Assafir Al-Arabi (AsA) is an independent media platform.
Its mission is to present first-hand analysis of issues at stake in the Arab world by actors on the ground who are deeply rooted, concerned and involved in their societies, in clear, accessible language.
The objective is to catalyze expression and reveal the often hidden but authentic realities facing the people of the entire Arab region without exception or censorship.
Transforming Prospect into Possibility
Assafir Al-Arabi searches for what is not yet devastated in the midst of the great ruin that lies on top of our entire Arab region.
We believe that we are not delusional or pretentious wishful-thinkers, and that what we seek is out there with much evidence to its existence and persistence in our societies. These communities are alive, rebellious against misery whenever they have a chance, vigorously and continually practicing ways to guard their ability to be creative and instigative on all fronts and in every domain. They do so despite the incessant destruction that they are subjected to, from shamefully regressive and decadent regimes whose representatives are but greedy agents of the dominant global poles, successors of colonial states.
We strive to highlight this vital resistance – or these resistances, and we wish to capture the “intersections” made across different lines of resistances; “Intersections” being the name of the umbrella organization that publishes “Assafir Al-Arabi” .
- Intersections at the level of geography, among the different countries of the region, and between these countries and the rest of the world.
- Intersections at the level of the domains, political, artistic, intellectual… whether they are fully developed mature projects, or incomplete, experimental, and in preliminary stages.
Our mission is to shed light on these movements and projects and to make them visible to our readers all over the globe, through the material we produce with our extensive network of writers, most of whom are young women and men. Their youth is a particularity that proves regeneration, signaling lively and enthusiastic resistances to the devastation, and the refusal of being bashed or put down by the circumstances, in spite of the (truly enormous) resources invested precisely in making this devastation a confirmed reality. And, the not-so-young among our writers are here with us because they were able to survive the frustrations and retain their beliefs in change, by virtue of the small glimmers of light they may have witnessed every once in a while, along their lifetimes.
Assafir Al-Arabi was born in 2011. In July 2012, after a period of preparations, our first issue was published as a weekly supplement of the daily newspaper, “Assafir”. The paper sponsored us with the utmost respect for our editorial independence until its unfortunate closure in late 2016.
The first weekly edition of Assafir Al-Arabi was titled “Why Did Homs Revolt?”. At the time, and as the events in Syria were climactically unfolding, we sought to provide answers to questions concerning that revolution, pointing to the profound changes in the social and production structures that occurred- or were forcibly inflicted upon- Syria’s “third city” over the years... We tried to dissect how such stark deformations explained the revolt rather than the presumed sectarian conspiracies.
Writers for Assafir Al-Arabi come from different backgrounds. They are researchers, journalists, bloggers, and some of them are even poets, filmmakers or architects. They have always sought to produce analytic writings, which are thorough and insightful yet accessible to all “non-specialist” readers, without being haughty or pretentious. Their texts involve all countries of our Arab region, from the most remote areas of Oman to the most remote ones in Mauritania, without exclusion, and with particular attention to groups that are usually underrepresented and not given a voice: women, ethnic and religious minorities, marginalized communities, the unemployed, the formerly enslaved and oppressed…
We came to life with the waves of revolutions that soared in the beginning of the decade and which were as tenaciously combatted as they were determinedly rising.
Because Assafir Al-Arabi is part of a dynamic of resistance, we have always intended to prove that the prevailing poverty is –in fact – not an undisputed given or a destined situation, but an intentional impoverishment, and that the deterioration of the public education, the health sector, and the rest of the basic services in a human society is always directly proportional to the advancement of corruption. The third in this viscous cycle is oppression (after impoverishment and corruption), raw and ruthless, with bullets and arrests, or symbolic (and not at all less violent), through policies of humiliation to enforce subservience.
All of those strategies consolidate an atmosphere of hopelessness and frustration, thus creating a state of doubtfulness –even contempt – in the people’s beliefs in their own abilities. The counter-revolutionary forces have learned their lessons well and decided to openly exploit people.
However, and despite our realizing of all of the above, we had never imagined that the overall situation would eventually come to these extents of both decline and banality.
And as such, once more, reality has surpassed imagination!
