During the height of its power, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) destroyed and looted numerous cultural heritage sites under its control. In January 2017, it was reported that ISIS had destroyed two ancient structures in Palmyra. Cultural heritage sites are also prone to natural disasters. An earthquake that hit an ancient city in Myanmar in 2016 damaged numerous temples located there.
In the summer of 2015, a lone gunmen massacred 38 tourists enjoying a sunny beach in Tunisia. Since this incident, many radical terrorists have been targeting tourist destinations for attacks, aiming to deter economic progress in these countries. These countries range from fragile Arab Spring nations attempting to progress economically, like Tunisia and Libya, to longstanding Western tourist destinations like France and Spain. Since tourism is an important part of the global economy, does the average traveler have a moral responsibility to ignore terror threats and continue traveling to potentially dangerous countries?
A car bomb exploded in the Turkish capital of Ankara on March 13, leaving at least 37 people dead. This is not the first attack of this nature on Ankara; the attack was the third bombing on the capital since October, each of which left many people dead. Despite the bloody attacks, however, there has been no international outpouring of support in the way that France experienced in November after the attacks on Paris or Brussels did this past week after the March 22 bombings. No Facebook profile picture filters appeared in support, no hashtags emerged like #PrayforParis, no extensive media coverage in the United States – no “je suis” moment, as Liz Cookman calls it in her op-ed in The Guardian. James Taylor declares in a viral Facebook post: “You were Charlie, you were Paris. Will you be Ankara?”
The current crisis in Syria differs from other conflicts. It exists in a power vacuum in the space between two fractured national boundaries. To the West, Bashar al-Assad, with the support of Iran and Russia, makes use of barrel bombs and brutality to pound back opposition forces. To the East, the Islamic State continues to resist the Iraqi army and free Kurdish forces attempting to take back territory.
The United States and Russia announced on February 11 a “cessation of hostilities” in Syria. The plan includes increased humanitarian aid, in addition to the ceasing of hostilities, and does not include ISIS or the Nursa front as they are both UN-recognized terrorist organizations. The plan, if executed as announced, will be the first formally declared end to fighting in Syria since 2011. While the plan is a step forward in stopping the five-year conflict, is this humanitarian aid and tentative cessation really enough?
One thing that I noticed when I first heard media coverage of an Islamist group rising to power in Syria was that it was continually referred to as “the group calling itself ISIS” or “the group known as ISIL”. If it had been one media outlet or one program, it might have slipped by. But it wasn’t: it was a standardized fixture of official coverage of the group.
In recent months, particularly since the deadly Paris attacks that claimed the lives of 129, there has been a seemingly strategic shift to the word “Daesh” to describe the organization. Why does this matter? And what impact does it hold for the future of Western relations to the Middle East?
On September 2, the Associated Press reported sobering statistics detailing the predicament of middle school age children in five conflict-scarred Middle Eastern countries. According to UNICEF, forty percent of children from Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Sudan are currently unenrolled in school, with a strong likelihood that this figure will continue to increase to fifty percent in the near future as a result of enduring conflict in the region.
Women that are a part of Egypt’s 90% Muslim majority are facing a new obstacle against their faith: multiple restaurants, pools and resorts are banning women from entering if they are wearing a veil. Few women appear in public without a veil, whether they opt for the hijab, which covers the hair only, or the niqab, which covers the entire face except for the eyes.
The level of discrimination varies from specified business operation hours for those wearing a veil, to making veiled women swim in a separate pool. According to The Economist, A new Facebook page has been created called “Hijab Racism”, where people can specify which businesses are practicing discrimination against the hijab.
Egypt’s president, Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi is himself a devout Muslim, and has worked hard to display himself as an alternative to Islamist Extremism. However, taking actions such as revising textbooks and monitoring mosque sermons for the sake of fighting extremism may also be seen as combatant against the Muslim religion itself, and counter-intuitive to promoting religious freedoms that militant groups like ISIS shun.
Another issue surrounding the matters of religious extremism and “Islamophobia” is secularization. Egypt’s education minister has stated that he would prefer if girls refrained from wearing veils through primary school, at least until puberty. One side of the argument is that children wearing veils results from cultural tradition, not necessarily from theology. Others may see it as an attempt to begin secularizing Egypt in order to prevent Western countries from viewing Egypt as extreme, and also to prevent extremist cells from taking root while Al-Sisi is in power.
The current question is whether secularization is the appropriate response for traditionally Muslim countries in the fight against extremism. If this strategy chafes too much against the desire for religious freedom in Egypt and similar countries, the results may be counterproductive. Although in early August the tourism minister warned that establishments banning women wearing a veil will be shut down, no action has been taken yet.
Whether this warning towards discriminating against the hijab is taken seriously or not may affect future relationships between Egypt’s Muslim population and their government.
Inseparable from the modern museum is an examination of how the forces of globalization affect it. As audiences of these museums seek increasingly globalized experiences, so too have the collections of museums diversified with collections from around the world. Impressive as they may be, though, such collections bring with them a number of ethical issues. And in the time of ISIS and antiquity black markets, foremost among them is just how such antiquities arrived in the museum’s hallowed halls in the first place.
Since it first began capturing Iraqi towns in 2014, the militant group ISIS has become notorious for its widespread use of violence and atrocity. However, as Robyn Creswell and Bernard Haykel point out in The New Yorker, this violence is only one of the qualities defining the Islamic State. For the brutal acts of violence for which ISIS have become famous is juxtaposed with something decidedly more elegant: Arabic poetry. Such poetry, written by militants and figures like Ahlam al-Nasr, the so-called “Poetess of the Islamic State,” offer a key look into the narratives and art forms involved in the Islamic State’s spread.