Greater Middle East

Saudi teacher jailed for blasphemy

A Saudi secondary school teacher has been ordered imprisoned for three years for blasphemy, and sentenced to 750 lashes, to be delivered—50 a week—in the public market of the town of al-Bikeriya. Chemistry teacher Muhammad al-Harbi of Qassim province was charged with mocking Islam, favoring Jews and Christians, promoting "dubious ideologies," and studying witchcraft. The judge in the case, Abdullah Dakhil, reportedly accused the teacher of "trying to sow doubt in a student's creed." The charges were filed against him by a group of students and teachers from his school.

Jordan: Jihadis question terror tactics

The apparent identification of a suicide bomber in the Jordan hotel attacks as an Iraqi who had been detained by US forces in Iraq adds a new dimension to reactions in the Hashemite kingdom. Authorities say three Iraqi men died in the blasts, and an Iraqi woman survived when her explosives vest failed to detonate. Knight Ridder newspapers reported that the name of one of the male suspects, Safaa Mohammed Ali, matches that of a man who was detained for about two weeks during clashes between insurgents and US Marines in Fallujah. (UPI, Nov. 14)

Egyptian Copts get TV station —but not tolerance

Egypt's Coptic Christian minority is to launch its own satellite television this month. After deadly riots in Alexandria Oct. 21, many Copts see the creation of the channel as an essential tool to assert their long-repressed identity. But some fear the church's patronage of the channel could fan sectarian strife. Aghapy TV—from the Coptic word for "love"—is due to start broadcasting Nov. 14 on Telestar 12, a US-operated satellite network which spans Egypt and several African countries.

Mysterious death of PKK guerilla in Turkish prison

A Kurdish PKK prisoner died on Nov. 1 after what Turkish prison officials claimed was a suicide. Prison officials claimed that the prisoner, Serdar Ari, captured had Antalya in 1998, had set himself on fire. But a delegation of observers from the Turkish independent Human Rights Association (IHD) who traveled to the Kiriklar F-Type Isolation Prison in Izmir and demanded to witness the autopsy were turned down by the authorities. The preliminary autopsy report shows that Ari had smoke and soot in his lungs, but made no reference to burn injuries. (, Oct. 26 via Kurdish Info)

Islamic feminists call for "gender jihad"

Organizers of the First International Congress on Islamic Feminism, now underway in Barcelona, are calling for a "gender jihad." Organizer Abdennur Prado Pavon of the Catalan Islamic board says the struggle for gender equality in Islamic countries involves refuting chauvinist interpretations of Muslim teachings. Prado says the conference hopes to refute the common conception in the West is that women's liberation is not possible in Muslim societies.

Stand-off in Bekaa Valley

The Lebanese army has besieged military positions run by the People's Front for Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), including a network of tunnels dug in the mountains in Sultan Yaqoub (Jacob) area in the eastern Bekaa Valley. Lebanese authorities are demanding the PFLP-GC hand over persons who allegedly opened fire on a government survey team in the valley Oct. 25, killing one. The PFLP-GC denies involvement. (Arabic News, Oct. 27) There are also reports that the Bekaa compound of the group Palestinian Fatah-Intifada has also been surrounded. (Arab Monitor, Oct. 26)

The left's "al-Qaeda problem"

Heavens to Murgatroid! Nuance in the pages of a contemporary left publication! Sasha Abramsky shows in the October issue of The Progressive that it is still, at least, possible. We at WW4 Report do have misgivings about some of what is stated here—for instance, his call for increasing emergency preparedness at nuclear and chemical plants, even with greater public participation, could become just another brick in the fast-consolidating wall of the new security state. But we thoroughly share his sense of alienation from the current self-deluded consensus on the left—while also recognizing the danger of following Christopher Hitchens into the pro-war camp in reaction. This one is worth a read.

Turkish women blast US envoy

The Washington Post reports Sept. 29 that a group of Turkish women's rights activists confronted Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes with harsh criticisms of the US-led invasion of Iraq, turning a session designed to highlight the empowering of women into a raw display of the anger at Washington's policy in the region.

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