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.