As Americans went about their daily lives through the 1990s, few imagined what Iraqi men and women faced under the brutal sanctions declared by the UN and strictly enforced by the United States. It lasted 13 years. 

Barbara Nimri Aziz, a frequent visitor to Iraq through that period, saw first-hand what life was like for Iraqis completely cut off and shunned by the world.

Swimming up The Tigris reveals the power of Aziz’s combined skills in journalism and anthropology. Through her first-hand accounts, ordinary Iraqis speak directly to us. We learn of the breakdown of Iraq’s fine administrative and educational institutions, of needless deaths resulting from the embargo-ravaged once exemplary healthcare system, of the brain drain of its highly skilled professional class. We hear of deprivations, aerial bombardments, and local efforts to fight the wide-ranging embargo with no outside help whatsoever.

Drawing on intimate sources inside Iraq, the author reveals disparities between news reports of unfolding events and what Iraqi men and women were actually experiencing in the months preceding the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

By revisiting this critical period, Aziz sheds light on illegal, cruel tactics used by the United States to destroy Iraq through sanctions well before the WMD ruse for all out occupation. This book offers an essential context for others to appreciate early opposition to U.S. policies, to understand embargo as the ‘real’ weapon of mass destruction, the rise of ISIS, and the disastrous American occupation of the nation.

Photos

Excerpts

Chapter 4: ” Mehdi—Iraqi Foreign Service Officer

January 17, 1991, 7:00 pm, New York time: the American led assault began. 

In their office Iraqi embassy at the U. N. Mission staff huddled together, smoking nervously, tapping their feet on the parquet floor, while they stared at the television, stunned and helpless as their nation was being bombarded. The most painful sigHt for Mehdi was the collapse of brides over this land’s great ricers. He stared at replays of the bombing of Jisr Muallaq…. Nasiriya Bridge was in tatters too. After a few days, his wife Suha was able to phone from Baghdad: “Keep the boys with you as long as you can”.

Mehdi’s boys survived the animosity of classmates and the setbacks to their household budget. Khalid, seventeen and Mahmoud, twelve, were sophisticated lads, modest and thoroughly trained in diplomatic protocol. They concentrated on their schoolwork and stayed close to home. “people will try to provide you. Be prepared. Be polite. Walk away. Keep your passport with you and don’t volunteer any information about yourself,” Mehdi cautioned them.

Even when Khalid was apprehended and held in the NY police jail for a night, his father was sympathetic. The problem had erupted on a quiet summer night when Khalid was having a soda with boys from his building at a nearby corner store….

Chapter 15: “HIM”

Iraq is not a large country. Yet within three generations it became highly modernized with a skilled, educated and forward thinking middle class. I met so many defined people in Iraq who cared about their country, who worked tirelessly to raise their children and to hold on to their dignity. Iraqis proved to be perceptive, ready and capable. They had much to contribute to the development of a strong civil society.

Seeing this professionalism and noting the basic goodness of the majority, one could not help asking: “Did no one listen? The reply was swift and unequivocal. “No did didn’t listen; he just did not listen to anyone.”

How could that be? He held council; he invited delegations; he made himself accessible to a wide representation of citizens; he took pride in reaching out to the common man and woman.

“He only seemed to listen,” declared Iman despondently. Iman is one of those ordinary Iraqis who met the president face to face and spoke with the leader privately. 

Iman was a dedicated Iraqi nationalist, although not a Bath Party member. She was convinced that Iraq could achieve much, much more. She used opportunities with her president to speak candidly about some of Iraq’s domestic problems. “He paid close attention to what I said. But he didn’t listen…to anyone.

Reviews

In my opinion, [Swimming Up The Tigris] is the single most informative book, article, or report I have ever read about Iraq. It is gripping, depressing, anger-provoking… a roller-coaster ride of emotions which, in the end, left me feeling embarrassed to be an American.

Aziz does away with the mind-numbing and confusing statistics that form the core of nearly every other writer’s work on recent Iraqi history. She doesn’t count the bodies; she doesn’t dissect the Iraqi society by religion or clan as many self-styled Mideast “experts” do. What she does is provide a sweeping portrait of Iraqi society from the late 80’s to 2003 through the eyes, ears, and voices of Iraqis who lived through these turbulent times. She lets the Iraqis—farmers, diplomats, mothers, students, military, etc—tell it like it was and is. She presents a devastating portrait of what it is actually like to live in a state of war in an internationally isolated country under relentless attack.

J.P. Marra

 If you believe, as I do, that the war against Iraq is one of the most important issues facing people in the US and world-wide, then you must read this book.

Independent journalist Barbara Nimri Aziz traveled throughout Iraq, beginning in 1989 in the days after the end of the Iran/Iraq war and up until the most recent disastrous invasion and brutal occupation. Her quest as an anthropologist was to document Iraqi society. She became a reluctant war correspondent.

This book documents the terrible years of grinding deprivation that was Iraq under the deadly US/UN sanctions. Why look at that period? Because everything that is happening today is rooted in the merciless sanctions period where more than 1.5 million people perished unnecessarily.

Every family in Iraq was touched. Everybody there would never be the same. Aziz writes brilliantly and compassionately about the people of Iraq, the ones we never hear from. The ones whose destiny is tied up with ours so completely.

Deirdre S.

Barbara Aziz’s recent book Swimming Up the Tigris is an important addition to the scholarly analysis of the Iraq War, its origins, conduct, and uncertain aftermath. Most Americans assume that the days of colonialism are over, leading them to overlook the quite traditional colonial basis for the invasion of Iraq, to secure its natural resources and control its almost limitless commercial potential.

Barbara Aziz’s exhaustive research and in-depth interviews with Iraqi people break through the clichés and illusions common to the mass media. Her warmth and compassion bring us face-to-face with the reality of modern warfare and the inevitable price paid by ordinary people in Iraq and other trouble spots around the world. Great powers may continue to intrude on vulnerable nations like Iraq, but the work of journalists like Barbara Aziz will make it difficult for them to win the hearts and minds of the world community. In the absence of popular support, aggression is unlikely to prevail.

Karen F.

The writer William Gass once described a book as “so good you don’t judge it, it judges you.” Swimming Up The Tigris by Barbara Nimri Aziz is that kind of book. Like most other writers on the Middle East I have focused so intently on America’s two military invasions of Iraq that I misjudged the near-fatal impact of the economic sanctions on the Iraqi people.

Aziz resembles the Nobel Prize winning novelist Toni Morrison in her refusal to accept the obvious answer to any question. (Has anyone but Aziz argued that the sanctions and embargoes hurt Iraq more than the bombs?) Another thing Aziz has in common with the magnificent Ms. Morrison is her uncanny ability to find the truth in terms of what is not there. Example: One of the most beautiful and harrowing chapters in the book is Aziz’s observation that the defining characteristic of Iraq’s playgrounds is the absence of children. (Just silence.)

Swimming Up The Tigris is required reading if we want to avoid the same mistakes with Iran we made with Iraq.

Ron David

As a social anthropologist, Barbara Nimri Aziz does not write a political diatribe. A keen observer of human societies, she examines, for example, how important education is to Iraqis, what role women play in Iraqi society, what kind of medical system is available to Iraqi citizens, how Iraqis coped with twelve years of devastating sanctions, how they are affected by the American occupation of Iraq.

Included in her role as social anthropologist is not just observation but participation. With a gift for friendship and an ear for story, Aziz empathetically introduces her readers to individual Iraqis whose afterimages have “staying power.” For those of us who have not traveled to Iraq, Aziz succeeds in giving her readers the haunting vicarious experience of having seen the tragic destruction of this ancient society as if with their own eyes.

