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The Battle to Establish an Islamic State Across Iraq and Syria

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by PATRICK COCKBURN
Islamic fundamentalists have opened new fronts in their battle to establish an Islamic state across Iraq and Syria as they launch attacks in cities which were previously under the control of the Baghdad government.

A multi-pronged assault across central and northern Iraq in the past four days shows that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) has taken over from the al-Qa’ida organisation founded by Osama bin Laden as the most powerful and effective extreme jihadi group in the world.
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Isis now controls or can operate with impunity in a great stretch of territory in western Iraq and eastern Syria, making it militarily the most successful jihadi movement ever.

Led since 2010 by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, also known as Abu Dua, it has proved itself even more violent and sectarian than what US officials call the “core” al-Qa’ida, led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is based in Pakistan. Isis is highly fanatical, killing Shia Muslims and Christians whenever possible, as well as militarily efficient and under tight direction by top leaders.

In Iraq in the past four days, it has fought its way into the northern capital of Mosul, sent a column of its fighters into the central city of Samarra and taken over Iraq’s largest university at Ramadi, in the west of the country. In addition, it launched devastating bombings targeting Shia civilians in Baghdad that killed at least 52 people.
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The creation of a sort of proto-Caliphate by extreme jihadis in northern Syria and Iraq is provoking fears in surrounding countries such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey that they will become targets of battle-hardened Sunni fighters.

The well-coordinated attacks appear designed to keep the Iraqi security forces off balance, uncertain where the next attack will come. They started on Thursday when Isis fighters in trucks with heavy machine guns stormed into the city of Samarra, which is mostly Sunni but contains the golden-domed al-Askari shrine sacred to Shia. Destruction of this shrine by al-Qa’ida bombers in 2006 led to wholesale massacres of Sunni by Shia.
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The Isis tactic is to make a surprise attack, inflict maximum casualties and spread fear before withdrawing without suffering heavy losses. On Friday, they attacked in Mosul, where their power is already strong enough to tax local businesses, from family groceries to mobile phone and construction companies. Some 200 people were killed in the fighting, according to local hospitals, though the government gives a figure of 59 dead, 21 of them policemen and 38 insurgents.

This assault was followed by an early-morning attack on Saturday on the University of Anbar at Ramadi that has 10,000 students. Ahmed al-Mehamdi, a student who was taken hostage, told a news agency that he was woken up by the sound of shots, looked out the window and saw armed men dressed in black running across the campus. They entered his dormitory, said they belonged to Isis, told everybody to stay in their rooms but took others away.
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One leader told female students: “We will teach you a lesson you’ll never forget.” They turned the science building into their headquarters, but may later have retreated. On the same day, seven bombs exploded in an hour in Baghdad, killing at least 52 people.
Civilian children stand next to a burnt vehicle during clashes between Iraqi security forces and al Qaeda-linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the northern Iraq city of Mosul
Isis specialises in using militarily untrained foreign volunteers as suicide bombers either moving on foot wearing suicide vests, or driving vehicles packed with explosives. Often more than one suicide bomber is used, as happened yesterday when a vehicle exploded at the headquarters of a Kurdish party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in the town of Jalawla in the divided and much fought-over province of Diyala, north-east of Baghdad. In the confusion caused by the blast, a second bomber on foot slipped into the office and blew himself up, killing some 18 people, including a senior police officer.
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The swift rise of Isis since Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi became its leader has come because the uprising of the Sunni in Syria in 2011 led the Iraqi Sunni to protest about their political and economic marginalisation since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Peaceful demonstrations from the end of 2012 won few concessions, with Iraq’s Shia-dominated government convinced that the protesters wanted not reform but a revolution returning their community to power. The five or six million Iraqi Sunni became more alienated and sympathetic towards armed action by Isis.

Isis launched a well-planned campaign last year including a successful assault on Abu Ghraib prison last summer to free leaders and experienced fighters. This January, they took over Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, and have held it ever since in the face of artillery and air attack. The military sophistication of Isis in Iraq is much greater than al-Qa’ida, the organisation out of which it grew, which reached the peak of its success in 2006-07 before the Americans turned many of the Sunni tribes against it.
Fighters of al-Qaeda linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant parade at Syrian town of Tel Abyad
Isis has the great advantage of being able to operate on both sides of the Syrian-Iraq border, though in Syria it is engaged in an intra-jihadi civil war with Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham and other groups. But Isis controls Raqqa, the only provincial capital taken by the opposition, and much of eastern Syria outside enclaves held by the Kurds close to the Turkish border.
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Isis is today a little more circumspect in killing all who work for the government including rubbish collectors, something that alienated the Sunni population previously. But horrifically violent, though professionally made propaganda videos show Isis forcing families with sons in the Iraqi army to dig their own graves before they are shot. The message is that their enemies can expect no mercy.

