Week of August 5
On Tuesday, a Chaldean Catholic man of Iraqi descent died after being deported from his hometown of Detroit in June 2019. Jimmy Aldaoud, according to an immigration attorney close to his family, was an Iraqi national born in Greece who immigrated with his family to the U.S. as a young child. He died in Baghdad after being unable to manage his diabetes in Iraq, a country he had never visited and whose language — Arabic — he was unable to speak. The 41-year-old Detroit resident also suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and other health problems. A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson explained that Aldaoud was involved in at least 20 convictions — including the use of dangerous weapons, domestic violence, theft and a home invasion — and that these criminal records made him eligible for deportation because he wasn’t a American citizen. Shortly before his death, Aldaoud uploaded a video of himself from Baghdad in which he explains that he is homeless, doesn’t have access to medication and has been kicked while sleeping on the street. Aldaoud’s story has frightened and disheartened many long-time Iraqi residents in the United States, especially members of Daoud’s Chaldean Catholic community, a minority persecuted by ISIS and other extremist groups in Iraq. Many Chaldeans voted for Trump in 2016, but this and other immigration incidents have left them feeling betrayed. At the moment, Iraqi Chaldeans and the broader Iraqi community are worried for their future as the current administration continues deportation proceedings for more than 1000 Iraqis.
In Yemen, clashes erupted on Wednesday between southern separatists and President Mansour Hadi’s security guards after the separatists held forces loyal to Hadi responsible for a missile attack on a military parade in Aden. By Saturday, the Security Belt — a militarist group allied with the the Southern Transitional Council (STC) funded by UAE — launched attacks into the government-held city of Aden, the de facto capital of Hadi’s government since the Houthis forced his cabinet out of the official capital, Sanaa. The combatants who took over Aden have been allied with Hadi’s Saudi-backed government in their fight against the Iran-backed Houthis since March 2015, yet these recent attacks mark a shift in the alliance. The Yemeni civil war has revived old tensions between south and north Yemen, which had been two separate countries until former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s reunification in 1990. The separatists’ takeover of the presidential palace and government military camps show that the southern separatists have turned their back against Hadi’s central government, apparently taking advantage of its weakness and UAE-backing. In response, the Saudi coalition has called for a cease-fire starting at 1 AM on Sunday to end the fighting in Aden which has already killed 40 and injured 260 in 4 days.For now, the cease-fire is in effect and the separatists have halted their advance, yet it remains unclear whether Saudi Arabia will be able to successfully negotiate between the two conflicting sides. Meanwhile, following the withdrawal of Emirati troops from Yemen in July 2019, this incident poses another threat to the future of the Saudi-coalition, particularly because it is suggestive of a possible strain in Saudi Arabia- UAE relations.
A centuries-old bazaar is making a slow recovery in Aleppo as Syrians work to restore the country’s many historical gems. Aleppo’s historic district — known as the “Old City” — took some of the hardest hits during the years of war between rebels and the Syrian government for control of the city. Government forces won the battle in December 2016, but by then the bazaar, “a network of covered markets, or souks” was nearly destroyed. Dating back to the 1300s, the bazaar “drew in Syrians and tourists, shopping for food, spices, cloth, soap made from olive oil and other handicrafts” and remained a symbol of Syria’s illustrious trading history. The latest reconstruction was to the al-Saqatiyah Market, which held 53 shops, restoring family businesses destroyed by the war. While the market’s official inauguration is set for the end of August, the re-opening may be pointless: the customers that used to fill the markets have mostly fled from the war, and those who remain choose to shop in safer areas of the city. However, some shopkeepers remain optimistic that the renovations will bring customers back. Ahmad Zuhdi Ghazoul, a coppersmith, said, “Thank God they are all coming back to renovate. Business will be stronger than before.”
In an attempt to protest the political and economic turmoil burdening the country, an English-language Lebanese newspaper, The Daily Star, published a blank edition of the newspaper last Thursday. Each page of the newspaper referred to a problem the country deals with, such as government deadlock, rising public debt, increasing sectarian rhetoric and unemployment. The Lebanese government, a consociational democracy in which power is shared between various religious sects including Maronite Christians, Muslims and Druze, has faced various challenges and sparked criticism by many citizens due to its religiously-divided political system. Most recently, a shooting on June 30 in the mountain village of Qabr Shamoun brought attention to the shortcomings of the Lebanese government. The shooting, killing two local residents, has been a major source of tension for the Druze and Christian people who make up the village population, but the government has delayed discussions of the shooting due to internal divisions on how to investigate it. The government consists of a pro-Western bloc that includes some Druze and Christians, and a Hezbollah-dominated bloc partnered with Syria and Iran. Another major roadblock to progress in the country is its 85 billion dollar debt, which is 150% percent of its gross domestic product.
Over two million Muslims gathered in Mecca, Saudi Arabia for the start of the Hajj pilgrimage on August 9th. One of the five pillars of Islam, the Hajj is a mandatory religious duty for all able-bodied Muslims. The pilgrimage is intended to unify Muslims as they follow the path to Mecca that the Prophet Muhammad is believed to have taken over 1,400 years ago. Mecca is home to the Ka’aba — a cuboid-shaped building which Muslims believe was erected the Prophet Ibrahim and his son Ismail — which is a deeply holy place in Islam. Hajj is an intensely-spiritual experience, and all Muslims who attend wear simple garments to symbolize the shedding of wealth and status so that all participants are equal in the eyes of God. Although Muslims travel from all across the world to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj, this year’s pilgrimage takes place during a period of significant tension across the Muslim world. Saudi Arabia is locked in an intense political conflict with Iran, war is rampant in Syria, Yemen, and Libya, and Muslim minorities in locations such as Kashmir are facing increasing restrictions. These conflicts make it difficult to impossible for many to make the five-day pilgrimage. Click here to learn more about Hajj on our website.