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Syria’s Migrant Problem

In 2011, the Arab Spring saw protest movements rising throughout the Near East in which citizens aimed to reshape their governments and end corruption, modernizing their societies and adapting to globalization. These movements had mixed results; Tunisia, for example, made a successful transition to a democratic government. The citizens of some other countries, like Syria, are facing violent consequences provoked by defiant protest. After condemnation by the Syrian government of the protests, rebel forces have taken a stand against what they see as their oppressors. The conflict has raged on for six years, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths within the country. Millions of people have fled Syria or are internally displaced, creating the largest issue in the world today: the refugee crisis.

Conflicts create many problems for the countries involved and their neighbors. The mass movement of people who feel unsafe or are forced to move to foreign countries is a primary concern in times of war, and nowhere is this more evident than in the Syrian conflict. In the past 25 years, no conflict worldwide has displaced more people than the one in Syria. At the moment, there is no end in sight: all sides are unwilling to back down after repeatedly failed ceasefire attempts and the issue has become an international one, as world powers like Russia and the United States have allied themselves with opposing sides. This tension creates a violent situation with no simple solution.

Today, Syria is not the only source country for refugees. Other countries in the Middle East and less developed countries around the world view Europe as a destination for safer living. The massive influx of refugees in Europe has prompted backlash and concerns of terrorism being spread under the veil of harmless refugees. This is the prevailing view of European nationalist groups who adopt a xenophobic attitude towards mostly harmless foreigners that want to work and live safely.

Germany, a powerful and economically prosperous member of the European Union, is a major destination country for those seeking asylum. The nation is generally open and modernized with a respectable standard of living that is attractive to displaced refugees who have faced severe hardships in their home countries. Such a large number of people suddenly entering a country does create some problems: the migrant crime rate, for example, rose more than 50% in 2016. There have been several terrorist attacks in the country recently, killing and wounding dozens. The fact that some of the attackers were refugees from Middle Eastern countries only benefits the position of conservative Europeans who are against letting in so many refugees.

The violent conflict at home has threatened the lives of many Syrians and forced them to seek comfortable living elsewhere in the world. The violent conflict at home has displaced millions of people internally and moved even more people to foreign areas, particularly Europe, where they face discrimination and hostility from locals. As harsh as it is, this treatment is better than the constant violence and warfare that is endured in major Syrian cities as the government and various rebel groups battle for control of the country. Unfortunately, there is no clear end in sight, and Syrian citizens are forced to cope with the severe hardships brought on by this conflict.

SisiCare: The Healthcare Crisis in Egypt

Recently in the United States, healthcare has garnered the public’s attention as a contentious issue with President Trump’s eponymous policy, Trumpcare. Access to good healthcare, of course, concerns other countries around the world. In particular, Egypt has struggled with a lack of universal coverage and medicinal shortages. Pharmacists, who sympathize with the suffering of their ailing neighbors, cannot provide relief to those in need of certain drugs. Some have turned to the black market for medications, but those supplies are often too expensive and, as pharmacies have experienced, can also be limited in number.

http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/egyptians-cannot-afford-buy-medicines-132016227
http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/egyptians-cannot-afford-buy-medicines-132016227

What is the cause of Egypt’s healthcare crisis? President Sisi’s economic reform plans of November 2016 play a direct role, in addition to poor government aid in healthcare and the continuing prevalence of Egypt’s informal economic sector.

