August 28, 2009
Posted: 1028 GMT
CNN's Ben Wedeman reports from Cairo, Egypt, where date sellers are dropping names to sell dates.
Posted: 944 GMT
From CNN Correspondent Paula Newton,
Looking back at my first impression of Nujood Ali and her incredible act of defiance, I was very naive.
Nujood Ali rebelled against culture, religion and government.
Like Nujood herself, I thought the mere act of demanding a divorce and getting one would ‘fix’ her life and allow her to return and remain in the embrace of her family.
The complexity of Nujood’s life is quite daunting to fathom now. At the age of 10, she defied her husband, his family and crucially, her own family to divorce her husband and return to the innocent life she so missed.
But after following Nujood’s story for more than a year now, it is far from a simple portrait of victory and triumph.
The key to Nujood’s life now is that she lives very much like an outcast in her community. The fame and the media attention have made her a choice topic for gossiping neighbors.
The fact is, some in Yemen see nothing wrong with marrying off a 10-year-old girl. And so what she did, and the notoriety that followed, was seen by some as a threat to how things are and how they should stay.
While we in the Western media celebrated Nujood’s courage, some in her own extended family questioned her rebellious act.
Nujood has said that her father, her brothers and her uncles have all expressed their displeasure at having her story exposed and publicized.
So where does all this leave Nujood now? I’m not quite sure. CNN producer Schams Elwazer has followed Nujood’s story now for months.
In repeated calls to concerned human rights campaigners, lawyers, the judge involved in the case and government officials there has been precious little clarity about Nujood’s future.
Apparently, there is some type of a scholarship fund set up for education, but Nujood’s school attendance has been sporadic in part because, her attorney says, her family has not supported her education whole-heartedly.
It’s clear Nujood and her family believed being famous would earn them a fortune. It hasn’t. Some have said to me that Nujood has been victimized twice by her family.
First, Nujood was forced into an early marriage she did not want and later into a publicity frenzy that her family believed would make them thousands of dollars.
Whatever the truth, Nujood has been hurt and very little in her life has changed for the better.
This has been a difficult but important story to tell for all these months. Verifying the facts of what happened to Nujood has been daunting but it has been insightful.
At its core, though, this is a real and gritty story about what it means to rebel against cultures, religion and government.
Nujood is very confused and angry and is far from living out the childhood all young girls deserve.
August 25, 2009
Posted: 728 GMT
The Iraqi government hopes that paying people to get married will bring happiness and national unity. CNN's Arwa Damon reports.
August 24, 2009
Posted: 800 GMT
JERUSALEM (CNN) - Israel on Sunday withheld the press credentials of a Swedish newspaper in retaliation for a controversial piece that suggested the Israeli army kidnapped and killed young Palestinians to harvest their organs.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman compared the Swedish government's hands-off position to the country's neutrality during World War II.
The journalists need the credentials to report from Gaza.
"We have no duty to supply them with press cards immediately; (we) have 90 days to decide about their status," said Danny Siman, the head of the government press office.
The article, "Our sons are being stripped of their organs," appeared Tuesday in Aftonbladet and was an opinion piece written by freelance journalist Donald Bostrom.
Bostrom told CNN he had no proof that Israeli soldiers were stealing organs, and that the purpose of his piece was to call for an investigation into numerous claims in the 1990s that such activity was going on in the West Bank and Gaza.
Even though the Swedish embassy distanced itself from the report, the country's foreign ministry refused to condemn it - saying Sweden has a "free press."
The refusal has rankled Israel, which said it will submit an official complaint.
"This is an anti-Semitic blood libel against the Jewish people and the Jewish state. The Swedish government cannot remain apathetic," said Israel's Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz.
"We know the origins of these claims. In medieval times, there were claims that the Jews use the blood of Christians to bake their Matzas for Passover. The modern version now is that the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) soldiers use organs of Palestinians to make money."
He continued: "It makes no difference whether this comes from a neo-Nazi organization or from an honorable newspaper. The Swedish government must renounce itself from this anti-Semitic publication."
The article centers around the case of Bilal Ahmed Ghanem, a 19-year-old Palestinian man who was shot and killed in 1992, allegedly by Israeli forces, in the West Bank village of Imatin.
