Monday, November 30, 2015

A00075 - Ahmad Jamal, Jazz Pianist

*Ahmad Jamal,  (b. Frederick Russell Jones), an American jazz pianist known for his rendition of But Not ForMe, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (July 2). 

Ahmad Jamabegan playing piano at the age of three, when his uncle Lawrence challenged him to duplicate what he was doing on the piano. Jamal began formal piano training at the age of seven with Mary Cardwell Dawson, whom he describes as greatly influencing him. His Pittsburgh roots remained an important part of his identity ("Pittsburgh meant everything to me and it still does," he said in 2001) and it was there that he was immersed in the influence of jazz artists such as Earl Hines, Billy Strayhorn, Mary Lou Williams, and Erroll Garner. Jamal also studied with pianist James Miller and began playing piano professionally at the age of fourteen, at which point he was recognized as a "coming great" by the pianist Art Tatum. 

Born to Baptist parents in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Jamal did not discover Islam until his early 20s. While touring in Detroit (where there was a sizable Muslim community in the 1940s and 1950s), Jamal became interested in Islam and Islamic culture. He converted to Islam and changed his name to Ahmad Jamal in 1950. In an interview with The New York Times a few years later, Jamal said his decision to change his name stemmed from a desire to "re-establish my original name." In 1986, Jamal sued critic Leonard Feather for using his former name in a publication.

After the recording of the best-selling album But Not For Me, Jamal's music grew in popularity throughout the 1950s. In 1959, he took a tour of North Africa to explore investment options in Africa. Jamal, who was twenty-nine at the time, said he had a curiosity about the homeland of his ancestors, highly influenced by his conversion to the Muslim faith. He also said his religion had brought him peace of mind about his race, which accounted for his "growth in the field of music that has proved very lucrative for me."

Upon his return to the United States after a tour of North Africa, the financial success of Live at the Pershing: But Not For Me allowed Jamal to open a restaurant and club called The Alhambra in Chicago. In 1962, The Three Strings disbanded and Jamal moved to New York City, where, at the age of 32, he took a three-year hiatus from his musical career.

In 1964, Jamal resumed touring and recording, this time with the bassist Jamil Nasser and recorded a new album, Extensions, in 1965. Jamal and Nasser continued to play and record together from 1964 to 1972. He also joined forces with Vernel Fournier (again, but only for about a year) and drummer Frank Gant (1966–76), among others. He continued to play throughout the 1970s and 1980s, mostly in trios with piano, bass and drums, but he occasionally expanded the group to include guitar. One of his most long-standing gigs was as the band for the New Year's Eve celebrations at Blues Alley in Washington, D. C., from 1979 through the 1990s. Until 1970, he played acoustic piano exclusively. The final album on which he played acoustic piano in the regular sequence was The Awakening. In the 1970s, Jamal played electric piano as well. It was rumored that the Rhodes piano was a gift from someone in Switzerland.

In 1985, Jamal agreed to do an interview and recording session with his fellow jazz pianist, Marian McPartland on her NPR show Piano Jazz. Jamal, who said he rarely plays "But Not For Me" due to its popularity since his 1958 recording, played an improvised version of the tune – though only after noting that he has moved on to making ninety percent of his repertoire his own compositions. He said that when he grew in popularity from the Live at the Pershing album, he was severely criticized afterwards for not playing any of his own compositions.

In 1994, Mr. Jamal received the American Jazz Masters fellowship award from the National Endowment for the Arts.  The same year he was named a Duke Ellington Fellow at Yale University, where he performed commissioned works with the Assai String Quartet. 

In 2007 the French Government inducted Mr. Jamal into the prestigious Order of the Arts and Letters by French Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, naming him Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.   

Mr. Jamal’s previous recording A Quiet Time (Dreyfus Records), released in January 2010, was the number #1 CD on jazz radio for the year 2010 and continues to soar.  Also this year the French Jazz Academy has voted "The Complete Ahmad Jamal Trio Argo Sessions 1956-1962" released by Mosaïc "Best reissue of the year with outstanding research work".  His music remains, youthful, fresh, imaginative and always influential.  
In December of 2011 Mr. Jamal was awarded with DownBeat’s 76th Reader’s Poll Hall of Fame.  

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A00074 - Gaafar Nimeiry, Fifth President of Sudan

Gaafar Mohamed el-Nimeiri, also spelled Jaʿfar Muḥammad al-Numayrī, Nimeiri also spelled Nimeiry, Nemery, or Numeyri   (b. January 1, 1930, Wad Nubawi, Omdurman, Sudan— d. May 30, 2009, Omdurman, Sudan), major general, commander of the armed forces, and president of Sudan (1971–85).
After graduating from the Sudan Military College in 1952, Nimeiry acted as commander of the Khartoum garrison and led campaigns against rebels in southern Sudan. He joined in a number of attempts to overthrow the Sudanese government. In 1966 he graduated from the United States Army Command College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Three years later he overthrew the civilian regime of Isma'il al-Azhari and was promoted to major general. He became prime minister and chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC).  He put down a right-wing revolt led by Sayyid Ṣādiq al-Mahdī in March 1970 but was briefly overthrown by a communist coup in July 1971. In September 1971, he was elected president in a plebiscite with 98.6 percent of the vote.
Upon his election as president, Nimeiry dissolved the RCC and established in 1972 the Sudanese Socialist Union, a political party of which he also became president. He was credited with bringing about negotiations that led to a settlement of a long-running conflict with the southern Sudan region, to which he granted autonomy in 1972.
When Nimeiry assumed power, he first pursued a socialist economic policy but soon shifted course in favor of capitalist agriculture, designed to make Sudan a major food producer. In March 1981 he inaugurated the Kinānah sugar project, one of the largest sugar refineries in the world. His efforts were hampered, however, by a succession of economic crises brought on in part by overly ambitious development plans, and his reign was punctuated by many attempted coups.
Nimeiry became the first Muslim leader to back the efforts of Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat to establish peace with Israel. As president of the Organization of African Unity (OAU; now the African Union) in 1978, Nimeiri reasserted his position that Africa should keep free from entanglements of “alignment” with external powers.
His attempts to promulgate measures of Islamic law (Shari'ah) in Sudan alienated many in the predominantly Christian southern region, as did his abrogation of the 1972 agreement that had granted southern Sudan autonomy. These factors helped to fuel the resumption of war with southern Sudan (now South Sudan) in 1983.
In April 1985, while he was in the United States, Nimeiry was overthrown by his defense minister in a bloodless coup. He sought refuge in Egypt, where he spent 14 years in exile. After his return to Sudan in 1999, he was not actively involved in Sudanese politics.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

