Unconventional Arabic Language Resources, Vol. 1

1950s DLI students sit riveted by another mind-blowing Arabic lesson.

In the military, within the language analyst community (government speak for ‘translator’), there is a phrase that sends shivers down the spines of most service-members. The phrase is… “language maintenance.” It makes the language retention process sound as interesting and thrilling as changing a car’s oil, which is probably why most military “language maintenance” materials are so damned boring. From my experience, most materials consisted of either a written article from Al Jazeera or BBC Arabic, or a 2-3 minute audio passage from the same sources. Bilateral trade agreements! Weather reports! The Joy! Now, these sorts of materials are certainly important – especially since the DLPT draws almost exclusively from them – but they can become stale very quickly, especially at the higher levels. It’s also understandable that since the personnel tasked with putting together materials for language maintenance are swamped with a million other tasks, they naturally reach for the same resources time and again. In that regards, I thought I’d list a few places where you can find Arabic Language materials that are both authentic and engaging.

Disclaimer: I like Arabic, but I love Iraq and Iraqi Arabic. As such, you’ll probably notice a certain bias towards materials related to Iraq. You just got to deal with it, yo. Also, most of these materials are probably in the 2+ and higher range of the ILR scale. If you aren’t there yet, you might not get as much out of these.

1. The Harmony Program Documents from West Point’s Countering Terrorism Center
These documents are probably some of the most unique documents of their kind on the internet. Documents captured from insurgents and terrorists across Iraq and Afghanistan were made available by the US Military to researchers at West Point’s CTC under the agreement that they were allowed to be publicly published. It doesn’t get more “real” than this. Want to read the letter that al-Qa’ida’s second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, sent to the former leader of al-Qa’ida in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi? What about the form that al-Qa’ida required its soldiers to fill out if they were quitting jihad in Iraq? There are tons of different documents that you can pore over; all of them interesting and historical. The best part of all, however, is that every single Arabic Language document has an English translation accessible by clicking the “View English Translation” button in the upper right corner of the page. It not only provides a word-for-word translation, but adds context and background history on the who/what/where/when/why of each document. You almost don’t need your trusty Hans Wehr!

2. Baghdad TED Talks
Yeah, you read that right. Official TED talks… in Arabic… from Baghdad. This is actually very, very recent (last week). The footage isn’t actually up on the official site just yet, but you can still watch a replay of the livestream here.

3. Iraqiyah Confessions
These are pretty wild; there isn’t really any correlation to this practice on mainstream American TV. Basically, some of the most “infamous” of Iraqi terrorists and insurgents that are rounded up by US/Iraqi Forces are brought on TV for dramatic one-on-one mea culpas where they detail their sordid jihadi ways. One of the lengthiest interviews is one done with Munaf al-Rawi, the so-called “Wali of Baghdad,” who led al-Qa’ida in Iraq’s Baghdad operations and who was captured back in 2010 and sentenced to death this March. The entire interview can be found conveniently pieced together on my youtube playlist. There’s plenty more out there. I should note, some people might find it repulsive to dedicate 30-40 minutes listening to a terrorist talk, but I think most people will see the value. Maybe I’ll post a transcript some day for the non-Arab speaking folks out there?

4. al-Jazeera Sports
I have a theory that sometimes the best thing to do on certain days is just put on some Arabic in the background and let your mind absorb and work with the Arabic passively. Don’t worry about looking up words, don’t mess with trying to understand everything, just get in that messy stream of Arabic and let it wash over you like a warm shower. That’s right. And, in my opinion, the best way to do that is to put al-Jazeera Sports on. They generally have soccer (football lol) on at some point during the day and it’s super easy to just pull it up and watch some soccer for 30 minutes. This method is even more beneficial if you follow American sports, as a lot of the chatter between broadcasters is the same so it is fairly easy to figure out what they are chatting about after a while. al-Jazeera Sports streams live from this website. Enjoy!

