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Violent Transitions

Speaking to a delegation of Latin dignitaries in 1962, President John F. Kennedy said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” His words ring prophetic as regimes in Egypt, Syria and Yemen who refuse to cede to the peaceful demands of their people find themselves locked in a deadly dance.

Arabs who have decided to seize their own destiny are confronted with regimes that are willing to use any means necessary to retain power. As Arabs struggle to overthrow their regimes, we will explore ways of averting violence, the virtues and drawbacks of international intervention and the sacrifice tens of thousands of Arabs are making for their freedom.

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Featured articles


Why the west cannot defeat ISIS

Maged Mandour

ISIS has emerged from the wounds of the Arab world—for which the west is to a large extent responsibleand current airstrikes are pouring salt into these wounds.

The ISIS threat: terror, propaganda and ideology

Mainstream Muslim scholars must engage with reinterpreting passages of the Qur'an that seem to support ISIS' treatment of women. Translated excerpt from Trusselen fra IS: Terror, propaganda og ideologi.

Israel, ISIS and the Paris attacks

The recent spate of terror attacks around the world have given Israel an opportunity to showcase its military and intelligence capabilities—and to further crack down on Palestinians.

International community neglects to act on Yazidi genocide

Mass murder, rape, slavery, and kidnapping; the situation for the Yazidi community is dire and the international community's reponse has been wholly inadequate.

Countering the logic of the war economy in Syria

The country has entered a vicious circle where Syria’s own resources are being used to destroy it, and where ordinary people have no choice but to rearrange their lives around the conflict and either join or pay armed actors to meet everyday needs.

Social resistance to IS in Syria: the case of Daraa

Areas that maintained a strong sense of social cohesion despite the 'new war' situation, such as Daraa, are far more resistant to the infiltration of both JAN and ISIL.

ISIL and governance

ISIL enters areas afflicted by weak governance, an active war economy, and ongoing conflict with the intention of changing this situation and imposing control to ensure the longevity of its rule. 

ISIL, JAN, and the war economy in Syria

The nature of ISIL and its ability to recruit based on economic needs is not something that can be countered by aerial bombardment.

Islamic State as the Saddam regime’s afterlife: the Fedayeen Saddam

In the Fedayeen—connected to the global Islamist terrorist movement, combining elements of Ba’athism with an increasingly-stern Salafism—is a microcosm of the Saddam regime’s mutation into Islamic State (ISIS).

Baathist/Syrian state institutions must be reformed

Assad is responsible for the damage being caused to Syria, but he is not the only one. Negotiators must reconsider their agreement over the fate of Syrian state institutions.

From Beirut, this is Paris: in a world that doesn’t care about Arab lives

There is a stark contrast in the reaction of the world to the horrific terrorist attacks in Lebanon and France. But in the world that doesn’t care about Arab lives, Arabs lead the way.

Normalising bloodshed: education and the dreams of the Marshall

What are the people in Egypt forcing themselves to believe in order not to deal with the harsh realities of the past four years – let alone the years before?

Gaza: walking ‘eyes wide open’ into another war

The ramping up of air strikes in Gaza combined with a humanitarian crisis compounded by a stalled reconstruction effort following last summer’s war, should compel us all into a heightened state of activism using BDS.

Turkey: repeating past mistakes

Civilian Kurds bear the brunt of Turkey's indiscriminate campaign against the PKKOnly learning from history can finally end the vicious cycle of conflict and bring about a new dawn of peace.

Saudi blockade threatens famine in Yemen

Yemeni civilians are starving as the international community tacitly allows the blockade to continue. It must be lifted so they have a chance for survival.

The violence of the word refugee

Words have power. The meaning of the word ‘refugee’ must be challenged to represent the experiences of the millions of individuals who have lost everything and yet wake up each day seeking to build a better life for themselves.

From non-violent resistance to non-violent resilience

Resilience requires diversity—not only to weather a storm or disturbance, but also to cultivate and build new solutions. So how can we go from violent or even non-violent resistance to non-violent resilience? 

A new Palestinian leader for a new intifada?

A former political advisor to Hamas insists it's still too early to call a third intifada, but says it will grow into one as a new young leadership emerges.

The fragmentation of power in the Arab world

Maged Mandour

Many Arab countries seem to have reverted to a mode of power reminiscent of a pre-modern form of politics, where coercion is the sole source of power.

Refugee crisis: those most responsible are the least affected

Western governments talk of “moral” responsibility towards the refugees—but morality has nothing to do with it. They are simply obliged to help clean up a mess they helped make.

Turkey: media crackdown amid escalating violence

At the very moment that critical independent media are needed most in Turkey, we are witnessing a renewed crackdown on media freedom.

ISIS, identity and the destruction of antiquities

Confronted with the suffering of Syrian refugees, mourning world heritage seems academic at best. But Islamic State must not succeed in its cultural cleansing.

Outside the box: is the Islamic State close to victory?

Many facts belie the myth that Islamic State is on its back heel, and its longevity, proximity to Damascus, as well as the weakness of its enemies mean that it may wreak yet more havoc.

Better to be a dog than a Bedouin

The demolition of Umm Al Hiran and displacement of its Bedouin residents is the beginning of the Prawer Plan under another name.

Why 'no-fly zones' or 'IS-free zones' are not a solution in Syria

An external military intervention to establish these zones, even with the best intentions, is likely to make things worse; the international community should instead work on building consensus. A NOREF policy brief.

Politics and diplomacy in Turkey: time to talk

Beset by domestic and regional crises, Turkey has adopted a defensive posture where dialogue would be preferable.

How Israeli impunity threatens Palestinian children

Israel should ensure justice for the murders of Ali and Saad Dawabshe, but its policies must fundamentally change if other Palestinian children are to have a future.

Recolonising international law: Israel’s naval blockade against Gaza

Israel invokes the privileges of engaging in international armed conflict but denies Palestinians their corresponding entitlements under the same body of law. This is the colonial nature of Israel’s legal logic.

One year after the war: Gaza’s lost hopes

A letter from Gaza, describing the impossibility of getting back to 'normal' one year after the war. Real change is needed before it is too late.

The new war for the Middle East

ISIS has stepped opportunistically into the vacuum created by the absence of state, loss of shared narrative and feeble leverage of powers. But there may be a way ahead. A NOREF report.

European values and the Arab world

Maged Mandour

EU politicians can promote 'European' values by stopping their support for autocratic regimes, and by starting to ask tough questions about radicalisation.

The problem with the 'women of ISIL'

Deeply problematic media narratives on Islam and women go unchallanged, distracting from the difficult questions and warping perceptions directly involved in justifying western military intervention in the Middle East.

America's not so exceptional foreign policy

What can explain the myopia of US policy towards Sudan, when it knows Sudan has been facilitating ISIS in Libya, Syria and Iraq, and other terror groups?

Jihadists and activists: Tunisian youth five years later

Refocusing attention on activist youth helps clarify the complexity of this historical moment we have variably called the 'Arab Spring' or 'Arab Awakening'.

Gaza's dark night

Palestinians want to leave. Nothing else. All Palestinians. Because there is not even drinking water anymore in Gaza. Even the Hamas guys in charge just want to leave.

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