Week of April 15

This is spring break for many students, and educators, across the country, which meant TeachMideast had some family visitors who interrupted the regular Week in Review schedule! Here’s a recap of some of last week’s notable news: 

On Monday, April 15th, Reuters reported that the Taliban team at Afghan peace talks in Qatar will soon include women, according to the movement’s main spokesman. For a group notorious for its strictly conservative attitude to women’s rights, the move represents a step towards addressing demands that women be included in the talks, intended to lay the foundations for a future peace settlement. Zabihullah Mujahid did not name the women, but added, “These women have no family relationship with the senior members of the Taliban, they are normal Afghans, from inside and outside the country, who have been supporters and part of the struggle of the Islamic Emirate.” In a tweet, he specified that the women would only join the discussions with Afghan civil society and political representatives, not in the main negotiations with American officials, led by U.S. special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

Muna Luqman, co-founder of the Women Solidarity Network briefs the United Nations Security Council. Credit: UN Photo

Meanwhile, last week Yemeni women also demanded equal representation in a United Nations-led peace process aimed at ending the country’s devastating four-year war. The parties included in the process “must consult regularly with women, and to ensure women’s meaningful inclusion,” Muna Luqman told the UN Security Council last week. She is the co-founder of the Women Solidarity Network that is assisting the UN’s special envoy to Yemen to incorporate women into the process. The women advising the envoy have set a number of objectives aimed at ending the fighting, building peace, improving living conditions and amplifying women’s voices and participation in negotiations and peace-building, but they feel that their voices need to be further enhanced and included in the heart of negotiations. “There is no excuse any more for continuing to exclude women except a poorly designed peace process,” Luqman told the Security Council.

Also on Monday, a group of Syrian LGBT refugees launched a legal challenge against the UK, saying the government had offered them asylum but left them stranded in Turkey, where their sexuality puts them in danger. The 15 refugees argue that they are constantly at risk of attacks while they wait to be taken to Britain, lawyers representing them said. All of those bringing the legal challenge were offered a safe haven in Britain under the Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme, according to the law firm. They have been left waiting for up to two years in Istanbul, where they face double discrimination from both fellow refugees and Turkish people. Long delays for those seeking asylum or waiting for resettlement in Britain must be addressed to avoid adding to stress and trauma for refugees, said Leila Zadeh, the executive director of the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group.

Iraq’s parliament voted to ban popular online video games, The Guardian reported, including PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite. Officials cited the games’ “negative” influence, especially on the young, in a country long plagued by real-life bloodshed. Lawmakers approved a resolution that mandated the government to bar online access to the games and ban related financial transactions. The ban came “due to the negative effects caused by some electronic games on the health, culture, and security of Iraqi society, including societal and moral threats to children and youth,” the text of the resolution read. Hundreds of  Iraqi social media users criticized what they said were misplaced priorities; parliament has passed only one piece of legislation since it first convened following elections in May 2018 — the 2019 federal budget law, which was issued in January.

On April 16th, President Trump vetoed a measure to end U.S. involvement in Yemen. On April 4th, Congress passed a resolution to end American military assistance in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, but the veto — the second in Trump’s presidency — was expected, and Congress lacks the votes to override it. Nonetheless, passing the never-before-used war powers resolution was viewed as a milestone for lawmakers, who have shown a renewed willingness to assert their war-making authority after letting it go to waste for decades under presidents from both parties. “This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future,” Trump wrote in explaining his veto. The Associated Press reported that Congress has grown uneasy with Trump’s close relationship with Saudi Arabia as he tries to further isolate Iran, a regional rival.

On Friday, April 19th, President Trump abruptly reversed American policy toward Libya, issuing a statement publicly endorsing an aspiring strongman in his battle to depose the United Nations-backed government. Khalifa Hifter launched a surprise attack on the Libyan capital, Tripoli, more than two weeks ago. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement a few days after Hifter’s militia began its attack that “the administration at the highest levels” had made clear that “we oppose the military offensive” and “urge the immediate halt to these military operations.” Most Western governments and the United Nations have also condemned the attack and demanded a retreat. However, Trump called Hiftar “to discuss ongoing counter-terrorism efforts and the need to achieve peace and stability in Libya,” the White House said in the statement. “The President recognized Field Marshal Hifter’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources, and the two discussed a shared vision for Libya’s transition to a stable, democratic political system.” The New York Times reported that analysts believe Trump’s endorsement would embolden Hifter and hamper United Nations efforts to call for a cease-fire.

A photo from the AXE Rage Room Facebook page shows some therapeutic smashing in Amman, Jordan.

Finally, for something a little different, some entrepreneurs in Amman, Jordan, have created AXE Rage Rooms where people can vent their anger and frustration by destroying things in safe spaces. Visitors can pay to swing giant hammers at an old TV or computer, and then shatter a car windshield into tiny pieces. “This is simply a place to break things and vent,” co-founder and general manager Ala’din Atari said. “A place where people come when they’re looking for a new experience… walking into a room with various items which they can break.” So-called rage rooms have opened around the world, drawing visitors who want let their hair down and unleash some anger. At the Amman facility, where the experience costs $17, participants wearing protective suits and helmets wrote the issues bothering them on a blackboard — “ex-girlfriends,” “boss” and “all boyfriends,” and then proceed to unleash their anger onto inanimate objects. Atari said his venue has seen about 10 clients a day in the month since it opened. Who knew?!





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