Of Principle and Peril

by The Editors | published March 22, 2011

Reasonable, principled people can disagree about whether, in an ideal world, Western military intervention in Libya’s internal war would be a moral imperative. With Saddam Hussein dead and gone, there is arguably no more capricious and overbearing dictator in the Arab world than Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi. The uprising of the Libyan people against him, beginning on February 17, was courageous beyond measure. It seems certain that, absent outside help, the subsequent armed insurrection would have been doomed to sputter amidst the colonel’s bloody reprisals. 

Boys in the Mud

Maghrebi Filmmakers in France

by Alec C. Hargreaves
published in MER211

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Migration, Modernity and Islam in Rural Sudan

by Victoria Bernal
published in MER211

For the villagers of Wad al-Abbas in northern Sudan, transnational migration has generated new understandings of what it means to be a Muslim. From the mid-1970s through the 1980s, Wad al-Abbas’s incorporation into the global economy was mediated primarily by Saudi Arabia. The Saudi kingdom exerted influence on Sudan at the national level by pressuring then-President Numeiri to institute shari‘a law in 1983 and funding opposition groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. At the same time, Saudi Arabia attracted ordinary Sudanese from all walks of life as labor migrants. Villagers from Wad al-Abbas found work in Saudi Arabia as truck drivers, electricians, factory workers and sales clerks.

Keeping Migrant Workers in Check

The Kafala System in the Gulf

by Anh Nga Longva
published in MER211

For nearly half a century, the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- have been a destination point for international labor migration, annually attracting large numbers of workers from the Middle East and Asia. The GCC states are unique because of the skewed character of their demographic profile: Expatriate workers make up more than 50 percent of the total population in Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE, [1] and more than 25 percent of the populations of Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia.

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Recent Trends in Middle Eastern Migration

by David McMurray
published in MER211

Although the history of Middle Eastern labor migration to North America is not as well known as that of Irish and Southern European immigrants, Yemenis were working in Detroit by the 1920s and Palestinian and Lebanese diasporas existed around the globe before the end of the nineteenth century. North Africans were migrating to France by the thousands during World War I, and by the tens of thousands after World War II. Yet it was not until the 1970s, with the advent of the Middle East oil boom, that rates of inter-Arab and Asian-Gulf migration took off. The new requirements for labor as well as the vast differences in wealth between sending and receiving countries fueled the process. Male workers from Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia headed to Libya.

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Risking the Strait

Moroccan Labor Migration to Spain

by Gregory White
published in MER218

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Storming the Fences

Morocco and Europe's Anti-Migration Policy

by Elie Goldschmidt
published in MER239

"'Black locusts' are taking over Morocco!" So ran the September 12, 2005 headline of al-Shamal, an Arabic-language Tangier newspaper, describing the forays of masses of in-transit sub-Saharan Africans trying to scale the security fences separating Morocco from the Spanish-ruled enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. Moroccan authorities immediately banned al-Shamal for employing this racist language, but the press on both sides of the Mediterranean continued to use terms like “massive invasion” and “plague” to denote the sub-Saharan migrants’ repeated attempts in September and early October to escape from Africa into the territory of the European Union.

The Other Casualties of War in Iraq

by Rebecca Milligan
published in MER239

Labor practices in Iraq are under scrutiny, as contractors hire poor non-Iraqis to work low-wage jobs in a deadly environment. Migrant workers are employed through complex layers of companies working in Iraq. At the top of the pyramid is the US government, which assigned over $24 billion in contracts over 2004–2005. Laborers are often deceived with false promises of lucrative, safe jobs in nations such as Jordan and Kuwait, only to find themselves working in unsafe jobs across the border. Some source countries have banned workers from going to Iraq, but, with little regulation, labor brokers are finding loopholes.

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States of Fragmentation in North Africa

by Paul Silverstein
published in MER237

Nearly 50 years after independence, the North African states of Algeria and Morocco face challenges to their national unity and territorial integrity. In Algeria, a

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