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Robin Yassin-Kassab

Archive for July 2013

Tooth

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The Glasgow Film Theatre asked me and nine other writers based in Scotland to respond to the theme ‘For All.’ My response is part of the novel I’m writing at the moment. The extract  inspired this very brief but strangely wonderful animation by David Galletly:

You can read Tooth here at the GFT’s website..

Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

July 14, 2013 at 9:49 pm

Translation and Conflict

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Here was me, Dan Gorman and Samia Mehrez talking about translation and conflict for the Literary Translation Centre at the London Book Fair 2013.

Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

July 14, 2013 at 9:27 pm

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Yassin-Kassab versus Landis

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Thanks to Joshua Landis for posting (at Syriacomment) this dispute, which originally took place on Sultan Saoud al-Qassimi’s facebook page. I earlier took issue with Syriacomment’s coverage here.

Sultan Sooud: Great read by Joshua Landis on Obama’s three options on Syria. The one, two and three state solutions.

Racan Alhoch: I love orientalist solutions. They are always a modified version of the Sykes-picot. The best solution would be for people like Landis to fuck off.

Joshua Landis: Rocan, I am not sure what is orientalist about these possible outcomes. If Assad hangs on to the south is Syria and the rebels hold the north it will not be because of the west. It will be a Syrian solution. If the rebels are able to conquer Damascus it will probably be thanks to help from the West.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

July 11, 2013 at 8:41 pm

Posted in Syria

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Newsnight

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Here’s a Youtube recording of a full BBC Newsnight episode on Syria, in which I participated. The debate was about serious help for the resistance. The help isn’t coming.

Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

July 11, 2013 at 5:44 pm

Posted in Syria

Politics not Theology

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DSCI0206This was published by the National. If you’d prefer to read my tense choices, before the subediting process, read this version here.

I live in Scotland, where I am witness to the continuing legacy of Protestant-Catholic communal hatred, despite the theological indifference and general irreligiosity of the populace.

The hatred is most commonly activated by the Rangers-Celtic football game. (In his great novel “Kieron Smith, Boy”, James Kelman brings it viscerally alive through the mouth of a Glaswegian child.) It is manifest too in Orange Order marches and schoolyard slurs. It intersects with the gang violence of the ‘schemes’. Most of the time, of course, it’s absent, or it emerges as friendly competitiveness rather than actual conflict, but you can bet your last communion wafer that it would blossom into something much fiercer if, in the event of political crisis, a divide-and-rule tyrant were to send Catholic militia in to pacify restive Protestant areas, or vice versa.

Like Scotland’s sectarians, Syria’s Alawis are usually largely secular and ignorant of their own theology (at least they were – a war-driven religious revival is touching them as well as the Sunnis). Over the last four decades Alawi religious scholars have been assassinated or otherwise silenced by the Assad regime as it sought to render the community entirely dependent on the Ba‘athist state. Most Alawis (by no means all) continue to support Assad because they have no other community leadership. Add to this that many have relatives working in the security forces, and so fear a loss of privileges and even violent revenge when the regime falls. Alawis also remember their historical marginalisation by the Sunni majority, and therefore fear majority rule.

As in Iraq, Palestine-Israel, or Northern Ireland, the conflict in Syria is not about theology but about group fears and resentments. Ultimately, it’s about power. Communal tensions are the result not of ancient enmities but of contemporary political machinations. And nothing is fixed in time. Syria’s supposedly ‘Sunni rebellion’ (which contains activists and fighters of all sects) becomes more or less Islamist in response to rapidly-changing political realities. A few months ago, for example, Islamist black flags dominated demonstrations in Raqqa, in the east of the country; now Raqqa’s demonstrations are as likely to protest Jabhat an-Nusra, the extremist militia which nominally controls the city, as the regime. This isn’t an Islamist rebellion but a popular revolution. As in Egypt, if the Islamists oppress the people or fail to deliver, they too will be revolted against.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

July 10, 2013 at 5:51 pm

China Radio International

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Follow this link to hear me and Stephen Zunes discussing the situation in Syria on China Radio International. (Due to a timezone confusion, I was asleep until two minutes before this hour-long broadcast, which took place between 3 and 4 in the morning, my time.)

Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

July 4, 2013 at 7:48 pm

Posted in Syria