Suzy Kane

Selected Articles

A 1966 Tibetan Class Photo Lands in a 2021 Film with Bishop Desmond Tutu and Friend

A 1966 Tibetan Class Photo Lands in a 2021 Film with Bishop Desmond Tutu and Friend

by BNimri Aziz Tibetan School, Class 4. India, 1966 By chance I picked a copy of A Fearless Heart while browsing at my local library. It’s a memoir that also explains the teaching of mindfulness for which its author, Thupten Jinpa, had become well known. I didn’t recognize the writer’s name. Nor was I particularly interested in mindfulness training. Yet my attraction to the book cover couldn’t have been entirely chance. As an anthropologist I spent many years of my life engaged in the field of Tibetan Studies and I’d written a great deal about Tibetan history and culture. That bond began long before I completed my PhD at the University of London. It started in 1964 when I joined the British Save The Children Fund project in Simla, India, helping to establish a new school for Tibetan refugees where many families settled after their escape from Tibet in 1962. In the opening pages of Jinpa’s memoir, he notes that he’d been a pupil at this school when the Dalai Lama visited. I remembered that I myself was a member of the teaching staff who, along with the children, had…

Bang, Bang, Bang– Terrifying Here; Heroic over There. More Weapons for Ukraine vs Rising Shootings in the US

Bang, Bang, Bang– Terrifying Here; Heroic over There. More Weapons for Ukraine vs Rising Shootings in the US

by B Nimri Aziz, April 12, 2022 [Member of the New York City Police Department Emergency Service Unit conducting high visibility terrorism deterrent operations near the subway entrance in Midtown Manhattan.Heavily armed with carbine rifles and ballistic vests. The Hercules Operations has been around ever since 9/11, the Police Department hope to use the “big guns” to deliver shock and awe.          New Yorkers and many Americans across the country are staggered by last week’s subway shootings. It’s like a film, or a news item from the new European ‘theater of war’.          Am I alone in seeing the connection between the urging of Americans for more weapons for fighters in Ukraine, an unprecedented budget for the Pentagon, along with gun violence in U.S. neighborhoods and funding for still more police?          Daily, the U.S. president is promising more killing devices for Ukraine to confront (our) Russian attackers. There seems to be no limit. And no interest in a diplomatic solution either. Foreign fighters are encouraged to join the Ukraine side, doubtless to train under ‘advisors’ sent by NATO, the Pentagon and related U.S. agencies. We hear daily calls from…

Could Nepal Become a Player in a Future US-China Crisis?

Feb 23, 2022 by B Nimri Aziz The Hopeful Logo for a Controversial US-Nepal Project The formidable peaks stretching across the north of Nepal (or Tibet in the south of China depending on your perspective) have up to now provided sufficient deterrence to military confrontation. With new technology that can easily surpass geographic barriers and with the growing threat of China beyond India to include the USA, the Himalayas hold new strategic interest for Washington. This raises concerns about the proposed American Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) project for northwest Nepal: is it really about economic development? The question is dividing Nepali parties, commentators and citizens like nothing else has in recent years. Anticipating a controversial vote in Nepal’s parliament, party leaders are scurrying to solidify a coalition to approve the American plan. It’s fiercely debated in the press and by an aggressive display of opposition in the street. On the surface MCC looks like a blockbuster gift to a land traditionally perceived as desperate for aid and with primitive infrastructure. The MCC project is an American scheme offering $500 million in aid to construct roads and expand the nation’s electricity…

There Was a Young Man from Dara’a (Syria, 2011- ?)

There Was a Young Man from Dara’a (Syria, 2011- ?)

Damascus parks and streets became filled with patriotic posters following the outbreak of the conflict, 2011, Damas Feb, 4, 2022. by B Nimri Aziz Dara’a, Syria was the hometown of Khalid. In the years leading up to 2011, he lived between there and Damascus. He was in his 3rd year studying sociology at Damascus University. He shared a sparely furnished apartment in a working-class neighborhood of the capital with fellow Dara’a students. And all boasted that Dara’a natives were the most diligent and intelligent of all Syrians, naming professors, military officers and other successful Dara’a-born Syrians. Khalid promised me a tour of his city. And we eventually went there together, but only after the uprising had begun, his beloved birthplace transformed into a garrisoned city with checkpoints along now subdued streets. Dara’a would fall into rebel hands but was recently liberated by government forces. (Although Khalid himself would not witness any of those battles.) Neither Dara’a city nor its countryside included Syria’s notable archeological sites or charming parks where families enjoy Friday outings. In 2011 because of its proximity to the Jordanian border, Dhara’a became a point for the infiltration…

Martin Luther King Jr: Encountered in Algeria, 2008

Martin Luther King Jr: Encountered in Algeria, 2008

January 17, 2022 Martin Luther King Day, USA. By BNimri Azi “Mahteen”, she said, meeting my eyes for the first time while she attended to the papers that I’d set on her desk. I was in Oran, Algeria, being assisted by a clerk in a neighborhood office where I’d come to pay my electricity bill. On a 2008 visiting professorship in this unattractive but popular seaside city, having rented my own apartment, I had to deal with utility issues myself. My lodging was on Rue d’Hasan ……(a name I’ve since forgotten). But it was one of Algeria’s tens of thousands of streets, buildings and squares named for martyrs of its painful and costly, never-forgotten and never-recovered-from 1954-1962 war of independence. I’d placed my daybook on the desk between us as I offered my ID  to the woman. Until that remark—the whispered single word, “mahteen”– she hadn’t spoken to me. Like any underpaid government employee we might encounter, this lady appeared indifferent to my presence. I had waited in that gloomy place for an hour already and was not in a cheerful mood myself. She made no eye contact with me…

Etel Adnan, Esteemed Poet and Artist might well inquire about her missing Arab companions, as the outstanding New York exhibition of her art draws to a close

Etel Adnan, Esteemed Poet and Artist might well inquire about her missing Arab companions, as the outstanding New York exhibition of her art draws to a close

Etel Adnan, 1950s, as student in France Jan 8/2022 by B Nimri Aziz There are perhaps five million Arabs who identify as Americans, our earliest ancestors having arrived here almost two centuries ago. Many more Arab migrants reside in Canada, throughout South America and across the Caribbean Islands. Etel Adnan, whose work is being celebrated in an exhibition at New York’s Guggenheim Museum, was Arab American. Although she lived in Paris for the past three decades, before that Adnan lived in Sausalito, California. I am an Arab American; so are Ralph Nader, Leila Ahmed, Rashida Tlaib and Naomi Shihab Nye. You’ll find us engaged in all fields—education, industry, medicine, journalism, community service, sports, politics and the arts– and practicing many faiths. I offer this as context for the splendid exhibition featuring Etel Adnan at New York City’s prestigious showplace, The Guggenheim. Although contrary to what some claim, recognition of her talent did not arrive late in Adnan’s life. For years, her work has been widely exhibited and celebrated in Europe. Moreover, while she surpassed any specific religious identity, Adnan was an unequivocally proud Arab woman. The Guggenheim show, now in…