Knowing the features of what we seek from “Intersections” and “Assafir Al-Arabi” utter contradiction with the dominant and overwhelming conditions in our region and the world, we have decided not to compromise on these features.
Our decision does not stem from stubborn fixation, but from the need to protect the very meaning of the project, without which it becomes obsolete. As for the many hardships we have experienced and may continue to experience, we – at Assafir Al-Arabi - are in the process of dismantling and overcoming them, enduring and accepting at times, without giving in to “facts” that we were repeatedly accused of overlooking:
• We have been told that there was no such thing as an Arab region in the first place. Not from a critical perspective towards the naive primitive Arab nationalistic ideologies, but in order to force us to just nihilistically admit the absolute disintegration of the region. We have been told that our societies are structured around tribal/sectarian organizations, or regional ethnic structures, and that there are no realities other than these basic (“native”?) components; an absolute statement which easily overlooks the fact that these are problematic structures that tend to instigate intolerance, isolation and to produce absurd self-destruction. Meanwhile, Assafir Al-Arabi has chosen not to identify itself as belonging to any of the commonplace “identities” in these polarizations, and not to engage in any of their selfish interests. We deal with the events on the basis of encouraging the efforts countering the violence; for violence turns upside-down the rules of human communion and drives them to the state of the “exception”, and its price is way too outrageous. Assafir Al-Arabi turns to people’s economic and societal concerns, their pain and frustrations, but also, maybe even especially, to their ambitions, regardless of whether they are Arabs, Kurds, Amazigh, Muslims, Christians, or of any other religion (or of no religion at all).
• We have been told that the Palestinian cause was no longer valid, that its liberation from colonial occupation was forgotten or had failed. Assafir Al-Arabi is –in an intellectual and confrontational way- actively engaged in proving otherwise. We assume a biased stance toward profound human principles on the one hand, and, on the other, we consider Palestine to be an objective reality that proves its presence as a cause at every turn of events.
• The prevalent ideology in our region (and in the world) ridicules the insistence on holding on to a system of values which refuses injustice, helplessness, oppression, contempt, impoverishment, etc. Assafir Al-Arabi believes that those are not destined realities, but social constructions which can and must be overturned. Assafir Al-Arabi devotes its platform entirely to carry and prove this conviction.
• That same prevalent ideology also ridicules collective accomplishment and refers it to individual accomplishments instead. It considers that any accomplishment only exists because of “heroes” in a given field. Assafir Al-Arabi, however, measures success in the consolidation of its network of contributors and readers, its exponential growth and the diversity of its members. These make up the one true face of Assafir Al-Arabi.
• Our region is represented by others – and sometimes by its own inhabitants – as a place of regression, failure, confusion, and bloodshed. These are promoted as organic, almost “genetic”, characteristics of the Arab region, while Assafir Al-Arabi seeks to demonstrate –in contrast- the massive potential of this area, present factually and realistically in all domains. We highlight the collective initiatives, the many facets of daily resistances and intellectual, artistic, and aesthetic efforts that aim to express themselves constantly.
• Assafir Al-Arabi aims to perfect what it produces, denying near-solutions or minimal efforts. It exclusively publishes writers, researchers, painters, photographers who come from the region itself, who are competent, who meet and intersect in their interests and convictions and who battle the frustration, hopelessness, and hideousness of the situation. By doing so, Assafir Al-Arabi implements its slogan in concrete actions: “Searching in the midst of the devastation for all that which is not ruined”, holding on to it, and presenting it as evidence to the “prospect” that undoubtedly requires an intelligent, stubborn and continuous effort to become a “possibility”.
Our editorial policies are reflected in our published texts, in all their diversity and highlights, made manifest by their recognized intersections. Does such a project carry the potential to survive? Are there groups of people – big or small – who find themselves represented in this project and are interested in safeguarding it? We –members of the large network that carries Assafir Al-Arabi – believe so. At the same time, we do realize, realistically and without naivety, the limits to which this effort can make a difference today in this corrupt reality. However, we presume that this project and others may serve as a central focal point, no matter how miniscule… A speck of light among others with which an incredible transformative energy is created to transform prospect into possibility!