A00073 - Ahmed Chalabi, Iraqi Politician Who Pushed for U. S. Invasion

Ahmed Abdel Hadi Chalabi (Arabic: أحمد عبد الهادي الجلبي‎‎; October 30, 1944 –  November 3, 2015) was an Iraqi politician.
He was interim Minister of Oil in Iraq in April–May 2005 and December 2005 – January 2006 and Deputy Prime Minister from May 2005 to May 2006. Chalabi failed to win a seat in parliament in the December 2005 elections, and when the new Iraqi cabinet was announced in May 2006, he was not given a post. Once dubbed the "George Washington of Iraq" by American supporters, he later fell out of favor and came under investigation by several United States government sources. He was also the subject of a 2008 biography by investigative journalist Aram Roston: The Man Who Pushed America to War: The Extraordinary Life, Adventures, And Obsessions of Ahmad Chalabi and a 2011 biography by 60 Minutes producer Richard Bonin, Arrows of the Night: Ahmad Chalabi's Long Journey to Triumph in Iraq.

Chalabi was a controversial figure, especially in the United States, for many reasons. In the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Iraqi National Congress (INC), with the assistance of lobbying powerhouse BKSH & Associates, provided a major portion of the information on which United States Intelligence based its condemnation of the Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, including reports of weapons of mass destruction and alleged ties to al-Qaeda. Most, if not all, of this information has turned out to be false and Chalabi has been called a fabricator. That, combined with the fact that Chalabi subsequently boasted, in an interview with the British Sunday Telegraph, about the impact that their alleged falsifications had on American policy, led to a falling out between him and the United States government. Furthermore, Chalabi was found guilty in the Petra banking scandal in Jordan. In January 2012, a French intelligence official stated that they believed Chalabi to be an Iranian agent.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A00072 - Louis Farrakhan, Nation of Islam Leader

Farrakhan, Louis
Farrakhan (Louis Farrakhan) (Louis Eugene Walcott) (b. May 11, 1933).  Nation of Islam national leader.  Born in New York City, the son of a schoolteacher and a domestic worker.  His birth name was Louis Eugene Walcott.  Farrakhan was an outstanding student at Boston English High School and then attended Winston-Salem Teacher’s College in North Carolina, but the rhetorical skills he honed there would take him to the pulpit rather than the classroom.

Farrakhan was an excellent musician.  He played the violin and was a calypso singer.  Indeed, while living in Boston, Farrakhan performed a nightclub act under the name of Calypso Gene.  In this act, Farrakhan would sing political lyrics to Caribbean style music.  

It was as a singer that Walcott earned his livelihood prior to converting to Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam in the 1950s.  It was his talents as an entertainer which caught the eye of Malcolm X, the renowned black activist who was then the most powerful and charismatic of Elijah Muhammad’s ministers.  Louis Walcott was recruited into the organization and began calling himself Louis X, preaching impressively and receiving the name “Farrakhan” from Elijah Muhammad himself.

Louis Farrakhan quickly worked his way up to a leadership position, becoming the minister of the Boston mosque.  He grew close to Elijah Muhammad and began to be groomed for prominence in the organization.  In 1963, Malcolm X left the organization in favor of a more inclusive and secular black activism.    

Malcolm’s departure angered Elijah Muhammad prompting Elijah Muhammad to initiate a campaign designed to undermine the activities of Malcolm X.   Louis Farrakhan, Elijah Muhammad’s then new protégé, loudly denounced Malcolm X after the latter split with Elijah Muhammad.  Farrakhan then replaced Malcolm X as the chief minister of the Harlem mosque.  Eventually (in 1972), Farrakhan would take over as the Nation’s press spokesman -- a position which was also previously held by Malcolm.

The Nation of Islam advocated religious and political militancy, proclaiming that civilization had begun with black men who were God’s chosen people.  Whites, according to this doctrine, were devils, the subhuman creation of an evil magician named Yakub.  These malevolent beings were said to be committed to the destruction of the black race, as evidenced by centuries of oppression and slavery.  Allah would punish Allah’s enemies, and Nation of Islam literature brims with reference to Armageddon.  

Upon close analysis, it is evident that the Nation of Islam’s doctrines differ significantly from those of orthodox Islam.  The sermons of Elijah Muhammad, and later of Farrakhan, combine ideas and beliefs from the Muslim Qur’an (also known as the Koran, or book of sacred writings) with Christian principles and images.  They reportedly even invent “scripture” at times.  In fact, when Elijah Muhammad’s son Wallace Deen Muhammad traveled to the East to study Islam, he decided his father was a fake and renounced the Nation’s earlier teachings.  Elijah, who died in 1975, willed the holdings of the organization to his sons -- mainly Wallace -- much to Farrakhan’s disappointment.  But Wallace’s disavowal of his father’s philosophy eventually drove many of Elijah’s followers into Farrakhan’s derivative group.  

Elijah Muhammad and Louis Farrakhan -- and Malcolm X while he was in the group -- were greatly influenced by the Black Nationalist movement.  This movement has existed as long as the United States itself and argues that American blacks can only achieve freedom and independence by establishing their own nation.  Some nationalists imagined this territory within the United States, others envisioned it in Africa.  Elijah Muhammad wrote in his speech “What Do the Muslims Want?” that the black nation might be “either on this continent or elsewhere.”   The Nation of Islam has long asked the United States government to provide reparations to black citizens -- like those paid to Japanese-American internees of United States detention camps during World War II -- to pay for a black nation.   