Vicissitudes of Syria War Reporting

Vicissitudes of Syria War Reporting

by Barbara Nimri Aziz. December 7, 2021 Syria military map Jan. 2017 from U. Texas, T. VanLinge (unverified) It’s long past time for a reckoning by Washington on its disastrous  policy in Syria. Instead of addressing the scope and venality of American efforts to crush the nation, rather than assessing new diplomatic moves towards Damascus by regional leaders, what did the New York Times, the paper that so shrewdly shapes the perception (and perhaps the direction) of America’s wars, choose to feature as a scoop on Syria? A single 2019 bombing of civilians by U.S. attack jets and the subsequent Pentagon coverup.We’ve seen a decade of destruction, the eruption of hatred among neighbors, unspeakable violence attributed by western media sources solely to the Syrian government. In fact, much of the devastation and division was inspired and aided militarily through the U.S.’s anti-Assad policy. This included alliances with terrorist rebels to foster sectarian conflict and create government-free zones, a media campaign demonizing Syria, wide-ranging sanctions and diplomatic isolation. Hundreds of thousands of families have fled their homeland generating migrant crises in Europe. The conflict has bled Syria of its youth and…

Morality Plays: Entertainers Draw the Line

Morality Plays: Entertainers Draw the Line

Comedian Dave Chappelle: from Chappelle’s Show By B Nimri Aziz Have you noticed: moral issues are no longer the domain of clerics and philosophers? Not politicians either. Our ethics, however capricious they’ve become, evolve largely from the mega entertainment industry. Authors and athletes, singers and poet-rappers, television hosts and comedians, even though they sometimes do so unwittingly, guide our choices, consequently our values as well. Today’s A-list stars —oh, how we adore them– they’re who pronounce what’s good and right, bad and wrong. At least we endow them with that power. Even when they don’t intend their statements to be a moral judgement, even after they’ve moved beyond whatever they’re charged with. Columnist Paul Street, addressing the weakening role of journalism, hints at the moral implications of that slide: “In the name of political neutrality”, he writes, “‘the news’ often produces moral (my emphasis) and intellectual paralysis in its consumers…”. I agree that morality can be allied with reason; but not always. So, what do we do in the vacuum created by this paralysis? Well, it’s readily at hand: we simply scroll down the website, click to alternate channels, slide…

How a Ballsy Senator Stole a President’s Gummy Candy

How a Ballsy Senator Stole a President’s Gummy Candy

V-P Kamala Harris: Waiting in the Wing www.counterpunch.org/2021/10/26/how-one-ballsy-senator-stole-a-presidents-gummy-candy/ By Barbara Nimri Aziz October 26, 2021 Where’s Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote power? Celebrated as the first U.S. woman vice president, Harris would also head the U.S. Senate, Congress’s more powerful wing. Endowed with casting a critical senate vote, Harris was thereby placed to push through the democratic agenda promised with the Party’s victory last November. It wouldn’t matter if all 50 senate Republicans were opposed to a Democrat-sponsored bill. She would ensure its passage. Humane, racially equitable, climate-transformative, gender-balancing, socially-aware, justice-promoting, anti-war Democratic policies:–all would pass into law. Voting rights legislation would sail through too.  What have we instead? Joe Manchin of Virginia, a once-little-known Democratic senator essentially holding the Democratic Party hostage. He is also rejecting the purported will – not to forget the needs– of 80% of Americans who approve of the most progressive, far-reaching program drawn up by legislators in two generations. Manchin is as pig-headed, as resolute, as overconfident as any Republican. And he’s usurped Harris’s role as the clinching vote. (His party can’t handle him or his cohort Kyrsten Sinema.) The Congressional Progressive Caucus’s 100 house…

Yesterday, September 12, 2001, Revisited

Yesterday, September 12, 2001, Revisited

September 11, 2021, By B Nimri Aziz Again, I’m turning off all media and staying home. I have my own memories, and my own intelligence– not just of that day, but the manic weeks and decades that followed.        Chants for war and revenge mounted; attacks against Arabs and South Asians across Canada and the U.S. intensified; FBI agents knocked on our doors, took away our men; the media fell silent while unrestrained detentions and deportations continued; traumatized families cowed behind shuttered windows; children feared assaults in school; our men put on shirts declaring love for America. We had no spokespeople. Anyone begging caution was dismissed, labeled unpatriotic.        We’ve learned a lot over these decades. Less fearful, we speak for ourselves (at least some of us): we confront prejudice; we write and produce films; many of us are now dedicated civil rights lawyers and discerning journalists.        With this week’s glorified 9/11 celebrations, along with fresh fears in the fallout of the U.S. defeat in Afghanistan, I wonder if our troubles are behind us.        Here, I again share what I wrote two decades ago. bna “Yesterday”   Yesterday…

Tunisian Films–New and Noteworthy

Tunisian Films–New and Noteworthy

September 2, 2021 by Barbara Nimri Aziz “A Son” and “She Had a Dream”, both from Tunisia, are distributed in the U.S. this fall through Art Mattan’s African Diaspora International Film Festivals.    Sami Bouajila and Najla Ben Abdallah, from “A Son” The compelling plot of “A Son” opens with the Ben Youssef family picnicking among friends in the Tunisian countryside. Meriem (Najla Ben Abdallah) is an outgoing professional woman, who with Fares (Sami Bouajila), an adoring husband, and their son Aziz, carouses happily on their homeward drive to Tataouine city. An innocuous road sign indicating the highway towards Libya, seems irrelevant to this happy trio. In fact, it signals trouble ahead. Indeed, they suddenly encounter a skirmish between bandits and a police patrol on the road. They escape but not before a stray bullet hits 11-year-old Aziz. Their joyful afternoon abruptly ends, sending Meriem’s marriage into a downward spin. Although the child is alive, the family learns that his liver is damaged and he cannot survive without a transplant. The search for an organ donor consumes the distressed couple (and the remainder of the film) when their blood tests…

What About the Women? America’s Afghan Guilt

What About the Women? America’s Afghan Guilt

from Workers World, Aug 20, 2021 review (see link below) August 22, 2021 by BNimri Aziz America’s rotting two decades of war and occupation in Afghanistan is oozing an awful stench from its bloated corpse, with the entire world an involuntary witness. Quite a spectacle confronts us:–caches of arms and vehicles in the hands of burley, grim-faced victors; embassy staff hastily destroying ‘stuff’; a puppet president escaping, reportedly with hordes of cash; tens of thousands pleading for refuge; women disappearing behind barred doors; allies condemning the U.S.’s unilateral retreat; emergency troops arriving to secure Kabul airport while personnel, and more stuff are airlifted away. Fears grow of how the Taliban might rule; Islamic warrior excesses from the past are recalled; rumors filter in about Taliban’s brutal takeover of outlying regions. Terror directed at minorities and woman is anticipated; assurances of mercy are disbelieved; fanatic pronouncements are expected. American leaders claim surprise but accept no blame. Journalists are preoccupied with the drama of the mighty retreat. Few try to explain the origin and vicissitudes of this two-decade mess. News commentators turn to speculating what’s in store for those left behind —they…

When Will They Lift the Blockade? Iraq and Cuba

When Will They Lift the Blockade? Iraq and Cuba

August 3, 2021 by BNimri Aziz “When will they lift the blockade?” A polite smile did not hide her deep anxiety. She wasn’t Venezuelan, not Iranian, not Syrian, nor a citizen of other nations struggling under U.S.-imposed sanctions. I had just reached Baghdad on one of my missions there during the 1990s. How that question haunted me. I grew to anticipate it on each encounter inside Iraq during successive visits to cover 13 grim years of embargo. Gracious welcomes turned solemn as my hosts raised concerns about the siege. A perfectly reasonable question: Iraqis knew that U.N. Resolution 661, imposed October 1990, was an American- orchestrated war policy. As I’d arrived from the U.S. those greeting me hoped I might have some revelation to share. “Hard to say” became my recurring, desolate reply. Relief looked more doubtful after April 1991 when U.N. Resolution 687 linking any respite to satisfactory removal of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ expanded the already exhaustive 661 sanctions regimen. Even as Iraq agreed to intrusive inspections– no nuclear arsenal was ever unearthed– suffering deepened, the death toll rose, deprivations mounted. Year after year, I could offer little…

Syria Shows Its Mettle– Olympians Ghada Shouaa to Hend Zaza

Syria Shows Its Mettle– Olympians Ghada Shouaa to Hend Zaza

Syria’s Ghada Shouaa celebrates her gold victory in the women’s heptathlon at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta by B. Nimri Aziz July 29/2021 Congratulations to Syrian table tennis Olympian Hend Zaza. Most press attention to Zaza’s Tokyo presence is her age. Not only has she won qualifying competitions essential for entry into the Olympic rank. At 12, she’s the youngest performer in this year’s games. Perhaps African Americans—although enduring harsh and humiliating Jim Crow racist-conditions across the USA–when watching their champion athletes excel, experience what Syrians feel today when their achievements are globally recognized. News of this promising and ardent Syrian, Hend Zaza —an Arab woman too, let’s not forget— invites a dialogue on related issues: first, the pride that this athlete bestows on all Syrians, also on Arab women worldwide; second, her place as successor to the overlooked Ghada Shouaa, Syria’s Olympic gold medalist; third, her outstanding accomplishment in a land smitten by ongoing deprivations of war and sanctions (see below). Beyond the joy Ms. Zaza will doubtless bring to her family and her coach is national pride for Syrians everywhere, but especially vital in the homeland. Given how…

Activist Oprah Winfrey vs Professor Noam Chomsky

Activist Oprah Winfrey vs Professor Noam Chomsky

July 16, 2021 by BNimri Aziz Author and activist Maya Angelou with Oprah Winfrey early in their long friendship Oprah vs Noam Chomsky. Isn’t there room for both in progressive American culture? The idea of celebrities being involved in social issues was once met with mockery. Oprah and Kaepernick changed that. So did SLN and Chomsky. Who prevails as the most effective changemaker remains to be seen. Arguably, in America, most progressive paths—highways, suburban streets, lanes– over the past two generations lead back to (or through) Oprah Winfrey. So why do liberal media bypass her? Are sociologists and progressive journalists waiting for her passing to acknowledge Oprah’s unmatched, still evolving, role as a catalyst for change? Not erudite enough for highbrow ‘alternative’ media? Too ho-hum-midday-mainstream for smart American college elites who believe that nighttime analyses offer the real fix for America’s troubles?   (Put aside international policies where, to start, both our elites and masses support any US military action to guarantee global stability.) On domestic affairs Oprah has a worthy place. Regrettably, except for climate change added to our woes, we debate the same stubbornly persistent issues: health, gender equity,…

Durga Devi Ghimire: A Legacy for Women’s Rights Advocates

Durga Devi Ghimire: A Legacy for Women’s Rights Advocates

Arun River and Manakamana Hermitage for Women: secured and build by Durga Devi ~ 1960. Photo 1982 July 5/21 by BNimri Aziz.     Being a widow presents difficulties for many young women in South Asia. This includes Nepal where Durga Devi Karki, the woman I want to tell you about, achieved remarkable legal victories as a widow. She did this early in the last century, and essentially on her own. Widowhood in youth is especially onerous. It’s a harsh life sentence for girls of high caste Hindu families who find themselves widows even before they cohabit with their betrothed. Forbidden to remarry, they remain childless and dependent on others’ forbearance.  Although that custom is now illegal, widows, young or old and without sons, often experience undue hardship. Any woman seeking a just alternative for herself would have to be skillful and resolute, also prepared for a protracted fight. Enter Durga Devi.          Born in 1918 in a remote Himalayan village, Durga Devi’s unyielding pursuit of justice evolved into a combative and colorful career. To the people whom she aided, she was “Vijayi (victorious) Devi”; many more would remember her as…

Smashed Houses, Crushed Orchards: A Trail of Unrestrained Malice

Smashed Houses, Crushed Orchards: A Trail of Unrestrained Malice

by Barbara Nimri Aziz June 16, 2021 Christian Science Monitor Illustration accompanying my 1996 article, below Residents of Sheikh Jarrah’s resistance to eviction by Israeli Jews evolved into a military confrontation so lopsided, the Israeli bombardments against Gaza so terrifying, it drew widespread condemnation (the US government excepted). The Palestinian dead, injured and homeless are still being tabulated, while eviction processes of Sheikh Jarrah’s Arab inhabitants continue, even as we learn of similar forced displacement of Arabs in nearby Silwan.  Another Israeli scheme to dislodge Palestinians is home demolition—they number in the many thousands and continue (in Bustan, Silwan) even as I write. For a glimpse of these all-too-routine violations, I append my newly-digitized April 5, 1996 Christian Science Monitor article based on what I witnessed — I likened it to a lynching – when on assignment in the West Bank 25 years ago. “It’s quite a spectacle, a Palestinian home being blown apart. Furniture, dishes and clothes, hastily removed, are deposited helter-skelter in the path or road. Villagers stand by, silent and grim . Heavily armed soldiers are massed to prevent any disruption. Confused, awed children turn sullen.            …

Rebel Women: Past, Present, and Future

Rebel Women: Past, Present, and Future

by Barbara Nimri Aziz, June 8, 2021 Naomi Osaka initially garnered global acclaim as a tennis champion. Today she is a rebel. Thank you, Naomi. Seeing how she defied the norm regarding participation in press conferences, the public gained a strikingly different perception of Ms. Osaka. Ultimately this athlete’s dissidence may be her most remembered and influential victory. Riotous, rebellious, defiant; warriors, insurgents, dissidents, sirens, pioneers, innovators:– women and girls who simply will not accept the norms set for them are growing in number, historically and currently (thanks to awakened, skillful researchers). “I expect something else (other than what you defined for me)”, girls insist. When we realize our dreams for ourselves, inevitably we widen paths for others. We redefine standards, as Osaka’s refusal is surely doing. Let’s also redefine these women as ‘rebels’ since this word symbolizes the insight, the fight and the burden that change calls for.  Rebel girls were once wearisome, impractical or suspect annoyances. In recent years they became reimagined and popularized as heroes. In the West, this transformation could be traced to its modern feminist movement. In 2016 a dynamic perception of ‘rebel’ was introduced…

Palestinian Prisoners– an ongoing struggle for justice

Palestinian Prisoners– an ongoing struggle for justice

Today 04.27.2021, Human Rights Watch published a report on the crimes of apartheid committed against Palestinians. Probably no area of the world has changed as much as Arab lands of the Levant—Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, and Jordan. From the late 80s through the 90s, I was a correspondent there, documenting the tumultuous, insecure lives of their citizens. Given the transformations since– the lost struggles, and the ongoing pursuit of justice–I am reprinting some of my articles for you. The first is my 1994 report on Palestinian prisoners; it reminds us of the vicissitudes of an ongoing struggle with thousands languishing in jail, lost land and homes, daily indignities.  (The above image, by CSM artist, accompanied my article.) Keeping Palestinian Prisoners in View. Originally published Feb 2, 1994  in The Christian Science Monitor. By Barbara Nimri Aziz Palestinians in the Occupied Territories have yet to hear the news that most concerns them: the release of all their sons and brothers from Israeli prisons. When the Palestine Liberation Organization signed the accord with Israeli in September, virtually every Palestinian family expected that freeing political prisoners would be among the first steps Israel…

A discussion about her life and work: Nawal el-Saadawi, the daring legacy of Arab author, activist and radical feminist

A discussion about her life and work: Nawal el-Saadawi, the daring legacy of Arab author, activist and radical feminist

