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National Security Strategy: From South Park, Colorado to Washington D.C.

In the Comedy Central television series South Park, the boys discover a cartel of gnomes who steal people’s underwear. Over the course of the episode it’s revealed that these seizures are part of their business plan which goes:   Step 1: Collect Underpants → Step 2: ? → Step 3: Profit   The punchline, of course, is[…]

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On Drawing Muhammad, Civil Rights, and Secularism

At the height of the unrest in Baltimore, I wrote a piece for Salon pushing back against the kneejerk condemnations of the riots. In the piece, I argued that advocates of pacifism fail to understand the extent to which their own methods are reliant on violence—to the point where it may not even be feasible[…]

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For Farkhunda

The lynching of a young woman named Farkhunda in bustling downtown Kabul on March 19th just before nowruz (the Persian/Afghan New Year), has wracked Afghanistan and the Afghan community worldwide. Social media has been saturated with the bloodied pictures and videos of her, and thousands of demonstrators seeking justice for her killing and protesting lawlessness[…]

"Fly KITES not DRONES," Azim Fakhri

Interrupting the War Image: SISMEC Interviews Graphic Artist Azim Fakhri

Farzana Marie (FM): Many of your works of art depict images of war and violence juxtaposed with, or altered in surprising ways to convey, instead, a vision for peace. Your tagline, “Imagination is my power,” directly implies a displacement of violent force with art. Can you talk about how this approach emerged for you, beginning[…]

“Letters to War” and “Lethe”

Letters to War and Lethe is a collection of poems about war: its deprivations, its strange gifts, and its remembrances. “Whether set in Afghanistan or an American supermarket,” writes Boston-based poet Joyce Peseroff, these poems “upset platitudes and assumptions about those who fight, what they remember, and who speaks for them.” Farzana Marie’s book, Peseroff says,[…]

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Election Arts: Giving the Taliban the (Ink-stained) Finger

On Saturday, April 5th, 2014, the Afghan people delivered a resounding message to the Taliban and observers around the world. They voted not only for the presidential candidate and provincial council members of their choice but also for a democratic process in which citizens—both men and women—have a participatory role and can hold their leaders[…]

Freedom Graffiti: Syrian Artists of the Ayyam Gallery

Love and war are never very far apart. Miles from the high-level politics that formally send men and women to war, in the end humans fight for what we love: for the sweaty helmeted soldier beside us, for the survival of our family, for ideals—like freedom—without which life is more like death. Just before Valentine’s[…]

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Framing the War Before it Frames Us: A Conversation with Iraqi Poet Dunya Mikhail

“The war continues working day and night. It inspires tyrants to deliver long speeches, awards medals to generals and themes to poets. It contributes to the industry of artificial limbs, provides food for flies, adds pages to history books, achieves equality between killer and killed…” That was an excerpt from Dunya Mikhail’s poem “The War[…]

Memento Mori: Poetry, Conflict & the Uncanny

How does poetry grapple with the conflicts and social issues of our time? What can a poem do in the face of rocket-thuds, choking smoke, a child’s pink sandal in a blood-pool on the street? Can it find meaning in THAT? Is poetry perhaps, as Iraqi poet Dunya Mikhail put it, not medicine but an[…]

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Where do you find rainbows in Turkey? Up in the skies or down on the street?

Not long ago, Turkey experienced one of the largest and most diverse public protests of the last thirty years. The numbers on the streets were not accurately calculated, and the mainstream media failed to report the entirety of events and their wide geographical scope. Named after the well-known park in Taksim, Istanbul, the Gezi Movement[…]

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Shock Doctrine Tunisia

Lost, ideological, and imported extremities As Tunisia’s post-dictatorship constitution is being forged through a democratic and messy process in a former palace of the Ottoman bey, the local Al-Qaeda affiliate might be planting explosive mines near the Algerian border—and the press is aflame with coverage of culture clashes between extremists of stringy beards and perky[…]

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Heritage and the Syrian Civil War

Weapons of Cultural Destruction As the civil war rages across Syria, its rich cultural heritage is often caught in the crossfire between the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian government’s army.  As in previous conflicts in Lebanon and Iraq, many historical sites in Syria have been damaged sometimes quite severely by the fighting.  Historical artifacts[…]

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The Ants of God

Clashes, Curfews, and Art in Tunisia Yasmine Hamdan and Badiaa Bouhrizi’s opening songs will herald the beginning of the Carthage Alternative Music Festival today in the ritzy suburb atop Byrsa Hill in Tunis. But this showcase of Tunisia’s kaleidoscopic nationality and secular-Western cultural ties, rolls on warily, under a shadow of furious anti-secular riots sparked[…]