Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Friday, December 21, 2007

Iran launches winter crackdown to enforce dress code

Despite the arrival of winter, Iran’s dress code is being enforced as aggressively as ever – especially for women – with violators facing possible jail time, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported on December 13.

“This week in Tehran and other cities, officials began a fresh crackdown on women – and men – who violate rules for winter garb, such as sporting overcoats that are too short or hats instead of head scarves,” the article says. “Police in Tehran have set up mobile centers and stationed cars in busy areas, such as bustling Valiasr Street, to implement a new phase in the enforcement of the dress code.”

The article adds: “Iranians have been informed about the police operation through an advertising campaign on radio and television. Billboards dot the streets warning women to dress properly. But it is the first time police have launched a winter crackdown on what is called ‘lax dressing’ or noncompliance with Iran's strict Islamic dress code.

The crackdown has been gaining in intensity under President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, and hit a new peak this past summer. But the “morality police” have traditionally targeted women whose small head scarves reveal a portion of their hair or pants that do not cover their ankles. Such women are given a warning and forced to write a pledge that they will no longer dress ‘immodestly.’ The police sometimes fine or briefly arrest those who argue with them.”

For the full article, click here.

Washington institute hosts photo exhibit on ‘Muslim Women in Germany’

Washington, D.C.’s Goethe-Institut is set to open a new photography exhibition, “Muslim Women in Germany,” that it is more nuanced than its name implies, The Washington Post reported today.

“Upward of 3 million Muslims live in Germany; more than 2 million of them are Turks,” the article notes. “Many are guest workers who arrived in the 1960s (hired to do menial jobs the Germans wouldn't) and their children and grandchildren.”

On the exhibition, The Post says: “This wide-ranging selection of photographs of Muslim women is almost entirely devoid of context. Some pictures could be a photojournalist's investigation of Muslim identity, some could be frank attempts at capturing the country’s minority relations. But we don’t know for sure. And neither does the Institut…What the Institut received includes many straightforward documentary-style pictures. Anne Schoenharting enters homes and apartments where she photographs women tending to children, preparing meat and performing other domestic chores. Maurice Weiss finds women engaged in political rallies. Jordis Antonia Schloesser captures women on the street and at private parties.”

For the full article, click here.

Afghan artifacts to be featured in U.S. exhibition next year

After surviving historic journeys on camelbacks and the collapse of civilizations, Afghanistan’s ancient artistic treasures will be featured in a 17-month tour of the United States that begins next May, The Washington Post reported today.

According to the article, some of the treasures “lay buried for centuries in an Afghan nomad’s sepulcher. Others were spirited out of a museum in modern-day Kabul under siege from looters and religious fanatics, then hidden in secret vaults under the presidential palace.”

The article adds: “The exhibit, which will be on display here [Washington, D.C] for nearly four months before traveling to museums in New York, San Francisco and Houston, aims to provide a rare glimpse of the long-lost, creative melting pot that Afghanistan once represented – centuries before it became known to most Westerners as a grim Cold War battlefield and a victim of horrific Islamic repression under the Taliban.”

“As a trove of history, the artifacts are as edifying as they are beautiful. Selected from four separate sites, they span 3,000 years, beginning circa 2500 B.C. (during the Bronze Age), and include designs, scripts and images from a dozen cultures as far-flung as India, China and Rome,” The Post says, later adding: “One of the exhibit’s four original sources was an abandoned and half-buried city in northern Afghanistan known as Woman of the Moon, built by Greco-Bactrian nobles who passed through Afghanistan more than 2,000 years ago. It was lost to history until the 1960s, when a French archaeologist began a painstaking, 15-year excavation. Hiebert [a National Geographic fellow who is curating the exhibition] said the exhibit will re-create parts of the city, including the treasury, theater and gymnasium.”

For the full article, click here.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Cultural Survival bringing together indigenous radio stations in Guatemala

A new radio project has been established in Guatemala, thanks to a partnership between the U.S.-based NGO Cultural Survival and 168 indigenous community radio stations across the country. The wireless networking phase of the project has now been launched, laying the groundwork for the electronic programming of content and sharing of information.

Project coordinator César Gomez says of the initiative: “Community radio is a medium that serves to face the phenomenon that is called globalization, allowing us to protect our language, way of thinking, and culture.”

