Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Women, Development and Terrorism in the Middle East

Egyptians protest violence against women
A central problem preventing political, social and economic development in Muslim majority countries of the Middle East is the treatment of women.  The inability of women to realize their personal social and political potential represents the “800 pound gorilla in the room,” to use an American colloquialism.  Sadly, this situation, which is only infrequently dealt with in the Middle East, raises an important question:  How can there be any positive change in the region when over 50% of the populace is marginalized economically, socially, politically and culturally?

During the past year, women’s status in the Middle East has taken on a new dimension.  Women have been in the forefront of the news and highlighted by the horrific gender politics of terrorist organizations like the so-called “Islamic State” (known by its Arabic acronym Dacsh).   

The abduction of Yazidi, Christian and Kurdish women by this organization and the creation of a wide network of sex trafficking and slavery has raised the question: is there a relationship between efforts of terrorist groups (including the radical Islamist Boko Haram in Nigeria) to justify sex slavery and rape through Islamic doctrine and patriarchal values, institutions and practices in the Middle East?  Do those variables represent a causal link to the deterioration of women’s conditions that we are seeing in many parts of the Middle East?

Before the spread of terrorist movements in North Africa, Egypt, Syria, and the reassertion of such groups in Iraq, women’s interests were actually harmed by the onset of what was initially deemed the “Arab Spring.” A central reason for the decline in women’s status is their misfortune to have been identified with now deposed secular dictatorships such as Saddam Husayn’s Bacthist regime in Iraq. 

These authoritarian regimes’ support for women’s rights had little or nothing to do with the dictators’ personal inclinations (e.g., Saddam’s personal gender politics were despicable).  Authoritarian regimes’ support for women’s rights had everything to do with these regimes’ desire to present a “modern” face to the West to offset the criticism there and at the United Nations and elsewhere of their repressive policies.  It likewise was part of a shrewd and cynical strategy of using the “gender card” against Islamist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. 
According to secular one party regimes, if Islamists were allowed to take power by being given the right to participate in national elections, they might come to power, impose authoritarian rule (the “one election” phenomenon) as well as circumscribe women’s rights.  Thus Saddam’s General Federation of Iraqi Women, led by Manal Yunis, and Asma al-Asad’s work on behalf of Syrian women through her personal foundation, constituted elaborate charades, intended to promote the one party state’s political agenda, not about bring real progress to the women of Iraq or Syria.
Arrest of women in "blue bra" that caused international outrage
As the events in Maydan al-Tahrir during the Arab Spring demonstrated with many female demonstrators subject to rapes and sexual molestation, major problems face women who try to assert themselves in the public sphere.  The attitudes of the Egyptian men who accosted women highlights a core lacunae in Muslim majority countries of the Middle East, namely the lack of a gender-based curriculum that is seriously integrated into any of the region’s educational  systems.  

If we add to the efforts of terrorist movements to restrict women’s access to employment, education, health care, and to the public sector generally, the problems women now face as a result of their identification with deposed secular autocratic regimes, then we see that a major problem which faces the Middle East - gender inequality - has only gotten worst.  What are some of the ways change needs to be introduced to improve the status of women?

Education A review of secondary school curricula in most Middle Eastern countries indicates that either the issues of gender relations and women’s rights are totally ignored or women’s role in society and the public sphere is defined through selected references to religion which call for a restriction of such access.  Religious references are really patriarchal norms couched in pseudo-religious terms. Further, to the extent that women are discussed, they are conceptualized as largely limited to their role as mothers and as responsible for the functioning of the family.   

Among Muslim majority states, only Turkey, Tunisia and Lebanon have really confronted gender issues in their school curriculum in any significant manner.  Thus it is little wonder that women in the Middle East are largely invisible and, as such, are not only subject to marginalization but worse. A key need is to thoroughly revise existing curricula to address the absence of women as a subject of value in what male and female youth study in Middle East primary and secondary school education systems.
Strengthening Personal Status Laws and Women’s’ Rights Since the ouster of secular dictatorships, there have been major efforts to circumscribe women’s rights.  An example is the effort to eliminate protections under Iraq’s progressive Personal Status Law of 1959 (passed under the regime of Gen cAbd al-Karim Qasim).  The Iraqi Governing Council (IGC), which was established by the US Coalitional Provisional Authority (US occupation administration) in July 2003, sought to repeal this law in December of that year through Law 137.  

