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A reported blog about all things Middle East and North Africa.

Abu Railin: Saudi Arabia discount chain caught selling Israeli goods

The Saudi company was caught selling Israeli-made pencils, a violation of the Arab boycott on Israeli goods.
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A machine sorts pencils. A Saudi company was caught selling Israeli-made pencils, a violation of the Arab boycott on Israeli goods. (Ralph Orlowski/AFP/Getty Images)

It is a common secret among veteran Israelis that the much vaunted Arab boycott on Israeli goods in the Arab world is, in fact, a widely threaded web.

Where there is a will, there is a way. Such it is, that at the legendary El Dorado chocolaterie and coffee shop on Salah e-Din street, one of the main commercial drags in East Jerusalem, one can pick up delectable Syrian-made bonbons made by one of the best chocolate makers in the Middle East.


Monks gone wild at Church of Nativity (VIDEO)

Monks brawl, monk-style, at the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem.

It took a cadre of police to separate brawling monks who clashed with broomsticks inside the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, one of Christianity's holiest places, on Wednesday.

The monks had been cleaning the church at the time, an annual tradition — hence the brooms. The church is shared among Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox and Armenians. According to the Associated Press, the dispute began because one group accused another of infringing on the other's space inside the church.


Samira victorious: Egyptian military to end 'virginity tests'

Samira Ibrahim wins lawsuit after enduring invasive procedure.
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Samira Ibrahim, a 25-year-old Egyptian suing the military for allegedly subjecting her to an invasive "virginity test" stands in front of graffiti celebrating her efforts in Cairo, November 2011. (Amina Ismail/GlobalPost)

Nine months after Egyptian soldiers forced her to strip down and undergo a "virginity test" that has been described as medieval, Samira Ibrahim has won her case against the military as an Egyptian court banned the practice Tuesday.


Ultra-Orthodox men rise up in Israel over women's rights

The media reveals grave acts of the exclusion of women from public spaces in the community.
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Israelis policemen disperse ultra-Orthodox Jewish protesters in the central town of Beit Shemesh, near Jerusalem, on Dec. 26, 2011. Extra Israeli police patrolled the streets of Beit Shemesh after a campaign by ultra-Orthodox Jews to segregate men and women erupted into violence. (Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox men rioted and attacked police officers in the central Israeli city of Beit Shemesh today, as the media continued to reveal increasingly grave acts of the exclusion of women from public spaces in the community.

Following a wave of exposés about the harassment of women and girls on buses and even on city sidewalks, municipal authorities in Beit Shemesh announced the installation of 400 cameras to monitor public areas.


Sudan general named to investigate Syria

Sudan military leader named to probe Syria human rights abuses is suspected of abuses himself.
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Sudan's Lt. Gen. Mohamed Ahmed Mustafa Al-Dabi, the head of the Arab League monitoring mission to Syria, gestures during a meeting in Khartoum on December 21, 2011. Launched in the hopes of ending months of unrest and quelling the regime's violent crackdown on dissent, the Arab League observer mission has been welcomed by Syria, but the opposition has been critical and called instead for the issue to be taken to the UN. (Ashraf Shazly /AFP/Getty Images)

It looked like the Arab League was putting serious pressure on the Syrian regime, when it said it would send a team to investigate charges that more than 5,000 people have been killed by President Bashar Assad's regime.

But the announcement today that the head of the Arab League's human rights monitoring team is Sudan General Mohamed Ahmad Al-Dabi has prompted many to dismiss the investigation as a whitewash.

"It is perplexing that the Arab League chose the Khartoum regime's General Al-Dabi to lead its team monitoring the Syria regime because of his record of turning a blind eye to human rights crimes, or worse," said Sudan analyst Omer Ismail, of the Enough Project.

"When [Dabi] served as Sudan's head of Military Intelligence and when he oversaw implementation of the Darfur Security Arrangement, alleged war crimes including genocide were committed on his watch," said Ismail. "Instead of heading a team entrusted with a probe of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity by Syria, the general should be investigated by the ICC for evidence of similar crimes in Sudan."



The top 10 dangerous places for reporters

Tahrir Square had the dubious distinction of making it to the new Reporters Without Borders list
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Journalists (L) cover events as Egyptian protesters clashes with riot police along a road which leads to the Interior Ministry, near Tahrir Square, in Cairo on November 23, 2011. (MOHAMMED HOSSAM/AFP/Getty Images)

Several of the Middle Eastern countries that experienced political unrest and continued protests over the past year are among the world’s most dangerous places for journalists, according to a new list released by Reporters Without Borders.

A total of 66 journalists were killed and more than 1,000 injured while working this year, according to the media rights watchdog.

Here’s RSF’s full list of dangerous places in 2011, in alphabetical order:


UAE revokes citizenship from 6 nationals

Some of the Emirati men said the move was based on their political beliefs
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Sheikh Moammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the Untied Arab Emirates, attends the Arab Games' 120 kms endurance competition near Doha, Qatar on December 17, 2011 in which his son Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan took part. (MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)

The United Arab Emirates has stripped the citizenship from six of its citizens, the Associated Press reports.

The six men - all affiliated with Islah, an Islamist group - had their Emirati citizenships revoked because they “posed a threat to national security,” according to Reuters.

"The passport office called us and said there was a decree saying that our citizenship should be revoked. They said they want all of our documentation, so we gave it to them," one of the men, Muhammed Abdel Razzaq al-Siddiq, told Reuters.

Al-Siddiq told AP that he thought the men were “targeted because we demanded political reforms.”


'Arab Spring' was 2nd biggest news story of 2011, says Pew

Unrest in the Middle East this year was also one of the most covered international news stories since 2007.
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A Libyan rebel, member of the Warfala tribe parades on a horse in Benghazi on March 11, 2011 as thousands poured onto the streets of Benghazi on Friday, demanding Moamer Kadhafi quit and praying for victory in a bloody uprising inspired by revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia. (PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Unrest in the Middle East was the second biggest news story of the year in the American media, according to research statistics compiled by the Pew Research Center.

The “Arab Spring” protests and the resulting unrest that began sweeping across North Africa and the Middle East this January comprised 12 percent of the space in newspapers and broadcast news in the U.S., according to Pew.


Who's to blame for Egypt's recent violence?

One western analyst says it's not just the ruling military council.
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An Egyptian protester wears a bucket on his head for protection as fellow demonstrators take cover during clashes with riot police in central Cairo on December 18, 2011 in the third straight day of violence that has left 10 people dead and damaged a world-famous historic library. (KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Steven A. Cook puts some of the blame for recent clashes in Cairo on Egypt’s protesters. He also writes that Tahrir Square "smells like piss":


Are Egypt's elections free and fair?

One of Egypt's most prominent bloggers - and a former parliamentary candidate - says no
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An Egyptian woman shows her ink-stained finger after she voted at a polling station in Giza district near Cairo on December 21, 2011 in the run-off of the second round of legislative election marred by deadly clashes between protesters and security forces. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)

Voting in the second phase runoffs of Egypt’s parliamentary elections kicked off on Wednesday, amid new allegations of electoral violations and fraud.

Egyptians are more than halfway through a six-week process of electing a new lower house of parliament - the first elections since the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak in February.