Bostrom, who witnessed the man's killing, said Ghanem was taken away by Israeli forces while he was still mortally wounded. His body was returned five days later with a cut in his midsection that had been stitched up.
Ghanem's family said they believed that his organs had been removed.
After that incident, at least 20 Palestinian families told Bostrom that they suspected the Israeli military had taken the organs of their sons after they had been killed by Israeli forces and their bodies taken away - presumably for routine autopsies.
Bostrom said he balanced those claims in his article by including a reaction from an Israeli military spokesman who told him that the Israel Defense Forces routinely carries out autopsies on Palestinians killed by their troops.
But, as he stated in his article, Bostrom said he has doubts about the necessity of the procedures if it is clear how the person died.
Last week Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman compared the Swedish Foreign Ministry's hands-off position to the country's neutrality during World War II.
"It's a shame that the Swedish Foreign Ministry fails to intervene in a case of blood libels against Jews," Lieberman told Sweden's ambassador to Israel on Thursday evening. "This is reminiscent of Sweden's stand during World War II, when [it] had failed to intervene as well."
August 22, 2009
Posted: 1948 GMT
As more Israelis die of swine flu, CNN's Paula Hancocks asks what safeguards are in place.
August 21, 2009
Posted: 1058 GMT
As the Muslim holy month of Ramadan is set to begin tomorrow, people around the Arab world have been preparing for its arrival.
Watch it with Captions
Posted: 1034 GMT
Civil marriages are not allowed in Israel. CNN's Paula Hancocks talks to those who fall foul of the law.
August 20, 2009
Posted: 1118 GMT
OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images. Bahrain's Yusuf Saad Kamel wins the men's 1500m final race of the 2009 IAAF Athletics World Championships on August 19, 2009 in Berlin.
FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images. Bahrain's Yusuf Saad Kamel (R) and Ethiopia's Deresse Mekonnen celebrate after the men's 1500m final race of the 2009 IAAF Athletics World Championships in Berlin.
August 19, 2009
Posted: 906 GMT
Make sure you watch the audio slideshow after clicking on Captions for more information on the 2 week academy that took place in Beirut and wrapped last Friday.
Click here for more information on the organizing association, American Voices.
August 18, 2009
Posted: 1506 GMT
Special Contributor to IME
Beirut, LEBANON - It's official, American Hip Hop superstar Snoop Dogg is arriving in Beirut for one of the biggest rap concerts the Middle East has ever seen.
Billboard in the streets of Beirut. Photo by Habib Battah
Snoop will be performing for the first time in the region this Thursday at the Forum de Beyrouth and my mission will be to get a few words from the Godfather himself on camera. On a Lebanese radio advertisement promoting the show, Snoop says, "That's right, I will be in the Middle East, bringing peace, like a beast!"
Snoop has been featured on the cover of a local French newspaper with the headline: "Le Doggfather a Beyrouth".
Local newspaper cover announcing Snoop Dogg's concert. Photo by Habib Battah
I hope to meet Snoop when he arrives at the airport and ask what he makes of Beirut and if he's heard of the up and coming rap scene in the Middle East, with a number of Arab rap artists now performing in night clubs and on TV stations across Lebanon and the region. In a telephone interview this afternoon, the show's organizer Roger Kalaouz, CEO of Roger Kalaouz and Associates (R K & A), told me he's expecting an audience of up to 12,000. He says the concert has been under preparation for 18 months and involved four visits to the U.S. to negotiate with Snoop's manager. Asked how he managed to outbid other promoters eager to bring Snoop to the region, Kalaouz simply stated: "that's the power of R K & A", without divulging any figures on show costs.
Earlier this summer Kalaouz's firm organized a Michael Bolton concert here, and Beirut has also seen performances last month by the Pussy Cat Dolls, Deep Purple and Kelly Rowland. Hip hop star, Akon performed in Lebanon just last weekend. "This is the best summer we have had in 22 years," Kalaouz told me.
"We are over the past," he added in a reference to the recent series of political crises and assassinations in Lebanon. "Nobody is afraid to come to Beirut anymore."
Habib Battah is a freelance journalist and filmmaker based in Beirut and New York. Check out his blog The Beirut Report.
Tune in to a new edition of Inside the Middle East on September 9th at 09:30 and 18:30 GMT, to see if Habib can get the scoop on Snoop!