In order to work toward attaining a $12 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, Sisi’s administration had to float the Egyptian pound last November, a move which sunk the currency’s value compared to the U.S. dollar. This action, in turn, brought about drastic inflation in numerous sectors of the Egyptian economy. The annual inflation rate rose from 13.6% in October to 19.4% in November after the reform.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/egypt-grapples-with-drug-shortage-brought-on-by-currency-devaluation-1481452381#_=_
https://www.wsj.com/articles/egypt-grapples-with-drug-shortage-brought-on-by-currency-devaluation-1481452381#_=_

One result of this inflation of the Egyptian pound is high import costs for pharmaceutical companies. These costs are so high, in fact, that many in the industry have stopped importing drugs and ingredients altogether, as they are unable to turn a profit while remaining within the Health Ministry’s firm price caps on drugs sold to consumers.

http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/egypts-annual-urban-consumer-price-inflation-jumps-233-pct-december-11272397
http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/egypts-annual-urban-consumer-price-inflation-jumps-233-pct-december-11272397

The current issue of drug shortages and inflation does not fully encapsulate the difficulties that Egyptians face with their healthcare system. Most of the healthcare that Egyptians receive is not paid for by the government; rather, citizens are often left to foot the bill with out-of-pocket payments. Egypt’s lack of government support is one of the most severe cases of nonuniversal healthcare compared to the other Arab countries.

http://arabdevelopmentportal.com/blog/direct-personal-healthcare-spending-and-its-impact-poverty-arab-countries
http://arabdevelopmentportal.com/blog/direct-personal-healthcare-spending-and-its-impact-poverty-arab-countries

Due to this responsibility that Egyptians must take on, researchers have found that many people in Egypt endure what they call “catastrophic health payments.” Direct civilian payments do not only account for most of the healthcare sector: these expenses also account for a noteworthy portion of civilians’ total spending. More than 20% of the population spends 10% of their total expenditure on healthcare, and around 7% of the population spends 40% of their expenditure, when food is not accounted for, on these health payments. Compared to other populations of similar income levels, Egyptians fare the worst.

http://www.mdpi.com/2227-7099/3/4/216/htm
http://www.mdpi.com/2227-7099/3/4/216/htm

To exacerbate the lack of government funding, a significant number of workers in Egypt make a living within the informal sector. Within this “shadow economy,” laborers lose the potential benefits of health insurance coverage. Although the informal economy has generally been declining in the past few decades, its mark on Egypt’s economy is still striking. Among other consequences of such a large percentage of GDP coming from the informal sector, the lack of access to government-financed healthcare persists.

https://poseidon01.ssrn.com (Working Paper no. 6424)
https://poseidon01.ssrn.com (Working Paper no. 6424)

Is all hope lost, then, for healthcare in Egypt? With regard to the recent medication shortages, these appear to exist only in the short term as a result of the shock of Sisi’s economic reforms. In fact, the inflation brought about by the government’s decision to float the currency seems to be coming down.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-15/why-28-inflation-may-still-not-warrant-an-egypt-rate-increase
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-15/why-28-inflation-may-still-not-warrant-an-egypt-rate-increase

As the pound gains ground, the cost of imports will return to reasonable rates, hopefully to low enough levels to revive the pharmaceutical industry. Even though pharmacists may begin to restock their shelves and bring relief to their neighbors, the broader issues with Egypt’s healthcare system should not go unnoticed. Egypt is far from a universal healthcare system—even if this level of involvement is not Egypt’s end goal, the people need and deserve some improvements in government assistance. SisiCare, evidently more so than its American counterpart, has quite some refinements to be made.

Hope for Egypt’s Declining Tourism Industry?

What should be an industry booming from its rich historical sites and culture is now a place where you can find yourself alone inside the tomb of one of Egypt’s greatest rulers. So why has Egypt become a place where only the most unwavering travellers are willing to visit? Many reasons have affected this, the crashes of Metrojet 7k9268 and EgyptAir flight 804, terrorism threats, and political unrest.  

debris

Since these incidents have caused many countries to warn their citizens sternly against travelling to Egypt , the country is seeing a decrease in its international travel. Although the threats are still rated “high” by the Foreign Office, efforts to enhance the safety of tourists and the industry are being put into effect.

Since 2011, Egypt has seen the threat of revolution, a military coup that ended the rule of Hosni Mubarak and overthrew Mohamed Morsi, the crashes of two airliners, and several terrorist attacks.

