Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Sykes-Picot

 

Three generations after the Nakba, still struggling to define home

For Madlaine Ahmad, born and raised in Doha to Palestinian parents with Jordanian citizenship, the answer to ‘where are you from?’ is never simple, and always seems to be wrong.

By Madlaine Ahmad

From left to right, the author's aunt, mother and grandmother on the land they used to harvest in Jordan. (Photo courtesy of the author.)

From left to right, the author’s aunt, mother and grandmother on the land they used to harvest in Jordan. (Photo courtesy of the author.)

I changed my Facebook profile picture the other day. It was a photo of a fair woman covered in gold and henna. It would have been clear to anyone from bilad al-sham (the Levant) that she was from the Gulf region, where women dress up a certain way.

“How beautiful,” one person remarked. The comment that followed, by a Palestinian girl friend, surprised me: “Women are beautiful, but the hands of our women in particular are the most beautiful.”

I didn’t understand what she meant, and a discussion ensued: “If you lined up everybody’s hands side by side, I would still be able to distinguish those of the Palestinian fallaha (peasant), and I would feel an immense love for her.”

We Palestinians stand out in many ways: with our scorched arms after the harvest, our diaspora, the occupation, our widows and orphans, and death – so much death.

Usually, the word “Palestinian” elicits images of a child hurling stones at a military tank, and the perception is that only Palestinians who live within the borders of Sykes-Picot (division of control of the region between France and England during WWI) still suffer, that those who freed themselves from these invented borders managed to survive and thrive. Well, let me tell you about my experience, as a Palestinian whose ancestors escaped.

My Palestine story is brief. It does not contain death, or soldiers, or hurling rocks. I have never had to face the occupier, but I also haven’t been fortunate enough to visit any part of Palestine.

During the 1948 war, my grandfather fled with his family to Karak in Jordan. They were told they would be able to return in a matter of weeks. They set up tents and planted wheat and waited for Palestine, but Palestine never came. In a heartbeat, the Palestinian dream was lost, and they became victims of history, uprooted, with nothing but a key to a home they would never return to.

They moved to Amman, where they tried to forge a new life with their 9 children. They could only afford a two-bedroom house – one room for the chickens they were raising, and another to sleep the family of 11.

My father told me how, at 13, he helped build the railway that still functions to this day. He told me how he would study under the street lights at night, because they did not have electricity at home. It was painful for him when he had to move to Lebanon to complete his studies. Upon graduating, he returned to Jordan, where he served in the military for two years.

Soon after, the dream of a job opportunity in the Gulf presented itself, and he moved with my mother to Qatar. There, I was born. I was raised in Doha as a Jordanian – my official papers had no mention of my Palestinian heritage.

My father would say we were from Palestine, but who ever paid attention to my father’s words? Whenever I was asked, “where are you from, Madlaine?” I would say, “from Jordan.”

The author's father, right, in the Jordanian military service. (Photo courtesy of the author.)

The author’s father, right, in the Jordanian military service. (Photo courtesy of the author.)

In 2010, a dispute developed between the two countries; Qatar would revoke all work permits for Jordanians, and expel them back.

I arrived in Jordan two years short of 20, thinking I had finally come home! It had not occurred to me that the dispute which ended my father’s work prospects would also destroy my childhood memories. I had never lived in Jordan, and was new to everything in my homeland, which, I soon learned, it was not.

Now, when asked “where are you from, Madlaine?” I simply say, “from here.” I am then confronted with a more precise question: “Which province in Jordan are you from?” To which I feel compelled to say, “I am Palestinian, originally from the city of Hebron.”

I soon learned that, whatever my answer, it would be the wrong thing to say in any situation.

If you say you’re Palestinian, you are usually reprimanded for denying a favor: “You [Palestinians] came here, were raised here, given the chance to study and work – is that not enough to warrant your assimilation?” But if I were to say that I’m Jordanian, I wouldn’t hear the end of it from fellow Palestinians who would accuse me of denying my identity and “selling the cause” for some privileges.

In my journey of discovery, I learned of two sports clubs in Jordan. Al-Wehdat was established in 1956, at the Wehdat Palestinian refugee camp, and remained a subsidiary of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that every Palestinian in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan roots for Al-Wehdat. Perhaps they see themselves in the team, see proof that refugees, too, can succeed, and therefore find it easier to accept the stamp of diaspora. And then there’s the Faisaly Sports Club, which enjoys support and admiration from all Jordanians.

Any match between these two teams is a war: a cold war precedes the games, and then it turns into a full-blown battle on social media, where Palestinians are nothing short of bullied, with statements like, “pack your mulukhiyyahs and make your way home through the bridge.”

They mean the King Hussein Bridge, which most of our ancestors walked when they sought refuge. There have been plenty of violent incidents in the stands at these games, leaving many wounded, and some even dead.

I got engaged to my ex-husband – who was Jordanian-Jordanian, not Palestinian- Jordanian, as I am – after a love affair that lasted for months. His family, however, did not approve of a Palestinian woman. But I am Jordanian, I would think to myself. I don’t know what the trick was, but eventually, they accepted me.

Still, I would have to sit in their living room and endure the hurtful statements of news commentators, who would say things like “Palestinians are to be blame for selling their lands,” or “they [Palestinians] are all agents.” Perhaps his family thought that, now that they’ve accepted me as a Jordanian, I did not have the right to oppose those statements or defend Palestinians.

Once, when my husband and I were living in Saudi Arabia, my mother-in-law and her brother came for a visit on their way to Hajj (pilgrimage). As we walked down one of the streets, some souvenirs in the colors of the Jordanian flag caught their eyes. “Why don’t you get one for yourself,” suggested my mother-in-law, “since the colors of our flag are the same as those of the Palestinian one.” Her brother took offence: “Palestine? What is your nationality, Madlaine?” I said I carry a Jordanian passport. “Then you will buy these on the grounds that you are Jordanian.”

