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Saudi Workplace Prepares for More Women Workers

Repatriating ISIS Foreign Fighters

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Issue 1874- October- 15/10/2021

Karim Benzema: Better to Arrive Late Than Never

A Weekly Political News Magazine

Issue 1874- October- 15/10/2021

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The Withered Tree of the Muslim Brotherhood www.majal a.com


Editorial A Weekly Political News Magazine

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Following the downfall of the Muslim Brotherhood organization from their highest moment of power in Egypt in 2013, the group’s demise seemed inevitable. However, their “long history of concurrent survivals” provided some assumptions of a possible recreation of the oldest Islamist organization. Throughout the past eight years, the decaying organization could only suffer more setbacks and leadership conflicts, while its base lost confidence in their fleeing leaders who are still fighting for positions leaving MB youth paying the price for the leaders’ political failures. In this week’s cover story, Dalia Ziada delves into the current situation of the dying group, its exiled leaders conflict over power, the fractures befalling their relations with their youthful base, and most remarkably the pressures arising from Turkish and Qatari restrictions against them, following both countries’ reconciliation efforts with Saudi Arabia and Egypt. In another article, counter-terrorism researcher Jassim Mohamad explores the issue faced by European countries on whether to repatriate thousands of foreign fighters who had joined ISIS ranks before its eventual defeat in 2019. Although the return of these fighters and their families who suffer precarious humanitarian conditions in conflict zones is deemed the “only international law-compliant response”, many security threats are associated with their repatriation. That’s why European governments are considering various options that might include deportation programs, international courts or other jurisdiction mechanisms. 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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Editor-in-Chief

Ghassan Charbel The Editor Mostafa El-Dessouki HH Saudi Research and Marketing (UK) Ltd 10th Floor Building 7 Chiswick Business Park 566 Chiswick High Road London W4 5YG Tel : +44 207 831 8181 Fax: +44 207 831 2310

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A Weekly Political News Magazine


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A Weekly Political News Magazine

24 Iraq Elections 2021

Issue 1874- October- 15/10/2021

28 Syrian Women and The War

44 “Happiness Owner” Back to Acting

46 The Revival of Egypt’s Hindu Palace

58 Hillary Clinton’s “Fiction”

52 Egypt’s Trailblazing Kickboxing

Champ Seeks to Inspire Young Players 5

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Embrace Healthy Habits

56 for a Robust Memory


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Tripoli color festival in Lebanon People daubed in white powder gesture as they take part in the Tripoli color festival, in Tripoli, northern Lebanon, October 10, 2021. Picture taken October 10, 2021, Lebanon )Reuters Photos(

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Syrian Pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020 People visit the Syrian Pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, October 7, 2021 )Reuters Photos(

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The Withered Tree of the Muslim Brotherhood

Can Internal Conflicts, External Pressures Usher in the Weakened Islamists’ Demise ?

By Dalia Ziada One century after its foundation in a small town, eastern Egypt, the fall of the withered tree of the Muslim Brotherhood has become inevitable. However, to be realistic, this fall does not necessarily mean the end of the Muslim Brotherhood as

a group. It could only be a necessary step in the recreation of the oldest political Islamist organization in a new format and under a new leadership, which will be more adapt with the challenges of the new political reality of the Middle East and the world. The Muslim Brotherhood’s long history of concurrent survivals, via political and jihadi channels, supports

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this hypothesis. In that sense, what should the Arab countries (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain) that have been relentlessly fighting against the Muslim Brotherhood expect? And, most importantly, what decision-makers in these countries do, at this unprecedented moment in the history of the Muslim Brotherhood?

VERTICAL FRACTURES IN LEADERSHIP The recent boss fights among the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, who are mainly scattered between Britain and Turkey, is only the tip of the slowly collapsing iceberg. The timeworn political and jihadi cores of the Muslim Brotherhood have already started decaying since the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood from the highest peak of political power in Egypt, eight years ago. Since then, the leaders of the group, who fled Egypt to Turkey and Qatar, in 2013, have been declining to submit to the authority of Ibrahim Munir, who leads the long-established London-based western wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The timeworn political and jihadi cores of the Muslim Brotherhood have already started decaying since the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood from the highest peak of political power in Egypt, eight years ago.

