Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘middle east

Free-Trade Zones? How this works? Can they work in the Middle East?

Note: Re-edit of “Free-Trade Zones of December 2, 2008

Are Free-Trade Zones in the Middle East being worked out? (December 1, 2008)

I have no idea how a Free-Trade Zone works, and what are its advantages, but it sound good, since it is Free? Free trade to whom and how the common people of the States can benefit from these deals?

I doubt anything labelled “free” can be of any value, except free public education to all, free preventive health care, and free institutions to open opportunities for the people to find jobs and field of studies.

Most probably, these zones are meant to enrich the richer countries and degrade the economic production of the weaker nations.

The advantage in the long-term is that it prevent military confrontations, facilitate the travel and trade between the State, inhance exchanges among the people, enlarge the market for added value entreprises, and break-up mythical ideas.

I like to envision the creations of 11 free-trade zones in the Middle East, among the States of Turkey, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, and Cyprus.

Though this idea is Not feasible as long as the superpowers and colonial powers are dead serious of keeping the Middle-East divided, destabilized and wracked with mythical/religious enmities.

The colonial powers, mainly USA, England and France implanted their Israel colony in Palestine in order to disturb daily routine trade and communication, Not only in the Near-East (Nation of Syria), but the Middle East altogether.

Israel is strategically our existential enemy.

With Israel still supported by the colonial power, our region will constantly be destabilized and divided to conduct and resume any sustainable trade and create an economic cycle for self-reliance and autonomy.

Why free-trade zones?

Most of the recognized States by the United Nations in the Middle East were Not naturally and normally constituted, and the borders are artificially delimited: The States  were divided up by the mandatory European nations of Britain, France and the active participation of the USA, after the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire lost the war in the WWI by siding with Germany.

Consequently, there are many ethnic, emotional, economic, linguistic, and historical intermingling and rivalries among these States.

Since “victory” military confrontations are out of the question, and since daily trade and social relations are binding certain bordering zones then, creative alternatives should be studied to form viable trade zones that otherwise would be left unmanaged and precariously volatile.

First, between the States of Turkey and Syria there are many legitimate claims that should be resolved on their borders.  There is the possibility of several free-trade zones such as (Cilicia, Iskandaron, and Lazkieh (Latakieh)) and the Kurdish common zone of Hassakeh and Diar Baker and Van.

Second, between Turkey and Iraq there is an ideal free-trade zone in their common Kurdish region around Mosul.

Third, between Iraq and Iran: two zones can be contemplated (the common Kurdish region, and the region around the Persian/Arabian Gulf.

Fourth, between Iraq, Iran, and Kuwait the Basra region could alleviate recurring conflicts.

Fifth, between Iraq, Syria, and Jordan, where their frontiers intersect artificially, a free-trade zone would encourage commerce in that desolate area.

Sixth, between Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon there are shared bordered around the Golan Heights.

Seventh, between Syria and Lebanon there are potential two zones (the northern Lebanese frontiers of Akkar, and the south-eastern Bekaa Valley with Shebaa Farms).

Eight, between Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Cyprus a free-trade zone in Cyprus would iron out differences and encourage maritime commerce.

What are the processes for initiating these free-trade zones?

After a period of three years of ironing out details and instituting regulations with special passports or identity cards for the inhabitants of the zones, then all the zones between the states can be merged.

It is only normal that contiguous zones common to three States could eventually be merged and a belt of uninterrupted contiguous zones would form the natural borders of the Middle East.

As was done in Europe, let commerce and industry form the basis for these zones, which should generate rational cooperative decisions for our future.

The concept of a free-zone is to create a magnate cities, self-autonomous city, with laws and regulations agreed upon among the States.

Ultimately, an economic union could emerge, based on a set of procedures and processes that works, which form a firm ground to negotiating common interests, and disseminating common laws and regulations valid in the various lands.

Who has this deficient strategic mind in the Middle-East? Israel or the USA?

A couple of years after its creation in 1948 as a colonial implant, the State of Israel proved that its strategic mind, to impress upon its neighboring people to recognize its legitimacy, was failing in a consistent pattern of refusal to negotiate a peace treaty. 

The State of Israel was recognized by a majority of a single vote in the UN in 1948, when most States had not earned their independence from colonial powers. And the partition of Palestine bypassed valid political negotiation by the concerned people.

Invariably, it is the Mossad agents (hired from Israelis, Palestinians, and “Arabs”) that planned and facilitated terrorist attacks everytime foreign States pressured Israel to resume peace negotiations.

Currently, the Israeli government is very unhappy:  No “terrorist activities” are witnessed because the Palestinian government in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza are in better position to control and apprehend Israel’s Mossad agents.

Even Lebanon has dismantled over a dozen Mossad cells that initiated terrorist activities of missile launching and assassinating Palestinian leaders.

The “Wall of Shame” has been erected, supposedly to prevent external influences in this “happy ghetto”. And Israel has no excuses left to bring up terrorist scare tactics to bear on foreign States initiatives for peaceful negotiations.

Palestinians factions cannot infiltrate Israel unless aided by the Mossad and Israel’s security services.

There are no terrorist activities and yet Israel is adamantly resuming State assassinations of Palestinian leaders:  Israel is praying that armed reactions by Palestinian factions will extend stupid excuses to Israel for putting negotiation on hold.

It is the habit of Israel to refuse peace since it is only happy on terms of total capitulation and apartheid humiliation behaviors.

Ariel Sharon proved to be by far the worst strategic mind as PM and as Defense minister.

In 1982, Sharon invaded Lebanon, entered the Capital Beirut, and “liberated” Lebanon from Yasser Arafat’s military wings.

Lebanon breathed easier as the “legal occupier” in Yasser Arafat was shipped to Tunisia in French ships.

Now, instead of withdrawing from Lebanon, Sharon decided to park in Lebanon for 25 more years.

This Israeli occupation in south Lebanon encouraged the Lebanese to fine tune their resistance activities.  Israel was thus forced to vacate Lebanon in 2000 unilaterally and without any pre-conditions.

Currently, Lebanon is united against Israel: Hezbollah has captured a strategic position of military “retaliation capacities”.

Israel has to start dealing seriously with peace negotiation; it has no other options left.

Israel has no excuses left to decline negotiations with the worn out excuse “We have no reliable parties to deal with”.

Military mentality and successive military tactical “pre-emptive” victories are no basis for long-term strategic peace agreements that convince the neighboring people.

The US 6th fleet and overwhelming military and economic supports have limits.

The US can no longer convince its citizens that Israel is the best protector of its interest in the Middle East and has to shell $4bn a year to support Israel Industrial military infrastructure and vicious illegal settlements or colonies in Palestinian lands.

Israel has been encouraging “terrorist activities” through its agents in order to lay claim to its “rights” of defensive massive and disproportionate violent “reactions” and pre-emptive wars in Lebanon, Gaza, and the Palestinian camps in Palestine (West Bank and Gaza) and Lebanon.

In fact, all investigations showed that Israel undertook pre-emptive wars in periods that No “terrorist activities” were undertaken by Palestinians either in Lebanon (1982) or in Gaza (2008).

Israel behaved as if it didn’t need to delimit its borders in its Constitution and opted for an open border as pre-emptive military incursions allowed it to expand.

We are experiencing a paradox in Israel’s political and strategic decisions:

First, Israel refuses to submit to the UN an official map of its borders with the neighboring States and

Second, it built the “wall of shame”, a reminiscence of its “ghetto mentality”, under the unconvincing excuses of reducing “terrorist attacks”.  In fact, it is a tactic of “No see Palestinians, then they do Not exist”

Since its creation in the Near-East, Israel never relinquished its British “apartheid” rights and detention laws to humiliate the Palestinians youth and commit State assassinations of Palestinian and “Arabic” leaders.

