Middle East News – July 31st

Mitt Romney has been accused of racist comments against Palestine after his recent visit to Israel

– Four people tried in the biggest bank fraud in Iraq’s history have been sentenced to death in a historic ruling – Al-Jazeera

– Iran has warned Turkey that it will not idly sit by if Turkey intervenes in the Syrian civil war – Al-Bawaba

– Palestinians have accused Romney of being a ‘racist’ after comments where he implied that Palestinian ‘culture’ was to blame for its economic inferiority to Israel – BBC

– A new report has indicated that the United States ‘wasted’ over $200 million on an unwanted and unneeded Iraqi police program – Al-Jazeera

– Even as the government offensive enters its fourth day the Syrian rebels continue to hold substantial areas in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city – CNN


Middle East News – July 19th

The suicide blast on an Israeli tourist bus in Bulgaria has been blamed on Iran by Israeli media sources. Iran’s government has called these claims ‘ridiculous.’

– Russia and China voted yesterday against a UN resolution to introduce further sanction on Assad’s embattled Syrian regime.  Their veto prompted angry responses from Western nations who are ‘appalled’ by both countries’ apparent lack of concern for the Syrian situation – BBC

– Israel has announced that they will actively try to stop Syrian refugees from entering into Israel through the Golan Heights – Al-Bawaba

– Assad emerged on a state-wide Syrian television broadcast yesterday amid speculation as to his whereabouts following deadly attacks on high up members of his cabinet in the capital of Damascus – CNN – Meanwhile, Assad is staying away from Damascus due to the heavy fighting occurring there – Al-Bawaba

– Naharri Mohammed Ali Naharri, a 13-year old imprisoned for the last fourteen months for her role in Arab Spring protests in Yemen, has been released and spoken out about her jail sentence.  She says she was tortured and blindfolded repeatedly and showed off her many scars to the cameras. – Al-Bawaba

– Jews worldwide mourn the death of Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, age 102, a prominent orthodox rabbi who was one of the most respected voices on Torah law in the world – BBC

– Iran has denied Israeli claims that it was involved in the recent suicide attack on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, calling these claims ‘ridiculous’ – Al-Jazeera

Middle East News – July 15th

Field Marshal Tantawi, the Egyptian general who has vowed to keep ‘certain political groups’ from gaining too much control in the country

– The Syrian government is actively moving around chemical weapons stockpiles in order to keep them safe and away from ‘rebel’ hands – CNN

– The United Arab Emirates has completed a pipeline that allows oil to be shipped passed the Straits of Hormuz, meaning that Iranian threats the block the straits are no longer a threat to the region’s oil supplies – Al-Jazeera

– The United States’ influence in the Middle East is rapidly waning, especially in Egypt and Israel – CNN

– Field Marshall Tantawi, leader of Egypt’s military, says that he will ‘push back’ against political groups, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, to make sure no particular group takes control of the country – Al-Jazeera

– One of Syria’s top diplomats who recently defected has publicly said that the only way to topple the Assad regime will be through force, not diplomacy – CNN

– Religious police in Iran have begun to target cafes all over the culture for sponsoring ‘anti-religious’ activity, such as the smoking of hookah by women – Al-Jazeera

– Arab youths are not reading as much as in generation’s past, continuing a decade of literacy decline in the Arab world – Al-Bawaba

– Iran has offered to host diplomatic talks relating to the Syrian conflicts, though no other countries have yet taken them up on their offer – CNN

– The Red Cross has officially (and finally) declared that the conflict in Syria is a civil war, which means that international humanitarian aid can now be sent to the country – Al-Jazeera

– Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has accused the Iranian government of sponsoring a recently foiled terrorist attack on ‘Israeli interests’ in Cyprus – Al-Bawaba

Middle East News – July 9th

Oman’s sultan, Qaboos bin Said, is finally feeling the repercussions of last year’s Arab Spring has protests begin in his usually quiet gulf nation over rising unemployment

– Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert was charged with two breaches of trust but acquitted on two charges of corruption and bribery in a mixed verdict that leaves his political future uncertain – CNN

– A government support report has stated that it wants Israel to create dozens of unsanctioned and illegal outposts on Palestinian land – Al-Jazeera

– The upheaval of the Arab Spring may finally be reaching the typically conservative and reclusive Omani sultanate where hundreds of protestors have taken to the streets in reaction to rising youth employment and broken government promises – BBC

– Egypt’s Morsi has ordered the dissolved parliament to reconvene in reaction to a court’s ruling denying him the right to do so – Al-Jazeera

– The U.S. State department has issued a statement urging Iraq to release a pastor detained for over a thousand days because he left Islam in his youth – CNN

– Dubai has announced the building of a massive and environmentally friendly Green Mosque to be ready sometime in late 2013 – Al-Jazeera

– A leading Bahraini protestor has been given a three month jail sentence for sending out a tweet critical of the reigning prime minister – Al-Jazeera

– The liberal Alliance of National Forces is predicted to win the recent Libyan election, with 75% of the votes having already been counted – Al-Bawaba


Rumi (as he is known in the west), the most celebrated Persian poet of the Middle Ages and also said to be the “most popular poet in America” in 2007

Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Balkhī (Rumi) – 1207 – 1273

The poet known commonly in the Western world as Rumi (for the region he lived in) was born in present-day Iran which was then ruled by the Khwarazmian dynasty.   When the Mongols invaded he moved with his father east and eventually settled in the Sultanate of Rum in present-day Turkey.  It was in central Turkey that he would compose the majority of his poems that would make him universally read in centuries to come.

Rumi became the ascetic, mystical poet that he is most known for upon meeting a wandering Sufi mystic in his mid-twenties.  After this meeting he became reclusive and introspective and began to search for God in the tradition of Sufis before him.

The dervish he met was Shams-e Tabrizi, a man who had been traveling throughout the Middle East looking for someone who could ‘endure his company.’  Eventually Shams became Rumi’s mentor and taught him the ways of the Sufi mystics, and it was upon Shams’ requests that Rumi began to pursue writing as a career and after Shams’ death Rumi became a reclusive writer.

He wrote ghazals, a form of Persian poetry consisting of couplets and refrains that share the same meter.  But Rumi was the writer who made this form of poetry universally renowned through his extensive volumes of poetry.  His poetry was written in New Persian, and he was instrumental in making this the popular language in the Iranian plateau until the present day.  Due to Rumi and others writings Persian became the intellectual and artistic language of the Middle Ages and he brought about a rebirth in Persian culture.

Rumi’s poems covered a variety of themes, among them love, religion, introspection and were filled with rich symbolism and metaphorical language typical of Sufi poetry.  His works propounded a philosophy of universal truth in which he believed that all religions were inching towards the same truth and he continuously advocated universal tolerance and charity.  Throughout his works he advocated the Islamic doctrine of tawhid, reiterating the universal nature of God in all aspects of life.

His best loved work is the Masnavi, a massive volume of Sufi poetry that is considered by many Sufis to be the equivalent of the Persian language Qur’an.  The Masnavi is a collection of spiritual advice to guide Sufis on their quest to become fully in love and close with God.

Rumi continues to be the most famous poet in Iranian history and is still revered as the greatest literary figure in that nation’s history.  Iranians are deeply enamored with Rumi’s poetic works and his Persian poetry keeps the Persian language alive and beloved in Iran.

This Week in Middle East History

Events –

– Battle of Aqaba – July 6th, 1917 – Arabs rebelling against the Ottoman Empire, led by T.E. Lawrence and Auda Ibn Tayi, fought the first battle of the Arab Revolt.  They were victorious in present-day Jordan, the first of many successes for this motley army led by an Englishmen, but mainly composed of Arab tribesman.

Tel-Aviv Bus 405 attack – July 6th, 1989 – A Palestinian militant attacked a passenger bus traveling between Tel Aviv and Israel as it was driving on the edge of a cliff resulting in fourteen deaths.  This attack is widely regarded as the first use of ‘suicide’ attacks by Palestinians in their revolt against Israeli control.

– Israeli Knesset passes the Law of Return – July 5th, 1950 – The Law of Return was the fulfillment of Israel’s Zionist pledges made before it gained independence in 1948.  The Law stated that all people ‘born Jewish’ have the right to immigrate to Israel and will be helped by the Israeli government to do so.  When they reach Israel they will immediately gain citizenship and receive government stipends if they need them.  Over the years this law has been used to support the immigration of hundreds of thousands of Jews all over the world to Israel.

Ousting of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto from office – July 5th, 1977 – Bhutto was the effective ruler of Pakistan from 1971 until his ousting by military coup in 1977. He negotiated two successful treaties with India that returned thousands of Pakistani POW’s and gave Pakistan a small piece of disputed Indian territory.  However his use of the Pakistani army to quell rebellions led to dissension and he was overthrown and then executed in 1979 by his political opponents.

Sharia law instituted in Iran – 1979 – Under the new government of the Ayatollah Iran made Islamic law (Sharia law) the law of the land, effectively creating a theocracy that still stands in Iran.

Battle of Hattin – July 4th, 1187 – Forces of Saladin, the ruler of Egypt, and the Crusader States of present-day Israel and Lebanon fought one of the most historically important medieval battles in the Middle East.  Saladin was decisively victorious which meant an end to the Crusader States in the Levant and therefore the end of European intervention in the area until World War I.

Operation Entebbe – July 4th, 1976 – A daring raid conducted by the Israeli Defense Forces to recover a plane hi-jacked a week earlier by Palestinian militants of the PLO containing 248 passengers.  The IDF soldiers traveled secretly from Israel all the way to Uganda where the plane was given asylum by Idi Amin.  The raid was a complete success and 102 of the 106 remaining hostages were rescued in one of the most spectacular military operations of the twentieth century.

Births –

Gazi Yasargil – A Turkish born scientist who became one of the most innovative neurosurgeons of the twentieth century while pioneering techniques for treating epilepsy and other ailments of the brain.  He invented the field of microneurosurgery through his use of tools that he made himself.

Nursultan Nazarbayev – A native Kazakh who has served as Kazakhstan’s only president since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.  His reign has been marked by allegations of extreme corruption and rigged elections. However, he has also been instrumental in removing Soviet era nuclear weapons from Kazakhstan and allowing women to be involved in politics.

Georgios Grivas – The leader of the EOKA guerillas who strove to obtain independence for Cyprus from the British Empire after World War II.  Grivas became one of the most sought after guerilla fighters in the world and published many influential treatises on how to beat numerically superior armies with guerilla tactics during his years of fighting in Greece and Cyprus.