In December 2010 the people of Tunisia swarmed into the streets, triggering what came to be called the “Arab Spring”. In just a few months, Egyptian, Libyan and Yemeni autocrats were swept aside, those of Syria and Morocco seriously threatened. Ten years later, Winter has again descended on the region: not the Winter of Islamists but that of the dictators. Civil wars drag on indefinitely, dissident voices are stifled, hopelessness takes root, symbolised by those hundreds of thousands of young people seeking to flee their countries, often at the risk of their lives. And in the West, an essentialist perspective has taken overt, a simplistic reading of the region (Islamists vs. lay people), reducing its diversity to clichés that make it acceptable to support regimes which are anti-democratic but supposedly “stable.”
It was to combat this kind of thinking that Orient XXI was founded, we wanted to examine the societies that lie between Morocco and Iran in terms of their differences, daily lives, their ongoing struggles for justice. Thus, this year, we have devoted a dozen articles to the Covid-19 pandemic, to the way these populations have responded to it, often in the teeth of incompetent the powers that be. Under the difficult conditions created by the lockdowns, we have ferreted out journalists and academics who could report what was going on locally.
We have also continued to cover the ongoing conflicts, such as those in the Sahel or Yemen, and those which smoulder beneath the ashes only to burst forth suddenly as in Nagorny-Karabakh. We have continued to cover the Palestinian tragedy, convinced as we are that it remains the epicentre of the region’s frustrations. From culture to economics, from history to diplomacy, from women’s struggles to social protests, we have sought to provide a living image, shunning systematic pessimism, with a total of 300 articles publish over the past year, some translated into Arabic, English, Farsi and since the beginning of the year, into Spanish.
Our choices go counter to the foul wind blowing across France and the rest of the Western world. Under pretext of terrorist attacks against innocent people, every effort is being made to plant our minds a simplistic vision of the Muslim world and Islam. And while the “spirit of Charlie” has never been so belaboured, the few voices which challenge that vision are demonised. A petition was circulated, signed by aa hundred academics calling for a crusade against academic freedom, calling on the authorities to clamp down on their ’deviant” colleagues. One example among many is the censorship of which hit Farhad Khosrokavar, one of France’s best specialists of Islam. We published articles on the hidden aspects of these bans, at a time when an increasingly repressive vision is setting in, materialized in freedom-crushing laws which add to an already plentiful arsenal. They are fully in line with the demands of the fascist right, as counsellor Henri Leclerc pointed out in our columns.
After twenty years of this “war on terrorism,” is it not time to confess it has failed? As early as 2014, Reserve General Philippe Gunet, a member of our editorial staff, now deceased, declared that this “endless war on terrorism” “produces an endless string of Jihadists.” We see this in Afghanistan, where the United States is getting ready to turn the country over to the Talibans. We can evaluate it in Mali, where France’s stalled efforts go hand in hand with the fragmentation of the entire region. The refusal to debate—a pernicious form of one-track thinking, conducted in the name of “free speech”—is not only contrary to the democratic way, it has disastrous consequences on the ground.
Whence Orient XXI’s determination to continue its efforts to inform … against the grain. And this work is expensive. On the average, a single article costs 600 euros, if we add to the journalist’s fee, the cost of an illustration, the editorial work, its posting on line, its publicizing on the social networks and its translation into Arabic and/or English. We have been publishing on an average six articles a week, which adds up to 12,000 euros per month, a figure which does not take into account the volunteer work of most of the editorial staff, only two of whom are paid. Not to mention our future projects: investigation, reporting, translation into new languages, such as Italian.
Covid-19 constitutes a serious threat to media outlets, depletes aids and subsidies. We are obviously not immune from this. Which is why we are appealing to you. You can make a tax-deductible donation or a monthly payment which gives us financial visibility. But whatever the form it takes, any help you can provide is an encouragement to go on. The whole team thanks you in advance.