Tag Archive | Arab

Nine Young Children Killed: The Full Details of the Botched U.S. Raid in Yemen*

Nine Young Children Killed: The Full Details of the Botched U.S. Raid in Yemen*

By Namir Shabibi , Nasser al Sane

Relatives of people killed in the raid gather in one of the decimated houses. (Photo: Nasser al Sane)

 

Planned for months, it was decided over dinner.

The raid on a village in rural Yemen reportedly aimed to capture or kill one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists and deliver a stinging blow to al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP), a militant network the U.S. had been trying to dismantle for more than a decade. The collection of small brick houses in Yemen’s dusty central region was home to civilian families as well as militants and was heavily-guarded, meaning a precise, well-practiced operation was paramount. Intense surveillance was carried out for weeks, rehearsals took place in Djibouti, and Navy SEALS awaited the go-ahead from their commander-in-chief. It came just five days after President Donald Trump took office.

But as the elite team descended under the cover of darkness, what could have been the first major victory for the new administration in its renewed mission to defeat radical Islam quickly went dreadfully wrong.

As cover was blown, enemy fire returned and contingency plans failed, tragedy unfolded on all sides.

It is already known that 8-year-old Nawar al Awlaki, the daughter of al Qaeda propagandist Anwar al Awlaki was among those who died in the attack. But following a field investigation, the Bureau can today reveal that nine children under the age of 13 were killed and five were wounded in the raid in al Bayda province on January 29.

Details emerged piecemeal last week regarding civilian and military deaths, the disputed value of the targets and deficiencies in planning – some of the information coming from military sources in unprecedented briefings against its own administration. Insiders told CNN and NBC that the ultimate target was AQAP leader Qasim al Raymi. If the soldiers didn’t find him in the village they hoped they would find clues as to his location.

But despite the growing reports of failure – and despite the death of Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William Owens and the destruction of a $70 million Osprey aircraft – Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer has continued to insist that the mission was a “successful operation by all standards.”

Evidence gathered by the Bureau must surely challenge that assessment. A fierce gunfight turned into an intense aerial bombardment, and the outcome “turned out to be as bad as one can imagine it being,” said former U.S. ambassador to Yemen Stephen Seche.

Working with a journalist who visited the targeted village of al Yakla five days after the raid and talked to nine of the survivors, we have collected the names and ages of all 25 civilians killed as reported by those who live there. The Bureau also has photos of the families hit and the homes destroyed as helicopter gunship fire rained down.

AQAP say 14 “of its men” were killed in the clash, including six villagers. The youngest was 17, the oldest 80.

The villagers say 25 civilians died alongside a group of militants, including nine children under the age of 13.  They deny that any of the dead villagers were AQAP members. Of the nine young children who died, the smallest was only three months old. Eight women were killed, including one who was heavily pregnant. Seven more women and children were injured.

There is fury at the U.S. for what the villagers say was yet another example of disregard for civilian life in the pursuit of terror.

“It is true they were targeting al Qaeda but why did they have to kill children and women and elderly people?” said Zabnallah Saif al Ameri, who lost nine members of his extended family, five of whom were children.

“If such slaughter happened in their country, there would be a lot of shouting about human rights. When our children are killed, they are quiet.”

Villagers described chaos, with people shot as they attempted to flee the gun battle before helicopters opened fire.

“They killed men, children and women and destroyed houses,” said Mohsina Mabkhout al Ameri, who lost her brother, nephew and three of her nephew’s children.

“We are normal people and have nothing to do with al Qaeda or [Yemeni rebel movement] the Houthis or anyone. The men came from America, got off the planes and the planes bombed us.”

Civilian deaths can provide ‘recruitment tool’ for terrorists

This is by no means the first U.S. counter-terror operation in Yemen which has killed civilians. Each one has stoked more resentment among the population. Yemeni foreign minister, Abdul Malik al Mekhlafi, said on his official Twitter account that the deaths amounted to “extrajudicial killings.”

A campaign statement by Donald Trump suggests the new leader of the free world may view such civilian casualties as inevitable, or even necessary.

“The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families,” he said in December.

“When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families.”

Trump’s statement led to speculation that women and children might be deliberately targeted by the U.S. But Stephen Seche, who was US ambassador to Yemen from 2007-10, told the Bureau he did not believe America had changed its attitude towards protecting civilians. However “the enormous cost in human life” from this particular raid would damage the legitimacy of American intervention in Yemen, he told the Bureau.

“It’s a horrific calculation to have to make and the outcome in this case turned out to be as bad as one can imagine it being.”

Far from delivering a blow to AQAP, the raid may have strengthened it.

“Groups like AQAP will contend [this attack] shows Trump is making good on his campaign pledge,” said Letta Tayler, Terrorism and Counterterrorism Researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“Even if Trump wasn’t serious, armed extremists are likely to jump on every photo of a Yemeni child killed in a U.S. strike as a recruitment tool.”

“The use of U.S. soldiers, high civilian casualties and disregard for local tribal and political dynamics… plays into AQAP’s narrative of defending Muslims against the West and could increase anti-U.S. sentiment and with it AQAP’s pool of recruits,” said International Crisis Group in a report released three days after the attack.

The alleged target of the raid certainly appeared to think it had helped AQAP’s cause, releasing a message on February 5 mocking the US. “The fool of the White House got slapped,” said al Raymi in an audio recording which military sources said was authentic, reported NBC.

A nightmare unfolds

As Abdallah al Ameri and his neighbour Sheikh Abdallah al Taisi prepared for bed on January 28, they could be forgiven for thinking they had suffered enough bad luck for a lifetime. Both men, subsistence farmers now too old to work their land, had already survived a U.S. drone attack which hit Abdallah’s wedding party in December 2013. They both lost their eldest sons in that attack, which killed 12 people but which the U.S. has never formally acknowledged.

Their home region of al Bayda had been battered since late 2014, as the Yemeni government led by President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi began its slow-motion collapse. In its place, a three-way battle erupted between tribes allied to the government, the Houthi rebel movement and al Qaeda militants. An international coalition led by Saudi Arabia would join the fray the following year.

Yemen’s hinterland, Yakla included, faced Houthi shelling, incursions by AQAP and bombing by US drones – all on top of severe food and fuel shortages wreaked by a Saudi-led blockade. Yemen now stands on the brink of famine.

