The Race to the German Chancellorship
Egypt’s 1st Female Gold Medalist Blazes Trail for Other Women
A Weekly Political News Magazine
Issue 1870- September- 17/09/2021
Cristiano Ronaldo: World’s Best Scorer of the 21st Century www.majalla.com
A Weekly Political News Magazine
Issue 1870- September- 17/09/2021
Saudi Arabia, Russia Strengthen Military Partnership www.majal a.com
Editorial In a move that deepens Saudi and Russian military partnership, a defense deal was signed in August between Saudi Deputy Defense Minister, Prince Khalid bin Salman, and his Russian counterpart, Colonel General Alexander Fomin in Moscow. Saudi interest in developing joint military cooperation with Russia is not new. In 2015, the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman visited Russia and met with President Putin where they signed a number of agreements. A resulting Joint Military Committee was activated to ink future deals. In this week’s cover story, Motasem Al Felou explores the Saudi options of military diversification especially since the United States is pulling its Patriot batteries from the country, while the Kingdom is facing attacks by Houthis in Yemen and threats by Iranian militias, ballistic missiles, and nuclear program. The writer cites expert opinions about prospects of Saudi Arabia’s multiple military partners which seem crucial to deal with threats. On a parallel note of confusing US allies, Biden’s administration is reportedly considering a cut in annual military aid to Egypt over human rights concerns. Dalia Ziada writes about the flawed American policy which ignores Egypt’s strategic role in promoting regional security and stability. She also points out to Sisi’s achievement in improving human rights conditions mainly through the National Strategy for Human Rights, along with launching national projects to ensure economic, social, and cultural rights of people. In the Society Section, Latifa al Hassanyeh discusses the effect of social media and heavy use of networking platforms on adolescents. She traces back the history of these tools while displaying research results on the downside of excess exposure of children to the virtual world. Giving some examples of young people falling victims to the evil side of the internet, our writer also cites expert advice for parents to help their children safely navigate gadgets which have become a staple of our modern life. Read these articles and more on our website eng.majalla. com. As always, we welcome and value our readers’ feedback and we invite you to take the opportunity to leave your comments on our website.
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A Weekly Political News Magazine
A Weekly Political News Magazine
‘ The Present’: Buying a Gift Can Be
50 Difficult in the West Bank
Issue 1870- September- 17/09/2021
42 What Damascus Gains in Egyptian Gas Transit to Lebanon
Human Rights Dilemma in
18 Egyptian American Affairs
Case Studies Reveal the Dangerous
38 Effect of the Virtual World
46 Al-Aragouz: An Authentic Folk Art Loved by Children and Adults
Food Shortcuts for Busy Nights 5
60 American Book: Children of the Refugees
the third dynasty Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Djoser Visitors stand with umbrellas near the step pyramid of the third dynasty Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Djoser (27th century BC) at the Saqqara Necropolis south of Egypt’s capital Cairo on September 14, 2021. Egypt )AFP Photos(
Russia SUP Surfing Festival People steer their SUP boards during a SUP (Stand Up Paddle)-Surfing festival at Krylatskoye Olympic rowing canal, with the Zhivopisny (Picturesque) bridge in the background, in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021 )AP Photos(
Saudi Arabia, Russia Strengthen Military Partnership
Reorganization of Defense Options By Motasem Al Felou - Jeddah
King Salman’s visit in 2017 witnessed the most significant Saudi interest in the Russian military Around 4 years ago, Saudi Arabian King Salman industry, specifically in the S-400 Triumph misbin Abdul Aziz paid a historic state visit, the first sile system despite the Saudi interest in Lockby a ruling Saudi monarch, to Russia, which her- heed Martin’s THAAD missile defense system. alded a shift in global power structures according In 2018, Saudi ordered the American anti-ballistic system with a deadline delivery in 2023. to The Guardian.
A couple of years before that, in 2015, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, then Deputy Crown Prince, visited Russia and met with President Vladimir Putin in a rare visit of a high ranking Saudi official. Numerous agreements were signed and the Joint Military Committee was activated. Very little is known about the committee and its activities. However, it is mentioned every time a new agreement is inked, or potential opportunities are discussed. Saudi Arabia has always imported its arms from the US and other Western countries with a few exceptions when the Kingdom has bought arms from China, Brazil, Russia and South Africa. The latest Saudi-Russian military agreement was signed last August between the Saudi Deputy Defense Minister, Prince Khalid bin Salman, and his Russian counterpart, Colonel General Alexander Fomin. Why has Saudi Arabia diversified into multiple military partners? Which countries? What are the prospects?
US EXITING THE REGION Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman at the Kremlin. (AFP)
A few days ago, the US has removed its Patriot batteries from Saudi Arabia, which is run by the Americans in an air base near Riyadh. Other Patriot batteries, that are run by Saudi Air Defense, will continue their role without any change. “The talks with Iran are on hold right now. The US seems to be leaving the Middle East gradually without solving major issues with Iran, especially the nuclear program and ballistic missiles. This is confusing to allies, leaving them with more vagueness about the American intentions,” political analyst Abed Ahmad told Majalla. “The sudden American moves in the region are hard to understand. The quick withdrawal from Afghanistan followed by pulling the Patriot batteries from Saudi Arabia gives signals of less commitment towards its Arab allies, especially Saudi Arabia. The US is giving more weight to the confrontation with China and Russia, and less attention to the Arabian Gulf. Both China and Russia have close relations with the King-
“The Saudi administration is still exploring military opportunities with Russia. Saudi Deputy Defense Minister stated clearly that he discussed with the Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu, and ‘explored ways to strengthen military and defense cooperation’.” dom, but they can be considered allies like the US. How long will this continue?” he added. It is true that there are differences over the US priorities in the region. The US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s visit to Saudi Arabia has been postponed, a sign showing that a better mutual understanding should be reached over priorities of the two allies. “Saudi will not turn its back to the US overnight and neither will the US. The Saudi administration is still exploring military opportunities with Russia. Saudi Deputy Defense Minister stated clearly that he discussed with the Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu, and ‘explored ways to strengthen military and defense cooperation’. Saudi is not part of the NATO and has the freedom to expand the circle of its military partners without obligations. No big arm deals have been signed with Russia so far. Things take time to happen,” concluded Ahmed.
THE CHINESE DRAGON In 1985, Saudi Arabia bought the Chinese “East Wind” intermediate range missiles. When the deal came to light in 1988, the Kingdom refused American pressure and condemnation of the deal. China later produced an updated version of the missiles; however, Saudi did not show interest in updating its arsenal, and continued to buy weapons from Western sources.
“China is not presenting itself as global military power despite the huge budget of national defense. Unlike Russians who have the guts, China is unlikely to challenge the US by selling arms to the latter’s traditional allies in the Middle East, at least for the time being,” Hadi Ghassan, an Arab researcher told Majalla, when asked about turning to China as a reliable source of weapons. “In addition, China is not promoting weapons that would attract Saudi attention such as a sophisticated missile defense system. The Kingdom needs to protect its people and borders from drones and other missiles that are continuously launched by Houthi militias, the de facto rulers of most of the northern parts of Yemen and allies
“The Kingdom needs to protect its people and borders from drones and other missiles that are continuously launched by Houthi militias, the de facto rulers of most of the northern parts of Yemen and allies of Tehran.”
of Tehran. China is Saudi Arabia’s biggest trade partner. However, this does not apply to the military,” he added.
POTENTIAL THREATS Saudi Arabia’s current security threats include Yemen’s Houthi militias, Iran-backed militias in Yemen and Iraq, the Iranian ballistic missile and nuclear programs, and terrorism. The gradual American withdraw from the Middle East is leaving a security vacuum in the region that needs to be filled before the fragile balance is shaken. Russia has special relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran. Both countries believe the Russians can play a positive role in the region. However, Russia is the biggest foreign weapons provider for Iran, a matter that will make it hard for Saudis to consider Russia a military ally that has the same status as Saudi - American relations. “In the near future, the map of Saudi’s military alliances is unlikely to change easily. However, diversification and having more partners are crucial in properly dealing with the military threats on the strategic level. If Russians and Saudis agree to expand the military cooperation, Russia would open a new market for its weapons and
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets with Russia’s Chairman of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs. SPA
S-400 Triumph air defense system transporter erector launcher. (Vitaly V. Kuzmin via Wikimedia Commons)
gain new ground in the GCC region, and Saudi Arabia will increase its arm suppliers, have more options in addressing pressing military needs, and create balance in case Americans de-
“In the near future, the map of Saudi’s military alliances is unlikely to change easily. However, diversification and having more partners are crucial in properly dealing with the military threats on the strategic level.” cide to leave forever!” concluded Hadi Ghassan. On another side, in response to the growing threats, the Kingdom has approved the establishment of the General Authority for Defense Development (GADD) a few days ago. The newly-formed body will be focused on the strategic policies governing the Saudi defense technology sector. GADD is expected to play an important role in the Saudi endeavors to produce half of its military hardware needs by 2030, and work closely with the General Authority of Military Industries (GAMI), which was founded in 2017 to produce arms locally.
A US Patriot missile battery is seen near Prince Sultan air base at al-Kharj on February 20, 2020. (AFP)
Human Rights Dilemma in Egyptian American Affairs As Sisi Launches National Strategy for Human Rights, Biden Ups Pressure, Considers Aid Cuts By Dalia Ziada The human rights issue shall remain a daunting subject in the relationship between the international community and most of the countries of the Middle East. There is a huge gap between how the eastern and western countries interpret the
terminology, concept, priorities, and application of human rights principles. The repetitive diplomatic and economic pressures exerted by the United States and European countries on their Arab allies in that regard, widens this gap and adds to the human rights dilemma in the Arab region rather than solving it. The renewed controversy
aroused by the United States’ decision to withhold part of the military aid to Egypt over human rights concerns is the most recent example on this. On Monday, 14th of September, Politico magazine mentioned that the Biden Administration is looking into upholding ten per cent (about US$ 130 million) of the military aid due to Egypt, in order to pressure the Egyptian state to improve performance on guaranteeing and respecting human rights. US State Department officials told the Washington-based magazine that the withheld amount may be available in future fiscal years if Egypt succeed in improving its human rights record. Egypt received the news with a sense of disappointment. While the U.S. Administration is primarily concerned with improving political and civil rights, it failed to see or appreciate the tremendous efforts exerted by the Egyptian political leadership of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, over the past six years, to improve economic, social, and cultural rights for impoverished and vulnerable citizen groups.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. REUTERS/Costas Baltas/File Photo
The US military aid to Egypt is provided on annual basis, in adherence to the Peace Accord that was signed, in 1979, between Egypt and Israel under U.S. mediation. Usually, the aid amount is not supplied in monetary cash, but invested in arms procurement deals and military exercises, that also benefit the United States. However, about 300 million dollars of the aid amount is conditioned to improving human rights record. This particular point of binding the US military aid to Egypt with improving the state performance on human rights issues has instigated a dozen political conflicts between the U.S. and Egypt, in the past, which left stains on the strategic relationship between the two countries that is necessary for handling regional affairs.