For seven years, the Turkey-based front managed to act like a thorn in the back of Ibrahim Munir and his supporters. They refused to accept the automatic installation of Munir in the position of the Supreme Guide, following the arrest of Mohamed Badie, the eighth Supreme Guide, by the Egyptian authorities, in 2013. Rather, they named Mahmoud Ezzat, a leading member at the Shura office, as the new Supreme Guide, to lead the group alongside his mate, Mahmoud Hussein, who kept his long-held position as the Secretary-General of the Muslim Brotherhood. Munir’s resistance to Ezzat-Hussein front was very limited, all these years, for several reasons. One of them is the strong support among the Muslim Brotherhood youth to Mahmoud Ezzat, and the generous financial support received by the factions of the group, based in Turkey, via Mahmoud Hussein. Only in December 2020, after the Egyptian authorities arrested Mahmoud Ezzat, Ibrahim Munir was able to officially announce himself as the Acting Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood. Then, Munir and his team dedicated their full time and energy to neutralize the remaining rivals at EzzatHussein’s front. As soon as he was officially announced as the Acting Supreme Guide, Munir took a decision to re-arrange the governing hierarchy of the group by removing the position of the Secretary-General, occupied by Mahmoud Hussein. Then, he replaced it with a steering committee, wherein Hussein became one of six members, with limited scale of power. In response, Hussein refused to hand over the financial and administrative records of the Muslim Brotherhood to Munir, under the claim that only Mahmoud Ezzat, who got arrested earlier, can ask for such records, in his capacity as the elected Supreme Guide. To keep the ball rolling against Hussein and his front, Mu-

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The recent boss fights among the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, who are mainly scattered between Britain and Turkey, is only the tip of the slowly collapsing iceberg. nir called for internal elections on all the leading positions in the guidance office. However, Hussein’s front refused to participate in the elections because only the members under 45 years-old were allowed to run. Around that time, the restrictive pressures leveled by the Turkish authorities on the members of the Muslim Brotherhood living in Turkey, headed by Mahmoud Hussein, in adherence to Turkey’s reconciliation process with Egypt, offered Munir a golden opportunity to knock them down. First, Munir made two shocking decisions: one is to dissolve the Administrative Office of the Muslim Brotherhood, based in Turkey, and the other is to dissolve the Shura Office of the Muslim Brotherhood, based in Qatar. He justified the decision by being part of an agreement with the political authorities in Turkey and Qatar, following the Gulf reconciliation agreement, signed in January. Expectedly, Hussein and his team decided to plot a coup on Munir, that started by mobilizing the Muslim Brotherhood youth against him, using the vast social media teams that they fund and control. Eventually, Munir referred Mahmoud Hussein and his supporters to internal investigations, accusing them of committing administrative and financial violations. Last week, on the 10th of October, a decree signed by Munir, in his capacity as the Acting Supreme Guide, ordered the suspension of Mahmoud Hussein, and other five of his supporters from the Shura Office, based on the outcomes of the investigations that proved them guilty. By all means, this can be seen as Munir’s successful and final checkmate move in this dispute. He has successfully won the control game against his brother-rivals. Hussein has become too weak to fight back, due to the political and financial marginalization of his team inside Turkey. Also, his favorite companion Mahmoud Ezzat is now in prison. Plus, the Muslim Brotherhood’s bylaw already supports Munir’s extreme decisions. However, in the process, Munir created a power vacuum in the leadership of the group that threatens the fall of his own seat, if not quickly filled with appropriate leaders that appeal to the


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group’s external sponsors, and to the grassroots members of the group, especially the youth, who are mostly biased to the leadership of Hussein and Ezzat.

