Middle east and North Africa
Stories about major developments, and analysis regarding the various situations in the MENA region. Our writers Zoie Brauser and Jared Shadeed produce weekly. Our section editor is Zein Nasser.
Turkish officials claim to have obtained an audio recording revealing the final moments of missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s life. Turkey’s Sabah newspaper reported the contents of the audio recording, which was allegedly captured by Khashoggi’s Apple Watch. Turkish authorities obtained the recording from Khashoggi’s iPhone and iCloud account that were synced to his watch.
On Saturday Oct. 13, the Brooklyn Museum opened an exhibit called “Syria then and now: Stories from Refugees a Century Apart.” This exhibit marks the beginning of the 2018-2019 “New York Arab World Art & Education Initiative,” in which museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim, as well as colleges like Columbia University are, according to the initiative’s website, coming together to “build a greater understanding between the United States and the Arab world.”
Tara Fares, an Iraqi social media star with nearly 3 million Instagram followers, was shot on September 27th while driving her car through Baghdad. It was announced on Monday that Fares had been killed by extremists. The announcement follows Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's demand for an investigation into not only the death of Fares, but also into what appears to be a pattern of “well-planned killings and kidnappings” with the aim of "carrying out a plan to destabilize the security situation under the pretext of fighting perversion."
Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist and critic of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, has been missing since October 2. Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul the afternoon of October 2. CCTV footage from the consulate’s entrance shows Khashoggi entering the building. There is no footage indicating that he ever exited.
In the past month, Kuwait’s government has sponsored book banning and censorship by the Ministry of Information, the organization responsible for deciding which books are appropriate for consumption.
On Tuesday Oct. 2, the Council of Representatives (Iraq’s parliament) chose the Kurdish politician Barham Ahmad Salih to be Iraq’s new President. Immediately after his election to the role as President, Barham Salih assigned Shi’a politician Adel Abdul Mahdi with the task of forming a new government, thereby making him the new Prime Minister of Iraq.
Last Friday, the United Nations’ Human Rights Council (UNHRC) voted to send a cadre of war crime experts into Yemen. The civil war in Yemen has caught international attention due to famine and widespread casualties.
Seven Palestinians were killed during conflict on the Gaza border last Friday, nearly six months after Palestinians in Gaza began protesting for the right to return. Health officials in Gaza estimate that at least 180 Palestinians have been killed since the protests began in March, and over 18,000 injured.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and U.S. President Donald Trump severely criticized each other’s governments in speeches at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday.
Four gunmen opened fire on armed forces and spectators during a military parade on Saturday in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, Iran. The attack killed 29 and wounded 70 during the parade that was part of larger celebrations marking the 30th anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war.
On Thursday, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon’s paramilitary group and political
party Hezbollah, claimed that his organization had acquired precision-guided missiles.
After significantly reducing funding for Palestinian refugees and organizations this past year, the Trump administration has now declared that the United States will completely cease funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
In a radio interview this week to promote a new book, former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged that he has been meeting senior Iranian officials over the past two years.
On Wednesday morning, two suicide bombers opened fire on employees at the High National Election Commission (HNEC) in Tripoli, Libya before detonating their explosives.
Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, the Islamic State’s spokesman, called for violence against Arab nations in a statement on Sunday. This is the first statement in ten months, and indicates a renewed shift from promoting violence in European and North American nations back towards trying to regroup in the Middle East.
Arab Fashion Week Riyadh featured all-female groups of designers, planners, volunteers, and beauty team workers. The event, which was held from April 12-15, was Saudi Arabia’s first time hosting fashion week, and represents another step forward in Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s push for gender equality and modernization.
Since March 2015, a perpetual state of war has existed in Yemen. The nation has been plagued by internal discord and violence, and has suffered extensive infrastructural damage and losses of human lives. While these aspects of the conflict have been widely reported on, coverage on one group—Yemeni children—should continue to increase.
Over 30 Palestinians have been killed and thousands have been wounded in protests along the Gaza-Israel border.
Aerial assaults executed by the Syrian government continue to plague cities and towns such as Ghouta, Afrin, and Damascus.
Israel’s migrant population was given brief hope of reprieve when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu struck a deal with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Monday to resettle 16,000 African migrants to Western nations and allow the other 16,000 to remain in Israel. But after facing backlash from members of his conservative Likud party, Netanyahu suspended the deal hours after he announced it, and officially cancelled the deal the next day.
In an effort to expand its military force in North and West Africa, the United States military struck al-Qaeda militants in southern Libya last weekend, killing two militants.
When Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi announced his bid for presidency on January 19, experts agreed that his re-election was essentially guaranteed. From November to January, over five people, such as Egyptian lawyer Khaled Ali and Colonel Ahmed Konsowa, announced and then withdrew plans to run for president. Konsowa was detained by the army and then convicted of “expressing political opinions as a serving military.” Konsowa’s plight reflects the control that Sisi has over the elections and his increasing crackdown on opposition within Egypt.
Many people currently living in Iraq continue to face various socio-political, socio-economic, and psychological challenges.
In the past two weeks alone, 700 people have died in Syria’s eastern Ghouta and at least 2,000 are injured. The death toll in these past weeks reflects increased violence in the region, and is indicative of ineffective, or perhaps underfunded, relief efforts. According to the U.N., only a little more than half of the $4.6 billion required to meet the needs of Syrians in 2017 was received. This year, $3.5 billion is required and only about 5 percent has been received.
Eight months into an air, sea, and land blockade on Qatar, the Qatari government is calling for more cooperation and agreement between Arab states. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain initially severed ties with and imposed the blockade on Qatar, citing links to terrorist organizations, however it was primarily because of Qatar’s close ties with Saudi Arabia’s rival, Iran, that had induced the blockade.
As the multi-faceted conflict continues to spiral in Yemen, new developments illustrate the degree to which the situation remains largely irreconcilable. Most recently, Yemeni Transportation Minister Saleh al-Gabwani expressed his disapproval of actions taken by forces backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Specifically, al-Gabwani condemned UAE-backed troops for preventing his convoy from inaugurating a new port at Bahlaf, which is currently occupied by UAE forces. Furthermore, the minister alleged that members of these forces relayed how their orders came directly from the Emiratis, presumably using the term to refer to leaders in the UAE.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a suspect in two criminal investigations, locally referred to as “Case 1000” and “Case 2000.” As of February 23rd, the Israeli police said that there was “sufficient evidence” to indict Prime Minister Netanyahu on criminal charges in both of the cases. And as of Tuesday, one of his closest advisers was accused of attempting to bribe a judge into dropping a criminal investigation involving Netanyahu’s wife.
Turkey has continued to feel increasingly uneasy with the presence of the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units) in Afrin, a Syrian town near the Turkish-Syrian border. Turkey particularly fears the group as it views the YPG as part of a broader, more existential threat to regional stability.
After former president Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and killed in 2011, Libya descended into a state of violence that has persisted even after several efforts to bring conflicting groups together.