30 July 2018 - NPWJ News Digest on Middle East and North Africa Democracy


Syrian Kurds say they will 'chart roadmap to decentralised Syria' with Damascus: Assad swore to regain 'every inch' of Syria but in May 'opened doors' for talks with SDF
by The National, 30 Jul 2018

A Syrian Kurdish group said on Saturday it had decided with the government to "chart a roadmap to a democratic and decentralised Syria", but there was no immediate confirmation from Damascus.
Relations between the Syrian government of President Bashar Al Assad and the Kurdish-led administration in the northeast, the two sides that hold the most territory in Syria, have been pivotal in the course of the seven-year-old civil war.
However, while they have mostly avoided direct conflict, they have articulated sharply opposing visions for the future, with the Kurds seeking autonomy in a decentralised state, and Damascus wanting to restore full central control.

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Egypt seeks 75 death sentences over 2013 sit-in
by Middle East Monitor, 30 Jul 2018

An Egyptian court said on Saturday it would transfer the cases of 75 people convicted of security-related offences, including senior Muslim Brotherhood figures, toEgypt’s top religious authority to decide whether they should be sentenced to death.
They are among more than 700 people accused or convicted of illegal protest or murder over a 2013 sit-in that ended in the deaths of hundreds of Brotherhood supporters and dozens of police when security forces broke it up violently. Those convicted face potential sentences ranging up to life in prison and execution.

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'Our life is hell': Iraq's IDPs suffer interminable wait for home
by Al Jazeera, 29 Jul 2018

For Hend Ali, there was no other option but to stay put. The 36-year-old mother of six has been living for three years now at al-Khadra, a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) tucked behind blocks of dilapidated apartment buildings in Iraq's capital, Baghdad.
Like many others across the country, Hend was forced to flee her home in 2015 as military operations and ISIL attacks escalated after the armed group's fighters swept through Iraq, occupying one-third of its territory.

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Israel intercepts aid boat bound for besieged Gaza Strip
by Al-Jazeera, 29 Jul 2018

A boat loaded with aid for residents in the besieged Gaza Strip has been intercepted by Israeli naval forces.
The Awda, carrying at least 23 people, was meant to reach the Gaza port approximately at noon local time on Sunday, but was redirected instead to the Israeli port of Ashdod. It was part of a flotilla attempting to break a 12-year-old blockade imposed by Israel and neighbouring Egypt.
With 16 different nationalities on board, including some Israeli citizens, The Awda set off from the coast of Palermo in Italy a week ago.
Al Jazeera's Charles Stratford, reporting from Ashdod, said the Israeli army confirmed intercepting a boat that departed from Europe in order to "violate the legal naval blockade that is imposed on the Gaza Strip".

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Hundreds Died in Syrian Custody, Government Acknowledges
by New York Times, 26 Jul 2018

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Seven years ago, Islam Dabbas, an engineering student, was thrown in prison for protesting against the Syrian government. His mother visited him twice, paying bribes to do so, but then the permissions stopped. She heard nothing of her son’s fate ever since.
Until last week, when a relative filed for a government registration document and was shocked to see that it gave Mr. Dabbas’s date of death: Jan. 15, 2013.

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The big gains for women’s rights in the Middle East, explained
by Washington Post, 23 Jul 2018

Saudi Arabia, under the initiative of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, gave women in the kingdom the right to drive.
Saudi Arabia has been the only country in the world to ban women from driving — an internationally recognized symbol of unequal status. Along with the ability to drive has come new rights and freedoms: the ability to join the military, work in intelligence services and attend sporting events and concerts. A senior cleric even commented that women should not be required to wear the abaya.

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