Murals and Museums: Transforming the Yemeni Narrative

On a wall in the streets of London, a man is chained to a tree trunk by a dog while another man watches. Titled “Dirty Legacy,” this image depicts the international community’s neglect of the suffering of Yemenis amidst civil war, death, famine, and destruction. At the peak of political instability, the Saudi-led coalition has perpetuated the conflict in Yemen has displaced millions of Yemenis all over the world and within their country. Millions have lost their lives due to government corruption, civil war, and international neglect. In response to the propaganda-filled Yemeni media, “one-voice-one color” politics, failed Western media coverage, and reductionist UN statistics, Yemeni art is

The Ghost of Lebanon’s Civil War: Remembering, 30 Years Later

The Lebanese Civil War, which lasted from 1975 to 1990, has become known as one of the deadliest conflicts of the late 20th century. While it concluded almost three decades ago, Lebanon still suffers from its effects politically and psychologically. Lebanon is a multi-sectarian and multiethnic nation state, officially recognizing eighteen religious communities. A key element of the war’s difficult aftermath has been its nature as a primarily sectarian conflict which pitted numerous groups of Lebanese citizens against each other. This landscape, in which multiple sectarian militias each fought to take hold of the nation, is in part what allowed the war to continue for fifteen years. The civil

The Hypocrisy of the Moroccan Theory of Free Speech

In theory, Law 88.13 of The Press and Publications Code of Morocco eliminates prison sentences for nonviolent speech offenses. According to this law, Moroccan journalists have the freedom to express their opinions of the government, the King, or their community. In theory, journalist Hajar Raissouni could not have been arrested for her political views and criticisms of the monarchy. And she was not. Instead, on August 31st, Raissouni was arrested for participating in extramarital sex and performing an illegal abortion—both practices which are punishable by an extended prison sentence. Her arrest caused an immediate national and international outcry, with hundreds of journalists and women pro

The Meme Revolution? Maybe, But Be Careful.

“Decades-long corruption and economic instability renders old protest methods outdated. Now, combatants in the anti-government street war have new tools at their hands: memes, satire, and a more democratized social media.” A young man poses for a photo with a medium-sized white poster in Beirut. On it is a commonly circulated image of social media influencer Kylie Jenner, captured mid-sentence sporting a rather dumbfounded expression. The text that surrounds the photo reads, “Kylie Jenner for PRESIDENCY!” A joke, of course. But the use of humor and artistic absurdism is not unique to this one poster. It’s been a persisting visual theme of Lebanon’s most attended and consequential protest sin

Transcending the Uprisings in Iraq, Lebanon, Algeria, Sudan, and Egypt: A Reawakening of the Arab Po

The revolutions of 2011 represented the largest shake-up of the political, economic, and cultural landscape of the Arab world since the establishment of the modern Middle East. Assuming the moniker of the “Arab Spring” to reflect the parallels in democratization waves of Eastern Europe and Latin America, the revolutions displayed a similar domino effect, beginning in Tunisia followed by Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Syria, and Yemen. The uprisings, radical in their aim, targeted some of the most despotic and dictatorial regimes in the world. Beyond the individual revolutions, however, the Arab Spring was exceptional in creating a broader, transcendental awakening of the regional political conscious

Upending Past Alliances: Saudi’s Fraying Relationship with Hamas

Since the founding of Hamas in the late eighties, Saudi Arabia and Hamas have generally had cordial relations, with the Saudis allowing Hamas-related activities like fundraising to take place on Saudi soil. The relationship, however, has gone through some rough times. In the late 2000’s, as Hamas started to become more aligned with Iran, the Saudis were unsurprisingly not supportive. During the Arab Spring, Hamas moved closer towards the Saudis again as they both supported the Syrian opposition. This alignment of positions did not last for long, though. In 2013 as Mohamed Morsi was overthrown, the Saudis threw their support behind the military leaders who staged the coup. Hamas predictably s