00-egypt-coup-2013-anti-morsi-07-07-13

Tourism makes up 11.4 percent of the country’s GDP, and with these incidents crippling many tourists’ confidence in visiting major historical sites and cities, there is little income flowing from one of Egypt’s main sources of wealth. With the lack of tourists, funding for museums and other sites has declined. With the decrease in activity and increase in price for many attractions, even fewer tourists are willing to pay. In 2015, Egypt lost over a billion dollars in revenue after the industry declined by 15 percent.

empty sun loungers

Throughout 2016, tourism rates decreased by 40 percent, making everyday life for working Egyptians more expensive. The industry makes up a large portion of Egyptian economy, and with it becoming only a fraction of what it used to be, the economy is worsening more and more each day.

Screen Shot 2017-05-22 at 10.14.51 AM

This economic decline has caused many people to have to close up their shops and restaurants because prices keep skyrocketing, and has even subsidized goods like sugar and rice. The country may have to devalue its currency for a second time this year, all while a loan was approved for 12 billion dollars from the IMF to help pull Egypt out of economic crisis.

Less funding for historical attractions means less safety and security for those visiting them. In June of 2016, the Karnak temple hosting the statues of Ramses IV and Queen Nefertari was attacked by a suicide bomber.

Statues of Ramses II as Osiris in Karnak Temple, Luxor (Thebes) Egypt.
Statues of Ramses II as Osiris in Karnak Temple, Luxor (Thebes) Egypt.

Incidents like this bring more fear for international visitors, as well as poor road conditions and the turmoil brewing in North Sinai. These problems are concerning, and many foreign countries have advised their citizens to be wary of travelling to Egypt. The UK and Russia have banned all direct air flights and several Western countries, including the United States, have placed travel bans and advisories.

There still could be a silver lining, however. Egypt’s tourism minister, Yehia Rashed, has created a “Six-Point Plan” to renew the crippled economy. This new plan aims to work with international tourism organizations, enhance the infrastructure, advance service and product levels to meet international standards, attract foreign investors, and develop eco-friendly commodities. Rashed has stated that these goals are “ambitious” but he believes that in order for the tourism industry to rise again, ambition is a good thing. This new plan will help initiate a focus on the most important factors in reinvigorating Egypt’s most affluent source.

Why Not Herbollah

Hezbollah, the “Party of Allah/God” is a  Lebanese Shiite militia and political party that is fighting in Syria on the side of the Russian and Iranian-backed government of President Bashar al-Assad against rebels seeking his demise. The ‘group’ was formed in 1982 as a response to Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon.  and derives much of its ideological inspiration from Iran,  which aided in its emergence during the Israeli occupation of Lebanon in the early 1980s.  Despite Iran’s substantial influence, Hezbollah’s roots stretch back to the Shia Islamic revival in Lebanon in the 1960s and ’70s; which was a reversal of the common Arab and Asian governments “Westernization” approach earlier in the 20th century.  Superseding the quadrupling of oil prices in the mid-1970s, and the 1979 Iranian Revolution which undermined the assumption that Westernization strengthened Muslim countries and was the irreversible trend of the future.

Both the United States and Israel consider Hezbollah a terrorist organization.  This appellation is far from controversial due to the party itself announcing its intentions.  In 1985, Hezbollah officially declared the US and the Soviet Union as Islam’s principal enemies and called for the “obliteration” of Israel, which it said was occupying Muslim lands.

The most significant progress that has been made towards achieving that goal was to force Israel’s military to end its 22-year occupation in May 2000.  After Israel withdrew in 2000, Hezbollah resisted pressure to disarm and continued to bolster its military strength.  This decision worked well in their favor, and by 2006 some of its capabilities now exceed those of the Lebanese army, which was demonstrated with the considerable firepower Hezbollah used against Israel in the 2006 war.  