A HISTORY OF BACKFIRING PRESSURES Almost all Democrat U.S. Administrations embraces human rights as a central theme for their foreign policy. In a public address by President Biden, on September 13th, he reiterated that. In his historical speech to the Muslim World from Cairo University, in June 2009, former U.S. President Barack Obama said that the U.S. is determined to defend and promote human rights, as the core of its international mission. “America does not presume to know what is best for everyone… But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn›t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. These are not
The decision to freeze military aid to Egypt was discussed while American troops were present in Egypt for the US Central Command’s “Bright Star” military exercises which have been convened on annual basis by the US military, in Egyptian soil since 1981. just American ideas; they are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere;” said President Obama. Nevertheless, there is a flaw in the methods used by the successive U.S. administrations in addressing the critical and complicated issue of improving human rights status in Egypt and other Arab countries. Applying political pressures, in the form of withholding military or economic aid to Egypt for example, has never yielded sustainable results. The target state may take temporary steps that give the illusion that it is progressing on human rights, but as soon as the pressures are lifted it goes back to work on other urgent priorities. In 2005, the Republican Administration of President George Bush threatened to cut a portion of the annual U.S. economic and military aid package due to Egypt, if thenpresident Mubarak had not availed a space in parliament for the Muslim Brotherhood, who represented themselves to the international community as political dissidents, at that time. As a result, the Muslim Brotherhood and the extremist Salafists gained more influence over social, cultural, and political arenas inside Egypt. Meanwhile, the relationship between Egypt and the United States fell into a long pause for about four years, until Bush was replaced by Obama in 2009. During those years, the U.S. role and interests in the Middle East region were dramatically hindered. Ten years later, during which Egyptians led two successful revolutions that overthrew Mubarak’s autocratic regime, in 2011, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s theocratic regime, in 2013, the U.S. Administration of President Obama played the same dangerous card of mixing the military aid with the human rights issue, against the current regime of President El-Sisi. Similar to what happened with President Bush, the Obama Administration’s move backfired, causing serious
damage to U.S. political and military influence over the Middle East, while in return did not stimulate any tangible human rights reforms, as a direct result to this pressure. For the past four decades, Egypt depended, almost exclusively, on the United States for armament. Egypt receives an economic and military aid package of 1.3 billion dollars from the United States on an annual basis, in compliance with the provisions of the Peace Accord signed between Egypt and Israel in 1979. A few months after the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood regime from power, in 2013, the Obama Administration decided to freeze the military aid to Egypt, and thus put on hold its
The repetitive diplomatic and economic pressures exerted by the United States and European countries on their Arab allies in that regard, widens this gap and adds to the human rights dilemma in the Arab region rather than solving it.
military procurement efforts. The aid freeze got partially lift in 2015, and then applied again in 2016, and then lift again in 2018, after Trump took office, and then partially cut at the end of Trump administration. Eventually, Egypt found itself obliged to abandon the U.S. as its exclusive military ally, and decided to actively diversify its sources of armament to avoid the consequences of U.S. morbid abuse of the military aid in applying political pressures. Today, Egypt’s military exporters and allies include Russia, China, Japan, Germany, France, and Italy. According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Egypt occupies 3rd position among world’s 25 largest arms importers, in 2019.
BIDEN REPEATING THE MISTAKE OF HIS PREDECESSORS Unfortunately, the U.S. Administration of President Biden has not learnt from the mistakes of former administration and is not willing to change the flawed policy of applying economic and political pressures, through cutting or freezing the military aid, to push Egypt to improve human rights. This method did not work with former Egyptian regimes, and will not work with the current Egyptian leadership. Let alone the stains it is going to leave on the strategic partnership between the two countries. Since the election of President Biden, in November 2020, several advocacy campaigns, in Washington, supported by congressmen, has been calling on the Biden Administration to cut or freeze the military aid package
US President Joe Biden. EPA/Oliver Contreras / POOL
A handout photo made available by the Egyptian Presidency shows Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi (R) meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, 13 September 2021. The Israeli Prime Minister will discuss the latest developments in the regional and international arenas with the Egyptian president. EPA/EGYPTIAN PRESIDENCY HANDOUT
due to Egypt, this year, for human rights concerns. Biden Administration’s response to these campaigns was usually confirming that the U.S. is working with the Egyptian state on the issue, without this affecting the bilateral ties and the mutual interests of the two countries. For example, Ned Price, U.S. State Department Spokesperson, said on a press conference, on March 11th, in response to a question in this regard, that “Egypt plays an important role in promoting some of our key interests in the region: regional security and stability through the guardianship of the Suez Canal; counterterrorism cooperation; and its leadership in promoting Middle East peace.” Two months later, in May, Egypt’s single-handed success in containing the latest episode of war between Hamas and Israel, came as an urgent reminder on Egypt being the most reliable and the most important partner for the United States, in the Middle East region. Last week, President El-Sisi received the new Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennet, in a historical meeting that marked the beginning of a whole new era of warm and friendly relationship between Egypt and Israel. Ironically, the decision to freeze military aid to Egypt was discussed while American troops were present in Egypt for the US Central Command’s “Bright Star” military exercises. The Bright Star has been convened on annual basis by the US military, on Egyptian soil, since 1981, and is considered the benchmark of Egypt-US strategic bond. In that sense, it is disappointing to watch the Biden Administration prefers to take the easy route of pressuring Egypt to improve human rights conditions, through cutting the military aid. This policy has proven its failure several
times, in the past. Rather, the U.S. should have worked with the Egyptian leadership, through tutoring and guidance, to show them how to improve human rights, especially that El-Sisi regime is sincere about achieving progress in that regard.
HUMAN RIGHTS UNDER EL-SISI LEADERSHIP The Egyptian state’s performance related to human rights has always been a source for conflict in Egypt’s relations with the world. While Egypt’s western allies pushed the Egyptian government to focus on improving civil and political rights, the Egyptian state gave the priority to social and economic rights. This created situations of misunderstanding between Egypt and key players in the international community. During his latest visit to France, in December, President El-Sisi had to go through a live debate to refute claims about Egypt’s systematic violations of human rights, as was suggested by some present journalists. «I will not place conditions on our economic and defense cooperation with Egypt because of these issues (i.e., human rights),” responded President Macron to a journalist who asked him, during his press conference with President ElSisi, on whether France could link economic and military investments in Egypt to conditions related to improving human rights situation. «The policy of dialogue is better than the policy of boycott, which harms our ability to fight terrorism and our work for regional stability. Setting conditions will not allow progress in regional matters. Rather, it cuts off the discussion between us, and weakens
one of our important allies in our war on terror and for the stability of the region, and it will not help in developing human right.» In response to the same question, President El-Sisi noted that “the Egyptian state has been fighting an extremist Islamic organization that has been wreaking havoc in Egypt for over 90 years (in reference to the Muslim Brotherhood). It is not fair to label the Egyptian state as an authoritarian regime because we are fighting extremism.» In fact, no one could claim that Egypt is an ideal country wherein human rights principles are fully guaranteed and respected. Egypt suffers from chronic deficiencies on this issue, mostly inherited from the long era of corruption and tyranny under Mubarak. The Egyptian state does not deny this fact and has been sincerely working, for six years, to improve human rights conditions, amidst countless political and security challenges. Despite the delay on reforming civil and political rights, Egypt witnessed a leap on improving economic, social, and cultural rights, thanks to new legislative amendments and national projects targeting improving health, housing, and security conditions, as well as protecting freedom of religion and empowering women in public life. As a tangible proof on that, on September 11th, President El-Sisi took a historical step by launching the National Strategy for Human Rights and dedicating the year 2022 to the Civil Society. The National Strategy for Human Rights is the first document of its kind in the history of Egypt. In 2018, the Egyptian Prime Minister founded a new committee, with the name “The Permanent Higher Committee for Human Rights.” The purpose of this new governmental committee is to help the Egyptian
The National Human Rights Strategy, launched by President El-Sisi on Saturday, is the first long-term action plan to develop the Egyptian state’s performance on issues related to human rights advancement.
state improve its human rights record and practices. The committee is primarily responsible for handling all complaints by local and international organizations related to human rights violations in Egypt. Meanwhile, for three years, the committee worked in cooperation with government bodies, national councils for human and women’s rights, religious institutions, and human rights organizations, on developing an implementable national strategy to improve human rights conditions. Nevertheless, the real obstacle which has always been preventing Egypt from making tangible progress on the civil and political rights agenda, is not the lack of will or lack of sincerity by the political leadership. The essence of the problem lies in the poor choices the government used to make in relation to the mechanisms used and individuals entrusted with handling this extremely complicated portfolio of advancing human rights. The new governmental permanent committee and its newly released national strategy for human rights came specifically to fix this flaw. The National Human Rights Strategy, launched by President El-Sisi on Saturday, is the first long-term action plan to develop the Egyptian state’s performance
A photo taken during the Joint Training of «Bright Star 2021» at an Air Base, published by the official Facebook page of the Egyptian Military Spokesman, on September 15, 2021.
on issues related to human rights advancement. The strategy is built on key four pillars: advancing economic, social, and cultural rights; advancing the rights of women and children; advancing the rights of the people with disabilities, youth, and the elderly; and the dissemination of human rights culture among the public. This will happen, taking into account a very important point, which President Sisi pointed out at the launch ceremony. That is “to keep a balance between citizen’s rights and duties, individual rights and societal obligations, and fighting corruption to ensure the enjoyment of rights and freedoms.”
CONCLUSION When released in December 1948, the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was meant to be a global constitution that all humans, from all walks of life, can enjoy the privileges it offers and commit to the principles it stipulates. More than half a century later, the majority of the thirty principles of the UDHR are still seen as hard-to-reach goals for most people, not only in non-democratic or less-developed countries, but also in developed countries with established democratic systems
of governance. In other words, almost every state in the world has failed in committing to human rights values, at some time in its history, followed by long years or even decades of hard work and struggle to make up and rebuild its internal systems in a way that respects human rights. For example, the practice of racial discrimination against the black people in the United States has been an issue for decades and it took the American administrations a huge amount of courage to fight against slavery and give equal rights to all people, within the democratic system. Despite these historical facts, the United States and some European countries love to pressure their Arab allies, rather than helping them, to fix the human rights situation in their countries. They hardly exert an effort to understand how human rights agenda works or how their systems of governance operate. Narrowing this gap by understanding the Arab perspective on the issue, and cooperating with Arab countries, rather than applying an array of diplomatic and politic pressures on them, is the most effective method for sustainable advancement of human rights in the Middle East region. That will also serve to enhance the strategic economic, political, and military interests of the United States and Europe in the Middle East.
The Race to the German Chancellorship
Three Top Candidates in Europe’s Most Critical Elections By Jassim Mohamad -Bonn Germany will be going to the polls on September 26, 2021. After 16 years at the helm of the German government, Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel is not running for another term. Who will succeed her? According to the political system, every German in each of the 299 constituencies gets two votes – one to elect a local MP and one to elect a political party. 50% of the 598 seatsthe German Parliament “Bundestag” are directly elected from 299 districts and the remaining 50% are elected based on party vote share. But as a measure to prevent small, often radical, parties from gaining power, a party has to win at least 5% of the second vote to enter the Bundestag. The second vote therefore determines the percentage of seats each party will get in the Bundestag and its chances of forming a government. In 2017 the parties that crossed the 5% threshold were the CDU/CSU, SPD, the Greens, FDP, The Left and the AfD parties. Of the 83.1 million people living in Germany, those over the age of 18 who entitled to vote make up 60.4 million in number. German citizens who are living abroad have to make a formal application to be included in the electoral
register. All other entitled citizens are automatically eligible to vote in their constituency without having to register or make an application. Postal votes are always possible. The race for the Bundestag is proving dramatic. Since May, three parties have led the polls: Mrs. Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats (with their Bavarian ally, the Christian Social Union), the Greens and, most recently, the center-left Social Democrats, who surged to the front as the conservatives stumbled. But with its landscape fragmented, Germany is likely to end up with a three-way coalition-a rarity at national level. Until Germany’s election on September 26, 2021, the three largest parties are in a virtual dead heat. Just a few weeks ago, the only question on most election watchers’ minds was whether the center-right Christian Democrats (CDUwho led the polls with as much as 29 percent in mid-Julywould form a two-way coalition with the Greens or if they would need to bring in the conservative Free Democrats (FDP) to build a stable majority. Since then, the Christian Democrats have suffered a spectacular collapse in the polls as their candidate, party leader Armin Laschet, has been plagued by a series of gaffes, strategic errors and plain old bad luck. As a result, pollsters say, the CDU appears to have lost around one-third of its voters, who supported the party because
German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses a news conference, to announce that she will run again for the chancellorship in the next year general elections, at the Christian Democratic Union Party (CDU) headquarters in Berlin, Germany, November 20, 2016. REUTERS/ Hannibal Hanschke T/ File Photo
of Angela Merkel.
THE RACE FOR THE BUNDESTAG Germany’s upcoming election will be critical for the stability of the country and the European Union, experts at the European House Ambrosetti Forum told CNBC. It comes as polls point to a number of different possible outcomes. “It is not a normal election,” Lars Feld, director of the Walter Eucken Institut, a German think tank, told CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick. “We don’t have the incumbent, we don’t have someone defending office and therefore everybody has a good chance to become chancellor.” The election on Sept. 26 will mark the end of Angela Merkel’s tenure as German chancellor after more than 15 years in power.
