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Ed Webb

Black Lives Matter skirts North Africa despite everyday racism - France 24 - 0 views

  • the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, most observers agree, has not triggered a major debate on racism or police violence against black Africans within the Maghreb region itself.Only Tunis saw a small demonstration in early June of around 200 locals and foreigners, at the call of the association Mnemty.The protest was "a message for African Americans from Mother Africa to say 'We are with you'," said its leader, Saadia Mosbah, a dark-skinned Tunisian.
  • a long-standing culture of silence about race.
  • "We have to wage a permanent struggle against these verbal abuses," said Algerian sociologist Mohamed Saib Musette."Some Algerians forget that they themselves are Africans." Interracial marriages are rare in North Africa, he said, and "very few TV stars, civil servants or political leaders are dark-skinned".
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  • In Morocco, a coalition of associations in 2014 launched an anti-racism campaign in support of sub-Saharan migrants with the message "Massmiytich Azzi!", literally, "Don't call me a black man".After a string of attacks in Tunisia, including a violent assault against an Ivorian woman, Mnemty successfully lobbied parliament into adopting a law against hate speech in October 2018.
  • In Morocco, a coalition of associations in 2014 launched an anti-racism campaign in support of sub-Saharan migrants with the message "Massmiytich Azzi!", literally, "Don't call me a black man".After a string of attacks in Tunisia, including a violent assault against an Ivorian woman, Mnemty successfully lobbied parliament into adopting a law against hate speech in October 2018.
  • And the Algerian parliament followed suit in April 2020, reflecting, according to Musette, the fact that the reality of racism "is there and must be fought".
  • And the Algerian parliament followed suit in April 2020, reflecting, according to Musette, the fact that the reality of racism "is there and must be fought".
  • Slavery was first formally abolished in the region by Tunisia in 1846. French-colonised Algeria partially followed suit two years later, while Morocco under French mandate only did so in 1922.
  • Slavery was first formally abolished in the region by Tunisia in 1846. French-colonised Algeria partially followed suit two years later, while Morocco under French mandate only did so in 1922.
  • modern-day slave markets have been reported in war-torn Libya, where desperate migrants suffer horrific abuse at the hands of human traffickers
  • In the absence of official data, non-government groups estimate there are more than 200,000 African foreigners in Algeria, and tens of thousands in both Morocco and Tunisia.
  • Algeria and Tunisia bar foreign Africans from obtaining residency papers unless they are students.Only Morocco has exceptionally granted residency rights to some 50,000 people, mostly from West Africa, since 2014.
  • Algeria and Tunisia bar foreign Africans from obtaining residency papers unless they are students.Only Morocco has exceptionally granted residency rights to some 50,000 people, mostly from West Africa, since 2014.
Ed Webb

So Why Did I Defend Paul Bowles? | by Hisham Aidi | The New York Review of Books - 0 views

  • Long a sanctuary for Spanish and French writers, American writers began visiting Tangier in the late nineteenth century: Mark Twain on his way to Jerusalem in 1867, the painters Louis Comfort Tiffany in 1870 and Henry Ossawa Tanner in 1912, and Edith Wharton in 1917. In 1931, when Bowles first visited, the American artists living in Tangier were primarily black: Claude McKay, Anita Reynolds, Juice Wilson, Josephine Baker. These African-Americans came to Morocco from Paris, where they had formed a community after World War I, and as the Harlem Rennaissance spread to France. Upon arrival, Bowles began to socialize with both McKay and Anita Reynolds. Like the other Americans, he had also discovered North Africa through France. In high school, he had read Marcel Proust, Comte de Lautréamont, and André Gide—the latter’s accounts, in particular, of his travels and sexual trysts in Algeria and Tunisia had conjured North Africa in Bowles’s teenage imagination.
  • in December 1923, France, Spain, and the United Kingdom signed the Tangier Protocol in Paris, setting up a new administration and placing the city at the center of a 150-square mile International Zone overseen by a committee of nine Western powers. The city was henceforth governed by a court that included French, Spanish, and British judges, along with the mendoub, the Moroccan sultan’s representative. It is this international period, from 1923 to 1956, especially postwar, that has shaped the image of Tangier as a free port, a tax haven, and a place of international intrigue and excess.
  • His first novel, The Sheltering Sky, told the story of an American who flees the numbing modernity of New York and meanders through the Algerian desert, only to disintegrate psychologically. Published in the fall of 1949, it became a bestseller and made Bowles a household name. Three more novels and a handful of short stories set in Tangier followed.
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  • Bowles did not create the “myth of Tangier,” but he gave it a literary respectability and an American cast.
  • In the early 1950s, Burroughs, Ginsberg, Kerouac, Bryon Gysin, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, and Susan Sontag all gravitated to this “portal to the unknown,” as one author christened Tangier. So did European writers like Genet, Juan Goytisolo, and Joe Orton, but Bowles’s influence was not limited to the literary community. In later decades, his recordings and promotion of Moroccan music would draw producers and recording artists from Patti Smith to the Rolling Stones.
  • Through the 1960s and 1970s, he focused instead on recording and translating from darija (Moroccan Arabic dialect) the oral histories of men he met in Tangier’s cafés. By the time of his death, in 1999, the idea of Tangier as a place for self-discovery had become received wisdom in the West and the Arab world, and Bowles was established as a giant of American letters despite decades of silence.
  • I gave him a copy of my thesis. He looked up from the title page: “‘Orientalism’?—that’s a bad word, isn’t it?” Faux-naïveté, I would learn, was part of his manner. He told me to come back the following day.
  • I was, he said, the first Moroccan researcher—a Tangier native, to boot—to defend him. He added his signature beneath my printed name. (A few weeks ago, I got goosebumps when I found the same copy that I gave him, albeit coffee-stained, in the archives at the University of Delaware’s Paul Bowles Collection.) Later, the thesis was included in a collection titled Writing Tangier (2004). I still see citations occasionally in student dissertations on Bowles noting that one Tanjawi, at least, did not regard him as an Orientalist.
  • Tangier’s collective memory is steeped in nostalgia and centered around the medina, the old city. The medina, the elders told us, was once the epicenter of the Islamic world: it was from the port where the medina meets the sea that Tariq ibn Ziyad had set sail and conquered Spain in 711. After the fall of Granada in 1492, it was to Tangier’s medina that the Jews and Moriscos fled, settling in its alleyways, preserving the mosaic of Islamic Spain
  • The economic misery and political repression of the 1980s and 1990s made it hard to believe that the medina was ever a free space. Most locals had never heard of these famous writers. I only heard of Bowles when, in 1988, a film crew began working in front of our family restaurant at the entrance to the Kasbah as Bernardo Bertolucci began filming The Sheltering Sky. As teenagers, we came to wonder what truths the books from the Interzone contained, and if Tangier had indeed been better-off under Western rule, as the nostalgists, local and foreign, seemed to imply
  • The narrative we learned at school was that the monarchy had liberated the north from colonial oppression. But what liberation did the regime (makhzen) bring? After independence, as a local intelligentsia began forming in Tangier, many came to see the American corpus of writings about 1950s Tangier as an invaluable record of a lost golden age.
  • I made a point of reading the American authors who had written about Tangier’s Interzone. Besides Bowles, I was intrigued by the Beats, especially the Columbia University alums—Kerouac, Ginsberg, Lucien Carr—students of Lionel Trilling and fans of Arthur Rimbaud who had somehow mapped Greenwich Village onto Tangier, turning the Boulevard Pasteur into a “North African Bleecker Street.” But even as a college sophomore, I realized that their writings were more about the straitjacket of McCarthyite America that they were running from, rather than about Morocco as such.
  • It was even gratifying to see that Tangier, like Berlin, had played a significant role in launching a gay literary movement—in some ways ahead of the West, in having its finger on the “prognostic pulse of the world,” as Burroughs called it. But what was startling was that, while these writers basked in the city’s pleasures, they—with the exception of the Bowleses—didn’t really like Tangier. The Beats had a casual disdain for the natives, invariably describing Moroccans as “rakish” or “raffish.” Capote found Tangier too alien, describing the men as “noisy heathens” and the women as “anonymous bundles of laundry.” He warned friends in New York about the “smell of the arabe.” Burroughs referred to the locals as a “bunch of Ay-rabs,” and in 1958 he pronounced: “Tanger [sic] is finished. The Arab dogs are among us.”
  • Paul Bowles traced the history of the medina from the early 1930s to independence. He chronicled how the sultan’s crackdown on Sufi practices (“the great puritanical purging”) in central Morocco inched northward.
  • Bowles’s defense of the Amazigh, or Berber, population was daringly transgressive. Morocco’s culture “is not predominantly Arabic, but Berber,” he insisted—in the face of Arab nationalists who acted as though they believed “Berbers have no culture at all,” as they tried to drag the country into the Arab League. “The general opinion is that the autochthonous population must at all costs be Arabized if it is to share in the benefits of independence,” he observed acidly. “No one seems to have conceived of the possibility of an independent Berber Morocco. In fact, to mention the Berbers at all qualifies one as a pro-French reactionary. At present, to become modern means to become Egyptian.”
  • Reading these words in my dorm room in wintry Pennsylvania in 1992 was both thrilling and frightening. We as Moroccans—especially those of us from the northern Berber region—grew up in a climate of fear, and I had never heard or read anyone publicly criticize Arab nationalism, or speak so openly of the Moroccan hinterland’s animus toward Fez, the city of the interior regarded as the seat of the regime. To hear this American writer openly excoriate the Moroccan ruling elite for its cruelty and skullduggery was exhilarating
  • Bowles prompted me to think beyond the binary of “Western” versus “Arab.”
  • Bowles, in the mid-1960s, had begun translating the memoirs and stories of down-and-out illiterate youth in Tangier. (While he could not read Arabic, Bowles did understand darija, the spoken dialect.) The most prominent of these were Larbi Layachi’s A Life Full of Holes (1966), about a petty thief and male prostitute and his experiences dodging police and servicing tourists (the book was made into a BBC film); Look and Move On (1967), the tales of Mohammed Mrabet, a hustler and golf caddie who worked for an American couple; and the best-known, Mohammed Choukri’s For Bread Alone (1972), an account of his migration from the Rif to Tangier, his life as a street kid in the International Zone, and his becoming a schoolteacher, which he recounted to Bowles in Spanish. These books were marketed in the West as “Moroccan literature,” and for many in the Anglophone world, this was their introduction to it.
  • The Ministry of Culture, which almost blocked his recording project in 1959, published a remarkable essay in 2009 on the tenth anniversary of his death defending Bowles against criticism from Moroccan nationalist intellectuals, underscoring how he presciently warned of the threats that modernization posed to Morocco’s cultural and physical landscape. Government mouthpieces such as Hespress run flattering pieces about “the American who loved Morocco.”
  • in effect erased an earlier literary tradition that had seen Moroccan writers published in French and Spanish since the 1930s, let alone the preceding centuries of poetry and other writing in Arabic
  • Laroui acted as an adviser to the king and was a strong proponent of Arabization. Tangierians saw his attack on Bowles as another attempt by the Arab nationalist elite to subdue the “sin city.” Ben Jelloun also had a complicated relationship to Tangier. The son of a merchant, a Fassi (a person from Fez) who settled in Tangier in the early 1960s, he had attended the French lycée and was seen as part of the new Francophone Fassi upper class—comprising the Alaoui, Alami, Ben Jelloun, Berrada, Omrani, and Tazi families—that had fanned out across the country as the French departed, assuming top government positions. Like Laroui, Ben Jelloun spoke neither of the two common local tongues of the north, Spanish and Tarifit (the Berber language). A paradox of Ben Jelloun’s work, in particular, was that it often featured the very tropes of mysticism, violence, and sexual deviancy he denounced in Bowles’s work. For his part, the American writer dismissed his Moroccan critics as “confirmed Marxists.”
  • The Moroccan reaction against Bowles began to take form in the early 1970s. His earliest critics were the philosopher Abdallah Laroui and Ben Jelloun, who both chided the American writer for promoting an image of the country as a land of primitivism, drugs, and unlimited sex. Laroui also lambasted the Moroccan bourgeoisie for buying into and reproducing Bowles’s “folkloric” portrayal of their country. Ben Jelloun, writing in 1972, accused the American of belittling the nation’s literary patrimony.
  • I myself was part of this trend—defending Bowles against the Arab nationalists who were trying to tear him down and impose their political preferences on us. In his final interviews, when asked if he was an “Orientalist,” Bowles would often cite me, noting that a Tangier-born scholar now in America had judged him not to be.
  • “Paul Bowles loves Morocco, but does not really like Moroccans.” Choukri had some powerful evidence on his side. Over the decades, Bowles had made countless derogatory remarks, speaking of Moroccans as “childlike,” “purely predatory,” and “essentially barbarous.” He claimed also that Muslims aimed for world domination through “the sword and the bomb.”
  • He was sympathetic to the Amazigh, whom he saw as the original inhabitants of North Africa, a fiercely independent people only “partially Islamicized.” This affection nevertheless rested on some unsettling ideas about racial hierarchy. Bowles was profoundly influenced by the “Hamitic hypothesis,” a late nineteenth-century anthropological theory that saw almost everything of value in Africa as imported by the Hamites, a branch of the Caucasian race, who were held as superior to the Negroid peoples. Berbers, whatever their actual skin tone—even the typically dark-skinned Tuareg—were for Bowles essentially a white “Mediterranean race.”
  • In Bowles’s idiosyncratic hierarchy, it was Berber music that encapsulated Morocco’s true African identity—and this cultural essence was threatened by the Arabs and their music. The recently released Music of Morocco collection reflects this bias, giving credence to Choukri’s claim that Bowles deliberately misrepresented local culture to reflect his personal vision of Morocco.
  • I began to realize that Bowles’s fondness for the Berbers and his animus toward Arabs was, in many ways, a reflection of French colonial policy. Although he was well aware of the violence of French imperialism, he enjoyed its amenities—“the old, easygoing, openly colonial life of Morocco”—and as early as the 1950s, Bowles began to lament the loss of “colonial Tangier.” Above all, he believed in the International Zone, seeing its “anarchy” and “freedom from bureaucratic intervention” as an extraordinary political experiment. But these liberties, which is what drew many of the Beats, were the privileges of Europeans and Americans—ones generally not enjoyed by the city’s Muslim and Jewish natives.
  • In 1972, Tahar Ben Jelloun publicly accused Bowles (and the Beats) of exploiting illiterate, vulnerable youths in Tangier not just artistically but sexually. Choukri in 1997 would echo this charge, claiming Bowles suffered from a sexual illness. These allegations became more commonly heard once Farrar, Straus and Giroux published Bowles’s correspondence in 1994, although he expressed some reluctance about its release. The volume included letters in which he described the boys he slept with, in one letter even bragging about how cheap sex was in Algeria. “Where in this country [America] can I have thirty-five or forty people, and never risk seeing any of them again? Yet, in Algeria, it actually was the mean rate.” (In the correspondence, he reminisced about how he “never had sexual relationships without paying,” and viewed paying for sex as a form of “ownership.”)
  • Although the letters simply lent credence to rumors long circulating in Tangier, Choukri and other Tanjawi writers were still shocked by them. The literary reaction in Morocco fed into a larger effort there by human rights activists campaigning against sex tourism and child prostitution. Whereas Bowles had always seemed more judicious and reputable than the Beats—in contrast, say, to Burroughs’s open bragging about buying “pre-pubescent gooks” and Ginsberg’s boasting about “paying young boys” for sex—it became increasingly difficult to defend him. For a man who had called Moroccans “purely predatory,” his own behavior now appeared in rather grotesque relief.
