Iraq
Gilgamesh

Looted Gligamesh tablet repatriated to Iraq

A US District Court in New York ordered craft chain Hobby Lobby to turn over the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, a rare cuneiform text from ancient Mesopotamia that was smuggled into the United States from Iraq, so that it may be repatriated. The company’s founder and president, Steve Green, bought the 3,500-year-old Akkadian artifact in 2014, intending to display it in his Museum of the Bible, in Washington DC. The tablet is one of approximately 17,000 looted artifacts that Washington has agreed to return to Iraq. (Photo: ICE via ArtNet News)

North Africa

Libya: Turkish troop presence threat to ceasefire

Libya’s eastern warlord Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who launched an offensive last year to capture the capital Tripoli from the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), threatened to launch attacks on Turkish forces if Ankara doesn’t withdraw troops and mercenaries sent in to back up the GNA. Haftar’s comments came in response to the Turkish Parliament’s move to extend for 18 months a law that allows the deployment of Turkish troops in Libya. Turkey’s defense minister responded that any attack by Haftar on its personnel would be met with force. “A war criminal, murderer Haftar and his supporters must know that they will be seen as a legitimate target in case of any attack on Turkish forces,” Hulusi Akar said in an address to Turkish units in Tripoli. The ultimatum is a threat to the ceasefire that has largely held since it was signed in October. (Map: CIA)

Greater Middle East
Egypt Police

Human rights leaders arrested in Egypt

Egyptian authorities arrested Gasser Abdel Razek, executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), one of the country’s leading human rights organizations and a frontline voice against torture and persecution of dissidents. Mazek’s arrest closely follows the arrests of several other leaders of the organization, who have been charged with “joining a terrorist group” and “financing terrorism.” The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed concern over the arrests and called for Egyptian authorities to release the detained members of the group. (Photo: WikiMedia via Jurist)

Africa
GERD

Trump wades into Egypt-Ethiopia fight over Nile

Reportedly at the direct instigation of President Donald Trump, the US State Department ordered a suspension of aid to Ethiopia over its move to begin capturing water behind a controversial new mega-dam on the Blue Nile that is opposed by Egypt and Sudan. A State Department spokesperson said the decision to “temporarily pause” some aid to Addis Ababa “reflects our concern about Ethiopia’s unilateral decision to begin to fill the dam before an agreement and all necessary dam safety measures were in place.” The freeze could affect as much as $100 million in aid. The reservoir behind the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) began filling in July, over the protests of Egypt and Sudan, which rely on the Nile for nearly all of their water needs. (Photo: Water Power & Dam Construction)

Greater Middle East
hegazi

Egyptian LGBT activist a suicide in exile

Three years after her arrest and torture by security forces in her native country, Egyptian LGBT activist Sarah Hegazi killed herself in exile in Canada, prompting an outpouring of sympathy and anger on social media. Hegazi, 30, an openly gay woman and rights advocate, was among a group of activists arrested in September 2017 after raising a rainbow flag at a Cairo concert of the Lebanese indie band Mashrou Leila, which includes gay members. Hegazi was charged with joining an illegal group promoting “deviant thought.” She fled to Canada after being released on bail in January 2018. The incident was followed by a harsh crackdown on Egypt’s LGBT community. (Photo via Middle East Eye)

Africa
Sudanese_Women

Sudan outlaws female genital mutilation

Sudan’s new government officially criminalized female genital mutilation (FGM), in a reform of the legal code hailed by the UNICEF representative in the country. Although FGM is still widely practiced in other countries where it has been criminalized—such as in Egypt—the amendment has been praised as a step in the right direction for women’s rights in Sudan. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

North Africa
Sudan rebels

Internationalization of Libya war

A senior UN official charged at a press conference in Munich that numerous countries are violating the Libya arms embargo and must be held accountable. UN Deputy Special Representative to Libya Stephanie Williams said that “the arms embargo has become a joke.” The Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Khalifa Haftar, has been fighting with the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) for control of Tripoli since April of last year. Russia, Egypt and the UAE are supporting the LNA, while Turkey supports the GNA. Foreign powers are violating the arms embargo “by land, sea and air,” Williams said. A UN report also accuses Haftar of bringing in Sudanese rebels from Darfur to fight for the LNA, while Turkey is accused of importing Syrian rebels to fight for the GNA. (Photo: Libya Observer)

Planet Watch
Chile protester

Podcast: world revolution in 2020?

In Episode 43 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of the current wave of popular protest and uprisings around the world, and asks if the planet is approaching another moment of revolutionary possibilities, such as was seen in 2011. He examines the prospects for these disparate movements to build solidarity across borders, repudiate ethnic and national divide-and-rule stratagems, and recognize the enemy as transnational capital and the authoritarian states that serve it. With discussions of Hong Kong, mainland China, Indonesia, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay, Honduras, Costa Rica, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey Iran, Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia and Guinea. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: David Lynch via Twitter)

Greater Middle East

Egyptian revolution rebooted

Anti-government protests broke out across Egypt, with thousands joining demonstrations calling for the ouster of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi—a rare show of defiance since he established his dictatorship four years ago. Demonstrators filled Cairo’s Tahrir Square, center of the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Protesters also gathered in Alexandria, Suez and Gharbiya. Videos posted on social media showed demonstrators chanting “rise up, fear not, Sisi must go” and, reviving the slogan of the 2011 Arab Revolution, “the people demand the downfall of the regime.” Hundreds of protesters were finally dispersed from Tahrir Square by the riot police. (Photo via Twitter)

North Africa

Libya: did Haftar bomb migrant detention center?

The UN is calling for an urgent investigation into the “outrageous” bombing of a migrant detention center at Tajoura, outside Libya’s capital Tripoli, which left at least 44 dead. Libya’s UN-recognized government issued a statement blaming the air-strike on warlord Khalifa Haftar, who has for months been besieging Tripoli. Already believed to be supported by France and Russia, he has now also apparently established contact with Washington. The White House admitted in April that President Trump had spoken by phone with Haftar and discussed “ongoing counter-terrorism efforts.”  (Photo via Libya Observer)

Greater Middle East

Egypt: ‘crimes against humanity’ in Sinai feared

Human Rights Watch detailed abuses against civilians by both the Egyptian government and militants in the Sinai Peninsula, some of which HRW classified as war crimes or crimes against humanity. The information in the report was collected over a two-year investigation into conditions facing civilians in Sinai. Abuses include mass arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture, extrajudicial killings, and unlawful air and ground attacks against civilians. These actions are part of the government’s fight against the ISIS-affiliated militants in Sinai. HRW claims that both groups are guilty of atrocities against civilians, but the Egyptian government is responsible for the majority of the abuses. (Photo: Egypt Daily News)

Greater Middle East

Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah released

Alaa Abdel Fattah, a leading Egyptian pro-democracy activist, was released from prison after serving a five-year term. A prominent blogger and software engineer, he was once described by authorities as “the icon of the revolution” that ousted Hosni Mubarak in 2011. He was arrested in November 2013 on charges of organizing an illegal protest. Fattah’s release will not bring him complete freedom, as he will be required to sleep at a police station each night for five years and will be under close police surveillance.