Vision 2030: A Crown Prince, YouTube, and Social Activism in Saudi Arabia

On April 25th, 2016, young Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman announced the ambitious Saudi Vision 2030. Recognizing a historic dependency on oil wealth and foreign labor, Bin Salman launched this program to diversify and nationalize the Kingdom’s economy. The systematic overhauls of Saudi society included full-scale growth of the entertainment industry, as well as lifting the controversial ban on women driving. Soon after, Bin Salman rose to prominence as a “young progressive,” pushing Saudi Arabia forward and making it a more comfortable, sanitized ally to its historic Western partners. Yet, Saudi Arabia’s biggest young progressives seem to be left behind in this so-called “pro

Yes, They Still Exist, But not for Long

“Iraq’s current political and social state is a product of the imperialist powers that occupy the territory under the guise of aid and guidance.” The United Nations has marked 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages and August 9th as the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The Middle East is often thought of as a monolithic population largely by the West, and even by the people of the Middle East itself. However, its rich history and diverse culture consists not only of Muslims, Christians, and Jews, but of indigenous groups who have existed for thousands of years before the establishment of the Abrahamic faiths. The Sabean-Mandaeans are only one of these many

'Never Again,' Again

“Germany has had a neo-Nazi problem for decades, and the government’s unwillingness to address it has severely amplified the gravity of this year’s events” If there is one country that people would assume not to repeat the mistakes of its past, it is Germany. The German approach to coming to terms with its atrocious past is widely regarded as one of brutal honesty, and one that would prevent a calamity like the Holocaust from ever happening again. Yet, despite the countless reassurances from the German state that #neveragain means never again, neo-Nazis made a full-blown comeback in 2019: In June, Walter Lübcke, a conservative politician who had previously called for a more tolerant stance t

Breaking the Ice: The Arctic Scramble

Discussions at the UN Climate Change Summit that convened this past September concerned the urgency of adapting to, combating, and ultimately solving this worsening crisis that will, among many other impacts, decimate island nations, ruin agricultural economies, and transform the environment as the modern world knows it. However, while climate change poses a major threat to many nations, a different attitude to climate change has been rather overlooked by Nordic nations as well as Russia, which could stand to benefit from the melting of Arctic sea ice. Russia has gotten a head start; unlike the Nordic nations, it has prepared for the Arctic sea ice’s inevitable melting. At this point, given

Finland: The World’s “Happiest” Country?

A café in Helsinki, Finland. The top sign says “punainen tupa ja perunamaa”, a Finnish saying which means that one only needs “a red house and a potato field” to be happy. The bottom sign translates to “this is that potato field.” Source: WikiMedia Commons. For the past two years, Finland has held the title of “happiest country in the world,” per the United Nations’ World Happiness Report. The report, released every March, ranks the happiness of countries by measuring variables such as income levels, strength of social support programs, and life expectancy. Overall, however, the report emphasizes factors that contribute to comfortable lifestyles; it does not necessarily measure the emotional

Is Europe's "Green Wave" Here to Stay?

If there is one word that best describes Green Party successes, it would be “anomalous.” Green is the color of the moment. Election after election, European green parties are rising amid a heightened sense of urgency and student-led climate strikes spearheaded by Greta Thunberg. It is not the first time that green parties in Europe have had the wind at their backs, and it is likely not the last. However, it should be asked: are these gains sustainable? If history is anything to go by, then the answer appears to be “no.” Yet, even if the upwelling in green parties’ support is only temporary, the growing influence of climate activism may still presage greater influence and a higher floor for t

Italy’s Immigration Balancing Act: Can the new administration reverse Salvini’s harsh stance on immi

August 8th, 2019, then current Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini of Italy effectively toppled his own government when he filed a ‘no confidence’ motion against Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. This motion ended the Lega Nord party’s coalition with the Five Star Movement, and Salvini hoped Italy would resort to a snap election where he could become Prime Minister. But, the Five Star Movement formed a new governing coalition with the center-left Democratic Party and Conte remained PM. The new administration, composed of Prime Minister Conte and his ministers, is tasked with the delicate balancing act of aligning itself with the EU by softening the hardline anti-im