HORIZONTAL FRACTURES BETWEEN THE BASE AND THE LEADERSHIP While the fleeing leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood spent the past seven years, since their ouster from Egypt, fighting over elusive power positions in their dying organization; the Muslim Brotherhood has been shedding thousands of base members and sympathizers. Most of them are the Muslim Brotherhood youth, who are traumatized by the political failure of their leaders and the fact that they were left behind to pay the

The restrictive pressures leveled by the Turkish authorities on the members of the Muslim Brotherhood living in Turkey, headed by Mahmoud Hussein, in adherence to Turkey’s reconciliation process with Egypt, offered Munir a golden opportunity to knock them down.

full price for the group’s failure. A large chunk of the Muslim Brotherhood youth and grassroots sympathizers, got arrested by the Egyptian authorities, in the period between 2013 and 2015, for their involvement in riot and violent activities. In this period, the Muslim Brotherhood elements committed more than three thousand violent atrocities against policemen, innocent civilians, and state facilities; as documented by police and court records. These violent activities, were implemented by youth, but funded and planned by the middle-leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, who remained in Egypt after the top leaders either fled the country or got arrested. Their purpose was to create a state of uncontrollable chaos that forces the new Egyptian political leadership of President El-Sisi, to seek a political settlement with the Muslim Brotherhood, similar to what the former authoritarian regime of Mubarak did. Although Mubarak’s regime and media labeled the Muslim Brotherhood as a “banned group,” he did not stop them from practicing shadow political mobilization activities among the grassroots citizens. Smartly, the Muslim Brotherhood seized the opportunity to attract unprecedented number of supports by providing the grassroots citizens with the healthcare and social services that the corrupt Mubarak regime failed to deliver. As a result, the Muslim Brotherhood were able to win 88 seats (about 20%) of the lower house of Parliament, in the legislative elections of 2005, which was a benchmark in the group’s history. This also explains why the group got a large number of grassroots supporters, following the Arab Spring revolution against Mubarak, that enabled them to take over presidency and the majority of parliament, in 2012. However, it did not take a long time for the Egyptian grassroots citizens,

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General Guide of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Mohammed Badie (L) and additional 21 defendants attend a trial session behind a cage at the Cairo Police Academy in Cairo, Egypt on August 06, 2017. (Photo by Mostafa El-Shemy/ Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


The timeworn political and jihadi cores of the Muslim Brotherhood have already started decaying since the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood from the highest peak of political power in Egypt, eight years ago.

Ibrahim Munir, the Secretary General of the International Organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Acting Supreme Guide of the .Muslim Brotherhood

fooled by Muslim Brotherhood’s religious rhetoric and social services, to discover that the Islamist group is not less corrupt or manipulative than Mubarak’s regime. In the immediate aftermath of removing the Muslim Brotherhood regime from power, in 2013, about 600 young members decided to resign from the group and design their own political Islamist party. They represented their bold move as a rebellion against the flawed policies of the group’s leaders that led to the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood from power. At that time, the dissident youth revealed to media that they refused to obey the leaders’ orders to wreak havoc, all over Egypt. A few years later, this group of dissident Muslim Brotherhood youth disappeared with no footprint behind them, implying that their emergence at that time was only a tactical maneuver by the Muslim Brotherhood to ensure political survival inside Egypt, after their resounding fall in the firm grip of security forces. Meanwhile, a huge number of the Muslim Brotherhood youth, estimated by four thousand members, decided to follow the path of violent jihad to compensate for the group’s political failure. They were not only motivated by their psychological trauma and the need to prove themselves to their leaders and followers. More importantly, they wanted to keep the funding from external sponsors flowing to the group, via them not via the leaders, by showing the group’s foreign sponsors and financers that they are the motor of the group. Some of them formed small militias, such as HASM, and started operating inside Egypt until they got arrested in 2015. However, the majority of them fled Egypt to join terrorist organizations, such as the Islamic State (ISIS), in the Levant and eastern Africa. In early October, Sudanese authorities announced the arrest of a terrorist cell affiliated to ISIS, that is led by an Egyptian young man, who used to be a Member