I had given up on talking back, or making any statements at all, really. Until I gave birth to my son. As any mother, I felt the need to pass on my culture and history to my child.

My husband and his family were not pleased with that. They made it clear to me that my son was Jordanian, with no stake in the Palestinian struggle. He is even to be prevented from listening to Al-Wehdat’s anthem. For this and several other reasons, I divorced my husband.

We fled from the occupier to find ourselves in countries that consider us, Palestinians, occupiers. They see us as people who have robbed them of their livelihood and stole their lands. As if our ancestors did not harvest this land with them, as if we had not built their railways with them, or studied in the flickers of street lights to complete our education, or served in their armies.

My childhood was wiped out because the country that saw me as Jordanian expelled me, but I came here only to discover that I am not Jordanian. That for my son to be considered Jordanian, he must not have any association with his mother’s Palestinian roots. Not everyone who fled Palestine has managed to survive, and the occupation is not the only source of our oppression. I can no longer tell where I am from, for my homeland denies my identity, and I have no evidence of my heritage.

Note: The creation of this monarchic Jordan State was the brain child of Churchill in order to eventually allow refugee Palestinians to settle in after the creation of Israel. Thus Jordan was created 2 decades before Israel when France and England enjoyed a mandate over all this Near-East region, including Iraq and a large part of Turkey.

Madlaine Ahmad is Jordanian of Palestinian descent. She lives in Jordan, where she works as a translator for local online platforms, and edits for aljazeera.net. She is interested in covering marginalized voices in society in a way that humanizes their experiences.

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40 maps that explain the Middle East

by Max Fisher on May 5, 2014

Maps can be a powerful tool for understanding the world, particularly the Middle East, a place in many ways shaped by changing political borders and demographics. Here are 40 maps crucial for understanding the Middle East — its history, its present, and some of the most important stories in the region today.


Middle East History

    1. The fertile crescent, the cradle of civilization

      The fertile crescent, the cradle of civilization

      If this area wasn’t the birthplace of human civilization, it was at least a birthplace of human civilization. Called “the fertile crescent” because of its lush soil, the “crescent” of land mostly includes modern-day Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and Israel-Palestine. (Some definitions also include the Nile River valley in Egypt.)

      People started farming here in 9000 BC, and by around 2500 BC the Sumerians formed the first complex society that resembles what we’d now call a “country,” complete with written laws and a political system. Put differently, there are more years between Sumerians and ancient Romans than there are between ancient Romans and us.

    2. How ancient Phoenicians spread from Lebanon across the Mediterranean

      How ancient Phoenicians spread from Lebanon across the Mediterranean

      The Phoenicians, who lived in present-day Lebanon and coastal Syria, were pretty awesome. (The Levant)

      From about 1500 to 300 BC, they ran some of the Mediterranean’s first big trading networks, shown in red, and dominated the sea along with the Greeks, who are shown in brown. Some sailed as far as the British Isles, and many of them set up colonies in North Africa, Spain, Sicily, and Sardinia. This was one of the first of many close cultural links between the Middle East and North Africa – and why Libya’s capital, Tripoli, still bears the name of the ancient Phoenician colony that established it.

    3. How the Middle East gave Europe religion, three times

      How the Middle East gave Europe religion, three times

      The Middle East actually gave Europe religion four times, including Islam, but this map shows the first three. First was Judaism, which spread through natural immigration and when Romans forcibly dispersed the rebelling Israelites in the first and second century AD.

      In the first through third centuries A.D., a religion called Mithraism — sometimes called a “mystery religion” for its emphasis on secret rites and clandestine worship — spread from present-day Turkey or Armenia throughout the Roman Empire (at the time, most adherents believed it was from Persians in modern-day Iran, but this is probably wrong).

      Mithraism was completely replaced with Christianity, which became the Roman Empire’s official religion, after a few centuries. It’s easy to forget that, for centuries, Christianity was predominantly a religion of Middle Easterners, who in turn converted Europeans.

    4. When Mohammed’s Caliphate conquered the Middle East

      When Mohammed’s Caliphate conquered the Middle East

      In the early 7th century AD in present-day Saudi Arabia, the Prophet Mohammed founded Islam, which his followers considered a community as well as a religion. As they spread across the Arabian peninsula, they became an empire, which expanded just as the neighboring Persian and Byzantine Empires were ready to collapse. In an astonishingly short time — from Mohammed’s death in 632 to 652 AD — they managed to conquer the entire Middle East, North Africa, Persia, and parts of southern Europe.

      They spread Islam, the Arabic language, and the idea of a shared Middle Eastern identity — all of which still define the region today. It would be as if everyone in Europe still spoke Roman Latin and considered themselves ethnically Roman.

    5. A map of the world at the Caliphate’s height

      A map of the world at the Caliphate’s height

      This is a rough political map of the world in 750 AD, at the height of the Omayyad Caliphate (“caliph” means the ruler of the global Islamic community). This is to give you a sense of how vast and powerful the Muslim empire had become, barely one century after the founding of the religion that propelled its expansion. It was a center of wealth, arts, and learning at a time when only China was so rich and powerful. This was the height of Arab power.

    6. The six-century rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire

      The six-century rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire

      The Ottoman Empire is named for Osman, its first ruler, who in the early 1300s expanded it from a tiny part of northwest Turkey to a slightly less tiny part. It continued expanding for about 500 years — longer than the entire history of the Roman Empire — ruling over most of the Middle East, North Africa, and southeastern Europe for centuries.

      The empire, officially an Islamic state, spread the religion in southeast Europe but was generally tolerant of other religious groups. It was probably the last great non-European empire until it began declining in the mid-1800s, collapsed after World War I, and had its former territory in the Middle East divided up by Western Europe.

