Essay on Primary Source Use
Commentary on the Politics, History and Culture of the Middle East and Central Asia, by Brian Ulrich
Some 90 per cent of Kerala’s 2.36 million-strong diaspora is in the Middle East, says a study released here on Wednesday...
The study shows that the UAE has attracted 38.7 per cent of the Kerala emigrants and retains its top position. However, its relative share has declined from 41.9 per cent in 2008.
On the other hand, Saudi Arabia had increased its relative position, accommodating 25.2 per cent Malayalis.
Kuwait and Qatar are the other Gulf countries that have increased their relative share of Kerala emigrants...
He said the glamour associated with Gulf emigration was still very strong among youngsters from the southern state.
At that time, the Israelis were pushing the Arabs of Haifa down to the port and into boats. As my parents tell it, it was mass chaos and a number of people drowned being pushed into overcrowded boats. My parents were able to find a taxi to take them to the border. They went directly to Sour in south Lebanon. We didn't know anyone there. But what they found as soon as they got there was a bunch of Lebanese Christian men looking for Christian refugees. They offered to give them assistance and take them to (the Beirut suburb of) Jounieh. My parents told us that the Lebanese Christians helped us because they wanted us to increase the number of Christians in Lebanon. So that's how my parents ended up there.
In Jounieh, my father and some of the other Palestinian Christian men tried to determine how many Palestinians were in the area because they wanted to open a school for the children. In conjunction with UNRWA, they opened a school in the Christian camp of Dbiyyeh. That's where the Christian Palestinians who were peasants were settled. It was church land in the Christian area.A pattern one sees is that, as Palestians from religiously mixed areas of northern Israel entered Lebanon, they became segregated by religion as the Christians, who again dominated Lebanon at that time, adopted the Palestinian Christians in a move interpreted as trying to use them to stave off Christian demographic decline relative to Muslims. At first Christians and Muslims among the refugees tried to maintain their links from their home country, but over time distance and divergent experiences caused those attempts to fizzle out.
The clause (in the surrender agreement for Homs, Syria) about giving up a quarter of the church for use as a mosque may seem curious and perhaps improbable: after all, how could these two religions, whose followers had just been engaged in violent warfare, end up by sharing the main religious building in the town? We are told, however, that it also happened at Damascus, where the Muslims used half of their cathedral as the first mosque. Only at the beginning of the eighth century, sixty years after the conquest, were the Christians expelled and a purpose-built mosque constructed. Even then, compensation was paid and the Christians made a new cathedral in the church of St. Mary, about half a kilometer east of the mosque, and this remains the cathedral of the Melkite (Greek Orthodox) community of Damascus to the present day. Interestingly, we find archaeological confirmation of this practice from a small town in the Negev, Subeita. Here there are two large, finely built Byzantine churches. In the narthex or porch of one are the foundations of a small mosque. We can tell it is a mosque because of the mihrab, the niche showing the direction of Mecca, which is clearly visible. All this evidence suggests that, after the political defeat of the Christian forces, the two religious communities could and did coexist, if not in harmony, at least in a state of mutual tolerance.As far as the former Byzantine territories go, contemporary Muslim apologists are accurate to point out that there was more freedom of religion under the caliphate than under the Byzantine Empire. Since ISIS is in the church-destroying business, though, I still have to ask: Does "Caliph Ibrahim" think the caliphs he as a Sunni recognizes as "rightly guided" erred in their policies towards Christians? Some of the buildings his forces have destroyed were around during this period.
Significant rebel coalitions have already been formed to help in the fight against ISIS, and preparations for the zero hour seem to be in full swing. On September 10, seven groups affiliated with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), Free Syrian Army, and the Islamic Front, among them Kurdish and Arab fighters, announced a small yet symbolically significant coalition to fight ISIS in eastern Syria. On Monday, five sizable fighting groups in Idlib announced a merger, named al-Faylaq al-Khamis (The Fifth Legion), saying they would adhere to strict military discipline and use the Syrian revolutionary flag, which indicates a rejection of Islamist ideology. The Syrian Revolutionary Front, which was key to the expulsion of ISIS from much of the north earlier this year, also announced that it would send “convoys after convoys” to areas under ISIS control to defeat the jihadi group...
