'Ajamis in Lebanon

The Non-Arab Arabs?

by Roschanack Shaery
published in MER237

It is Muharram, the month of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, and the female-run husseiniyya in West Beirut is packed with women dressed in black. As the sounds of Lebanese and Iraqi Arabic dialects, as well as Persian, fill the hallways of this Shi‘i community center, the female religious performer (qari’a) signals that the ritual program (majlis) will begin shortly. She is an Iraqi, and while she reads from her thick notebook, a woman standing next to her reads the same text in Persian for those in the audience who do not understand Arabic. Some of these women are Iranians who have married into Iraqi Shi‘i families of Persian descent who settled in Lebanon after being expelled from Iraq by the deposed Baathist regime.

Please Subscribe to access the full contents of this article.

Communalism and Thwarted Aspirations of Iraqi Citizenship

by Sami Zubaida
published in MER237

Many commentators on the state of Iraq after the removal of the Baathist regime in 2003 have attributed the chaos and sectarian-ethnic conflict to some essence of Iraqi society: fissiparous and tribal, only governable by the firm hand of authoritarian dictatorship. This is, of course, an ahistorical view. These traits are not, somehow, in the “nature” of Iraqi society; they are products of its transformation by the violent and arbitrary regime, along with three destructive wars.

Please Subscribe to access the full contents of this article.

Unsettling the Categories of Displacement

by Julie Peteet
published in MER244

The Middle East has long had the dubious distinction of being one of the world’s major producers of refugees. By the beginning of 2007, the Middle East was generating 5,931,000 refugees out of a world total of 13,948,800. Over the past century, not just conflict but development projects, environmental disasters and state-mandated settlement of nomads have driven people from their homes. [1]

Claiming Jewish Communal Property in Iraq

by Michael R. Fischbach
published in MER248

On June 23, 2008, representatives of Iraqi Jewish communities in several countries met in London to form a new group, the World Organization of Jews from Iraq (WOJI). According to a press release issued shortly after the meeting, the purpose of WOJI was to “protect, preserve and promote Jewish communal assets remaining in Iraq and to protect, preserve and promote Iraqi Jewish heritage, including holy sites and shrines remaining in Iraq.” Iraq is home to the oldest continuously present Jewish community in the world.

Ramadan in Wounded Baghdad

by Huda Ahmed
published in MER241

In Ramadans past, teams of men drawn from neighborhoods across Baghdad faced off in nighttime matches of mihaibis (the ring game), an amusing pastime dating back to the Ottoman Empire. A ring, small enough to conceal in the palm of the hand, and unlike any other on the men’s fingers, was given to one team, whose leader chose a player to hold it in his clenched fist. The team with the ring then lined up, each man with clenched fists held out and turned downward.

Please Subscribe to access the full contents of this article.

Basra, the Reluctant Seat of "Shiastan"

by Reidar Visser
published in MER242

On December 24, 2005, an Iraqi writing under the signature “Hammad” published a remarkable message on a website devoted to southern Iraqi affairs:

The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq

by Roel Meijer
published in MER237

The October 15, 2005 referendum on the new Iraqi constitution, like other stages in the US-sponsored political transition after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, drew fresh attention to the many opponents of that transition and the US occupation who are not directly involved in the ongoing insurgency. In keeping with the pattern in place since the old regime fell, the global media identified this opposition as “Sunni,” implying that political attitudes in Iraq are uniquely determined by religious affiliation. In fact, these opposition forces are not uniformly Sunni Arab, and many are secular nationalist -- not sectarian or even religious -- in orientation and identity.

Making Big Money on Iraq

by Pete Moore
published in MER252

Kuwait has its diwaniyyas, Yemen its qat chews. But for languorous trade in rumor, gossip and flashes of political insight, there is no substitute for chain-smoking and eating Iraqi masgouf.

At one of several Iraqi establishments in Sharjah, a down-market cousin of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, the host centered the bulging fish upon a table for six. “Iraq’s economy is like the fish,” he said, laughing. “How much you get depends on how quickly you eat.” It is an apt description of today’s Iraq -- the country’s patrimony is literally being divvied up and devoured.