Jerusalem; Photo: Rob Bye via Unsplash

Collaboration with religious communities in foreign policy

"No world peace without religious peace"

ifa | Is it possible for politics and religion to work together without one subsuming the other? In their international activities, religious communities often pursue similar goals to those of foreign policy actors. They have strong networks and can provide access to different societies and groups of people. So does it make sense for foreign policy actors to work more closely with religious groups? Peter Bender takes a look at some current examples of collaboration in his study "Religionen als Partner für Frieden in der Welt. Potenziale für die Außenpolitik" (Religions as partners for world peace. Opportunities for foreign policy). In an interview with ifa he talks about potential opportunities.

Black and whit picture of three woman leaning against a wall; Photo: Tanja Heffner via Unsplash

Equal rights promote peace and security

No peace without women | Women are not only victims of war and violence. In many countries they are also important stakeholders during peace building processes. In an interview peace researcher Simone Wisotzki explains why gender equality reduces internal and inter-state conflicts and how it contributes to a safer world.

Martin Roth Symposium Podcast

Design-protest-dissent – cultural activism rethought 

ifa | "Design is not only about marketing and economy – it is much more!", says Mateo Kries, director of the Vitra Design Museum, about the social responsibility of design museums. How can design museums create awareness for themes of global social relevance? How will innovative technologies create new relationships between museum objects and their audience? During the Martin Roth Symposium in Berlin 2018 Mateo Kries discussed these questions with Nico Daswani from the World Economic Forum and Mohsen Mostafavi from the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Martin Roth Symposium Podcast

(Trans-)Nationalism and the Question of the Colonial Past in the Present

ifa | How could cultural institutions work together with activists? How do we capture the various narratives of history? Where do we find the "disobedience" of things? A discussion between Wayne Modest and Geraldine de Bastion on the transitions in cultural institutions such as ethnographic museums.

The Climate Crisis

Requirement for a global community

Cultures of We | Drought, heat, hurricanes—people suffer worldwide the consequences of climate change. This has made many people aware that our actions change the earth fundamentally. In the interview, the environmental social scientist Ayşem Mert answers to the question, why we can only solve current problems with multiple narratives.

Modern-day slavery in Mauritania

"Painting helps to restore their dignity"

ifa | As a child Saleh Lô barely escaped slavery. Today, the visual artist portrays freed slaves in his work. An interview about modern-day slavery in Mauritania and art as an instrument of political activism

Shared heritage and common ground 

Culture as a tool for peace-building and reconciliation

Martin Roth Symposium | "Culture can create conditions for dialogue where political or economic relations can’t," says Lazare Eloundou Assomo, Deputy Director at Unesco's World Heritage Centre. Therefore national museums have to be actors in cross-border cooperation. At the Martin Roth Symposium 2018 in Berlin, Eloundou reminded the audience of the potential of culture to create a world of peace and mutual understanding.

Tree in the middle of two cliffs on Socotra

The small and micro enterprise service

Bridging the void

al-Madaniya | What is creativity needed for in a country like Yemen marked by war for years? In an article the al-Madaniya magazine presents the work and principles of the organisation "Small and Micro Enterprise Service" who focus on economic development in the country. Creativity is the key to help achieve the organisations main goals in Yemen, says the platform for Yemeni art, culture and civil society.

After the Arab Spring

Citizenship challenges in the Arab region

Euromesco | "Citizenship is the key to solving problems faced by minorities," says Mohamed Elagati, Director of the Cairo-based Arab Forum for Alternatives. But he adds that the concept of citizenship is quite complex. In his article Elegati analyses different dimensions of citizenship in the Arab region and makes recommendations for the future.

Newspapers in Arabic language

Modern standard Arabic in the Gulf region

A language in decline

Qantara | Many school children and youths in the Arabic Gulf  do not communicate in Arabic anymore. Because English is used as a lingua franca in the region, schools teach more and more English instead of Modern Standard Arabic. This causes a loss of the language. Arabic content in the internet is underrepresented as well. As language being a part of culture, without it there may be fewer cultural artefacts of the contemporary Gulf society.

