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The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution

The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni RevolutionAuthor: Patrick Cockburn
Publisher: Verso Books
Published Date : 01 January 2015
Paperpack: 192 pages

Review by: Emmanuela Eposti

In the media haze of information and mis-information that proliferates about the conflicts that continue to rage throughout Iraq and Syria, there is one word that has emerged over the past year as a terrifying symptom of the Middle Eastern malaise: "Da'esh". The Arabic term for the self-proclaimed Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL) that stretches across vast swathes of Syria and Iraq, it is a word that has struck fear into the heart of many, and precipitated a splurge of new reports, articles, books, analyses and lay speculation about the origins of the radical Islamist group and the likely ripple effects of its territorial and ideological takeover of the Middle East.


LIVE BLOG: World Social Forum: Tunisia 2015

World Social Forum: Tunisia 2015

This year's World Social Forum looks at justice, equality and dignity in the Middle East and beyond. Hosted in the cradle of the Arab Spring, Tunis, the forum kicked off Tuesday with a protest in solidarity of last week's Bardo museum attack which left over 20 dead. Activists, civil society organisations and journalists united under the slogan, "people of the world against terrorism," in support of the country's peace transition to democracy.

Amelia Smith will be live blogging the conference from 7.00am GMT on March 25th, 2015.


No Land’s Song: The women whose voice will not be silenced

Sara Najafi's,  No Land’s Song

Since 1979, Iran has banned women from singing solo in public. The year marked the beginning of the Islamic Revolution and the start of a clampdown on Iranian society. Composer Sara Najafi and her female singer friends are determined to challenge this. They decide to organise a concert in the heart of Iran - its capital Tehran, inviting French and Tunisian female artists to take part. The concert is a celebration of the female voice - something that has been silenced for over 35 years.


Monthly Media Digest - April 2013

One of this month's biggest pieces of news was the resignation of Western backed Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. There were widespread hunger strikes in Israeli prisons in protest against the death of an inmate suffering from cancer who had also faced medical neglect by the Israeli authorities, while hunger striker, Samer Issawi, ended his hunger strike following a deal struck with the same authorities.

Writing about the resignation of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, NYT columnist Thomas L Friedman described it as "very bad news". Unelected Fayyad, you see, "was the 'Arab Spring' before there was an Arab Spring". This was a prime example of the conundrum facing Western liberals who want to export democracy but only if the right people win elections.


Uyghurs: Prisoners of the Absurd, a tale of three mens’ incredible odyssey to freedom

Guantanamo Bay - A guard watches over Camp Delta prison

It is 2001 and a group of men escaping persecution from the Chinese authorities journey to Afghanistan and Pakistan seeking refuge. They are all Uyghurs, a persecuted minority of Turkic-speaking Muslims who live predominantly in the autonomous Chinese region of Xinjiang. They do not know that terrorists have just attacked the twin towers in New York - an event which will change the course of their lives.


Change starts here: the Human Rights Watch Film Festival

Publicity photo from the 'Beats of the Antonov', a film made from an 'artistic, musical, ethnographic perspective'"Films always bring this personal, individual narrative to the story, which I don't think you find so easily elsewhere," comments Andrea Holley, strategic director of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, on the merits of addressing human rights through creative storytelling. Cinema can take a viewer deeper into the subject, she says, because filmmakers spend long periods of time getting to know communities in places that are hard to reach.


Inside the Muslim Brotherhood

Author:Hazem Kandil
Publisher:Polity Press
Published Date:21 November 2014
Hardcover:240 pages

Review by Emmanuela Eposti

In the 18 months since the Egyptian army swept (back) into power and forced out elected president Mohammed Morsi, there have been any number of speculations and conjectures as to why such events were able to take place. At the time, many liberals and leftists saw the army as riding a popular wave of anger and disillusionment against the Muslim Brotherhood, while Islamists were shocked and appalled at developments and staged sit-ins and protests to contest their removal from power. In the intervening period, as the military's steely grip tightens around Egyptian society, average Egyptians have found themselves caught in a binary between what they see as two equally unpalatable solutions: military dictatorship or Islamist state. Choose the former, and risk having your rights curtailed under the guise of the security state and being thrown in jail for simply acknowledging the status quo; choose the latter, and face an imposition of sharia law and possible allegations of the thought crime of "insulting Islam".


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