03/24/21 sponsored by Muslimish-USA, with speakers Ginan Rauf, BN Aziz, Zeinab Assaf Lecanu and Wafa Bakri. Hosted by Wissam Charafeddine. Nawal El-Saadawi’s recent passing became an occasion for many people familiar with her work to speak about her legacy. Amon the tributes were video gatherings like this one arranged by Wissam Charafeddine. Dr. Ginan Rauf focused on el-Saadawi’s feminist heroine Ferous, the character in her early novel “Woman at Point Zero” which remains one of her most powerful presentations that challenges all our assumptions about heroic women in society, Arab or other. Aziz recalls her personal encounters with e-Saadawi in Egypt and in the US, pointing to the collaboration between the physician-writer and her husband and translator Sherif Hetata. Zeinab Lecanu and Wafa Bakri take a more academic approach to el-Saadawi’s contribution to feminist thinking Viewers may also pursue discussions of el-Saadawi in the March 28 tribute organized by Prof. Fawzia Afzal-Khan attached to this Counterpunch article: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbnsrnf0vcU

Nawal El-Saadawi: (1931-2021) radical feminist, writer, critic

Nawal El-Saadawi: (1931-2021) radical feminist, writer, critic

El-Saadawi (r) with her husband, novelist Sherif Hetata, 1990 by BN Aziz March 24, 2021. Counterpunch.org I often quote one simple statement by Nawal El-Saadawi– a bold and brilliant retort to a question put to her by an NPR radio host many years ago. A lesson for me, but for many others too. I was accompanying the Egyptian writer to the Manhattan studio of the national radio network, and sat behind her in the glass-walled booth as the interview got underway. It was the early 1990s when the Western public was newly aware of Muslim people—as individual women and men. The interviewer (a well-known radio personality) actually began with a question other guests might stumble over, be outraged by, or possibly be moved to cancel the discussion altogether. “Are you a good Muslim?”, asked the host. Nawal’s reply? Cool and succinct, but not unkind– as was her habit: “That’s between God and me.” This retort made an enormous impression on me personally, but also informed my understanding of media’s subtle ways of controlling dialogue. El-Saadawi’s handling of that question later inspired my widely circulated article Is She Muslim?. Today, as…

Kuragraphy director Kishor Subba Limbu interviews BNA

Kuragraphy director Kishor Subba Limbu interviews BNA

Lisbon-based Nepali anthropology scholar from Sankhuwasabha and Barbara Nimri Aziz talk about her early work in Nepal and her latest book Yogmaya & Durga Devi. March 21, 2021. Check out KS Limbu’s blog posts where you’ll find many excellent interviews https://youtu.be/9IUhgT6eVW4

Iraq_UnIraq in The American Imagination Today

Iraq_UnIraq in The American Imagination Today

by BNimri Aziz March 9, 2021 Counterpunch.org Should we thank Pope Frances’s invitation to the world to stare into the maw of the Iraqi landscape? Whatever image the holy man conjures with his blessings, it can hardly be more than a fleeting one. What remains, what might endure, what might rise and be restored–is unspeakable for Americans. A blast of yellow dust obscures the present, replaced by a soft image of robed clerics wandering through ancient Mesopotamia. 2019 Caricature by Burhan Al-Mufti Among old timers familiar with Middle East archeology, Iraq was simple– an exotic Mesopotamian desert. It yielded scientific discoveries and allowed the removal of unparalleled creations to distant museums; it inspired novels by Agatha Christie. Oil, a collateral benefit of intellectual explorations, emerged from Mesopotamia.  Today, that place has neither oil nor people…to speak of. It’s reverted to an unthreatening, legendary land: a page in American school texts, a museum lecture. Those lessons, stripped of inhabitants, are illustrated mythical beasts and ancient minarets, brick walls cemented with 4000-year-old bitumen mortar. If that ancient place produced the world’s earliest known written novel, the first inscribed legal code, those items…

Read ‘Hamlet’ in Nepali; enjoy Nepali poetry in English

Read ‘Hamlet’ in Nepali; enjoy Nepali poetry in English

March 4, 2021 B Nimri Aziz Before trekking through open Himalayan valleys, tourists might stroll along Thamel, Kathmandu’s congested quarter of hiker hostels, bakeries and cafes. They’d pass a landscape studded with bookstores, and perhaps pause to flip through glossy picture books and Tibet-wisdom manuals, lingering to inspect storybooks or development reports stacked on higher shelves. On exiting, they’ll pass a rack of 3 or 4 English language dailies. Only visitors really curious about the how the nation’s citizens think and feel might search out a volume of poetry or a novel by a local writer. If so, they’ll find a surprising number of Nepalis choosing to pen their experiences, their struggles and their dreams in English.   ‘Palpasa Cafe’ by N Wangle Nepali prose and poetry in English is of course far less than exists in Nepali language which on its part has grown enormously in recent years. But there’s a correlation between literature in the two languages going back to Nepal’s most widely read and revered poet, Laxmi Prasad Devkota (1909-1959). Although Devkota did not live beyond 50, he penned no fewer than 24 volumes of essays and…

The Nepal Streets Today

The Nepal Streets Today

by B Nimri Aziz, Feb 17, 2021 Counterpunch.org Boisterous, almost frivolous rallies and counter-demonstrations representing Nepal’s numerous political factions have become commonplace across the country for 2 months now. They continue with neither a clear aim nor signs of a resolution. Last Friday, partisan rallies were eclipsed by more earnest protests from another quarter. These were women-led marches over negligence, insults and threats to their personal and legal status. Whatever gains her women made in framing Nepal’s 2015 democratic constitution, whatever pressure they exert on authorities to solve the murder of girls and members of marginal castes, however many women fill posts in the party and government, despite having a female president—Nepal’s women find that in the end, they have to pour into the streets to cry for equity and justice. Feb 12, 2021 Darbar Women’s March February’s 12th sizable, well-organized Darbar Women’s March was precipitated by a Department of Immigration proposal that would  restrict women under 40 traveling outside the country. Perhaps intended as a measure to protect migrant women workers from exploitation by foreign bosses, in the absence of government reforms to prosecute domestic abusers and address joblessness…

Ode to February

Ode to February

by BNimri Aziz Feb. 11, 2021 counterpunch.org It must have been a winter resident of upstate New York who set  Valentine’s Day in mid-February. Because this is our time of year when we really need a lover to wrap around our arms and legs, snuggling up, nibbling chocolates, blossoms on bedside table. Notwithstanding this conditional single day, February is a downer. Can’t blame it on Covid; February is always a nothing-28 days, so arrogant it demands we endure it for an additional 24 hours every four years. I’m speaking not politically, not ecologically but weather-wise. Weather is what demands almost all my energy after two months asserting itself indoors and outside. February is an utter vacuum that sucks up everything delightful about winter and obliterates any hint of sweet fragrances that might follow. I glare at spindly, brown branches crowding the hillsides daring them to sprout a single leaf again.          I admit, January’s winter can be pretty. Soothingly silent too; nothing matches moonlight on glistening snow. We’ve had glorious sunny mornings when we’re deceived that the entire world is at peace, blanketed in gentle fluff. Almost daily, a bald…

