🌍 Inside The Middle East — Dec. 16

Al Jazeera Sues Saudi Arabia and U.A.E., Lebanon PM Charged for Explosion, Israel and Morocco Normalize, Italy Indicts Egyptian Agents, Erdoğan Poem Angers Iran, Afghanistan/Iran Open Historic Railway

Hello folks! Happy Wednesday and welcome to Inside The Middle East, where we dissect the week's most important news from the world's most important region. This week’s edition will be the last of the year 😢, before we take a two to three week break over the holidays to rest our little brains. Until then, enjoy. ✊

Today we’ll travel to Lebanon whose interim prime minister is among those charged with negligence over August’s explosion; to Israel who added Morocco to its list of Arab nations it has official diplomatic relations with; to Egypt where several government agents have been indicted by Italy over the murder of an Italian student; to Turkey whose president has infuriated his southern neighbours in Iran; to Afghanistan where a historic railway to Iran has officially opened; and we also look at journalist Ghada Oueiss’ lawsuit against the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E.

Tomorrow marks the 10th anniversary of the start of the Arab Spring that swept through the Middle East and North Africa, and continues to have major impacts in global politics today. We'll have a full rundown of what happened and what's happened since for each country. And keep spreading the word about the job board on the social medias like Elizabeth so more people can hopefully find employment! Okay, let’s get to the last Inside The Middle East of the year!

Job Corner

Another 244 new positions added this week including at the likes of the BBC, CBC, the NBA and Wall Street Journal. Subscribe and share below!

Job Board — w/c Dec. 14

Preview of this week’s job board…👇

Data Corner

A couple datasets used in today’s newsletter…

  1. Jewish Population: Number of Jews living in each country, from World Population Review

  2. Railroads: Shapefiles for the world’s railroads, from Natural Earth

Lebanon PM Charged for August Explosion 🇱🇧

We begin this week in Lebanon where interim Prime Minister Hassan Diab and three former ministers have been charged with criminal neglect for the explosion that rocked Beirut back in August. The blast killed more than 200 people, injured more than 6,000, displaced around 300,000 and caused between $5 billion and $15 billion in damage. Multiple investigations into what triggered the blast have so far failed to propose a clear cause.

Diab’s office claimed it was unconstitutional for judge Fadi Sawan, who will question the four defendents next week, to charge the PM, and former finance minister Al Hassan Khalil accused Sawan of leaking confidential information to the media. Until now, only low-ranking officials had been arrested, and concerns that top-level ministers were being shielded have now been erased.

🎧 #86 — Dalal Mawad (Associated Press)

Israel and Morocco Normalize Relations 🇮🇱🇲🇦

Moving south next to Israel, who’s agreed to partially normalize relations with Morocco, making it the fourth Arab-majority nation to secure an official diplomatic relationship with the Jewish-majority nation in as many months. As part of the deal, the U.S. agreed to recognize Morocco’s centuries-old claim to the disputed Western Sahara, a sparsely-populated area with growing tourism demand that borders Morocco, Mauritania and Algeria.

Jewish history and culture will be taught in schools in Morocco, which was reportedly home to around 275,000 Jews, the largest Jewish community in the MENA region before Israel was established in 1948. That figure now stands at about 2,000. Some members of Morocco’s largest parliamentary party called the deal a betrayal of the Palestinian people, while the country’s authorities dispersed groups of protestors. The deal with Morocco might be the last of 2020, but more Arab nations will almost certainly follow in the new year to continue the region's estrangement of Iran.

Last Time on Inside The Middle East…

🌍 Inside The Middle East — December 9

🌍 Inside The Middle East — December 2

🌍 Inside The Middle East — November 25

🌍 Inside The Middle East — November 18

Al Jazeera Sues Saudi Arabia and U.A.E. 🇸🇦🇦🇪

To the Gulf next where the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. are being sued by an Al Jazeera news anchor in a court in Miami. Ghada Oueiss’ lawsuit accuses Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia and Mohammed bin Zayed of the U.A.E. of hacking into her phone and doctoring photos to try to intimidate her on social media, because of her reporting on human rights abuses in the two countries.

Oueiss also listed the murder of fellow journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was brutally cut up into pieces by a hit team orchestrated by MBS, to demonstrate the length the princes will go to silence their critics. Saudi Arabia has also previously been accused of hacking into the phone of Jeff Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post where Khashoggi worked. Reporters Without Borders ranks Saudi Arabia 170th out of 180 countries on their press freedom index, while the U.A.E. is 131st.

Ghada Oueiss 👇

Italy Indicts Egyptian Agents Over Student Murder 🇪🇬

We move to Egypt next where Italy has charged four Egyptian national security agents for the 2016 torture and murder of an Italian student in Cairo. Al Jazeera reported videos proving that 28-year-old doctoral student Giulio Regeni, who was researching union activities among Egyptian street vendors for his thesis in Cambridge University, was spied on by Egyptian authorities before his abduction.

The suspects will most likely be judged in absentia as the two countries have no extradition treaty with each other, and is therefore extremely unlikely any of the culprits will end up in prison. This isn’t the only human rights case straining the two countries’ relationship. When Patrick Zaky, an Egyptian student at the University of Bologna in Italy, returned to Cairo to visit his family in February 2020, he was arrested by authorities and has been held in prison ever since. Meanwhile Italy continues to sell billions worth of arms to Egypt.

Erdoğan Recites Azerbajani Poem to Iran’s Dismay 🇹🇷

We continue to Turkey now where President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recited a nationalist Azerbaijani poem, sparking outrage in Tehran. The folkloric poem refers to mourning of the Aras river, which forms the border of Armenia and Azerbaijan in the north, and Turkey and Iran to the south. The poem is seen as a call to unite all Turks no matter where they live, while many Iranians believe the poem is a clear call to break up Iran.

Erdogan read the poem at a military parade in Azerbaijan to celebrate the country’s victory in its recent war with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Turkey’s foreign minister insisted it wasn’t an indirect message to Iran, and that Erdogan wasn’t aware of the issue’s sensitivity.

Afghanistan and Iran Open Historic Railway 🇦🇫🇮🇷

Our last news piece for Inside The Middle East this year takes us to Afghanistan where the first railway linking it to Iran has opened, with hopes trade between the two countries will now soar. The 90-mile link runs from eastern Iran to western Afghanistan, and will eventually be extended another 50 miles into the Afghan city of Herat.

Construction began in 2007 and was mostly funded by Iran, as part of its development assistance to rebuild Afghanistan’s infrastructure after decades of war. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani called the opening a historic day between the two countries, while Afghan President Ashraf Ghani hailed the railroad for restoring the “Silk Road”, an ancient commercial route across Asia.

That’s all for today. We’ll see the members tomorrow for the 10th anniversary of the Arab Spring! 👋