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Archive for April 2021

Syrian Women battle continues: Euripides’ “Trojan Women”

Posted on May 30, 2014

Syria Trojan Women: the battle continues. BEIRUT, by Élodie Morel | iloubnan.info – May 18, 2014, 14h46<!––><!–
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 In December 2013, around 40 Syrian women performed Euripides’ “Trojan Women” on stage in Amman, Jordan.
All of the actresses were refugees that had fled their country to escape the war that began three years ago.

Euripides wrote the Trojan Women in 415 BC. However, the tragedy could have been written yesterday, or these Syrian refugees. Just like the Trojan Women, they lost everything when they left Syria: their homes, their jobs, their possessions and in many cases, their loved ones.

The co-founders of the project now want to portray this experience through a documentary entitled Queens of Syria.
In a large, bright room, somewhere in Amman, Syrian women, all refugees living in the Jordan capital, are playing Musical Chairs.

All of them are running and laughing like children.One woman slips and falls on her bottom, trying to sit down, she bursts out laughing with her friends.

This surprising and heart-warming scene was filmed during the Syria Trojan Women project, launched in October 2013, where 40 Syrian refugees participating in drama therapy workshops worked together to perform Euripides Trojan Women tragedy on stage in December.Those images are striking and truly moving. They will be used to create a documentary entitled Queens of Syria, dedicated to the two-month long process of the project.

This film still needs financing to see the light. You can watch more of the footage in this video, where filmmaker Yasmin Fedaa explains why it is crucial to finalize the production of the documentary:

https://player.vimeo.com/video/92822753
Journalist and award-winning former foreign correspondent, Charlotte Eagar is one of the co-founders of the Syria Trojan Women project.Months ago, she got the idea of having Syrian refugees perform in Euripides’ tragedy on stage.

Charlotte had been familiar with this mythical play since reading it during her time at university: And in 1992, while covering the conflict in Bosnia, she heard it on the BBC World Service.The words echoed with the reality she was living at that time.

This play is a universal, timeless tale about war and its victims.Charlotte is also an award-winning filmmaker. The year before the Syria Trojan Women project was born, she co-directed and co-wrote a mini soap in Kenya entitled “Something’s Got to Change”, with young amateur actors, in a Nairobi slum for the NGO Emerging Leaders.“

I realized that through this project, the children became confident, proud of what they had done,.When this project was completed, I was looking for another idea. I discussed with Oxfam about useful initiatives to launch. They suggested that we address the situation of the Syrian refugees in different countries neighboring Syria. The story of the Syrian women made me think of Euripides’ tragedy.”Just like the Trojan Women, the Syrian women lost everything when they fled their country.

From Lebanon to Jordan

The project was supposed to take place in Lebanon, the country hosting the largest number of Syrian refugees.There are more than one million officially registered refugees there. “We wanted to do it in Lebanon, but we had to change our plans for security purposes,” Charlotte told us as we contacted her from Beirut.

She explained that, as a former war correspondent, she was not really worried about the security situation in Lebanon, but insurance companies most certainly were.

“Not a single one accepted to insure the project.” So the organizers decided to do it in Amman, the capital of Jordan, a much more stable country.The objective of the Syria Trojan Women project was to help refugees through drama-therapy, but also to publicize this crisis and to raise the audience’s awareness about the humanitarian situation in Syria.

The drama-therapy was really effective.Charlotte Eagar explained to us that the play “gave a voice to 
those women. It gave them a feeling of achievement and dignity; it was also a way for them to escape their daily ‘routine’. They were not living in refugee camps; they had found homes around Amman.

They had at one point felt isolated and lonely, but coming to the drama-therapy sessions was a way to build new relationships.A kindergarten was also set up to take care of the children of the participants. Just like their mothers, the children made new friends as well. This project was great for everyone!”

Two performances took place at the National Centre for Culture and Performing Arts in Amman on December 17 and 18, 2013.After performing on stage, the women said they felt that people listened to their story. For once, they were directly speaking to the public, without any media between them and the audience.

The audience was composed of the refugees’ families, and also of Jordanian locals and expatriates.“After the play, people said: ‘now I really feel like I understand what it is like to be a refugee’”, stated Georgina Paget, a London-based film producer.

Georgina is also a co-founder of the Syria Trojan Women project.Paget told us, “After watching and listening to these women, the people in the audience understood what life could be like in such a situation. They understood that these refugees were people just like them. One of the women used to work in her town’s administration services, you know. She could be anyone of us.”

Fighting compassion fatigue


This play is also a way to fight compassion fatigue, which is one of the biggest challenges of the project. “People are tired of caring,” Georgina explained. “There is a compassion fatigue in general and especially regarding Syria. We feel it every day. For example, the amount of money collected by NGOs for Syria is much smaller than the amount collected after the Philippines’ hurricane.”

The Syria Trojan Women performance in December was also a success from an artistic point of view. They have been invited to perform in places such as the UK, the US and Switzerland.

But getting visas for Syrian refugees to certain countries is difficult. So, to reach as many people as possible, the organizers are now trying to finalize the documentary, “Queens of Syria”.“The objective of the documentary is to reach more people, to let as many people as possible hear the story of these women.

We filmed the drama-therapy sessions, the rehearsals and the performances, thanks to a grant from the Asfari Foundation and private donations,” Georgina Paget said. “We have 88 hours of footage and we need money to make a documentary out of them”.

A 3’30 trailer for the documentary was released online. It shows the refugees, passionate about what they do, about the play and about being together. It is truly moving. You can watch it here:
https://player.vimeo.com/video/86996865

To finance the production of the documentary, the Syria Trojan Women Project launched a crowdfounding campaign on Indiegogo, a crowdfounding digital platform.“

We hope that by watching this documentary, just like by watching the performance in Amman, people will begin to understand what is really happening. They will see Syrian refugees as real persons and not only as statistics delivered by the media.

They will see individuals telling their stories,” Georgina said, while adding that, “to make the people care, we need to give them something personal and beautiful as well. Out of their own tragedy, the women created something beautiful. They created art.”

Related Articles

– See more at: http://www.iloubnan.info/artandculture/80938/Syria-Trojan-Women:-the-battle-continues#sthash.iD7pzhPN.dpuf

Anthropologists poking at Capitalism: With the 4-Field Manifesto? Part 2

Posted on March 1, 2012

Note: you may read the first part of this article https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/part-1-anthropologists-poking-at-capitalism-with-the-four-field-manifesto/

A short recapitulation of the first part. What kinds of fairy tales that capitalists dump on us?  

The premises of the market-capitalist religion are:

  1. Humans are naturally greedy-selfish.
  2. Capitalism harnesses greed and selfishness for productive dynamism.
  3. Capitalism successfully delivers the goods.
  4. Capitalism is invincible.

