In the spring of 2012, I made an extended visit to Saudi Arabia to report on the effects of the Arab Spring there. The arch-conservative oil monarchy was pursuing a robust counter-revolution, but the uprisings had brought new energy to reformers across the region. I was curious to see how Saudis themselves saw their country’s future.
Among the many people I spoke with was Jamal Khashoggi, at the time an unusually well-connected journalist with an irrepressibly optimistic outlook. I also met the prominent reform cleric Salman al-Ouda, who had 14 million Twitter followers; Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the pro-Western billionaire investor; Hatoon al-Fassi, a brilliant historian who viewed the liberated women of pre-Islamic Arabia as a model for change in her own society; Mohammad Fahad al-Qahtani, a US-educated economics professor; Waleed Abu al-Khair, a Jeddah lawyer; and the young blogger Eman Fahad al-Nafjan.… Seguir leyendo »
On Oct. 12, the United States announced it will withdraw from Unesco, the cultural and educational arm of the United Nations, because of what it calls the organization’s anti-Israel bias.
Unesco’s largely symbolic presence in the Palestinian territories — including the designation of the Old City of Hebron as a World Heritage site — makes up a tiny part of a global mandate covering 195 member states and 10 associate members and will not be affected by the absence of the United States.
With its misguided decision, the United States is forfeiting its leadership in a cause on which Unesco and its partners in the United States, Europe and beyond are finally making progress: protecting art, sacred buildings and other historic treasures from deliberate attacks during armed conflict.… Seguir leyendo »
Will the world do nothing to stop extremist groups from destroying some of civilization’s most treasured monuments?
The question has confronted Western governments with stark urgency in the weeks since the Islamic State released a video of militants smashing ancient sculptures at the Mosul Museum. In early March, following reports that extremists attacked the ancient Assyrian sites of Nimrud and Hatra, Iraqi officials pleaded for American airstrikes to stop them. But so far the United States and its allies have wrung their hands.
Secretary of State John Kerry described the devastation as “one of the most outrageous assaults on our shared heritage that perhaps any of us have seen in a lifetime.” Irina Bokova, the director general of Unesco, said: “This is not just a cultural tragedy.… Seguir leyendo »
The narrow victory of the left-leaning Social Democratic Party in Sweden’s elections last Sunday marked a broad shift in its politics. But a new coalition government is unlikely to reconsider one of the country’s most challenging policies: its response to the Syrian civil war. Sweden has taken an open-door approach to people fleeing the conflict, accepting more Syrians than any other European country.
Never mind that Sweden has double-digit youth unemployment. That there have been riots in immigrant neighborhoods in Stockholm. That there is a severe housing shortage for new arrivals. Or that the Swedish Migration Board, which handles asylum seekers, needs a drastic budget increase — almost $7 billion — to cover soaring costs over the next few years.… Seguir leyendo »