Greater Middle East
The German-based pro-Kurdish Flash-Bulletin website has posted a Feb. 16 letter from a group of Ezidi academics protesting that Ezidi children in eastern Turkey are being forced to study Islam in school by local village authorities—a practice they charge is part of the "Turkish state's assimilating policy against other ethnic and religious groups in general and Ezidis in particular." (Particularly cited is an unsourced press account from Oglakci village in the Viransehir region of Urfa province.) The writers of the letter accuse the Turkish government of bad faith in officially granting language and cultural rights to Kurds and other minorities in eastern Turkey, saying this policy is just a facade intended to facilitate entry into the European Union. The writers charge:
A powerful bomb tore through a shopping mall in the Christian area north of Beirut March 23, killing three Asian immigrant workers and bringing Lebanon closer to chaos weeks before general elections. (Reuters, March 23) It is the latest outburst in an escalating climate of violence that has many fearing a new outburst of civil war.
At least six were wounded by a car bomb which wrecked the front of a government building in a predominantly Christian suburb of Beirut March 19.
Amidst ongoing pro- and anti-Syria protests in Lebanon, Damascus is beginning to call home some units stationed in the country—starting with the intelligence agents in Beirut and Bekaa Valley.
Following days of protests by predominantly Christians and Druze for Syria to pull out of Lebanon (their demands backed by the US and Israel), thousands of mostly Shi'ite demonstrators led by Hezbollah rallied in Beirut March 8 in support of Syria. The pro-Syria rally dwarfed those of the anti-Syria opposition. The following day, Parliament voted to return to power pro-Syrian Prime Minister Omar Karami, who had resigned a week earlier in response to protests.
A friend writes, translating from the Feb. 27 edition of the Turkish journal Aksam:
Thomas Friedman in his March 3 New York Times column, "Brave, Young and Muslim," hails restive and modern-minded reformers in the Islamic world, and especially singles out Irshad Manji, Canadian Muslim feminist author of The Trouble with Islam Today.
Lebanon's Prime Minister Omar Karami has resigned follwing a wave of angry protests in Beirut. "I declare the resignation of the government that I had the honour to head. May God preserve Lebanon," Karami said. Lahoud was a close ally of Syria, and often at odds with martyred former prime minister Rafik Hariri. President Emile Lahoud must now appoint a new prime minister, but his days may be numbered as well; "Lahoud, your turn is coming!" is a popular protest chant. France and the US alike are calling for the removal of Syria's 15,000 troops from Lebanon.