After Elijah Muhammad’s death in 1975, he briefly supported Muhammad’s son and designated successor, Warith Muhammad (Wallace Deen Muhammad), as leader of the Nation of Islam.  Shortly after Warith Muhammad began accepting European Americans as members within the Nation of Islam, now renamed the World Community of Al-Islam in the West, Farrakhan split from him and established a rival organization with about 10,000 members.  

Farrakhan’s vigorous support for Jesse Jackson’s presidential candidacy in 1984 quickly became an issue after Farrakhan made several controversial statements, most notably calling Judaism a “gutter religion.”  Farrakhan’s attacks on Judaism and Jews reflect a belief held by his constituency that Jews were an integral part of the American power elite and, therefore, an integral part of the systematic discrimination that blacks have historically encountered.  Jews also receive condemnation for supporting Israel, a region which the Nation of Islam and many other analysts of world politics accuse of mistreating its Arab neighbors.  Thus, for the members of the Nation of Islam, the many-sided conflicts of that region become a racial conflict -- a conflict of black versus white rather than a religious conflict.

Overshadowed in the controversy over Farrakhan’s anti-Jewish rhetoric was the involvement of the Nation of Islam in American electoral politics for the first time.  Previously, Black Muslims had generally followed Elijah Muhammad’s counsel not to vote or to take part in political campaigns.  But, in 1984 and 1988, the Nation of Islam supported Jackson as he ran for President.

In 1985, Farrakhan started the organization he called POWER (People Organized and Working for Economic Rebirth), a parent company for business endeavors like Clean ‘n Fresh.  The principle underlying the venture maintains that black people in America needed to build their own economic base. This could best be accomplished by recruiting black salespeople to sell black produced products in black neighborhoods.  To this end, Farrakhan secured a $5 million interest free loan from the nation of Libya.  However, because of the negative publicity generated by Farrakhan’s anti-Jewish statements, Farrakhan’s manufacturers backed out.

In January of 1995, Qubilah Bahiyah Shabazz, daughter of the slain black nationalist leader Malcolm X, was arrested and charged with trying to hire an FBI informant to kill Farrakhan, who some believe was involved in the 1965 assassination of her father.  Farrakhan publicly defended Shabazz, claiming that the charges were an FBI attempt to entrap her.  On May 1, 1995, Shabazz avoided a trial and possible prison sentence by accepting responsibility for the plot.  The court ordered her to seek psychiatric counseling, enter a drug and alcohol treatment program, and to obtain a steady job.

On October 16, 1995, African American men from across the United States convened in Washington, D. C. for the Million Man March, a rally masterminded by Farrakhan; organized by the Nation of Islam; and promoted by the National African Mexican Leadership Summit.  Billed as a “holy day of atonement and reconciliation,” marchers were urged to make a commitment to improve themselves, their families, and their communities.  Those who could not attend the march were urged to stay home from work and avoid spending money at businesses as a show of solidarity with the marchers.  The march was deemed a success on many levels and did much to help shake the myth of all black men as convicts, hustlers, and pimps and replaced that image with one of responsible, self-confident, culturally aware men.  

In early 1996, Farrakhan embarked on a controversial 18 nation tour of Africa and Southwest Asia.  During the tour, he visited Iran and Libya, nations which the United States government believes support international terrorism.  Although he claimed that the trip was designed to promote peace and reconciliation, Farrakhan was widely criticized by United States officials for several anti-American statements he made while overseas.

In the early 21st century, the core membership of Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam was estimated at between 10,000 and 50,000—though in the same period Farrakhan was delivering speeches in large cities across the United States that regularly attracted crowds of more than 30,000. Under Farrakhan’s leadership, the Nation was one of the fastest growing of the various Muslim movements in the country. Foreign branches of the Nation were formed in Ghana, London, Paris, and the Caribbean islands. In order to strengthen the international influence of the Nation, Farrakhan established relations with Muslim countries, and in the late 1980s he cultivated a relationship with the Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi.  After a near-death experience in 2000 resulting from complications from prostate cancer (he was diagnosed with cancer in 1991), Farrakhan toned down his racial rhetoric and attempted to strengthen relations with other minority communities, including Native Americans, Hispanics, and Asians. Farrakhan also moved his group closer to orthodox Sunni Islam in 2000, when he and Imam Warith Deen Mohmmed, the leading American orthodox Muslim, recognized each other as fellow Muslims.

In spite of his fiery pronouncements as a speaker, Farrakhan led a quiet and decidedly comfortable domestic life in an opulent mansion of marble and limestone in the Hyde Park section of Chicago in the house that Elijah Muhammad built.  He was married to Khadijah and they had nine children.   

Louis Eugene Walcott see Farrakhan
Walcott, Louis Eugene see Farrakhan
Calypso Gene see Farrakhan
Louis X see Farrakhan

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A00071 - Gamal el-Ghitani, Egyptian Author

Gamal el-Ghitani, (Arabic: جمال الغيطانى‎, b. May  9, 1945 –  d. October 18, 2015) was an Egyptian author of historical and political novels and cultural and political commentaries and was the editor-in-chief of the literary periodical Akhbar Al-Adab ("Cultural News") until 2011.

Gamal El-Ghitani was born in Guhayna, Sohag Governorate in Upper Egypt and moved with his family to Cairo as a child. He began writing at a young age and had his first short story published when he was only 14. He was originally trained to be a carpet designer and received his diploma in 1962. He continued to write on the side and was imprisoned from October 1966 through March 1967 for his critical commentary on the regime of  Gamal Abd el-Nasser.  In 1969, he switched careers and became a journalist for the Egyptian newspaper Akhbar El Yom ("The Day's News").

After becoming a journalist, el-Ghitani continued to write historical fiction, and many of his stories are set in Cairo. He also wrote about many cultural and political topics, notably the level of censorship in modern-day Egypt. In an effort to help promote the Arab literary culture, he helped found the literary magazine "Gallery 68".