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of the Muslim Brotherhood. Several similar stories about the Muslim Brotherhood young members operating at terrorist organizations in Syria and Libya, have also been revealed, in the past few years. Even the small number of the lucky Muslim Brotherhood youth, who managed to escape Egypt on the tail of the fleeing leaders, to Turkey and Qatar, are not suffering less than their peers as a result of the leaders’ selfishness. According to their own video statements, they have been treated like slaves by the group’s leaders, who held away their asylum and travel documents to force them to work with a marginal payment. When they attempted to rebel using social media platforms, they were expelled out of their hardly paying jobs and some of them ended up homeless; sleeping on side pavements in Istanbul. Nevertheless, the recent restrictive measures taken by the Turkish authorities to curb the Muslim Brotherhood’s activities on its soil, as part of its reconciliation process with Egypt, has doubled their suffering. Most of them have got expired Egyptian passports and thus cannot move out of Turkey to another country, through legal channels. Mahmoud Ezzat was the only person in the collapsing structure of the Muslim Brotherhood, who was able to contain the rebellious youth inside the group. They liked him to the extent that they took his side against the London-based leadership of Ibrahim Munir. For them, he was the actual Supreme Guide. Ezzat made use of his popularity among the group’s youth to run a vast social media parade that gave the illusion, for domestic and international audience, that the group is still active and influential. When he got arrested by the Egyptian authorities, in August 2020, that extremely weakened the will of the rebellious youth against their leaders. In August 2019, the Muslim Brotherhood youth, who are imprisoned in Egypt, leaked a hand-written letter directed to the Egyptian political leadership. In the letter, they asked the authorities to give them a second chance to review their ideas of violent jihadism, and thus re-merge them into the Egyptian society as peaceful citizens. Also, in the letter, they made it


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clear that this is a youth initiative that has nothing to do with the Muslim Brotherhood’s leadership, whom they described as “distant and uncaring.” Yet, their appeals fell on deaf ears. The Egyptian political leadership of President El-Sisi is known for its unyielding stance against the Muslim Brotherhood. Similarly, El-Sisi has ignored several offers of reconciliation and compromise by the fleeing Muslim Brotherhood leaders, in the past five years.

THE RUPTURES IN SUPPORT NETWORK The internal divisions and fierce fights over powerful positions

Turkey-Qatar coordinated support to the Muslim Brotherhood have greatly declined after signing AlUla agreement, in January, and the beginning of sincere rapprochement efforts between Turkey, on one side, and Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and UAE, on the other side.

inside the Muslim Brotherhood’s hierarchy of leadership, or between the old leadership and the young base members, are not new. In fact, such internal conflicts are as old as the group itself. The most interesting of these internal conflicts took place in mid-2000s, when the young women of the Muslim Brotherhood tried to rebel against the guidance office and asked for equal rights with their fellow men in the hierarchy of the group. However, the internal disputes among the Muslim Brotherhood leaders, these days, are the first to happen in the absence of the Muslim Brotherhood’s international network of support. There has always been a network of protection that allowed the Muslim Brotherhood members to manage their internal disputes without affecting the coherence of the group or the continuity of its operations. This support network was strongly stretched, over the past decade, to keep the group intact for as long as possible, especially after their fall from power in Egypt. Currently, the main threads of this important network are either torn or struggling against inevitable thinning and rapture. The most important thread of the Muslim Brotherhood’s support network, that is currently weakening, is the Turkey-Qatar axis. After signing Al-Ula agreement with the Arab quartet of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Bahrain, in January, Qatar has taken sincere steps to rebuild its regional relationships. This required dropping its unconditional support to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was one of the main factors that previously triggered the conflict with sisterly Arab countries. On the other hand, Turkey provided the fleeing Muslim Brother-

