Our Current Issue

The Cultural View from Within and Without

Adieu to Sabah, a Lebanese diva with an eternally fertile voice

Although Sabah remained off the stage, professionally speaking, for some time, the Lebanese kept hearing of and from her. Many Arab generations, especially the Lebanese, would miss her. Few would deny that she had become a household name since the 1950s, and even before. Though her songs varied with time, still she will be remembered most for her traditional folk music where she specialized in a Lebanese folk tradition called the mawal, which held a great appeal for early Lebanese generations, ourselves as well as our parents.

In times of bigotry, chauvinism and intolerance toward Syrian refugees, a voice unlike any other--that of LBC's Rima Assaf

By Rima Assaf

Your fault is that you are dying in large numbers. Thus, you have ceased to be a rare scene. Your crime is that the photographs of your body parts no longer attract advertisers, and thus your death, pain, and displacement have ceased to attract TV viewers.

No Loyalty Even for a Loyalist: Stories from Syria's 'World of Ghosts' (Ahmad's Story)

Over the years, we have devoted a generous space to covering dissent by Arab intellectuals, especially the Syrians. We believed that most of those who were arrested and imprisoned for long periods of time, the poet Farag Bayrakdar, 14 years; Riadh al-Turk, 17 years; Yassin al-Haj Saleh, 16 years, had been viewed as members of different leftist and Communist parties, thus posing threats to a repressive regime.

Azadi for Kobani

Watching a Kurdish city almost disappear from its "Kurdishness" as hundreds of thousands flee to Turkey is as painful as watching the millions of other Syrians thrown out into the cold in their own country and in neighboring states. Kobani under siege by ISIS rekindles distant and recent memories of Arab-Kurdish relationship, a history marked by chauvinistic Arab condescension toward the Kurds.

Asala a thorn in Assad's side, her arrest a black eye for the Lebanese government

It is amazing how the Syrian regime orders its priorities at a time when an armada of allied forces daily bombards its territory. Nothing appears to restrain Assad’s war against his people. He ignores with equal facility the "global war," ceded daily to ISIS, the blood of 200,000 martyrs, the displacement of millions, and the reflexive, cynical destruction of some of civilization’s most ancient cities. Apparently, none of these facts have any power to instill sense into the Assad clique, otherwise why would they choose to pursue Mrs.

It's High Time for Statehood for Kurdish Nation-in Waiting!

I vividly recall the diatribes of the Baathists and Arab nationalists, during the course of which they even denied that the Kurds have  an ethnic identity of their own, instead asserting that they are actually Arabs! And if they did not know who they were, then we needed to "educate" them! But the important issue remains that the "rejectionists of today/pan-Arabists" rarely, if ever, support the establishment of a Kurdish state, and instead find themselves in the same bed with Mr. Sykes and Mr. Picot, who left both the Kurds and the Palestinians stateless after WW I.

'Photographs of Agony', from Vietnam to Gaza, from Ghouta to Mount Sinjar

The memory seems as though it is wired to store images, images that often live unpredictable lives within the psyche. Aziza, a 15-year old Yazidi Kurdish girl, has been haunting me for more than a week. Her innocent facial expression, a look of fear mingled with cognitive disorientation, continues to disturb me despite the helicopter that ferried her out of Mount Sinjar to safety. CNN’s Ivan Watson, the reporter who aided Aziza onto the chopper, is said to have become choked up with tears on several occasions.

A Philosopher’s Tale: The Remarkable Life of Ibn Sab’in

Who would you pick given the opportunity to meet a key historical figure from the past? In his novel, “A Muslim Suicide,” translated from Arabic by Roger Allen, writer and liberal philosopher Bensalem Himmich has chosen to breathe life into Sufi philosopher, Ibn Sab’in (1217-1269). True to his independent nature, Sab’in acts as his own narrator, detailing his life and philosophy against the turbulent backdrop of 12th century Spain. The philosopher offers perspective on a wide variety of topics, from making love to the value of living a life of solitude and reflection.

"Oil Curse": The Petro-Dollar Paradox

Ironically, the presence of rich natural petro-resources does not ensure sustained economic growth and development. Louis Martinez examines the political and economic histories of Algeria, Iraq, and Libya, postulating that petro dollars, far from guaranteeing stability and security for these countries, have instead allowed dysfunctional regimes to maintain power through the funding of abusive security forces. Louis Martinez's “The Violence of Petro-Dollar Regimes: Algeria, Iraq and Libya” offers important lessons for emerging democracies in oil-rich countries.

From Nomad to Farmer: The Steep Price of “Civilization”

New Waw
By Ibrahim Al-Koni
Translated and Introduced by William M. Hutchins
Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 
The University of Texas at Austin, 2014
By Frances Khairallah Noble
Ibrahim al-Koni has an ancient story to tell. It is the story of his tribe’s transition from nomadic to settled life, a transition depicted as an abandonment of the freedom and wandering required to invigorate the soul, a surrender to the seduction of earthly things.