Border Digest – 16 November, 2014

Vehicles abandoned on the Syria-Turkey border near Kobani by Syrian refugees fleeing fighting in the city last October. Image by Digital Globe.

United States/Everywhere

As fear of an Ebola outbreak peaked in the (pre-election) United States this October, the disease became the cause de jour of anti-immigration activists and politicians.


The Azerbaijan military shot down an Armenian helicopter over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, killing 3. The region is in Azerbaijan but has been under Armenian military control since a 1994 ceasefire ended one of the many territorial conflicts occasioned by the break-up of the Soviet Union. Some more maps and additional information can be found here.

Iraq/Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia announced the completion of its border fence along the Iraq-Saudia Arabia border in September. Last year Saudi Arabia began hardening its border with Yemen, too, as reported by the BBC’s Frank Gardner. Both networks of fences and border outposts are ostensibly intended to curb smuggling and improve internal security, but they also confirm Saudi Arabia’s specific interpretation of two long-contested boundaries at at time when neither the Iraqi or Yemini governments are capable of doing much about it.

Further reading:

I really enjoyed Asher Kaufman’s recent article, “Between Permeable and Sealed Borders: The Trans-Arabian Pipeline and the Arab-Israeli Conflict” [IJMES 46 (2014), 95-116]. You can read the article here (scroll to the bottom); the abstract is below.

The Trans-Arabian Pipeline (Tapline), which extended from Dhahran in Saudi Arabia to Zahrani in Lebanon and operated from 1950 to 1982, was haunted by the Arab–Israeli conflict throughout the years of its operation. The route of the pipeline—which traversed Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon—was chosen so as to circumvent Palestine/Israel. However, following the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights in the 1967 war, Israel became an active participant in this project, with the full consent of the transit states and Egypt. This article uses Tapline as a means to analyze the interconnected world facilitated by oil pipelines, which defies common wisdom about state sovereignty or the function of interstate boundaries. In addition, Tapline demonstrates how this interconnected network created possibilities for Arab–Israeli cooperation that might have seemed inconceivable initially, given the hostile dynamics of the conflict.


Photos: “After Schengen” by Ignacio Evangelista

The abandoned border post of Eisenberg – Vaskeresztes, between Austria and Hungary. Photo by Ignacio Evangelista.

You have to check out the fascinating series of photos by Ignacio Evangelista for his project “After Schengen.” He’s documenting European border crossings abandoned since the implementation of the 1995 Schengen Treaty, which has effectively erased the boundaries between more than two dozen countries.