Age Islam Edit Bureau
16 January 2017
Disappearances Will Not Silence Us
By Usama Khilji
In Yemen: See No Evil, Hear No Evil
By Baria Alamuddin
Soon Will Trump Violate International Law Against Palestinians?
By Yara Al-Wazir
Syria … Where To?
By Eyad Abu Shakra
Action Needed To Prevent Adhl
By By Samar Al-Mugrin
Safe Zones Are Still Possible And Necessary
By Dr. Azeem Ibrahim
Joint Message From Kremlin And Trump Administration
By Raghhida Dergham
World Obama Bequeathed
By Hisham Melhem
UAE: Why Do Moderates Love It, But Extremists Hate It?
By Mamdouh Almuhaini
By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
In the first two weeks of 2017, five
activists have reportedly gone missing in Pakistan. Others have taken to social
media to share what they referred to as failed abduction attempts. Chat groups,
email lists, and social media are abuzz with multiple reports of as many as
nine activists and citizen journalists who have reportedly gone
"missing". There is one common thread that haunts the families and
the larger civil rights community in Pakistan: uncertainty.
No groups have taken responsibility for
abducting them. There's been no response from the authorities on the
whereabouts of these individuals and no admission that they may be under
arrest. The interior ministry has so far said that they're looking into the
The implication that they've been taken by
a security agency stems from the testimonies of their families that are far too
familiar. Men in plain clothes picking up individuals from their home and
taking them away in an unmarked car. At least two of those missing were taken
from their homes.
Salman Haider: Professor at Fatima Jinnah
Women University, active in Awami Workers Party, a leftist socialist party who
was very critical of state policies, editor at Tanqeed - an independent e-zine
critical of state policies - and a poet. Ahmed Waqas Goraya, Asim Saeed - both
visiting from abroad - and Ahmed Raza Naseer were active political commentators
online. Samar Abbas is the president of Civil Progressive Alliance Pakistan -
working on minority rights especially the targeted killing of Shia Muslims in
The one thing common between the missing
five was their critical approach to state policies, the rise of extremism, and
the military's overreaching on matters outside its ambit. Their abduction sends
a strong message that the state is willing to bypass the constitution, and
overlook the legal and constitutional rights of every citizen to critique and
debate state's affairs, in order to threaten, intimidate, and silence citizens.
History Of Forced Disappearances
Pakistan consistently ranks very low for
press freedom, ranking 147 in the 2016 World Press Freedom Index, and "Not
Free" in the Freedom of the Press 2016 rankings by Freedom House. This is
largely due to several cases of killing of journalists with impunity.
Both the reports point to threats to
journalists, not only from extremist militant organisations, but also the
powerful military and its associated intelligence agencies. Journalists
covering issues and activists criticising state policies considered sensitive
by the military often come under scrutiny, are forcibly disappeared, or killed.
These issues include fighting in the
Balochistan province - where the state alleges Indian involvement,
investigating links between the military and "extremist"
organisations and lately, criticising projects under the China-Pakistan
Economic Corridor (CPEC) worth a total of $51.5bn.
Despite the fact that forced disappearances
have been a pressing issue in Pakistan, the number of people who have been
abducted, and their whereabouts, is still not known and widely disputed. In
2015, the Supreme Court of Pakistan issued an order demanding that the
authorities produce a report on the number of missing people in Pakistan.
While the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced
Disappearances (CIED) said that it has received 1,265 cases as of Dec 31, 2014,
the Defence of Human Rights (DHR) - a civil society organisation working with
the families of those missing - claims that the total number of cases of
missing persons is 5,149 and 252 of them surfaced in 2014 alone.
In its final report last year, the CIED,
headed by retired Justice Javed Iqbal, directed the Ministry of Defence and the
Ministry of Interior to lodge criminal cases against some 117 officials of
secret agencies, police and Frontier Corps accusing them of participating in
illegal abductions of individuals across the country. Despite the 400-page
report and its very clear recommendations, forced disappearances have continued
Since the disappearance of the five
activists this month, there has been a campaign against them on social media
accusing them of blasphemy - a sensitive issue in Pakistan that has cost the
life of several activists and politicians including federal minister Shahbaz
Bhatti and the governor of the Punjab province, Salmaan Taseer, both in 2011.
Not only are the activists missing, but
those that are speaking out to demand accountability now bear the risk of being
painted as supporters of blasphemers.
The controversial blasphemy law, which
activists allege has been used as an easy way to settle disputes, seems to be
an added tool in the campaign against these activists deemed problematic for
breaching national security - another excuse regularly employed to silence free
This is especially concerning because the
government passed the controversial cybercrime related act, the Pakistan
Electronic Crimes Act 2016, in August 2016, that has been criticised for its
draconian approach to freedom of expression online.
In October 2016, the military's
Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency successfully sought the authority from
the government to take pre-emptive actions against individuals or organisations
that it deems to be breaching national security.
However, the forced disappearances of these
activists have happened outside the law, leaving their families with no legal
recourse and no way of inquiring the whereabouts of their loved ones.
There are two important takeaways from
these alarming disappearances. First, that the state apparatus is willing to go
beyond the draconian laws it has pushed through to silence dissent and free
speech. Second, that the state is successful in setting a narrative where not
free speech, but the extent of the limits around it are being negotiated by
Many fear these disappearances are a
warning shot: Whereas traditional media was easier to censor, it has been more
difficult to silence individuals on digital media. These disappearances are
setting a precedent whereby many bloggers and activists are likely to give up
their right to freedom of expression and choose censorship in fear of similar
However, amid fears and unconfirmed reports
of more disappearances, hundreds have come out to the streets to demonstrate
across Pakistan and to make one thing clear: They will not be silenced.
Usama Khilji is a writer and researcher on refugee
rights, civic education, and democracy. He is a free speech campaigner and
Western leaders have displayed astonishing
unwillingness to acknowledge the evidence of their own intelligence agencies
and militaries concerning Iranian interference in Yemen and the region.
During Gen. James Mattis’ Senate hearings
for his appointment as defense secretary last week, it emerged the degree to
which Barack Obama’s administration had closed its ears to Mattis’ weekly
warnings about Iran’s destabilizing role in Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq and elsewhere
during his tenure as America’s top military commander in the Middle East.