In 1980, he was awarded with the Egyptian National Prize for Literature, and in 1987, the French Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.  In 1985, he became editor-in-chief of Al Akhbar ("The News") and continued to be a contributing editor to Akhbar El-Yom's literary section. From 1993 to 2011, he was the editor-in-chief of Akhbar Al-Adab, one of Egypt's primary literary magazines. In 2005, he won a French Award for translated literature "Laure Bataillon", one of the highest French awards to be bestowed upon non-French writers. He was earned this award for his giant work "Kitâb al-Tagalliyyât" or "Book of Illuminations". In 2009, he was awarded the Sheikh Zayed Book Award for Ren, the award is worth about $200,000 and is one of the world's richest literary awards. 

Gamal El-Ghitani was married to the Egyptian journalist Magda El-Guindy, editor-in-chief of Al-Ahram's children's magazine "Alaaeddin". He died on October 18, 2015 at the El Galaa Hospital For Armed Forces Officers Families in Cairo.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A00070 - Mathieu Kerekou, The "Chameleon" President of Benin

Kerekou, Mathieu
Mathieu Kérékou (September 2, 1933 – October 14, 2015) was a Beninese politician who was President of Benin from 1972 to 1991 and again from 1996 to 2006. After seizing power in a military coup, he ruled the country for 17 years, for most of that time under an officially Marxist-Leninist ideology, before he was stripped of his powers by the National Conference of 1990. He was defeated in the 1991 presidential election, but was returned to the presidency in the 1996 election and controversially re-elected in 2001. 

Kérékou was born in 1933 in Kouarfa. in north-west French Dahomey.  After having studied at military schools in modern-day Mali and Senegal, Kérékou served in the military. Following independence, from 1961 to 1963 he was an aide-de-camp to Dahomeyan President Hubert Maga, following Maurice Kouandete's seizure of power in December 1967, Kérékou, who was his cousin, was made chairman of the Military Revolutionary Council. After Kérékou attended French military schools from 1968 to 1970, Maga made him a major, deputy chief of staff, and commander of the Ouidah paratroop unit.

Kerekou seized power in Dahomey in a military coup on October 26, 1972, ending a system of government in which three members of a presidential council were to rotate power (earlier in the year MagKérékou a had handed over power to Justin Ahomadegbe). 

During his first two years in power, Kérékou expressed only nationalism and said that the country's revolution would not "burden itself by copying foreign ideology ... We do not want communism or capitalism or socialism. We have our own Dahomean social and cultural system." On November 30, 1974, however, he announced the adoption of Marxism-Leninism by the state. The country was renamed from the Republic of Dahomey to the People's Republic of Benin a year later; the banks and petroleum industry were nationalized. The People's Revolutionary Party of Benin (Parti de la révolution populaire du Bénin, PRPB) was established as the sole ruling party. In 1980, Kérékou was elected president by the Revolutionary National Assembly; he retired from the army in 1987.

It has been suggested that Kérékou's move to Marxism-Leninism was motivated mainly by pragmatic considerations, and that Kérékou himself was not actually a leftist radical; the new ideology offered a means of legitimization, a way of distinguishing the new regime from those that had preceded it, and was based on broader unifying principles than the politics of ethnicity. Kérékou's regime initially included officers from both the north and south of the country, but as the years passed the northerners (like Kérékou himself) became clearly dominant, undermining the idea that the regime was not based in ethnicity. By officially adopting Marxism-Leninism, Kérékou may also have wanted to win the support of the country's leftists.

Kérékou's regime was rigid and vigorous in pursuing its newly adopted ideological goals from the mid-1970s to the late 1970s. Beginning in the late 1970s, the regime jettisoned much of its radicalism and settled onto a more moderately socialist course as Kérékou consolidated his personal control.

Kérékou survived numerous attempts to oust him, including an invasion of the port city of Cotonou by mercenaries contracted by a group of exiled Beninese political rivals in January 1977, as well as two coup attempts in 1988.

It was hoped that the nationalizations of the 1970s would help develop the economy, but it remained in a very poor condition, with the state sector being plagued by inefficiency and corruption. Kérékou began reversing course in the early 1980s, closing down numerous state-run companies and attempting to attract foreign investment. He also accepted an International Monetary Fund (IMF) structural readjustment program in 1989, agreeing to austerity measures that severely cut state expenditures. The economic situation continued to worsen during the 1980s, provoking widespread unrest in 1989. A student strike began in January of that year. Subsequently, strikes among various elements of society increased in frequency and the nature of their demands grew broader: whereas initially they had focused on economic issues such as salary arrears, this progressed to include demands for political reform.

In the period of reforms towards multi-party democracy in Africa at the beginning of the 1990s, Benin moved onto this path early, with Kérékou being forced to make concessions to popular discontent. Benin's early and relatively smooth transition may be attributed to the particularly dismal economic situation in the country, which seemed to preclude any alternative. In the midst of increasing unrest, Kérékou was re-elected as president by the National Assembly in August 1989, but in December 1989 Marxism-Leninism was dropped as the state ideology, and a national conference was held in February 1990. The conference turned out to be hostile to Kérékou and declared its own sovereignty; despite the objections of some of his officers to this turn of events, Kérékou did not act against the conference, although he did label the conference's declaration of sovereignty a "civilian coup". During the transition that followed, Kérékou remained president but lost most of his power.

During the 1990 National Conference, which was nationally televised, Kérékou spoke to the Archbishop of Cotonou, Isidor de Souza, confessing guilt and begging forgiveness for the flaws of his regime. An observer described it as a "remarkable piece of political theater", full of cultural symbolism and significance. In effect, Kérékou was seeking forgiveness from his people. Such a gesture, so unusual for the African autocrats of the time, could have fatally weakened Kérékou's political standing, but he performed the gesture in such a way that, far from ending his political career, it instead served to symbolically redeem him and facilitate his political rehabilitation, while also "securing him immunity from prosecution". Kérékou shrewdly utilized the timing and setting.  Culturally as well as theologically it would prove impossible to refuse forgiveness on these terms.