THE CANDIDATES Armin Laschet 60, is the leader of Chancellor Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats (CDU) and premier of heavily industrial North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Germany’s most populous state. In early September 2021, he appeared at the Christian Social Union (CSU) party conference in Nuremberg in early September 2021 desperate to convince his Bavarian allies that he and not their much-loved leader Markus Söde, was the better choice of candidate despite much evidence to the contrary. In a demon-
2021 is finally the year Europe will have to learn to live without Angela Merkel. The German Chancellor is stepping down in the fall after nearly 16 years in office and at least a decade as Europe’s unquestioned leader. strative show of unity, Laschet and Söder appeared side by side on stage, fist-bumping to a rousing string anthem and a several-minute standing ovation, before Söder introduced his erstwhile rival. Olaf Scholz, 62, (SPD) has had a succession of senior posts in German politics. He is currently German finance minister and Chancellor Merkel’s deputy. Ms Baerbock, 40, studied law and politics in Hamburg and London and worked for the Greens in the European Parliament. One poll on 2 September indicated the CDU/CSU had slipped to a record low of 20%, overtaken by the SPD on 25%. Another, on August 31, 2021, sug-
gested just 10% of voters would prefer Mr Laschet as chancellor over his rivals. The son of a miner, and a lawyer by training, for years Mr Laschet defended Germany’s powerful coal industry. He has stood by the decision not to bring forward the end of using coal for energy from 2038.
PARTIES PROGRAM THE CHRISTIAN UNION CDU Climate: The Christian Union wants to maintain Germany as an industrial location when it comes to climate protection. Immigration: The Christian Union seems more conservative. According to its electoral program, immi-
It is expected that interaction between Germany and Russia based on pragmatism will continue. Looking back at the trajectory of GermanyRussia relations since the end of the Cold War, there has been practical cooperation.
gration must take place in an orderly manner and according to clear rules. Foreign Trade: The Christian Union relies heavily on “multilateralism” in foreign trade, because one in four jobs in Germany are based on exports. Security and Defense: The party supports NATO’s goal of each member spending two percent of its economic output on defense Christian Democrats advocate the development of joint European armed forces - but not at NATO’s expense.
SOCIALIST PARTY SPD Climate: It seeks “climate neutrality” by 2045. According to the party’s plan, electricity should be generated only from clean energy sources – mainly solar energy - by 2040. Immigration: The party is more open on the issue of immigration. The party supports the multi-nationality of German citizens. Trade: The party emphasizes sustainability, relying on partners who have small, environmentally friendly agricultural facilities. The party wants greater regulation of German arms exports. Security and Defense: The Social Democratic Party criticizes NATO’s goal of spending 2 percent of economic output to defense. The party supports the gas pipeline “Nord Stream 2” from Russia to Germany.
A composite image shows file portraits of the main German chancellor candidates (L-R) Green party (Die Gruenen) cochairwoman Annalena Baerbock, in Cologne, 02 September 2021; German Minister of Finance and Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), in Berlin, 01 September 2021; and Armin Laschet, Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party chairman, in Berlin, 10 September 2021. EPA/ SASCHA STEINBACH/ FILIP SINGER
Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party chairman and top candidate for the upcoming federal elections Armin Laschet (L) and Green party (Buendnis90/Die Gruenen, Alliance 90/The Greens) co-chairwoman and top candidate for the upcoming federal elections Annalena Baerbock (R) share a light moment next to Green party member Reinhard Buetikofer (C) after the ARD/ZDF TV station live recording of the TV debate ‘The Truel in Berlin, Germany, 12 September 2021. EPA/ CLEMENS BILAN
GREEN PARTY Climate: The Green Party wants the country to be climate neutral by 2038. The party manifesto declared that its program would put Germany in line with the Paris climate agreement’s ambitious goal of limiting the rise in global temperatures to only 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) of warming since pre-industrial times. Immigration: They are calling for an immigration law with new access methods for work and education immigration. Trade: Directing trade more towards climate protection and sustainability and encouraging the growth of industries that are friendly to environmental and living conditions. Security and Defense: At some points, the Green Party’s program is going in a different direction from that of the Christian Union, demanding that Germany become free of nuclear weapons. The Greens also reject NATO’s goal of allocating 2 percent of economic output to defense, and are against the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
POLICIES 2021 is finally the year Europe will have to learn to live without Angela Merkel. The German Chancellor
is stepping down in the fall after nearly 16 years in office and at least a decade as Europe’s unquestioned leader. It’s a transition that’s not without risk. The danger here isn’t linked to who will replace her. Instead, it results from the vacuum she’ll leave in Europe. More importantly, the coalition that will emerge from September’s election will likely be “Black-Green”comprising the “Union parties” of Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) in an alliance with the Greens. Her successor, whoever he or she will be, may not be so lucky. “The preconditions for his or her European policy will be different,” warns Jana Puglierin in our Summer 2021 issue. “What’s more, the COVID-19 crisis has brought to light how much Germany has neglected its infrastructure and how little it has invested in digitalization. The crisis has also shown that Germans, too, are not immune to growing euroskepticism and that further support for EU integration should not be taken for granted.”
IMPLICATIONS FOR BERLIN’S POLICY TOWARDS BEIJING The German election on September 26 has significant implications for Berlin’s policy towards Beijing and the broader international effort to address the geopo-
litical challenges presented by China’s rise. Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose pro-engagement policy towards China has shaped Europe’s approach for more than a decade and a half, will step aside, opening the door to what could be a shift in Germany’s stance. While we do not expect radical change in how Germany approaches the relationship with its biggest trading partner, we consider a meaningful evolution towards a firmer line likely. How significant this shift turns out to be will depend in part on the election result, the coalition government that emerges and who ends up running it.
RELATION WITH RUSSIA “The base of relations between Germany and Russia
The German election on September 26 has significant implications for Berlin’s policy towards Beijing and the broader international effort to address the geopolitical challenges presented by China’s rise.
is more economic than political,” Alexander Baunov, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Centre, said: “It’s more about trade and deals and technologies and investment than about who is more important in the world.” In the ongoing Bundestag election campaign, there are astonishing overlaps between rival opposition parties when it comes to Nord Stream 2. It is expected that interaction between Germany and Russia based on pragmatism will continue. Looking back at the trajectory of Germany-Russia relations since the end of the Cold War, there has been practical cooperation. Russia has never stopped dialogues since the era of former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder. All this transpired despite a series of events that had some negative impacts on bilateral relations. Two questions will remain after Merkel leaves office: Will the interaction between Germany and Russia continue to be a regulator of EU-Russia relations? Will Germany still play the role of a special window for dialogue between Russia and the West? The answers to these questions depend on how Merkel’s successor will inherit and develop her diplomatic legacy. They will also rely on how the next German chancellor will deal with the geopolitical differences, structural contradictions, as well as the influence of domestic politics on diplomacy in both countries.
European People’s Party (EPP) chairman Manfred Weber, Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party chairman and top candidate for the upcoming federal elections Armin Laschet, Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz during a press conference at an EPP Group Bureau meeting in Berlin, Germany, 09 September 2021. EPA/ CLEMENS BILAN
Large scale election campaign posters show the top candidates Annalena Baerbock (Alliance 90/The Greens) and Armin Laschet (Christian Democratic Union, CDU) at a road in Berlin, Germany, 14 September 2021. The federal German elections will be held on 26 September 2021. EPA/ FILIP SINGER
A NEW EUROPEAN UNION POLICY The chancellor candidate for the Social Democrats (SPD) party, Olaf Scholz, called for a new European Union policy toward the east during a recent interview with DW. He wanted to upgrade the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), which was co-founded by Helmut Schmidt, a former German Social Democrat chancellor. Scholz wanted to strengthen the EU as a whole, not just individual member states. “We don’t want to return to the political world of the 17th, 18th, or 19th centuries when powers like Russia, Germany, France, and England shaped policy among themselves. If we want to ensure joint security in Europe, then it’s about the European Union and Russia.”
CONCLUSION Overall, there are many shared views between the CDU/CSU, FDP, Greens, and the SPD, most importantly in their European and transatlantic approaches to different foreign policy challenges. However, there is also a fair amount of divergence in the details. The FDP and the Greens position themselves as the most assertive parties both on Russia and China, while the conservatives and social democrats present more cautious programs. The Linke’s foreign policy primarily relies on calls for global disarmament and a relaxation of policies towards Russia and China.
The AfD is equally reserved about Russia but presents some contradictory views on China, aiming to cooperate on the BRI while demanding fairer trade conditions. The different party programs only superficially cover information manipulation. Nonetheless, the fact that this topic receives attention from four out of the six parties that are currently part of the Bundestag highlights the growing importance of the topic. More than fifteen years ago, for the first time, the Social Democratic Party led the intentions of voters, ahead of the conservative Christian bloc led by Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Green Party. It seems without a doubt that the German Socialists’ candidate is the biggest rival to Armin Laschet of the Christian Democrats. His candidacy is supported by the fact that Schulz holds the position of Finance Minister and Deputy Chancellor to Merkel in the ruling coalition in Berlin. Schulz, a socialist, is distinguished by his calmness and silence, and his lack of mistakes during debates and election campaigns. What increases Schulz’s progress is that the Socialist Party this time, has maintained its cohesion and unity, unlike the Christian Democratic Union, which is still witnessing many internal disputes, and this makes the chancellery door open to Schulz, the socialist candidate more than his other competitors.
Israel’s First Ambassador to Bahrain Brings Message of Optimism, Hope, Scientific Cooperation
Ambassador Na’eh Speaks to Majalla on Effect of Peace on Future Generations By Mustafa El-Dessouki Israeli diplomat Eitan Na’eh has had the unique distinction of being Ambassador in both the Gulf countries which recently altered the course of Arab-Israeli conflict by signing the Abraham Accords – the UAE and Bahrain. He was Israel’s first diplomat to the United Arab Emirates following the Abraham Accords and served as chargé d’affaires of the Israeli Embassy in Abu Dhabi, a position he had held since January. Last week, Ambassador Na’eh was nominated as Israel’s first ambassador to Bahrain on the same day that Bahrain’s new envoy to Israel presented his credentials to Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. Speaking exclusively to Majalla, he emphasized that his mission was to nurture the relationship that began with the Abraham Accords on September 15, 2020 – which marks its first anniversary this year. “I think we have seen an influx of many Israelis and business people (and) people-to-people contacts are not a novelty anymore but rather an everyday reality,” the diplomat said. “Israelis are contacting Emirati colleagues on a daily basis as government officers and the embassy, of course, are coordinating and leading or talking to various levels. So we have government-to-government, business-to-business and peopleto-people relationships and the overall picture has started forming. We know each other better now and the overall image is starting to materialize, albeit more slowly because Covid has made it very difficult for travel.”
Against this backdrop of new understanding and outreach, both countries have reached and signed nine agreements while more are being negotiated to be signed in the near future. Ambassador Na’eh sets great value on how people of both countries need to see the real life behind media headlines. “Without Covid, we would have seen more contacts with the Emiratis going to Israel and coming back with the view of what Israel looks like,” he said. “What you see normally in the Arab media and newspapers is not quite accurate. It is a frozen moment of what is a more layered and more complicated situation, which is a normal reality like any other country. People get up in the morning, take their kids to school, take them to kindergarten, they go to work, buy and sell houses, they travel, they study - it is life as normal. Whereas what people know is only the impression they get from what they see on TV. People see black smoke, soldiers and war.”
EXPO 2020 TO CHANGE PERSPECTIVE ON ISRAEL He is optimistic that the Israeli Pavilion in the Expo 2020 will help to change perspectives about Israel through a dramatic framing of what he calls ‘the Israeli spirit and its vision of what is tomorrow’ and of Israeli culture through shows. “Israeli culture will come here during Expo 2020. The Expo and the Israeli pavilion will be a meeting place not just for Emiratis and Israelis but, we hope, for people from all over the region.
President Donald J. Trump, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Foreign Affairs for the United Arab Emirates Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyanisigns sign the Abraham Accords Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, on the South Lawn of the White House. (Photo: Official White House Photo/ Shealah Craighead)
Israeli culture will be presented every week with a new show, 25 in all. The Israeli pavilion is like the Abrahamic tent - an open structure showing the innovation of the Israeli spirit and its vision of what is tomorrow. “I think that will bring a lot of contacts on the person-toperson level although we do have a big business delegation coming here in October which will be 250 business people and government ministers.” He added, “Business deals are already being signed and investments made by the Israeli energy sector in food tech, agriculture, venture funds, and water technologies which generate water from air. Cooperation in space research and exploration will start soon. All this and more are to come.”
JOINT WATER PROJECT IN THE MAKING The first project between the UAE and Israel, which will showcase technology transfer cooperation will be the generating of water from air. Ambassador Na’eh calls it “a wonder, a miracle, science fiction in my opinion”. The project takes on especial significance when seen against the backdrop of how water wars are taking center-stage globally and in this region, the current crisis between Egypt and Ethiopia regarding the Nile River Dam. “The water project is being developed by a private Israeli company called Water Gen. The first factory will open here in the Emirates creating water from thin air. It will be
“Without COVID, we would have seen more contacts with the Emiratis going to Israel and coming back with the view of what Israel looks like.” produced here in the Emirates. It will be made available, and can be made available in other countries, Egypt included. And this is just an example of what happens when we cooperate. While we bring the technology, we also conduct joint research together with local experts because the technology needs further development. “This will be a product of cooperation and shows you that sometimes when you bring this kind of thing to the table, 1 plus 1 equals 3 or 4 or 5, not just the simple 1 plus 1 equals 2. So the benefits are many.” Simply put, the technology uses a box whose size depends on the amount of water required, whether it is for a private house, a block of apartments or for the public in the parks, the beach or in the middle of a desert. The mechanism will simply just suck air into the unit, separate oxygen from hydrogen, mix it with minerals, cool it and then it is ready to drink,” he explained. “You don’t need any infrastructure, no pipelines, no logis-
tics, just the water generating unit. The existing technology uses diesel, but future technology will work with solar panels and other alternative energies. It is not yet a readymade product, we still need to do more research and adjust it to local conditions as we still don’t know everything.” He is also optimistic that the same cooperation will extend to food technology, using the cutting-edge scientific methods which offer sustainable production methods - of meat and plant-based food production in laboratory conditions and in medical and scientific research where research can be jointly carried out in areas such as genomics and space research. “Despite some disagreements, we can still work together in everything to promote food security, water security and sustainability, as well as cooperation in climate change. So yes, this signifies that we are open to normalization which means increased cooperation,” Ambassador Na’eh said. “It is a learning curve, but it is really designed to make the life of people in our region better with cooperation, with technology, and with mutual understanding.”
CLUB NOT CLOSED To Ambassador Na’eh, the Abraham Accords represent the desire of all people for peace and a better life. Having signed normalization agreements with UAE and Bahrain and the agreement to renew diplomatic relationships with Morocco and the declaration with Sudan, he said that the more countries which join, the easier it will be to solve misunderstandings and conflicts. “The club is not closed, the club is open. I do realize that not everybody agrees with us nor is happy about the new arrangements. But we can either keep on fighting for another 100 years or we can try to solve problems peacefully and pave the way for a better life, a higher standard of living and quality of life for people in our region. It is in the hands of the people of this region.” He added firmly, “We are Israel as a fact, Israel exists,
“Despite some disagreements, we can still work together in everything to promote food security, water security and sustainability, as well as cooperation in climate change.”
Israel enjoys a lot of advantages, other countries have their advantages, and there is a lot of knowledge and human energy in this region. I prefer as a diplomat, of course, to direct (the energy) towards a positive direction and to accumulate and focus all this energy towards development, towards raising the standard of living, harnessing the power of technology, optimism, resources, and of the young generation towards a brighter future.” “I am hopeful that people are looking at what happens when you normalize relations, and will see the fruits of peace, emulate the model in one way or another and not just for us, but for everybody. I get calls and messages from people in Iraq, Morocco, even Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestinians.” “People are tired of war. People are tired of violence. It is up to us to offer an alternative, or to continue for another 100 years to argue and to spill more blood. It is in our hands and in the hands of the young generation that is growing up in the Middle East.” Given the newness of the relationship between UAE and Israel, he said he never felt unsafe in the UAE and only sensed friendship, curiosity and tolerance. “Of course, I feel safe, of course, I feel secure and, of course, I feel very welcomed by the Emiratis. What I am experiencing here is tolerance, curiosity, and friendship. One cannot but see the hospitality, the ability and will to listen among those who agree with us and those who are in disagreement with us. We may not necessarily agree on anything but at least we agree to listen to each other.” “The alternative when not agreeing with someone is to turn to violence. We can try to persuade each other. We can try to show each other a better way and show each other how to do positive things. So to answer your questions, I feel very safe, very welcome and to even utter the word discrimination would be a disservice to the UAE, and, from the little that I have heard from Bahrain, again there will be very positive feelings towards my arrival. I don’t expect things to change in one day. So I bring hope.” As a diplomat, Ambassador Na’eh says he brings optimism, hope and the will to learn to his every assignment. He says he doesn’t make comparisons between countries and considers every country as different. “What I do have and what I am equipped with is optimism and hope. Yes, I have diplomatic experience and also optimism that we can make a change. You can make things happen, and when you make things happen, the sky does not fall on you, the sun does not get any further or closer but suddenly the world around you changes and it was our actions that changed reality.” “I have a strong belief that optimism is a very important element when you become a diplomat because what is the
Israeli Ambassador Eitan Na’eh
other option – war and no relationships, no cooperation, only a wall between us. The alternative is very negative and I believe in the ability to change. The diplomats can make a difference by following up from the leaders and the politicians. We are here to facilitate.” He also underscored the need to absorb the vision of leaders and understand local sensitivities because diplomats “build a bridge between cultures.” “The bravery and the vision of leaders can bring results. (As a diplomat) I at least have the experience to try to facilitate and make that happen.” “What we have to bring with us (as diplomats) and what I am bringing with me is the will to learn. This is the will to learn the local culture and to learn about the local sensitivities as well as to learn how to bring people together. It is more than just talking the local language but more so knowing that every language has a whole culture behind it.” Speaking about his appointment as Israel’s Ambassador to Bahrain and the challenges that he is expecting, he said. “I want to build bridges of understanding. It is not a secret that not everybody in Bahrain thinks the same about the peace process. I believe that with increased dialogue, when the fruits of peace become more visible, and when you increase understanding, when you increase coopera-
tion, then the idea of peace won’t sound so alien.” “Quite a bit of work was done so far and we now have an embassy in Manama. So, I really hope to further the relationships, to improve and expand them, and to offer hope. We want good relationships, friendships and better understanding between the two nations.” He also emphasized that he hoped to engage with “all Bahrainis” – a clear reference to opposition to peace with Israel from some predominantly Shiite Muslim groups in the Kingdom. “I don’t think of it (the opposition) as a problem but I consider it is a challenge to talk to all Bahrainis setting aside any difference of religion, to talk to the people and to talk to the business community, and, of course, talk to the government and leadership.” “We want to make life better for us and better for our neighbors. There is a lot of hard work ahead of us but what I am bringing with me is a will to work hard to bring people together.” “Those who agree with us and, hopefully, those who don’t agree with us, maybe will agree with us a little more and disagree with us a little less. This is what I want to achieve, this is the bottom line. We want to build a model. A model that will be emulated by others as well. And we are calling all our neighbors with whom we have a relationship to
join us in this journey. Some aspects of it take longer than others and will not be without difficulties.” He is quick to add that since he has only just been nominated to the post and is yet to arrive in Bahrain, present his credentials and familiarize himself with Bahrain, he has “much to learn about Bahrain before I can talk with any authority”. “I can talk about hopes, I can talk about goals and of course I am more than aware of the history of Jews in Bahrain. I think that Houda Nonoo, the former ambassador to the U.S and a proud member of the Jewish community of Bahrain and of the Jewish communities of the Gulf, is doing a great job of bringing the Jews of the Gulf together. (But) Bear in mind that I am going as an ambassador of the State of Israel to Bahrain, ambassador of all Israelis to Bahrain and I hope to succeed in this capacity.”
BUILDING BRIDGES Ambassador Na’eh is himself looking forward to participating in the lively Jewish community life in Bahrain. “I certainly hope to take part in Jewish life in Bahrain and, if you look back in history when Jews and Muslims lived together and influenced each other in culture, poetry, in science, you will agree that those days were a golden age.” “So, if there is something that I want to do, it is to rejuvenate, return, and help forge good relationships between Israel and Bahrain, Israeli people and Bahraini people and, of course, to see Jews from all over the world understanding and taking part in this goal to increase understanding between Muslims and Jews. I am concentrating now on building bridges here in the Gulf, at the moment here in the UAE and in the near future in Bahrain.” “I think those who look at those relationships will realize what it really is - I believe that learning from European
“Israeli culture will come here during Expo 2020. The Expo and the Israeli pavilion will be a meeting place not just for Emiratis and Israelis but, we hope, for people from all over the region.”
history, building bridges and enabling and facilitating economic cooperation and agreements through trade creates a better future. This is what it is about.” He sees the Abraham Accords as having contributed greatly to a contemporary search for peace in the Middle East. “Peace is really a signature on an agreement to start cooperating and stop fighting. For what? In order to achieve stability, in order to achieve conditions of economic prosperity which thrive when stability has been achieved after you make peace.” “So, we have to create stable relationships and a critical mass of people in countries who believe in creating this model in which other people, Palestinians included, feel they are enjoying the fruits of peace. People must want to take part in this journey and not in violence.” “For that to change in the minds of people and the course of history, I think the Abraham Accords have contributed to peace in the Middle East. I think that a stable relationship and creating a model for stable relationships will have a greater persuasive power than those who call for war and more bloodshed.” Indeed, he says the Abraham Accords come as part of an illustrious line of agreements to bring peace to the Middle East. Reminiscing about the 1977 breakthrough visit of Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem, he recalls how he was filled with huge excitement as a 14-year old. “It was 1977 when Sadat first came to Jerusalem. I was just 14 years old and was filled with huge excitement. I grew up in Israel, there was a war when I was just under 4, there was a war when I went to elementary school, and there was a war when I was 10 years old in 1973.” “Four years later, Sadat came to Israel and a feeling of exhilaration swept through the country. Of course, when we signed the Camp David Accord in 1979 it was really welcomed with a wave of optimism. We expected that other countries would follow and at last we can turn our energy to build, to grow, and reach economic prosperity.” “I had the same feeling of hope and optimism in 1993, when we signed the Oslo Accords and again when we signed the peace agreement with the Kingdom of Jordan in 1994, I was overjoyed.” He continued, “Again, as an adult and as a diplomat, when the Abraham Accords were signed, I wanted to take part in them and I am glad and proud to be taking part in them on the ground in the Abraham Accords countries, both in the UAE and soon in Bahrain.”
PEACE ABOVE ALL THINGS Peace is a win-win opportunity for all, according to Am-
“Houda Nonoo, the former ambassador to the U.S and a proud member of the Jewish community of Bahrain and of the Jewish communities of the Gulf, is doing a great job of bringing the Jews of the Gulf together.”
bassador Na’eh. “Look, it is no secret that there is conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. I hope that through direct negotiations and bringing more stability and more security we can find a way to listen to each other. It is not easy as we tried and failed for 100 years but we are trying a new way now.” “I think that more people will realize that through cooperation with Israel, a normal relationship with Israel, dialogue with Israel, we can achieve much more than trying to fight with Israel. Terrorising Israelis, inflicting pain and suffering on both our peoples won’t achieve anything.” “Making Israel suffer more will not bring peace. Taking care of our own people, having our kids finish school, study at university and then find jobs and harness knowledge-based economies to better the life of people — that will increase stability and security. We have seen enough wars and hopefully now it is time to see more peace rather than more war and more bloodshed.” “When you embark upon peace, it is an exercise where everybody wins. It is better than sports. You know when you play sports, someone wins and someone else loses. In sport, like the Olympics, we say the most important thing is participation.” “But here we say “no,” the most important thing in this ex-
“I have a strong belief that optimism is a very important element when you become a diplomat because what is the other option – war and no relationships, no cooperation, only a wall between us.” ercise of peace-making is that everybody wins and nobody loses. I think that can be a beautiful headline – When you make peace, everybody wins.” But he is also practical enough to quickly admit that this peace is not easy to achieve. “It won’t be easy, but it will be easier than fighting and I take the lesson from other countries whose people laid down their arms. They didn’t fall in love with each other all of a sudden, but at least they realized that, for very practical reasons, they better start talking to each other and
start cooperating with each other rather than killing each other. I don’t have a better answer than that.”
SAUDI ARABIA ON RIGHT TRACK He is very positive about the winds of change blowing through Saudi Arabia and believes that Saudi Crown
“Making Israel suffer more will not bring peace. Taking care of our own people, having our kids finish school, study at university and then find jobs and harness knowledgebased economies to better the lives of people — that will increase stability and security.”
Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s reforms will tap into the dynamism and energy of young people for a bright future. “I think the change (in Saudi Arabia) is positive. Saudi Arabia is a very important and very big country in the region, and whatever happens in Saudi Arabia will probably have an effect in the whole region. So every positive development is good for all of us.” “Reforms are always necessary, especially with an aim to better the lives of people and to allow more people to take part in economic life. I believe in women participating in the economy. I think that this trajectory and these reforms will hopefully contribute to a better life in Saudi Arabia and everywhere else. Young people have energy and dynamism and I think it is not just the Saudis who should enjoy it, but people in the whole region.” In a heartfelt message to Majalla readers, Ambassador Na’eh called for genuine efforts to find areas of cooperation for our children and grandchildren who represent our future. He said, “We have to try and learn to live with our differences, find commonalities, and find areas of cooperation, to better the lives for ourselves, but certainly for our children and grandchildren, in years to come. I think we should all realize that in peace everybody wins and I would emphasize this. In peace, when you join hands and cooperate, one plus one is never two. It is way more than two.”