Eventually Obama’s team, preoccupied with
engaging Iran, had enough of being told what it did not want to hear, and the
general was replaced. As Obama’s adviser Dennis Ross relates: “It was a kind of
culture clash. There was such a preoccupation in the White House with not doing
things that would provoke Iran or be seen as provocative. Mattis was, by
definition, inclined toward doing those things that would be seen as
In recent days, the Australian government
released photographic evidence of thousands of weapons of Iranian origin,
including rocket-propelled grenade launchers, seized in just one raid last year
off the Yemen coast. Far greater quantities were impounded in multiple seizures
by French, US and other vessels in 2016. Considering the difficulties of
patrolling Yemen’s long and inaccessible coastline, these seizures represent
the tip of the iceberg.
In November, Conflict Armament Research
released an extensive report demonstrating that impounded arms were primarily
of Iranian origin. The report talked of a “weapons pipeline extending from Iran
to Somalia and Yemen; which involves the transfer, by dhow, of significant
quantities of Iranian-manufactured weapons.” A single dhow in March 2016
contained 2,000 Kalashnikov-style rifles “characteristic of Iranian
Under the international sanctions regime,
Iran is prohibited from exporting arms, a ban that Tehran has flagrantly
flouted in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Meanwhile, Iranian shipments to Bahraini
terrorists continue to be intercepted. Kevin Donegan, commander of the US
Navy’s Fifth Fleet, acknowledged that recent seizures were part of a much
larger effort by Iran to move weapons to the Houthis.
Intelligence experts also raised concerns
about the exploitation of the porous Yemen-Oman border for smuggling weapons. A
US official told Reuters: “We are aware of a recent increased frequency of
weapons shipments supplied by Iran, which are reaching the Houthis via the
Rather than denying such allegations,
senior Iranians have bragged about them. A senior Iranian diplomat confirmed
there had been a “sharp surge in Iran’s help to the Houthis in Yemen” since May
2016, including weapons, training and money. He told Reuters the objective was
to escalate conflict with Saudi Arabia: “The nuclear deal gave Iran an upper
hand in its rivalry with Saudi Arabia, but it needs to be preserved.”
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s closest
confidants have been similarly vocal. MP Alireza Zakani in 2015 bragged that
Sanaa would be the “fourth Arab capital” to fall into Iran’s hands after
Beirut, Damascus and Baghdad. Zakani predicted that the “Yemen revolution”
would extend into Saudi Arabia. Ali Akbar Velayati called for the Houthis to
play “the same role in Yemen” as Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Earlier this month, Iranian Revolutionary
Guard Corps (IRGC) commander Hussain Salami declared: “It is now time for the
Islamic conquests. After the liberation of Aleppo, Bahrain’s hopes will be
realized and Yemen will be happy with the defeat of the enemies of Islam.”
Until very recently, the Houthis were a
minority group in the far northwest of Yemen with around 2,000 fighters, only
capable of stirring up localized bouts of unrest. During the 2011 disturbances,
Hezbollah’s Unit 3800 with support from Iran’s Al-Quds Force channelled funds
and training to Houthi insurgents. The head of Unit 3800, Haj Khalil Harb, was
later designated for US sanctions for his role in training and arming the
US National Intelligence Director James
Clapper said in 2014: “Iran will continue to provide arms and other aid to
Palestinian groups, rebels in Yemen, and Shiite militants in Bahrain to expand
Iranian influence and to counter perceived foreign threats.”
Iran and its allies have declared that when
fighting finishes in Mosul, Iraqi and Syrian proxy militias will be
reconfigured as a regional “expeditionary force.” The Washington Times
reported: “Iran has positioned thousands of loyal Iraqi Shiite militia fighters
around Mosul with a strategic goal of creating long-lasting armies inside Iraq
that can also deploy as an expeditionary force to Syria, Yemen and other
Senior Iranian military figures confirmed
that they already had assets on the ground and intended to increase their
presence in Yemen. In August 2016, IRGC Brig. Gen. Mohammed Ali Falaki told
hard-line Iranian media sources that Iran was working toward “the formation of
a Shiite liberation army whose commander is Qassem Soleimani… One front of this
army is in Syria, the other in Iraq, and another in Yemen.”
Faliki is a senior figure in the
Syria-based Fatimiyoun Brigades, a mainly Afghan militia of 8,000-12,000
fighters recruited by Iran. After such proxies played a leading role in
brutally subduing east Aleppo, there has been increasing discussion of these
assets being redeployed elsewhere.
While Iran looks to pivot troops away from
Syria, it remains involved in a massive feat of social engineering, relocating
thousands of Shiites to western Syria to fundamentally alter the demographic
balance in the region between Damascus and the Lebanese border.
An exclusive report by The Guardian
illustrated how far-reaching these measures are, with one source saying: “Full
sectarian segregation is at the heart of the Iranian project in Syria. They are
looking for geographical zones that they can fully dominate and influence.”
These measures resemble similar strategies
pursued by Iranian proxies in mixed areas of Iraq, where tens of thousands have
been terrorized into exile and prevented from returning to their homes, in a
transparent effort to alter the sectarian balance ahead of crucial provincial
elections over the coming months.
It took Israel decades for its settlements
project to divide the West Bank into ungovernable cantons. These
Iranian-engineered population shifts are happening before our eyes. Tehran must
not be given carte blanche to do the same in Yemen, which is already facing a
Iran’s self-proclaimed role in “liberating”
Yemen is being ignored in the West. The smuggling of eye-watering quantities of
heavy Iranian weaponry into Yemen passes without comment. Meanwhile, the media
and human rights groups have taken every opportunity to give intense coverage
of allegations of humanitarian suffering resulting from actions by the
The Kingdom is the primary source of
humanitarian aid to Yemen, supplying hundreds of tons of food and emergency
supplies, and billions of riyals of financial support. Yet specious Houthi
allegations that the coalition has blocked aid are what the media has tended to
In the case of Bahrain and Yemen,
Iran-funded “opposition” entities have been waging an intense media campaign,
vilifying Gulf leaderships and inciting human rights organizations against
Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
Dozens of Iranian and Hezbollah media
channels have waged campaigns of hate speech and incitement to violence across
the region. There is a need for systematic efforts to counter these dangerous
lies and propaganda that are fueling and perpetuating civil conflicts.
Warehouses full of impounded Iranian
weapons are testimony to the massive scale of Tehran’s interference in Yemen.
Iranian military and political leaders have made it crystal clear that they
intend to escalate their involvement by putting militia boots on the ground and
making local proxies increasingly dependent on their support — exactly as Iran
has done very successfully in Syria.
Yemen’s central position on the world’s
shipping routes, and its position as the gateway between the Horn of Africa and
the Arabian Peninsula, give this nation tremendous strategic importance. In
light of Iran’s dominant position across a huge swathe of territory stretching
through Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean, allowing Iran to consolidate a
foothold in Yemen would have catastrophic consequences for the region’s
geopolitical balance of power.
