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Mid-East Junction

RFI France

A monthly look into the different political, social and cultural events affecting the region.

A monthly look into the different political, social and cultural events affecting the region.
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RFI France


A monthly look into the different political, social and cultural events affecting the region.




Retracing Bahrain's activism

On December 31st, Bahrain’s high court upheld a five year jail sentence against human rights activist Nabeel Rajab.His sentence was in response to posts he made on social media in February of 2018 accusing the government of torture and criticising Saudi Arabia’s air strikes in Yemen. Campaign groups around the world called his sentencing "political persecution” and “utterly outrageous". For a small country, however, his case is not exceptional. In this week's Mid-East Junction we take a look...


Egypt's arms fair boosts military's image as regional superpower

Earlier this week, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi opened the country's first international security and defense expo. The event, which took place over three days, featured more than 350 contributors from 40 countries. By anyone's standards it was a big show, but does it really mean anything for Egypt? The short answer is yes. The reasons for this lies in its recent history. The glory days of modern Egypt In 1952, a revolution in Egypt overthrew the British-backed monarchy and pushed...


Why defining security in Israel is such a challenge

Over the weekend of 11 November, tensions between the Gaza strip and Israel peaked once again, when the Israeli Defense Forces, the IDF, led a botched raid in Gaza. It was the first known time the IDF had set foot in Gaza since the war of 2014. This has raised questions within Israel about the challenges faced by its defence forces. News of the incursion was met by rocket fire from Gaza towards Israel. And that in turn was met by Israeli fire. The IDF later said the operation "was not...


Female and atheist in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, remains one of the most conservative and rigid countries, particularly for women, and for anyone who goes against Islam. Rana Ahmad knows all too well those constraints as she fled her home country after declaring herself an atheist and after having endured the hardships of a woman under the strict control of her family and government. Although the country appears to be going through reforms at the behest of the Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, such as...


Peeling back the layers of Yemen's civil war

For nearly four years now, the civil war in Yemen has raged with no end in sight. Civilians have fallen victim to the fighting with some 15,000 killed or injured, while a humanitarian crisis spreads and threatens to claim more lives. Yemen, is located on the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula. It has often sat in the shadow of its eccentric and rich neighbour Saudi Arabia. Unlike its other regional neighbours, Yemen does not have a monarchy , says Adam Baron, a visiting fellow at the...


Escape from Aleppo: one man's journey

From Aleppo to Paris. A freelance journalist who posted a video of the evacuation of the Syrian city as Bashar al-Assad's forces took control of it recounts his journey from a war zone to the French capital. In December 2016 the government of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad agreed to a mass evacuation of Aleppo city, which had been under siege for months. The Free Syrian Army and other opposition groups were effectively squeezed out and the United Nations requested that remaining civilians and...


Iranian women go online to protest forced wearing of hijab

In Iran, it has been obligatory for women to wear a head scarf, or hijab, since 1983, in the wake of the 1979 revolution. Since then, women have been forced to wear the long, loose-fitting chador, and the hijab. To make sure the law is respected, morality police patrol the streets. But two major online movements are showing people -- inside and outside the country -- that Iranian women want to choose. The movements are known as #MyStealthyFreedom and #White Wednesdays. The women in the...


How a group of artists based in Egypt tried to change society

Can art change society? It's not clear whether it can or not, but a group of artists in Egypt believed it could and set off to create such a vision hidden in the oasis governorate of Fayoum, just south of Cairo. Rfi's Anne-Marie Bissada has this report from the village of Tunis in the Fayoum. Just a two hour’s drive south of Cairo, away from the Nile, one comes across the governorate of Fayoum, an oasis in the middle of the desert. As Egypt modernized, Fayoum lagged behind and remained one...


Israeli band Orphaned Land spreads message of peace across Middle East

Heavy metal music with a middle eastern twist is not common place, but since 1991, the pioneers of such a genre, the Israeli band Orphaned Land has been using its music to spread the message of peace and tolerance across the often tense Middle East. In this month's Mid-East Junction, RFI's Anne-Marie Bissada speaks with Chen Balbaus, the guitarist of the band, just before their show in Paris.


