My farewell to Creative Commons Arab world…

Thank you, Donatella Della Ratta

Jessica Coates, February 18th, 2014

Donatella Della Ratta
Donatella Della Ratta / Joi Ito / CC BY

Creative Commons extends its deepest gratitude to Donatella Della Ratta. For almost six years, she’s been working as a tireless advocate for Creative Commons and open culture in the Arab world, increasing the knowledge and adoption of CC, conducting outreach to creative communities, and connecting activists throughout the region. Dona has done all of this with grace and tenacity in the midst of an oftentimes unpredictable and sometimes unstable political and social environment in much of the Arab world. We thank you, Dona.

Even though Dona is leaving her position as regional coordinator for the Arab world, Creative Commons will continue to support this incredibly important region. We are in the process of bringing on two new part-time regional coordinators, as we’ve done with other geographic areas. Below is a note from Donatella.


On my way back from Amman, where the fourth Arab Bloggers meeting was held this year, I was thinking that it all started here. Back to early 2008, I was lucky enough to breathe an atmosphere of excitement and change that pervaded the Arab region, and encouraged the Arab youth to gather and discuss ideas, projects, new challenges. Technology played a key role in these gatherings: at the time, open communities such as Linux, Wikipedia, Mozilla, and the like, were being formed and getting together. We started the Creative Commons Arab world community during that wave of change, connecting with the other Arab communities which were using technology to create content together, promote social change, defend freedom of choice – and of expression.

We launched the first archive of CC-licensed broadcast footage with Al Jazeera, at a time when the lack of foreign journalists on the ground in Gaza during the Israeli attack had made information a very precious and scarce resource. Since 2008, many things happened in the Arab region. The Creative Commons Arab community has grown exponentially, and many countries have joined: together with Jordan and Egypt, where we had already official affiliates prior to 2008, informal communities started to gather in Lebanon, Syria, Qatar, UAE, Palestine, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Iraq, Oman, and Mauritania. The latest addition has been Yemen, where few months ago the first training workshop on CC and open licensing was held in Sana`a.

During these years, we have held CC Salons everywhere in the region, from Doha to Casablanca; we have hosted CC Iftars in a number of Arab capitals, from Damascus to Amman. CC Arab communities have gathered in regional meetings four times (2009 Doha; 2010 Doha; 2011 Tunis: 2012 Cairo). We have hosted CC training sessions, panels and hands-on workshops in many regional, tech and community related events. In 2011, we started the first Pan Arab peer-produced and CC-licensed music project, “It will be wonderful”, which is still traveling around the world and being remixed. We produced the first collaborative, open-licensed comics fanzine between Egyptian and Moroccan artists. And many other exciting projects are in the pipeline: books, videos, music, and training toolkits, in Arabic and free to share.

Meanwhile, the Arab uprisings have happened, and this was probably the biggest change that the region witnessed in decades. Today the Arab world lives in difficult conditions: after the first wave of excitement for the toppling of many authoritarian regimes in the region, the civil movement for change has now to face tough challenges. Activists are being jailed and tortured, and creativity and cooperation are being repressed in an atmosphere of dire restoration. One of the most prominent member of the CC Arab world community, Bassel Khartabil aka Safadi, has been imprisoned by the Syrian government for two years without charges, probably being guilty of having dreamt a more free and open society for himself and his peers. Yet, against all odds, the Creative Commons Arab world, together with many other youth-led movements and communities in the region, is still producing content, sharing and building on other people`s ideas, and working for a better, more open society.

After five years spent as Arab world regional coordinator, I am proud to have helped this community to come together, and humbled by the strength and energy of this youth. While I am leaving my official role at Creative Commons, I will always be involved with the amazing Arab community and work together to push forward new ideas and exciting projects, despite all the problems we have to face in the region. And we will be waiting for our friend Bassel Safadi to join us in new, upcoming challenges.

