Pirouettes and plenty of pink at Gaza’s ballet school

Updated 01 December 2015

Pirouettes and plenty of pink at Gaza’s ballet school

GAZA: The group of girls, ponytailed and dressed in pink, stretched their arms out to the sides and pivoted onto their toes, trying desperately to hold still. Eagle-eyed, the instructor surveyed Gaza’s latest crop of would-be ballerinas.
Fifty girls aged five to eight are now enrolled in the ballet school at the Al-Qattan Center for Children in Gaza, making it one of the most popular classes the arts institute runs, under the watchful eye of a Ukrainian teacher.
Amid the chaos and destruction that has shattered Gaza so often over the past five years, with repeated wars between Israel and Hamas, the school is a haven of calm and order, one many parents are eager for their children to enjoy.
“The ballet project was a dream for many families,” said Heyam Al-Hayek, the head of Qattan’s cultural activities. “They had been asking for ballet courses but we couldn’t find trainers. It was difficult to bring an instructor from abroad.”
The dream began to take shape when they found Tamara, a Ukrainian married to a Palestinian and living in Gaza, who had studied dance and was qualified to teach. She asked not to give her family name.
They started a pilot program in the summer, not sure how many parents would sign up given that Gaza is a conservative society and ballet is hardly a common pastime. Before they knew it, 50 children, all girls, were registered. There is now a waiting list that runs into the hundreds.
In the tiled hall, 14 pupils lined up in unison along the wall, one hand clutching a long metal barre. As Tamara showed them the steps, they copied precisely, angling their feet, bending their knees, one arm outstretched, chins held high.
Some of the children have lived through four wars in their short lifetimes, with Gaza on edge since Hamas seized full control of the enclave in 2007.


Successor to slain Iran general faces same fate if he kills Americans: US envoy

Updated 23 January 2020

Successor to slain Iran general faces same fate if he kills Americans: US envoy

  • Washington blamed Soleimani for masterminding attacks by Iran-aligned militias against US forces in the region
  • Ghaani promised to “continue in this luminous path” taken by Soleimani and said the goal was to drive US forces out of the region

DUBAI: The US special representative for Iran said the successor to Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike, would suffer the same fate if he followed a similar path of killing Americans, Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported.

Washington blamed Soleimani for masterminding attacks by Iran-aligned militias against US forces in the region. US President Donald Trump ordered the Jan. 3 drone strike in Iraq after a build up of tension over Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran responded to the killing of Soleimani, who was charged with expanding Tehran’s influence across the Middle East, by launching missile strikes on US targets in Iraq, although no US soldiers were killed.

After Soleimani’s death, Tehran swiftly appointed Esmail Ghaani as the new head of the Quds Force, an elite unit in the Revolutionary Guards that handles actions abroad. The new commander pledged to pursue Soleimani’s course.

“If (Esmail) Ghaani follows the same path of killing Americans then he will meet the same fate,” Brian Hook told the Arabic-language daily Asharq Al-Awsat.

He said in the interview in Davos that US President Donald Trump had long made it clear “that any attack on Americans or American interests would be met with a decisive response.”

“This isn’t a new threat. The president has always said that he will always respond decisively to protect American interests,” Hook said. “I think the Iranian regime understands now that they cannot attack America and get away with it.”

After his appointment, Ghaani promised to “continue in this luminous path” taken by Soleimani and said the goal was to drive US forces out of the region, which has long been Iran’s stated policy.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have steadily increased since Trump withdrew from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018 and imposed tough news sanctions that have hammered the Iranian economy.

This month’s military flare-up began in December when rockets fired at US bases in Iraq killed a US contractor. Washington blamed pro-Iran militia and launched air strikes that killed at least 25 fighters. After the militia surrounded the US embassy in Baghdad for two days, Trump ordered the drone strike on Soleimani.