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  • JJS
  • Membre/Member, NTIA IANA Functions' Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (2014~2016); Membre/Member, NetMundial Initiative Coordination Council (déc. 2014~2016); ICANN/ALAC (2010~14); ICANN Board (2007-10); diplomat(e) (1971-2005); ambassadeur/dor (1995-2005). Gouvernance; défis globaux / Governance; global challenges.
  • Membre/Member, NTIA IANA Functions' Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (2014~2016); Membre/Member, NetMundial Initiative Coordination Council (déc. 2014~2016); ICANN/ALAC (2010~14); ICANN Board (2007-10); diplomat(e) (1971-2005); ambassadeur/dor (1995-2005). Gouvernance; défis globaux / Governance; global challenges.

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14 février 2012 2 14 /02 /février /2012 07:20

 ➠ 中文版 

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En calligraphie, l'esprit ordonne le geste, le corps ne fait qu'exécuter.

 

C'était lors d'une fête qu'un ami donnait dans un musée d'art contemporain pour son 50ème anniversaire. Ses parents, son épouse, ses enfants, des amis de jeunesse, des collègues, quelques dizaines d’invités formaient un groupe varié et de tout âge. En terminant sa sobre allocution, le héros de la fête évoqua un ami d'enfance présent à ses côtés, et lui demanda d'exécuter quelques calligraphies avant que nous ne passions au buffet.

Discrète, attentive à tout, Mme XU Dengyin , l'épouse du calligraphe, aidée de deux ou trois invités, débarrassa une table, déploya des rouleaux de papier, disposa les instruments d'écriture, vérifia l'encre, et de ses paumes lissa la première page blanche.

Vêtu d'un tricot aux manches retroussées, ZHENG Jieping  鄭階平(郑阶平)s'avança vers l'écritoire improvisé. Ceux qui ne le connaissaient pas, retenant leur souffle, se demandèrent comment une personne sans mains et sans avant-bras pouvait s'adonner à la calligraphie. Un instant de concentration, regardant l'encrier, puis la feuille blanche, à nouveau l'encrier et les pinceaux, l’artiste se préparait à écrire.

L'instant d'après, il saisit le plus grand pinceau, le trempa, et d'un geste sûr en exprima l'encre superflue sur les bords de l'encrier. D'habitude, un calligraphe tient le pinceau dans sa main droite comme le prescrivent les manuels de cet art, "avec la fermeté du tigre et la légèreté de l'oiseau". Ici, ZHENG Jieping, debout, tenait le pinceau de ses deux membres supérieurs, de sorte que l'acte d'écrire mobilisait tout son corps, qui se déplaçait tout entier de droite à gauche au rythme de la calligraphie, le torse et la tête imprimant au pinceau d'amples mouvements pour les grands caractères puis, pour achever en plus petits idéogrammes la date et sa signature, se focalisant comme un horloger sur une montre, en gestes de faible ampleur dont on devine la précision.

Les invités, émerveillés, formèrent un cercle de plus en plus resserré autour du calligraphe. Plusieurs grandes feuilles passèrent ainsi de l’état de papier à celui de signe, de message, d’art. L'après-midi fut éclairé par ZHENG Jieping, écrivant de tout son corps ; le pinceau, à l'aplomb de son regard concentré, semblait alors l'instrument docile d'une surprenante chorégraphie.

Intéressé par le style de ce calligraphe, j'ai proposé à son épouse et lui de leur rendre visite afin de faire connaissance et prendre quelques photos. Echange de numéros de téléphone, promesse de se contacter bientôt.

Par une journée pluvieuse, je me suis rendu dans leur appartement au dernier étage d'un immeuble, avec vue sur le fleuve Huangpu, gris métallique ce jour-là. Nous bûmes du thé, bavardâmes, continuèrent au restaurant du quartier où je les conviai avec leur fils, retournâmes chez eux et regardâmes des albums, des livres, des calligraphies récentes.


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Le calligraphe ZHENG Jieping 鄭階平 郑阶平) chez lui, à Shanghai.


Il ne m'en a pas parlé, mais ses amis savent que le tout jeune ZHENG Jieping fut accidentellement électrocuté par un câble à haute tension, avec pour conséquence la perte de ses deux bras. L'amputation lui laissa des moignons juste au-dessus des coudes. Sans doute a-t-il fallu une volonté hors norme pour surmonter une telle épreuve. Sa passion de la calligraphie remonte à l'école primaire, lorsqu'il avait admiré le talent de quelques camarades dont les oeuvres étaient exposées, et regretté de n'en avoir pas lui-même.

En regardant des photos de Jieping jeune homme, je découvre la haute exigence qu'il n'a cessé d'avoir à l'égard de lui-même : dans une photo, le voilà à une rencontre sportive régionale pour personnes handicapées, et dans une autre, le voici aux Olympiades pour handicapés (saut en longueur). Il a produit pour la jeunesse des manuels de calligraphie dont il m'a montré les brouillons, chaque caractère tracé avec ce qui m'a paru une grande aisance, mais qui résulte sans doute d'années d'une riguoureuse discipline. J'imagine le respect qu'il doit inspirer à ses éleves, dans le lycée à Shanghai où, en classe de calligraphie, il leur parle aussi de l'évolution des styles au cours des siècles.


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ZHENG Jieping avec son épouse XU Dengyin et leur fils ZHENG Weixiong. L’inscription célèbre la nouvelle année, “Que l’année du dragon apporte le bonheur” (龍年戴福 xinnian daifu).

S'il pratique tous les styles d'écriture, je trouve que ZHENG Jieping excelle dans le caoshu  ("la souplesse des hautes herbes"), forme dont l'apparente décontraction suppose non seulement une maîtrise technique, mais aussi une profonde connaissance étymologique, historique et littéraire. Tandis que d’autres graphies, notamment le kaishu 楷书 demandent un respect rigoureux du modèle proposé, laissant ainsi peu de place à la fantaisie ou à la créativité, caoshu est une forme dans laquelle, me semble-t-il, une personnalité hors du commun trouve à s’exprimer librement.

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Calligraphie en écriture caoshu ("la souplesse des hautes herbes") par ZHENG Jieping.

Il est surprenant qu'un artiste de cette qualité, apprécié des initiés en Chine, soit à peu près inconnu ailleurs : ne pourrait-on trouver, d'abord en Asie puis dans d'autres régions du monde, des galeries souhaitant montrer, à travers ZHENG Jieping, que la calligraphie est indissociable de la culture chinoise, tout en faisant penser, par son abstraction, à l'art contemporain ? 

Jean-Jacques.

Vous pouvez faire part de votre ais en cliquant sur "commentaire" ci-dessous. Merci !

 (Les commentaires sont modérés par le propriétaire de ce blog).

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14 février 2012 2 14 /02 /février /2012 07:12

en français : ZHENG Jieping, calligraphe

翻译 : 女士 

 

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书法中,思想带动手势,身体不过是执行大脑的指挥。

 

节日的一天,朋友在现代艺术馆庆祝他的50岁生日。他的父母,妻子,孩子,年轻时的朋友,同事组成一个年龄、社会背景不同的来宾群体。在简洁的发言中,主人提到他的身边的人们,其中一个便是他儿时的伙伴郑阶平。餐前,主人邀请郑先生当场作一幅字。

低调,但是无微不至的郑太太,徐登银女士,在其他两三个朋友的帮助下收拾掉一张桌子,摊开一卷纸,摆放上书法道具,检查一遍墨汁,用手心抚平第一张白纸。

郑阶平的毛衣袖口高高卷起,身子伏向那张临时变成的文案。还不认识郑阶平的来宾们屏住了呼吸,不知道这个只剩下上臂的人怎么会和书法联系在一起。郑先生的眼光落在砚台上,然后在白纸上,又转向砚台和毛笔,凝神片刻。

随后,他夹起一只大号的毛笔,浸在砚台里,用及其娴熟的手势把笔在边沿上舔了一下。在通常的情况下,一个写书法的人用右手握笔,就像教科书上写的那样“握笔如猛虎般坚定,行笔如飞鸟般轻盈。”不过今天不同。郑阶平站着,用他的两条上臂夹着笔写字,就好象是用他的全身来运笔,他的身子随着笔画从右向左移动,写大字时,上身和头部与笔尖一起挥舞;落款写小字时,又好像一个钟表匠,凝神屏气,自信又精准。

啧啧称奇的来宾们在书法家的身边围起一个圈子,圈子变得越来越紧。这个下午因为郑阶平,这个用自己的身体写字的人而变得不平凡;那只笔,垂直在他全神贯注的目光下,就好象神奇的编舞者手下的一个灵巧的道具。

被他独特的风格所吸引,我向书法家和他的太太提议去拜访他们,以便更好地认识他们,拍几张照。交换了电话号码,我们约定近期内联系。

雨濛濛的一天,我来到他们家。郑家在一栋高楼的最高层,面向黄浦江,在这个雨天里,江面一片银灰。我们喝茶,闲聊,然后我请他们夫妇和儿子一起在附近的餐馆便餐,随后再回到他们的寓所,看他的收集,书籍,还有最近的书法作品。


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书法家郑阶平在他上海的寓所


他没有跟我多,但是他的朋友都知道,郑阶平是由于幼压电电而失去了他的双臂。截肢手后,剩下的只有肘以上的两段上臂。经受住这样一个打击毫无疑问需要有过人的意志。他对书法的迷恋则来自于上小学的时候。有一次去参观书法展览,他被别人的作品所吸引,并懊恼自己没有这个才能。

看着阶平年轻时的照片,我感受到一种奋发向上,自强不息的精神:在一张照片上,是他在残疾人运动会上,在另一张上,是他在残奥会上(跳远)。他给我看他给年轻人出的一本书法字帖的草稿,一笔一画都显得那么圆润流畅,但这是多少年坚持习字的结果啊。郑阶平在上海的一所中学教书法,他还给他的学生们讲述中国字体演变的历史。我想象他的学生们对这位老师会是怀着如何一种尊重.


