Age Islam Edit Bureau
03 May 2017
Former US Presidents Failed With Iran
By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Allama Iqbal, the Great Poet and Philosopher of Islam
By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi
Security Become The Sustenance Of Humanity?
By Turki Aldakhil
Deceitful Promises of Assad’s Allies
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Will Not Silence Patriotic Voices In Saudi Arabia’s Qatif
By Hassan Al Mustafa
Hate and the Arab-American Relationship
By Dr. Amal Mudallali
Kingdom to UN Commission Good for Saudi Women
By Maha Akeel
School, Iraq's Kids Are Lost To Poverty and Conflict
By Ahmed Aboulenein
By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
2 May 2017
We have heard it for almost four decades.
Everyone thought it would work. Six US presidents tried it and failed
What is it?
Addressing Iran by engaging with or
appeasing it one way or another.
Iran is a top national security threat to
the US. Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979, many American
generals have echoed what US Secretary of Defense James Mattis once remarked:
That the three primary threats the US faced were “Iran, Iran, Iran.”
The Iranian government is sworn to
incapacitate and damage the US. Many lives of Americans have been lost due to
Iran and its proxies.
The Iranian government’s foremost and
unchangeable slogan has been “Death to America, the Great Satan.”
Since 1979, Iranians have been told that
they can change their leaders. That they can be made not to hate and hurt the
Jimmy Carter disregarded the rise of the
extremist Islamic party of Iran’s founder Ayatollah Khomeini. He thought that
diplomacy, soft power, and smiles would change Khomeini’s anti-America
What was the result? Iran took 52 American
diplomats and citizens hostage and held them for 414 days until Carter left
Iran gave birth to Hezbollah, which
committed terrorist attacks and killed hundreds of Americans. Additionally,
Iran worked forcefully to scuttle US foreign policy objectives in the region.
Former President Ronald Reagan took a
tougher stance, but it was not adequate.
His tougher position did help release the
hostages, but he thought that engagement might change Iran’s antagonism toward
The Iran-Contra affair during Reagan’s
second term did not make Tehran appreciate Washington’s assistance.
Instead, Tehran expanded its influence in
Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, and promoted radical Islam.
George H. Bush came to office addressing
Iran with “Good will begets good will. Good faith can be a spiral that
endlessly moves on.”
Iran betrayed again.
Bill Clinton promoted the idea that
aligning with Iran’s “reformist” President Mohammad Khatami would empower the
reformists against the hard-liners and fundamentally change the rogue state.
Clinton wanted to initiate an official
diplomatic dialogue with Tehran. He eased economic restrictions on Iran.
What was the result? At the end of his
term, the hard-liners were more empowered.
Iran escalated tensions with Washington.
Tehran was sheltering Al-Qaeda members whose activities culminated in the Sept.
11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
George W. Bush thought that engaging with
Iran in Iraq and Afghanistan would make Iranian leaders feel that they are
being respected, and may make the Iranian government a constructive and
rational player in the region.
Instead, Iran took control of Iraq, used
proxies to attack US forces, and infiltrated the Iraqi and Afghan political,
security and economic establishments.
Former President Barack Obama took possibly
the most extreme measures to “change Iran for the better.”
He bombarded the Iranian government with
concessions and gifts. He helped lift four rounds of UN Security Council’s
economic sanctions against Iran, turned a blind eye to Iran’s military
adventurism, ignored Iran’s ballistic missile activities, disregarded Iran’s
violation of the nuclear agreement several times, took no notice of criticism
about Iran’s meddling in international affairs of many regional countries,
ignored Iran’s support for militia groups and Bashar Assad in bombarding and
killing people, paid no attention to the fact that Iran was ranked top state
sponsor of terrorism and ranked first in executing people per capita, and to
its human rights violations.
Was The Result?
The Iranian government became more
aggressive than ever before, espousing more anti-America sentiment, harassing
US Navy ships and arresting American sailors.
Iran became more militarily engaged in
Syria and Iraq.
Tehran began a more aggressive interference
in domestic affairs of many countries, including Bahrain, Yemen and Lebanon.
As a result of Iran’s sectarian agenda in
Iraq and Syria, the situation became more radicalized and militarized; Daesh
and other radical groups gained more power in the region and around the world.
The Middle East became a more dangerous place.
President Donald Trump should look at this
historical evidence that speaks for itself.