A white pigeon flying infront of a grey house wall

Interview with Palestinian artist

Covert war

Qantara | Palestinian artist Sliman Mansour lives in Jerusalem. He neither feels free nor save in the city. His paintings tell the story of his life under occupation. In order to boycott Israeli products, Mansour only used Palestinian material for his works of art during the first Intifada. In the interview with Sarah Judith Hofmann the artists speaks about his motivation as a Palestinian artist and why he prefers a one-state solution for the Middle East.

Portrait of the scholar Ghada Al Muhanna

Interview about society in Saudi Arabia

"We fight – to show men that we are equal"

ifa | "We still remain traditional in our behaviours and in our whole societal believes. But the tradition can merge with being modern" says Ghada Al Muhanna, ifa-fellow 2017. Women ultimately obtained new rights in Saudi Arabia and gain strength within women networks. Nevertheless sexual harassment exists like in many other countries too. In an interview with ifa she talks about political and social changes in Saudi Arabia.

Engagement against islamistic motivated extremism

The battle of narratives

ifa | Aizat Shamsuddin knows how attractive and captivating the offerings of religious fundamentalists can be. He himself was part of the Salafist movement in Malaysia, an ultra-conservative movement within Islam. He then came across the ideals of a progressive interpretation of Islam. This information opened up a new world to him: A world, in which Islam is understood as a source of dignity, justice, compassion and love for all humanity.

Black People disappear from Argentina

Contemporary and: Argentina's black legacy

Relationship status: it's complicated

C& | Argentina holds a barely recognized mystery: the disappearance of its black people. In the 17th century up to 30 percent of the population in Buenos Aires was black. Yet, they never played a role in Argentinas official history and identity. Black people seem to have disappeared from the country. In her project "The return of the repressed" artist Adriana Bustos reveals what actually happened to a large part of Argentinas people.

Photo: Vito Barros (CC0 1.0), via unsplash

Working paper

The role of culture in preventing and reducing violent extremism

More Europe | Political scientist Asiem El Difraoui explores how cultural activities and of inter-cultural as well as inter-religious dialogue can help prevent and reduce violent extremism. The working paper includes recommendations for further exploration of the issue by policy-makers, cultural institutions and stakeholders.

Photo courtsey of the artist

Eman al-Awami documents her perspective on the situation in Yemen

Through the eyes of coffee

zivik | Eman al-Awami was one of the thousands of Yemenis who were harmed by the ongoing war. She lost her job, had to change her daily routine, and had to say goodbye to a number of friends who left the country. Coffee was the only thing that remained the same and didn’t escape. In her photo series "Through the Eyes of Coffee", she reflects her view of the world through the small surface of her coffee in its cup. The series was published in Al-Madaniya, a magazine funded by the ifa progamme zivik.

Multiple Modernen, Photo: Markus Spiske (CC0 1.0), via Unsplash

Multiple modernities

The great shock

ifa | Will we be able to get modernity under control? Not quite, says the philosopher Ken'ichi Mishima. 
Interview by Sebastian Blottner 

Photo: Ian Espinosa (CC0), via Unsplash

Former Lebanese combatants promoting a culture of peace

Fighters for peace

ifa | For 15 years a civil war raged in Lebanon, until the Taif Peace Agreement sealed its end in 1989 and guaranteed a general amnesty for all those who were involved in the conflict. But the war is still a blind spot in Lebanese collective memory today. In the Lebanese organization Fighters for Peace, former combatants face the past and publicly advocate a culture of peace and reconciliation in Lebanon. The project is currently supported by the ifa funding programme zivik.

