The Heinrich Boell Foundation and the 10/11 collective are happy to present to you two book publications by Syrian contemporary authors:
“Abu Jurgen, the German Ambassador and I”, a grotesque episodic novel - with magical powers* - by Assaf Alassaf, and “The invention of German”, a surreal and funny collection of short stories by Rasha Abbas
When women in the Middle East make the headlines, it is usually as victims. Disturbing stories of the so called 'Islamic State' (ISIS) kidnapping and raping tens of thousands of women are sadly often the ones which stick in the Western memory. But there is more to women's political lives in the region than their victimisation and oppression. We decided to look to the future, present and past in this issue, in order to present an alternative narrative which challenges these representations of women.
Public space is essential for urban life - it enables people from all social strata and backgrounds to meet, enjoy the space together, and form a harmonious identity. Yet, Beirut is notorious for its lack of such spaces.
Before the civil war, Horsh Beirut, was the only sizeable park of the city, and a place for gatherings, festivals, and traditions. However, in 1982 an Israeli raid destroyed most of it, decimating the number of trees. So following the end of the war, the Municipality of Beirut signed a partnership agreement with the Regional Council of Ile-de-France to rehabilitate the park with the initial plan of reopening it to the public in 1995. This date was then pushed back to 2002 in order to allow the newly planted pine trees to grow bigger1. However, the year 2002 came and yet the gates to the park remained shut to the public, and became only accessible to those who request a special permit from the Municipality. In practice, the vast majority of Beirut residents had become deprived of their right to enjoy the place, under the pretext that the municipality is inadequately equipped to manage it. This led NAHNOO, a youth non-governmental organization, to spearhead the “Horsh Beirut for All” advocacy campaign to challenge the situation in late 2010 which led to its reopening to the public 5 years later, in 2015.
When ISIS announced the establishment of the so-called ‘Islamic State’ it fuelled discussions as to whether this would herald the ‘end of Sykes-Picot’ – borders artificially drawn by the colonial powers at the beginning of the twentieth century. But borders are more than ‘lines in the sand’: they divide. While the privileged few may cross legitimately by simply presenting their passport, for most, these borders present difficult if not insurmountable hurdles. People fleeing from war, climate change or economic hardship, attempt to cross the Mediterranean but many drown trying.
The Middle Eastern and Northern African (MENA) region, faced with tumultuous changes in the last five years, shows a picture of shrinking spaces for civil society activism. In contrast, ecological activism is growing and connecting the fight for climate justice to other demands for community and indigenous rights, gender equality, democracy and transparency.
8,331 - is the astonishing number of officially registered civil society organisations in the small state of Lebanon. From HIV prevention over democracy building to environmental protection, almost no topic remains unaddressed. However, from a closer look, the impact yielded by these groups in the compact state in the Middle East often remains somewhat restricted. On the example of gender equality – a topic fervently debated in Lebanon – this paper analyses the internal and external reasons behind this surprising discrepancy and stipulate thought about how to make the Lebanese civil society work more effectively.
The civil society movement during the garbage crisis in Beirut after July 2015.
When garbage started to pile up in the streets of Beirut in summer 2015, a new wave of civil society protests was initiated in the country. Thousands of Lebanese were protesting in the streets – against the garbage situation, corruption of the government, the failure of electing a president, sectarianism and many more issues connected to the crisis of the state and the waste management. More than half a year later, no final solution for the garbage has been found and the political situation has not changed. It is said that the civil society movement failed to put pressure on the government, but also the regime itself is made responsible for the lack of change. For many people it was hard to follow up with what was happening on the streets during the demonstrations and to understand who the protestors were and which goals they tried to achieve. This paper analyzes the dynamics of the movement and tries to explain why not much has changed so far and if there is any chance for civil society movements in Lebanon in the future.
The fight against corruption in the MENA region has gone through several ups and downs. Prevention, awareness and purification campaigns aiming to eradicate endemic or systemic corruption have had very little impact. The political will and the good intentions formulated in speeches and conferences during the democratic transitions referred to as the “Arab Spring” have hardly born results.
The dilemma faced by the EU in its search for an effective policy with Lebanon
The European Union is compelled to define its role in Lebanon anew and needs to disperse tensions within the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). Is the policy’s focal point to be shared values or stability? Active policy development or non-interference? Perspectives unearthed through fieldwork in Lebanon.