Monday, June 27, 2011

More Cartoons of the Arab Spring

The Arab Spring marks a change, this change causes several things to happen.

1.) The Arab Spring marks the end of the past season.

2.) The Arab Spring gives some people allergies.

3.) The Arab Spring is a time for cleaning and gardening.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

In Pictures: Women of the Arab Spring

Tunisian Women

Egyptian Women

Graffiti reads: "Freedom is practiced daily."

Bahraini Women

Libyan Women

Yemeni Women

Syrian Women

Saudi Women

Lebanese Woman

Friday, June 24, 2011

Rape: The Ineffective Weapon Against the Arab Spring

Unfortunately, the criminal act of rape has been used as a weapon of war since the beginning of time. What's even more disappointing is that such a savage and barbaric act is still being used today.

The idea behind mass rapes is not only to shame and demean the victim of the rape, but in many conservative societies the intention of mass rapes is to bring shame to the families of the victims as well. Female victims of the rape are seen as 'damaged goods' and are therefore ostracized, almost never asked for their hand in marriage and they and their families must live out the rest of their lives in shame.

In the Arab Spring, the same tactics of systematic mass rapes are being used in Libya, Syria and Bahrain just to name a few. What is different however, is the treatment of the victims by their society.

In Libya, the most well-known rape victim is Eman Al-Obeidi, who burst into a Tripoli hotel and told journalists about her rape. Al-Obeidi broke the barrier of shame by speaking out about her ordeal, and a Libyan man also broke the barrier of shame by marrying Al-Obeidi after news of her rape was broadcast all over the world.

In Syria, refugees fleeing the crackdown on peaceful protesters told horrifying stories of mass rapes of women. Once again, the motive behind the rapes is to shame the protesters and their families into silence. And once again, this did not work. A group of Syrian men promised to marry rape victims in an attempt to end the mass rapes and the shame the rapists intend to inflict. After hearing about the rape of Syrian women, Ibrahim Kayyis, a 32-year-old baker, told the Washington Post, "It made us so mad. Such an injustice. We have decided, we will marry them. We sat and discussed that we want to change this. We don’t want to change just the regime in Syria, but also this kind of stuff. So we will marry them in front of everyone."

In Bahrain, rape is a punishment unleashed on males as well as females. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, a prominent human rights activist who has just been sentenced to life in prison, spoke out about government officials who tortured him and threatened him with rape. In an excerpt from the article linked above, Al-Khawaja said "the men began to undress, flash and touch him inappropriately. When they tried to take off his pants, Al-Khawaja said he collapsed and started bashing his head until he almost passed out. Eventually, he said the men returned him to his prison cell. He said he had seen a doctor and was scheduled to have an X-ray for possible head injuries."

Horrific. Disgusting. Saaaad :(

Although these stories of rape are stomach churning, there is a silver lining; the wall of shame for both male and female victims of rape is crumbling down. Arab men are marrying rape victims, and Arab men and women are speaking out against sexual assault without shame.

I think this is due to the revolutions. I mean, the revolutionaries can see that rape is being used as a tactic to silence and divide them and they are NOT falling for it.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Almost No Arrests as Women Drive in Saudi Arabia

UPDATE: First report of Saudi woman stopped by police, aggressively. Another report of a woman stopped by 6 police cars.

Saudi women who declared that they would drive their cars on June 17, 2011 did so today with no reports of arrests. The video above shows one such incident of a woman driving without being stopped by police. It is being rumored on Twitter that the police have been instructed not to arrest any women for driving.

I must say, it seems to be like the women of Saudi Arabia have just started the a social revolution in Saudi! 

As of now (7:41AM Pacific Time) about 50 women have claimed to drive in Saudi without any harassment from police, and the videos of women driving keep pouring in.

I will try to update with new developments as they come along.

Friday, June 10, 2011

What's Behind Qatar's Aid to Libya?

A billboard in Qatar reads, "We are at your service Libya"

Qatar has played a significant role in Libyan affairs since the uprisings in February. Qatar has donated hundreds of millions of dollars on fuel, food and cash transfers to the rebels. Qatar was the first Arab country to contribute planes to police the U.N.-backed no-fly zone over Libya. Simultaneously, hundreds of millions of dollars began to flow from the Qatari capital Doha to Benghazi from early March. Qatar's foreign ministry has confirmed that it has shipped four tankers full of gasoline, diesel and other refined fuels to Benghazi, which specialists estimate is enough to feed the large Benghazi power plant for one or two weeks. According to a report by Reuters, a representative from the the Qatari Emir's palace declined to comment on the ruling family's motivations behind its Libyan engagement.

Conference in Doha, Qatar regarding Libyan affairs hosted by the Qatari government

The text, in dark red, below is an excerpt from the Reuters article. The article is well researched and gives the reader an insighful look into Libya-Qatar foreign relations.

What's behind Qatar's generosity? It helps that it is so rich. Qatar's copious gas reserves have made it one of the world's wealthiest countries, with a sky-high gross domestic product per person of $88,000 according to the International Monetary Fund. Its $60-billion plus sovereign wealth fund owns stakes in banks Credit Suisse and Barclays, as well as London's iconic department store Harrods.
"Qatar will soon -- literally -- have more money than it knows what to do with," according to a 2008 U.S. diplomatic cable, obtained by WikiLeaks and reviewed by Reuters.
The generosity towards Libya is part investment, part strategic. "They are looking to park investments around the world. They helped the Lebanon peace process, Yemen, they got the World Cup, Doha talks, Al Jazeera -- these are all parts of a very big diplomatic game and a fight for influence," says a London-based British diplomat.
The big prize is energy. Libya produced 1.6 million barrels of oil per day before the war, or almost 2 percent of world output, and has enough reserves to sustain that level of production for 77 years, according to BP. Qatar would like to control a chunk of that oil supply as well as potentially large Libyan gas exports to Europe which otherwise would effectively rival Qatar's own deliveries.
"To some extent they may be acting as a U.S. proxy. Washington wants to achieve things but doesn't want to do it with its own hands," said a London-based risk consultant who has European firms as clients.
Qatar hosts a large U.S. military base; its decision to contribute planes to police the no-fly zone over Libya helped Washington argue that the western-led air strikes had Arab support. Its importance there was underscored by its ruler's visit to Washington in April.

So, it seems that Qatar's motivations behind its aid to Libya are partly to wield more influence in the Middle East as well as furthering US interests covertly. This leads into me asking myself some questions: 
Does it matter why Qatar is helping Libya? 
Is the aid all that matters, or do the motives behind the aid matter just as much?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Another Day, Another Saudi Woman Arrested for Driving

Saudi woman in holding cell (via @RashaAlduwisi)
Saudi women in police waiting room (via @Maysa_M)

Ever since the arrest of Manal Al-Sharif, the Saudi women who was detained for 9 days for driving her own car, many Saudi women have 'taken the wheel'.

Saudi women have started driving cars before the planned date of June 17. Reports and videos of Saudi women driving have popped up all over social media sites. Today, reports of Rasha Al-Duwisi's arrest surfaced. Rasha Al-Duwisi was with four other women driving in a empty sandlot in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia when they were approached by six officers who told them that they should not be driving and subsequently took her to the police station.

Photo of police from inside the car Rasha was in (via @Masya_M)

Rasha had to wait in the police station for a male guardian to come get her, then the officers gave her the option to either walk home or sit in the passenger seat while her guardian drove.

Rasha was not the only woman to drive in Saudi after Manal's arrest. A Saudi woman named Laila Sindi posted a tweet that said, "my name is Laila Sindi from Jeddah, I drove my car yesterday for an hour, your sacrifices will not be lost, I love you".

Laila Sindi
Saudi women are taking matters into their own hands, and the wall of fear and shame is crumbling in a way no one could have imagined. Change is coming!

Twitter hashtag: #Women2Drive

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Kidnapped: A Gay Girl in Damascus

UPDATE: It turns out that the blog 'A Gay Girl in Damascus' was actually not written by Amina, it was written by Tom MacMaster, who claimed that the whole story about Amina was a hoax.

A few days ago, reports surfaced that Amina Abdullah, the blogger behind the blog A Gay Girl in Damascus was captured and detained by armed men in Syria. The Syrian government's brutal crackdown on protesters in the streets has spread to bloggers who choose to use their voice to bring awareness to the government's injustices.

Amina's blog

The blogger's cousin posted about the kidnapping of Amina Abdullah. Following the report of Amina's kidnapping, her true identity began to come under question. People began claiming that Amina Abdullah was not actually the blogger's real name, that 'Amina Abdullah' was a pseudonym. It turns out that Amina's real last name is Arraf, according to the Daily Mail's article about her.

It's understandable why 'Amina' would choose to be anonymous. I mean for God's sake, her blog is called "A Gay Girl in Damascus", enough said. Mona El-Tahawy, a columnist on Arab and Muslim issues, tweeted the perfect response to those who question Amina's identity.

All that matters is that a young girl was kidnapped by armed thugs and is currently missing just because she decided to blog about her reality. To help Amina please sign this petition, its very quick and easy. There is also a Facebook page dedicated to freeing Amina.

Twitter hashtag: #FreeAmina

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Eman Al-Obeidi Beaten by Qatari Officials Before Deportation

Eman Al-Obeidi after bursting in Rixos Hotel in Tripoli, Libya (3/26/2011)

CNN has reported that Eman Al- Obeidi has been deported from Qatar. Eman Al-Obeidi claims that Qatari officials beat and handcuffed her at the Kempinski Residences and Suites before forcing her onto a military plane headed for Libya. 

Eman Al- Obedi told CNN was beaten in the parking lot by a group of men and women and her father and sister were also hit. Once at the airport, they were hit some more, she said. Amnesty International called Al-Obeidi's deportation "outrageous," saying the action taken by the Qatari government "is a serious breach by Qatar of its international obligations."

Eman Al-Obeidi was in Qatar as a refugee seeking asylum, and the move by Qatari officials has raised a lot of questions. 

According to the CNN report by Nic Robertson, "Nasha Dawaji, a U.S.-based Libyan pro-freedom activist, said she was with three key members of the Transitional National Council when they first learned that Al-Obeidi was forced from Doha and arrived in Benghazi on Thursday. Al-Obeidi had a black eye, like she had been punched, Dawaji said. She also had bruises on her legs and scratches on her arms. The council members were upset upon seeing Al-Obeidi's condition and vowed to open an investigation, Dawaji said."

Furthermore, in the hours leading to her deportation, armed guards had been posted outside her hotel room, preventing a representative from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, from helping her, Al-Obeidi told CNN. The U.N. agency had prepared papers for her departure from Qatar to begin a new life.

Qatar's motivations behind its actions are unclear. Whatever the motivations are, one thing is certain, they are unjustifiable. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Zainab Al-Khawaja (a.k.a. @AngryArabiya)

Zainab Al-Khawaja
UPDATE: According to @angryarabiya, on June 15, 2011 Zainab and two other Bahraini women went to the UN offices in Bahrain to give Ban Ki-Moon a letter. They were threatened by the UN and asked to leave. The women chose to sit-in peacefully, then female police officers forcibly removed them from the UN offices and took them to court. The women were released on the condition that they stay in Bahrain until the next hearing.

Zainab Al-Khawaja is a Bahraini woman who caught the media's attention when she went on a hunger strike to protest the unjust arrest of her father, human rights activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, and her husband and brother.

Zainab's tweet about her hunger strike

A Facebook page emerged called 'We are All Zainab Al-Khawaja' in support of Zainab's hunger strike. Zainab ended her hunger strike after 10 days claiming, "being silent in a tomb and not able to speak is not in the interests of my family".

Today, on Twitter, a Bahraini journalist reported that Zainab Al-Khawaja is being interrogated by Bahraini forces. Zainab and her closest male relatives are currently in Bahraini custody; their crime? The desire for freedom.

Zainab Al-Khawaja and her father (lower left), husband & child (lower right) 

This is just one of many cases of unjust arrests and trials conducted by the Bahraini government and this MUST stop. Maryam Al-Khawaja, Zainab's sister, is a fellow activist who posted a tweet expressing her opinion as to why Zainab is being interrogated. Maryam claims that it is an attempt to blackmail her and her father, an attempt Maryam says has only added to the Al-Khawaja family's determination.