Engagement with Iran and appeasement policy
with Iranian leaders has not worked for almost four decades, and will not work
as long as the revolutionary, religious, theocratic, authoritarian and
anti-American political establishment of the Islamic Republic is in power.
Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi
May 3, 2017
The Pakistan Repatriation Council (PRC)
recently organized a symposium to mark the 79th death anniversary of Allama
Muhammad Iqbal, the great Muslim poet, philosopher, thinker and lawyer. Allama
Iqbal is widely known as the Poet of Islam or the Poet of the East. Several
prominent figures from the Pakistani community in Jeddah attended the
symposium, which began with the recitation of a few verses from the Holy
Qur’an. Some poems glorifying Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) were recited
on the occasion.
A host of speeches were delivered and poems
recited to commemorate the extraordinary talent and genius of Allama Iqbal in a
wide range of poetry, philosophy, law, economics and politics. When I was
invited to deliver a speech about this versatile genius and icon, I started by
thanking the PRC for holding such an event. I pointed out that it was
impossible for me to do justice to Allama Iqbal when speaking about him either
as a poet or philosopher or expert in law and economics or politician or social
reformer. In each one of these categories, his contributions were immense and
magnificent, and, therefore, it was difficult to describe them all in a speech.
Hence, I told the audience that I would
focus on a few highlights of the multifaceted personality of this great Muslim
genius. Allama Iqbal was born on 9 November 1877 in Sialkot city in the western
part of Punjab Province of British India, which is now part of Pakistan. Iqbal
received his early education from his father Sheikh Noor Muhammad. While a
child, Iqbal was once reading the Holy Qur’an, and his father asked him what he
was doing? His reply was that he was reading the Holy Qur’an. His father asked
the same question on several similar occasions. Then, Iqbal asked his father what
prompted him to ask that question? The father replied, “I wanted to explain
that you should read the Holy Qur’an as if you were listening to it from
Almighty Allah.” From that time, Iqbal started reading the holy book with deep
understanding and reflections of its meaning and implications.
Sheikh Noor Muhammad wanted to see his son
specialize in religious studies. However, his friend, Syed Mir Hassan, advised
him not to restrict his son to studying at an Islamic seminary but instead
enrol him in a regular school. His father listened to this advice and
subsequently Mir Hassan became Allama Iqbal’s teacher and guide. He learned
Persian, Arabic and Urdu and was admitted to Scotch Mission College in Sialkot
where Mir Hassan was a professor of Arabic language. He received a diploma from
Murray College Sialkot and later obtained his Bachelor of Arts in philosophy,
English literature and Arabic from the Government College Lahore. He received
his Masters of Arts degree from the same college. By that time, he was well
versed in composing poetry. Allama Iqbal was influenced by the teachings of
Thomas Arnold, his philosophy teacher at Government College Lahore. Arnold was
also a professor of Arabic literature at the School of Oriental Studies in
After obtaining a Masters degree, Allama
Iqbal worked as a teacher at the Government College for some time. Then, he
travelled to Europe to pursue his higher education and earned a Doctor of
Philosophy degree from a German university. He became well known as a philosopher
and was often compared with the great philosophers of Germany such as Goethe
and Nietzsche. He spent some time travelling in different parts of Europe. In
response to an invitation from Benito Mussolini, he visited Italy where he
delivered a lecture on the “Difference between European culture, Communism and
Islamic culture.” He also visited Spain and the Mosque of Cordova. Allama Iqbal
wrote some poems that dealt with the lost glory of the Muslims in that country.
On his way back to the Indian subcontinent, he passed through Egypt and visited
Jerusalem. He composed some poems at Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest mosque
in Islam and the first qibla of Muslims.
Allama Iqbal was one of those who called
for a separate nation for the Muslims of the subcontinent. It was said that he
chose the name of Pakistan, but whether he chose the name or not, he worked
hard to achieve that goal through his prose and poetry. In the beginning,
Quid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah stood for keeping India united. But eventually,
Jinnah came to realize that the position of Allama Iqbal was right as far as
the new nation of Pakistan was concerned. He then worked hard to realize the
dream of the majority of Muslims in the subcontinent that ended up in the
creation of Pakistan.
Unfortunately, Allama Iqbal did not live to
see his dream come true. He died before the partition of the subcontinent into
India and Pakistan. But he had no doubt that Pakistan would one day come into
being and that it would include all of the Muslims of the subcontinent.
He also did not live to see that some of
those who made sacrifices for Pakistan and chose to live in the new nation
would have the misery, which has been experienced by the stranded Pakistanis in
Bangladesh ever since the secession of East Pakistan and the creation of the
new state of Bangladesh. It is the responsibility of the Pakistan government to
repatriate and rehabilitate these hapless people in the country of their
choice. I appeal to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to complete the work that he
started in the past by reviving the Rabita Endowment, which was created to
resolve the problem of the stranded Pakistanis.
If you told a foreign journalist, between
the years 2003 and 2006, that Saudi Arabia will defeat terrorism, he would have
cynically smiled hinting that this is impossible.
Riyadh’s streets were witness to shocking
scenes as vehicles with flashing light and heavy weapons roamed neighbourhoods
following fierce raids. Men were decapitated and their heads were placed in
fridges at homes right near drinking bottles. Terror cells had woken up from
their slumber like monsters across Saudi Arabia.
As this was a common sight, this or that
journalist would not have believed you. Another reason they will not believe
you is their lack of faith in the local forces’ capability to fight terrorists
and renewing their planning and tactical methods when cracking down on
In 2006, all al-Qaeda leaders, from Yusef
al-Ayeri to Abdulaziz al-Muqrin, Turki al-Dandani, Faisal al-Dakhil, Nimr
al-Baqmi and others, were eliminated and hundreds of others were arrested.
Al-Qaeda plots were thus nipped in the bud and the group’s remnants sought
places to hide in Yemen.
It was a unique experience for Saudi Arabia
and the world has not forgotten about it. This was the most significant
experience in terms of combating terrorism in the region and perhaps in the
During the joint meeting of Gulf foreign
and defense ministers in Riyadh, in the presence of Prince Mohammed bin Nayef
and Prince Mohammed bin Salman, ministers confirmed that security-related matters
are the most difficult for countries in the region and that it is impossible to
achieve welfare and stability without it.
A relentless campaign has been going on
against terrorism. The interior ministry carries out combing operations in the
kingdom and disciplines terrorist infiltrators at the borders while the defence
ministry leads the alliance that consists of 40 countries and participates in
the international coalition that is fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Saudi Arabia believes that pre-emptive
action is essential in fight against terrorism. It started to believe in it
particularly after it suffered at the hands of those who returned from
Afghanistan, Chechnya, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Syria. Most al-Qaeda leaders
carried Out their experiments there. The basic solution thus lies in
eliminating cells where they are before they turn into a fatal disease.
Few days ago, a CNN report urged Donald
Trump’s administration to follow Saudi Arabia’s suit in terms of its fierce
battle against terrorism and to adopt its approach in combating terrorist
groups that Washington is fighting in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq.
The report said: “Central to the program is
the philosophy that raw firepower is not enough; the government must win the public
theological battle against the misguided interpretations of Sunni Islam by ISIS
and al-Qaeda. Such strategic thinking has led to various “soft” anti-terror
initiatives by various Saudi government agencies. For instance, a new border
security program is being launched that will cover 900 kilometers of the
northern frontier of the kingdom with Iraq to prevent infiltration by
ISIS-affiliated fighters. Further, the Saudi government has made it a crime for
anyone to support ISIS and al- Qaeda and has blocked all support – including
funding – from inside the kingdom. These strict controls have forced ISIS and
al Qaeda operatives to self-fund from Iranian, Syrian, Iraqi and other Persian
Gulf sources. Hence, targeting these funding sources has become a central
objective of the Saudi counterterrorism program.”
The report is supported by statements made
by top officials in the US and European countries, which believe that Saudi
Arabia is the most prominent ally in the war against terrorism considering its
experience and capabilities. Saudi Arabia has, through the Arab coalition,
contributed to targeting al-Qaeda leaders and members in Yemen.
Some are bidding on Saudi Arabia in this
war on terrorism and these bids fall within the context of “political
propaganda” which is adopted by the terrorist resistance axis that is killing
children using chemical weapons.
Saudi Arabia’s experience in confronting
and combating terrorism may be incomplete but considering how seriously the
country is targeted and all the pressure on it, it is so far the most
successful and most comprehensive experience. Security is the sustenance of
humanity in the years to follow. I hope we don’t reach a phase when security is
“rarer than red sulphur!”
During the years of war and negotiations,
the allies of the Syrian worked on decreasing political pressures on them by
selling promises. They’d say: “Don’t worry. We are seriously thinking about
letting go of Bashar al-Assad as president and ending the fighting.”
Then few weeks later, they’d publish a
clarification saying: “We don’t care about Assad and we accept assigning
another president, but we’ll do that after Assad’s presidential term ends so we
don’t violate the constitution.” Let’s note though that the Syrian constitution
was never respected. Everyone eventually waited and elections were held in
2014. As per the usual charade, Assad won.
Days passed by, battles escalated and
Assad’s forces regressed. Pressures surfaced again so they went back to making
promises. They’d say: “Be patient. We are searching for alternatives for the
regime or at least for an alternative to the president.”
Then after waiting and stalling, Assad’s
allies announced they agree to a political solution that’s based on forming a
joint government with the opposition. Following months of talks, they’d clarify
their promises and say that what was meant by opposition is the opposition
affiliated with the regime and not the “real opposition.”
The war then got worse than before and
pressures increased whenever the Assad regime felt defeated or whenever it
committed a crime. The Syrian regime allies then said they were discussing new
ideas for a peaceful solution and hinted at changing the president.
They later submitted a new political
project and said: “We agree that the Syrian people must choose the president
they want through elections.” This is all reasonable and beautiful but then we
got stuck into the details. Which people do they mean?
Those in regime-controlled areas or the 16
million Syrians who are not under the authority of the Syrian regime and which
the latter views as terrorists? The entire situation eventually relapsed and
wars escalated again while more promises were made.
The opposition cannot seem to win while the
regime is not winning either as it only has a little percentage of its army and
security forces left since many defected or died. Most regime forces are
currently made up of a cocktail of foreign militias that are organized and
managed by Iran.
We’ve learnt not to believe any of the
Russian and Iranian political projects as they’re merely a negotiating tactic
that aims to calm down international protests, neglect demands and drain
enthusiasm. And as time passes by, no one gets anything.
I think this is what is happening now at
the Astana negotiations. Leaked information about the talks makes one very
optimistic to the point where we feel this is only for media consumption!
Sources claim that Russians agreed to replace Assad and even proposed
Whether they truly said so or not, the past
years taught us that these promises are lies! The aim is to make people forget
their demands. This is usually followed by shelling people using barrel bombs.
More people are thus displaced while chaos expands in neighbouring countries.
Let’s contemplate and ask: Can the Syrian
regime’s allies feel they need a reasonable political solution and stop selling
fake political solutions? There’s at least one case that can make them engage
in a serious conversation and end the war.
The solution lies in lifting the ban on
arming the Syrian opposition with advanced weapons. Positions will change if
Syria transforms into a huge swamp for the Iranians and their militias. Tehran
– in this case – will have to hold serious negotiations.
For the Iranians, the war is still
relatively cheap. If 1,000 Iraqis or Pakistanis or Lebanese die, they just
replace them with another 1,000 from these countries. They’re not losing jets
or armoured vehicles because the opposition’s weapons are simple, like rifles,
AK-47, RPGs and locally developed equipment like the hell cannon.
So long as the Iranians’ losses in Syria
are related to personnel who are not Iranians and as long as the political cost
is low, they will continue to work on their regional project and the war will
thus go on for years. Belligerents usually reconcile under the pressure of
defeat but losses in Syria are mainly limited to foreign fighters who are
imported to the Assad regime or civilians in areas which the regime does not
The latter are killed by barrel bombs and
missiles and they have no means to defend themselves. This is why many Syrians
are displaced. There are more than 12 million displaced Syrians because their
only way to defend themselves is to simply flee. If the aim is to reach a
reasonable political solution, then this will require reconsidering how to deal
with the opposition and how to arm it in order to make everyone sit at the
table of negotiations.
Hassan Al Mustafa
On April 16, unidentified gunmen opened
fire on the house of Nabih al-Barahim, a former member of the municipality in
Qatif in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. On March 9, Barahim was the victim of
an assassination attempt and he was hospitalized after he was shot in his back
This incident in April is the fourth in the
series of attacks that targeted Barahim, an engineer, and his business and
family. Barahim’s father and mother were at home when the shooting happened.
Luckily, they were not injured and the perpetrators were caught on tape. The
footage was submitted to the relevant security authorities.
Barahim was targeted because of his
opinions that reject armed violence and reject targeting security men and
citizens. He and his family have paid a high price for these stances.