According to Cultural Survival: “The project’s goal is to build a network among these stations and help them produce programming that will reinforce indigenous culture and give people the means to fully participate in their national government. The project is helping stations broadcast professional-quality news, information, education, and entertainment for all of the country’s eight million indigenous citizens - in their own languages.

The project has four broad strategies: reform the nation’s telecommunications law to make the stations legal; train station volunteers to produce professional programming and pass on their expertise to others; upgrade the stations’ equipment; and help the stations and the project as a whole become self-sustaining within five years.”

To learn more about the project, click here

Detained Vietnamese monk calls for democracy

Even at 80 years old Buddhist monk, Thich Quang Do, the deputy leader of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Viet Nam, remains one of Viet Nam’s most prominent dissidents, according to an Al Jazeeera article featured on the website of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization.

He has spent more than 25 years in detention for advocating greater religious freedoms and rights. Al Jazeera has now obtained videos smuggled from Viet Nam that feature the commentary of Thich Quang Do. Excerpts of Do’s statements, as cited in the Al Jazeera article, are presented below.

“In Vietnam today we are not free. We are prisoners in our own country ... Prisoners of a regime which decides who has the right to speak, and who must keep silent…I have been continuously repressed right from 1975 by the communist regime. For me, I'm not afraid of anything, of anything, because I am struggling for the right cause. For the truth…All citizens who call for political reform, democracy or human rights risk immediate arrest. Only economically speaking [are things] any better. But politically speaking, nothing changes…We must have pluralism, the right to hold free elections, and to choose our own political system...To enjoy democratic freedoms. In brief, the right to shape our own future, to shape the destiny of our nation. For the last 32 years we always speak out to the outside world. And we hope like you ... that you foreigners listen to our cry.”

For the full article click here.

Egyptian Christians detained for collecting money to rebuild church

Thirteen Christians were arrested Monday in Egypt for collecting donations to rebuild a church without a permit, Agence France-Presse reported Wednesday, citing the group’s lawyer, Hani Hanna Soliman.

“The group, who work in a church in the southern city of Assiut, had been collecting money to rebuild a church in the town of Saqulta further south” the article says, adding: “They raised suspicion in Saqulta when they asked a local resident where the nearest church was. The resident called police fearing a possible terrorist attack on a church, Soliman said…After hours of investigation, the 13 were cleared of any terror related charges but were kept in detention for collecting donations without a valid permit, Soliman said.”

For the full article, click here.

Large numbers of northern Iraqis fleeing amid Turkish strikes

Thousands have fled their homes in northern Iraq as a result of Turkey’s recent shelling operations there, according to the United Nations refugee agency, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.

“More than 1,800 people have fled their homes in the Sangasar sub district of Sulaimaniyah Governorate and in Doli Shahidan in Erbil Governorate last weekend, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said,” the article states.

An Iraqi official said Turkish planes attacked several villages Sunday, killing one woman. The rebels said two civilians and five rebels died.

According to Astrid van Genderen Stort, spokeswoman for the High Commissioner for Refugees, the displaced have found shelter with relatives and friends, but with the start of winter it is difficult for the host families to take care of additional people.

“Many of those displaced say they cannot afford to pay monthly rents of US$200 to US$300 (euro140 to euro210) for alternative accommodation and ... fear they cannot stay much longer with their host families,” she said.

For the full article, click here.

Canadian-based NGO promoting women’s rights in Afghanistan

Even though circumstances for Afghan women have improved since the Taliban fell in 2001, major problems still remain. Canada’s The Province notes that “87 percent of women are illiterate; one in four faces a forced marriage and only one in three girls has access to education.”

“Violence against women is still a terrifying reality; the United Nations reported this month, with dozens of girls and women murdered by their own families,” the article adds. “This is not a reality that will change overnight, believes Palwasha Hasan, Canada’s Rights and Democracy Afghan director, but it will change.”

Thanks to a $5-million grant from the Canadian government, Hasan’s team is working to improve the rights of Afghan women through a specific focus on reforming family law and instituting the use of a national marriage contract throughout Afghanistan.

According to the article: “What is unusual about Hasan and her team is that all are Afghan. And there are an equal number of men working alongside women for women’s rights. This in a country that six short years ago was one of the most hostile in the world toward women, banning them from school and the workplace.”

Citing Hasan’s views, the article later adds: “Western experts who try within a short period of time to impose non-Afghan solutions are not helping Afghans rebuild their own country.

Afghan people are more receptive to change than many outside the country realize, but it is important not to flag issues as Western.”

Hasan says that women want greater freedom, highlighting the fact that 47 per cent of Afghans who voted in the country’s first election in 2004 were women.

For the full article, click here.

Colorado nonprofit combating water scarcity in Sudan

In a piece entitled “Bringing water and life to Sudan,” Stephen Riley spotlights the efforts of Nuba Water Project, a Colorado-based nonprofit.

Riley writes: “There are many places in the developing world where water is an appallingly scarce commodity; where the water the people do have to drink is polluted, making them sick and often killing their children; where, if you are a woman, you must walk for hours to fetch the few gallons of water you do have to use each day. No place on earth has more struggles with water than the rural villages and small towns in the Nuba Mountains of central Sudan

Water and War. This is the one -two punch that has brought the Nuba people to their knees. Now that the war has ended, water is the first need above all others that must be addressed. The mission of Nuba Water Project is to bring a better life to the Nuba people by providing sustainable sources of clean water. An adequate supply of water, especially potable water, is the doorway to economic and social development. By helping solve the problem of scarce water supplies, we free the people to address other pressing needs such as education, public health and building stable communities…

Water shortages and war have been nearly overwhelming challenges for the Nuba. This wicked combination has decimated the population and reduced the Nuba Mountain region to a level of poverty that is extreme even for Africa. Yet there is hope. Now that the long civil war has ended, the Nuba are able to begin rebuilding their lives and their communities. But first, they must have adequate supplies of clean water. This is the starting point for everything else. Without clean water, nothing will change. With clean water, everything becomes possible: emancipation of women from the daily drudgery of fetching water, better public health, reduced infant mortality, children returning to school, food security, and a revitalized economy.”

For full piece, click here.

For more information on Nuba Water Project, click here.

U.S. rights group calls for immediate release of Iranian women’s rights activists

Human Rights Watch has urged Iran to immediately release two women activists facing trial for what the group calls “politically motivated” charges, Reuters reported Tuesday.

According to the article: “New York-based Human Rights Watch said the two women were active in a drive to collect one million signatures in favor of greater female rights. They were among a group of women detained in March during a protest. The other women were later released.”

“There seems to be no end in sight to the Iranian government's persecution of women’s rights activists,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement sent to Reuters on Monday night.

Court hearings on December 18 and December 19 have been set for Jelveh Javahari and Maryam Hosseinkhah, HRW said.

According to the article, HRW noted that Javahari was charged in December with “disturbing the public opinion,” “propaganda against the order,” and “publishing lies via the publication of false news,” and added that similar charges were made against Hosseinkhah in November.

For the full article, click here.

7 Egyptians arrested after sectarian riot released 2 days later

The seven Egyptian Muslims were arrested after a riot in the southern city if Isna on Sunday were released Tuesday, according to the International Herald Tribune.

Thirteen Christian-owned shops were smashed or burned and a church facade was damaged in the riot

According to a Reuters report: “Tensions have been high in the city for several days with a number of incidents threatening to escalate into sectarian clashes. Police have upgraded their presence.

The tensions appear to have started when an angry crowd of Muslims surrounded and smashed up a Christian-owned store on Wednesday, where they suspected a Muslim girl was having sex with two Christian boys. Police beefed up security in the city after that incident.”

According to IHT: “Police detained 15 people suspected of taking part in the attacks. The seven released were believed to be the main suspects, the official from the prosecutors' office said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.”

For the full IHT article, click here.

For the full Reuters article, click here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Iraqi women face rape or murder for eschewing strict Islamic regulations

Militia groups are killing women in southern Iraq for not conforming to strict Islamic tenets, Basra police say. In addition, many women have been driven from their homes because of escalating threats, Inter Press Service reported today.

“Basra police chief Gen. Jalil Hannoon has told reporters and Arab TV channels that at least 40 women have been killed during the past five months in the southern city,” the article said, later adding, “The militias dominated by the Shia Badr Organisation and the Mehdi Army are leading imposition of strict Islamic rules. The enforcement of these ways comes at a time when British troops have left Basra, the biggest town in the south, to the Iraqi government.”

According to the article: “Women who do not wear the hijab are becoming prime targets of militias, residents say. Many women say they are threatened with death if they do not obey.”

“Militiamen approached us to tell us we must wear the hijab and stop wearing make-up,” college student Zahra Alwan who fled Basra for Baghdad recently told IPS. “They are imitating the Iranian Revolution Guards, and we believe they receive orders from the Islamic Republic (of Iran) to do so.”

The article adds: “Several women victims were accused of being ‘bad’ before they were abducted, residents say. Most abducted women are later found dead. The bodies of several were found in garbage dumps, showing signs of rape and torture. Several bodies had a note attached saying the woman was ‘bad,’ according to several residents who did not give their name.”

For the full article, click here.

Comparing Saudi Arabia to South Africa

In an op-ed in today’s Washington Post, Anne Applebaum compares the circumstances of women in Saudi Arabia to those of blacks in apartheid-era South Africa. She questions why the international community is not reacting to the former as it did to the latter.

The following is a passage from the piece: “A court in country X sentenced a black man who had been severely beaten by white men to six months in jail and 200 lashes.

How would you react if you read that in a newspaper? Shock, horror, anger at the regime in country X, no doubt. And once you learned that punishing blacks for associating with whites is routine in country X, you might even get angrier. You might call for sanctions, you might insist that country X not participate in the Olympics. You might demand that country X be treated like apartheid-era South Africa.

In fact the sentence is real – almost. When originally published on the CBS News Web site last month, the story concerned a woman, not a black man, and country X was Saudi Arabia.

Here is the real quote:

‘A Saudi court sentenced a woman who had been gang raped to six months in jail and 200 lashes.’

True, this extraordinary case, in which a rape victim was condemned for associating with a man not her relative, did create a small international echo. Hillary Clinton led a chorus of Democrats condemning the ruling, and a few editorials condemned it, too. It wasn’t much, but it mattered: Thanks to international pressure, the Saudi king has pardoned the woman. And now? In Saudi Arabia women still can't vote, can't drive, can’t leave the house without a male relative. No campaign of the kind once directed at South Africa has ever been mounted in their defense.”

For the full piece, click here.

Vietnamese education system reeling from corporal punishment cases

Several cases of inappropriate behavior by Vietnamese teachers have been reported in the media. Incidents have involved teachers slapping, hitting and beating students, sometimes to the point of hospitalization, according to VietNamNet Bridge.

“Nguyen Van Hao, grandfather of Nguyen Minh Hai, one of the victims, said that some of the schoolboys were hit so hard that their noses bled; Hieu’s face severely swelled,” the article reported.

According to the article: “Another case, Pham Phuong Thao, an eight-year-old schoolgirl at Trung Vuong Primary School in Hanoi was beaten for a simple mistake. On November 29, in response to Thao forgetting a capital letter, teacher Pham Quynh Anh lashed Thao’s hands with her ruler and then slapped her.”

“On April 23, Tran Thi Ngoc, a 4th grader at Minh Quang Primary School in Thai Binh province was forced to stand in the middle of the classroom while her 32 classmates lashed her about the face; her error: Ngoc forgot bringing the class’s record book,” the article said. “She was hospitalized.”

Analysts are linking the teachers’ behavior to substandard qualifications and wages. “With low pay (VND1mil for pre-school teachers, for example), an insufficient wage, teachers often express their career dissatisfaction in the form of rage towards pupils,” the article said. “Under current regulations, pre-school teachers must have at least a two year post-secondary education; however, only 80% of the current 166,804 teachers meet that requirement.

For the full article, click here.

Iran shutters 24 internet cafes, arrests 23 in crackdown on indecency

The Iranian government on Sunday closed down 24 internet cafes and arrested 23 people, with authorities citing “immoral computer games…obscene photos” and improper women’s dress, AHN reported Monday.

An opposition website said the government’s actions come in light of “a new wave of suppression of women.”

According to the article: “Iran’s government security forces inspected 435 coffee shops, handing out 170 warnings over the weekend, reports said.”

For full article, click here.

7 Egyptians arrested after sectarian riot

At least 7 Egyptian Muslims were arrested after a riot in the southern city if Isna on Sunday, Reuters reported the same day. Thirteen Christian-owned shops were smashed or burned and a church facade was damaged in the incident.

According to the article: “Tensions have been high in the city for several days with a number of incidents threatening to escalate into sectarian clashes. Police have upgraded their presence.

The tensions appear to have started when an angry crowd of Muslims surrounded and smashed up a Christian-owned store on Wednesday, where they suspected a Muslim girl was having sex with two Christian boys. Police beefed up security in the city after that incident.”

For the full article, click here.

EU calls for restraint after Turkey strikes PKK targets

After Turkish air strikes on Kurdish areas of northern Iraq on Sunday, the European Union called for restraint and respect for territorial integrity, BBC News reported Monday.

According to the article: “In its statement on Monday, the EU presidency called for better dialogue between the governments of Turkey and Iraq ‘in order to ensure that the Iraqi territory is not used for any terrorist actions against Turkey.’”

“During an operation lasting three hours, targets were hit in Zap, Hakurk and Avasin, as well as areas in the Kandil mountains,” the article noted.

According to Turkish media reports, up to 50 planes were involved in the operation.

“The Turkish military said only ‘terrorist’ targets were hit, but the PKK reported that two civilians had been killed along with five of its fighters,” the article said, using the acronym for the Kurdish rebel group targeted in the attacks.

“The US has urged Turkey to step back from a major operation against the PKK in northern Iraq because it fears military action could destabilize what has become one [of] the most peaceful and prosperous regions of the country,” the article added.

For the full article, click here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Afghanistan children in need of more international aid, U.N. ambassador says

Afghan Ambassador to the UN Zahir Tanin on December 13 told the United Nations General Assembly that the international community should provide more aid to Afghan children, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported today. Tanin noted that circumstances have improved during the last six years, but said that much remains to be done.

“Poverty remains the biggest obstacle in Afghanistan to achieving the Millennium Development Goals,” he said. “We would like to stress the need for full partnership and expanded cooperation with the international community in our mutual commitment to attain the MDGs and create an Afghanistan fit for Children.”

According to the article: “In his remarks, Tanin pointed out that children are the most vulnerable and the worst-affected victims of terrorism and other violence in Afghanistan, and that despite some progress, ‘Afghan children continue to face insurmountable challenges.’”

For the full article, click here.

USIP holds roundtable on internally displaced persons and peacebuilding

The U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) hosted a roundtable event on December 14 to discuss the integration of the internal displacement issue within the peace process. USIP’s Deborah Isser moderated. The featured speakers were Khalid Koser, the deputy director of the Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement at the Brookings Institution and Donald Steinberg, the vice president for multilateral affairs at the International Crisis Group.

Koser began by discussing the importance role that that internally displaced persons (IDPs) issue plays in the peace process. Every human being, Koser said, “has rights grounded in international human rights law and international humanitarian law and states in post-conflict situations have an obligation to protect those rights.” He also argued that it is impossible to plan for peace if IDPs are not taken in consideration in the process. “They could be the ones to end the conflict,” Koser said. If they become political active, he added, IDPs can make decisions for the country’s future and prevent future conflict.

Koser identified to three main obstacles to IDPs’ direct participation in the peace process. First: it can be difficult for civilians to take part in the high-level talks that are often held in a peace process. Second: many IDPs are at a disadvantage because of their social identity and background – many are illiterate and belong to an ethnic or religious minority for example – and they are often seen as second-class citizens. Third: international assistance is often lacking and obtaining an accurate picture of the IDP situation is very difficult given data collection impediments.

Despite the obstacles, Koser maintained that there are many good examples for how IDPs can meaningfully contribute in the peace process, citing as one the fact that womens groups are often strong and vocal participants.

Koser also called attention to complementary strategies for facilitating IDP involvement such as “substitution,” where NGOs bring to the table the information that they gather from IDPs.

Steinberg echoed Koser on the point that IDPs have an important role in the peace process. “They are the ones that know what is needed,” he said. “They are aware of the social factors that often are forgotten.”

Steinberg also said that few people realize that many things change during a conflict situation. He cited as an example, the fact that when the men go to war women often take on enhanced roles. When the men return, it is often difficult for them to adjust to these new roles. This sometimes leads to divorce and problems such as alcoholism and violence against women, Steinberg said. Because of the reality of circumstances like this, he argued that it is important that international mediators receive trainings on gender issues.