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Al Jazeera: Muhammad al-Barad’i: “Husni Mubarak’s Regime is Teetering”

Note: As the protests in Egypt continue into their second day, I decided to post these remarks from the leading Egyptian opposition figure, Muhammad al-Barad’i. Egypt has had many opposition leaders over the years, but none have had such a highly respected and global presence as al-Barad’i, who was the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency from 1997-2009. He is most well-known for his work with Hans Blix on the WMD inspection teams that were in Iraq until the American invasion in 2003, as well as the ongoing dispute over Iran’s nuclear program. He also won the Nobel Peace prize in 2005. After leaving the IAEA in 2009, there has been much speculation as to whether or not he might run for President in 2011 as he is an Egyptian citizen by birth.

Historically Husni Mubarak has been able to squash any opponents using physical intimidation and wide-spread corruption at polling centers but al-Barad’i’s international visibility would make it much harder for Mubarak to pull off such a campaign and harder for Western governments to ignore. (Of course we did pretty good job of ignoring Afghanistan President Karzai’s ballsy act of rigging the 2010 elections in his favor, so who knows?) It remains to be seen whether or not the events of the past few days will lead to a full-scale revolution like the one in Tunisia last week, or if it will just be a short-lived outburst like the massive protests in Iran after the 2009 elections.

I also included the following links with more updates on the situation in Egypt:

The New York Times – Protesters in Egypt Defy Ban as Government Cracks Down

Foreign Policy – Will the Arab Revolutions Spread?, Day of Rage (Pictures), You’re So Vain, You Probably Think These Protests are About You

al-Jazeera (عربية) – Egyptians Break Through the Barrier of Fear, Protests Continue in Egypt as the Death Toll Rises, Internet is Blocked in Egypt and Websites are Taken Down

-David

http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/1B8CD42F-3A3F-4023-8CC0-59B54EBFDA03.htm

al-Barad'i: "The Muslim Brotherhood has distanced themselves from violence for half a century and have focused on reforms and changes instead of focusing on gaining power."
The Egyptian opposition leader and former General Secretary for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Muhammad al-Barad’i stated that, “The time for change by way of the ballot box has to come an end in Egypt as Husni Mubarak has closed all the doors to reform and a peaceful transfer of authority. As such, taking to the street is the only way now to realize the aspirations of the people.”

al-Barad’i told the German weekly, Der Spiegel, that Egyptians have been protesting in greater numbers for the first time, “As a result of the collapse of the “culture of fear” that President Husni Mubarak’s regime has kept alive his entire time in power.” He expressed that the increasing protests in Egypt are an indication of a historic turning point, “As Egyptians come to realize that their fate is in their own hands and not in anyone else’s.”

He added, “The Egyptian regime has refused in the past and continues to refuse all calls for reform, they are completely disconnected from the reality their people are living in and can’t even look [around them] or hear [the pleas for reform]. I have warned Mubarak of the consequences of waiting for these issues to come to a head … the time has come for him to pay the price.”

Conditions for Success

al-Barad’i likened the recent Egyptian protests to an unstoppable snowball rolling down and gaining momentum. He added, “Husni Mubarak’s regime is teetering and is extremely fearful and tense in light of the recent events in Tunisia, while it simultaneously tries to portray indifference to the Egyptians that have recently committed self-immolation protesting their living conditions in all areas of life.

al-Barad’i indicated that, “The only way for the Egyptian regime to stay alive and rescue itself from a fate like the one that befell its counterpart in Tunis is for Mubarak to remove himself from nomination for a new term as President, to issue a new constitution, to call for new free elections, and to cancel the “State of Emergency” that has been imposed on the country for the past 29 years.
He holds the view that the revolution in Tunis represented a precursor to the possibility of a “spring of change” in the Arab world in which Egypt plays a leading role. In al-Barad’i’s opinion, Egyptians’ requests for bread and more individual rights is only natural in a country where 40% of the population lives on less than a dollar a day.

He pointed out that, “The main difference between the conditions in Tunis and the conditions in Egypt is the presence of a broad middle class in Tunis which Egypt doesn’t have. Poverty and anger will play a main role in any possibly popular uprising.”

Defending the Muslim Brotherhood

al-Barad’i stated that it is possible that Egypt now stands on the precipice of a coming phase of instability, and he called on Mubarak and his security apparatus to respect the people’s universal right to protest, saying that, “Change is coming and no one will be able to stop it.”

