Vorige week gaf ik op Palmpasen (zondag = een gewone werkdag aldaar) een training over genderdiversiteit aan een team van een groot Jordaans bedrijf. ‚Zaten daar ook mannen bij‘, wordt me nogal eens gevraagd over trainingen in de Arabische wereld. Het antwoord is ja, en vaak in meerderheid. En ze staan bijna allemaal positief tegenover gender diversiteit— Nederlandse discussies als ‚waarom moet dit eigenlijk en waarom heeft dit nu prioriteit‘ worden in landen als Jordanië overgeslagen. Je gaat er gewoon aan het werk en daarmee maak je sneller meters.
Tijdens de training kwam via social media het bericht over de aanslagen op Koptische christenen in Egypte binnen. De verslagenheid was groot. De deelnemers vergeleken het meteen met een grote aanslag in Bagdad, 94 doden, aan de vooravond van een islamitisch feest en interpreteerden dat terreur juist mikt op mensen die rustig bidden en in vrede hun godsdienst willen belijden.
De wereld kunnen we niet veranderen maar op de inclusiviteit van onze eigen organisatie hebben we wel grip, meenden zij. En zo is het. We hebben ook de rest van de dag hard doorgewerkt. Hou je van diversiteit & inclusie, laat je dan niet ontmoedigen en onderneem actie op de terreinen waarop je zelf invloed hebt.
In 2004, 1 year before the terrible riots in the French banlieues and 7 years before the Arab spring occurred, the Jewist-Arab-French-Tunisian writer Albert Memmi writes a stunning picture about decolonized countries and the decolonized citizens, both local and emigrated, in his book Portrait du décolonisé.
Memmi describes on a factual basis the disastrous situation of many decolonized countries: the poverty, the corruption, the oppression and how these factors interlink and prevent the decolonized countries to develop and prosper. It is a sad picture that, however, can be recognized by many who worked and traveled in decolonized regions.
In 2004, the Portrait du décolonisé was not well received in France. It was criticized because Memmi wonders why the 100.000’s of deaths in several African conflicts get a lot less attention than the 3000 deaths in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He was accused of ‘Zionistic’ views, which would de-qualify the other 96% of his book – it must have shocked a free-thinking intellectual like Memmi who is pleading so warmly for universal values for all to live in freedom and prosperity. And the book was criticized because his portrait of the 2nd generation emigrants is one-sidedly unfavourable. He describes the migrants children that feel lost and end up in (self)destructive ideas and behaviours. It is true that the successful youth, committed to a prosperous society for all, is absent in his book – though very much existent in reality. Nevertheless what he describes has predicted many of the problems we face today in extreme forms.
His book was not translated into other languages – as far as I know – although his earlier book Portrait du colonisé was recognized by many and translated in 20 languages. Portrait du décolonisé could have supported many who wonder what happened, in the 2005 riots in the Paris banlieus, in the 2011 Arab spring, in this decade of (self)destructive terrorism.
I was speechless and breathless when I read his book, and sorry not to have discovered it earlier. Not only is it written in the beautifull, rich and touching French that Memmi masters more than hardly any other writer. He also answers many questions that arose after 2011, but he wrote this already in 2004. His language is never politically correct; he talks in clear words on every single page about the facts as he sees them. However he is never rude, never insulting people like others do who want to breach the politically correct discourse. He proves himself (again) an intellectual who dares to stand up for values and ideas, regardless the consequences.
It is difficult to understand why the world overlooked this precious contribution in a era where the need for insight in the ex-colonial world is predominant. Does this world only read the works that are either extreme or un-controversial? Does this world reject views that are confrontational just by their factional description? If you read in French, read this book. The language is superbe and it will both inform and surprise you – even if you are already knowledgeable in this matter.
I was withholding my breath all the time while watching this movie: Loin des hommes. Algeria 1954, the colonial war or freedom war or however you want to call it, is about to begin. A teacher who’s school is in the middle of nowhere in the Atlas mountains gets involved. He is not looking for that but fate is looking for him. He ends up in several unexpected half war half peace situations. The mountains in the middle of nowhere are much more populated than you’d think: they are full of life, love and fights. Both the rebels and the French find their way over the invisible mountain paths. Will he have to give up his dream, to teach the children how to read? The teacher is also confronted with issues of culture, religion and identity. His parents were from Andalusia, he himself has always lived in Algeria and now others see him as French. There is so much actuality in this movie, it is not just a historical picture. And there is lots of deep warm friendship from man to man in this movie, too. The pictures are stunning. Go there, if you want to see something different!
It was a coincidence that I went to an IDFA documentary, I never have / take time for things like that but in this case the maker of the documentary was the daughter of a friend with whom I participate in a Turkish litterature club – yes, all Turkish spoken so you understand I do not speak a lot, however I do read all the books (in Turkish) while not every participant does 🙂
I have to say that Gülsah Dogan presented an outstanding documentary that should be obliged learning material for any organisation involved in the problems of Amsterdam-West families. She has succeeded to make an inside picture about one of the (former) most problematic Dutch-Moroccan families Amsterdam-West has known. And anyone in the public can recognize and feel the characters, the conflicts, the existentialist problems that occur in this story. It is very moving – there were many tears – and the complexity of extreme family situations is revealed. This is a documentary that deserves a price and I hope it will win.
