during the 1953 coup. Photo courtesy of Frank Walsh via Creative Commons]

In August 1953, the U.S. and British governments overthrew the popular government of prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh and paved the way for the autocratic rule of Mohamad Reza Shah Pahlavi. This week,  on the 60th anniversary of the 1953 CIA and British MI6- engineered Coup in Iran, we have a conversation with Ervand Abrahamian, Distinguished Professor of Iranian and Middle Eastern history and politics at City University of New York, about his most recent book The Coup: 1953, the CIA, and the Roots of Modern U.S.-Iranian Relations.

VOMENA 08:21:13

Since the June 30 coup, Egypt has seen the worst turmoil in its modern history with hundreds killed, dozens of police stations burned, and growing divisions within its population. The Muslim Brothers, who were in government two months ago, are now on the run. This week independent journalist and political analyst Ahmad Shokr joined us from Cairo to discuss Egypt’s political landscape in the wake of the military’s return to power. Among the chaotic events that have transpired, is the destruction of 65 churches and 22 church-related buildings. In the second half of our show, Egyptian historian Paul Sedra from Simon Fraser University, addressed the unprecedented level of attacks on the Coptic community in Egypt.

VOMENA 8.14.2013

This week, we’ll speak with UN special rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, Professor Richard Falk, about the newest round of peace talks between Israel and Palestine.  In our interview, Richard Falk explains why he does not think the new round of peace talks will fare any differently than previous attempts. We are also joined by Sahar Delijani, author of Children of the Jacaranda Tree. August 29th marks the 25th anniversary of a 1988 wave of mass executions of political prisoners in Iran. Between 1981 and 1985, more than 7,900 political activists had already been executed in Iran. Sahar, who was born in Evin prison in 1983, tells the story of her family and friends whose lives were forever changed by the horrors of the 80s in Iran and how the younger generation has continued the political struggle in the 2009 democracy movement in Iran.

VOMENA 07:17:13

Libya has managed to emerge from a long period of dictatorship, though it remains mired in factional rivalries for power in different areas of the country. This week, Professor Ali Ahmida of University of New England will give an update about the political, security, and economic situation in Libya today. Later in the program, Anna Bakhen will speak with us about her new book “The World is a Carpet: Four Seasons in an Afghan Village.” Through a close observation of the ancient tradition of carpet weaving, Anna Badkhen chronicles the daily lives of the 240 residents of the isolated and unmapped village of Oqa in all it complexities and simplicity.

VOMENA 06:12:13

Torn between an Arab Spring and the oppression of a brutal regime for the better part of a half-century, Syria finds itself at a historic crossroads. Juan Cole, Professor of modern Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan and Author of “Engaging the Muslim World,”  joins on the phone from Michigan to discuss the difficult road ahead for the Syrian population. Later in our program, we are joined by Anita Amir Rezvani, Author of “The Blood of Flowers” and “Equal of the Sun” and Professor Persis Karim, a poet and editor of “Let Me Tell You Where I’ve Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora” and co-editor of “A World Between: Poems, Short Stories and Essays by Iranian-Americans.” We will discuss the newly published anthology “Tremors: New Fiction by Iranian American Writers” with Anita Amir Rezvani and Persis Karim, both co-editors of “Tremors,” which brings together 27 Iranian Americans from a wide range of experiences. Through their stories, the authors capture the diversity and complicate oversimplified Western characterizations of Iranian diaspora experiences.

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