Bahrain’s Ambassador to Israel Khaled Yousef al-Jalahmah (R) with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid
A DIPLOMAT WITH A MISSION
“And the potential in this region, if the powers of the people and their positive energies could be harnessed in order to achieve these goals, which we really could do if we put aside our differences. I am not saying to forget our differences, and I am not saying we should forget our past, our heritage and religion. We should find a way to combine all these together and find a way to live together despite our differences. We owe it to our next generation.” Concluding on a patriotic note, Ambassador Na’eh said, “I believe in Israel, I love Israel. I believe that the security of Israel should be independent, but I also believe in building bridges and ties with our neighbors because I think that good relations, no less than anything else, can bring stability to our region. But I certainly grew up with the notion that what happened in Europe to Jews during the Holocaust should never happen again.” “We should never allow it to happen again and that we should trust in ourselves to prevent it from ever happening again. And that conviction is what I brought to my adult life and to my work as a diplomat – a great sense of the need to secure our existence as well as the safety and security of my people and my country and the need to build good relations with other countries and our neighbors.” “But securing our existence has many aspects such as economic prosperity, safety and security, defence, with stability as the bottom line. I look forward to a world where there is no discrimination.”
Na’eh was born and raised in Kiryat Bialik, north of Haifa. He studied political science and. After graduation, he became the head of the Turkey, Greece and Cyprus department at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Originally of Dutch Jewish lineage, Ambassador Na’eh was deeply influenced to take up a career in diplomacy and building peace for Israel in the Middle East because of the Holocaust experience of his mother’s family. Having survived the horrors of the Holocaust by going into hiding, his mother and her family emigrated to Israel from Holland after the Second World War although his father died in Holland just before that. In a happy coincidence, the first anniversary of the Abraham Accords on September 15 is just two days before the Ambassador’s birthday which is on September 17. Na’eh served in political and diplomatic positions through the beginning of the current millennium when he was appointed as Israel’s ambassador to Azerbaijan in 2001. He also held the position of Deputy Head of Mission at the Israeli Embassy in the United Kingdom for the years 2013 to 2016. From 2016-2018, after nearly five years without an Israeli envoy to Turkey, Na’eh served as Israel’s Ambassador to Turkey until he was expelled by Ankara in protest of the deaths of dozens of Palestinians during violent clashes with Israeli forces on the border with the Gaza Strip. He believes that Israel is the homeland and safe haven of the Jewish people. Being a minority abroad, he believes that Jews strive to treat other minorities with equality and without persecuting them on religious or racial grounds. Although a busy person with little free time, Ambassador Na’eh admits to enjoying physical activities such as swimming, walking, going to the gym. He is a keen observer of local cultures and traditions and the history of the places he visits. As a student of Middle Eastern history, he has studied the rise of Islam, modern history of the region and Arabic. He is also a foodie and many of his tweets are about his gastronomic experiences! He loves Middle Eastern food which he says is a way of life for him. He says he gained weight in the UAE because of the amazing local cuisine and is looking forward to Bahraini gourmet experiences. As a true diplomat, Ambassador Na’eh has put behind him his eviction from Ankara by the Turkish government in protest against Israel’s attack on Palestinians, saying firmly, “I prefer not to talk about the past. What I went through in Turkey is on YouTube. I believe that the close relationship with Turkey which I witnessed first-hand during the 90s will return and that both countries will enjoy friendlier relations, the prospect of which is in the hands of the Turkish government and the Israeli government.” He is more forthcoming about the potential of Turkey, saying, “Turkey is an important country. It is a big country. It’s rich in resources and also rich in the energy of young people who can turn the country very quicky and have done so in the past. It is a very prosperous country. I believe that better relations are possible, and are a matter of time, and a matter of identifying the right interests and, obviously, acting upon them. I hope this will happen soon.
Case Studies Reveal the Dangerous Effect of the Virtual World
Experts Confirm the Destructive Impact of Social Media on Adolescents By Latifa al Hassanyeh – Beirut Social Media has become a real threat to adolescents and children, latest studies reveal. It has become an addictive tool, especially after the pandemic, where Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat were the only means of escape from routine. Specialists insist on parental guidance in this matter, and say that parents should censor their children’s accounts on social media. Many papers have proved the efficacy of their follow up and observations. What is the impact of social media on teens, and how to protect them from danger? These are the two main questions that we will answer in this report. As an approach to help young men and ladies survive in this virtual world, we will reveal latest studies and talk to specialists in this matter.
attracted millions of users from around the world. Then, many kinds of social media tools popped up, and are now highly surfed by children and adolescents, especially Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and WhatsApp, where the use of such social media apps has become a daily routine in modern times. Some scholars define social media as virtual places where communication happens through dialogue, chat, comment, photography, and interaction between users, that can take place without borders. The internet is described as a virtual space, because it is considered a free place where no one owns it. Its services are created and programmed by major companies to gather the largest number of users and friends who share similar activities and interests, searching for more friendships, and the interests and activities of other people with whom they share intellectual goals.
THE EVOLUTION OF SOCIAL MEDIA
EXAMPLES OF SOCIAL MEDIA VICTIMS
The phenomenon of social media began in 1997, and the site “Six Degrees.com” was the pioneer. It gave the opportunity for users to create profiles, comment on news, and exchange messages with other participants. Although the site “Six Degrees.com” was the pioneer in social networking, “My Space. com” has opened wide horizons and achieved tremendous success since its inception in 2003. Then successively began the emergence of other social media apps, but the milestone was the emergence of ‘Facebook.com’ which enabled users to share information and allow friends to access their profiles. These social media tools have provided many features such as instant messaging, public and private messaging, and multimedia sharing of voice, video, image, and files, which has
Many adolescents suffered a lot because of social media, that affected their lives in one way or another. Below are some case studies that Majalla was informed of. Let us discover what happened to Lea and Rami, two contradictable examples of the consequences of social media, which reveal a harmful trial in the virtual world. We will start with Lea’s story, as her mother Zeina (names have been changed to protect the persons) narrated the hard experience with TikTok. Zeina did not know that the gift she gave her daughter on her birthday would write a cruel and painful story. A story that has started on January 20, 2020, when the innocent girl blew out her 14 candles. A date that Zeina and her family will not
Technology is a double-edged sword. It can take the adolescent on a good ride in the global village, where it broadens their horizons and updates their information in a mobile library, but it can take them hostage with severe implications.
Carol Saadeh, Psychotherapy and University Professor specialized in adolescent mental health.
forget, as she revealed to Majalla. Zeina said, “We were happy that our daughter has become a young lady, being an obedient lovely girl, conservative as we have raised her up, and smart at school. Her father and I decided to give her a cell phone on her birthday, knowing that she used to like watching YouTube channel with the aim of being updated on latest scientific discoveries, that she was passionate about. But from the moment Lea received the phone and created accounts on the communication sites, the tragedy began.” The fourteen-year-old made new friends through the application, which exposed her to several risks. Zeina told us how her daughter gradually began to isolate herself few months after creating the account, and described Lea’s “hostile” behavior with her seven-year-old brother. She also told us how she started repeating new phrases like “I hate you”, “I do not belong to this family”, “I want to leave the house”, “I don’t want to live anymore”... She also started to skip family gatherings, refusing to engage, especially with older cousins. Apparently, she lost any interest in continuing her studies, and she retreated in a way that alarmed her school administration and forced them to intervene and ask: What happened to the outstanding student? Lea spent months alone in her room, where she allowed no one to enter; Then her condition steadily worsened, until she became more hostile, and started saying bad words, and discussing strange topics such as deliberating on the meaning of “empty” life, the importance of death and the necessity of “ending one’s life”. “Here, we had to do something,” her mother said. “We began
to monitor her accounts, and we found that she was involved with group of people, from a different culture, who “poisoned” my little girl’s mind. They used to discuss the need to get rid of life, and how to discover happiness after death, and other details that she described as “satanic”. She said, “We’re not proud that we had to steal her phone, but we had to save her”. It had been months by then, and we’ve been watching her fall apart before our eyes.” Then the mother concluded, we lived a nightmare that is over now, and we saved our baby at the last minute. Today, Lea is undergoing intensive psychotherapy, surrounded by family attention. “We are getting her back now, after we almost lost her,” said Zeina. (We couldn’t talk to Lea, because her psychiatrist preferred she doesn’t discuss her case, since she is still under treatment). Another story Majalla recorded was of a 17-year-old boy, who turned his WhatsApp into a storage room for his classmates’ pictures with indecent videos. His family described to us, how “Rami” would lure girls to send their pictures, then threaten them asking for more. His father told Majalla, “My son became a criminal at a young age. I wanted to tell his story as a kind of awareness to all parents emphasizing the need to monitor their children’s accounts. The Internet is killing our children. I cannot describe the disappointment when I received a call from officials informing me that my son is threatening girls.” We spoke to Rami, who described his experience as “frightening, when my family found out.” He said, “Maybe I wanted to prove that I am a man by controlling others… I don’t know. But I made a mistake and I admit that I used social media in a dangerous way. I hurt the feelings of many, and I was a source of terror to my colleagues. Today, I apologize, I didn’t realize at that time the seriousness of the matter.”
EXPERT OPINIONS Among many studies related to the effects of social media on
adolescents, we chose the most recent, including a research conducted by the University of Queensland in Australia in August 2021, which underscored the need to limit the time spent on the internet, because of the great impact on the mental health of adolescents. Researchers linked adverse effects on adolescents’ mental health to screen time of more than two hours a day for girls and four hours a day for boys. The global study looked at data on more than 577,000 adolescents between the ages of 13 and 15 in 42 high-income countries. Professor Asad Khan, research leader, at the University of Queensland’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences,
Researchers found that there are some benefits within the first hour of daily screen use, but the adverse effects of recreational screen use on mental health begin after 75 minutes for girls and 105 minutes for boys.
said: “We found that there are some benefits within the first hour of daily screen use, but the adverse effects of recreational screen use on mental health begin after 75 minutes for girls and 105 minutes for boys.” Another study was released in April 2021, and was published by the Pew Research Center in Washington. The study revealed that 84 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 29 who are active on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, or any other social media, were exposed to excessive effects in terms of depression, obesity, unhealthy diet, and reduced physical and cognitive abilities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting confinement, social media provided an outlet for people to connect with family and friends, says psychiatrist Patrice Harris, MD, former president of the American Medical Association. “But in the case of adolescents, it can be hard to step back and realize that most things posted on social media are just the highlights in other people’s lives, not everything that happens behind the scenes. This can affect teens and young adults’ sense of identification, appreciation, and belonging. It can definitely increase anxiety and feelings of insecurity as they discover who they are,” she explains. Harris emphasized that very little is known about how social media use affects the lives of adolescents and young adults in the long term, but some emerging research indicates that it is causing harm to their mental health and well-being. She continued, “mental health experts say they are concerned about the pressures that social media is placing on this age group.”
