Greater Middle East
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:
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.