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A reported blog about all things Middle East and North Africa.

Bahraini diamonds not a girl's best friend?

A member of Britain's royal family is under fire for accepting jewels from the ruling regime in Bahrain, which last year cracked down violently on protestors calling for reform.
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Britain's Prince Charles (R), Prince of Wales, walks with Bahrain's King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa (L) during a reception at Clarence House in London on December 13, 2011. Britain's Countess of Wessex is under fire for accepting expensive jewels as a gift from Bahrain's royal family, after the government cracked down on protestors last year. (FINBARR O'REILLY/AFP/Getty Images)

Buckingham Palace is under pressure to return jewels given to the royal Countess of Wessex from Bahrain's government, which cracked down brutally on protestors calling for democratic reforms last year. 

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Mickey Mouse cartoons a crime in the new Egypt

Prominent Christian businessman and politician will face trial for tweeting a cartoon depicting Mickey and Minnie Mouse in Islamic dress.
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Naguib Sawiris will face trial for tweeting a cartoon of Mickey and Minnie Mouse in Islamic dress. He is charged with "contempt of religion." (GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images)

Tweeting a Mickey Mouse cartoon is now a crime in Egypt. 

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Middle East repression will continue in 2012: Amnesty

Amnesty International says Arab governments are likely to continue to violently repress protests in 2012 -- but that demonstrators are not backing down either.
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An Egyptian woman holds the widespread picture of a woman who was stripped and beaten by riot police during clashes last week as Egyptians gather for a protest in downtown Cairo to denounce the military's attacks on women and to call for an immediate end to the violence against protesters on December 20, 2011. (Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images)

Arab governments will not stray from their using violence and strong-arm tactics to quell popular protests and dissent this year, Amnesty International says in a new report. But demonstrators will not be backing down either.

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Irony on the high seas: Iran, the U.S. navy, and pirates

Just days after Iran held military exercises in -- and threatened to close -- the Strait of Hormuz, the U.S. navy rescues 13 Iranian sailors from pirates in the nearby Arabian Sea.
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Iranian Navy boats take part in maneuvers during navy exercises in the Strait of Hormuz this month. Today, the U.S. navy rescued 13 Iranian sailors from pirates. (EBRAHIM NOROOZI/AFP/Getty Images)

Today, Iran's minister of defense announced his forces would "conduct its greatest naval wargames" to flex Iran's muscle against U.S. presence in the Strait of Hormuz. Then, the U.S. navy saved 13 Iranian sailors from pirates in the Arabian Sea.  

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Egypt police: Shoot to kill... and get a bonus?

Egypt's interior ministry has authorized a shoot-to-kill policy against "thugs", and that includes a financial bonus, a prominent rights group says.
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An Egyptian protester flashes the V-sign for victory during clashes with riot police along a road which leads to the Interior Ministry, near Tahrir Square, in Cairo on November 23, 2011. (MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)

Following months of sporadic but violent clashes between Egyptian protestors and security forces, activists are bracing for demonstrations on the one-year anniversary of the start of a popular uprising on Jan. 25. This week, rights advocates say Egypt's interior ministry announced an alarming shoot-to-kill policy for police -- and that comes with a reward.

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U.N.: Troubling rise in Saudi executions

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says Saudi saw a sharp rise in executions in 2011 and for a wide range of offenses.
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Setting up a mock gallows with a dummy on a rope, about 25 Lebanese human rights activists protest outside the Saudi embassy in Beirut on April 2010 against capital punishment as Lebanon's envoy to Riyadh said he has yet to be informed of a Saudi decision to behead a Lebanese former TV presenter convicted of sorcery, which was expected to be carried out this week. The United Nations said today that Saudi Arabia saw sharp and troubling rise in executions in 2011. (ANWAR AMRO/AFP/Getty Images)

The number of people executed in Saudi Arabia more than doubled in 2011 compared to 2010, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
said today
.

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Is the Egypt-Israel peace treaty at risk?

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, set to lead a new parliament, says yes. The US says no.
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A security fence in seen along the Israel-Egypt border north of the Red Sea resort of Eilat. Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has indicated the Egypt-Israel peace treaty might be at risk. (CHARLY WEGMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s Israel’s nightmare scenario in the Middle East: that an Islamist Egyptian government scraps the Egypt-Israel peace treaty.

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Damascus bomb points to ominous deterioration in Syria

A bomb attack in central Damascus points to growing sinister nature of the Syria conflict.
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Syrian mourners carry a coffin during the mass funeral of 44 people killed in twin suicide bombings which targeted intelligence agency compounds at the Omayyad Mosque in Damascus on December 24, 2011. (LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)

A bomb blast in central Damascus has killed and wounded dozens. Syrian state TV swiftly blamed the attack on “terrorists,” while activists accused the regime of orchestrating attacks to discredit protests as the conflict intensifies.

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Tunisian man sets himself alight, in move that mimics start of Arab unrest

Man's self-immolation highlights Tunisia's continued struggle with unemployment, a year after the uprising.
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People gather on December 17, 2011 in Sidi Bouzid's Mohamed Bouazizi square, named after the fruit seller whose self-immolation sparked the revolution that ousted a dictator and ignited the Arab Spring. (FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images)

A Tunisian man set himself on fire in front of a government building to protest unemployment in a rural area, mimicking the Dec. 2010 self-immolation of a fruit vendor that sparked the uprisings across the Middle East.

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Deja vu! This whole standoff with Iran has happened before

Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz before. But war didn't happen that time either.
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An Iranian Army soldier stands guard on a military speed boat during the 'Velayat-90' navy exercises in the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran on Dec. 28, 2011. (ALI MOHAMMADI/AFP/Getty Images)

You've probably heard that Iran is threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, a key waterway where anywhere from 30 to 40 percent of the world's oil passes through.

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