Mosul's fall: A year after, Iraqis wait for freedom

IRQ130716AA001BAGHDAD — A year after the fall of Mosul to the Islamic State, the extremists are cementing a totalitarian regime where life is orderly and the streets are clean, but the vast majority of residents are desperate and miserable.

"We are living in the Dark Ages," said Hala Nassar, a college student who postponed her studies when the Islamic State took over the city. "We are stuck in a big prison hoping to be free."

Read more at USA TODAY

Islamic militia: Concern grows over radicalized Kenyan youth

LIB130121MG001NAIROBI — Three years ago, Solomon Osman woke up in a dimly lit room in Garissa, Kenya, after armed men grabbed him and stuffed him into a truck as he was selling clothes on the street in Mombasa 280 miles away.

He said al-Shabab, the Somalia-based radical Islamic terrorist group that killed 148 students and others at Garissa University College in April, had kidnapped him and 20 other youths.

Read more at Religion News Service

Heartbreaking chaos: Libya

LBY130208AA002BENGHAZI — When we got into the car for the 130-mile trip from Labraq airport in the east to the cradle of Libya's 2011 revolution, my Benghazi-born companion plugged in some music.

First, a few pop songs by Céline Dion, and then something more unusual: The Seals of Benghazi, a country song by Mark Tyson, followed by Requiem for Benghazi by Glen Shulfer. Both songs speak about the attack on Sept. 11, 2012, that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens along with three other Americans. Astonished, I asked my friend what these songs meant to him. 

Read more at USA TODAY

Iraqi operation: To rid Ramadi of Islamic State

IS-FlagBAGHDAD — A Shiite militia group said Tuesday it has arrested hundreds of Islamic State militants in embattled Anbar province as Iraq announced a major military operation to regain control of the region.

Iraqi state TV reported the government operation is backed by Shiite militias and Sunni forces, but the broadcaster did not provide details. The Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS, captured Anbar's provincial capital Ramadi last week, marking a major setback for Iraqi forces.

Read more at USA TODAY

Arab youth: Study too close to home

EGY130827AA002CAIRO — When considering where to get her undergraduate degree, Lana Al Kahala, who is Syrian, applied to universities across the Middle East and in Canada, the United States and Switzerland. She said she was accepted at most of them, including Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, where she is now studying business administration.
 
“Carnegie Mellon was among my choices but I hadn’t really thought about it until I got accepted,” said Kahala. “Then, I started thinking more and more, ‘I can go to the States, but the States is far away, so why can’t I just get the same education somewhere close to my family?”

Read more at Al Fanar Media

Priceless Palmyra: Ancient city threatened by Islamic state

IS-FlagBERLIN — When I was 13, I used to skip school and head to the public library for a day of escape and exploration. One day, I found a lurid romance novel set in ancient times called Zenobia. I was introduced to a "raven-haired" beauty of a desert kingdom, Palmyra, and her love affair with a Roman who was part of the empire trying to conquer it.

I scoured the library's history books, obsessed with knowing more. Eventually, I found her in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales — he described Zenobia's valor as a warrior queen, standing up to Rome before her capture by Emperor Aurelian. I was hooked. I had to learn more about Zenobia. I had to see where she lived. A decade later, I did.

Read more at USA TODAY

Ramadi falls: To Islamic State

IRQ150318aa001BAGHDAD — The Islamic State seized control of the key Iraqi city of Ramadi on Sunday, the biggest victory for the extremists this year despite stepped-up U.S.-led airstrikes targeting the region, according to officials in Anbar province.

"Ramadi has fallen," Muhannad Haimour, a spokesman for Anbar province, said as Iraqi forces withdrew from the city. "The city was completely taken. … It was a gradual deterioration. The military is fleeing."

Haimour told the Associated Press that the militants killed up to 500 civilians and soldiers and forced around 8,000 people to flee their homes as they captured the city.

The U.S. Central Command was not yet ready to concede the city to the Islamic State, saying that Ramadi remains "contested."

