Perspectives #10 - Borders: Lines in the Sand or in the Mind?


When ISIS announced the establishment of the so-called ‘Islamic State’ it fuelled discussions as to whether  this would herald  the ‘end of Sykes-Picot’ – borders artificially drawn by the colonial powers at the beginning of the twenti- eth century. But borders are more than ‘lines in the sand’: they divide. While the privileged few may cross legitimately  by simply presenting their passport, for most, these borders present difficult if not insurmountable hurdles. People fleeing from war, climate change  or economic hardship, attempt to cross the Mediterranean but many drown trying.

Crossing borders legally has become increasingly difficult which leaves many who are desperate at the  mercy of smugglers  or human  traffickers; and, in this equation,  it is more  often  the  victims who are prosecuted, punished  and deported than  those  who sell passage on barely seaworthy vessels.

So what is on the map for the region? Syrian author  Haid Haid discusses whether  the divi- sion of Syria is an option. This necessarily raises the question  of the future of the Kurds, a ques- tion that  has become  even more relevant fol- lowing the Turkish intervention in Syria. Bakr Sidki explores whether  the issue is autonomy, federalism, or something entirely different.

While borders  between nations  might be the best documented, there are plenty of other lines of division: social, ethnic, religious and ideological. How firm or permeable the  divi- sions are is subject to change, but any border is a painful memory of the fact that it is not an individual’s choice to define which side he or she is on.

Hanaa Edwar, a member  of the Iraqi com- munist  party, joined the Iraqi resistance, the Peshmerga, in the 1980s. She takes us back to a time when she and her comrades developed a vision of how to overcome the borders imposed by ethnicity, religion, class and gender.

The Lebanese artists of KnoozRoom con- sider the situation  of people  in communities particularly affected by the drawing of borders – a project featured by one of its creators, Tamara Qiblawi.

In the case of Palestine borders are the problem and the solution, writes author Wafa’ Abdel Rahman in her essay.

Mohammed  Dibo discusses  the  relation- ship between a virtually shrinking world and the new challenges globalization poses to iden- tity. In a world where some have the chance to move and others  are forced to migrate, peo- ple become  modern  nomads; this, at least, is the approach  of Moroccan artist Mohammed Laouli and German Artist Karin Ströbel in their project ‘Frontières Fluides – fluid boundaries’. Morocco is a transit country for migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa, and because of the proxim- ity of some of its borders to Europe, it is particu- larly affected by border regimes.

The Jordanian satirical magazine Al Hudood mocks  European efforts to  seal its borders, while Moroccan author Mehdi Alioua describes the ‘Walls of Fortress Europe’ as full of cracks that  allow for selective and ambivalent  trans- gressions. In similar fashion, Khalid Mouna looks at the city of Tangier and how migration and drug trafficking blur the concept of border control as a means to enhance security.

Abraham Zeitoun interviews actress Sawsan Bou Khaled on her understanding of the more subtle borders of the body and the arts.

Finally,  this  issue  is illustrated  by  the Lebanese artist Nadine Bekdache with her take on space, borders and transgression.

Permit us a little celebration: with ‘Borders’, the Arab Middle East and North Africa offices publish their tenth edition of Perspectives!


Bente Scheller, Dorothea  Rischewski, Bettina Marx and Joachim Paul.

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