The second part is “on how Capitalism has not delivered the goods…”

Cultural Anthropology: Capitalism has not delivered the goods.

One reason anthropology knows more about capitalism than any other discipline is that anthropologists have not just studied capitalism from the inside: most anthropology was done with people subjected to capitalism, people who were often forced to provide the labor or coerced into furnishing the raw materials for capitalist dynamism.

For much of the world’s population, capitalism has already been a miserable failure.(Covid-19 pandemics has demonstrated this failure? Except for the mass media platforms?)

Of course indigenous response has varied:

1.  there have been those who have profited tremendously from capitalism;

2. people have ingeniously appropriated capitalist products and styles;

3. people have not just been pawns in the system but have actively influenced and altered that system; no one knows these facts better than anthropologists.Thomas Hylland Eriksen writes in a 2010 foreword to Eric Wolf’s Europe and the People Without History:

“Through the dual processes of integration and disintegration, wealth creation and poverty creation, empowerment and humiliation, global capitalism leaves contradictions in its wake. The story of contemporary globalization is not a straightforward saga of development and progress, Nor is it a simple tale of neo-colonialism and oppression.

It needs to be narrated from a local vantage point, and whatever their degrees of interconnectedness, localities are always unique blends of the old and the new, the endemic and the foreign, power and powerlessness”.

On balance, capitalism has at best been a mixed bag, at worst catastrophic.

And this fact applies not just on the edges of capitalism but at its heart. After some periods of relative stability and apparently fine-tuned management of the business cycle, we are back to lurching from crisis to crisis, in ways not seen since 1929 or the times of Marx and Engels. 

Trouillot wrote:

“Anthropologists are well placed to face these changes,

First by documenting them in ways that are consistent with our disciplinary history. The populations we traditionally study are often those most visibly affected by the ongoing polarization brought about by the new “spatiality” of the world economy. They descend directly from those who paid most heavily for the transformations of earlier times. . . .

We cannot abandon the four-fifths of humanity that the [ 1% ] see as increasingly useless to the world economy, not only because we built a discipline on the backs of their ancestors but also because the tradition of that discipline has long claimed that the fate of no human group can be irrelevant to humankind”.

The world needs cultural anthropology more than ever before.

We may disagree on the importance of Writing Culture–but we can agree that when much of the world’s population gets written off as irrelevant, then anthropological fieldwork has become even more necessary.

Back to Eriksen, who tells us Wolf’s “perspective is even more sorely needed than it was when Europe and the People Without History was written in the early 1980s”

Linguistic anthropology: Capitalism is not invincible

Capitalism is not just an economic system. What Trouillot terms the “geography of management” is accompanied by a “management of imagination” and a projection of “North Atlantic universals” through words like development, progress, and modernity:

“North Atlantic universals so defined are not merely descriptive or referential. They do not describe the world; they offer visions of the world. . . . They come to us loaded with aesthetic and stylistic sensibilities, religious and philosophical persuasions, cultural assumptions ranging from what it means to be a human being to the proper relationship between humans and the natural world, ideological choices ranging from the nature of the political to the possibilities of transformation. . . .

As a discipline, we have launched the most sustained critique of the specific proposals rooted in these universals within academe. Yet we have Not explored enough how much these universals set the terms of the debate and restricted the range of possible responses”.

It is here we most need the insights of a linguistic anthropology attuned to language and power, the condensed histories of words, and how words become harnessed to imagination.

Anna Tsing’s Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection contemplates a similar project, examining how the particular universals travel:

This brings to light a deep irony: Universalism is implicated in both imperial schemes to control the world and liberatory mobilizations for justice and empowerment. . . . Universals beckon to elite and excluded alike”

The world needs linguistic anthropology more than ever before. We may disagree on universal grammar or Sapir-Whorf, but we can agree that the imagination of capitalist invincibility is built on shaky and contested terms–terms that can also be used toward emancipatory ends.

Anthropology: Observe, describe, and propose

This account of contributions from each of anthropology’s major subfields is not meant to fragment and divide.

The world needs anthropology more than ever, for anthropologists to stand with anthropology as a whole. As Tim Ingold opens Being Alive: “I am an anthropologist: not a social or cultural anthropologist; not a biological or archaeological anthropologist; just an anthropologist” (So what is an anthropologist?)

Ingold’s comparison of anthropology with art and architecture is pertinent:

“The truth is that the propositions of art and architecture, to the extent that they carry force, must be grounded in a profound understanding of the lived world, and conversely that anthropological accounts of the manifold ways in which life is lived would be of no avail if they were not brought to bear on speculative inquiries into what the possibilities for human life might be.

Thus art, architecture and anthropology have in common that they observe, describe and propose.

There is a discipline waiting to be defined and named where those three fields meet, and if some readers would prefer to regard this book as a kind of manifesto for that discipline, then I shall not object”.

“After all, how could there have been a more perfect alignment of the stars than happened in 2008?

That year saw a wave election that left Democrats in control of both houses of congress, a Democratic president elected on a platform of “Change” coming to power at a moment of economic crisis so profound that radical measures of some sort were unavoidable, and at a time when popular rage against the nation’s financial elites was so intense that most Americans would have supported almost anything.

If it was not possible to enact any real progressive policies or legislation at such a moment, clearly, it would never be. Yet none were enacted. Instead Wall Street gained even greater control over the political process, and, since Republicans proved the only party willing to propose radical positions of any kind, the political center swung even further to the Right.

Clearly, if progressive change was Not possible through electoral means in 2008, it simply isn’t going to be possible at all. And that is exactly what very large numbers of Americans appear to have concluded”.

The article summerizes with the 10-recommandations:

1. That poverty and inequality–globally and regionally–be placed at the forefront of policy agendas.(Let kids have equal start in life, regardless of gender, race, financial comfort…)

2. Progressive income taxes and taxes on conspicuous consumption, with revenue devoted to a true national healthcare system: Medicare-for-All. (And free preventive health institutions)

3. Increasing inheritance taxes and other measures addressing wealth inequalities, with revenue devoted to prenatal care, infant nutrition and early childhood education. Particular attention to the ongoing racism manifest in infant-mortality disparities.

4. Abolition of off-shore tax havens, declaration of all income from investments, and full enforcement of capital-gains taxes, with revenue devoted to reparations.

5. Regulations on credit and banking so the financial industry becomes a boring sector dedicated to allocating investment, not a glamorous parade of outsized returns. Make banking boring again.

6. Investment in mass-transit and regional infrastructure to provide alternatives to individual automobiles.

7. An agricultural plan to phase out subsidies for mono-cropping, to encourage environmentally-sustainable farm management, and eliminate the tariffs harming the world’s poorest farmers.

8. A true jobs program to increase employment, with work targeted toward infrastructure improvement and environmentally-sensitive retrofitting. Consideration of measures such as reducing the work week in order to address contradictions of a high unemployment rate coupled to overwork by the employed.