What lies behind Mosul Eye

"What happened after 2014 is another chapter of what happened to this city" say Omar Mohammed, when speaking about his home city of Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. Mohammed was born in Mosul during some of the worst moments of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. “I was born on 8 April, the Baath party was born on 7 April, and the fall of the regime was on 9 April. I turned 17 when I saw the [US] invasion ... 2014 changed everything in my country," he explains. Mohammed was in Mosul under...


What is Sufism and why does it bother some Muslims?

When a mosque in Egypt’s Sinai region was attacked by affiliates of the Islamic State armed group in November leaving over 300 people dead the attackers said they were targeting what they described as 'heretics of Islam', known to the wider world as Sufis.Who are the Sufis and why have they been singled-out by some other Muslims? The term ‘Sufi’, will, for many, conjur up images of poets like the Persian Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī from the 13th century, or the Abū 'Abdillāh Muḥammad ibn 'Alī...


Art imitating power: Why the Louvre Abu Dhabi is more than just a museum

When the French President Emmanuel Macron opened a new Louvre museum in Abu Dhabi this month, he said it would show how beauty was more powerful than hate. The museum wants to promote cultural exchange between West and East – as Amanda Morrow found out, when she was one of the very first visitors to the new Louvre Abu Dhabi.


Who are the Kurds?

Iraq’s Kurds have been making international headlines since September after forging ahead with their independence referendum, despite regional and international warnings. They are the only one of the Middle East's Kurdish communities to have their own regional government. The other notable communities are in Turkey, Iran and Syria. So who are the Kurds? Origins “They are a separate ethnic group, living in the Middle East where Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq meet. They have been there as long...


Study reveals surprising habits of Middle Easterners' access to news

The climate of media, particularly across the Middle East, is constantly changing and facing different challenges than in other regions. But up until now, no one has ever tried to put the habits of Middle Eastern nationals onto paper to truly understand what’s going on in terms of how people are getting their news.


Falafel - where does it come from?

Everyone loves the taste of authentic falafel - but where does this delicious dish come from exactly? That sweet popping sound of boiling oil just before a falafel pops out: balls of bean goodness that have an international following. Once the fried fritters, made of chickpeas or broad beans come out, they're thrown into fresh pitta bread and dressed with vegetables, and tahina…crushed sesame seed sauce. Easy to eat, cheap to buy and everyone agrees they are the typical street food of the...


Power struggle behind Saudi-led Qatar embargo

Saudi Arabia and its allies have ramped up pressure on Qatar since declaring a diplomatic embargo of the the small Gulf state earlier this month. They say the action is because of Qatar's links to Iran and support for the Muslim Brotherhood group but analysts see it as a power struggle over the future of the region. On 5 June several countries, notably Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, announced they were cutting ties with Qatar. This is the first time such action has...


Egypt’s 5,000 year old secret art: tahtib

The drums beat a hypnotic rhythm. The fighters, each armed with a bamboo-like rod, display their footwork as they keep an eye on their opponent, accelerating or slowing down in time with the music. They move in circles around one another, often in duels between two, sometimes three or four at a time. This is Tahtib. This week - May 28 - the first ever tournament in Paris is being held. To the majority of people, it’s an unknown sport. But in fact, it’s a 5000 year old martial art that comes...


Wahab:Tackling food waste in Qatar

Here in the small country of Qatar, the warm breeze from the sea smells fresh, and as you wander the streets in the old souk or along the boardwalk, one is struck by how clean the capital Doha is - pristine would even be a better word. Qatar is considered the world's richest nation with the highest GDP per capita. In fact, the United Nations has classified it as a country of very high human development, ranking it 33 out of 188 countries and territories. This means that the general...


Irreversible implications of Israel’s Regularization Law

In this month's Global Focus on the Middle East, RFI's Anne-Marie Bissada takes a closer look at what implications Israel's Regularization law might have in the West Bank.


Breaking down Saudi’s male guardianship system

In December, a song and video released by Saudi singer Majed al Esa, called Hwages, which loosely translates into 'Concern', went viral almost immediately. The opening scene shows three women, covered from head to toe in the traditional Saudi dress - the abaya – getting into a car that is being driven by a young boy. Women in the kingdom are prohibited from driving. They then begin to clap and sing in Arabic: “If only god would rid us of men!" The provocative and humorous video doesn't...