Fortunately, multiple groups, such as the extensive Iraqi blogosphere, women’s organizations, secular civil society associations and the Iraqi Communist Party, organized massive street demonstrations.  The law was withdrawn when CPA Administrator L. Paul Bremer saw the disruption it was causing.  As a number of Iraqi women said to me after the event, “Iraqi men can’t agree on anything, except repressing us!”

The extent to which gender has became more politicized, after the Arab uprisings have, aside from Tunisia, largely failed, can be seen in retrogressive efforts to place women under the control of their husbands, fathers or male relatives.  In Iraq, this attempt can be seen in the so-called Jacfari Personal Status Law that former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki tried to implement prior to the April 2014 national parliament elections. ( 

This Jacfari Personal Status Law was a blatant attempt by al-Maliki to win the votes of lower middle class and lower class males by seeking to curtail women’s rights, such as lowering the age of marriage from 18 to 9 years old (!) and basically requiring women to seek permission from their husbands or male relatives in making any and all important decisions, from engaging in travel to seeking employment .

In Egypt during the Arab uprisings, female protesters – secular and Islamists – were not only mistreated during demonstrations but thrown in prison as well, where some women were subject to unnecessary and demeaning “virginity tests.”  This behavior by the police and security forces became an impediment to women reporting sexual crimes because they feared the police almost as much as the men who had attacked them.   

To his credit, Egypt’s military ruler cAbd al-Fattah al-Sisi condemned rape and sexual abuse during the demonstrations.  Nevertheless, there has been little effort by his government to address the legal and structural conditions that still condemn Egyptian women to second class status (   

Indeed, sexual repression as a form of control of women has increased according to a report by the International Federation of Human Rights since the military seized power in Egypt in June 2013. In Turkey, which was once thought to be one of the most progressive Muslim majority nation-states in the Middle East, women have been told by President Recip Tayyep Erdogan to stay at home and “have babies.” ( 
Even in Tunisia where former Francophile president Habib Bourguiba gave women the right to family planning and to organize civil society organizations and play a major role in state institutions in the late 1950s, the al-Nahda Party tried, following its electoral victory in 2012 to redefine women in the draft of the new Tunisian constitution as no longer “equal” but rather “complementary” to men.

Of course, Islamists have tried to paper over the policies that result in the repression of women by couching these policies in a “religious” veneer.  Unfortunately, many Western analysts take these Islamists at their word, rather than seeing such arguments as a form of politicized and “invented” religion.  In light of the complete delegitimization of secular (mostly Pan Arab) nationalism, Islamists have benefited from the political vacuum which was created after the collapse of authoritarian rule during the Arab uprisings.

Reappropriating Islam Contra the arguments offered by (almost entirely) male Islamists that Islam restricts women’s access to the public sphere and the need for them to be placed under “male guardianship," I would argue that such patriarchal politics finds its roots in tribal norms rather than in Islam.  Put differently, such controls trace their origins back to tribal not religious norms. 

It is well know that the Prophet Muhammad placed great emphasis on improving the social conditions of women in the Hijaz during the rise and spread of Islam in the 7th century CE. Indeed, the first convert to Islam was a woman – his first wife Khadija – who was a successful merchant and 15 years his elder.  As recent research has shown, there have been studies indicating that women played a much more extensive role in early Islam, including that of roving preachers.  It was much later in the Abbasid Empire that women’s role in society began to be circumscribed using "religious" arguments to legitimate their repression.

No one should blame Islam for the horrors bestowed on women by the Islamic State.  However, the efforts of post-Arab Spring political elites to manipulate women within the context of a larger effort of these leaders to manipulate sectarian identities can certainly be seen as being influenced by the larger process of the marginalization and general disdain for women by most states in the Middle East.  

Even in Iraq, which is undergoing an effort by its prime minister, Haydar al-Abadi, to root out corruption by reducing the number of government posts – many of which are occupied by individuals who doing nothing more than collect paychecks – it was extremely disturbing to see that, among the 1/3 of ministries that he proposes to eliminate was the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. 
Women, who constitute more than 60% of the Iraqi population often received no education during the 1990s.  Given that many have lost husbands or male family members due to the sectarian violence that rocked the country from late 2003 until 2008, Iraqi women – both Arab and Kurds - need more, not less government support.

