Middle East News – August 1st

Ultra-Orthodox Jews previously exempt from Israel’s military conscription are no longer exempt with the passing of new legistlation

– An interactive guide to track officials who have defected from Assad’s regime in the past few months – Al-Jazeera

– A new Egyptian cabinet has been officially declared, over a month after Mohammad Morsi became Egypt’s president – Al-Bawaba

– Kofi Annan has resigned as the UN’s special envoy to Syria, citing disappointment with the lack of change he has been able to exert from that position – CNN

– Israel’s army has been told to begin preparations to draft ultra-orthodox Jews who were previously exempt from military conscription – Al-Jazeera

– New videos show that Syrian rebels have performed public executions of soldiers still loyal to Assad’s regime – Al-Jazeera

– Hamas is resisting pressure from the UN that Holocaust history be taught in schools run by the UN in Palestinian territory – BBC

– President Obama has signed a secret order allowing the CIA to provide aid to Syrian rebels and those trying to leave the Syrian civil war – Al-Bawaba

– Brunei, Qatar and Saudi Arabia all sent their first women in history to the London Olympics, see how they are doing – CNN

Middle East News – July 23rd

Syria’s recent admission of having chemical weapons stockpiles has prompted stern international consternation.

– Members of the Arab League have offered Syrian president Assad a ‘safe haven’ if he hands over power to a new government in the coming days – Al-Bawaba

– Syria has announced that it will not use its chemical weapons stores against its own civilians, but only against foreign powers should they choose to intervene in the countries’ civil war – BBC – CNN

– Saudi parents have begun asking for sex education classes in schools, another sign that the conservative leanings of the state are slowly beginning to unravel – Al-Bawaba

– In addition to the devastating civilian losses Damascus residents are mourning the loss of the symbolic cactus forests on the outskirts of town that were seen as one of the last vestiges of normalcy in the war torn capital – BBC

– Many Muslims who are otherwise not devoutly religious grow more spiritual and filled with faith as the holy month of Ramadan descends on the Muslim world – Al-Bawaba

– A wave of bombings in Iraq have killed 107 in the past couple days, further signs that the Iraqi regime is not yet stable or wholly in control of the country – BBC

– Hundreds of Egyptian farmers are bringing the reigning agricultural minister to court over lands that were seized from them in the 90’s.  The farmers say they were never compensated for this illegally taken land while the agricultural minister says they were compensated long ago – Al-Jazeera

– A disabled Israeli veteran is in critical condition after lighting himself on fire in an act of self-immolation yesterday in Tel-Aviv.  The soldier was protesting the mal-distribution of wealth in present-day Israel and the lack of reforms as promised by current prime minister Netanyahu – BBC

– In an unprecedented move Egypt has announced the lessening of restrictions on Palestinians hoping to travel from the Gaza Strip into Egypt – Al-Jazeera

Middle East News – July 18th

– Tens of thousands of textile labororers in northern Egypt have gone on strike to ask for higher wages.  This will be the first significant test for newly elected Mohamed Morsi, as spreading labor unrest will further handicap Egypt’s ability to pay back its international debts – Al-Jazeera

– Yesterday three top officials in the Assad regime were killed in Damascus, prompting US officials to declare that Assad is slowly ‘losing control’ of the country – BBC – Assad’s brother-in-law was among the dead in Damascus – Al-Bawaba

– An interesting spread about the Olympic athletes who persevered through the turmoil of the Arab Spring and hope to proudly represent their countries in the rapidly approaching London Olympics – CNN

– A bomb attack has killed seven Israeli tourists traveling near the Bulgarian city of Burgas.  The Israeli government has blamed Iran for this attack, the latest in a series of attacks blamed by Israel on Iran – BBC

– Relatives of three Americans killed in drone strikes on Al-Qaeda forces in Yemen have filed suit against the US government.  They allege that the attacks were illegal and unconstitutional – BBC

– Yemen’s president has announced the detainment of a group of terrorists apparently funded by Iran.  Following this arrest he released a strongly worded statement warning Iran to stay out of Yemen and quit interfering – BBC

Middle East News – June 5th

Abu Yahya al-Libi, Al Qaeda’s number two man, has been the target of dozens of recent US drone attacks in Pakistan