During the past 30 years when the Gulf
region went through several wars, Qatif, and particularly the town of
Al-Awamiyah, never witnessed violence or chaos like the case is today.
The seriousness of what’s currently
happening lies in the fact that those carrying out these violent operations are
young men who lack political awareness and morals. They do not abide by any
religious values that can deter them from committing crimes against civilians
and security men.
Of Armed Groups
The absence of a political vision and the
loss of values have led to the expansion of armed groups in Al-Awamiyah. These
groups now attract individuals from outside the town. Some of these individuals
are wanted for criminal charges that have nothing to do with politics or
demands for reform and they think that slogans which oppose the authority may
restore some of their reputation that has been tarnished due to acts that made
the society reject them, such as theft.
Responsibility calls on scholars and the
notables in Qatif to intensify their efforts – which have been launched for
years now – to combat the terrorism of criminal groups. These efforts help lift
the religious and social cover which these armed groups enjoy.
The sovereignty of law and limiting
“violence” to the state are the basic principles of the modern national state.
Fundamentalist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda do not accept this logic. Criminal
armed groups also reject this logic and they voice their rejection in the
Eastern Province by working with terrorist groups to end the state’s “monopoly
They seek to deprive this state of this
privilege by taking up arms. They think that creating an atmosphere of
intimidation and fear may increase their control over the people’s orientations
in that area; however, the facts have proven that they’re wrong to think that.
Hate and the Arab-American Relationship
Dr. Amal Mudallali
3 May 2017
Upon reviewing the results of the Arab
News/YouGov poll “The Arab Image in the US” in which 2,057 US citizens were
surveyed, I recalled something that happened to me when I was a student taking
a public transportation bus to my university in Washington.
A young man got on the bus and sat next to
me. He quickly started a conversation by asking me where I was from. I paused
before I answered, wondering if he would know the small country from which I am
from. I decided instead to make it easier for him and told him I was an Arab.
His response? “I hate Arabs!” I was
offended and horrified and shot back by asking: “Why? Have they hurt you in any
way?” He answered: “No. But you never know.”
It was an example of pre-emptive hate, I
thought, and this story stayed with me. I remember it every time the American
attitude toward the Arab world is discussed.
After reading about the findings of the
Arab News/YouGov poll, which found “massive gaps in the US public knowledge
about the region,” I wondered whether that bus rider even knew where the Arab
region was. The poll found that 65 percent of the Americans said they do not
know much about the Arab world and 81 percent could not identify it on a map.
Media coverage of the region was found to
be lacking. Half of the Americans who were polled wanted more news about the
Arab world than they are getting. The American public wants more coverage on
Arab societal issues and more arts, science and culture coverage. A lack of
knowledge regarding the region is at the core of the problem as 35 percent said
they do not know much about the Arab world and are keen to find out more.
However, 30 percent do not know much and said they are not interested in
finding out more.
Interestingly, 52 percent of the
respondents consider the media to be effective in depicting the true image of
What is unbelievable is that after more
than six decades of American involvement in the region politically, and over a
decade of military involvement, most Americans could not identify the Arab
world on a map. However, they were able to identify specific countries as being
part of the Arab world.
The most astonishing finding, in my view,
was that 21 percent of the Americans polled identified the “Sultanate of
Agrabah” as part of the Arab world even though it is a fictional place from the
movie “Aladdin.” A previous poll conducted by Public Policy Polling during the
American election campaign in 2016 found that 30 percent of Republican voters
supported bombing Agrabah, but thankfully 57 percent said they were not sure!
American attitudes toward Arabs have been
negative for a long time, even before the 9/11 attacks, according to polling
data from the past decade.
To be fair to Americans, Arab attitudes
toward the US are not much better. A poll by the Pew Research Centre conducted
between 2002-2003, for example, found that the US was less popular in the
Middle East than in any other part of the world.
Why do the Arabs and the Americans seem as
though they are ships passing in the night? It is a historic and very complex
relationship that does not lend itself to the over-simplified question that was
asked during the Bush era: “Why do they hate us?” The reason is a combination
of politics, culture and economics as well as an ingrained habit and a lack of
knowledge about each other.
Jim Zogby, one of the best authorities on
America and the Arabs, told me: “America’s understanding of the Arab world is
derivative. The Arabs have not projected an image of their own so the Americans
get it from the media, politics and from popular culture.”