Steinberg stressed that international mediators need more power in the beginning of the peace process, adding that having the “men with the guns” “sit down” is the first step in the process.

Both of the speakers noted that it is important to work with the local people and teach them how they themselves can change their situation through participation in civil society and the political process.

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UNHCR exceeds 2007 Iraqi refugee referral goal

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Wednesday that its target of 20,000 Iraqi referrals for 2007 has been exceeded, Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty reported the next day.

According to the article: “As of December 7, the agency transferred the files of 20,472 of the most vulnerable Iraqi refugees to 16 countries for resettlement consideration, including the United States, Australia, Canada, Sweden, New Zealand, Ireland, Brazil, Chile, Finland, Norway, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Spain, and Germany.”

“The majority of those resettled, 2,376 went to the United States,” the article adds. “The UNHCR estimates that there are still between 80,000 and 100,000 ‘extremely vulnerable’ Iraqis in need of resettlement. It concluded that the security situation in Iraq remains unclear, and warned Iraqis in host countries not to return home at this time.”

For the full article, click here.

Hundreds of Afghan women come together and raise their voices for peace

Hundreds of women gathered on Wednesday in the heart of southern Afghanistan to raise their voices in prayers for peace, The Christian Science Monitor reported.

According to the article: “The idea of women doing anything aside from tending to home and family is fairly shocking in provinces like Kandahar and Helmand, where the ultra-fundamentalist Taliban control most of the countryside. Yet the assembling of an estimated 1,000 women in six southern provinces is a compelling development, women's rights experts say.

In this region, working through the conventions of Islam is perhaps the only acceptable avenue for women to make themselves heard. At the meetings, the women recited the Koran and shared stories of how the war has torn their families apart.”

Dr. Massouda Jala, former head of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in Kabul said in a phone interview that giving women a taste of a broader life is the only way to begin to empower them. “If the women leaders are sitting at home, it will not happen,” she said.

“For the traditional society, it is something new to see women active,” Jalal said. “They need to get used to it and have their mentality changed.”

For the full article, click here.

Egypt tortured suspects in terror case, Human Rights Watch says

Egyptian authorities used torture in a high-profile terrorism case first announced in April 2006, Human Rights Watch said in a report Tuesday, The New York Times reported the next day

The report, the article notes, “said the Egyptian authorities had little or no evidence when they charged 22 men with a dramatic terrorism plot last year, and that the men were beaten and tortured with electricity and cigarette burns before confessing. There are indications that even the name of the group the men supposedly belonged to – the Victorious Sect – was concocted by security agents, according to the report.”

According to the article: “The case drew considerable attention when it was first announced in April 2006. The Egyptian authorities said they had uncovered a plot to blow up oil pipelines, kill Muslim and Christian religious figures and tourists, and acquire land for a terrorist training camp.”

The Times later adds: “The arrests may have been intended to help justify the renewal of Egypt’s emergency law, which came shortly afterward in 2006, said Joanne Mariner, the terrorism and counterterrorism director at Human Rights Watch. The men arrested were young and had conservative religious views, like many of those arrested in such cases, she added.”

For the full article, click here.

Iraqi Jews beginning to return to Kurdistan

The Arab-Israeli conflict that has divided the Middle East for the past half-century has forced most Iraqi Jews out of their ancient communities. However, since the ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003 some members of the group have begun returning to their homeland, according to National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.”

According to the program: “Most of the ancient Jewish community in Iraq emigrated en masse in 1951. But unlike their Arab counterparts, Iraqi Kurds tend to be less suspicious of their former Jewish neighbors. And some Jewish Kurds have begun making discreet return visits to Kurdistan.”

“Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, a small number of Kurdish Jews has been making discreet return visits from Israel to the land of their birth,” the program notes. “Kak Ziad Aga, 71, says a Jewish classmate from his childhood recently got a warm welcome during a return visit to the Kurdish town of Koya Sinjak. It had been 50 years since he’d seen his classmate.

Ziad Aga says he doesn’t see any problem in allowing Kurdish Jews to come back to Kurdistan, but the subject is extremely sensitive for the Kurdish authorities, who are frequently accused by Arab media and Iraqi insurgent groups of collaborating with Israel. The Kurdish leadership denies the charges.”

For the full story, click here.