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郑阶平和他的妻子徐登银和儿子郑伟雄(上海大学一年学生)

 

郑阶平能写各类字体,但我觉得他最擅长的是草书,那种轻松自如不仅显示出他对技巧的掌握,更显示出他对字源学、历史和文化深厚的理解。总认为,其他的字体,比如需要格地遵守规则,很少有自我发挥的余地。而草书则不同,种字体具有独特个性的人能尽情地表

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郑阶平的草书

 

这样一个在中国被内行人看好杰出的艺术家在其他国家却不被知晓实在有点令人吃惊我们是否能在亚洲然后在其它国家找到一些画廊愿意通过展示郑阶平的书法作品这一保存着中国古老文化的艺术形式 以它的抽象性来反省现代艺术呢

Jean-Jacques(杨霞客)

您可以点击下面的“评论”来表达您的观点。谢谢。(博客主人有权选择刊登评论)

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30 janvier 2012 1 30 /01 /janvier /2012 04:00

In a previous post, I had copied a letter from a group of "friends of ICANN" to the Chair of the Board of ICANN, about the process leading to the recruitment of the next CEO (English original here, translation into French here but scroll down, and into Chinese here).

This group of "friends" considered that a follow-up was necessary, and recently sent a new letter to the Chair of the Board, who graciously replied. The content of both messages is reproduced below.

                                                                        24th of January 2012

Dear Dr. CROCKER,

 Dear Steve,


In November 2011 we, as a group of friends of ICANN from various parts of the world, had shared with you and your colleagues of the Board our concerns about the process leading to the choice of ICANN’s next CEO, and offering some recommendations. You had graciously acknowledged this letter. Today we are writing as a follow-up to that correspondence.


We note with satisfaction the improvements the Board has brought to the selection process:

 1) a Search Committee was properly formed, with an experienced and respected personnality as its Chair,

 2) the external consultant was chosen among firms having responded to a call for tenders,

3) the preselection process is being carried out by the search firm, not by the Board or its Search Committee,

4)  transparency has improved: the community was invited to comment the draft of the job profile, and elements of the selection process have been posted online,

5) the position of CEO was advertised in a leading weekly publication with a worldwide distribution, not restricted to the USA.

We wish to commend the Board, under your leadership, for having taken these measures which improve the internal governance of ICANN and enhance its image.


The recent publication of the job profile in The Economist is, in itself, a welcome innovation, which we had advocated. However, this advertisement gives rise to new questions:

a) ICANN is not described as a not-for-profit organization. This omission introduces a degree of ambiguity about the nature of ICANN, both for prospective candidates and to its worldwide community. Is this departure from well-established wording meant to indicate that, somehow, ICANN is evolving into a commercial corporation looking for the usual type of CEO?

 b) As an established practice, ICANN has always described itself as a “private-sector led multi-stakeholder organization”. For its advertisement in The Economist, ICANN is said to fulfill its mission "by engaging with a global community of thousands of actively participating stakeholders (governments, businesses, academia, NGO's, technical operators and individuals), all of whom have a role in keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable". Although this latter formulation was probably meant to make the notion of “multi-stakeholder” more widely understood, it weakens the principle according to which stakeholders are on an equal footing,  at the heart of ICANN’s originality and value.


If the advertisement in The Economist is to be published again, it might be worthwhile considering some changes. Additionally, ICANN could easily modify the online job profile to restore clarity.


With best wishes to you and the Board of Directors, we remain

Yours sincerely,

     Nashwa ABDELBAKI, from Egypt,

     AIZU Izumi, from Japan,

     Yrjö LÄNSIPURO, from Finland,

     Evan LEIBOVITCH, from Canada,

     Alejandro PISANTY, from Mexico,

     Nii QUAYNOR, from Ghana,

     Carlton SAMUELS, from Jamaica,

     Jean-Jacques SUBRENAT, from France,

     XUE Hong, from China.

                                                              On behalf of the above:

                                                              (signed) Jean-Jacques Subrenat


And Dr. Crocker replied on 28th of January 2012:

Jean-Jacques, et al,

It is a pleasure to hear from you again and it warms my heart to see that you are following the recruiting process closely.

The ad in the Economist was a deliberate departure from the process we used last time, and I am not surprised that we might not have gotten it exactly right.  Nonetheless, I am pleased to report that we have received a strong response to the ad and, far more importantly, we have received from a variety of sources a good list of strong candidates.  Whatever misunderstandings might have arisen from the wording in the ad will surely be sorted out during the interview process.

Nothing in the ad should be interpreted as altering the fundamental nature and structure of ICANN.  Just as an example, there is no prospect of evolving ICANN into a commercial corporation.  The comments that you have provided are good, and perhaps if we had thought even more about the content of the ad, we would have included them.  The absence of 'not for profit' in the description is unfortunate, since that would have provided another clue in addition to the phrase  'public service' regarding the fundamental nature of ICANN.

We do not plan to run another ad during this recruiting process.  We will keep your comments in the file for the eventuality some day in the future when we have to do this again.

Again, thanks!
Steve Crocker
Chair, ICANN Board of Directors
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12 octobre 2011 3 12 /10 /octobre /2011 17:26

(中文翻译:游 女士)

 

 

 一个星期一的晚上。九月里宜人的微风,引导着观众陆续走进上海戏剧学院的演出大厅。一长排显眼的花篮前,成群的学生和一些年长者鱼贯而过:这将是一个不寻常的夜晚。观众拥入剧场,找座位的,大声交谈的,玩手机的,换座位的,打电话的,一片嘈杂。

 

今晚的演出曲目“情叹”改编自川剧传统剧目,由田蔓莎女士概念创意、导演并主演,另有6位川剧演员为帮腔。观众们不禁好奇:要赋予一出中国传统地方戏曲以现代社会的意义,而这个地方戏又有其严格的音乐体系,戏中大部分的文学典故只被中国观众所理解,而外国观众往往不知所云,这一切从外行来看,都实在太难了。对于外国观众来说,舞台两边的英语字幕着实不可或缺。

 

当然,这出戏本来不是准备给外国观众的。而我作为一个观众的反应却引起我对中国戏曲特殊性的思考,进而对广义上的中国文化,而不是仅限于中国戏曲,对于外国人可接受性的反省。

 

我无意在这里叙述剧情,因为任何一个专业戏曲评论家或者一个中国知识分子都会做得比我好得多。田女士的表演不仅向观众传达了被进京做官的丈夫所抛弃的少妇的痴心,而且还有她的青春的活力可以在一瞬间转为忧思。尽管没有提到一个字,但是从1966年起的10年政治骚乱(即以文化为借口的所谓的“文化大革命”)占据了后大半场戏。一阵无情的铃声把她从对舞蹈的喜悦、精神的解放的瞬间回忆中粗暴地拉回现实生活,田女士把孤独感和从艺术家沦为清洁工的失落表现的栩栩如生,细腻入微。

 

这出戏的主题或者说本意是“文化记忆”。田女士没有在这里具体说明“记忆”的内容(仅仅是被抛弃的少妇对往事痴情的回忆,还是在60年代那个黑暗的日子里对文化作品的肆意破坏?),她只是冒着极大的风险轻轻地点了一下题。但是到剧终,这个似乎游离于两者之间的选择变得非常有效:一个人生命中最珍贵的方面,无论你如何去保护它,最终都逃离不了政治斗争所带来的蹂躏。这是一曲美的颂歌,艺术的颂歌,但是观众突然意识到为了在这无边的灾难压迫下保留文化需要个人付出多么巨大的代价。无论人们在剧终有多悲伤,“记住”是这出戏留给我们的嘱咐。

 

简练抽象富有意境的舞台布景,高水平的伴奏和帮腔,追光,这一切都有效地烘托了田女士的单人表演。

 

周一演出之后一个炎热的星期三下午,受田女士之邀,我们十来个朋友,评论家,同事和记者,在一栋被周围的高层建筑包围着的4层小楼房的玻璃墙会议室里一起喝咖啡。发言人中有两个非中国本地人:美国一所大学戏剧专业的女教授还有我本人。在轻松的氛围里,大家轮流着对演出发表评论,批评或者赞美某一个细节,有的人则作出一个更具广泛意思的总结性发言 。对我来说,这个星期三下午就像星期一的演出一样有意义。讨论高雅又坦率。在后半部戏里表现出来的艰难似乎对大家来说都显而易懂,不少人都说到所谓的“文化大革命”,这对一个外国人来说,实在是很有意思。

