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Said’s Orientalism Through the “Clash of Civilizations” and Reel Bad Arabs

When Edward Said published his work on orientalism in the 1970s it served as kind of a shocking wake up call to the familiar and comfortable way academics around the world had been viewing the Arab World and the Middle East for the better part of the last couple of centuries. Today it is hard to image to find any kind of academic work on this region of the world that doesn’t make some mention of the term orientalism, or at least the ideas behind Said’s definition of orientalism. In the introduction to his work Edward Said mentions several key characteristics of orientalism; though these characteristics are many, and in some cases overlapping there are four of these characteristic that stand out: the geopolitical/ geographic nature of orientalism, the concept of a binary otherness, the uneven exchange of power, and the interests of the modern political-intellectual state. The characteristics of Said’s orientalism are evident in the work of Samuel Huntington’s “The Clash of Civilizations” and in the documentary Reel Bad Arabs by Jack Shaheen.
One of the first characteristics that Said points out in his efforts to define orientalism is the fact that the very name of orientalism comes from the geographic term of the colonial era for the east as the orient. As the very name of the term has such a strong tie to a geographical awareness it is no wonder the term itself has much to do with geography. In Huntington’s “The Clash of Civilizations” the main argument is the fact that an armageddon will arise from a great clash of civilizations along cultural lines, yet Huntington himself defines these “cultures” in very geographical terms such as “Western” or “Latin American” civilizations. While the Middle East is presumably defined under the flag of an Islamic civilization the rhetoric and pervasiveness of the ideas of orientalism bring to mind a the world of the Middle East. In Huntington’s work geography as a characteristic of orientalism may not seem abundantly clear it is certainly more clear in terms of Shaheen’s documentary. In Reel Bad Arabs there is an entire section of the documentary devoted to what Shaheen calls the idea of “Arabland;” according to him “Arabland” is the geography of a vast stretching desert that is nearly always presented in films as the harsh homeland of the Arabs. The homogeny of this image, and the unrealistic nature of this hegemony is a clear representation of geography as a characteristic of orientalism as Said discusses it. Orientalism is a process of hegemony and simplification, and simplifying the whole range of geography found in the Arab world to a simple never ending desert exemplifies this characteristic of orientalism perfectly.
The orientalist constant desire for simplification lends itself to another characteristic of orientalism that Said discusses. The uneven exchange of power between the east and the west is most evident in the fact that orientalism strips the “other” from being able to speak and define themselves. This uneven power balance is most clearly seen I think in the realm of stereotypes and generalizations. Shaheen explores this idea throughly through the the ideas of the sexually belly dancing women, the creepy leacherous Arab men always after the white women, and the more modern identity of the terrorist. All of these identities exemplify this uneven exchange of power as they are clearly representative of the other’s inability to define themselves. The idea of the other being unable to define themselves is also evident throughout Huntington’s piece as he makes great sweeping generalization about people and places, cherry picking the facts that fit his narrative while the viewpoint of the other remains silent. This uneven exchange of power is important in understanding the scope and effect of the orientalist narrative; perhaps if the characteristic didn’t exist orientalism would have never become as pervasive as it is today.
A third characteristic of Said’s definition of orientalism revolves around the concept of the binary us vs. them; that is to say the idea of an “other.” Personally I think this is the most important aspect of understanding orientalism as it is this idea that creates the self-perpetuating paradigm of orientalism that makes it such a hard social idea to overcome. The human fear of the other is a well documented thing throughout history, and in my opinion Huntington is a master of capturing that fear and legitimizing it in academic terms. Huntington’s paper quiet literally predicts the end of time, and in his world the question “Which side are you on?” becomes synonyms with the question of “What are you?” He then goes on to say that “what” one is “is a given that cannot be changed.” This idea exemplifies otherness and prevents the “other” from ever hoping to leave this category. Otherness is also discussed in Shaheen’s work as he discusses several films that come back to the point that these other Arabs will always be different than us, and even the children are programmed in a way to be different than the west. These ideas of otherness play off fear. It is a fundamental characteristic of orientalism that is important to understand in the greater quest to understand what exactly orientalism is.
A final characteristic of orientalism is the modern intellectual- political fascination surrounding the term. This fascination is something that is well documented in Shaheen’s documentary through the examination of the connection between Hollywood and Washington. There is no doubt that several of the movies he presented had strong political messages that as Said put it have less to do with the Arab world and more to do with our world. Huntington is also an example of the power of this current interest. One could argue his work would not have gotten nearly so much attention had it not catered to the political scene in Washington. In a way Huntington’s argument simplified a complex issue into term that fit what Washington wanted to hear; therefore, it got a level of acceptance that might have never occurred had it gone against the views of powerful politicians. The intellectual and political world has a great deal of influence, and it is for this reason Said classifies it as a characteristic of orientalism.
Orientalism is term that seeks to simplify, to put issues into simple binary term; the ideas of orientalism have been embraced throughout society again and again, yet there is hope as long as it is recognized when it appears. Said’s characteristics of geography, uneven power, otherness, and an understanding of the role of the modern intellectual and political situation define orientalism so that it might be better recognized. The work of Shaheen provides support for Said’s argument of orientalism, and Huntington exemplifies this term. In the future, as long we can recognize orientalism for what it is there is hope me can move beyond the binary.