The violence continued yesterday as at least 18 people were killed in two explosions at the headquarters of a Kurdish political party in Iraq’s ethnically mixed province of Diyala. Isis claimed responsibility.

Most of the victims of Sunday’s attack were members of the Kurdish security forces who were guarding the office of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party in the town of Jalawla.
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The explosions were the latest in a show of strength by militants who in recent days have overrun parts of two major cities, occupied a university campus in western Iraq and set off a dozen car bombs in Baghdad.

Jalawla lies in disputed territory, and is one of several towns where Iraqi troops and Kurdish peshmerga regional guards have previously faced off, asserting their claims over the area. Both are a target for Sunni Islamist insurgents.

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The Corruption of Human Rights Watch

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Egyptian protesters wave their hands and hold national flags during a demonstration against then-President Mohamed Morsi in Tahrir Square in Cairo.
Heba Morayef Called the June 30 2013 Revolution against Morsi and His Ikhwan a Military coup
How Honest and Neutral are their reports and for whose Benefit.
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Over the years, U.S. “public diplomacy” has pulled reputable “non-governmental organizations” into the U.S. propaganda orbit, sometimes via funding and sometimes by creating a revolving door to government jobs and “respectability,” as a letter from over 100 scholars suggests happened to Human Rights Watch.
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Heba Morayef, Egypt Director, Human Rights Watch an American government Operative.

Dear Kenneth Roth [of Human Rights Watch],

Human Rights Watch characterizes itself as “one of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights.” However, HRW’s close ties to the U.S. government call into question its independence.

For example, HRW’s Washington advocacy director, Tom Malinowski, previously served as a special assistant to President Bill Clinton and as a speechwriter to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. In 2013, he left HRW after being nominated as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights & Labor under John Kerry.

Tom Malinowski, longtime director of Human Rights Watch’s Washington office, was sworn in as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor on April 3, 2014.
Tom Malinowski, longtime director of Human Rights Watch’s Washington office, was sworn in as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor on April 3, 2014.
In her HRW.org biography, Board of Directors’ Vice Chair Susan Manilow describes herself as “a longtime friend to Bill Clinton” who is “highly involved” in his political party, and “has hosted dozens of events” for the Democratic National Committee.

Currently, HRW Americas’ advisory committee includes Myles Frechette, a former U.S. ambassador to Colombia, and Michael Shifter, one-time Latin America director for the U.S. government-financed National Endowment for Democracy. Miguel Díaz, a Central Intelligence Agency analyst in the 1990s, sat on HRW Americas’ advisory committee from 2003-11. Now at the State Department, Díaz serves as “an interlocutor between the intelligence community and non-government experts.”

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Tom Malinowski, longtime director of Human Rights Watch’s Washington office, was sworn in as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor on April 3, 2014.
In his capacity as an HRW advocacy director, Malinowski contended in 2009 that “under limited circumstances” there was “a legitimate place” for CIA renditions—the illegal practice of kidnapping and transferring terrorism suspects around the planet. Malinowski was quoted paraphrasing the U.S. government’s argument that designing an alternative to sending suspects to “foreign dungeons to be tortured” was “going to take some time.”

HRW has not extended similar consideration to Venezuela. In a 2012 letter to President Chávez, HRW criticized the country’s candidacy for the UN Human Rights Council, alleging that Venezuela had fallen “far short of acceptable standards” and questioning its “ability to serve as a credible voice on human rights.” At no point has U.S. membership in the same council merited censure from HRW, despite Washington’s secret, global assassination program, its preservation of renditions, and its illegal detention of individuals at Guantánamo Bay.

Likewise, in February 2013, HRW correctly described as “unlawful” Syria’s use of missiles in its civil war. However, HRW remained silent on the clear violation of international law constituted by the U.S. threat of missile strikes on Syria in August.

The few examples above, limited to only recent history, might be forgiven as inconsistencies or oversights that could naturally occur in any large, busy organization. But HRW’s close relationships with the U.S. government suffuse such instances with the appearance of a conflict of interest.