Rebel forces from the north can help fight ISIS from the ground, under air cover and intelligence and with logistical assistance, but local forces will be vital in retaking areas currently under ISIS control. Many of the fighters from Deir ez-Zor, for example, left the province to fight near Damascus after ISIS entered their areas in June. Local forces who have surrendered to ISIS have little appetite to rise up against the group unless they know that it will be too weakened to return to their areas and retaliate against them, as it did to several villages and towns in recent weeks...
Rebel forces from the north can help fight ISIS from the ground, under air cover and intelligence and with logistical assistance, but local forces will be vital in retaking areas currently under ISIS control. Many of the fighters from Deir ez-Zor, for example, left the province to fight near Damascus after ISIS entered their areas in June...
In addition, the sponsors’ effort to provide funding only to loyal groups has already produced remarkable results, primarily the weakening of the Islamic Front, which turned to little more than a brand that has no operational reality. Ahrar al-Sham, for example, had been steadily weakening even before nearly all its top leaders were killed on September 9 in an attack at one of the group’s bases in Idlib’s countryside.
Such efforts to tighten the noose around extremist groups—at least for countries like Saudi Arabia—will be part of a long-term effort to build an organic army that would be part of a future Syria. According to sources1 in the Gulf region, the need for establishing a “Sunni peshmerga” is key to the regional countries’ current strategy. There are already reports that thousands of rebel fighters will be trained in Jordan and the Gulf; Saudi Arabia has reportedly agreed to host training for the rebels inside the kingdom. This force, despite its name, is not meant to have a sectarian agenda, but it would be designed as an army that can police and protect Sunni-dominated territories in Syria and Iraq. The plan to establish “Sunni peshmerga” will exclude Islamist groups, even if they project a moderate tone.Is it just me, or are some of the groups whose power has dwindled(penultimate paragraph) the same ones lining up to be on our side (first paragraph)? Either way, the U.S. is going to get used by groups hoping to be our allies against ISIS and be left in charge of territory and weapons afterwards.
IS has achieved something scarcely conceivable in the Middle East by uniting the bitterest of foes in a common purpose. Such diverse actors as Europeans and Kurds, the embattled Syrian regime along with many of the rebels opposing it, Turkey, a slew of Arab states, as well as Israel and the Iraqi government itself have all clamoured for American intervention. Even Iran, though unenthusiastic about the Americans’ return to a theatre that it has worked hard to squeeze them out of, has accepted a tacit, temporary alliance with the Great Satan.
Talk of the city's future stopped in light of events, until Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, on June 30 called for a referendum on the annexation of Kirkuk, sparking angry reactions in the Iraqi capital. Ultimately, however, Barzani's statement was also put on the back burner, after IS sparked a larger confrontation with the peshmerga on the Nineveh plains and threatened Erbil, prompting US and international military intervention.
After that, the convulsive rhetoric between Baghdad and Erbil changed. The different tone coincided with the appointment of Haider al-Abadi as prime minister-designate, and military cooperation between the peshmerga and Iraqi forces. This cooperation resulted in advances on a number of fronts, and in particular, led to taking control of the town of Amerli, south of Kirkuk, and then moving to open the Kirkuk-Baghdad highway...
Although the Turkmen prefer for Kirkuk to be an autonomous region, they too have view the picture from a different angle today with IS in the picture. According to Hussein, "The best solution is for Kirkuk to be an autonomous region. Given that Kurds comprise a majority, they would have an upper hand in the administration, alongside the Arabs and Turkmen, for at least around 10 years. Later on, the issue of its fate could be raised again. Yet currently the situation of Kirkuk is very sensitive, so we can't discuss the issue. The enemy is just 15 kilometers from the city center, and any mistake or misunderstanding would mean no Kirkuk or its fate to discuss."
None of the Kirkuk Arab politicians who spoke to Al-Monitor touched on the issue of the city's fate, the magnitude of the current crises superseding specifying a position on Article 140. Mohammed Khalil al-Jubouri, head of the Arab group in the Kirkuk Provincial Council, issued a statement Aug. 29 calling for the formation of a special force that would include the city's minorities to expel IS from Kirkuk's eastern and southern regions. "The Arab tribes of Hawija and al-Dibs confirmed their opposition to the organization [led by Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi. They formed forces to fight it, and must be aided and supported militarily and logistically," he said.