Almost every year, Israel invades Palestinian camps (supposed to be protected by the UN) and lay waste to camps and kills hundreds of Palestinian refugees under various pretences that the world community stopped to believe in their legitimacy.

Israel has been winning tactical military “victories” with unlimited supports from the successive US Administrations after Eisenhower.

Israel failed so far in securing peace and recognition by the Palestinian people and the neighboring Arab people.

The peace treaties with Egypt (under emergency law and dictatorship rules since the assassination of Sadat) and the monarchy in Jordan are not convincing and basically unilateral relative to the concerned people.

Israel conquered all Sinai in 1967 and waited until Gamal Abdel Nasser declared “What has been conquered by force cannot be recaptured but by force”.  Thus, Israel was obliged to pump useless funds to defend far-flung borders until Israel was pressured to restitute conquered lands in 1973 by a victorious counter military offensive by the Egyptian and Syrian army.

The US refused to support Israel’s military expenditures in the Sinai and thus, Israel let go of desert lands after it alienated over 70 million Egyptians (currently 100 million).

In a sense, Sharon permitted Israel to rethink its strategic mind after many strategic failures against his will and Israel’s will.

In the final analysis, the US tax payers are paying the tabs twice: Once for expanding Israeli colonies and developing the Golan Height and again for Israel’s withdrawal from colonies and the Golan.

I am wondering who is the most deficient in strategic mind in the Middle East: Is it Israel or the US of America?

THE ANGRY ARAB: US Violated Unspoken Rule of Engagement with Iran

When did the USA administrations felt like speaking with the people in ME?

By As`ad AbuKhalil  
Special to Consortium News

Something big and unprecedented has happened in the Middle East after the assassination of one of Iran’s top commanders, Qasim Suleimani.

The U.S. has long assumed that assassinations of major figures in the Iranian “resistance-axis” in the Middle East would bring risk to the U.S. military-intelligence presence in the Middle East.

Western and Arab media reported that the U.S. had prevented Israel in the past from killing Suleimani.  But with the top commander’s death, the Trump administration seems to think a key barrier to U.S. military operations in the Middle East has been removed.

The U.S. and Israel had noticed that Hezbollah and Iran did not retaliate against previous assassinations by Israel (or the U.S.) that took place in Syria (of Imad Mughniyyah, Jihad Mughniyyah, Samir Quntar); or for other attacks on Palestinian and Lebanese commanders in Syria.

The U.S. thus assumed that this assassination would not bring repercussions or harm to U.S. interests.

Iranian reluctance to retaliate has only increased the willingness of Israel and the U.S. to violate the unspoken rules of engagement with Iran in the Arab East.

For many years Israel did perpetrate various assassinations against Iranian scientists and officers in Syria during the on-going war. But Israel and the U.S. avoided targeting leaders or commanders of Iran.

During the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the U.S. and Iran collided directly and indirectly, but avoided engaging in assassinations for fear that this would unleash a series of tit-for-tat.

But the Trump administration has become known for not playing by the book, and for operating often according to the whims and impulses of President Donald Trump.

Different Level of Escalation

The decision to strike at Baghdad airport, however, was a different level of escalation.

In addition to killing Suleimani it also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a key leader of Hashd Forces in Iraq.

Like Suleimani, al-Muhandis was known for waging the long fight against ISIS. (Despite this, the U.S. media only give credit to the U.S. and its clients who barely lifted a finger in the fight against ISIS.)

On the surface of it, the strike was uncharacteristic of Trump.  Here is a man who pledged to pull the U.S. out of the Middle East turmoil — turmoil for which the U.S and Israel bear the primary responsibility.

And yet he seems willing to order a strike that will guarantee intensification of the conflict in the region, and even the deployment of more U.S. forces.

The first term of the Trump administration has revealed the extent to which the U.S. war empire is run by the military-intelligence apparatus. 

There is not much a president — even a popular president like Barack Obama in his second term — can do to change the course of empire.

It is not that Obama wanted to end U.S. wars in the region, but Trump has tried to retreat from Middle East conflicts and yet he has been unable due to pressures not only from the military-intelligence apparatus but also from their war advocates in the U.S. Congress and Western media, D.C. think tanks and the human-rights industry.

The pressures to preserve the war agenda is too powerful on a U.S. president for it to cease in the foreseeable future.  But Trump has managed to start fewer new wars than his predecessors — until this strike.

Trump’s Obama Obsession

Trump in his foreign policy is obsessed with the legacy and image of Obama.  He decided to violate the Iran nuclear agreement (which carried the weight of international law after its adoption by the UN Security Council) largely because he wanted to prove that he is tougher than Obama, and also because he wanted an international agreement that carries his imprint.

Just as Trump relishes putting his name on buildings, hotels, and casinos he wants to put his name on international agreements. His decision, to strike at a convoy carrying perhaps the second most important person in Iran was presumably attached to an intelligence assessment that calculated that Iran is too weakened and too fatigued to strike back directly at the U.S.

Iran faced difficult choices in response to the assassination of Suleimani.  On the one hand, Iran would appear weak and vulnerable if it did not retaliate and that would only invite more direct U.S. and Israeli attacks on Iranian targets.

On the other hand, the decision to respond in a large-scale attack on U.S. military or diplomatic targets in the Middle East would invite an immediate massive U.S. strike inside Iran.

Such an attack has been on the books; the U.S military (and Israel, of course) have been waiting for the right moment for the U.S. to destroy key strategic sites inside Iran.

Furthermore, there is no question that the cruel U.S.-imposed sanctions on Iran have made life difficult for the Iranian people and have limited the choices of the government, and weakened its political legitimacy, especially in the face of vast Gulf-Western attempts to exploit internal dissent and divisions inside Iran. (Not that dissent inside Iran is not real, and not that repression by the regime is not real).

Nonetheless, if the Iranian regime were to open an all-out war against the U.S., this would certainly cause great harm and damage to U.S. and Israeli interests.

Iran Sending Messages

In the last year, however, Iran successfully sent messages to Gulf regimes (through attacks on oil shipping in the Gulf, for which Iran did not claim responsibility, nor did it take responsibility for the pin-point attack on ARAMCO oil installations) that any future conflict would not spare their territories.

That quickly reversed the policy orientations of both Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which suddenly became weary of confrontation with Iran, and both are now negotiating (openly and secretively) with the Iranian government.

Ironically, both the UAE and Saudi Kingdom regimes — which constituted a lobby for war against Iran in Western capitals — are also eager to distance themselves from U.S. military action against Iran.

And Kuwait quickly denied that the U.S. used its territory in the U.S. attack on Baghdad airport, while Qatar dispatched its foreign minister to Iran (officially to offer condolences over the death of Suleimani, but presumably also to distance itself and its territory from the U.S. attack).

The Iranian response was very measured and very specific.  It was purposefully intended to avoid causing U.S. casualties; it was intended more as a message of Iranian missile capabilities and their pin point accuracy. And that message was not lost on Israel.

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbullah, sent a more strident message. He basically implied that it would be left to Iran’s allies to engineer military responses. He also declared a war on the U.S. military presence in the Middle East, although he was at pains to stress that U.S. civilians are to be spared in any attack or retaliation.

Supporters of the Iran resistance axis have been quite angry in the wake of the assassination.  The status of Suleimani in his camp is similar to the status of Nasrallah, although Nasralla, due to his charisma and to his performance and the performance of his party in the July 2006 war, may have attained a higher status.