Read more at USA Today

Amnesty says: Torture still widely used in Morocco

mor120215aa001RABAT — Violent interrogation methods are still widely used by the Moroccan authorities to crush dissent and forcefully extract confessions from detainees, even though the government has pledged for years to eradicate torture, a new report by the human rights group Amnesty International says.

“Morocco’s leaders portray the image of a liberal, human-rights-friendly country,” Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty International, said in a statement with the report, which was released Tuesday morning. “But as long as the threat of torture hangs over detention and dissent that image will just be a mirage.”

Read more at The New York Times

Bus attacks: Raise alarms in Pakistan

PAK20121001LAHORE — Last week's terrorist attack on a bus that killed scores of minority Shiites is the latest example of sectarian violence and divisions that have grown in Pakistan the past few years as militant groups gain ground.

Ratcheting up such attacks are part of a grand plan by militants to destabilize the country and increase their power, says retired lieutenant general Moinuddin Haider, Pakistan's former interior minister.

Read more at USA Today 

In Algeria: Entrepreneurs Hope Falling Oil Prices Will Spur Innovation

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ALGIERS — Algeria, a country that depends on energy for 97 percent of its exports and two-thirds of its government revenue, is facing an economic crisis precipitated by the plunge in oil prices. And that is just fine with Toufik Lerari and Marhoun Rougab, entrepreneurs who see it as salvation for the rest of the Algerian economy.

"Our chance is the collapsing oil prices," Mr. Lerari said in his office, where colorful pop art paintings decorate the walls. "Now, we cannot wait anymore. We must act. We want to concentrate our energy on what works well in this country. What can you build if you're not positive?"

Read more at The New York Times 

21 million: Arab children not in school or at risk

egy120617aa001Cairo — About 21 million of children and adolescents across the Middle East and North Africa region are either out of school or at risk of dropping out, according to a recent joint report by UNICEF and UNESCO.

The report comes as a part of the “out of school children” initiative by UNICEF and UNESCO institute of statistics, which seeks to better understand the nature of children deprived of a school education, their environments and the barriers that lead them to be excluded from schools.

Children from poor families, girls and those living in rural communities or in conflict areas constitute the majority of out of school children, the report said.

“At a time of such change and turmoil, this region simply can’t afford to let 21 million children fall by the wayside,” said Maria Calivis, regional director for UNICEF MENA in a statement. “These children must be given the opportunity to acquire the skills they need through education in order to play their part in the region’s transformation.”

The report said about 12.3 million children and young adolescents in the region are already out of school, and 6 million are at the risk of dropping out. Another 3 million don’t go to school in Syria and Iraq due to the conflicts in those countries—this number could rise if the conflicts intensify.

Djibouti and Sudan have the highest number of out of school children, scoring 41.7 per cent and 48.5 per cent respectively for children of primary school age. Tunisia and Morocco had the lowest rates—about 0.1 per cent and 1.3 percent for children in the same age group.

Some think the situation won’t change anytime soon because of poor and inefficient policies adopted by Arab governments.

“In Arab states, education doesn’t serve developmental needs,” said Abd El Hafeez Tayel, the director of the Egyptian Center for the Right to Education. “There is no link between educational curricula and the labor market, and no developmental return can be achieved from such [a situation]. As a result, families think of pulling their children out of school to save on the high costs of education, especially in Egypt where families spend a lot of money on private lessons.”

Egyptian families spend about 42 percent of their total expenditures for their children’s education on private tutoring, said UNICEF Egypt, while 54 per cent of children currently out of school in Egypt said their parents don’t want them to go school.

Tayel said that if dropout rates continue, it will negatively affect development in the region. Rates of violence will rise, he said.

Meanwhile, the report says “on average, a girl in the MENA region is 25 percent less likely to be in school than a boy,” mainly due to social attitudes, early marriage and a lack of female teachers. This proportion varies sharply from country to country and in some countries girls have a higher enrollment rate.

