Week of June 12th

  • In Jordan a fund for women’s entrepreneurship has been engaging women to start their own businesses for over 20 years. Since the launch of Microfund for Women (MFW) in 1996 nearly 1 million women have been able to secure a loan to start their own businesses and enter the workforce. The MFW was initiated by Save the Children, and encourages women to become self-sufficient breadwinners for their households and communities. A total of $408,290,039 has been provided in loans so far. Manal Obeid is one of the many women who have benefited from the fund. She started a home-based business for food supplies five years ago and has been working since then. “My project has encouraged me to go further.” she says. “Although I was just starting, it has empowered me and enabled me to pay my daughter’s university fees,” the mother of two told The Jordan Times.
  • Also in Jordan, for the second consecutive year, the government has banned Lebanese band, Mashrou’ Leila, from playing in Amman. As in the 2016 case, the group initially received a permit to perform which was then retracted by officials, raising about the authorities’ conflicting and fluctuating decisions. The concert was scheduled to take place on June 27th. The group is known for its support of the LGBT community as well as its criticism of authoritarian governance. Those some positions, however, have drawn the ire of more conservative elements across the Middle East. Although Jordan is recognized as a more tolerant country, dissent and difference are not expressed openly. Amman Governor Khaled Abu Zeid cancelled the band’s performance at the historic Roman Theatre last year because “some of the band’s songs contain lyrics that do not comply with the nature of Jordanian society”.
  • According to reports from a Kurdish official, Iranian-backed militias have captured a corridor of territory stretching all the way from Iran to the Mediterranean, through Iraq and Syria. The road link appears to give Iran direct, uninhibited access to Damascus and the government of Bashar al-Assad, which the Iranians have been supporting since the uprising began there in 2011. The new land route will allow the Iranian regime to resupply its allies in Syria by land instead of air, which is both easier and cheaper. The development is potentially momentous, because it would bind together a string of Iranian allies, including Hezbollah, in Lebanon; the Assad regime, in Syria; and the Iranian-dominated government in Iraq. Those allies form what is often referred to as the Shiite Crescent, an Iranian sphere of influence in an area otherwise dominated by Sunni Muslims. The Iranians have sought to create such a sphere since the end of the Iran-Iraq War, in 1988, which they saw as a Western-backed effort to destroy their regime.
  • On Sunday, Syrian loyalist forces attacked U.S.-backed fighters (known as the Syrian Democratic Forces) southwest of Raqqa, which prompted the U.S. to shoot down a Syrian government fighter jet. This marked the first time a U.S. jet has shot down a manned hostile aircraft in more than a decade, signalling the United States’ sharply intensifying role in Syria’s war. The incident is the fourth time within a month that the U.S. military has attacked pro-Syrian government forces, and Russia and Turkey are taking note. Russia condemned the attack and suspended its military hotline to D.C. in response to the news of the aggression toward the Russian-backed Assad regime.
  • Also on Sunday, Israel revoked the permits of 200,000 Palestinians to enter Israel that were approved for the holy month of Ramadan following two near simultaneous Palestinian attacks on police that killed a young female officer near Jerusalem’s Old City. The Islamic State group took responsibility for the attacks but two Palestinian militant groups, Hamas and People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine quickly retorted the three attackers were their members and accused IS of trying to undermine their efforts. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that preparations are underway to destroy the homes of the Palestinian attackers and tighten security at the entrance to the Old City, home to sensitive holy sites sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians.
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