In the crosshairs of an academic crackdown

first_imgIt was a straightforward proposal and seemingly benign research topic. In 2016, as a newly tenured associate professor of sociology at the American University in Cairo (AUC), Amy Austin Holmes — now a visiting scholar at the Weatherhead Center — was thrilled to receive a grant to analyze the impact of the new, restrictive NGO law on civil society across Egypt, whose government had become increasingly autocratic under the rule of military strongman President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. At the time, she had no reason to believe her work was being tracked by state intelligence.Each of her five associates would study a different group or region of the country, with her own focus being the Nubians in the south. She was drawn to the culture and history of the Nubians because of their similarities to Kurds, another group that was central to her scholarship.Descendants from an ancient civilization in the Sudan, Nubians have lived in the border area between Sudan and Egypt for thousands of years, though dam construction along the Nile forced their relocation several times in the 20th century. Holmes knew that as an African ethnic group, the Nubians had been “Arabized,” or forced to relinquish their language and indigenous identity, like some of the Kurdish groups she had studied.Two major political developments affecting the Nubians had occurred in recent years, and she wanted to study the impact these changes had on the community.In 2013, after a military coup removed the democratically elected Mohamed Morsi and appointed an interim president and suspended the constitution he’d signed into law the previous year, a new version of the constitution included an article promising Nubians the right to return to part of their traditional homeland in Egypt within 10 years. It was a surprising and unprecedented gesture that hinted at a possible new period of liberalization.But in 2016, under el-Sisi, a new law was drafted forbidding NGOs to accept foreign support, a move that would hamper civil organizations — including those that served the Nubians.Amy Austin Holmes (center, top) with members of the Syrian Democratic Forces at a Newroz celebration on March 21 in Kobane in northern Syria. Credit: Wladimir van WilgenburgBy the time Holmes embarked on her Nubian research, the climate was fraught, since a protest law had been put into place even before the NGO law. “They made it illegal to protest … and all of these horrible things started happening,” she said. “Disappearances, and the mass death sentences.”Using the grant approved by her university, in February 2017 Holmes traveled south from Cairo to Nasser El Nuba, a Nubian resettlement village, to conduct interviews. Several months after her visit, the political climate for Nubians began to heat up.That September, Nubians in Aswan staged a peaceful protest calling for the “right of return” promised in the new constitution. In response, Egyptian security forces again cracked down on protesters. They detained two dozen prisoners for two months — culminating in the death of a detainee named Gamal Sorour, who had previously been the head of the General Nubian Union in France, a human rights organization.“The state-controlled media accused the Nubians of being separatists,” says Holmes. “But the irony is that the Nubians are not separatists; they are asking for what’s been granted to them in the constitution.” (The Kurds in Syria, she points out, also are not asking for independence — a fact often misrepresented by the media.)A scholar is labeled an “operative”Despite not publishing or writing anything about her visit to the Nubian resettlement village, in the spring of 2018, news articles and television reports began to appear referencing Holmes’ visit, which had taken place more than a year earlier. The reports — published just before el-Sisi was declared the winner of the elections — suggested Holmes was an operative, intent on internationalizing the Nubians’ cause. And she was able to pinpoint their source.“Military intelligence wrote a report and sent it to the media outlets, who literally copied and pasted from the military intelligence report into their articles,” Holmes says. To her dismay, her home university, AUC, did nothing to publicly defend or clarify her work. So she defended herself — and called out the racist campaign against the Nubian minority in a piece she wrote for The Washington Post.Being targeted by Egyptian state-controlled media was a shocking signal, she said, and it ultimately led to her decision to extend a sabbatical in the U.S. that started in early 2018 out of concern for her safety.Holmes, who is also a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, notes the irony of her situation. “I was one of the first academics to write [critical] commentary about the devastating Rabaa massacre in 2013, and nothing happened to me. Four years later I am interviewing Nubian minorities in the south of Egypt and I’m labeled an agent.” The only independent university in Egypt, AUC continues to be silent on the incident.Challenges of studying minorities in the Middle EastToday, as a visiting scholar at the Weatherhead Center, Holmes is working under a yearlong grant to continue the research she began in Egypt, and is writing a book about her experiences. Her fieldwork has allowed her to see patterns across the minority groups she studies.“I was interested in the Nubians because I saw a lot of comparisons to the Kurdish issues I had been studying,” she said. “Both groups are non-Arab minorities living in Arab countries being repressed by centralized governments and forced to ‘Arabize.’”But it was her interest in Nubian history and culture that apparently attracted the attention of el-Sisi’s intelligence agents.Holmes is all too aware of the fates of other scholars and journalists in the region. In 2015, an Egyptian court sentenced her AUC colleague Emad Shahin to death in a mock trial while he was out of the country. Italian graduate student Giulio Regeni, a visiting scholar at AUC who was researching Egyptian labor unions, was tortured to death in Cairo in 2016. Several more of Holmes’s colleagues at AUC have been detained or barred from  returning to the country once they leave.Overall, her experience underscores the difficulties of studying minorities in the Middle East. “All over the region,” she said, “I see the crackdown on journalists and academics as two sides of the same coin.”The roots of authoritarianism in the Middle EastTo explain the authoritarianism sweeping the region, Holmes goes back to the birth of these nations.“The 1950s and 1960s were the height of pan-Arabism that emphasized the homogeneous nature of the newly independent states such as Egypt and Syria,” she said. “It was a rejection of colonialism by saying, ‘We are all one Arab people and have to be united.’ A strong military played a very important role as an institution, and that is where the autocratic governments emerge from.”Her research on the crackdown on civil society illustrates the nature of Egypt’s slide toward authoritarianism.“The reason I find this anti-NGO law so fascinating is because I think it shows that el-Sisi is not just targeting those people who are clearly critical of the regime, but also now the groups that provide basic services, or even work to defend the government’s own laws,” she explains. “To me it says that the regime is so paranoid and afraid of independent initiatives from civil society, regardless of the political orientation, that anything that smacks of independence from the state is a threat.”For now, Holmes will remain in the U.S. to work on a book under contract with Oxford University Press. The tentative title is “Coups and Revolutions: Mass Mobilization, the Egyptian Military, and the United States from Mubarak to Sisi.” She is writing articles and giving talks about the semi-autonomous region of northeastern Syria that is under control of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a U.S. ally that now holds about one-third of Syrian territory.Weatherhead Center visiting scholar Amy Austin Holmes is an associate professor of sociology at the American University in Cairo. She is also a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.For the read the full story, visit the Weatherhead website.last_img read more

