' '
Featured post

AlJazeera English Q&A With Lebanese Poet Zeina Hashem Beck

I put together this neat little interview with Lebanese poet Zeina Hashem Beck for AlJazeera English when I was back home a couple of weeks ago. I adore Zeina’s poetry, and am convinced her career will continue to flourish, so this was a real treat for me (we had a fantastic discussion — thank you, Zeina). I’ve pasted the entire interview below, but you can see it as it appeared on AlJazeera English here.

Beirut – To say Zeina Hashem Beck is an emerging poet would be an understatement. At 35, the Lebanese writer has already clinched multiple awards. To Live in Autumn, her first collection, won the 2013 Backwaters Prize.

This year, Hashem Beck won the Rattle Chapbook Prize for 3arabi Song, which fuses her passion for Middle Eastern culture with the destabilising forces of war and displacement in the region. She has also been praised by UK Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy.

Rattle describes 3arabi Song as “a tribute to the Arab world and Arab singers, to refugees and refusal, to hope and home, to sorrow and song”, adding, “like no other collection we’ve read, these poems feel absolutely necessary”. Continue reading

Facebook Comments
Featured post

The White Helmets: A Netflix Documentary Worth Watching

Documentary: White Helmets (2016)
Director: Orlando von Einsiedel
Available on Netflix globally

For all of the coverage of the White Helmets  in western media over the past few months, nothing comes close to this documentary brought to your living rooms by Netflix.

The short film explores the quiet yet remarkable group of some 3,000 Syrian volunteer rescue workers as they risk their lives to search for survivors at bomb sites across opposition-controlled areas of the country.

Over the past five years, the group is said to have saved more than 60,000 lives, capturing the attention of the Nobel Peace Prize committee (and, of course, conspiracy theorists/trolls*).

The makers of the documentary spent over five weeks with 30 White Helmets along the Syrian border in Turkey as they received first-responder training, filming intimate moments of their day-to-day lives. (Director and producer Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara document the experience in this piece for Indiewire.) Continue reading

Facebook Comments
Featured post

Man of the Orchard

I  first met jeddo (grandpa) in August 1987. I was just three years old, but I have this distinct memory of him hurriedly running down the driveway of his humble orchard-home in Zahrani, barefoot, in the pouring rain, to embrace my mother. He hadn’t seen her since just before the Israeli invasion of South Lebanon in 1982; they’d barely communicated in the interim. Tears were streaming down his face as he held her.

Osman “Abu Nasser” Antar was born to Zahra and Mahmoud in Sidon in 1929. He was the fifth of eight other siblings — one sister, and seven brothers. His father was a trader and a landowner who worked between Palestine and South Lebanon; he managed his finances poorly.

When jeddo was barely 11, my great-grandfather unexpectedly passed away, leaving the family of ten with very little to survive on. My grandpa was consequently forced to leave school to provide for himself, his younger siblings, and his mother. Continue reading

Facebook Comments
Featured post

This is Leila. She Was Murdered by Al-Qaeda


The Arab world has lost yet another tremendous talent to terrorism.

Leila Alaoui, a French-Moroccan photographer, passed away last night.

She was just 33.

Leila, who was on a photo assignment in Burkina Faso for Amnesty International, spent three days fighting for her life after being shot by Al-Qaeda militants at close range as she arrived at a restaurant late last week. Driver and Burkina Faso national Mahamadi Ouédraogo died along with Alaoui. They were two of at least 32 people who were murdered in the horrific Ouagadougou attack. Continue reading

Facebook Comments
Featured post

FLOW CHART: How to Respond to a Terrorist Attack

By Zahra Hankir and ND*

There are so many terrorist (or kind-of-terrorist-) attacks out there these days, that it’s hard to keep track.

While we understand terrorism is certainly no laughing matter, we thought we’d put together a flow chart  to help you figure out how to respond to such attacks during these dark times.

Are you a Facebook user? A moderate Muslim? A western media organisation? Vladimir Putin? Or even David Cameron?

Florence of Arabia has got you covered.

(Click on the image to enlarge).


* ND is a London-based ultimate frisbee player, flow-chart expert and journalist. She’s also a White Westerner. 

Facebook Comments

The Middle East Has Lost a True Friend in Jo Cox

To so many people across the United Kingdom and indeed the world, the disturbing, tragic murder of Jo Cox still seems utterly incomprehensible.

This was a woman who very visibly cared deeply for others and whose altruism has been described by many as unblemished. Indeed, the more one learns about Jo Cox, the more one realises just how tremendous her compassion was.

Cox was a champion for the less fortunate; for the socially ostracised; for immigrants; for refugees; for women; and for diversity. She was also a genuine friend of the Middle East and the UK’s Muslim community. Continue reading

Facebook Comments

Middle Eastern States Shed Crocodile Tears Over Orlando

In the few hours after Omar Mateen shot dead 50 innocent people at Pulse in Orlando a week ago, dozens of politicians and heads of states around the world rushed to condemn the grotesque hate crime.

The “condemnations” trickling in from the Middle East were particularly interesting and unique when placed in the context of these countries’  track records on LGBT rights and their mistreatment of homosexuals (Russia could potentially be added to this list, too, but for the sake of this post, we’re focusing on the Middle East).

