Week of October 9th

  • On Monday, both the United States and Turkey suspended all non-immigrant visa services for travel between the two countries, after the arrest of a U.S. consulate employee in Istanbul the previous week. With some exceptions, the move effectively blocks Turks from travel to the United States, and vice versa, indefinitely. “Recent events have forced the United States government to reassess the commitment of government of Turkey to the security of U.S. mission and personnel,” the statement by the U.S. mission in Ankara said. The Turkish embassy said the measure, effective immediately, would “apply to visas in passports as well as e-Visas and visas acquired at the border.” The U.S. move, meanwhile, means that Turks will not be issued visas to visit the United States unless they plan to move there.
  • On Thursday, thousands of Palestinians took to the streets across Gaza on Thursday in celebration of the unity pact between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah. In an agreement brokered by Egypt, the Western-backed mainstream Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas, an Islamist movement designated as a terrorist group by Western countries and Israel, signed a reconciliation deal in which Hamas agreed to hand over administrative control of Gaza to a Fatah-backed government a decade after seizing the enclave in a civil war. Internal Palestinian strife has been a major obstacle to peacemaking, with Hamas having fought three wars with Israel since 2008 and continuing to call for its destruction. One point of concern was how the 25,000 strong Hamas police force would be integrated into a Fatah-led government. The agreement calls for Abbas’s presidential guard to assume responsibility of the Rafah crossing on Nov. 1, and for the full handover of administrative control of Gaza to the unity government to be completed by Dec. 1.
  • Also on Thursday, the State Department announced that the United States will withdraw from UNESCO at the end of next year to stop accumulating unpaid dues and make a stand on what it said is anti-Israel bias at the U.N.’s educational, science and cultural organization. . The announcement was followed a few hours later by news that Israel was also planning to quit the financially struggling cultural and educational agency. In a statement Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, welcomed the US move saying: “This is a brave and moral decision, because Unesco has become a theatre of absurd. Instead of preserving history, it distorts it.”
  • On Friday, news of the discovery of Arabic characters that spell “Allah” and “Ali” on Viking funeral costumes in boat graves in Sweden raised questions about the influence of Islam in Scandinavia. The grave where the costumes were found belonged to a woman dressed in silk burial clothes and was excavated from a field in Gamla Uppsala, north of Stockholm, in the 1970s, but its contents were not cataloged until a few years ago, according to a textile archaeologist who was working on an exhibit when she discovered Kufic characters of Arabic. Analysis of the material, the weaving techniques and design indicated a combination of Persian and Central Asian origins. Trade was common between the Vikings and the Arabs in the 9th century but the findings in the graves point to the possibility of a deeper cultural connection and shared worldview.
  • Also on Friday, the World Health Organization shared a press release about the destruction of tens of thousands of vaccines in Syria. WHO received reports of an attack on medical facilities that destroyed the only vaccines cold room in al-Mayadeen district, Deir Ezzor Governorate. More than 100,000 doses of measles vaccines and 35,000 doses of polio vaccines were stored in these facilities, alongside equipment, syringes, and stocks for all vaccine-preventable childhood diseases. If confirmed, this would set back the efforts of WHO and health partners to protect the children of Deir Ezzor from preventable childhood diseases, including polio.
  • Lastly, as part of Amman (Jordan) Design Week, local curators organized an exhibit on traditional food preservation practices and benefitsTaking the visitors on a journey through the history and customs of food preservation used in Jordan, the exhibit featured some of the main conservation techniques including salting, pickling, sugaring, drying, fermenting and roasting. “Most of those techniques originate from the Levantine region, where locals needed to preserve their harvests from going to waste,” the organizer noted, citing the intrinsic link between food preservation and crafts. ADW was launched in 2016 by Queen Rania; this year field visits and mobile experiments were used to reach more members of the public.
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