Sire Du Berlais makes winning return | Racing News

first_imgElliott said: “It was a good performance. Mark said he needed the whole length of the straight to get there – he wants three miles.“Obviously I’ll have to speak to Frank (Berry, owner’s racing manager) and JP, but I’d imagine the three-mile race in Leopardstown at Christmas would be the place to go with him now. He has no choice really now but to go for a Grade One.“He’s been a great little horse around the yard. The Stayers’ Hurdle would look the race for him long-term.”- Advertisement – Dual Cheltenham Festival hero Sire Du Berlais made a winning return to action in the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan.The JP McManus-owned eight-year-old has won the last two renewals of the Pertemps Final at the showpiece meeting in the Cotswolds for Gordon Elliott, but faced a step up in class and a drop in trip for this two-and-a-half-mile Grade Two.- Advertisement – Paddy Power cut Sire Du Berlais to 10-1 from 16-1 for the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham next March. The blinkered 9-2 chance was on the heels of the leaders rounding the home turn and responded to Mark Walsh’s urgings on the run-in to get up and beat long-time leader French Dynamite by half a length.Matthew Smith’s stable star Ronald Pump was the 9-4 favourite on his first start since filling the runner-up spot in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, and was not completely done with when crashing out at the final obstacle.Noel Meade’s Sixshooter finished third.- Advertisement – – Advertisement –last_img read more