Iranians are sick of their hard-line
leadership, which is wasting billions exporting revolution overseas, leaving
the nation impoverished. A Zogby poll shows how Iranian support for involvement
in Syria plunged from 90 percent to 24 percent in just two years. Iranians want
less ideology, theology and foreign meddling, and a regime that prioritizes
However, the figures being pushed by
entities such as the IRGC to replace the ailing supreme leader — such as
Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, Sadeq Larijani and Mohammed Taqi Mesbah Yazdi — are
even more hard-line and fanatical than Khamenei.
We have spent too long covering our eyes
and ears and pretending that Iran’s involvement in Yemen and elsewhere is
exaggerated and insignificant. The facts speak for themselves. Pessimists would
say it is too late to roll back Iranian hegemony in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.
However, there remains a narrow window of opportunity for Yemen.
The international community must compel
Iran to recognize that there are consequences to its far-reaching meddling in
Arab states. When ordinary Iranians and the outside world speak with one voice,
pouring billions of dollars into policies of regime-change, meddling and proxy
war may eventually become suicidal for this regime.
Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and
broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services
Syndicate, a foreign editor at Al-Hayat, and has interviewed numerous heads of
15 January 2017
Many of President-elect Donald Trump’s
campaign promises were far-fetched, but perhaps the most easily attainable is
the one that risks the greatest disruption to the political stability of the
Middle Eastern peace process: his vow to relocate the US embassy in Israel from
Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Earlier this week, reports that the Trump
administration has assured its allies that the US he will push for this move
has been met with two responses at either ends of the spectrum: widespread
condemnation or a loud applause.
What the Trump administration does not
realize is that meddling with Jerusalem is like playing with fire – the cities
legal definition as a corpus-separatum dates back to 1947 in the United Nations
partition plan and resolution 181. The cities legal status has been further
reaffirmed in 11 separate UN-resolutions, which have jointly referred to the
city as an international City, and to East Jerusalem as an occupied territory.
Thus, moving the Israeli embassy to
Jerusalem, combined with recognizing an undivided-Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
city would be considered to be a violation of international law.
Trump isn’t the first president to try and
make this move. In 1995, the US congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act.
Since then , three US presidents including Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and
Barack Obama have signed waivers every six months to delay the move.
The real question isn’t will Trump’s
administration move forward with the move, rather when will the move become
permanent, and how will the Palestinian people and the Palestinian government
Palestinian Authority Has Its Say
The Palestinian Authority, the
representative of the Palestinian people since the Oslo Accords in 1994 has
spoken out by threatening to revoke its recognition of Israel if the move goes
forward. What this rather unprecedented stance by Mahmoud Abass’s government
says is that moving the embassy will not only halt any efforts in the peace
negotiation process, but that relocating the Israeli Embassy to Jerusalem will
set the negotiations back to 1993 when Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo I accord
to recognize Israel.
In the occupation there are two sides, the
occupied, and the occupier, without the legal precedent to regencies either
side the countries involved throw themselves into turmoil, dragging the
neighboring states with them. Moving the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem risks
retaliation by the Palestinian public as well as neighboring Arab states that
recognize the religious importance of Eastern Jerusalem in Islam.
A Move Would Look Like
Moving the Israeli Embassy to Jerusalem
won’t lead to a simple address update on Google Maps; the implication would be
near impossible to reverse and would put an inevitable end to working towards a
two-state solution, which has been for decades the stance by the United Nations
and peace negotiations that have involved the parties. And end to the two-state
solution and recognition of Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel would
further pressure the 300,000 Palestinians in Eastern-Jerusalem who live under
the poverty line.
It would legitimize further expansion of
Israeli settlements on Palestinian soil (which are also illegal under five
different resolutions dating back to 1979), and extend further power and
control to the occupier to further widen the apartheid status of Israel.
Must Recognize Their Legal Rights
The “burning bridges” approach imposed by
the Trump administration will not push the Palestinians into a corner where
they are forced to negotiate, mostly because the Palestinians have nothing to
negotiate with. Nor is that the aim of the Trump administration – the aim is to
burn the bridge towards a two-state solution and force the Palestinians to give
up their fundamental rights to their land.
What the Palestinians need to recognize is
their wants: the right to a free existence. The significance of Jerusalem to
the Jewish faith is not up for negotiation as it has been recognized for over
80 years, since the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. The core thing to understand
is that contesting the move of the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem does not
constitute a stance towards Jewish heritage – it has nothing to do with that.
In the 21st century, human beings
self-worth and right to determination should not be constituted by their
religion, rather by their right to live as human beings. This is exactly what
the Palestinians must continue to fight for, and what the government of Mahmoud
Abbas is pushing for: recognitions of Palestinians as human beings with the
right to free movement, free employment, and full rights to existence.
Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the
founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories.
Eyad Abu Shakra
Northern Syria seems to have become a focal
point for regional and global players as questions are raised about its future
after the handing over of Aleppo.
The town of Al-Bab has become a battle
ground, murderous explosions are shaking the town of Azaz, and international
alliances are strained and threatened by intersecting and opposing
blood-stained ethnic projects, namely a ‘Kurdish Homeland’ and a ‘Turkish Safe Haven’.
Current developments there have brought
back memories that are a few decades old. It was during the worst days of the
Lebanese War that two couples of progressive intellectuals sought a temporary
refuge in my serene mountain village from the gales of extremism blowing in the
war-torn country. The two couples had to leave their homes for ideological
reasons, but no sooner had they crossed the ‘Green Line’ dividing Christian
East Beirut from Muslim West Beirut that they became under fatal sectarian danger.
Of Tolerance, Diversity
Luckily, however, there were some ‘oases’
of tolerance and diversity still left in the country, like my village, in which
they had friends who were extremely happy to welcome and accommodate them until
the worst was over.
During their sojourn, one of the two ladies
was applying the final touches to her PhD dissertation about Syria’s political
history under the guidance of her husband, a prominent academic. From then on,
ever since I had a look at some of the original documents she kept with her, my
deep interest in Syria’s history and anthropology got much deeper.
I remember well how I was fascinated by the
local urban, rural and tribal elites which made up the Syrian Parliament,
including of course those of Aleppo Province. In those days, Aleppo Province
was much larger than what it is now as the present Idlib Province was still
part of it. Thus, it stretched along Turkey’s southern borders from Ayn Al-Arab
(Kobani) going west to Azaz and Afrin, then south all the way to Ma’arret
Al-Nu’man, including Harem, Kfar Takharim, Idlib and Jisr Al-Shughour.