 

在“情叹”和田女士的表演之外,世界各国的人们对中国文化作出如何的反应,中国艺术的各种形式究竟有多少能被具有不同文化背景的人接受,也非常地令人好奇。

 

在过去的20年里,中国艺术表现的复兴在视觉王国里尤其引人注目。从技术到主题,绘画都无疑是最有创新意识的了。绘画艺术被准许有不寻常的开放度,正如人们可以在北京的798艺术区或者上海莫干山路的M50的很多画廊里看见的那样。当被问及此事,艺术家们认为是因为相当一部分前卫作品最终都被收藏于国外,所以审查制度对这些作品也就睁一只眼闭一只眼了。另一个非常视觉化并广泛出口的艺术形式是杂技。杂技演员技艺精湛,外国人无需对中国文化或历史有什么了解就可以欣赏。

 

电影也曾经是中国文化出口的一个主要项目,以至于一些“第五代、第六代”导演(张艺谋,陈凯歌,贾樟柯……)和一些电影明星(巩俐,章子怡……)的名字在国外也变得家喻户晓。至于音乐,它的国际感染力则与曲目本身所具有的中国独特的风格以及内容的多少成反比。同样,丰富多彩的中国地方戏曲(京剧和其他舞台剧)对外国观众来说极其难以理解,更不要提欣赏了。 

 

和相对容易出口的绘画和电影相比,小说和戏曲这两种文化和艺术创作难以让一般的外国人接受。我问了好几个知识分子他们有否可推荐的新小说,他们往往以对外国小说的翻译来结束…… 至于戏曲,中国特殊的美感和外国人的审美观念分歧甚大以至于外国人很难发自内心地来欣赏它。

 

于是这里提出了一个问题:是不是在中国传统戏曲和西方观众之间有不可逾越的障碍?一些切实的准备工作可以帮助受过教育的观众更好地理解演出,就像法国、德国甚至更多的国家共同出品一台戏那样:去看演出前先阅读了解作品的构思,年代和作者,演出完了后观众和演员进行座谈。

 

为不同文化背景的观众提供理解作品的办法是我们这个时代的挑战,因为它必须在完全尊重原著的条件下进行。就这一点而说,我赞赏田蔓莎和帮助她把一出传统四川戏改编成一场具有普遍感染力的演出的艺术家。贯穿全局的舞台两边屏幕上的翻译帮助我对剧情有所了解;但更重要的是田蔓莎在帮腔和伴奏演员们完美的配合下所进行的真诚的表演、以及这出戏的艺术表现形式赋予了它普世价值。

 

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 (The Chinese version was translated by Ms. YOU Xing 游行) 

A Monday evening. The balmy September breeze ushers the spectators into the hall of the Shanghai Theatre Academy (上海戏剧学院), where clusters of students and quite a few senior citizens file past a row of flashy flower baskets which indicate that this evening is meant to be special. The theatre hums to life as spectators flock in, look for their seats, chat loudly, play with their mobile 'phones, change seats and answer calls. 

The play: "Sighs" (qingtan) adapted from the traditional Sichuan repertoire, directed and performed by TIAN Mansha (田蔓莎), with a group of six Sichuan theatre musicians. The spectator cannot but be curious, as even the layman senses how difficult it must be to give contemporary relevance to a piece of regional repertoire from one Chinese province, with its strict musical rules and abundance of literary references which are understood by a Chinese public, but which usually fly over the heads of foreign spectators. For the latter, the translation screens on both sides of the stage provided a welcome degree of comfort.

Naturally, the performance was not aimed at foreigners. But the reactions I had as a spectator led me to think about the special characteristics of Chinese plays, and to wonder if, beyond the performing arts, Chinese culture in general is accessible to the foreigner.

I don't intend to go through the play, because that is far better taken care of by professional theatre critics, or Chinese literati. The performance by Ms. TIAN conveyed the sad yearning of the young wife whose husband has left for high public office in the capital, but also her youthful liveliness which, in a moment, can turn into melancholy. Although never mentioned by name, the decade of acute political turmoil from 1966 onwards (the so-called "cultural revolution", in which culture was used as a pretext) occupies the latter half of the play, Ms. TIAN impersonating with vivid reality, but also with delicacy, the sense of loneliness and utter loss of the artist-turned-cleaner, who for a brief episode remembers the bliss of dance, the flight of the spirit, before being brutally brought back to her senses by a harsh bell.

The central theme, indeed the point of origin of this play is "cultural memory". By not specifying the content of that memory (was it simply the fond recollection of the young forsaken spouse, or was it the more portentous destruction of cultural references during the Dark Age of the 1960s?), Ms. TIAN took the big risk of merely touching the surface. But in the end, the choice of remaining ambiguous turned out to be very potent: the most precious strands of one's life, however much one tries to protect them, cannot escape the devastation wrought by political strife. It is an ode to beauty, to art, but suddenly the spectator understands the exorbitant personal cost of maintaining culture against the onslaught of a wider disaster. And however sad one may be at the end of the play, the injunction to "remember" becomes the important message.

A minimalistic yet expressive stage set, the fact that the excellent musicians were onstage (the Sichuan tradition usually keeps them in the wings), pin-point lighting, all served the one-woman performance well.

A hot Wednesday afternoon, following the Monday performance. We are a dozen or so friends, critics, colleagues or journalists invited to share coffee with Ms. TIAN, in a glass-walled meeting room on the top of a 4-story building surrounded by much taller apartment blocks. There were two non native-Chinese speakers, a lady professor of theatre at a US university, and myself. In a relaxed atmosphere, each in turn commented the performance, criticized or lauded a particular point, some offering a wider conclusion. To me, this Wednesday afternoon was as revealing as the Monday performance itself. The debate was well informed and frank. For a foreigner, it was interesting to note that the difficulties alluded to in the latter part of the play were quite transparent to all, many referring to the so-called "cultural revolution" by name. 

Beyond "Sighs" and Ms. TIAN's performance, one can wonder how audiences around the world react to Chinese culture, and indeed to what extent various Chinese art forms are accessible to people from other cultures. 

During the last two decades, the renewal of Chinese artistic expression has been especially noteworthy in the visual realm. Painting is probably where innovation has been boldest, with experimentation extending from techniques to a complete renewal of subject matter. Painting has been allowed an unusual degree of liberty, as one can see in the many art galleries in Beijing's 798 Art Zone (798艺术Yìshùqū ) or Shanghai's M50 galleries in Moganshan (莫干山) district. When asked about this, artists remark that a fair proportion of the avant-garde paintings end up abroad, so that censorship has kept one eye shut. Another very visual cultural export product is the circus, with its spectacular feats, for which no knowledge of Chinese history or culture is required to enjoy.

Films have also been a major Chinese cultural export item, to the extent that the names of some of the "fifth- and sixth-generation" directors (ZHANG Yimou, CHEN Kaige, JIA Zhangke...) and some movie stars (GONG Li, ZHANG Ziyi...) have become household names even outside China. As for music, the international appeal of a Chinese composition is inversely proportional to its China-specific style and content. In the same way, the numerous regional variants of Chinese lyrical theatre (Beijing "opera" and other types of singing/performing on stage) are extremely difficult for a non-Chinese spectator to understand, even less appreciate.

Compared with easy-to-export paintings and films, two types of intellectual and artistic production remain difficult to bring to the appreciation of a wide international public, and these are the novel and the play. I've asked quite a few intellectuals what contemporary novels they would recommend, and they often ended up talking about translations of foreign novels... As for the theatre, there remains a chasm between the China-specific aesthetic code and what people in other countries can spontaneously appreciate.

The question then arises: is there an insurmountable barrier between, say, a traditional Chinese play and a Western audience? As has been demonstrated in joint productions in France, Germany and elsewhere, some sound preparatory work helps make a play accessible to an educated public: reading about the plot, the period and the playwright before seeing the performance, and having a debate between the public and the performers.

Rendering things accessible to spectators from other backgrounds is indeed a challenge of our times, as this must be achieved without compromising the authentic inspiration of the original work. In this respect, I commend TIAN Mansha and all the artists who helped her adapt "Sighs" from a traditional Sichuan play to a performance with a more universal appeal. I followed closely the translation screens throughout the play, and this helped keep track of the plot; but more than that, it is the artistic expression, the sincerity of Ms. TIAN's acting, so well served by the Sichuan musicians, that endowed the play with universal value.

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I am grateful to Evan Leibovitch, Byron Holland and Maria Farrell for their comments on the draft of this piece. Any remaining errors or inconsistencies are mine. JJS

So I was wrong.

Wrong when suggesting, in a previous article on this blog, that after the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia and the overthrow of Mubarak in Egypt, the movement might spread rapidly to Teheran, Algiers, Manama, Damascus. In addition, I was short-sighted when limiting my field of vision to Middle-Eastern cases of dictatorship, while neglecting other seeds of wrath, such as the shameless greed in our own democracies.

Teheran? Since the article mentioned above, friends have pointed out to me that, in fact, an Iranian Spring predated the events in Tunis and Cairo. In 2009, the protests following the elections, in which Mousavi had been cheated out of victory, were precursors of the 2011 Arab Spring. In spite of the confiscation of the election 2 years ago, Ahmadinejad is no longer invulnerable, even on his conservative flank. Societal change is pushing reality in urban Iran, in spite or because of so many excesses committed in the name of obscurantism, which some ayatollahs still uphold as national dogma. The compulsory adulation of clerics is backfiring sharply. Women, who are emerging in higher education, are less subservient to males than previously in everyday life, and are also gaining ground in professional circles. I don't know if Iran will experience its own Persian Spring, but the writing is on the wall.

Algiers? Alas, the system set in place during the revolt against the French occupation, and which led to independence, was quickly corrupted by its essentially military leaders, who have fattened themselves on oil income, crushed social reform, apportioned the economic cake into slices to their sole benefit, and placed a majority of university graduates in the position of permanent job-seekers. In Algeria where reform is needed even more urgently than in Egypt, those in power are standing on the brakes, and seem prepared to brutally repress any attempt at democratization, so that the likelihood of an Algerian Spring appears, at this stage, unpredictable and remote.

Sana’a? The steadfast courage of the opposition was recently given a welcome boost by the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to Ms. Tawakkul Karman, the civil rights activist. In a few weeks, the situation has changed so much that President El-Saleh now openly accepts the prospect of being driven out of his palace and into exile.

Damascus? The events in Syria are skewed because Al-Assad has powerful allies: two sponsors (Iran, Russia) and one client (Hizbullah and, by inference, segments of Lebanese politics). Also compounding the situation is the fact that, unlike Egypt and Libya, but like Iraq, Syria is split along tribal and sectarian lines. Ousting the Libyan dictator from Tripoli was not easy, but at least the UN Security Council resolution benefited from Moscow and Beijing looking the other way. But this time, both Russia and China have used their veto to oppose a Western-led resolution in the Security Council aimed at bringing Al-Assad to international accountability. With more than two thousand people killed by his forces since early 2011, Syria is in a critical condition, and yet the likelihood of a Syrian Spring seems as remote today as it was three months ago, if not more so.

Israel? Massive political demonstrations have taken place, first on economic grounds, but now a large part of the population considers that the country is being run by extremists and that the democratic system is failing its citizens. Superficially, this does not seem to have a link with the issue of statehood for Palestine, but exposing the internal political process as being controlled by the wealthy and by religious extremism, certainly brings about enhanced awareness of the challenges for Israel in the region, and will no doubt have wider ramifications in the context of future elections.

Saudi Arabia? While not apparently under short-term threat, the kingdom appears not to be taking any chances. The granting of some civic rights to women (voting rights in municipal elections starting in 2014) is a major shift from past doctrine, and can only be attributed to the restless mood in the region, as the BBC recently pointed out.

I was also wrong in not having seen that some of the causes leading to the "Arab Spring" could produce similar effects in the West, in spite of vastly different circumstances. We tend to consider that our own societies cannot experience such fundamental turmoil, for the simple reason that democracy was spawned not in China, not in the Islamic world, not in the Slavic tradition, but in the Western cultural mould. We consider that because democracy is ours, we may instruct other nations, yet can hardly imagine being tutored by them. As Naomi Klein recently said while taking part in the Occupy Wall Street march in New York, "In the US media, they keep saying What are their demands, why are they protesting? But in the rest of the world, people are going What took you so long? Welcome to the club!" (DemocracyNow!, 6 October 2011, Ms. Klein's interview is 1 minute 30 seconds into the programme). There was an influential fore-runner of the New York movement, earlier in 2011 in Wisconsin, where large and peaceful protests were staged against the Republican governor. These demonstrations took place at the same time as those in Tunis and Cairo, and seem to have been directly inspired by them.

Analyzing the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement may require stretching conventional views quite a bit. For instance, can we consider the march on Liberty Street (leading to Wall Street, itself cordoned off by the New York Police Department) as just a North-American replay of the protest movement which has gone on for months in Greece? Yes, the protest on both sides of the Atlantic is in part against the degradation of public services, the shrinking of revenue in the lower-income bracket, and impunity for boundlessly greedy bankers (in the West) or autocrats (in the Middle East). But the differences must not be glossed over when considering the situations of the US and Greece. In the US, OWS is partly a reaction to the success of the “Tea Party” movement, and in that sense its motives seem far removed from the Arab Spring. Indeed, Tea Partiers and Occupants of Wall Street both criticize Congress as ineffectual, out of touch, controlled by vested interests, and prepared to favour big business to an unreasonable degree. Because Tea Party started earlier, it is for the time being better organized and more focused than OWS. One of the underlying problems is that mainstream media in the US are instructed to avoid the deeper debate about how they are financed and what interests they represent, and as a result the OWS movement is treated with condescension, if not worse, by most mainstream media. The US debt is now largely dependent upon China and other foreign holders of dollar-denominated bonds, whereas a solution to the Greek debt depends mainly on continued EU solidarity, even though China has been cautiously willing to absorb some of Athens' high-yield obligations. Average Greeks face a substantial loss of earnings but, because their country is a member of the European Union, they still have the benefit of basic public health care, considered as a social right. In the US, even under Obama, that is still far from being the case, with ultra-conservative lawmakers and some big media trying to discredit the very notion of public health care by conjuring up images of Stalin-era communism.

Another striking feature of the Occupy Wall Street movement is the way it is dealt with as a social phenomenon in the US. One new anchor at CNN denigrated the marches taking place in New York by entitling her programme "Seriously?" inferring that the participants must be simply ignorant. During a press conference at the White House on 6 October 2011, President Obama was asked how he viewed Occupy Wall Street, and as expected he saw this movement as a reaction to the financial downturn (my underlining): "I think it expresses the frustrations that the American people feel -- that we had the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, huge collateral damage all throughout the country, all across Main Street, and yet you’re still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on abusive practices that got us into this problem in the first place." This contradicts a statement he made earlier in the same press meeting, when his analysis was somewhat broader: "A lot of the problems that this economy is facing are problems that predate the financial crisis -- middle-class families seeing their wages and their incomes flat, despite rising costs for everything from health care to a college education. And so folks have been struggling not just for the last three years; they’ve been struggling for over a decade now. And at a time when so many people are having such a hard time, we have to have an approach, we have to take action, that is big enough to meet the moment."

In spite of the principles of equality and fairness Obama declared he would uphold (inaugural speech, January 2009), the current US President has not implemented a system of oversight and regulation capable of truly protecting the people from the excesses of corporate greed. The Cheney presidency and its predecessors were responsible for creating an atmosphere in which "regulation" became a dirty word, but Obama has not brought to a halt the indecent practice of extravagant bailouts, which are quickly followed by billions in extra earnings for the bankers who proved to be unworthy stewards of hard-earned savings. By stating that the Occupy Wall Street movement is in response to a financial crisis, Obama implies that the overall construct of American society remains what it was meant to be under Madison and Jefferson, and that however unpleasant its consequences in the short term, the current crisis is limited to the financial sector.

The demonstrations in New York and about 800 other cities in the US beg a question: is this phenomenon going to grow into something bigger? Are US activists willing to revisit some of the features which set the Fifty States and the Federal District quite apart from other large democracies, and which have gradually undermined the credibility of the US message to the rest of the world? In which other large democracy is the chief of a powerful Executive branch elected by an anachronistic electoral college? In what other large democracy is representation limited, for all practical purposes, to two parties? When Iraq and Afghanistan were subjected to military occupation, how many elected representatives in Washington challenged the decision of the Executive, knowing that the Constitution grants powers of war to the Congress, not to the President? Do these same elected representatives honestly think they can hold forth on the model of US democracy when visiting, say, Turkey or Indonesia, Colombia or Nigeria?

Some observers will disparage the marchers in New York and elsewhere, with the intent to belittle the agenda of Occupy Wall Street: they will sneer at this "thing" without a leader, they will mock the style of the participants, they will pontificate on the comfort of being a protester in a "far too tolerant" society, and most of all they will not permit the debate to focus on the larger picture of systemic inequality. If a true debate emerges, they will try to keep it within the confines of arguing about the “financial” crisis alone.

Of course, there are huge differences between some Arab states and the US, between political upheaval aimed at ousting a dictator, and the call for profound reform in a vibrant democracy such as the United States. Nonetheless, the question is no longer unutterable: After Tunis and Cairo... New York?

 

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(The original letter in English may be viewed here)

(La version française de cette lettre peut être consultée ici)


 尊敬的理事会主席库克先生:

吾辈ICANN之友谨此致信于阁下并理事会其他人士。

ICANN现总裁暨首席执行官任期将届满,将于2012年7月卸任。籍此ICANN关键之际,理事会必于万机之中,着眼于选任继任者之重任。

任一机构之中,选任首席执行官均为理事会之第一要务。于ICANN,独特之多方利益相关者之结构及其志愿者理事会,此选择之重大,莫可过之,更遑论互联网与ICANN正值发展之机。已获之进展葺需巩固。持多方利益相关者模式之价值,不致其危,需目的之坚持、想象之充盈。理事会之指导与监督下,下一任首席执行官之职责何止领导,更在加强。

新首席执行官选择正值首次问责和透明度审查完成之后不久,理事会可以此证明践行所有之问责及透明度之建议,甚或可过之。此等建议精神之下,理事会甚应于新任首席执行官之选任中愈加透明与负责。

候选人应藉透明之程找寻(经全球和地区媒体之适当宣传;如有必需,或可以招标之法选择一外部顾问)。理事会应全程领导,决定之时,全体成员均须充分知悉。置妥善治理基本规则于不顾,将致理事会成员不履行于互联网社区之主要职责(即注意义务)之境地。虽理事会某些商议之秘密性需予合理保护,然于此界限之内,将选举过程公开、透明展开、不授人以柄,实为可行与理想之举。下一任首席执行官之选择须在本届任期结束之前进行,不可迟延,极其重要。

上述之改进符合ICANN所承担之义务。籍此ICANN向全世界社区传递信任与透明之明确信号,同时巩固其基础,并进一步奠定与互联网及其用户之全球合作。

致敬于您及理事会成员全体!