The day leading up to the strike, rebel Houthis encamped in the nearby Qaifa mountains fired Katyusha rockets at tribal militiamen in Yakla. The militiamen were allied to the internationally-recognised government led by President Hadi. It was a familiar exchange in an ongoing battle for control of the region since the start of the rebellion.

But the ominous sign of things to come was subtler. Sadiq al Jawfi, a member of a local cross-party ceasefire committee which monitors violations at the request of the UN Security Council envoy to Yemen, told the Bureau that mobile phone coverage providing Yakla with its only line to the outside world had been cut. Yemen’s National Security Bureau (NSB), historically allied to former President Ali Abdallah Saleh and now his Houthi allies, had a history of restricting coverage prior to military operations.

It was a moonless night and the calm in Yakla was punctured only by the familiar sound of drones buzzing overhead.

In the middle of the night U.S. special forces flew from the aircraft carrier USS Makin Island in Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and landed a few kilometres from the village. Things started to go wrong right from the start. One of the Ospreys crash-landed, injuring three of the troops.

“The operation began when the soldiers landed next to the graveyard which lies about 2km away from our town, north of Yakla”, Sheikh Abdelilah Ahmed al Dahab said.

The soldiers then proceeded on foot, flanked by military dogs, in the direction of the village. Villagers say there were about 50 soldiers.

An 11-year-old is the first hit

His son Ahmed was the first casualty. According to al Dahab the 11-year-old was woken by the commotion outside and went to see what was going on.

“When my son Ahmed saw them, he couldn’t tell that they were soldiers because it was dark,” he said.

“He asked them ‘Who are you?’ but the men shot him. He was the first killed. No one thought that marines would descend on our homes to kill us, kill our children and kill our women.”

Tribal leaders Abdelraouf al Dahab and his brother came out to confront the soldiers and were shot dead, committee member Sadiq al Jawfi said. Local sources say they were AQAP members, and press reports released in the initial aftermath of the raid suggested that Abdelraouf and Sultan were among the primary targets of the operation. 80-year-old Saif al Jawfi, who also had al Qaeda connections according to AQAP, came out to see the commotion. He too was killed.

Relatives of those who died, including the seven children of Fatim Saleh Mohson al Ameri. (Photo: Nasser al Sane)

 

SEAL Team 6 attacked the home of 65-year-old Abdallah Mabkhout al Ameri, surrounding it and opened fire indiscriminately, Abdelilah al Dahab and other witnesses claimed.

“When people heard the gunshots and missiles, local men rushed out of their homes to find out what was going on,” he said.

Three witnesses said the commandos shot at everyone who left their homes. In these lawless parts of Yemen every home has a Kalashnikov and the residents reached for their guns “to defend their homes and their honour,” Abdelilah al Dahab said.

The villagers say 38-year-old mother of seven, Fatim Saleh al Ameri was fatally shot by special operators while trying to flee with her two-year-old son Mohammed.

“We pulled him out from his mother’s lap. He was covered in her blood,” said 11-year-old Basil Ahmed Abad al­ Zouba, whose 17-year-old brother was killed.

As the firefight ensued, helicopter gunships appeared and “shot at everything”, including at homes and people fleeing, Sadiq al Jawfi and other witnesses said. Fahad Ali al Ameri woke up to the gunfire.

“I was woken up after midnight by the bombing of the helicopters. There were soldiers on the ground shooting at us. They started shooting at us with machine gun fire.”

He says a missile fired at his home, killing his three-month-old daughter as she lay asleep in her crib.

Abdallah Mabkhout al Ameri, one of the dead, had previously survived a U.S. strike on his wedding party. (Photo: Reprieve)

 

The al-Ameri family was particularly badly hit. Abdallah, 65, who had survived the attack on his wedding party three years earlier, was killed alongside his 25-year-old daughter Fatima and 38-year-old son Mohammed. Three of Mohammed’s four children also died – Aisha, 4, Khadija, 7, and Hussein, 5. A further nine members of the extended family were killed.

At some stage, al Qaeda militants who had encamped in the nearby Masharif and Sharia mountains descended to engage the U.S. commandos in a fight which would last over two hours. AQAP say 14 of its men died in total: six villagers and eight others.

The eight-year-old daughter of the late radical American preacher Anwar al Awlaqi, who was visiting her uncle Abdelilah al Dahab, was hiding in a room when it was attacked by the gunships, her uncle said.

“Some of the gunfire went through the windows and Nawar was injured in her neck,” he said.

The girl would not survive.

“We tried to save her but we couldn’t do anything for her,” said Abdelilah al Dahab.

“She was injured around 2.30am and bled until she died at around dawn prayers.”

Eight-year-old Nawar Anwar Al-Awlaqi is said to have bled to death over two hours

Eight-year-old Nawar Anwar Al-Awlaqi is said to have bled to death over two hours

Eight-year-old Nawar Anwar Al-Awlaqi is said to have bled to death over two hours.

The eight-year-old daughter of the late radical American preacher Anwar al Awlaqi, who was visiting her uncle Abdelilah al Dahab, was hiding in a room when it was attacked by the gunships, her uncle said.

“Some of the gunfire went through the windows and Nawar was injured in her neck,” he said.

The girl would not survive. “We tried to save her but we couldn’t do anything for her,” said Abdelilah al Dahab. “She was injured around 2.30am and bled until she died at around dawn prayers.”

U.S/ special operatives made an exit from the village at around the same time, say villagers, but some air attacks continued.

In the days that followed, conflicting narratives emerged. At first, the Department of Defense’s Central Command (Centcom) was bullish, describing the raid as “one in a series of aggressive moves against terrorist planners in Yemen.”

Defense Secretary James Mattis gave a statement honouring the soldier who died. Chief Petty Officer Owens, 36, “gave his full measure for our nation, and in performing his duty, he upheld the noblest standard of military service,” he said.

As details about civilian casualties emerged – most notably that of eight-year-old Nawar al Awlaqi, whose photograph was circulated – the tone was softened. It was “concluded regrettably that civilian non-combatants were likely killed in the midst of a firefight during a raid in Yemen Jan. 29,” said a statement released on February 1. “Casualties may include children.”

Two days later the Pentagon released a video showing a man building bombs which it said had been discovered in the raid. Within hours it was removed from the Pentagon’s website’s after people pointed out the same video had been published online in 2007.

 Yemeni government reassesses U.S. relationship

The raid has caused anger in the Yemeni government as well as among civilians. A senior official told Reuters on Wednesday that concerns had been expressed to the U.S. government and in future “there needs to be more coordination with Yemeni authorities before any operation and that there needs to be consideration for our sovereignty.”