World Bank economist Nicephore Soglo, chosen as prime minister by the conference, took office in March, and a new constitution was approved in a December 1990 referendum. Multi-party elections were held in March 1991, which Kérékou lost, obtaining only about 32% of the vote in the second round against Prime Minister Soglo; while he won very large vote percentages in the north, in the rest of the country he found little support. Kérékou was thus the first mainland African president to lose power through a popular election. He apologized for "deplorable and regrettable incidents" that occurred during his rule.

After losing the election in March 1991, Kérékou left the political scene and "withdrew to total silence", another move that was interpreted as penitential.

Kérékou reclaimed the presidency in the March 1996 election. Soglo's economic reforms and his alleged dictatorial tendencies had caused his popularity to suffer. Although Kérékou received fewer votes than Soglo in the first round, he then defeated Soglo in the second round, taking 52.5% of the vote. Kérékou was backed in the second round by third place candidate Adrien Houngbedji and fourth place candidate Bruno Amoussou, as in 1991, Kérékou received very strong support from northern voters, but he also improved his performance in the south. Soglo alleged fraud, but this was rejected by the Constitutional Court, which confirmed Kérékou's victory. When taking the oath of office, Kérékou left out a portion that referred to the "spirits of the ancestors" because he had become a born-again Christian after his defeat by Soglo. He was subsequently forced to retake the oath including the reference to spirits.

Kérékou was re-elected for a second five-year term in the March 2001 presidential election under controversial circumstances. In the first round he took 45.4% of the vote; Soglo, who took second place, and parliament speaker Houngbédji, who took third, both refused to participate in the second round, alleging fraud and saying that they did not want to legitimize the vote by participating in it. This left the fourth place finisher, Amoussou, to face Kérékou in the run-off, and Kérékou easily won with 83.6% of the vote. It was subsequently discovered that the American corporation Titan gave more than two million dollars to Kérékou's re-election campaign as a bribe.

During Kérékou's second period in office his government followed a liberal economic path. The period also saw Benin take part in international peacekeeping missions in other African states.

Kérékou was barred from running again in 2006 on two counts. The constitution not only limited the president to two terms, but also required that presidential candidates be younger than 70 (he turned 70 in 2003, through his second term). Kérékou said in July 2005 that he would not attempt to amend the constitution to allow him to run for a third term. "If you don't leave power," he said, "power will leave you." There was, however, speculation that he had wanted it to be changed, but faced too much opposition.

On March 5, 2006, voters went to the polls to decide who would succeed Kérékou as President of Benin. Yayi Boni defeated Adrien Houngbédji in a run-off vote on March 19, and Kérékou left office at the end of his term, at midnight on April 6, 2006.

Kérékou allegedly converted to Islam in 1980 while on a visit to Libya, and changed his first name to Ahmed, but he later returned to the use of the name Mathieu. This alleged conversion may have been designed to please the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, in order to obtain financial and military support. Alternatively, the conversion story may have been a rumor planted by some of his opponents in order to destabilize his regime. In any event, Kerekou subsequently became a born-again Christian. Some Vodun believers in Benin regarded him as having magical powers, explaining his ability to survive repeated coup attempts during his military rule.

Nicknamed "the chameleon" from an early point in his career, Kérékou's motto was "the branch will not break in the arms of the chameleon". The nickname and motto he adopted were full of cultural symbolism, articulating and projecting his power and ability. Unlike some past rulers who had adopted animal symbolism intending to project a violent, warlike sense of power, Kérékou's symbolic animal suggested skill and cleverness; his motto suggested that he would keep the branch from breaking, but implicitly warned of what could happen to "the branch" if it was not "in the arms of the chameleon"—political chaos. To some, his nickname seemed particularly apt as he successfully adapted himself to a new political climate and neo-liberal economic policies in the 1990s.

Kerekou used the campaign slogan, "Experience in the service of youth."

After leaving office in 2006, Kérékou stayed out of politics and spent time at his homes in Cotonou and Natitingou in northwestern Benin, his native region. He suffered a health crisis in 2014 and was taken to Paris for treatment. Although he recovered, he continued to suffer health problems, and he died in Benin on October 14, 2015 at the age of 82. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

A00069 - Ali Salem, Egyptian Writer Who Drove Across Israel

Ali Salem, also transliterated Ali Salim, (Arabic: على سالم‎; b. February 24, 1936 – d. September 22, 2015) was an Egyptian playwright, author, and political commentator known for controversially endorsing cooperation with Israel. The Los Angeles Times once described him as "a big, loud man known for his satiric wit".

From the premiere of his first play in 1965, he wrote 25 plays and fifteen books. One of the best known, The School of Troublemakers, debuted in 1971 and featured a rowdy class of children transformed by a kind teacher. His plays The Phantom of HeliopolisThe Comedy of OedipusThe Man Who Fooled the Angels, and The Buffet became classics of the Egyptian theater. Salem's plays often include allegorical critiques of Egyptian politics with a strong vein of humor and satire.

In 1994, he wrote a book entitled My Drive to Israel about a trip he took to the country to satisfy his curiosity about it following the signing of the Oslo Accords. He later claimed that the trip was not "a love trip, but a serious attempt to get rid of hate. Hatred prevents us from knowing reality as it is". He spent 23 nights in Israel and concluded that "real co-operation" between the two nations should be possible. Though the book sold more than 60,000 copies, a bestseller by Egyptian standards, it provoked controversy, and Salem was subsequently ostracized from the Egyptian intellectual community and expelled from its Writer's Syndicate as a result of his "propaganda." He did not have a play or movie script produced in Egypt after the book's publication, though he continued to contribute columns to foreign media such as the London-based Al Hayat.  Salem's memoir was later adapted by Ari Roth into the play Ali Salem Drives to Israel, which had its world premiere in the United States in 2005.