The Arab American Story Through Film

In films The Baby Doll Night and Amreeka, directors Adel Adeeb and Cherien Dabis offer both Arab and Arab American perspective of America. These perspective interact with the ideas of otherness, American exceptionalism, and what it means to be Arab American. Although these two films are quiet different cinematically, they present similar views of America through their different characters. Although they presents the topics in different ways, both films highlight the struggles of being classified as an other, discuss the story of American exceptionalism with regards to the war in Iraq, and what it means to be Arab American.
Both films throughly engage with the issue of otherness in a similar fashion. The concept of otherness caters to the binary definitions of an us versus them mentality; it is a term that dehumanizes and separates the us -in this case America- from the other – in this case both Arab Americans and Arabs. The concept of otherness in both films represents a kind boundary that must be overcome in order for the characters to achieve some kind of peace. In the film, Amreeka, this concept of otherness can be seen through the characterization of Fadi. Fadi is a Palestinian who has recently moved to America with his mother and now lives with his aunt’s family. Despite the fact that Fadi is eager to embrace a new Arab American identity, he is constantly faced with the struggles of being labeled as “other” particularly in school. This concept of other begins with his wardrobe as his cousin immediately dismisses his clothes as too FOB or fresh of the boat, and continues as he is bullied and harassed at school despite his best efforts to overcome this brand of other that has been placed on him. In the end of the film, he is seen as embracing and overcoming this term by refusing to fit into the binaries that otherness has placed on him. In the film The Baby Doll Night, otherness is dealt with similarly as a term though the circumstances are quiet different. The film takes place in the Arab world, and the viewer finds that despite this fact the concept of otherness is still a major issue of the film. I would argue in this film the concept of otherness does not center on a single chapter, but rather a more general examination of the relationship between the Arab world and America in response to the question that General Peter keeps asking which is “Why do the hate us?” I think that the director of the film was trying to make several arguments with this question, but Sarah’s understanding of the situation as America having always viewed Arabs as the dehumanized others provides the viewer with a greater understanding of otherness in this piece. Similarly to Amreeka, otherness is a brand that strips one of the power to decide and forces one to live within the binary. Sarah realizes that until both Arabs and Americans learn to place such terms aside there will be no peace. Both films engage with the concept of otherness as a binary cage that pits the us against the them and show the viewer that this binary must be overcome for peace of any kind to be achieved.
Although the perspectives of American exceptionalism with regard to the war in Iraq are presented very differently in these two films, I would argue that the directors strove to present similar messages. The film The Baby Doll Night dealt a lot more with the Iraqi war than Amreeka yet both managed to discusses the influence of American exceptionalism in this conflict. In Amreeka, this discussion was presented as just that, a class room discussion in Fadi’s social sciences class in high school. In this environment the voice of America exceptionalism was presented predominantly through a student in the class room whose brother was fighting in Iraq, while the rejection of this idea was voiced by Fadi’s cousin Selma. In the discussion, the idea of American exceptionalism comes out through the male student’s claim that his bother is over there fighting to give the Iraqi people freedom which caters to the exceptionalist concept that America has a responsibility to spread democracy across the world. Selma rejects this claim as the voice of the other stating that if the student truly believes that he is blind to the realities of the world. Although presented in a much more gruesome reality, The Baby Doll Night offers a similar perspective. In this film, the viewer sees the cost of American exceptionalism in the bloody reality of the Iraqi war. The message regarding the destructive and naive nature of American exceptionalism in this film can be understood through an interaction that Awadin has with a Iraqi taxi driver. The driver says that no, the Arab people didn’t love Suddam Hussien, but when he was in charge he understood things the Americans never even considered, and when he was in charge there wasn’t the bloody war they were living through in the film. On the other hand there is General Peter who serves as the voice of American exceptionalism in the film; he repeatedly argues that the Americans are fighting to bring democracy which he sees as an American duty. Although different, both of these films give the viewer the message that American exceptionalism, particularly in the Iraqi war, is a dangerous nativity that is put onto the American people who either can’t or won’t see the true cost of this idea.
A final similarity between these two films can be seen in the examination of what it means to be an Arab American. Amreeka deals a lot with this idea, particularly with the characterization of Raghda who has been living as an Arab American for fifteen years at the start of the film. Raghda is presented as extremely homesick and melancholy sick of her live in America and longing to return to Palestine. She has idealized her former live in Palestine and routinely makes trips to the Arab markets in an effort to feel connected with her home land. Although Amreeka also offers other perspectives on what it means to be an Arab American the characterization provides one strong similarity between the two films. In The Baby Doll Night, the story of Layla Corrie represents a similar perspective of what it means to be an Arab American. Layla is a news correspondent who is sympathetic to the cause of the Palestine in the Arab-Israeli conflict; in the film, she is run over by an Israeli tank. Although these two character might not seem similar at first, they present a similar message on what it means to be an Arab American. In these two cases, the Arab American identity is synonymous with destruction. In Raghda’s case this destruction is one of happiness and belonging, and in the case of Layla this destruction is one of life in its entirety. Although these are two very different stories, I would argue the directors’ messages were similar in both, there can be a successful Arab American story, Housam in The Baby Doll Night and Muna in Amreeka, but there can also be destruction and sorrow. In this way, both of these films presented similar perspectives on what it means to be Arab American.
The films The Baby Doll Night and Amreeka are two very different films that follow different story lines, yet they present similar messages and critiques regarding the concept of otherness, the story of American exceptionalism in the Iraqi war, and what it means to be an Arab America. Through characters such as Sarah, Awadin, and General Peter, or Fadi, Raghda, and Selma these two films leave the viewer with different emotions, but strong similar messages. The use of these different perspectives to provide similar conclusions makes a strong argument for the universality of these concepts.

