Do Not Forget Iraq’s Women

As Iraq plunges headlong into a new era of chaos, one woman continues to fight against the growing tide of violence by protecting the rights of the most vulnerable. On June 17th, Iraqi lawyer Suaad Allami was one of five women honored at the Vital Voices Global Partnership 13th annual Global Leadership Awards. The Washington, D.C. based NGO, co-founded by Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright, celebrated the tireless efforts of female leaders from all over the world in a moving ceremony at the Kennedy Center.

We got the chance to sit down with Ms. Allami, this year’s recipient of the Fern Holland award, to talk about her continuous struggle for peace and human rights in her home country of Iraq.

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Exploring "Fundamentalism" in Europe

In January, Erik Voeten, on the Washington Post, posted the findings of a recently-published survey in a piece entitled, “How widespread is Islamic Fundamentalism in Europe?” The study in question compares not only the religious “fundamentalism” of Muslims and Christians, but also their hostility toward out-groups. Voeten, who in Europe generally finds the study credible, writes that the survey shows there are troubling attitudes held by Muslims in Europe that “cannot be ignored”.

Reading quickly through a paragraph or two and focusing on just the graph and headline, one would likely takeaway from the article that fundamentalists--words so often associated with “terrorism” and “terrorists” in the West--make up a huge portion of European Muslims.

The problem is in the definition.

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Christmas in Istanbul

Christmas' commercialization brings the holiday season to Turkey

The music to "It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas" softly drifts from the speakers lining the bottom of Şair Nedim Boulevard in Istanbul's Akaretler neighborhood. As the street curves downward and the fancy row houses move into view, Bing Crosby's words come to life.

"There's a tree in the Grand Hotel," Crosby croons. In front of the grand W Hotel stands a gigantic tree made of a multitude of tiny firs; strings of lights wrap around balcony railings. Garlands line entryways to shops. Ornaments the size of trussed-up turkeys and glittery, white snowflakes hang in café windows.

Crowds of couples carry hot chocolate drinks in their mittened hands, taking pictures of all the holiday magnificence. Little kids asking their moms why their trees at home aren't as big as the one in the shop window...asking in Turkish, that is.

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Iranian Nuclear Deal Is A Triumph Of Diplomacy!

News broke over the weekend that an Iranian nuclear deal was finally struck in beautiful lakeside Geneva. Well, technically it’s a deal to work towards a deal in six months. So you might ask: Why all the hoopla? After 34 years of silent treatment, crippling sanctions and relentless threats of war by irresponsible crazies, any such diplomatic opening is refreshing.

Within minutes, the airwaves filled with news, chatter and commentary; it seemed like everyone claimed to have their finger on the pulse of the truth.

Joy and relief on one side; rebuke and disgust on the other. The indefatigable NIAC duo, Trita Parsi and Reza Marashi provided minute by minute updates of the negotiations, which were more suspenseful than a Hollywood blockbuster. They finally posted “Congratulations!” — then their beaming faces smiled out above this caption: “...if you’re wondering how happy we are!”

I clicked that “like” button over and over, more than anytime I remember, brimming with optimism in spite of my reservations toward the Islamic regime — even feeling a certain fondness for Mr. Zarif, who in a PR video earlier that week, had extended a reconciliatory hand in tandem with stressing mutual respect and insisting on all rights to peaceful enrichment for his nation under the NPT. I liked his tone.

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Amnesty International Report Undermines Qatar’s Soft Power Defense Strategy

Qatar’s failure to confront with a sense of immediacy and urgency appalling working and living conditions of its foreign workers, who constitute a majority of the population, and its reluctance to communicate steps it is taking, is undermining the very purpose of its staging of the 2022 World Cup: the creation of the kind of soft power needed to compensate for its lack of the military hard power necessary to defend itself.

Instead of being perceived and feted as a cutting edge 21st century nation to whose defense the international community would want to come in a time of need, Qatar’s image as a feudal state that tolerates forced labor and abuse of fundamental rights is being cemented by a series of reports that unambiguously document the exploitation suffered by foreign workers who account for up to 80 percent of the population and 94 percent of the labor market. Qatar’s image problem feeds into mounting criticism of FIFA’s awarding of the 2022 World Cup that potentially could lead to the Gulf state being deprived of becoming the first Middle Eastern nation to host one of the world’s foremost sporting events.

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Banning Of Egyptian Player Highlights Problems Of Sports Governance

This week’s banning of a prominent Egyptian soccer player for expressing political views on the pitch goes to the core of international sports’ problems: a refusal to recognize the inextricable linkage between sports and politics, the political manipulation of soccer by regimes in the Middle East and North Africa with the tacit endorsement of world soccer governing body FIFA, and the continuous flaunting of their own rules and regulations by FIFA and other international, regional and national sports governing bodies.

