10 صور تلخّص أحوال العالم العربي في 2021
Words sometimes cannot fully express or describe a particular event, a picture is worth a thousand words, able to convey even the darkest of situations.
The year of 2021 was teeming with multiple crises and difficult situations, in addition to a few achievements and positive milestones in the Arab region. As the year comes to an end, we have chosen 10 photos that may be able to perhaps sum up the political, social, cultural, and athletic aspects as well as the impact of wars and immigration in the region.
1 - State Violence Against Protesters in Tunisia
As always, Tunisia kicks things off with a bang. The start of the year was a fiery one, foreshadowing a year full of security uncertainties and political fluctuations in the birthplace of the Arab Spring revolution.
Throughout January 2021, protests and clashes between protesters and security forces became a recurring occurrence, amid objections to the curfew that’s been issued by the government as well as demands for better living conditions and providing job opportunities.
For several weeks in a row, young Tunisians were repeatedly subjected to clashes and violence at the hands of security forces, and it became clear that, even a decade after the “police state” was overthrown, the relationship between them remains a confrontational and sometimes hostile one. Activists and observers at the time expressed fears of “the return of the state of repression” that had been in power before.
This is exactly what many believe had happened at the end of October when President Kais Saied decided to take “exceptional measures” that included suspending parliament, lifting the immunity of his deputies, and dissolving the government. This move was considered a “coup against democracy” by some, while others supported these measures and saw them as mere “course adjustments”.
2 - The Royal Mummies Parade
In a sacred historic ceremony that lasted for 40 minutes, the world watched as a procession of royal mummies (22 royal mummies - 18 ancient kings and four queens) was paraded through the streets of central Cairo as they were moved from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square - where they had been kept for more than a century - to their final resting place at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC) in Fustat, south of the capital.
The dazzling parade, which took place in April, was the biggest cultural event of the year in the Arab world and the first nonviolent/non-negative event that the world had seen in the Arab world in a while.
An amputee father plays with his son who had been born with no limbs as a consequence of Syria’s war, the oppression of protesters by Tunisian security forces, and the aftermath of Hurricane Shaheen… 10 Photos that sum up the Arab World in 2021
3 - The Compassion of a Spanish Paramedic
In May, an image showing the kindness and compassion of a volunteer paramedic at the Spanish Red Cross went viral. Her kind treatment towards a Senegalese immigrant who had just arrived on Spanish shores via the Moroccan enclave of Ceuta, caught the attention of the media outlets and social media users around the world.
The African migrant had been in a state of total shock and broke down crying while paramedics were trying to save his friend who had accompanied him as an asylum seeker. The paramedic tried to reassure the distressed man and calm him down.
The iconic moment came during an unprecedented crisis between Madrid and Rabat that saw Morocco allowing more than 8,000 migrants to flow from Moroccan territory and other African countries into Spain’s north African enclave of Ceuta. Spain and Europe saw this as an act of political blackmail from Morocco after the leader of the separatist Polisario Front was welcomed in the European country, believing that it has abandoned its role to protect the shared border from irregular and undocumented migrants.
The image serves as a reminder that migrants should not in any way be chess pieces in any political game, whether as a pressure card or as an act of retaliation and settling disputes.
4 - A Dark Beirut
As the end of 2021 draws nearer, one cannot say that a single image is capable of reflecting what the people of Lebanon have suffered or been through over the past 365 days. There are as many images as there are crises; a photo of people sleeping out on their balconies in the burning summer heat as a result of long and frequent electricity cuts; a photo showing the terrified students of the Freres School in Beirut as they huddle together in the school hallway while their teachers dread the thought that they’d be injured in the “Tayouneh clashes” raging outside; images of trees and forests engulfed in flames amidst the state authorities’ complete failure to handle the wildfires, as well as many others.
However, an image showing a “dark Beirut” last July, may be an excellent choice to portray what things had gone to in a city that was once brimming with light and life. In a city that never goes quiet or sleeps, the deteriorating situation has left a painful impact on the residents and visitors of the bereaved Beirut.
The scene also reflects “the hegemony and corruption of Lebanon’s electricity institution (Electricité du Liban), as well as the greed and hegemony of the owners of private generator businesses”.
