The Night before Christmas in the Middle East


Between the Tweetstorm that is the Trump presidency and the maelstrom of GOP legislative politics, a lot of domestic news and even more international news is going largely unnoticed and even unreported in the U.S. These three small items caught my attention today.

Reuters has reported that this past week in Turkey “2,756 people were dismissed from their jobs in public institutions including soldiers, teachers and ministry personnel over links to ‘terror’ organizations. The dismissed personnel were found to be members of, or linked to, “terror” groups, structures and entities that act against national security, according to a decree published in the Official Gazette. Some 50,000 people have been arrested since a failed putsch in July last year and about 150,000 have been dismissed or suspended from their posts . . . over alleged links with the movement of U.S-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. The government accused Gulen of organizing the attempted coup. Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, has denied the accusation and condemned the coup. Rights groups and some Western allies fear President Tayyip Erdogan is using the attempted coup as a pretext to stifle dissent.” Hank Reichman has been reporting on the targeting of Turkish academics and the impact of this repression on Turkish universities. So this item is an update to those important posts.

The Associated Press has reported that “Australia has announced an end to its airstrike operations against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The country’s six Super Hornet fighter jets will soon head home in a major reduction to Australia’s commitment to battling the militants in the region, three years after it began. . . . Australia will continue to provide support in the region through surveillance and refueling aircraft and the 80-strong Special Operations Task Group, which supports Iraqi security forces and counter-terrorism services.” I imagine that most American readers would be as surprised by this item as they were surprised to know that we have significant numbers of troops in Niger and other African nations. And I wonder how aware Australians have been of these troop deployments.

The Associated Press has also reported that “Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency is reporting that police have detained 230 boys and girls at separate parties in the capital Tehran in which alcohol was involved. The Friday report says Tehran police arrested 140 of the young partygoers in a garden on the outskirts of Tehran and 90 in the city’s uptown while dancing and drinking alcohol Thursday night. Drinking alcohol and mixed parties of unrelated men and women are illegal and considered a sin under Islamic law in Iran. The report said some participants posted an invitation to others to join on Instagram and police arrested them. ISNA also said some alcoholic beverages and psychotropic drugs were confiscated.” This item seems to me to be a kind of tabloid-level follow-up to Reading Lolita in Tehran. It is very difficult to impose values through oppression for any extended period. The Soviets managed it for 70 years or so. But, in most instances, for values to endure, they have to be something that the majority of people in a society—and not just some ideological minority, never mind lunatic fringe–really do want to embrace.


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