It would be easy for the Trump administration to ignite a Middle East war by provoking Iran once again, and wrongly assuming that there are no limits to Iranian caution and self-restraint.  But if the U.S. (and Israel with it or behind it) were to start a Middle East war, it will spread far wider and last far longer than the last war in Iraq, which the U.S. is yet to complete.

As’ad AbuKhalil is a Lebanese-American professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus. He is the author of the “Historical Dictionary of Lebanon” (1998), “Bin Laden, Islam and America’s New War on Terrorism (2002), and “The Battle for Saudi Arabia” (2004). He tweets as @asadabukhal

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

Note 1: The US military base in Iraq, Ain Assad, was demolished by the Iranian missiles, and scores of US military personnel were injured and dispatched to Germany and Kuwait. The Netherland decided to vacate its soldiers from this base to Kuwait: They experienced the fright of a lifetime.

Note 2: Hezbollah of Lebanon delivered a final warning to Israel: Any assassination of its members anywhere around the world by Israel, Hezbollah will retaliate. And Hezbollah delivered on its promise and did retaliate on the assassination of 2 of its fighter in Damascus. Israel had vacated all its military bases in the Galilee and the civilians went into shelters for 3 days waiting for the attack.

Note 3: So far, Syrian regime avoided any clear declaration for retaliation on assassinations on its soil or the frequent Israel missiles destroying weapon depots in Syria.

Tidbits and notes. Part 433

And what the passionate youths want? Justice, eradication of privileges of the elite classes and human treatment of workers (No sweat shops). The youth movements fail because they forget to include what the retired and elderly people want: reforms of hospitals, hospices, decent living for those experiencing the nastiest of cruelty and indignities after a life time of toil.

The Real #deficit is different from the deficit announced by the state. He takes into account the #unpaid, the #arrears, and the accounts camouflaged and camouflaged outside the budget. At that time only we’ll be able to talk about #deficit _ real

 USA doesn’t care about that kind of deficit (unpaid, arrears, camouflage debts…): it has sovereign debt in the trillion (30 tr). The same case for all the colonial powers who get extremely low interest rates on their foreign loans and lend at high interest for under-developed States

Labor leader, Jeremy Corbyn,  was seen wearing a bespoke suit featuring his motto, “For the many, not the few”, stitched into the red pinstripes.

You may seem to “understand”, but did you actually learned anything meaningful?

Is it actually impossible to reach conclusions based on rules and information rather than sentiment and preferences? In that case we may have no justice system, no government, and indeed very little else of value.

Bomis’ concept and money made it possible for a side project called Nupedia, inspired by Wales’ childhood love of the World Book Encyclopedia. Nupedia posted articles after they had been vetted by experts and peer-reviewed. But peer review doesn’t scale. When Wales sat down to write an entry about an economist that would have been edited by top academics, he realized what an intimidating and cumbersome process they had created.

Ne pas savoir est une autre forme de ne pas venir en aide aux victimes. Il faut remonter aux sources des injustices.

L’ envers d’un homme et l’endroit d’une femme, cela en vaut: ces endroits sont aussi sensibles, et ne divisent pas les heritages?

Un philosophe antique, comme le moderne, a 2 fonctions: convaincre autrui (un sophist) ou convaincre soi-meme (un sage). La connaissance generale peut etre un catalyst pour la premiere fonction, mais a contre-courant pour se convaincre de sa vraie “self”.

Usually the conversations around dementia focus on neuroscience and the frustrating search for cures. Less noticed is the burden on those who must care for relatives with the disease: there’s simply no script for them to follow, with dementia as unique as the person it affects: “They need to make decisions now, and they probably won’t be perfect.”

The soul, the spirit… are what your brain interpret of your sensorial experiences. Since we mostly ignore or forget the “context” of our experiences (people, environment, emotional status…) it is impossible to classify the types of spirit we ended up with.

Le system educationel de Seduction: offrire a ceux qui paient bien, l’impression qu’ils sont intelligent et beaux.

USA military is laying the ground for a few mass blowing of US military installations in Middle-East. USA ready to increase the number of its forces many times over. USA never learned anything from Lebanon 1983 car bombs. Trump waiting to be announced the assassination of hundreds of US soldiers before repeating Donald Reagan statement: “What can you do when people are willing to blow themselves up?”

Is Mankind doomed by his own behavior?

And why mankind should be assumed to be “homogeneous”?

Don’t you feel homogeneous is a tenuous evolutionary theory and defies a few common sense realities?

Ice age covered most of Europe and reduced the green Sahara to a desert. And that was 200,000 years ago that almost wiped out all kinds of human species and barely 600 of them survived in 5 locations in Africa, mainly by the main Congo, Niger and the Nile rivers… That’s the current hypothesis.

The theory want us to believe that from these 600 left to survive, homo sapiens managed to colonized earth and all its continents. How? By following the herds, the edible vegetarian animals.

As if herds are about to leave their domain: They barely cross rivers in their shallow sections, and these scientists want us to believe that they crossed seas and oceans, one way or another.

Many kinds of bipeds species with brain size close to current man have been found in many continents.

A few species had very small stature and much smaller brain volume, others had larger stature and larger brain, others grew as fast as Chimpanzees do (an 8 year-old skeletal looked as 14 of age)…

This centrist theory, as old as time, is pretty tenuous.

If mankind homo sapiens could develop in Africa, why it should be so far fetched for Man to have also evolved in Iran, India, South Asia, Latin America and in every major river basin?

If they managed to evolve in Africa, homo sapiens should be able to evolve in a few other locations with the appropriate climatic conditions, away from the poles.

In any case, if they evolved with a different DNA structure then they wouldn’t be of the same species. Would they?

Why the scientists keep insisting on this centrist concept?

If mankind on earth has the same genes structure, should it be because it came from a single source or branch?

How about considering this alternative: mankind has the same genes simply because this is the exact structure that made him everywhere he evolved?

Actually, a few homo sapiens have a more robust level for diseases because of a few DNA variations and proteins…

If the Neanderthal species survived for 400,000 years, twice as long as Homo sapiens,  why the researchers insists that this species disappeared 25,000 years ago simply because it failed to be flexible and adjust to climate change?

The scientist want us to believe a theory that the larger brain of the Neanderthal species had two lobes smaller than current man, simply based on the structure of the skull, a tenuous finding meant to degrade this evolved kind of species.

The scientists claim that he lived mainly on meat and never ate fruits or vegetables.

If this is true, then the Neanderthal species must have domesticated animals in farms and, thanks to plenty of protein, they grew bigger than homo sapiens in body and brain: they had to consume twice the required calories.

Why the researchers stick to the notion that the Neanderthal failed to fabricate killing tools adapted for the large animals, when they were totally carnivorous species and needed twice as much protein as the better evolved Homo sapiens?

Actually, the tools the scientists discovered were of their latest phase before extinction and are not representative of 400 thousand years of evolution.

Anyway, if they had short range killing tools, maybe it is because they domesticated animals and didn’t need to go after dangerous animals.

How about because they had domesticated the animals and didn’t need heavier weapons?

How about this species failed to survive more than 400,000 simply because the various branches didn’t merge in a few locations to improve their skills and culture for development?

And Why this current mankind seems homogeneous?

I conjecture that samples of many mankind species migrated to the most fertile centers after major calamities where they evolved and formed a melting pot of developed species.

I may consider at least 4 melting pot centers: The South-East Asia around the Mekong River, the Indus/Ganges Rivers, the Central America, and the Middle-East/Caucasus region.

The best plausible hypothesis is that of the advent of the “Reverse Migrations” from the main melting pot centers to the 5 corners of earth, each center migrating everywhere by successive phases, with preference to the closer regions and then onward.

