Friday, December 5, 2014

A00051 - Haider al-Abadi, Prime Minister of Iraq

Abadi, Haider al-
Haider Jawad Kadhim al-Abadi (or Haider Jawad Kadhim al-'Ibadi; Arabic: حيدر جواد كاظم العبادي‎, b. April 25, 1952) is an Iraqi politician and the Prime Minister of Iraq.  He was Minister of Communication from 2003 to 2004, in the first government after Saddam Hussein.

A Shia Muslim,  al-Abadi was designated as Prime Minister by President Fuad Masum on August 11, 2014 to succeed Nouri al-Maliki and was approved by the Iraqi parliament on September 8, 2014.

Al-Abadi graduated high school in 1970 from Al-Idadiyah Al-Markaziyah in Baghdad. In 1975, he earned a bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Technology in Baghdad. In 1980, he earned a PhD degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Manchester.
Al-Abadi joined the Dawa Party in 1967. His three brothers were arrested in 1980, 1981, and 1982 for belonging to the Dawa Party.  In 1977 he became the chief of the party while studying in London.   In 1979 al-Abadi became a member of the party's executive leadership. In 1983 the government confiscated al-Abadi's passport for conspiring against the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party -- Iraq Region. 

Al-Abadi remained in the United Kingdom, in voluntary exile, until the 2003 invasion of Iraq. His positions during this time included:
  • Director general of a small design and development firm in London specializing in high-technology vertical and horizontal transportation (1993–2003)
  • Consultant, in London, in matters relating to transportation (1987–2003)
  • Research leader for a major modernization contract in London (1981–1986)
Al-Abadi was awarded a grant from the Department of Trade and Industry in 1998. While working in London in 2001, al-Abadi registered a patent relating to rapid transit systems.

In 2003, al-Abadi became skeptical of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) privatization plan, proposing to Paul Bremer that they had to wait for a legitimate government to be formed. In October 2003, al-Abadi with all 25 of the interim Governing Council ministers protested to Paul Bremer and rejected the CPA's demand to privatize the state-owned companies and infrastructure prior to forming a legitimate government. The CPA, led by Bremer, fell out with al-Abadi and the Governing Council. The CPA worked around the Governing Council, forming a new government that remained beholden to the CPA to serve until the general elections, prompting more aggressive armed actions by insurgents against US-led coalition personnel.

While al-Abadi was Minister of Communications, the CPA awarded licenses to three mobile operators to cover all parts of Iraq. Despite being rendered nearly powerless by the CPA, al-Abadi was not prepared to be a rubber stamp and introduced more conditions for the licenses. Among them that a sovereign Iraqi government has the power to amend or terminate the licenses and introduce a fourth national license, which caused some friction with the CPA. In 2003, press reports indicated Iraqi officials were under investigation over a questionable deal involving Orascom, an Egypt-based telecoms company, which in late 2003 was awarded a contract to provide a mobile network to central Iraq. Al-Abadi asserted that there was no illicit dealing in the completed awards.  In 2004, it was revealed that these allegations were fabrications, and a United States Defense Department review found that telecommunications contracting had been illegally influenced in an unsuccessful effort led by United States Deputy Undersecretary of Defense John A. Shaw and not by Iraqis.

Between January and December 2005, al-Abadi served as an adviser to the Prime Minister of Iraa in the first elected government.

Al-Abadi was elected a member of the Iraqi Parliament in the Iraqi parliamentary election, December 2005 and chaired the parliamentary committee for Economy, Investment and Reconstruction. Al-Abadi was re-elected in the Iraqi parliamentary election, 2010 as a member of the Iraqi Parliament representing Baghdad.  In 2013, al-Abadi chaired the Finance Committee and was at the center of a parliamentary dispute over the allocation of the 2013 Iraqi budget.

Al-Abadi's name was circulated as a prime ministerial candidate during the formation of the Iraqi government in 2006 during which time Ibrahim al-Jaafari was replaced by Nouri al-Maliki as Prime Minister.

In 2008, al-Abadi remained steadfast in his support of Iraqi sovereignty, insisting on specific conditions to the agreement with the US regarding its presence in Iraq.

In 2009, al-Abadi was identified by the Middle East Economic Digest as a key person to watch in Iraq's reconstruction.

Al-Abadi is an active member of the Iraq Petroleum Advisory Committee, participating in the Iraq Petroleum Conferences of 2009–2012 organized by Nawar Abdulhadi and Phillip Clarke of The CWC Group .

Al-Abadi was one of several Iraqi politicians supporting a suit against Blackwater as a result of the 2010 dismissal of criminal charges against Blackwater personnel involved in the 2007 killing of 17 Iraqi civilians.

Al-Abadi was again tipped as a possible Prime Minister during the tough negotiations between Iraqi political blocs after the elections of 2010 to choose a replacement to incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.  Again in 2014, al-Abadi was nominated by Shia political parties as an alternative candidate for Prime Minister.

On July 24, 2014, Fuad Masum became the new president of Iraq. He, in turn, nominated al-Abadi for prime minister on August 11. For the appointment to take effect, al-Abadi was required to form a government to be confirmed by Parliament within 30 days.  Al-Maliki, however, refused to give up his post and referred the matter to the federal court claiming the president's nomination was a constitutional violation. On August 14, 2014, in the face of growing calls from world leaders and members of his own party, the embattled Prime Minister announced he was stepping down to make way for al-Abadi.

The Iraqi Parliament approved al-Abadi's new government and his presidential program on September 8, 2014.

A00050 - Mutaz Barshim, Record Setting High Jumper

Mutaz Essa Barshim (Arabic: معتز عيسى برشم‎; b. 24 June 1991) is a Qatari track and field athlete who specializes in the high jump.  He is the national record and Asian record holder with a best mark of 2.43 m (7 ft 1112 in). He was the Asian Indoor and World Junior champion in 2010. He won the high jump gold medals at the 2011 Asian Athletics Championships and 2011 Military World Games, and he won the bronze medal at the 2012 Olympic Games held in London, with a height of 2.29 m (7' 6"). He jumps off his left foot, using the Fosbury Flop technique, with a pronounced backwards arch over the bar.