  • The more time I spent at the Schomburg Library uptown, the more I discovered an alternative American literature about Tangier. I stumbled upon Claude McKay’s memoir A Long Way from Home about his time in Tangier in the late 1920s, where he completed his novel Banjo; the actress Anita Reynold’s diary about life in the Interzone in the 1930s; Josephine Baker’s papers, where she talks about filming Princess Tam Tam (1935) in the International Zone, and jazz recordings produced by African-American musicians living in Tangier. Although they had their own dreams about a “Mother Africa,” the African-American writers did not see Tangier as a brothel, or its residents as primitives who needed to be contained or civilized. Most wrote and produced art in solidarity with the disenfranchised local population, connecting the civil rights struggle to North Africa’s anticolonial movements.
  • In 1998, armed with this newfound knowledge, and as a conscious revision of my earlier guiding, I began giving walking tours of “Black Tangier.” We would would meet at Cinema Mauritania, the theater where Josephine Baker had performed many times, up until her last show there in 1970. She had lived in the International Zone, then joined the French Liberation forces during the war, and later had an affair with the vice-caliph of Spanish Morocco. On the first floor of the Mauritania, pianist Randy Weston had once operated African Rhythms, a music spot that drew the likes of Max Roach and Ahmed Jamal. Then we’d walk down to the Fat Black Pussycat café where the poet Ted Joans, one of few black writers in the Beat movement, played trumpet and “blew” jazz poems.
  • Next, we’d hit Galerie Delacroix, where Joans once hosted a four-hour tribute to his mentor Langston Hughes, and had the late poet’s verse read in Arabic, English, French, and Spanish. (In 1927, Hughes had visited Tangier and written a lovely poem about travel and unrequited longing, “I Thought It was Tangiers I Wanted.”) Then we’d walk to the majestic Teatro Cervantes built in 1913, where Weston had organized the first pan-African jazz festival in Morocco in June 1972 (revived in 2002), which brought Dexter Gordon, Odetta, Billy Harper, and Pucho and the Latin Soul Brothers to the city. Our last stop was the Hotel Chellah, where, as local legend had it, the Martinican anticolonial thinker Frantz Fanon stayed overnight on July 3, 1959, following a car crash on the Morocco–Algeria border rumored to be the handiwork of La Main Rouge, the paramilitary group run by French intelligence to assassinate leading supporters of Algerian independence. Fanon was flown to Rome the following day on a Moroccan passport.
  • Paul Bowles and King Hassan II died in 1999, a few months apart. The novelist and the tyrant who had towered over Tangier for generations had more in common than either would have admitted—and that in part explains the reverence Bowles still enjoys in official Morocco
  • both shared a disdain for leftist, Third-Worldist politics. Both hated pan-Arabism, and loved Berber culture as long as it was “folkloric” and apolitical. They each thought Moroccans were congenitally ill-suited for democracy.
  • both Bowles and the monarch celebrated a “primitive,” mystical, unlettered, unfree Morocco, sharing a special appetite for the intoxicating rhythms of the Berbers. No wonder King Hassan II, who expelled numerous critics—from Arab intellectuals to French journalists and American professors—never bothered Bowles.
  • as long as America was seen as a political friend, Bowles was viewed favorably. Not surprisingly, after the Gulf war of 1990 and the release of Bertolucci’s film of The Sheltering Sky that same year, more articles started to appear across the Middle East critiquing Bowles’s representations of Morocco, accusing him of racism and Orientalism
  • The Morocco that Bowles dubbed a “land of magic” is one the Ministry of Tourism sells to the West
  • his emphasis on Morocco’s “African” essence suits the country’s recent geopolitical turn and reentry into the Africa Union
  • for all his misgivings about Western modernity, he thought Morocco as an African country would be better off attaching itself to the West. This is now the position of a significant segment of Morocco’s ruling elite.
  • That the regime celebrates Berber folklore and the oeuvre of a novelist who wanted an “independent Berber republic” even as it imprisons Berber activists across the country is evidence for many of the regime’s fraudulence and bad faith. In this respect, Bowles’s continuing eminence suggests how little has changed in the kingdom since the colonial era, with an authoritarian regime and repressive social order remaining largely intact.
  • As for Bowles’s work, I had come to realize that it reflected poorly on Morocco and America. Yes, he had brought attention to the suppression of Berber history and made invaluable musical recordings, but decolonization was supposed to dismantle colonial representations, and instead, the Moroccan regime was validating and institutionalizing Bowles’s depictions of Morocco
  • today, a new generation of Moroccan writers—among them secularists, Berber activists, music critics, and pan-Africanists—are claiming Bowles as an ally. And that is why I found myself writing about Bowles once more.
Ed Webb