    7. What the Middle East looked like in 1914

      What the Middle East looked like in 1914

      This is a pivotal year, during the Middle East’s gradual transfer from 500 years of Ottoman rule to 50 to 100 years of European rule. Western Europe was getting richer and more powerful as it carved up Africa, including the Arab states of North Africa, into colonial possessions. Virtually the entire region was ruled outright by Europeans or Ottomans, save some parts of Iran and the Arabian peninsula divided into European “zones of influence.” When World War I ended a few years later, the rest of the defeated Ottoman Empire would be carved up among the Europeans. The lines between French, Italian, Spanish, and British rule are crucial for understanding the region today – not just because they ruled differently and imposed different policies, but because the boundaries between European empires later became the official borders of independence, whether they made sense or not.

    8. The Sykes-Picot treaty that carved up the Middle East

      The Sykes-Picot treaty that carved up the Middle East

      You hear a lot today about this treaty, in which the UK and French (and Russian) Empires secretly agreed to divide up the Ottoman Empire’s last MidEastern regions among themselves.

      Crucially, the borders between the French and British “zones” later became the borders between Iraq, Syria, and Jordan. Because those later-independent states had largely arbitrary borders that forced disparate ethnic and religious groups together, and because those groups are still in terrible conflict with one another, Sykes-Picot is often cited as a cause of warfare and violence and extremism in the Middle East. But scholars are still debating this theory, which may be too simple to be true.

    9. An animated history of great empires in the Middle East

      An animated history of great empires in the Middle East

      You may have noticed a theme of the last eight maps: empires, mostly from outside the Middle East but sometimes of it, conquering the region in ways that dramatically changed it. This animation shows you every major empire in the Middle East over the last 5,000 years.

      To be clear, it is not exhaustive, and in case it wasn’t obvious, the expanding-circle animations do not actually reflect the speed or progression of imperial expansions. But it’s a nice primer.

    10. The complete history of Islamic states

      The complete history of Islamic states

      This time-lapse map by Michael Izady — a wonderful historian and cartographer at Columbia University, whose full collection can be found here — shows the political boundaries of the greater Middle East from 1450 through today. You’ll notice that, for much of the last 500 years, most or all of the region has been under some combination of Turkish, Persian, and European control. For so much of the Arab Middle East to be under self-rule is relatively new. Two big exceptions that you can see on this map are Morocco and Egypt, which have spent more of the last 500 years as self-ruling empires than other Arab states. That’s part of why these two countries have sometimes seen themselves as a degree apart from the rest of the Arab world.

    11. The 2011 Arab Spring

      The 2011 Arab Spring

      It is still amazing, looking back at early and mid-2011, how dramatically and quickly the Arab Spring uprisings challenged and in many cases toppled the brittle old dictatorships of the Middle East. What’s depressing is how little the movements have advanced beyond those first months. Syria’s civil war is still going. Egypt’s fling with democracy appeared to end with a military coup in mid-2013. Yemen is still mired in slow-boil violence and political instability. The war in Libya toppled Moammar Qaddafi, with US and European support, but left the country without basic security or a functioning government. Only Tunisia seems to have come out even tenuously in the direction of democracy.


The Middle East today

    1. The dialects of Arabic today

      The dialects of Arabic today

      This map shows the vast extent of the Arabic-speaking world and the linguistic diversity within it. Both go back to the Caliphates of the sixth and seventh century, which spread Arabic from its birthplace on the Arabian Peninsula across Africa and the Middle East. Over the last 1,300 years the language’s many speakers have diverged into distinct, sometimes very different, dialects.

      Something to look at here: where the dialects do and do not line up with present-day political borders. In places where they don’t line up, you’re seeing national borders that are less likely to line up with actual communities, and in some cases more likely to create problems.

    2. The Sunni-Shia divide

      The Sunni-Shia divide

      The story of Islam’s division between Sunni and Shia started with the Prophet Mohammed’s death in 632. There was a power struggle over who would succeed him in ruling the Islamic Caliphate, with most Muslims wanting to elect the next leader but some arguing that power should go by divine birthright to Mohammed’s son-in-law, Ali. That pro-Ali faction was known as the “Partisans of Ali,” or “Shi’atu Ali” in Arabic, hence “Shia.” Ali’s eventual ascension to the throne sparked a civil war, which he and his partisans lost. The Shia held on to the idea that Ali was the rightful successor, and grew into an entirely separate branch of Islam. Today about 10 to 15 percent of Muslims worldwide are Shia — they are the majority group in Iran and Iraq only — while most Muslims are Sunni. “Sunni” roughly means “tradition.” Today, that religious division is again a political one as well: it’s a struggle for regional influence between Shia political powers, led by Iran, versus Sunni political powers, led by Saudi Arabia. This struggle looks an awful lot like a regional cold war, with proxy battles in Syria and elsewhere.

    3. The ethnic groups of the Middle East

      The ethnic groups of the Middle East

      The most important color on this map of Middle Eastern ethnic groups is yellow: Arabs, who are the majority group in almost every MidEast country, including the North African countries not shown here. The exceptions are mostly-Jewish Israel in pink, mostly-Turkish Turkey in green, mostly-Persian Iran in orange, and heavily diverse Afghanistan. (More on the rich diversity of Iran and Afghanistan below.) That splash of red in the middle is really important: ethnic Kurds, who have no country of their own but big communities in Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. But the big lesson of this map is that there is a belt of remarkable ethnic diversity from Turkey to Afghanistan, but that much of the rest of the region is dominated by ethnic Arabs.

    4. Weighted Muslim populations around the world

      Weighted Muslim populations around the world

      This map makes a point about what the Middle East is not: it is not synonymous with the Islamic world. This weighted population map shows every country in the world by the size of its Muslim population. Countries with more Muslim citizens are larger; countries with fewer Muslim citizens are smaller. You’ll notice right away that the Middle East makes up just a fraction of the world’s total Muslim population. There are far more Muslims, in fact, in the South Asian countries of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. The biggest Muslim population by far is Indonesia’s, in southeast Asia. And there are millions in sub-Saharan Africa as well. The Islamic world may have begun in the Middle East, but it’s now much, much larger than that.


