Kurdish forces see historic chance for national unity as the Middle East sinks deeper in turmoil
If Arabs have failed for decades in achieving what they called "the ummah", or a pan-Arab nation, the Kurds for their part are making measured strides towards cross-border unity, exploiting the reigning chaos in the Middle East, according to columnist Mostafa Al Zein in the London-based newspaper Al Hayat.
While pan-Arabism has been practically abandoned by most Arab countries in the latter part of the 20th century, the advent of the Arab Spring - and the interference of Arab states in each other's affairs - has dealt the whole notion a decisive blow.
"The decline of the concept of cross-border nationalism has hit everyone, except the Kurds, who always seized upon the fragmentation of other groups around them to set themselves apart and work to separate from them," he wrote.
What Masoud Barzani, the president of the Iraqi Kurdistan, said recently serves as an illustration of this pattern, the author noted.
Mr Barzani called Kurdish political parties in Syria, Turkey and Iran to a "nationalist convention" to be held in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, in order to discuss the Kurdish situation in these countries and examine the possibility of establishing autonomous rule there, as a prelude to a future territorial unification, the columnist wrote.
"The situation in Syria today constitutes a historic opportunity for the Kurdish people to obtain their rights," the columnist quoted Mr Barzani as saying during a preparatory meeting for the convention.
Mr Barzani made the call in his capacity as president of Iraqi Kurdistan, but also in the name of the Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, who is Kurdish, and in the name of Abdullah Ocalan, the emblematic leader of the Kurdish Workers' Party, the columnist stressed.
Note that the Kurds in Syria have succeeded in enforcing military control over the areas where they constitute an ethnic majority, helped by the Iraqi Kurds and with the blessing of the West, the writer said, adding that both Turkey and the Syrian regime are tolerating this Kurdish rally in the Syrian north.
"Now they have started developing an autonomous administration that is independent from Damascus, and that could be the embryo of a government for 'Western Kurdistan', as they call it," the author went on, noting that this, however, has irked the Turkish government, which for years has had thorny relations with Kurdish populations.
Sure, the Kurds keep reassuring their respective countries that they only want peaceful relations with the other components of society. But their record in Iraqi Kurdistan points to another agenda, the writer said in conclusion.
"Today, Mr Barzani threatens secession from Baghdad every time the federal government in Iraq rejects one of his requests."
Unrest boosts Egypt's bodyguard business
Demand for private security personnel has seen a remarkable rise in Egypt, a trend that started with the revolution of January 25, 2011, which unseated the authoritarian president Hosni Mubarak, the Cairo-based newspaper Al Ahram reported yesterday.
Bodyguard rates have more than doubled, compared to pre-revolution levels, while the number of private security companies has increased by 25 per cent, Essam El Din Radi reported for the newspaper.
Renowned entrepreneurs, stars of show business and political figures are the main clients of this thriving business, especially in recent months, the report said.
Ayman Sayyed, the owner of a private security agency, said that having a bodyguard is no longer considered a luxury or a status symbol by high-society figures. They now see it as a necessity due to the bouts of violence that have gripped the country since the revolution.
Some public figures now have as many as 10 bodyguards, Mr Sayyed told the newspaper.
Mostafa Koma, a professional bodyguard, said the rates depended on the level of risk associated with the client, but wages in the sector have generally more than doubled.
He said the current bodyguard contracts range between 2,500 Egyptian pounds (Dh1,300) and 4,000 pounds a piece, up from 1,000 and 3,000 pounds before the revolution.
EU scrambles after Hizbollah blacklisting
The European Union's decision last week to put the armed wing of Hizbollah on its terrorist list was a long time coming, but as soon as it was made public, Brussels started scrambling to appease the Shiite militant party and other Lebanese forces, wrote Ghazi Aridi, Lebanon's Minister of Public Works and Transportation, in yesterday's edition of the UAE-based newspaper Al Ittihad.
"As soon as the decision came out, the EU's ambassador was called back from her holiday and sent to Beirut to give clarifications and pre-empt negative repercussions," the minister said.
"She came soliciting appointments, conducting intensive meetings, distributing smiles and advocating reassuring statements like: 'There is nothing against the party's participation in the government', 'Nobody is targeting the party or the Shiite sect' and 'We are all for dialogue with the party'," Mr Aridi went on.
Many in Lebanon are wondering why the EU took its decision in the first place. "Is the party you were talking about in Brussels the same party you are talking about in Beirut?" the minister asked rhetorically, addressing EU members. "And are you serious about your differentiation between Hizbollah's armed wing and its political body? You seem to have stopped short of asking the ambassador to actually apologise to Hizbollah."
* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi