Feb. 11–13 Iran: Iran celebrated the 40th anniversary of the 1979 revolution on Feb. 11, which is recognized officially as the day when revolutionary forces overwhelmed Iran’s military and ousted the U.S.-backed monarch Mohammad Reza Shah from power. As reported by Al Jazeera, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addressed the tens of thousands of people who had gathered in Tehran’s Azadi Square to celebrate amid heightened security. Iranian-owned news outlet Tehran Times reported rallies in 1,000 cities and 10,000 villages celebrating the anniversary across Iran despite rainfall and snow.
Separately, the country was rocked by a suicide car-bomb attack on Feb. 13 in which 27 members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard—an elite military wing of the Armed Forces—were killed along with 10 others injured. The attack took place in the Sistan and Baluchestan Province located along the border with Pakistan as a bus transported the special forces members between the cities of Zahedan and Khash. According to Haaretz, Jaish al-Adl, a Sunni group whose name means Army of Justice in Arabic, has claimed responsibility for the attack, demanding rights for the Baluchi ethnic minority.
Feb. 12 New York, U.S.: Renowned Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán was found guilty in Brooklyn, New York on Feb. 12 following a three-month long trial. The jury—whose identities were kept anonymous during the trial over concerns for their lives—reached a unanimous verdict after six days of deliberation, VICE reported. Guzmán was convicted on 10 counts of federal indictment involving drug smuggling, murder, money laundering and possession of weapons and will now face life in federal prison with no possibility of parole. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 25.
Feb. 13 Brussels, Belgium: The European Union, headquartered in Brussels, has blacklisted Saudi Arabia along with Panama and four U.S. territories due to their lax financial controls associated with terrorism financing and money laundering, Reuters reported. The list—which has previously included countries such as Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen and North Korea—has doubled from 16 to 32 locations that the EU deems too financially lenient, as reported by Forbes. While the decision does not necessarily prohibit financial relations between business within EU member states, it does create extra hurdles and greater scrutiny for processing payments with countries and territories deemed high-risk.
Feb. 13–14 Warsaw, Poland: Representatives from over 60 countries attended a two-day summit in Warsaw organized by the Trump administration to discuss Middle East security, with talks mainly revolving around Iran. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence accused Britain, France and Germany of attempting to “break American sanctions against Iran’s murderous revolutionary regime,” The New York Times reports, after which representatives from the three European countries responded with criticism toward the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, often dubbed the Iran Nuclear Deal.
Feb. 15 Japan: Following decades of discrimination, Japan’s government approved a bill on Feb. 15 which formally recognizes the Ainu people, an ethnic minority indigenous to Japan who mostly reside in the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido. As reported by The Japan Times, the unprecedented bill would officially recognize the Ainu as indigenous while creating more policies designed to support communities and traditional practices, with its overall purpose to “realize a society where the Ainu people can live with their ethnic pride, which will be respected.”
Feb. 15–16 Nigeria: On the eve of the country’s general elections, at least 66 people, including 22 children and 12 women, were found murdered in Nigeria’s central state of Kaduna on Feb. 15 across eight different villages, with Deutsche Welle reporting the violence was likely related to sectarianism in the region amid the country’s upcoming election. With polls just five hours from opening the following day, the election was declared postponed until Feb. 23 by the Independent Electoral Commission, as the country’s two main presidential candidates—current President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressive Congress and Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party—each blamed the other for the postponement, as reported by The Guardian.
When I first came to PSU, I was a Chinese major, having studied three years prior in high school alongside French and Japanese. After the first year, I took a hiatus. I don't believe in going to college straight out of high school, but it's what was expected. I returned a few years later to study Japanese at PCC and Arabic at PSU. I am now a junior majoring in International Studies: Middle East and Arabic. In the future, I would like to work as a journalist or humanitarian aid worker in the region, helping people who lack economic and political backing and media exposure.