A Responce to “Whatever Happened to the Turkish Model?”

The article “Whatever happened to the ‘Turkish Model’?” by Mustafa Akyol explores the recent collapse of the once highly praised ‘Turkish Model’ of democracy into authoritarianism. Akyol examines the degradation of democracy in Turkey through the history of the liberal A.K.P. political party that brought the liberal reforms and rhetoric which pulled the country out from under the control of the military at the start of the 21st century. The article gives two major reasons for the ultimate failure of the ‘Turkish Model’. First, the article argues that the A.P.K. adopted a liberal rhetoric to avoid being overthrown by the group of secularist generals who had ousted the Islamist predecessor of the A.P.K. Akyol alleges that because the A.P.K. embraced a liberal discourse out of necessity and not out of a real idealogical transformation, they were “corrupted and intoxicated” by power. The article also attributes the failure of the ‘Turkish Model’ to the country’s divisive political culture which has allowed the A.P.K. to thrive and create a virtual single party authoritarian regime.
In his article, Akyol examines the collapse of the Turkish liberal democracy solely through the lens of the A.P.K. party. While there is no doubt the party played a vital role in the rise and subsequent fall of Turkish democracy, the A.P.K. should not be viewed as the only voice in the story of the ‘Turkish Model’. At one point in the article, Akyol briefly mentions the strain placed on the country due to the Syrian refugee crisis and the struggles Turkish authorities have had with Kurdish separatists, yet there is no attempt by the author to bring these factors into his examination on the growing failures of Turkish democracy. Another key factor missing from the article is any discussion on the role of the Turkish military in the 21st century. Although Turkey has suffered a long history of military coups, and there was a coup a month after this article was published, Akyol focuses only on the role of the A.P.K. without mentioning the possible threat of the military.
According to the author, the other leading cause of the degradation of liberal democracy in Turkey is the “Machiavellian” political environment of the country. Despite the fact the Akyol views Turkey as a “torn country” due to the divisive political culture, he doesn’t mention this part of his argument until the second to last paragraph of the article. Furthermore, when this point is brought to light there is no attempt to provide the reader with information on “all other political actors” Akyol argues are also to blame for the current situation in Turkey. The article offers no descriptions, statistics, or even names of opposition parties in Turkey, nor is there any information on the “diverse views” that A.P.K. is trying to silence in direct opposition to their once liberal rhetoric. Without this basic information it is hard for the reader to understand what role the “combative, divisive, cynical political culture” has played in the failure of the ‘Turkish Model’.
The article provides an interesting history on the rise and fall of Turkey as a “shinning example of the compatibility of Islam and democracy.” The author argues that the A.P.K. party’s lack of devotion to an idealogical change to liberal democracy and the combative political environment in Turkey lead to the degradation of Turkish democracy. Despite the fact these arguments are important to understanding the failure of the ‘Turkish Model’, the author fails to adequately explore other important factors and back up his arguments with substantiating evidence. In the end, the article poses an important examination on the state of the Turkish democracy which is arguable more important now than it was at the time this article was written.

 

** All quotes from:  Mustafa Akyol, “Whatever Happened to the ‘Turkish Model’?,” New York Times, May 5, 2016**

The Square: A Movie Review on the Status of Egyptian Civil-Military

Tahrir Square

     The Square examines the Egyptian popular revolution in 2011 and its aftermath through the perspectives of Cairo’s Tahir Square protestors. The film follows these individuals through the three stages of the revolution beginning with the removal of Mubarak from power and the subsequent unrest and violence, then the Islamic Brotherhood’s victory in the popular election that was again followed by protests and violence, and finally the removal of Morsi from power in 2011. The main characters of the film represent the different religious, social, and political backgrounds of Egyptians, and the film examines how these differences shaped their experiences throughout the revolution. The film also identifies and examines the different roles the military, the Islamic Brotherhood, and protestors all played as the revolution unfolds. The Square highlights the determination as well as the trauma and suffering of the Egyptian people throughout this revolution.

The changing role of the military in this film highlights the complex state of civil-military relations in Egypt in the 2011 revolution. In this case, civil-military relations played a vital roll in the outcome of the revolution, and raises the issue of what civil-military relations can look like when the civilian institutions collapse in the absence of a coup. The film highlights the unpredictable nature of the military’s relationship with the people in such a situation as the military seeks to uphold order and protect military institutions. Understanding the position of the military in relation to the unrest and revolution in Egypt is important to understanding the 2011 Egyptian revolution, but it also provides an example of what an unchecked military can do to its citizens. The Egyptian military initial served in the interest of the people before deciding that protests now undermined stability causing them to turn violent against citizen; finally, the military stages a coup against the religious extremist president that had been elected after the fall of Mubarak. The film presents a unique personal perspective on how the civil-military relations in the aftermath of a revolution can effects the lives of a everyday people.

This film broadened my understanding of the how democratic transition can occur from authoritarian regimes. The transition as outlined in the course follow 4 steps from solid authoritarianism to fragile authoritarianism, then fragile democracy to democracy. The film follows Egypt from 2011 to 2013 as the nation goes through this transition. While I understood the first two steps of the process, the film particularly broadened by understanding of the theory’s description of an election made by an elite pact that then transitions the government from authoritarian to democratic. On paper, this idea of elites controlling a populist uprising is hard to understand, but in the film you see exactly that happen. After Mubarak steps down, the elites of the military and the Islamic Brotherhood work to “highjack” the revolution from the people making their own deal where either the military’s candidate will win the presidency or that of the Islamic Brotherhood; either way the Islamic Brotherhood will control the parliament. The film ends after the military coup that removes this elitist president from power and pushes Egypt toward a stronger democracy which once again follows the pattern this theory of democratization presents. The documentary style of the film allows the viewer to better understand the transformation from authoritarian to democratic.

The Yemeni Conundrum

This semester I once again got the chance to attend several of the fascinating lectures that OU provides. I attended a talk on the  situation in Yemen this spring out of an interest for the situation and how international actors are or are not responsible for the degrading situation.

The conflict in Yemen has been on going now for two years, yet personally I have found the information surrounding the war in Yemen has never had any real defining clarity in the media. Is it a proxy war, or another civil war fought by waring factions in an effort to seize power? What is the role of terrorism and the subsequent role of the United States?
These questions highlight the ugly truth behind what Dr. Mustafa Bahran called the “Yemeni Conundrum” in his lecture a couple of weeks ago. He prefaced his talk with the fact that he is Yemeni, and he does not have his doctorate in political science or regional studies, but in physics. As a student that attends many events hosted by the College of International Studies this was both a surprising and refreshing change. Dr. Bahran also had an incredibly personal back ground that offered an in-depth passionate view on the current situation in Yemen.
Dr. Bahran began his lecture discussing what kind of country Yemen was; how it broke down demographically, but also geographically which is important in order the understand the difference between the north and the south in a country that is stretches much father along an east to west parallel than a north to south one. He then moved into the topic of the evening that I was most interested in which was the answer to the question of who is who in this conflict.
As it turns out the reason this answer is so jumbled in the media, and not well understood on the international stage is because the who is who of the Yemeni conundrum is a complex conundrum in itself. Dr. Bahran breaks it down to four main actors: the legitimate government, Huthi-Saleh, Hirak Movement, and non-state actors. Dr. Bahran explained that every one of these actors is in some way in bed with another, and in his lecture he repeatedly emphasized the fact that in the end no one wins, excepts for perhaps the warlords and thieves who are making millions off of the suffering of the Yemeni people. He also explained that this conflict has several different dynamics that exist at several different levels form the very local to the global.
Understanding these different actors and how the react and interact with each other according to the differing dynamics that Dr. Bahran explained begins to provide a better picture to understanding the true complexity of the situation.
One thing I thought Dr. Bahran did that was interesting and important in order for others to understand the current conflict what he explained the history of Yemen and the region that makes the current crisis a civil war and a proxy war simultaneously. The divide between the Huthis in the north and the Hirak in the south began the conflict as a Yemeni civil war, but the greater regional powers of Iran and Saudi Arabia got involved due to their long documented strong against each other for dominance in the region. As these regional powers got involved so too did their allies which contributes to the global dynamics that I mentioned before.
In the end, Dr. Bahran makes it clear that there are no winners but those willing to profit form suffering, and that there is plenty of suffering among the Yemeni people as the conflict drags to another year. Although this war started as a Yemeni conflict it in largely agreed that the ability to determine the fate of the country has passed from Yemeni hands to the great forces of the proxy war situation we see today. I would like to end on a final note that stuck in my head from Dr. Bahran’s lecture. As a physicist, Dr. Bahran sees the world in a certain way, and I thought it was very interesting when he applied this way of thinking to the religious difference that plague his country and many others. In physics the idea of quantum mechanics says that a particle can be in two places at once, Dr. Bahran asked if perhaps this is how some Muslims see there faith, as if there were two versions of god, the chosen people, and heaven existing at the same time. I think this idea applies to more than strictly some conflicts found in certain Muslim beliefs, and perhaps new ways of thinking that come from the most unlikely of places is something that is not considered often enough.

Paradise Now: Circumstance and Terrorism

الجنة الآن
هناك كثير من المشاهد المختلفة في فبلم “الجنة الآن” في رأيي المشهد المهم هو المشهد في السيارة عندما كان سهى وسعيد  يتكلمون عن الاختلافات في منظوريهما للحالة في فلسطين هذا المشهد هو مهم لأن حرفين يرمز هذا إلى إختلاف  الشعب الفلسطيني. سهى ترمز إلى المنظور المعتدل وبالنسبة لها الارهاب ليس الحل للحال في فلسطين وفكرة الانتقام والاستشهاد تخلق صراع، ولكن هي لم تعيش في فلسطين كل حياتها فربما إذا قضيت طفولتها في فلسطين لن تشعر بنفس الطريقة. بالإضافة إلى ذلك أبو سهى كان بطل وكثير من الناس في الفيلم تحترمها لهذا. سعيد يرمز إلى فكرة القاومة والحقد على الاحتلال الإسرائيلي، هو يشعر بغضب وبالنسبة له حركة المقاومة هي الفرصة الأحسن للمستقبل الفلسطيني. على عكس سهى سعيد قد عاش في فلسطين لكل حياته وأبو سعيد لم يكن بطل كان خائن لأنه عمل مع الإسرائيليين، سعيد وسهى كان لديهم حياة مختلفة جداَ ولذلك كان لديهم آراء مختلفة جداَ. على الرغم من أن خالد ليس في هذا المشهد، منظوره مهم لأن هو يرمز التوازن بين سهى وسعيد. مثل سعيد، خالد عاش في فلسطين لكل حياته ولكن أبو خالد لم يكن بطل أو خائن. المشهد هو مهم لفهم نقد الفيلم الارهاب بشكل عام، للإرهاب ليس شيء بسيط وهناك أشياء كثيرة التي هي جزء من المشكلة. الفيلم يتكلم عن الحال في فلسطين والحال هو سبب للإرهاب في هذه المنطقة، هناك الأسباب أخرى مثل المشاكل مع العمل والتعليم والفرص لمستقبل أحسن. عندما ليست هناك فرص ليس هناك أمل وعندما ليس هناك أمل هناك الارهاب. الفليم يناقش فكرة أنه على الرغم من حقيقة أن الإرهاب ليس الحل لا توجد العديد من الخيارات الأخرى. الحال الآن في فلسطين هو السبب وراء العنف والإرهاب الآن ليس هناك الحل المثالي.

Who Hit Aisha? An Examination of the Women’s Place in Syrian Society

من ضربت عائشة؟
القصة “من ضربت عائشة؟” تناقش بعض المشاكل في المجتمع في العالم العربي. المشكلة الرئيسية في هذه القصة هي مشكلة حقوق النساء وتناقش المؤلفة هذه المشكلة وكذلك المؤلفة تناقش الحركة النسوية في هذه القصة. هذا المقالة يتحدث عن حياة عائشة، وعندما أسرتها عندها مشاكل مع الفلوس هي تعمل، ولكن الآن هناك المشكلة لأن اسرتها ما عندها المشكلة مع الفلوس عائشة ما زالت تعمل. في العالم العربي, عندما تكون المرأة ليست البنت بعد الآن أنها ليست للعمل خارج المنزل حقيقة أن عائشة لا تزال تعمل مشكلة بالنسبة الأسرتها. انهم لا يريدون عائشة أن تصبح خادمة العانس وفي رأي اسرتها هي لازم متزوج الآن لأن كل للنساء في العالم العربي الحالة الاجتماعية هي مهمة جداً والحالة الاجتماعية ليس توجد للنساء في هذا المنطقة إذا هن غير متزوجين. هذه هي المشكلة الرئيسية، مؤلفة تنتقد المجتمع ودور النساء في العالم العربي يقول المجتمع أن النساء يجب أن تكون ربات البيوت أن تكون محترمة، ولكن ليس هناك احترام في رأي المجتمع في موقف ربة منزل, وكذلك ليس هناك راتب، لا راتب التقاعدي ولا الفرص المستقبلية، ولكن في
نفس الوقت الموقف الربة المنزل مهم جداً لان هو الموقف لمستقبل المجتمع لان النساء تربية الأطفال.
في قصة السؤال الرئيسي الذي ضرب عائشة، ولكن في نهاية القصة هناك إجابتان على هذا السؤال إجابة واحدة حقيقية والجواب رمزية واحدة. في القصة أخ عائشة ضربها لأن عائشة استمر في العمل ولكن الجواب رمزية هي المشكلة الحقيقية في العالم العربي. لماذا لم تضرب عائشة؟ ضرب أخها عائشة عندها لأنه في نظر المجتمع كانت عائشة مشكلة هي كان لم متزوجة وكانت لا تزال تعمل وهكذا ضربها, ممكن إذا المجتمع مختلفة قصة عائشة مختلفة  كان عندها نهاية مختلفة.

