These articles represent the views of the authors only, and do not constitute the positions of UCLA, the International Institute, or the Center for Middle East Development.  Readers are invited to offer alternative perspectives to csaleh[at]international.ucla.edu.

 

Cycle of Violence: Abused Egyptian Conscripts Become Abusers

Cycle of Violence: Abused Egyptian Conscripts Become Abusers

The CSF serves as first line of defense when Egyptian authorities seek to quell demonstrations quickly, often using excessive, and at times deadly, force to suppress protests. Even though this paramilitary organization acts as an instrument of oppression and abuse against citizens, its conscripts are regularly subjected to severe mistreatment from their commanding officers and superiors.

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My Family Is Being Sanctioned

A personal account of how my family and many others like us have been unfairly caught in the cross-hairs of sanctions while the international community inches toward a nuclear deal with Iran (or not). What can you do when your government’s sanctions abroad have a biting sting at home?

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UCLA Activists: Take My Mother's Advice

by Steven L. Spiegel, Director of the UCLA Center for Middle East Development; Professor of Political Science at UCLA

It’s been a bad week.  Everywhere I went, people interested in or associated with the Middle East were calling each other names.  At UCLA Tuesday night a 12 hour meeting that began at 7:00 in the early evening and ended at 7:00 in the morning was held to determine whether the student council would adopt a resolution recommending divestment from several companies that do business in the West Bank.  It was a gesture that could not be implemented because the University Regents had already declared they would not divest, but that didn’t stop the 600 or so students present from engaging in a bitter debate filled with vituperative and vicious name-calling, accusations filled with Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.  When it was all over, the anti-divestment forces had won in a close 7-5 vote, but even the exhausted students were stunned by the virulence of the acrimony and the hostility.  As student after student asked to see me to try to understand what had happened, I was stunned that placid UCLA in sunny southern California was suddenly afire with vitriol, hatred, and frustration such as had not been seen on campus since the Vietnam War.  It will take a long time to recover from the depressing marathon.

My mother used to tell us growing up over and over again: “If you can’t say something constructive, don’t say it.”  Until this week, I hadn’t thought about that phrase for years, though I’d like to say I follow it subconsciously, or try to.  It’s very wise advice.  The Middle East would be far better off if the saying was followed more often. 

 Some people may not like each other, and they may deeply disagree, which is understandable.  But people shouldn't call each other (or the parties their opponents are defending) names and accuse them of all sorts of false and untrue crimes.  As many UCLA students learned this week, when serious dialogue and interchange is replaced by chaotic screaming, no problems can be solved and no useful discussion can occur. To my utter consternation, the kind of confrontations I've avoided in my 25 years of mediating Middle East dialogue were creeping into the discourse.  We shouldn’t and can’t have that; it will destroy and dishearten everyone engaged.  It is what so defeated both sides in the UCLA student debate this week.

Rain finally came to drought-stricken Los Angeles this week; even the skies seemed to be in tears.  I hope the rain washes away the bitterness and resentment, and I hope our little community keeps up a focus on positive resolutions and recommendations to make the region a better place.  Odious comparisons and epithets hurled at others will only make matters worse.  That’s not what we're here to accomplish, and that’s not what we want to do in the future.  I hope you agree.

The Square: Fighting for the Revolutionary Narrative

The Square: Fighting for the Revolutionary Narrative

It is 2011: the Tunisians have successfully ousted Ben Ali, and the revolutionary fervor has just reached Egypt. This is where The Square (al-Midan) begins, in what would later be named Tahrir Square, talking to wide-eyed, excited activists who have pitched tents and are beginning their own calls of freedom: “The people demand the downfall of the regime.” The film is criticized for its biases, but also lauded for its intimate portrayal of this momentous event.

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Iraq and Kurdistan Must Face Each Other as Oil Standoff Becomes Regional

Iraq and Kurdistan Must Face Each Other as Oil Standoff Becomes Regional

Kurdistan ramps up its oil exportation with a new pipeline to Turkey; Baghdad retaliates by attacking companies that have purchased "illegal" Kurdish oil. As the conflict becomes increasingly heated and multilateral, Iraq and semi-autonomous Kurdistan must deal directly with one another before the conflict ignites the region.

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