In 2008, he won the Train Foundation's $50,000 Civil Courage Prize in recognition of his opposition to radical Islam and his support of cooperation with Israel.  He also received an honorary doctorate from Israel's Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in 2005.  He died on September 22, 2015 after a long illness.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A00068 - Esmail Kiram II, Self-Proclaimed Sultan of Sulu

Kiram, Esmail II
Esmail Kiram II (also spelled as Ismael Kiram II) (November 9, 1939 - September 19, 2015) was the self-proclaimed Sultan of Sulu in the Philippines from March 12, 2001 until his death.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A00067 - Anwar al-Awlaki, Radical American Muslim Cleric

Anwar al-Awlaki, also spelled Anwār al-ʿAwlākī, al-Awlaki also spelled al-Aulaqi   (b. April 21, 1971, Las Cruces, New Mexico — d. September 30, 2011, Al-Jawf province, Yemen), American Islamic preacher and al-Qaeda militant killed by a controversial United States drone attack. One of the United States’ most-wanted terrorists, Awlaki was directly linked to multiple terrorism plots in the United States and the United Kingdom, including an attempt in December 2009 to blow up a jetliner bound for Detroit. He had morphed from a mainstream Muslim into one of al-Qaeda’s most public personalities and influential voices in large part because of his numerous online sermons and propaganda videos that allowed him to spread his message around the world.

A United States citizen born to Yemeni parents, Awlaki spent the early years of his life in the United States before his family moved back to Yemen. Over the next 11 years, the young Awlaki gained the requisite cultural experience and tools that would later help him bridge American and Arab culture. In 1991 he returned to the United States on a Yemeni education grant to attend college at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. While pursuing a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering, he became active within the Muslim student association on campus. Beginning in 1994, he preached for the Denver Islamic Society for two years. In 1996, Awlaki moved to San Diego, California, where he began working on a graduate degree in educational leadership at San Diego State University.

While in San Diego, Awlaki assumed the role of imam at a local mosque, Masjid al-Ribat al-Islami. It was in that role that he reportedly came into contact with two of the future September 11 hijackers, Saudi Arabians Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar. Although some reports suggest that Awlaki’s relationship to the hijackers grew very close in 2000, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which had begun investigating Awlaki’s ties to terrorism as early as June 1999, did not find sufficient incriminating evidence to take action against him.

After spending four years in San Diego, Awlaki left in 2000, eventually settling in the Washington, D.C., metro area in January 2001. He became imam at the Dar al-Hijrah mosque, located in Falls Church, Virginia, and served as a Muslim chaplain at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Before the September 11 attacks, Awlaki came into contact with another Saudi Arabian al-Qaeda operative and 9/11 hijacker, Hani Hanjour. Both Hanjour and Hazmi attended Awlaki’s sermons.

In the weeks after the September 11 attacks, the FBI reportedly conducted eight interviews with Awlaki but acquired no further incriminating information on any possible connection between him and al-Qaeda. Nonetheless, feeling increased pressure from law enforcement, Awlaki moved to the United Kingdom in 2002, where he established a dedicated following of young British Muslims. It was during that time that he rose to prominence within the Western Islamic world. His easygoing style, his colloquial use of English, and the accessible content of his lectures made him popular with diverse audiences in spite of his lack of extensive formal religious training.

Awlaki returned to Yemen in 2004. Little is publicly known about his activities during that time. He was arrested in mid-2006 by Yemeni security forces and remained imprisoned for approximately a year and a half without formal charges being issued against him. After his release Awlaki’s statements and lectures grew more openly hostile against the United States, which he said had pressured the Yemeni government into arresting him. His statements also began gaining influence with Western Muslims seeking religious justification for violence against the United States. His recorded lecture series on the book Thawābit ʿalā darb al-jihād (2005; “Constants of the Path of Jihad”), for example, which could be downloaded from the Internet, helped inspire a group of six men convicted of the 2006–07 terrorist plot against the United States Army base at Fort Dix, New Jersey.

In December 2008 Awlaki penned an open letter of support (written in English) for the Somali Islamic militant group al-Shahaab, In the letter, Awlaki urged Western Muslims to do whatever they could to support the organization. In January 2009 Awlaki used his Web site to publish another religious justification of violence against the West, titled “44 Ways to Support Jihad.” There Awlaki argued that all Muslims are bound by religious duty to support violent jihad. 

Awlaki began regularly appearing in officially sanctioned al-Qaeda media releases in 2010. In May 2010, the leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released an Internet audio statement openly supporting Awlaki as one of his own. Later that month AQAP released an official interview with Awlaki which eliminated any doubt that he had officially joined al-Qaeda.

The Internet was a key tool in Awlaki’s ability to spread his message and reach followers, both indirectly and directly. One supporter was United States Army Major Nidal M. Hasan, who attended his sermons in Virginia. On November 5, 2009, Hasan opened fire in the Soldier Readiness Center at the Fort Hood army base in Texas, killing 13. According to reports, at least 18 e-mails had been sent between Hasan and Awlaki in the lead-up to the attacks.

In May 2010, a 21-year-old British university student, Roshonara Choudhry, stabbed Stephen Timms, a member of Parliament, for his support of the Iraq War. According to Choudhry’s own confession, she had been radicalized in large part through listening to Awlaki’s speeches on the Internet. She was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

In June 2010, two Americans, Mohamed Alessa and Carlos Almonte, responded to Awlaki’s call to support al-Shabaab by attempting to travel to Somalia. According to reports, the pair had allegedly downloaded multiple videos and sermons from Awlaki. Another U.S. citizen, Zachary Chesser, who had downloaded videos of Awlaki and exchanged e-mails with him, was arrested in July 2010 on charges of attempting to provide material support to al-Shabaab.
In 2010 Awlaki was placed on the United States government’s official targeted-killing list, as authorized by President Barack Obama and approved by the National Security Council. That designation meant that, despite his United States citizenship. Awlaki was considered a military enemy of the United States and not subject to the country’s own ban on political assassination. On September 30, 2011, the Central Intelligence Agency used two drones to target Awlaki in Yemen, killing him and Samir Khan, another American al-Qaeda member.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

A00066 - Muhammad Omar, Afghan Taliban Leader

Muhammad Omar
Muhammad (Mohammad) Omar, also called Mullah Omar   (born c. 1950–62?, near Kandahār, Afghanistan—died April, 2013, Pakistan), Afghan militant and leader of the Taliban (Pashto: Ṭālebān [“Students”]) who was the emir of Afghanistan (1996–2001). Mullah Omar’s refusal to extradite al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden prompted the United States invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 that overthrew the Taliban government there.
Biographical details about Mullah Omar are sparse and conflicting. He was an ethnic Pashtun of the Ghilzay branch who, reportedly, was born near Kandahar, Afghanistan. He is believed to have been illiterate and — aside from his madrasah studies — to have had minimal schooling. He fought with the mujahideen against the Soviets during the Afghan War (1978–92), and during that time he suffered the loss of his right eye in an explosion.