The UAE and Other Gulf States Are Upset With India Because of Islamophobia - 0 views

  • the relationships that New Delhi so carefully crafted over the past five years—drawing on the efforts of the previous government—are now at substantial risk. Domestic developments targeting its 200 million Muslims are beginning to unravel India’s diplomatic feat
  • In a rare public move, Princess Hend al-Qassimi of the UAE has been expressing her dissatisfaction with a rising Islamophobia among Indians. “I miss the peaceful India,” she tweeted on May 4. And that came after she directly highlighted a tweet from an Indian living in the UAE as “openly racist and discriminatory,” reminding her followers that the punishment for hate speech could be a fine and even expulsion.
  • Through its so-called Think West policy, India had built robust bonds with the UAE and Saudi Arabia while maintaining its long-standing relationship with Iran and elevating ties with Israel. In August 2015, Modi became the first Indian prime minister in 34 years to travel to the UAE and visited the Emirates again in 2018 and 2019. During his last visit, he received the Order of Zayed, the UAE’s highest civil decoration, in recognition of his role in improving ties between the two countries. Modi also traveled to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, and Iran in a calibrated outreach to the Gulf region’s powers. All these trips were reciprocated by visits of Gulf dignitaries to New Delhi during the same time period.
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  • Saudi Arabia and the UAE have become India’s fourth- and third-largest trade partners, respectively, as well as some of its largest sources of oil. Over the last five years, the two countries have also pledged a combined total of $170 billion to help India develop its infrastructure in the energy and industrial sectors. An important factor in the growing economic relations between India and the Gulf is the vast Indian diaspora in the region, with 2 million Indian expatriates in Saudi Arabia and around 3 million in the UAE, who respectively send $11.2 billion and $13.8 billion in remittances back home every year.
  • While both of these Gulf states maintain their political ties with Pakistan, they prioritize investments in India. This subtle shift has had a geopolitical effect, as both Gulf states have toned down their rhetoric condemning India on its policy toward Kashmir, a region disputed between India and Pakistan. For example, the timing of the announcement of Saudi Aramco’s $15 billion investment in India in August 2019, one week after New Delhi’s controversial move to revoke Kashmir’s special status, seemed like a gesture indicating that Saudi Arabia was no longer willing to let the Kashmir issue be an obstacle to better ties with India. Similarly, the UAE also announced that it viewed India’s Kashmir decision as “an internal matter”—New Delhi’s preferred language for its dispute with Islamabad.
  • blaming Muslims for the spread of the coronavirus in India seems to be a step too far for important actors in the Gulf—and could even upend its relations with the region. One key factor is that India’s approach toward Muslims is no longer simply an internal matter if its citizens based in the Gulf also promote Islamophobic rhetoric.
  • Online hate speech from Indians based in Gulf states also led to an unprecedented statement from the Indian ambassador to the UAE warning against discrimination. Other Indian embassies also urged the Indian diaspora to remain vigilant against statements that could sow religious discord. Recognizing the need to further placate rising concerns, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India’s minister for external affairs, spoke to his counterparts in the UAE, Qatar, Oman, and Saudi Arabia to reaffirm that India would continue to provide food supplies to Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan and would make available any medical treatment required to fight the pandemic.
Ed Webb

