Ashley Lohman’s Beyond the Bombs is a multimedia collection focusing on a Middle East that refuses to be defined by violence. Through a wide array of written, video and audio features, Beyond the Bombs sneaks up sideways to the politics of the region through discussion of its business, music and poetry. The stories cover a great deal. Everything from the experiences of a translator and English teacher shocking her students with suggestive Kurdish poetry, to the difficulties of a popular Syrian actor forced to flee the civil war, or the artistic initiative of six Sudanese asylum seekers in Israel, producing a play in the hope of communicating their gruelling reality to the public around them. The colourful design of Beyond the Bombs reflects its multimedia content and the site is pleasant to navigate around, though not to be attempted with a slow internet connection. In all, an excellent resource for varied personal stories. While not at all disconnected from the harsher political realities of the Middle East, it has a focus on the optimism and spirit of its storytellers.
Jadaliyya has long been a go to point for political analysis of the whole Middle East region, and it has now launched a new section of its site, called ‘Critical Currents in Islam’. With the purpose of deconstructing the idea of a one-dimensional unchanging religion, Critical Currents investigates all aspects of Islam, highlighting in particular the surprising, the new and the contradictory. From a detailed look at the changing fortunes of the Salafis in Egypt to a discussion of the engagement of the Iranian religious establishment with a high prevalence of plastic surgery in the country, this site shows great promise even in its current infancy. One to watch as it expands in the future.
Global Voices is a spectacular resource for keeping abreast of citizen journalism across the globe. It’s particular selling point is that bloggers and contributors do not just submit their own writing, but collect or link to their picks of citizen reporting on a daily basis. So if searching for #MiddleEast on Twitter every morning seems a little daunting in terms of the endless list of search results, Global Voice’s highlights from the Twitter- or blogosphere may be the place to go. One particular feed worth following for Middle East affairs is that of Amira al-Hussaini. Raised in Bahrain and the former editor of an English language daily there, she posts regularly on everything most current in the region, particularly drawing together tweets thematically and sharing pictures that have relevance for the day’s news. The brevity and immediacy of Hussaini’s posts allow her to post often. As such, it is an excellent place to start for a daily overview and her links to websites with more in depth political analysis, such as Jadaliyya, allow you to easily continue your investigation along a particular theme.