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  • Author: Alaa Tartir
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The Palestinian political leadership’s obsession with the idea of statehood as a means to realise self-determination and freedom has proved to be detrimental to the struggle of decolonising Palestine. By prioritising “statehood under colonialism” instead of focusing on decolonising Palestine first and then engaging in state formation, the Palestinian leadership – under pressure from regional and international actors – disempowered the people and empowered security structures which ultimately serve the colonial condition.
  • Topic: State Formation, Colonialism, Decolonization, Repression
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Intissar Kherigi
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: An account of the Arab uprisings of the last decade would be incomplete without an understanding of regional inequalities. While each country’s protests were driven by a distinct combination of grievances, a common factor has been the marginalisation of “peripheries”. The Sidi Bouzid region of Tunisia from which the Arab Spring started is a region rich in agricultural resources yet poor in infrastructure and economic opportunities. Its connection rate to running water is half the national average. A similar story can be seen across the flashpoints of unrest in the Arab world, a story of widening urban-rural divides, uneven regional development and political and economic exclusion of entire regions. Can decentralisation address these grievances? Since the 1980s, decentralisation has been championed as a driver for both democratisation and development, promising to empower regions, granting them political representation and enabling them to create their own economic strategies. However, a key fear among many, from politicians and bureaucrats to ordinary citizens, is that decentralisation is a means for the central state to withdraw from its traditional functions and transfer responsibility for service provision to under-resourced and over-burdened local government. Yet, the demands for freedom, dignity and social justice voiced by the Arab uprisings require the central state to be more present in peripheries, not less. Can decentralisation help achieve greater local development in peripheral regions without allowing the central state to withdraw from its obligations to citizens? Is it even possible to envisage new forms of local development within the framework of highly centralised Arab states? How can Arab states reconfigure their relations with local communities in the context of severe political and economic crises? This article explores these questions in the Tunisian context, where a major decentralisation process is taking place in response to demands for inclusion and development. It argues that in order to produce new modes of local development in peripheries, central state institutions need to fundamentally reform the way they function.
  • Topic: Inequality, Arab Spring, Decentralization , Bureaucracy
  • Political Geography: Africa, North Africa, Tunisia, Tunis
  • Author: Alex Walsh
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The 2011 Egyptian protests started in earnest nine years ago on National Police Day on 25 January, a holiday that Hosni Mubarak had introduced to commemorate Egyptian police officers killed and wounded by British colonial forces in 1952. Protesters upended the original meaning of the holiday to turn it into a symbol of police brutality and corruption under Mubarak. In the drama of the 18 days that followed, Egypt’s internal security apparatus fought the protesters in the streets, delivering one shocking provocation after another, galvanizing the protest movement and ultimately contributing to the removal of Mubarak. Since 2011, the police and internal security forces of many countries in the Arab world have been at the centre of the conflicts and struggles that shape the region for better and for worse. Recent and ongoing encounters between protestors and police in the streets of Iraq, Lebanon, Algeria and Sudan are a stark reminder that the police are more than just a proxy target for a protestation of the state. They are also the object of much anger both as a grouping, and in terms of the concept of policing and social control they embody. The impact of this sustained contestation of police behaviour and doctrine in the region deserves reflection. Has the police and policing changed in the Arab world? And if so, in what ways? This paper maps out some of the main modes in which the police and policing have been contested since 2011, and provides a preliminary assessment of its impact. It argues that mass mobilised contestation has only been successful in the instance where institutional reform followed. It notes that hybridisation of policing – where informal security actors cooperate and challenge formal security actors – has spread in many countries but that the concept of state security – with its emphasis on the state over citizens – continues to prevail across the region. Indeed, almost a decade after that fateful 25 January 2011, many of the aspirations of citizens protesting the police are far from realised, even while there are some promising developments.
  • Topic: Protests, Repression, Police, Police State
  • Political Geography: Africa, North Africa, Egypt, Cairo
  • Author: Carmen Geha
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Lebanese women have been leaders in the revolution that has shaken Lebanon since October 2019. This paper argues that the next stage will be critical if women want to transform their involvement into equal rights. For them to do so, they need to move beyond informal revolutionary politics to formal electoral and party politics with meaningful and substantive representation.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Human Rights, United Nations, Social Movement, Feminism, Revolution
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Beirut
  • Author: Nadine Abdalla
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Various forms of local activism in Egypt are challenging the shortcomings in local governance and the lack of any developmental urban vision. This paper examines three examples from different neighbourhoods in Giza and Cairo. All three share the goal of resisting exclusionary policies while trying to overcome the absence of political means to register their frustrations given the absence of local councils since 2011.