Looking South, Another Missed Opportunity

On an increasingly fractured continent, a glimmer of hope for European unity appeared this past summer. Against the idyllic backdrop of Lake Prespa, straddling the border between North Macedonia and Greece, the two countries finally settled their longstanding name dispute. Twenty-five years of hostility ended as North Macedonia changed its name on the explicit promise of EU and NATO accession talks as a reward. Concurrent to these negotiations, neighboring Albania undertook its own changes, implementing steps laid out by the EU as prerequisites to membership. This included judicial reforms and giving the Union’s Frontex border agency access to internal police operations. However, when the EU

One for All, All for None

“The European Union needs connected intelligence-sharing, but how?” In October 2019, after President Donald Trump pulled a thousand military personnel out of Syria, many feared a security crisis loomed over the United States. Hundreds of Islamic State (IS) prisoners escaped detention facilities, but President Trump was confident that his move would not impact American security; when asked how the withdrawal would hurt the United States, he responded, “they’re going to be escaping to Europe.” Indeed, the European Union (EU) faces a new threat that its neighbor across the pond will not. ISIS fighters, fleeing Kurdish custody, will become threats elsewhere, with Europe as a primary target. With

Safety First? How Erdogan’s Proposed ‘Safe-Zone’ in Northern Syria is Anything But Safe.

B. A. Bacigal “The world has forgotten about Alan Kurdi too quickly,” said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a speech before the United Nations General Assembly this past September. He said this and more all while holding the picture of the boy that so rocked the world just a few years prior. Yet, his words rang hollow as they were followed by a call for the establishment of a safe zone that, while seemingly well-intentioned, would not actually help little boys like Alan, but would instead continue to serve as a deterrent to asylum claims for refugees and force repatriation to a still insecure region of Syria. Following the sudden withdrawal of one thousand U.S. troops from northern

Squaring Off Against European Industrial Champions and their Fans

An Alstom EMU250 Pendolino Train. Source: Wikimedia Commons A small panic has seized the economic policy minds of Europe this year. Once the United Kingdom breaks from the European Union, only 12 of the world’s top 100 companies will be “European,” down from 28 a mere decade ago. Against this backdrop, onlookers imbued the recent merger proposal between Germany’s Siemens and France’s Alstom with elevated importance. The merger sought to create a multinational high-speed train and railroad signaling technologies conglomerate large enough to rival China’s state-owned CRRC Corporation, but was ultimately blocked in February by the European Commission. In the wake of the Siemens-Alstom decision,

The Conservatives Paving The Path For The Union’s Breakup

“The concept of having a united group of fiercely patriotic nations under one national government is remarkable, but also fragile” In a 2017 speech, former Prime Minister Theresa May touched on the core of her Brexit strategy when she confidently stated: “it’s why we will put the preservation of our precious Union at the heart of everything we do. Because it is only by coming together as one great union of nations and people that we can make the most of the opportunities ahead.” May’s promise to preserve the Union, a collection of distinct nations — England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland — is borne from the very foundation of her political party: the Conservative and Unionist Party.

Thinking Ahead, Putin Accepts Cabinet Resignation and Announces Major Reforms

Vladimir Putin’s January 15th State of the Nation address signaled a bevy of impending changes for the Russian government, with the President proposing a variety of consequential reforms. Putin’s suggested reforms centered on increasing the power of the Russian Parliament, or Duma, at the expense of the executive— primarily, Putin proposed granting the Duma the power to select candidates for the cabinet, including the prime minister. Additionally, Putin proposed limiting future presidents to two total terms (currently, the only limit is two consecutive terms; Putin has served two consecutive terms twice, with a brief intermediary period as prime minister). Putin proposed enacting his changes

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