🌍 Inside The Middle East — March 11
Afghan Broadcaster Stops Hiring Women, Pope Francis Visits Iraq, Saudi Clubhouse Free Speech Short-Lived, Israel Vaccinates Palestinian Workers, Gaza Historical Digital Archive, Iran's Tattoo Artists
Hello folks! Hope we’re all doing as well as can be, and remaining safe and diligent! Another full edition of Inside The Middle East for you today, where we’ll jump around the region to dissect the most important news.
Today we’ll visit Afghanistan where a news broadcaster has temporarily stopped hiring women over a spate of recent murders; Iraq where Pope Francis made an historic visit; Saudi Arabia where new invite-only social media app Clubhouse could actually be harming freedom of speech; Israel whose government began vaccinating Palestinian workers; Iran whose tattoo artists are leading a revolution against traditional societal norms; and to Gaza whose historic landmarks aren’t being forgotten.
Jobs and data below, let’s get to it!
Job Corner ✍️
New jobs this wee at the likes of Axios, FiveThiryEight, The 19th, National Geographic, The Atlantic, The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal.
If you’re a paying member, your jobs sheet link will remain the same. If you’re interested in a free week’s trial, reply to this email and we’ll hook you up!
Preview of the 360 new jobs added to the board this weekend 👇
Data Corner 🧮
A couple of datasets we used today…
App Downloads: App downloads by country and category, from AppTrace
Journalist Deaths: Number of journalists killed by country and year, from the Committee to Protect Journalists
Pope Francis Visits Iraq
We start this week in Iraq with Pope Francis’ first ever visit to the country, where he met with Muslim and Christian leaders to advocate for inter-religious tolerance and fraternity. The pontiff made a special stop in the southern city of Ur, believed to be the “the cradle of civilization” and birthplace of Prophet Abraham, the father of the three largest Abrahamic religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
Iraq once had thriving Christian and Jewish communities, but both have since been decimated. Approximately 1.5 million Christians called Iraq home before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, a figure that now stands at about 300,000. And in 1947, a year before Israel’s birth, there were around 150,000 Jews, but that number is now in single digits. The 84-year-old Pope will head to Lebanon next, which is home to the world’s largest number of refugees per capita at almost 22 percent of the population.
Clubhouse Free Speech Short-Lived in Saudi Arabia
To Saudi Arabia next where new invite-only social media app Clubhouse has started debate over whether it has opened new avenues for free speech or is just another tool for repression. We previously covered how the app, which centers on private audio chats, fuelled protests at Turkey’s Bogazici University, but many student protestors were detained raising questions over the app’s security.
In the Kingdom, the app’s popularity is exploding, with users having open discussions on otherwise taboo topics such as sexism and human rights. But the new-found freedom may be coming to an end. Some users have shared other users’ identities and opinions on Twitter, and while Clubhouse itself forbids such activity, it has no real way of stopping it, making it relatively easy for authorities to identify dissidents and take actions against them.
Last Time on Inside The Middle East…
Afghan Broadcaster Stops Hiring Women for Security Reasons
To Afghanistan where news broadcaster Enikass Radio and Television will temporarily stop hiring women, and told its current female employees to work from home, after four of its female employees have been murdered since December. Mursal Wahidi, 25; Sadia Sadat, 20; and Shahnaz Raofi, 20, were all killed on their way home by gunmen on March 2, and reporter Malalai Maiwand was shot dead by her driver in December in the same city of Jalalabad.
The killings were all claimed by ISIS and are part of the terrorist group’s resurgence in the region, which has led to constant fear in other countries such as Iraq and Syria. And it’s not just female journalists being targeted. Two days after three of Enikass’ employees were murdered, a female doctor was killed in a targeted bomb.
Enikass, which currently employs 10 women and 120 men and was intent on correcting its gender imbalance, blamed the Afghan government for its inability to ensure sufficient security. Enikass director Zalmay Latifi said “We can’t hire new women until the situation improves. We want to, of course, but this is about saving lives, it’s about security. It’s a tough choice.”
Israel Begins Vaccinating Palestinian Workers
We visit Israel next, where after weeks of criticism the government has finally started vaccinating Palestinians working in the country and settlements in the occupied West Bank. Around 100,000 Palestinians from the West Bank cross into Israel each day to work, and will receive the Moderna vaccine.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began inoculating his own people two months ago, and has faced strong criticism from the international community for neglecting his responsibilities to the Palestinian people as an occupying power. But he has maintained that the 1990 Oslo Accords mean his country has no such obligation. Meanwhile, Israel leads the world with its rollout, with 58 percent of Israelis receiving a first dose, and 46 percent already fully vaccinated.
Iranian Tattoo Artists Defy Taboo
To Iran where artworks by a group of tattoo artists are being displayed in a Tehran gallery, defying long-held taboos that associate tattoos with criminals and the West. While there’s no regulation on tattoos and are permitted under Islamic law, having one can lead to intense discrimination. Having visible ink when obtaining or renewing a driving license, for example, can be construed as signs of mental health issues and lead to an application being denied.
Despite the stigma and the fact that tattoo artists generally maintain a low-profile or move abroad to advance their career, popularity among Iran’s under-30-year-olds is increasing. Farshad Mirzaei, who organised the gallery’s event, said “We wanted to show that tattoo artists are not criminals. They’re artists, they’re philanthropists, and they want to advance this industry in Iran just like other countries”. Proceeds from the gallery will be donated to charity.
Digital Archive Makes Gaza’s Historical Landmarks Accessible
We end this week in Gaza, where local architect Nisma al-Sallaq has built a digital archive of the city’s cultural landmarks, to try to change the perception of her homeland. Twenty-seven year old al-Sallaq set up Kanaan, a website named after the Canaanites who first settled in Gaza thousands of years ago, and currently lists 311 historical buildings and 76 archaeological sites.
Gaza is among the world’s most ancient cities, and was ruled by the pharaohs, Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines before it was conquered by Muslims in the year 635. “People think Gaza is just a humanitarian issue linked to wars and a 13-year Israeli blockade and many see nothing but painful scenes of killings and the Israeli siege topping news bulletins,” said al-Sallaq, who hopes the initiative can draw attention to a different side of Gaza.
That’s all for today! See you tomorrow for Picks of the Week 👊