Iran executes two more prisoners, Israel’s far-right government orders the Palestinian flag’s removal, and Saudi Arabia announces Hajj numbers will be up to pre-pandemic levels. Here’s your round-up, written by Abubakr Al-Shamahi, Al Jazeera Digital’s Middle East and North Africa editor.
Mohammad Mehdi Karami’s father did what he could, begging the Iranian authorities to spare his son’s life. It didn’t help. Instead, they hanged the 22-year-old on Saturday, along with another man, Mohammad Hosseini. Both had been convicted of killing a member of Iran’s paramilitary forces during nationwide anti-government protests. This, despite claims their confessions had been extracted through torture. Amnesty International called their trial a “sham”.
On Monday, reports that two more men were expected to be executed soon sent crowds of demonstrators to the prison where they were being held. Among them was the mother of one of the men, who says her son has a history of mental illness and should be spared.
Officials in Iran have so far chosen to ignore calls from Western countries to stop the executions, which one UN human rights advocate called “the weaponisation of criminal procedures”, something that amounts to a “state-sanctioned killing”.
Palestinian Flag an Act of ‘Terrorism’
Israel’s new far-right government has started out as it means to go on. Recent measures announced include the weakening of the judiciary, withholding tax revenue meant for the Palestinian Authority, stopping Palestinian construction in the 60 percent of the occupied West Bank known as Area C, and imposing more restrictions on Palestinian officials who travel abroad.
Palestinians and left-wing Israelis responded by staging a protest in Tel Aviv on Saturday, but that only led to more restrictions when the display of the Palestinian flag so incensed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu he took to Twitter to call it “wild incitement”. National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir must have been listening because he went on to instruct police to order the removal of Palestinian flags, calling their display an act of “terrorism”.
"We are going to a dictatorship just for reasons of one person."
Benjamin Netanyahu's plans to expand illegal settlements and weaken the Supreme Court have been met with protests as thousands of people take to the streets ⤵️
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) January 8, 2023
The government is now settling into what is expected to be a term filled with incendiary decisions that will probably make the prospect of a two-state solution with the Palestinians even more remote. The natural question that follows from all that is, what will the reaction be in the occupied West Bank? Our correspondent in Ramallah, Zena Al Tahhan, has an answer, explaining that the likelihood that the situation on the ground will lead to a wider uprising is only growing.
Saudi Arabia has announced that the number of pilgrims at this year’s Hajj at the end of June is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels. Since 2020, authorities have severely restricted the number of pilgrims, to stop the spread of COVID-19, but now expect almost 2.4 million to attend.
And Now for Something Different
If you hadn’t heard of deq, neither had I, so it looks like we’re all here to learn together. In Turkey, a deq is a traditional Kurdish tattoo, similar to those seen across the Middle East and North Africa. Among Kurds there, like in the rest of the region, the ancient craft is dying out, so Jaclynn Ashly tracked down Fatê Temel, one of the few young tattoo artists left in Diyarbakir. She explains how every tattoo has a meaning that connects the Kurdish people with “a past that is being forgotten”.
Egypt foils plot to steal 10-tonne statue of Ramses II – Gas leaks from faulty household heaters kill nearly 20 people in Algeria – US Navy says thousands of Iranian assault rifles bound for Yemen seized – Egyptian pounds has lost half of its value since March – Seeking to diversify economy, Qatar looks to invigorate its stock market – Ronaldo to face Messi’s PSG in Saudi Arabia – UN Security Council extends aid to northern Syria for six months – Sweden says it can’t meet Turkey’s demands for NATO membership – Amid economic crises, Pakistan’s new army chief visits Saudi Arabia, UAE – At least five dead as boat with migrants, refugees capsizes off coast of Tunisia – Former head of Human Rights Watch denied Harvard fellowship over ‘Israel bias’ – World’s ‘most wanted people smuggler’ arrested in Sudan
Iraq and the Gulf Cup
It’s been more than 40 years since Iraq hosted a global sporting event. In that time people there have faced wars, political unrest, isolation and the rise and fall of ISIL (ISIS). But you could say that Iraqis have put their best foot forward this week, as they hosted the Arabian Gulf Cup, a football tournament that, besides Iraq, features Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. Journalist and filmmaker Ahmed Twaij says the Gulf Cup gives the region an opportunity to unite behind Iraq, and help the country “heal from its recent wounds”, similar to how the Arab world united to support Morocco at the recent World Cup in Qatar.
Quote of the Week
“Neither I nor any other media professional dare to speak frankly about the Houthis in a way similar to what [YouTuber Ahmed] Hajar did. We understand the consequences: detention, incarceration, or death.” – Mohammed, a journalist in Sanaa, after the Houthi rebel group in control of the Yemeni capital arrested three of the country’s most prominent YouTubers for criticising the group’s policies, further tightening the space for free speech.