9. Comprehensive immigration reform to bring rationality and humanity to a broken system.

10. Investment in education to create truly informed citizens. An educational system based on human holism, not just mono-dimensional economic efficiencies

Franz Boas in “An Anthropologist’s Credo, 1938)” wrote:

“In fact, my whole outlook upon social life is determined by the question: how can we recognize the shackles that tradition has laid upon us? For when we recognize them, we are also able to break them”.

Wallerstein wrote in The End of the World As We Know It: Social Science for the Twenty-First Century: “There is nothing to lose but our irrelevance. We can make the world less unjust; we can make it more beautiful; we can increase our cognition of it”

The life expectancy of irrelevance tends to be short.

More courageous and healthier is the acknowledgment of the many dead ends within the human disciplines brought about or brought to light by current global transformations, including the death of utopia.

Trouillot wrote:

“We might as well admit that all the human sciences may need more than a facelift; most will be deeply modified and others, in their current institutional shape, might disappear. As the world changes, so do disciplines

Note 1: Most excerpts were borrowed from the Findlay edition

Note: I was trying to link together disparate paragraphs from “This Side of Paradise” by Scott Fitzgerald and got carried away by our current state of affairs on climate changes, degraded natural life around Earth, and mass urbanization.

Are there still an exotic place/location I might deteriorate pleasantly?

Any place with an exotic God who is pretty slack, addicted to Oriental scents, delivered from success, hope and poverty?

Any place with many colors and many odors, and lust as a mode of expression of life?

A place I can be a flaneur and poseur and still emanate the illusion of substantive wisdom?

A place where it is possible to attach a positive value to life?

A place where it is easier to accept the notion that “I will submit to what all the community agrees to accept as value of our natural inclination”?

A place where Every child should have an Equal Start in life: that is the primary job of fair government institutions: a guarantee against starvation, free primary and secondary education and free preventive health care.

A place that develop a confident and educated mother to care for the early growth of their kids. A fair institutions that have the obligation for women to get their full equal rights as the males as citizens, get paid higher wages than the husbands for flexible and much reduced work schedule to be at home for her kids, without reduction in her promotion once the kids has grown up. Husbands cannot replace and substitute the mother in that crucial job.

I am watching documentaries of a few of these places where people used to pick up all the fruits they needed while taking a walk, and never minding to go hungry

Yes, places where they still board their canoes and go fishing and return to their “homes” build on the seashore or the mighty river.

And these documentaries have to remind me that these islands, and locations by clean and clear river will soon be submerged, due to climate change, and mass erection of totally useless mega dams, and over polluted water stream…

Do you have the skills to build you own island?

And from where will you bring the people with high “exotic belief system” that consider life and the living species as sacred natural ecosystem?

What natural disasters cost the global economy in 2020

By Tim McDonnell Climate reporter. of Quartz. December 29, 2020

Obsessing about climate change

Covid-19 is clearly the crisis that defined 2020.

Yet, millions of people were forced to grapple with natural disasters alongside the pandemic. A massive deluge of record-breaking catastrophic events:

Atlantic hurricanes, devastating wildfires, floods, and even locust storms added up to one of the world’s most damaging and expensive years of natural disasters in the last half-century.

According to a Dec. 15 analysis by the reinsurance giant Swiss Re, global economic losses from natural disasters amounted to $175 billion this year.

Of that, $76 billion were insured, the fifth-highest total since 1970.

With some notable spikes in 2005 (Hurricane Katrina) and 2017 (Harvey, Irma, and Maria), average annual insured losses have risen steadily in the last few decades, up from $7.4 billion, adjusted for inflation, in 1979.

That’s the result of 3 main factors:

Rising property values in developing countries, increasing insurance coverage in developed countries, and climate change driving more frequent and severe storms and wildfires across the board.

This year, the most expensive series of events was the Atlantic hurricane season, according to a Dec. 28 report from the UK-based nonprofit Christian Aid, with a record 30 named storms, 12 of which made landfall in the US.

The figures below capture insured losses only; the full scale of damage is much higher.

The US is also expected to break another record, for the number of disasters causing damages of $1 billion or more.

Since 1980, the average has been around seven disasters.

This year, it could be 20, due to hurricanes, West Coast wildfires, and storms and flooding in the Midwest.

Still, while the geophysical impacts of climate change are widely distributed among rich and poor countries, the economic toll is felt most acutely in the poorer States, where disaster insurance is still a rarity.

According to Munich Re, almost three-quarters of the $5.2 trillion in global natural disaster damages since 1980 were uninsured.

And although some governments in the Caribbean and Africa have started to partner with insurance providers in offering disaster insurance to their citizens, the vast majority of damages there remain uninsured.

We have this insurance gap,” Ernst Rauch, Munich Re’s chief climate scientist, said in an interview.

“In low-income countries the gap was 95%-plus in the 1980s, and today it’s exactly the same. Nothing has changed, and this is very frustrating.” (Frustrating? Why, are there enough money saved with these poor citizens to mind paying overcharged insurance fees?)

The 2020 film AK-47. This amateur inventor who shot to global fame

A review of the 2020 film AK-47: Kalashnikov

By Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin / April 21st, 2021

AK-47: Kalashnikov (2020) is a biographical film about Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov (1919–2013), the inventor and designer of the AK-47 automatic rifle.

This Russian film, released in February of last year, follows the young Kalashnikov as he is bombarded by Germans during WWII and is interspersed with flashbacks of his childhood.

Disturbed by the failure of a newly designed gun that nearly gets a comrade killed when it jams, he examines the parts and lists out various problems with the new design.

An amateur inventor who had been playing around with various types of primitive gun designs since he was child, Kalashnikov goes back to work in a steam engine workshop after being injured in battle.

There he is assigned a desk and tools, and struggles to assemble a new gun design he had been drawing up. Help is at hand when the other workers in the workshop offer their after-hours services to help him tool the parts necessary for his new design.

After this, his life takes many twists and turns as he struggles to perfect his design and he gains acceptance through inventor competitions, testing ranges and the military hierarchy.

The story focuses on his drive and sincerity in producing a safer gun that would help the Soviets win the war. Although the gun he is famous for was Not produced until 1947 (“Avtomát Kaláshnikova” (Russian: Автома́т Кала́шникова, lit. ‘Kalashnikov Automatic Gun’), its reliability and design ensured its wide use in many armies around the world in subsequent decades.

The film also strives to show Kalashnikov as a role model for how someone with a basic education (Kalashnikov left school after seventh grade) can achieve so much in the way of plaudits and global fame.

In AK-47: Kalashnikov, the testing processes of the gun were not complete successes but Kalashnikov is given more promotions and more help in developing his ideas.

With the development of new technologies, a simplified, lighter version of the automatic rifle was developed which soon became the most ubiquitous variant of the AK-47.

