These charts should give pause to any dictator considering an Internet blackout
The Syrian city of Aleppo briefly regained access to the Internet yesterday, ending an information blackout that lasted well over a month. As of this afternoon, though, it looks like the city is back offline. During the brief window of access, people on the ground issued celebratory tweets even as fighting continues in the city, one of the main battlegrounds of Syria's civil war.
In Sudan's Rebel-Held Nuba Mountains, War Rages On
SOUTH KORDOFAN, SUDAN — The squat, tin-roofed buildings of the Mother of Mercy Hospital lie surrounded by rocky hills in a natural amphitheater in Sudan’s rebel-held Nuba Mountains. The hospital was made for 80 patients, but last month there were four times that number. Beds lined the corridors and the outside verandas. Injured civilians and wounded soldiers lay alongside the sick, diseased, and malnourished.
On a hot evening in March, with the temperature still over 100 degrees, I met a veteran journalist named Jacob Akol in South Sudan’s capital, Juba. South Sudan is the newest nation in the world, and it shows: Juba is expanding so quickly that it basically reinvents itself every month. Hotels and offices are constructed out of used shipping containers.
When Barack Obama released a video message to Sudan and South Sudan last Sunday, he urged the people of both countries to reject armed conflict and return to negotiations. Obama gravely warned that “heated rhetoric on both sides has raised the risk of war.” With the two countries once again on the brink of a full-scale armed conflict, the President’s message was well-intentioned.
Yida Camp, South Sudan—The Yida refugee camp, just south of the disputed border between the Republic of Sudan and newly-independent South Sudan, rarely feels like the edge of a warzone. Children chase donkeys and bicycle wheels through the streets, and the men spend the day languidly sipping spicy coffee in the camp’s surprisingly busy marketplace. The warzone is in the Nuba Mountains in the region of Southern Kordofan, a fifteen kilometer trek away, through the desert and across the border with the Republic of Sudan. Still, it is difficult to be optimistic here.
Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes Are Choking Freedom WorldwideBy Paul Marshall and Nina Shea (Oxford University Press, 448 pp., $35) I. In spite of its slightly agitated title, this book is mostly a cool and even-tempered human rights report, and its findings go a long way toward explaining one of the mysteries of our time, namely, the ever-expanding success of political movements with overtly Islamic doctrines and radical programs.Some people may suppose that Islam itself, the ancient religion, mandates theocracy. Seen in this light, the vigor of theocratically tinged political movements right now ought to seem normal to us, and maybe even commendable—a fitting renaissance of cultural authenticity in places around the world that, having left behind the indignities of colonial domination and the awkwardness of the post-colonial era, have entered at last into the post-post-colonial age of the return to self. Movements that carry such labels as “Islamism” or “radical Islam” or “political Islam,” judged in this way, could perfectly well drop their suffixes and adjectives and simply adopt the name of Islam itself—an Islam that has exited the mosque in order to fulfill still more sacred obligations in the public square. But Paul Marshall and Nina Shea take a different view. And in order to confer an august authority upon their contrary estimation, they have padded their human-rights report, or perhaps armored it, with learned commentaries by three Islamic scholars, two of whom are recently deceased but all of whom are distinguished.
Newt Gingrich has dumbly stirred a ruckus in saying that the Arabs of Palestine are an “invented people.” It did not increase his chances of winning the Republican presidential nomination: How many Jews actually vote in Republican primaries? (And many Christian Zionists are already for him on altogether non-Zionist grounds.) But it should not have caused such a furor in the first place.
In March 2009, the Arab League welcomed Sudanese President Omar Bashir at its summit in Qatar. Just weeks earlier, Bashir had been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC)—and a warrant issued for his arrest—for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the murder of nearly 500,000 civilians in Darfur. No matter. The Arab League rejected ICC jurisdiction as an illegal violation of Sudanese sovereignty. But now, in the months since the Arab Spring began, the Arab League seems to have undergone a transformation.