Shattered Dreams of Revolution: A look at the 1908 Young Turk Revolution

Recently, the year 1908 has been all over the the press, talked about on countless talk shows, and made the daily news feed of millions- because of a sports team. However, 1908 holds much more historical significance than the last time the Cubs won the world series. While the old greats were swinging a bat on an American baseball diamond, a world away a region began to change. In his book, Shattered Dreams of Revolution, Bedross Der Moatossian tells the story of the 1908 Young Turk Revolution that changed the face of the Middle East. The late days of the Ottoman Empire might lack the level of current fascination, yet the argument could be made that this event has a much greater claim to public interest than any baseball team. The events surrounding the Revolution had a lasting effect and are very much still in play today.
In his book, Matossian begins his discussion of the 1908 Revolution with the day the constitution was reinstated following the fall of Abdul Hammid II and follows the narrative of the Revolution to the days of the Counterrevolution that shredded the great dreams of the people. The discussion of the aspirations of this revolution and what caused their downfall is an important one in the attempt to understand the situation in the Middle East today. The dismantling or unraveling of the aspirations of the 1908 Revolution can be seen through Matossian’s discussion of the changing power dynamics of the region, the role of political competition, ethnic tensions, nationalistic ideas, and the effect these issues had and continue to have on the ethnic minorities; the lessons of this revolution remain both significant and relevant today.
Before examining the causes that lead to the ultimate failure of the revolution it is important to understand the hopes and dreams of the Revolution and the immediate atmosphere in the aftermath of the fall of the dictatorship. Matossian terms the time period directly following the implementation of the constitution as one of “euphoria,” and upon examination of the public feeling following the Revolution it certainly seems appropriate. The Empire following the revolution was one filled with countless parades and speeches that emphasized repeatedly the importance of unity in the Ottoman Empire under constitutional law. This period also saw the rise of national heroes such as Fuad Pasha or Prince Sabahaddin who represented the end of a long dictatorship and the beginning of new era of freedom. Though this euphoria may seem to illustrate the beginning of a bright new future, “revolutionary festivals prosper as long as patriotism is in danger”. As Matossian later points out, this stage of euphoria represented just that, and not a stage of mutual understanding among the various groups that made up the Ottoman Empire at this time.
While there may not have been an understood common goal among these different groups, the ideology of the Young Turk Revolution was embraced across all of the Empire. This ideology was heavily influenced by that of the French revolution which was especially apparent in the legacy of “trinity of ideals” liberty, fraternity, and equality. In the Ottoman context, the idea of liberty was primarily expressed through the idea of freedom of the press.This freedom allowed for the creation of a mired of different ethnic newspapers all of whom had differing perspectives and ideas that catered specifically to their ethnic group. The ideas of fraternity and equality were one of the founding ideas of the revolution; these ideas represented the concept of uniting the vast array of ethno-linguistic peoples of the Ottoman Empire under a single banner of the ‘Ottoman citizen’.
While the ideas of the French certainly played their role, there were certain ideas that were unique to the Young Turk Revolution. One of these principles would be the importance of overcoming the ancien regime that had ruled the people under the pre-existing system. Matossian discusses this struggle through the discussion of the three main groups at the time the Armenians, Jews, and Arabs.The downfall of the ancien regime was more than a defining portion of the 1908 Revolution; understanding this process is imperative to a greater understanding what happened to this revolution. In the days following the revolution the press began to warn people of the former officials of the ancien regime. Due to the bloodless nature of the Young Turk Revolution many senior officials of the old government still held their posts. There was an idea that the Revolution couldn’t bring any real change until there was a change in leadership.
For each of the minority groups of the revolution the fall of the ancien regime and the rise of subsequent representative forces took a different path. In the case of the Armenians the ancien regime of the Ottoman Empire was completely embodied in Patriarch Ormanian; following the revolution Ormanian was both resented and criticized for his complete power and his apparent collaboration with the palace. After his resignation, power fell to the Armenian National Assembly and the Armenian National Constitution was reinstated.
This narrative is echoed by the shift in power that the Jewish Millet underwent during this same time period. Following the revolution, the Jewish progressive movement took power back from Rabbi Halevi who had occupied the powerful position of locum tenens for over 35 year under the influence of a group of Jewish notables called the black camarilla without any kind of formal appointment. The progressive movement is seen as overthrowing the ancien regime through the implementation of Rabbi Haim Nahum as the new locum tenes.
The final group the Matossian mentions in the discussion of the shifting power dynamics following the 1908 Revolution is the Arabs. For the Arabs, the overcoming of the ancien regime “proved particularly difficult” due to the fact that unlike the Armenians and the Jews there was really no single figurehead or institution that represented the ancien regime. In the Arab case, the power shift can be seen in the struggle between the local Arab notables and the incoming CUP; these notables were represented by traditional sources of power such as the religious ulema and well known pillars of the community. Understanding this shift in power is critical in understanding both the dreams of the revolutions, as well as how they whole thing fell apart. While it is easy to understand why the people longed to over come the powers that had ruled over them for so long, this was a dramatic power shift in the region that had long term destabilizing repercussions. In the short term, this change brought new leadership and a chance for change. However, it also left very powerful traditional forces longing for a chance to seize their power back.
While understanding the role of the ancien regime and its importance provides an insight to the dream and the the subsequent destabilization of that dream. An examination of post revolutionary politics reveals a catalyst to the outbreak of the Counterrevolution and ultimately the outbreak of the first world war. The Revolution and the reinstatement of the constitution brought about an all but immediate “intraethnic discourse concerning the status of their respective communities in the new era.” This discourse manifested itself in several ways including the “reemergence of traditional ethnic political parties” along with the establishment of new parties that represented an array of different ethnic and interest groups. These new parties and their subsequent platforms began to reveal the cracks in the united face of the Revolution as they underscored the vast array of contradictory goals of these individual groups.
The 1908 elections revealed a competitive political world, and the differing social, political, and idealogical positions of the different ethnic groups. Although these elections were really a competition between the dominate CUP and the Liberal Party, these different groups had an important part to play. Understandably, the euphoria following the Revolution produced an expectation among the different ethnic groups for proportional representation and a general greater degree of fairness in the election process.
This expectation of proportional elections highlights one of the first political issues of the different groups following the Revolution. The issue of proportional elections had varying degrees of importance among the different ethnic groups; smaller minority groups such as the Jews and the Armenians put a greater emphasis on proportional elections in an attempt to have a greater voice in the Empire. While the Arabs who were the majority in their provinces made no attempt to emphasize or demand proportional representation. While Jews and Armenians made the case for promotional representation, the Young Turks argued vehemently for universal representation due to the fact one of the main concerns of the party was “the political aspirations of the non-Muslims in general”. The issue of representation demonstrated on of the first political issues of the new constitutional Ottoman Empire and provided the first glimpse of the political competition that would eventually tear the Empire apart.
Simply saying political competition does little to underscore the complexity of what all this idea really meant during the post revolutionary period; the struggles of the political competition during this time period were encompassed by complex and tense intra and interethnic negotiations and the struggle between the larger majority parties alongside the smaller ethnic parties. Interwoven amongst all of this was the issue of nationalism. At this time nationalism was considered a dangerous separatist ideal that threatened the whole of the Empire, yet many of these ethnic groups weren’t solely interested in committing to Ottoman citizenship for the sake of the Ottoman fatherland.
The interplay between politics and nationalism is most easily visible in examining the political platform of the CUP versus that of the Armenians, Jews, Albanians, Greeks, and Bulgarians. CUP and the non-dominate ethnic groups generally agreed on many administrative points; the disagreements were centered on religious and educational institutions. The non-dominate ethnic groups argued for a system that preserved religious and nationalist privileges and mandated the teaching of mother tongues in school. The CUP was strongly apposed to these ideas; they argued for centralization, the removal of all ethno-national privileges of non-Muslims, and they wanted to mandate the teaching of Ottoman Turkish in all ethnic schools. Many of the other minority ethnic groups saw this political platform as a Turkish nationalist effort to homogenize the Empire and rightly feared the future under such a platform. The parliament also saw the issue of political competition along nationalistic lines through an analysis of the deputies that made up the parliament; they represented Jews, Arabs, Armenians, or Turks. Even when the Empire was striving to create an Ottoman citizen through the Ottoman Parliament there wasn’t a single ‘Ottoman’ deputy.
While clearly there is a question of whether or not unity was every truly achieved following the Revolution, there is no question of the fact there were efforts made to work together and yet the Revolution failed. The examination of how the political competition and differing nationalistic agendas devolved into the violence and chaos that characterized the Ottoman Empire in its final days is important in understanding how the 1908 Revolution failed. The political and differing nationalist agendas help understand the implications of this failure in the region to this day. Matossian discusses how soon after the elections “justice gradually degenerated into the reality of a single party dictatorship”. This line encompasses much that lead to the Counterrevolution and the following violence. The people were promised a chance to equally participate, to have a chance to have a say in the issues that mattered to them; what they got instead was a single party dictatorship that failed to protect basic freedoms.
The CUP become just another institution that slowly began to represent everything the Revolution attempted to overcome. The disgruntled people will always look for a new hero, and in this case this idea was represented in the new Society of Mohammad. The society represented a return to the old ways and had a strong islamic and anti western tone that advocated for the return to sharia law. The interplay between the political competition and nationalism led to a single party dictatorship that created great amounts of tension throughout the Empire; this tension was further agitated by traditionalist groups such as the Society and eventually lead to the decent into the chaos that lead to the First World War.