In turn, the composition of the Syrian
Parliament was almost a ‘Who’s Who’ of the notables, clan and tribal chiefs,
such as the MPs from Ibralim Pasha Al-Melli’s tribe in Ayn Al-Aran and
Jarablous, Sheikh Dhiab Al-Mashi, who was famous for being the longest serving
parliamentarian in the Arab world, as he was the MP from Manbij for 55 years
(between 1954 and 2009).
As for the cities, led of course by Aleppo
itself, its seats reflected the politico-economic city life dominated by the
rivalry between the later dominant People’s Party (led by Rushdi Al-Kikhia, Dr
Nazem Al-Qudsi, Ma’rouf Al-Dawalibi, Rashad Barmada, Mistafa Barmada and Ahmad
Qanbar) and the remnants of the National Party (led by Sa’dallah Al-Jaberi, Dr
Abdul Rahman Al-Kayyali and Michail Lian).
Evidently, commercial interests in Syria’s
two great metropolises - Damascus and Aleppo - expressed themselves in the
political leanings and loyalties of the two bourgeois ‘elite-led’ parties.
Straddling the trade route connecting Baghdad
and Istanbul, Aleppo’s interests were thus tied up to the Baghdad-Istanbul
‘axis’, and consequently its dominant party became identified with the Baghdad
Pact (later CENTO) during the Cold War.
On the opposite side, Damascus was the
political and economic pole in the south, lying on the trade routes between
Arabia and Egypt, thus the pro Riyadh-Cairo ‘axis’ National Party was the more
Back to the north, throughout the 20th
century, the richly diverse communities of northern Syria, Arab and non-Arab,
Jewish, Christian and Muslim of various sects lived in peace and harmony. No
noteworthy discrimination existed between Orthodox or Catholic Christian Arabs
and Christian Armenians and Jacobite Syriacs. The same was true among Arab
Muslims whether Sunni, Shi’ite, Alawite, Ismaili or Druze; and Sunni Arabs,
Kurds and Turkmen.
Issues of ethnic-based partition or
secession were never raised, in fact the opposite was true when most Syrians of
all faiths and persuasions opposed annexing the Syrian ‘Liwa’ of Alexandretta
to Turkey (present Hatay Province). In short, despite the beautiful diversity
in this area, one the world’s richest in history, almost all were convinced
that what united them was far more important than what would set them apart.
Alas, what we see today is quite different.
Many of ‘The Defenders of the Homeland’ as mentioned in Syria’s national anthem
have been willing to destroy their ‘Homeland’ and tear apart its social and
ethnic fabric. The ‘secular’, later ‘socialist secular’, ruling Ba’th which for
a while claimed to rise above sectarianism, and fight for the rights of the
peasantry ridding them of ‘the yoke of feudalism’, has been transformed into a
flimsy cover concealing a monopolistic sectarian and clannish ‘mafia’ crushing
its own people with the help of ‘imported’ confessional militias and even
foreign regular armies.
As for the much-trumpeted ‘nationalist’
slogans which were supposed to bring people together, they became so
‘chauvinist’ to the extent of alienating non-Arab minorities, hence,
encouraging unhealthy isolationist and secessionist aspirations in several
places throughout northern Syria.
As a result, the weekly published maps
showing the various sectors controlled by different armed groups, give the
impression that northern Syria is heading towards the unknown. Indeed, thanks
to Barack Obama’s concentration solely on “downgrading” ISIS, Washington has
set out its ‘constants’ in Syria, which are:
1- Preventing the Syrian Opposition from acquiring
the weapons they have been demanding for years.
2- Refusing all Syrian and Turkish demands
of ‘No Fly Zones’ and ‘Safe Havens’.
3- Siding with and aiding secessionist
Kurdish militias, despite Ankara’s protests.
‘Constants’ like these are bound, logically,
to cause the current state of loss and uncertainty we see throughout Syria, but
more so in the north.
The regime and its allies, clearly
emboldened by America’s inaction and Iran’s and Russia’s direct support, are
now on the attack. While Turkey, the old Cold War US ally has been let down and
left in the cold. Finally, the Kurds think that Washington has provided them
with a unique opportunity to fulfil their ambitious nationalist dream.
The massive explosion in Azaz yesterday was
nothing but a ‘new message’ to Ankara written in blood, after the Istanbul New
Year’s Eve and the Izmir attacks.
Furthermore, the bogged down ‘Shield of the
Euphrates’ operation around Al-Bab confirms the existence of serious
differences between regional and global powers in northern Syria, firstly,
regarding ‘Useful Syria’, secondly, the ‘Kurdish Homeland’, and thirdly, the
price extricated from Turkey and Iran in order to keep the Kurds, while we the
Arabs are nowhere to be seen!
Eyad Abu Shakra (also written as Ayad Abou-Chakra)
began his media career in 1973 with Annahar newspaper in Lebanon. He joined
Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in the UK in 1979, occupying several positions
including: Senior Editor, Managing Editor, and Head of Research Unit, as well
as being a regular columnist. He has several published works, including books,
chapters in edited books, and specialized articles, in addition to frequent
regular TV and radio appearances. Eyad tweets @eyad1949.
By Samar Al-Mugrin
Jan 16, 2017
MANY Saudi men have been doing injustice to
their daughters by preventing them from getting married. At the same time,
there are some young women who do injustice to their fathers and themselves by
pretending that they are being subjected to adhl (the act of a male guardian
preventing the marriage of female relative under his care).
The Justice Ministry recently announced its
plan to open family courts in the evening hours to sanction the marriage of
adhl victims whose fathers do not allow them to get married.
Adhl is an Islamic term that denotes the
act of a father or guardian preventing a woman from marrying a man she likes
without any legitimate reason. It’s undoubtedly a big injustice toward women.
The ministry should have explained the mechanisms it would apply to make sure
that the woman was a victim of adhl so that the system would not be misused by
The prevailing system— which is quite
reasonable — in our social setup is for young men and women to get married with
the consent and support of all parties, including parents.
The ministry has not clarified whether it
would act against the practice of arranging marriages based on tribal
compatibility. I believe the issue of compatibility in lineage is behind most
adhl cases in the Kingdom. The ministry should stop the tribal practice of
seeking out the pedigree of the bride and bridegroom it really wants to address
the issue of adhl and root it out from our society.
What is the use of a woman getting married
in the courthouse if her guardian raises the issue of pedigree and demands a
divorce because she had married a man who is presumed to have a lower pedigree?
By that time the couple might have got children and this will virtually destroy
that family for no reason.
Procreation is the nature of humans.
Parents patiently bear many hardships throughout their life to bring up their
daughters and the eagerly await the results of their patience on the day when
they get married. I don’t know how this nature got changed, prompting some
fathers to bury the dreams of their daughters.