In the real world, the popularity of the design meant that “approximately 100 million AK-47 assault rifles had been produced by 2009, and about half of them are counterfeit, manufactured at a rate of about a million per year.

Izhmash, the official manufacturer of AK-47 in Russia, did not patent the weapon until 1997, and in 2006 accounted for only 10% of the world’s production.”

Kalashnikov’s first submachine gun

The film is beautifully shot with realistic battle scenes and panoramic landscape settings. The relations between the soldiers, and between the soldiers and their superiors are developed without the stereotyped or charicatured portrayals seen in films like Enemy at the Gates (2001), as Kalashnikov gets help and encouragement all around him, even at his lowest points when he feels like giving up.

In these days of instant-everything and easy consumption access to any product, it is refreshing to see male and female workers with so many skills (including his drafting technician who becomes his wife) bringing an idea from drawings through precision tooling to the finished gleaming weapon.

Kalashnikov himself did suffer “spiritual pain” about whether he was responsible for the deaths caused by his weapons, but also believed that their use was defensive rather than offensive.

The AK-47 has been used in many anti-colonial wars and received the ultimate praise when appearing on some national flags and coats of arms.

Like any weapon, his guns have been used in terrorist organisations but one could argue that overall its reliability and simplicity evened up the stakes in many an asymmetrical war.

Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov (1919–2013)
Kalashnikov at the Kremlin, December 2009

Kalashnikov was hospitalized on 17 November 2013, in Izhevsk, the capital of Udmurtia and where he lived and died on 23 December 2013, at age 94 from gastric hemorrhage.

A statue dedicated to Kalashnikov was commissioned by the Russian Military Historical Society and unveiled in Moscow in 2017. It is a 7.5m (25ft) monument, which shows Kalashnikov holding an AK-47 in his arms.

It was soon spotted that the technical drawing of the gun etched onto a metallic plate at the base of the monument was actually of an StG 44 rifle used by the Nazis during WWII.

The symbolism of this mistake was not lost on the public, a country that lost millions of its people at the hands of the Nazi invasion which started on Sunday, 22 June 1941.

The section of the metallic plate with the gun design was soon removed with an angle grinder.

Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin is an Irish artist, lecturer and writer. His artwork consists of paintings based on contemporary geopolitical themes as well as Irish history and cityscapes of Dublin.

His blog of critical writing based on cinema, art and politics along with research on a database of Realist and Social Realist art from around the world can be viewed country by country at http://gaelart.blogspot.ie/Read other articles by Caoimhghin.

Keeps Me Sane

Posted on  October 16, 2008 and written in 1998

Reading keeps me sane.

The time for enjoying a great book is still there, and always will be.

I always expect jewels on human relationship.

I like surprises which reveal feelings that I would never divulge

Either to a shrink or to anyone at my deathbed,

Feelings that reveal emotions I thought were my exclusive domain.

Puerile ideas that I would be ashamed to express,

Dangerous tendencies that I like to ignore.

      The more I read, the more I am convinced that I am sane,

That everyone is sane given time to read as much,

That humankind shares every thought and emotion that I can come up with.

Accepting that humbling knowledge needs time,

Time to reach a stage of vulnerability where life seems too complex, 

For diminishing energy and forever growing dreams.

      Run baby run, though you are sane and think otherwise.

Sink baby sink, though you are not much different than your neighbor.

Once I realized that feelings are common to all, 

What little work remained is a trifle to many.

It is a job you did all your life with no effort: 

Acting normal.

Just act normal to all who cannot stand reading.

Why wait to be reincarnated, now and then,

Over thousands of years, as a new kind of animal?

Why not have a thousand human souls in a lifetime?

Every character in a story is you

Under different time, country, climate, class, birthrights, condition, 

In different situations, social, political, financial and gender.

You span the whole gamut of human emotions

You are the good, the bad, the evil, the saint.

You are the rich, the poor, the nobleman, the peasant.

You are the genius, the idiot, the hardworking, and the fainéant.

Pick a well described character, good or evil.

Personify it and the story changes as you change,

Your heart and mind reedit the story as you change character

Because it could have been you; it is you indeed.

You can be everybody, everywhere and it is still a fact,

You are a changed person, many peoples in one.

Keeps Me Sane (Continue 2)

How can your best friend empathies with you if he hates reading?

How can someone who cannot know himself

Empathies with your many selves?

The odds that a one-life man could empathies with someone

With a thousand lives is almost nil.

You earned the rights to be richer, more complex, and much different.

You ought to feel proud on this discriminating dimension.

      My everlasting appreciation to my heroes

The writers who bared their souls,

Who endured the ultimate hardship

To make it possible for me to endure myself.

The Imperialist Origins of Saudi Arabia

By Yanis Iqbal / April 22nd, 2021

Note: I posted many articles on the Saudi monarchy and the history of the Arabian Peninsula. This is one of the exhaustive research papers

Why Wahhabi Saudi Arabia, a Sunni absolute monarchy, is enthusiastically supported by the West, and promoted as a global promoter of “democracy” and a peaceful entity in the region? This question is rarely asked.

The apparent mismatch between liberal democracy and religious fundamentalism is hastily airbrushed when the matter is about oil trade and arms deals.

This attitude is not an expression of mere hypocrisy on the part of the West; it is deeply rooted in a historical process, whereby the Arabian Peninsula was propped up by major powers as an outpost of imperialist interests and a bulwark against revolutionary ideologies.

Creating the Kingdom

Sheikh Mohammed Ibn Abdul Wahhab, the founder of Wahhabism, was an 18th century peasant who left date palm cultivation and cattle grazing to preach locally, calling for a return to the pure beliefs of the seventh century “authenticity”.

He denounced the worship of holy places and shrines as denying the “unity of the One God”. He insisted singularly on beatings that led to inhumane practices: thieves should be amputated and criminals executed in public.

Religious leaders in the region objected when he began to perform what he preached and the local chief in Uyayna asked him to leave.

Wahhab fled to Deraiya in 1744, where he made a pact with Mohammad Ibn Saud, the leader of the Najd tribes and the founder of the dynasty that currently rules Saudi monarchy today.

Wahhab’s daughter became one of Ibn Saud’s wives. Ibn Saud utilized Wahhab’s spiritual fervor to ideologically discipline the tribes before hurling them into a battle against the Ottoman Empire.

Wahhab considered the Sultan in Istanbul as undeserving of any right to be the Caliph of Islam and preached the virtues of a permanent jihad against Islamic modernizers and infidels.

Lamenting the demise of the former greatness of Islamic civilization, he wished to remove all bidah (innovations/heresies), which he regarded as heretical to the original meaning of Islam.

Basing himself on the Sunnah (customary practices of the Prophet Muhammad) and the Hadiths (accounts, collections of reports, sayings and deeds of the Prophet), he wished to purge the Islamic world of what he viewed as the degenerative practices introduced into the Islamic world by the Ottoman Turks and their associates.