– Egypt has moved forward with their trial of 43 NGO workers (many from the United States) who they say were operating illegally and disturbing the peace during last spring’s protests – if the trials continue Egypt could lose all of its aid money from the United States, well over a billion dollars annually – CNN

– For decades Syria has militarily and politically interfered in Lebanon and Iraq and is now threatening to become just like those divided, sectarian countries – CNN

– In reaction to international governments expelling Syrian diplomats, Syria has said that ambassadors from many western countries are no longer welcome within its borders – BBC – Meanwhile Syria has finally allowed for UN humanitarian aid to enter the country, a hopeful sign for the thousands of displaced citizens within its borders – Al-Jazeera

– The amped up drone strikes in Pakistan have apparently been targeted at Abu Yahya al-Libi, Al-Qaeda’s number two man – It is not yet known if the attacks hit their targets or not – CNN – Many in the Middle East feel that these drone attacks could lead to an era dominated by secret operations and a United States president who is no longer accountable for his actions – Al-Jazeera

– Many Syrian Kurds, mostly army defectors, have fled to northern and western Iraq – Ironic considering the traditional anti-Kurd attitude the Iraqi government has taken – Al-Jazeera

– A Kuwaiti man who allegedly insulted the Prophet on Twitter has been sentenced to ten years in prison in a landmark case on freedom of speech in a nominally Islamist country – Al-Bawaba

– When will America intervene in Syria? Huffington Post

– Thousands of Islamic clerics protested yesterday in Jordan over low salaries and a perceived government failure to give them autonomy from the political system – Al-Bawaba

Yacoubian Building

The Yacoubian Building was also made into one of the most expensive (and successful) films in Egyptian history

It’s hard to find popular Arabic (or Middle Eastern in general) novels translated into English, which makes the Alaa Al Aswany’s Yacoubian Building a perfect opportunity to read an Arabic novel.  Aswany is the most famous Egyptian novel of the modern era and this novel in particular drew strong criticism for its unflinchingly honest portrayal of modern Egyptian society.  The novel is set in modern Egypt and uses a variety of characters to expose the corruption, religious fundamentalism and disillusionment of modern Egypt.  In the backdrop of the Mubarak administration and the political upheaval of the last year this 2002 seems all the more prescient.

The novel features dozens of interwoven characters richly portrayed by Aswany, with each storyline highlighting a different indiscretion of Egyptian society.  It easily stands up to the best English novels of the past decade and is necessary reading for anyone wishing to expand their literary horizons beyond the western world.

Don’t just take my word for it though.  If you’re still interested buy a superb translation here. 

Egypt live blog

Recently news from Egypt has been continuous in reaction to the recent vote and the verdict from the Mubarak trial.  Each side of the spectrum has a different opinion on whats happening, from the angry protesters to Mubarak’s lawyers who are appealing his sentence.  Al Jazeera (THE source for Middle East news) has a stupendous live blog everything happening in Egypt in case you want to know whats happening in this seminal period of Egyptian history.

Middle East News – June 1st

– Vladimir Putin struck back against comments by Hilary Clinton yesterday that Russia is ‘propping up’ the Assad regime in Syria – Putin denies that Russia is giving weapons to Syria – CNN

– The Arab League has urged for the UN to be allowed to send more monitors to Syria and for the monitors to have extended powers that allow them to protect the Syrian people – Al-Jazeera

– An Al-Jazeera editorial on why Israel refuses to give equal rights to the African immigrants that reside within it – Al-Jazeera

– Mohammed Abdel-Mawla al-Hariri is a Syrian news journalist who was sentenced to death for ‘high treason’ by the Assad regime for giving an interview that was critical of the government – His sentencing leads to doubts that credible journalism can continue in Syria – Al-Jazeera

– For the last 31 years one things has been constant in Egypt, the state of emergency that has continued to exist in the country through all political situations – the military administration finally officially ended this three decade long state of emergency yesterday – BBC

– New statistics show that Middle Eastern women are better educated than Middle Eastern men, but still are not being given equal employment or wages – CNN

– An Egyptian judge is prepped to deliver a verdict on the corruption charges (among others) leveled against former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak – BBC

– The Israeli-Gaza border became violent again today as a Gazan citizen and Israeli soldier were killed in a class in the contentious area – This is the first violence in the area for some months, and everyone hopes it will not continue – BBC