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"Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another." author Toni Morrison (1931- 05.08.2019)

“If I tell the story, I control the version. Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me”; Nora Ephron, author/comedian

"Make your story count". Michelle Obama

"Social pain is understood through the lens of racial animus". Researcher/author Sean McElwee writing in Salon, 2016

"We are citizens, not subjects. We have the right to criticize government without fear."  Chelsea Manning; activist/whisleblower

“My father was a slave and my people died to build this country, and I’m going to stay right here and have a part of it, just like you, And no fascist minded people, like you, will drive me from it. Is that clear?” Paul Robeson; activist/singer

“We have a system of justice in this country that treats you much better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent”. from civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson

“This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?” Frederick Douglass, WHAT TO THE SLAVE IS 4TH JULY? 07.05.1852 (full text in blog)

Senator Elizabeth Warren "We're a country that is built on our differences; that is our strength, not our weakness"

 

"We are more alike than we are different"v  Maya Angelou

As a Black writer, I was expected to accept the role of victim. That made it difficult in the beginning to be a writer.      James Baldwin

I often feel that there must have been something that I should’ve done that I didn’t do. But I can’t identify what it is that I didn’t do. That’s the first difficulty. And the second is, what makes you think you’re it?   

         Harry Belafonte, activist and singer at 89

 

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble; It's what you know for sure that just ainst so.

Mark Twain

 

You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you.

Mary Tyler Moore

 

 You can’t defend Christianity by being against refugees and other religions

Pope Francis:

 

"I don't have to be what you want me to be". Muhammad Ali

"The Secret of Living Well and Longer: eat half, walk double, laugh triple, and love without measure"  attributed to Tibetan sources

Recent audio posts include interviews with Rumi interpreter Shahram Shiva, London-based author Aamer Hussein, South African Muslim scholar, professor Farid Esack, and Iraqi journalist Nermeen Al-Mufti's brief account of Kirkuk City history. Your comments on our blogs are always welcome.

 

Algeria Left Out of Arabs' Spring

2012-07-18

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria:-- all ‘in transition’ to one degree or another. Some uprisings are inspired from within; some are promoted by outside forces. Particles of leaked news suggest civil unrest continues in Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan. No corner of our troubled Arab World is spared, it seems.

Wherever one party rules, corruption is often not far behind, and desperate jobless youths demand change. Common conditions in Arab societies, alas.

The West watches with interest. World leaders sometimes declare “it’s time for him to step aside.” Elsewhere they offer military assistance, diplomatic cover, or a shield from prying media. Meanwhile funds are allocated and NGOs furnish our hungry IT generation with ‘democracy workshops’.

By now it’s obvious that ‘Arab Spring’ is a capricious and selective phenomenon. Nowhere is this discrimination better illustrated than Algeria.

And what about Algeria? A major partner in the Arab league, a steadfast friend of Palestinians, a model of anti-colonial struggle. It’s also a place with serious domestic problems, no effective democracy, and limited human rights. Where is she today?

Bordering Libya and Tunisia, sharing many of the economic and political woes of its neighbors, we hear barely a word from Algeria. As if this were not a country in need of reform, not a land brimming with restless youth, not a society managed for two generations by a single party working closely with military officers.

If there is a swath of injustice, despair and mismanagement over which the spring of democracy is sweeping, surely Algeria lies in its path.

The marginalization of Algeria, its virtual blackout by international media surely warrants deeper interest.  By the standards of what is transpiring in nearby states, Algeria is suspiciously quiet. The unrest that erupted in Tunisia 20 months ago is on Algeria’s doorstep. So, why do we hear little from Algeria’s 34 million inhabitants?

How many know about the rash of protests inside Algeria at the time Tunisia erupted? Do we know that in May the country held nationwide parliamentary elections which only extended the 50 year rule of the FLN party? How about Algeria’s president amending the constitution to extend his rule to a third term?

Algerians characterize their nation as “a rich country of poor people”. Many economic indices would place most Algerians near Egyptians and Yemenis. Yes, while Algeria enjoys huge revenues from fossil fuel sales, its economy bears no resemblance to those ‘oil rich’ Arab states at the far perimeter of the Middle East.  

I spent two years in Algeria, a place few journalists can visit and tourists and scholars avoid. My residence and wide access there allowed me to understand the endemic corruption and hopelessness, the mismanagement, the limits of the press, the supremacy of Algeria’s military. I saw how many of its professionals are lured away by French companies; I learned about thousands of young Algerians risking their lives to escape by boat across the Mediterranean, with many perishing at sea.

Middle East experts may argue that Algeria is better off than countries where the USA, UK and UN have signaled a regime change is overdue. By many standards, I suggest, conditions in Algeria are worse.

Why is this country sidelined?

Algeria’s quiescence may be the result of some special agreement with the ‘powers’ deciding who falls and who survives. Algeria is not known as a friend of the US; it would also not appear to be allied with France, given its hard fought war to rid itself of French occupation. In actual fact, Algeria’s interests are deeply tied to these powers, neither of which would welcome instability—i.e. revolution-- there.  

First Algeria is a major energy supplier to Europe and to the US. It is a huge market for French consumer goods, from essential foods to pharmaceuticals. Algeria has also emerged as a major partner with Europe and the USA in their anti-terrorist policy in Africa; ties between that nation’s security services and military and the Pentagon grow year by year.

To understand the most important of Algeria’s assets for the West, look at a map. Algeria is an enormous, strategically placed country. Its land mass reaches deep into Africa absorbing much of the Sahel, the sparsely inhabited Sahara, bordering Morocco, Mauritania, Mali, Tunisia, Libya, and Niger. Here, some say, al-Qaeda terrorists and other hostile threats can hide and prepare future attacks. This is also where AFRICOM, the American military mission for Africa, wants to be.

Until now, all African nations gave a firm “No” to US requests to place AFRICOM on their territory. But with new instabilities created by the Arab Spring and the revolt in northern Mali, American military interest in the area is more urgent. The argument for AFRICOM may be gaining acceptance, and Algeria could well be the best candidate to facilitate AFRICOM.

Under these circumstances, why would Washington care about the civil rights and dignity of Algerians any more than it does for Saudi Arabians?

This brief commentary is not about whether an Algerian revolution is overdue. It is simply to point out how Western ‘interests’ play a vital role in the now misnomered Arab Spring. Moreover, independent of government agendas, Algeria and its people are worth our attention.

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