Conflict pushes Syrian-Armenians to their ancestral homeland

In the final few days of July 2012, conflict broke out between rebels and the Syrian regime in the ancient city of Aleppo. Sarkis Rshdouni’s father was driving him to the airport, opting for the longest route in order to avoid the fighting on the main road. But they couldn’t escape it entirely.

“It was my first time seeing a military helicopter firing,” Mr. Rshdouni said of the trip.

The threat of violence was not what compelled the now 26-year-old to leave. Rather, it was Syria’s political leanings after the death of former President Hafez Al-Assad and rise of his now-embattled son, Bashar. According to Mr. Rshdouni, a Syrian-Armenian, the country became more aligned with Turkey, and this affected his community.

Aleppo city centre, June 2012. “The neighbourhood is partly damaged due to the ongoing war,” says Sarkis Rshdouni.

“Syria still hasn’t recognized the Armenian genocide…so why should I live there?” said Mr. Rshdouni, who is studying for a B.A. in history at Yerevan State University and working in the tourism industry.

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Foreigncy: a tool to grow your Arabic vocabulary and improve your reading skills

If you are a student of Arabic you have likely struggled to find quality resources to use outside of a classroom context. There are a myriad of online resources available, but many are either out of date or poorly organised (or grossly unaffordable).

I’ve been playing around with the recently revamped Foreigncy website to keep practicing my Arabic reading and vocabulary acquisition. The site describes itself as “a one-of-a-kind language training system for advanced level students and language professionals,” which “focuses on the practical aspects of language learning that are in demand by employers.”


Using Foreigncy is simple and helps provides users with a base with which to train their reading ability in the target language.

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Picks of the week, 2-8 February

Gideon Levy, The death of the Israeli left, Middle East Eye, 4 February 2015.
David Hearst, Hanan Ashrawi: Oslo Accord left Jerusalemites at mercy of Israel, Middle East Eye, 4 February 2015.
Matthew Barber, After Burning of Muaz al-Kasasbeh, Jordan & al-Azhar’s Gestures of Vengeances Will Not Heal, Syria Comment, 6 February 2015.
Nour Samaha, The Battle for the Qalamoun Mountains, Foreign Policy, 6 February 2015.
Imen Blioua, Ennahda MPs defend party decision to join new government, Tunisialive, 6 February 2015.
Michael Knights, Phillip Smyth and P.J. Dermer, The Fight Against ISIL: Shiite Militias and the Coalition Effort, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 6 February 2015.
Mohamed Eljarh, Libya’s Geneva Talks and the Search for Peace, Atlantic Council, 6 February 2015.
Mike Giglio, Remembering Shawkan, An Egyptian Journalist Left Behind, Buzzfeed News, 6 February 2015.

“Israel has practised the ‘cruellest measures’ against Jerusalemites” (via Middle East Eye)

Did you read an interesting news article, op-ed, analysis or report in the last week that you’d like to share? Provide a link in the comments section below!

[Forgotten Women] Lubna of Cordoba

This is the second part of a series on Al Miraah featuring forgotten women in which we tell the stories of groundbreaking women whose names are so often excluded from history.

Read part one: Rabbi Regina Jones

Lubna of Cordoba
Lubna of Cordoba (via

The forgotten woman of MENA history that we will be looking at is most commonly known as Lubna of Cordoba, although she is sometimes referred to as Labna or Labhana. A user of the forum at gave their own insight into why she has been forgotten, by quite simply stating that: ‘she is a woman and has no “famous” husband’, which may very well be the case. Only very little is known about her mainly because there are very few sources about this remarkable woman, and the credibility of these sources can often be questioned. In spite of these setbacks it is still worth mentioning those things that are known, because it is important that people remember her name.

Lubna lived in the 10th century C.E. and was raised in Cordoba at the court of Sultan Abd Al-Rahman III, a descendant of Abd Al-Rahman I who is said to be the only member of the Umayyad dynasty to survive the Abbasid coup of 750. He subsequently fled to Al-Andalus and established his own Sultanate. Many different roles and talents have been attributed to Lubna, though it is not clear how much of this is actually true. A list of roles that have been ascribed to her include: poet, copyist, scribe, royal library’s acquisitions expert, private secretary, and mathematician. As mentioned earlier, it is not known which of these are true, and writer Kamila Shamsie argues there is reason to believe that Lubna could possibly be the embodiment of two or perhaps three women at the court of Cordoba who, combined, were all these things [1]. But let’s first see what is generally said about this one woman known as Lubna of Cordoba before we descend into speculation.

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Picks of the week, 26 January-1 February

Andeel and Habiba Effat, A quick look back at the revolution’s internet sensations, Mada Masr, 27 January 2015.
Robert Mackey, Egypt Condemns Western Outrage at Fatal Shooting of Protester, The New York Times, 27 January 2015.
Joas Wagemakers, Jihadi-Salafi views of the Islamic State, Monkey Cage, 27 January 2015.
M. Steven Fish, Why is terror Islamist?, Monkey Cage, 27 January 2015.
Jack Khoury, Reuters and Nidal al-Mughrabi, UN suspends Gaza reconstruction due to stalled donor payments, Haaretz, 27 January 2015.
Michael Axworthy, Is it time to make Iran our friend and Saudi Arabia our enemy?, The Guardian, 28 January 2015.
Aaron Y. Zelin, The Islamic State’s model, Monkey Cage, 28 January 2015.
Marwan Muasher, Jordan Caught Between Two Bad Situations, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 28 January 2015.
Mark Valeri, Simmering Unrest and Succession Challenges in Oman, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 28 January 2015.
Mostafa Hashem, A Generational Battle Among Brothers, Sada, 29 January 2015.
Nour Samaha, Hezbollah-Israel: No war for now, Al Jazeera, 29 January 2015.
Ashraf al-Falahi, Islah’s Houthi Gamble, Sada, 30 January 2015.
Adam Goldman and Ellen Nakashima, CIA and Mossad killed senior Hezbollah figure in car bombing, The Washington Post, 30 January 2015.
Khalil al-Anani, The ISIS-ification of Islamist politics, Monkey Cage, 30 January 2015.
John Hutchinson, Meet the flower men of Saudi Arabia, Daily Mail, 30 January 2015.
The great Kuwaiti cat-meat scandal, BBC Magazine Monitor, 31 January 2015.
David D. Kirkpatrick, Sisi Blames Muslim Brotherhood for Bombings in Sinai, The New York Times, 31 January 2015.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi says that Egypt’s fight against terrorism will take years (via The New York Times)

Did you read an interesting news article, op-ed, analysis or report in the last week that you’d like to share? Provide a link in the comments section below!