Apartment sales down but bargains to be found as developers wait and see

first_imgInvestor demand for Brisbane apartments has waned, but owner occupiers are still active. Picture: Marc Robertson.Urbis anticipates that project launches won’t see any drastic increase, however sales figures are not expected to register further decline. “It is a competitive market because there is still product in the market,” Urbis director property economics and research Paul Riga said.“In coming quarters we’re tracking another four to six projects likely to launch in the coming six months. “That will add more choice to the market, and on that basis, we would expect sales to move higher.” MARGOT ROBBIE’S SECRET WEDDING ESTATE FOR SALE Mr Riga said it was positive to see that while investor activity had slowed in the inner Brisbane apartment market, owner occupiers were still active.“A large proportion of owner occupier sales were in recently built or soon to be completed developments,” he said. “Generally, owner occupiers are looking for a home, they want to be able to see the finished product before committing.” Urbis director property economics and research Paul Riga.Unlike the previous quarter, where 46 per cent of sales were in projects in a presales phase, this quarter 55 per cent of sales were in recently built and settled developments. Only 15 per cent of sales were in presales developments.More from newsParks and wildlife the new lust-haves post coronavirus18 hours agoNoosa’s best beachfront penthouse is about to hit the market18 hours agoMr Riga said the decline in presales purchases was largely due to the lack of new projects launching to the market, with only three new projects yielding 146 apartments launching in Brisbane during the March quarter. And only 306 apartments were approved for development in the first three months of this year — in line with the low level of projects coming to the market. THE BLOCK’S BACKPACKERS’ MAKEOVER A GOLDMINE High-rise apartments in Brisbane. Picture: Mark Calleja.More than 4700 apartments, including in sold-out projects, are expected to settle across inner Brisbane by the end of the year.Mr Riga said many “savvier” developers were working behind the scenes with buyers, agents and valuers to ensure settlements were on track.“Many developers are monitoring to see how these settlements go before deciding to launch anything new to the market,” he said.“I haven’t heard reports of too many drastic issues when it comes to settlements.”Despite the lack of new projects, demand for the right product at the right price was still there, with a number of projects pending launch gathering interest from prospective buyers. “From our conversations within the market, we know that there has been solid interest and sales in recently built stock which has had to be resold, indicating that demand hasn’t disappeared and buyers are still active,” Mr Riga said.BRISBANE APARTMENT MARKET SNAPSHOT*154 sales in the March 2018 quarter, down from 252 sales in the previous quarter*Average sales price for the quarter remained steady at $680,195*Two-bedroom, two-bathroom product made up the majority of sales at 58% *Only three new projects yielding 146 apartments launched in the quarter*Owner occupier transactions made up the majority of sales at 34% sales(Source: Urbis)center_img Brisbane apartment sales almost halved in the March quarter, a new report reveals. Photo: Adam Armstrong.APARTMENT sales have almost halved in Brisbane as fewer new projects are launched to market and developers adopt a wait-and-see approach, a new report has found.It’s good news for first home buyers and downsizers hunting for a bargain, with the slowdown keeping a lid on unit prices.And while investor demand has waned, the appetite for units in the Queensland capital is still strong among owner-occupiers, who made up the majority of sales during the March quarter. GET THE LATEST REAL ESTATE NEWS DIRECT TO YOUR INBOX HERE The latest Urbis quarterly apartment report reveals 154 apartments were sold in the first three months of this year — down from 252 sales in the previous quarter.Owner occupier transactions made up 34 per cent of sales, overtaking foreign investor purchase, which accounted for 28 per cent of sales.The average apartment sale price remained steady at $680,195.last_img read more

Spurs Host City in Clash of Only Unbeaten Teams

first_imgPochettino’s first ever win as a manager came when Espanyol beat Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona at the Nou Camp in 2009, and the Argentinian will hope to inflict a first defeat on the Spaniard’s City this season.Guardiola’s reign in Manchester began with 10 straight wins, a run which was halted by a 3-3 draw with Celtic in the Champions League on Wednesday. City’s 100 per cent start in the league sees them four points clear of second-placed Spurs ahead of the showdown.Tottenham striker Harry Kane remains out with an ankle injury, meaning summer signing Vincent Janssen is likely to start again up front. Guardiola has reported no new injury worries for City’s trip to The club are still assessing the extent of the injuries afflicting Kevin De Bruyne, Vincent Kompany and Fabian Delph in order to determine how long they will remain on the sidelines.The Belgians are receiving treatment for hamstring and groin problems respectively, but it is hoped Delph’s muscle injury will clear up by the end of the international break. Nolito will be suspended, following his red card at Bournemouth.Spurs have won 22 of their 38 Premier League games against City; should they win this game, they will have beaten them more often than they’ve defeated any other side (currently tied with 22 wins v Everton). Spurs beat City 4-1 in last season’s league fixture at White Hart LaneGuardiola needs a win from this game to break the record for best winning starts to a managerial career in the Premier League (currently tied with Carlo Ancelotti on six).Sergio Aguero has scored 28 goals in his last 27 Premier League appearances for City. Meanwhile four of Heung-Min Son’s eight Premier League goals have come in his last 229 minutes of action for Spurs.Aguero’s mins-per-goal rate of one every 106 minutes is the best rate in Premier League history, 15 minutes quicker than Thierry Henry in second place. Aguero now has as many Premier League goals as Paul Scholes (107), but in 345 fewer games.Share this:FacebookRedditTwitterPrintPinterestEmailWhatsAppSkypeLinkedInTumblrPocketTelegram The Premier Leagues only unbeaten teams, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City lock horns in a top-of-the-table clash at White Hart Lane. City’s flawless record was broken in the thrilling 3-3 Champions League draw at Celtic last Wednesday but there is little doubt their reputation as the Premier League’s team to beat precedes them.Tottenham have been used to playing deep-sitting, counterattacking opponents in recent weeks but they know that City will fight to control the ball. An open, high-tempo showdown looms, which will be scrutinised for title pointers.Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino could have four first-team players back for today’s crunch match against Manchester City. Eric Dier, Moussa Dembele and Danny Rose will all be assessed as they near returns from hamstring injuries while Moussa Sissoko may also feature after taking a bang on the head last weekend.last_img read more