We therefore encourage you to institute immediate, concrete measures to strongly assert HRW’s independence. Closing what seems to be a revolving door would be a reasonable first step: Bar those who have crafted or executed U.S. foreign policy from serving as HRW staff, advisors or board members. At a bare minimum, mandate lengthy “cooling-off” periods before and after any associate moves between HRW and that arm of the government.

Your largest donor, investor George Soros, argued in 2010 that “to be more effective, I think the organization has to be seen as more international, less an American organization.” We concur. We urge you to implement the aforementioned proposal to ensure a reputation for genuine independence.

Sincerely,

. Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize laureate
. Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize laureate
. Joel Andreas, Professor of Sociology, Johns Hopkins University
. Antony Anghie, Professor of Law, S.J. Quinney College of Law, University of Utah
. John M. Archer, Professor of English, New York University
. Asma Barlas, Professor of Politics, Director of the Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity, Ithaca College
. Rosalyn Baxandall, Professor Emeritus of American Studies, State University of New York-Old Westbury
. Marc Becker, Professor of Latin American History, Truman State University
. Jason A. Beckett, Professor of Law, American University in Cairo
. Angélica Bernal, Professor of Political Science, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
. Keane Bhatt, activist, writer
. William Blum, author, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II
. Audrey Bomse, Co-chair, National Lawyers Guild Palestine Subcommittee
. Patrick Bond, Professor of Development Studies, Director of the Centre for Civil Society, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban
. Michael Brenner, Professor Emeritus of International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh
. Jean Bricmont, Professor of Theoretical Physics, University of Louvain; author, Humanitarian Imperialism
. Renate Bridenthal, Professor Emerita of History, Brooklyn College, CUNY
. Fernando Buen Abad Domínguez, Ph.D., author
. Paul Buhle, Professor Emeritus of American Civilization, Brown University
. David Camfield, Professor of Labour Studies, University of Manitoba
. Leonard L. Cavise, Professor of Law, DePaul College of Law
. Robert Chernomas, Professor of Economics, University of Manitoba
. Aviva Chomsky, Professor of History, Salem State University
. George Ciccariello-Maher, Professor of Political Science, Drexel University
. Jeff Cohen, Associate Professor of Journalism, Ithaca College
. Marjorie Cohn, Professor of Law, Thomas Jefferson School of Law
. Lisa Duggan, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University
. Carolyn Eisenberg, Professor of History, Hofstra University
. Matthew Evangelista, Professor of History and Political Science, Cornell University
. Richard Falk, Professor Emeritus of International Law, Princeton University
. Sujatha Fernandes, Professor of Sociology, Queens College, CUNY Graduate Center
. Mara Fridell, Professor of Sociology, University of Manitoba
. Frances Geteles, Professor Emeritus, Department of Special Programs, CUNY City College
. Lesley Gill, Professor of Anthropology, Vanderbilt University
. Piero Gleijeses, Professor of American Foreign Policy and Latin American Studies, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University
. Jeff Goodwin, Professor of Sociology, New York University
. Katherine Gordy, Professor of Political Science, San Francisco State University
. Manu Goswami, Professor of History, New York University
. Greg Grandin, Professor of History, New York University
. Simon Granovsky-Larsen, Professor of Latin American Studies, Centennial College, Toronto
. James N. Green, Professor of Latin American History, Brown University
. A. Tom Grunfeld, Professor of History, SUNY Empire State College
. Julie Guard, Professor of Labor Studies, University of Manitoba
. Peter Hallward, Professor of Philosophy, Kingston University; author, Damming the Flood
. John L. Hammond, Professor of Sociology, Hunter College, CUNY Graduate Center
. Beth Harris, Professor of Politics, Ithaca College
. Martin Hart-Landsberg, Professor Economics, Lewis and Clark College
. Chris Hedges, journalist; author, War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning
. Doug Henwood, journalist; author, Wall Street
. Edward Herman, Professor Emeritus of Finance, University of Pennsylvania; co-author, The Political Economy of Human Rights
. Susan Heuman, Ph.D., independent scholar of history
. Forrest Hylton, Lecturer in History & Literature, Harvard University
. Matthew Frye Jacobson, Professor of American Studies and History, Yale University
. Jennifer Jolly, Co-coordinator of Latin American Studies, Ithaca College
. Rebecca E. Karl, Professor of History, New York University
. J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Professor of Anthropology and American Studies, Wesleyan University
. Ari Kelman, Professor of History, University of California, Davis
. Arang Keshavarzian, Professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, New York University
. Laleh Khalili, Professor of Middle East Politics, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
. Daniel Kovalik, Professor of International Human Rights, University of Pittsburgh School of Law