If the Middle East is considered the cradle of civilization, maybe it is because many more than one branch of Homo sapience converged and linked in this land. This convergence generated higher development for intelligence and a variety of cultural know-hows for sedentary living.

If it has been proven that the Phoenician mariners landed and colonized America (north, middle and south) 3,000 years ago, why is it not possible that mankind colonized these continents, Australia and the Pacific islands from South Asia and India, many thousands years before the Phoenicians?

Be careful excavating the artifacts from archaeological centers in the Middle-East.

Mankind, be honest, generous and proud of your origins, this melting pot in Near and Middle-East..

If you think you comprehend much of anything in the Middle East: “You have been misinformed”

SYRIE …. Avez vous tout compris de ce qui se passe en Syrie?

Note: I think that the author is mentioning Obama because Trump is totally uninformed of what’s happening here and his opinions are irrelevant?

La politique au Moyen-Orient ? Comprenne qui pourra !

* L’Iran soutient Assad , mais les pays du Golfe sont contre Assad.
* Assad est contre les Frères Musulmans.
* Les Frères musulmans et Obama sont contre le Général Sissi.
* Mais les pays du Golfe sont pro-Sissi.
* Ce qui veut dire qu’ils sont contre les Frères Musulmans.
* L’Iran est pro-Hamas, mais le Hamas soutient les Frères Musulmans.
* Obama soutient les Frères Musulmans, mais le Hamas est contre les Etats-Unis.
* Les pays du Golfe sont pro-Américains.
* Mais la Turquie est, avec les pays du Golfe, contre Assad.
* Pourtant la Turquie est pour les Frères Musulmans et contre le Général Sissi.
… Et le général Sissi est soutenu par les pays du Golfe …

Et la FRANCE, comment doit-elle se positionner ?
En réalité elle ne le peut pas, étant donné :
– Qu’elle est avec Obama, donc avec le Hamas et les pays du Golfe, contre Assad !
– Mais cela la met contre la Russie et la Chine qui soutiennent Assad et lui fournissent des armes….
Et par conséquent, la France est contre Obama, vu qu’elle soutient le Hamas qui est contre les Etats-Unis .
Et comme Assad est contre les Frères musulmans, la France est contre l’Iran qui est pro-Hamas…..

P.S. : Vous n’avez rien compris ? Ce n’est pas grave.
Car comme le disait l’historien Henry LAURENS : “Si vous avez compris quelque chose à la politique au Moyen-Orient,… c’est qu’on vous a mal expliqué.” |

Note 1: I agree with this complex and public positions of all parties, except that we cannot know the secret deals and short-term plans.

Note 2: Erdogan of Turkey lead the Muslim Brotherhood movement (which originated in Egypt in 1923) and want to impose his leadership to this movement in Egypt, Syria, Libya and Qatar. Erdogan won’t settle for a political resolution in Syria unless the Muslim Brotherhood are included in the equation. USA and Europe have no qualm with Erdogan strategy: Actually the western Nations usurped Egypt “Spring Revolution” to bring the MB in power. The Egyptian army opposed the western wishes and conducted a successful coup d’etat a year later.

Note 3: The Wahhabi sect in Saudi Kingdom are as extremist as the US “Christian” Evangelical Zionists” and frequently oppose any political reforms: They pressured this monarchy to support the terrorist factions in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Syria, and Iraq. Many researchers confirmed that the leaders and tribes of the Wahhabi are Jews who camouflaged as Muslims to survive in this “Arabic Peninsula”. It is the same case in Bahrain.

Investigative journalism persists in the Middle East

Against all odds?

In the past year, a group of Arab journalists has been working secretly in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Algeria, and Yemen as part of a global network of investigative reporters mining the so called “Panama Papers.”

They found that some Arab strongmen and their business partners are linked to offshore companies and bank accounts.

They also discovered that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies have been able to skirt international sanctions by registering shell companies in places like the Seychelles.

What’s astonishing about this story is not that Arab dictators are going offshore to hide their wealth and evade sanctions. It’s that a community of Arab journalists is continuing to do investigative reporting in a region where there is increasingly little tolerance for accountability of any kind.

Andrew Bossone shared a link.

These days, it seems there is only bad news about journalism in the Arab world. Throughout the region, journalists are being jailed or killed, newspapers are being shuttered, and censors are clamping down on independent reporting.

In the five years since the Arab uprisings, the story of Arab media is one of closure: Doors that had been pried open have now been bolted by regimes shaken by popular protests, terrorist attacks, and sectarian strife.
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And yet, as Arab journalists’ work on the Panama Papers shows, investigative reporting—uncovering wrongdoing through documents, data, interviews, and occasionally, undercover methods—continues, even in attenuated form. But while the revelations from the Panama Papers are rocking governments around the world, reaction has so far been muted in the Arab world.

The exposés about Arab leaders’ wrongdoings offshore have not gotten as much traction in the region’s media as they have elsewhere, and Arab regimes have been largely unresponsive to the revelations.

In the past few years, government reactions to media investigations in the region have been tepid. Citizens, too, have become wary of muckraking media. In many places, there is a backlash.

“The unity and positive vision for change that drove the uprisings has degenerated,” writes Marc Lynch, a political science professor who has chronicled what he calls the rise and fall of the Arab public sphere. “Violence, extremism, and war take up the space once occupied by peaceful movements for democratic change. Media platforms that once carried thoughtful arguments are now dominated by demagogues and charlatans.” (They are owned by demagogues and charlatans kings, princes and multinationals)

“People are more afraid of chaos in the region—the civil wars and failed states, the death, destruction, and drowning—than they are of ‘normal’ Arab repression by the state,” says Rana Sabbagh, a Jordanian journalist who heads Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism or ARIJ, a nonprofit based in Amman, which trained and funded the journalists who worked on the Panama Papers investigation.

“For them, democracy, free speech, and accountability equal anarchy and lack of security. They don’t want to become like the Syrian, Libyan, or Yemeni refugees.”

In the past decade, intrepid Arab journalists have perfected techniques for reporting about wrongdoing in restrictive regimes. While citizens and activists have found freedom on blogs and social media platforms, these journalists have opted to stay within the more constrained spaces of professionally run news organizations that operate openly in the public sphere.

They have been able to publish accountability stories by using careful and neutral language, providing documentation, and in places where restrictions are more severe, by confining their digging to “safe” topics like education or health.

The independent watchdog reporter is a novelty in the Arab media landscape. “We used to have only two kinds of journalists,” says Daoud Kuttab, a Palestinian journalist who is a founder and former chair of ARIJ. “There were either pro-government journalists or anti-government activists posing as journalists.

There is now a new kind of journalist who is neither. With investigative tools, these journalists have done a fine job of getting the facts. They were no longer easily dismissed as peddling lies.”
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ARIJ, which is funded by European donors, deserves a lot of credit for the emergence of investigative journalism in the region. Since its founding in 2005, it has trained over 1,600 reporters in nine countries. The journalists are taught to use documents, data, and other techniques to find evidence of wrongdoing. The most promising are given grants to pursue investigations with guidance from ARIJ mentors. The ARIJ team that dug into the “Panama Papers” was handpicked from those past grantees.

Until ARIJ came along and helped build syllabi for about a dozen journalism programs, Arab universities didn’t teach investigative reporting. Even now, many journalism instructors there still use textbooks from the Soviet era; many were educated not in free-press regimes but in Russia, Iraq, or Egypt.

In a region where there is widespread skepticism about the West and its intentions, foreign funding is often seen as suspect. ARIJ has tried to assuage these concerns by being transparent about its donors, says Sabbagh, and by pointing out that countries like Egypt and Jordan rely on foreign aid as well. “Conservative politicians have accused us of hanging our dirty laundry out to the world,” she says, “but that is the reality we have to live with.”

Over the years, ARIJ’s annual conferences have allowed Arab journalists to share successes and challenges. I’ve spoken at two of these conferences, most recently in Amman in December. One evening, I sat with a few dozen journalists who were watching investigative segments recently aired on local TV programs.

The lineup included a story on the illegal organ trade in Iraq; an investigation of corruption linked to the provision of tax-exempt, disabled-friendly cars in Egypt; and an exposé on an Iraqi governor who allegedly took bribes from contractors providing temporary housing for refugees.

International collaborations are helping Arab investigative reporting survive. That it exists at all is testimony to a community of journalists has mustered the courage, creativity, and resilience to keep it alive.

Each film was followed by a spirited discussion on ethics, evidence, and reporting techniques. There were lively debates on unnamed sources and secret filming. I asked Asaad Al Zalzali, the Iraqi TV journalist whose film on the illegal organ trade was shown that night, whether he got any threats. “A lot,” he said. “But it’s alright. It’s my job.”

Today, a community of Arab investigative reporters exists even when it shouldn’t. Most everywhere else, investigative reporting is possible only with some measure of media freedom and public support for a muckraking press. These conditions do not currently exist in the Arab world.

Naila Hamdy, a journalism professor at the American University in Cairo, has researched investigative reporting in the region. “The freedoms now are much less than they were prior to the revolutions,” she says. “It’s very difficult to do any serious investigative reporting anywhere, maybe with the exception of Lebanon and a little bit in Kuwait.”

The room for maneuver is getting smaller every day. Most of the ARIJ team’s reporting on the Panama Papers, for example, will be published Not by news organizations in the Arab world but elsewhere, like London or Paris.

In Algeria, ARIJ’s publishing partner refused to print the group’s findings. And in Jordan, the publisher of the AmmanNet website got a phone call from a security official, warning him not to run a story about a powerful Jordanian tycoon’s offshore holdings.

For sure, international collaborations are helping Arab investigative reporting survive. That it exists at all is testimony to a community of journalists has mustered the courage, creativity, and resilience to keep it alive.

Lina Attalah is one of the keepers of the muckraking flame. She is editor of Mada Masr, the Egyptian news site, which has broken stories like the millions of dollars in public funds spent for the upkeep of mansions owned by former President Hosni Mubarak. Last month, Mada Masr revealed the involvement of military intelligence in the 2015 parliamentary elections.

Mada Masr reporters use data and documents like lawsuits and audit reports to shine a light on problems not covered by Egypt’s currently pliant press. They are seldom allowed access to official sources; instead they get their information from public interest lawyers, human rights advocates, and sometimes, government insiders.

We have a big responsibility to report on cases of police violations, cases of economic corruption, particularly at the [national] level,” Attalah says. “We report on stories that don’t get covered enough in the other media, or if they do get covered, are covered with a great deal of distortion. We feel we have the language and the mechanisms of reporting through which we can produce better stories.”

Mada Masr, like ARIJ, publishes its stories in both English and Arabic, making its work accessible to a global audience. Elsewhere in the Arab world, a number of gutsy, independent, bilingual news sites are pushing the boundaries, including AmmanNet, an Internet-based radio station in Jordan;

7iber, an online magazine, also in Jordan, that has been banned 4 times; and

inkyfada, a Tunisian webzine that publishes in both Arabic and French.
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Attalah, 32, began journalism in the twilight of the Mubarak era, when journalists were breaching the limits of press censorship. She was chief editor at the Egyptian Independent, the feisty English-language weekly that, together with its mother paper, Al-Masry Al-Youm, chronicled the first stirrings of discontent that culminated in the anti-Mubarak uprising in 2011. Attalah exemplified the new generation of Arab journalists who refused to be muzzled by the authorities. But her paper was shuttered in 2013, in part because of political differences between the English-language paper’s young, progressive staff and its owners.

Today, Attalah presides over a young staff of 30 and runs the operation much like a journalist’s cooperative. Funded by Western donors and by events and other revenue-generating activities, the site’s core audience is young people in their 20s and 30s, mostly bilingual, middle-class students and young professionals, many of whom took part in the protests that ended Mubarak’s 30-year reign.

Egypt’s tumultuous experiment with democracy came to a close two-and-a-half years after Mubarak’s fall, when the military removed the Islamist government of President Mohamed Morsi from power. The military is firmly back in the saddle in Egypt, jailing and killing dissidents and clamping down on free speech. The popular energies mobilized in 2011 have since dissipated, leaving the young people who took part in the uprising divided and dispirited.

“There haven’t been any channels for them to be politically engaged,” says Attalah. “In general, there is a withdrawal from politics and political activity, mainly because there hasn’t been an inclusive conversation that could engage them. Protesting has become extremely costly, with many of our friends now in jail. There hasn’t been a thirst for protesting the closure of the political space. In my own circle, people have left the country or are struggling with depression. It’s been hard.”

Violence, extremism, and war take up the space once occupied by peaceful movements for democratic change. Media platforms that once carried thoughtful arguments are now dominated by demagogues and charlatans.”

Attalah sees it as Mada Masr’s role to “activate the conversation, to reopen the political space, and engage the public in conversation.” She feels that investigative reporting is a catalyst for such conversations “by pointing to things that we can provide evidence about, in a compelling narrative that renders the conversation more urgent.” Corruption stories, she finds, get a lot of traction.

“When we publish something that has documentation, that gives you a sense of the industry of corruption, how it works, how it happens, how it’s done, it gives an urgency. Investigations add a measure of urgency to the political conversation.”

Last November, Mada Masr journalist Hossam Bahgat was detained for three days and charged with disseminating false information after he reported on a secret military trial in which 26 officers were convicted of allegedly plotting a coup. Last month, a Cairo court froze Bahgat’s assets and banned him from traveling overseas as part of a 2011 investigation into NGOs receiving foreign funding.

More and more, it looks like Mada Masr is skating on thin ice. Two years ago, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi issued an amendment to the penal code that imposes a life term on individuals receiving funds from a foreign country or group with the aim of destabilizing the government.

In February, the head of a local media foundation was charged with “international bribery” for doing research for foreign organizations without a security permit. Investigative reporting could well be penalized under this new provision, lawyers say.

“If we’re not locked up, if we manage to muster the strength to fight our own exhaustion with all the restrictions surrounding us,” says Attalah. “I’d like Mada Masr to grow, to become a go-to site for investigations and to build a media culture where the public expects this kind of content, and to start believing that bad content or pliant content is actually an insult to them.”

The history of Arab media is one of subservience. Since the consolidation of authoritarian rule in the 1950s, newspapers and broadcast networks have been mouthpieces of ruling elites and drumbeaters for autocratic states.

But starting in the late 1990s, satellite television and later the internet and social media opened up new spaces for public discourse. Throughout the Arab world, journalists and citizens began exploring these spaces and were soon using the new platforms to demand that their voices be heard. Unlike their elders, the generation that had come to adulthood in this new information landscape was not afraid to confront the region’s feckless regimes.

In the past, muckraking flowered in periods marked by demographic change, profound alienation from authority, and technological shifts in the media. The surges in muckraking energies in the early 1900s and in the 1960s and ’70s in the US are partly attributable to these conditions.

Similar disruptions were taking place in the Arab media at the turn of the last century, providing fertile ground for muckraking. Al Jazeera was among those that took the lead, with the Egyptian journalist Yosri Fouda launching the investigative program Sirri lil-Ghaya (Top Secret) in 1998. At the same time, a new generation of journalists was digging into taboo issues like corruption, human rights abuses, and workers’ rights within the bounds of what was possible under the tight rein of Arab autocrats.