Power Games in and out of Town

by BN Aziz Feb 2, 2021 “Stop Mitch McConnell!” screams yet another message to my inbox. Wait a minute; I understood that the power Mitch McConnell  wielded over the Senate (and the nation), thwarting all attempts at progressive reform and adequate Covid relief, ended two weeks ago. Where are Georgia’s Democratic victories that leveled the playing field? That 50-50 party share in Congress’ powerful upper house would endow VP Kamala Harris with decisive power; wouldn’t it? The hard campaigning that wrenched away two seats from senate Republicans ended McConnell’s rule; didn’t it? Democratic senator Charles Schumer, the putative replacement of McConnell as Senate leader, has leapt into prominence in recent weeks. But this Jan 21st article in The Hill affirming Schumer’s status nevertheless suggests that it’s kind of unclear how much control he and 49 Democratic senators will have. Can Schumer hold sway over the Senate? Can he prevail over his predecessor?          The two men have to work together to allocate the powerful senate committee chairmanships, to decide on the filibuster, and how much of Biden’s $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” are acceptable. Then there’s the Senate trial over…

Made in Bangladesh

Film Review by Barbara Nimri Aziz Sept, 1, 2020 Counterpunch.org If you’re gathering evidence of the victimization of Muslim women, this is not your film. Yes, Made in Bangladesh highlights exploitation in a country, most of whose citizens are Muslim. But this film’s focus is women workers: people working to support their families, as most women do, and fighting for parity, as most of us do.             Some film reviews underscore the 2013 collapse of a garment factory in Dhaka where many women perished. Made in Bangladesh is not an account of that catastrophe.             While the venue of this film is a clothing factory and the main characters are women laborers, its inspiration is union organizer Daliya Akter who, fleeing her village home, found work in a Dhaka garment factory, one probably not unlike the setting of this film. She eventually realized that the only way out of untenable working conditions she experienced was to build worker solidarity and gain legal protection, and so began organizing a union of fellow garment workers. Made in Bangladesh is based on her struggle and ultimate success, a story so compelling that film…

The Moor’s Account–Book Review

by Barbara Nimri Aziz, Dec, 2015 Counterpunch.org Stories wrapped in stories generate yet another story. Interwoven, layered tales are a feature of Arabic culture, epitomized in the extraordinary Persian story collection 1001 Nights from which it draws. So beguiling and versatile is the tradition, it’s inspired both ancient and contemporary literary endeavors. Salman Rushdie applies the eponym to his latest novel (Two Years Eight Months and Twenty Eight (1001) Nights). Of course the format is effectively employed in films too. Laila Lalami has produced a marvelous new novel drawing on this, her own Arab storytelling heritage, and advancing the reputation she established in her first two novels, with a tale whose pages I’ve pursued with anticipation: The Moor’s Account. Lalami, already an established interpreter of the entangling of dissimilar worlds—North African and American– offers us an unparalleled interpretation of 16th century encounters between African Muslims and Native Americans. Within a single narrative Lalami’s Moor exposes us in a way we’ve not previously experienced to opposing peoples’ responses to invasion, enslavement, colonialism and fellowship. Following successful African American historical novelists, Lalami demonstrates that finally an Arab Diaspora writer can negotiate centuries…

Scheherazade’s Legacy

Foreword by Barbara Nimri Aziz to Susan Muaddi Darraj Scheherazade’s Legacy: Arab and Arab American Women Writing, 2004 Inevitably, a time arrives in a people’s history when a shared awakening occurs. In varying degrees of awareness, driven by the feeling that “It is up to me to tell my people’s story,” we begin.  Or, we are compelled simply to tell my own story. James Baldwin, when he emerged as a political voice, concluded, that he could not accept what he once believed –that he was an interloper, that he could have “no other heritage (than the white heritage) which I could possibly hope to use”, and he would simply have to accept his special attitude, his special place in the world scheme. At one time, he had believed that otherwise, “I would have no place in any scheme”. (Autobiographical Notes, p. 7, Notes of  A Native Son, 1955.) Ultimately Baldwin rejected that fate and he went on to write some of the finest prose in American literature. Today, just fifty years later he has earned a place as one of America’s foremost writers.          There are many similarities between Arab…

Year End Review of Some Good Books

by Barbara Nimri Aziz Mine is not a list of new releases. I’m moving backwards–a positive move. That is to say, I’m not reading the latest Arab American novel or any among the NYT’s bestsellers. It’s not that I can’t keep up. (Indeed I can’t.)  I’m too occupied with volumes I ignored decades ago. Since the 1970s, I plodded through obligatory tomes by anthropology theorists, Nepal ethnographers, or misinformed, myopic Tibetologists, all in pursuit of academic ‘authority’. I pored over student papers as well as countless scholarly articles on Himalayan cultural trivia until journalism liberated me. Only to land in a culture of phony political experts: people who after a week in Iraq or who’d never once visited joined the media chorus, first to support US embargo policies to crush Iraq, then to cheer an invasion to ‘liberate’ its people. Parallel to that I dared face the self-perpetuating gang of Zionist writers with its remarkable ability to reinvent Israeli rationale to fit each shift in Middle East existence and intimidate every US leader. By the time American veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan began writing award-winning memoirs to redefine heroism and…

Careful! It’s Not All That Funny.

Jan. 22/21 by BN Aziz Counterpunch.org “Man, it’s hard doing comedy”. What? That was Chris Rock on January 12th talking with Stephen Colbert. Two of America’s funniest comedians were struck silent by the infamy at the U.S. Capitol days before. Seth Meyers and Jimmy Fallon were similarly muted that week. Apart from a few jabs at the ‘MAGA monsters’, our energized comedy geniuses whose wit carried us through the shock and depression of the past 5 years collapsed that week. Michael Moore’s long, sad homily left me feeling he might resign from a brilliant career in political parody. Perhaps the most piercing barbs came from overseas, like that pictured here by Norwegian caricaturist Herbjørn Skogstad (HERB) Unarguably those mobs crawling up the walls of the Capitol and violating the inner chambers of American democracy are no joking matter. But comedians always find a way to make horrifying political stuff funny. Their job is to carry us over, to raise our spirits. Like millions of others, I was enraptured by Sarah Cooper’s lip-synching clips. But not everyone was amused by the endless jabs at Mr. 45 and at so-called Trumpers. In…

Anthony Shadid 1968-2012

by Barbara Nimri Aziz updated Dec. 2020 In a short obscure film clip from our mourned brother Anthony Shadid, the award winning writer spoke with a compassion and honesty that tell us something about the man not only as the famous journalist but also as an Arab. Of course Shadid’s writings offer ample testimony of his talent. But in this 75 second clip, transcribed here from the film, we witness a little heard side of Shadid, where unlike his objective reports from the war front, he’s trying to help us more deeply understand Arab peoples.  “The Arab world” he says, “has been most resistant to colonialism of any region in the world…. I was in Cairo after 9/11 and… let me put this in the right way… whatever injustice 9/11 might have been…ummm ….I want to be really careful with this” (Shadid hesitates for a full 14 seconds, then continues cautiously)… “I think there was a notion, maybe, in Cairo– I’m not saying it’s right or wrong—but I think there was a notion in Cairo that the injustice that is such a part of the landscape in the Middle East,…

Moroccan Director/Actor Sanaa Akroud’s Latest Screen Gem

Moroccan Director/Actor Sanaa Akroud’s Latest Screen Gem

by Barbara Nimri Aziz Dec 30, 2020 Counterpunch.org This film story by Sanaa Akroud is, like its title “Myopia”, just too simple to carry the power of a deeply moving universal message.             Fatem a hardy woman from a remote Moroccan mountain village is sent on a frivolous mission to the city where she is innocently swept up in a street protest. She finds herself in police custody with no ID and unable to convey what she was doing among the protestors. Six-months pregnant, possibly affected by tear gas from the street riot, she miscarries while being interrogated as a potential political agitator.             The next scene seems to offers redemption: we find Fatem comfortably settled in a hospital bed attended by two social workers. But it soon becomes clear they’re actually from an opposition party with a self-interest in her ‘case’. They abandon Fatem after she doesn’t accept their conditional help. By now the media has been alerted and our reluctant hero, still in the hospital, her bed now bedecked with flowers, is next subjected to an on-camera interview.             Fatem neither protests nor offers the right response to…