He also responded to a question about his opinion on Israel’s fear of a collapse of the situation in Egypt and many Israeli’s concerns that the Muslim Brotherhood would gain power and launch a war on the Jewish state. [al-Barad’i] called for, “An end to the demonization of the Muslim Brotherhood and the [false] idea of a choice between either the oppression of Husni Mubarak’s regime or the chaos of a narrow-minded religious government.

He went on to clarify that the Muslim Brotherhood has distanced themselves from violence for half a century and have focused on reforms and changes instead of focusing on gaining power. He added, “If we want to establish a free, democratic system, in Egypt, then we must include the Muslim Brotherhood in the political process instead of distancing them from it.”

Al Jazeera: Demonstrations break out in Egypt on a “day of anger”

http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/018633CB-3A98-453E-B33E-2C692E0568B4.htm?GoogleStatID=1

Demonstrators were out in dozens of places in Cairo and Egypt's biggest cities
Responding to calls by activists on the social networking site “Facebook”, demonstrations and marches broke out in the capital city of Cairo and a number of [Egyptian] provinces in what is being called “a day of anger” coinciding with the celebration of Police Day, a [national] holiday.

In an event that hasn’t happened for more that three decades, hundreds of protestors from various areas in Cairo began to [march] and were joined by thousands of people in protests that have rocked dozens of different cities across Egypt.

In downtown Cairo, a crowd of thousands of protestors broke through the security barriers and marched in past the Supreme Court building as they headed towards the main Tahrir square. Amongst the protestors were tens of former members of parliament who echoed chants against the Egyptian regime.

Other demonstrations broke out in Ruksi square in the neighborhood of New Cairo, as well as in front of the headquarters of the Doctors’ and Lawyers’ professional unions. At the same time, other demonstrations from other areas were moving towards Tahrir square in the heart of Cairo where it was [estimated] that more than 20,000 people were protesting by the afternoon.

The Reuters news agency said that protestors in front of the Supreme Court building in Cairo were calling for the fall of President Husni Mubarak. They echoed chants aimed at [Mubarak’s] son, Gamal, saying: “Hey Gamal, tell your dad, ‘All of the people hate you’.”

[Reuters] added that the protests today represented a test of how effective activists can be in transforming their messages on the internet into a reality in the street.

The youth of the “April 6th” [group], who played a large role in calling for the demonstration, said that security forces arrested a number of activists and journalists who were covering the demonstrations that have extended to a number of areas outside of Cairo, especially in Alexandria, Asyut, al-Mansurah, and al-Mahallah al-Kubra.

Security Presence

One of the organizers of the demonstrations stated that security forces arrested 15 members of the Muslim Brotherhood who were waiting for a signal to go and demonstrate.

Various areas [within Cairo] have been under a thick security presence while other cities such as al-Muhallah al-Kubra, an industrial city that has been the scene of a number of the most prominent protests over the past years, have seen beefed up checkpoints at the entrances and exits to the city. [These measures] seek to prevent the arrival of activists who intended to lead the protests there.

The National Assembly for Change has already issued a report for this occasion in which it says that today the Egyptian populace is knocking on the door of freedom, dignity, and justice. It [also] expressed that it was sorry that Police Day had come and that the [security] apparatus had been transformed into, “A private police force whose mission is limited to using oppression and torture to protect those in the government as well as their families and attendants.”

The report noted that the Tunisian populace rose up under similar circumstances and proved that any governing regime that uses violence, oppression, and intimidation [to maintain control], as well as one that places severe restrictions on the freedom of expression, will collapse the moment that there is an outburst of public anger.

Rescuing Egypt

The National Assembly for Change emphasized that, “The only way to rescue Egypt from a future fraught with great danger is to meet the desires of the people and respond immediately to their requests which are: Rescind emergency law, dissolve the rigged parliamentary councils, and hold free and fair elections according to international standards to form a transitional government until the time that the constitution can be amended.”

