April 2011

A memorial conference entitled “Cultural Heritage Now – The Legacy of Donny George Youkhanna” will be held Wednesday, April 27, 2011 from 4:30 – 6:30 at the Rutgers Student Center in New Brunswick , New Jersey. Details below.

Cultural Heritage Now:

Iraq and Beyond
The Legacy of Donny George Youkhanna

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rutgers Student Center
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
126 College Ave
New Brunswick, NJ 08901

The event is open to the public, but pre-registration is required. Those wishing to contribute remarks must indicate this at the time of registration.

Presentations by:

John Russell
“Preserving Iraq’s Past”

John Malcolm Russell teaches the art and archaeology of the ancient Middle East and Egypt at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, Massachusetts. He is the author of numerous articles and four books on ancient Assyria, one of which, The Final Sack of Nineveh (Yale), investigates the destruction of Sennacherib’s palace in Iraq by looters in the 1990’ s. Professor Russell has conducted archaeological excavations at Nineveh, Iraq, and Tell Ahmar, Syria. In 2003-2004 he served with the Coalition Provisional Authority as an advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of Culture in Baghdad, Iraq, where he focused on renovating the Iraq Museum and protecting archaeological sites. (more…)

Never underestimate the power of mass protests. here are some videos of the recent protests in Syria.


Here is a fascinating video with the audio disabled for a purpose. Check it out here. It is produced at the British Film Institute.

The recent protests that have shaken the Middle East from North Africa to Yemen so dominate the news these past couple of months that it is almost as though we see nothing else. Whether pictures are worth a thousand and one words, or even more, here are some superb photographs of Yemen by Raiman al-Hamdani, taken with his permission from his Flickr account.

One of the important mosques in the coastal town of Zabid

The rhetorical standoff in Yemen continues with only a limited amount of violence even while hundreds of thousands of people have been protesting, mostly against the decades-old regime of President Ali Abdullah Salih. Yesterday the New York Times commented that the protests in Yemen remain remarkably peaceful, with isolated cases of individual violence (mainly by those who support Salih) but no major clashes with the army or between tribal groups. President Salih holds a weekly rally of his supporters (some of whom have clearly been paid to come to the rally, as reporters note) as a counterpart to the far greater numbers protesting all over the country against his continued rule. He is holding on to power with a very thin string; indeed it is hardly even ‘power” any more given that much of the country is basically ignoring him and he is diplomatically isolated.

The only thing more incongruous than dictators (a military man installed in a coup after an assassination of the previous leader and who has remained in power for over three decades is at least an honorary dictator) talking about democracy is when dictators start talking about religion. Unlike Yemen’s Zaydi imams, whose millennium long rule was abolished in 1962, none of the military leaders of Yemen are noted as Quranic scholars; some could barely read and write when they came into office. (more…)

[This commentary was origially published in Religion Dispatches, April 12, 2011.]

When it comes to grabbing attention bad news is the best news. Whether selling war or natural disaster or a fugitive serial killer, the competitive edge goes to the media outlet that can scoop the most violence, brutality or sheer inhumanity in an event.

The most recent news cycle of political protests started out on a hopeful note. As the spirit of frustrated youthful protest spread at tweet speed to dictatorial regimes and elitist monarchies, journalists flocked to North Africa and the modern day Holy Land. Live coverage has shifted from country to country, depending in large part on where the most violence is erupting. Yet, as much as the story may be promoted as one of hope and liberation, the hook is all about devastation. (more…)

Yemen’s embattled President Ali Abdullah Salih

There is an interesting discussion between political scientists Charles Schmitz of Towson University (and President of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies) and Gregory Johnsen, moderator of the blog Waq al-Waq, on the context of the current protests in Yemen, especially on the role of President Ali Abdullah Salih. It is well worth looking at the video which can be viewed here: http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/35377.

Grover’s Theater, Washington D.C.

[Tabsir Redux is a reposting of earlier posts on the blog, since memories are fickle and some things deserve a second viewing.]

April 14, 1865. For Americans, at least above the Mason Dixon line, this is one of those dates that lives in infamy. John Wilkes Booth, a rather bad actor on the stage, shot President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre. According to an account by Mrs. Helen Palmes Moss in The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine for 1909, Lincoln had the option of going to a rival theatre, the National or Grover’s, that night where a private box had been prepared for him by Mr. C. D. Hess, the co-manager. Apparently Booth had planned to attempt the assassination at whichever theater Lincoln attended. He much preferred Ford’s, since he had no inside help at the National and would have to shoot Lincoln as he stepped out of the carriage. What does this fateful event have to do with the Middle East? If Lincoln had attended the National Theatre and J. Wilkes Booth had missed, the President would have seen a dramatization of the Arabian Nights tale “Aladdin.” Would that Lincoln had been more of an Orientalist… (more…)

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