At a time when HIV rates have stabilised or declined elsewhere, the epidemic is still advancing in the Arab world, exacerbated by factors such as political unrest, conflict, poverty and lack of awareness due to social taboos...
The United Nations estimates that there were 31,000 new cases and 16,500 new deaths in 2012 alone. “Infections grew by 74 percent between 2001 and 2012 while AIDS-related deaths almost tripled,” says Dr Matta Matta, an infection specialist based at the Bellevue Hospital in Lebanon...
With the exception of Somalia and Djibouti, the epidemic is generally concentrated in vulnerable populations at higher risk, such as men-who-have-sex-with-men, female and male sex workers, and injecting drugs users...
The legal framework criminalising such activities in most Arab countries means that it is difficult to reach out to specific groups. With the exception of Tunisia, which recognises legalised sex work, female sex workers who work clandestinely in other countries are not safeguarded by law and thus cannot force their clients to use protection, which allows for the spread of disease.
Lack of awareness, the absence of voluntary testing and of sexual education, social taboos, as well as poverty, are among the factors driving HIV in the region. “Arab governments and societies deny the epidemic and the absence of voluntary testing means that for every infected person we have ten others that we do not know about,” stresses Moalla.
During childhood, Ibn Saud's sister was a delightful and spirited playmate, and in later life she became a source of support and courage, especially after the family's exile in Kuwait in 1891. We are told she played an important role in pushing her brother to embark on the long journey to re-establish their family's rule over Arabia. Later, after Riyadh fell into his hands, Nura remained supportive, managing the royal household and dealing with mundane matters that would have distracted the king from his more urgent business. No day passed without the king visiting her in her private quarters, where she exchanged news with her and sought advice and reassurance.
More importantly, Nura agreed to be married off to a rival Saudi prince, Saud al-Kabir, an arch-enemy who in the early 1910's had taken refuge with his mother's tribe, the Ajman, to challenge the king's right to the throne. Nura offered herself up to effect a lasting reconciliation between the competing men of her family, whose rivarly was threatening the survival of the nascent Saudi state. After the king brought the rebellious Ajman under his control and pacified his rival relative, Nura continued to cement the relationship between the contenders and the wide tribal milieu in which their competition was fermenting. Placing Nura in the intimate confines of Saud al-Kabir's household was a political strategy that the princess willingly accepted for the sake of the stability of her brother's domain. She used contacts with the Ajman tribe through her husband's affines to contribute to the pacification of this rebellious tribe and their chiefs. She served as a messenger between the king and the women of the tribe, especially the mother of their chief, Dhaydan ibn Hithlayn.Princess Nura (also Nora, Nourah bt. Abdurrahman) also played a role as diplomatic hostess for the wives of visiting dignitaries. Riyadh's first telephone line was a direct connection between her house and the king's. She died in 1950, and Saudi Arabia's official historical memory holds her up as a model of what women, especially royal women, should strive to be: pious, self-sacrificing, trustworthy, and wise. Today Princess Nourah University in Riyadh is named for her.
The sources close to Hezbollah told Al-Monitor that nearly two years ago Hezbollah opened training camps in the area outside the city of Baalbek in the Bekaa, close to the Syrian border, to train youth from different denominations in preparation to face radicals, and although the highest percentage of the trainees in these camps are Shiites, the recent acts by IS against the Christians of Syria and Iraq have pushed dozens of young Christians hailing from the towns adjacent to the Syrian border to join them. Today these [Christian youth] represent a form of "people’s protection committees" in their hometowns similar to those formed by Christian youth in Syrian towns...
With the growing expectation that IS is coming to Lebanon, Hezbollah’s military preparations have evolved towards promoting a plan to establish Lebanese Resistance Brigades, which gather all denominations, to face IS. Steadily, this plan has started to be accepted by youth from other denominations, particularly the Christians of the north and the Bekaa.
A Christian youth explained why he joined the local protection committee: “What has happened in Mosul has been a message to all Christians of the East that the world will not protect them and that they need to rely on themselves to defend their existence..."
The new development is succeeding by establishing it in environments where there are existential concerns among Christians in areas close to IS and Jabhat al-Nusra positions at the Syrian border. Hezbollah has actually succeeded in establishing “people’s protection committees” that consist of dozens of Christians from the northern Bekaa towns.I'd be interested in finding out if these Christians are Maronites or Orthodox. Either way, it isn't as surprising as it might be. Michel Aoun, a prominent Maronite, heads a Hizbullah-allied Christian political party called the Free Patriotic Movement.
