Greater Middle East

Lebanon: Druze leader calls for US invasion of Syria

The real issue behind Druze leader Walid Jumblatt's latest political clash with Lebanon's President Emile Lahoud appears to really be continued perceived Syrian domination of the country. Tensions between the Druze and the regime have dramatically escalated since late December, with Jumblatt openly calling for US military intervention against Damascus.

Kurdish women mourn Zapatistas' Comandante Ramona

A statement from the Kurdistan Free Women's Movement—on the German-based website Hezen Parastina Gel, apparently linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerilla movement in eastern Turkey—notes the passing of Comandante Ramona of southern Mexico's Zapatista National Liberation Army:

Film director's death in Jordan terror sparks Arab outrage

A Dec. 6 commentary by Jalal Ghazi on Pacific News Service notes that last month's Jordan suicide attack killed a film director beloved throughout the Arab world—making Arab commentators more vocal and daring than ever in condemning terrorism.

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.

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