A research by the University of Queensland underscored the need to limit the time spent on the internet, because of the great impact on the mental health of adolescents. (Photo: Ljubaphoto/iStockphoto/Creative Commons)
In an interview conducted by Majalla with Carol Saadeh, a psychotherapist and university professor specialized in adolescent mental health, she focused on the need for parents to monitor their children on social media to protect them from dangers. As applications such as TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat (the most used among teenagers) do not protect their privacy, it makes them vulnerable to contact with others in a direct manner that may threaten their mental health, in terms of their exposure to sexual harassment, bullying or cyber extortion; As for the TikTok application, Saadeh said that it has been banned in many countries due to the serious challenges that threaten the lives of children, where teenagers and children are required to perform dangerous challenges, or shoot seductive videos. She believes that the danger lies in the extent to which the child or teenager is affected by the amount of interaction on his page, with the aim of forming a fan club, for example. “This means that he\she is building their images incorrectly, as well as their personalities. Self-image and self-confidence are built according to the interaction they receive on these applications.” Saadeh believes that this image is illusory, and is not based on reality, but rather on ideals, due to the trend spread on applications, such as unrealistic weight loss and body image and appearing in an alluring way. “This is where the problems and diseases of bulimia and other similar diseases might appear, as well as symptoms of anxiety and depression disorders, and these have frightening effects in the long run.” Regarding the adolescent’s identification of own identity, she considers that the adolescent may suffer mainly from the inability to determine this the right way. Here, she pointed out the dangers of “image formation on a fake background that does not resemble the image on reality.” She described the consequences of not focusing on the “ego” and self-love, where she warned of effects that may lead to suicidal behavior or addiction to drugs or addiction on internet, and then to a dangerous and harmful social phobia. She also revealed that it is not healthy for a child to engage in the world of social media, rather “it is necessary to avoid creating any account.” As for adolescents, Saadeh stressed on the need for parental guidance, to follow up with their children, and observe their accounts, and to discover who they are communicating with; It is also worth preparing the child for this virtual world, making him aware of his body and forming his image before entering this stage of adolescence. Regarding cyber extortion and cyberbullying that have recently increased, Saadeh explained that extortion is caused by the breach of privacy that applications do not protect. She also pointed to the absence of parental guidance here, and their ignorance sometimes of the expected risks, which are often due to their lack of awareness of the seriousness of the matter. “The online world is the easiest, rather the only way to reach the victim.” On the other hand, Saadeh sees many positive effects of social media, if being observed by parents, and limited by a specific
A study revealed that 84 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 29 who are active on social media, were exposed to excessive effects in terms of depression, obesity, unhealthy diet, and reduced physical and cognitive abilities. time, in order to avoid addiction. “Among the advantages of applications, is the entertainment, informative and educative part, as well as the practical aspect by motivating useful challenges such as workout, and food guidance, in case of compliance with appropriate influencers.” Technology is a double-edged sword, one that takes the adolescent on a good ride in the global village, where it broadens his horizons and updates his information in a mobile library. While the other edge of the sword could take him as a hostage of complications with severe implications. Adolescence is the most delicate stage, where guidance, observance and control, are the main keys to achieve a normal and balanced society. Even in the most developed countries, studies have emerged stressing the need to monitor teenage accounts on social media. Do not be ashamed to observe your child’s account, and do not consider it an infringement of his or her privacy, rather this act will protect him/her from the dangers of the digital world. The use of social media apps has become a daily routine in modern times. (Photo by Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash (
What Damascus Gains in Egyptian Gas Transit to Lebanon “
Egypt’s Project is Part of a Regional race to supply Lebanon with Power” – Oil Expert to Majalla
By Jiwan Soz - Beirut The issue of supplying Lebanon with Egyptian gas through Jordanian and Syrian lands has raised many questions about how to repair the damage caused to Syrian gas pipelines and electricity towers as a result of the war which has been raging in the country for more than a decade. Moreover, there are the conditions set by Damascus in return for allowing Cairo to supply Lebanon with gas passing through its territories and the Jordanian lands within the framework of the Arab Gas Project, to provide electric power to Lebanon, which is witnessing a stifling electricity and
fuel crisis. The Syrian Minister of Electricity Ghassan Al-Zamil estimated the cost of rehabilitating the destroyed part of the Syrian electricity network at about US$ 3.5 million while Bassam Tohme, the Syrian Minister of Oil and Mineral Resources, announced during his visit to the Jordanian capital that the gas pipeline is practically ready inside Syrian territory, despite being subjected to military attacks, explaining, «It has been repaired and has become part of the internal lines.» Chalang Omar, a Syrian academic and economic expert, explained that, «Each country will maintain faults in the gas and
Lebanon’s Energy Minister Raymond Ghajar, attends a news conference with Jordan›s Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Hala Zawati, Syria›s Minister of Oil and Mineral Resources Bassam Tohme and Egypt›s Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Tarek El Molla in Amman, Jordan September 8, 2021. REUTERS/Alaa Al Sukhni
electricity networks within its territory and at its own expense, meaning Syria will carry out these maintenance works alone without asking Cairo for this, for example, but Syria will also get a specific percentage of Egyptian gas in return for allowing Cairo access to transfer it to Lebanon.» He also added, «Syrian gains from this project are more political than economic, as prominent Syrian officials, including ministers, visited Amman for the first time since the Syrian war, as well as the visit of senior Lebanese officials to Damascus that was also the first since the war. This means the return of Syrian relations with Arab countries, even partially, after a long rupture.» He also stressed that «The approval of the United States to supply Lebanon with Egyptian gas through Syria means ignoring the Caesar sanctions imposed by Washington on Damascus. In other words, this is also a political gain for the Syrian government, especially that Damascus› participation in this process means, in one way or another, that it is part of the Egyptian-Jordanian-Iraqi cooperation project, as the gas that will reach Syria to be sent to Lebanon, may also be sent to Iraq in the future.» «Syria will benefit from the quantities of gas that will reach its territory and will contribute to alleviating the fuel and gas crisis, at least in the southern regions of the country, but I repeat that the political benefit for Syria is greater than its economic gains from this project, which has ended the Arab boycott of Damascus,” he revealed. For his part, Amer Al-Shobaki, the Jordanian Economist and Energy expert, considered that «There is a race in the region between two regional powers over the delivery of energy to Lebanon, namely Egypt, which enjoys American support, and Iran, which supports the Lebanese Hezbollah, and therefore whoever can accomplish this task first, will break sanctions imposed by Washington on Syria.» He also noted, «The gas line linking Syria and Lebanon, which is owned by a Russian company, is ready and has been under maintenance for 3 months. The gas line between Arish in Egyptian Sinai and Jordan’s Aqaba is also ready and owned by an Egyptian company. Therefore, there are logistical matters such as the tripartite agreement among Egypt, Jordan, and Syria regarding fees paid for Amman and fees for gas transit through Syrian territories.» He continued, «It also depends on the readiness of Syria’s Deir Ammar station to receive the Egyptian gas. At first, there will be a trial pumping, and then the gas will be sent regularly to it to secure %25-15 of Lebanon›s electricity needs, after Beirut stopped Turkish power ships as a result of the economic crisis.» The energy expert said, «Lebanon has abandoned Turkish ships due to the high prices of electricity they supply, and terminated its contracts with these companies. But today there is an opportunity to get a fund from the World Bank which will solve Lebanon›s financial problem. I think in just two or three weeks after the arrival of the Iranian fuel ships, the Egyptian gas will reach Syria’s Deir Ammar station to be delivered to Lebanon. The economic sanctions imposed by Washington on Damascus were the «first obstacle» to the arrival of Egyptian gas to Lebanon
“Syria will benefit from the quantities of gas that will reach its territory and will contribute to alleviating the fuel and gas crisis, but … the political benefit for Syria is greater than its economic gains.” through Syrian and Jordanian territories, according to a Jordanian Energy Expert, who added that «Washington exempted Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon from Caesar sanctions with the visit of Jordanian King Abdullah II to Washington earlier, and the US ambassador in Beirut announced her country›s readiness to solve the power problem in Lebanon by allowing the passage of Egyptian gas through Syria and Jordan.» Hashem Akl, who is also an expert in the field of energy, commented, «The gas pipeline is ready in both Jordan and Egypt, and is already delivering gas to Jordanian territories on a daily basis. The Syrian government, on the other hand, has also completed the maintenance of gas lines within its territories, and Damascus has announced the readiness of the gas line. There is a gas line on the Lebanese side that linked with Deir Ammar station in Homs. It needs maintenance work, but would not take long.» He added to Majalla, «There are scheduled meetings for the joint technical committees of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon to arrange the necessary agreements and determine quantities and prices, followed by a meeting of the four energy ministers to announce the deal. Caesar Act has been bypassed with American approval, and therefore the issue of the arrival of Egyptian gas to Lebanon as a whole may take from 6 to 7 weeks, and now after the formation of the government in Lebanon, this process will be easier.» More than a week ago, the energy ministers of Jordan, Egypt, and Lebanon met in the Jordanian capital, and agreed on a road map for transporting Egyptian gas by land to Lebanon after ensuring the readiness of the infrastructure. That ministerial meeting came after the first visit of a Lebanese government delegation to Damascus. It was the first of its kind since the Syrian war which broke out more than 10 years ago. Lebanon currently needs «600 million cubic meters of gas to generate 450 megawatts of electricity.” Beirut has announced ongoing negotiations with the World Bank to provide a «financial cover» to import the Egyptian gas. The roadmap also included scheduling a second meeting about two weeks after the first one. In addition, the ministers of the four countries agreed to conduct maintenance operations for gas pipelines and electricity towers within the assigned period, while technical committees are discussing gas prices and transit fees.
A Weekly Political News Magazine
Issue 1870- September- 17/09/2021
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Al-Aragouz: An Authentic Folk Art Loved by Children and Adults
It was inscribed in UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2018 By Sarah Gamal Al-Aragouz (An Egyptian Puppet) is one of the most important Egyptian folk traditions that inhabit the hearts of children and adults, as it has been living in everyone’s heart since their early childhood. It is an authentic partner in Egyptian drama, especially theatrical drama, whether it targets children or adults. Since ancient times he has been called the “mouthpiece of the people” because he utters what people feared to mention before their rulers. He is a stinging opponent, or as they say about him, the “poor” cinema, because it is a free entertainment outlet for the simple and marginalized people. The puppet was traditionally made out of light wood and cloth. Its hands and head, which bear harsh sarcastic features, are made of wood, with a red dress embroidered in yellow, and a tartur (pointed hat) made of cloth with the same color. The puppeteer controls the Aragouz’s head with his index finger, and moves its hands with his middle finger and thumb. The image of the Aragouz puppet has not has not changed in modern times, although it is now made of plastic instead of wood. The art of Al-Aragouz, which was created by folk artists, later led to the puppet theater, and preceded the art of cartoons and motion pictures that we see today on television. Despite this, the Aragouz segment
is still the favorite part of any party for children and adults.
THE MAN BEHIND ADMISSION ‘ARAGOUZ’ TO UNESCO’S LIST As part of the efforts seeking to preserve “Al-Aragouz” as an authentic folk art, the Supreme Council of Culture released a series of films in a digital documentation project for Egyptian Aragouz art which was carried out by Dr. Nabil Bahgat, Director of the Beit Al-Suhaimi Creativity Center and Professor of Theater at Helwan University. It is the first work of its kind that presents the Al-Aragouz Folk Theater in motion pictures, based on the live performances of seven artists of Al-Aragouz in their usual playhouses. Dr. Bahgat is a passionate Aragouz fan and gave the distinguished art a chance of revival, by fighting for it until it was admitted to the UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List at the end of November, 2019, at the 13th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in Mauritius. Dr. Bahgat made many efforts, including the founding of the Wamda Band, with its motto that “We have something that can express us,” after noticing that everything is changing as Egypt “gets out of itself,” as he described it at the time. He added to the band
The puppet was traditionally made out of light wood and cloth. Its hands and head are made of wood, with a red dress embroidered in yellow, and a pointed hat made of cloth with the same color. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Nabil Bahgat)
many Aragouz artists in Egypt. In an interview with Majalla, Dr. Bahgat shared his lifetime journey with Al-Aragouz, the details of making Egypt’s application to UNESCO, and his future plans to help spread it across the Egyptian society, the transcript for which is below, lightly edited for clarity. About the reason why he adopted the Aragouz cause, Dr. Bahgat said, “Searching for meaning and restoring models is what prompted me to adopt the Al-Aragouz as a vehicle with which to defend our culture and to prove that we possess the means to present ourselves as a nation that has innovators and arts which we have produced over centuries.” He added that “Civilization is a cumulative act. We have a present and no future. Al-Aragouz is part of the vocabulary of my cultural project, which I built on restoring the prototype and focusing on it. This project included restoring AlAragouz, Shadow Fiction, and the works of a large number of poets and creative artists that have shaped the Arab conscience since the beginning of the twentieth century but had been forgotten. This was achieved through my studies and various writings, whether in theater, poetry, or documentary projects”. When asked about what distinguishes Al-Aragouz from any other artistic heritage, he said, “Al-Aragouz
The art of Al-Aragouz, which was created by folk artists, later led to the puppet theater, and preceded the art of cartoons and motion pictures that we see today on television. is distinguished from other theatrical forms by its ease of implementation, flexibility, precision, ease, pleasure, and connection with reality in the topics it presents and the ability to continually dazzle.”
AL-ARAGOUZ CASE SUBMITTED TO UNESCO “I prepared the Al-Aragouz case as a personal initiative and with self-financing; the UNESCO application required answers to a set of questions about defining and describing this art, proving its authenticity, its Egyptianness, the need of local communities for it,
and its ability to continue and withstand modern pressures,” he said. “In addition, we had to show the methods of popular and official participation in preserving the art form from the risks it faces, as well as the support required by the proposed project. The submission included a documentary film by my director entitled “The Egyptian Aragouz,” he added. With regard to the Ministry of Culture’s support for him: “The form of support that came from the Ministry was by allowing Al-Suhaimi House to present Al-Aragouz and Shadow Fiction shows on a weekly basis. This step was an official recognition of these arts, and it was also important for the survival and
continuation of this art,” Dr. Bahgat said.
WAMDA BAND “Wamda means a sparkle in the dark or the key to making hope. This is the meaning I meant. We must always be good at making hope and Wamda is a model for hope and possibility,” Dr. Bahgat said. He continued, “Wamda was and still is a message and an idea that was established to be a practical model
Dr. Bahgat is a passionate Aragouz fan and gave the distinguished art a chance of revival, by fighting for it until it was admitted to the UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List at the end of November, 2019.
Dr. Nabil Bahgat, Director of the Beit Al-Suhaimi Creativity Center and Professor of Theater at Helwan University, Cairo, Egypt
(Photo courtesy of Dr. Nabil Bahgat)
The public turnout is great for the Wamda Band’s performances. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Nabil Bahgat)
for benefiting from our heritage by standing with one foot in heritage and the other in reality.” He added also that “We rushed to the fine arts brought in by scholarship students, and neglected our original arts, so we were keen for Wamda to be a practical model for the possibility of restoring heritage. Wamda detailed a program for its performances based on Al- Aragouz and Shadow Fiction as a primary language that sometimes mixes the narrator with folk singing and folk dance in order to take advantage of the possibilities of popular spectacle to achieve an Egyptian theatrical status.”
“Al-Aragouz is distinguished from other theatrical forms by its ease of implementation, flexibility, precision, ease, pleasure, and connection with reality in the topics it presents and the ability to continually dazzle.”
THE TURNOUT FOR AL-ARAGOUZ SHOWS
heritage, restore it and turn it into an economical resource using the same approach. In fact, I hope that young artists and researchers will pay attention to our cultural capabilities, transform our reality and take advantage of what we have for self-advancement.” He concluded his statements by saying, “I hope that we will have hundreds of experiences such as the Wamda experience. As for Al-Aragouz, I hope to implement the project submitted to UNESCO on a scientific and methodical basis, which will develop into a school for Al-Aragouz and folk puppetry in which young narrators are trained. Thus we will have mobile theaters everywhere for this art and a real investment in it as a form of knowledge which would contribute to increasing the individual and general income of the artists.”
“The public turnout is great for the Band’s performances, and perhaps the explanation for this is that people see themselves and their experiences in this theater. Certainly, traditional tales are no longer appropriate. That is why we released “The Aragouz’s New Performances” book, in which we presented a number of modern ideas in the second Egyptian AlAragouz Festival. This big turnout was not only here in Egypt, but I found it in all the countries in which we presented our New Performances, whether Arab or foreign.” Regarding his ambitions and future plans, he said, “My ambition is for my experience with Al-Aragouz to inspire Arab artists and researchers to invest in
‘The Present’: Buying a Gift Can Be Difficult in the West Bank
Maybe One Day Children Will Find the Road to Palestine’s Freedom By Salma Adham Buying someone a gift is a pleasant act we can do to each other, and if someone started to tell you about his decision to buy his wife a present, you will expect an emotional story full of love and attention. But this is not the exact story when citizens in Palestine, especially the West Bank, will tell. Palestine is a country that witnesses a lot of suffering even in the daily habits of people such as walking in the streets and shopping. The very simple rights and pictures of freedom everybody should have in his country. I cannot imagine that I am talking about axioms people should practice unless they are in a prison! The story of the movie is true and losing freedom in your homeland is the saddest face of this truth. “The present” is a 2020 short film directed by the British Palestinian director Farah Nabulsi and co-written by Nabulsi and Hind Shoufani. The cast is led by Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri and includes Mariam Kanj, Mariam Basha and Karam Elayyan.
The film premiered at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award for Best Film. It subsequently won awards at the Cleveland International Film Festival, the Brooklyn Film Festival, and the Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films. In 2021, it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film and won the BAFTA Award for Best Short Film, and it was released on Netflix on 18 March 2021 and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film.
The film tells the story of a father and daughter in the Palestinian enclaves of the Israeli-occupied West Bank trying to buy a wedding anniversary gift. The husband has to go through the outbound and return trips at the Israeli checkpoints and be subjected to the most severe forms of humiliation and abuse, to finally be able to buy the gift, which is a new refrigerator for the house.
Yasmine sees two adorable caged birds inside a shop she is visiting with her father. The beauty of the two birds, and the joy they initially bring to the girl’s face, contrast with their imprisonment, in metaphorical and disturbing meaning. Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri (Yusef)and actress Mariam Kanj (Yasmine) at an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank in a scene from “The Present” movie.
Only 24 minutes, which is the duration of the film, was enough to describe all the injustice the West Bank residents face regardless of who they are. All face the same painful reality, workers, normal people and children. It opens with Yusef (Saleh Bakri) waiting to cross the overcrowded Checkpoint 300, near Bethlehem, in the early morning, lying on the ground near the separation wall on a piece of cardboard and waiting for the crossing to open to head to Israel with the rest of the workers. The wall has become a symbol of imprisonment and constraint in Palestine and every story about this occupied country. This scene was produced on location with guerrilla filmmaking; Nabulsi described it as “probably the most rewarding scene in the film to make”. Moving to the collective prison, when Youssef joined the rest of the Palestinian workers at the checkpoint, and stood among the large numbers, who could hardly move, some of them even climbed the path of the barrier and started walking on its upper edge. Without a lot of talking, the scene reminds us of the prison and the measures that limit one’s freedom of movement. Another scene came to highlight the intimacy of the Palestinian home to us, and despite the difficulties and challenges, they did not lose their soul and desire to lead a warm life even if it was only inside their homes. Youssef with his wife and daughter Yasmine with short dialogues tell us that father and daughter are about to embark on a journey to buy a gift for the mother on their wedding anniversary. At the beginning of this journey, the father’s suffering returns at the Israeli checkpoint. The film wanted also to focus on the suffering of the children who were not excluded, and who realized facts early in their life and faced danger and fear instead of playing and enjoying their moments. Yasmine sat at the checkpoint waiting for her father to be released, and then urinated in her pants, and in a scene full of sadness, Yasmine said to her father “It’s okay dad, there was nothing you could do.” In a symbiotic scene, Yasmine sees two adorable caged birds in-
side a shop she is visiting with her father. The beauty of the two birds, and the joy they initially bring to the girl’s face, contrast with their imprisonment, in metaphorical and disturbing meaning. The camera rests on Yasmine’s face when she appears from behind the bars of the birdcage, expressing an astonishing expression in her resemblance to her father’s face when we see him behind the bars of the detention cell room at the crossing. Scenes contain a lot of injustice which represent what is happening daily to the family and became a clear reason which led to the explosion of Yusef in the face of the soldier on the way back to the house when he first prevented him from entering through the barrier and then walking with his refrigerator. Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri has done a great job in this movie and succeeded in conveying to us the Palestinian suffering easily with very expressive acting and his original features. Also the child Mariam Kanj’s (Yasmine) acting is so sensitive reflecting to us the feeling of all the Palestinian children.
BREAKING RESTRICTIONS AND THE DESIRED FUTURE
Israeli soldiers threaten to arrest you, then let you pass. How does life go under this continuous threat? Despair, hope. This is how the experience of Youssef and Yasmine passes. Just as life goes by under occupation. The last scene came as a surprise presented by the little Yasmine, making you think if the name of the film talking about the present of the anniversary wedding which is the refrigerator or the present Yasmine made to her father or maybe Palestine in general? The ability and strength of disobeying when it comes to your rights, freedom and your homeland is also called “present”. Yasmine refused to obey the Israeli soldier, pushed the refrigerator and walked on the road designated for the Israelis without any fear, while her father was watching her from behind the window, and the soldiers stood stunned by what she did. A scene that draws the future we all aspire for Palestine, the future of Palestinians are not humiliated, enjoy their freedom and there is no injustice and oppression.
Egypt’s 1st Female Gold Medalist Blazes Trail for Other Women Feryal Ashraf Speaks to Majalla about Journey to Olympics Menna A. Farouk On her balcony she stood on tiptoe to watch the training taking place at a club opposite her house. The eight-year-old Feryal Ashraf did not understand what the kids are playing, but she really liked their white-belted suits. She called out to her mother, requesting a similar suit. The mother listened to her young daughter’s request and let her join the club which was the Al-Mataria Sports Club. Although her coach soon confirmed that «Feryal will one day become a world champion,» the mother did not take his words seriously.
“This is a historic moment that will encourage many of the younger generations to take up karate, especially girls.”
After many years, cameras captured the mother›s tears as she is burst with joy at Cairo International Airport greeting her daughter who has just returned from the Tokyo Olympics, with a gold medal in karate. She is the first female athlete in the history of Egypt to win gold at the Olympics. Over fourteen years, Feryal worked hard at a club with limited capabilities and with the support of a middle-class family. Her story is Egyptian karate the story of a young champion athlete who shot to Feryal Ashraf fame from the narrow streets of an underprivileged area. A huge picture of Feryal, wearing a karate uniform and holding the gold medal, covered the front of her
«She was distinguished, daring, and was training with the boys to be as strong as them. She was never ordinary.»
Egyptian karate champion Feryal Ashraf gesturing after winning in the final match in the karate championship in the Tokyo Olympics. Credit: Feryal Ashraf’s official Instagram account.
house in Al-Matareya neighborhood, eastern Cairo. “It was a moment of pride,” Feryal told Majalla. “I hope that it will be an inspiration for future generations to follow their dreams and achieve success,” she added. Feryal attended Port Said Private School, and, along with her studies, she continued her training sessions, to which she used to go to with great enthusiasm. The usually calm body turned into one full of energy and strength to the point that she surprised her mother and coach, Hosni Abu Zeid. Speaking about Feryal, Abu Zeid says, «She was distinguished, daring, and training with the boys to be as strong as them. She was never ordinary.» Menna Mustafa, Feryal›s classmate, was surprised by her friend›s obsession with the sport. She remembers that Feryal would often come to tutoring in a karate suit and after the session hurry with her mother to catch up on training time. “I was sure that she would achieve something one day.” This encouraged Mustafa to engage in the sport also while in secondary school, but this did not last long. «I was interested in studying and got married after my studies. Maybe if I had started at an early age
like Feryal, I would have been attached to the sport.» Feryal joined the college she had always wanted, the Faculty of Pharmacy. Afterwards, she moved from the Marg Youth Center to the Military Sports School in Al-Shorouk area and her day became limited to university and training, or to a closed training camp and traveling with the national team. Her father said that «she did not live like other girls of her age, but she loved the sport and lived with all its difficulties.» She balanced her studies with practicing karate. She participated with the national team on numerous occasions and had several victories in 2019. The karate team was really special as Egypt ranked first in the world rankings of the International Karate Federation. Feryal was able to collect points in more than one tournament to improve her classification and later qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. “I was very afraid that I would not be able to qualify for the Olympics but thank God that I not only went there but made history by becoming the first Egyptian female champion by winning gold at the Games,” Feryal said. During the reception in her neighborhood, boys and girls were wearing karate suits - a scene that is rarely seen in a conservative society like Egypt. “This is another historic moment that will encourage many of the younger generations to take up karate, especially girls.” Feryal said that the sport is being well represented by women and this has been shown in the Olympics as three women won medals in the Games. “I believe that the future holds more and more successes in the field of sport for women in particular and for our country Egypt in general,” Feryal said.
Food Shortcuts for Busy Nights
Strategies to Help You Prepare Easy and Healthy Dinner
By Kelly Bilodeau With a little searching, you can find foods that are both easy to prepare and nutritious. Short on time? Tired of cooking? Looking for a way out of making dinner tonight?
make it faster), folded into fajitas, or simply served alongside a side dish.
HOW TO SPOT THE BEST QUICK OPTIONS IN THE SUPERMARKET?