商祺

AIZU Izumi 会津泉 自日本; Manal ISMAIL 自埃及; Yrjö LÄNSIPURO 自芬兰; Evan LEIBOVITCH 自加拿大;Alejandro PISANTY 自墨西哥;Nii QUAYNOR 自加纳; Njeri RIONGE 自肯尼亚; Carlton SAMUELS 自牙买加; Jean-Jacques SUBRENAT 自法国; 薛虹 自中国。

二零一一年九月十七日

 

(经得薛虹教授 [北京师范大学互联网政策与法律研究中心主任]同意,谨在此刊登这篇文章的中文版)。

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(Le texte en français se trouve à la suite du texte en anglais)

(中文版在此

 

The CEO of ICANN, Rod Beckstrom, made known by Twitter on 16 August 2011 his intention to leave the corporation in July 2012, at the end of his current contract. This was quickly followed by an official announcement on the ICANN website.


Among the many comments which ensued, some dwelt on the management style of the current CEO, others underlined the challenge for the Board in having to choose the next CEO while attending to all the other items on an already complicated agenda. Kieren McCarthy suggested the decision to terminate Beckstrom's contract in July 2012 was the Board's, not the CEO's. Beau Brendler considered Beckstrom's departure would be an opportunity for change. Kevin Murphy provided a glimpse into the rumours about who might become the next CEO...


Some concern was expressed about the way the search for a CEO had been conducted the last time, when looking for a successor to Paul Twomey, a process which many consider had not been transparent, nor a model of good governance within the ICANN Board itself.


In this context of fairly wide concern for the future of ICANN, a group of friends of ICANN reflected on the situation, and on 17 September 2011, sent the following letter to Dr. Stephen D. Crocker, Chair of the Board of Directors of ICANN: 


"Dear Dr. Crocker, Dear Steve,


as a group of friends of ICANN from various parts of the world, we would be grateful if you would share this letter with your fellow Directors.


The President & CEO of ICANN has announced that he will be leaving this corporation in July 2012, when his current contract expires. At a time when ICANN has to deal with other important challenges, its Board of Directors will have the additional task of selecting his successor.


In any corporation, selecting a CEO is one of the most crucial responsibilities incumbent upon the Board. In ICANN, with its distinctive multi-stakeholder structure and volunteer Board, the importance of such a choice cannot be overstated, especially at this stage in the development of the Internet and of ICANN itself. The progress made by ICANN so far must be further consolidated. At the same time, upholding the value of the multi-stakeholder model, which some are actively seeking to jeopardize, requires continuity of purpose as well as renewed imagination. Under the guidance and oversight of the Board, the next CEO will have the duty not only of leading, but also of strengthening ICANN.


The selection of a new CEO, shortly after the completion of the first Accountability and Transparency Review, provides the Board with an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that it is now fully equipped and prepared to implement all the ATRT recommendations, perhaps even to go beyond that. In the spirit of these recommendations, the Board of ICANN should adopt a more transparent and accountable method for the selection and appointment of the next CEO.


Candidates should be sought through a transparent process (appropriate advertising in global and regional media; call for tenders in order to choose an external consultant, if one is needed). The Board should remain on top of the process, so that all its members are fully informed by the time a decision is called for. Failing to abide by these basic rules of good governance would expose Board members to the risk of eschewing one of their chief responsibilities toward the ICANN community, which is the duty of care. While the confidentiality of some Board deliberations sets understandable constraints, it is possible and desirable, within those bounds, to carry out the selection process in an open and transparent manner, so as to make it irrefutable. It is also important that the next CEO be chosen before the end of the predecessor’s current term, and be ready to begin without delay.


These improvements would be in line with ICANN’s committments. They would also send a strong signal of confidence and clarity to ICANN’s worldwide community, while at the same time consolidating the foundation upon which it aspires to build further global partnerships for the Internet and its users.


With best wishes to you and the Board of Directors, we remain

Yours sincerely,"


 (The signatories are AIZU Izumi, from Japan; Manal ISMAIL, from Egypt; Yrjö LÄNSIPURO, from Finland; Evan LEIBOVITCH, from Canada; Alejandro PISANTY, from Mexico; Nii QUAYNOR, from Ghana; Njeri RIONGE, from Kenya; Carlton SAMUELS, from Jamaica; Jean-Jacques SUBRENAT, from France; XUE Hong, from China.)


If you wish to leave a comment, please click on "Laisser un commentaire" after the French text below.

 


Le président directeur général d'ICANN, Rod Beckstrom, a fait connaître par Twitter, le 16 août 2011, son intention de quitter cet organisme en juillet 2012, au terme de son présent contrat. Un communiqué officiel fut publié peu après sur le site d'ICANN.


Cette annonce a suscité de nombreux commentaires, certains traitant du style de gestion du PDG, d'autres soulignant plutôt le défi que le directoire devra relever : chercher le prochain PDG tout en s'occupant des autres dossiers d'un programme déjà passablement compliqué. Kieren McCarthy laissait entendre que la décision de ne pas renouveler le contrat avait été prise par le directoire, et non par le PDG. Beau Brendler estimait que le départ de Beckstrom fournirait l'occasion d'un vrai changement. Kevin Murphy donnait un aperçu des rumeurs concernant le choix du successeur... 


 Des critiques ont été formulées au sujet du processus suivi lors de la précédente recherche, lorsqu'il s'agissait de trouver un successeur à Paul Twomey, procédure considérée comme ayant été ni transparente, ni un modèle de bonne gouvernance au sein du directoire lui-même.


Conscients de cette préoccupation assez largement répandue, un groupe d'amis d'ICANN, ayant examiné la situation, a adressé la lettre suivante au Dr. Stephen D. Crocker, président du directoire d'ICANN, le 17 septembre 2011 :


"Monsieur le Président, Cher Steve,


amis d'ICANN en provenance de différentes régions du monde, nous vous serions très reconnaissants de bien vouloir porter ce courrier à la connaissance de vos collègues du directoire.


Le président directeur général (PDG) d’ICANN a récemment annoncé son intention de quitter l’entreprise en juin 2012, au terme de son présent contrat. Dans une période où ICANN doit faire face à d’autres défis importants, son directoire aura la tâche supplémentaire de sélectionner et de nommer son successeur.


Dans toute entreprise, la sélection du président directeur général constitue l’une des responsabilités les plus cruciales incombant au directoire. En raison même de la structure originale d’ICANN fondée sur la multiplicité des parties prenantes, et parce que son directoire est composé de volontaires, on ne saurait trop souligner l’importance d’un tel choix, surtout dans cette phase du développement de l’Internet et d’ICANN. Les progrès réalisés par ICANN demandent à être consolidés et leur mise en oeuvre doit aboutir. Par ailleurs, la défense du modèle à multiples parties prenantes, que certains cherchent activement à fragiliser, suppose une orientation stable, mais aussi un surcroît d’imagination. Sous l’égide et la supervision du directoire, le prochain président directeur général aura la double tâche de diriger et de défendre ICANN.


Peu après la fin de la première Revue sur les devoirs de ”rendre-compte” et de transparence d’ICANN (Accountability and Transparency Review, ATR), la nécessité de choisir un nouveau PDG fournit au directoire l’occasion de démontrer qu’il est capable et disposé à mettre en oeuvre toutes les recommendations de l’ATR, peut-être même d’aller au-delà. Dans l’esprit de ces recommendations, le directoire devrait adopter une méthode plus transparente et vérifiable pour le choix et la nomination de son prochain PDG.


Les candidatures devraient être recherchées au travers d’une procédure tranparente (publicité adéquate dans des media globaux et régionaux ; lancement d’un appel d’offres, si le recours à un consultant externe est considéré comme indispensable). Le directoire doit conserver la maîtrise de la procédure, de façon à ce que ses membres soient pleinement informés au moment du choix. Faute de suivre ces règles élémentaires de bonne gouvernance, les membres du directoire risqueraient de manquer à l’une de leurs principales responsabilités, à savoir le devoir de bonne gestion. S’il est clair que certaines délibérations du directoire doivent demeurer confidentielles, il est possible et souhaitable, dans de telles limites, de conduire la sélection d’une manière ouverte et transparente, afin que le processus soit irréfutable. Il est également important que le choix et la nomination du prochain PDG interviennent avant le terme du contrat de son prédécesseur.