The White House, however, continues to insist that the raid was “highly successful.”

“It achieved the purpose it was going to get – save the loss of life that we suffered and the injuries that occurred,” Spicer said in a press briefing on February 7. “The goal of the raid was intelligence-gathering. And that’s what we received, and that’s what we got.”

Centcom did not respond to a request for comment from the Bureau.

U.S. counterterrorism ops in Yemen

The last time US special forces launched a ground operation like this one was in November 2014. It was a rescue mission, trying to spring an American and a South African taken hostage by al Qaeda. Tragically the mission failed and the hostages were killed.

Though U.S. boots have been on the ground in Yemen off and on since 2002, drones and manned jets lead the hunt for AQAP.

More than 162 strikes have left 815 people dead, including 134 civilians (in the last three years of Obama’s presidency civilian deaths in drone attacks dropped considerably). Hundreds of al Qaeda fighters have been reported killed, including a succession of men chosen as the group’s emir.

In 2011, when the Arab Spring reached Yemen and unseated its dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh, al Qaeda took full advantage. It turned from a small terrorist group, focused on blowing up airliners over the U.S., to an insurgent group governing a chunk of southern Yemen.

With this transition to insurgency, AQAP became the only group in Yemen to actually profit from the 2011 uprising, according to the recent International Crisis Group report.

In May 2016 U.S. soldiers were deployed to an airbase in the south-western province of Lahj  alongside Yemeni troops, coordinating US air strikes and Yemeni ground forces against AQAP.

Together Yemeni soldiers and U.S. air power unseated AQAP from its stronghold but only succeeded in driving the terrorists into the mountains. It has become embedded in the ongoing civil war in Yemen, setting itself up as a Sunni bulwark against the Shia Houthi militias which have occupied the capital since 2014.

Source*

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#Arabs4BlackPower Releases Movement for Black Lives Solidarity Statement*

#Arabs4BlackPower Releases Movement for Black Lives Solidarity Statement*

The Dream Defenders in downtown Nazareth, Israel – Mai Alhassen

 

By Kirsten West Savali

#Arabs4BlackPower is “committed to Black liberation and grounded in the necessity of shared struggle among oppressed & Indigenous peoples globally.”

Arabs for Black Power—a circle of organizers from the United States and Arabic-speaking regions—has released a statement in solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives.

The Movement for Black Lives, or M4BL, is raising global consciousness about state-sanctioned and state-perpetuated violence against people of colour in the United States, as well as actively working to dismantle the institutional and systemic oppression that makes these extrajudicial killings just another day in North America.

M4BL also stands in solidarity with indigenous and Latinx communities, as well as oppressed and marginalized people around the world.

Read the #Arabs4BlackPower statement below:

We, the undersigned artists, academics, mothers, fathers, students, refugees, and community organizers with ties to Arabic­-speaking regions, declare our unwavering solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL). We fully and wholeheartedly endorse the policy demands put forth by the U.S­.-based Movement for Black Lives platform and its transnationalist vision for Black power, freedom and justice. We join you in reiterating the necessity of shared struggle and collective liberation of all oppressed and indigenous people globally. For liberation to be real and genuine, we all need to get free.

The current iteration of the movement to end the war and genocide against Black people in the U.S. is rooted in centuries of the Black freedom struggle. As we commemorate the month of Black August and its history of radical resistance, we as #Arabs4BlackPower commit to amplifying the rebellions of Black and indigenous people in the settler­-colonies of the Americas; and to joining in the fight against white supremacy, patriarchy, and hyper­-militarized late capitalism.

Once again, Black people in the U.S. are defending themselves from the violence inscribed in the Americas’ settler colonialist regimes built on the backs of Indigenous, Black, and Brown people through the expropriation of indigenous lands, genocide, and slavery. Once again, Black freedom fighters are refusing colonial and imperial narratives that uphold white supremacy and are continuing to craft a language rooted in the struggle for justice. Once again, Black liberation movements are challenging systems of criminalization that dehumanize, incarcerate, and assassinate Indigenous, Black, and Brown people—systems that simultaneously transcend and reinforce national boundaries through border-control complexes to terrorize people around the world under the umbrella of the global “war on terror.” And once again, Black organizers in the U.S. have put forth a vision to continue imagining and transforming these systems within and across borders.

The U.S. empire violently exerts control over Indigenous, Black, and Brown communities internally and around the globe. People in predominantly Arabic­-speaking regions experience empire in locally specific material forms: bombings, drone strikes, forced disappearances, checkpoints, carceral wars, forced migration, indigenous displacement, starvation, the theft of natural resources, apartheid, and more. The geography of ‘Ferguson to Palestine’ is integral to #Arabs4BlackPower charting the structural connections, albeit different manifestations, inscribed by the U.S.-­led “war on terror.” It connects anti­-Blackness as well as anti­-Muslim and anti­Arab racism in the U.S. with global imperial wars in the rest of the world.”

The “war on terror” rests on regional geopolitical alliances forged for the sole purpose of maintaining and furthering imperial and Zionist hegemony. It is situated within a genealogy of colonial legacies that have structured power in Arabic­ speaking regions along the lines of gender, religion, ethnicity, skin colour, language, and sexual orientation, to name a few. With these genealogies in mind, those of us struggling to rid all communities of the Maghreb and the Mashreq* from militarization and neo-liberalism must centre the lived experiences and aspirations of women, Black Arabs, Nubians, Imazighen, Kurds, Armenians, migrant workers, refugees, gender­-nonconforming individuals, queers, and others. We pledge to work against marginalization within our communities in all its forms and to continue examining the language we use as we continue dismantling colonial legacies. We must refuse and erase national boundaries created to divide us­­—building with the oppressed from Palestine to Western Sahara, from Yemen to Syria, from Algeria to Sudan, from Tunisia to Egypt and beyond, as we come together in solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives.

In pledging to resist and overcome, we as #Arabs4BlackPower unequivocally support the M4BL platform for reparations, invest­-divest, economic justice, community control and political power. We recognize, as did many before us, that only through joint struggle will we dismantle the distinct yet intersecting systems that both oppress Black and Indigenous people in the settler colonies of the Americas and institutionalize a war of terror from within U.S. boundaries to the Mashreq, Maghreb, and beyond. To this end, we commit ourselves to combating anti­-Blackness wherever we find it in our communities—both within the boundaries of the US as immigrant­-settlers complicit in white supremacy, as well as in Arabic­ speaking regions where socio­-historically distinct forms of discrimination against Black Arabs intersect with other forms of marginalization along the lines of gender, religion, ethnicity, skin colour, language, and sexual orientation to name a few.

From Ferguson to Palestine: we will work for liberation. To everyone building towards the Movement for Black Lives:

We see you. We hear you. We stand with you.

**Maghreb and Mashreq are locally referenced geographies within predominantly Arabic speaking regions spanning from the Maghreb (Western Africa) to the Mashreq (Eastern Africa and Western Asia).

In Joint Struggle,
Signatories

Read the Arabs4BlackPower statement in Arabic here.

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When Palestine was 85% Arab, 15% Israeli and U.K. and U.S. Paid the Jews from the Caucasus to Live There*

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According to Wikipedia The Dearborn Independent, also known as The Ford International Weekly, was a weekly newspaper established in 1901, but published by Henry Ford from 1919 through 1927….  Lawsuits regarding anti-Semitic material published in the paper caused Ford to close it, and the last issue was published in December 1927..

This is a  1926 article…

 

 

 

 

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To be an Arab Jew in the West is to Say you don’t Exist*

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By Ella Habiba Shohat

  Ella Habiba Shohat is Professor of Cultural Studies and Women’s Studies at CUNY. A writer, orator and activist, she is the author of Israeli Cinema: East/West and the Politics of Representation (Univ. of Texas Press, 1989) and the co-author (with Robert Stam) of Unthinking Eurocentrism: Multiculturalism and the Media (Routledge 1994). Shohat co-edited Dangerous Liaisons: Gender, Nation and Postcolonial Reflections (University of Minnesota Press, 1997) and is the editor of Talking Visions: Multicultural Feminism in a Transnational Age, (MIT Press/The New Museum, 2000). She writes often for such journals as Social Text and the Journal for Palestine Studies.

When issues of racial and colonial discourse are discussed in the U.S., people of Middle Eastern and North African origin are often excluded. This piece is written with the intent of opening up the multicultural debate, going beyond the U.S. census’s simplistic categorization of Middle Eastern peoples as “whites.”

It’s also written with the intent of multiculturalizing American notions of Jewishness. My personal narrative questions the Eurocentric opposition of Arab and Jew, particularly the denial of Arab Jewish (Sephardic) voices both in the Middle Eastern and American contexts.

I am an Arab Jew. Or, more specifically, an Iraqi Israeli woman living, writing and teaching in the U.S. Most members of my family were born and raised in Baghdad, and now live in Iraq, Israel, the U.S., England, and Holland. When my grandmother first encountered Israeli society in the ’50s, she was convinced that the people who looked, spoke and ate so differently–the European Jews–were actually European Christians. Jewishness for her generation was inextricably associated with Middle Easterness. My grandmother, who still lives in Israel and still communicates largely in Arabic, had to be taught to speak of “us” as Jews and “them” as Arabs. For Middle Easterners, the operating distinction had always been “Muslim,” “Jew,” and “Christian,” not Arab versus Jew. The assumption was that “Arabness” referred to a common shared culture and language, albeit with religious differences.

Americans are often amazed to discover the existentially nauseating or charmingly exotic possibilities of such a syncretic identity. I recall a well-established colleague who despite my elaborate lessons on the history of Arab Jews, still had trouble understanding that I was not a tragic anomaly–for instance, the daughter of an Arab (Palestinian) and an Israeli (European Jew). Living in North America makes it even more difficult to communicate that we are Jews and yet entitled to our Middle Eastern difference. And that we are Arabs and yet entitled to our religious difference, like Arab Christians and Arab Muslims

It was precisely the policing of cultural borders in Israel that led some of us to escape into the metropolises of syncretic identities. Yet, in an American context, we face again a hegemony that allows us to narrate a single Jewish memory, i.e., a European one. For those of us who don’t hide our Middle Easterness under one Jewish “we,” it becomes tougher and tougher to exist in an American context hostile to the very notion of Easterness.

As an Arab Jew, I am often obliged to explain the “mysteries” of this oxymoronic entity. That we have spoken Arabic, not Yiddish; that for millennia our cultural creativity, secular and religious, had been largely articulated in Arabic (Maimonides being one of the few intellectuals to “make it” into the consciousness of the West); and that even the most religious of our communities in the Middle East and North Africa never expressed themselves in Yiddish-accented Hebrew prayers, nor did they practice liturgical-gestural norms and sartorial codes favouring the dark colours of centuries-ago Poland. Middle Eastern women similarly never wore wigs; their hair covers, if worn, consisted of different variations on regional clothing (and in the wake of British and French imperialism, many wore Western-style clothes). If you go to our synagogues, even in New York, Montreal, Paris or London, you’ll be amazed to hear the winding quarter tones of our music which the uninitiated might imagine to be coming from a mosque.

Now that the three cultural topographies that compose my ruptured and dislocated history–Iraq, Israel and the U.S.–have been involved in a war, it is crucial to say that we exist. Some of us refuse to dissolve so as to facilitate “neat” national and ethnic divisions. My anxiety and pain during the Scud attacks on Israel, where some of my family lives, did not cancel out my fear and anguish for the victims of the bombardment of Iraq, where I also have relatives.

War, however, is the friend of binarisms, leaving little place for complex identities. The Gulf War, for example, intensified a pressure already familiar to the Arab Jewish Diaspora in the wake of the Israeli-Arab conflict: a pressure to choose between being a Jew and being an Arab. For our families, who have lived in Mesopotamia since at least the Babylonian exile, who have been Arabized for millennia, and who were abruptly dislodged to Israel 45 years ago, to be suddenly forced to assume a homogenous European Jewish identity based on experiences in Russia, Poland and Germany, was an exercise in self devastation. To be a European or American Jew has hardly been perceived as a contradiction, but to be an Arab Jew has been seen as a kind of logical paradox, even an ontological subversion. This binarism has led many Oriental Jews (our name in Israel referring to our common Asian and African countries of origin is Mizrahi or Mizrachi) to a profound and visceral schizophrenia, since for the first time in our history Arabness and Jewishness have been imposed as antonyms.

Intellectual discourse in the West highlights a Judeo-Christian tradition, yet rarely acknowledges the Judeo-Muslim culture of the Middle East, of North Africa, or of pre-Expulsion Spain (1492) and of the European parts of the Ottoman Empire. The Jewish experience in the Muslim world has often been portrayed as an unending nightmare of oppression and humiliation.

Although I in no way want to idealize that experience–there were occasional tensions, discriminations, even violence–on the whole, we lived quite comfortably within Muslim societies.

Chaim Weizmann (left, wearing Arab headdress as a sign of friendship) and Emir Faisl, ruler of Iraq bewlieved they could could negotiate on behalf of all Jews and Arabs. The Faisal–Weizmann Agreement was signed on 3 January 1919, by Emir Faisal (son of the King of Hejaz), who was for a short time King of the Arab Kingdom of Syria or Greater Syria in 1920, and was King of the Kingdom of Iraq from August 1921 to 1933, and Chaim Weizmann (later President of the World Zionist Organization) as part of the Paris Peace Conference, 1919 settling disputes stemming from World War I. It was a short-lived agreement for Arab–Jewish cooperation on the development of a Jewish homeland in Palestine and an Arab nation in a large part of the Middle East.

Our history simply cannot be discussed in European Jewish terminology. As Iraqi Jews, while retaining a communal identity, we were generally well integrated and indigenous to the country, forming an inseparable part of its social and cultural life. Thoroughly Arabized, we used Arabic even in hymns and religious ceremonies. The liberal and secular trends of the 20th century engendered an even stronger association of Iraqi Jews and Arab culture, which brought Jews into an extremely active arena in public and cultural life. Prominent Jewish writers, poets and scholars played a vital role in Arab culture, distinguishing themselves in Arabic speaking theatre, in music, as singers, composers, and players of traditional instruments. 

In Egypt, Morocco, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Tunisia, Jews became members of legislatures, of municipal councils, of the judiciary, and even occupied high economic positions. (The finance minister of Iraq in the ’40s was Ishak Sasson, and in Egypt, Jamas Sanua–higher positions, ironically, than those our community had generally achieved within the Jewish state until the 1990s!)

The same historical process that dispossessed Palestinians of their property, lands and national-political rights, was linked to the dispossession of Middle Eastern and North African Jews of their property, lands, and rootedness in Muslim countries. As refugees, or mass immigrants (depending on one’s political perspective), we were forced to leave everything behind and give up our Iraqi passports. The same process also affected our uprootedness or ambiguous positioning within Israel itself, where we have been systematically discriminated against by institutions that deployed their energies and material to the consistent advantage of European Jews and to the consistent disadvantage of Oriental Jews. Even our physiognomies betray us, leading to internalized colonialism or physical misperception. Sephardic Oriental women often dye their dark hair blond, while the men have more than once been arrested or beaten when mistaken for Palestinians. What for Ashkenazi immigrants from Russian and Poland was a social aliya (literally “ascent”) was for Oriental Sephardic Jews a yerida (“descent”).

Stripped of our history, we have been forced by our no-exit situation to repress our collective nostalgia, at least within the public sphere. The pervasive notion of “one people” reunited in their ancient homeland actively disauthorizes any affectionate memory of life before Israel. We have never been allowed to mourn a trauma that the images of Iraq’s destruction only intensified and crystallized for some of us. Our cultural creativity in Arabic, Hebrew and Aramaic is hardly studied in Israeli schools, and it is becoming difficult to convince our children that we actually did exist there, and that some of us are still there in Iraq, Morocco, Yemen and Iran. 

Western media much prefer the spectacle of the triumphant progress of Western technology to the survival of the peoples and cultures of the Middle East. The case of Arab Jews is just one of many elisions. From the outside, there is little sense of our community, and even less sense of the diversity of our political perspectives. Oriental-Sephardic peace movements, from the Black Panthers of the ’70s to the new Keshet (a “Rainbow” coalition of Mizrahi groups in Israel) not only call for a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians, but also for the cultural, political, and economic integration of Israel/Palestine into the Middle East. And thus an end to the binarisms of war, an end to a simplistic charting of Middle Eastern identities.

Source*

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Who’s Starving Yemen’s Children?

Who’s Starving Yemen’s Children?

The US-facilitated Saudi blockade is leading to severe food and water shortages in Yemen. When Iran tried to land a humanitarian cargo plane in Yemen this week, the Saudis blew up the runway so it could not land. What’s behind this escalation? Where might it lead?

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St. Patrick’s Day*

Between the Builder and the Architect: Frederick II, and the Castel Del Monte

Between the Builder and the Architect: Frederick II, and the Castel Del Monte

Religious Tolerance in Medieval Rome

By Hwaa Irfan

For those who have visited it, one of the adjectives used to describe the atmosphere is “magical,” and the experience is “amazing” – another case of objective art?

On a rocky summit, which used to be a river bank surrounded by a moat that was filled by the sea, the Castel Del Monte sits facing Murge Hills. Oriented towards the East, the entrance/Throne Room is oriented towards the rising of the sun. “Castel del Monte does not look like a stranger in a countryside of olive trees, and aromatic pine woods, with blankets of broom and fushia if one was to visit in the middle of Summer. Maybe there is a synergy between the materials, the design and the abundance of nature that somehow seems to make the Castel at home. The coral crushed stone, marble, and limestone with flecks of quartz used form a superior understanding of what architecture is in relation to the environment unlike many of the building built today; along with the standard of masonry employed the Castel could equally belong to any Middle Eastern country.

Built in 1240 on the orders of Emperor Frederick II von Hohenstaufen of Swabia/Suabia, in the region of Puglia, the Castel Del Monte is rich with the symbolism of geometry. Radically different from the castles built by the Swabians, Castel del Monte is a two-storey castle, built on the numbers 8, 3, 2, and, 1 to sacred geometrical proportions. The octagonal building is an icon to the perfect symmetry demanded by geometry in the form of architecture. Granted as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996, UNESCO describes the Castel as:

    “… imbued it with symbolic significance, as reflected in the location, the mathematical and astronomical precision of the layout and the perfectly regular shape”.

One of the reasons why the Castel Del Monte was granted the status because it represents:

    “… outstanding universal value in its formal perfection and its harmonious blending of cultural elements from northern Europe, the Muslim world, and classical antiquity.”

With the true purpose remaining unclear to many scholars other than a symbolic one, the octagonal design lends to 8 trapezoid-shaped, rooms, which overlook an octagonal courtyard on both the first and second floors. The grand loggia that used to hang over the first floor entrance to the grand hall from the courtyard is no longer present, but the Adam and Eve relief still remains. The floors are connected by 3 perfect spiral staircases as in the unfolding of a DNA string. The courtyard possesses an 8-sided tower located at each corner of the octagonal courtyard, which from the sky must look like a giant mandala. Eight arched windows allude to privacy, allowing for only light to enter. Windows connect rooms with the exception of the 1st and 8th room which has one small round window.

The triangular shaped rooms on each level span out like segments leaving the impression of a square at the center of these 16 converging rooms. Frederick II had what was considered a serious hygiene regime for his time, in response to the practices he learnt from his time in Jerusalem amongst the Muslims, so there is a strong indication that ablutions took place away from the rooms as toilets are located in a few of the towers, with the other towers main function as rainwater collector, part of which was relayed to a large tank sunk in the rock, under the central courtyard.

Clearly, the Castel del Monte is set upon the principles of sacre geometry, as the equilateral triangle unfolds outwards with its sides defining the sides of a:

4 – The square

And the next stage of unfoldment leads to a

5 – The Pentagon

And the next stage of unfoldment leads to a

6 – hexagon

And the next stage of unfoldment leads to a

8 – Octagon

And so on, and so forth.

With the pivotal points of the trapezoid rooms arising from the centers of ocatagons/8 representing the Hermetic aphorism, “As above, so below”, or the 8 corners of a cubic stone with the windows possesing three (the metaphysical number of concealement and transformation) steps/seats that lead to the windows itself supported by two (the number of production/creativity) stone banisters.

A circle (representing unmanifest unity), represented by the moat, encompassing an octagon (the courtyard), encompassing another ocatagon, encompassing, a series of triangles, trapezoids, which form 4 inverted triangles (representative of the male-female union, as well as “as above so below”) a square (representative of unity made manifest), resulting in an 8-pointed star – combined represents the union of heaven on earth, eternity, 8 corners of a cubic stone. The outer circle of the moat circles the inner square, which symbolizes the circummabulation around the Ka’aba in Mecca. In symbolism the concept of “squaring of the circle” through the pentagon represents the harmonization of intuition. The “squaring of the circle” represents that which is not mainfest made manifest or the infinite through the finite – union of the four elements. The high precision of the design, building, and layout of the Castel del Monte without historical records, has been compared to the octagonal compass depicted on the 13th century navigational map the Carta Pisana in terms of shape and layout.

One may have hated geometry at school, because of the way it was taught, or one may have found geometry to have been the only aspect of math that one connected with. Referred to as the language of God, geometry is reflected in every structure of His Creation. Socrates discovered through an experiment on an uneducated Greek slave and came to the conclusion that his soul “must have always possessed this knowledge.” This experiment has been repeated recently with both African and the indigenous of the Amazon. In a study carried out by Irving Biederman, and the Harold Dornsife Professor of Neuroscience at USC College, it was found that Western college students and members of the semi-nomadic Himba tribe of northwestern Namibia showed greater sensitivity to non-accidental shapes i.e. geometrical shapes with not much difference between the two groups. In testing the Munduruku of the Brazilian Amazon, a people who have no words for square, rectangle, triangle or any other geometric shape except circles in their language or words for numbers above the number 5, nor tools of measurement that they understood as many principles of geometry as their North American counterparts. Geometry is an underlying principle of all objective art, and describes the integration of all living systems of God’s creation. As such, sacred geometry bypasses the intellect which is limited, and is caught in the mind-loop of comparisons and has the innate capacity to transmit knowledge to the subconscious mind.

No wonder Frederick II was known in his time as “Stupor Mundi” the (wonder of the world).

Frederick II

The reign of Frederick II is said to have played an important role in the transition from the period of intolerance marked by Western medieval culture, and modernism. He introduced along with tolerance, the concept of a systemized law, and administration (an inheritance from the Fatimid predecessors), and secular education. He was born in 1194 in Jesi as the last ruling descendent of the Normandy dynasty. His father was Henry of Hoenstaufen, and Constance of Altavilla. Orphaned, Frederick II fell under the custody of Pope Innocent III, but other than being educated by the papacy, the young Frederick would be King spent his life on the cosmopolitan streets of Palermo like a street urchin. By the time he was 4, he was “King” of Sicily. He had the good fortune to be raised in what was the cosmopolitan city of Palermo – the capital of the Norman kingdom which was once governed by an Arab Emirate under the Fatimid Caliphate. Many races and religions had formed the fabric of Palermo society, coexisting without difficulty.

King Fredrick was crowned Emperor at Aachen Cathedral, a former church that was a part of the palace built by Emperor Charlemagne. A man of the intellect, Frederick II was unusual for his time in the West, having a strong interest in mathematics, geometry, poetry, music, astronomy, the natural sciences, and medicine liken to the Muslims scholars of his time. He also spoke fluently, the German tongue of his father, the Italian of his childhood, French, Greek, and Arabic. However, life for him was not an easy one, as he fought against the Catholic Church for most of his adult life though born a Christian. Against papal hegemony, and the brutal expansion of Christendom, and by the time he was 18 he was the King of Germany. Through his first marriage to Constance of Aragon, the Spanish polity that under direction of the Church, rid Spain of the Moors, Frederick was given 300 knights as dowry, who helped him to claim his rights over Germany before returning to Sicily.

Pope George IX as a known orator and propagandist was a bane in Frederick’s life, and through vindictive and antagonistic means managed to get Frederick II excommunicated twice which was not an unusual feat for medieval rulers to obtain. The test in their relations was Jerusalem, who Pope George IX wanted Frederick II to claim in the name of Christendom under the not so holy crusades. When Frederick II did finally make it to Jerusalem it was not with the same bloody intent of the Pope. Frederick II hated the hypocrisy over the crusades which was about expanding Christendom’s power through the knighthood initially and the crusades, not faith and understanding, and accused the papacy of usury, greed, and lacking in morality.

What set Pope George IX on an unswerving course of revenge was his appetite for power clashed not only with Frederick II, the result of which was a failed attempted one Easter, to preach against Frederick II. That attempt erupted into a riot that claimed the streets of Rome, and Pope George IX having to escape. This sums up the probable cause as to why Frederick II sought sanity and purpose elsewhere, the icon of which the Castel del Monte surely represents.

Frederick II had philosophical discourses from childhood, first at the hands of papal education, and later on from various quarters. One of those quarters was with Ibn Sab’in, Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Haqq (1217-68), a sufi of Muslim Spain who was against the breaking up of reality into different units to deny the nature of creation, and Aristotelian logic as a means of interpreting reality, which denied the unity of everything. It was between Ibn Sab’in and Frederick II that a series of discourses took place via correspondence entitled “al-Kalam ‘ala’l masa’il al-siqliyyah (Philosophical Correspondence with the Emperor Frederick II Hohenstaufen” on the main principles of Aristotelian philosophy. “In The Art of Hunting with Birds” (De Arte Venandi cum Avibus), was Frederick II praised book on falconry, but closer inspection reveals his relationship with Aristotelian philosophy. In the preface he wrote:

‘We discovered by hard won experience that the deductions of Aristotle, whom we followed when they appealed to our reason, were not entirely to be relied upon.’

For Frederick II, his first encounter with Muslims began as a boy on the streets of Palermo at a time of religious intolerance at the hands of the papacy. The Pope not carrying out the full wardship of the young Frederick II, left him ample time after papal tutorship to roam the streets of Palermo. As such, one of his tutors was a scholarly Muslim, from whom Frederick’s II fluency in Arabic was learnt. Despite being called to lead a crackdown against the “infidels” due to excessive increase in taxes against the Muslims in Lucera, his street life in Palermo was probably the foundation of his great sense of religious and racial tolerance, unknown in the Western medieval world. For Frederick II the papacy had betrayed the faith, but Frederick II did not reject his faith, as many would like to assume because as an emperor he would look on Muslims and Jews favorably, but punish Christian heretic severely. At his coronation as King of Germany, Frederick II wore a robe with Arabic embroidered inscription.

Although King of Germany, Frederick II spent little of his time in Germany. He could either be found in his kingdom of Sicily, or on “crusade.” The diplomatic ties that were not reflected in Pope George IX’s conduct as a ruler, was reflected in Frederick II as an emperor. These ties were partially initiated by Egypt’s Sultan El-Kamil through his emissary Emir Fahkr ad-Din in 1226 who visited Frederick II’s court expressing concern about the political and military successes of his brother, al-Malik al-Mu’azzam -governor of Damascus, whose alliance with the Khwarizimian Turks, made him fearful of an attack on Egypt. In return El-Kamil promised to give Frederick II’s Jerusalem, This was made known by the Muslim historian ibn Wasil, who was Frederick II’s son, Manfred.

Frederick II aimed to exploit the disunity amongst the successors of Salah ad-Din, but not in his favor al-Mu’azzam died on the eve that Frederick II was to attack. A year later, his Latin wife Yolande, Queen of Jerusalem died leaving him a son, Conrad, leaving his sovereignty over Jerusalem questionable. The ensuing crusade on Jerusalem, which he had delayed and resisted the call to do so by the papacy began as an attempt to correct his reputation has marred by Pope George IX, and to show to the “world” his innocence of the lies spread by the Pope.

By the time Frederick II arrived in Jerusalem, he met favorable conditions with local Muslims. After 5 months of negotiation with Egypt’s sultan, El-Kamil in Jerusalem, a 10-year treaty, the Treaty of Jaffa, transpired giving Frederick II control of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, control of Christian centers of worship, and recognition as King of Jerusalem (crowned in 1229 at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre with his soldiers and Muslims in attendance) pledging to prevent any attack from the West during the treaty. During the 5 months of negotiation, Frederick II was treated well, to the extent that the Sultan asked the muezzin (the person who calls others to pray) to not call the dawn prayers. Frederick II’s response was:

    “I stayed overnight in Jerusalem, in order to overhear the prayer call of the Muslims and their worthy God.”

For this bloodless crusade, the treaty was rejected by the Pope, and the errant Frederick II was excommunicated.

Frederick II after unifying Sicily, and establishing a unified law that included Christians, Muslims and Jews, established the first secular university in the West in 1224, the University of Naples (now now Università Federico II), where the focus was to have scientifically educated civil servants, the university was instrumental in establishing and developing Roman law; Arabic and Hebrew were taught along with Judaic and Islamic laws, and Muslim and Jewish cultures. He ordered religious tolerance through his kingdom, and took under his wing the reorganization of the Salerno School of Medicine including the phasing in of the discipline in anatomy; howver the method at which he determined the need for anatomy will not be explored here.

Frederick II felt culturally, Muslims were his equals. With the ongoing harassment of Pope George IX at all levels, Frederick II Felt more secure around Muslim. He had Muslim soldiers in his campaigns, because they could not be excommunicated, and half his court consisted of Muslims. Some of the Muslims in his court were master craftsmen, skilled at cutting hard and difficult materials, the type if materials used in the building, and décor of Castel del Monte.

What seems to evade proof is the knowledge base on which Frederick II built the Castel del Monte, with apparent willful intent. Enriched by the traditional Christian philosophical school, and the Islamic schools, Frederick II was able to reach a serious level of knowledge that he could be apply. Frederick II was able to network into the Muslim world, making contact with the person who could answer his question. This underlies some form of intelligence network that could facilitate his need to thirst for true knowledge. If nothing was written on him, the enigma of the Castel del Monte would stand as testament that this man’s relationship with himself and God, mattered more than the worldly demands of a Pope who neglected his faith.

Sources:

Abulafia, D The Journey to Jerusalem 1227-30 1988. Oxford University Press, U.K.

Bakalar, N. Mastering the Geometry of the Jungle http://agutie.homestead.com/files/world_news_map/humans_hard_wired_brain_geometry.html

Dolan, J. A Note on Emperor Frederick II and his Jewish Tolerance. Jewish Social Studies, Vol. 22, No. 3 (Jul., 1960). Indiana University Press.

Emperor Frederick II http://www.crusades-history.com/Emperor-Frederick-II.aspx

Frederick II http://www.casteldelmonte.beniculturali.it/index.php?en/97/frederick-ii

Frederick II (1215-1250) http://www.vlib.us/medieval/lectures/frederick_ii.html

Gotze, H. “Frederick II and the Love of Geometry. http://www.leonet.it/culture/nexus/96/gotze.html

Ibn Sab’in, Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Haqq (1217-68) http://www.muslimphilosophy.com/ip/rep/H033

Lawyer, R. Sacred Geometry. 1982. Thames & Hudson, U.K.

Lucera: A Muslim Colony in Medieval Italy. http://faculty.ed.umuc.edu/~jmatthew/naples/Lucera.htm

Marziali, C Brain Has an Innate Sense of Geometry http://uscnews.usc.edu/university/brain_has_innate_sense_of_geometry.html

Morris, R.C. Under Frederick II, the First Rebirth of Roman Culture. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/05/arts/05iht-conway.html?_r=1

The Castle. http://www.casteldelmonte.beniculturali.it/index.php?en/93/the-castle

The Imperial Menace to The Freedom Of Religion: The Emperor Frederick II
http://www.tamut.edu/staff/jjackson/Fred.htm

UNESCO. Castel del Monte. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/398

UNESCO. Castel del Monte. http://www.sitiunesco.it/index.phtml?id=638

World Heritage Site Castel del Monte. http://www.worldheritagesite.org/sites/casteldelmonte.html

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A Sacred Place
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A Dance into the Sublime

Tatoul Altounian Song & Dance Ensemble

A traditional Armenian dance called “Sareri Hovin Mernem” (I die for the wind of the mountains). It was performed in June of 2006 at the Babajanian Hall formerly called the small theatre of the Philharmonia – courtesy of Youtube.

A Dance into the Sublime

By Hwaa Irfan

When we think of dance, many things will come to mind, even myself, for I was raised with the arts as a part of heritage, and as a form of self expression. However, here what I am referring to is the original purpose of dance. Before the Divine made Himself manifest through the Divine Religions, as humans we sought to express ourselves through His Creation i.e. nature. Dance was one such means of expression, an imitation of the divine play of nature, before it took on expressions of nature, and then finally of man.

Out of a thirst for an artistic experience and/or a yearning for true harmony in this world today, an inner compulsion led me to attend the performance of the Middle East Ensemble of the University of California at the Opera House. A fleeting thought came to me as they began the dance on how the origins of ballet have never really been explained, as I observed the way the dancers used their hands and the flow of their movements. Also, I had impressions of the movements of the Whirling Dervishes who express the cycles of existence or the spin of a planet on its own axis around the sun. But before me, there were 6 young women in simple flowing sky-blue dresses, graced by long flowing white semi-transparent veils, expressing something “other” knowingly and/or unknowingly. Their level of comfort with each other was reminiscent of what I miss, i.e. the bonding between women that arises out of nature before we began to look at ourselves through our bodies only. After that I was “available”, my mind was open, and all of me was receptive to what the dance had to offer unlike the person who accompanied me. The performance was unlike the video clip above, as the music was more folk-based, with emphasis on strings, and drum, with the drum inviting one to go within the dance if one desired. The women danced as one body in modest motions, with emphasis on the arms, hands and fingers. The movements linked together in time and space moved beyond space and time, creating a portal to an almost subliminal experience. If the dance had lasted longer, I might have discovered what message the dance had to convey, and what was was calling me from within. The relationship between the dance and the music was a symbiotic one, but it was the movements of the dancers that created lasting impressions in my mind.

The dancers performed beautifully traditional dances from Iran, Syria, Turkey, U.A.E, and Egypt. The dance of the Sa’idis, which I am more than familiar with, was very different from the other performances, being very much focused on the hips and the stomach, and in the context of the above, lacked the same appeal even though in heritage the whole body is used in dance. There was costume changes for each dance, and the costumes were rich in color and detail representing the countries from which each dance came from, and demonstrated the variety of practical, but luxurious (in beading, embroidery and cloth) clothing available across the Muslim world. The musical ensemble was far from deficient and displayed a standard of professionalism, not least of all a grey-haired woman from Egypt originally, probably in her 60s who played the master drum for all pieces.

An Ancient Source

The special “something” about Armenia dance is not felt by me alone. This is probably what has contributed to its continued appeal. It transpires that the Armenian traditional dance dates back from the 5th – 3rd millennia B.C. when it was a much larger state than now. Examples of this art form are depicted in the rock paintings on the plateau of Mount Ararat, which used to be a part of Armenia. The similarity I felt between the Iranian and Armenian dance indicates a common origin as ancient Armenia once stretched out into Asia Minor, the mountains of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq and Syria.

The women’s dance comes from various parts of eastern Armenia (ancient). The solo dance styles, which I have yet to experience, are known as “naz bar” or “grace dance.” I mention it here because as a novice it reflects the general grace of the performance I “experienced.” Laura Shannon, a non-Armenian dancer describes the importance of the feet:

    “… how the feet feel the ground they dance upon, is very important.”

In the region of the Lake Sevan, a cornet and drum skins have been discovered dating from the first millennium. The music is essentially simple but rich in melody and rhythm being based on the Tetra-chord system. The Tetra-chord system is rich in melodic formulas, and can be found in most medieval religious music throughout Christendom. Armenia was the first Christian kingdom in the West, and the Church incorporated Armenian traditional music into Christian religious music in order that they would forget their past. The Tetra-chord has a musical scale of four notes, with the 4th note holding the magnetic attraction. The use of the notes emphasizes melody, which are presented in a slow deliberate manner as if in the throes of revealing a secret to the listener. However, for me, it was the movements seemed to be revealing something I did not know before.

Armenian dance and music spans the sacred domain to reflect village life, urban life, and the history and trials of a people. Instrumentation in traditional Armenian music and dance consists of mainly wind instruments made from apricot wood, the Kanun, a Middle Eastern influence possessing a 24-stringed instrument using animal skin for a membrane, the 6-stringed o’ud (predecessor of the lute) with a short neck, and more round than the Middle Wastern o’ud is made from apricot, maple, walnut or mahogany – a variety of o’uds are used. The Santur, also a stringed instrument like the zither, but is made of walnut, rosewood or betel palm. The Kamancha, a Persian stringed instrument like a fiddle, which is held upright on the knee. The gos/dhol a double-skinned drum made of walnut, goat or sheep/calf skin, played both with hands and sticks (two sticks with one thicker than the other). One skin is thick, providing the bass rhythm, while the other skin is thinner thus providing a higher pitch. And then there is the Dap, a large single headed frame drum (as in the western tambourine) possessing metallic rings, rattles or silver coins.

The evening was dotted with singing of traditional Arab music. The crowd was enthusiastic, and was far from hesitant in expressing their appreciation. The leader of the Ensemble was a people’s man who engaged the Ensemble and the audience in a manner that could be enjoyed by all, but for me lingers on the secret behind the Armenian dance!

Sources:

Michaelian, A and Hermelinde, S. Face Music Traditional Instruments of Armenia. http://www.face-music.ch/instrum/armenia_instrum_en.html

Shannon, L. Armenian Dance. http://www.hyeetch.nareg.com.au/culture/music_p4.html

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