It is important to take the time to examine the repercussions of the 1908 Revolution on the ethno- linguistic and religious minorities. These communities had their traditional sources of power up-ended which dramatically effected the daily lives of many and undermined centuries old traditions, yet the effects went so much father then the dynamic power shifts that dramatically effected the traditional leadership. These groups had one shinning moment where they were promised a voice before that dream quickly faded and degenerated to a degree one might argue didn’t exist before the Revolution. These communities were just as involved as everyone else in the politics and greater attempts to support the Revolution, and when the Counterrevolution began they joined in the Action Army to support the constitution. During the Counterrevolution the ethno-lingusitc group that suffered the most would have to be the Armenians; this was primarily because they were seen as the CUP’s greatest ally. This devolved into the dissatisfied local elements attacking the Armenians; in the first wave this lead to massacres like the Adanna Massacre and these tensions eventually lead to the Armenian genocide where and estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed. It could easily be agreed the effects of this Revolution on the different ethnic groups can still be seen.
The Revolution of 1908 still has a role in the region today; the CUP went from being a voice of freedom promising the world in the hands of a constitution until they became the zealous protectors of the constitution who embraced the hypocrisy of doing unconstitutional acts to protect said constitution . It is a story of an Empire that embraced all the different ethnic groups that lived within to an Empire that would stop at nothing to homogenize a country which lead to the collapse and formation of the nation-state system; as Matossain says it “opened a Pandora’s box of ethnic issues” a box that remains open today. The lessons from the failure of the 1908 Revolution include eliminating the ambiguity that eventually lead the to more tension throughout the empire. A revolution must have a common goal greater than simply overcoming a system of government; the different ethnic groups were never going to agree on what was most important and there was no common dream. A final lesson is perhaps overly simple the end result must at least resemble what the people fought for; the single party dictatorship wasn’t what people asked for just like the Middle Eastern dictators of today were never the end goal. Overall perhaps there is some legitimacy to the idea of administrative decentralization in the Middle East and maybe it is a political ideology that is worth trying considering nearly all regimes use administrative centralization which inevitable cause some sort of issue with one group or another.
In the end the shattered dreams of the 1908 Revolution can be attributed to several factors including the dynamic shifts in power from the traditional sources and to the hands of new representative groups. The vast array of different ethnic groups in the Empire led to bitter political competition that was heavily influenced by nationalistic ideas. As time went on without the emergence of any common ground this competition completed the inevitable collapse into violence and chaos which set the scene for World War I. It has been said a thousand times and yet it bears repeating, one must look back before there can be a future; there is little doubt in the fact that the 2016 Cubs team read all about the 1908 team at some point. History in a way resembles the film you watch before a big game: if you don’t watch the film you wouldn’t be any better the next time. 1908 was a year that encompassed more than a baseball game. It was a year that helped to define a century. Perhaps there should be a talk show about that.