In a perverse way, the suppression of women’s rights has been posited as a form of “cultural authenticity” which is part of an effort to “combat” Western cultural imperialism.  Put differently, returning Muslim women to their “true” place in Islam - namely the private sphere - becomes a last step in shedding the “artificiality” of repressive Western regimes, dubbed “crusader apostate” regimes by the Dacsh and other terrorist organizations. 

Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani
In Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has insisted that women have the right to vote, and that – contrary to some local notables who say Islam prevents women from working – women not only have this right to jobs but must contribute to the public sphere. Ayatollah al-Sistani has also indicated that women have the same rights to education and health care as men.  Clearly, this demonstrates that powerful clerics do not necessarily make claims that Islam precludes women from the public sphere. 

Muslim male clerics must make more forceful arguments that women should be given equality in political and legal rights and access to all social services.  They must lay bare the biases of a patriarchal culture that ends up damaging itself by excluding women.

Organization The key to women’s rights is their ability to control organizations through which they can assert their self-defined rights and needs.  In few Muslim majority nations of the Middle East do women truly control the organizations that supposedly act in their name.  Until this situation changes, women will continue to depend on male patriarchs and rulers for their rights or lack thereof. 
Turning again to Iraq, Saddam Husayn offered women employment in not only the state bureaucracy but in public sector factories.  He promulgated sexual harassment laws in the 1970s before the term was even au courant in advanced industrialized Western societies.  He forced illiterate women to learn to read and write (and I witnessed this process in remote rural villages during the 1980s where even elderly women were studying in state-run illiteracy centers).

Following the disastrous defeat during the January 1991 Gulf War and the near overthrow of his regime during the March 1991 Intifada, Saddam forced women back into the household.  They lost their jobs as the economy collapsed, they no longer attended school and their husbands and male relatives now controlled their behavior. Saddam took away their rights in an effort to increase male support for his now shaky hold on power.  What’s given freely by the state can likewise easily be taken away.   

This maxim is clearly demonstrated by the dramatic change in women's status (they constituted a majority of physicians in Baghdad when I first arrived in May and June of 1980) from having plentiful employment and educational opportunities in the 1970s and early 1980s to being relegated to the household during the 1990s and even after 2003.

Case studies: Tunisian women In Tunisia, the organization of women under the Habib Bourguiba regime paid off when they were able to mount extensive street demonstrations against the new al-Nahda government under then Prime Minister Rashid al-Ghannushi (Rachid Ghannouchi) by organizations such as The Tunisian Association of Democratic Women (ATFD),and the Association of Tunisian Women for Research and Development (AFTURD), two leading women’s organizations that fought against efforts by Islamists within and outside al-Nahda to circumscribe their rights (.

The Tunisian Women’s Association, a grassroots organization founded after the Arab uprisings, has also been key in advocating for women's rights.  This organization has been active in presenting materials on torture and sexual abuse of prisoners to the Truth and Reconciliation which is run  by a Tunisian women activist, Sihem Bensedrine (

Significantly, a  number of Islamist women in Tunisia working from a progressive perspective have attempted to reinterpret Islam in ways that promote women's rights.  These women writers and activists, who include Amel Grami, Olfa Youssef, Latifa Lakhdhar and Ikbal Gharbi, have advocated for women’s rights in the post-Bin Ali era.  What the Tunisian case demonstrates is not that women have overcome all the challenges they face, but that being organized has given them a key tool to fight back against efforts to circumscribe their rights.

Case studies: the women of Rojava Perhaps no other community of women in the Middle East enjoys as much freedom as the women of Rojava (the Kurds who live in the area that was formally northeastern Syria). Having suffered mightily under Syrian Bacthist rule, the Rojava Kurds were, like their Turkish counterparts, forbidden to use their language, were subject to extensive land confiscation by the Asad regime, and discouraged from giving their children Kurdish names.

Flag of Afrin Canton
Strongly influenced by the 30 year guerrilla war waged by the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), the main political party representing the Rojava Kurds, the People's Democratic Party (PYD), as well as the less powerful Kurdish National Council (KNC), have established a system of autonomous self-rule based on the Swiss canton system of government.  The PYD and KNC have organized 3 cantons, one of which, Afrin, is run by a women prime minister, Hevi Ibrahim Mustefa.  They also have organized TEV-DEM which is an inclusive coalition that rules the Rojava autonomous region.

