Middle East Research and Information Project: Critical Coverage of the Middle East Since 1971

Minorities

Being Muslim at the Margins

On January 6, 2008, newspapers in the province of Tunceli in eastern Turkey appeared festooned with the holiday wishes, “May your Gaghand be merry.” [1] Celebrated on the same day as Armenian Christmas and bearing the same name, Gaghand is an important, if almost forgotten event in the religious calendar of Tunceli, or Dersim, to use the area’s historical appellation. In the villages of Dersim, bearded men calling themselves Gaghand Baba (Father Christmas) pay visits to children and the elderly, offering them presents of sweets and pistachios.

Winter of Lebanon’s Discontents

Jim Quilty 01.26.2007

In the two months since the standoff between the government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and the Hizballah-led opposition began in earnest, the atmosphere in the Lebanese capital of Beirut has oscillated between ambient anxiety and incongruous routine. Tensions exploded on January 25, when four Lebanese were killed and over 150 wounded in street fighting that began on the grounds of Beirut Arab University near the neighborhood of Tariq Jadideh, and largely pitted Sunnis against Shi‘a.

In the Shadow of Kurdish

The arrest of Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the militant Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), at the beginning of 1999 and the almost instantaneous wave of protest across Europe, in Australia and later within Turkey briefly increased the prominence of the Kurdish struggle for autonomy in Turkey. As one of the most important symbols of Kurdish identity, the Kurdish language has been subject to legislation that curbs its use. While attempts by Kurds to preserve their language in the face of stringent prohibitions have received significant media and academic attention, the fate of other linguistic minorities in Turkey under the same prohibitions has been almost entirely overlooked.

Column: Funding Agents

During World War II, the British ambassador in Cairo, Lord Killearn, complained about the sudden influx of American experts into the country under the auspices of US Lend-Lease assistance. Inquiries into the exact size of railroad track gauge in the Egyptian countryside, he was convinced, were a thinly disguised effort to seize economic control of Egypt (from Great Britain) after the war. Egyptian nationalists launched similar attacks on American research and assistance projects in the 1950s, compelling Gamal Abdel Nasser, at an early point in his 18-year rule, to insist that Egyptians get over their “complexes” about foreign aid.

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