The nomination of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as Turkey's next prime minister was seen by some as confirmation of Erdogan's efforts to put a subservient prime minister into place, and freeze out AKP co-founder and Turkey's outgoing President, Abdullah Gul...
Addressing reporters at a farewell reception in Ankara last week, Gul predicted Davutoglu would become the new leader of the AKP, but also noted that he favours a parliamentary system, in the most direct contradiction to Erdogan's stated policies yet...
With solid party credentials, and having increasingly fallen foul of Erdogan in the last year, notably over a widespread corruption scandal enveloping the party, Turan said Gul would never have been the pliable prime minister Erdogan sought. "He has tried to prevent Gul form coming back and trying to take back the prime ministership. All of the founders are going to be out of parliament by next elections," Turan said.Is Abdullah Gul really the counterweight to Erdogan I keep reading he could be? I feel like I keep reading about issues, such as the Gezi Park protests or social media law, where people look to him to stand up to Erdogan, but he never actually does so. Why would he be any different as prime minister?
IS's mission is to create its own caliphate, but until now many of its sources of revenue have depended on its host states. In Iraq, the money that IS extorted from contractors, businesses and institutions ultimately derived from the expenditure of the central government in Baghdad. In both countries, IS’s “subjects” include thousands of employees of the respective central governments, who are still drawing their salaries from the government and carrying out their functions.
IS also depends on established infrastructure. Most of the electricity generated in Syria comes from power stations in regime-controlled areas and is transmitted through a national grid, which includes IS-held zones. These plants run on natural gas produced from fields under regime control. One exception has been an associated gas plant known as Conoco (after the American company that built it in the early 2000s) not far from Deir ez-Zor. Until recently it was operated under the protection of Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda's official branch in Syria, which was kicked out of Deir ez-Zor in July, and the gas was pumped to the Jandar power station, south of Homs. It is not clear whether this arrangement has continued since IS seized control.
In July IS overran the Al Shaer natural gas plant between Homs and Palmyra. On this occasion the regime had no interest in ceding control of a vital energy asset to IS, and within two weeks it was back in Mr Assad’s army’s control, albeit badly damaged. The prospect of the Mosul dam and hydroelectric plant remaining under IS control prompted a similarly robust response from the Iraqi government and its Kurdish and Western backers, who on August 18th to have recaptured it.In other words, Syria and Iraq both have large public sectors, with lots of government employees and significant government contracts, and these, along with infrastructure, have continued to direct wealth into ISIS-controlled territory. The blog post suggests that this is a spigot governments can turn off, forcing ISIS to spend money on their territory rather than simply extracting it.
These are just a sample of the kinds of comments that Iraqi Kurdish social media users have been posting online. Others added even more vitriol, reporting that relatives serving in the Iraqi military, who were fighting the Islamic State group, said they were shot at by ordinary Arabs in contested areas. They also said that the ordinary Arabs in contested areas were providing the extremists with intelligence.
The online anger against Arabs that started as random messages on social media has also evolved into online campaigning in some cases, with one group starting a Facebook page “for the expulsion of Arabs from Iraqi Kurdistan”. A group of Facebook campaigners also began to organise a demonstration against Arabs in Iraqi Kurdistan, even though Iraqi Kurdish authorities forbade it.
Two weekends ago, the UK-based website Middle East Eye reported on an impromptu demonstration held in the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Erbil. The mostly young men involved apparently set up checkpoints on the street to police anyone driving by, that they suspected was Arab. The protestors also tried to vandalise property they thought belonged to Arabs. Iraqi Kurdish security forces broke the protest up.From the article as a whole, it sounds like a lot of this relates to ISIS's coasting on Sunni Arab grievances against the Maliki government in Baghdad. Many Sunni Arabs either work directly with ISIS, seeing it as the lesser evil, or are openly hostile to the Shi'ite-dominated Iraqi army operating in their region even if they are neutral on or hostile to the ISIS against which that army is campaigning. Where Kurds and Shi'ites see ISIS as the primary issue, an evil against which all must unite, the nuances of Sunni Arab views and experiences easily become lost.