Qunfuz

Robin Yassin-Kassab

Archive for the ‘Libya’ Category

Blind Orthodoxies

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It’s always dangerous to declare generalised love for a movement or school of thought – including Sufism, because Sufism can be subdivided into spirit and tradition, into various orders and popular customs, into the sober and the drunk, the vocal and the silent, the revolutionary and the tame. Still, I’ll say I love it for its symbolic, illogical, individualist challenge to literalism and the obsession with rules, and because it smiles, and for its openness and tolerance, and its music and poetry; because, as Adonis says: “Sufism has laid the foundations for a form of writing that is based upon subjective experience in a culture that is generally based on established religious knowledge.”

My own Islam is closer to deep agnosticism than to literal belief; it’s more spiritual (when I manage it) than religious. As time goes by and political events unfurl I have less and less sympathy for rigidly exclusive forms of Islam, whether modernist or traditional, less sympathy for certainty, and more and more dislike for current Islamic political movements, which are state-obsessed, and divisive, and which seek to reinforce the stultifying, censorial aspects of Muslim cultures. So I happily defend those who shake and shout and dance as they pray, or who remember the names in silence alone, and I defend them more fiercely every time the orthodox tell me I shouldn’t.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

September 19, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Posted in Islam, Libya

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Libyans: Passive Tools?

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Reuters

Somebody said to me recently, “The Libyans will soon be doing business with Israel, whether they like it or not.” Here we go again: the assumption that the Libyans have no agency of their own, even after they’ve so dramatically taken the initiative to change the course of their own history. Yes, Libyans took help from NATO, Qatar, and the UAE when they found themselves with no other option. This doesn’t mean they are fated to be slaves of the West. Even Iraq doesn’t do business with Israel, and Iraq has suffered a full-scale US occupation.

Such easy assumptions about the Libyan people arise from racism, usually of the unconscious, ‘well-meaning’ variety. This racism consists, first, of indifference to the people’s plight under Qaddafi, or outright denial of their plight. The rose-tinted view of life under the dictator is reminiscent of the Zionists who assure us that Gaza has swimming pools and shopping malls and that Palestinian Israelis live better than any other Arabs. The rush to highlight the crimes of the revolutionaries (sometimes relying on Qaddafi regime propaganda) is accompanied by silence over the far greater crimes of the quasi-fascist tyranny.

Libyans (and, to a degree, Syrians) are seen as passive tools in the hands of the devilishly clever White man, as childlike people who don’t know their own best interests, as people best advised to shut up and enjoy being tortured for the sake of the greater ‘anti-imperialist’ good. The right of the Libyans to life and freedom, and to make their own decisions, becomes less important than the right of certain people to feel self-righteous.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

August 30, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Posted in Libya, racism

Victory in Tripoli

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After six months of struggle, the Libyan revolution has arrived (again) in Tripoli. There may still be a trick or two up the megalomaniac’s sleeve, but the news coming in at the moment suggests a precipitous collapse. Saif-ul-Islam al-Qaddafi has been arrested. The tyrant’s daughter Aisha’s house is under the revolutionaries’ control, as is the military base of the formerly feared Khamis Brigade. The brigade in charge of protecting Qaddafi himself has surrendered. (The foreign supporters of Qaddafi and his supposedly ‘loyal’ subjects must be feeling rather silly now). Inhabitants of Tripoli’s neighbourhoods are pouring into their streets to greet the revolutionary forces.

Much of the credit for this victory must go to the revolutionaries of Misrata and the Jebel Nafusa. While the Transitional Council in Benghazi was busy fighting itself, the people of Misrata fought their way out of Qaddafi’s siege and then liberated Zlitan. The fighters of the Jebel Nafusa broke the siege around their mountains and then liberated Zawiya – which has suffered so much – and moved towards the capital. Last night revolutionaries in Tripoli, who have been launching small-scale operations nightly for months, rose in Fashloom, Souq al-Juma’a and other areas. Today they were met by their comrades arriving from the west and east.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

August 21, 2011 at 9:51 pm

Posted in Libya

Blankets, Dazzlement, Slander

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This was published at Ceasefire Magazine.

The anti-imperialist left, in the West at least, is painfully divided over the NATO-led intervention in Libya. On the one hand, such commentators as Paul Woodward, Gilbert Achcar, Phil Weiss, and me, believe the intervention is the least worst option, that there was no better alternative. On the other hand, John Pilger, Mahmoud Mamdani and many others, are wary of a new Iraq and oppose Western intervention on blanket principle.

Both positions are legitimate. Although I disagree in this case, I’m very pleased that the general gut response – if we must work by gut responses – is against intervention. But unfortunately a number of lesser figures, emotional oppositionists of the sort who qualmlessly rearrange reality to fit their personal agendas, have wilfully ignored facts on the Libyan ground, and even stooped so low as to slander the revolutionary Libyan people.

Some say NATO is interfering in a civil war, that Libya is split between east and west, that Tripoli stands firm with Qaddafi. These people fail to understand the overwhelming unpopularity of Qaddafi’s capricious regime. In the first days of the revolution, the regime lost control of most areas in the west as well as the east, including suburbs of Tripoli. Protestors marching on Green Square (or Martyrs Square) were driven back by machine gun and artillery fire. Qaddafi is currently keeping the capital quiet by mass arrests, rooftop snipers, and roving jeeps of weapon-wielding thugs.

Some people describe the free Libyans are mere ‘so-called’ rebels. If they were real freedom-fighters, these people argue, they’d be able to take over the country without foreign help. Their acceptance of intervention proves them to be CIA stooges, agents of imperialism, traitors.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

April 20, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Posted in Libya

Who Will Survive in the End

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By Nafissa Assed

free Benghazi

As the 17th February commemorates the memory of the fallen victims of the Abu Salim prison massacre, when over 1200 prisoners were brutally executed, the 7th April is also known as one of those days that witnessed some of the worst abuses of human rights in Libyan history. On 7th April 1976, Qaddafi ordered the persecution and public execution of Libyan university students who were suspected of opposing the regime. The same month of the same year also commemorates Qaddafi’s physical liquidation campaign against Libyan dissidents inside and outside Libya.

Today I called a family member in Libya and she told me that the living conditions and the level of terror in Tripoli are indescribable. People go to the gas stations, wait for hours, and when their turn comes, they may be unlucky and find none left. There is no money in banks anymore. Every time she goes to the bank, they keep telling her the same thing: that there is no money. People barely go out, and what’s worse is that there are many elderly and babies who must receive weekly treatment in clinics. The critical living conditions of Tripoli are disrupting its economic life gravely, as Malta stopped a fuel ship on its way to west Libya, preventing it from making its delivery in accordance with the UN blockade.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

April 11, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Posted in Libya

Bad Luck, Worse Luck, Concrete Steps

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By Nafissa Assed

We all know that the western intervention in Libya is problematic, but it also remains the right decision that saved a countless number of innocent Libyans from Qaddafi’s brutal bombing and mercenaries. As the American writer Cormac MacCarthy says: “You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from.”

Unfortunately, it took the UN Security Council over a month to finally authorize the necessary measures and impose a no-fly zone over Libya to protect civilians. At that time Qaddafi’s viciousness had grown, with bombings, tanks, high-caliber guns, helicopter shootings and callous mercenaries. Human rights monitors found that Qaddafi’s forces are using dozens of landmines on the outskirts of Ajdabiya.

Now air power is useful up to the point that it can dislocate Qaddafi’s logistics and stop the movement of his forces across the huge desert spaces between Libya’s cities, but it cannot take and hold ground, and that also is something that Libyans do not wish to happen. They do not want foreign ground troops.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

April 1, 2011 at 8:45 pm

Posted in Libya

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Prison of Terror

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By Nafissa Assed

On the 17th of March I headed to the airport, leaving Tripoli for safety reasons. The internet has been cut off in Libya since 3rd March, phone lines are very bad in all the cities, and some cities are totally isolated (no phone lines, no water, no electricity) – like Zawiya, Misurata, and now Benghazi’s too. God only knows what is coming next. After we lost the internet, Tripoli became a prison of terror.

Qaddafi’s thugs are celebrating all the time, and every day gunfire starts and stops all of a sudden, at any second. Out of a complete silence, we see cars passing by our building playing very loud music, songs for Qaddafi. At other times (usually between 2 and 4 am) we hear gunfire that gradually increases, with no celebrations or cars chanting his name around the streets.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

March 23, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Posted in Libya

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