Fiction of Dystopian Times: Ahmed Saadawi’s “Frankenstein in Baghdad”

As this emotionally sensitive corpse monster — the first authentic Iraqi, by way of amateur suturing, we’re told — roams a city where reality has become stranger than fiction, his vigilante trials offer readers a glimpse of Iraq that can’t be gleaned from traditional war reporting or policy memos. The dark stitching of real and pressing political quandaries into Saadawi’s comedic and irreverent writing mirrors what we consider quality dystopian fiction; it offers both an escape from the reality of present-day Iraq as well as a new way of reflecting on it.  – Los Angeles Review of Books

Riverside Sheriffs’ Association has given over $1M this election. Why?

In Sacramento County, where police officers allegedly shot black 22-year-old Stephon Clark eight times, including six in the back, District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert’s acceptance of contributions from law enforcement unions, while the case is still pending, has opened her up to criticism and sparked conversations about law enforcement unions’ involvement in politics throughout the state.

Law enforcement and organized labor have always made strange bedfellows. Like other public sector unions, law enforcement associations negotiate wages and contracts with county government. But unlike most unions, which tend to lean Democratic, law enforcement associations – and, in turn, the candidates and causes they support each election – often champion conservative causes, putting them at odds with left-leaning organizations and social movements, like the ACLU and Black Lives Matter.

Although campaign finance has become a heavily publicized concern in both state and national politics, the contributions given to politicians running in county races elude parallel scrutiny. Individual contributors and unions alike are able to fund the candidates of their choosing and, for the most part, fly under the radar without having to answer questions regarding whether their advocacy aligns with the interests of voters and taxpayers.—The Desert Sun

District Attorney’s race asks: Can a ‘tough on crime’ prosecutor also be a reformer?

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The criminal justice system in Riverside County has earned national notoriety for the aggressive tactics employed by county prosecutors. In many years, the county puts more people on death row than any other county in the country …

… The seat has long been dominated by Republicans. As the region continues to change demographically and trends toward the Democratic Party, the question that arises is whether prosecutors like Hestrin, aligned with the Republican Party’s public safety platform, will continue to occupy the District Attorney’s office or will they be upstaged by reform-minded candidates like Gressley.  — The Desert Sun

In Algiers, Police Are Rounding Up Migrants and Summarily Deporting Them To Niger

Jeumuel, a 31-year-old Ivorian migrant living in Algiers, said he rarely goes outside anymore, afraid he’ll be captured by police and thrown onto a bus for Niger. “We’re hungry, we’re thirsty, but we’re afraid whenever we go out to get something, because they’re arresting people,“ he said. “It’s hard to leave the house.”—Vice News

Young People, Little Magazines, Morocco

Like many small independent magazines currently being published in the United States, Souffles advances an argument that there’s a place for literature’s imagination in politics. Indeed, perhaps a literary sensibility must be present in order to imagine how the future might look and start the conversations that will inevitably shape its contours. “Each generation has its truth,” Mohammed Berrada wrote in Souffles’s tenth issue, “a Zeitgeist that tempts the artist above anyone else. It emerges from the changes that occur from time to time, forces that break monotony and renew values and concepts.” Souffles’s longevity, and the significance of Harrison and Villa-Ignacio’s project, stems from capturing of this kind of truth,” a truth very much a product of the upheavals of a particular moment and best articulated by the young.—The Quarterly Conversation

The Fishermen of Al Hoceïma, The City At The Center of Morocco’s Hirak Protests

As protests spread throughout Morocco, the vigor of those happening in Al Hoceïma started to garner global attention. Newspapers compared Mohcine Fikri to Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian fruit vendor whose self-immolation lit the match that started the Arab Spring. Despite the fact that Fikri does not seem to have forfeited his life willingly, there are some clear similarities: both were North African; both sold food; many observers saw them both as having been arbitrarily targeted by police; and their deaths became symbols for broader political grievances throughout their respective countries.

But, this comparison glosses over what makes Al Hoceïma, Al Hoceïma. Morocco is not Tunisia. Long before Fikri’s death, the Rif region had long held a reputation for being an epicenter of resistance and anti-government protest; a lot of which—past and present—revolved around demands for regional autonomy and cultural recognition, a context Tunisia does not share. The people here identify ethnically as Amazigh. Unlike Morocco’s Arab majority, the Amazigh speak a different language, have different cultural customs, and remember the nation’s past differently.—Roads & Kingdoms also featured in the February 27  New York Times

Our Monsters Are Like Us: Interview with Abdellah Taïa

In society, our monsters are like us. They are as human as we are; they love, they have love stories. Even when they veer towards extremism, there are things in them like us. To present them in the literary work as evil is not the right thing to do. If I do that, I’m following the ideology that says who the “enemy” is. The “enemy” is always changing. I told myself that I should just try to write sincerity and monstrosity and with extreme ambiguity. An ambiguity that anyone can relate to.—The Los Angeles Review of Books

Why Is a Moroccan History Professor Being Charged with ‘Endangering State Security?’

In Morocco, self-censorship is already a problem due to our prosecution as well as that of journalist Ali Anouzla.  Journalists are too afraid to criticize the taboo trinity—the King, the Intelligence Agency, and the Army.Those who steer clear of this are safe.  Journalists here are free to criticize ministers and other second-rank political personnel like ministers, so the press concentrates its criticism there even though it is not where power lies.

This is an ontological problem for journalists. They do not criticize the King, because it is dangerous. Instead they criticize [Prime Minister Abdelilah] Benkirane because he does not repress them for doing so. Journalists do not place political actors under equal scrutiny. They avoid covering corruption in Morocco’s high spheres of power but often single out the corruption of individual employees or policemen. This is not ideal for journalism—attacking the weak and committing editorial allegiance to the powerful. It is morally unacceptable. —Interview with Maati Monjib in Jadaliyya