Israel has not allowed their acts to go without consequence and retaliation.  Later in 2006, Hezbollah militants launched a cross-border attack in which eight Israeli soldiers were killed and two others kidnapped, triggering a massive Israeli response.  Israel also fought a monthlong war against Hezbollah known as the ‘2006 Lebanon War’ which was the second ‘Lebanon War’ between these two opposing forces.  To much surprise, it is widely accepted that Hezbollah emerged victorious.  Israel still views Hezbollah as a formidable enemy on its border and watches the group carefully.  Over the past few years, Israel and Hezbollah have both worked to improve their capabilities for the kind of war they expect to fight.

Hezbollah is widely recognized as the most formidable military force in Lebanon, which the United States has tried to balance with support for Lebanon’s armed forces. While the two forces have historically remained separate, the escalation of the war in Syria has led to cooperation between them to secure Lebanon’s borders.

Hezbollah’s strategic situation has also changed following its commitment of significant forces to Syria, with an estimated 5,000 personnel serving there at any one time.  They are believed to have made other improvements in their capabilities, including air defense and coastal defense, with systems acquired through Syria.  According to Israeli officials, Hezbollah has about 8,000 fighters in Syria and has has lost about 1,700 fighters in Syria and thousands more have been injured.

As of today, Hezbollah is more powerful than the existing sovereign Lebanese state.  The party has a paramilitary wing which essentially subscribes to a military resistance against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.  This has forced Lebanon into an existential crisis, because the state itself, the Lebanese state, must have a monopoly on the use of force.

Boko Haram: Are Northern Nigerians still at Risk?

If someone walked up to you ten years ago and asked ‘who are “Jama‘atu Ahl as-Sunnah li-Da‘awati wal-Jihad?” or in English,”’People Committed to the Prophet’s Teachings for Propagation and Jihad,’’ I am doubtful you would be able to accurately describe this rising terrorist group, now known as “Boko Haram.”

The kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, Nigeria on the night of April 14, 2014, quickly allowed Boko Haram to become a household name across the world. The high-profile kidnapping caused an outburst of social media reaction, even from our First Lady, who posted an image with the hashtag “#BringBackOurGirls.”

Before these kidnappings, Boko Haram was barely known, nor cared about by Americans. What many do not know is that this terror group has actually been around since 2002. The Jama‘atu Ahl as-Sunnah li-Da‘awati wal-Jihad were mostly opinionated Muslims gathering together to share their beliefs. Eventually, the expressed hated of western values became more prominent, which led to attacks on civilians. Once these attacks began, the group changed their name to “Boko Haram” which loosely translates to “western education is forbidden.” At that time, they were mostly controlled by Mohammad Yusuf. After his execution in 2009, it was commonly thought that it was also the death of the terrorist group. However, the following year, new and more sophisticated attacks began. The new leader who was thought to have been executed the year prior, Abubakar Shekau carefully spent his time underground planning new strategies for Boko Haram.

Since 2010, the group has devoted themselves to preaching their interpretation of the Quran, but this quickly turned to hatred of Western values and destruction of any disapproval. The number of members has increased exponentially, as well as the number of attacks. The governments in northern Africa have has no choice but to fight back. These circumstances created by Boko Haram set up a civil war type situation. Boko Haram is fighting for their extreme Islam view, while the government is fighting back to protect what has already been established in society. Boko Haram’s two main goals are to create a “pure” Islamic state ruled with no western influences. In order to accomplish this they implement violence and destruction to anything in its path.
However, Boko Haram’s structure is also similar to that of a gang. They have few, very successful people at the top, and many people to associate themselves with the group. Those who claim that they associate with Boko Haram may not actually be official members, but agree with what the group stands for, and they carry out attacks on their own. Gangs have this similar structure. The most successful remain at the top, while the rest are trying to prove themselves worthy.
This civil war of sorts has accomplished nothing except slaughtering thousands of people, and creating a state of emergency in three northern Nigerian states: Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa. The goal of Boko Haram is mostly to have their prisoners released and Islamic state to be created. The government has fought back to protect the country, although many innocent victims have been caught in the crossfire. Unfortunately, neither side is willing to give up on their goals, so Boko Haram and the Nigerian government will continue to cause hundreds of casualties, for what looks like many years to come.

