FROM the forecourt of the Prophet Muhammad’s mosque in Medina during the annual haj pilgrimage, which ended on September 4th, came the still, small voice of Shias praying. Saudi security guards fanned them helpfully against the heat. At the al-Baqi cemetery nearby, the resting place of many of the Prophet’s descendants, Sunni vigilantes and puritans scowled at Shia worshippers but, in contrast with previous years, they held back from beating them with sticks. And as over 2.3m Muslims perambulated around Mecca’s great black basalt stone, the Kaaba, Prince Khalid al-Faisal, the province’s governor, singled out 86,000 Iranians for a special welcome.
Change may be afoot in Saudi Arabia’s hostile relations with Shias and their champion, Iran. For decades the kingdom has been the font of Sunn
The Syrian army pushed into the eastern city of Deir ez-Zor on September 5th, breaking the three-year-old siege of a government-held enclave by Islamic State (IS). It is a victory for Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s blood-soaked dictator, and yet another defeat for the jihadists, whose self-proclaimed caliphate is shrinking fast. American-backed Kurdish and Arab fighters have driven IS out of most of Raqqa, its putative capital, 140km to the west. The group is expected to make its last stand in a ribbon of towns, including Deir ez-Zor, along the Euphrates river.Powered by WPeMatico
Libya’s version of catch and release
OVER the past three summers, tens of thousands of migrants piled into boats to make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean. This summer, though, the sea was unusually empty. Since the European Union and Turkey struck a deal in 2016—in effect closing the eastern route to Greece—Italy has been the main destination for migrants. But the number of arrivals there in July was down by more than half compared with last year. In August it fell even further: fewer than 4,000 people came ashore, against more than 21,000 in August 2016. It was the lowest monthly figure recorded in nearly two years.
No one quite knows why. Italy has provided equipment and training to Libya’s coastguard, which has stepped up patrols. The seas have also been rough. But two m
THE Seychelles is an archipelago of 115 mostly tiny islands, whose collective area, at 460 sq km, is only about a third of London’s. But the country’s granite islands and coral atolls sit within an exclusive economic zone of 1.4m sq km. It is here, in the ocean, that conservationists are working on a new way for small countries to protect their marine environment.
The Seychelles’ economy relies on tourism and tuna. These depend on healthy seas. But paying for conservation is a challenge, says Didier Dogley, the environment minister. So last year the country struck a deal with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), an American NGO. It promised to protect 30% of its waters by 2020—half of this area will be off-limits to fishing. In return, TNC bought up $21.6m of debt owed by the Seychelles to the
SOUTH AFRICA’S ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), is on the verge of tearing itself apart with “dirty tricks”, says Gwede Mantashe, its secretary-general. As the ANC prepares to elect new leaders at a conference in December, a vicious battle is under way. The fight is broadly between those aligned with the party’s current leader, Jacob Zuma, who is the president of the country, and those who want to break his grip on the ANC.
Mr Zuma would like to see his ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the former head of the African Union, succeed him as leader of the ANC. Cyril Ramaphosa, the deputy president, is her strongest opponent and, he claims, the victim of a “dirty war” by his comrades. Earlier this month his personal e-mails were hacked and leaked to a pro-Zuma newspaper edi
Let my people be remembered
IN BUT a few years one of the world’s oldest Jewish communities will have disappeared. No more than 20 Jews are thought to remain in Egypt, compared with at least 80,000 before the second world war. Half a dozen live in Cairo—four of them in care homes. But Magda Haroun (pictured), a sprightly 65-year-old, wants to keep their memories alive. She has formed an association, Drop of Milk, dedicated to preserving Egypt’s Jewish heritage. Of its 20 active members, she is the only Jew.
Some members have Jewish fathers who converted to Islam to avoid expulsion under Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt’s former dictator, an aggressive Arab nationalist. Others married Jews. Most simply want to preserve Egypt’s pluralist past. “We’re reopening a page of history that was deleted
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