Greater Middle East
Lebanon's Omar Karami has resigned a second time, after Parliament refused to accept his February 28 resignation. This time Najib Mikati, a Sunni perceived as a moderate, has been chosen to succeed him. Mikati hailed the opposition--especially Druze leader Walid Jumblatt--for breaking a boycott of the political process to approve his nomination, and said he wanted to "personify national unity." The opposition is said to have supported his nomination because he is less pro-Syrian than his chief rival for the post, Abdel-Rahim Mrad.
Scores are dead in Yemen, where security forces are battling Islamist forces led by Badruddin Al-Houthi in and around the northwestern town of Saada. A group of opposition parties is calling for the nation's pariliament to immediately launch an investigation into "extra-judicial killings" by government forces in the operation. (Arab News, April 9) The fighting has left at least 70 this week, and 170 over the past month.
The April 7 nail-bomb attack on a bazaar jammed with foreign tourists in Cairo left three dead, including a French national and a U.S. citizen. A previously unknown group, the Islamic Brigades of Pride, has claimed responsibility. (Al-Jazeera, April 9) The incident harkens back to the wave of terror in Egypt in the '90s led by the underground Islamic Group.
The opposition is threatening a new wave of protests in Lebanon, with the country still in political deadlock. Parliament has refused to accept the resignation of Prime Minister Omar Karami (which had been a key victory of the protests), and now Karami is accused of procrastinating on calling new elections, as pledged. (Lebanon Daily Star, April 6)
By any objective standard, the wave of deadly gunplay in Saudi Arabia in recent days is an internecine dispute between rival Wahhabi fundamentalist factions—although that is not how it is being portrayed in the media. Today's claims by Saudi authorities that two al-Qaeda bigwigs are among the 15 killed in three days of fierce gun-battles in Riyadh and al-Qassim will doubtless grab big headlines in tommorrow's papers—although al-Qaeda commander for Saudi Arabia, Saleh al-Oufi, is said to remain at large.
A musician from Turkey's Laz minority group said the country's public television refused to allow him to perform his songs, claiming that new laws adopting democratic European standards exclude the Laz language.
The Laz musician, Birol Topaloglu, said he had been invited to participate in a musical special on March 18 in Ankara on the national television station TRT-INT. He has been involved since 1997 in trying to preserve the culture of the Laz community of about 250,000 people in northeast Turkey.
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: