Category Archives: Middle East


Civil War on the Basketball Court

By Nir Boms | July 14, 2003

A few days ago, in the Fuad Shehab basketball stadium of suburban Beirut, the national basketball championship game was played between the two leading Lebanese teams: La Sagesse and Al Riyadi.  Unlike many other sports, basketball is of the few that has survived throughout the cruel and intense war history that tore this country Lebanon apart. At this event, the number of security personnel and their nervousness were mere indicators of the tension that was vibrating off the court and into the stands. Only a month before, the final game was cut short as violence broke out in the stadium. This time, security forces were preparing for the worst. In Lebanon, one must not take things at face value, a seemingly mundane event like a basketball game can actually highlight the fact that Lebanon is a barrel of explosives that can explode at any time. 

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Intolerance in Egypt

By Nir Boms
Published July 5, 2006

Last week, Egypt’s minister of culture, Farouk Hosni, announced the latest measure in the war against intolerance in Egypt: a total ban on “The Da Vinci Code” — both the best-selling book and the hit film currently showing in theaters worldwide. 

In a speech to the Egyptian parliament that drew applause from both Islamic Brotherhood and Coptic Christian representatives, Mr. Hosni passionately defended his decision to “ban any book that insults any religion” — and ordered police to confiscate all copies of “The Da Vinci Code,” which has been on Egypt’s top-selling lists since 2003. 

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Egypt’s New ‘Democracy’


By Nir Boms/ Michael Meunier
Published November 21, 2005

Barely a month following President Hosni Mubarak’s predictable re-election, Egypt finds itself in full campaign mode again. The results of the first round of the parliamentary elections were just published, confirming a considerable gain in power for candidates affiliated with the banned Muslim Brotherhood. 

Still, it is the second round of elections this year in the most significant Arab country in the world — so, something good is probably happening, right? The September elections in Egypt, the first-ever “open” elections, have come and gone in the Middle East news cycle, clearing the way for another round of assassinations in Lebanon; escalations in Gaza; suicide attacks in Iraq and Jordan. The headlines have told us about the “launch” of a “new path of progress for Egypt.” But words and promises are cheap in the Middle East. Reality has its own peace of mind. 

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Egypt’s Presidential Elections



By Nir Boms and Aaron Mannes

With international attention focused on the Palestinian and Iraqi elections, the October presidential referendum in Egypt will be little more than a re-inauguration for President Hosni Mubarak, who seeks to regain the presidency for the fifth time and to pave the way for his son Gamal to succeed him. Yet, this time Mr. Mubarak could face a real challenger. “If given the chance, I personally want to run to break the barrier of fear and intimidation,” Professor Saad al-Din Ibrahim, perhaps the Arab world’s leading voice for democracy and human rights, stated. “Not that I have real hopes of success, but I want to show my fellow Egyptians that nothing should be a political taboo.” An open political contest in the largest Arab nation would be an enormous advance for democracy in the Middle East. But Mr. Ibrahim will probably not get this chance, because under the Egyptian constitution the parliament nominates the sole candidate and the citizens can only approve by voting either “yes” or “no”.

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