Friday, February 21, 2014

Libyan Military Plane Carrying Medical Patients Crashes in Tunisia


A Libyan military plane crashed early Friday south of the Tunisian capital of Tunis killing all 11 people onboard. The plane was carrying doctors and medical patients, as well as six crewmembers. Libyans often travel to Tunisia for medical care. Libyan official Sheikh Meftah Daouadi, undersecretary at the Ministry of Martyrs, was among the dead. The Antonov 26 plane's crash was reportedly a result of engine failure. According to Tunisia's TAP state news agency, the pilot was attempting to land the aircraft in farmland near Grombalia. 


The Syrian government has increased air raids and shelling in Syria's southern province of Daraa killing at least two people Friday. The move has come amid reports that rebel fighters are preparing to launch an offensive in the region. An explosion hit a Syrian border post near a refugee camp close to the Turkish city of Kilis killing five people and injuring dozens of others. The camp's administrator, Abu Osama, said the blast destroyed 20 tents. He mentioned that thousands of new refugees have been arriving in the area over the past few weeks "because of the barrel bombing in Aleppo." Iran has been stepping up its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, deploying hundreds of additional military specialists to gather intelligence and train troops. Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council will vote on a resolution Saturday on humanitarian access in Syria. The vote, which had been expected Friday, was pushed a day after Russia said it needed more time "to get some instructions from its capital." On Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the resolution should state that cross-border aid deliveries should be conducted in accordance with international humanitarian law, requiring the government's consent.


  • Three Al Jazeera journalists appeared in an Egyptian court Thursday and pleaded not guilty to terrorism-related charges, however the trial was quickly adjourned until March 5.
  • Iran's judiciary has closed the new pro-government reformist-oriented Aseman (Sky) newspaper, and jailed its manager, apparently accusing it of insulting Islam.
  • Up to five mortar rounds hit a crowded market in the mainly Shiite town of Musayyib south of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad Thursday evening killing an estimated 22 people.
  • A U.S. military commission has accepted a plea bargain from a Saudi Guantánamo detainee who pleaded guilty to involvement in a 2002 attack on a French oil tanker off the coast of Yemen.
Arguments and Analysis

'The Battle Over Higher Education in Iran' (Mohammad Ali Kadivar, MERIP)

"Rouhani's Ministry of Sciences, the main government body overseeing higher learning, has already taken important steps. The new minister, Faraji Dana, has promised that students will no longer be denied educational opportunities because of their political beliefs. Dana was referring to a policy by which the students of known dissidents are banned from admission into masters and doctoral programs or other avenues of educational advancement. This policy is nearly as old as the Islamic Republic, but Ahmadinejad's governments enforced it more aggressively than their predecessors. Today, several of the students who were denied admission have already returned to universities, and some of the programs removed from the curriculum under Ahmadinejad, such as women's studies, are accepting students for the new school year. Iran's parliament, still controlled by conservatives, is unhappy with the changes. Dana was summoned in January to answer the questions of 23 parliamentarians -- and the deputies clearly found the minister's responses unsatisfactory. Regardless, the Ministry of Sciences appears determined to push ahead with the reforms.

But there is a larger problem with Iranian higher education, particularly in social sciences and some of the humanities, that seems likely to remain intractable for the foreseeable future. Under Ahmadinejad, hundreds of new faculty members in these fields were appointed on the basis of their devotion to the Islamic Republic -- a practice plainly at odds with existing practices such as considering the quality and quantity of academic publications and the endorsements of senior scholars. The new appointments were made in concert with the firing of several high-ranking professors who, according to the regime, were disseminating secular ideas."

'Syrian Refugees in Turkey: Bracing for the Long Haul' (Kemal Kiri?ci , Brookings)

"This means that the third option, integration into the host country, will inevitably have to be considered. Turkey is already abuzz with rumors that the government is going to extend citizenship and the right to vote to the Syrian refugees. A number of officials as well as MPs during interviews with this author have categorically denied that the government had any such intentions and noted that there were no steps that had been taken in this direction. The current Turkish Law on Settlement allows only for refugees who are of "Turkish descent and culture" to settle in Turkey. The government would have to adopt special legislation to be able to extend mass naturalization for the Syrian refugees in Turkey. This would be a very controversial and divisive issue and a politically treacherous decision as Turkey enters a eighteen-month-long election cycle. While Turkey's government has been generous, the public in Turkey is growing weary of the refugees and increasingly sees them as a burden. There is an unhappiness that is growing as prices rise - especially rent prices in towns along the Syrian border - and wages fall as more and more refugees enter the informal labor market. These attitudes are reflected in the results of a January 2014 poll taken by the Center for Economic and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM). According to this poll 86 percent of the respondents want the intake to be stopped while close to 30 percent of these respondents advocated that the refugees should simply be sent back.

As much as the path of formal integration in the form of the granting of citizenship may at the moment be a difficult and thorny one there is the sheer reality that more than half a million Syrian refugees are present in urban setting. There is already an informal process of integration occurring as Syrians try to adjust to their new surroundings as they seek more permanent accommodation, employment and education for their children to school. The government as well as many municipalities and civil society groups are extending and expanding a range of services including language courses in Turkish. Refugees themselves realize that they are likely to be in Turkey for the long haul and demand these courses in Turkish. However, short of formal integration, the government is going to have to give priority to two policy areas critical to formal or informal integration: employment and education of refugee children."

-- Mary Casey & Cortni Kerr


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