Shopping for foods that are convenient and also At the end of a long day, it may be tempting to or- nutritious requires some label reading, says Kathy der takeout. But it’s far less expensive and health- McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition ier to eat at home. To make the job easier, try out at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Always check some quick-prep, fast-cooking options from your for the following: local supermarket, says Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Excess sodium. You don’t want foods with a lot of Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The trick is to added sodium. Look for entree items that have less than 400 milligrams per serving. know where to look and what to look for. Sugar. Added sugar can be hiding in places that you wouldn’t expect it, such as sauces. Be certain to look Below are some ideas to get you started. Try precooked protein. When it comes to a stress- at the label and steer clear of overly sweet options. free dinner, your first thought may be to grab a rotis- Other unhealthy additions. Frozen vegetables, fish, serie chicken off the shelf and head home, ready to and chicken are great, but skip those that are topped slice and eat. But those grocery store favorites are with sauces or dressings that jack up the calories, sooften loaded with excess salt and saturated fat, says dium, and saturated fat. Look for unseasoned foods, McManus. A better option is to check the refrigera- such as plain shrimp or chicken, and then add your tor or freezer section for pre-cooked chicken breasts own spices for flavor. or chicken pieces. They’re quick to heat and perfect tossed into a salad (pick up a bagged salad mix to Go fish. The seafood section is another place to stop
At the end of a long day, it may be tempting to order takeout. But it’s far less expensive and healthier to eat at home. (Photo by Jason Briscoe )on Unsplash
for fuss-free dinner options. Buy a bag of frozen shrimp and toss a handful into a pan with some veggies and a few spices, and you’ve got a meal in minutes, says McManus. Frozen or fresh fish fillets are another fast-cooking option. Just season the fish with your favorite spices. Consider vegetarian alternatives. Instead of a fast-food burger, try a meatless patty from your freezer case. They only take a few minutes to grill up on a busy night. Putting your burger on a bun? Find one that’s 100% whole wheat. Or put your patty on a whole-wheat pita or on a couple of slices of whole-grain bread. Another great option is vegetarian “chicken” strips, says McManus. They’re quick and can be paired with a salad or some veggies for an uncomplicated meal.
Augment prepared meals. If you can find a prepackaged meal in the freezer section that is low in sodium and saturated fat, you can use it as a base for an easy dinner when you are in a pinch.
canned beans can be spooned into soup, a salad, or your favorite taco recipe. Taco salads are also easy to make at home. Add black beans, some low-fat Monterey Jack cheese, and chopped tomatoes to a package of mixed salad greens, says McManus. Top it with some seasoning, salsa, Crack open a can. While nutrition experts gener- and plain Greek yogurt (a great substitute for ally advise you to avoid shopping in the center of sour cream). the store, where the processed foods live, there are some healthy options in the canned food Tip: Don’t have time to make salsa? Many groaisle. Canned tuna or salmon is a nutritious ad- cery stores have fresh options that are lower in dition to a hearty dinner salad. And low-sodium
sodium than most jarred varieties. Grab some grains. Round out your meals with prepackaged pouches or frozen bags of plain, precooked grains, such as brown rice. Simply heat and use them to accompany your favorite stir-fry, or add them to your plate as a side dish. Also consider a whole-wheat or bean-based pasta as another undemanding dinner option, says McManus. For a healthy pasta sauce, cook up some chopped vegetables in a pan with some olive oil and add a can of low-sodium diced tomatoes.
TIPS FOR FAST COOKING Laid-back cooking is easier if you plan ahead and have the right tools. Here are some strategies for whipping up an easy dinner. Invest in appliances. Indoor countertop grills,
slow cookers, and pressure cookers can speed cooking or eliminate some of the work involved. A piece of fish or chicken cooks on the grill in a matter of minutes, says Kathy McManus, a nutritionist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Or toss some ingredients into the slow cooker in the morning and it will make dinner for you by the evening. “I like to use carrots, broccoli, onions, cauliflower, and chunks of sweet potato along with ground turkey or chicken to make a simple stew,” says McManus. Work ahead. Making a big batch of soup or chili on the weekend can give you something to heat up and eat all week. To save time, buy pre-chopped vegetables. Also mix up your favorite dressings or homemade sauces in batches so they are ready to go on busy nights. Augment prepared meals. If you can find a prepackaged meal in the freezer section that is low in sodium and saturated fat, you can use it as a base for an easy dinner when you are in a pinch.
(Photo by Rawpixel/ Getty Images)
Shopping for foods that are convenient and also nutritious requires some label reading. (Photo by Viki Mohamad on Unsplash)
Very often these meals skimp on vegetables. Add your own to improve the nutritional value, says McManus. Here are some other nutritious options that McManus suggests: Make your own pizza. Grab a premade, wholewheat pizza crust and top it with fresh tomato sauce or fresh tomatoes, low-fat shredded cheese, and your favorite veggies. Have breakfast for dinner. A vegetable omelet is a nutritious dinner. Simply cook some spinach, chopped onions, and red bell peppers (or any of your favorite veggies) in a pan with eggs. Serve with fresh salsa on top. Dig up a potato. Check your produce aisle for a fresh sweet potato you can cook in the microwave. Add some broccoli or other vegetables to fill out your plate. Instead of chopping your own vegetables, look for frozen options, which include everything from broccoli or
peas to stir-fry mixes. “I like frozen, shelled edamame,” says McManus. Or try precut vegetables from the produce aisle. Prepackaged coleslaw is an easy side dish, but add the mayonnaise at home so you can control the amount, says McManus.
EATING OUT? There are some nights when you just want to order takeout and forget the kitchen altogether. When you do, look for a restaurant that prints nutrition information so you can make a more informed choice about what you’re ordering, says Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Places that allow you to build your own meal or have an array of salad options are good choices, provided you know what the ingredients are. This was originally published by Harvard Women’s Health Watch.
Cristiano Ronaldo: World’s Best Scorer of the 21st Century By Majalla Illustration by Jeannette Khouri On August 27, 2021, it was a surprise for all soccer fans after it was announced that Ronaldo would head back home to Manchester United. Let’s know how did his journey start before joining United and until he returned. Ronaldo’s full name is Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro, known as Cristiano Ronaldo. He is a Portuguese footballer who plays as a striker for Manchester United in the English Premier League and is the captain of the Portuguese national team. He is considered the best player in the world and is considered by many to be one of the greatest players in the history of football.
Ronaldo was born on February 5, 1985, in Funchal, Madeira, Portugal, a small island off the western coast of the country to Maria Dolores dos Santos and José Dinis Aveiro. He was named after Ronald Reagan, one of his father’s favorite actors. His father was a gardener while his mother worked as a cook. Ronaldo was the youngest child among four children; others being a son and two daughters. His mother revealed that she wanted to abort him due to poverty and his father’s alcoholism and that she had already given birth to many children, but her doctor refused to do the operation. Ronaldo grew up in a poor Catholic house, sharing a room with all his brothers. In his teens, Ronaldo’s talent and legend had grown considerably. After a stint with Nacional da liha da Madeira where he spent two years, Ronaldo played
for the amateur club Andorinha from 1992 until 1995 and was introduced to the game of soccer through his dad, who worked as an equipment manager at a boy’s club at that time. In 1997, when Ronaldo was 12, he went for a three-day trial with Sporting Lisbon, where he was signed on for £1,500.
He signed with Manchester United at the age of 18 in 2003. After winning his first tournament, the FA Cup, during his first season in England, he helped United win three consecutive Premier League titles and one League Championship, European Champions and one Club World Cup. In 2003, for the first time, Manchester United paid such a young player 12 million pounds as a signing amount. At the age of 23, he was awarded the Ballon d’Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year award. In 2009, Ronaldo became the most expensive player in football history when he moved from Manchester United to Real Madrid in an £80m transfer deal. There, Ronaldo won 15 titles, including two League titles, two Cup titles and four Champions League titles, and became the club’s all-time top scorer. After joining Madrid, Ronaldo finished second in the Ballon d’Or three times, behind Lionel Messi before winning the Ballon d’Or back-to-back in 2013 and 2014, and repeated it in 2016 and 2017. After winning the Champions League for the third time in a row in 2018, Ronaldo became the first player to win the title five times in the modern version. In 2018, he signed with Juventus in a £88m transfer deal, the highest transfer fee paid to a player over the age of 30 and the highest-paid by an Italian club isn
history. He won two Serie A titles, two Italian Super Cups and one Coppa Italia title in his three seasons with the club before returning to Manchester United in 2021.
Ronaldo was named the best Portuguese player in history by the Portuguese Football Federation in 2015. He played 180 caps, including participating and scoring in ten major tournaments, becoming the most participated player in Portugal and historic scorer for his country. Ronaldo has won five Golden Balls as the most awarded European player and is the first player to win four European Golden Shoes. He won 32 official titles in his career, including seven league titles, five Champions League titles, one European Championship title and the inaugural UEFA Nations League title. Ronaldo holds the record for the most goals (134) in the history of the Champions League. He is the all-time top scorer of the European Championship (14), and holds the record for the most goals scored in international football (111). He is one of the few players who participated in more than 1000 official matches in their career and scored more than (780) official goals for clubs and the national team. The Portuguese player was named World’s Best Athlete by Forbes in 2016 and 2017, as well as World’s Most Popular Athlete by ESPN from 2016 to 2019. Listed by Time magazine in 2015 in List of the 100 Most Influential People in the world. Ronaldo has been named as Player of the Century at the 2020 Globe Soccer Awards after he finished ahead of Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho and Mohamed Salah.
American Book: Children of the Refugees
“Refugee High” Tells Stories of “Young Strangers in a Strange Land” By Mohammad Ali Salih – Washington American media reports about the initial arrival of more than a hundred thousand Afghan refugees, and the expectations that the number might rise to a quartermillion, or a million, generated a variety of responses, some welcoming, and some critical. But, for the US Office of Refugees Resettlement (USORR) that helps refugees – all refugees – “integrate into their local community”, the issue has been about being realistic. In coordination with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and private agencies and groups, USORR has been, for decades, arranging for the livelihood, health and education of the refugees. This new book, “Refugee High”, illustrated an important, but mostly neglected, part of the issue: how do children of the refugees, young strangers in a strange land, fare? Journalist Elly Fishman, the book’s author, angered by former President Donald Trump’s campaign against immigrants, particularly Latinos from across the borders with Mexico, and Muslims, millions of whom Trump shamelessly, prevented from coming to America, spent three years studying children of the refuges in a Chicago high school. At Roger Sullivan High School, she interviewed teachers, administrators and students; and she also interviewed children’s parents, education officials and refugees’ officials, few of whom worked for the USORR. The number of the school’s immigrant students was close to three hundred--nearly half of the school’s overall students. They came from about 35 countries, and originally spoke about 30 languages. In their native countries, they faced discrimination,
violence and wars, and in the US, they faced poverty, racism, and xenophobia. But, as the book said, they were “still teenagers--flirting, dreaming, and working as they navigate their new life in America”. The students came from different backgrounds and cultures: from a Rohingya refugee camp that sheltered Muslims running away from Thailand; from a camp in Tanzania for refugees from nearby Somalia, Kenya and Uganda; and Afghan from camps in Pakistan who came long before the withdrawal of the US troops from their native country. There was Mariah from Basra, Iraq, who tried to kill herself because of family pressure on her to keep the family traditions, and pressure from fellow Muslim students who told her she was not Muslim enough because of the way she dressed and behaved. There was Alejandro from Guatemala, who came illegally to the US, by crossing border after border after border. At the school, he faced deportation despite having watched 10 people gunned down in his country of birth. There was a female student from India who was forced by her parents to quit the school to get married. There was a student from Congo who was shot outside the school. And more than one student suddenly stopped coming to
Book: “Refugee High: Coming of Age in America” Author: Elly Fishman Publisher: New Press, New York Paper pages: 265 Price: Paper $26.99; electronic: $12.99
Journalist Elly Fishman, the book’s author, angered by former President Donald Trump’s campaign against immigrants, spent three years studying children of the refugees in a Chicago high school. (Photo by Sam Balye on Unsplash)
the school, without prior notice – apparently because their families decided to move to another city or state. The book illustrated kind and sympathetic teachers who seemed to honestly go out of their way to help the students, and to introduce them to American culture. Teachers who taught them how to celebrate Halloween; gave them advice on birth control; took them to the DMV for driver licenses; and even washed their
This new book, “Refugee High”, illustrated an important, but mostly neglected, part of the issue: how do children of the refugees, young strangers in a strange land, fare? clothes when they couldn’t afford the Laundromat’s fees. Teachers, who more than once, arranged an international Thanksgiving where students brought foods from their native countries, like Fufu rice from Ghana, Maqlubeh from Syria, Sambusa from Somalia, and Byriani from Pakistan. In addition to personal stories, the book argued about the general issue of refugees, particularly in the light of recent Trump-led campaigns against admitting refugees. The book asked questions like: “What does the political shift mean for refugees and immigrants who made it off the plane? What kind of America will they inhabit? What kind of America will they help build? And how will America take shape around them?” The book advised against fear of foreigners, and encouraged welcoming refugees, reminding both the refugees and the natives that America has been a nation of refugees.