Re-reading “Grapes of Wrath”

Re-reading “Grapes of Wrath”

by Barbara Nimri Aziz Counterpunch.org “The tractors came over the roads and into the fields, great crawlers moving like insects….They crawled over the ground, laying the track and rolling on it and picking it up. Diesel tractors, puttering while they stood idle; they thundered when they moved, and then settled down to a droning roar. Snub nosed monsters, raising the dust and sticking their snouts into it… across the country, through fences, through dooryards, in and out of gullies in straight lines. They did not run on the ground but on their own roadbeds. They ignored hills and gulches, water courses, fences, houses.             “The man sitting in the iron seat did not look like a man: gloved, goggled, masked he was part of the monster, a robot in the seat…   …the tenant stared after it …his wife… beside him, and the quiet children behind. And all of them stared after the tractor…” This merciless machine might belong to Israeli militants preparing another Jewish colony– a common scenario on Palestinian lands. The watching silent family could be the indigenous peoples of Brazil’s disappearing forests. Or farmers of Gujarat, India, relocated…

The Language of Miracles: a novel by Rajia Hassib

Book review by Barbara Nimri Aziz. July 2016 author Rajia Hassib A Muslim youth commits a terrible violent crime and then takes his own life. His suburban family, immigrants in the US for more than two decades is advised to relocate; his parents are divided over how to handle the crisis; his teenage siblings, shunned and mocked by classmates, retreat into fantasy; the community in which they were once so nicely integrated spurns them. The scenario could be any national news story. Whatever the perpetrator’s motive or mental state, his crime is a ‘Muslim’ one– an uncivil act; everything associated with him becomes tainted. The religion itself is blighted and criminalized. The violence is seen as further evidence that Islam bears responsibility. Our media’s preoccupation with and prejudgment of this category of crime is so intense that Muslims find themselves floundering in its wake. With regular frequency, Muslim writers pen commentaries explaining our angst, and cohorts of Muslim spokespeople appear on TV to refute generalizations about Islam and to assure others of the peace-loving nature of our religion and our community. We know the scenario too well. Yet those eloquent…

Arab Women Authors Narrate More than Women’s Experience

Arab Women Authors Narrate More than Women’s Experience

by Barbara Nimri Aziz May 2018 Counterpunch.org A flood of women’s memoirs seem to have landed in the literary marketplace, along with quasi memoirs for children. Not only confessionals and more discoveries about our gender and its vicissitudes, but revelations of rebellious girls of past generations, (Brazen: Rebel Ladies who Rocked the World and the best-selling Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls) chronicling the modest origins of today’s heroines and celebrities– political, academic and artistic. Our herstories seem inexhaustible.             Memoir is the primary genre through which we learn about women. This, with a caveat, is especially true of ‘Third World ’ women, where Muslim women are among the most ‘trendy’ and thereby sought after today– particularly if we are ‘victims’. (More of that later.)             Among Third World  writers, we include those in the Diaspora, for example Arab American women –Suheir Hammad, Susan Muaddi Darraj, Evelyn Shakir, and Ghada Kanafani, to name just a few– now penning an extraordinary number of personal accounts, many of them non-fiction. This, in contrast to Arab and Muslim men (e.g. well known novelists like Abdelrahman Munif, Rabih Alameddine, Rawi Hage, Mohsin Hamid, and…

New Arab Women-centered Films Are Not Just about Women

by Barbara Nimri Aziz   Nov 2018 Global Research              Too often, we are overwhelmed with woeful tales, painful memoirs and worn analyses of Arab/Muslim women. Most depictions, whether we’re besieged in a war, or if we’re just trying to get by making small advances like women anywhere, we are invariably portrayed as hapless victims. We’re in need of succor, or reform, or rescue.             Writings by our own talented authors are popular if they reveal exploitations or despairs or escapes. These feed enlightened sisters abroad who may feel better about themselves when they can pity others.             So I approach announcements of new releases—both these are from North Africa– with some apprehension. After screening the productions under review here, my fear dissolves.               Tunisia (through the films of Moufida Tlatli ) and Egypt are highly regarded in the film world. Particularly Egypt with its glorious history of filmmaking and its distinguished line of actors proves its mettle in “Youm el-Setat” (A Day for Woman). This playful drama about serious issues becomes heartwarming and totally engaging in the hands of director Kamla Abu Zeki.             Three love stories and women’s…

A Novel All Can Relate To

A Novel All Can Relate To

by Barbara Nimri Aziz May 2019 Counterpunch.org America is still discovering itself. The rise of Donald Trump alerted those citizens who held that they alone defined our culture and values to the existence of a significant population holding very different views– and the will to back a candidate who might speak for them. (Thus, the most unlikely candidate entered the White House.) Political pundits, sociologists and media analysts had been wrong. Liberalism was flawed; it meant little to too many Americans.             A bewildered media rushed to embrace that awakened alien America. Hillbilly Elegy was welcomed as a sobering portrait of people viewed as marginal. Strangers in Their Own Land was next. First published in 1995, then reissued with a new forward in 2016; its author, Berkeley sociologist Artie Russell Hochschild, emerged as the new interpreter of those forgotten and angry ‘others’.              With a new right wing administration installed in Washington, liberals and college educated who’d believed that they represented the nation and that they framed the debate dispatched reporters and camera crews to the hinterland to gather further testimonies from what is now identified as Trump’s base.            …

What is it about bears?

What is it about bears?

by Barbara Nimri Aziz Counterpunch.org October 2018 My editor at Natural History Magazine once remarked how, whenever their cover features a bear, sales rise. An Asiatic sun bear, a young brown cub bear, a sunbathing polar bear or a menacing American grizzly; it doesn’t matter. People like bears.             Occasional attacks on humans and the aversion of many people to any form of wildlife hunting notwithstanding, bears are irresistible. However vulnerable we may be, humans can’t shake our unparalleled attraction to these bulky, really quite graceless creatures.             We are smitten not only by pictures of bears; we’re enthralled by the sight of live bears. Whether on two legs grabbing berries or bounding across meadows on all fours, bears in the wild are especially mesmerizing; more than deer who, although not necessarily faster than bears, quickly disappear into the foliage. Our ursine creatures seem to prefer open spaces, even during daylight hours. A spectacle for any passerby.             I’m talking personally only about black bears here; they’re the ones I encounter in my neighborhood.                    This year we’ve seen more than usual wandering close to our homes. And we…

Four Morning Ducks

Four Morning Ducks

by Barbara Nimri Aziz July 1, 2016 Counterpunch.org I live alongside a river. At times this waterway swells unexpectedly, uncontrollably and terrifyingly. We residents retreat, shocked by how our murmuring brook has turned so menacing. Because most of the time this river is an intimate, soothing companion for people and animals who live nearby. During spring and summer days there’s abundant life above and in the water. Merganser ducks arrive in April, when chunks of ice still cling to the shady corners of the riverbank and before reeds and bushes can offer a secure nesting place. Deer and fox and heron come to drink and to search for food; above us, white-headed eagles perch, ready to dive at the water and sweep fish into their claws. An occasional black bear ventures here; and beaver, frogs and crayfish share the pools with abundant trout. Early summer mornings along the river always offer something startling, so I frequently halt and follow the slightest movement on the water or in the sky. No rare birds are in sight but I nevertheless feel I’m witnessing some phenomenon for the very first time. The Merganser…

