Final Blog Post

This course has truly opened my eyes to the Arab world, and specifically media, culture and politics. The average American via western media is made to believe the Arab world is a war-ravaged  and uncivilized region of the world. With Americans main interaction with this region being September 11, 2001 and the war in Iraq, the media reinforces this imagery.

Through the blog posts, I have learned a lot about current events in the Arab World, policies implemented, cultural traditions as well as US relations to countries in the Arab World. I feel as though this semester in particular was a great time to read the blogs of my classmates as the crisis in Syria has escalated during this time period. Between researching articles for my own blog posts and reading postings, I have been kept up to date with the happenings in Syria.

As a political science major with an interest in domestic policy, this course was a great way to learn about the US’s relations with countries in the Arab World. Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama have frequently visited the region, offering monetary aid as well as advice on democratizing and speaking on the conflicts between Israel and Palestine.  With that said, it was interesting to see different opinions among the class. One blog post stated “the US continues to throw away money to foreign countries”, after the US approved $123 million in aid to the Syrian rebels.

A few blog posts were directed at Americans view of Iraq, such as a post about Iraq: 10 years later or Baghdad, the culture capital of the Arab world. This past April it had been 10 years since the American invasion of Iraq. In a ceremony in March, Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, was named the culture capital of the Arab world. The city is over 1,250-years-old is full of history and culture, however, much has been destroyed after the US’s 2003 invasion so it is in a state of rebuilding. This naming shows a contrasting view of the capital city than depicted in American media which puts Iraq back on the map, a much needed step in the right direction.

The blog posts I liked the most were ones written on topics that resonated with American ideas such as 18-24 year olds perspective on how things were or Egypt trying to block Internet porn and the closing of Guantanamo Bay. Last year, the US Congress had a bill before them that would censor the Internet causing outrage among Americans especially our generation. While the situation in the US was different from Egypt’s, Americans can relate as the majority see the Internet as something that does not need any more regulations. In another post, a survey among 18-24 year olds was analyzed in which most people living in the Arab World in this age bracket are worried about things such as unemployment and afraid of a rise in the cost of living. This is easily relatable as Americans of the same age bracket because of the state of our economy and the way things are going. Another issue that is easily relatable to, is Yemen’s call to close Guantanamo Bay. As Americans, a majority of the country elected President Barack Obama in 2008 that ran on a platform calling for the closing of the prison. This failed in congress but remains an emotional and controversial issue in the US as well as Arab countries, who’s citizens are going on hunger strike and protesting while being detained there.  

Other posts were shocking. As Americans, many of us take our rights and freedoms for granted and researching people who are punished for speaking out. Hearing about Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, a journalist, who was jailed for simply interviewing a woman who accused five government officials of gang-raping her, was heartbreaking. A man just trying to do his job and helping a victim get her voice heard was arrested and jailed.

These blog posts made the Arab World real and tangible. There were many issues raised that were relatable and many that made us grateful to live in the US. Nevertheless, learning about the many aspects of this forgotten region of the world has brought a voice and new light to a place many people have a biased vision of. 

Bahrain Outraged Over US State Department Report

Bahrain, a small country in the Arab world plagued by protests for two consecutive years is outraged at a human rights report written by the US State Department. The protests began in early 2011 and are in conflict with police forces in Shia villages.

The report released on April 19 said “the most serious human rights problems included citizens’ inability to change their government peacefully; arrest and detention of protesters on vague charges, in some cases leading to their torture in detention.” (http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/04/2013425113054409997.html)

Bahrainis accuse the report of lacking objectivity and falsely portraying the country’s state of affairs.

A spokewoman for the Bahraini government made a statement that she “urges the US State Department to help countries protect their national security and back their stability, the way the US itself does in the war it is waging on global terror.”

Meanwhile, the UN torture investigator said Bahrain cancelled a trip he had planned to the Gulf Arab state until further notice.

On the US Department of State’s website it states “Recent political and social unrest has highlighted the need for reform and reconciliation. Following the release of the royally appointed Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry’s (BICI) findings, which recommended a series of reforms, the Government of Bahrain has taken initial steps to redress past abuses and implement reforms. Despite these efforts, unrest and clashes have continued. The United States has urged the Government of Bahrain to implement the full range of BICI recommendations and take steps to implement additional reforms” (http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/26414.htm)

While the report of Bahrain by the US may be truthful or in fact biased, how is anything supposed to be cleared if the United Nations will not investigate? A visit to the country by the UN torture investigator would be a more unbiased perspective on the true state of Bahrain.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/04/2013425113054409997.html

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/26414.htmImage

Helicopter Crash Victims captured by Taliban

image

Eleven people, including 10 foreigners, (eight Turks, two Russians and one Afghan) have been taken by the Taliban after their aircraft was forced to land due to bad weather.

The helicopter made an emergency landing in an eastern province of Afghanistan, the helicopter was in good condition and no one was seriously injured. With the unfortunate circumstances, the helicopter landed in very close proximity to a formal medical clinic that is being used currently as a Taliban military headquarters

Dr. Abdul Wali Wakil, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, said “The Taliban took them to the mountains. Right now, we are seriously looking into this issue because we are afraid if a military action is taken, maybe it will have negative results, maybe civilian casualties or damage.”

Imagine simply being a a civilian on board a helicopter carrying construction materials from Khost province (in eastern Afghanistan) to Kabul, landing and being captured by an extremist group. We can only hope they are found safe and peacefully.

http://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/taliban-captures-foreigners-after-weather-forces-helicopter-down-1.217635

75% Unemployment Rate Among Arab Women

In recent reports, 3 out of every 5 women living in the Arab World are unemployed making labor force participation rates among the lowest in the world and more specifically, female unemployment rates are far above the region’s averages. Men, on the other hand, have a 25% unemployment rate. While the rate for men is very high in a global perspective, 75% for women is unbelievable.