Ensuring the Future of the Revolution for Generations to Come

With a membership roughly 125,000 strong ranging across army, navy, air force and intelligence personnel, a force of revolution lies in the deserts and streets of Iran. This isn’t some new revolution, this is the same revolution as the late 1970’s. Of course, many post- revolution states have had problems integrating guerilla forces back into society, the Iranian supreme leader in his divine and glorious insight came up with the perfect solution. The Iranian revolutionary militias morphed into the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

With divine mandate in hand these warriors of god set out to defend the revolution against infinite foreign threats. Aside from the military force of the IRGC itself, two other organizations fall under the umbrella of the IRGC, the Quds and the Basij. While the IRGC is a highly-trained military force in charge of the defense of Iran and the state’s strategic weapons, the Quds and Basij fulfill different roles. The Quds work spread the Islamic revolution outside of Iran, operating as spies, saboteurs, assassins and trainers for foreign militant groups. They have even gone so far as to attempt to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States in a Washington D.C. restaurant. Far more public, the Basij militia are mainly a volunteer force who protect the ideology of the revolution in Iran mostly through coercion. In 2008 approximately 20% of the Iranian population was part of the Basij though only roughly 1.5 million could theoretically be mobilized for combat. Many members of the Basij are youth undergoing ideological indoctrination to reinforce support for the regime. During the Iran-Iraq war Basij forces mobilized between 7 and 8 hundred thousand fighters for disastrous “human wave” attacks. Given that there is no enemy for the Basij to hurl themselves against currently, members partake in activities such as drug trafficking crack downs, boarder patrols and moral policing.

The more shadowy main body of the IRGC is the most powerful single organization in Iran. Working alongside the government, they are subordinate only to the supreme leader. The IRGC isn’t just a military stronger than the state’s military, they also control billions of dollars of investments both in an outside of Iran, the organization has a stranglehold on both the legitimate and black market economic scene in Iran. Perhaps most horrifying though is the fact that the IRGC will hold major influence over determining the next Supreme Leader. Speculation holds that the only reason the Iran nuclear deal passed was because the IRGC wanted it to.  It is reasoned that the IRGC believed that the resources freed up would be available to send off to foreign militant groups sympathetic to the IRGC’s interests. Some recent IRGC actions include training Houthi rebels in 2014 and attacking a replica US aircraft carrier during a training exercise in 2015. The IRGC has developed links to organizations from Hamas and Hezbollah to Los Zetas and Venezuelan drug cartels. All in all what was once a ragtag group of Islamic revolutionary militias in the 70’s has become a global organization with an insidious grip on both its home country and foreign groups, answering to no one.

The Government of Ukraine

Protesters filled the streets in 2014, hoping to bring down President Viktor Yanukovych. The Ukrainian people longed for a favorable government. The pro-Russian Yanukovych had made several unpopular decisions. He imprisoned his political rivals, he harassed several independent journalists, he ordered military force upon peaceful protests, and what pushed most Ukrainians over the edge was his decision to not sign an agreement that would form an alliance between Ukraine and the European Union.

Ukraine’s only problems are by no means solely political as the state of its economy has plummeted. The hryvnia, Ukraine’s currency, trades at a rate of about 10:1 with the US dollar. Ukraine’s government has recently been confronted with short-term debts with interest rates that peaked at 15%. In 2014, Ukraine’s bonds were just as weak, if not weaker than Venezuela’s. Directly after the post-Soviet era in 1991, Ukraine became an extremely unproductive economy. Ukrainians experienced large amounts of hyperinflation, which frightened them. The Ukrainian central bank made the switch from their old currency of karbovanets to their current currency of hryvnias and pledged to keep it stable; this currency change took place in 1996. Ukraine’s government certainly has not been stable since this pledge. Numerous Ukrainian businesses refuse to pay taxes, and this of course deprives the Ukrainian government of revenues. The most recent prime minister of Ukraine has approximated that about $37 billion left the country’s possession during Viktor Yanukovych’s rule. According to the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, Ukraine is ranked 130th out of 168 countries in terms of corruption, 11 spots behind Russia.