Snow, roads, birds and plows

Snow, roads, birds and plows

By Barbara Nimri Aziz, Counterpunch,org Feb 1, 2019 Shrugging off what’s called cabin fever, I depart, slowly, to test my car and traction on the roadway. I follow the country road along the Beaverkill River to town.             A mile out, I notice something unusual—cars standing in front of each of two neighbors’ houses. I regularly pass these houses. I know that their owners aren’t here during winter months. And with several inches of snow already on the ground, I’m wondering: with a blizzard is forecast why are they here at all?               Not suspicious; just curious.             As I drive on, this curiosity leads to fantasy. They’ve come simply to enjoy a day of softly falling snow. Having lived here year-round when the children were young, they’re recalling the enchantment of fresh snow, how they frolicked at night in the fluffy heaps, flakes still descending on them. After the children sleep, she and her husband walk together under a bright midnight sky.             The stillness of fresh snowfall is unsurpassed. Early morning is glorious… before rumbling plows arrive. Gentle whiteness obliterates flaws on the fields– all that debris…

Relief; But A Cautious Hope

Relief; But A Cautious Hope

by Barbara Nimri Aziz      Nov 5, 2020             It’s a strange post-election feeling, one shared by many Americans, and perhaps many people worldwide. President Trump is on his way out. However many lawsuits are filed to claim the Biden-Harris team may have won by fraud or deceit; however many claims and threats Trump and his lawyers make, I’m confident he and his White House cronies will soon be no more. Some dignity will be restored to the office of the US presidency and the quixotic character of federal policies will end.             However, as some skeptics have already written, we shouldn’t expect the Biden administration to make really deep changes and correct the flaws in our democratic system that Trump’s behavior exposed. During his election campaign Biden was clear that he doesn’t support Medicare-for-all. Nor does Biden embrace the Green New Deal. He proudly, emphatically declared he’s not a socialist. Although he never defined his position on the political spectrum there’s hardly a doubt that both Biden and his partner Harris are Centrists. They may even be somewhat right of center. We know Joe Biden is an old friend of…

Happy Hunting Cooks Falls 2020

Happy Hunting Cooks Falls 2020

George Thompson bagged two deer Thanksgiving weekend 2020, one 2 point and a huge lovely animal of 8 points. All the neighbors came by to view. How many tomorrow?

Cooksfalls/Roscoe Winter Newsletter

Cooksfalls/Roscoe Winter Newsletter

Wishing neighbors a happy, cozy and healthy autumn-winter season. Lack of inertia since last winter meant the delay in gathering news for you earlier in the year. Maybe the glorious extended fall color awakened me to gather a few items about what’s happening in our neighborhood. The number of newcomers– renters, day-trippers and second home buyers– continue to change our social landscape. So property prices are rising, new businesses opening and more houses posting for-sale signs on their lawns. Less than a year ago, before Covid invaded the nation, many Catskill residents speculated that the money and energy fueling renovation of old properties by developers would soon end. Some of us viewed with skepticism the rush to invest in high-end luxury hotels and new rustic cafes, and to convert colorless neglected homes into comfy, sought-after Airbnb lodgings. But demand has grown rather than dwindle as city residents from downstate radically changed their lifestyle and rushed into our hills. To escape the threats of Covid infection in the city, families paid $7000. a month or more for a house in our neighborhood!           Many part-time visitors decided to move up here…

Nepal under Lockdown

Nepal under Lockdown

News from the Himalayas is scant this year. No Everest or K2 summiting; nothing about the railway from China; no new Sherpa biographies.             Demonstrations in Kathmandu protesting India’s territorial claim on Kalapani, a spur of land at Nepal’s furthest northwestern border subsided after a talk between their respective prime ministers. . Then military skirmishes between India and China on their shared border raised anxiety in Kathmandu .             As for how the pandemic is affecting Nepal, scant news might lead to a conclusion that the country’s thin air or its pantheon of well-attended deities immunizes residents from Covid’s ravages. Nepal’s low death toll—336 (with 53,100 cases reported to date, although rapidly rising)—for a population of 30 million is remarkable, also inexplicable given the government’s weak public health policy and shoddy management. Some citizens timidly suggest they might share a genetic immunity; others claim that popular herbal bromides protect them. Cynics accuse the government of hiding the real death toll, or worse, that it simply doesn’t know the count.             Lack of information and public distrust heighten tensions around the growing medical threat. Throughout early summer, while Covid-19 wreaked havoc…

An Alleged Communist and Prostitute in Nepal’s Grade Ten Schoolbooks!

An Alleged Communist and Prostitute in Nepal’s Grade Ten Schoolbooks!

NOVEMBER 24, 2017 on Counterpunch.org. It was just a local rumor in a remote Himalayan village. Now it’s a history lesson for children across Nepal. I doubt if an entry in grade 10 English textbooks is what a normal anthropologist aspires to? I certainly never dreamt of it. But it happened. Am I thrilled? You bet.

It’s Only a Lawn Sign (Well, Perhaps Much More)

It’s Only a Lawn Sign (Well, Perhaps Much More)

NOVEMBER 3, 2020, CounterPunch.org With quarrels raging over disappearing campaign lawn signs, rattled American liberals may now appreciate how being ‘a minority’ feels. Desecration and theft of lawn signs in support of Republicans or Democrats are reported in many American neighborhoods this year, with Democrats being particularly unsettled by what they regard as an existential threat.

What Can Americans Learn from New York’s Shrewd Governor, Andrew Cuomo?

What Can Americans Learn from New York’s Shrewd Governor, Andrew Cuomo?

By Barbara Nimri Aziz, October 28, 2020             Day 240 of the Covid-19 pandemic in the US; anxious New Yorkers are again invited to hear about changing conditions in their state and what the governor’s doing to protect them. Monday’s press briefing must be his 150th review of the stubborn unsettling disease.             Cuomo’s updates are a cleverly woven tapestry: political analysis, admonishments, comprehensive statistical reports, warnings, evasions of reporters’ questions, and affirmations of his administration’s successes are touched up with a personal anecdote and an attempt at humor. These briefings deserve attention not because they’re contrived to pave his way to any future bid for the White House, but as an effective and (on the whole) exemplary management of the terrifying and still uncontrollable pandemic.             Cuomo’s homilies these past months are worth some critical attention from scholars of rhetoric. These discourses are also valuable in how they contrast with statements by other politicians, incumbents and challengers in the coming election, that saturate our media.             Like Cuomo’s press conferences during the scary, hard months of spring and summer, Monday’s briefing was, admittedly, a kind of speech— a combination of legal acumen, moral appeal,…

Who Will Come to America’s Aid?

Who Will Come to America’s Aid?

JULY 21, 2020, By Barbara Nimri Aziz USA needs help. Let’s face it: our democratic institutions aren’t working well; our president is behaving like a depraved, spiteful monarch; our police, with almost 19,000 independent units nationwide, are unmanageable; our unprecedented social and economic divides are growing; the health of our citizens is declining; new digital platforms are sources of unprecedented hate and threats; our media is so polarized, we don’t know whom to believe. (Then there’s Covid-19.)             HEEEELP!             Across the globe, wherever a nation is in crisis—by hurricane or earthquake, mounting disease or plunging poverty, military attack or teetering government— whether requested or not, others are alerted and assistance from abroad mobilized. The U.S. (as projected by American media) is in the forefront of concern for others (except those on its sanctions list— e.g. North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Iran, Cuba, Yemen). Genuine humanitarian aid is dispatched from NGOs and private, religious and government agencies. Assistance flows in cash, in materials and advisors, observers and medical experts (along with military intelligence and troops where it’s determined to be advantageous to American policy).             Today America itself is a nation under internal threat…