Israel-Palestine

    1. Israel’s 1947 founding and the 1948 Israeli-Arab War

      Israel's 1947 founding and the 1948 Israeli-Arab War

      Left map: Passia; center and right maps: Philippe Rekacewicz / Le Monde Diplomatique

      Israel’s 1947 founding and the 1948 Israeli-Arab War

      These three maps show how Israel went from not existing to, in 1947 and 1948, establishing its national borders. It’s hard to identify a single clearest start point to the Israel-Palestine conflict, but the map on the left might be it: these are the borders that the United Nations demarcated in 1947 for a Jewish state and an Arab state, in what had been British-controlled territory. The Palestinians fought the deal, and in 1948 the Arab states of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Syria invaded. The middle map shows, in green, how far they pushed back the Jewish armies. The right-hand map shows how the war ended: with an Israeli counterattack that pushed into the orange territory, and with Israel claiming that as its new national borders. The green is what was left for Palestinians.

    2. The 1967 Israeli-Arab War that set today’s borders

      The 1967 Israeli-Arab War that set today's borders

      BBC

      The 1967 Israeli-Arab War that set today’s borders

      These three maps (click the expand icon to see the third) show how those 1948 borders became what they are today. The map on left shows the Palestinian territories of Gaza, which was under Egyptian control, and the West Bank, under Jordanian control. In 1967, Israel fought a war with Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. The war ended with Israel occupying both of the Palestinian territories, plus the Golan Heights in Syria and Egypt’s Sinai peninsula: that’s shown in the right map. Israel gave Sinai back as part of a 1979 peace deal, but it still occupies those other territories. Gaza is today under Israeli blockade, while the West Bank is increasingly filling with Israeli settlers. The third map shows how the West Bank has been divided into areas of full Palestinian control (green), joint Israeli-Palestinian control (light green), and full Israeli control (dark green).

    3. Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank

      Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank

      Since 1967, Israelis have been moving into settlements in the West Bank. Some go for religious reasons, some because they want to claim Palestinian land for Israel, and some just because they get cheap housing from subsidies. There about 500,000 settlers in 130 communities, which you can see in this map. The settlements make peace harder, which is sometimes the point: for Palestinians to have a state, the settlers will either to have to be removed en masse, or Palestinians would have to give up some of their land. The settlements also make life harder for Palestinians today, dividing communities and imposing onerous Israeli security. This is why the US and the rest of the world opposes Israeli settlements. But Israel is continuing to expand them anyway.

    4. Israeli and Hezbollah strikes in the 2006 Lebanon War

      Israeli and Hezbollah strikes in the 2006 Lebanon War

      BBC

      Israeli and Hezbollah strikes in the 2006 Lebanon War

      This map shows a moment in the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon. It also shows the way that war between Israel and its enemies has changed: Israel now has the dominant military, but the fights are asymmetrical. Israel wasn’t fighting a state, but the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. It launched many air and artillery strikes in Lebanon (shown in blue) to weaken Hezbollah, destroying much of the country’s infrastructure in the process. Israel also blockaded Lebanese waters. Hezbollah fought a guerrilla campaign against the Israeli invasion force and launched many missiles into Israeli communities. The people most hurt were regular Lebanese and Israelis, hundreds of thousands of whom were displaced by the fighting.

    5. Which countries recognize Israel, Palestine, or both

      Which countries recognize Israel, Palestine, or both

      The Israel-Palestine conflict is a global issue, and as this map shows it’s got a global divide. Many countries, shown in green, still do not recognize Israel as a legitimate state. Those countries are typically Muslim-majority (that includes Malaysia and Indonesia, way over in southeast Asia). Meanwhile, the blue countries of the West (plus a few others) do not recognize Palestine as a country. They still have diplomatic relations with Palestine, but in their view it will not achieve the status of a country until the conflict is formally resolved. It is not a coincidence that there has historically been some conflict between the blue and green countries.


Syria

    1. Syria’s religious and ethnic diversity

      Syria’s religious and ethnic diversity

      Each color here shows a different religious group in the part of the eastern Mediterranean called the Levant. It should probably not be surprising that the birthplace of Judaism and Christianity is religiously diverse, but this map drives home just how diverse. Israel stands out for its Jewish majority, of course, but this is also a reminder of its Muslim and other minorities, as well as of the Christian communities in Israel and the West Bank. Lebanon is divided among large communities of Sunnis, Shias, Christians, and a faith known as Druze — they’re at peace now, but the country’s horrific civil war from 1975 to 1990 divided them. There may be a similar effect happening in Syria, which is majority Sunni Muslim but has large minorities of Christians, Druze, Shia, and a Shia sect known as Alawites whose members include Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and much of his government.

    2. Current areas of control in the Syrian Civil War

      Current areas of control in the Syrian Civil War

      This map shows the state of play in Syria’s civil war, which after three years of fighting has divided between government forces, the anti-government rebels who began as pro-democracy protestors, and the Islamist extremist fighters who have been moving in over the last two years. You may notice some overlap between this map and the previous: the areas under government control (in red) tend to overlap with where the minorities live. The minorities tend to be linked to the regime, whereas the rebels are mostly from the Sunni Muslim majority. But the anti-government Syrian rebels (in green) have been taking lots of territory. Syria’s ethnic Kurdish minority also has militias that have taken over territory where the Kurds live. Over the past year, though, there’s been a fourth rising faction: Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (sometimes called ISIS, shown in blue), an extremist group based in Iraq that swears allegiance to al-Qaeda. They’re fighting both the rebels and the government. So it’s a three-way war now, as if it weren’t already intractable enough.