CCP Fellow Ashwaq Al-Gobi at the Workshop in Stuttgart, November 2017 © ifa / Kuhnle

Interview with CrossCulture fellow Ashwaq Al-Gobi

'Yemen needs peace to breathe'

ifa | 'While there is development in Germany, you can only find destruction in Yemen', says Ashwaq Al-Gobi. The young CrossCulture fellow comes from the crisis-ridden Yemen. Since 2015, the southernmost country of the Arabian Peninsula has been experiencing one of the world's biggest humanitarian crises. In November 2017, we met Ashwaq during our intercultural workshop to talk about the conflict in Yemen and her experiences in Germany.
Interview by Christina Palau

Photo: Rodion Kutsaev, via Unsplash

Research programme "Culture and Foreign Policy"

"Cultural exchange forms the lifeline of dialogue between societies"

ifa | Sanctions affect not only the political, but also the cultural relations between two countries. ifa's recently published study on the "Side Effects of Sanctions" identifies this clearly. In this discussion, author Christian von Soest gives an insight into the issues and background of, but also possible solutions for the strained relationship between sanctions and culture. For von Soest, cultural exchange represents the "lifeline" that is formed by social dialogue. He emphasises that the side effects from sanctions need not inevitably be negative; they could simultaneously be a fresh impetus for promoting enhanced civic commitment.
By Isabell Scheidt

CrossCulture tour

'Theatre of the Oppressed' by Ramshid Rashidpour, Iran

In 'Theatre of the Oppressed', Iranian Ramshid Rashidpour aims to raise political awareness and combine it with a liberating educational function. The destination of the theatrical journey taken by the Iranian-German cast is not fixed, as the plot development and dialogue are largely determined by the audience. Only one thing is certain: 'Theatre of the Oppressed' merges democratic processes and shared ideas and solutions to create a promising entertainment format.

Karim Ghantous (CC0 1.0) via Unsplash

Reading in times of conflict

Kurdistan's book café | More than 3,500 books in Kurdish, Arabic and English can be found in the 'Book Cafe'. Rafan al-Ta'i opened this one of a kind café in Erbil despite procurement difficulties, financial barriers and the 'tumultuous security situation'. Regardless of many obstacles, she created a place that lets people forget what happens outside the cafe. By Sahar Moqaddem

Darul Aman Palace in Kabul; Photo: Bruce MacRae (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0), via Flickr


The strong women of Darul Aman | 'This is our cultural heritage: We have to preserve it', says Wazhma Kurram a twenty-six year-old structural architect. Together with 50 other architects and engineers Wazhma works on site of Kabul’s Darul Aman Palace. Once built to house Afghanistan's parliament the building is currently in a war-torn state. As part of an entirely Afghan project Kurram and her colleagues aim to set a peaceful example in the midst of war. By Sandra Petersmann

Rafah, Gaza; Photo: DYKT Mohigan (CC BY 2.0), via Flickr

Comedy made in Gaza

No escaping life in Gaza | From Reham al-Kahlout’s point of view "comedy is the best way to get people to change". The 19-year-old Palestinian is the only woman in the young comedy troupe called "Bas ya zalma". Other than her male colleagues she has to cope with repeated harassment and criticism, but quitting is not an option for the fierce comedian. By Peter Münch

Photo: Markus Petriz (CC0 1.0), via Unsplash

Emancipation in Afghanistan

Breaking down cyber barriers

ifa | By teaching girls programming and computer literacy, two sisters in Afghanistan have triggered something of a digital revolution.

Memorial to honour Gebran Tueni, Lebanese journalist who was killed in 2005. photo © ifa/Pfordte


From amnesty to amnesia

ifa | "In Lebanon, repression has become a permanent state of mind," says the journalist and Orientalist Monika Borgmann. With the archive "UMAM Documentation & Research", founded in 2004, she attempts to fill the gaps in the country's collective memory. In her latest documentary "Tadmor", former Lebanese detainees break their silence. The theatrical release at different cinemas in Switzerland starts on 9 March 2017.
Interview by Juliane Pfordte