. Rob Kroes, Professor Emeritus of American Studies, University of Amsterdam
. Peter Kuznick, Professor of History, American University
. Deborah T. Levenson, Professor of History, Boston College
. David Ludden, Professor of History, New York University
. Catherine Lutz, Professor of Anthropology and International Studies, Brown University
. Arthur MacEwan, Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Massachusetts-Boston
. Viviana MacManus, Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
. Chase Madar, civil rights attorney; author, The Passion of [Chelsea] Manning
. Alfred W. McCoy, Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison
. Teresa Meade, Professor of History, Union College
. Thomas Murphy, Professor of History and Government, University of Maryland, University College Europe
. Allan Nairn, independent investigative journalist
. Usha Natarajan, Professor of International Law, American University in Cairo
. Diane M. Nelson, Professor of Cultural Anthropology, Duke University
. Joseph Nevins, Professor of Geography, Vassar College
. Mary Nolan, Professor of History, New York University
. Anthony O’Brien, Professor Emeritus of English, Queens College, CUNY
. Paul O’Connell, Reader in Law, School of Law, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
. Christian Parenti, Professor of Sustainable Development, School for International Training Graduate Institute
. David Peterson, independent writer and researcher
. Adrienne Pine, Professor of Anthropology, American University
. Claire Potter, Professor of History, The New School
. Margaret Power, Professor of History, Illinois Institute of Technology
. Pablo Pozzi, Professor of History, Universidad de Buenos Aires
. Gyan Prakash, Professor of History, Princeton University
. Vijay Prashad, Edward Said Chair of American Studies, American University of Beirut
. Peter Ranis, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, CUNY Graduate Center
. Michael Ratner, human rights attorney; author, The Prosecution of Donald Rumsfeld
. Sanjay Reddy, Professor of Economics, New School for Social Research
. Adolph Reed, Jr., Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania
. Nazih Richani, Director of Latin American Studies, Kean University
. Moss Roberts, Professor of Chinese, New York University
. Corey Robin, Professor of Political Science, Brooklyn College, CUNY Graduate Center
. William I. Robinson, Professor of Sociology, University of California, Santa Barbara
. Patricia Rodriguez, Professor of Politics, Ithaca College
. Andrew Ross, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University
. Elizabeth Sanders, Professor of Government, Cornell University
. Dean Saranillio, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University
. T.M. Scruggs, Professor Emeritus of Music, University of Iowa
. Ian J. Seda-Irizarry, Professor of Political Economy, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
. Denise A. Segura, Professor of Sociology; Chair, Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara
. Mark Selden, Senior Research Associate, East Asia Program, Cornell University
. Falguni A. Sheth, Professor of Philosophy and Political Theory, Hampshire College
. Naoko Shibusawa, Professor of History, Brown University
. Dina M. Siddiqi, Professor of Anthropology, BRAC University, Dhaka, Bangladesh
. Francisco Sierra Caballero, Director of the Center for Communication, Politics and Social Change, University of Seville
. Brad Simpson, Professor of History, University of Connecticut
. Nikhil Pal Singh, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and History, New York University
. Leslie Sklair, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, London School of Economics
. Norman Solomon, author, War Made Easy
. Judy Somberg, Chair, National Lawyers Guild Task Force on the Americas
. Jeb Sprague, author, Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti
. Oliver Stone, filmmaker; co-author, The Untold History of the United States
. Steve Striffler, Professor of Anthropology, Chair of Latin American Studies, University of New Orleans
. Sinclair Thomson, Professor of History, New York University
. Miguel Tinker Salas, Professor of History and Latin American Studies, Pomona College
. James S. Uleman, Professor of Psychology, New York University
. Alejandro Velasco, Professor of History, New York University
. Robert Vitalis, Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania
. Hans Christof von Sponeck, former United Nations Assistant Secretary General (1998-2000)
. Hilbourne Watson, Professor Emeritus of International Relations, Bucknell University
. Barbara Weinstein, Professor of History, New York University
. Mark Weisbrot, Ph.D., Co-director, Center for Economic and Policy Research
. Kirsten Weld, Professor of History, Harvard University
. Gregory Wilpert, Ph.D, author, Changing Venezuela by Taking Power
. John Womack, Jr., Professor Emeritus of Latin American History and Economics, Harvard University
. Michael Yates, Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
. Kevin Young, Ph.D., Latin American History, State University of New York-Stony Brook
. Marilyn B. Young, Professor of History, New York University
. Vazira Fazila-Yacoobali Zamindar, Professor of History; Co-Director, South Asian Studies, Brown University
. Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics and Coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies, University of San Francisco