He also talked about the role of education,
saying that in American schools there are more students who study ancient Greek
than Arabic. He added that there is little knowledge of Islamic civilization
and no appreciation of Arab science or literature. What they know comes from
the media and political culture and that is skewed around Israel, he said.
David Pollock of the Washington Institute
for Near East Policy (WINEP) — another polling expert who has studied attitudes
in the region and US-Arab relations for a long time — agrees that it is a
negative and grim picture and believes it is due to a combination of factors.
For some people in the US “it is a general sense of isolationism” and “a trend
where people are like this with all foreign countries and not only the Arabs,”
he said. Others are “prejudiced” but most importantly, “there is a kind of
tendency to associate the whole region with terrorism, refugees and civil war.
The region does not have a positive image and a lot of it is based on ignorance
and narrow- mindedness.”
However, he also believes that it works
both ways. He has studied Arab views of the US and found similar trends but in
both cases attitudes fluctuate, he said. He also found a major difference
between the views of the elites and the street.
Zogby put his finger on the problem, saying
the media plays an important role in forming attitudes and these media
organizations “found their experts and they are people who have hostile
attitudes toward the Arabs. They have in-house commentators from previous
administrations who have an ax to grind and they … view the Arab world within
the prism of Israel.”
But the Arab world also has a role in the
persistence of the negative image that the region and its people suffer in the
“The Arabs did nothing,” Zogby said. They
“think the president comes and gives a speech and that is enough. They have
done nothing to craft their image.”
If “you do nothing to define yourself,
others do it for you,” he added.
Pollock agrees that the Arabs “are not
working on it lately. It is more lobbying, public relations and media efforts
of different countries.”
The problem with this approach is that it
is too concentrated on individual countries and their bilateral relationships
with the US government rather than the general public and grassroots sentiment.
According to Pollock, working to change the
general public’s attitude is an “uphill battle and it takes big effort but it
is worth doing.”
Western human rights groups have harshly
criticized the election of Saudi Arabia to the UN Commission on the Status of
Women. They point to the male guardian system that controls women’s lives,
gender segregation in public places, and the fact that it is the only country
that does not allow women to drive. There is no denying these issues are
unjust, insulting and an obstacle to women’s progress. But let us look at the
Saudi Arabia, a relatively young country,
has transformed within a few decades from a tribal society to a modern state.
Illiteracy among women has been reduced tremendously, women account for more
than half of university graduates, and more are entering the workforce in
Education and economic empowerment will
lead to more change in previously held convictions regarding women’s roles and
status in society, including the right to drive and be their own guardian.
Women work as teachers, professors, doctors, nurses, journalists, artists and
businesswomen. They hold leadership positions as CEOs, university presidents
and deans, heads of hospitals and departments and editors in chief.
This means they are mixing with men in the
workplace and in most public places. Other laws and procedures in favor of women
regarding marriage, divorce, child custody and domestic abuse have been
adopted, and there is constant discussion about further development, especially
now that a Family Council has been established.
Critics point to the low Saudi ranking in
the Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum (WEF). Looking at the
report’s four areas, the Kingdom scores high on educational attainment and
health and survival, but very low on economic participation and opportunity and
political empowerment. One of the goals of Vision 2030 is to increase the
percentage of women in the workforce and appoint more women to leadership
This is happening, with decisions
supporting female employment and appointing them to top management.
Politically, as well as being appointed to the Shoura Council (Parliament)
since 2013, women have gained the right to vote and run as candidates in
municipal elections, winning 21 seats in 2015. I expect that next year’s report
will show a better Saudi ranking.
More must be done to advance Saudi women’s
rights, particularly regarding guardianship and driving, which must be revised.
It is absurd that a female surgeon, university president or CEO needs
permission from her male guardian to travel, or is forbidden to drive her own
These demands do not contradict Islam and
Shariah; Islam guarantees equal rights for women. The problem is in
interpretation of the text and its implementation. Changing people’s beliefs,
persuading them to come out of their comfort zone, and challenging them to
adapt to a new reality takes time, but it will happen.
As Helen Clark, former administrator of the
UN Development Program (UNDP) and prime minister of New Zealand, wisely said in
response to news of the election of Saudi Arabia to the UN commission: “It’s
important to support those in the country who are working for change for women.
Things are changing, but slowly.”