See http://www.idfa.nl/industry/tags/project.aspx?id=5273991f-70a3-431d-836f-264b6b41bce6, for more info and also times to visit next wednesday, thursday and saturday 26/27/29 November. Don’t miss this one! For me, it will still be on my mind for many days; it is really, really impressive!
Who ever is looking outside today in Europe, is looking at a frozen world. Life is cold and hard these days. Who wants to be outside? People have been freezing to death out there!
The weather in Egypt is warmer but the climate is even colder than in Europe. The people of Egypt suffer but there is one big hope: they protest. They are aware of their situation and demanding their rights. For sure their road is not going to be easy. That is a sad but realistic conclusion after a spring and summer full of aspirations for a quick and smooth improvement of democracy and freedom. The revolution of the Egyptian people has entered a winter that is not finished yet.
It is strange to see what the signs for a long winter can look like. I noticed that today, in the aftermath of the terrible events in the football stadion of Port Said where 74 people died and hundreds were wounded. Many people blame the government but it is the Egyptian Football League that has been suspended indefinitely. There will be no football matches until August.
August is summer time! This message makes it clear that the political fight is tough and will take a long long time before winter withdraws. The Romans knew this already: that the last thing a people has, is food and games. When the people have no power, the least they need is food and games. If you want to stay in total power and be undemocratic, you have to give it to them. In Egypt, the people are not just deprived of power, they are now also deprived of games. This means the oppression is more than average and lead by leaders who did not learn anything from ancient times – and also that the period to come is going to be severe on the people, and that the people are not going to accept it.
I just wonder: how many deaths and wounded to go the coming period? How much organized destabilization that will be very difficult to repair in the years to come? Still I do believe in the strength of a people who dream and hope and never give up…
During the last months, many politicians and journalists have started to discuss the depth of Arab spring; is it a spring at all? They are cynical because they did not see the Arab world change at once. Hope grows a bit now that Khaddafi is in his final moments, but scepticism is still there.
In an earlier blog http://grethevangeffen.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/the-surprise-of-arab-spring/ I already adressed the one-sided knowledge and expectations politicians and journalists have about the Middle East. Their attitude concerning freedom and democracy in the Middle East is confusing. Everybody knows that freedom does not come at once and is never for free. The same thing counts for democracy. Why on earth do people expect Arab countries that have suffered from lousy dictators during many years to be free and democratic just in the time of a blink of the eye, as by divine commandment? Once the dictators are gone, Arab citizens will still have to fight for freedom and democracy, maybe not with arms but the benefits will not just drop from the sky without human efforts and even sacrifices.
Another thing is that this is an Arab and not a western development. The outcome of Arab ‘spring’ might be a different ‘summer’ than western observers expect. This is what happens when people start to create their own destiny. I am very curious to know what the Arab world will look like in two years!
This was the title of Souad Halila’s presentation at the International Diversity Conference in Belfast 2010 where I was a speaker as well about a very different subject: diversity in economical perspective. The debate about the veil is fierce and emotional, also in Tunisia.
Halila showed us that our knowledge about veils starts in Assyria in the 7th century BC. Veils were used by Greeks, Romans, Jews, Christians, Muslims and Hindus and became only a discussion item in the 20th century years ’30, ’40 and ’50 when new leaders in Persia and Turkey declared the veil to be retarded; they promoted a western lifestyle. This is how the veil became a symbol for Muslim identity.
Nowadays, Muslims – also Muslim women – take the debate about the veil in their own hands, the discussion about the veil being retarded is retarded itself. In many places, also in The Netherlands, this debate is dominated by white men – joined by just a few women – telling that they want to liberate women. They like to decide for the women what liberation consists of, they have one concept, one vision and we have to adopt it all. Today they propose to forbid that women, wearing a veil, work in public organisations because the presence of veils would harm the separation between state and religion. As if our public organisations would be more neutral with only white men and Muslim men working there…
Souad Halila asks us to choose between unity in diversity (the concept of the Ummah) or diversity in diversity (room for many different visions). She promotes the second choice and so do I.
Today the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad (p.11) publishes an article written by professor of policy science John Grin and myself about the apparent ‘surprise’ of the Arab spring – or in terms of English Al-Jazeera: a region in turmoil. For those who speak Dutch, find it at http://www.seba.nl/publicaties.html
In 2006 an official scientific government advisory board published a report about the dynamics in islamic activism. It was a 3 year study, very well documented, 234 pages, showing how new islamic thinkers and movements were connecting with democracy and human rights. However, in just 1 day most politicians had given strong, condemning reactions, calling the advisory board naive and the report ‘nonsense’. The report was so unwelcome that the board was threatened with reorganisation and even abolishment. There was no discussion about the content, about islam and the development of Dutch foreign policies in the light of new democratic movements in muslim countries, the fear of fundamentalist islam being predominant. John Grin and I published our ideas about this taboo already in 2006 in NRC Handelsblad.
Fear is a bad adviser, also in the debate about islam, human rights and democracy. Now in 2011, we face a lack of insight in what is really happening in Arabic countries and what that means for Dutch foreign policies… as if the turmoil couldn’t have been predicted. Politicians are ‘surprised’ by the events and stay silent. Or is that because they are busy reading the 2006 report after all?