In early August of 2014, the US’s Democratic Party divided when deciding to send lethal weapons and gear to Ukraine. The Obama administration had given to Ukraine non-lethal equipment (i.e. night-vision goggles and armored vehicles). Many, alongside Committee Chairman Carl Levin asked President Obama to go even further and send Ukraine lethal weapons. The demand for US weapon support will increase as Russia continues to interfere in Ukraine and the risk of open warfare develops. Barack Obama hinted at the fact that weapons could very well be sent to Ukraine if Russia decides to invade Ukraine. John McCain has accused the Obama administration of showing a “cowardly” approach to the situation by not sending Ukraine the necessary weapons and equipment that Mr. McCain believes they need. Ukraine’s military force has previously shown signs of unprofessionalism, and they have lacked the preparation skills of other military forces. In the summer of 2014, 311 Ukrainian troops decided to leave their weapons behind and cross the Russian border. The government in Kiev claimed that the troops had just experienced a short supply of ammunition. There have been several cases of odd behavior from the Ukrainian military. The US should most likely hold off on sending Ukraine any means of lethal weapons until they show that they are capable of a larger degree of discipline and professionalism. Ukraine clearly has several issues, and their government seems to be far from closing in on solutions for these problems.

Ukraine’s government has several political worries. About 50% of Ukrainians back improving relations with Russia; while the remaining 50% of Ukraine’s population are entirely opposed. One major recent issue is that the Ukrainian government in the country’s capital, Kiev, has recently lacked authority its eastern territory territory. Investigative journalist Manuel Ochsenreiter gave an interview and stated, “we have to realize that in the eyes of those protesters, the government in Kiev is a sort of gang of oligarchs, of organized crime, of terrorists, and of course hooligans, and when we see who is right now governing in Kiev, they are not so wrong”, when asked about protesters in Kiev. The government in Kiev greatly desires the military and economic backing of the West, especially NATO and the European Union. The government wants to encourage Russia to take military action, according to Ochsenreiter.

Ukraine has the possibility of striving as a country if it can build and maintain a strong as well as an improved economic and political situation. It would be ideal for Ukraine to become a completely democratic country, but they first need to come across a solution that will hopefully unify the country and solve their problems with government corruption.

Saudi Arabia: A Gang?

Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932 when King Abdulaziz bin Abdul Rahman united the unruly Bedouin tribes that filled the dry Arabian Peninsula under his rule. Since then, the Al Saud Dynasty has ruled over Saudi Arabia. Early on, the royal family adopted the strict interpretation of Islam, known as Wahhabism, and the rest of the country quickly followed. The extremist teachings of Wahhabism and global terrorism are closely connected. Although the United States and Saudi Arabia have very different policies on human rights and religious tolerance, the countries were brought together over their shared interest in Saudi Arabia’s oil fields. A significant break in this friendship came in 1973, with the Yom-Kippur War. In a political stand, the Saudis cut the western world off from their oil resources; because of this action, the United States faced an energy crisis. After the event, Saudi Arabia realized the large demand for their oil and dramatically increased the price. They soon began to reap the benefits of their natural resources. Since then, the US has worked hard to remain close allies with Saudi Arabia because of its great oil reserves and wealth, and not because of any similarities in ideology.

