The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) was the cradle of higher education. The three oldest, still-functioning universities in the world are in Iran, Morocco, and Egypt. The University of Al-Karaouine in Fes has been granting degrees since 859 A.D. The Ancient Library of Alexandria, in addition to being repository of books and manuscripts, was a center of learning during the Ptolemaic dynasty, with scholars traveling to there from all around the Mediterranean and beyond. And scholars such as Ibn Khaldoun discovered fundamental economics four centuries before Adam Smith and others. In short, all of us who have benefited from a university education owe a debt to the MENA region.
Middle East and North Africa
What are the common characteristics among people who justify attacks targeting civilians? In a new paper, we address this question by focusing on attitudes toward violent extremism. We do not study the process of becoming radicalized — or the characteristics of known perpetrators of terrorist attacks—but the characteristics of people surveyed in opinion polls who said they believed terrorist attacks on civilians were justified. People with such an extremist belief may not commit terrorist acts themselves, but they may be at high risk of being recruited by terrorist organizations, or may sympathize with terrorist organizations and be prepared to help them.
In terms of forced displacement relative to a country’s population, Syria is among the worst tragedies since World War II. Nearly half of the country’s population has been forcibly displaced. There are 4.8 million refugees, largely in neighboring Turkey (2.7 million), Lebanon (1.05 million) and Jordan (640,000). Over 1 million Syrians that have applied for asylum in Europe since 2011, with 900,000 applying in 2015. In addition there are nearly 7 million internally displaced Syrians, accounting for 40% of the population still in Syria.
On May 6th, a father left to get food for his family but never imagined the horror he would face when he returned. Like any other day, and any other house in their neighborhood, his children lit candles to be able to study as there was no electricity from the national grid. However this time, fire from the candles ripped through the house killing three of his children, all under six, and leaving one critically injured. The tragedy has led to harsh accusation between the rival Palestinian factions governing Gaza and the West Bank over who is responsible for power cuts.
As an irrigation agency, what do you do when demand for water is growing, food security features high on your government’s agenda, and the irrigation system you’ve been running for the past 40 years is nearing the end of its life? Your budget is also tight and what you charge for the water you’re supplying has not kept up with overall cost levels.
We worked with the Jordan Valley Authority (JVA), which falls under Jordan’s Ministry of Water and Irrigation, to see what options the JVA has to make the most of its situation.
A year ago, we at the National Urban Heritage Center (NUHC) of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH), published a study in cooperation with the World Bank to examine investment opportunities in urban heritage available for original owners. The study also explored ways we can support revitalizing old areas, a trend that forms the character of many old cities and gives them their unique flavor.
As we do every weekend, my friends and I headed to the city of Ramallah in the West Bank one recent Sunday to have breakfast and enjoy the warm days of the Palestinian Spring at a local café. As we sat there discussing our lives, we couldn’t help but hear a conversation taking place at the table next to us, where five young Palestinians were complaining about the lack of jobs. The group of friends, it seemed, were all fresh university graduates who had been looking for work for months with no luck. What grabbed my attention most was that they were all blaming the Paris Protocol for their situation—saying “it has put the Palestinian economy back years from where it should be!”
The Syrian Civil War is entering its sixth year with no resolution in sight: Even February’s truce may be collapsing as the battle for Aleppo intensifies. There will be more refugees and casualties as civilians flee the violence. With its aerial bombings, car bombs, chemical warfare, the unparalleled brutality of Islamic State, and unrelenting trauma of urban warfare, Syria’s war has seen half a million deaths, over 4 million refugees, and some 7 million internally displaced peoples (IDPs).
Syrian families have been forcibly displaced and scattered across the Middle East and beyond and many of those who fled the war tell me they have lost friends, family members, and most of their possessions.
Jasser, a 24-year-old Syrian man, and his family were forced to flee in 2012 because of the bombings. He lost his mother and sister, his house, car, and job. Before leaving Syria he was working in farming, processing and producing fruits and vegetables. Jasser and other displaced people like him are struggling to find jobs (and get visas), generate income, and gain an education. They all say they want to return home in the near future. They all say they want to work and keep their dignity.
While waiting for peace negotiations in Kuwait to help end the year of conflict in Yemen after claiming thousands of mainly civilian lives, Yemenis are striving for security to be restored to get back to their normal lives. For a whole year of war—until now—and for four years of political unrest prior to it, people have been worn out by deteriorating living standards and the lack of basic services: food, medicine, fuel, and, above all, security.