South Africa: Up the creek

A WHITE woman in the fluorescent-yellow jacket of a freelance parking attendant steps into the road, gesticulating at an empty bay outside a restaurant in Johannesburg’s rich northern suburbs, as black drivers in luxurious German cars swish past, their darkened windows sealed against the chill evening air. Few scenes illustrate more starkly the erosion of white privilege since the end of apartheid two decades ago.Inequalities remain—the median wage of whites is still four times higher than that of blacks.

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Islam in Egypt: Manipulating the minarets

Let’s hope they’re saying the right prayer TWO months ago worshippers at Al-Rahman, a small mosque in the Ain Shams district in eastern Cairo, turned up for prayers on Friday, the Muslim day of rest, to find the doors shut. From now on, they were told, they would have to go to one of the city’s main mosques for the most important prayers of the week. Soon after, another restriction was added when a group that met for discussions about Islam was told to stop

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Arabs in Israel: Do we belong?

FOR Israelis looking for a harmonious co-existence between Jews and Arabs, the town of Safed offered hope. The city’s Jewish mayor, Ilan Shochat, aspiring for it to become a hub of eastern Galilee, attracted some 1,500 Arabs to its colleges, restoring a multicultural feel to a city that for 60 years had been homogeneously Jewish.

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Chad and its neighbours: Africa’s jihadists, on their way

SQUINT a little and the region skirting Lake Chad in central Africa resembles Mosul and Tikrit in northern Iraq: dried-out canals, scrubby plains, ragtag bands of Islamists with guns beneath an unrelenting sun. Thanks to satellite television, the long-suffering residents around the lake, which abutted Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria until it began to dry up and shrink over the past few decades (see map), have a rough understanding of what has happened recently in Iraq.

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Iran’s internet politics: Everyone’s doing it

WHEN Iran’s authorities started to block websites such as YouTube and Wikipedia in 2006, only a tenth of the population used the internet. Eight years later that figure has quadrupled. But to the religious conservatives who dominate the country’s courts the rise is nothing to celebrate—or even tolerate.

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Libya: Real life—on television

IN LIBYA, as elsewhere in the Middle East, the Muslim month of Ramadan, which began on June 28th, is a time for frothy imported television dramas served up as a nightly digestive for iftar, the breaking of the fast. But this year a locally produced series tackling the prickly question of who did what before, during and after the country’s revolution of 2011 is prompting more debate—and controversy—than the usual Turkish-made romances.The makers of “Dragunov”, named after a Soviet-made sniper rifle, believe that their 15-part drama could act as a balm for Libya’s soul as it struggles with the dark legacies of Muammar Qaddafi’s rule and the subsequent bitter divisions that still threaten to tear the country apart

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Crime in Somalia: Pirates v economists

A firm believer in free trade SHIPS navigating the lawless seas of the Gulf of Aden must keep a constant lookout for Somali pirates. The roots of Somalia’s maritime banditry lie in its desperately poor coastal villages, where the choice between fishing and piracy is an easy one for many. But whereas plenty of attention has been given to pirates’ own economic motives, less has been paid to the question of why influential local clans put up with the marauders in their midst.

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Iraq: Will the jihadist tide be stemmed?

TWO weeks after the dramatic fall of chunks of Iraq to Sunni rebels led by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), a ferocious jihadist group, hostilities have simmered to a lower boil. The heat has spread, however, pulling more forces into both Iraq’s turmoil and the related war in neighbouring Syria. With no hint of progress towards a political solution or a truce, the fighting looks certain to intensify and widen, and along with it the risk of yet another humanitarian disaster on the scale of Syria, where nearly half the population has fled abroad or been displaced.On the ground in Iraq, regular troops and Shia militiamen loyal to the Shia-dominated government of the prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, appear to be holding a rough defensive line north of the capital, Baghdad

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Libya’s election: Dismal democrats

Not so jolly, this time around AS THE country went to the polls on June 25th to elect a parliament for only the second time since the fall of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, you could be forgiven for thinking that Libyans had fallen out of love with democracy. Compared with the inky-fingered celebrations that marked the first elections two years ago, the mood was glum. Only 1.5m people in a population of 6m had registered to vote, compared with 2.8m in 2012.

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