According to its constitution, the administration of the de facto autonomous region is committed to international human rights as embodied in international law. The Rojava Kurdish administration emphasizes equal rights for women and a ban on polygamy. Because the region is ethnically diverse, religious freedom and equality is guaranteed to all ethnic groups including Yazidis, Christians, Turkmen, Arabs, and Armenians.  Capital punishment and torture are also banned.  Reports from minorities living among the Rojava Kurds indicate they are  highly satisfied at how they are treated.

Women units of the armed militia, the YPJ (Women's Defense Units), have played a key role in preventing the Dacsh from expanding its area into Kurdish inhabited areas along the Syrian-Turkish border.  The strength of these units, whose losses almost approximate those of their male counterpart, the YPG, indicates that Rojava Kurdish women have been critical to Kurdish victories at Kobani, and elsewhere, where the Dacsh lost thousands of fighters.

Women and fighting terrorism  If the Middle East is going to see any meaningful progress, women must escape the shackles in which they presently bound.  While educated women from the upper middle and upper classes in many countries of the Middle East experience little state control over their lives, middle and lower class women, as well as women workers and peasants are still decidedly second-class citizens.
YPJ Commander Jiyan, near Ayn 'Issa, Raqqa, July 1, 2015
Tunisian women demonstrate the need for women to become organized so that they can define their own interests, set their own agendas and fight for their rights only when the (male dominated) state allows them to do so.  The women of the Rojava semi-autonomous region have gone several steps further.  Not only do they have organizations through which to pursue their rights, but they are a core component of the nascent Kurdish state which is being built on the ashes of former Syrian Bacth Party rule.

When women have power and can assert themselves, men do not take them for granted and see them merely as "property," or commodities, designed to serve their physical and emotional needs. Indeed, this has been the manner in which  Dacsh has attempted to legitimate their seizure and treatment of women.  In their view, women are property, not human beings and, if they're not Muslim, then they become the "spoils of war."

Women's rights constitute a core component in the fight against terrorism in the region.  Youth come to fight for Dacsh because they receive money, a sense of belonging which they usually lack in the areas from which they come, but also sexual pleasure in the form of the extensive system of sex slavery implemented by the tyrant (and rapist), "Caliph Ibrahim."

Thus the struggle against terrorism in the Middle East - including radical extremism, violence and brutality - begins with women achieving equal status with men, and forcing men to rethink and restructure their patriarchal norms and behavior patterns in the process. What many males in the Middle East and elsewhere view as a peripheral issue is actually at the core of bettering not only the region but all societies.


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Combating Terrorism in Cyberspace

Guest Contributor Sahar Akbarzai is a Research Associate of the Global Futures University Consortium – an initiative of the Rutgers University MA Program in Political Science – United Nations and Global Policy Studies.

Why have over 20,000 foreign fighters - 3,400 fighters from Europe and the United States alone - crossed the Turkish border into Iraq and Syria to join the so-called Islamic State? This unprecedented wave of mostly Muslim youth who have been recruited to the so-called Islamic State (Dacsh) speaks to the power of its savvy social media campaign.

 According to a March 2015 Brookings Institution report, Dacsh has 46,000 Twitter accounts.  However, these data only measured English, not Arabic, language accounts.  Its social media followers not only utilize Twitter, but Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and thus have multiple accounts.  Dacsh has an army of online followers and the group has successfully trended twitter hashtags, broadcast well-produced videos, and disseminated its message globally (
Dacsh is said to transmit 90,000 Tweets each day, many of which are computer generated.  It has extremely difficult to shut down these Tweets as they simply reappear under different hashtags. To date, US government and other nations' efforts to combat the terrorist organization's social media campaign have been a dismal failure. 

But the real success of the so-called Islamic State comes from the fact that these extremists know their audience - a socially and politically disenfranchised and ostracized generation of young Muslims, especially in Europe. And they use their sophisticated and global marketing apparatus to prey upon the vulnerabilities of this audience.

The Obama Administration has got it right in understanding that besides a military strategy, the other battleground against Dacsh is through cyberspace. That is why at the “White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism” ( 
At last February’s summit, President Obama called upon tech companies and the private sector to fight terrorist recruitment. Although companies like Twitter, Facebook, and Google are offering social media training and advise to organizations to counter extremist narratives, the real solutions are come from ordinary but very talented Muslims all across the globe.

In addition to encouraging the investment of Muslim start-ups, small businesses must also join in the movement to counter extremism. The most well-known company is Affinis Lab, an incubator that fosters the talent of Muslim entrepreneurs all over the world to grow their companies and tackle global challenges, such as countering violent extremism (  Affinis Lab founder, Shahed Amanullah, is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur himself and former Senior Advisor of Technology to the Department of State from 2011-2014 (

Affinis CEO Shahed Amanullah
Affinis Lab has held “hackathons” all over the world, including the most recent one in Abu Dhabi called the haqqathon (haqq means truth in Arabic). Such events pose problems to participants, such as how to make traditional Islamic scholarship relevant to the millennial generation. Participants then must come up with digital solutions.  The winning solutions are provided mentorship, investment, and even become fully operational as start-ups with the help of Affinis Lab.

Multiple successful social media networks and apps have been produced as a result of these global hackathons. Amanullah has stated, “I want to build a community that has so much going for it a person doesn’t have to leave for some illusory utopia (referring to Dacsh). [We] are speaking to a vacuum that exists in Muslim youth identity. It’s giving them an exciting, empowering path to express their identity.”

A sociopolitical atmosphere exists, especially in Europe and the United States, where Muslim youth are being ostracized and even demonized. These youth face education and employment discrimination as well as discrimination in terms of religious dress, especially for Muslim women. Further, they face the constant Islamophobic rhetoric and negative, if not racist, ads by European political parties like The National Front and, in the United States, by groups like Stop Islamization of America and the Freedom Defense Initiative (

Thus it is imperative that Muslim youth possess global and local connections through online social media where they can share their stories and find solutions to their problems that counter the solutions and rhetoric of terrorist organizations such as Dacsh.  In this context, apps have become a critical part of the solution to the efforts of terrorist organizations to attract gullible youth.

As Amanullah has noted, “Very simplified, radicalization is the combination of anger and disempowerment. Entrepreneurship is the ultimate narrative of empowerment. Apps empower them, answers their questions, and connects them with a society that has ostracized them.” Apps that include spiritual Islam teaches alienated Muslim youth an empowerment that Islam gives that counters the narrative of ISIS.
The latest app produced by Affinis Lab is QuickFiqh - an app that connects Muslim youth to mainstream Islamic scholars. Teens can ask mainstream scholars their most pressing questions about Islamic theology in a 60 second clip and scholars provide 60 second answers in video formats while emphasizing Islamic themes such as mercy and compassion (

Another app called 52Jumaa was created by tech-savvy Muslim Australian teens Abdire Shire and Ahmed Ali. The app is designed to help Muslim youth who are facing identity crises develop a constructive identity over a period a period of a year, 52 Fridays which translates to 52 Jumaa. By providing these individuals with empowering, Islamic spiritual guidance, teens are helped to feel empowered after their one-year journey and hopefully dissuaded from being attracted by extremist rhetoric (

Another app created by a Muslim entrepreneur is Pentor. The app aims to connect and network Muslim youth with positive Muslim role models and even professionals
(  Pentor uses Tinder-style interface connection based on shared interests and even trains mentors so they can provide safe and responsible online guidance. It was created by Yasmine Abdel-Maguid, a Muslim Australian social advocate and writer who won the hackathon in Sydney.

Pentor aims to connect Muslim teens with Muslim professionals in their region: including doctors, engineers, writers, and other professionals.  It is especially useful as it provides much needed Muslim youth with mentors who can guide them to possible career paths and teaches them how to thrive in the 21st century as Muslim professionals.  More importantly, professionals show that there is a future for Muslims in their respective countries!

Most of these apps to try to dissuade teens from falling into the trap of being seduced by extremist narratives. But what about the thousands of individuals in Syria, Iraq, and else where who have already made their decisions and left to join Dacsh and other terrorist organizations? Social networking is trying to reach out to them as well.

An app called One 2 One, produced by Affinis lab, helps to identify people who use extremist rhetoric and imagery. By identifying these individuals, Affinis Lab hopes to steer people away from them.  Another tool designed to counter terrorist propaganda is also produced by Affinis Lab - a website called Come Back 2 Us, which reaches out directly to individuals who have joined the so-called “Islamic State.” (

This site allows family and friends to reach out to loved ones who have left home by posting pictures and stories in hopes it will trigger an emotional response and persuade them to come back. Even more remarkable, it has created a digital “underground railroad” for people who want to return home. By using an automated panic button on the site, information will be provided to government contacts who can help them track their way home.