    3. Syria’s refugee crisis

      Syria’s refugee crisis

      Syria’s civil war hasn’t just been a national catastrophe for Syria, but for neighboring countries as well. The war has displaced millions of Syrians into the rest of the Middle East and into parts of Europe, where they live in vast refugee camps that are major drains on already-scarce national resources. This map shows the refugees; it does not show the additional 6.5 million Syrians displaced within Syria. Their impact is especially felt in Jordan and Lebanon, which already have large Palestinian refugee populations; as many as one in five people in those countries is a refugee. While the US and other countries have committed some aid for refugees, the United Nations says it’s not nearly enough to provide them with basic essentials.


Iran

    1. How Iran’s borders changed in the early 1900s

      How Iran’s borders changed in the early 1900s

      Iran is the only Middle Eastern country was never conquered by a European power, but it came pretty close in the 1900s. It lost a lot of territory to Russia (the red stripey part). After that, the Russian Empire and British Empire (the British Indian Raj was just next door) divided Iran’s north and south into “zones of influence.” They weren’t under direct control, but the Iranian government was bullied and its economy and resources exploited. This remains a point of major national resentment in Iran today.

    2. Iran’s religious and ethnic diversity

      Iran’s religious and ethnic diversity

      Iran is most associated with the Persians — the largest ethnic group and the progenitors of the ancient Persian empires — but it’s much more diverse than that. This map shows the larger minorities, which includes Arabs in the south, Kurds in the west, and Azeris in the north (Iran used to control all Azeri territory, but much of now belongs to the Azeri-majority country Azerbaijan). The Baloch, in the southeast, are also a large minority group in Pakistan. There is significant unrest and government oppression in the “Baluchistan” region of both countries.

    3. Iran’s nuclear sites and possible Israeli strike plans

      Iran's nuclear sites and possible Israeli strike plans

      BBC

      Iran’s nuclear sites and possible Israeli strike plans

      This is a glimpse at two of the big, overlapping geopolitical issues in which Iran is currently embroiled. The first is Iran’s nuclear program: the country’s leaders say the program is peaceful, but basically no one believes them, and the world is heavily sanctioning Iran’s economy to try to convince them to halt the nuclear development that sure looks like it’s heading for an illegal weapons program. You can see the nuclear development sites on here: some are deep underground, while others were kept secret for years. That gets to the other thing on this map, which was originally built to show how Israel could hypothetically launch strikes against Iran’s nuclear program. Israel-Iran tensions, which have edged near war in recent years, are one of the biggest and most potentially dangerous things happening right now in a part of the world that has plenty of danger already. Israel is worried that Iran could build nukes to use against it; Iran may be worried that it will forever be under threat of Israeli strike until it has a nuclear deterrent. That’s called a security dilemma and it can get bad.


Afghanistan

    1. How the colonial “Durand Line” set up Afghanistan’s conflict

      How the colonial “Durand Line” set up Afghanistan’s conflict

      So, first ignore everything on this map except for the light-orange overlay. That shows the area where an ethnic group called the Pashtun lives. Now pretend it’s the 1800s and you are a British colonial officer named Mortimer Durand, and it’s your job to negotiate the border between the British Indian Raj and the quasi-independent nation of Afghanistan.

      Do you draw the border right smack across the middle of the Pashtun areas, thus guaranteeing decades of conflict by forcing Pashtuns to be minorities in both states? If you answered “yes,” then you would have made a great British colonial officer, because that’s what happened. The “Durand Line,” marked in red, became most of the border between modern Afghanistan and Pakistan. Many Pashtun now belong to or support a mostly-Pashtun extremist group called the Taliban, which wreaks havoc in both countries and has major operating bases (shown in dark orange) in the Pakistani side of the border. Thanks, Mortimer!

    2. The 1989 war that tore up Afghanistan

      The 1989 war that tore up Afghanistan

      In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan to defend the pro-Moscow communist government from growing rebellions. The US (along with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan) funded and armed the rebels. The CIA deliberately chose to fund extremists, seeing them as better fighters.

      When the Soviets retreated in 1989, those rebel groups turned against one another, fighting a horrific civil war that you can see on this map: the red areas were, as of 1989, under government control. Every other color shows a rebel group’s area of control. Some of these rebels, like the Hezb-i Islami Gulbuddin, are still fighting, though most of them were defeated when the Taliban rose up and conquered the country in the 1990s.

    3. How the Taliban overlaps with ethnicity

      How the Taliban overlaps with ethnicity

      This is to underscore the degree to which Afghanistan’s current war (the war that began when the US and allies invaded in 2001, not the 1979 to 1989 war against the Soviets or the civil wars from 1989 to 2001) is and is not about ethnicity.

      The Taliban does very broadly, but not exclusively, overlap with the Pashtuns in the south and east. That’s especially important since there are so many Pashtuns just across the border in Pakistan, where the Taliban have major bases of operation. But there are rebel groups besides the Taliban, not all of which are Pashtun. Generally, though, the north of the country is stabler and less violent than the south or east.

    4. The most important parts of the Afghan War, in one map

      The most important parts of the Afghan War, in one map

      The Afghanistan War is extremely complicated, but this map does a remarkable job of capturing the most important components:

      1) the Taliban areas, in orange overlay;

      2) the areas controlled by the US and allies, in depressingly tiny spots of green;

      3) the major Western military bases, marked with blue dots;

      4) the areas of opium production, which are a big source of Taliban funding, in brown circles, with larger circles meaning more opium;

      5) the supply lines through Pakistan, in red, which Pakistan has occasionally shut down and come under frequent Taliban attack;

      6) the supply line through Russia, which requires Russian approval. If this map does not depress you about the prospects of the Afghan War, not much will.


Saudi Arabia and Oil

    1. What Saudi Arabia and its neighbors looked like 100 years ago

      What Saudi Arabia and its neighbors looked like 100 years ago

      The Arabian peninsula has a very, very long history, and the Saudi family has controlled much of it since the 1700s. But to understand how the peninsula got to be what it is today, go back about a 100 years to 1905.