A00049 - Sabah, Prolific Star of Arab World Entertainment

Sabah (Arabic: صباح‎; born Jeanette Gergis Al-Feghali) (b. November 10,1927 – d. November 26, 2014) was a Lebanese singer and actress. Considered a "Diva of Music" in the Arab World, (the same title often given to Oum Kalthoum, Warda Al-Jazairia and Fairuz), she released over 50 albums and acted in 98 movies as well as over 20 stage plays. She had a reported 3,500 songs in her repertoire. She was one of the first Arabic singers to perform at Olympia in Paris, Carnegie Hall in New York, Piccadilly Theatre in London and the Sydney Opera House in Sydney. She was considered one of the four Lebanese icons along with Fairus, Wadih El Safi and Zaki Nassif and was nicknamed "Empress of the Lebanese Song" (Arabic: إمبراطورة الأغنية اللبنانية‎) for it.  Sabah, known locally as “Al-Sabbouha” was born in Bdadoun, Lebanon. Her father was severe towards her, even beating her sometimes. When she started making a small amount of money out of her movies, he used to take it away from her. She married early to leave her father’s overbearing financial control. Her brother killed her mother because he believed she was seeing someone outside marriage.  She began singing and acting in the 1940s in Egyptian movies when Egyptian filmmaker Henry Barakat recognized her talent. Her first featured film was El-Qalb Louh Wahid (El Alb Laho Wahed) produced by Asia Dagher. Although a Lebanese national, the majority of her films were co-produced with or focused on Egypt. She starred with many famous actors, such as Abdel Halim Hafez, Kamal El Chenawi, Ahmad Mazhar, Rushdy Abaza and Hussein Fahmy.
She released her first song in 1940 at just 13 years of age. The singer soon caught the eye of Egyptian film producer Asia Dagher, who immediately signed her for three films. The first of these, El-Qalb Louh Wahid (The Heart Has Its Reasons), made her a star - and she was known by her character's name - Sabah, which is Arabic for morning - thereafter.  She also acquired several other affectionate nicknames, including "Shahroura", Arabic for "singing bird", and "Sabbouha," a diminutive of Sabah. Among her most popular films were Soft Hands (1964), Ataba Square (1959) and The Second Man (1960), in which she played a cabaret singer who vows to avenge her brother's death at the hands of a smuggling ring. In her parallel music career, she recorded more than 3,000 songs, working with a string of legendary Egyptian composers, including the late Mohammed Abdul-Wahhab. She specialized in a Lebanese folk tradition called the mawal, and her most famous songs included Zay el-Assal (Your Love is Like Honey on my Heart) and Akhadou el-Reeh (They Took the Wind). The star held Egyptian, Jordanian and United States citizenship as well as Lebanese, and continued to perform and make television appearances into her 80s.
Sabah released over 50 albums and acted in 98 films during her career. She married nine times, most most notably to Egyptian actor Roshdi Abaza  (Rushdy Abaza) and Lebanese author-director Wassim Tabbara. Her last marriage, to Lebanese artist Fadi Lubnan, lasted 17 years. She had two children, Dr. Sabah Shammas and actress Howayda Mansy, both of whom live in the United States.
  • Iyam El Loulou written by Karim Abou Chakra (As well as Nousi Nousi a play written and directed by Karim Abou Chakra)
  • Kanat Ayyam (1970)
  • Nar el shawk (1970)
  • Mawal (1966)
  • El Aydi el naema (1963) aka Soft Hands
  • El Motamarreda (1963)
  • Jaoz marti (1961)
  • El Rajul el thani (1960)
  • El Ataba el khadra (1959)
  • Sharia el hub (1958)
  • Salem al habaieb (1958)
  • Izhay ansak (1956)
  • Wahabtak hayati (1956)
  • Khatafa mirati (1954)
  • Lahn hubi (1953)
  • Zalamuni el habaieb (1953)
  • Khadaini abi (1951)
  • Ana Satuta (1950)
  • Sabah el khare (1948)
  • Albi wa saifi(1947)
  • lubnani fi al gamiaa (1947)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A00048 - Ali Mazrui, Controversial Scholar of Africa

Ali Al Amin Mazrui,  (b. February 24, 1933, Mombasa, Kenya - d. October 12/13, 2014, Binghamton, New York, United States), Kenyan American political scientist. After receiving a doctorate from the University of Oxford, he taught at Uganda’s Makerere University (1963–73) and later at the University of Michigan (1974–91). At SUNY–Binghamton (now Binghamton University) he founded and directed the Institute of Global Cultural Studies. He also taught at many other universities worldwide, was a consultant to numerous international organizations, and wrote more than 30 books on African politics and society as well as post-colonial patterns of development and underdevelopment, including The African Predicament and the American Experience: A Tale of Two Edens (2004). For television he wrote the nine-hour BBC-PBS co-production The Africans (1986) and was featured in the documentary film Motherland (2009). Mazrui received numerous honors and awards, including the Association of Muslim Social Scientists UK (AMSS UK) Academic Achievement Award (2000).

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A00047 - Ashraf Ghani, President of Pakistan

Ghani, Ashraf
Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai (Pashto: اشرف غني احمدزی‎, Persian: اشرف غنی احمدزی‎) (b. February 12, 1949) became the President of Afghanistan on September 21, 2014.  He was an economist and anthropologist. Usually referred to as Ashraf Ghani, he previously served as Finance Minister and as the chancellor of Kabul University. 

Before returning to Afghanistan in 2002, Ghani, worked with the World Bank.  As the Finance Minister of Afghanistan between July 2002 and December 2004, he led Afghanistan's attempted economic recovery after the collapse of the Taliban government.  

He is the co-founder of the Institute for State Effectiveness, an organization set up in 2005 to improve the ability of states to serve their citizens. In 2005 he gave a TED talk, in which he discussed how to rebuild a broken state such as Afghanistan. Ghani is a member of the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor,  an independent initiative hosted by the United Nations Development Programme. In 2013, he was ranked second in an online poll to name the world's top 100 intellectuals conducted by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines, ranking just behind Richard Dawkins. He previously was named in the same poll in 2010.

Ghani came in fourth in the 2009 presidential election, behind Hamid Karsai, Abdullah Abdullah, and Ramazan Bashardost.  In the first round of the 2014 presidential election,  Ghani won 31.5% of the vote, second to Abdullah who secured 45% of the votes cast. Both candidates went on to contest a run-off election, which was held on June 14, 2014.

Ghani is the brother of Hashmat Ghani Ahmadzai, Grand Council Chieftain of the Kuchis.

Ghani was born in 1949 in the Logar Province of Afghanistan. He is an ethnic Pashtun of the Ahmadzai tribe.  He completed his primary and secondary education in Habibia High School in Kabul. He attended the American University in Beirut, where he earned his bachelors degree in 1973. Ghani met his future wife, Rula Ghani while studying at the American University of Beirut. He returned to Afghanistan in 1977 to teach anthropology at Kabul University before receiving a government scholarship in 1977 to pursue his Master's degree in anthropology at Columbia University in the United States.

Ghani initially wanted to study Law at Columbia University but then changed his major to Cultural Anthropology.  He applied to teach at the University of California, Berkeley in 1983, and then at Johns Hopkins University from 1983 to 1991. During this period he became a frequent commentator on the BBC Farsi/Persian and Pashto services, broadcast in Afghanistan. He has also attended the Harvard-INSEAD and World Bank-Stanford Graduate School of Business' leadership training program.  He served on the faculty of Kabul University (1973–77), Aarhus University in Denmark (1977), University of California, Berkeley (1983), and Johns Hopkins University (1983–1991). His academic research was on state-building and social transformation. In 1985 he completed a year of fieldwork researching Pakistani madrasas as a Fulbright Scholar. 

Ashraf Ghani married Rula Saade, a citizen with dual Lebanese and American nationality. Rula Saade Ghani was born in a Lebanese Maronite Christian family. The couple married after they met during their studies at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon during the 1970s. There is no confirmation or otherwise for her conversion to Islam to marry Ashraf Ghani. Mrs. Ghani is reportedly fluent in English, French, Arabic, Persian and Pashto.

Ashraf and Rula Ghani have two children, a daughter, Miriam Ghani, and a son, Tariq. Both were born in the United States and carry United States citizenship and passports. In an unusual move for a politician in a traditional Islamic country, Mr. Ghani at his presidential inauguration in 2014 publicly thanked his wife, acknowledging her with an Afghan name, Bibi Gul. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A00046 - Abdallahi ibn Muhammad, Khalifa of Sudan

‘Abdallahi ibn Muhammad, also known as "The Khalifa" (b. 1846 -  d. November 24/25, 1899, Kordofan) was a Sudanese Ansar General and ruler.  Born in central Sudan (Darfur) in 1846, 'Abdallahi was the son of a Baqqara religious leader.  He was trained and educated as a preacher and holy man.  

'Abdallahi ibn Muhammad was a political and religious leader who succeeded Muhammad Ahmad (al-Mahdi) as head of a religious movement and state within the Sudan.

As a youth, 'Abdallahi followed his family’s vocation for religion. Around 1880, he became a disciple of Muhammad Ahmad, who announced that he had a divine mission, became known as al-Mahdi, and appointed ʿAbdallahi a caliph (khalifah). When al-Mahdi died in 1885, ʿAbdallahi became leader of the Mahdist movement. His first concern was to establish his authority on a firm basis. Al-Mahdi had clearly designated him as successor, but the Ashraf, a portion of al-Mahdi’s supporters, tried to reverse this decision. By promptly securing control of the vital administrative positions in the movement and obtaining the support of the most religiously sincere group of al-Mahdi’s followers, ʿAbdallahi neutralized this opposition. ʿAbdallahi could not claim the same religious inspiration as had al-Mahdi, but, by announcing that he received divine instruction through al-Mahdi, he tried to assume as much of the aura as was possible.

ʿAbdallahi believed he could best control the disparate elements that supported him by maintaining the expansionist momentum begun by al-Mahdi. He launched attacks against the Ethiopians and began an invasion of Egypt. But ʿAbd Allāh had greatly overestimated the support his forces would receive from the Egyptian peasantry and underestimated the potency of the Anglo-Egyptian military forces, and in 1889 his troops suffered a crushing defeat in Egypt.

A feared Anglo-Egyptian advance up the Nile did not materialize. Instead ʿAbdallāhi suffered famine and military defeats in the eastern Sudan. The most serious challenge to his authority came from a revolt of the Ashraf in November 1891, but he kept this from reaching extensive proportions and reduced his opponents to political impotence.

During the next four years, ʿAbdallahi ruled securely and was able to consolidate his authority. The famine and the expense of large-scale military campaigns came to an end. ʿAbdallahi modified his administrative policies, making them more acceptable to the people. Taxation became less burdensome. ʿAbdallahi created a new military corps, the mulazimiyah, of whose loyalty he felt confident.

In 1896 Anglo-Egyptian forces began their reconquest of the Sudan. Although ʿAbdallahi resisted for almost two years, he could not prevail against British machine guns. In September 1898, he was forced to flee his capital, Omdurman, but he remained at large with a considerable army. Many Egyptians and Sudanese resented the Condominium Agreement of January 1899, by which the Sudan became almost a British protectorate, and ʿAbdallahi hoped to rally support. However, on November 24, 1899, a British force engaged the Mahdist remnants, and ʿAbdallahi died in the fighting. 

'Abdallahi was born into the Ta'asha Baqqara tribe in Darfur around 1846 and was trained and educated as a preacher and holy man. He became a follower of Mohammed Ahmed (Muhammad Ahmad) "the Mahdi" in the 1870s and was named Khalifa by the Mahdi in 1881, becoming one of his chief lieutenants. The other Khalifas were Ali wad Hilu and Muhammad Sharif.  'Abdallahi was given command of a large part of the Mahdist army, and during the next four years led them in a series of victories over the Anglo-Egyptians. He fought at the Battle of El Obeid, where William Hicks' Anglo-Egyptian army was destroyed (November 5, 1883), and was one of the principal commanders at the siege of Khartoum, (February 1884 - January 26, 1885).

After the unexpected death of the Mahdi, 'Abdallahi succeeded as leader of the Mahdists on the death of the Mahdi in June 1885, declaring himself "Khalifat al-Mahdi", or successor of the Mahdi.  'Abdallahi had to suppress several revolts in 1885-1886, 1888-1889, and 1891 before emerging as sole leader. At first, the Mahdiyah was run on military lines as a jihad state, with the courts enforcing Sharia law and the precepts of the Mahdi, which had equal force. Later, as the Khalifa, 'Abdallahi established a more traditional administration.

The Khalifa invaded Ethiopia with 60,000 Ansar troops and sacked Gondar in 1887. He later refused to make peace.  'Abdallahi successfully repulsed the Ethiopians at the Battle of Metemma on March 9, 1889, where the Ethiopian emperor Yohannes IV was killed.

'Abdallahi created workshops to maintain steam boats on the Nile and to manufacture ammunition. In the 1890s, his state became strained economically, and suffered from crop failures. The Sudan became threatened by Italian, French and British imperial forces which surrounded it. In 1896, an Anglo-Egyptian army under General Herbert Kitchener began the reconquest of the Sudan.

Following the loss of Dongola in September 1896, then Berber and Abu Hamed to Kitchener's army in 1897, the Khalifa sent an army that was defeated at the Battle of Atbara River on April 8, 1898, afterwards falling back to his new capital of Omdurman.

At the Battle of Omdurman on September 2, 1898, the Khalifa's army of 52,000 men was destroyed. The Khalifa then fled south and went into hiding with a few followers but was finally caught and killed by Reginald Wingate's Egyptian column at Umm Diwaikarat in Kordofan on November 25, 1899.

Devout, intelligent, and an able general and administrator, the Khalifa was unable to overcome tribal dissension to unify Sudan, and was forced to employ Egyptians to provide the trained administrators and technicians he needed to maintain his self-proclaimed Islamist military dictatorship.

Monday, September 22, 2014

A00045 - Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Caliph of Islamic State

Baghdadi, Abu Bakr al-
Ibrahim ibn Awwad ibn Ibrahim ibn Ali ibn Muhammad al-Badri al-Samarrai (Arabic: إبراهيم ابن عواد ابن إبراهيم ابن علي ابن محمد البدري السامرائي‎), more commonly known by his nom de guerre Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (أبو بكر البغدادي), is the Caliph of the self-proclaimed Islamic State -- previously the Islamic State and the Levant (ISIL) or the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)—located in western Iraq and north-eastern Syria.  He was formerly known as Abu Du'a (أبو دعاء).  He also uses the aliases Amir al-Mu'minin Caliph Ibrahim (أمير المؤمنين الخليفة إبراهيم) and, claiming descent from the Islamic prophet MuhammadAbu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Al-Husseini Al-Qurashi (أبو بكر البغدادي الحسيني الهاشمي القرشي).

On October 4, 2011, the United States State Department listed al-Baghdadi as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist and announced a reward of up to $10 million (USD - United States Dollars) for information leading to his capture or death.  Only the head of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, had a larger bounty ($25 million USD).

Al-Baghdadi is believed to have been born near Samarra, Iraq, in 1971. According to a biography that circulated on jihadist internet forums in July 2013, he obtained a BA, MA, and PhD in Islamic Studies from the Islamic University of Baghdad.

After the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003, al-Baghdadi helped to found the militant group Jamaat Jaysh Ahl al-Sunnah wa-l-Jamaah (JJASJ), in which he served as head of the sharia committee. Al-Baghdadi and his group joined the Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC) in 2006, in which he served as a member of the MSC's sharia committee. Following the renaming of the MSC as the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) in 2006, al-Baghdadi became the general supervisor of the ISI's sharia committee and a member of the group's senior consultative council.

According to the United States Department of Defense records, al-Baghdadi was held at Camp Bucca as a 'civilian internee' by United States Forces - Iraq  from February until December 2004, when he was recommended for release by a Combined Review and Release Board. A number of newspapers have instead stated that al-Baghdadi was interned from 2005 to 2009. These reports originate from an interview with the former commander of Camp Bucca, Colonel Kenneth King, and are not substantiated by Department of Defense records.

The Islamic State of Iraq, also known as al-Qaeda in Iraq, was the Iraqi division of al-Qaeda.  Al-Baghdadi was announced as leader of the ISI on May 16, 2010, following the death of his predecessor Abu Omar al-Baghdadi.  

As leader of the ISI, al-Baghdadi was responsible for masterminding large-scale operations such as the August 28, 2011 attack on the Umm al-Qura Mosque in Baghdad which killed prominent Sunni lawmaker Khalid al-Fahdawi. Between March and April 2011, the ISI claimed 23 attacks south of Baghdad, all allegedly carried out under al-Baghdadi's command.

Following the death of founder and head of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, on May 2, 2011, in Abbottabad, Pakistan,  al-Baghdadi released a statement praising bin Laden and threatening violent retaliation for his death. On May 5, 2011, al-Baghdadi claimed responsibility for an attack in Hilla, 62 miles south of Baghdad, that killed 24 policemen and wounded 72 others.

On August 15, 2011, a wave of ISI suicide attacks beginning in Mosul resulted in 70 deaths. Shortly thereafter, in retaliation for bin Laden's death, the ISI pledged on its website to carry out 100 attacks across Iraq featuring various methods of attack, including raids, suicide attacks, roadside bombs and small arms attacks, in all cities and rural areas across the country.

On December 22, 2011, a series of coordinated car bombings and IED (Improvised Explosive Device) attacks struck over a dozen neighborhoods across Baghdad, killing at least 63 people and wounding 180. The assault came just days after the US completed its troop withdrawal from the country.  On December 26, the ISI released a statement on jihadist internet forums claiming credit for the operation, stating that the targets of the Baghdad attack were "accurately surveyed and explored" and that the "operations were distributed between targeting security headquarters, military patrols and gatherings of the filthy ones of the al-Dajjal Army", referring to the Mahdi Army of Shia warlord Muqtada al-Sadr.  

On December 2, 2012, Iraqi officials claimed that they had captured al-Baghdadi in Baghdad following a two-month tracking operation. Officials claimed that they had also seized a list containing the names and locations of other al-Qaeda operatives.  However, this claim was rejected by the ISI.  In an interview with Al Jazeera, on December 7, 2012, Iraq's Acting Interior Minister said that the arrested man was not al-Baghdadi, but rather a section commander in charge of an area stretching from the northern outskirts of Baghdad to Taji.  

Al-Baghdadi remained leader of the ISI until its formal expansion into Syria in 2013, when in a statement on April 8, 2013, he announced the formation of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) -- alternatively translated from the Arabic as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 

When announcing the formation of ISIS, al-Baghdadi stated that the Syrian Civil War jihadist faction, Jabhat al-Nusra — also known as al-Nusra Front — had been an extension of the ISI in Syria and was now to be merged with ISIS. The leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, Abu Mohammad al-Jawlani, disputed this merging of the two groups and appealed to al-Qaeda emir Ayman al-Zawahiri, who issued a statement that ISIS should be abolished and that al-Baghdadi should confine his group's activities to Iraq.[31] Al-Baghdadi, however, dismissed al-Zawahiri's ruling and took control of a reported eighty percent (80%) of Jabhat al-Nusra's foreign fighters. In January 2014, ISIS expelled Jabhat al-Nusra from the Syrian city of Ar-Raqqah, and in the same month clashes between the two in Syria's Deir ez-Zor Governorate killed hundreds of fighters and displaced tens of thousands of civilians. In February 2014, al-Qaeda disavowed any relations with ISIS.

According to several Western sources, al-Baghdadi and ISIS have received private financing from citizens in Saudi Arabia and Qatar and enlisted fighters through recruitment drives in Saudi Arabia in particular.

On June 29, 2014, ISIS announced the establishment of a caliphate. Al-Baghdadi was named its caliph, to be known as Caliph Ibrahim, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was renamed the Islamic State (IS). 

The declaration of a caliphate was heavily criticized by Middle Eastern governments and other jihadist groups, and by Sunni Muslim theologians and historians.

IOn July 5, 2014, a video was released apparently showing al-Baghdadi making a speech at the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, northern Iraq. A representative of the Iraqi government denied that the video was of al-Baghdadi, calling it a "farce". However, both the BBC and the Associated Press quoted unnamed Iraqi officials as saying that the man in the video was believed to be al-Baghdadi. In the video, al-Baghdadi declared himself the world leader of Muslims and called on Muslims everywhere to support him.

On July 8, 2014, ISIS launched its magazine Dabiq.  Its title appears to have been selected for its eschatological connections with the Islamic version of the End times or Malahim. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

A00044 - Ibn al-Quff, Author of Basics in the Art of Surgery

Ibn al-Quff
Ibn al-Quff (1233-1286{1305?}).  Christian physician and surgeon.  He was the first known military physician surgeon and composed a manual on surgery.  The Arab physician Ibn al-Quff, a student of Ibn al-Nafis, described embryology and perinatology more accurately in his Al-Jami.

Amīn-ad-Daula Abu-'l-Faraǧ ibn Yaʻqūb ibn Isḥāq Ibn al-Quff al-Karaki (Arabicأمين الدولة أبو الفرج بن يعقوب بن إسحاق بن القف الكركي‎)  was an Arab physician and surgeon and author of the earliest medieval Arabic treatise intended solely for surgeons.

Ibn al-Quff was born in the city of Al Karak (in modern-day Jordan). His father was Muwaffaq al-Dīn Yaʿqūb, a Christian Arab. His father had a good job opportunity and moved his family to Sarkhad in Syria, where Ibn al-Quff was tutored by Ibn Abi Uṣaybiʿah who introduced him to the medical studies. He studied with Ibn Abi Uṣaybiʿah and learned a lot of medical information, read many biographies on earlier doctors, and spent a large amount of time meditating on the material he studied and learned. Ibn al-Quff ended up moving to Damascus where he improved his knowledge and studied metaphysics, philosophy, medicine, natural sciences, and mathematics. It is not completely clear as to who was teaching him all of this material but regardless he learned a large amount of information which would be very beneficial for his career. After he had studied for a while and proved he was a good knowledgeable physician and surgeon, he was given the job of physician-surgeon in the army which was stationed in Jordan. It was while serving in the army that he became well known as a physician and a surgeon. His reputation became widespread in the Muslim empire for being a Christian Arab, for caring for his patients and for conducting his work with honesty. After his time of popularity died down he was sent to Damascus and remained there teaching until his death at the age of fifty-two.

During his time in Jordan being a physician-surgeon, Ibn al-Quff wrote many books and taught. He was more well known as a writer and educator on medical topics than for being a doctor. He wrote at least ten commentaries and books during his lifetime. Seven of these works are known to exist today whether fragments or the entire work. One of his most famous works was a commentary on Ishārāt of Ibn Sina, but there is no evidence of this today. Some of the most well known surviving works of Ibn al-Quff are listed below with a brief description.
  • Kitāb al-ʻUmda fi 'l-ǧirāḥa (كتاب العمدة في الجراحة) or Basics in the Art of Surgery: a general medical manual covering anatomy and drugs therapy as well as surgical care, concentrating on wounds and tumors, however, he excluded ophthalmology as he considered it to be a specialty with its own technical literature. The work was published in Hyderabad, India, in 1937. This was by far the largest Arabic text on surgery during the entire medieval period. In this book, Ibn al-Quff explained the connections between arteries and veins which was the earliest description of what would be known as capillaries. He did this work before the invention of a microscope and also explained how valves worked and the direction they opened and closed.
  • Al-Shafi al-Tibb (The Comprehensive of the Healing Arts): His first medical encyclopedia, completed early 1272 AD.
  • Jāmiʻ al-gharaḍ fī ḥifẓ al-ṣiḥḥah wa-dafʻ al-maraḍ (جامع الغرض في حفظ الصحة ودفع المرض): on preventive medicine and the preservation of health in 60 chapters, completed around 1275. 
  • Al-usul fi sarh al-fusul: A two-volume commentary on the works of Hippocrates.
  • Risala fi manafi al-a da: A treatise on the anatomy of the body's organs.
  • Zubad at-Tabib: A book with advice for practicing physicians.
  • Sarh al-Kulliyat: A commentary on Avicenna's work Qanun fi t-Tibb.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A00043 - Ahmed Seif, Egyptian Human Rights Lawyer

Seif, Ahmed
Ahmed Seif , also written as Ahmad Saif (el-Islam Hamad Abd el-Fattah) (January 9, 1951 - August 27, 2014), was an Egyptian journalist and human rights lawyer.

In the 1980s, Seif served a five-year prison sentence for activism. Afterwards, he was still several times imprisoned for political reasons, including during the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. In 1999, he was one of the founders of the Hisham Mubarak Center for Law. In 2011, he was also leader of the political movement Kefaya. 

Seif was the father of two prominent activists during the Egyptian Revolution, Mona Seif and Alaa Abd El Fattah.  Seif married to Laila Soueif, a professor of mathematics at the University of Cairo. 

Because of Seif's involvement in the socialist movement, he was arrested in 1983 and tortured by agents of the Egyptian security forces. For five years, he was in prison. After his release, Seif focused on the fight against torture in Egypt.  In 1989, shortly after his release, he took on one of the most important human rights issues in the country itself.  Because of his struggle against torture and injustice he grew over the years into a central figure in several successful Egyptian human rights cases. 

In 1999, he was one of the founders of the Centre Hisham Mubarak for Law in Cairo, a center named for Hisham Mubarak, a lawyer who had focused on human rights and the granting of legal assistance to victims of violations of human rights laws. 

Seif was one of the attorneys in the case against fifteen defendants after the bombing in Taba and other places in the Sinai in October 2004.  Seif argued strongly against the wave of bombings while. on the other hand, arguing that the defendants in no way tortured of engaged in violations of human rights. Nevertheless, all fifteen defendants were convicted on the basis of confessions obtained during their torture.  

Other high-profile cases with other lawyers were the Queen Boat case in 2001, in which 52 men were tried on the basis of their sexual orientation, and the defense of 49 textile workers because they had participated in protests on April 6, 2008 in Mahalla.

In 2006, Seif took on the defense of Karim Amer, the first blogger who was indicted for a crime because of his criticism, on the Internet, of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Islam.  Amer was sentenced to four years imprisonment. 
Seif died on August 27, 2014 at the age of 63 during open-heart surgery.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A00042 - Hashim Khan, Patriarch of a Squash Dynasty

Hashim Khan (Urdu: ہاشم خان‎; c. 1910 to 1914 – August 18, 2014) was a squash player from Pakistan. He won the British Open Squash Championships (the then de facto world championship) a total of seven times, from 1951 to 1956, and then again in 1958.

Hashim Khan was born in Nawakille, a small village near Peshawar in modern-day Pakistan, to an ethnically Pashtun family, between 1910 and 1914. The exact birthdate is unknown. According to his family members, he turned 100 on July 1, 2014 (the family celebrated his birthday on July 1). Khan's father, Abdullah Khan was chief steward at a British officer's club in Peshawar. He brought Hashim when he was 8 to the squash courts which were used by military men to relax, when not performing duties. Khan's father died in a car accident when he was 11, and he left school to become a ball boy and cleaner of the courts. 

Khan's father, Abdullah Khan, was the Head Steward at a club in Peshawar where British army officers stationed in the area played squash. As a youngster, Khan served as an unpaid ball boy at the club, retrieving balls that were hit out of court by the officers. When the officers had finished playing, Khan and the other ball boys would take over the courts. In 1942, Khan became a squash coach at a British Air Force officers' mess. In 1944, he won the first All-of-India squash championship in Bombay, and successfully defended this title for the next two years.  When Pakistan became an independent state, he was appointed a squash professional for the Pakistan Air Force, and won the first Pakistani squash championship in 1949.

In 1950, Abdul Bari, a distant relative of Khan's who had chosen to remain in Bombay after the Partition of India in 1947, and who Hashim had beaten in several tournaments in India before partition, was sponsored by the Indian Government to play at the British Open where he finished runner-up to the Egyptian player Mahmoud Karim.  This spurred Khan to seek backing to compete in the British Open the following year. In 1951, when Khan was in his 30s, the government of Pakistan — particularly the Pakistan Air Force — sponsored him for the British Squash Championship. It marked the first time Mr. Khan wore shoes on the court.  Khan travelled to the United Kingdom to play in the British Open, and won the title beating Karim in the final 9–5, 9–0, 9–0. He again beat Karim in the final in 1952 9–5, 9–7, 9–0. He won again for the next four consecutive years, beating R.B.R. Wilson of England in the 1953 final; his younger brother Azam Khan in two tight five-set finals in 1954 and 1955; and Roshan Khan in the final of 1956. Hashim Khan was runner-up to Roshan Khan in 1957, and won his seventh and final British Open title in 1958, when he beat Azam in the final. Khan also won five British Professional Championship titles, three United States Open titles, and three Canadian Open titles.
Khan settled in Denver, Colorado, and continued to appear in veterans' matches at the British Open. The Denver Athletic Club continues to hold a Hashim Khan squash tournament in his honor every year.

Khan had a total of 12 children. His eldest son Sharif Khan became a player on the North American hardball squash circuit in the 1970s, winning a record 12 North American Open titles. Six other sons – Aziz, Gulmast, Liaqat Ali ("Charlie"), Salim ("Sam"), Shaukat, and Mo – also became hardball squash players.

Khan settled in the USA in the 1960s, after being invited to teach squash at the Uptown Athletic Club in Detroit.  On 18 August 18, 2014, he died in his home in Aurora, Colorado due to congestive heart failure. He was widely believed to be 100 years old.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A00041 - Simin Behbahani, The Lioness of Iran

Behbahani, Simin
Simin Behbahāni (Persian: سیمین بهبهانی‎‎) (June 20, 1927 – August 19, 2014) was a prominent Iranian poet, activist and translator. She was Iran's national poet and an icon of the modern Persian poetry, Iranian intelligentsia and literati who affectionately refer to her as the lioness of Iran.  She was nominated twice for the Nobel Prize in literature, and received many literary accolades from around the world.

Simin Behbahani, whose real name was Simin Khalili (Persian: سیمین خلیلی‎) (سيمين خليلی), was the daughter of Abbās Khalili (عباس خلیلی), poet, writer and editor of the Eghdām (Action) newspaper, and Fakhr-e Ozmā Arghun (فخرعظمی ارغون), poet and teacher of the French language. Abbās Khalili (1893–1971) wrote poetry in both Persian and Arabic and translated some 1100 verses of Ferdowsi's Shahnameh into Arabic. Fakhr-e Ozmā Arghun (1898–1966) was one of the progressive women of her time and a member of Kānun-e Nesvān-e Vatan'khāh (Association of Patriotic Women) between 1925 and 1929. In addition to her membership in Hezb-e Democrāt (Democratic Party) and Kānun-e Zanān (Women's Association), she was, for a time (1932), editor of the Āyandeh-ye Iran (Future of Iran) newspaper. She taught French at the secondary schools Nāmus, Dār ol-Mo'allemāt and No'bāvegān in Tehran.

Simin Behbahani started writing poetry at twelve and published her first poem at the age of fourteen. She used the "Char Pareh" style of Nima Yooshij and subsequently turned to ghazal.  Behbahani contributed to a historic development by adding theatrical subjects and daily events and conversations to poetry using the ghazal style of poetry. She expanded the range of the traditional Persian verse forms and produced some of the most significant works of the Persian literature in the 20th century.

Behbahani was President of The Iranian Writers' Association and was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1999 and 2002.

In early March 2010, Behbahani prohibited from leaving the country due to official prohibitions. As she was about to board a plane to Paris, police detained her and interrogated her "all night long". She was released but without her passport. 

Behbahani was hospitalized in Tehran on August 6, 2014. She remained in a coma from August 6 until her death August 19, 2014. She died in Tehran's Pars Hospital. Her funeral was held on August 22 in Vahdat Hall and her body was buried at Behesht-e Zahra. 

The literary works of Simin Behbahani includes the following:
  • The Broken Lute [Seh-tar-e Shekasteh, 1951]
  • Footprint [Ja-ye Pa, 1954]
  • Chandelier [Chelcheragh, 1955]
  • Marble [Marmar 1961]
  • Resurrection [Rastakhiz, 1971]
  • A Line of Speed and Fire [Khatti ze Sor'at va Atash, 1980]
  • Arzhan Plain [Dasht-e Arzhan, 1983]
  • Paper Dress [Kaghazin Jameh, 1992]
  • A Window of Freedom [Yek Daricheh Azadi, 1995]
  • Collected Poems [Tehran 2003]
  • Maybe It's the Messiah [Shayad ke Masihast, Tehran 2003] Selected Poems, translated by Ismail Salami
  • A Cup of Sin, Selected poems, translated by Farzaneh Milani and Kaveh Safa

Friday, August 15, 2014

A00040 - Ibn al-Nadim, Author of Kitab al-Fihrist (The Index)

Ibn al-Nadim
Ibn al-Nadim (Abu'l-Faraj Muhammad bin Is'hāq al-Nadim) (c. 936 - September 17, 995).  Shi‘a of Baghdad and the author of an Index of Arabic books.   The work, which exists in a shorter recension (a shorter critical revision), is intended to be an index of all books written in Arabic either by Arabs or non-Arabs.

Abu'l-Faraj Muhammad bin Is'hāq al-Nadim, whose father was known as al-Warrāq, was a Shi'ite Muslim scholar and bibliographer. Some scholars regard him as a Persian but this is not certain. He is famous as the author of the Kitāb al-Fihrist (The Index). His choice of the rather rare Persian word pehrest (fehrestfehres/fahrasat) for the title of a handbook on Islamic literature is noteworthy in this regard.

Very little is actually known about his life. He was a bookseller, a calligrapher who copied manuscripts for sale, as his father was before him. He lived in Baghdad and sometimes he mentions a sojourn in Mosul. Of his teachers, he mentions al-Sirafi (died 978-9), 'Ali bin Harun bin al-Munazhzhim (died 963) and the philosopher Abu Sulayman al-Mantiqi. He belonged to the circle of a son of 'Ali bin 'Isa, the "Good Vizier" of the Banu al-Jarrah, whom he praises for his profound knowledge of logic and the sciences of the Greeks, Persians and Indians. Ibn al-Nadim also met in his house the Christian philosopher Ibn al-Khammar. With these men, none of whom was an orthodox Sunni, he shared an admiration for philosophy and especially for Aristotle, and the Greek and Hindu sciences of antiquity (before Islam). He admired their breadth of outlook and their air of toleration.

It did not escape his biographers that he was a Shi'ite (Ibn Hajar, l.c.); he uses khassi instead of Shi'ite, 'ammi instead of Sunnite, al-hashwiyya for the Sunnis, Ahl al-Hadith ("People of the Hadith") instead of Ahl al-Sunna ("People of the Tradition"). He inserts the eulogy for prophets (consisting of the words alaihi al-salam, "peace be with him") after the names of the Shi'i Imams and the Ahl al-Bayt (the descendants of Muhammad). He calls the Imam al-Rida mawlana. He asserts that al-Waqidi was a Shi'ite but concealed this fact by taqiyya. He claims most of the (orthodox) 'traditionists' for the Zaydiyya. He speaks of the Mu'tazila as Ahl al-'Adl ("People of the justice"), calls the Ash'arites al-mujbira. That he belonged to the Twelver Shi'a is shown by his distaste for the doctrines of the Sab'iyya and by his criticisms in dealing with their history. He remarks that a certain Shafi'i scholar was secretly a Twelver Shi'ite. He mentions Shi'as among his acquaintances, e.g., Ibn al-Mu'allim, the da'i Ibn Hamdan and the author Khushkunanadh. To the same circle belonged the Jacobite Yahya ibn 'Adi (d. 973) who instructed 'Isa bin 'Ali in philosophy and who was, like Ibn al-Nadim, a copyist and bookseller.