*** All quoted sections taken from Matossian’s book Shattered Dreams of Revolution

The Will to Live

من الأفكار الرئيسية في القصيدة  ” إرادة الحياة ” هي فكرة الطموح. بالنسية للشاعر، الطموح يعني إرادة الحياة وكل القصيدة يناقش هذه الفكرة. الطموح هو السبب في الحياة وبدون الطموح، الحياة تصبح العدم وفي رأي الشاعر هذه المشكلة وتقول القصيدة أن ” فويل لمن لم تشقه الحياة من صفعة العدم المنتصر” وهذا البيت يناقش أهمية الحياة المحبة لان عندما الناس لا تحب الحياة وما عندها الطموح العدم هو المنتصر. الطموح ليس عكس للعدم، هو يعني أشياء كثيرة مثل إرادة  وأمل وهدف والقصيدة تناقش الفكرة أن الطموح ليس من السهل والطموح و الشجاعة يوجد مع بعض. هذه الفكرة هناك في القصيدة عندما هي تتكلم عن رمزية الجبال والحفر، القصيدة تقول أنه ” ولا يحب صعود الجبال يعش أبد الدهر بين الحفر ” هذا البيت مهم جداً في كل القصيدة ومهم لفهم فكرة الطموح، في هذا البيت الجبال ترمز إلى الهدف والطموح والحفر يرمز إلى الفشل والحياة بدون الطموح وكذلك الجبال والحفر يرمز إلى الأختلافات بين جنة والجهنم.تناقش هذه القصيدة كذلك عن القيد، القيد يرمز إلى كل أشياء في الحياة التي صنع الطموح الطريق الصعب، ولكن القصيدة تقول أن “ولا بد للقيد أن ينكسر”. مثل البيت الذي تكلم عن القدر في هذا البيت الشاعر يقول أن الناس عندهم القوة نكسر القيد ولتغير القدر. رمزية الحفر يعني جهنم ورمزية الجبال تعني الجنة. الشاعر يقول أن الطموح يعني الحياة ولكن الطموح ليس سهل لكن الحياة بدون طموح هي ليست حياة وفي رأيي هذه الفكرة هي الفكرة الرئيسية في المناقشة عن الطموح.

Where do We Go Now?

في رأيي واحد من المشاهد المهمة في الفيلم “وهلأ لوين؟” هو المشهد الأول لعدة أسباب. هذا المشهد يحدد الفكرة الرئيسية لكل الفيلم وكذلك المشهد يحدد رموز مهمة ويستخدم اللغة الشعرية وصور قوية. الفكرة الرئيسية في الفيلم ” وهلأ لوين؟ ” هي نفس الفكرة في هذا المشهد،وهذه الفكرة هي العنف الطائفي بين المسيحيين والمسلمين وفي نفس الوقت قوة النساء في موابهة العنف. هذا المشهد يناقش العنف الطائفي بيستخدم عدة رموز، عندما الفيلم يناقش الطائفي هو يستخدم الرمزين الهلال والصليب أو الناس الذين يصلون والناس الذين يصومون. عندما هذا المشهد يناقش الرمزين هناك كذلك نقاش عن تاريخ العرب الأهلية في لبنان الفيلم يقول أن التاريخ في هذا البلد مصنوع من “الأسلاك الشائكة والبنادق” والراوية تقول أن أيديهم ملطخة أيديهم بالدماء باسم الهلال أو الصليب، في هذا المشهد يحدد فكرة العنف الطائفي. النساء مهمة جداً كذلك لكل الفيلم وهذا المشهد، وفي هذا المشهد هناك رموز مهمة والراوية تستخدم اللغة الشعرية. يلبسن كل النساء أسود والأسود يرمزإلى الحزن أو الموت وهذا الرمز مهم جداً لانه على رغم العنف الطائفية في النهاية سيموت كل الناس نفس الموت، في رأيي هذا يعني ذلك اللون الأسود يرمز الوحدة كذلك، هذه الفكرة مهمة لأن النساء يرمزن إلى الوحدة في هذا المشهد وكل الفيلم.الجزء عندما كل النساء يمشين مع بعضهن مهم لأنه يرمز إلى وحدة النساء وهذا يرمز إلى قوة النساء.  بالإضافة إلى ذلك، هذا المشهد يستخدم الصور القوية لأظهار كيف القرية معزولة وفي هذا المشهد هناك موسيقى حزينة وكان صوت الراوية هادئ و حزين كذلك . هذا مشهد مهم لان يبدأ الفيلم في مقبرة و المشهد الأخير هو في المقبرة كذلك، في هذا المشهد عندما وصلت النساء إلى المقبرة تفصلها إلى المسيحيين والمسلمين ولكن في المشهد الأخير وصول الرجال إلى المقبرة وهم يسألون “وهلأ لوين؟”