Posts Tagged With: confessionalism

Il discorso confessionale e il fondamentalismo annesso (by Estella, May 2016)

http://www.rsi.ch/rete-due/programmi/cultura/attualita-culturale/Le-chiavi-di-lettura-occidentali-sui-confilitti-in-medio-oriente-un-paradigma-confessionale-Ne-parliamo-con-l-antropologa-sociale-Estella-Carpi-7299122.html

Edizione del 06.05.2016

Le chiavi di lettura occidentali sui confilitti in medio oriente: un paradigma confessionale? Ne parliamo con l’ antropologa sociale Estella Carpi

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Guerre al di là del Mediterraneo: ecco perché la religione non c’entra (by Estella Carpi and Enrico Bartolomei, April 2016)

Guerre in Siria, Iraq e Palestina: ecco perché la religione non c’entra

“Guerre in Siria, Iraq e Palestina: ecco perché la religione non c’entra”

Dalla Siria all’Iraq, dall’Afghanistan alla Palestina, passando per il Libano e i tumulti sull’altra sponda del Mediterraneo: il discorso confessionale ha oscurato le cause socio-economiche dei movimenti di protesta fornendo ai regimi autoritari il pretesto per presentarsi come garanti dell’unità nazionale.
MONDOULTIME NOTIZIE 29 APRILE 2016 17:16 di Davide Falcioni

Articolo a cura di Enrico Bartolomei e Estella Carpi *

Dall’inizio dei movimenti di contestazione nel mondo arabo, che hanno rovesciato regimi pluridecennali in apparenza incrollabili e rimesso in discussione gli equilibri di potere nella regione, nei principali media e nei circoli degli esperti di politica estera si è affermata la tendenza a spiegare le cause delle proteste attraverso le lenti del confessionalismo, per cui i fattori che determinano la vita politica nel mondo arabo-musulmano sarebbero le tradizioni religiose nella loro irriducibile differenza. Il discorso confessionale ha oscurato le cause socio-economiche dei movimenti di protesta, mascherando le ambizioni regionali delle potenze straniere e fornendo ai regimi autoritari il pretesto per presentarsi come garanti dell’unità nazionale.

Questa griglia di lettura della realtà ha radici profonde che vanno oltre il mondo arabo, ed è stata alimentata da una teoria molto influente delle relazioni internazionali inaugurata dal politologo americano Samuel Huntington, che ha avanzato la tesi dello “scontro di civiltà”, spiegando come alla base dei conflitti post-Guerra Fredda ci siano in primo luogo le differenze culturali e religiose tra i vari popoli. Questa visione semplicistica e fondamentalista degli eventi storici, per cui i gruppi sociali vengono definiti in base alle appartenenze etniche, religiose o comunitarie, non solo ignora la molteplicità dei fattori alla base dei conflitti contemporanei, ma anche l’uso politico che abili “manipolatori del confessionalismo” fanno di queste differenze per difendere i propri interessi.

La grande narrazione confessionale
Dopo gli attentati dell’11 settembre 2001, la guerra globale al “terrorismo islamico” – inaugurata dagli Stati Uniti con l’invasione dell’Afghanistan e dell’Iraq – è diventata la copertura usata dalle classi dirigenti di vari regimi per eliminare gruppi insorgenti, movimenti separatisti o di liberazione. All’indomani degli attentati, l’allora primo ministro israeliano Ariel Sharon paragonò il leader di al-Qaeda Osama Bin Laden al presidente palestinese Yasser Arafat, presentando l’invasione militare della Cisgiordania durante la Seconda Intifada come necessaria per “smantellare le infrastrutture del terrorismo”. Lo stesso discorso viene ora riproposto, questa volta nei confronti del partito politico palestinese Hamas, prima di ogni operazione militare nella Striscia di Gaza. Il nuovo clima politico post-11 settembre permise anche al presidente russo Vladimir Putin di ridefinire la seconda guerra cecena come guerra contro il terrorismo, giustificando agli occhi della comunità internazionale la brutale repressione della guerriglia cecena.

Recentemente, il primo ministro Benyamin Netanyahu non ha esitato a strumentalizzare l’ondata di razzismo e islamofobia seguita agli attentati di Parigi, equiparando il “terrorismo dell’ISIS” al “terrorismo palestinese” nel tentativo di convincere i dirigenti e l’opinione pubblica europea che la lotta di liberazione palestinese è mossa dallo stesso odio anti-ebraico e anti-occidentale che viene generalmente attribuito al salafismo jihadista.

I manipolatori delle identità confessionali
Lungi dall’essere entità omogenee con caratteristiche immutabili, le identità confessionali ed etniche sono costruzioni sociali, vale a dire il prodotto storico di conflitti tra vari gruppi sociali che hanno utilizzato le diversità tra le varie componenti sociali nella lotta per il controllo di risorse materiali. Le appartenenze confessionali nei conflitti sono state strumentalizzate politicamente in primis dai manipolatori delle identità, come le classi dirigenti o i gruppi in competizione per la costruzione del consenso o per il controllo delle risorse. Questi principali attori manipolatori sono a loro volta il prodotto di una complessa relazione con la costruzione della loro stessa identità e garanzia di potere politico. Pertanto, il discorso confessionale è pienamente impiegato nei rapporti di potere ed è spesso elaborato come razionalizzazione d’interessi politici e strutture di dominio.

La strategia coloniale del divide et impera
Il confessionalismo è servito a legittimare la spartizione coloniale europea del Medio Oriente in seguito alla prima guerra mondiale. Presentare i conflitti nel mondo arabo-musulmano come il risultato dell’eterna lotta tra sunniti e sciiti, dispensa l’occidente dalle sue responsabilità storiche di protettore o rivale di questo o quel gruppo religioso o etnico. Difatti, la Francia e la Gran Bretagna hanno cinicamente sfruttato queste diversità per assicurarsi il controllo geopolitico delle risorse energetiche e la sicurezza domestica nella regione, ridisegnando arbitrariamente i confini, creando entità statali artificiali e ostacolando l’emergere di movimenti e partiti multiconfessionali e transnazionali (come quello comunista e panarabista baathista, o nasserista) che ponevano al centro delle loro rivendicazioni l’emancipazione politica ed economica piuttosto che le appartenenze comunitarie, religiose o etniche.
in foto: Israeli security forces walk in the Jerusalem’s Old City near the al–Aqsa mosque
In altri casi, le potenze straniere hanno affidato alle “minoranze confessionali” le leve di un potere parziale rendendolo solo complementare agli interessi esteri. Ad esempio, in seguito alle lotte che i drusi del Monte Libano sotto l’egida britannica conducevano nel XIX secolo contro la componente cristiano-maronita – supportata dalla Francia – il confessionalismo fu istituzionalizzato nel sistema politico (1920) con la creazione dello stato libanese su base elitaria cristiano-maronita, contribuendo a innescare tensioni che hanno dato origine a decenni di guerra civile. In Palestina, la Gran Bretagna s’impegnò con la Dichiarazione di Balfour (1917) a sostenere il progetto sionista di creare uno Stato ebraico, favorendo l’immigrazione di coloni ebrei europei. In Siria, le truppe coloniali francesi arruolarono le minoranze, tra cui gli alawiti, per sedare la rivolta nazionalista araba. La setta alawita venne poi dichiarata ramo della corrente sciita negli anni Settanta a seguito di un avvicinamento politico tra il presidente siriano alawita Hafez al-Asad e l’Imam sciita Musa as-Sadr. A seguito dell’attuale conflitto siriano e l’escalation della violenza attuale, è significativo che un’élite di esponenti intellettuali della comunità alawita abbia dichiarato un distanziamento dal regime di Asad e quindi la propria indipendenza confessional-clericale dalla corrente sciita dell’Iran e del Hezbollah libanese, strenui difensori del regime siriano.

Il confessionalismo e l’autoritarismo delle élite arabe
L’utilizzo delle identità religiose o etniche a fini politici costituisce tuttora un capitolo importante nella strategia del divide et impera messa in atto da diversi attori politici, così come lo era al tempo della dominazione coloniale europea.