      The Saudis at that point controlled very little, having lost their territory in a series of wars. The peninsula was divided into lots of little kingdoms and emirates. The Ottoman Empire controlled most of them, with the British Empire controlling the southernmost third or so of the peninsula — that line across the middle shows how it was divided.

      After World War I collapsed the Ottoman Empire, the Saudis expanded to all of the purple area marked here, as the British had promised for helping to fight the Ottomans. (This deal is dramatized in the film Lawrence of Arabia). By the early 1920s, the British effectively controlled almost all of the peninsula, which was divided into many dependencies, protectorates, and mandates. But the Saudis persisted.

    2. Oil and Gas in the Middle East

      Oil and Gas in the Middle East

      The Middle East produces about a third of the world’s oil and a tenth of its natural gas. (It has a third of all natural gas reserves, but they’re tougher to transport.) Much of that is exported. That makes the entire world economy pretty reliant on the continued flow of that gas and oil, which just happens to go through a region that has seen an awful lot of conflict in the last few decades.

      This map shows where the reserves are and how they’re transported overland; much of it also goes by sea through the Persian Gulf, a body of water that is also home to some of the largest reserves in the region and the world. The energy resources are heavily clustered in three neighboring countries that have historically hated one another: Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.

      The tension between those three is something that the United States, as a huge energy importer, has been deeply interested in for years: it sided against Iran during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, against Iraq when it invaded Kuwait and threatened Saudi Arabia in the 1990s, again against Iraq with the 2003 invasion, and now is supporting Saudi Arabia in its rapidly worsening proxy war against Iran.

    3. Oil, trade, and militarism in the Strait of Hormuz

      Oil, trade, and militarism in the Strait of Hormuz

      The global economy depends on this narrow waterway between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula. Ever since President Jimmy Carter issued the 1980 “Carter Doctrine,” which declared that the US would use military force to defend its access to Persian Gulf oil, the little Strait of Hormuz at the Gulf’s exit has been some of the most heavily militarized water on earth.

      The US installed a large naval force, first to protect oil exports from the brutal Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, then to protect them from Saddam Hussein in the 1990s Gulf Wars, and now to protect them again from Iran, which has gestured toward shutting down oil should war break out against Israel or the US. As long as the world runs on fossil fuels and there is tension in the Middle East, there will be military forces in the Strait of Hormuz.

    4. Why Egypt’s Suez Canal is so important for the world economy

      Why Egypt’s Suez Canal is so important for the world economy

      The Suez Canal changed everything. When Egypt opened it in 1868, after ten years of work, the 100-mile, man-made waterway brought Europe and Asia dramatically and permanently closer.

      The canal’s significance to the global order was so immediately obvious that, shortly after the British conquered Egypt in the 1880s, the major world powers signed a treaty, which is still in force, declaring that the canal would forever be open to trade and warships of every nation, no matter what. Today, about eight percent of all global trade and three percent of global energy supply goes through the canal.


Iraq and Libya

    1. The ethnic cleansing of Baghdad during the Iraq War

      The ethnic cleansing of Baghdad during the Iraq War

      BBC

      The ethnic cleansing of Baghdad during the Iraq War

      There are few grimmer symbols for the devastation of the Iraq War than what it did to Baghdad’s once-diverse neighborhoods. The map on the left shows the city’s religious make-up in 2005. Mixed neighborhoods, then the norm, are in yellow.

      The map on right shows what it looked like by 2007, after two awful years of Sunni-Shia killing: bombings (shown with red dots), death squads, and militias. Coerced evictions and thousands of deaths effectively cleansed neighborhoods, to be mostly Shia (blue) or mostly Sunni (red). Since late 2012, the sectarian civil war has ramped back up, in Baghdad and nationwide.

    2. Where the Kurds are and what Kurdistan might look like

      Where the Kurds are and what Kurdistan might look like

      The ethnic group known as Kurds, who have long lived as a disadvantaged minority in several Middle Eastern countries, have been fighting for a nation of their own for a long time. This map shows where they live in green overlay, and the national borders that they have proposed on three separate occasions, all of them failed.

      The Kurds have fought many armed rebellions, including ongoing campaigns in Syria and Turkey, and suffered many abuses, from attempted genocides to official bans on their language and culture. Their one major victory in the last century has been in Iraq: as a result of the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, Iraqi Kurds have autonomous self-rule in Iraq’s north.

    3. A hypothetical re-drawing of Syria and Iraq

      A hypothetical re-drawing of Syria and Iraq

      This is an old idea that gets new attention every few years, when violence between Sunnis and Shias reignites: should the arbitrary borders imposed by European powers be replaced with new borders along the region’s ever-fractious religious divide?

      The idea is unworkable in reality and would probably just create new problems. But, in a sense, this is already what the region looks like. The Iraqi government controls the country’s Shia-majority east, but Sunni Islamist extremists have seized much of western Iraq and eastern Syria.

      The Shia-dominated Syrian government, meanwhile, mostly only controls the country’s Shia- and Christian-heavy west. The Kurds, meanwhile, are legally autonomous in Iraq and functionally so in Syria. This map, then, is not so much just idle speculation anymore; it’s something that Iraqis and Syrians are creating themselves.

    4. How Libya’s 2011 War changed Africa

      How Libya’s 2011 War changed Africa

      Noble as the cause was, the destruction of Moammar Qaddafi’s dictatorship by a spontaneous uprising and a Western intervention has just wreaked havoc in Africa’s northern half. This map attempts to show all that came after Qaddafi’s fall; that it is so overwhelmingly complex is precisely the point.

      The place to center your gaze is the patterned orange overlay across Libya, Algeria, Mali, and Niger: this shows where the Tuaregs, a semi-nomadic ethnic minority group, lives. Qaddafi used Libya’s oil wealth to train, arm, and fund large numbers of Tuaregs to fight the armed uprising in 2011. When he fell, the Tuaregs took the guns back out with them to Algeria and Mali, where they took control of territory.