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Daily thought-pensiero quotidiano

A friend of mine once wrote for a friend of hers`:

“He was engaged on a daily basis with the basic political question, “what shall we do,” and he also knew that the “we” and “do” were problematic categories –ones open to interpretation, disagreement, contestation, and change. He knew that freedom is something that is taken not granted; it is chosen and exercised when it exists at all. Nothing guarantees its emergence, and only continual efforts to act politically will allow it to endure.”

I think of the beloved Arab world. I think of Italy, my home country, a devastated democracy, the no man`s land of rights in civilized Europe.

What shall we do, every day, in our life?

And what does “do” mean?

And who are we?

Thanks for reminding me about these basic political questions.

* Jarallah Omar was one of the leader of Yemeni opposition. He died in 2002 , assasinated.

Lisa Wedeen is a political scientist, who teaches at University of Chicago. She authored the book ”  PERIPHERAL VISIONS: Publics, Power, and Performance in Yemen (2008).

Una mia amica una volta ha scritto di un suo amico:

“era impegnato quotidianamente da una domanda politica di base “che dobbiamo fare” e sapeva oltretutto che “noi” e “fare” sono categorie problematiche -aperte ad intepretazione, disaccordo, contestazione e cambiamento. Sapeva che la liberta e` qualcosa che non si da` per scontato; viene scelta ed esercitata se del resto esiste. Niente garantisce che emerga, e soltanto continui sforzi verso l`agire politico le permettono di durare”.

Penso all`amato mondo arabo. all`Italia, il mio paese natale, una democrazia devastata, la terra di nessuno dei diritti nella civile Europa.

Che dobbiamo fare, ogni giorno, nella nostra vita quotidiana?

E cosa significa “fare”?

E chi siamo “noi”?

Grazie per avermi ricordato di queste basilari domande politiche.

Jarallah Omar era un leader dell`opposizione in Yemen. E` morto assassinato nel 2002.

Lisa Wedeen  insegna Scienze Politiche all`Universita` di Chicago. E` autrice del libro: ”  PERIPHERAL VISIONS: Publics, Power, and Performance in Yemen (2008).

Another “honeymoon”..Obama and the Arabs..seems to be over

I’d like to re-publish this interesting post coming from who writes on the Shami Hamid, Deputy Director of the Brooking Center in Doha,Huffington Post commenting on why the honeymoon between Arabs and Obama ” is really over now”.

This echoes other comments which recently appeared on The Washington Post and on The Guardian saying more or less the same. And Al Jazeera English’s “LIstening Post” is covering the issue by devoting a whole series of episodes to the topic “Obama and the media”.

When we published the book “Un Hussein alla Casa Bianca” (January 2009) tackling the issue of the “Arab dream” on Obama there was a “realistic skepticism” among the majority of the people and countries we surveyed. After one year of presidency it looks like Faisal Qassem‘s argument in one of the episode of “Al Ittijah al moakis” is going to win over Arabs’ hearths and minds: the problem is not Obama himself as an individual,  the problem is the structure of politics itself. To tell this with Hamid’s words: “.. political structures matter more than individuals – and the American system seems wedded to a fundamentally misguided approach toward the Middle East”.

Obama and the Arab World: The Honeymoon Is Really Over Now

There’s no doubt that there’s been growing Arab disappointment with President Obama, but I’m beginning to sense the disappointment – both understandable and expected – turning into something altogether more worrying. Part of the problem is that many Arabs, including even some Islamists, believed in Obama almost as much as Americans did.

I had lunch the other day with three Western-educated Arab liberals, the kind of people who were optimistic, if cautiously so, not too long ago. The conversation turned to U.S. policy and I felt like I was back in the Bush era, having to muster some kind of defense for my country’s actions. Before, under Bush, I could always say: “wait, the Bush administration doesn’t represent what America and Americans stand for. Don’t worry, we’ll vote him out of office and elect a Democrat…” Now, I’m not exactly sure what, if anything, I should say. I’m not in any mood right now to put positive spin on Obama’s first 12 months or on what Democrats can offer America and the world. The gap between expectation and reality has been so great so as to almost defy characterization.