I believe that all parents are not the same
and adhl should be the subject of a special research as the number of fathers
who prevent their daughters from marriage is on the increase. We should find
out why some fathers exercised adhl and did injustice to their daughters?
We should also study the arguments and
complaints made by young women against their fathers and guardians to make sure
whether they were genuine or not. Since I am engaged in looking into human
rights issues of women I have seen so many cases of women facing injustice and
I have also noticed that some daughters
were just pretending that they were subjected to adhl. This is the reason I
request the Justice Ministry that they should not allow such daughters to
exploit the system. It should set out strong conditions and conduct studies to
make sure these women are in fact victims of adhl.
At the same time, the ministry should not
leave fathers and guardians who use adhl to continue their unjust and unlawful
practice at the expense of their daughters and the law should specify deterrent
punishments for such fathers who do not fear God.
The punishment should not be limited to
allowing the woman to get married or withdrawing guardianship from her father
because such individuals should not be allowed to continue their cruelty on
other members of the family. I believe that a strong law would put an end to
this spiteful culture in our society and reduce the number of fathers and
guardians who practice adhl.
Dr. Azeem Ibrahim
Now that Aleppo has fallen, many analysts
would argue that the civil war in Syria will end. Yet I am not alone in arguing
that the fighting will not end even if the war will be declared over.
Fundamentally, the Assad regime or his Iranian and Russian allies will not
become much less of a threat to the security of civilians in the rebel areas.
This is for several reasons. Chief amongst
them is that Assad will want to completely break any notion that he can be
opposed in the future, so he has to make an example of all civilian populations
which have supported the uprising against him. And what is more, after the long
and bitter war, the victorious elements will still have plenty of scores to
settle with their enemies. And now they will have the opportunity to settle
those scores with impunity.
Most Powerful Actors
On top of that, the two most powerful
actors in this conflict, Assad and President Putin of Russia, both have
strategic reasons to want to keep the pressure on civilians. Assad hopes to
push out of the country as many of the rebel populations so that he can
consolidate his hold on Syria. And Putin also wants the migrant flow to
continue, especially towards Europe.
The migration crisis so far has put
European Unity under serious strain, and Putin will want to keep that pressure
up. The European Union is more vulnerable than it has ever been in its entire
existence, and for Putin now is the time to press home the advantage and
hopefully destroy the entire edifice, giving Russia the geopolitical upper and
on the continent.
It is thus for both these reasons,
humanitarian concern and self-preservation, that the West must make sure none
of this comes to pass. The abuse of the Syrian people in Syria must stop. And
in order to stop it, the first step is for us to guarantee their security in
Safe Zones within the borders of their countries.
This will require us to make greater
commitments than we have been happy to do so far, but I would argue the
alternatives are simply unacceptable. If Assad is let loose on his country
without any resistence, we know full well where things will go: this is a man
who ordered the use of chemical weapons and cluster munitions against his own
people, and who has bombed hospitals, schools and humanitarian aid convoys.
This is the same man, and the same regime, that before the conflict ran an
extensive network of prisons where ordinary Syrians would routinely be
“re-educated” through torture whenever they had any political opinion that
diverged from the political line of the government. It is all too easy to
imagine how this man and this regime would go about re-educating their
rebelious population after such a long and brutal civil war.
And if that were to happen, most Syrians
would simply have to seek refuge in other countries. Could we then blame them
for wanting to come to Europe? Yet can Europe continue to absorb them in the
current environment, where we are celebrating that only 46 percent of Austrians
have voted for a neo-Nazi who promised to “secure the borders”? Where French
politicians can scarcely out-do each other in anti-Muslim proclamations and
dog-whistle racism for fear that if they do not the fascist Marine Le Pen will
take the presidency next year? Where even Angela Merkel, seemingly the only
sane adult still left in the room, has felt compelled to call for a ban on the
The how of implementing such Safe Zones has
already been discussed extensively. We have a number of options that could be
pursued. The main thing standing in the way is political will. The West does
not have the stomach to do this because they think their electorates will not
suffer any more military intervention in the Middle East. But will they be
happier with the consequences if we do not intervene to establish these Safe
Azeem Ibrahim is Senior Fellow at the Centre for
Global Policy and Adj Research Professor at the Strategic Studies Institute, US
Army War College. He completed his PhD from the University of Cambridge and
served as an International Security Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government
at Harvard and a World Fellow at Yale. Over the years he has met and advised
numerous world leaders on policy development and was ranked as a Top 100 Global
Thinker by the European Social Think Tank in 2010 and a Young Global Leader by
the World Economic Forum.
Amid a calculated and proactive realignment
by Russia and China ahead of the inauguration of Donald Trump as US president,
Europe appears tense and scattered. The Gulf states seem to be waiting in limbo
without a pre-emptive strategy. Iran appears vigilant, eager to preserve its
regional gains and protect itself from the new US administration that seems
intent to scrutinize its every action.
The UN has launched a new era with the
inauguration of Secretary-General Antonio Guterres earlier this month, amid
reinvigorated efforts by the Security Council and international envoys in
conflict zones, including Libya, Yemen and Syria. Russia has commandeered the
Syrian issue from the UN in Geneva, and taken it to its backyard in Astana,
Kazakhstan, deliberately excluding the international organization from the
Syrian peace process.
The Gulf countries have responded by
clinging to the UN role and resolutions, and by renewing their wager on the
partnership with Europe in rejecting Russia’s hijacking of the issue and
refusing to reward Moscow by allowing the talks in Astana to succeed, betting
instead on their failure.
Washington is still familiarizing itself
with Trump as it bids farewell to President Barack Obama, amid deep division
among Americans regarding the identity of their country at home and its foreign
policy, especially regarding its leadership of the world and US-Russian
relations. Trump will enter the White House next week in the middle of a storm
of controversy and apprehension, but also enthusiasm from his uncritical
He enters the White House armed with
threats against the media and his ability to stir up social media. Meanwhile,
the unprecedentedly public rift between him and US intelligence services over
alleged leaks and Russian hacking shows no sign of healing. All indications
suggest Trump will keep his campaign promises, unless his Cabinet and the
establishment manage to restrain his arbitrary tendencies.
His nominee for secretary of state, Rex
Tillerson, has given the House of Representatives a glimpse of his attitudes
and convictions, but also made it clear that he had not coordinated in advance
those positions with Trump, and that the final decision will be in the
The priorities listed by Tillerson indicate
that he desires a partnership with Russia against the terrorism of Daesh and
similar groups, and fighting the rise of Sunni and Shiite radicalism alike,
including the Muslim Brotherhood. He blamed the Obama administration for
supporting radical Islamism and the rise of Daesh, and for abandoning global US
leadership and traditional alliances, especially in the Middle East.