The UN says the Commission on the Status of
Women works to “promoting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s
lives throughout the world, and shaping global standards on gender equality and
the empowerment of women.” What better place to continue empowering Saudi women
and advocating for their rights?
Rather than looking at the matter from a
narrow, judgmental and biased perspective, it would serve Saudi women much
better to have an inclusive, encouraging and tolerant approach that
accommodates diversity while providing advice and support.
May 2, 2017
Fear of indoctrination keeps the children
away from school, and many of them are now breadwinners for their families
Ahmed Abdelsattar was 14 when Daesh swept
into Mosul and declared a caliphate in 2014. Fearing he would be indoctrinated
and sent to fight by the militants, his parents took him out of school.
Three years later, he sells ice cream at a
refugee camp for internally displaced Iraqis. His family has lost its home and
his father is too old for the manual labour positions at the camp, which means
he is his family's sole breadwinner.
Coupled with a shortage of teachers, books
and supplies, the 17-year-old sees no reason to go to the makeshift schools set
up in the Khazar camp near Erbil.
"Going to school is now useless. I am
helping my family," he said. He adds that it is too late for him anyway.
Had his education not been interrupted, Abdelsattar would be graduating in a
Abdelsattar is one of tens of thousands of
children orphaned or left homeless and forced to work to support their families
in Mosul, the militant's last major city stronghold in Iraq.
Returning these children to school is a
priority for Iraq to end the cycle of sectarian violence fuelled in part by
poverty and ignorance, the United Nations says.
"Investment in education is urgently
needed, without which Iraq could lose an entire generation," said Laila
Ali, a spokeswoman for the UN's children agency Unicef.
"Children from different ethnicities
and religions, in the same classroom, will promote a cohesive society and will
get children to think differently."
Even in the half of Mosul east of the
Tigris River that has been retaken by Iraqi forces, where 320 of the 400 schools
have reopened, Reuters interviewed dozens of children working as rubbish
collectors, vegetable vendors or mechanics.
"I did not go to school because Daesh
came and they would teach children about fighting and send them to fight,"
says 12-year-old Falah by his vegetable cart in Mosul.
Within earshot, fighting was still raging.
Just across the river, government troops, artillery and aircraft were attacking
Daesh's last stronghold in western Mosul.
Falah has four younger brothers. None of
them have ever been to school.
Huzayfa studied up to the fifth grade but
stopped when Daesh came. The militants taught math using bullets, rifles and
bombs, said the 12-year-old, who sells scrap metal.
"They taught us 'one bullet plus one
bullet' and how to fire weapons," he said.
The local education department in Nineveh
province, of which Mosul is the capital, estimates 10 per cent of children in
east Mosul are still out of school. There has been no official count for almost
four years, it said.
There are also no official statistics on
the dropout rate, a spokesman for Iraq's Education Ministry said, especially as
many families have fled Mosul or Iraq altogether.
"We are counting on parent-teacher
conferences and local officials to convince parents to send their kids back to
school," said Ibrahim Al Sabti.
Government funds normally allocated to
education have been depleted by corruption and mismanagement, lawmakers and
non-governmental organisations say, citing the results of investigations in
2014 and 2016.
Oil-rich Iraq historically had very high
literacy rates and primary school enrolment was 100 per cent in the 1980s.
Illiteracy became rampant after
international sanctions were imposed due to the August 1990-1991 occupation of
Kuwait. Economic hardship was made worse by the civil war that broke out after
the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
Schools in east Mosul started reopening in
January and so far around 350,000 students are back in class, compared to
183,229 in 2013, with much of the increase due to displaced people from west
Mosul and surrounding villages.
Unicef estimates around 1.2 million Iraqi
children are not in school nationwide.
The Iraqi military expects to dislodge
Daesh from the rest of Mosul in May, but the militants are mounting a strong
resistance in the densely populated Old City.
Iraqi troops began their offensive in
October backed by a US-led international coalition providing air and ground
support. The militants are fighting back using booby traps, suicide motorcycle
attacks, sniper and mortar fire and sometimes shells filled with toxic gas.
For children like Ahmed Abdelsattar,
whether or not the group is finally ousted from Mosul has little bearing on
If he is lucky, he will return to where his
home used to be in western Mosul's Al Jadida district, an area where local
officials and eyewitnesses have said as many as 240 people may have died in
March when a building collapsed after a blast, burying families inside.
"The future is lost," he said with an air of resignation.