L’intervento USA in Iraq nel 2003, finalizzato all’instaurazione di un governo sciita per rispecchiare l’appartenenza confessionale di gran parte della popolazione, come anche la lotta per l’egemonia regionale tra Iran e Arabia Saudita, hanno rafforzato la retorica delle identità comunitarie, fomentando in particolare lo scontro binario tra sunniti e sciiti. I movimenti di contestazione popolare nel mondo arabo, incentrati su rivendicazioni di democratizzazione dei sistemi politici e di giustizia sociale, sono stati anch’essi deragliati sui binari del confessionalismo – se non dall’interferenza straniera – da regimi autoritari, élite al potere, o quei gruppi che vogliono ritagliarsi una fetta di legittimità, ergendosi a difensori di questa o quella comunità.
L’uso politico della religione ha inoltre permesso ai regimi autoritari di contrastare la creazione di fronti unitari, agitando lo spettro di una sanguinosa guerra civile e infondendo dunque un ampio desiderio di stabilità da raggiungere a qualsiasi costo. In Siria, la trasformazione della rivolta popolare in guerra civile a sfondo confessionale ha permesso al regime di Bashar al-Asad di giustificare la repressione militare dei manifestanti, descritti come terroristi tout court, così come alle potenze regionali come Iran da un lato, e vari Paesi del Golfo arabo dall’altro, di intervenire nel conflitto. A loro volta, le milizie sciite o sunnite si sono spesso presentate come difensori ufficiali delle rispettive comunità religiose. Formazioni jihadiste come il Fronte an-Nusra e lo “Stato Islamico” hanno proclamato di voler riscattare la comunità sunnita oppressa dal “regime eretico alawita” e dai suoi alleati sciiti.

Intimorite dinanzi alla prospettiva di un sollevamento popolare, anche le monarchie del Golfo hanno riproposto la tesi della lotta religiosa tra sunniti e sciiti per impedire il diffondersi di movimenti di contestazione interni. L’Arabia Saudita, ad esempio, ha potuto giustificare l’intervento militare in Bahrein presentando il movimento di protesta locale come una rivolta sciita orchestrata dall’Iran. Il governo del Bahrein, a sua volta, ha strumentalizzato le proprie politiche migratorie accogliendo solo rifugiati siriani sunniti – seppur in numero esiguo – pur di contrastare i sollevamenti popolari interni a maggioranza sciita. Il paradigma confessionale è stato utilizzato anche per liquidare le forze del cambiamento rivoluzionario e quindi restaurare quelle del vecchio regime. Il colpo di stato del generale Abdel Fattah as-Sisi nel luglio 2013 è stato presentato come necessario per impedire l’islamizzazione forzata dell’Egitto ad opera dei Fratelli Musulmani e i loro tentativi di provocare una guerra civile.

Dal discorso confessionale ai flussi migratori in Europa
All’interno di confini più simbolici che territoriali, le diverse componenti sociali han sentito il bisogno di definirsi come diverse l’una dall’altra e di reclamare diritti o adempiere ai doveri civili definendosi in termini identitari, piuttosto che come parte costituente di uno stato sociale che garantisce diritti e servizi di prima necessità.

Ma in che modo il discorso confessionale dello scontro di civiltà tocca le sponde europee? In nome della sicurezza contro la minaccia globale del terrorismo islamico, una serie di legislazioni anti-terrorismo limitano le libertà civili e i diritti fondamentali della persona. Anche negli stati che si definiscono democratici, lo “stato di diritto” lascia progressivamente il posto allo “stato d’emergenza”. Il discorso confessionale serve anche per giustificare la gestione militare e securitaria dei fenomeni migratori. Nella propaganda islamofobica e xenofoba, ormai non più appannaggio esclusivo dell’estrema destra, le categorie dei migranti e dei richiedenti asilo vengono sempre più associate al pericolo dell’invasione islamica, che metterebbe in discussione la purezza dei valori cristiani e occidentali, e alla minaccia del terrorismo jihadista. L’equazione clandestino-musulmano-terrorista diventa sempre più accettabile agli occhi dell’opinione pubblica europea.

L’uso di identità confessionali ed etniche per spiegare eventi storici, politici, e addirittura psicologici, è di per sé un atto fondamentalista. In questo senso, le violenze di oggi su scala globale e la convinzione che i flussi migratori siano un qualcosa da accogliere o rifiutare, fanno parte di una lotta all’affermazione di valori e principi propri che si vogliono sancire come universali.

Mentre il profugo o il migrante sono concepiti come elementi in eterna lotta, gli aiuti umanitari sono standardizzati, spesso tradendo la diversità dei bisogni dei beneficiari. La sofferenza dell’Altro, come la sua minacciosa violenza, sono rese omogenee e indivisibili. Quando episodi di violenza spezzano la normalità su cui son disegnate le nostre vite quotidiane, e quando tali episodi sono relazionabili a fenomeni transnazionali generati o facilitati da migrazioni o rivendicazioni di stampo confessionale – prevalentemente islamico – i clandestini che sbarcano, denigrati esclusivamente secondo la loro matrice identitaria confessionale, vengono meccanicamente associati al fallimento delle politiche europee e alle reti islamiche estremiste transnazionali.

In altre parole, la paura delle società occidentali di tradursi in spazi a rischio imprevedibile – cosa che finora ha prevalentemente turbato le vite umane nel “Sud globale” – è arginata tramite avanzate tecnologie di sicurezza e sorveglianza, nonché prontamente consolata da mezzi informativi e di assistenza sociale che tendono a mantenere i confini identitari del “diverso”: l’assimilazione o il riconoscimento dell’eterogeneità di quest’ultimo diluirebbero troppo la sua presenza all’interno delle società di arrivo.

Il “diverso”, da una parte, è in lotta col proprio simile nel Sud globale, in quanto parte di un mosaico identitario che va “sanato” da principi e diritti universali, propugnati dal nostro lato del Mediterraneo. Il “diverso” diventa invece uniformabile ai suoi simili quando il Sud globale si sposta verso il Nord globale, ponendo quest’ultimo al cospetto di nuove rivendicazioni. Mentre ci proponiamo di curare e arginare l’emergenza negli stati mediorientali attraverso agenzie umanitarie in loco, l’insicurezza imprevedibile alla quale siamo di fronte ora – la stessa che pone sullo stesso piano gli immaginari “Nord” e “Sud” – finisce per rafforzare questi totalitarismi identitari: i veri mali del nostro tempo.

* Enrico Bartolomei ha conseguito il dottorato di ricerca in storia dell’area euro-mediterranea all’Università di Macerata. E’ tra gli autori di Gaza e l’industria israeliana della violenza (DeriveApprodi 2015) e tra i curatori dell’edizione italiana di L’occupazione israeliana (Diabasis 2016) di Neve Gordon.

Estella Carpi ha conseguito un dottorato in antropologia sociale alla University of Sydney (Australia). Attualmente consulente di ricerca per la New York University (Abu Dhabi) e Lebanon Support (Beirut), si occupa principalmente di Levante arabo.

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الأقلّيات” و”الأغلبيات”: تناوب على السلطة أم تمثيل عددي؟”

الأقلّيات” و”الأغلبيات”: تناوب على السلطة أم تمثيل عددي؟”

يتّفق العلماء والمفكرون وأصحاب الرأي والجمهور العام، في كثيرٍ من الأحيان، على أن الشاغل الرئيسي والحتمي في الشرق الأوسط المعاصر هو التنوع الديني، والحاجة إلى حماية «الأقليات» الدينية، فقد أصبح تدريجياً ما يُعرفُ بالأقليات الدينية سمةً أساسية من سمات السياسة الدوَلية. وعادةً تُنَاقَش هذه «الأقليات» على أنّها كيانات غير قابلة للتغيير، وأنها متميّزة بأصول سياسية متجانسة في الشؤون الدوَلية، وأيضاً كفئات تحليلية يمكن من خلالها فهم الشرق الأوسط بشكل سريع.

وسيشيرُ التحليل التالي إلى تجاهل الميزات المصطنعة للأقليات الدينية، كما الأغلبيات، في السياسة الدوَلية المعاصرة. وستعتمد الأمثلة التاريخية التالية على مفاهيم تفسيرية شاملة، لشرح الامتيازات المدنية أو الحرمان الإجتماعي، وسيتم تسليط الضوء على الصداقة أو العداوة التي تشكّل العلاقات بين «الأقليات» الدينية المختلفة.