After the Soviet withdrawal, Mullah Omar established and taught at a small village madrasah in the province of Kandahār. The end of the war did not bring calm, however, and political and ethnic violence escalated thereafter. Claiming to have had a vision instructing him to restore peace, Mullah Omar led a group of madrasah students in the takeover of cities throughout the mid-1990s, including Kandahar, Herat, Kabul and Mazar-e Sharif. In 1996 a shura (council) recognized Mullah Omar as amīr al-muʾminīn(“commander of the faithful”), a deeply significant title in the Muslim world that had been in disuse since the abolition of the caliphate in 1924. That designation also made him emir of Afghanistan, which from October 1997 until the fall of the Taliban was known as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Mullah Omar marked the occasion by removing what was held to be the cloak of the Prophet Muhammad from the mosque in Kandahār where it was housed and donning the relic, effectively symbolizing himself as Muhammad’s successor. The swift takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban under Mullah Omar is believed to have been funded at least in part by bin Laden, who had moved his base to Afghanistan after his expulsion from Sudan in the mid-1990s.

Under Mullah Omar’s leadership, Pashtun social codes were paramount, and strict Islamic principles were enforced. Education and employment for women all but ceased; capital punishment was enacted for transgressions such as adultery and conversion away from Islam; and music, television, and other forms of popular entertainment were prohibited. Among his most-infamous decisions was an order to demolish the colossal Buddha statues at Bamiyan, culturally significant relics of Afghanistan’s pre-Islamic history. To the outspoken regret of the international community, they were destroyed in 2001.

In the wake of al-Qaeda’s, September 11, 2001, attacks on New York City and Washington, D. C., Mullah Omar’s refusal to extradite bin Laden prompted the United States to launch a series of military operations in Afghanistan. The Taliban government was overthrown, and Mullah Omar fled; his location was undetermined.

Mullah Omar was long notoriously reclusive. Meetings with non-Muslims or with Westerners were almost never granted, and it was unclear whether any of the photographs that purportedly depict him were authentic—circumstances that made the pursuit of him even more difficult. At the end of the first decade of the 21st century, it was believed that Mullah Omar continued to direct Taliban operations from the sanctuary of Pakistan, although the Taliban denied that supposition.

On July 29, 2015, the Afghan government announced that its intelligence service had learned that Mullah Omar had died in April 2013 in Pakistan. The report of Mullah Omar’s death was confirmed by a Taliban representative the next day, and his deputy, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, was announced as his successor.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A00065 - Tahsin Sahinkaya, Turkish Air Force and Coup Leader

Tahsin Şahinkaya (b. 1925 – d. July 9, 2015) was a Turkish Air Force general. He was Commander of the Turkish Air Force from 1978 to 1983, and previously Secretary-General of the National Security Council (1977-1978). He was one of the five leaders of the 1980 military coup,  and after the coup he was a member of the Presidential Council. 
In 2012, a court case was launched against Şahinkaya and Kenan Evren (President of Turkey from 1980 to 1989) relating to the 1980 military coup. Both were sentenced to life imprisonment on June 18, 2014 by a court in Ankara, the capital of Turkey.
Şahinkaya died at age 90 in the military "Haydarpaşa GATA Hospital" in Istanbul on July 9, 2015. He was interred at Karacaahmet Cemetery on July 11 following a memorial ceremony held at the Turkish First Army headquarters in the Selimiye Barracks and subsequent religious funeral service at the nearby Buyuk Selimiye Mosque in Uskudar. He was survived by his wife Sema, son Serdar, daughter Sevgi Kartal and son-in-law Mustafa Kartal.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

A00064 - Saud al-Faisal, Long-Time Saudi Foreign Minister

Saud al-Faisal
Saud bin Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (Arabic: سعود بن فيصل بن عبد العزيز آل سعود‎), also known as Saud Al Faisal (Arabic: سعود الفيصل‎‎) (b. January 2, 1940, Ta'if, Saudi Arabia – d. July 9, 2015, Los Angeles, California), was a Saudi diplomat and statesman who served as Saudi Arabia's foreign minister from 1975 to 2015. By the time of his retirement, he was the world's longest-serving foreign minister. He was a member of the Saudi royal family.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A00063 - Omar Sharif, Legendary Star of "Doctor Zhivago"

Sharif, Omar (Michael Demitri Shalhoub) (Michel Shalhoub) (Michel Chalhoub) (born April 10, 1932, Alexandria, Egypt - d. July 10, 2015, Cairo, Egypt).  Egyptian film actor with worldwide success.  His original name was Michel Shahoub, and he was educated at Victoria College in Cairo.  He was working in the lumber business when he was offered a lead role in an Egyptian film in 1954.  In this film, Fatin Hamama was a co-star.  She was to become his wife.  

Omar Sharif was an Egyptian actor of international acclaim, known for his dashing good looks and for his iconic roles in such films as Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Doctor Zhivago (1965).

Shalhoub was born in Alexandria, the only son of a prosperous lumber merchant. When he was four years old, he moved with his family to Cairo, where he attended English schools. With early aspirations of being an actor, Shalhoub participated in theater productions in secondary school. At the urging of his father, he worked for the family’s lumber business after graduating. In 1953, his acting dreams were realized when he was cast opposite Egyptian star Faten Hamama in Siraa fil-wadi (1954; “Struggle in the Valley”). He began his acting career using a pseudonym, which went through several variations and eventually was rendered consistently in English as Omar Sharif. Sharif went on to star in several more films with Hamama, whom he married in 1955 (the couple divorced in 1974).