In 1801, Ibn Saud’s army attacked the Shia holy city of Karbala, massacring thousands and destroying revered Shiite shrines. They also razed shrines in Mecca and Medina, erasing centuries of Islamic architecture because of the Wahhabist belief that these treasures represented idol worship.

The Ottomans retaliated, occupied Hijaz and took charge of Mecca and Medina.

(Actually, it was the army of Egypt Muhammad Ali, at the insistence and persistence of the Ottoman Sultan Muhammad 4, and led by his son Ibrahim Pasha, later labelled the “Little Napoleon” by the French, that Ibrahim army entered Deraiya and erased it around 1820. Ibrahim took all his time to progress slowly and rally the tribes before advancing surely and determinately. It is after Ibrahim retreated from the peninsula, and after the British captured Aden in Yemen, that the British resumed their weapon and financial support to the Wahhabis).

The Ibn Saud-Wahhab alliance remained in the interior, with the full support of the British in weapons and money, until the Ottomans collapsed after World War I.

By 1926, the al-Saud clan – led by their new patriarch Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud – and their fanatical Wahhabi allies – the Ikhwan, or “Brotherhood” – once again seized control of the holiest cities in Islam, as well as important trading ports on the western coast of the peninsula. 

Like the initial advances of the 1700s, it was a campaign defined by bloodshed, forced conversions, enslavement, and the enforcement of the strict and eccentric laws of Wahhabism. 

It was also a campaign that was grounded in an alliance between Abdul Aziz and the British Empire. A 1915 treaty turned the lands under Abdul Aziz’s control into a British protectorate, ensuring military support against rival warlords and uniting the two against the Ottomans.

The intimate relationship between British imperialists and Abdul Aziz continued even after the dismantlement of the Ottoman empire, reflected in their close cooperation in the war against Sharif Hussein of Mecca, the Guardian of the Holy Cities, the chief of the clan of Hashem and directly descended from the Prophet.

Hussein had contributed the most to the Ottoman Empire’s defeat by switching allegiances and leading the “Arab Revolt” in June 1916 which removed the Turkish presence from Aqaba.

He was convinced to alter his position after Henry McMahon, the British High Commissioner in Egypt, made him believe that a unified Arab country from Gaza to the Persian Gulf would be established with the defeat of the Turks.

The letters exchanged between Hussain and McMahon are known as the McMahon-Hussein Correspondence. As soon as the war ended, Hussein wanted the British to fulfill their war-time promises.

The British, however, wanted Sharif to accept the division of the Arab world between the British and the French (Sykes-Picot agreement, two Jewish administrators) and the implementation of the Balfour Declaration, which guaranteed “a national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine through a process of colonization done by European Jews. 

These demands were laid out in the Anglo-Hijaz Treaty – written by the British – which Hussein refused to sign.

In 1924, the British unleashed Ibn Saud against Hussein. Lord Curzon hailed this as the “final kick” against Hussein.

Meanwhile, the Ikhwan grew increasingly angry about Abdul Aziz’s accommodation with the imperial powers that financed him. They disliked his lavish lifestyle, his family’s relations with the West, the relative leniency toward the Shia sect on the coastal region of the Gulf.

The Shia were actually being savagely repressed, but the desired rate of execution in forcible conversion and deportation were Not to the level expected by the Ekhiwan.

The introduction of new technologies (the telegraph, for example, was viewed as being of satanic origin).

Consequently, the Ikhwan began to openly rebel in 1927, shortly after Abdul Aziz signed another treaty with the British which recognized his “complete and absolute” rule of the twin kingdoms of Hijaz and of Najd and their dependencies.

The Ikhwani insurgents, after conquering the various regions of Arabia, began to attack the British and French protectorates of Transjordan, Syria and Iraq in order to subject them to Wahhabi doctrines.

They came into direct conflict with imperialist interests in the Middle East. After some three years of fighting, Abdul Aziz – with military assistance from the British Empire – defeated the rebellion and executed the leaders. 

(It was the same deal as done during the initial Nazi regime as the German army demanded that Hitler militias be dismantled, the militia that brought him to power. Hitler personally got engaged in arresting his own leaders in what is known as Cristal Night)

In 1932, Ibn Saud confirmed his conquests by crowning himself as king of a new state, named after himself and his family: Saudi Arabia.

The suppression of the Ikhwan revolt did not in any way signify the weakening of Wahhabi fundamentalism. Threatened by Islamic radicalism, the royal family co-opted the Ikhwan movement by incorporating its local leaders into the Saudi state apparatuses.

This laid the foundations for the backward ideology of the state: unity of religion and loyalty to one family, making Saudi Arabia the only state in the world that was titled as the property of a single dynasty.

Cozying Up to USA

In 1933, Abdul Aziz had to face a severe financial crisis because his main source of income, taxation of the hajj (Muslim pilgrimage), had been undermined by the world slump.

(Actually, the Wahhabis were intent on destroying the Kaaba (shrine) and forbid Islamic pilgrimage as anathema to their ideology, but Saud was reminded of the wealth he could generate from the Hajj seasons)

For £50,000 in gold he gave an oil concession to Standard Oil of California (SOCAL). The deal between Abdul Aziz and SOCAL provided crucial funds for the fledgling king to consolidate his precarious rule.

Indeed, at the time, his rule was so tenuous that Britain had more control over the House of Saud than the House of Saud had over their own recently conquered dependencies. 

SOCAL gave Abdul Aziz a $28 million dollar loan, and paid an annual payment of $2.8 million in exchange for oil exploration rights throughout the 1930s. SOCAL later merged with three other US firms (Esso, Texaco, Mobil) to form the Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO).

This began exploration in eastern Arabia, and in 1938 production of Saudi Arabian oil commenced. The developing political economy of Saudi Kingdom quickly became linked to ARAMCO and its American backers, as the company built labor camps, corporate towns, roads, railways, ports, and other infrastructure necessary for the production and export of oil. 

These infrastructural projects tapped into subsidies from the US government that ran into the tens of millions of dollars.

During the Second World War, the role of Saudi monarchy as a reliable partner of a nascent American empire was strengthened. In 1943, Washington decided that “the defense of Saudi Arabia is vital to the defense of the United States” and lend-lease aid was provided: a US military mission arrived to train Abdul Aziz’s army and the United States Air Force (USAF) began construction of an airfield at Dhahran, near the oil wells.

These arrangement were to give the US a position independent of the British bases at Cairo and Abadan (port in Iran.

This airbase became the largest US air position between Germany and Japan, and the one nearest Soviet industrial plants. Washington managed to retain the base only until 1962, when anti-imperialist resistance forced the Saudi monarchy to ask the Americans to leave.

Not until three decades later, following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, were the Americans provided with an opportunity to reoccupy the base.

