Different activist groups coming together

I think that an interesting issue the reading touches upon is the fact how in Saudi Arabia people from different groups came together to achieve common goals, but only to a certain degree. If members of different groups and from different background pursue the same goals, one might think that it only makes sense that they fight together. This was the case in Saudi Arabia when people from different sectarian groups signed the petition “Towards a State of Rights and Institutions” to demand an elected parliament and the appointment of a prime minister. Groups might have realized that they are not that different and learned to accept each other. However, significant differences might persist and a group likely does not want to be associated with another group’s beliefs and values if they do not mirror their own. The Saudi government used that to discredit and divide the activists by raising word of an Iranian conspiracy and Shiite responsibility for the movement. Sunnis didn’t want to be seen in that light and a degree was reached at which the different groups couldn’t work together anymore. The government succeeded in its attempt to stop the protests.

I can see why certain groups might feel the need to uphold their credibility and identity and how that can easily be threatened if the public learns about their collaboration with a different-minded group. However, a single group might often not be enough to bring about change so the pros and cons of the collaboration have to be weighed carefully. It should also be taken into account if the goals really are the same and which measures one is willing to take to achieve these goals. Should a peaceful group of protesters work together with a radical organization knowing that they might only reach their goal because others used violence? In some cases, a collaboration might do more harm than good, but in other cases groups are only held apart by societal constraints. People of different age, gender, religion, ethnicity, or social status are often seen as different groups merely because of outer aspects, but they might share the same values, attitudes and beliefs and might be much more powerful as a group. Moreover, if everybody believed and acted in that way, there would be less need for activism in the first place, but that is something that John Lennon already imagined years ago.

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Different activist groups coming together

Additional research to #youstink

I have to admit that I hadn’t heard about the trash crisis in Lebanon before taking this class. Since most of the information on the youstink-website was in Arabic, I did a Google search to find out a bit more about the background of the movement. The garbage crisis seemed to be the proverbial straw to break the camel’s back as the country has been struggling with other issues such as intermittent power and water supply, sectarian conflict and the inability to elect a president. The latter two seem to be part of the cause for the trash crisis and therefore make targets for protest. Some might even go so far as to say that the trash is only the cover for the other ongoing conflicts.

Until now, Lebanon’s sectarianism had never sunk so low as to include waste. One is left to wonder whether the current crisis is actually about waste or if it is a sectarian conflict fueled by other factors. – Sami Nader for Al Monitor

In his article Sami Nader poses the question whether religiously divided landfills might solve the garbage crisis, a thought that might seem absurd to people living in Europe or the USA, but apparently religion even plays a role when it comes to trash. As a person that is not religious, but respectful of others’ beliefs, I am sad to read about this. Instead of everybody working together to solve a crisis, this seems like only helping the in- and rejecting the out-group. Even if that finally leads to the removal of garbage, the way of getting there cannot be celebrated as a victory.

Another interesting paragraph that I found was in a New York Times article about the Syrian refugees in Lebanon and the question on where life was worse. It is a strange question to consider which human rights violations and social issues one would rather be willing to accept.

Now, even Syrians fleeing war pronounce themselves shocked at the lack of infrastructure in Lebanon. Some of them, however, express a hint of jealousy that Lebanon’s weak state allows freedoms unavailable in Syria, where protests were crushed with deadly force. (Some Lebanese — especially those who support the government of President Bashar al-Assad — wonder why the Syrians revolted when they had free health care and college education, unimaginable in Lebanon.) – Anne Barnard for The New York Times

I furthermore found a satirical article as a form of digital activism. It appeared on a website that appears to be the Middle Eastern equivalent to the onion. The article was published a couple of days ago, which shows that the crisis is still ongoing.

Additional research to #youstink