      In Mali, they led a full-fledged rebellion that, for a time, seized the country’s northern half. Al-Qaeda moved into the vacuum they left, conquering entire towns in Mali and seizing fossil fuel facilities in Algeria. Criminal enterprises have flourished in this semi-arid belt of land known as the Sahel. So have vast migration routes, of Africans looking to find work and a better life in Europe.

      At the same time, armed conflict is getting worse in Nigeria and Sudan, both major oil producers. Qaddafi’s fall was far from the sole cause of all of this, but it brought just the right combination of disorder, guns, and militias to make everything a lot worse.


Points of Light

  1. Mapped by Internet connections (top) and by tweets (bottom)

    Mapped by Internet connections (top) and by tweets (bottom)

    Top map: Gregor Aisch; bottom map: Eric Fischer

    Mapped by Internet connections (top) and by tweets (bottom)

    These maps are two ways of looking at a similar thing: the digitalization of the Middle East. The map on top is actually a population map: the dots represent clusters of people, but the dots are colored to show how many IP addresses there are, which basically means how many internet connections.

    The blue areas have lots of people but few connections: these are the poorer areas, such as Yemen, Pakistan, and Syria. White and red show where there are lots of connections: rich countries like Israel and the United Arab Emirates, but also parts of Egypt and Iran and Turkey, the populations of which are increasingly wired, to tremendous political consequence.

    The map on the bottom shows tweets: lots of dots mean lots of tweets from that area. They’re colored by language. Notice where these two maps are different: Iran has lots of internet connections but almost no tweets; like Facebook, Twitter has been banned since the 2009 anti-government protests. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, lights right up: its modestly sized population is remarkably wired.

    The significance of that became clear, for example, with the 2012 and 2013 social media-led campaigns by Saudi women to drive en masse, in protest of the country’s ban on female drivers. The consequences of internet access and lack of access will surely continue to be important, and perhaps hard to predict, for the region.

  2. The Middle East at night from space

    The Middle East at night from space

    I’m concluding with this map to look at the region without political borders, without demographic demarcations of religion or ethnicity, without markers of conflict or oil. Looking at the region at night, from space, lets those distinctions fall away, to see it purely by its geography and illuminated by the people who call it home.

    The lights trace the rivers that have been so important to the Middle East’s history, and the world’s: the Nile in Egypt, the Tigris and Euphrates that run through Iraq and Syria, the Indus in Pakistan.

    They also show the large, and in many cases growing, communities along the shores of the Persian Gulf, the eastern Mediterranean, and the southern end of the Caspian. It’s a beautiful view of a really beautiful part of the world.

Is Iran Nuclear issue close to resolution? What is the price for the Middle-East?

Better, in what ways will the Middle-East enjoy a reprieve from this global onslaught to destabilize the region?

The news are that an accord has been reached and negotiation will resume the next year, 9 months from now.

In the mean time, Iran will get back $700 million a month from its frozen money in the US and European Sates.

Actually the embargo will be maintained, simply because the US refuses to restart another process in the UN given that Russia and China will veto any new resolution.

The Iranian people are suffering from this embargo since they are unable to purchase original spare parts for their cars and vehicles, and are doomed to buy parts from China and experience higher car accidents and fatalities on the roads.

The US expect from Iran to play its responsibilities as the police power in that region. Like what?

Fight ISIS? But it is already efficiently fighting ISIS by coming to the rescue of the Kurds in Irbil before the US got engaged in the air, and Iran is the main supporter of the Iraqi people and government, and the main supporter of the Syrian government, and the main power checking Al Qaeda in Yemen and preventing Al Qaeda to have a foothold in Oman, and keeping Dubai floating economically by importing almost everything from Dubai…

And preventing Israel from another foolish preemptive war on Lebanon by supporting Hezbollah

And Iran is the main power that’s doing its best to maintain the territorial integrity of the States in the Middle-East while Israel and the US are intent on subdividing them even further

 Jamil Berry posted on FB

L’Iran connaitra ce soir si feu vert y aura ou pas pour son nucléaire.

Des émissaires décideurs du monde entier seront présents . L’Iran est en passe de regagner de l’Amérique ses responsabilités de gendarme du proche orient.

Israel voit ceci d’un mauvais oeil ( le nucléaire iranien est un prétexte insuffisant ) car Israel risque de perdre l’exclusivité de sa relation du ” premier de la classe ” avec les USA .

De l’argent Européen initialement destiné au Fatah ( corrompu , d’éfroqué et sans programme , ira à Gaza , remis à l’honneur depuis l’opération de Tsahal dite ” tout ça pour ça ” de juillet dernier .

Au Suède il y a eu un vote parlementaire pour un État Palestinien souverain ,

En Angleterre aussi .

L’Assemblée Nationale en France les suivra très vraisemblablement le 2 Décembre .

Les choses bougent . La carte des partitions résultant de Sykes Picot est déjà rendue caduque par Daech qui a aboli les frontières entre l’Irak et la Syrie et veut aller de l’avant pour fonder un Sunnistan où il compte tuer tous les Chiites .

Ceci n’empêche pas une guerre Sunno- Sunnite en Libye entre les deux principales formations rivales, de même qu’en Palestine entre le Fatah soutenu par les Saoudiens et Hamas soutenu par le Qatar.

Sans oublier les graves dissensions entre Saoudiens et Qataris. Ce qui donnera comme je le pense son nucléaire ce soir à l’Iran ,c’est cette apparition de coalition perverse Salafo-Sioniste d’un côté ,et l’absence de guerres Chiito-Chiites de l’autre . P

uis il y a la naissance de ces égorgeurs venus de l’aube de la sauvagerie qui n’ont en tête que de couper des têtes chiites , pour par la suite faire la peau à Israel .

