The Middle East Channel

Egyptian police clash with Al-Azhar protesters meanwhile gunmen fire on Coptic Christian wedding

Thousands of students have gathered at Egypt’s Al-Azhar University Monday calling for the reinstatement of ousted President Mohamed Morsi. The protests have continued a day after Egyptian riot police clashed with students, some of whom were reportedly throwing stones, firing tear gas as the demonstrations spread outside of the campus. The protests have come amid ...

KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images
KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images

Thousands of students have gathered at Egypt’s Al-Azhar University Monday calling for the reinstatement of ousted President Mohamed Morsi. The protests have continued a day after Egyptian riot police clashed with students, some of whom were reportedly throwing stones, firing tear gas as the demonstrations spread outside of the campus. The protests have come amid a debate over a draft law aimed at severely restricting demonstrations. Meanwhile, up to four people, including an eight-year-old girl, were killed when one or two armed men on motorcycles opened fire on a wedding party outside a Coptic Christian church in the Giza district of Cairo. Egypt’s Christian minority has been increasingly targeted since the overthrow of Morsi in July, however this appeared to be the deadliest attack in months. Egypt’s Interim Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi condemned the attack and said security forces are looking for those responsible.

Syria

A suicide truck bombing targeting a military checkpoint killed over 30 people, mainly civilians, in the central Syrian city of Hama Sunday. The explosion reportedly ignited dozens of cars as well as a nearby oil tanker. According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the al Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front carried out the attack. The suicide bombing came a day after a similar attack killed 16 Syrian forces east of Damascus. Meanwhile, on Sunday, Arab League head Nabil Elaraby announced the long delayed Geneva II peace conference aimed at ending the two and a half year civil war would begin November 23. However, U.N. and Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi denied the date had been finalized. Turkey has announced that the number of Syrians taking refuge in the country has exceeded 600,000, with 400,000 living outside of refugee camps. Health conditions within Syria have been rapidly deteriorating, and the World Health Organization has recorded a suspected polio outbreak in Deir al-Zour province, which would be the first case reported in 14 years.

Headlines

  • A seemingly coordinated attack killed five Iraqi security forces outside a police headquarters in Fallujah a day after a suicide bombing killed dozens of people outside a Baghdad café.
  • Nine Lebanese citizens held captive by Syrian rebels for over a year and two Turkish pilots abducted by Lebanese militants were released in a prisoner swap brokered by Lebanese, Turkish, Qatari, and Palestinian officials.
  • The U.N. Human Rights Council is discussing human rights conditions in Saudi Arabia as an Amnesty International report released Monday claims the kingdom has failed to address concerns and is increasing repression.

Arguments and Analysis

The Last of the Sheikhs?‘ (Christopher Davidson, The New York Times)

"This summer, disgruntled Saudis took their grievances online in droves, complaining of ever-growing inequality, rising poverty, corruption and unemployment. Their Twitter campaign became one of the world’s highest trending topics. It caused great alarm within elite circles in Saudi Arabia and sent ripples throughout the region. The rallying cry that ‘salaries are not enough’ helped to prove that the monarchy’s social contract with its people is now publicly coming unstuck, and on a significant scale.

Many experts believe that the Gulf states have survived the Arab Spring because they are different. After all, they’ve weathered numerous past storms — from the Arab nationalist revolutions of the 1950s and ’60s to Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait to an Al Qaeda terror campaign in 2003.

But they are not different in any fundamental way. They have simply bought time with petrodollars. And that time is running out.

The sheiks of the Persian Gulf might not face the fate of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya or Hosni Mubarak of Egypt next year, but the system they have created is untenable in the longer term and it could come apart even sooner than many believe."

The Dilemma of Syria’s Alawites‘ (Joshua Hirsch, The New Yorker Blog)

"Late last month, I spoke by Skype with Louay, a twenty-five-year-old Alawite from Homs. An engineering student, Louay struck me as urbane and gentle, and no fan of Syria’s dictatorship. (His Skype profile picture shows him in an expensive puffy winter coat, delicately smoking a cigarette.) When protests first broke out in the Sunni neighborhood near his home, he said, he felt optimistic. ‘We saw Tahrir Square in Egypt. It had a great image in Syria — it had a great effect on all of us.’ But he never crossed town to join in the protests. Instead, he listened to the growing strains of sectarianism in the chants, and absorbed the ‘collective feeling’ among Alawites that they would be targeted alongside the regime.

Since then, he’s heard constantly about the terrors committed by Sunni radicals in the opposition, and he has lost friends to the war (‘Am I better than they are?’). Now, he told me with a soft-spoken certainty, he expects to join the military once he finishes his studies. ‘I can’t believe that Alawites are fighting just to defend Bashar,’ he said. ‘But we’ve come to a situation where we feel like we have to fight to defend our way of life.’"

–Mary Casey & Joshua Haber

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