  • Topic: Social Movement, Arab Spring, Urban, Local
  • Political Geography: Africa, North Africa, Egypt, Cairo, Giza
  • Author: Roger Asfar
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: On 22 September 2018, a boat carrying 39 refugees sank while sailing illegally from the Lebanese coast towards Cyprus. Five-year old Syrian-Palestinian Khaled Nejme drowned in the incident, drawing attention to the plight of Palestinian refugees from Syria seeking refuge in Lebanon. Once considered lucky compared to Palestinian refugees in neighboring countries, Palestinian refugees from Syria are now experiencing secondary displacement and are among the most vulnerable refugee groups in Lebanon.1 This paper attempts to provide a better understanding of the attitudes toward the return of Palestinian refugees displaced from Syria. More specifically, the paper addresses the challenges faced by Palestinian refugees displaced from Syria’s Yarmouk camp and currently residing in Lebanon. Since the Syrian regime and its allies have retaken control of Yarmouk, and amidst increasing calls from Lebanon for the “voluntary return of refugees”, what are Syrian-Palestinian refugees’ prospects of return? What are some of the major obstacles preventing their return? And what are some of the basic conditions to be met for a truly voluntary return to be encouraged? To answer these questions, the authors conducted a series of interviews in Shatila camp and Ain el-Hilweh between 26 June and 16 September 2018.2 The interviews were constructed in a way that allowed ample space for the representation of different political positions, ideological orientations, social backgrounds, and age groups.
  • Topic: United Nations, Diaspora, Immigration, Refugees
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Syria
  • Author: Rachid Tlemçani
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: As of 22 February 2019, a new chapter of Algeria’s history is being written, one which will establish a new relationship between Algerian citizens and their state. On that day, against all odds, tens of thousands of Algerians, regardless of gender, age, social or professional background, converged on cities and villages to voice their rejection of a fifth term for Abdelaziz Bouteflika in the forthcoming presidential elections. To the call of General Ahmed Gaïd Salah, the army’s chief of staff, to remove President Bouteflika as per Article 102 of the Constitution, and Bouteflika’s subsequent resignation on 2 April, Algerians responded with an even stronger mobilization and their own call, “Système, dégage!”
  • Topic: Social Movement, Democracy, Protests, State Building
  • Political Geography: Africa, Algeria, North Africa, Mediterranean, Algeris
  • Author: Magdi El-Gizouli
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: What is the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) anyway, perplexed commentators and news anchors on Sudan’s government-aligned television channels asked repetitively as if bound by a spell? An anchor on the BBC Arabic Channel described the SPA as “mysterious” and “bewildering”. Most were asking about the apparently unfathomable body that has taken the Sudanese political scene by surprise since December 2018 when the ongoing wave of popular protests against President Omar al-Bashir’s 30-year authoritarian rule began. The initial spark of protests came from Atbara, a dusty town pressed between the Nile and the desert some 350km north of the capital, Khartoum. A crowd of school pupils, market labourers and university students raged against the government in response to an abrupt tripling of the price of bread as a result of the government’s removal of wheat subsidies. Protestors in several towns across the country set fire to the headquarters of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and stormed local government offices and Zakat Chamber1 storehouses taking food items in a show of popular sovereignty.
  • Topic: Mass Media, Food, Social Movement, Protests
  • Political Geography: Africa, Khartoum, Sundan
  • Author: El Mouhoub Mouhoud
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: With ongoing protests in Algeria and wide calls to boycott the presidential poll in July, Algerians’ demands for radical regime change remain relentless. The army’s announcement it is considering all options to resolve the current crisis does not resonate well in a country where the army has been closely tied to regime interests. In this interview, Professor Mouhoud provides a much-needed context to better understand how the protests started and the potential scenarios that may unfold in Algeria over the coming months.
  • Topic: Social Movement, Arab Spring, Military Intervention, Protests
  • Political Geography: Africa, Algeria, North Africa, Mediterranean, Algeris
  • Author: Omar Said
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Four years into the war that engulfed Aden since March 2015, the city in the South of Yemen might look tranquil and safe in the eyes of foreign observers as the interim capital of the internationally recognized government of Abd Rabou Mansour Hadi. To its inhabitants, however, it is a satellite out of orbit with no institutions or a state to govern or uphold the rule of law and where civilians face many challenges daily. Civilians were relieved, in July 2015, when Popular Resistance Forces (a mix of different factions from Aden, independent, Salafists, reformers and followers of many factions from the Southern Movement) and forces of the Arab Coalition (led by Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirate, UAE), defeated the Saleh-Houthi forces, expelling them from the city. They began to dream of a normal life and a fresh start for real institutions that will build a modern civilian state and remedy their decades long suffering, exclusion, marginalization, and inability to run their own city. Simultaneously, fighters raised the flags of Saudi Arabia and UAE along with the flag of the former People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen. Meanwhile, elements loyal to the Southern Movement renewed their demands of secession of Southern Yemen from the North. These hopes died shortly after, however. The mandate of the interim government intertwined with that of the National Council, and so did the interests of the Coalition states that sponsor these two bodies. As a result, Aden slipped into a state of insecurity with a multiplicity of armed militias and widespread corruption. This paper seeks to describe the fragmentation process of the Yemeni State, four years after the Coalition’s offensive to restore legitimate authority. It highlights the practices of Abd Rabou Mansour Hadi and his government in running the country and how rivalry between Saudi Arabia and its ally, the UAE, translated, on the ground, in the form of a contest for authority between the Interim Yemeni Government and the Transition Southern Council. The paper also highlights corruption, insecurity, and the rise of civilian protests against the status quo in Aden.
  • Topic: Corruption, United Nations, Fragile States, Protests, International Community
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, UAE