Perspectives #10 - Borders: Lines in the Sand or in the Mind?


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.

Crossing borders legally has become increasingly difficult which leaves many who are desperate at the mercy of smugglers or human traffickers; and, in this equation, it is more often the victims who are prosecuted, punished and deported than those who sell passage on barely seaworthy vessels.

So what is on the map for the region? Syrian author Haid Haid discusses whether the divi­sion of Syria is an option. This necessarily raises the question of the future of the Kurds, a ques­tion that has become even more relevant fol­lowing the Turkish intervention in Syria. Bakr Sidki explores whether the issue is autonomy, federalism, or something entirely different.

While borders between nations might be the best documented, there are plenty of other lines of division: social, ethnic, religious and ideological. How firm or permeable the divi­sions are is subject to change, but any border is a painful memory of the fact that it is not an individual’s choice to define which side he or she is on.

Hanaa Edwar, a member of the Iraqi com­munist party, joined the Iraqi resistance, the Peshmerga, in the 1980s. She takes us back to a time when she and her comrades developed a vision of how to overcome the borders imposed by ethnicity, religion, class and gender.

The Lebanese artists of KnoozRoom con­sider the situation of people in communities particularly affected by the drawing of borders – a project featured by one of its creators, Tamara Qiblawi.

Mohammed Dibo discusses the relation­ship between a virtually shrinking world and the new challenges globalization poses to iden­tity. In a world where some have the chance to move and others are forced to migrate, peo­ple become modern nomads; this, at least, is the approach of Moroccan artist Mohammed Laouli and German Artist Karin Ströbel in their project ‘Frontières Fluides – fluid boundaries’. Morocco is a transit country for migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa, and because of the proxim­ity of some of its borders to Europe, it is particu­larly affected by border regimes.

The Jordanian satirical magazine Al Hudood mocks European efforts to seal its borders, while Moroccan author Mehdi Alioua describes the ‘Walls of Fortress Europe’ as full of cracks that allow for selective and ambivalent trans­gressions. In similar fashion, Khalid Mouna looks at the city of Tangier and how migration and drug trafficking blur the concept of border control as a means to enhance security.

Abraham Zeitoun interviews actress Sawsan Bou Khaled on her understanding of the more subtle borders of the body and the arts.

Finally, this issue is illustrated by the Lebanese artist Nadine Bekdache with her take on space, borders and transgression.

Permit us a little celebration: with ‘Borders’, the Arab Middle East and North Africa offices publish their tenth edition of Perspectives!


Bente Scheller, Dorothea Rischewski, Bettina Marx and Joachim Paul.

Product details
Date of Publication
September 2016
Heinrich Boell Foundation - Middle East Office
Number of Pages
All rights reserved
Language of publication