Our guide to the best of the Arabic blogosphere in 2012.
Rita from Syria
First and foremost, one of our own bloggers - Rita from Syria - deserves recognition for the quality and courage in her work. Writing anonymously from Damascus, often under great strain and danger, Rita has provided a window onto the situation that few others can match. Although the nature of the conflict means that most information abroad comes from external sources, the people of Syria do have things to say and we need to be listening to them. In Rita's own words:
"the danger of being killed has become easier than you can imagine. Everyday, we lose a colleague or a friend and despite the fact that I got used to death, sometimes I fall into complete frustration."
Her work deserves to be read and her fears deserve to be recognized.
With the closure of the e-zine Bitterlemons which provided such an essential platform for views from Palestine and Israel, Electronic Intifada (electronic uprising) has become even more important as a source for independent reporting and commentary on Palestine. It was established in 2001 and has been delivering high-quality news and analysis since. The blog is easily navigable and well organised. In particular, its Art, Music & Culture sections reveal the amazing range of activities and initiatives by Palestinians - from women's empowerment through radio, to the re-opening of Al-Quds Cinema in East Jerusalem, coverage of the London Nour Festival and much much more. There is also a running diaries section with entries from a wide range of Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and the Diaspora. The entries are quite personal, describing the struggles and thoughts of Palestinian daily life. EI has a strong reputation and a broad reach, making it a good alternative source that sheds light on a community really lacking adequate coverage in the wake of the Arab Spring.
Ganzeer, an Egyptian visual artist has been using his art to communicate and convey a message about the severity of conditions in Egypt. His blog hosts an incredible archive of visual imaginary created from across the Egyptian capital. The visual art is accompanied with commentary in Arabic and English by the artist. In the conversation with professor Charles Tripp Arab Awakening hosted as part of our series 'Tahrir Square as a Meme' - Tripp recommended looking at Ganzeer's amazing work as proof that 2011 was not, as is often taken for granted, "year zero for Arab creativity". As the blog documents, art in Egypt has long been a reaction against oppression, and the danger for any observer, particularly in the west, not knowing enough about that history, is to separate the art from its context. The blog is easily navigable and has a useful category section on the right hand side. This blog is a gateway to Ganzeer's world, and through his website you can navigate to a few other blogs that the artist runs himself and to others where he is a contributor, all of which are a pleasure to explore.
7iber is an interactive blog administered by a small group of young Jordanian activists and journalists. This past year, 7iber has tackled some of the most pressing issues facing Jordanian society including upcoming parliamentary elections, reform, water allocation, and opposition to a planned nuclear reactor. They publish articles in both English and Arabic written by members of the community, meaning that a lot of the time the site acts as an online discussion forum for societal and political issues. Additionally, 7iber offers what is probably the most comprehensive calendar of goings on about Amman including cultural performances, art exhibitions, and film premiers. Their hashtag debates provide a fun and interactive twitter based discussion forum of these issues, making them accessible and relevant to active Jordanian tweeps. In their own words, "[7iber] offers a model for free speech in Jordan", by providing an outlet for courageous journalism outside of the traditional media channels. A must read for anyone interested in what is actually going on in Jordan.
Shabab Libya is an excellent source focused on Libyan current affairs. Established just before the Libyan revolution, it acted as a critical tool for spreading awareness on planned protests (17 February) across the country. Due to the site's easy accessibility, it provides a world of information on Libya in different categories and different mediums, posting news, images and videos in real time. The writing is easy to read and the forum section is particularly active and engaging. Libyans congregate digitally to share their thoughts on everything from high culture to everyday shopping. While the site posts less opinion/editorial articles than others, it is a unifying force that passes information from the ground in real time. As such, it boasts an impressive, active, and multilingual presence on Twitter and Facebook. The website is available in both Arabic and English.
Joshua Landis, Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, runs Syria Comment a daily blog on Syrian politics that attracts over 3,000 readers a day. His current, detailed, and in-depth reporting on the ongoing conflict in Syria has made Syria Comment an important source of information. Attracting a steady-readership of government officials and opinion-makers. Landis uses his blog to pull back the curtain and to reveal Syria as it is, combining expert opinion and local sources to provide fresh insight into a nation divided. PolicyMic went so far as to say, "there is no better blog about Syria on the web today." For those who have limited time on their hands, reading the daily summary is one of the best ways to remain up-to-date on the evolving conflict.
is the dialling code for Israel, West Bank, and Gaza Strip. If you
are looking for an alternative Israeli source for commentary and
political analysis +972mag was designed for you.
With Israeli and some Palestinian voices writing on current affairs,
opinion and analysis, travel, and activism the blog is an independent source of information on a set of issues typically dominated by demogaguery. The layout and design of
+972mag is particularly impressive with all writers' faces animated
and displayed on the left hand side providing a personal
touch. In particular, the subsection 'Life&Culture' is helpful for readers from outside the
region who are struggling to grasp the intricacies of movement in the West Bank and
Ben-Ami's round trip posts are a highly recommended read if you want to know more
about the real landscape of the area. The writing is excellent and
the styles vary, some are brilliantly sarcastic and others are
incredibly witty. +972mag has a well-deserved reputation as a pointedly real source of information on Palestine and Israel and well worth your time.