Even in Syria, change seemed possible. In 2000, Bashar al-Assad, a 35-year-old London-trained ophthalmologist, succeeded his father as president and promised to open his country to the world. He loosened the muzzle on the press and relaxed the state’s hold on the economy. Emboldened by the reforms, liberal-minded Syrians set up “dialogue clubs” to talk openly about political issues. Independent magazines were published, including one that featured political satire. The information minister encouraged the new openness, as did the internal affairs minister, who complained that state-run publications were unreadable.
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Hamoud Almahmoud, a freshly minted journalism graduate from the University of Damascus, joined the staff of Tishreen, the state owned newspaper, the year Bashar al-Assad became president. A native of Raqqa and the first in his family of farmers to graduate from college, Almahmoud knew that his prospects in the state-owned paper were not exactly bright.

When he first came to Damascus to work, he quickly saw that “you might be stupid, you might be lazy, but you can be successful if you have connections, if you have relatives who were powerful people, like generals in the military and the security service,” he says. “Even if you are good, you will not be promoted because the power of those with connections will be stronger than yours. But when private media was opened, I had the opportunity to be in a new magazine and to be editor in chief.”

In 2005, Almahmoud joined Aliqtisadi (The Economist) magazine, one of the new privately owned publications that were allowed to open during what is now known as the Damascus Spring. The same year, a delegation of Danish journalists met with leading Arab journalists, offering to support media projects in the region. Soon afterward, ARIJ was formed with funding from the Danish government. It brought Danish and other European trainers to teach and provided funding and coaches for investigative projects in several countries.

In Syria, ARIJ had a formal agreement with the government: It was allowed to fund projects as long as US money was not involved, the information ministry knew in advance the names of the journalists and their coaches, and ARIJ disclosed the cost and descriptions of the projects. “We had a big debate in the ARIJ board,” recalls Sabbagh, who drove from Amman to Damascus every few months to oversee the projects. “Should we lock horns with the authorities and do tough investigations or should we build up gradually by making sure that the journalists who work with us get the skills of investigative reporting?”

ARIJ’s compromise allowed journalists to practice investigative techniques, but it meant that they had to stick to the rules and report only on sanctioned topics such as consumer issues, environmental problems, public health, education, and the miscarriage of justice.

“I don’t know why the Syrian government allowed it,” says Kuttab, who was then ARIJ deputy chair. “I assume they wanted to improve their relations with the Western world like Denmark and Sweden, which didn’t pose any real danger to them, and they were convinced this wasn’t a plot against the regime. They also needed to break out of the straitjacket they were in but didn’t know how to do it. They were willing to allow us that narrow but important space that we needed.”

What’s astonishing about this story is not that Arab dictators are going offshore to hide their wealth and evade sanctions. It’s that a community of Arab journalists is continuing to do investigative reporting in a region where there is increasingly little tolerance for accountability of any kind.

Almahmoud was among the first to get an ARIJ grant. “It was literally a turning point in my life,” he says. “I realized that I needed to document my stories, to verify everything, to look for proof for everything, to leave my feelings out and be objective in writing and collecting information. I realized that if I did all that, I could do more sensitive stories. I received fewer threats and fewer bad reactions from powerful people because they saw solid evidence in front of them.”

In Syria, ARIJ-funded journalists worked on stories about issues like air pollution, land confiscations, and medical waste. As the country descended into civil war, however, reporting became more hazardous. Almahmoud’s magazine ceased printing because the fighting made it difficult to distribute copies, although it continued to publish online.

In 2012, as fighting raged in the capital, Almahmoud was asked by the University of Damascus to teach a two-week investigative reporting course. “The university was very close to the frontlines of the fighting between the regime and the rebels,” he recalls. “I was teaching despite all the shelling. Students were really happy to attend the course. For them, it was the first case of a teacher who came from the field. I told them about the latest trends while their professors were teaching from old books.”
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Almahmoud remained in Damascus until 2014, when he moved to Amman to take charge of ARIJ’s research desk. With the help of technologists, he is putting together a database of corporate records, court cases, and government tenders from 18 Arab countries. ARIJ has scraped and preserved data from government sites that have since been been erased, although some of these are still on the Wayback Machine, the internet archive. It hopes soon to unveil what may be the most comprehensive, searchable database of public records in the Arab world.

In March, Almahmoud and seven European and Arab journalists published an investigation into the ownership of cargo ships that have been found to be smuggling migrants to Europe. Cross-border collaborations are one way ARIJ hopes to sustain investigative reporting under the current, inhospitable conditions.

Many who ARIJ has trained in Syria, however, have fled; a few have been killed or disappeared. ARIJ-trained journalists are fleeing Yemen as well. Those who remain in these two countries continue to work, increasingly writing under pseudonyms to protect their identities. In the past year, ARIJ-funded reporters in Syria have written about the curriculum of ISIS schools and the booming kidnap-for-ransom business run by both the army and the rebels.

A recent report, published under a pseudonym, exposed the secret holdings of Assad’s maternal uncle, using records obtained by Le Monde and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists from a former HSBC employee.

“We are thinking about how we survive, how to keep our reporters working without harming them or exposing them to risks,” says Almahmoud. “I am afraid we are back to square one. We are under pressure. We see the window of hope is narrowing but we are surviving and we are still doing stories.”

In 2012, not long after the Arab uprisings, Hamdy at the American University of Cairo surveyed over 200 Arab journalists, 60 percent of whom said they had worked on an investigative project in the previous 10 years. A good number believed their work brought issues to public attention or resulted in policy reforms.

This is quite impressive considering the restrictions on Arab media, although as Hamdy says, Arab journalists define investigative reporting more broadly to include what in the US would be called enterprise reporting, where journalists probe issues that are not widely reported even if they do not necessarily reveal something secret or previously unknown.

Since that survey, however, watchdog reporting has been put on a much tighter leash as Arab regimes either disintegrated into civil war or tightened their grasp on power. Looking back, it now seems that the early years of this century, up to about 2012, were a Golden Age for Arab investigative reporting. Those years saw, in the words of Seba Bebawi, an Australian academic and author of a recent book on Arab investigative journalism, “the rise of a tradition of systematic investigative reporting.”
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Writing about China in 2009, UK academics Jingrong Tong and Colin Sparks remarked on the continued vigor of investigating reporting there despite state censorship and advertising pressures on media proprietors. In China, investigative reporting emerged in the 1980s with the opening up of the economy, the removal of subsidies for state-owned media, and the social disruptions that accompanied rapid urbanization and soaring economic growth.

Twenty-five years later, Tong and Sparks interviewed over 70 journalists and found that they had evolved a repertoire of tactics to evade controls, including criticizing the system or a group instead of putting the blame on powerful individuals. What sustained the muckraking impulse in China, they said, was the institutionalization of investigative practices in news organizations and the emergence of a professional ideology among journalists. “There is an evolution towards a self-conception of journalism as being some kind of public service. Journalists see themselves less and less as dependent upon political power and more as a distinct occupational grouping with a distinct function.”

It’s hard to say how Arab investigative reporting will look in 2030. It’s unlikely that the vise-like grip on Arab media will loosen any time soon. The Islamist armed groups that roam the region continue to intimidate and murder recalcitrant journalists. Much of the accountability reporting is funded by foreign money and may not be sustainable in the long run.

Still, Arab journalists are finding new ways to wedge open closing spaces. The prestige of investigative reporting continues to be high among journalists, if not among the public. The self-conception of journalists as nonpartisan watchdogs continues to be upheld by a struggling community of Arab investigative reporters and editors.