Tillerson vowed that Iran would be under a
microscope, whether with regard to its support for extremists and militias, or
its implementation of its commitments under the nuclear deal. The deal will be
kept in place apparently contrary to what was suggested on the campaign trail,
but will be reviewed.
The nominee appeared to be a pragmatist,
well versed in the language of strategic interests, bringing to the post his
experience in energy and geography. Tillerson also had a lot to say about
Russia and China.
The key difference between what the Kremlin
wants for American and European communities, by destabilizing them through
support for nationalist movements and undermining their social cohesion, and
what Tillerson wants for America and the world, lies in the principle of
leadership and restoration of prestige.
Russian President Vladimir Putin benefited
immensely from Obama’s leading from behind, and reaped great rewards after the
US abandoned its global leadership. They had radical differences on the issue
of the rise of Islamists to power in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Syria. This
point is the subject of convergence that will newly emerge between Russia and
the US under Trump: Opposing the rise of Islamists to power, including the
This will have implications for the
relationship with Egypt, which is fighting the Brotherhood, and will affect
Turkey if it remains a key sponsor of the organization. Indeed, the joint
message that will be sent by the Kremlin and the Trump administration will
address all stakeholders, including the Arab Gulf states, declaring a refusal
to coexist with Islamic radicalism and any encouragement of the Brotherhood, in
addition to declaring a joint intent to eliminate Daesh and its ilk.
The shelf life of Daesh has expired, and
the time has come to take it out of the equation with a joint Russian-American
decision. However, relations between the two countries will not be confined to
this convergence on fighting terror and extremism.
The yardstick for US interests will differ
from the one used by the Obama administration. It will instead be a version of
what Tillerson described, in terms of reviving US global weight after the
absence of American leadership allowed the reassertion of Russian influence in
its neighborhood and the Middle East.
Tillerson said US allies in NATO were right
to worry about Russian resurgence, and that to restore stability, it is
necessary to not only revive US leadership but also assert its position
vis-à-vis threats coming from Russia. Tillerson therefore backed the
continuation of sanctions against Russia until opportunities for cooperation
are carefully explored.
He also proposed giving room to cooperation
with China, but insisted that Beijing has not been a reliable partner and has
failed to use its influence to contain North Korea. Tillerson said China’s
goals sometimes conflict with US interests, saying Beijing always places its
own objectives above all considerations.
Another major difference between Trump’s
administration and Obama’s will emerge with regard to the relationship with
Iran. There had been some convergence on the matter between the Kremlin and
Obama. Obama’s fixation with the need to conclude the nuclear deal intersected
with Putin’s need for a strategic alliance with Iran in Syria. Both effectively
blessed the rise of Shiite extremism in Iran and rewarded it.
Russia’s strategy was intent on fighting
Sunni radicalism and stopping Washington’s bid to push forward so-called
moderate Islamists represented by the Brotherhood. However, Moscow turned a
blind eye to the growth of radical Shiite Islamism represented by Iran’s
Revolutionary Guards and proxy militias in the Arab world.
Tillerson placed the Brotherhood, Iranian
elements and Al-Qaeda in the same basket of Islamic extremism. This is an
important difference in the attitudes of Trump’s administration and Obama’s,
and also between the Kremlin and the new White House depending on how
Russian-Iranian strategic relations evolve.
Iran is aware that the Trump administration
will bring new pressures, but also through Russian eagerness to have special
relations with the new US administration and even forge a grand bargain with
Washington. This does not mean Moscow is automatically ready to discard its
strategic alliance with Tehran, but if Russia is forced to choose between
Washington and Tehran, Washington may take precedence.
Russian-Iranian differences over Syria are
not small, but any rush to assume that a strategic divorce is coming is a
mistake. Moreover, addressing the longstanding crisis of confidence between
America and Russia, the competition over grand interests, and forging what may
become a grand bargain subsequently, all take time because conditions have yet
to fully ripen.
Meanwhile, Iran is bent on benefitting from
opportunities wherever they may become available, in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and
Yemen. Iran is adopting a strategy of building on victories on the ground,
while giving signs of diplomatic demarches and willingness to engage in
dialogue on its own terms.
The diplomacy of the Arab Gulf states seems
deliberately absent while moving to contain Iranian regional influence and
Russia’s hijacking of the Syrian issue, pending Trump’s inauguration. The Gulf
states seem reassured by the uncertainty surrounding the incoming Trump
administration, because the certainty that comes with Obama has been
Tillerson’s remarks this week revived some
hopes in the corridors of Gulf diplomacy, when he called for rebuilding
America’s old, now-fragile links, being firm with foes and responding when they
violate agreements, referring to the Iran nuclear deal. His caustic criticisms
of Obama’s policies reassured many in the Gulf and increased their sense of
Waiting is not a policy, however,
especially since all other parties are actively aligning and carefully planning
their next moves. Insisting on keeping the Syrian issue in the UN is a position
but not a strategy. Betting on the failure of the Astana conference in the
absence of Saudi Arabia and European powers may be a winning wager, but this
amounts to little more than a tactic amid Russian and Iranian victories in
The Gulf states are in dire need of a
comprehensive strategy of alignment, not just vis-à-vis the Trump
administration but also Russian infiltration of the Middle East,
Russian-Iranian victory in Syria, Iranian supremacy in Iraq, and Iranian
incursions in Yemen. Perhaps the time has come for a Gulf initiative that would
sweep the rug from under the feet of Washington, Moscow and Ankara, and move
away from the wait-and-see tactic.
The traditional cold, back-channel
communication between Gulf countries and Iran has not advanced Arab interests,
especially in the time of the love triangle between Iran, Obama’s America and
Putin’s Russia, allowing Iran to advance its strategic agenda in the Arab
world. Perhaps then Trump’s tenure will make room for a new approach, but this
cannot happen through complacency. It requires a calculated push and a daring
The emir of Kuwait’s dispatching of a
high-level delegate to offer condolences for the death of Iran’s former
President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was a good message. However, what is needed
is a qualitative shift in Gulf-Iranian relations, in accordance with a
comprehensive, pragmatic and realistic initiative coinciding with the new US
administration, in order to avoid relying on false preconceived notions
regarding Trump’s thinking.
Raghida Dergham is columnist, senior diplomatic
correspondent, and New York bureau chief for the London-based Al-Hayat
newspaper since 1989.