Although enrollment rates are rising in the region—the number of out-of-school children was reduced by 40 percent over the past decade—school children are getting a low quality education putting them at the risk of dropping out, the report said.

A newspaper columnist, Rami G. Khouri, who is also senior public policy fellow at the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, wrote in Lebanon’s Daily Star that the lack of educational quality was “the most frightening finding of the report.”

Khouri emphasized that “about half of all school children in the Arab world actually are not learning,” according to worldwide tests on literacy and numeracy skills of primary and secondary school students.

The report recommends that governments should “scale up efforts to prioritize education needs of vulnerable families,” improve education standards and tackle drop out and gender disparity issues.

But that isn’t happening, says Tayel.

“Governments view such reports about education but don’t respond positively,” said Tayel. He says it’s in the interest of Arab leaders to keep the status quo. “Arab leaders depend on the notion that ignorant people are much easier to rule than educated ones.”

But unless all children have access to free and high quality education, where curricula should be designed to stimulate the student to think critically and creatively, that goal will backfire, Khouri wrote.

“If this does not happen, these tens of millions of uneducated young Arabs will prove to be our own homemade weapons of our own mass destruction,” Khouri said.


Read more at Al-Fanar

Academic aid: U.S. and Egypt announce multi-million dollar package

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_EGY141212aa001.jpegCAIRO – The United States and Egypt announced a multi-million dollar higher education initiative at a long-delayed launch event Sunday, marking a milestone for educational ties between the two nations and expanding academic opportunities for Egyptian students to study at home and abroad.

The $250-million effort, which will extend over the next several years, involves a slew of scholarships, exchange opportunities and institutional partnerships with the aim of developing Egypt’s economy.

Read more at Al-fanar Media

100,000 in Gaza still homeless after war with Israel

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_GAZ180714aa001.jpegGAZA CITY — Liala Kloob, her unemployed husband and their six children sleep on cots in the Abu Assi School in a Gaza Strip refugee camp.

A year ago, her husband worked as a tailor and they owned a house. But Israeli airstrikes destroyed their home and her husband's storefront during the 51-day war last summer with Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that rules Gaza.

Read more at USA Today

Palestinian student: Transformed by a liberal education

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_EGY141212aa001.jpegI remember my first class on my first day of college.

“Does God really exist?” asked my French professor, a tall and skinny middle-aged man who was perpetually rolling and smoking cigarettes.

“Yes,” I said unconsciously. “Who doesn’t believe in God?

Read more at Al-Fanar Media

Amid the: Destruction of Syrian Antiquities, Some Restoration

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A young archaeologist, Moutaz Alshayeb, envisioned working on digs in the desert after he graduated from the University of Damascus three years ago. He never imagined that he'd start his career in a lab piecing together artifacts from heritage sites destroyed in the Syrian conflict.

"When I hear about bombings in the tunnels of the old city of Aleppo I feel devastated," said Moutaz, referring to the city in northwestern Syria where intense fighting between rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad has reduced neighborhoods to rubble. "They are simply crushing our identity and our soul."

Read more at Al-Fanar Media 

Even in: Egypt, Syrian refugees struggle to access higher education

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_SYR151515aa001.jpegCAIRO—For Tamer Mohammed Yasser, a 19-year-old Syrian refugee, the idea of getting a university degree is out of the question.

He tried. But expenses including books, transportation to campus and meals on the go amounted to more than the roughly $100 he earns every month working as en electrician. Plus, the money is needed at home, where it helps support his mother and two siblings.

Read more at Al-Fanar Media

Pope backs: Iran nuke deal, urges end to extremist violence

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_ITA130401AA001.jpegVATICAN CITY – Tens of thousands gathered in St. Peter's Square for Easter Mass in a cold, pouring rain Sunday to hear Pope Francis call for an end to global violence and the persecution of Christians by extremist groups.

Francis also expressed support for the Iran nuclear deal reached in Lausanne, Switzerland, saying he hoped it would be "a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world."