His great book, the Fehrest or Fihrist, gives ample testimony to the knowledge of pre-Islamic Persia and its literature in classical Islamic civilization, but unfortunately only a minute sample of the numerous Persian books listed by Ebn al-Nadīm is extant. According to the Fehrest's brief preface, it is meant to be an index of all books written in Arabic, whether by Persians, Arabs or others. There existed already books (tabaqat) dealing with the biographies of poets. The Fehrest was published in 938.  It exists in two manuscript traditions, or "editions": the more complete edition contains ten "discourses" (maqalat). The first six of them are detailed bibliographies of books on Islamic subjects:

1. the Holy Scriptures of Muslims, Jews, and Christians, with emphasis on the Qur'an and hadith;

2. works on grammar and philology;

3. history, biography, genealogy and the like;

4. poetry;

5. dialectical theology (kalam);

6. law (fiqh) and hadith.

The last four discourses deal with secular subjects:

7. philosophy and the 'secular sciences';

8. legends, fables, magic, conjuring, etc.;

9. the doctrines (maqalat) of the non-monotheistic creeds (Manicheans, Hindus, Buddhists and Chinese);

10. alchemy.

Ibn al-Nadim gives the titles only of those books which he had seen himself or whose existence was vouchsafed by a trustworthy person.

The shorter edition contains (besides the preface and the first section of the first discourse on the scripts and the different alphabets) only the last four discourses, in other words, the Arabic translations from Greek, Syriac and other languages, together with Arabic books composed on the model of these translations.

Ibn al-Nadim often mentions the size of a book and the number of pages, so that buyers would not be cheated by copyists passing off shorter versions. Compare the Stichometry of Nicephorus. He refers often to copies written by famous calligraphers, to bibliophiles and libraries, and speaks of a book auction and of the trade in books. In the opening section he deals with the alphabets of 14 peoples and their manner of writing and also with the writing-pen, paper and its different varieties. His discourses contain sections on the origins of philosophy, on the lives of Plato and Aristotle, the origin of The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, thoughts on the pyramids, his opinions on magic, sorcery, superstition, and alchemy etc. The chapter devoted to what the author rather dismissively calls "bed-time stories" and "fables" contains a large amount of Persian material. In the chapter on anonymous works of assorted content there is a section on "Persian, Indian, Byzantine, and Arab books on sexual intercourse in the form of titillating stories", but the Persian works are not separated from the others. The list includes a "Book of Bahrām-doḵt on intercourse." This is followed by books of Persians, Indians, etc. on fortune telling, books of "all nations" on horsemanship and the arts of war, then on horse doctoring and on falconry, some of them specifically attributed to the Persians. Then we have books of wisdom and admonition by the Persians and others, including many examples of Persian andarz literature, e.g. various books attributed to Persian emperors such as Khosrau I and Ardashir I.

As a bookseller, Ibn al-Nadim became known for his celebrated bookshop.  The bookshop was said to be on an upper story of a large building where buyers came to examine manuscripts, enjoy refreshments and exchange ideas.  

The Fihrist is the greatest work of Ibn al-Nadim.  Fihrist literally means "a table of contents" or "an index". The Fihrist is an index of all books written in Arabic by Arabs or non-Arabs.  Ibn al-Nadim began to make this catalogue of authors and the names of their compositions for use in his father's bookstore.  As he grew older, he became interested in the many subjects he read about in books, or which he learned about from friends and chance acquaintances.  So, instead of being merely the catalogue for a book shop, Ibn al-Nadim's Fihrist became an encyclopedia of medieval Islamic culture. 

The Fihrist of Ibn al-Nadim listed more than sixty thousand titles on an unlimited range of subjects.  The first section of the first chapter of the Fihrist was devoted to various styles of writing, including Chinese, qualities of paper, and "excellencies of penmanship" and "excellencies of the book". After this was a whole range of topics including language and calligraphy; Christian and Jewish scriptures; the Qu'ran and commentaries; linguistic works; histories and genealogies; official government works; court accounts; pre-Islamic and Islamic poetry; works by various schools of Muslim thought; biographies of numerous men of learning; Greek and Islamic philosophy; mathematics; astronomy; Greek and Islamic medicine; literature; popular fiction; travel (India, China and Indochina); magic, and miscellaneous subjects and fables.

Abu'l-Faraj Muhammad bin Is'hāq al-Nadim  see Ibn al-Nadim

A00039 - Hassan Rouhani, Seventh President of Iran

Rouhani, Hassan
Hassan Rouhani (Persian:  حسن روحانی‎), born November 12, 1948, became the 7th President of Iran in 2013. He is also a former lawmaker, academic and diplomat. Beginning in 1999, Rouhani became a member of Iran's Assembly of Experts.  He was also a member of the Expediency Council since 1991, a member of the Supreme National Security Council since 1989, and head of the Center for Strategic Research since 1992.

Rouhani was deputy speaker of the 4th and 5th terms of the Parliament of Iran (Majlis) and Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council from 1989 to 2005. In the latter capacity, Rouhani was the country's top negotiator with the EU three,  the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, on nuclear technology in Iran, and has also served as a Shi'ite ijtihadi cleric, and economic trade negotiator. He expressed official support for upholding the rights of ethnic and religious minorities. In 2013, he appointed former miner and Isfahani legislator Eshaq Jahangiri as his vice-president.

On May 7, 2013, Rouhani registered for the presidential election that was held on June 14, 2013. He said that, if elected, he would prepare a "civil rights charter", restore the economy and improve rocky relations with Western nations.  Rouhani was viewed as politically moderate. As early vote counts began coming in, he took a large lead. He was elected as President of Iran on June 15, defeating Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf and four other candidates. He took office on August 3, 2013. In 2013, TIME magazine named him 9th of the Most Influential People in the World.  In domestic policy, he encouraged personal freedom and free access to information, improved women's rights by appointing female foreign ministry spokespersons, and was described as a centrist and reformist who improved Iran's diplomatic relations with other countries through exchanging conciliatory letters.