Category Archives: Politics

New Book on Non-State Actors

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I. B. Tauris has just published Violent Radical Movements in the Arab World: The Ideology and Politics of Non-State Actors, edited by the late Peter Sluglett and Victor Kattan. This includes an article by Dan Varisco on “When the State becomes a Non-State: Yemen in the Huthi/Ali Abdullah Salih Alliance.” It also contains an introduction to the lifetime work of the historian Peter Sluglett.

Abstract of Book:

Violent non-state actors have become almost endemic to political movements in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa. This book examines why they play such a key role and the different ways in which they have developed. Placing them in the context of the region, separate chapters cover the organizations that are currently active, including: The Muslim Brotherhood, The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, Hamas, Hizbullah, the PKK, al-Shabab and the Huthis.

The book shows that while these groups are a new phenomenon, they also relate to other key factors including the ‘unfinished business’ of the colonial and postcolonial eras and tacit encouragement of the Wahhabi/Salafi/jihadi da’wa by some regional powers. Their diversity means violent non-state actors elude simple classification, ranging from ‘national’ and ‘transnational’ to religious and political movements. However, by examining their origins, their supporters and their motivations, this book helps explain their ubiquity in the region.

Contents of Book:

Preface, Victor Kattan
Foreword: Peter Sluglett and the Study of the Modern Middle East, Toby Dodge

1. Introduction: Violent Non-State Actors in the Arab World: some General Considerations, Peter Sluglett

2. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and Violence: Porous Boundaries and Context, Khalid Hroub

3. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria: Ideology vs. Context , Hassan A. Barari

4. Between Religion, Warfare and Politics: the Case of Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria , Mohamed-Ali Adraoui

5. The 2007 Hamas-Fatah Conflict in Gaza and the Israeli-American Demands , Victor Kattan

6. Hizbullah and the Lebanese State: Indispensable, Unpredictable – Destabilizing? , Peter Sluglett

7. When the State becomes a Non-State: Yemen in the Huthi/Ali Abdullah Salih Alliance, Daniel Martin Varisco

8. Violent Non-State Actors in Somalia: al-Shabab and the Pirates, Afyare A. Elmi and Ruqaya Mohamed

9. “Being in Time”: Kurdish Movement and Quests of Universal, Hamit Borzolan

Afterword, Abdullah Baabood

AIYS at MESA 2019

MESA has just announced its 2019 program. One of the panels organized by AIYS is “From al-Hadi ila al-Haqq to Husayn al-Huthi: The Zaydi Phenomenon in Yemen.” The panel will be held Saturday, 11/16/19 at 8:30am.

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Mosque of al-Hādī ilā al-Ḥaqq in Ṣa‘da

This will include the following papers:

•  Making an Imam: The Rebellion of Yahya b. ‘Abd Allah in Zaydi Historiography (Najam Haider, Barnard College)
•   Rasulid Sultans and Zaydi Imams: War (Mostly) and Peace (a Little) in Yemen during the 13th-15th centuries (Daniel Martin Varisco, President, AIYS)
•    “The ahl al-bayt’s return to power: The legitimation of religious rule in the speeches of Husayn al-Huthi in the context of the current crisis in Yemen” (Alexander Weissenburger, Institute for Social Anthropology, Austrian Academy of Sciences)
• David Hallenberg (University of Oregon) will discuss the preservation of Zaydi manuscripts
• The Discussant will be Brinkley Messick (Columbia University)

Here is the abstract of the panel:

The Zaydi sect has received attention lately due to the ongoing war in Yemen in which a Saudi coalition is fighting a local alliance of northern tribes, former military and a family known as the Huthis, a group that is reviving Zaydi Islam with influence from Iran. As a branch of the Shi‘a, the Zaydis take their inspiration from Zayd ibn ‘Ali, the fifth imam, who was killed while attempting to overthrow the Ummayad caliph in 122/740. Zaydism spread to several parts of the Islamic world, but its most lasting imprint was in Yemen. In 897 a descendant of ‘Ali named Yahya b. al-Husayn, and known as al-Hadi ila al-Haqq, established a local dynasty in northern Yemen that lasted, without ever having full control of what constitutes Yemen today, until 1962.

This panel brings together scholars who work on the diverse span of Zaydi history in Yemen. One paper examines the views of four Zaydi scholars writing during the time of the Hadawi dominance in Yemen on an earlier Zaydi imam who had accepted a stipend from the Abbasid caliph, thus renouncing the call for armed rebellion. Another paper examines the challenge to Zaydi dominance in the north during the 12th through the 15th centuries by the invasion of the Ayyubids and succeeding dynasty of the Rasulid sultans. The first Rasulid sultan received the blessing of the caliph in Baghdad in order to fight the Zaydis. The Rasulid chronicles and Zaydi sources describe the battles and peace agreements between the two polities, including their rivalry for influence in Mecca. A third provides a focus on the present context with an analysis of the speeches of Husayn al-Huthi, who provides the basis for legitimizing religious rule in Yemen, especially for the Ahl al-Bayt. These speeches are the discursive backbone of Huthi rhetoric, which is spread widely in the media. The final paper addresses the loss and destruction of manuscripts, largely from private and public Zaydi libraries, in Yemen’s north and efforts by NGOs to document the losses and assist in preservation. In all, the range of papers provides an introduction to a field of study which has received relatively little attention by Western scholars.

 

National Geographic in Yemen

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The online website of National Geographic has recently uploaded an article about the Yemeni photographer Amira Al-Sharif, written by Erin Blakemore. The article describes the level of suffering in the current humanitarian crisis, as illustrated in the images. “But Al-Sharif is uninterested in highlighting those facets of Yemeni life. She prefers her photographs of Yemenis going about their business, children at school and at play, women living and loving, flowers blooming. She captures the light in Yemen that stubbornly persists in the shadows of war.”

You can see her amazing photographs on Instagram.