Read more at USA Today

Disabled students: The blind side of Arab Education

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_EGY150410aa001.jpegDOHA—A conference here called “Definitely Able” tried to make sure that all could participate, with ramps to the stage to allow wheelchair access, sign language interpretation in English and Arabic, and a monitor that immediately translates speech into written words.

The two-day conference was supported by the British Council in Qatar and Sasol, an energy and chemicals company, to give a platform for disabled voices in the Qatari community, with a focus on equal access to education for people with disabilities.

Read more at Al-Fanar Media

Iraqis watch: Antiquities take hit after hit

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_IRQ150410aa001.jpegIslamic State militants in Iraq have forced archaeologists to abandon their posts, attacked prized historical sites and embraced an illicit antiquities trade that experts say helps fund their activities.

Now, the fate of the Iraq’s cultural heritage remains unclear as officials and experts remain limited in their abilities to even assess the damage.

Read more at Al-Fanar Media

Accomplices sought: In Tunisia terror attacks

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_EGY130826aa001.jpegTUNIS, Tunisia — A massive manhunt was underway for two or three accomplices after terrorists stormed a museum Wednesday, took hostages and killed 19 people, most of them tourists. Two gunmen were killed when authorities swept in and freed the hostages.

The government blamed a war on terror, but no group claimed responsibility for the bold assault at the National Bardo Museum, a popular tourist attraction in the birthplace of the Arab Spring movement that led to democratic elections.

Read more at USA Today

The race: To protect antiquities in Iraq, Syria

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_SYR150318aa001.jpegCAIRO — The Islamic State's wanton destruction of priceless antiquities in the Middle East has triggered a global mobilization to safeguard these treasures, ranging from calls for airstrikes to special protections for untouched sites.

Iraq's tourism and antiquities ministry is demanding the U.S.-led coalition against the militants use warplanes to strike the group's machinery that is destroying relics in the region.

Read more at USA Today

Iraqi offensive: in Tikrit slowed but not halted

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_ISR120808aa001.jpegON THE OUTSKIRTS OF TIKRIT, Iraq – Government troops paused in their advance on this critical Sunni city Tuesday as security forces prepared to clear explosives-lined streets and eject several hundred committed Islamic State militants still holed up here.

"We ceased the advance on the city to avoid the casualties among the civilians who are stuck in the city," said Abbas Al Khuzaie, a Shiite militia fighter in Tikrit. "We managed to limit (Islamic State) movement inside the town."

Read more at USA Today

Netanyahu takes: Strong lead in Israeli election

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_ISR130226AA001.jpegJERUSALEM -- Benjamin Netanyahu's conservative Likud Party held a clear lead over its major opposition party in Israel's elections Tuesday, boosting the prime minister's bid for a fourth term.

Nearly complete results showed Netanyahu's party leading the center-left opposition Zionist Union, which is headed by Isaac Herzog, giving Likud a strong position to try to form a coalition government.


Read more at USA Today

New Egyptian: Law firm fights for student rights

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_EGY151515aa001.jpegCAIRO—A Cairo University student, Mohammed Abdel Khalek, was pulling up in a metro car to a station near the university, planning to buy a book on campus that would help him with his next exam. Instead, he was arrested and swiftly imprisoned.

He said was caught in the crossfire of clashes on that day last winter. When the doors on his metro car opened, he witnessed the chaotic aftermath of a demonstration. “I found a lot of people there running from police,” Abdel Khalek said. “I didn’t understand what was going on.”

Read more at Al-Fanar Media

Early efforts: Seek to solve the Gulf gender gap

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_MOR130415AA001.jpegDOHA—With opportunities to access world-class higher education and procure generous financial aid, an increasing number of Qatari students are pursuing higher education in their country.

But rising enrollment isn’t reducing a persistent gender gap, educators say, as more women than men get university degrees in Qatar and across the Gulf region.

Read more at Al Fanar Media

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