Tadween Publishing (2013)
Co-edited volume with Mouin Rabbani.
In mid-December 2010, a young street vendor set himself on fire after his ill-treatment by Tunisian police. Mohamed Bouazizi set himself ablaze in Sidi Bouzid and inspired an entire region to revolt against decades of authoritarianism. Mass protests in Tunisia led to the ouster of its autocratic head of state Zine Abidine Ben Ali. This revolutionary fervor then spread to neighboring Egypt, where eighteen days of protest removed Hosni Mubarak from the helm of power. Soon, these tectonic shifts inspired protestors in Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, and Syria to challenge their autocratic leaders who had, for decades on end, also denied them the right to freely determine their political, economic, and social conditions. The protests have since successfully led to the negotiated removal of Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh from power. NATO military intervention, initially mandated by the UN Security Council to thwart a massacre in Benghazi expanded into a mission of regime change and ended the rule of Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. Today, protests continue in Syria, Bahrain and the transition processes have never ceased in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen.
The emergence of authoritarian regimes in the Arab world reflects a sordid history of colonial rule and post-colonial interventions that have created oppositional politics among states within the Middle East.
The death toll in Syria has exceeded 100,000. The refugee population approaches two million, including one million Syrian children and excluding the Palestinian refugee population which is enduring secondary forced displacement as a result of the Syrian conflict. The horrors of the conflict which began two and a half years ago, reached new heights amid reports of a chemical weapons attack that killed 1,000 civilians in Ghouta on 21 August 2013. The attack crossed the Obama-declared "red line" and intensified calls for military action against the Syrian regime. Now there are reports that the Obama Administration will indeed strike Syria in the coming days. According to reports, the strike will be swift and discrete. Its purpose seems to be more political, than military, as it is a loaded demonstration of military capability without the specter of a full-on intervention. This is not surprising.
The US Administration understands that the conflict in Syria is also a proxy regional war aimed at shifting the balance of power in the Middle East. There is little possibility that the US can intervene in Syria and not trigger a broader regional conflict that it does not have the capacity to handle and that Syria's neighbors prefer to avoid. Meanwhile, Iraq's ominous shadow is chilling Europe's enthusiasm for another military operation in the Middle East. The UK prefers authorization from the UN Security Council to intervene in Syria. It has put forward a proposal to discuss that in the Security Council tomorrow 30 August 2013. However, that is unlikely to yield any results in light of Chinese and Russian support for the Syrian Regime.
So what does this mean for the Syrian civilians who are enduring a tremendous humanitarian crisis? In the short to medium-term it is quite dismal.
Noura Erakat is a human rights attorney and activist. She is currently a Abraham L.
Freedman Teaching Fellow at Temple University, Beasley School of Law and a Co-Editor of Jadaliyya. She has taught international human rights law in the Middle East at Georgetown University since Spring 2009.
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I am currently working on several research projects that examine the law of self-defense in international law, armed conflict, and human rights. My research interests include the laws of war, human rights law, humanitarian law, refugee law, national security law, social justice, Palestine, the Palestinian-Israel conflict, and the Middle East in general.
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As a co-editor of Jadaliyya, I have the privilege of working with a remarkable team of scholars and analysts who have their hand on the pulse of dynamic change and historical perspective in the Middle East.
2013 marks the third year of the DC Palestinian Film & Arts Festival which seeks to showcase Palestinian subjectivity by featuring Palestinian filmmakers, actors, visual artists, and musicians.
Legal Agenda is a Beirut-based NGO established in 2010 dedicated to legal reform throughout the Arab world through civic and judicial empowerment including the interdisciplinary study of law and society.