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A Hebrew inscription is seen on the tomb of the Jewish prophet Nahum in Alqush, Iraqi Kurdistan (photo credit: YAKIR LEVY)
A Hebrew inscription is seen on the tomb of the Jewish prophet Nahum in Alqush, Iraqi Kurdistan
(photo credit: YAKIR LEVY)
Al-Jazeera, Qatar, May 27
The topic of Jews in Iraq did not come to the headlines until very recently, when the Kurdistan Regional Government decided to open an office within its Ministry of Religious Affairs dedicated solely to representing Jewish interests. This move was widely welcomed by most Kurdish parties, including the Kurdistan Democratic Party led by Massoud Barzani, who sought to install a Jewish presence in the region through the recognition and participation of Jewish Kurds in government.
The head of the Jewish community in Kurdistan, Shirzad Mamsana, explained that Jews in the region have maintained a “privileged and close” relationship with the Barzani family, dating many decades back.
“As Jews we will never forget the noble role played by Kurds in saving Jews during the Farhud,” he explained, referring to the violent riots against the Jewish population of Baghdad in 1941.
Although the Kurdish government maintains freedom of religion, Jews have been practicing their rituals under certain secrecy. Not everyone in the region welcomes their presence, such as the prominent preacher Mazhar al-Khurasani, who claimed that the existence of a number of religious communities in Iraq, and Jews among them, “harms the interests” of Muslims.
Indeed, Mamsana recently visited Israel, where he met with state officials and members of Knesset. He asked for their support of the peshmerga forces, which “protect Muslims, Christians, and Jews” without discrimination.
In this context, Sheikh al-Khurasani expressed his concern of the Jewish manipulation of politics in Iraq: their support of Kurdish independence in order to advance Israel’s interests in the region. He added that such interventions could “push Iraq into an abyss.”
Just as Christians are inherently connected to the Vatican, the sheikh explained, Jews are tied to the Israeli Knesset [parliament]. Thus, they pose a serious threat of the introduction of foreign agendas into Iraqi politics. To date, there are no official statistics about the number of Jews still living in the Kurdish regions of Iraq. However, several sources claimed that roughly 50 families gather for Saturday prayers at a temple located in the outskirts of Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. – Amir Fandi
Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 24
Last week, an unemployed Saudi dentist burned his dentistry certificate in front of the Civil Service Ministry building in protest against rising rates of unemployment in the Kingdom. The dentist claimed that the Saudi authorities gave been completely non-responsive in assisting him in finding a job – even one requiring virtually no expertise. He documented his actions in a video taken on his phone, gaining immediate traction on social networks online.
In response, the Saudi Civil Service Ministry revealed the identity of the man, Muhana bin Saud Al-Inizi, and explained that his unemployment resulted from “poor marks” in the dentistry examination. The Ministry explained that Al-Inizi graduated from a dentistry program at a Jordanian university abroad, with an “ordinary pass,” allowing others with better credentials to land jobs ahead of him. Al-Inizi, meanwhile, claims that he applied to more than 50 positions in Saudi Arabia, of which he got accepted to none. He criticized the authorities for employing more than 1,200 foreign dentists in government positions, while neglecting local professionals.
Recent reports reveal that some 4,000 Saudi dentists are currently unemployed, the vast majority of whom recently graduated from university. Several experts agreed that while positions are available, foreigners are given preferred treatment over local doctors. – Al-Riyadh Staff
Al-Sharq al-Awsat, London, May 27
Experts have recently claimed that the prices of oil will continue to deteriorate, reaching an all-time low of $20 per barrel. Luckily, recent weeks have seen a slowdown in this plunge, with prices stabilizing around the $50 line. I am using the world “luckily” because what many oil consumers around the world fail to understand is that a further decline in oil prices would have been extremely dangerous not only for oil-exporting countries, but for the entire Middle East.
The current rise in oil prices, even if minimal, introduces a new hope for a more stable and secure region.
Most Gulf states, for example, rely solely on oil exports to fund government activity. As key promoters of the region’s stability, these governments would have not been able to sustain their military campaign against the Islamic State given the plummeting prices of oil.
What is even more important is that other countries in the region, even those not producing oil, would have been severely threatened. One of Egypt’s main economic catalysts, for example, is the incoming remittance from its laborers working abroad. Just imagine for yourself the situation in Cairo’s streets when payments feeding entire families would have been slowed down.
This current halt in prices is an important lifeline. It is not meant to renew the Gulf’s addiction to oil, but rather allow these governments to re-strategize and reorganize their economic priorities. In the wake of continuous insecurity and turmoil, it is important to strengthen moderate governments in the region. The current rise in prices of oil, no matter how small it is, provides hope for exactly that. – Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed
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