Likewise, [another] Egyptian movement for change, “Kafayah”, issued a report saying that it, “Senses the seriousness of what may result from Egypt’s conditions … from political gridlock, social congestion, corruption that destroys the country’s wealth, to forgery of the [legitimacy?] of the authorities, tyranny that crushes basic freedoms and brutalizes the poor, unemployed, and sick.” It went on to call for all efforts to be directed at continuing the public’s struggle and advancing towards a peaceful civil disobedience and revolution.
Kafayah enumerated its demand to shut down the current government and get rid of resident Husni Mubarak and his regime, as well as to dissolve the rigged parliamentary councils and clear the way for a transitional government with a new president and national unity coalition.

They also called for an end to the state of emergency, the dissolution of the National Security apparatus called the “Mubahath”, the immediate release of all political prisoners and detainees, the liberation of journalists and political entities as well as the unions and assemblies, the guarantee to allow society the freedom of demonstrate and protest peacefully, the guarantee of independence for all judges, the [1m] of all phases and types of elections and general referendums, and prosecution of those responsible for crimes of forgery and torture.

In that regard, Kafayah called for a halt to the privatization program, and called for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador, as well as for a stop to exports of oil to Israel and a cancellation of Egypt’s peace agreement with [Israel].

Note: Here are some Arabic links to the two Egyptian reform movements listed in the article as well as the Facebook page mentioned in the article. I also included a link to a a few English articles with more information regarding the events in Egypt.

National Assembly for Change (Arabic) – http://www.taghyeer.net/

Kafayah (Arabic) – http://www.harakamasria.org/

Facebook (Arabic) – Day of Revolution Against Torture, Poverty, Corruption, and Unemployment

New York Times – Broad Protests Across Egypt Focus Fury on Mubarak

Boing Boing – Protests inspired by Tunisia and fanned by social media break out all over

Andrew Sullivan – Social Networking Strikes Again, An Arab Tipping Point?, Egypt Erupting

-David

Al Jazeera: News Summary, 12 January, 2010

(Intro music)

(00:11) Newswoman: Greetings, and welcome to this news summary.

(00:13) An Iranian source for al-Jazeera says that a university professor specializing in nuclear physics named Mas’ud Muhammadi was killed by the detonation of an explosives-laden motorcycle parked near his residence in the northern part of the (Iranian) capital, Tehran. The source explained that Muhammadi worked for what is described as the (1m) of the province. The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that there were indications of (1m) by Washington and Israel in the assassination of Muhammadi.

(00:40) An al-Jazeera reporter stationed in Ankara reports that the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the Israeli Ambassador to Turkey as the result of a similar action by Israel. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs had already summoned the Turkish Ambassador in protest of statements made by the Turkish Prime Minister in which he criticized Israel during a broadcast on a Turkish satellite channel.

(01:04) Local sources say that a website, Mu’atamar.net, belonging to the current ruling party in Yemen known as the General People’s Congress released a statement saying that around 20 people from the al-Huthi group were killed, and another 25 were arrested in a military operation undertaken by Yemeni counter-terrorism units.

(01:25) At least 14 people were killed and 32 others injured this Tuesday due to ongoing clashes in the northern part of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, between Sunni militias, groups belonging to the Somali government, and fighters from the al-Shabaab al-Mujahidin movement.

(01:43) Major General Qasim al-Musawi, spokesperson for Operation Furd al-Qanun(Law Imposition) in Baghdad, said that the emergency security measures undertaken in the city were done to protect the lives of citizens after information was received about a group of so-called “terrorists” intending to detonate car bombs (in Baghdad).

(02:02) Alistair Campbell, former advisor to Tony Blair, began his (1m) testimony in front of the investigative committee looking into Britain’s involvement with the invasion of Iraq. Campbell is the first big official questioned by the Chilcot committee which is expected to release its final report at the end of the year with the (1m) assessment.

(02:24) Until next time.

(Exit Music)

Notes: For more information regarding the ongoing Yemeni civil war and the al-Huthi group, follow these links:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sa’dah_insurgency
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Houthis

For more information regarding al-Shabaab al-Mujahidin in Somalia, follow this link:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Shabaab

NFTR//
DMD