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Mervat Hot ميرفت ساخنة

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Photos of Mervat during her temporary marriage صور ميرفت خلال زواج المتعة

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Prostitution VS :Shia’a Temporary Marriage Mutaa Vs Sunni invented temporary marriages Misyar Misyaf Misfar Binya al Talaq

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Unveiling the Middle East’s sex industry: Legalize Prostitution In Egypt

Journalist John R. Bradley descends into the Arab underworld of prostitution and pornography
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by; TRACY CLARK-FLORY
If asked to identify a country with a thriving sex industry, ubiquitous exposure to pornography and rampant homosexual sex, most would point somewhere in the Western world. But what about Egypt, Iran or Saudi Arabia? These would be equally accurate answers, according to John R. Bradley, author of “Behind the Veil of Vice: The Business and Culture of Sex in the Middle East.”

Bradley, a journalist with an expertise in the Arab world, crushes the popular perception of the Middle East as erotically stifled, and the West as the land of sexual expression and freedom. The more nuanced truth, he says, is that these seemingly oppositional cultures have far more in common than we often admit: Both “live under rulers who, under different pretexts and with varying degrees of severity, seek to curb the unruly sex urge as a way of maintaining social control.” There is also a shared “gap between propaganda and reality” and “a vast gulf between public and private morality,” he argues. This fascinating and comprehensive book guides readers through the seedy underbelly of the Middle East — from prostitution in Bahrain to temporary marriages in Iran — but it is just as much a reflection on Western sexual mores.

I recently spoke with Bradley about child brides, temporary marriage and Islamic feminist perspectives on the sex industry.
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You frame your book as a look at the cultural sexual similarities between Arabs and Westerners. Can you explain that?

The supposed licentiousness of the West is forever being contrasted, to my mind, in wholly spurious ways, with a sexually barren Middle East. “Behind the Veil of Vice” undermines stereotypes about Arab sexualities that have become entrenched in the English-speaking world, partly by reminding readers that we still have plenty of sexual hang-ups in the West, too. In particular, it debunks the notion, promoted by the likes of Martin Amis, that terrorism carried out by Islamists can be explained away with reference to the repressed, envious Arab male who can only find release by flying airliners into phallic-shaped skyscrapers.

I’ve been based in the region for a decade, and the sexuality in the Middle East I know is every bit as capricious as its Western counterpart, as unruly and multifarious, and occasionally as becalmed. By exploring the diverse sex cultures in countries like Morocco, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen and Iran, I try to show that, as in the West, illicit sex continues to thrive in the Middle East, often in the open and despite the increasingly shrill public discourse.

What kind of pornography do you find in Arab countries?

Watching pornography is no longer a big deal for young Arabs, any more than it is for young Americans. It has become a normal part of growing up. Just about anyone in the Middle East with a satellite dish has access to hardcore pornography channels, and just about everyone has a satellite dish. In that sense it’s probably more accessible than in the West. Technically, these porn channels are banned, but even in Saudi Arabia you find guys selling “special” cards for your satellite decoder in the back alleys around the major shopping districts.
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Even in countries with governments infamous for blocking political content on the Web, the porn sites are still mostly accessible, and the more secular regimes tend not to view sex as a threat in the way Islamist regimes do. The people who tend to obsess, of course, are the minority Islamists, because for them the personal is always political. Did anyone ever think so much about sex as those who want to ban it? But they are fighting a losing battle when it comes to the proliferation of smut in the Middle East, much as evangelicals are in America.

What impact did the Iraq war have on the sex industry?

The book opens with an evening I spent with a young woman whose family had fled Iraq and who had turned to working as an escort in a Damascus nightclub after her family had run out of money. There are definitely many more Iraqi women like her working as prostitutes or escorts in Syria than there were before the Iraq war. The local women in Damascus working as prostitutes were forever complaining in my conversations with them about how these Iraqis were bad for business, because they charged less than the going rate.

This increase in numbers of Iraqi women working as prostitutes in Syria should come as little surprise. A million refugees, many of them impoverished, flooded into the country from Iraq following the U.S.-led invasion. We should not lose sight of the fact that we are to blame for this situation. We bombed Iraq back into the Stone Age on the back of a pack of lies, have done nothing to bring to justice these war criminals who lead us, and at the same time feign concern and feel all superior when reading about the plight of Iraqi women working as prostitutes in Damascus.

What did you find with regards to sex trafficking in the Middle East?

The issue has unhelpfully come to frame the debate about prostitution in the Middle East, as it has in the West, in the sense that if you advocate legalization and regulation you are accused of being by default in league with the human traffickers. I found no evidence that human trafficking is widespread in the Middle East, and the statistics routinely quoted are almost always unsourced and often wildly contradictory.

In the chapter on Bahrain’s thriving sex industry, there’s an account of a rather heated discussion I got into with a leading local human rights campaigner. He has long championed the cause of “saving” trafficked women forced into prostitution in Bahrain. However, when given the opportunity to state his case, he couldn’t provide me with any verifiable evidence that there are any such women on the island.

What kind of resistance has there been to the sex industry?

Historically there has been very little. Indeed, quite the reverse. Only two references to prostitution are contained in the Islamic holy book. Both mention that four male witnesses are needed to convict a woman of the crime, and with the crucial proviso that anyone bringing false accusations would himself face severe punishment. In the early years of Islam the effect seems to have been that, so long as neither the man nor the woman was brazen about the activity, prostitution was more or less given free reign. In fact, regulated, legal prostitution prospered throughout the Middle East. Brothels and red light districts were initially kept more or less secret, but the state surrendered to the inevitable and eventually they came out into the open. Egyptian prostitution was officially taxed as early as the tenth century, an example emulated in Andalusia and later in Syria and throughout much of the rest of the Ottoman Empire.
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The proliferation of Islamist political outfits in the wake of the 1979 Iranian revolution, criticizing Arab leaders for their alleged personal decadence and allowing Islamic societies to become so superficially Westernized, put the leaders more on the defensive. The Islamic opposition, like their anti-imperial forebears, highlighted corruption and loose morals as a cause of weakness. They are now fond of claiming that prostitution, like homosexuality, is a Western import.

What about male sex workers — how common are they?

Rent boys are to be found everywhere in the Middle East, and homosexuality and prostitution are very much two sides of the same coin. Gay sex is as ubiquitous as the call to prayer, and for many men, of course, bedding a boy is a far more appealing prospect than bending over in the mosque, although being pulled in both directions, depending on the urge of the moment, must be quite normal too.

From the malls of Jeddah to the souks of Marrakesh, from the main drag in Tunis to the downtown coffee shops in Amman, boys are available, for an agreed price, as they always have been. In Damascus, there’s an extraordinary local scene, where the major parks and downtown district are constant hives of cruising activity, day and night. The local gay guys, who have colonized all of the downtown cafes and the single bar, told me they were never harassed by the police or government, but they also said it was practically impossible to get gay sex without paying for it, especially with younger guys. This scenario is replicated in other major urban centers in the region.

How does Islamic feminism address sex work?

In the book, I contrast what I call Salvationist feminism, which is anti-sex and seeks to control and restrict women, with Islamic feminism, which promotes women’s liberation and control over their own lives and bodies. I do this by comparing Egypt to Tunisia, both of which inherited on independence the Ottoman system of legalized prostitution, but which dealt with it in radically different ways.

Prostitution — and sexuality generally — became more politicized in the early 20th century in Egypt as local anti-imperial movements used it as a symbol of decadence and foreign influence. Restoring the nation’s honor was central to their agenda. In Egyptian political discourse the “violated prostitute” became a metaphor for the “raped colonial state,” and the “call to save her” became a metaphor for the “anti-colonial struggle.”
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In contrast, Habib Bourguiba, Tunisia’s first independence leader, is known as “the liberator of women,” and for me he is the great unsung hero of 20th-century Arab politics. He was an avowed secularist, and a tireless promoter of women’s equality. The feminism he championed was not the Salvationist kind that took root in Egypt, but that which encourages women’s true autonomy and equality in light of progressive Islamic thinking that sought to marry Islam with modernity. He launched a sexual revolution unprecedented in the Arab world, outlawing polygamy, banning the veil, legalizing abortion and advocating birth control.

And he left the red light districts to function, as they had done for decades. Today, prostitution remains legal in Tunisia, and all of the country’s major cities have a red light district. More generally, Tunisian women are by far the most liberated in the Middle East, and can walk the streets unveiled and free of sexual harassment. The point here is that state regulation of prostitution, legal protection of prostitutes, social tolerance of the profession and official monitoring of sex workers’ health and well-being is in no way in contradiction with the advancement of women’s rights.

Tracy Clark-Flory
Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon

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