However, it seems that the situation is not entirely tragic. A younger generation of Lebanese girls have proven that the future of the country could be better. A group of female students at the George Sarraf High School for Girls in Tripoli came forward to expose the verbal and physical sexual harassment they have been subjected to for years by their teacher, who is also a well-known journalist, called Samer Mawlawi.
5 - Feryal Ashraf’s Gold
In August, Egyptian karate player Feryal Ashraf Abdelaziz became the first Arab woman to win a gold medal for her country at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. She was the only gold holder for Egypt during this year’s competitions and the first gold medalist for the country since 2004.
Feryal’s historic win has been viewed as a tribute to Egyptian women who are struggling to gain access to their most basic rights and to demonstrate their capabilities and superiority while they suffer on a number of levels from male-dominated obstacles, thinking, stereotypes, and unjust customary practices.
Despite the multiple crises and tragic incidents that befell Lebanon during 2021, the scene of a “dark Beirut” may be the best evidence of what things had gone to in a city that was once brimming with light and life
6 - The Freedom Tunnel
In September, six Palestinian prisoners managed to escape from Israel’s maximum-security Gilboa Prison without any outside help. They used spoons and their hands to dig a long tunnel that soon became their path to freedom when dawn broke on the morning of September 6th. The unprecedented incident discredited the false Israeli claim that it is “invincible” and never fails or loses when it comes to intelligence and security arrangements.
For many Palestinian and Arab citizens, the photo of the hole that the prisoners had come out from represented “the true meaning of a liberated prisoner” that does not wait for his jailer to grant him his freedom, but rather takes it himself. For the Israelis, it represented a “grave defeat”, a “an intelligence and security failure” and a “disaster”.
7 - Hurricane Shaheen
In early October, a severe cyclonic storm struck the Arabian Sea and the coast of the Sultanate of Oman. Dubbed “Hurricane Shaheen”, it left behind a trail of destruction in the capital Muscat and other parts of the country.
On top of the human and material damages left in its wake, Shaheen, the first tropical cyclone to reach the far west of the Arabian Gulf, was viewed as a warning that cannot be ignored and a stern wake-up call to all the Gulf states that they are not safe from the dangers of “climate change”, and that they must act as soon as possible to stop the harmful emissions responsible for global warming.
8 - The Suffering of Syrian Refugees
In October, a photo began circulating online showing Syrian refugee Asmaa al-Natour in Denmark bidding farewell to her Danish neighbor before being transferred to a “deportation camp” in the first step that the authorities there have adopted to pressure the refugee and her husband to return to Syria after refusing to renew their residency permits.
The sincere moment of farewell, which can be clearly seen in the tearful eyes of the two women, left widespread sympathy and summed up the suffering of Syrian refugees from the strict asylum and immigration policies in the country of Denmark particularly and the old European continent as a whole.
The procession of the royal mummies was the biggest cultural event in the Arab world this year. It was also the first nonviolent/non-negative event that the world had seen in the Arab world in a while and welcomed with great enthusiasm
In mid-December, a Danish court did Asmaa and her husband justice when it ruled that they could return to their normal lives in the country without any further restrictions, according to Assem Swaid, a board member of the Finjan organization, which advocates for the rights of refugees - especially Syrian refugees - in Copenhagen.
9 - “The Hardships of Life”
Meanwhile, a picture of a Syrian amputee father playing with his disabled child was widely circulated. The child was born without limbs as a result of the medication that had been administered to his mother while pregnant with him to save her after having inhaled nerve gas. The father lost his right leg when a bomb fell on a street market in Idlib.
Despite the smile on the face of the father and his son, the photo, released under the title “the Hardships of Life”, reflects what a decade of war has done to Syrians. It was awarded “Photo of the Year” in the prestigious SIENA International Photo Awards (SIPA).
10 - Yemen’s Victory
The year refused to end without the world witnessing a smile on the lips of Yemenis. An unprecedented victory saw the junior Yemen football team beating the Saudi team on their home turf in the 2021 West Asian Championship.
The momentous victory united Yemenis from different political orientations, party affiliations, and ideologies, and brought all of them together in celebration both at home and in the diaspora. The scene showing the elated young players carrying their winning cup and donning their medals took center stage in the eyes of most, leaving a growing hope for unity and joy within them following years of arduous war and division.