Muslim youth need to understand Islam in a way that resonates with the pressing issues of their lives. That’s why Jihad Turk, President of Bayan Claremont Islamic Graduate School in Southern California, has started a YouTube video series featuring prominent imams, titled “Shakes and Shaykhs.” ( But the clerics in these videos aren’t your ordinary imams. Dressed in jeans and casual shirts, the video series takes place in local eateries where people can hang out with imams and discuss issues like countering extremism and even love and marriage!

The cyber battle against Dacsh continues to be extremely challenging. Governments must showcase and support the extraordinary work that Muslim entrepreneurs are doing globally through social media to counter extremism.  By supporting Muslim start-ups, governments are not only standing in solidarity with their Muslim citizenry, they are also sending a message to the so-called Islamic State that they are in culturally, ethnically and religiously unified. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Psychology of Electricity Shortages in the context of the Iraqi Character سيكولوجية قطع الكهرباء عن الروح العراقية

Guest contributor, Dr. Faris Kamal Nadhmi, is professor of social psychology at Salahaddin University, Arbil, Kurdish Regional Government, Iraq, and a noted analyst of Iraqi politics and society   

قدّم "لينين" زعيم الثورة الروسية 1917 معادلته الشهيرة التي صارت فيما بعد مثاراً للنقاش والإعجاب حيناً وللتندر السياسي حيناً آخر، إذ قال: ((الشيوعية= سلطة السوفييتات + كهربة البلاد)). وبعيداً عن المناقشة الايديولوجية والاقتصادية لمفهوم الشيوعية، فمن المؤكد أن كهربة روسيا وبقية الجمهوريات السوفياتية آنذاك قد أسهم حقاً في تأسيس تلك الدولة العظمى التي قفزت خلال أربعين عاماً تخللتها حربان مدمرتان: الأهلية والعالمية الثانية، من الاستعانة بالمحراث اليدوي عشية الثورة إلى توظيف أعقد أنواع التكنولوجيا في غزو الفضاء بشرياً على يد "يوري غاغارين" 1961م.

إلا إن العراقيين اليوم لا يراودهم بالتأكيد حلم "لينين" بتطبيق المبدأ الشيوعي الخالد: ((من كلٍ حسب قدرته، ولكلٍ حسب حاجته))، بل أن أقصى ما يتمنونه في أحلام يقظتهم هو تحقيق حد أدنى من الاستقرار السياسي والأمن الاجتماعي، وهذا يتطلب بدوره حداً أدنى من استقرار منظومة الطاقة الكهربائية بوصفها المغذي المادي المباشر لديمومة الحياة البشرية بأبنيتها الفزيولوجية والاجتماعية والثقافية، إذ لا صحة جسمية أو نفسية ولا تعليم ولا راحة بدنية ولا نشاطات اجتماعية أو جمالية أو ذهنية عليا، وبالتالي لا كرامة بشرية، دونما كهرباء تسري في عروق هذه الحضارة كما يسري الدم النقي في شرايين المخ! فماذا تحقق من كهربة العراق؟
وصل معدل تجهيز التيار الكهربائي هذا الأسبوع إلى (1-4) ساعات فقط يومياً في بغداد (باستثناء المنطقة الخضراء) ومدن أخرى، في تفاقم تراجيدي لأزمة ما تزال مستمرة بكيفيات ودرجات مختلفة منذ حرب الكويت 1991م، حافرةً أخدوداً عميقاً في الوعي واللاوعي الجمعيينِ لأجيال من العراقيين. وهنا تبرز أمامنا فرضيتان لتفسير الأزمة:
- إما إنها انقطاع "موضوعي" لا مفر منه بسبب الحروب وتقويض البنى التحتية والفساد والفوضى الإدارية وتصدع أجهزة الدولة الخدمية!
- أو إنها قطع متعمد له قصديته المخطط لها لغايات اجتماعية ونفسية معينة!

ولأن الفرضية الأولى باتت بديهيةً يجترها جميع المهتمين بالأزمة من عوام وإعلاميين ومسؤولين في الدولة، فإن تحليلنا الحالي يتجه إلى تسليط الضوء على الفرضية الثانية دون أن ينكر منطقية الفرضية الأولى وتفاعلها الوظيفي مع الفرضية الثانية، مستنداً في ذلك إلى عدد من المعطيات النفسية-الاجتماعية الملموسة الناجمة عن الاستمرار الغرائبي لهذه الأزمة، على الرغم من مليارات الدولارات التي أنفقت لتأهيل المنظومة الكهربائية خلال السنوات السبعة الماضية. كما ينطلق تحليلنا من مسلّمة أن البرامج السياسية للنخب الحاكمة في الشرق الأوسط من حكومات محلية وجيوش احتلال لا يمكن أن تخضع لمبدأ المصادفة العشوائية ولا يمكن عزلها عن نظريات علم النفس ذات الصلة بسيكولوجيا المجتمع.