في محاولة استقراء ظهور مصطلح «الأقليات» في الإنتاج العِلمي، يربط المؤرّخ بينجامين وايت في 2011 تاريخَ الأقليات بتكوين الدول القومية في الشرق الأوسط. وكتب وايت أن مصطلح «الأقليات» كان قد ظهر في الثلاثينات من القرن الماضي فقط بسبب البيروقراطية الفرنسية، التي كانت لا تزال تهيمن على البلاد في ذلك الوقت، وبسبب تدخّل الدولة في حياة الناس اليومية. وفعلاً ازداد استخدام مصطلح «الأقلية» خصوصاً في الفترة الّتي أعقبت الانتداب الفرنسي لسوريا في الأربعينات. ومن ثم بدأت الدولة في الشرق الأوسط الحديث تُمثّلُ الناس بشكلٍ جماعي، كما بدأ كل عنصرٍ في المجتمع ينظر إلى نفسه بوصفه قابلاً للتصنيف، إمّا بناءاً على استياء الأقليات من حرمان أفرادها من الخدمات المجتمعية، أو على إشباع الأغلبيات نتيجةً للإشراك المجتمعي. وفي الواقع، يشيرُ تمثيل هذه الفئات الاجتماعية بذاته إلى التماسك والتجانس.

وبناءاً على ما كان يصفه العالم الاجتماعي بيير بورديو بـ «الرأسمال الإعلامي والمعرفي»، تُعزى المسميات الطائفية إلى إرادات شعبية متنوعة في جميع أنحاء الشرق الأوسط. وهكذا فإنه على سبيل المثال، يبدو من الطبيعي أن يُحكَم العراق بهيمنة نظام شيعي بعد عهد صدام حسّين، فقط لأنّ أغلبية السكان شيعة. وعلى نحو مماثل بعد أن بدأت في عام 2011 أزمة سياسية غير مسبوقة  في سوريا، فإنه لا يمكن الحكم دون اعتراض لدى الأغلبية السنية السورية كون النظام الحاكم من الأقلية العلوية. وكذلك بما أنه من السائد لدى الخبراء أنّ أكثرية الناس في البحرين شيعة، لذا فإنهم يحتاجون إلى نظام شيعي لإنهاء السخط المحلّي وتلبية المطالب بالحرّية. وأيضاً من السائد التفكيرُ أن السلطة الحاكمة في إيران مستقرّة، فقط بفضل ائتلاف شيعي حاكم على الأغلبية الشيعة الساحقة.

يستطيعُ الإنسان عن طريق فهم ماضيه أن يشعر بواجب المحافظة على الوعي الجماعي, إذ إنّ الارتباط المباشر بين الأغلبيات وفكرة الهيمنة، وبين الأقليات وفكرة التبعية، يُلقي بظلّه على مواقع السلطة المتغيرة التي تُكوّن أساس العلاقات المجتمعية. وفي هذا الصدد, تقدم الثورة السورية حالةً مثاليةً من خلال تصويرها على وسائل الإعلام الدوَلية، وبشكلٍ سابقٍ لأوانه، كحربٍ أهلية، أو عبارة عن مجموعة مطالب طائفية ومتحيزة للأغلبية السنية. ومن المضلّل القول إنّ تحرير الأغلبية السنية يؤدي إلى اضطهاد الأقليات، وبالإضافة إلى ذلك يحجب هذا الاعتقاد توزيع السلطة الواقعي في المجتمع السوري. ومع ذلك, فقد قلّل هذا التفسير للحقائق الاجتماعية في سوريا من التضامن الدوَلي مع المتظاهرين السوريين، على خلاف الثورتين المصرية والتونسية.

وفي الواقع، تتراوح درجة تعاطف المجتمع الدوَلي مع قضايا سياسية معينة, حيث يقوم بالتدخل العسكري في الشرق الأوسط على أساس الاحتياج المضلّل إلى حماية الأقليات الأساسية المقيمة في الإقليم. وفي هذا السياق، يتم التلميح لازدواجية المعرفة بالأغلبيات والأقليات. على سبيل المثال، إنّ وصف الأكراد بالأقلّية في العراق وإيران وسوريا وتركيا كونهم «مظلومين» اجتماعياً، هو وصفٌ مخادعٌ إذا أردنا تفسير سبب سوء أوضاعهم المعيشية، أو التركيز على الجوهر السياسي لمفهوم «الأقلية».

وفعلاً، «الأقلّية» الكردية تتألّف من حوالي 30 مليون شخص، ولكن إلى اليوم لا يزال فكر الدولة القومية يسبّب وصفهم بالأقلية. وبالمثل، اعتمد تدخّل الدولة في الحياة اليومية في الشرق الأوسط، وعموماً الكيانات «اللوثيانية»، على إستراتيجية «فرّق تسُد» الّتي شجّعت الحركات الانفصالية والاستقلال السياسي للمجتمعات المختلفة، كوسيلةٍ وحيدة لقبول هويتها.

وكانت أعمال العنف التي يرتكبها «تنظيم الدولة» ضدّ عناصر المجتمع الموجودة في بلاد ما بين النهرين، تعزّز الاقتناع بأهمية «حماية الأقليات الدينية»، وبالتالي تكرّس استخدام الدين كأداة لإنتاج المعرفة الحصريّة.

أمّا حالياً، يقوم التنظيم بالاعتداء يومياً على المسلمين والمسيحيين بنحو مماثل، وغالباً يقتل الأشخاص الذين يرفضون سلطته بشكل مباشر، أو يعارضون «الخلافة» بأشكالٍ عديدة, ولكن فقط بفضل أعدادهم نصفهم بالمظلومين، لكي نعبّر عن مخاوفنا ونوايانا السياسية.

ومفهومُ التحليل العلمي «للدين» على أنّه خانةٌ فارغة، نستطيع ملأها بأي معنى، هو مفهومٌ مغلوط، ولكنّه لا يزال قادراً على صياغة الأحداث، وعلى رفع المشاعر الجماعية على نطاقٍ واسع. وفي الأمثلة التي قدّمتها سابقاً، في فهم تاريخ الشرق الأوسط، يعتمدُ فكر الهويات المتجانسة على أساليب معرفية مضلّلة، كما لو أنّها كيانات موضوعية ومعبّرة عن مبادئ سياسية ثابتة. وبعبارة أخرى، يتم اعتبار عناصر المجتمع الدينية والعرقية في حال طمحت إلى وطن مستقلّ وانتِماء فطري إلى أراضيها، على أساس هويتها فقط. ومثلاً لماذا لا يُعدّ المسيحيون الخاضعون لسلطة «تنظيم الدولة»، ولا الأكراد أيضاً، معارضين لسلطة الدولة المطلقة أو لأي كيانٍ أخر؟

يلجأ المجتمع الدولي، وليس السياسيون فقط، إلى لغة «حماية الأقليات» واستراتيجيتها على نحوٍ متزايد، فالحماية الاستعمارية للأقليات في الشرق الأوسط حوّلت المجموعات المتدينة غير المتجانسة، إلى كيانات متماسكة منفصلة. وعلى ضوء ذلك تتعرّض «الأقلّيات» أيضاً لخطر المجازر، أو التمييز بالحقوق المدنية، كلما تطلّبت ذلك المصالح السياسية أو ظروفٌ مادية معينة، ومن المفارقات أن يأتي حُرّاس الأقلّيات الأجانب لإنقاذها في السياق التاريخي الذي ترعرعت فيه.

وعلاوةً على ذلك, حسب الرأي السائد في الخارج وفي الشرق الأوسط، تتصادم هذه المقومات الدينية بشكلٍ دائم. وإذا نظرنا إلى الجذور التاريخية للعداوات الإقليمية المزمنة، فقد خدمت حماية الأقليات عبر التاريخ نفوذ السلطات الغربية في المنطقة, مثل الحماية الفرنسية للمسيحيين في سوريا، والحماية الفرنسية للموارنة في جبل لبنان، وخصوصاً أثناء الاقتتال مع الدروز، الذين كانوا تحت رعاية البريطانيين في القرن التاسع عشر.

وبالتالي، التلاعبُ السياسي في مفاهيم الأقليات والأغلبيات في إنتاج معرفة الشرق الأوسط، هو غالباً عملٌ أيديولوجي لا يزال يُصبَغ بمواريث استعمارية، وبالتأكيد ليس سيناريو الشرق الأوسط استثنائياً في هذا الإطار، لأنّ بعض المجموعات الاجتماعية أصغر من ما يسمّى «الأغلبيات» العرقية أو الدينية التي تعيش في الدولة القومية نفسها، ولكنّها لم تطور الإحساس الذاتي بأنّها «أقليات». على سبيل المثال، تُمثَّل الجاليات الآسيوية في تشيلي كمجتمعاتِ مهاجرين في الأخبار وفي الأدب المتعلق بهم، وعلى النقيض من ذلك، يُسمّى المغتربون من بوليفيا وبيرو في تشيلي «بالأقليات»، لأنهم هاجروا من دوَل جارة حاربت تشيلي في حرب إقليمية في القرن التاسع عشر، وذلك يؤكد استخدام الاستقطاب الثنائي السياسي لمفاهيم الأغلبية والأقلية.

ينتهجُ الحُكّام والجمهور والعلماء التصنيف الديني كإشارةٍ إلى قُربٍ أو بُعدٍ سياسي، وعلى نحو مماثل كان المسيحيون الأرثوذكسيون اليونانيون أكثر استعداداً لقبول الأمة العربية السورية في الثلاثينات من المذاهب المسيحية الأخرى، وكان يسمّى هذا المجموع «بقرابة الإسلام» في ظلّ وجود أغلبية مسلمة في الحركة القومية السورية، وعامّةً تحُثّ القضايا السياسية المشتركة المسلمين على البحث عن تسميات معبّرة عن قُربٍ ديني من المسيحيين الأرثوذكسيين. وطبعاً العامل السياسي هو مكوِّنٌ واحدٌ لمفهوم الدين القديم والمتعدّد، الذي يُستعمل إلى حدّ كبير في العلوم السياسية والاجتماعية. والنظرة التحليلية لمفهوم الدين، هي وسيلة مصطنعة تحتوي على عادات ومبادئ وعقائد وأخلاق معنوية، وسلوكيات بشرية متناقضة.

تؤدّي فرضية «استثنائية الشرق الأوسط»، إلى تصوّر انقسام الإقليم بشكل فطريٍ ومُبرَم، إلى أقليات دينية وعرقية متجانسة ومطواعة لسياسات الهوية, ومن مسؤوليتنا مواجهةُ سوء الفهم والقصور الفكري الأهلي والدوَلي، والعمل على تحسين أساليب معرفية وإدراكية في النقاش حول الشرق الأوسط.

Categories: Middle East, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

What ways to combat populistic “protection for minorities”: let’s start from historical redefinitions (Estella Carpi, April 2013)

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(Picture source: The New York Times)

The media discourses and people’s everyday accounts increasingly talk of Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria in terms of “Shi’a against Sunna”, as well as the Jihadist Sunni armed groups fighting against the “Shi’a cosmopolitanism” – as defined by Shehabi and Tafreshi in 2006 – that includes Iran, Iraq since Nuri al Maliki’s mandate, Syria and Hezbollah’s Lebanon.

Likewise, internationals engaged in the Syrian events have often called for the need to “protect” Syrian Christians and Syrian Alawites, by taking for granted what the concept of “minority” may indicate and, hence, by essentialising further this notion.

In this moment of political history, I therefore find extremely helpful to dwell upon the way we conceive and deal with ethnic and religious “minorities” in the middle eastern scenario. 

Our moral duty, in the capacity of bloggers, researchers, journalists or whatsoever knowledge space providers, is not to pride ourselves on the fact that we had already predicted that a confessional strife or the oppression of a certain minority would have taken place, as though confessionalisation of violence and politics in the Middle East were an inescapable human phenomenon. Rather, the duty of knowledge collectors, producers and commentators is to recall the manipulative nature of such discourses. To adopt the rhetoric of any rule-and-divide power, either western or eastern, leads us to perpetrate the power dynamics we are purported to fight.

Daniel Neep, scholar at the University of Exeter, exhaustively explains what social dynamics the divide-and-rule strategy, adopted by colonial as well as “native dictatorial” regimes, implies and deploys.

In the hope that one day we will liberate ourselves from such rhetorics, may the following words raise historical and sociological awareness around these chronically simplified definitions.

(Estella Carpi)

“Divide and conquer is a standard tactic in the colonial repertoire. Religious and ethnic diversity can be readily manipulated by foreign powers, which play minorities off against one another to prevent challenges to their rule. But the category of ‘minority’ is not a natural representation of an objective demographic reality. Instead, the worldwide appearance of ‘the minority’ in the early to mid-twentieth century is bound up with the processes of modern state formation which both divided those territories under colonial rule and moulded their populations into bodies politic whose social boundaries were now intended to be coterminous with political borders. ‘Minorities’ are neither primordial entities nor numerical facts, but a contingent social phenomenon, the existence of which deserves to be explained rather than taken for granted.

French Mandate Syria (1920–46) provides an excellent case study to explore this line of analysis. Specifically tasked by the League of Nations with creating what would eventually be a modern, self-governing state, France found exploiting Syria’s communal diversity to be a useful means of keeping the natives occupied while it consolidated its control of the country. As the traditional historiography observes, minorities such as the Alawis, Druze, Ismailis and Christians were disproportionately represented in the colonial army, which helped maintain order among the Sunni Muslim majority.

But a meticulous perusal of the historical evidence in French and Arabic allows to demonstrate that France’s minority policy was less consistent than was previously assumed. The term ‘minority’ was uncommon during the first decade of the Mandate, in both Arabic and French formulations; only in the 1930s did it become widespread. While Syria’s Christians had by then been recognised as a minority worthy of support and ‘protection’, other ethnic and religious groups such as the Kurds and Circassians were denied minority status and the legal right to representation that such status implied”. (Daniel Neep)

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Sami Gemayel’s talk at the University of Sydney (by Estella Carpi – May 2012)

http://www.sirialibano.com/lebanon/sami-gemayel-uomo-dal-multiforme-ingegno.html

Sami Gemayel, uomo “dal multiforme ingegno”?

29 MAGGIO 2012

(di Estella Carpi*). Lo scorso 21 maggio eravamo una sessantina ad assistere all’intervento di Sami Gemayel, eminente membro del partito falangista libanese, noto per le sue posizioni conservatrici, sulla scia dei suoi avi.

L’evento è stato organizzato dalla Australian Lebanese Association con sede a Sydney. Fondata nel 1947, ha tra i suoi principi portanti il suo carattere non religioso, non confessionale e soprattutto apolitico.

Talmente non confessionale e apolitico da invitare a parlare di democrazia l’attuale leader del partito falangista cristiano libanese. Strategie anticonfessionali o aconfessionali, a detta loro, che dopo varie interviste con le più disparate associazioni libanesi, mi sono purtroppo estremamente note.

Dopo essersi laureato all’università Saint Joseph di Beirut, Gemayel è attualmente dottorando presso l’università di Grenoble. Fratello di Pierre – eminente figura politica anti-siriana assassinata nel 2006 – ha sempre rappresentato nella compagine odierna, nonostante la sua giovane età, il pugno duro cristiano-libanese che invoca l’unione politica nazionale dei cristiani come unica soluzione per i problemi del Libano contemporaneo.

Mi siedo a fianco di un’anziana libanese velata. Il dettaglio pseudo-orientalista mi è necessario per non negarvi la serie di pensieri stereotipati che mi sopraggiungono nel trovarla in un contesto del genere: probabilmente seguace del partito al Mustaqbal fondato da Rafiq Hariri e fiera paladina della coalizione del 14 marzo?

Entra finalmente Gemayel: non sentivo una standing ovation di tale portata dai tempi del concerto degli Smashing Pumpkins nei miei tardi anni Novanta. Il suo discorso sfiora dal primo minuto il populismo più raccapricciante: diritti umani, democrazia in Libano, demolizione del sistema confessionale fonte di tutti i mali, la Siria occupante, l’Iran opprimente, Hezbollah burattino e ruffiano delle agende siro-iraniane, e il Libano, per l’ennesima volta, bellissimo staterello caduto vittima delle avide mire straniere. E via con l’applauso, come sempre, sulle note della litania della “guerra degli altri”.

Non mi sorprende che Sami Gemayel si erga a paladino della giustizia e della democrazia occidentali, per non smentire coloro che lo hanno presentato in apertura dell’evento come un uomo che “piange, soffre e gioisce con il Libano”. Un uomo d’azione che ha fatto il possibile per liberare il suo Paese dall’oppressione siriana durante la cosiddetta Rivoluzione dei Cedri del 2005. Gemayel ci chiede un minuto di silenzio per ricordare le vittime degli ultimi tragici eventi di Tripoli e poi di tutta la storia libanese.

Ci rinfresca la memoria sull’occupazione siriana del Libano (al wikala al suriyya, 1976-2005), e sull’imminente necessità di smantellare il regime di Bashar al Assad. Nel quadro del bassissimo livello dell’informazione sulla rivoluzione siriana in cui sono sprofondati in troppi, Gemayel, pur partendo da prospettive diametralmente opposte alle mie, mi trova d’accordo sul fatto che, dati gli eventi degli ultimi mesi, sia inconcepibile dubitare ancora che possa esistere un regime peggiore di questo attuale nella vicina Siria.

Ciononostante Gemayel, da buona “rosa tra le spine” – come Papa Leone X chiamava i cristiani d’Oriente – non risparmia la sua intramontabile islamofobia, dubitando della capacità “islamica” dei Fratelli Musulmani e potenzialmente dei salafiti, di far avanzare la democrazia e di migliorare il livello di occupazione, educazione e sanità, sulla linea dei cambiamenti rivendicati durante la cosiddetta primavera araba.

Se Gemayel evita perlomeno la tipica retorica maronita che prende le distanze dall’arabità, è invece un membro del pubblico a farlo: “Feci questa stessa domanda a tuo padre un decennio fa: quale sarà l’evoluzione del Libano dopo questa fase? Come garantiremo la pace alla comunità cristiana in Libano?”.

Lo spettatore – o ammiratore, sarebbe più opportuno chiamarlo – si rallegra che gli venga data la stessa risposta di un decennio prima: “Il Libano risorgerà più forte e unito di prima. E nelle prossime elezioni non ci saranno più scontri tra le Falangi e le Forze libanesi”. Trasformare il Libano nella Svizzera del Medio Oriente, come lo si  chiamava prima della guerra civile (1975-1990), dove ogni emigrato desidererebbe tornare, pare costituire l’apice dell’ottimismo delle Falangi di Sami Gemayel.

Sulle parole della peroratio, non resisto e chiedo all’anziana signora velata al mio fianco perché mai Gemayel la entusiasmi così tanto: “Non ne so molto di politica, ma viene dal mio Paese e rappresenta l’unico legame con la patria che mi resta ora come ora”. È risaputo che gli emigranti della diaspora tendono a riprodurre nel Paese di destinazione le stesse divisioni del Paese d’origine nello spazio urbano e nell’immaginario ideologico, spesso enfatizzandole. Serbi, croati, macedoni e bosniaci, maroniti, sciiti e sunniti libanesi, palestinesi e israeliani nell’Australia attuale sembrano più divisi che mai. Eppure, le loro diverse esistenze confessionali, al di là di ogni alleanza politica, ripensando alla nostra anziana signora, paiono ora riconciliarsi ai livelli più alti: quelli politici.

Come farmi sfuggire l’opportunità di una domanda a Sami Gemayel? Alzo la mano, quasi mi inerpico sulla sedia, ma non mi viene data priorità rispetto alle moltissime altre mani alzate e viene dichiarato concluso l’evento.

Come parlare di democrazia in Libano senza parlare di responsabilità, gettata tra le mani del primo sventurato come una patata bollente? Come invocare lo smantellamento del sistema confessionale e denunciare i favoritismi nepotistici tipici libanesi senza rinunciare a se stessi, eredi dei medesimi privilegi, in quelle medesime vesti politiche, portatrici sane di misfatti passati?

“L’ipocrisia è inseparabile dall’essere uomo come la viscidità dall’essere pesce”, diceva d’altronde Sören Kierkegaard. Come parlare di necessità del voto libero, non coatto, né comprato, negando esplicitamente allo stesso tempo la legittimazione di Hezbollah e il suo vasto – seppur a mio avviso declinante – consenso popolare? Come arrivare a lamentare l’attuale condizione dei maroniti ridotti a cittadini di secondo grado? Con che realismo e onestà politici parlare della necessità di “neutralità e decentralizzazione” in una realtà dove le amministrazioni locali – il Metn, per quanto lo riguarda – non sono altro che il volto postmoderno di clientelismi di stampo feudale, tuttora prostituiti a un’ambigua comunità internazionale? Con che coraggio invocare l’imparzialità sulla questione arabo-israeliana, quando migliaia di figli della Nakba palestinese vivono di stenti all’interno dei confini libanesi e si vedono negati quei diritti che lui stesso reputa “inattuabili” se all’interno di una realtà islamica? Queste sono solo alcune delle tante domande che avrei voluto porgli.

È un inno a Sami Gemayel, uomo che in Libano “non è libero come lo è qui ora mentre lo vedete in carne ed ossa”, e un bell’Allah yehmik (Dio ti protegga) a lui dedicato a chiudere l’evento.

Come direbbe Gibran, “Pietà per la nazione, i cui uomini sono pecore e i pastori sono guide cattive… Pietà per la nazione i cui leader sono bugiardi e i cui saggi sono messi a tacere. Pietà per la nazione che non alza la propria voce tranne che per lodare i conquistatori e acclamare i prepotenti come eroi. Pietà per la nazione”.

_____

* Estella Carpi è studentessa di dottorato presso l’Università di Sydney e passa lunghi periodi in Libano per la sua ricerca.

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Lebanon’s phenomenology of protest (by Estella Carpi – November 2011)

http://www.sirialibano.com/lebanon/lebanon-and-the-phenomenology-of-protest.html

Lebanon and the phenomenology of protest

25 NOVEMBRE 2011

(by Estella Carpi) Last November 5 I attended a roundtable discussion to commemorate the journalist Samir Kassir – murdered on 2nd June 2005 – as a visionary of the Arab spring, which took place at the “Foire du Livre Francophone” in Beirut. One of the speakers, Ziad Majed, Lebanese political researcher currently based in France, got a burst of applause when he denounced the use of Lebanon as a battleground to serve foreign interests. Apparently, the “war of others” imaginary is still an effective palliative for the plights of Lebanese society.

Amid the series of Arab pro-democracy uprisings that spread throughout North Africa and the Levant, Lebanon is the-odd-one-out. For in Lebanon the scene is considered “surprisingly very calm” and “becoming a sleepy backyard”, as Fatima el Issawi recently wrote on Open Democracy. The Cedars Country, however, is apparently on the Arab cutting-edge as it grew to offer a wide scenario of protests, rallies and press freedom. It is told to be a “quasi-democracy”, as many put it, where journalists like Samir Kassir and Gibran Tueni had to pay with their life for their freedom of expression.

Within such an atmosphere, Rafik al Hariri’s assassination on 14th February 2005 and the so called harb tammuz(the 2006 war that Israel sparked with Lebanon) can be considered the watershed of Lebanon’s contemporary historical landscape. Hezbollah’s renewed strength in the aftermath of the 2006 war and its subsequent increased popularity has also contributed to engendering a political dichotomy within a multi-dimensional country shattered by a 15 year civil war. To suggest an idea of fragmentation and absence of consent about a single national narrative, is to make light of the way the Lebanese rather use the word ahdas, which literally means events, when referring to the civil war.

Such political dichotomy around Hariri’s murder and Hezbollah’s victory in the 2006 war seems to have given rise to a new binary set within Lebanese society in terms of social ethics framing ways of living. The origin of such a binarism of political “forces” can be traced back to 2005, when March 8 coalition, mainly led by Hezbollah, Amal and the Free Patriotic Movement of Michel Aoun, took down the streets in support and gratitude to the Syrian power. In opposition the March 14 alliance emerged – known as Cedar Revolution – led by ex PM Saad al Hariri and the Lebanese Forces of Samir Geagea. The latter coalition returned to the streets of Beirut last January 2011, chanting “from Beirut to Tehran, we don’t want the Pasdaran” – the 1979 Iranian revolution’s guards – when Hezbollah walked out of the Parliament seeking to have their de facto legitimization addressed. Since January 25 the March 8 Alliance has been the ruling coalition.

Lebanese society has increasingly rallied around these two internally variegated contrasting blocs in their attempt to have their rights upheld and to attain the respective concept of “justice” that their community and – particularly – family culture has left to them throughout the generations. Indian theorist Gayatri Spivak coined a term that best captures the case in point: “strategic essentialism” takes place when heterogeneous groups – in our case people aligning themselves with one of the two 2005 March coalitions – present themselves as a single bloc despite internal differences. In such settings, it becomes advantageous for them to temporarily essentialize themselves and bring forward their group identity in a simplified way to achieve their goals. Whatever the latter are: unanimous political de facto legitimization of Hezbollah and its ethics of Resistance, liberation from Syrian interference, political secularism or (il)legitimacy of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon as the road to national “truth”.

Albeit the Lebanese can boast they have always had great spirit of protest and hasten to say that they represent one of the few oases of freedom with expression in the region, individuals still occupy job positions and have access to health, education and other primary services on the basis of their confessional belonging or, better yet, of their personal connections, rather than universal civil rights and personal status. In a place where urbanization did not exceptionally produce an erosion of kinship ties and traditional values, what could be defined as “Lebanese daily way of living” apparently remains untouched by protests despite its inner will for change.

As Slavoj Zizek wrote recently, Marx’s key insight remains as pertinent today as it ever was: “the question of freedom should not be located primarily in the political sphere”. Rather, the real freedom is thought to reside in the “apolitical” network of social relations, “from the market to the family, where the change needed in order to make improvements is not political reform, but a change in social relations”. In other words, if real political changes should burgeon in the bosom of everyday relations through the everyday dismantling of social labeling and stereotypes, speaking out for rights and protesting in a noble bid to overthrow a boorish system, or a lack of system, will not lead to any real change.

In the Lebanese “not-war-not-peace” everyday life, scholars and civil society activists have often spoken of an aesthetic approach to existence  – perhaps not particularly exceptional – that Lebanese youth adopt, as they tend to live their ordinary experiences in wild pursuit of pleasures and consumerism of the new world order. In such a frame, the active attempts to force society to acknowledge its plights seem to remain weak and unachieved, despite the strong capability that they embody.

Wide consumerism and the mentioned ethic aesthetism, however, do not bury contemporary issues that are pending addressed. Most commonly you find on a daily basis Lebanese people of any generation putting forward the issue of secularism, or the already mentioned “war of others” syndrome, as well as the Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s strategy to uphold foreign interests in the country, and Beirut’s reconstruction. A reconstruction that has been rebaptized by dissenters “architectural betrayal”, which was carried out by company Solidère, founded by Rafik al Hariri in the postwar. The company is currently accused of misconceiving the city’s original morphology and was also target of fatwas issued by religious parties. These issues comprise the cornerstones of the everyday Lebanese civil society’s agenda, which flaunts how it has been expressing its dissents for longer than other Arab civil societies, such as its Syrian neighbor.

Revisiting Marx’s argument and its current relevance, the strength of protests risks withering away or being expressed in vain, insofar as it is mutilated by self-seeking youth’s voyeurism or ephemeral consumerism; the strength of protest is then scattered throughout an allegedly fake and disaffected atmosphere. This begs the question of whether the phenomenological dynamics of today’s protests are in danger, perhaps more so in the western world in terms of material efficiency and transformative potential.

These public space narratives of dissent that are brought to the fore on a daily basis, involve confessionalism, Beirut’s demolishing reconstruction, the Special Tribunal’s hoax and the everyday criticisms on basic services scarcity. For instance, it is a norm to experience 3 hour daily power cut within Beirut, and an up to 18 hours cut per day outside the capital. Notwithstanding, these criticisms and protests are often advanced by people that lead a life style which heavily contribute to feeding and maintaining communal lines, who go pub crawling in places that are nowadays replacing old urban heritage spots, or who contest the tribunal and its fake nature in the bid of bringing out “real justice”, while showing reluctance to share family memories and still worshipping political party members that used to be civil war criminals; or, in a similar vein, while pretending to express socio-political disinterest and distance from the political present.

The rift between social effectiveness and phenomenological formality of protests is a looming risk faced by states that can boast years of demonstrations and rallies. Here comes the importance of the Arab spring, which, in spite of the profound pessimism of several scholars, simply unravels the Arab will of telling different stories and of proposing their own way of shaping their identity as a bottom-up phenomenon in the making. The Arab spring is a genuine lesson to better off complainers occasionally wearing the clothes of steadfast protestors, despite the widely spread pessimism of some “neo-orientalists” who, protected by their “third-worldism” and imbued with academic ubris, argue that these uprisings have been triggered by the US and its strategic interests in the region. Thereby, these opinionists end up representing Arabs as beings incapable of struggling and even longing for radical changes. Yet, some of these scholars actually wish protesters to be defeated, and express the need for acknowledging the people’s “choice” of other forms of statehood than western-style democracy. The “Arab Street” seems to prove its anger to be truly revolutionary instead, and the region is not “naturally” doomed to be governed by authoritarian regimes.

If and when macrocosmic changes will stem from and refresh their lifeblood in the microcosmic daily – though temporary – sacrifice on an individual level, the Pandora’s box of privileges, interests, impunity and lack of rule of law will be likely to be opened up. In order to guide the stream of changes to a commonly supported direction, in the abovementioned new cristallysed social dichotomy, everyone should be up to temporarily give up their own everyday balance and gradually reshape their raison d’etre in a country that is still moving, in some way or another, along communal lines. In the first instance, if this “loss” of balance were portrayed as a far-sighted national common achievement rather than as communal identity threat, a new social order built through consent and inclusiveness would be more likely to be established.

Nonetheless, assuming that the act of taking down the street is by this time void of meaning in Lebanon and in the Western world would merely serve to feed the rhetoric of the conservatives. Rather protest, beyond its formal essence, ought to be largely fueled by individual sacrifice in the private sphere on an everyday basis. Likewise, sufficient popular commitment to changing things from below is not a phenomenon that rules out the high responsibility that governments and regimes should be burdened with as to address people’s needs and, in some cases, to annihilate themselves for the sake of people.

In some realities, authentic changes can afford lie in the people’s willingness to everyday sacrifice, given that the liberation of the individual from an oppressive or shattered state doesn’t seem to be enough. The Foucaultian argument is still enlightening on this purpose: individuals should also liberate themselves from the type of individualization linked to their state – tribal and communal in the case of Lebanon. No other deus ex machina will come and rescue us.

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Saiyyda Zeinab Mosque opening in Beirut (by Estella Carpi – March 2012)

http://www.sirialibano.com/lebanon/sayyda-zeinab-spazi-rivalutati-nei-sobborghi-meridionali-di-beirut.html

Una Sayyida Zeinab anche per Beirut (sud)

5 MARZO 2012

(di Estella Carpi*). Sulla polverosissima strada che da Haret Hreik porta a Bi’r al ‘Abed, due municipalità indipendenti a sud  di Beirut, parte della Dahiyye (“periferia” in arabo) notoriamente definita la roccaforte di Hezbollah, alla fine del mese di marzo verrà inaugurata una nuova moschea, ora in fase di completamento, che sarà intitolata “Sayyida Zeinab” in onore di Zeinab bint ‘Ali, nipote del Profeta Muhammad.

La moschea è in fase di costruzione da diversi mesi grazie ai fondi della società islamica di beneficenza Al Baqiyat al Salihat, come mi viene riferito dal capo-squadra dei costruttori, M., che mi invita a visitarne l’interno.

Mi mostra i muri ancora spogli della moschea e le decorazioni in corso che non è possibile fotografare. La società, che possiede più sedi in diversi paesi arabi e in Iran, provvede anche all’assistenza sanitaria, sociale e pedagogica, e alla sussistenza dei poveri, degli orfani, degli emarginati e delle famiglie dei martiri.

M. con fare fiero mi mostra le cicatrici sulle mani dovute a tanto lavoro nel corso degli anni e – aggiunge – alle schegge dei bombardamenti israeliani dell’estate 2006. La strada tra Haret Hreik e Bi’r al ‘Abed – via Abbas al Moussawi, in onore del primo segretario generale di Hezbollah – è infatti una delle zone che sono state più sottoposte a un totale “urbicidio” nella guerra dei 33 giorni di quasi sette anni fa.

L’idea di condividere con il lettore l’apertura di un nuovo spazio religioso a Dahiyye mi viene in realtà suggerita dai commenti al riguardo di alcuni miei conoscenti nell’area. Secondo alcuni di loro, la moschea prenderà questo nome per rifarsi chiaramente al modello concettuale e teologico della Sayyida Zeinab siriana, una delle maggiori mete di pellegrinaggio sciita in Medio Oriente, che ospita la tomba appunto di Zeinab bint ‘Ali, fatta prigioniera da Yazid, dalla storiografia sciita dipinto come il “carnefice” di Hussein, figlio di Ali e in onore del quale si celebra la celebrazione sciita dell’ ‘Ashura’. Anche M. stesso, la mia guida, senza che io mi pronunci al riguardo, menziona il legame con la moschea damascena.

La moschea presa a “modello” di cui parlo si trova nella periferia a sud di Damasco, in una zona con cui – lungi da qualsiasi patetismo terzomondista – è inevitabile avere un impatto emotivo durissimo: numerosi bambini di strada che baciano i piedi dei passanti per ottenere una moneta o anche solo una penna o una caramella. Quel ricordo nel luglio 2005 è il primo pugno emotivo dritto allo stomaco da cui faticai a riprendermi nelle vesti di studentessa di lingua e cultura arabe. Ma fu anche la prima fonte di una lunga serie di domande che mi posi sul concetto di umiliazione e di abuso, su cui non è sede questa per prolungarsi.

La moschea di Sayyida Zeinab pare sia dunque connessa a uno sforzo di affermazione identitaria delle realtà urbane periferiche di Damasco. E da fine marzo 2012 anche in quelle di Beirut. Nella Dahiyye beirutina tuttavia, e in particolare nelle ristrette dimensioni della sua via, la moschea sciita non suggerisce affatto l’atmosfera empatica che si respira a Damasco, fatta di canti e pianti luttuosi, e di spessore psicologico della tragedia storica dei “martiri” Hassan e Hussein negli eventi di Karbala’ e Najaf.

Alcuni negozianti nelle immediate vicinanze del quartiere tra Haret Hreik e Bi’r al ‘Abed esprimono il dissenso senza mezzi termini riguardo al nome pensato per il nuovo spazio religioso di Dahiyye. Secondo loro, con un progetto di questo tipo la società di costruzione intende ribadire in toto il carattere ideologico siro-iraniano dell’area e incarnato in un nuovo spazio pubblico.

I commenti di alcuni passanti mi ricordano la difficile sfida di offrire uno spazio pubblico in cui ogni residente dell’area possa identificarsi. La questione di come evitare l’endogena esclusione sociale all’interno della stessaDahiyye è purtroppo totalmente ignorata, dal momento che l’area viene spesso aribitrariamente dipinta come un monolite culturale, religioso e sociale. Fatto solo di povertà, emarginazione, arretratezza, caos sociale ed economico nella totale assenza di leggi.

Diversamente dalla “bufala” socio-urbana di Solidère per ricostruire il downtown di Beirut dopo la guerra civile, e del progetto Elissar proposto dal governo libanese per ricostruire Dahiyye e mai attuato, la moschea di Sayyda Zeinab fa parte – nell’ottica delle municipalità locali – di un immenso progetto di rivalutazione e rafforzamento identitari della periferia di Beirut.

La nuova moschea, al suo esterno, ospita la tipica ‘ejjeh, il cassonetto per le elemosina dei residenti e dei passanti. Una delle sue scritte recita “Edifichiamo insieme la società” (al mujtamaa nabnihi ma’an): uno dei tanti espedienti propagandistici di inclusione e partecipazione delle varie agenzie di beneficienza locali.

L’orgoglio di M. e degli altri costruttori nel sottolineare l’onore del loro incarico, in veste di self-made men, evidenzia l’ancor attuale disaffezione dei residenti di Dahiyye, per lo più emigrati dal sud del Paese, nei confronti dello Stato libanese, a causa di una lunga storia di emarginazione e abbandono dell’area da parte del governo.

Consiglio una visita alla moschea anche prima del suo completamento. Si può così entrare nel cuore delle fasi finali di ricostruzione delle periferie meridionali di Beirut, bombardate pesantemente dall’aviazione israeliana nell’estate del 2006. Troverete anche modo di immergervi nella realtà sociale dei costruttori dei nuovi edifici, lavoratori immigrati per la maggior parte, stipendiati prevalentemente da società private del Golfo, nell’immensa compagine grottescamente neo-liberalista del Libano in eterna ricostruzione.

—-

* Estella Carpi studentessa di dottorato dell’Università di Sidney, Australia. Attualmente è a Beirut per una ricerca sul campo.

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Ethnographic commentary on Syrian Refugees in Lebanon (by Estella Carpi – September 2012)

http://tabsir.net/?p=1899


Image from Museum of Resistance in Lebanon; photograph by Estella Carpi

Syrian refugees in Lebanon: when the Apollonian cannot expect anything from the Dionysian

by Estella Carpi

While based in Lebanon, I personally find no way of getting out of the emotional whirlwind of suffering that the Syrian revolution, the merciless state repression and the subsequent armament of the revolutionaries have been giving rise to for 18 months. Without aiming at prematurely assessing the size of the emergency response to the “Syrian humanitarian crisis”, I would like to discuss here the Lebanese phenomenological approach to the current events by using the Syrian refugees’ lens.

Although used to regarding Syria as a model of stability and harmony, and as a place where people allegedly identify through the imposed order, the Lebanese suddenly find themselves taking care of the Syrian Leviathan. If Lebanon has always embodied the Dionysian, with its several war scars, social open wounds and its incontrollable emotionalities, Syria has always represented the rational, organized and balance-keeper Apollonian to the outsider’s eye.

The long date silenced political dissent has often been expressed through the art works of the exiled. A. (a Syrian whose name I withhold) tells me about the Syrian joke of calling “jahesh” a side of the coin representing Hafez al Assad’s face, which in Syrian dialect means “donkey”. The topos of the regime’s stupidity has been frequent in Syrian narratives for many years. The counter-rhetoric opposing such an Apollonian image of order has recently emerged due to the current “humanitarian crisis in Syria”. I recently met A. and R., who used to take part in demonstrations in Damascus and Homs: both experienced the bitterness of detention and torture, and were later conscripted by the Syrian Arab Army to fight for the regime’s survival. In other words, illogical strategies seem to be a further powerful means of state repression.

Even though the potential future Syrian perspective is not portrayed as “terroristic” in the anti-loyalist international propaganda, yet it is often depicted as “Muslim Brotherhood-friendly”, exclusively Sunni and unavoidably radicalist.
M., 23 years old, tells me he has been asked by Lebanese activists the reason why he decided to fast during Ramadan in Beirut, while affirming to be a progressive supporter of the revolution. This account shows us how living up to religious tenets is constantly and arbitrarily correlated to political conservativism. A., who arrived in Lebanon few months ago, was asked instead “why Syrians complain about their state, if education is for free, at least”. What is undercut here is, of course, the impossibility to get any kind of education but that allowed by Assad’s regime. R. even mentions suspiciousness of one Lebanese NGO when he entered Lebanon and asked for aid. After telling them his story, he was asked “what kind of sources he was using in Syria to be able to get this kind of information”. When your “information sources” are bombs, you do shiver at such a question and you would reply that, luckily, you were still in your hometown during the regime’s shelling “to be able to witness to what is really going on beyond the borders”.

The movie “The Suffering Grasses” by Iara Lee has recently closed the Lebanese Film Festival in Beirut. I was among a few people attending this documentary on the Syrian revolution, and most of them were actually foreigners like me. The movie was aimed at denouncing that when the “elephants” – so to speak, the Masters of War – go to war, it is the “grasses” that suffer. The post-movie Q&A session was canceled “due to security reasons” and “to maintain stability”. “Weird… in this country it’s normal to kidnap 40 people to exchange hostages, but it’s not conceivable to discuss about violence, regime change, (il)legitimacy of the armed resistance and ongoing genocide”, commented my friend S.

The large Lebanese dissent on the Syrian regime has not as one might expect become a real object of debate, despite the several anti-Assad demonstrations throughout Lebanon I personally witnessed. These are frequently interpreted from foreigners and some locals as a mere political instrument of the March 14 coalition, rather than genuine support for the victims of the Syrian state repression. Once again, the above mentioned communication-phobia is able to abort conceptual and material evolutions in Lebanon, a perpetual transit country for regional refugees.

Through the construction of the Syrian humanitarian subject, that somehow becomes a brand-new suffering body in what Bertrand Badie in 2002 named “pietas market”, the ever-present Western “Streben” of lyrical missionarism in the region, although to a far smaller extent, is back on the road after the Lebanese July war and Gaza’s humanitarian crises. As for other refugees in Lebanon, such as Iraqis, Sudanese and Palestinians – if I just cite the big numbers – Syrians, epitomizing the status of neo-refugees, get publicly invisible and neglected by the average Lebanese citizen. As it happened in the case of Palestinians seeking refuge after the 1948 Nakba, the normal Lebanese everydayness and the lives of Syrians lately flowing into Lebanon run parallel. The Syrian Revolution supporters, that are therefore used to being on the state margin, are not allowed to reshape the Lebanese local consciousness and contribute to healing its pathological public amnesia, of which the responsibility has often been disguised by “state-promoted” policies.

F. vents out his resentment to have welcomed during the 2006 war a Lebanese family in his house near Zabadani – a Syrian town close to the Lebanese border – and not to receive support from them now that their “agency roles” have been switched, according to what he says. “Assad’s loyalists who fear violence and want to come to Lebanon can easily seek refuge in the shelters provided by Hezbollah: “I’m sure they are far better than us, who got little instead”, says M. There are now official sources to ascertain this, but there is still wonder for whether and how the Assad opponents too find shelter under the protection of their oppressor’s allied. Also, what should not be overlooked in the latter account is that, once again, humanitarianism seems to further feed historically changing community hierarchies and trigger vicious circles of agency and passivity, mutual expectations, gratefulness to human mercy or dissatisfaction about compensation strategies.

The willingness to get greater awareness on the Syrian issue and build direct contacts with the “new non-citizens” of Lebanese society is rarely present except among local humanitarian actors, already plugged into international networks, predominantly representing a segment of Lebanese middle class, and then “affording” to be engaged in social issues. In a nutshell, the refugee’s body in Lebanon is exclusively enfranchised through its ability to produce labor in the humanitarian market; it loses any cultural value, meant as vital contribution to social memory and local activism within what is still wrongly termed “host” society.

I recently spoke to two different organizations engaged in emergency relief: both highlighted the increasing urgency of breaking rules to assist shelter and aid seekers not registered with UNHCR. Both providers boasted their primary goal on the assistance currently provided to Syrian refugees in Lebanon. While they compete for the Nobel Prize for humanitarian efforts in the days of the Syrian “crisis” – and while I cynically disparage the eschatological instincts giving birth to a new Lebanese-International humanitarian market – the umpteenth individual “rah aala beyt khalto” to be tortured (way of saying in the Levantine dialects “getting to jail”, “detained by the regime”), if not already died or massacred.

Note: All identities quoted in this article have been protected by using the initial letter of their name; the home town in Syria as well as the different confessional “belongings” of my interlocutors have been deliberately omitted.

Estella Carpi is currently a PhD Fellow at the American University of Beirut and a PhD Candidate at The University of Sydney.

 

Categories: Lebanon, Syria | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

New Syrian schools in North Lebanon (by Estella Carpi – December 2012)

My friend Burhan took me to a newly opened school in Tripoli and I manage to interview the director.

http://tabsir.net/?p=1966

New Syrian Schools in Lebanon

Posted by tabsir under Anthropology/Sociology , Lebanon , Syria , “Arab Spring”


New Syrian Schools in Lebanon: between refugees’ empowerment and unwillingly fueled Social Alienation

by Estella Carpi

Last October 1, the school “Madrasat al-Iman al-Islamiyya” in Abu Samra in the city of Tripoli (North Lebanon) opened to “fresh off the boat” Syrian refugee kids and youth, in order to cope with the need of providing proper education in their everyday existential limbo.

The doors of this originally Lebanese Islamic school open daily to Syrian pupils from 4pm to 6pm in the afternoon, with the exception of Friday and Sunday, as established in the Tripoli district school calendar. When I visited the school on a Friday morning, the space was being used for playing volleyball and other entertainment activities were organized in class. The Back-to-School campaign has been quite large this year in Lebanon. To date, 4,942 children have been enrolled in schools, 1,650 of who are also supported by UNICEF, of a total refugee population of 162,050 individuals according to the most updated statistics provided by UNHCR.

“Soon we’re going to open new classes for high school students as well”, tells me A., administrative staff member of the school. The school director specifies that there will not be any coordination between the Syrian and the Lebanese school programme: “We made certain that, once the kids are done with their studies here and they will be able to get back to Syria in safe conditions, their certificate will be considered valid whatever the political system will be back home, with or without nizam al-Assad” (the current Syrian regime of Bashar al Assad). The school policies, hence, purvey the underlying intention of the whole Syrian refugeehood system to get back to Syria as soon as it is feasible. “We are going to translate all books from French and English – used in the Lebanese school system – into Arabic, and it’s going to be a big job”, explains to me the director of the school, who has been in Lebanon for 31 years, unlike the newly arrived Syrian teachers and the school’s administrative staff, who make up the vast majority.

Syrians who are already established in Lebanon and have already started their own activities through a gradual self-empowerment over the years readily support the construction and provision of infrastructure and aid for their fellow country people in flight. For instance, A. has been in Tripoli for 20 years; he has dedicated a space in his textile shop for enhancing the distribution of bread and other emergency relief on a daily basis. The director of another school that has opened the doors in Tripoli last October, thanks to the support of the Syrian National Council and a sort of informal Syrian Education committee in Lebanon, declares that they are “cleansing books from polluted historical versions and taking out images of the Assad family”. The process of redrawing Syrian history and its official factual version achieves its emotional apotheosis when, after I stepped into one of the classes and the teacher sarcastically asks them “Bedkon Assad?” (“Do you like Assad?”), seven years old students promptly shout altogether “La walla, la walla, la walla” (“Absolutely not!”).


The guaranteed official recognition of the school certificate once back in Syria, whatever the regime will be, goes far beyond the psycho-social difficulties that Syrian refugees in Lebanon have to deal with, whether they will be able to return in the short run or not. Indeed, the ideological orthodoxy that is gradually being created by Syrian opponents in Lebanon, however legitimately, risks deepening the divide between a new Official, the Political, the Power, the upwards, and, on the other hand, a new Unofficial, the downwards, the People and the Silenced. The risk implied in the cultural internalization and consequent naturalization of what has been set up outside the country – such as the highly comprehensible categorical rejection of Assad’s regime – though in a revolutionary mood, will be tackled after the games will be played. By the same token, the implementation of such structures and the diffusion of their new “official history”, as well as the social reconciliation with the politically skeptical or the loyalist Syrians, will have to produce its new regenerating space once they will all be reabsorbed or somehow taken back into the changed Syrian social fabric.

In the highly unlikely case that Assad’s games continue though in different forms, such an emerged “humanitarian other” will just survive as a satellite that, on the one hand, will be considered incompatible, and, on the other, will chronically struggle to get recognized and institutionalized.

What can be directly observed now in the Lebanese space is that the Syrian aid providers essentially are exiled agentive citizens, who provide assistance to the fled families, that is to say to themselves too. In the bosom of the Lebanese humanitarian and associational environment, we have much more than a First Lady giving birth to NGOs close to the regime coalition, whose aim is to show democratization on the surface while controlling the burgeoning non-state opposition forces (as happened with Susan Mubarak in Egypt and Asma’ al Assad in Syria). A huge proliferation of organisms independent from the fragile central power, which provide aid in a bid to allegedly compensate for the so-called Lebanese state weakness, more easily hide their political agenda. The absence of the state is, in turn, controversially fed by the overwhelming presence in the territory of organizations – particularly indirectly – run by political party leaders and several sons of local nepotism.

In the current Lebanese humanitarian scenario, the Syrian provision of aid is increasingly used as a strategy of the March 14 coalition to align with the Syrian opposition and, at the same time, the only way for the Syrian opposition in Lebanon to gain momentum and pave the way to future institutionalization. On this front, Bahiya al Hariri, sister of the ex Premier Rafiq al Hariri assassinated on February 14 2005 in Beirut, as already announced one year earlier, has financed the opening of other Syrian schools in Sidon, homeland of al Hariri family. Such an emergent alliance gives rise to a new wave of political contradictions in the Lebanese context, as Rafiq al Hariri, despite the vast anti-Syrian media campaign he carried out by corrupting journalists, has always been a bulwark of the Lebanese subjection to the Syrian regime, often reducing the state to a mere reflection of Assad’s coalition will.

It must be wondered how the subjectification of Syrian pupils through education and primary socialization will develop in these humanitarian circumstances and in the already ongoing effort to reconfigure Syrian history in such schools. Will room be given for individual and collective histories within what seems to emerge as a new ideological orthodoxy of an arbitrarily homogenized revolutionary stance, serving as a satellite of Syrians’ needs, and alienated on a daily basis from the Lebanese social arena? Or will the long-endured social fear of Syrians who remember the 1982 Hama massacre – expressed by the saying “the walls are listening to you” – be replaced by a new political taboo according to which it will be forbidden to rationally explore the Assad’s regime irreconcilable ambiguities?

Categories: Lebanon, Syria | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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