De telles améliorations se situeraient dans le droit fil des engagements pris par ICANN. Elles enverraient aussi un message fort de confiance et de clarté à la communauté globale d’ICANN, tout en consolidant les bases sur lesquelles cette organisation entend fonder de nouveaux partenariats à l’échelle mondiale, pour le bénéfice de l’Internet et de ses usagers.


En vous priant de transmettre nos meilleurs voeux à vos collegues du directoire,

nous vous prions d’agréer, Monsieur le Président, les assurances de notre considération."


(Les signataires sont AIZU Izumi, du Japon ; Manal ISMAIL, d’Egypte ; Yrjö LÄNSIPURO, de Finlande ; Evan LEIBOVITCH, du Canada ; Alejandro PISANTY, du Mexique ; Nii QUAYNOR, du Ghana ; Njeri RIONGE, du Kenya ; Carlton SAMUELS, de la Jamaïque ; Jean-Jacques SUBRENAT, de France ; XUE Hong, de Chine.)


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22 juillet 2011 5 22 /07 /juillet /2011 03:23

Since the Irak "war logs" and the Afghanistan "war logs" took the Internet by storm, the general public's understanding of the Wikileaks phenomenon has evolved, from critical disbelief to a more informed posture, from the guilty thrill of discovering secrets to a sense of the profound change that this media, with its proclaimed ideals and its unusual methods, has already brought about.

This article (1/2) aims at gauging the importance of the Wikileaks phenomenon, even though it is far too early for a complete view. The next article (2/2) will consider the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, as an intellectual in the early 21st century.

In trying to determine the importance of Wikileaks, three aspects are of special interest: the purpose of Wikileaks, the possible evolution of its content, and the impact it is already having on our times.

First, it is worth asking what seminal concept lies behind the publication of confidential information, which in the case of the State Department cables was immediately condemned by public authority in the US, quickly followed by the political leaders in the UK. The purpose of Wikileaks, as expounded by its founder in interviews and conferences, is to render transparent the facts and the analyses upon which public policy decisions are made, including acts of war; to expose and combat corruption, denial of human rights, or prevarication by mainstream media.

The Wikileaks phenomenon, though striking by its daring and the sheer size of the material already released, is not the first in contemporary history. Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the "Pentagon Papers" at a crucial time in the war prosecuted by the United States in Vietnam, had made about 7000 pages of secret documents available to the New York Times, and contributed to accelerating the end of that war, as well as the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Incidentally, Ellsberg's fame was instantly enhanced when Henry Kissinger labeled him "the most dangerous man in America", a title later given to a remarkable documentary on Ellsberg by Judith Ehrlich & Rick Goldsmith. In giving Assange his public and outspoken support, Ellsberg has vouched for the credibility of Wikileaks in the eyes of a number of radical citizens, and helped enlarge their audience in the United States and elsewhere. But this strong and spontaneous support from Ellsberg to his young colleague should not make us overlook the large differences between the two cases. Ellsberg photocopied, kept and later released secret documents to which he had privileged access while serving in a trusted position in the Pentagon; on the other hand, Assange has not had any privileged access, nor does he seem to have pilfered or stolen documents in anything resembling a criminal act, but he is releasing material which was forwarded to Wikileaks by an unknown source (the media consider Bradley Manning, now in solitary confinement in a US Army prison and awaiting trial, as the most likely source). Another difference is that Ellsberg eventually won the case brought against him by the Pentagon and the US Government, making legal history in the process, while Assange has already been jailed, then placed under house arrest and later released on bail, without any charges being formally brought against him. This difference cannot be overemphasized, at a time when public authority in Washington is calling for Assange to "return" the secret documents, with the implication that by accepting the term "return", he would confirm the allegations of theft and unlawful conservation held against him.

However, these different political contexts cannot overshadow the fact that both men share an ethical approach to the challenges of our times: a government's decisions of momentous importance, such as acts of war, are not defensible when based on skewed data and secret analyses which are systematically withheld from that country's citizens. In the interviews he has given in recent years, Ellsberg's position is striking in this respect: far from having sleepless nights over what he did, he only regrets not having released the "Pentagon Papers" a few years earlier, which he claims would have spared the lives of thousands of US soldiers, as well as tens of thousands of Vietnamese and other victims. His frequent use of the word "lies" to characterize the explanations provided in public by Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Robert McNamara and others, has probably alienated some scholars of current affairs and a number of practitioners of international relations (diplomats, civil servants, military leaders), but has also had a strong, and more positive, impact on many others, as well as on the general public. In turn, Daniel and Patricia Ellsberg's courageous commitment to truth now serves as the historic backdrop to Assange's revelations, providing a useful precedent to the younger man's initiative. As a senior adviser inside the Johnson and Nixon administrations, Ellsberg took the decision and personal risk of falling under the secrecy laws then in force, but also the harsh judgment of his peers. Assange's point of departure is the need to defend the ethos of journalism, but his action is also aimed at holding public authority to a high degree of accountability. The acquittal of Ellsberg made him a hero in the ranks of civil disobedience towards what he, and many in his time, saw as misguided leadership. The ongoing legal action against Assange, and the constraints under which he operates, may yet jeopardize the survival of Wikileaks. But both initiatives were prompted by what their authors felt was the pursuit of unjustifiable warfare.

Second, what is the probability of an evolution in the content of Wikileaks? A number of factors could bring about change. To begin with, the trove of US diplomatic correspondence being gradually released by Wikileaks, however large, will some day be exhausted: what will happen then? Assange has already indicated, in several interviews, that aside from the State Department cables, documents from other sources have been provided spontaneously by whistle-blowers, not only in the USA, but from Kenya (with a measurable impact on the elections in that country in 2007), countries of the former Soviet Union, or Latin America.

But more importantly, Wikileaks will have to take seriously the criticism that, so far, its revelations have been detrimental to mainly one state, the USA. And critics are quite right in pointing out that in spite of its shortcomings, democracy in the USA is incomparably more vibrant than in the Russian Federation, countries in the Middle East, or China. The case is made that although appreciable changes were brought about in the Arab & Muslim world (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Iran...) by US diplomatic cables confirming massive corruption and political repression in those countries, the USA have suffered a loss of credibility, with leaders across the world now less willing to engage in confidential discourse with US diplomats.

The people at Wikileaks are probably aware that this criticism cannot be brushed aside. And whereas they can hope -or at most made a public call- for whistleblowers outside the USA to volunteer confidential information, spontaneous contributions from Moscou, Riyad or Beijing do not seem likely. This fact will place an increasing burden on Assange and Wikileaks, because as time goes by, they will be perceived more and more as being driven exclusively by an anti-US sentiment, whatever their noble aspirations on a global scale. And although Assange is careful to place himself under the intellectual tutelage of James Madison, one of the drafters of the First Amendment, he cannot avoid being seen by many US citizens as simply anti-American.

Change could also be driven by competition. Wikileaks may still be unique because of the scale of its revelations, but other media also rely, to a certain extent, on non-traditional methods of investigation. Among these, OpenLeaks could become a serious competitor, but for the time being it seems to be experiencing some difficulty in getting started.

One could also imagine conscious change happening through a voluntary process on the part of Wikileaks, for instance if it moved progressively towards a novel way of harnessing "crowd wisdom" which would include, say, a reliable system for peer reviewing analyses and opinions on current affairs, aimed at broadening the classic perspective offered by Foreign Affairs or the Harvard Law Review. Change could also be brought about by pursuing investigative reporting on topics which have been avoided by mainstream media, such as the need for a new, independent and thorough inquiry into the implosion of three World Trade Center buildings in New York on the 11th of September 2001.

Third, Wikileaks has an undeniable impact on our times. One measure of this, for what it's worth, is to google "wikileaks", which currently produces more than 106 million references, compared with, say, "new york times" (120 M), "the economist" (38 M), "der spiegel" (20 M), or "le monde" (385 M on google.fr). This enormous volume of interest is due in part to Assange's strategy, which was to seek a partnership with mainstream media in revealing the US State Department cables: The New York Times (US), The Guardian (UK), Der Spiegel (Germany), Le Monde (France), El Pais (Spain) lent respectability to what would otherwise have remained an underground operation, and neo-conservatives would have found it easier to lambast, yet again, a "conspiracy theory".

Increasingly, media refer directly to, or implicitly support, the aims and some of the methods of Wikileaks. For instance, whereas Assange willingly gives credit to the ethos and methods of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London, the latter carries documents from the Iraq "war logs" from Wikileaks. Fora for public debate such as TED Talks or Democracy Now, are shaping a more informed, less hostile attitude towards Assange and the media he created.

Another measure of the acceptability, indeed of the influence, of Wikileaks is reflected in the acclaim for itself or its founder. The Australian Peace Prize, jointly managed by the University of Sydney and the City of Sydney, was awarded to Assange in 2011, the (rarely attributed) gold medal carrying a citation "for exceptional courage in pursuit of human rights". The 2011 Amnesty International Media prize was awarded to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism for the Iraq "war logs" from Wikileaks.