فما يسمى بجداول القطع "المبرمج" للكهرباء (وهي تسمية "مهذبة" أطلقتها الماكنة الإعلامية للنظام السياسي السابق للإشارة إلى قطع الكهرباء لساعات محددة يومياً على نحو نادراً ما يكون منتظماً وغالباً ما يكون عشوائياً)، هو في جوهره تطبيق "مبتكر" لجداول التعزيز Schedules of Reinforcement التي اكتشفها عالم النفس السلوكي الأمريكي "بورهوس سكنر"B. F. Skinner (1904-1990)م، مستخدماً إياها ببراعة كبيرة في تشكيل سلوك الحيوانات كالفئران والحمام، معمماً هذا التكنيك فيما بعد على السلوك البشري، ضمن ما صار يُعرف بمذهب "الحتمية الاجتماعية"، إذ يقول "سكنر" أن السلوك البشري جبري تحدده الأحداث البيئية، أما حرية الإنسان فمحض وهم. وقد لخص رؤيته هذه في رواية يوتوبية له بعنوان Walden Two 1948م عن مجتمع فاضل جرى بناؤه تجريبياً على أساس جداول التعزيز.
يُقصد بجداول التعزيز أن تُقدم مكافأة (تعزيز) للكائن الحي حينما تتبدى منه عفوياً استجابة معينة خلال مدة زمنية ثابتة أو متغيرة، أو بعد أن يكرر تلك الاستجابة لعدد ثابت أو متغير من المرات. وعندها سيتشكل سلوكه تدريجياً وتلقائياً كما تتشكل قطعة النحت بأصابع النحات، عبر مسارات يحددها مهندس السلوك المختص. فنرى مثلاً حصان السيرك يدور حول نفسه لمدة (5) ثوان ثم يحني رأسه لمدة (3) ثوان ثم يرفع قائمتاه لمدة (4) ثوان، لا لإنه يرغب واعياً بإمتاع الجمهور، ولكنه لأنه تعلّم عبر جداول تعزيز سابقة تعرّضَ لها أن حصوله على المكافأة (تفاحة مثلاً) أصبح مرهوناً بانتهائه النمطي من كل تلك الحركات التي قد تكون مرهقةً له لكنها تبدو مدهشة و"ذكية" للمشاهد. أما في المجتمعات البشرية، فإن نجاح عملية الترويض يبقى مرهوناً بالمستوى الثقافي لمواطني تلك المجتمعات، إذ كلما ازداد تفكير الفرد تشعباً وكبرت ذخيرته المعرفية، انخفض احتمال خضوعه للترويض.

وقد جرى فعلاً تشكيل جزء مهم من السلوك الاجتماعي للعراقيين ضمن جداول ترويضية غير ثابتة زمنياً، مماثلة لجداول "سكنر"، بوشر بها منذ عقدين من الزمن، إذ فقدوا مرونة الكينونة الحياتية التلقائية المسترخية التي تتيحها الكهرباء الدائمية التدفق، وأمسوا يقننون مواقيت كل نشاطاتهم اليومية (العمل/ النوم/ تناول الطعام/ الدراسة/ الزيارات الاجتماعية/ مشاهدة التلفاز/ النشاطات الثقافية/ العلاقات العاطفية/ مراجعة الطبيب/ الأعمال المنزلية...) على نحو وسواسي-قهري رتيب، بانتظار مجيء الكهرباء (التي مصدرها الدولة أو المولدات الأهلية على حد سواء) بوصفها "الجائزة" التي تهون من أجلها كل أنواع المعاناة التي تسبقها. فأصبح الصبر والتقنين والحذف والتأجيل والإلغاء والإنكار والتخلي هي "القاعدة" المتاحة للعيش، فيما باتت التلقائية والمبادرة والإشباع والإبداع والثقة بالحياة هي الاستثناءات شبه الغائبة!
وبمعنى أكثر تحديداً، جرت محاولة "تدجين" العراقيين على قبول أدنى الحقوق البديهية (كمجيء الكهرباء) كما لو إنها "جوائز" كبرى لا يمكن نيلها إلا بعد مرورهم الميكانيكي الحتمي بجداول التخلي عن نيل الحقوق.

