26 Nov 2018 - NPWJ News Digest on Middle East and North Africa Democracy


Is the Trump Administration Pivoting the Fight in Syria Toward a War with Iran?
The New Yorker, 27 Nov 2018

The largest American military base in Syria covers more than five hundred acres, but it can’t be seen from the road. When I visited in mid-October, on the condition that I not reveal the exact location, I thought my taxi-driver had brought me to the wrong place. All I saw were a few Kurdish soldiers standing around a barricade. But, past the checkpoint and up a hill, a vast encampment spread out before us. The perimeter was constructed of dirt berms, sod-filled gabions, and razor wire.

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On the Matthew Hedges case, liberal elites and academic freedom
Al Jazeera, 26 Nov 2018

Matthew Hedges, a PhD student at Durham University, was sentenced to life imprisonment last week on spying charges in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). He is the third UK-based PhD student to suffer imprisonment and worse in recent times in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Peter Biar Ajak was imprisoned in South Sudan this summer. Giulio Regeni was tortured to death at the hands of Egyptian security services in early February 2016.

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Policing research: lethal shifting tides for Middle East Studies post-Arab Spring
Open Democracy , 22 Nov 2018

When the news broke in mid-October that a young British academic was held by Abu Dhabi for his research, Matthew Hedges had already been imprisoned for over five months. As early as May, Matthew had travelled to the Emirate aiming to conduct interviews for his PhD on civil-military relations in the United Arab Emirates, post-Arab spring. Despite obtaining all the required permits and meeting several officials, he had been arrested and placed in solitary confinement at an undisclosed location. Emirati authorities claimed that his research activities were but a cover for surveillance on behalf of British intelligence and charged him with espionage for a foreign state.

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Matthew Hedges, British Student, Is Jailed for Life on Spying Charges in U.A.E.
The New York Times, 21 Nov 2018

A court in the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday sentenced a British academic to life in prison on spying charges, prompting a pledge from Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain that the issue would be raised “at the highest level” with the Emirati authorities. The severity of the verdict stunned British officials, who had been reluctant to discuss the case in public in the hope that the Emirati authorities would settle the matter quietly after a high-level intervention by the British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt.

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