What Is Activism?

by Jillian Schwedler , Kevan Harris
published in MER281

In early 2011, the world watched as millions of people took to the streets across the Arab world to demand the fall of regimes, or at least substantial political reforms. As the weeks and then months unfolded, the broadcast media adopted split screens to show simultaneous live footage of crowds in multiple countries. Some regimes were toppled and many were seriously shaken, but no regime in the region was left untouched. The high visibility of the uprisings, together with massive street protests on nearly every continent, led Time to name “the protester” as the 2011 Person of the Year.

The Arab World’s Non-Linear Electricity Transitions

by Zachary Davis Cuyler
published in MER280

For many, especially in the United States, the Arab world is closely associated with fossil fuels. But over the past several years, a raft of news articles, opinion pieces and analyses have hailed the advent of renewable energy—especially solar power—in Arab countries. Many such pieces open with images meant to defy the reader’s expectations.

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Between Terror and Tyranny

Political Islam in the Shadow of the Arab Uprisings

by Abdullah Al-Arian | published December 30, 2015

Nearly a year after Egypt’s first democratically elected president was overthrown by a military coup led by Field Marshal ‘Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi, a spokesperson for the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) released a video statement that reserved harsh words for Muhammad Mursi. In the May 2014 video, ISIS spokesperson Abu Muhammad al-‘Adnani called the imprisoned Muslim Brother leader “a tyrant apostate,” charged Mursi with “fighting monotheists in Sinai” during his short-lived presidency and called for retribution against him.

The Lessons Algeria Can Teach Today's Middle East

by Miriam R. Lowi | published April 22, 2015

As we witness today the escalating horrors across the Middle East—acute insecurity, combined with varying degrees of violence, death and destruction, from Libya and Egypt, to Syria, Iraq and now Yemen, we may want to recall the Algerian experience of the 1990s and consider some lessons to be drawn from it.

Algerians today have certainly not forgotten those “years of lead”: indeed, the absence of an Algerian “Arab spring” in 2011 had much to do with painful memories, weariness and disappointments from that recent past. But for the governments and peoples of the countries of the region currently in turmoil, Algeria, which is so near, appears so very far away. Let’s bring the Algerian experience back into focus.

Issawi, The Arab World's Legacy

by James A. Reilly
published in MER117

Charles Issawi, The Arab World’s Legacy: Essays (Princeton, NJ: The Darwin Press, 1981).

Charles Issawi is well known for his important work in the social and economic history of the Middle East, and a number of his contributions are reproduced here. One finds, among other things, discussions of medieval demography and trade, and of capitalist penetration and industrialization in more recent times.

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Hiro, Inside the Middle East

by Peter Johnson
published in MER121

Dilip Hiro, Inside the Middle East (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1982).

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Labor Migration in the Arab World

by Fred Halliday
published in MER123

The Arab world comprises 18 states and was inhabited, in 1980, by more than 150 million people. [1] Two factors vital to economic development—population and oil—are, however, distributed in an extremely uneven manner among these states. The abstract possibility of mutually beneficial cooperation between the population-rich and the oil-rich is not being realized. Instead, we are seeing a process of increased inequality and deterioration in the productive and human resources of the Arab world: first, between the oil-rich and population-rich states; and second, between the Arab world as a whole and the industrialized economies from whom the real wealth of the Arab countries (mediated through oil revenues) is coming.

The Responsibilities of the Cartoonist

An Interview with Khalid Albaih

by Katy Kalemkerian , Khalid Mustafa Medani
published in MER274

Khalid Albaih is a political cartoonist “from the two countries of Sudan,” in his words, who is now based in Qatar. His drawings appear at his Facebook page, entitled Khartoon! in a play on the name of the Sudanese capital. Katy Kalemkerian and Khalid Medani spoke with him in Montreal on November 9, 2014, and conducted a follow-up interview by Skype after the January 2015 attack on the offices of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, notorious for its regular caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in degrading or humiliating poses.

From the Editors

by The Editors
published in MER274

It is easy to be rendered speechless, or cast into despair, by the sheer enormity of the conflagration in today’s Middle East. At year’s end in 2014, more than half of the countries this magazine covers were embroiled in wars within their borders or nearby. The Saudi-led assault on Yemen launched in March brings that proportion to over three quarters. The retrograde political forces in the region—authoritarianism, paranoid nationalism, ethno-religious chauvinism—are on the rise, while democrats and defenders of human rights are in prison or in exile.

The Arab Economies in the 1970s

by Roger Owen
published in MER100-101

The 1970s were undoubtedly the most dramatic and important years in recent Middle Eastern history. The decade began politically with the death of Nasser, the formal withdrawal of the British from the Gulf and the first sharp increase in the price of oil. Oil -- its production and marketing, its revenues, its social impact -- was at the center of the economic transformation of the region. By the end of the decade, most Arab oil regimes (with the exception of Saudi Arabia) had nationalized their reserves and producing facilities and taken formal control of pricing and rates of production. Huge sums of money accrued to the major oil exporters, encouraging mammoth infrastructural investment and equally massive labor migration to the Gulf states and Libya.