يقول مبرمج السلوك الذي يشرف على هذه الجداول: ((الكهرباء هي المكافأة العرضية الوقتية لمعاناتكم الضرورية الدائمية يا عراقيين، ولا مجال للتفكير بحياة متدفقة ليس فيها انقطاع للكهرباء. عليكم أن تنشغلوا بمسألة متى وكيف سيتم الحصول على هذه "المكافأة" التي تتحكم بها قوى غامضة غير مشخصنة، وليس لكم أن تتفكروا بأسباب غيابها معظم الوقت! عليكم أن تفقدوا كبريائكم الآدمي، وأن تفقدوا الرغبة بالاعتراض، وأن يصبح هذان الفقدانان أمرين "مألوفين" ما دام قد جرى تخليقهما تدريجياً عبر تكنيك تحويل الكهرباء -أي الحياة نفسها- إلى "رشوة" أو "مكرمة"، تُعطى أو تحجب حسب جداول زمنية متغيرة يحركها منطق العشوائية القصدية)).
إنها محاولة لمكننة السلوك البشري، وإفراغه من مضمونه الإنساني الكامن، واستلابه بيولوجياً ونفسياً عبر تقنية تقطير الحياة في فم الإنسان، وصولاً به إلى فقدان الأمل والعجز المتعلم والاكتئاب الجمعي والخواء الوجودي المر، أي تعطيل المشروع الحضاري والجمالي للجماعة العراقية، وإحالته إلى محض جدول انتظارات خائبة لساعات القطع "المبرمج". فلكي تحصل أيها العراقي على الكهرباء، عليك أن تعاني وتُهان وتتحنط ويُنكل بكرامتك وتموت روحياً. فالألم الثابت والقهر المستمر هما طريقك الوحيد لقطاف راحة ما مؤقتة. فأي فلسفة عبثية لمعنى الحياة، جرت محاولة فرضها على هذا المجتمع؟ّ
إن الفئران التي طبّق عليها "سكنر" تجاربه وجداوله قدمت أنساقاً من قوانين سلوكية محايدة يمكن توظيفها لتحرير الجوهر الإنساني أو تشويهه تبعاً للمنظور الغرضي للمؤسسة. فجرى استثمارها من المؤسسة الرأسمالية الأمريكية لإدامة مشاريعها الكولونيالية الساعية لتسليع الإنسان وتعليبه وحتى "تحوينه" في كل البلدان التي وطأتها جزمتهم السادية على نحو مباشر أو غير مباشر، ومنها العراق.

لكن العراقيين لم يعشقوا آلامهم كما خُطط لهم، ولم يفتتنوا بها، بل ظلوا (بحكم التراكم الحضاري في الشخصية العراقية) مشاكسين لقسوة تلك الجداول المكتوبة بحبر المخططين لحشرهم في اسطبل القطيع. فاستمر أطفال مدرسة الموسيقى والباليه ببغداد يتدربون على مقطوعات "باخ" حتى في العتمة والأجواء الخانقة، وواصل تلاميذ المدارس وطلبة الجامعات دراستهم على ضوء الفوانيس النفطية وتحت درجات حرارة تفوق قدرة التحمل البشري حراً وبرداً، وثابر الأدباء والفنانون والباحثون والمفكرون والإعلاميون على اقتناص الرؤى العقلية العليا رغم التسمم الحياتي الشامل الذي أشاعه قطع الكهرباء عن الجسد العراقي. وأخيراً، انطلقت الأسبوع الحالي تظاهراتُ احتجاج غير مسبوقة على "قتل" الكهرباء في بغداد والبصرة والناصرية، سواء بصيغة أعمال شغب منفلتة أو بصيغ سلمية رمزية ممسرحة بالغة الدلالة والجمال.

إن البنية المعتقدية للفكر الرأسمالي لا تستطيع أن تتعامل مع "المنطق الجدلي" ولا أن تنفتح عليه. ولذلك فهي لا تستطيع أن تفهم كيف يخرج التقدم من التخلف، والأمل من اليأس، والتحرر من الاستعباد. وكلها معطيات باتت تؤرشف يومياً جدليةَ الحياة العراقية.

This article was originally published in the electronic journal, al-Ahwar al-Mutamaddun