Month: September 2017

Iran’s Kurds are growing restless, too

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THE Kurds of Iran are calling for independence just as lustily as their cousins in Iraq, perhaps even more so. While the mood in the streets of Iraq’s Kurdish cities was generally subdued and nervous after their referendum on independence on September 25th, wilder celebrations erupted across the border in Iranian Kurdistan. In the Kurdish cities of Baneh, Sanandaj and Mahabad demonstrations lasted for two days, even as armoured cars drove through the streets heralding a wave of arrests. Crowds sang the anthem of the Republic of Mahabad, the Kurdish state that briefly held sway in north-western Iran in 1946. Kurdish flags flew from lampposts. Some Iranian Kurds talked dreamily of a state they call Rojhelat, or East Kurdistan, which would slough off the “occupation” by Ajamastan, a pejorativ

Egypt’s Shia come out of hiding

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SINCE the dawn of Islam, Shias have been trying to penetrate Egypt. Ali, the Prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law and the first imam of Shia Islam, sent a loyal follower to govern the area. But no sooner had he arrived than he was captured by Sunni opponents, sewn into the belly of a donkey and burnt. Later the Fatimids, a Shia dynasty, captured Egypt and ruled it for two centuries. But Saladin overthrew them and, according to Shia lore, massacred thousands while levelling much of Cairo. “Kharab al-Din,” spits a Shia librarian in Alexandria, twisting Saladin’s name to mean destroyer of religion. Since then Shias in Egypt have pretended to be Sunnis. Some cloak their traditions in the mystical rites of the Sufis. They join their moulids, or birthday celebrations, for saints and camp at the shri

The difficulty of drafting ultra-Orthodox Jews into Israel’s army

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This one’s tired and needs a rest DURING the violent birth of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, its first prime minister, allowed 400 ultra-Orthodox Jews (also called Haredim) to avoid compulsory military service to pursue a life of Talmudic study. He may have thought they were too few to matter, or that their endangered traditions should be nurtured after the Holocaust. Seven decades on, however, the number of such yeshiva students has exploded to 60,000. They are still allowed to dodge the draft, and many do not work, either. Other Israelis resent this. The clash between those who serve God and those who serve their fellow citizens was on display on the streets of Jerusalem on September 17th. Thousands of ultra-Orthodox protesters had gathered to denounce a decision by Israel’s high court—the

South Africa’s ruling party is at war with itself

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DEEP in the southern hills of KwaZulu-Natal, mourners came to bury Sindiso Magaqa on September 16th. In July gunmen ambushed Mr Magaqa and two other councillors from the African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s ruling party, as they sat in a car. (Mr Magaqa died in hospital on September 4th.) Three other ANC politicians from the same area were gunned down between April and May. Across the province, there have been at least 40 politically motivated killings since the start of 2016. Most of the violence has occurred within the ANC, which is steeped in corruption at all levels. On September 27th thousands of South Africans marched in protests against the graft and the country’s scandal-plagued president, Jacob Zuma, who heads the party. Nowhere is the rot within the ANC more evident

Uganda’s 73-year-old president has a plan to rule forever

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Mr Museveni refuses to hang up his hat “THIS is a generational cause,” says Bobi Wine, back in his studio after a long day in parliament. In June the singer and self-styled “Ghetto President” (real name: Robert Kyagulanyi) won a sensational victory in a parliamentary by-election. Now he is the spokesman for Uganda’s frustrated youth in a struggle to stop Yoweri Museveni, the actual president, from extending his rule. “All the power has been packed into the presidency,” he says. “We want to take it back to the people.” Mr Museveni used to say similar things himself, blaming Africa’s problems on “leaders who want to overstay in power”. But after 31 years at the top he has changed his mind. Politicians in his ruling party are trying to scrap a clause in the constitution which says candidat