Crossing the river: Black Mauritanians haunted by mass expulsion to Senegal | Middle Ea... - 0 views

  • Thirty years ago Mariame, along with tens of thousands of Black Mauritanians, was violently expelled in what survivors have called a “genocide”. More than 14,000 people now live in a series of dusty refugee camps near the Senegal river that separates the two countries, a matter of kilometres away from their former homes. A similar number live in Mali.
  • after independence, Mauritania embarked on aggressive “Arabisation” policies, securing the racial supremacy of a tiny Arab-Berber elite at the expense of the much larger black population, many of whom it expelled en masse in 1989
  • Ethnic Fulani people, as most here are, have ancient ties to both sides of the river, which throughout the ages has connected, but at other times acted as a barrier between, the riverine communities that live upon its banks.
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  • Fearing the return home, they are now struggling to keep their identity alive, refusing to take on Senegalese citizenship and melt into society, because they see themselves as indigenous to Mauritania, a country which has tried to erase its black population.
  • Offering a respite from the harsh Sahara, the fertile river valley had historically been a meeting point between Arabs, Berbers and Black Africans. Gilded African kingdoms like Takrur and Walo, straddling both banks, sealed its reputation as the “river of gold” described by medieval Arab geographers, its glittering lure proving irresistible to European explorers, traders, and later slave traders. Arab-Berbers, also known as beydanes  - literally "white men" -  were the descendants of local ethnic Berbers conquered by a succession of Arab tribes arriving on camel back from the Arabian peninsula. One of those tribes, the Bani Hassan, gives its name to their language: Hassaniya Arabic.
  • Relations between the riverine communities were mixed. Arab-Berber raiders were known to sweep down from the right bank across the river, carrying back young women, men and children into the desert as slaves. This legacy of slavery still haunts Mauritania to this day.
  • While French colonialism had the impact of opening the river up once again - allowing Arab Berber merchants and clerics to head south and for Black Africans to settle in the north - it also bred tensions.
  • While slavery was officially abolished in 1981, there are an estimated 90,000 enslaved Haratin.
  • A gradual purge of Black Mauritanians from official posts had started at independence but it gathered pace during the 1980s under the rule of military ruler Maaouya Ould Sid’Ahmed Taye, a Pan-Arab nationalist who had strong ties to Saddam Hussein of Iraq. Rising at the same time was the African Liberation Forces of Mauritania (FLAM), a black militant organisation, which in 1986 published the Manifesto of the Black Mauritanian, vowing to destroy the country’s “apartheid” system.
  • The execution of three Fulani army officers following an abortive coup the following year gave authorities the justification needed to present Black Africans in general, and Fulanis in particular, as being enemies of the state.
  • Many Fulanis, whose Islamic heritage stretches back a millennium, were particularly resentful of the way Islam was equated with being Arab.
  • Mauritania was also now in the business of projecting an exclusively Arab image both at home and abroad, reflected on everything from banknotes to stamps to holiday brochures. It joined the Arab League in 1973. But this masked an uncomfortable demographic reality: Arab-Berbers were a minority. They make up 30 percent of the population today, as do Black Africans.
  • The balance is made up by Haratins, the poor descendants of Black African slaves once owned by the Arab-Berber population. They sit at the foot of the steep socio-economic pyramid despite their number. Black-skinned, but also Arabic-speaking, integrated into the Arab-Berber tribal system while at the same time bearing the brunt of racial discrimination, they occupy a precarious position, caught between the hold of their erstwhile masters and the potential of black solidarity.
  • Mauritania therefore faced an identity crisis by the time of its independence in 1960. Black Africans saw the country’s future as lying in a pluralistic state of Arab-Black unity merged together with neighbouring Black francophone nations Mali and Senegal. But many Arab-Berbers supported a union with Morocco, wanting to exclusively emphasise the country’s Arab character. The country became independent in November 1960 under president Moktar Ould Daddah, an Arab-Berber, who quickly instituted one-party rule and made Arabic the country’s official language.
  • After a catastrophic drought through the 1970s and a costly war in the Western Sahara which ended with a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Polisario Front in 1979, the Mauritanian government took a keen interest in exploiting the Senegal river valley. With 90 percent of the country already desert, the riverine farmland was by then seen as an especially precious commodity. Who owned the farms controlled the food supply.
  • The land grabs only added to a sense of impending doom among the country’s Black population. The Manifesto of the Black Mauritanian observed in 1986: “They aim to break all ties between the inhabitants of the two shores inhabited by the same families, Wolofs in the Lower Valley, Fulani-speakers and Soninke in the Middle Valley, Soninke in Upper Senegal.”
  • An “air bridge” was agreed between the two neighbours, repatriating each other's citizens. Instead of just repatriating Senegalese nationals as agreed, Mauritanian authorities used the opportunity to systematically expel its Black African population. Underlying this move was the idea that Black Africans were not Mauritanian but actually Senegalese.
  • in April 1989, Diop left the country on a plane meant to be repatriating Senegalese back home. It was full of Black Mauritanian policemen like him
  • Mauritanian authorities drew up lists targeting the urban leadership and potential leadership of the black community. Intellectuals, civil servants, businessmen, professionals and students were put onto overcrowded trucks and driven down to the river where they were made to cross by boat.
  • Entire villages were burnt or destroyed by the army. In the four Mauritanian regions abutting the Senegal river 236 villages were either destroyed or abandoned.
  • According to Human Rights Watch, over 50,000 people had been displaced by the end of 1989, as much as eight percent of the country's Black African population, enough to drastically alter the racial politics of the country.
  • Between 1990-91 up to 600 black political prisoners were executed or tortured to death by government forces.
  • Repopulating the abandoned villages, seizing prized cattle and the possessions left by those fleeing the pogroms, were the Haratin, who had earned their share of the spoils by carrying out much of the state’s dirty work - the rape, the torture and the theft
  • The gains they made would go some way to sealing their political allegiance to their erstwhile Arab-Berber masters for years to come, while driving a painful wedge between Mauritania’s two black communities.
  • By the early 90s, a new order had taken shape along the river. Along Mauritania's increasingly militarised river border facing Senegal, Haratins now formed a first line of defence. Opposite, swelling the population of Senegal’s riverside towns, were tens of thousands of bewildered Mauritanian refugees, who only had to look a few hundred metres into the distance to see their homeland. Gone was the dynamic riverine community.
  • A constant source of anxiety has been a lack of job opportunities, owing in part to the limitations placed on refugees, affecting their ability to pay for healthcare and education.
  • many here dream of travelling to find work to support their families. But Senegal, which is responsible for issuing travel documents to the refugees, has yet to produce the machine readable travel documents which became required document for international refugee travel back in 2015
  • Senegalese authorities have pressed the community to accept its nationality. Abdoulaye Diop, and many here, reject this based on principle, as an infringement on their identity. “I am as Mauritanian as the president is, and Mauritania is the place where I know, where I was born and grew up,” Diop said.
  • But according to a survey conducted by the UNHCR last year, of the Mauritanian refugees, 67 percent said they would be willing to become Senegalese.
Ed Webb