Not everyone considers that Wikileaks will have a durable effect. In November 2010, then US Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, while cautioning that "every government in the world knows the US government leaks like a sieve", forecast that the disclosures would have only a "fairly modest" impact of US foreign policy. It's interesting to note that, the previous day, Hilary Clinton underlined that the leaks were "an attack on America, an attack on the international community". Some have been more threatening, for instance Tom Flanagan, a professor of political science at the University of Calgary, and former adviser to Canadian Prime Minister Harper, calling for the assassination of Assange (paradoxically, the death penalty was abolished in Canada in 1976).

The disclosure of the State Department cables, along with the revelation of classified information pertaining to the military occupation of Iraq and US military operations in Afghanistan, has also been taken up in the debate on the freedom of information. Antagonistic views are aired about this, but by and large there is a sense that by withholding some important information which constitutes the background for military operations and acts of war, governments are not properly discharging their duty to their citizens. This does not imply a denial of the validity of official secrets, but it does signal a heightened awareness about the ethos of journalism, and a call for more accountability on the part of public authority.

The next article (2/2) will consider the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, as an intellectual in the early 21st century. 


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Le texte en français se trouve à la suite du texte en anglais, ci-dessous.


For several weeks now, online videos and podcasts have allowed people around the globe to see the events unfolding in Tunis and Cairo. Running commentary, some very well informed, gave us the impression that we could comprehend the impending drama, as crowds gathered according to some mysterious pattern, barricades were assembled then buckled under sheer numbers, and the sudden view of tanks cast a shadow of grim reality on the excitement and fragrance of liberty... Does the recent experience of the Tunisians and Egyptians carry hope for the citizens of Iran, Algeria, and other places where human rights and civil liberties are routinely trampled upon?

 

Several dictatorships in the Middle East (and this is true of almost all the rulers in Iran since the Shah was chased from his throne) have long proclaimed that their special brand of theocracy was the ultimate remedy to the ills of our time and of their region. To them, the overthrow of European colonialism, and later of Western and Soviet imperialism, allowed the reinstatement of religion as the single most potent unifier of nations. As many of those self-styled "leaders" had little or no training in critical philosophy, governance, economics or planning, the blind trust they placed in their own religious persuasion served as a disguise for their ignorance of the contemporary world. Ignorance is also the driving force behind maintaining the inferior status of women, the rejection of comprehensive education, the fear of equality, the loathing of the rule of law and democratic process. And in many instances, religious beliefs and commentaries are invoked to maintain tradition, however cruel and unjust this may be by the standards of the 21st century.

 

Just now, the régime in Iran must be more than surprised by the way things are evolving, as only a few days ago it proclaimed that the fall of Ben Ali in Tunisia, followed by that of Mubarak in Egypt, heralded a new age of theocratic rule in the Arab and Muslim world. They seemed to believe that Ben Ali and Mubarak had fallen because they had been too tolerant towards Western values and too biased against the rule of the Sharia. They thought the removal of these suave dictators opened the way for their own mixture of ideology and religion to hold sway over the nefarious concepts of democracy and civil rights. In this context, the events unfolding in Teheran and other cities of Iran are quite revealing: fundamentalist religious persuasions do not seem to be the driving force, and may not be the ultimate beneficiaries of the current upheaval. It is interesting to note that in a recent TV debate in France, Tariq Ramadan acknowledged that events in Tunis and Cairo were not primarily guided, nor even enacted, by his colleagues of the Muslim Brotherhood, but by young professionals with a clearly secular or lay agenda calling for nothing less than democracy.

 

Much has been said about the role some modern tools have played in the events in Tunisia and Egypt, and now Teheran, Algiers and other cities of the region. A new phenomenon, at first invisible because of the magnitude and pace of events, seems to be taking shape in the Middle East: hitherto unorganized components of society have coalesced, bringing to a focal point the exasperation and lack of economic redistribution. The youth of these countries, whose massive unemployment fuels the rage against current national authorities, has organized itself with a speed and on a scale one could never have imagined just a few years ago. Consider this: it took decades for Arab leaders to arrive at a meeting of minds in the form of a pan-Arab caucus, because each was constrained by regional, ideological and communication obstacles, as well as by the rivalry between religious and lay references of nation-building. But now, in only two or three years, some young professionals, making full use of social networking, have set the foundation of a youth movement now straddling the Middle East (on this aspect, David D. Kirkpatrick and David E. Sanger recently wrote an interesting article in the New York Times).

 

Social networking is one of the major tools of our time. In recent history, other tools have been used as a potent weapon against totalitarian rule: remember the way the fax machine helped Glasnost and Perestroika in the declining Soviet empire; let us recall the way in which scenes of unrest against local corruption and bullying tactics in China were uploaded by ordinary people onto YouTube, the video portal which is no longer accessible to netizens in that country; let us ponder the efficacy with which mobile 'phones were used by citizens in Myanmar, rallying around Aung San Suu Kyi in spite of the curfew imposed by the military dictatorship. 

 

However, the effervescence brought about by social networking is doomed to short-lived satisfaction if it is only excitement and thrill. What is new and interesting in the events which culminated in Bourguiba Boulevard in Tunis, and in Al Tahrir Square in Cairo, is that the action was not limited, as television reports first indicated, to merely spontaneous assembly and a seemingly disorganized challenge to the authoritarian régime. Among the many influences which have shaped the convictions and action of the new generation of professionals (say, aged forty or less), I would like to single out one author who has relentlessly advocated non-violent action as a means of pushing back dictatorship. Dr. Gene Sharp, who founded the Albert Einstein Institute in 1983, has extensively researched, taught and written about the characteristics of autocratic rule, the way to repel dictatorship and foster democracy. His book "From Dictatorship to Democracy" is a seminal work in this respect.

 

Without indulging in extensive quotes from Dr. Sharp's book, here are some points which I consider of particular relevance to our time (quotes from "From Dictatorship to Democracy" are in brackets; unmarked comments are mine):

- Dictatorship is often characterized by the "maldistribution of power between the population and the elite in control of the government and its military forces". As a result, "dictators are equipped to apply violence overwhelmingly", in the face of which "despite bravery, the democrats are (almost always) no match", and violent action against dictatorship is rarely, if ever, a sustainable option.

- For a population submitted to dictatorship, relying on external help is illusory, as foreign powers will in any case be driven by their own agendas;  there is a clear need to "strengthen the oppressed population themselves in their determination, self-confidence and resistance skills".

- "Mass political defiance" is the preferred term used by Gene Sharp, as "non-violence" generally has the connotation of moral or religious pacifism. When warranted by circumstances, this political defiance is a genuine struggle and includes protest, non-cooperation and intervention.

- Having researched the cases where democracy was recovered, Dr. Sharp underlines the importance of fostering "independent social groups and institutions", capable of operating in parallel with the official entities maintained by a dictatorship. In Hungary, a myriad local democracy councils emerged in 1956-57, leading to the revolt which was quashed shortly after. Solidarność, the labour union, played a major role in leading Poland back to liberty. In Estonia, folk song groups chanted in Estonian their belief in freedom. In the dusk of the Soviet empire, the Human Chain in the Baltics was a potent and graphic illustration of the strength that can be achieved by modest citizen initiatives.

- Such "independent social groups and institutions" are of crucial importance once independence or liberty has been achieved, as usually the departing dictatorship has neglected institution-building, except in areas designed to consolidate their power (say, numerous and well-equipped police forces, highly mobile infantry, a secret network of prisons, guest houses for Party members, an elaborate system of censorship).

 

The overthrow of dictatorship is but one step, which in itself cannot provide justice, employment, education, or economic development. Reality has a cruel way of dampening the enthusiasm of revolutionary nights, introducing doubt where hope stood alone, in hours or days of splendour. If the military who are now in command in Egypt impose a dictatorship in disguise, then the sacrifices made in Al Tahrir Square, in the streets leading to this fulcrum, and in other cities, will in retrospect be just a dress rehearsal. The immediate danger would then be that, in the name of re-establishing order and rebooting the economy, the interim leadership would revert to authoritarian rule, procrastinate on free and fair elections, pursue censorship, and prepare a triumphant return of questionable standards which, in the name of religion or tradition, would cast aside democracy. This would signal the return of all the ills that the recent youth uprising had the courage and wisdom to challenge and ultimately overthrow.

 

Today Tunis, Cairo…

Tomorrow Teheran? Algiers? Manama? Damascus?

 

If you care to leave a comment, please click on "écrire un commentaire" below, after the text in French.

 

-:-


 

Depuis plusieurs semaines, vidéos et podcasts permettent au monde entier de suivre, en ligne, les événements de Tunis et du Caire. Des commentaires en flux continu, certains fort bien renseignés, nous ont donné le sentiment de saisir le drame qui se nouait, tandis que les foules se rassemblaient comme pour se conformer à quelque schéma mystérieux, des barricades étaient dressées avant de céder sous le pression du nombre, et l'apparition soudaine de chars jetait une ombre, sombre réalité, sur le parfum et l'ivresse de la liberté... La récente expérience des Tunisiens et des Egyptiens est-elle porteuse d'espoir pour les citoyens d'Iran, d'Algérie ou d'autres lieux où les droits de la personne et les droits civiques sont couramment piétinés ?