In many regards, the royal family of Saudi Arabia functions like a large institutionalized gang, with a shared identity, a strong level of permanence and organization, and an involvement in illegal activities. The Saudi royal family has amassed 1.4 trillion-dollar fortune, one of the biggest family fortunes in recent history. Released documents from WikiLeaks have made clear the misuse of wealth by the royal family. A Forbes article citing a Reuters report states that “revenues from as much as 1 million barrels per day of Saudi oil production were skimmed off by just a handful of princes.”  The royal family numbers in the thousands and the profit cuts of a few princes can only be a small part of the greater problem. The irony of Saudi Arabia is too much; in a country where twenty percent of the population is living in severe poverty, the great-great-grand-children of the late king receive an $8,000 a month stipend just for being royal. Like the wealth of most gangs, the prosperity of Saudi Arabia has not been evenly distributed, and has aggravated an already large income inequality problem. The absence of trustworthy numerical data about the economic state of the country sends up red flags. If nothing is wrong, why hide it? On the World Bank website, the poverty statistics graph is blank as “No data is available for the specified location.” Why is there no data for this particular graph? While the official results state that the unemployment rate is a rather low 11.7% of men, experts suspect it to be much closer to 29%. This stark discrepancy shows the Saudi government covering up their clear failing on behalf of their people. There is no reason that a country with a GDP in the top 20 worldwide cannot provide for 20% of its population.

The royal family is enormous. With the popular practice of polygamy and easy divorce for males, the first king of Saudi Arabia had over a hundred children, and these children had children. The thousands of Saudi princesses and princes make up a very wealthy upper-class, not because of what they have done, but because of the family into which they were born. The family even has a website! Although Saudi Arabia masquerades as a wealthy, powerful, and oil rich country, they are unwilling to provide basic necessities to millions of their citizens. The incredible fortune of the Saudi royal family and the drastic income inequality of their country illustrates the family’s gang-like nature.

Egypt: A Pyramid Scheme

In early 2011, anti-government protests, known as the Arab Spring swept across the Middle East and North Africa. It started in Tunisia, and spread within weeks to Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, and Libya. These protests were supposed to bring to power new governments that would bring social justice and political reform. The main result has brought these countries war. In Egypt, the military has taken control over the government, with broken promises of democracy now long forgotten.
The President of Egypt in 2011 was the authoritarian leader, Hosni Mubarak. He was in power for 30 years until he resigned in February of that year amid corruption and abuse of power allegations. When he stepped down from power, he gave the presidency to the military’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which only convenes in times of war or great internal emergencies.
The Council’s first order of business was to establish an open democratic election for the presidency and parliament. It suspended the Constitution of Egypt, and planned to eliminate the emergency laws put in place nearly three decades before. Eventually there was to be a peaceful transition of power to civilians that had been demanded during the protests. The Supreme Council did none of the things they promised would occur. The head of the Council, Defense Minister Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, “elected” 15 new governors, most of whom were military figures, and/or members of the old regime. Many citizens complained the governors were appointed, not elected, which was not democratic of the acting government. Additionally, over 16,000 people, many of whom were journalists, protesters, and bloggers, were put on trial for expressing their opinions. One member of the Council called for “some kind of insurance” so the Council would not have to operate under the whim of a president. After the burning of a church in October of 2011, Coptic Christians, members of the Orthodox Church of Egypt, protested. The Council, in retribution, killed twenty protesters. The SCAF attempted to put the blame on the protesters, saying that they were the ones who became violent first, but released footage indicated otherwise. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces remained in power for over a year until elected president Mohamed Morsi took office.
Morsi, however, was removed from office in 2013 after a coup by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces led by the chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. Al-Sisi forced Morsi to step down or he would be arrested. Morsi refused, saying he could fix Egypt’s problems politically, and al-Sisi ordered his arrest. Morsi went on trial for espionage, and was sentenced to death, but it was commuted. The military, as represented by President al-Sisi, is once again in power. This began an error of mass murders, with the government ordering the deaths of thousands of citizens.
Additionally, al-SiSi has now started to crack down on citizens who speak their mind. He has classified them as “terrorists,” claiming they are a threat to Egypt. Recently he has placed retired soccer icon Mohamed Aboutrika on the rapidly growing terrorism watch list. He has also banned dissent of his regime, and accusations of unfair trials, kidnapping, and torture regularly come up on the news, and the disappearances of bloggers, activists, and journalists is now a norm. A retired security official stated that the government keeps activists in check by making sure they don’t meet with other activists, give them no breathing room, and arrest some to scare the rest.
The instability in the leadership of Egypt has been difficult on the people. The people fear expressing their own opinions, and do as the government dictates. Under the military, the government’s abuse of citizens and power has caused many organizations to claim that Egypt has a growing human rights crisis, which will only worsen the longer that the military is in charge.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula

The civil war in Yemen, which began in 2011, has resulted in extreme chaos. This conflict occurred because the presidency was handed over to Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi by the former authoritarian president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Hadi was unable to handle many of the issues that arose, including food shortages, corruption, unemployment, al-Qaeda’s control of the south, and the populace remaining loyal to Saleh. The Houthis, a Shiite tribe in northeastern Yemen, who had previously fought against Saleh, decided to exploit the government’s weakness and took control of the northern province and Sana’a, Yemen’s capital, and the areas surrounding it. Many ordinary Yemeni citizens joined the Houthis as well. With their growing power, the Houthis were able to put Hadi and many government officials under house arrest. They might have succeeded, but their endeavors finally caught the attention of Saudi Arabia and other states, due to the Shia Houthis’ intention to take control of the entire country. Pro-Hadi forces backed by the Saudi government were able to push back the Houthis from Sana’a and its other provinces after four months.

In the late 1980s, the Saleh government had been reinstating many Yemeni soldiers. One of these soldiers was Osama bin Laden, who had fought against the Soviet Union in the Afghan War. These soldiers – including bin Laden – were brought back to fight against the Marxist government that was implemented in southern Yemen. Bin Laden later began training a group that advocated for the domination of global jihad. That group of militants formed the group Islamic Jihad in Yemen, which lasted from 1990 to 1994, one of the groups that would eventually become Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Other groups formed were the Army of Aden Abyan, and al-Qaeda in Yemen (AQY). AQY was responsible for many attacks directed toward Western powers, including a bombing on the USS Cole which killed seventeen US soldiers, and the suicide bombing of French oil tanker M/V Limburg which killed one of the crew members. After 9/11, the Bush administration pushed the Saleh government to begin counterterrorism operations against AQY. A US drone strike conducted in 2002 killed the leader of AQY, Abu Ali al-Harithi. After his death, there was a large decline in membership in the organization. Around this time, the current AQAP started to form.

AQAP was able to benefit from the fractured political system by creating an insurgency in southern Yemen. Because the civil war had caused Western forces to withdraw from the area, as well as simultaneously focusing the Saudi government’s attention onto the Houthi rebels, AQAP was able to successfully take control of the southern provinces. By providing basic needs and integrating itself into the population, AQAP (Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) has been able to control the provinces it seized. It has withstood arrests and attacks by implementing a “hierarchical, decentralized, and compartmentalized system.” In the regions it controls, it acts as a local government, collecting taxes from locals and providing protection from outside forces. A man living in the port city of Mukalla, an area controlled by AQAP, stated, “I prefer that Al-Qaeda stay here, not for Mukalla to be liberated. The situation is stable, more than any ‘free’ part of Yemen. The alternative to Al-Qaeda is much worse.” Along with governing the provinces it has seized, the organization also extorts money from international ships and imposes fees on their ports.

AQAP was formed after the remaining members of AQY (Al-Qaeda in Yemen) merged with 23 escaped terrorists from Sana’a Prison in 2006. Based on intelligence from 2014, there are an estimated 100,000 members of the organization. AQAP has carried out many attacks on others since 2006, including the assassination attempt of the Saudi prince Mohammed bin Nayef, suicide bombings aimed toward Japanese and Belgian tourists, and attacks on Italian and British embassies. The organization’s goal is to rid the world of Western influences and replace secular governments with Islamic regimes that implement Sharia law. To achieve this goal, AQAP aims toward overthrowing the government regime in Sana’a, assassinating members of the Saudi royal family and Western nationals, while also attacking the US homeland and embassies. For these reasons, many believe that AQAP is one of the more dangerous branches of Al-Qaeda.