Israel's army and schools work hand in hand, say teachers - 2 views

  • officers from a military intelligence unit called Telem design much of the Arabic language curriculum
  • “The military are part and parcel of the education system. The goal of Arabic teaching is to educate the children to be useful components in the military system, to train them to become intelligence officers.”
  • Mendel said Arabic was taught “without sentiment”, an aim established in the state’s earliest years.“The fear was that, if students had a good relationship with the language and saw Arabs as potential friends, they might cross over to the other side and they would be of no use to the Israeli security system. That was the reason the field of Arabic studies was made free of Arabs.”
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  • many fear that the situation will only get worse under the new education minister, Naftali Bennett, who heads Jewish Home, the settler movement’s far-right party
  • Nearly 300 schools have been encouraged to join an IDF-education ministry programme called “Path of Values”, whose official goal is to “strengthen the ties and cooperation between schools and the army”.
  • “Militarism is in every aspect of our society, so it is not surprising it is prominent in schools too,” said Amit Shilo, an activist with New Profile, an organisation opposed to the influence of the army on Israeli public life.“We are taught violence is the first and best solution to every problem, and that it is the way to solve our conflict with our neighbours.”
  • Each school is now graded annually by the education ministry not only on its academic excellence but also on the draft rate among pupils and the percentages qualifying for elite units, especially in combat or intelligence roles.
  • Zeev Dagani, head teacher of a leading Tel Aviv school who opted out of the programme at its launch in 2010, faced death threats and was called before a parliamentary committee to explain his actions.
  • Adam Verete, a Jewish philosophy teacher at a school in Tivon, near Haifa, was sacked last year after he hosted a class debate on whether the IDF could justifiably claim to be the world’s most moral army.
  • Revital, an Arabic language teacher, said the army’s lesson plans were popular with pupils. “I don’t approve of them, but the students like them. They celebrate and laugh when they kill the terrorists.”Revital said she had been disciplined for speaking her mind in class and was now much more cautious.“You end up hesitating before saying anything that isn’t what everyone else is saying. I find myself hesitating a lot more than I did 20 years ago. There is a lot more fascism and racism around in the wider society,” she said.
  • “You have to watch yourself because the pupils are getting more nationalistic, more religious all the time. The society, the media and the education system are all moving to the right.”A 2010 survey found that 56 per cent of Jewish pupils believed their fellow Palestinian citizens should be stripped of the vote, and 21 per cent thought it was legitimate to call out “Death to the Arabs”.
Ed Webb

American citizens are detained in Hebron for wearing hijab on a 'Jewish street' - 1 views

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    A description of what borders, identities, citizenships etc can look and feel like at the micro-level in the Israel-Palestine context.
Ed Webb

Racist graffiti sprayed at mixed Jewish-Arab village in central Israel - Haaretz Daily ... - 0 views

  • Graffiti was found overnight on Friday, at the Jewish-Arab village Neve Shalom, near Latrun. On Friday morning, residents discovered that the tires of roughly 14 cars had their tires punctured, and three were vandalized with graffiti such as “death to arabs,” “revenge,” “Kahana was right,” “regards from Havat Gilad,” and “Ulpana neighborhood.”  “It is an act of racism targeting our community. They did it so that the children would see it when they arrive in the morning,”
  • vandalism as “an attack on the idea of coexistence, the political idea on which the village was founded. It’s part of the general phenomenon of ‘price tag,’ aimed at anyone who doesn’t agree
  • Over the last few months, graffiti has been sprayed numerous times on the walls of the bilingual school in Jerusalem’s Beit Beit Tzafafa neighborhood.  Phrases such as “death to Arabs” and “Kahana was right,” were sprayed on one of the outer walls of the schoolyard. Graffiti and punctured tires have also been found sprayed on the wall of the Greek Monastery in Jerusalem’s Emek Hamatzleva. Jerusalem police investigated both incidents, though no arrests were made
Ian Mandell

BBC News - Swiss voters back ban on minarets - 1 views

  • Swiss voters have supported a referendum proposal to ban the building of minarets, official results show.
  • More than 57% of voters and 22 out of 26 cantons - or provinces - voted in favour of the ban.
  • There are only four minarets in Switzerland
Ed Webb

UAE asked to end racism against foreigners | Pakistan | News | Newspaper | Daily | Engl... - 0 views

  • a United Nations human rights expert has urged the United Arab Emirates to create robust legal institutions and laws to combat racism aimed at foreign migrant populations, who form the majority in the Persian Gulf nation.
  • he voiced a number of concerns over UAE’s policy on granting citizenship, the working and living conditions of construction and domestic workers, the situation of “Bidoons” or stateless persons, the victims of human trafficking, as well as the Emirati public education system which seems to be hampering the integration of foreigners in the society
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