Passion counts for a lot in the theatre. That is proved by this fiercely political piece written by Sabrina Mahfouz, and performed by her and three colleagues, which lives up exactly to its title. A mix of gig and lecture and running just over an hour, it is driven by a strong anti-imperialist urge and informs even as it entertains. Mahfouz, an admired poet who has dual Egyptian-British nationality, admits this is a highly condensed account of the way water has been used by Britain in the Middle East to exert commercial and colonialist control. We get snapshot histories of various countries and protectorates including Bahrain, which was pivotal to British trade routes, Iraq whose borders were determined by the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 and where neighbouring Kuwait became vital for the transport of oil, and the UAE, which is a world leader in ecologically destructive desalination. The charge sheet mounts up but it is spiced with wit and humour. The history is interspersed with … [Read more...] about A History of Water in the Middle East review – cheeky political lesson makes waves
Middle east and north africa
Turkey has launched an offensive into north-eastern Syria, unleashing air strikes and artillery barrages aimed at US-backed Kurdish forces who control the region. Video footage showed civilians fleeing towns with columns of smoke rising in the background and jet trails visible in the sky. Activists and observers say at least seven civilians have been killed so far. Turkey’s offensive was triggered by a call between Donald Trump and Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on Sunday, in which the Turks claim Trump handed over leadership of the campaign against Isis in Syria to Ankara. The American president announced on Sunday night that US troops would withdraw from the region. On Wednesday, hours after the bombing had begun, Trump issued a statement mildly criticising the offensive aimed at Kurdish forces which for nearly five years fought alongside the US against Isis. “This morning, Turkey, a Nato member, invaded Syria. The United States does not endorse this … [Read more...] about Turkey unleashes airstrikes against Kurds in north-east Syria
Who is in control in north-eastern Syria? The region makes up more than a quarter of the entire country and is the largest area outside of the control of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and his allies. Until Turkey launched its latest offensive there on 9 October, it was controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which comprises militia groups representing a range of ethnicities, though its backbone is Kurdish. The Kurds are an ethnic group of about 30 million people spread across the Middle East who have been fighting for their own state for more than a century. Since the Turkish incursion, the SDF has lost much of its territory and appears to be losing its grip on key cities such as Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ayn. On 13 October, Kurdish leaders agreed to allow Syrian army forces to enter the cities of Manbij and Kobane to protect them from being captured by Turkey and its allies. The deal effectively hands over control of huge swathes of the region to Damascus. That leaves … [Read more...] about What is the situation in north-eastern Syria?
Remember five-year plans? They used to be popular around here. Communist Russia reckoned that in five years, you could transform an economy. Vladimir Putin's Russia has updated the idea. Over the last five years it's not the economy the Kremlin has been expanding: it's Moscow's geo-political clout. Think back to 2014. Following Russia's annexation of Crimea and its military intervention in eastern Ukraine, Moscow - slapped with Western sanctions - looked isolated, a pariah state. Western leaders queued up to criticise President Putin, confident that pressure on the Kremlin would change its behaviour. President Barack Obama dismissed Russia as a "regional power". For a former superpower, that hurt. Fast forward to 2019. Will a deal with Russia bring peace to Ukraine? Is Putin's popularity in decline? Today, Russia is pushing for global influence. It interfered in America's presidential election on the side of Donald Trump, according to US intelligence; it's seeking to boost its … [Read more...] about Russia’s Putin: From pariah to Middle East power broker
BBC Africa editor Fergal Keane visits South Africa's conservative rural areas nearly 25 years after white-minority rule ended, and finds that racism is still deeply embedded but there are also symbols of racial reconciliation. It was a young boy who noticed us and ran to tell his father. Around 10 years old, blond-haired and barefoot, he rushed indoors. The child looked scared. It was dusk and we were strangers. I caught sight of him in the rear-view mirror as we drove along the dirt road that ran past the tall steel fence that encircled their home. Maybe 10 minutes later, a car approached from behind. Headlights flashed, beckoning us to stop. Revolver on hipWe pulled up within a few yards of each other. It was an old car, a Toyota from the 1990s. Beaten and rusted, it is a vehicle of the rural poor. A young white man got out. He wore a baseball cap pulled down over his forehead and his right hand sat on the revolver strapped to his hip. There was a young woman with a baby on her lap … [Read more...] about South Africa’s ‘toxic’ race relations