Striker Ahmed Abd El-Zaher was banned by crowned Cairo club Al Ahli SC and put up for sale despite having another four years on his contract at the behest of the minister of sports in Egypt’s military-backed government, Taher Abouzeid, and the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) for showing an opposition four finger sign after scoring a goal in a match against South Africa’s Orlando Pirates that helped earn the club its eighth African club championship title.

The sign known as Rabaa (fourth) in Arabic symbolizes Rabaa al Adawiya Square in Cairo where opponents of the military camped out for weeks this summer in protest against the ousting by the armed forces in July of Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president. Hundreds of people were killed in mid-August when security forces evicted the protesters from the square as part of a brutal crackdown on Mr. Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.

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Is India About To Elect A Genocidal Far Right Nationalist As Its Next Prime Minister?

India may elect as its next Prime Minister a far right Hindu nationalist who, as governor of Gujarat, directed his state's police force to look the other way during a mass slaughter of Muslims in 2002.

Narendra Modi is a self-made politician: the son of a street vendor who worked his way up through the grassroots of the right wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He came to prominence in his home state of Gujarat with an impressive economic record amassed during his tenure as a governor in the western Indian state, which allowed him to woo middle class voters who would otherwise have been turned off by his hard-line politics. Now that he has set his eyes on national office, Modi is hoping to once again sway voters by focusing on his free market and technology sector-friendly economic policies. But his complicity in the horrific Gujarat riots, which left thousands dead in a span of seventy-two hours, is one legacy that still haunts his candidacy and Indian politics.

On February 27th 2002, several Hindu pilgrims were killed in an accidental train fire in the Gujarati city of Godhra. Far-right Hindu Nationalist groups aligned with Modi’s BJP blamed the fire on Muslim “terrorists” and the Muslim community at large, who they perceived as antithetical to national Indian identity and the Hindu religion, and immediately called for strikes across the country. In response, organized Hindu mobs went on a wave of mass killing and rampage directed at the state’s minority Muslim and, in some cases, Christian communities. Children were burned alive. Women were raped and disemboweled. Many others were hacked to death with swords.

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Al Ahli Turns African Championship Into Anti-Government Protest

Clashes this weekend between security forces and militant supporters of crowned Cairo club Al Ahli SC and a political demonstration by the team’s goalkeeper have dented the Egyptian military-backed government’s efforts to show that the country had put its political crisis behind it. The clashes raise the specter of world soccer body FIFA moving for security reasons Egypt’s 2014 World Cup qualifier against Ghana, scheduled for November 19 in Cairo, military strongman General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s birthday, to a neutral venue.

The incidents overshadowed Al Ahli’s eighth triumph as African champion, an achievement in a country that has been wracked by political volatility since the 2011 popular revolt that toppled President Hosni Mubarak and a coup in July that overthrew Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi. Al Ahli’s victory contrasts starkly with the performance of Egypt’s national team, which has effectively lost hope to reach the World Cup finals when Ghana defeated it earlier this month 6:1 in a first match in Accra.

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Goliath: A Brazen, Uncomfortable And Unfiltered Look At Israeli Apartheid

Shortly after the Mavi Marmara incident, I was walking down Ibn Gvirol, an elegant boulevard in central Tel Aviv, at night with dozens of people hoisting an Israeli flag amid a sea of others including several Turkish flags. Signs denounced the government in Hebrew and Arabic, with a chant that has been imprinted ever since: “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.”

Max Blumenthal’s harrowing and disturbing new account of the racism, extreme hyper-nationalism, xenophobia, and religious intolerance in Israel helps break the silence of American Jewish apologia for an Israeli state that, with every passing year, becomes harder to defend. Part of this review is to break my own silence, which I have often maintained out of fear of ostracism. The stultifying, oppressive political correctness surrounding the issue of Israel-Palestine, especially for those who are assumed to render unconditional support, has begun to erode.

The tone of Goliath is captured immediately, for example with an anecdote where Blumenthal details his travels in and out of the Promised Land: “My Jewish privilege would be borne out during many trips in and out of Ben Gurion Airport,” Blumenthal writes. “Whenever a security officer greeted me with the requisite opening question, ‘Are you Jeweesh?’ I have learned to casually respond, ‘Of course.’”

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How Sectarianism Can Be A Positive Force

The Middle East has long been identified with an endless string of “isms.” From Islamism to sectarianism to authoritarianism, various ideologies have saturated the region. This seemed set to change, however, when uprisings in the Arab world began in December 2010.

As seemingly untouchable dictators like Tunisia's Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak began to fall, popular euphoria became potent. For many, a new age of pluralism, citizen empowerment, and inclusiveness appeared to be on the horizon. Swept up by this excitement, experts and observers made declarations about the end of various ideological discourses in the Middle East. Some even suggested the uprisings expressly rejected the ideologies of old. The Arab world, they argued, had entered a post-Islamist phase, and was finished, perhaps forever, with the paradigms of post-colonialism.

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