Week of September 4th

  • On Tuesday, data from the World Health Organization and Yemen’s health ministry showed that Yemen’s cholera outbreak has infected 612,703 people and killed 2,048 since it began in April. Some districts are still reporting sharp rises in new cases despite beliefs that the epidemic had already peaked at 400,000, meaning it should be on its decline but new infections have surged in certain areas of the country. Save the Children, a charity running cholera treatment centers, said that suspected cases in Hodeidah governorate had jumped by 40 percent over the past three weeks amid heavy rains and a heatwave, and in some districts weekly caseloads were double their previous peaks. The United Nations has said the epidemic is man-made, driven by a civil war that has left 15.7 million people without clean water or sanitation. Cholera is spread through contaminated food and water.
  • On Wednesday, the U.S. military in Afghanistan apologized for distributing leaflets featuring an image “highly offensive” to Muslims. The leaflets dropped Tuesday night over parts of Parwan province showed the Shahada, the Muslim profession of faith, printed on the image of a dog, an animal viewed by many Muslims as unclean. The image shows a lion chasing a white dog that is meant to represent the flag of Taliban insurgents, which is white with the Shahada printed at the center. “Get your freedom from these terrorist dogs,” reads the Pashto-language text. “Help the coalition forces find these terrorists and eliminate them.” Maj. Gen. James Linder, a U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, acknowledged in a statement that “the design of the leaflets mistakenly contained an image highly offensive to both Muslims and the religion of Islam. I sincerely apologize. We have the deepest respect for Islam and our Muslim partners worldwide.” Linder said the U.S. military was investigating how the leaflet was produced, and would “hold the responsible party accountable.” The mistake is of particular concern considering the length of time the United States has been in Afghanistan and therefore exposed to the country’s cultural norms and practices.
  • Subsequently, on Wednesday evening, a suicide bomber blew himself up just outside the U.S.-controlled Bagram military airbase, causing “a small number of casualties,” Afghan and U.S. officials said. The attack occurred at an entrance to the airbase, located in Parwan province about 60 kilometers north of Kabul, and was being investigated, said a U.S. military statement. The Taliban swiftly took credit for the violence, saying a suicide bomber riding a motorbike carried out the attack to take “revenge” on “American invaders” for insulting Islam through the leaflets.
  • A recent poll of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza indicates that a majority do not believe American President Donald Trump is genuinely interested in finding a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. A total of 79.3% of Palestinians believe Trump is either somewhat or very unserious about renewing the negotiations, whereas 11.9% hold that the American president is either somewhat or very serious about reviving them. Since Trump entered the White House on January 20, he and a number of his aides have met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas many times, with the stated goal of achieving “a historic peace deal,” but they have yet to achieve a significant breakthrough with the two parties. Interestingly, the survey also found that a majority of Palestinians prefer peace talks to armed conflict with Israel. Other questions dealt with domestic Palestinian politics and who is to blame for the ongoing struggles in Gaza.
  • Women in Morocco can soon start authorizing marriages, divorces and a number of other legal contracts as well as assist judges, as part of judicial reforms starting in October, The New Arab reports. The marriage registrar, known as ma’zoon in Arabic, is traditionally a man, as Moroccan law forbade women from officiating marriage and divorce contracts. However, a recent decision to push for profound reforms to the justice system in Morocco – initiated by former minister of justice and liberties Mustafa al-Ramid – may see women starting to officiate marriage contracts for the first time in Moroccan history. The move comes against the backdrop of criticism from ultra-conservatives in the country who argue that the role of a ma’zoon is conditioned on “masculinity.” One male supporter of the changes, however, said, “Including women in the judicial system, and in positions such as marriage registrars, should only be based on their qualifications and experience, other than that, there are no reasons to prevent them from apply for such positions, and the constitution must defend their rights to work. Religious law does not stipulate the condition of ‘masculinity’ for officiating marriages, which confirms that Moroccan women can carry out the tasks just like men.” The new law will require the marriage registrar to be a Moroccan Muslim, have no criminal records and be in good health to carry out his or her duties.
  • Several prominent Saudi clerics were detained over the weekend in an apparent crackdown on potential opponents of the conservative kingdom’s absolute rulers amid widespread speculation that King Salman intends to abdicate in favor of his son. The three arrested are popular Islamists outside of the state-backed clerical establishment but have large online followings. The al-Saud family has always regarded Islamist groups as the biggest internal threat to its rule over a country in which appeals to religious sentiment cannot be lightly dismissed and an al Qaeda campaign a decade ago killed hundreds. In the past two years, Crown Prince Mohammed has launched radical reforms to foster economic diversity and cultural openness, testing the kingdom’s traditions of incremental change and rule by consensus.
  • On Saturday, Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry said it will file an “urgent complaint” against Israel with the United Nations Security Council. Lebanon said in a statement Saturday that Israel violated its air space when it conducted an airstrike against a Syrian government installation on Thursday. Israeli jets struck an installation that former Israeli military and intelligence officials said was producing weapons possibly bound for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, Israel’s chief rival in the region. The Syrian army said at the time that two soldiers were killed.
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