The strange part is that women’s literacy rates in the Arab World are very close to equal with the rate of men except for Yemen and Morocco. Both genders also have an almost equal number of college graduates in which Arab women score higher even in the sciences. With such high success rates, why are woman more prone to be unemployed?

The truth is there are less opportunities for women in the Arab World. The idea of religion and traditional gender roles is limiting women and denying them access into the “men’s” workplace. 

Reza Aslan, on the Council on Foreign Relations said “The less economic opportunities women in the Arab world have, the less hope there will be for the creation of a stable, viable, and democratic future.”

See video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEQ_obNHjEQ

With the role of women in the recent Arab Spring uprisings, they were shoulder to shoulder with men trying to have their voices heard. Women being financially independent and successful in the workforce is empowering and will lead to a prosperous economy.

http://middleeastvoices.voanews.com/2013/04/insight-women-in-the-workforce-in-the-arab-world-48868/

http://www.zawya.com/story/75_Arab_women_unemployed-ZAWYA20130417032631/

White Ribbon Campaign is Needed in Arab World

            With the recent passing of the “VAWA” or the “Violence Against Women Act” in the United States, The White Ribbon Campaign has gained popularity and has been spreading worldwide. The White Ribbon Campaign is “the world’s largest movement of men and boys working to end violence against women and girls, promote gender equity, healthy relationships and a new vision of masculinity. Starting in 1991, we asked men to wear white ribbons as a pledge to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls. Since then the White Ribbon has spread to over 60 countries around the world”.

            Samar Fatany, a Chief Broadcaster in the English section at Jeddah Broadcasting Station, recently published an article in the Saudi Gazette entitled, “A Saudi ‘White Ribbon Campaign’ is Needed”. She advocates for the need of a movement to protect women in Arab countries with Saudi Arabia in particular. Saudi Arabia is slowly integrating progressive views towards women with recent statements from King Abdullah who strongly disagrees with extremists that discriminate against women and the violence committed against them. Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal supported many programs to protect women’s rights and status. Men in media continue to expose the criminals who commit crimes against women and get away with minimum or no punishments.  

            She calls for more men to speak out in support of the message the White Ribbon Campaign spreads. The media could play a much larger role than it is now. One direct suggestion she makes is in education, children should learn from an early age to respect one another, and specifically, to treat a woman right.

            In the year 2013, a woman should not have to fear any man, whether it be her father, her husband or a stranger. Women’s rights worldwide have come so far yet have so much farther to go, but to extend the White Ribbon Campaign to the Arab World is a step in the right direction. 

74% of Arab Youth Believe “The Best Days Are To Come”

The 2013 results are in for the ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey, a five year old study that gauges the opinions of young people ages 18-24 living in the Middles East, many of those countries Arab. This year the countries surveyed were Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq and Tunisia, and three new countries: Algeria, Morocco and Yemen. “The gender split of the survey is 60:40 male to female. The margin of error of the ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey 2013 is +/-2.19 per cent” (http://arabyouthsurvey.com/methodology/).

Analyzing the results of the survey, 87% of Arab youth are more proud to be Arab after the Arab Spring uprisings and 74% believe the best days are to come. “However, Arab youths agree that civil unrest and the lack of democracy are still the two biggest barriers to the region’s future development. But fair pay and owning their own home are their top priorities – even more important than living in a democracy” (http://www.7daysindubai.com/Survey-reveals-youth-feel-changes-Arab-World-mean/story-18654267-detail/story.html). With that said, the majority of those interviewed believe that the United Arab Emirates is a model nation for how the Middle East should be and believe the country as well as the government are going in the right direction

As an American youth who falls in the age bracket of 18-24, it is interesting to see that Arab youth have some of the same worries as myself and my peers. While we do not have to worry about major civil unrest or lack of democracy, Arab youth are worried about things American youth are such as unemployment and afraid of a rise in the cost of living. 

http://arabyouthsurvey.com/top-10-findings/

http://www.7daysindubai.com/Survey-reveals-youth-feel-changes-Arab-World-mean/story-18654267-detail/story.html

Yemeni’s Call for Close of Guantanamo Bay

Protesters, both activists and relatives of Guantanamo Bay detainees have been rioting outside the US Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen.  They are demanding the release of Yemeni detainees and are infuriated about poor conditions as well as a few prisoners on hunger strike.

Yemeni’s make up the largest ethnic group detained in Guantanamo, after the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan. Ever since, Yemen’s government has been actively pushing for Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo Bay be sent back to Sanaa, a move Washington disagrees with due to al-Qaeda being active in the area and distrust in Yemen to be stable and work to prevent detainees from returning to terror activities.

US President Barack Obama promised to close Guantanamo after being elected but Congress “passed a law that prohibiting transferring Guantanamo prisoners to US soil and requiring security guarantees before they can be sent elsewhere in the world.” (http://www.counton2.com/story/21842903/yemenis-demand-release-of-guantanamo-detainees)

Guantanamo Bay is a controversial topic for people globally. For Americans, many people are disappointed by the fact that 4 years after being promised the prison will be shut down, it remains open and still housing detainees. Maybe the international push and media attention will be the motivation needed to finally close Guantanamo for good. 

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/04/20134116945897855.html

http://www.counton2.com/story/21842903/yemenis-demand-release-of-guantanamo-detainees