Arab critics of U.S. policy are likely to draw several conclusions from Obama’s first year in office (whether or not these perceptions are accurate is beside the point. Perceptions matter as long as people think they’re accurate):

  1. That it doesn’t quite matter who the American President is. Obama might be great. He might care about Arabs and their grievances. But political structures matter more than individuals – and the American system seems wedded to a fundamentally misguided approach toward the Middle East.
  2. The election of Obama – with his evident desire to build bridges with the Arab world, not to mention his Muslim family and middle name – was the best possible outcome that Arabs could have hoped for. But, even with the best possible outcome, U.S. policy is still pretty bad.
  3. America has a congenital problem with advancing wonderful soaring rhetoric while, at best, featuring some roundly unimaginative policymaking and, at worst, furthering policies in the Middle East that are downright destructive.
  4. America’s Middle East policy is irredeemable. It is time to stop hoping that America will change.

People hated Bush but, at least their hate seemed to imply a recognition of America’s centrality in the Middle East, and that America, due to its overwhelming influence and power, would have to change in order for the Middle East to change. The anger toward Obama is different in that it is accompanied by a sort of resignation and a coming to terms with an America that appears increasingly beside the point. The United States is in steep decline, so some are saying, and instead of hoping it will change, it might be better (and more realistic) to hope that it falls.

by Shami Hamid , Deputy Director Brookings Doha Center

Follow Shadi Hamid on Twitter: www.twitter.com/shadihamid

Fundings for Arab filmakers at San Sebastian Festival

I got this from my friend Alessandra Speciale -director of African Film Festival in Milan- who is currently helping San Sebastian Festival on this programme which is particularly tailored on the Arab world filmakers. Have a look!

REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN FOR CINEMA IN MOTION 5

Cinema in Motion 5 will take place at the 57th International Film
Festival in San Sebastian on Monday, 21 September 2009.

The deadline for registering and receiving material in San Sebastian
is 30 June 2009.

This programme, organised by the International Film Festival with the
Amiens and Fribourg international festivals, will exclusively comprise
feature films at the end of their filming or at the post-production
stage.

This rendezvous is open to filmmakers from the Maghreb, Portuguese-
speaking African countries and developing Arab countries
: Algeria,
Angola, Cape Verde, Egypt, Guinea, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya,
Morocco, Mozambique, Palestine, Sao Tome y Principe, Syria and
Tunisia.

The directors and/or producers of the selected films will have the
chance to defend their projects before professionals from all sectors
accredited at the International Film Festival Sales Office.

Different kinds of aid will be granted within the framework of Cinema
in Motion 5, among which:

§       Mactari mixing auditorium – €15,000 in services.

§       Centre National de la Cinématographie (CNC) – €10,000 to cover
the cost of post-production in France.

§       Amiens Festival – a 35 mm copy.

§       Fribourg Festival – a 35 mm copy.

§       Titra Film – French or English subtitling up to €2,500.

§

The Cinema in Motion 5 registration form can be found at:

www.sansebastianfestival.com

Happy new year?

It’s very difficult to express wishful thinkings for the 2009, particularly if you are watching the new year dawn from this part of the world which is the Middle East. Many Arab countries have cancelled New Year’s celebrations yesterday in solidarity with the Gaza strip. In Syria no live music performances and dances where allowed, in order to  retain a sober atmosphere. Other Arab countries, like Lebanon and many places in Egypt for example, just didn’t care and went on with the bookings and parties. What about the West? I am just wondering how this last Palestinian tragedy looks like from Europe, and what  the people that watching it on TV channels are feeling. I guess that seeing it from a Middle Eastern perspective, being based here in the Arab Region, should be something really different, even if you still have to watch it through the mediation of the TV screens..