The relationship between the US and Saudi Kingdom was famously sealed in a 1945 meeting on the Suez Canal between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Abdul-Aziz. The two leaders agreed that the kingdom would supply the US with oil, and the US government would provide the kingdom with security and military assistance.

Over the years, US presidents reiterated their commitments to Saudi monarchy security. The 1947 Truman Doctrine, which stated that the United States would send military aid to countries threatened by Soviet communism, was used to strengthen US – Saudi military ties.

In 1950, President Harry S. Truman told Abdul-Aziz, “No threat to your Kingdom could occur which would not be a matter of immediate concern to the United States”.

This assurance was repeated in the 1957 Eisenhower Doctrine. The 1969 Nixon Doctrine included aid to three strategic American allies in the region – Shah of Iran, Saudi monarchy, and colonial Israel.

After the US-supported ruler in Iran was overthrown and the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, President Jimmy Carter issued his Doctrine as a direct threat to the Soviets, essentially asserting USA’s monopoly over Middle East’s oil.

Carter’s successor, Ronald Reagan, extended this policy in October 1981 with the “Reagan Corollary to the Carter Doctrine”, which proclaimed that the USA would intervene to protect the Saudi rulers.

While the Carter Doctrine focused on threats posted by external forces, the Reagan Corollary promised to secure the kingdom’s internal stability.

Spreading Counter-revolution

The 1960s and 1970s saw the emergence of Saudi petro-nationalism, based upon the rapidly expanding oil industry and the growth of transnational energy corporations.

The petrol bonanza – driven by the western economies’ steady consumption of oil – not only filled the coffers of the Saudi state, but also provided the Saudi state the ability to spread Wahhabi ideology, Not as a minor creed of militant jihad, but as a cultural export to influence the direction of Islam.

(Actually, it was the insurgency of the Ekhwan after the entrance of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and their occupation of the Kaaba in 1977 that convinced the Saudi monarchy to revisit its origin and cow under harsher laws and customs, principally targeting women and exporting millions of their brand of Quran, free, and establishing thousands of Madrassas (religious schools) in the Islamic world)

Oil wealth enabled the Saudi royal family to counter the rival interpretations and denominations of the Islamic world, and spread its influence over the Ummah (the community of the faithful). In other words, the Saudi ruling elite attempted to project itself as the ultimate definer and protector of the Ummah.

The export of Wahhabism to other countries was a part of the post-World War II US-Saudi strategy, wherein the two countries were allies in their opposition to Soviet “godless communism,” with USA focused on communism while the Saudis were more concerned about the “godless” side of the equation.

Wahhabism also served as a counter-revolutionary instrument against Nasserism, Ba’athism, and the Shia radicalism of the Iranian revolution.

Saudi Arabia started an organisation called the World Muslim League in 1962 to “combat the serious plots by which the enemies of Islam are trying to draw Muslims away from their religion and to destroy their unity and brotherhood.”

The main targets were republicanism (Egypt Gamal Abdel Nasser Nasserite influence and invasion of Yemen) and communism.

The objective was to push the idea that these anti-monarchical ideologies were shu’ubi (anti-Arab). Saudi Arabia was also a central member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), created in 1969 as a counter-balance to the socialist-oriented Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

Apart from this geopolitical function, OIC was used by Saudi monarchy to undermine its regional adversary, namely Nasserite Egypt.

The Iranian Revolution of 1979 brought shudders into the palaces of the Saudi royal family, and into the US higher establishment. The overthrow of the monarchy of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi announced the creation of an Islamic form of republicanism. 

Iranian Islamic leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini said that Islam and hereditary monarchies were incompatible and he characterized Saudi Arabia as a US agent in the Persian Gulf.

Saudi rulers felt threatened. They denounced Iran’s revolution as an upheaval of heretical Shiites, but to no avail as Islamic republicanism swept the region, from Pakistan to Morocco. 

Ultimately, the Saudis and the West egged on Saddam Hussein to send in the Iraqi army against Iran in 1980 and supported by all the colonial powers, including the Soviet Union, with all kinds of modern weapons and financial infusion from Saudi Monarchy and Kuwait).

That war went on till 1988, with both Iran and Iraq bleeding for the sake of Riyadh and Washington. (Over 400,000 Iraqi soldiers perished and 1.5 million Iranians. A ceasefire was announced as Khomeini felt that this war might resume indefinitely if he comes to die before an end to it)

Iraq, weakened by the lengthy war, turned against its Gulf Arab financiers who were demanding to be repaid, at the USA request. With insufficient support to rebuild Iraq, Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990, threatening Saudi Arabia as well.

The US entered the picture with its full spectrum warfare – bombing Iraq to smithereens and providing Saudi Arabia with the confirmation that the US military would protect it till the end of time.

Once the history of Saudi Arabia is understood, it can be easily concluded that the monarchs of the kingdom willingly entered into a relationship of geo-political servitude to the West.

The kingdom would have had marginal or limited importance in the world if it was not supported wholeheartedly by the British and American empires.

With the significant backing it received by the colonial powers, Saudi Arabia became an international political player. With the help of their enormous oil wealth, the decadent kings and princes of Saudi Arabia have been perpetrating massacres and wars in various countries, such as the bombing of Yemen, the indirect attacks in Syria and Libya.

All this has been allowed to happen by the West, which provides both tacit and explicit support to the House of Saud in its myriad crimes.

As Che Guevara said, “The bestiality of imperialism…knows no limits…has no national boundaries”.

“Le livre des saviors” edited by Constantin von Barloewen, (December 22, 2007)

Posted  on October 24, 2008 and written in December 22, 2007

This manuscript is a series of interviews of thinkers that Barloewen considers as representative of this century such as, the Syrian poet “Adonis”, the Egyptian diplomat Boutros Boutros Ghali, the biochemist Erwin Chargaff, the French politician Regis Debray, the Latin American writer Carlos Fuentes, Nadine Gordimer, Stephen Jay Gould, Samuel Huntington, Philip Johnson, Leszek Kołakowski, Julia Kristeva, Federico Mayor, Yehudi Menuhin, Czesław Miłosz, Oscar Niemeyer, The Israeli writer Amos Oz, Raimon Panikkar, Cardinal Paul Poupard, Ilya Prigogine, Arthur Schlesinger, Michel Serres, Wole Soyinka, Edward Teller, Tu Wei-Ming, Paul Virilio,, and Elie Wiesel.

Adonis said: “I was born in the Koran”.  Adonis is the pseudonym of the Syrian poet Ali Ahmad Said Esber; he published his first poems at the age of 17.  

Adonis collection “The chants of Mihyar of Damascus” started his career in 1961.  He founded the magazine “Poems” (Chi3r) with Yousef Al Khal and then “Mawaqif”(positions) and translated many French poetry manuscripts.  He published “The time of cities”, “Memory of the wind”, “Prayer and sword”, and “Grave for New York”.

