Friday, May 22, 2009

Arab Women in Politics: a Quite Revolution

Ten years exactly after they got the right to vote, four Kuwaiti ladies win parliamentary seats. Despite the well-spread clich├ęs, the last elections in Kuwait confirm a trend already noticed for instance in Jordan when a lady won in November 2007, for the first time in the country’s history, a parliamentary seat.

In Arab modern history, women’s affirmation traces back to the end of the XIXth century, a political affirmation followed a few decades later by well-known political activists like the Egyptian Hoda Shaarawi or the Syrian Nadhira Zayn al-Din.

Independence has been, in many countries, the golden age for Arab women as their participation to the political life has constantly declined since, partly because this participation has been dictated by regimes which have lost any credibility to people looking for solutions from a Islamic dictated agenda.

But the trend toward the progressive vanishing of women’s participation in Arab politics could reverse as political “modernization” has became a “necessity” in the post 9-11 world, and with a ever-growing number of young educated women aiming at more individual identity and way of life.

In the Gulf states, often caricatured for its backwardness especially regarding women’s lib issues, some positive changes have already taken place as mentioned in a previous post about Saudi Arabia. After sheikha bint Nasser al-Missned, Qatar’s first lady, was named on 2008 Forbes magazine's list of the world's 100 most powerful women in the world, it was Nura Al-Faiz’s turn to appear in Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential people in the world, after she had been appointed Saudi Arabia`s first woman minister.

As usual, here is the link to the more developed post in French.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Arabic of the Media and the Moroccan Exception

At first glance, Moroccan TV watchers are no exception. According to local audience surveys, they love, like any other Arabs, to watch the Turkish serials dubbed into Arabic, partly, suggests movie critic Ahmed Sijilmassi, because they are perfectly suited for the cultural habits of the Moroccan housewifes.

After the previous waves of Mexican and South-American TV soap operas, the last one, with the Turkish productions, raised an unexpected linguistic issue. Before, the case was different when "local" productions, coming from Lebanon, Egypt, then Syria, used their own colloquial which was broadly understood, and accepted as a part of the whole set of shared cultural references.

There are changes in Morocco, a country where a whole range of newspapers, radio stations and even TV channels have shifted, in a unchallenged way by the rest of the Arabic speaking countries, to the local darija. For instance, 2M, the second national TV channel, has recently started the broadcasting of a new Mexican TV sopa opera, dubbed into "Moroccan" language.

It is believed that there is no political agenda behind such a decision, but only the quest for a bigger audience. Nonetheless, voices have already raised to condemn an assault on the Arabic and/or the Islamic country’s heritage.

It is a matter of fact that the Arab world, as a geopolitical concept, appeared a bit more than a century ago and that its political existence is more than ever in jeopardy. Have the peripheral states, confronted the weakness of its center, started to look for solutions elsewhere? At the Eastern end of the Arab world, the TV channels broadcast Hindi TV soap operas in country where Arabic, like in the Emirates, is already the third language after English and Urdu, and at the western one, they are more and more TV programs using colloquial Arabic…

Is the trend toward vernacular language a real threat for the Arabic language, an essential component of the political unity? For some linguists (see this post, sorry, no translation!), the extensive use of colloquial Arabic in the media remains, in the long range, the best tool for the promotion of the modern "Arabic of the media".

As usual, here is the link to the more developed post in French.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

IT Revolution and Old time TV

Today, around 70% of the Egyptians watch more than 500 Arab satellite channels, and more than 30 millions Arabs are connected to the Internet.

Even if nothing of that kind existed two decades ago, it is probably not enough to make a "real" revolution in an area dominated by experienced leaders like Presidents Mubarak and Gaddafi (28 years in power for the former, 40 for the latter).

As already mentioned, the Egyptian impulse was decisive when most of the Arab League States have adopted in February 2008 a document "regulating" satellite broadcasting.

Shortly after that, the Egyptian Nilesat took Al-Hiwar, an independant channel based in London, off the air, and TV shows like 90 Minutes on Al-Mihwar had to end rapidly thanks to police intervention in the studios.

And some days ago, Libia TV, a channel linked to Saif al Islam, Moammar Gaddafi’s son, was unexpectedly nationalised as the Egyptian foreign policy had been violently criticized by the very famous and popular Egyptian journalist, Hamdi Qandil.

Is it still possible to master today’s media just like in the good old times? After its unexpected "nationalisation", Al-Libia thought to moove to places like Amman or Dubai then apparently choose London.

And it would not be surprising to discover that Hamdi Qandil’s shows will still be aired on Al-Libia, or even the Lebanese pro-Hizbollah Al-Manar according to the last rumors.

As usual, here is the link to the more developed post in French.

The picture is from the cover of book on the Arab media recently edited by Tourya Guaaybess and myself.