Sharif quickly rose to stardom in his native Egypt, appearing in more than 20 films before garnering international acclaim as Sherif Ali in David Lean’s epic Lawrence of Arabia. His portrayal of the loyal Arab chief earned him an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor. Following this breakthrough role, Sharif was much in demand to play a variety of characters, including a Spanish priest in Behold a Pale Horse (1964) and the Mongolian conqueror in Genghis Khan (1965). Among Sharif’s most famous roles is the title character in Doctor Zhivago, Lean’s adaptation of Boris Pasternak’s novel of the same name. Starring opposite Julie Christie, Sharif portrayed a poet-doctor in the middle of a love triangle. He later was cast as a German military man in The Night of the Generals (1967), Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria in Mayerling (1968), and revolutionary Che Guevara in Che! (1969). Sharif was also well known for his portrayal of Nick Arnstein, husband to Barbra Streisand’s Fanny Brice in Funny Girl (1968). He reprised the role of Arnstein in the film’s sequel, Funny Lady (1975).

Sharif continued to appear both on-screen and on television into the 21st century, though he appeared in few notable roles after the mid-1970s. Instead, he devoted much of his time to the card game bridge, releasing books, videos, and video games on the subject. Beginning in the 1970s, Sharif published a syndicated column about bridge. He also wrote an autobiography, L’Éternel Masculin (1976; The Eternal Male), with Marie-Thérèse Guinchard.

Sharif was born Michael Shalhoub in Alexandria, into a wealthy Egyptian Catholic family. Sharif's family has widely been reported to be Egyptian-Lebanese, though Sharif has said that he is Egyptian and the reports to the contrary are incorrect. Sharif graduated from Alexandria’s Victoria College, then from Cairo University with degrees in both mathematics and physics. In 1955, Omar El-Sharif converted to Islam and then married Egyptian actress Faten Hamama. The couple had one son, Tarek El-Sharif, who appeared in Doctor Zhivago as Yuri at the age of eight. They separated in 1966 and the marriage ended in 1974. Sharif never remarried; he stated that since his divorce, he never fell in love with another woman, and that, although he lived abroad for years, it was not possible for him to fall in love with a woman who was not Egyptian. In a 2007 interview, Sharif denied rumors that he had become atheist.

Sharif's filmography includes:

    * Shaytan al-Sahra (1954)
    * Sira` Fi al-Wadi (The Blazing Sun or Struggle in the Valley or Fight in the Valley) (1954)
    * Ayyamna al-Holwa (Our Best Days) (1955)
    * Siraa Fil-Mina (1956)
    * Ard al-Salam (1957)
    * The Lebanese Mission (Châtelaine du Liban, La) (1957)
    * La anam (I Do Not Sleep) (1958)
    * Goha (1958)
    * Fadiha fil-zamalek (Scandal in Zamalek) (1959)
    * Sayedat el kasr (Lady of the Castle) (1959)
    * Seraa fil Nil (Struggle on the Nile) (1959)
    * Bidaya wa nihaya (1960)
    * Hobi al-wahid (My Only Love) (1960)
    * Esha'a hob (Rumor of Love) (1960)
    * Nahr al-Hob (The River of love) (1960)
    * A Man in our House (A Man in our House) (1961)
    * Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
    * Behold a Pale Horse (1964)
    * The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964)
    * Doctor Zhivago (1965)
    * The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1965)
    * Genghis Khan (1965)
    * The Night of the Generals (1967)
    * More Than A Miracle (1967)
    * Funny Girl (1968)
    * Mayerling (1968)
    * Che! (1969)
    * The Appointment (1969)
    * Mackenna's Gold (1969)
    * The Last Valley (1970)
    * The Horsemen (1971)
    * The Burglars (1971)
    * The Mysterious Island (L'Ile Mysterieuse) (TV miniseries) (1973)
    * Juggernaut (1974)
    * The Tamarind Seed (1974)
    * Crime and Passion (1975)
    * Funny Lady (1975)
    * The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976), uncredited cameo
    * Ashanti: Land of No Mercy (1979)
    * Bloodline (1979)
    * S-H-E (1979)
    * Oh Heavenly Dog (1980)
    * The Baltimore Bullet (1980)
    * Pleasure Palace (1980)
    * Green Ice (1981)
    * Top Secret! (1984)
    * Peter the Great (1986)
    * Harem (1986), as Sultan Hassan
    * The Possessed (1988)
    * The Jewel of the Nile (1988)
    * Al-aragoz (the puppeteer) (1989)
    * The Opium Connection (1990)
    * Memories of Midnight (1991)
    * Mowaten masri (An Egyptian Citizen) (1991)
    * Beyond Justice (1992)
    * Grand Larceny (1992)
    * Mayrig (1992)
    * Dehk we le'b we gad we hob (Laughter, Games, Seriousness and Love) (1993)
    * Lie Down With Lions (1994)
    * Catherine the Great (1995)
    * Gulliver's Travels (1996)
    * Heaven Before I Die (1997)
    * Mysteries of Egypt (1998)
    * The 13th Warrior (1999)
    * The Parole Officer (2001)
    * Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran (2003)
    * Hidalgo (2004)
    * Imperium: St Peter (2005)
    * Fuoco su di me (2005)
    * Shaka Zulu: The Last Great Warrior (2005)
    * One Night with the King (2006)
    * The Crown Prince (2006)
    * Hanan W Haneen (TV Series - Egypt) (2007)
    * The Ten Commandments (TV series) (2007) Jethro
    * The Last Templar (TV Series) (2008)
    * Hassan & Marcus (2008)
    * 10,000 BC (2008)
    * The Traveler (2009)

Sharif's books include:

    * The Eternal Male (1977)
    * Omar Sharif's Life in Bridge (1983)
    * Omar Sharif Talks Bridge (2004)
    * Bridge Deluxe II play with Omar Sharif (Instruction manual)