14 January 2017
During his eight year tenure at the White
House president Barack Obama, entered into grueling duels with a variety of
domestic and foreign opponents. Despite his occasional rhetoric to the
contrary, Obama never relished the clanging of swords. Sometimes he could not
avoid the fight; after all when the gauntlet is thrown in your face you have to
unsheathe the blade. But in all of these contests, Obama was unable or
unwilling to go for the jugular, and his opponents knew that before they
entered the fray. Unfortunately for Obama, his adversaries and enemies played
for the kill.
For eight years Obama continuously fought
his major Republican opponent in Congress, Senator Mitch McConnell; but the
wily Kentuckian, who mastered the art of rearguard battles got the best of him.
Early in his first term Obama wanted to test the resolve of Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, regarding a settlement freeze in the Palestinian
occupied territories, but the veteran brawler who knew how to exploit America’s
complex domestic politics, outmaneuvered Obama who could not mobilize his party
for a fight. Obama tried a variety of means in dealing with his most cunning
and bloody foreign foe, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, from cajoling, to
“resetting” relations, to dueling. But after each round of fighting the Russian
opponent, even when damaged, would emerge more brazen than before. The American
president reacted timidly to Russia’s swift kill in the Ukraine in 2014 which
resulted in the annexation of Crimea and the destabilization of Eastern Ukraine.
That infamous timidity of Obama encouraged
Putin to commit more war crimes in Syria after he dispatched his air force and
special forces to do what they do well; raze cities and reducing them to
wastelands. Aleppo in 2016 met the fate of Grozny, Chechnya in the 1990’s. In
August 2011, president Obama called for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad to resign,
after months of brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters. Typically the American
president who issued his demand hours before leaving the White House on a
10-day vacation at Martha’s Vineyard, conveniently forgot to add: or else. What
occurred in the months and years that followed was a classic case of gradual
escalation in the degree of savagery on the part of the Syrian regime to test
the seriousness of President Obama and his European allies. Assad moved from
the use of medium weapons, against mostly civilian protesters, then heavy
artillery and tanks against the lightly armed rebels controlling towns and
hamlets, then bombers and attack helicopters laden with primitive but very
lethal barrel bombs. Assad even used Scud missiles against rebel held cities
and towns. And with each military escalation, the Obama administration reacted
by upping the ante of its moral denouncement of the Assad regime. (President
Obama and US Ambassador at the United Nations, Samantha Power, are accomplished
Assad was so dismissive of Obama’s hollow
threats that he defiantly crossed the president’s red line against the use of
chemical weapons killing thousands of Syrian civilians.
On Friday January 20, at high noon, Obama’s
era will be over, and the strange, raucous times of his successor Donald J.
Trump will begin. It must be especially painful for Obama to spend his last
days at the White House watching his nemesis on Capitol Hill senator McConnell,
who is now stronger than ever, leading and relishing every moment of the
beginning of the slow dismantlement of the Affordable Care Act better known as
Obamacare, his single most important domestic achievement. Soon, a smug
Netanyahu will visit Washington to celebrate and bask in Trump’s victory which
he considers his final victory against Obama. During the Obama years, more than
100 thousand Israeli settlers moved to East Jerusalem and the West Bank, raising
the overall number of settlers to more than 600 thousand, hence the claim of
Naftali Bennett leader of the pro-settlement Jewish Home party that “the era of
a Palestinian state is over”.
Even after the President-Elect Trump,
grudgingly admitted after months of suspicious denials, that Russia did indeed
hack the Democratic National Committee, he is still eager for President Putin’s
affection, to the point where he is discussing now with the Russians before he
enters the White House ways and means of talking and meeting. The Russian
president hacked his way into the heart of America’s democracy, wreaked havoc
and sowed divisions within its institutions, and exposed the fragility of a
political order that was supposed to be eminently solid. And all of that happened
on Obama’s watch. Once again, Putin has proved that he can rampage his way
militarily in the Ukraine and Syria, and wage a cyber war against the United
States with impunity, unless you consider evicting some Russian intelligence
officers masquerading as diplomats from the US a serious punishment.
Most people never thought that Syria’s
lisping psychopath would survive Obama, but Assad who is presiding over a
patchwork of destroyed cities did, and one could see him with his Iranian and
Russian masters sending off Obama and saying good riddance. It is a damning
testimony to Obama’s weak leadership, and his abject failure to use America’s
considerable leverage in the world to check Russia’s aggression in the Ukraine
and Syria, or to severely punish Assad and his regime, his Iranian allies and
their Shiite militias for their war crimes. Obama who provided Israel with
unprecedented military and economic support beyond any provided by a previous
US president, could not prevail in his confrontation with an Israeli prime
minister whose policies are detrimental to America’s moral and political
standing in the region, and who repeatedly lectured and humiliated him.
It is ironic that the man from Chicago, who
once extolled the virtue of fighting the Chicago way: “If they bring a knife to
the fight, we bring a gun” never delivered. Obama never instilled fear in the
hearts of his enemies, and potential detractors, a clear violation of one of
Machiavelli’s important dictums, for a good Prince “must endeavor only to avoid
being hated”, but not feared.
Rise Of The Autocrats
It is an axiom of American politics that a
president through his actions and inactions contribute to the election of his
successor. President George W. Bush through his imperial overreach and ambitious
invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and his reckless tax policies that plunged
the country into a disastrous recession, played an important role in electing
Barack Obama as the Bush antidote. President Obama, a man with considerable
talents and a cool temperament that helped him achieve economic recovery from
the worst recession since WWII, never managed to be a transformational leader.
The slow economic recovery, and more importantly the widening gap in income
inequality, the inability of both the Obama administration and the Republican
controlled congress to address the devastating economic impact of automation
and globalization on American workers, convinced many Americans that the
country is in perpetual decline. Obama’s failure to exercise decisive leadership
in the world, to assure allies and friends of their safety and well-being
particularly those living in the menacing shadows of a revanchist Russia and a
more belligerent China and Iran, created the impression in the US and the world
that Obama no longer believes that America is truly the indispensable power,
still capable of doing great things in the world, alone if she has to.
In the Middle East, President Obama
inherited a weak and dysfunctional region, mostly the Arab states, from his
predecessor George W. Bush, who contributed to the chaos there by invading Iraq
in 2003, will bequeath to his successor Donald J. Trump a disintegrating
Levant, and a fraying Libya and Yemen, with other weak Arab states on the verge
of collapse. Obama’s early and very rushed and unnecessary withdrawal from
Iraq, just to prove that he could put George W. Bush’s “dumb” war behind him,
was disastrous, and that irresponsible decision forced him – when he again
misjudged the growing threat of the so-called Islamic State ISIS- to return
militarily to Iraq by dribs and drabs. Obama’ contributed militarily to the
demise of Qaddafi’s dictatorship in Libya, but when the deed was done, he went
home. He broke it, but refused to own it. So much for the honorable word of the
But Obama’s tarnished legacy in the Middle
East has one name: Syria. Almost everything Obama did in Syria was not either
fully honest or was purely tactical designed to buy time, and postpone hard
decisions. His almost obsessive drive to reach a nuclear deal with Iran made
him sacrifice the Syrian uprising even when it was peaceful, and when it was
possible for the US early in the conflict to tip the balance, with limited use
of military force in favor of the nationalist opposition, before the rise of
monstrous groups like ISIS and al-Nusra, and long before Russia or even Iran
could interfere decisively on the side of the despot in Damascus. It should be
a bitter moment for Obama, to see his tenure end at the time his shameful
policies in Syria were contributing to the gradual destruction and death of the
once great city of Aleppo and its fall in the hands of the modern day marauders
from the East. President Obama in recent years avoided mentioning Syria and
particularly Aleppo by name. One would like to think, that president Obama who
loves his children, will be haunted by Aleppo’s children who were
systematically bombed in hospitals by the air forces of Russia and the Assad
regime, and by Aleppo’s ruins which were before the war elegant souks, beautiful
stone homes and graceful Mosques, Churches and schools.
Obama’s failure to check Russia’s
revanchist predations in the Ukraine, China’s rising hegemony in East Asia, and
allowing Putin’s systematic campaigns to weaken Europe’s democratic if fragile
institutions, are indirectly contributing to the return of the autocrats and
the legitimation of autocratic tendencies in western democracies. The rise of
right wing and nationalist, even chauvinistic political leaders and movements
in Europe like the National Front in France where its leader Marie Le Pen is a
serious contender in this year’s elections, is in part the result of the
machinations of Russia which contributes financial support to these groups, and
the lack of assertive US leadership. These autocratic tendencies have been
manifest in America’s recent presidential elections.
There are many structural political,
economic, cultural and demographic reasons for the fundamental problems facing
the US, Europe and the Middle East. The diminished stature of the US is the
result of reckless and unwise policies pursued by both the Republican and
Democratic parties since the terror attacks of September 2001. America’s
partial disengagement from the ME and Europe in recent years, the absence of
decisive leadership in dealing with Russia, China and Iran have contributed to
the current state of fear and loathing in Europe and the Middle East. After
eight years in the White House, we see an uncertain world being gradually
engulfed in the shadows of the autocrats; we see a weaker European Union
challenged from within and without and a disintegrating Middle East. This is in
part the world Obama bequeathed.
Hisham Melhem is a columnist and analyst for Al
Arabiya News Channel in Washington, DC. Melhem has interviewed many American
and international public figures, including Presidents Barack Obama and George
W. Bush, Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, Secretary of
Defense Robert Gates, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike
Mullen, among others. He is also the correspondent for Annahar, the leading
Lebanese daily. For four years he hosted "Across the Ocean," a weekly
current affairs program on U.S.-Arab relations for Al Arabiya.
There is a common saying, though a bit
exaggerated and inaccurate, that states: A plane that takes you from an Arab country
to Europe in five hours, is – in fact – taking you five centuries forward, from
the Middle Ages to modern times. When I traveled two years ago from the US to
the UAE, nothing changed. I am not exaggerating, I traveled from a first class
world to another first class world.
The first thing that people notice is the
luxurious airports, towering skyscrapers and vast shopping malls. However, what
is even more important is the order, strict security and the respect for laws,
as well as many other values that build up the pace of a modern and comfortable
life. You should not offend others and others should not offend you, out of
respect and fear. Nor should you be afraid of encountering hotheads on the
streets, harassers in shops, or disheartened bureaucrats in ministries and
All of the above are the characteristics of
a modern state, where the citizens respect the following unwritten rule: I will
literally abide by everything that makes me a good citizen and resident. I will
maintain order, abide by the law and live in peace, without problems. Law will
even support and protect those whom, we sometimes believe, are marginalized and
without any support. Once, a taxi driver complained that a customer hit him
after a disagreement about 7 AED but he later proudly told me: "But he
[the customer] paid 7,000 AED in court for hitting me, in addition to spending
a few days in prison.”
The UAE also offers a civilized image of
tolerance, human diversity and individual freedoms. It’s not just about the
bright lights all around you, but one can feel the peace and appeasement. You
can see an array of different races, colors and religions, all living in
harmony. There is a school near my apartment, where you can find students of
more than 83 nationalities, coming from different parts of the world. You can
see Scandinavian, Nepalese, Egyptian and Asian faces roaming the markets and
the streets. In other Arab countries, they would ask you irritating labelling
questions: Where are you from? What are your family’s roots and religious
identity? They make you gradually feel smaller, you go from feeling like a free
human being to a mere sample in a social and sectarian museum. In the UAE,
people have gotten used to, as in developed countries, minding their own business
without asking personal questions. People have the right to escape themselves
and enjoy the blissful feeling of individual freedom that does not offend
others. They are also entitled to merge and melt in the new world and the
present moment, disregarding the restraints of the past.
Despite all the success, peace of mind,
respect towards the citizens and residents in the Emirates, extremists and
instigators are waging a constant verbal war against the UAE.
This is not surprising for those who are
used to using indecent language, but in my opinion, there are five main reasons
that would lead them to do so. It is important to mention and be aware of these
First, the political realist and wise
approach that supports moderation, but is widely hated by extremists who
advocate chaos and revolution. The second is that the UAE has turned into a
model for prosperity, which is against their political project that seeks to
remind people of the futile experiments of repressive regimes, from Saddam to
Qaddafi. The third is that the UAE relies on development and opening up on the
economic level. As for the extremists’ economic model, it is based on
totalitarian ideologies and emotional speeches. The fourth reason is tolerance,
coexistence and the love of life and the arts, which are in severe contrast
with their doctrine that is based on all kind of hatred and reminding people of
death. The fifth is that the UAE has prevented the spread of hatred and
intolerance from getting into its public speech, by preventing these advocates
and theoreticians from broadcasting them inside UAE territories, in the media
in and schools. This is a wise step because the past and present have taught us
that this infiltration will lead to the disruption of development and peace.
These are the reasons that push extremists
to hate the Emirates, and at the same time, the reasons why moderate people
love it. There is also another reason that pushes those who live in the UAE to
love it, which is the generosity and respect that links them to modern world,
without having to travel thousands of miles.
Mamdouh AlMuhaini is the Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya
News Channel’s digital platforms. He can be followed on Twitter @malmhuain