May 29, 2013

Raids on Gulf Migrants

In the past few weeks, 200,000 undocumented immigrants were deported from Saudi. Arrested in raids, left to sleep in the open air, piled in front of migration offices, and shown every kind of discrimination and abuse, those immigrants continue to be deported by the country that is home to King Abdullah’s Interfaith Dialogue Center.
Simultaneously, Kuwait follows its “big sister,” deporting hundreds in the past few weeks. Pictures of those migrants are taken without their permission, while policemen pose proudly as they fulfill their national duties. Racism is a living legacy in the Gulf, softened by Western powers and overlooked by media that would prefer to cover the story of a handsome man being deported from Saudi rather than those of the tens of thousands deported.
Below are pictures collected from the few reports available.
Mohammed is an undocumented Yemeni in Saudi Arabia showing his severe workplace injury. Source: Yemen Times.

May 20, 2013

Arab Idol and Policing Identities

Popular Emirati singer, Ahlam, also a judge on the Arab Idol singing show, made the following comments in reference to a contestant's Kurdish identity: 
I'm against when they always say we support Morocco, we support Iraq, we support Syria, we support the Khaleej ... But today, really, I want to send a message of love to Iraq ... I'm against when Parwas's [contestant name] is written saying she is from Kurdistan, because Kurdistan is part of Iraq and from today, I want you [pointing at Parwas] name to be Parwas from Iraq and not from Kurdistan. 
The show itself showcases the musical talents of people from across the region. Whether from Morocco or Iraq, all singers competing in the show sing in Arabic--meaning, the show is supposed to be a pan-Arabic show not a "pan-Arab" show. However, clearly from the statement of Ahlam, we see how identities and language are examined through media and entertainment industries in the region.

A Weapon of Racial Exclusion
Arab Idol reflects multiple layers of the interconnectivity of pop culture and politics. The show is broadcasted on the Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC), a company that was initially founded in London and whose headquarters later moved to Dubai. Its owner is Waleed bin Ibrahim, a member of the Saudi royal family through the marriage between his sister and the late King Fahd. Considering the extent to which "private sector" and authoritarian regimes operate so closely, especially as they are often sustainers of one another through a close marriage of patronage, political loyalty, and nepotism, MBC can hardly be called a private network.