Adonis says that there are two texts for the Koran:

The first text is the compilation of the revelations proper of the Prophet Muhammad, and

The second text is a compilation of what the prophet said or alluded to and the interpretations of the ulamas called ”Al Hadith”.  

The jurists, the philosophers, the politicians and Caliphates favored the second text “Hadith”, which has eclipsed the main text in matter of daily rules and obligations.  

The reliance on Hadith mainly transformed Islam into an ideology. The present problem is related to this dualism of the two texts.

(Actually, the original compilation of the Prophets verses were also edited and transformed to suit the expansion of the Islamic empire during the third caliph Uthman bin Affan and this currently adopted Koran sound a transliteration to the Judaic Bible)

Religious fundamentalism is a form of anti-modernity but we need to define and differentiate the meaning of modernity among regions. 

Fundamentalism is anti-liberty, anti-change and anti-openness to other cultures but Muslim fundamentalism was encouraged by the Western Nations to counter communism. (As the British supported the Wahhabi sect in the Arabian Peninsula in order to confront the Ottoman Caliphate)

The Muslim mystics interpret the notions of hell and paradise symbolically. 

Islam had been a culture opened to other religions and adopted the mixing among various cultures and Israel has to realize that its existence is linked to her intermingling with the culture of the neighbors.

Many believe that identity is pre-set and that the citizens have to find their identity at the source, but identity is related to the future and is formed by perpetual openness to other cultures. My tradition is not just “Arabic” but go all the way to over five thousand years before the Islamic conquests.

The late Erwin Chargaff said: “No scientist knows what is life”.  

Chargaff  is a renowned biochemist who contributed in the understanding of the DNA and taught at Columbia University for 40 years.  He considers the USA as a big waste disposal State with no culture: the melting pot or the lowest common denominator among the various ethnic groups revolves around money.  

It would take a miracle for the USA to acquire a homogeneous culture.

There is a mechanism in place that paralyses spiritual thoughts and sensibility: any form of pure poetry is viewed as grotesque in the US culture.

The lyrical thinking of the 18th century was replaced by natural sciences. Thus, instead of explaining what is life, the scientist analyze the components of life and try to colonize nature. 

Chargaff states that what we comprehend is far remote from what we can do with science: the irreversible genetically altered genes in human and vegetables are very dangerous, scary and criminal.

The scientist of previous centuries used to dabble in the spiritual, but the little scientists of this century have No idea of the general context and are very indifferent.

Chargaff claims that science is interesting but should not be given too much importance: there should be no time limit imposed on any scientific discovery and thus, the less scientific institutions receive in grants the better for science and societies.

In the essential of progress we might still be as developed as the Neanderthal.

We do not need to have more superior musicians or philosophers in order to claim progress. The history of the world is a catalogue of violent acts and accidents, and beauty has no place in that history.

Nobody can teach us in the domain of literature and human sciences and we are on our own to conquer these fields.

Chargaff has religious sensibilities but he has no religion; he said that everyone should build his own chapel in order to defend his internal forces against the ambient impiety. It is dangerous that the sacred is vanishing from our culture and traditions.

Regis Debray said: “The Futurists are always wrong”.  

Debray is a French writer, philosopher, and political activist.  He was President Francois Mitterrand’s third world foreign affairs. He was a war correspondent in Venezuela and Bolivia and served three years prison term in Bolivia in the 60’s.

He published articles in “Les temps modernes” of Sartre and is the founder of the “mediology” and is more oriented toward the effects of religions in the secular domain.

He says that religion is linked to the idea of institutions and personified divinities, but the religious has no need of a God or of confession:

Communism, fascism and Nazism were religious secular atheist ideologies. 

Debray has coined this maxim “The less the secular authorities are spiritual the more the spiritual power is secular” and he gives as an example of the extensive secular meddling of the Russian Orthodox Church. (Actually, the more the public institutions support any religious movement, the less is the secularity of the State)

The source of cohesiveness in any community is founded on the sacred or faith in a final objective that guarantee its continuation. The sacred cannot be manipulated because it is not controlled by man.  

A community has to open up to transcendental values such as lost paradise, myths, or even a Constitution in order to keep its internal unity and has also to set boundaries. 

Thus, what attaches a group together is a certain faith, unlike individuals who may know, but not necessarily have faith.  The group or community may be specialized organizations that set up rules and regulations and programs as sacred rituals.

The marketing tendencies of setting political programs in the Western States, which are supposed to satisfy peoples wants and wishes, do not enhance the political will or rationality, but purely the cult of emotion.

And thus, the social and humanitarian aspects are replacing diplomacy at the expense of the ideal. 

Communication used by the media propagate information in the dimension of space, while transmission of knowledge and traditions propagate information along the time dimension. And thus, the transmission vehicles, which characterize human development, such as family, school, university, and organization for educating and preserving the heritage of our ancestors are losing ground.

Carlos Fuentes talked about “the Creole or mixed offspring or the Latin American drama and the future myths”.

Fuentes was born in Panama and is a Mexican writer, academic, politician and diplomat; he served a term at the UN in the section of international work and founded several literary magazines with Octavio Paz.

His publications are “Days of Carnival”, “The most limpid region”, “The death of Artemio Cruz”, “The songs of the blinds”, “New skin”, “Terra nostra”, “The old gringo”, and “The century of the eagle”.

Fuentes thinks that the 21st century will be marked by mass immigration from the South and East to Europe and the USA.

The poors in the Latin America will have no choice but to invade the USA, unless mass investment are allocated to that impoverished continent. 

He is saddened that the Greek tragic dramas have been replaced by Hollywood melodramas, where one party is right and the other is the bad:  tragical dramas are not necessarily unhappy and pathetic stories because the two protagonists are both right in their positions depending on your philosophy and focus in values.

He described Don Quixote as the book of uncertainty; the name, locations and even the author are not clearly defined.  The locus of novels should be the media of the doubt, of re-questioning the dogmas and the uncertainties in the world.

During the revolutions for independence from Spain in 1820, the (elite classes?) in Latin American States decided that they had enough of Spanish culture but they had to seek education and culture from Europe and France because the indigent Indian and black minorities could not be of any substitute. 

At that year, the USA issued the “Monroe doctrine” which stated that the USA reserve the right to intervene in Latin America and consequently, the population get their distance from acquiring knowledge and culture from this Calvinist and utilitarian State.

The Cuban Alejo Carpentier explained the Negro traditions, the Guatemalan Miguel Angel Asturias explained the Indian traditions, and the Argentinean Borges explained the Islamic and Jewish traditions; thus, the identity of Latin American took form in the 20th century.

7 charts to back this article

By Silla Brush. March 26, 2021,

A month after Britain voted to leave the European Union, Boris Johnson was asked whether he thought the finance industry would keep its rights to trade freely in the bloc. “I do, I do,” he told reporters. It was never that simple. 