J’espère que la sagesse mondiale s’exprimera ce soir pour le bénéfice de tous les peuples de la région .
( Jamil BERRY )

British Ambassador Addresses the Lebanese: On Independence Day

I can sympathize with Tom Fletcher, and the good previous recent British ambassadors to Lebanon, and I feel that the negatives responses to the ambassadors reflect a state of mind of the Lebanese who feel down on their luck and totally hopeless to undertake serious reforms to their political and social structure since their independence in 1943, or as the French mandated troops vacated in 1946.

Lebanon is not a usual country: a deformed version of a nation, at best. It is a place where people don’t agree on the definition of statehood and nationhood, and a place where sectarian divisions have constituted a bonanza for foreign intervention.

In the last 40 years, Lebanon had not enjoyed a stable situation that is promising. Currently, we have no Parliament: it extended its tenure for another 2 years and never has met since. We have no government in the last 6 months and the designated “Prime Minister” is sitting tight, waiting for political movements to reach a consensus on a government to form.

In the meantime, the Syrian refugees are flooding in Lebanon and their number has reached about 50% of our population.

Lebanon is also a place crying out for an identity. While some do see marks of history, geography, and culture and recognize Lebanon as it is – an Arab country, no less Arab than other countries – others think that they have been misplaced in the Middle East, that they belong to Europe.

But first, here an example of the counter-responses to the ambassador speech.

As’ad AbuKhalil posted this Nov. 25, 2013 on his blog Angry Corner:

Some ultra-Lebanese nationalists developed a variety of forms and motifs of nationalism that stress the (imagined) relationship between Lebanon and Europe, which consider Lebanon the least in its priorities.

Some Lebanese think that donning Western clothes and faking an American or a French accent is sufficient to place them squarely among the White Man of Europe.

Some really bought into that. Those Lebanese (represented by An-Nahar newspaper, among others) are more than eager to prostrate at the mere sight of a white man in their midst.

Some even think that they themselves are white. It is for this reason that European and American diplomats in Lebanon act more arrogantly and more condescendingly than perhaps in other places.

It was in this context that the British ambassador in Lebanon addressed the Lebanese people on the anniversary of Lebanese independence. He lectured, preached, hectored, sermonized, and moralized to the Lebanese people. He even bragged about the role of the UK in Lebanon’s independence.

Thereby insulting the intelligence of the Lebanese people (and his own) by pretending that British policies (whether in Palestine – lest he thinks we forgot – or in Lebanon itself) were motivated by anything other than greed, colonial interest, care for Israeli occupation, and competition between the colonial powers themselves.

Of course, the ambassador prefaces his remarks by a perfunctory dosage of flattery – the substance of which he must have heard from the Lebanese themselves – or those upper-class Lebanese who attend embassy functions in Beirut. He even praises the hospitality of the Lebanese people, which is inferior to the hospitality that the UK accorded to the Zionist project. Talk about hospitality.

And while the ambassador expresses admiration for the Lebanese, he also shares their frustration. He tells the Lebanese that he is frustrated with them.

But what does Tom think that we feel toward his government? He thinks that the Balfour Declaration, the divisions of the spoils of the region in Sykes-Picot, and the subservience of his country to US war designs in the region are relics of the ancient past?

It is not frustration that characterizes our feelings toward his government’s record in the region but deep anger and antipathy. If one should feel frustrated it is us.

What does he think we think about his government plot against Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1956 or his government’s role in the civil war in Lebanon in 1958 on the side of Chamoun and the right-wing fascistic elements?

Balfour requires much more than an apology to be forgiven – if ever: It requires a restoration of justice.

The UK will not reach a historic reconciliation with all the Arabs before the extinction of the Balfour Declaration and all of its ramifications.

His first advice to the Lebanese is that we should ignore advice from outsiders, and he included himself among them. But that is pure flippancy: If Tom truly wishes that we ignore his advice, why did he bother to write this long letter?

Furthermore, not all outsiders are alike: Some have truly assisted Lebanon in its struggle against occupation and for independence, and others (like his government) sponsored the occupation and brutalization of Lebanon.

The rest of Tom’s advice is akin to the psycho-babble of American talk show hosts and guests. Renewing marriage vows? What does that mean?

And is Britain about to renew marriage vows with Scotland or is it heading for divorce?

Does the US seek advice from the Lebanese ambassador in London? And why do I get the feeling that if the Lebanese ambassador in London were to draft a letter similar to Tom’s, she would be deported at once.

Finally, if Tom and his government like the Lebanese so much, why do the visa requirements make it virtually impossible for any Lebanese to visit the UK unless they are among the rich and powerful of Lebanon?

Maybe Tom’s letter is addressed to the political and economic elite of Lebanon, as it is doubtful that Tom ever wines and dines with average Lebanese, or with poor Lebanese (outside of those who work in the kitchen of his embassy).

Nevertheless, I will take the advice of Tom to heart: I will ignore letter.

I exchanged a few lines with Tom on Twitter, and he said in response to my critique that he was merely expressing his views. I answered by saying that he would never dare criticize, say, the government and society of Saudi Arabia.

I dared him to have his colleague in Riyadh draft such a letter to the Saudi people. He answered by sending me the routine human rights evaluation of Saudi Arabia (which is part of an annual global assessment that the UK and US do but without any policy implication).

Tom must have known that does not suffice, and that his government and all of its ambassadors are required to adhere to the highest norms of prostration and subservience in dealing with the House of Saud. Too bad, Tom, that Lebanon has not extracted its oil and gas yet. I bet you that you would have not drafted your letter in that case.

Note 1: Other critics brought forth the advanced ancient civilization of Lebanon and the Levant region (Syria and Palestine), and this is reason enough to refuse advises from a British ambassador.

Fact is very few Lebanese are engaged in researching this ancient civilization, and fewer who care of the past.

Note 2: This is a sample article on advanced ancient civilization https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/masters-in-agriculture-viticulture-food-preservation-wine-and-beer-making-textile-and-dying-the-phoenicians-part-5/


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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