Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Samih al-Qasim 1939-2014

Besides of Mahmud Darwish, Samih al-Qasim was the most prominent Palestinian "poet of the resistance" but far more radical and unforgiving than the former. He was born 1939 in az-Zarqa (then Transjordan) into a Druze family from Rama, a mixed village in the Galilee, where his family returned to prior of 1948. Some would argue his radicalism compared to Darwish is due to his heritage - which may kinda forced forced him to prove his nationalism even more because of the perception of the Druze as collaborators with Israel - but honestly I am not convinced.

Although al-Qasim was very secular and a long time member of the Communist Party, he had never hidden his Druze background. In 1960 he was one of the first Druze who were imprisoned for refusing conscription into the IDF and later he was very active to mobilize support for the Communist Party and the anti-conscription movement among his fellow Druze in Israel.

He died last week in Safad at the age of 75. Samih al-Qasim was one of the last, maybe the last, icons of the Arab left in Israel.

 with Yasir Arafat & George Habash in the 80's

 recent picture with poet and former Hadash-activist Salman Natur (left) and Rafiq Halabi, former TV journalist and now mayor of Daliyat al-Karmal

Friday, August 22, 2014

Is this Walid Junblat's very own answer to IS?

Analyzing and even just following the events concerning religious minorities in the MENA is not all fun these days-it's often depressing, but one man lately put a little badly needed humor in it: Walid Junblat. Lebanon's by far most influential Druze leader is not only the head of a socialist party, a former militia leader and a feudal lord - apart from these he has somehow the reputation of a playboy. Honestly, I am not really interested in such gossip especially since it dates back decades. However, in the light of all the domestic problems and the threat by IS, Junblat seriously took time to welcome the competitors of the Lebanese edition of reality TV series Topmodel to his castle of Mukhtara in the Shuf mountains.

Since Junblat had been referred to as Hugh Hefner on Twitter, it reminded me of one of his most interesting interviews, which was published 1984 in the Playboy Magazine. Junblat, it seems, loves to play with his playboy-image.

Edit: Junblat wrote a self ironic and bit hilarious letter to Now. about the visit of the models.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Yazidi tragedy in Iraq

In contrast to the case of the Christians, which is more an expulsion, what is happening now to the Yazidis clearly has genocidal features. Other minorities like the Shabak might be next.

One of the best overviews comes from Matthew Barber (also read his piece on the expulsion of Mosul's Christians) for Syria Comment:

Some round-up:

In a major defeat for Kurdish forces the Iraqi town of Sinjar was captured Sunday by the group known as ISIS, now calling itself the Islamic State. This is the Kurds first major loss to ISIS and a catastrophe for the religious minorities who had taken refuge in the area and are now at imminent risk of being slaughtered.
Reports from the region describe an unfolding tragedy with young women being abducted, religious monuments destroyed, and the ISIS flag now hanging over government buildings.
Without Western champions and sympathizers, the non-Christian religious minorities of Nineveh province are being slowly exterminated, driven off, or forced into hiding.
The Sinjar mountain area is a ring of villages and one of the few true homes for the Yezidi people. The Yezidi’s ancient faith, which combines elements of Christianity, Sufi Islam, and Zoroastrianism, is considered heretical by ISIS and puts them at great risk. Of the 300,000 who live in this district, most have left in the last 24 hours and the rest are desperately trying to find a way out with aid organizations in Iraq saying that a humanitarian disaster of epic scale is currently unfolding. (...)
Sinjar holds strategic importance to ISIS because it’s a border town that gives the group a direct line of attack against the Kurdish forces it is currently fighting in Syria. Caught in the middle of this struggle are the minority communities of Ninewa province: The Turkmen, The Shabak, The Christians, the Shia, The Kaka'i and, in the case of Sinjar, the Yezidis. (...)
Iraqi Yazidis stranded on isolated mountaintop begin to die of thirst 
by Loveday Morris, The Washington Post
Stranded on a barren mountaintop, thousands of minority Iraqis are faced with a bleak choice: descend and risk slaughter at the hands of the encircled Sunni extremists or sit tight and risk dying of thirst.
Humanitarian agencies said Tuesday that between 10,000 and 40,000 civilians remain trapped on Mount Sinjar since being driven out of surrounding villages and the town of Sinjar two days earlier. But the mountain that had looked like a refuge is becoming a graveyard for their children.
Unable to dig deep into the rocky mountainside, displaced families said they have buried young and elderly victims of the harsh conditions in shallow graves, their bodies covered with stones. Iraqi government planes attempted to airdrop bottled water to the mountain on Monday night but reached few of those marooned.
“There are children dying on the mountain, on the roads,” said Marzio Babille, the Iraq representative for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). “There is no water, there is no vegetation, they are completely cut off and surrounded by Islamic State. It’s a disaster, a total disaster.” (...)
Babille, UNICEF’s Iraq representative, said that U.N. agencies have offered the Iraqi government technical assistance with airdrops but have yet to be asked for help. At least 15 to 20 flights would be needed just to provide those stranded with enough water and supplies to survive for a week, he said.
“We need to get them out,” he said. “If we don’t, it would be catastrophic.
A good piece in German, which also briefly introduces main features of the Yazidi religion: 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

At Syria Comment Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi provides a solid overview about current militia-related minority dynamics in Syria briefly touching Alawites (including muqawama as-Suriya), Druze and Christians (in a SSNP- and an Assyrian context).

Minority Dynamics in Syria by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, Syria Comment