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MENA (the Middle-East & North Africa)

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Islamic State (ISIS)

MENA: basic reading... Middle East Resources. The Arab Uprisings. Interactive: Winds of change. Twitter network of Arab protests - interactive map. GCC. This Is Not a Revolution by Hussein Agha and Robert Malley. All lies and jest Still, a man hears what he wants to hear And disregards the rest—Paul Simon Darkness descends upon the Arab world.

Waste, death, and destruction attend a fight for a better life. Outsiders compete for influence and settle accounts. The peaceful demonstrations with which this began, the lofty values that inspired them, become distant memories. Elections are festive occasions where political visions are an afterthought. Games occur within games: battles against autocratic regimes, a Sunni–Shiite confessional clash, a regional power struggle, a newly minted cold war.

New or newly invigorated actors rush to the fore: the ill-defined “street,” prompt to mobilize, just as quick to disband; young protesters, central activists during the uprising, roadkill in its wake. Alliances are topsy-turvy, defy logic, are unfamiliar and shifting. In record time, Turkey evolved from having zero problems with its neighbors to nothing but problems with them. It’s a game of musical chairs. Middle East / North Africa. The # MENA Daily. A Middle East without borders? The modern geography of the Middle East was carved out by British and French colonialists whose sole interest was in sharing the spoils of war between themselves and in maintaining their supremacy over the region in the early part of the 20th century.

A Middle East without borders?

The contours of the region, with its immaculately straight lines (see maps of Algeria, Libya, Egypt and Sudan) are much the same today as when they were first drawn up, despite decades of cross-border encroachment and conflict. Never has an imported concept been so jealously guarded by ruling families and political elites in the Middle East as that of the nation state, together with the holy grail of international relations theory, state sovereignty. The artificialness of the borders in question is not in doubt. What you may find, however, are free-flowing train routes spanning the region.

A relic of the old Hejaz Railway, which connected Damascus to Medina, still stands (dilapidated) in the centre of the Syrian capital. Underground and in the Closet - By David Kenner. Enough with Amina, already.

Underground and in the Closet - By David Kenner

The sock-puppet blogger "Gay Girl in Damascus," who turned out to be a straight guy in Scotland has captured the world's attention -- but the real gay communities in the Middle East face legal and societal discrimination every day. In most Middle Eastern countries, homosexuality is a criminal offense, though laws are enforced to varying degrees. And the Arab Spring, which many gay-rights organizations hoped would bring greater acceptance, has proved to be an ambivalent blessing. The real gay men and women in Damascus -- and Dubai, Cairo, and Amman -- are facing more serious problems than confused Internet identities. The law: The Constitution of the United Arab Emirates, which Dubai is a part of, criminalizes homosexuality, in part because it's a violation of sharia law. The reality: Dubai, which enjoys a reputation as the most liberal emirate in the UAE, has long sustained an underground gay community. The situation is worst for transgender people.


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