!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News
Events: (Note that this is not the preferable method of finding events because not all events have been assigned topics yet)
The Foreign Research and Press Service at Balliol College, Oxford, publishes a memo, “The Albanian-Yugoslav Frontier,” suggesting where Albania’s postwar borders should be. They contrast national unification with what scholar Paulin Kola will later call “economic and political pragmatism.” Some examples of this contrast include using mountains as borders, even where they divide the same ethnicity, usually Albanians. They suggest giving Albania the northewestern city of Shkodra, but splitting Shkodra Lake with Yugoslavia, giving it the town of Ulquin. They suggest giving the Dukagjin Plateau, which Serbs call Metohija, to Yugoslavia, cutting Albania off from important commercial linkages. For regional stability, they suggest splitting Albania between Yugoslavia and Greece, since all Albanians could not be united in one country. They suggest an alternative, if that violation of “the principle of morality for which Great Britain has long stood” and the violation of Articles 2 and 3 of the new Atlantic Charter was too much: Albania could be made a protectorate of a country like Denmark or part of a regional federation. [Kola, 2003, pp. 14]
The Danish Union of Seamen claims that Danish cargo ships have carried at least five loads of arms and ammunition from Israel to Iran. The union’s deputy chairman, Henrik Berlau, says, “It appears that the shipments this year have been carried out on the orders of the US to win the release of hostages in Lebanon.” Danish cargo ships have the reputation of being able to deliver questionable cargo quietly to most parts of the world. Berlau tells the story of an October voyage, where a Danish cargo ship picked up 26 containers of ammunition from the Israeli port of Eilat and delivered them to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. A Danish sailor told Berlau, “We all knew there was ammunition on board.” But Israeli authorities in Eilat kept the nature of the cargo secret: “The Israeli harbor authorities told us to take off all markings that could show we had been in Israel, including the markings on the food we had taken aboard and on the weapons containers. We even had to remove the JAFFA markings on the oranges.” Uniformed Israelis, said the Danish seaman, forced the cargo ship to temporarily change its name (from Morso to Solar) until the ship reached the Persian Gulf on October 21, just before it delivered its cargo. [Time, 11/17/1986]
Abdullah Anas. [Source: History Channel]According to author Richard Labeviere, in this year Talaat Fouad Qassem, a leader of the Egyptian militant group Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, is designated by a leaders from different radical militant groups to head up the militant effort in Bosnia. Qassem is living in exile in Denmark and recruits the help of two Algerian militants also living in exile in Europe, Kamer Eddine Kherbane and Abdullah Anas. In future years, the three of them will coordinate all the requests for volunteers from European countries who want to fight in Bosnia. They will send about 2,000 volunteers to camps in Bosnia near the towns of Zenica and Tuzla. Kherbane will directly lead the Tuzla group. [Labeviere, 1999, pp. 73] In 1991, Kherbane will set up a charity front in Croatia that is a branch of Maktab al-Khidamat/Al-Kifah, which is closely tied to al-Qaeda (see 1991 and Early 1990s). In 1995, Qassem will be abducted in Croatia by US forces and killed in Egypt (see
September 13, 1995).
The United Nations passes Resolution 678. The resolution gives Iraq until January 15, 1991 to withdraw entirely from Kuwait (see July 25, 1990) and restore its national sovereignty. The US uses UN authority to build a “coalition” of nations to support its upcoming “Desert Storm” operation designed to repel Iraqi forces from Kuwait (see January 16, 1991 and After). 34 countries contribute personnel: Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Greece, Italy, Kuwait, Morocco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Spain, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States. West Germany and Japan do not contribute forces, but they do contribute $6.6 billion and $10 billion, respectively, to the cause. While some countries join out of a sincere belief that Iraq must not be allowed to dominate the region and control Middle Eastern oil reserves (see August 7, 1990), others are more reluctant, believing that the affair is an internal matter best resolved by other Arab countries, and some fear increased US influence in Kuwait and the region. Some of these nations are persuaded by Iraq’s belligerence towards other Arab nations as well as by US offers of economic aid and/or debt forgiveness. [NationMaster, 12/23/2007] As with all such UN resolutions, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein rejects this resolution. [PBS Frontline, 1/9/1996]
Anwar Shaaban. [Source: Evan Kohlmann]The Islamic Cultural Institute mosque in Milan, Italy is dominated by Al-Gama’a al-Islamiya, the Egyptian militant group led by Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. The imam of the mosque, Anwar Shaaban, is a leader of that group and also a leader of the mujaheddin efforts in Bosnia. The Islamic Cultural Institute serves as a transit and logistical base for mujaheddin coming or going to Bosnia (see Late 1993-December 14, 1995). After the 1993 WTC bombing, US investigators will discover heavy phone traffic between the Milan mosque and the Jersey City mosque run by Abdul-Rahman. Furthermore, they learn that bomber mastermind Ramzi Yousef used the Milan mosque as a logistical base as well. [Chicago Tribune, 10/22/2001] Yousef also prayed at the Milan mosque prior to the WTC bombing. [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. 171] Shaaban is a close friend of Talaat Fouad Qassem, another leader of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiya and one of the highest ranking leaders of the mujaheddin fighting in Bosnia. Qassem is directing the flow of volunteers to Bosnia while living in political asylum in Denmark (see 1990). [Kohlmann, 2004, pp. 25] In April 1994, seven Arab men living in Denmark, including Qassem, are arrested. US prosecutors will later claim that fingerprints on documents and videotapes seized from the men match fingerprints on bomb manuals that Ahmad Ajaj was carrying when he entered the US with Yousef (see September 1, 1992). A raid on one apartment in Denmark uncovers bomb formulas, bomb making chemical, sketches of attack targets, some videotapes of Abdul-Rahman’s sermons, and a pamphlet claiming responsibility for the WTC bombing and promising more attacks. Also, phone records and documents found in Abdul-Rahman’s Jersey City apartment show the men in Denmark were communicating regularly with Abdul-Rahman. [New York Times, 4/15/1995] But no one in either Milan or Denmark will be charged with a role in the WTC bombing. Danish police will later say that none of the seized documents indicated that the Arab men personally took part in the bombing. The men all are released and ironically, two of them are granted political asylum in Denmark because they are members of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiya, which the Danish consider to be a persecuted group. [Associated Press, 6/28/1995] In 1995, an Italian magistrate will issue arrest warrants for Shaaban and 60 other extremists (see Late 1993-December 14, 1995), but Shaaban will flee to Bosnia, where he will die of bullet wounds in unexplained circumstances (see December 14, 1995). [Chicago Tribune, 10/22/2001] The US government will later call the Islamic Cultural Institute al-Qaeda’s main logistical base in Europe and some evidence will link figures connected to it to the 9/11 plot (see Late 1998-September 11, 2001).
Talaat Fouad Qassem, 38, a known leader of the Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya (the Islamic Group), an Egyptian extremist organization, is arrested and detained in Croatia as he travels to Bosnia from Denmark, where he has been been living after being granted political asylum. He is suspected of clandestine support of terrorist operations, including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993). He also allegedly led mujaheddin efforts in Bosnia since 1990 (see 1990). In a joint operation, he is arrested by Croatian intelligence agents and handed over to the CIA. Qassem is then interrogated by US officials aboard a US ship off the Croatian coast in the Adriatic Sea and sent to Egypt, which has a rendition agreement with the US (see Summer 1995). An Egyptian military tribunal has already sentenced him to death in absentia, and he is executed soon after he arrives. [Associated Press, 10/31/1995; Washington Post, 3/11/2002, pp. A01; Mahle, 2005, pp. 204-205; New Yorker, 2/8/2005] According to the 1999 book Dollars for Terror, two weeks before his abduction, Qassem was in Switzerland negotiating against Muslim Brotherhood leaders. Some Muslim Brotherhood exiles were negotiating with the Egyptian government to be allowed to return to Egypt if they agreed not to use Muslim Brotherhood Swiss bank accounts to fund Egyptian militant groups like Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, but Qassem and other radicals oppose this deal. So the removal of Qassem helps the Muslim Brotherhood in their conflict with more militant groups. [Labeviere, 1999, pp. 70-71]
Margaret Atwood. [Source: Jean Malek]An opera version of the bestselling dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale is premiered in Copenhagen, Denmark, which begins with a giant mock newsreel that shows various buildings, reportedly including the World Trade Center, being blown up. [Independent, 4/2/2003; Sander, 5/2003, pp. 10; Variety, 4/10/2018] The novel of The Handmaid’s Tale was written by the Canadian author Margaret Atwood and first published in 1985. [Reuters, 4/17/2017] The music for the operatic version of the story was written by Poul Ruders, a young Danish composer, who began work on it in 1996. [Stephen Johnson, 2001; Guardian, 3/22/2003] The libretto—the words sung in the opera—were written by the British actor and author Paul Bentley, and then translated into Danish by Ruders. [Classical Net, 2001; Guardian, 8/3/2001] Director Phyllida Lloyd and designer Peter McKintosh, who are also British, contributed to the opera, but Atwood was not involved. [Time, 4/3/2000; Guardian, 3/22/2003; Globe and Mail, 9/18/2004] The premiere, at the Royal Theater in Copenhagen, is on March 6, 2000, and The Handmaid’s Tale will then be performed another seven times in Copenhagen. [Time, 4/3/2000; Guardian, 8/3/2001; Opera Canada, 9/22/2004]
Opera Is Based on a Fundamentalist Group Taking Power - The story of The Handmaid’s Tale is set in the future and based on the premise that, early in the 21st century, a fundamentalist religious group assassinated the president and all of Congress and seized power in the United States. The US was then reconstructed as a male-controlled totalitarian dictatorship called the Republic of Gilead. A strict moral code was enforced, with women being deprived of all rights. War and environmental havoc have caused widespread infertility, and some of the women who are still able to breed are enslaved as handmaids and forced to bear children for childless couples. [Guardian, 3/22/2003; Independent, 4/2/2003; New York Times, 5/14/2003]
Mock Newsreel Shows the Twin Towers Blowing Up - The opera begins with about a minute of fast-moving images—including video and stills—and headlines from the period that led up to the establishment of the Republic of Gilead. The footage depicts, among other things, a wrecked nuclear power station, tanks and guns, and piles of corpses. It shows fundamentalist troops invading the White House and blowing up the Statue of Liberty. It also shows the Twin Towers of the WTC blowing up, Atwood will later recall. These incidents are supposed to have happened in the year 2002, meaning the WTC is meant to have been blown up a year after it actually came down in the 9/11 attacks. [Stephen Johnson, 2001; Ruders, 2002, pp. xviii; Evening Standard, 4/3/2003; Variety, 4/10/2018] In light of what happens on 9/11, Lloyd will comment in 2003, “Now we look at that [mock newsreel] and think, ‘My God, how chilling that is.’” [BBC, 4/8/2003] Atwood will, in 2015, call the inclusion of the Twin Towers blowing up in the newsreel a “creepy thing.” [Sharp, 9/29/2015]
Images of the WTC Will Be Removed from a Later Version of the Opera - The opera will be a huge success in Denmark, with all eight performances selling out. [Guardian, 8/3/2001] A version of it sung in English will be performed in London, England, three years later. But, due to the actual destruction of the Twin Towers on 9/11, the images of the WTC will have been removed from the mock newsreel at the start of the opera. [Independent, 4/2/2003; Evening Standard, 4/3/2003; Globe and Mail, 9/18/2004] “They did the opera again and they had to take [the images of the Twin Towers blowing up] out, because it was no longer in the future,” Atwood will comment. [Variety, 4/10/2018] The rest of the mock newsreel, though, will remain unchanged. [Independent, 4/2/2003]
Falah Aljibury, an Iraqi-born oil industry consultant with strong ties to OPEC and western oil industries, interviews potential successors to Saddam Hussein on behalf of the Bush administration. One of the candidates that he will consider is Gen. Nizar Khazrahi, who is under house arrest in Denmark awaiting trial for war crimes. [BBC Newsnight, 3/17/2005; Democracy Now!, 3/21/2005; Harper's, 4/2005, pp. 74-76]
The UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions enters into force. In accordance with the ratification procedure, this happens three months after 30 countries deposited their instruments of ratification at UNESCO. UNESCO Director General Koichiro Matsuura notes, “None of UNESCO’s other cultural conventions has been adopted by so many states in so little time.” The 30 countries are Albania, Austria, Belarus, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Djibouti, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Guatemala, India, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Namibia, Peru, the Republic of Moldova, Romania, Senegal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Togo. By the time it comes into force, 22 more countries have deposited their ratification instruments at UNESCO. [UNESCO, 3/2007]
According to unemployment statistics compiled by Eurostat, the European Union unemployment rate has risen to 9.2 percent, its highest since September 1999, with 3.1 million jobs lost in April 2009, an increase of 556,000 from March. In the Eurozone, 396,000 jobs were shed and almost 15 million became unemployed. The lowest unemployment figures were in the Netherlands at 3.0 percent and Austria at 4.2 percent. The highest figures were in Spain at 18.1 percent, Latvia, 17.4 percent, and Lithuania, 16.8 percent. Eurostat is the Statistical Office of the European Communities located in Luxumbourg and is charged with providing statistics for comparisons between European countries and regions. The Eurozone is comprised of the 15 EU states that have adopted the euro and created a currency union. [MercoPress, 6/3/2009; Eurostat.com, 6/3/2009; Ezine Articles, 6/3/2009]
The US spends more than any other nation in the world on health care, but ranks only 50th among 224 nations in life expectancy, according to the 2009 CIA World Factbook. Experts say that this fact could raise serious questions in the debate over health care reform. Americans have an average life span of 78.1 years; the populations of 49 other nations live longer, on average. Japan is first in life expectancy, at 83 years; Australia, Iceland, Italy, San Marino, Switzerland, Andorra, Canada, and France round out the top 10 countries. Other countries, such as Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Singapore, Greece, Spain, and Portugal also do better than the US in life expectancy. The bottom 10 nations are, in reverse order, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Zambia, Chad, Uganda, Swaziland, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau, with life spans ranging from averages of 41 to 48 years. Some experts note that the US is the only developed nation to have a virtually completely privatized health care system. “What we are able to find in the industrialized world is that life expectancy will be influenced in a beneficial manner to the extent that health care expenditure is publicly financed,” says public health professor Harvey Brenner. “The higher the government expenditure on health care, the lower will be the mortality rate.” A study from the University of Chicago shows that a single-payer system—government-run health care—may be associated with higher life expectancy. The governments of such nations as Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, and Canada have government-run health care, and their citizens have some of the longest life spans in the world. The author of the study, Bianca Frogner, writes: “Inevitably the conversation about reforming our health care system focuses on the question of what are we getting for our money and how are others doing with their health care dollars. Life expectancy, along with mortality and morbidity rates, are fairly straightforward numbers to rely on.” Other comparisons show that Scandinavian and other European countries have lower birth mortality numbers than the US, though babies born with abnormally low birth weights tend to fare better in the US system than in the Scandinavian systems. [CNN, 6/11/2009]
Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database
Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.