“Arab journalists feel that they should be agents of social change, so by performing this type of journalism, they feel they are part of, or working toward, change,” says Hamdy. Despite the narrowing spaces, she says, “there’s a feeling that good journalism has been possible and will be possible in the future.”

Sheila S. Coronel is Dean of Academic Affairs at the Columbia Journalism School and director of the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

12 Most beautiful mosques in the Middle East and North Africa

And the stories behind these mosques

There is no doubt that the Middle East and North African regions have a lot of history, influences and Islamic heritage.

With a wide variety of architectural buildings inspired by a vast number of influences, both regions have mosques that have stood the test of time and remain to this day, beautifully designed houses of worship.

What are the stories behind these mosques though? StepFeed decided to find out – Let’s just say that the stories are as equally fascinating as the buildings they represent.|By Nina Awad

1.The Great Mosque of Mohammed Ali Pasha in Egypt

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The mosque is situated in the Citadel of Cairo, which is located in the heart of the capital. Mohammed Ali Pasha ordered the mosque to be constructed between 1830 and 1848 in memory of his son, Tusun Pasha, who died in 1816. However, the magnificent building was not complete until Said Pasha’s reign in 1857.

The mosque wasn’t properly constructed and by 1899, the building was full cracks and holes within the walls. Yet, incomplete and inadequate repairs took place. In 1931, King Farouk deemed the mosque too dangerous and ordered a complete scheme of restoration before such a historical monument was lost.

The mosque is currently a great tourist attraction, for both domestic and foreign travelers.

2. Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Turkey

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Known as the Blue Mosque due to its famous blue tiles that embellish its interior walls, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque was built between 1609 and 1616 in Turkey’s capital, Istanbul.

After the huge defeat in the war with Persia between 1604 -1618, Sultan Ahmet I was determined to reassert the Ottoman power and decided to build a big mosque in Istanbul. The famous mosque would mark the first imperial mosque to be built in more than 40 years. Unlike his predecessors who built mosques using funding they gained from their wars, Ahmet I had to reallocate money from the treasury to fund his project, angering many Muslim jurists in the process.

3. The Umayyad Mosque in Syria

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Located in Damascus, the Umayyed is one of largest and oldest mosques in the world and it is considered to be the fourth holiest place in Islam by some Muslims.

In the year 634 and after the Arab conquest on Damascus, the mosque was built on the site of a shrine dedicated to John the Baptist, who is a prophet in the eyes of Christians and Muslims alike. A legendary story from the era stipulates that the somewhere in the building, John the Baptist’s head remains. Furthermore, Muslims believe that the Umayyad Mosque is the place where Jesus Christ will return at the end of days.

The tomb of Saladin, the medieval Muslim Ayyubid Sultan Saladin, stands in a small garden in the north wall of the mosque.

4. The Quba Mosque in Saudi Arabia

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The Quba Mosque, which is the oldest mosque in the world and had its first bricks were placed by Prophet Mohammed, is located in the city of Medina in Saudi Arabia. After leaving Mecca to head to Medina, Prophet Mohammed spent 2 weeks in the mosque in which he performed the “Hijra” prayers while waiting for his companion, Ali, to arrive from Mecca.

According to Islamic laws, completing two rakaāt of nafl prayers in the Quba Mosque is equal to performing one Umrah. A hadith told by Ahmed Ibn Hanbal, Al-Nasa’i, Ibn Majah, and Hakim Al- Nishaburi state the prophet used to go to the Quba Mosque every Saturday and did two rakaāt. Afterwards, the prophet called on other Muslims to do the same and said “whoever makes ablutions at home and then goes and prays in the Mosque of Quba, he will have a reward like that of an Umrah.”

5. Hagia Sophia in Turkey

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Hagia Sophia was Christian church that was later turned into an imperial mosque. Now however, the remarkable building stands as museum in Istanbul.

From the date of its construction in the year 537 until 1453, the building was a Greek Orthodox cathedral except for a short period of time between 1204 and 1261 when it was converted to Roman Catholic during the Latin Empire. Then the building served as a mosque from 1453 until its secularization in 1931.

The church housed a large number of holy artifacts and stood witness to the excommunication of Patriarch Michael I Cerularius by Pope Leo IX in 1054. Also, during the conquering of Istanbul by the Ottoman Turks headed by Sultan Mehmed II, who ordered the church to transform to Islam and serve as a mosque, the Chrisitan cathedral had fallen into despair and had no choice but to oblige. The church sacrificed all holy monuments and removed mosaics depicting Jesus and Mary and they were replaced by Islamic artifacts such as mihrab and four minarets.

Islamic relics stayed in the mosque till it was closed to the public for four years until its reopening in 1935 as a museum. Hagia Sophia’s fine architectural detail served as an inspiration for other mosques such as the Blue Mosque, the Süleymaniye Mosque, the Rüstem Pasha Mosque and the Kılıç Ali Paşa Mosque.

6. The Shah Mosque in Iran

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The Shah Mosque is located in Isfaham, Iran, and has been renamed to Imam Mosque after the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

The initial construction of the building took part during the Safavids period and is among the best examples of Islamic architecture in the country. Often seen as the masterpiece of Persian architecture, it is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its seven colored mosaic tiles and calligraphic inscriptions that date back to 1611.

7. The Süleymaniye Mosque in Turkey

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Yet another Ottoman imperial mosque that is located in Istanbul is the Süleymaniye Mosque. Built on the orders of Sultan Süleyman, the groundbreaking construction began in 1550 and was complete by 1558.

One of Turkey’s most famous tourist attractions, the mosque beautifully blends Islamic architecture with Byzantine architectural elements. The elegentally designed mosque was burned in fiery flames in 1660 and was restored by Sultan Mehmen IV. Another part of mosque collapsed during an earthquake in 1766. During WW1, the mosque’s courtyard served as storage for weapons. Unfortunately, however, ammunition caught on fire under bizarre circumstances which caused further damage to the building. It wasn’t until 1956 that the mosque went under full restoration.

8. Al Aksari Mosque in Iraq

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The Aksari mosque is one of Shia Muslims’ holiest shrines in the world and is located in the city of Samarra, Iraq. Built in 944, the shrine had the remains of the 10th and 11th Shia imams Ali Al Hadi and his son, Hasan Al Aksari. Also buried within the holy mosque are Hakimah Khatun, Ali Al Hadi’s sister, and Narjis Khatun, Mouhammed Al Mahdi’s mother.

Both imams, Ali Al Hadi and Hassan Al Aksari, were under house arrest in a military camp called Caliph Al Mu’tasim and therefore, they are known as the Askariyyain or “Dwellers in the Camp.” Following their death, they were both buried in their house on Abi Ahmed street near the mosque.

Nasir Ad Din Shah Qajar, the king of Persia from1848 to 1896, ordered the latest remodeling of the shrine in 1868. However, the golden dome on that topped the shrine was destroyed in 2006 by extremists. In June 2007, the remaining minarets were destroyed and in July of the same year, a separate bombing destroyed the remaining clock tower.

9. Nasir Ol Molk Mosque in Iran

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Widely referred to as the Pink Mosque, the Nasir Ol Molk Mosque is located in Shiraz, Iran. The mosque was constructed during the Qajar era and remains under the protection of the Endowment Foundation of Nasir Ol Molk. Construction on the marvelous building began in 1876 and was complete in 1888 on the order of Mirzā Hasan Ali, a Qajar ruler.

The mosque includes a large number of colored glass and brilliantly portrays the traditional elements on Shia Islam such as the five concaved designs.

10. The Mosque of Ahmad Ibn Tulun in Egypt

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The mosque of Ahmad Ibn Tulun, which is situated in Cairo, is one of the oldest mosques in the city surviving in its original form and design.

Ordered to be built by Ahmad in Tulun, Abbassif governor of Egypt from 868 to 884, the construction of this historic mosque began in 876 and was completed in 879. The mosque has undergone several restorations with the first recorded attempt of repairs in 1177 under the orders of Fatimid Wazir Badr Al Jamali, who inscribed the Shia version of the Shehahda on mosque’s walls. Improvements to the mosque were also observed in 1296 and most recently in 2004 under the orders of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

11. The Khamis Mosque in Bahrain

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Widely believed to be the first mosque built in Bahrain during the Umayyad era under the rule of Caliph Umar II, the Islamic monument is believed to have been founded in 692. However, an inscription on the walls of the mosque says that the foundation happened sometime during the 11th century.

The ancient building went through a complete restoration in the 14th and 15th centuries. The current monument however is composed of two main parts. The first is a prayer hall with a flat roof that is backed by wooden columns that go back to the 14th century. The second part was in addition to the flat roof and is rested upon thick arches that date back to 1339.

12. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Zayad Mosque

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Initiated by the founder of the United Arab Emirates, Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan,

the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is one of the largest, most impressive mosques to be built in the last 100 years.

With room for more than 7,000 worshippers in its main hall, it serves as the grand mosque for the UAE. Like the UAE itself, the mosque is a mix of regional styles and designs, with Persian, Moghul and Moorish inspirations.

And of course, being in the UAE, the mosque has some notable “biggest” claims: It has what is reportedly the world’s largest carpet (5,627 m2), the third-largest chandelier in the world (15 m in height) and the largest marble mosaic in the world (17,000 m2).

Rarely is there a better representation of a country in its grand mosque than the Sheikh Zayad is for the UAE.

Inspirational Women from Middle-East

1. Zaina Erhaim is a Syrian journalist who was living in London before she returned to Aleppo to risk her life under barrel bombs to cover the Syrian conflict. This year she won the Reporters Without Borders freedom prize.

The Paris-based media rights group singled out Erhaim for her “determination and courage” in covering the conflict in Syria, deemed to be the most dangerous country in the world for journalists.

“After living in horror for all these years, it is normal to feel abandoned and forget there is someone listening or reading our stories who actually cares,” Erhaim told RSF in August.

“Such initiatives make me feel that my Syrian colleagues and I do matter, and that our hard work is appreciated. It gives me power to go on in my daily surviving battle,” she added.

2. After Israeli settlers and the army stormed the al-Aqsa site in October a group of Palestinian women took it upon themselves to defend al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

The group of women, commonly referred to as Murabitat [“steadfast fighters”] were banned by Israel from Islam’s third holiest site.

“Many Muslims abandoned it, so the women decided to defend it,” Halawani, one of the women, told al-Araby al-Jadeed.

“Women became the primary defence line at al-Aqsa, which disturbed and intimidated the Israeli police,” she added.

“We are subjected to violence on a daily basis, be it verbal or physical. But suffering is nothing new to Palestinian women. We have always been wives, daughters, sisters or mothers of prisoners or martyrs. We suffer all the time.”

3. Mahienour al-Massry is an Egyptian human rights activist and lawyer and one of 51,000 political detainees imprisoned in Egypt.

“Not a single struggle was off limits to Mahienour: human rights, student rights, women’s rights, labour strikes, legal aid, anti-police brutality, housing for the poor, corruption, anti-military trials, heritage preservation, right to public space, state-led land reclamation from the poor, climate change, street children’s rights, Syrian refugees; the list goes on,” wrote Egyptian academic Amro Ali.

“Mahienour would rush to defend victim’s rights—regardless of their affiliation—and she attended the funerals of people she had never met. Her presence sent a message that an issue really mattered and raised protestors’ morale.”

Other prominent female activists released from Egyptian prisons this year include Sanaa Seif, Esraa al-Taweel and Yara Salam.

4. Nudem Durak is Kurdish folk singer and teacher who was imprisoned for ten years in Turkey for singing in her native language.
She was charged with promoting Kurdish propaganda.

“Singing in our mother tongue and passing the music down through the generations honours us,” she said in an interview to al-Jazeera plus, shortly before she was detained.

“I am in trouble for following my dreams,” she said.

Durak is from the town of Cizre near the Syria border where clashes between Kurds and Turkish security forces have escalated this year.

(A terrible year for the Kurds in this town, suffering consecutive security shut down and blockades. Erdogan ofr Turkey claimed that he killed 1,300 Kurds this year)

“You either go to the mountains and join the guerillas, or you go to prison,” she said. “I don’t think I will do either of them.”

5. Radhiya al-Mutwakkol

Radiya is a Yemeni human rights activist documenting atrocities on both sides of the Yemeni conflict that has claimed thousands of lives.

Her father, a politician and academic, was assassinated by unknown gunmen last year.  However, that has not deterred her from continuing to advocate for human rights in Yemen.

She is married to another human rights activist and founded Muwatana Organization for Human Rights.

Amidst the conflict, she also emphasizes the particular oppression that women have faced from the warring parties.

6. Zeina Daccache

Daccache is a Lebanese woman who sought to give a voice to those who have been excluded, marginalised and silenced in a divided society through drama therapy.

Working alongside female prisoners, they produced the play Scheherazade’s diary, and Daccache created a second documentary depicting daily life in prison and women’s place in Lebanese society.

This followed her successful documentary “12 Angry Lebanese“, concentrating on male prisoners.

“Nobody understood what I wanted to do… I think they thought I’d give up trying to get permission, and in the end, they were the ones who gave in,” Dannache said, commenting on the difficulties of gaining access to the prison.

She focused on issues such as rape, forced marriage, drugs, adultery, and murder. Her documentary looked at those things never spoken about by those who have experienced them.

Daccache later continued her initiative in Iraq.

7. Meherzia Labidi
Labidi is an Ennahdha MP and the first woman to hold the position of deputy speaker of parliament in Tunisia.  She has become known for running parliamentary sessions with a firm hand.

Before the revolution, Labidi lived in France and worked as a translator.

“I’m indebted to the revolution, the youth and the martyrs who scarified their lives for me to be able to return to Tunisia, after living in exile for many years,” Labidi said.

Since her return and involvement in political life, Labidi has taken time to speak to the people. Her conclusion is that they have found “a degree of freedom to voice their concerns, as the former regime had denied them the right to express themselves”.

“You cannot imagine the injustices they try to convey to me,” she said.

Last year she helped introduce a clause to protect women’s rights into the new Tunisian constitution and in 2015 lead the government’s committee for women, children and the elderly.

Labadi was one of many Tunisian women, of differing political and ideological backgrounds, who are prominent in the political life of the country.

8. Sara al-Drees

Sara al-Drees is a lauded Kuwaiti novelist and teacher who isn’t afraid to speak her mind.

This year she was issued with an arrest warrant for tweets insulting the prophet Mohammad.

Drees, commented in a tweet saying that she was returning to Kuwait and that she had done nothing wrong.

In 2013, a Kuwaiti appeal court upheld a 20-month prison sentence on Drees for posting political comments on Twitter.

She was described as Kuwait’s “first political detainee”.

9. Niloufar Ardalan

Ardalan, the captain of the Iranian national football team, missed the Asian Cup because her husband refused to let travel, which is allowed under Islamic laws enforced in Iran.

Later the same year her husband also refused her to go to the world championships in Guatamala.

Ardalan fought her case court, and the judge allowed her to go to the world championships.




March 2023

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