To illustrate the stark contrast between the condemnations and the countries’ respective policies on homosexuality, Florence of Arabia has put together the below listicle featuring Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. (Please do send in more if I’ve missed any.)

[To jump straight to the listicle, click here.]

The contrast is quite humorous and hypocritical, but on a more serious level, it reaffirms just how rampant state-sponsored homophobia is in the region. It’s worth noting that the condemnations were similarly worded and omitted any mention of the attacks occurring at a gay club or targeting homosexuals. 

The condemnations are inherently problematic in that the states are essentially players that enable or fuel the sort of hatred which motivated the very crime they appear to have condemned.

Scholar and writer Samar Habib in this piece for the Washington Post argues that the condemnations are a “start,” whilst acknowledging they are somewhat troublesome. Continue reading

Facebook Comments

Sykes Picot as Explained by Jon Stewart & John Oliver

Western media have been aggressively commemorating the 100th anniversary of Sykes Picot, the “secret” agreement that saw British and French colonial powers carve up the Middle East into not nearly enough pieces.

The guilt-tinged coverage is understandable, considering what a blo*dy mess the region is in* (although the Economist recently [didactically] argued it’s time to move on from blaming the West for the Middle East’s ills. Definitely quite an original take.) Continue reading

Facebook Comments

Aleppo is Burning: Join the Worldwide RED Protest for Syria


On Tuesday, May 3, protestors in London will gather to demand action be taken for the innocent civilians of Aleppo, who are being crushed by the brutal Syrian regime.

If you live in the UK, join the Student Union of King’s College London at the Quad, Strand Campus, from 6 p.m. BST. For more details, visit the Facebook Event Page.

We’ll be there, and we’ll be wearing red.

Global protest destinations include NYC (in front of the UN, May 1), Beirut (also May 1),  Berlin (May 2) and Geneva (May 4). A demonstration was held in Paris today. Continue reading

Facebook Comments

ISIS Fighter Furious at Non-Muslim Millennials for Appropriating Beard Culture

From hipsters in Williamsburg to millennials in Bethnal Green, ‘big, bushy beards’ have morphed from an ISIS subculture style to a mainstream Western fashion trend.* Daoud Mahmoud of Raqqa, Syria, says he can no longer remain silent. Florence of Arabia reports.

In a series of furious Tweets on Friday, 22-year-old ISIS militant Daoud Mahmoud blasted Western millennials and hipsters for their “appropriation” of the caliphate’s beard culture, saying it was becoming “increasingly intolerable.”

Tweeting from his shelled-out flat in Raqqa, Daoud gave a brief history of ISIS beard culture, saying facial hair is a core tenet of the terrorist group’s deep-seated spirituality — so much so, men who don’t sport a suitably bushy beard are instantaneously slaughtered.

Continue reading

Facebook Comments

Dame Zaha Hadid on Being Arab

“I miss aspects of being in the Arab world – the language – and there is a tranquility in these cities with great rivers. Whether it’s Cairo or Baghdad, you sit there and you think, ‘This river has flown here for thousands of years.’ There are magical moments in these places.” – Zaha Hadid (1950-2016).

The inimitable dame Zaha Hadid has shockingly passed away at the age of 65.

A true darling of the Arab world, the Baghdad-born British architect will be remembered for her risk-taking, the feminism she injected into her modernist, avant-garde work, and her stark — oftentimes controversial — individualism.

Known in the UK for her work on the London Olympic Aquatic Centre, she was the first woman to be awarded the Royal Institute of British Architects Gold Medal and the Pritzker Prize (the Guardian lists her 10 best buildings here).

Her larger-than-life, breath-taking work has been erected in Azerbaijan and Lebanon to Hong Kong and Germany, and has included the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London, the Riverside Museum at Glasgow’s Museum of Transport, the Sheikh Zayed Bridge in Abu Dhabi and the Guangzhou Opera House in China.

Continue reading

Facebook Comments

British Red Cross Launches Postcards For Syria Auction


Postcards For Syria, a stunning collection of works by artists, refugees, celebrities, and schoolchildren commissioned by the #BritishRedCross and designed along the themes of home, hope and humanity, will go on auction from 7 p.m. (London time) today.

“Why postcards? When you send a postcard to somebody, you do so because you want to send them a message. It’s a simple act that shows you are thinking about them,” the British Red Cross, which will contribute the proceeds of the auction to its #SyriaCrisisAppeal, says on its website. “As the crisis reaches its five-year point, the aim of this project is to show solidarity with Syrians while raising funds.”
Continue reading

Facebook Comments

Islamophobe of the Week: Luton Nursery School

There are so many random acts of Islamophobia these days that it’s impossible to keep track.

This week we have an unidentified employee (or unidentified employees) at an unidentified nursery school in Luton who called the mother of a pupil in for questioning after her toddler son drew a picture of his father with a knife chopping a cucumber.

The staff in question apparently misheard the boy when he said cucumber, thinking he meant to say “cooker bomb” instead, and suggested the child may need to be admitted into a de-radicalisation programme.


Cucumber Continue reading

Facebook Comments
%d bloggers like this: