Anonymous, 27 Nov 2015
Online Journal of the Virtual Middle East
Vol. 9, Iss. 1, 2015


Problematizing Cyber Warfare

This special issue of CyberOrient engages with the relationships between "cyber" and "real" battlespaces, the mediatization of war, the need to expand our definition of warzones, and the importance of asking who participates in wars, to what ends, using what kinds of technologies, and for what purposes. Taken together, the five essays demonstrate the expansion and blurring of the spaces of war. As importantly, they highlight that even warfare that is "only" fought in the virtual realm is laced with violent intents and real-life repercussions. Not only can we not separate the cyber from the real so neatly, but we must not overlook that no matter how we wish to classify "new" or cyber wars, it is citizens, along with their ways of life and their cultural records, that continue to be by far the largest losers.
CyberOrient, Vol. 9, Iss. 1, 2015


Violence and Visibility in Contemporary Syria: An Ethnography of the “Expanded Places”

This article reflects on the relationship between visibility and violence as redefined by the combined action of warfare and networked communication technologies. Drawing on the author's own ethnography conducted in Syria in 2010, and on anonymous YouTube videos, it introduces the concept of “expanded places” to look at sites that have been physically annihilated; yet, at the same time, they have been re-animated through multiple mediated versions circulating and re-circulating on the networks. Building on Rancière's work on the distribution of the sensible, the article argues that, at the intersection of those simultaneous actions of annihilation and regeneration, a new geography of visibility and violence is being shaped which rearranges the existing into a completely new political form and aesthetic format. Thriving on the techno-human infrastructure of the networks, and relying on the endless proliferation of images resulting from the loss of control of image-makers over their own production, expanded places are aggregators of new communities that add novel layers of signification to the empirical world, and create their own multiple realities and histories.
CyberOrient, Vol. 9, Iss. 1, 2015

Islamophobia in Online Arab Media

What is Islamophobia? A popular term among many newspapers articles, politicians’ speeches and scholarly texts, it is rarely clearly defined. Although the concept of ‘Islamophobia’ is difficult to define it has been a source of heated discussion in academic work, public diplomacy, government policy and news media. Governments, social think tanks and various scholars have attempted to define Islamophobia in order to counter incidents of physical, legal or verbal abuse of Muslims, Islamic artifacts and symbols, etc. Those attempts tend to present Islamophobia as a global phenomenon, similar in all its occurrences and definable as a concrete observable fact. This article supports a move from Islamophobia singular to Islamophobia(s) plural by exploring notions of Islamophobia in Arab and Muslim online media. It is suggested that multiple, localized “Islamophobias” exist and that varying uses and understanding of the term may occur in that media. Furthermore, the article problematizes the emergence of the term and its sometimes over-simplified uses, stepping away from an ‘Us’ against ‘Them’ dichotomies. Through careful and thematic analysis of the sources, the political and religious apparatuses of “Islamophobias” are crystalized.
CyberOrient, Vol. 9, Iss. 1, 2015

The Shifting Nature of Cyberwarfare in Middle Eastern States

While some theorists make the claim that “kinetic and traditional military power are losing importance to symbolic and media power,” in reality the present military situation is complicated by the variety of tactics used by both governments and civilians in multiple and overlapping war zones. The Middle East has recently been the center of enormous military and media attention regarding the use of many forms of “new” media military operations. However, rather than arguing that online warfare has trumped physical encounters, cyber campaigns must be seen as being deployed in conjunction with on-the-ground military maneuvers. The use of online strategies disperses power and allows for an increasing role by non-state actors in both online and offline spaces of conflict. Drawing from the geographic literature on war, especially Derek Gregory’s concept of “everywhere war,” examples are offered from Syria, Iran, Gaza, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
CyberOrient, Vol. 9, Iss. 1, 2015

Visual Representation, Propaganda and Cyberspace: The Case of the Palestinian Islamist Movements

The article analyzes the changing position of the visual representation in the context of Islam from the starting point set up in the Qur’an and more specifically in the prophetic tradition to the theoretical positions of Islamic reformism and radicalism and the practice of Islamism movements. To understand this changing relationship is crucial for the research of ideology and propaganda of the contemporary Islamist movement. In the second part, the article illustrates this new position of images in the visual representations of Palestinian Islamist movements, specifically of Hamas – The Islamic Resistance Movement and its military wing the Brigades of the Martyr ‘Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine and its military wing the Phalanges of Jerusalem and finally the Popular Resistance Committees and its military wing the Victorious Salah al-Din Brigades.
CyberOrient, Vol. 9, Iss. 1, 2015


Presenting the Glossy Look of Warfare in Cyberspace – The Islamic State’s Magazine Dabiq

Since Ramaḍān 1435 (June/July 2014), the so-called ‘Islamic State’ (dawlat al-islāmiyya, IS), the ‘State of the Caliphate’ (dawlat al-khilāfa), publishes a periodic magazine entitled Dabiq. This glossy outlet, produced and distributed by al-Ḥayāt, one of the movement’s media organizations, is widely disseminated on the Internet and forms part of IS’s advancement in the field of the media. Published in English and other European languages, it allows the movement to spread its messages to an international audience. This article analyzes and evaluates four issues of Dabiq published in English between June and October 2014.It argues that three aspects are crucial for framing the ideological justification of the movement’s warfare and help to rally support for their state-building project: the development and establishment of images of the enemy, the notion of ‘strangeness,’ and the call for emigration. Within this framework, the magazine intertwines textual and visual accounts of the movement’s physical and virtual battlefields and mediates these to a non-Arab speaking public. Thus, Dabiq is – chronologically, technologically, and ideologically – the most recent and very well elaborated attempt of the Islamic State at winning support among the broadest public possible on a global level. The article concludes that the magazine at large and the abovementioned aspects reflect both the ideological structure of the movement and its current situation in Iraq and Syria. Utilizing derogative images of their enemies helps the Islamic State both to maintain its claim for legitimacy and to position their adherents and opponents within a dichotomous ideological framework. On this basis, it calls its followers to immigrate to the land of the two rivers and the Levant in order to support the establishment of an Islamic State and eradicate nation state borders.
CyberOrient, Vol. 9, Iss. 1, 2015