Half a decade later, billions of dollars in assets and thousands of jobs have moved to the continent after the U.K. negotiated a bare-bones trade deal with the EU that largely sidelined finance, giving cities across the bloc the chance to lure firms in flux.

While the two sides may be just about to ink an agreement to cooperate on financial regulation, neither expects the return of business as usual.

European cities like Amsterdam, Dublin, Frankfurt and Paris have each captured some of the shifts so far, although none has emerged as the clear winner yet.

Some of these changes, like share trading volumes, happened overnight. 

In other areas, like jobs, it is more of a slow drift as firms and individuals try to work out which city in the evolving post-Brexit landscape suits them best. 

Dutch Domain

Amsterdam toppled London as Europe’s share trading capital after Brexit

https://www.bloomberg.com/toaster/v2/charts/a587854fe14f47d49369479cae3f7355.html?brand=business&webTheme=light&web=true&hideTitles=true

Source: Cboe Global Markets

Note: Figures reflect average daily value of shares traded

“We will have Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Paris and Dublin all in the mix to take some part of the financial system,” Mairead McGuinness, the bloc’s commissioner for financial services told journalists in March. “Markets will decide that and are probably best placed to do that.”

The situation remains fluid and the eventual outcome uncertain.

The U.K. and EU are due to sign a memo of understanding at the end of March to cooperate on financial rules, which might smooth the path to greater access for British firms through so-called equivalence rulings in future. 

Some flows might change direction as the U.K. starts to set its own rules outside the single market, while areas key to London’s decades-long dominance as a financial center — including the clearing of trades — have proven sticky so far. 

“I don’t think you can create a financial center,” said Douglas Flint, chairman of U.K. fund manager Standard Life Aberdeen. “The EU’s challenge is one of where do you choose to locate such a center and how do you get other EU competing countries to cede whatever activities they host.”

But if the first three months of 2021 are any indication, Brexit could remake financial centers across Europe in the coming years.

Here’s what has happened so far:

Share Trading

European equity markets opened on Jan. 4 to a once-in-generation, “big bang” shift.

Nearly all of the trading volume in shares of European companies that was handled in in the U.K. bolted to the EU.

London soon lost its crown to Amsterdam as the continent’s top place to buy and sell shares. Trading in Swiss equities, which had been blocked while Britain was a member of the EU, resumed in February, helping to increase business on U.K. platforms.

Britain is now hoping to boost equity markets by making it easier for companies to go public in London.

Amsterdam Rising

Trading in EU shares bolted from London when markets opened in January

https://www.bloomberg.com/toaster/v2/charts/a176eb374a984a20829e4bf5eae2ca43.html?brand=business&webTheme=light&web=true&hideTitles=true

Source: Cboe Global Markets

Swaps Trading

London has long been a global center for interest rate swaps trading, recently beating out New York and cities across Europe and Asia.

But the City took a hit to its dominance after the EU blocked firms based inside its borders from trading certain benchmark contracts on London-based platforms.

Seeing a rupture in markets between the EU and U.K.,  some banks routed business to Wall Street instead, where both jurisdictions allow trading, although London is still a dominant player when off-facility trading is included.

Swaps Switch

London trading venues see business flee to Wall Street, Europe

https://www.bloomberg.com/toaster/v2/charts/5c14ba829b904848988d28e29940eefd.html?brand=business&webTheme=light&web=true&hideTitles=true

Source: IHS Markit

Note: Market shares for on-venue trading. Off-facility trading isn’t included.

Derivatives Clearing

One key part of the financial market has yet to face much disruption: derivatives clearing.

London Stock Exchange Group Plc’s clearinghouse, LCH, won a decision from the EU that allows it to handle European business through June 2022.

The EU is making clear, though, that it wants the balance of power to shift, drawing more euro-denominated business inside its borders. The Bank of England has already vowed that the U.K. will resist any EU move to force business to relocate.

Clearing Prize

London’s LCH clearinghouse dominates euro interest rate swap marke

thttps://www.bloomberg.com/toaster/v2/charts/8153b5434bdd4c4bac47fead04b5474c.html?brand=business&webTheme=light&web=true&hideTitles=true

Source: Clarus Financial Technology

Note: Market share is for cleared notional business

Investment Banking

Initial public offerings are another area where the Square Mile continues to overshadow its continental rivals.

Listings in the U.K. are firmly on course for a record first quarter, with companies from bootmaker Dr. Martens to Russian discount retailer Fix Price raising a combined $7.2 billion. That’s before the U.K. government’s proposed loosening of listing requirements takes effect.

Lion’s Share

London’s IPO market is on track for a record first quarter

https://www.bloomberg.com/toaster/v2/charts/5918e5c7f799455f98f8b26b82b66a53.html?brand=business&webTheme=light&web=true&hideTitles=true

Source: Bloomberg

Note: Data is for 2021 IPO proceeds through March 24

M&A bankers are also enjoying a bumper year. 

Foreign companies’ acquisitions in the U.K. have nearly tripled this year to $66 billion, a record for that time period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Takeovers of publicly-traded U.K. companies have risen more than sevenfold. This may reflect weakness rather than strength.

British companies have become more vulnerable targets as the valuation gap between local stocks and other major markets widened over the past year.

Jobs and Assets

Finance firms have announced that about 7,600 jobs will move from the U.K. to the bloc, according to a study by consultancy EY.

About 1.3 trillion pounds ($1.8 trillion) of assets are also on the move.

Dublin has attracted the largest absolute numbers of firms of all types relocating to the bloc. Frankfurt and Paris have also been popular among larger firms like universal banks, investment banks and brokerages.

London’s Loss

Thousands of finance jobs have relocated to the EU since Brexit

https://www.bloomberg.com/toaster/v2/charts/dc6ae924d4e44f56a05b842f038a2182.html?brand=business&webTheme=light&web=true&hideTitles=true

Source: EY, Bloomberg estimates

Note: Figures are approximate

Property Prices

While tax changes and a comparatively sluggish U.K. economy have had the biggest impact on property prices, Brexit uncertainty and the migration of Brexit bankers may be exacerbating existing trends in property prices.

Since the U.K. voted to leave the EU, London property prices have increased by 6%, compared to a fifth in Dublin and Amsterdam’s 40% rise.

Home Alone

London property gains trail EU hubs’ since Brexit referendum

https://www.bloomberg.com/toaster/v2/charts/a7474cf6b7c44c1ca02ccbfe368cf0eb.html?brand=business&webTheme=light&web=true&hideTitles=true

Source: Knight Frank research

Note: Prices are for mainstream properties, rebased to 2016

— With assistance by Aoife White, Swetha Gopinath, Ben Scent, Jack Sidders, and Jeremy Diamond


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