 

 

Plusieurs dictatures du Moyen Orient -et ceci vaut pour presque tous les dirigeants de l'Iran depuis la destitution du Chah- ont systématiquement prétendu que le modèle de théocratie mis en place par leurs soins constituait l'ultime remède aux maux de notre temps et de leur région. A leurs yeux, le renversement du colonialisme européen, puis des impérialismes occidental et soviétique, ont permis de rendre à la religion son rôle de plus puissant unificateur des nations. Comme nombre de ces "dirigeants" auto-proclamés ne possédaient que peu, ou pas du tout, de formation en matière de philosophie critique, de gouvernance, d'économie ou de planification, la confiance aveugle qu'ils faisaient à leur propres convictions religieuses servait de paravent à leur ignorance du monde contemporain. L'ignorance explique aussi le maintien du statut inférieur de la femme, le rejet d'une éducation humaniste, la peur du principe d'égalité, la haine contre l'état de droit et les processus démocratiques. Et dans bien des cas, les croyances religieuses ou les gloses qui en découlent, sont invoquées pour maintenir vaille que vaille la tradition, quelque cruelle et injuste qu'elle puisse être au regard des normes du vingt et unième siècle.

 

En ce moment même, le régime iranien doit être plus que surpris, puisqu'il y a à peine quelques jours il proclamait encore que la chute de Ben Ali en Tunisie, suivie de celle de Moubarak en Egypte, annonçait une nouvelle ère de gouvernance théocratique dans le monde arabo-musulman. Ils semblaient croire que Ben Ali et Moubarak avaient perdu le pouvoir à cause de leurs penchants pro-Occidentaux et leur résistance à la Charia. Ils semblaient persuadés que le départ de ces deux dictateurs aux manières suaves ouvrait la voie à leur propre mélange d'idéologie et de religion, permettant à cette dernière de triompher sur les concepts néfastes de démocratie et de droits civiques. Dans ce contexte, les événements en cours à Téhéran et d'autres villes iraniennes sont particulièrement révélateurs : les convictions fondamentalistes se réclamant de l'Islam ne semblent pas être une force motrice, et pourraient d'ailleurs de pas être les ultimes bénéficiaires du chambardement en cours. Il est intéressant de noter qu'au cours d'un récent débat télévisé en France, Tariq Ramadan a reconnu que les événements à Tunis et au Caire n'étaient pour l'essentiel pas guidés, ni même mis en oeuvre, par ses collègues les Frères Musulmans, mais plutôt par de jeunes professionnels disposant d'un plan d'action clairement laïque dont l'objectif avéré est l'instauration de la démocratie.

 

On a beaucoup commenté la manière dont certains outils modernes ont contribué aux événements en Tunisie et en Egypte, et maintenant à Téhéran, Alger et d'autres villes de la région. D'abord invisible à cause des dimensions et de la soudaineté des événements, un nouveau phénomène semble prendre forme au Moyen Orient : des composantes de la société, naguère peu ou pas organisées, se sont coalisées, fédérant toute l'exaspération et le besoin de redistribution économiques. La jeunesse de ces pays, dont le taux très élevé de chômage alimente la rage contre les autorités en place, a su s'organiser avec une rapidité et à une échelle tout simplement inconcevables il y a quelques années. Qu'on y songe : il fallut aux dirigeants arabes plusieurs décennies pour parvenir à une plateforme commune, une enceinte pan-arabe, car chacun était contraint par ses propres obstacles régionaux, idéologiques et de communication, mais aussi par la rivalité entre références religieuses et laïques pour établir l'Etats-nation. Mais voici qu'en seulement deux ou trois ans, de jeunes professionnels, en exploitant toutes les ressources du réseautage social (social networking), ont jeté les bases d'un mouvement de jeunesse qui s'étend progressivement à l'ensemble du Moyen Orient (sur cet aspects, lire un article intéressant dans le New York Times, de David D. Kirkpatric et David E. Sanger). 

 

Le réseautage social constitue l'un des grands instruments de notre temps. L'histoire récente fournit d'autres exemples d'outils utilisés comme armes efficaces contre le totalitarisme: rappelons la manière dont le fax contribua aux mouvements Glasnost et Perestroïka, dans le déclin de l'empire soviétique ; souvenons-nous des scènes de révolte contre la corruption ou les exactions commises par des autorités locales en Chine, mises en ligne par des Internautes qui, depuis, n'ont plus accès à YouTube dans leur pays; réfléchissons à l'efficacité avec laquelle les téléphones mobiles furent utilisés par les citoyens du Myanmar, permettant leur rassemblement autour d'Aung San Suu Kyi en dépit du couvre-feu imposé par la dictature militaire.

 

Toutefois, l'effervescence née du réseautage social est condamné à une satisfaction de courte durée si elle se réduit au seul sentiment d'exaltation. Ce qui est nouveau et intéressant dans les événements qui ont culminé Boulevard Bourguiba à Tunis et sur la Place Al Tahrir au Caire, c'est que l'action ne s'est pas limitée, comme des reportages télévisés l'ont d'abord suggéré, au rassemblement spontané et à l'opposition désorganisée au régime autoritaire. Parmi les nombreuses influences qui ont forgé les convictions et l'action de la nouvelle génération de professionnels (disons, en-dessous de quarante ans), je souhaite mentionner en particulier un auteur qui n'a cessé de prôner l'action non-violente comme moyen pour mettre à mal la dictature. Le professeur Gene Sharp, fondateur de l'Institut Albert Einstein en 1983, a consacré de nombreuses recherches, son enseignement et des publications aux pouvoirs autocrates, ainsi qu'aux moyens de combattre la dictature et de soutenir la démocratie. Son livre " De la dictature à la démocratie" présente un intérêt fondamental à cet égard. 

 

Sans chercher à trop citer Gene Sharp, voici quelques réflexions qui trouvent un écho tout particulier dans les événements en cours (les citations du livre "De la dictature à la démocratie" sont entre guillemets, les autres observations sont de moi) :

- La dictature se caractérise souvent par "une mauvaise distribution du pouvoir entre la population et une élite qui contrôle l'appareil d'Etat et sa force militaire". Il en résulte que "les dictateurs sont outillés pour exercer une violence irrésistible", à laquelle "malgré leur courage, les démocrates (la plupart du temps) ne peuvent guère faire face". Ainsi, l'action violente contre la dictature est rarement, sinon jamais, une option viable.

- Pour une population qui subit la dictature, il est vain de compter sur une aide extérieure, car les puissances étrangères agiront toujours en fonction de leurs propres intérêts; à l'évidence, il est nécessaire de "renforcer dans ces populations opprimées, la détermination, la confiance en soi et les capacités de résistance".

- "La rébellion politique en masse" (mass political defiance) est l'expression à laquelle Gene Sharp recourt volontiers, dans la mesure ou la "non violence" a une connotation de pacifisme moral ou religieux. Lorsqu'elle est justifiée par les circonstances, une telle rébellion politique est une véritable lutte pouvant inclure des actions de protestation, de non-coopération et d'intervention.

- Ayant étudié les cas où la démocratie a pu être recouvrée, G. Sharp souligne l'importance qui s'attache à promouvoir des "groupes sociaux et institutions indépendants", parallèles aux entités officielles maintenues par une dictature. En Hongrie, une multitude de conseils démocratiques locaux furent créées en 1956-57, conduisant à la révolte qui fut écrasée peu après. Solidarność, le syndicat ouvrier, joua un rôle majeur dans le retour de la démocratie en Pologne. En Estonie, des chorales folkloriques exprimaient par le chant leur foi en la liberté. Dans le crépuscule de l'Empire soviétique, la Chaîne humaine à travers les Etats baltes a illustré de manière saisissante la force émanant de modestes initiatives citoyennes.

- De tels "groupes sociaux et institutions indépendants" ont une importance cruciale, une fois l'indépendance ou la liberté recouvrée, dans la mesure où une dictature sortante a généralement négligé les institutions, à l'exception des domaines conçues précisément pour consolider leur pouvoir (par exemple des forces de police nombreuses et bien dotées, une infanterie très mobile, un réseau secret de prisons, des lieux de villégiature pour les membres du parti dominant, une censure perfectionnée).

 

Le renversement d'une dictature n'est qu'un premier pas, en lui-même incapable de procurer justice, emploi, éducation ou développement économique. La réalité vous a une façon cruelle d'étouffer l'enthousiasme des nuits révolutionnaires, laissant s'infiltrer le doute là où l'espoir se tenait seul, des jours ou des heures glorieuses durant. Si les militaires qui exercent désormais le pouvoir en Egypte en viennent à imposer une dictature déguisée, alors les sacrifices consentis sur la Place Al Tahrir, dans les ruelles conduisant à cet épicentre, et dans d'autres villes, sembleront n'avoir constitué qu'une répétition générale.  Le danger immédiat serait alors que, au nom du rétablissement de l'ordre et de la relance de l'activité économique, le pouvoir intérimaire en revienne à l'autoritarisme, remettant sine die la tenue d'élections libres et ouvertes, poursuivant la censure, permettant le retour en force de normes douteuses qui, au nom de la religion ou des traditions, pourraient rejeter avec d'autant plus de force la démocratie. Ce serait alors le retour de la cohorte de maux que la récente révolte des jeunes a eu le courage et la sagesse de contester, et finalement de renverser. 

 

Aujourd'hui Tunis, le Caire...

Demain Téhéran ? Alger ? Manama ? Damas ?

 

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