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Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (L-2), Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman (4th L), Deputy Prime Minister of Oman Fahd bin Mahmoud al Said (L-3), Salman, Crown Prince of Bahrain (R-3), Vice President of the United Arab Emirates Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (R-2) and Emir of Kuwait Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber AlSabah (L) pose for a photo during the 41st Summit of Gulf Cooperation Council in AlUla, Saudi Arabia on January 05, 2021. (Photo by Royal Council of Saudi Arabia/Anadolu Agency )via Getty Images


The concurrent failures of the political parties affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, in more than one country, is definitely weighing down the entire organization and undermines the Muslim Brotherhood’s legitimacy and credibility worldwide

Rached Ghannouchi, head of the moderate Islamist Ennahda in his office, in Tunis, Tunisia, March 9, 2021. Ennahda Party in Tunisia is currently disassembling under popular pressure, as the anti-Muslim Brotherhood Tunisian President Kais Said’s power is rising. (REUTERS/Jihed Abidellaoui)

hood leaders with the safe land to refuge to and work from. The Turkish President Erdogan voiced unconditional support to the Muslim Brotherhood, even though this costed him to lose relations with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and UAE, who are determined to fight against the extremist political and jihadi ideology of the group. However, in the past few months, the Turkish Intelligence applied restrictive measures on Muslim Brotherhood activities on its soil, especially the media activities targeting the distortion of the Egyptian state and president. As a result, Muslim Brotherhood leadership in London had to order the closing of Muslim Brotherhood offices in Turkey and Qatar, three months ago. Another crucial, but thinning, thread in the Muslim Brotherhood’s support network, is the Muslim Brotherhood’s affiliated political parties, which are holding decision-making positions in focal Arab countries. This includes, for example, Ennahda Party in Tunisia, Justice and Development Party in Morocco, and the Islamic Action Front Party in Jordan. All of these Islamist parties have been collapsing, like pieces of domino, in the past two years. In Morocco, in September, the Justice and Development Party lost legislative elections for a liberal party, and thus lost its strong influence over the King’s decisions. Last year, supreme Jordanian court ruled the dissolving of the Muslim Brotherhood as a group, and thus put the Islamic Action Front Party in a tough corner. Above all that, Ennahda Party in Tunisia is currently disassembling under popular pressure, as the anti-Muslim Brotherhood Tunisian President Kais Said’s power is rising. The concurrent failures of the political parties affiliated to the

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Muslim Brotherhood, in more than one country, is definitely weighing down the entire organization and undermines the Muslim Brotherhood’s legitimacy and credibility worldwide, especially in light of the current conflict between Munir and Hussein.

THE MISSING CATALYST The internal breakdown, stimulated by external financial and political pressures, that the Muslim Brotherhood is going through, right now, is unprecedented in the history of the group. That is marked by the extreme vertical and horizontal divisions in the core structure of the organization and the lack of proper external financial and political support. The current disputes between the Muslim Brotherhood leaders, based in London and Istanbul, does not only put Mahmoud Hussein’s front in a less advantageous position. It, also, exposes Ibrahim Munir’s front to failure if he cannot fill in the positions underneath him with loyal affiliates that appeals to group’s base and sponsors. This, simply, means that the current dispute between Munir and Hussein could be the tragic finale of the Muslim Brotherhood’s century-old drama. However, a catalyst factor is needed to ensure accelerating the group’s collapse and prevent Munir from re-assembling the scattered pieces. Re-mobilizing the loosened cooperation between the Arab alliance of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Bahrain is the crucial, but missing, catalyst factor. In parallel, the aforementioned Arab alliance needs to further enhance the recently revived individual ties with Turkey and Qatar, in a way that prevents the withered tree of the Muslim Brotherhood from blossoming once again. Dalia Ziada is an Egyptian author and Director of the Liberal Democracy Institute. Her work covers military affairs, political Islamism, and geopolitics in the Middle East and North Africa. Tweets at @daliaziada.


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Repatriating ISIS Foreign Fighters The Treatment of ISIS Militants Tests European Cultural Ideals By Jassim Mohamad – Bonn Since the fall of the “ISIS caliphate,” thousands of European foreign fighters and their families have been stranded in Syria and Iraq. So far, European capitals have been reluctant to repatriate their nationals and children born in the territories formerly controlled by the Islamic State,

despite experts warning that inaction may be more dangerous in the long run. Reports estimated that some 5,500 foreigners in Syria and Iraq were either coming from the EU 27 or were born to parents of EU nationals. The numbers may be higher due to gaps in the available information and under-reporting by countries.

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A review of the 10 states that yielded the largest numbers of ISIS foreign fighters and family members found that most of these countries, especially in Europe and the Middle East, are reluctant to repatriate their citizens. Children and women - the latter are often seen as victims - have been the primary exceptions, especially in Central Asian countries. The reason is that some European leaders believe that “Repatriating terrorists would be political suicide…,” said Thomas Renard, a senior research fellow at the Egmont Royal Institute for International Relations in Belgium. European nations also claim that home-country courts might not be able to successfully prosecute fighters due to a lack of battlefield evidence, Renard said.

ESTIMATED ISIS NUMBERS

A file photo of ISIS fighters in Syria’s Raqqa province. (Reuters)

The European Commission estimated that more than 40,000 fighters joined ISIS, and 5,000 of them are believed to have come from Europe. 30% of them were returned, and 10% was killed in the combat zones. Thomas Renard and Ric Colsait, two Belgian experts on extremist affairs at the Egmont Institute in Brussels, confirmed that on March 30, 2021, there were more than 600 children of European ISIS fighters and families being held in northeastern Syria. In addition to 400 children detained in the Syrian city of Al-Hasakah, their number is about 1,000 Europeans. France is the on top of the list of European detainees, followed by Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Belgium. Since the ISIS territorial collapse in 2019, thousands of women and children believed to be affiliated with ISIS have been held in detention camps in northeast Syria, under inhumane and life-threatening conditions. An estimated 1,000 European women and children are currently detained in the camps—the vast majority of whom (more than 640) are children. France, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK are among the major European countries of origin for these detainees. An increasing number of voices—including the United Nations Security Council, the European Union, the Council of Europe as well as other actors ranging from security experts and child protection agencies for the relatives of the women and children—have been calling on European States to repatriate their child nationals from the camps.

COMPLEXITIES OF PROSECUTION Beyond the legal complexities of prosecution, the question what to do with foreign fighters has put some of our core values up for debate. While Europe and the Netherlands does not support capital punishment and has signed international conventions on human rights, several politicians have argued in favor of letting the captured Euro-

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Reports estimated that some 5,500 foreigners in Syria and Iraq were either coming from the EU or were born to parents of EU nationals. pean, Dutch fighters be tried in Iraq or Syria, where they would likely be put to death. In that context, the death penalty has been called the “ultimate consequence.” The fate of the children of captured foreign fighters is an even more sensitive issue. While most agree that these children cannot be held accountable for their parents´ crimes, the question whether this means that the state has the moral obligation to try to repatriate them has been an ongoing matter of contention. Repatriation opponents often argue that they would be unable to deal with returnees due to a lack of capacities and resources. It holds true that past terror incidents on European soil involved returnees who were well-known to intelligence agencies but fell off their radar due to insufficient means and poor cooperation between security services. Learning from these failures, however, European states have increased both their soft and hard power capacities. Thus, they augmented their counterterrorism budgets and improved inter-agency and inter-state information sharing, homogenized EU policies towards adult returnees, strengthened the prosecution, and accumulated experience in the deradicalization and rehabilitation of extremists. Hence, instead of leaving foreign fighters in an environment prone to alienate them further, repatriation allows European states to turn them away from violence. The departure of substantial numbers of ‘foreign fighters’—citizens from European countries travelling to Islamic State (ISIS)-controlled territories in Iraq and Syria—and the occurrence of terrorist attacks on European soil, have prompted renewed interest in citizenship deprivation as a policy measure. Especially since the fall of ISIS in 2019, a fierce debate has emerged on what to do with foreign fighters who are still believed to be in Iraq and Syria. While there have been calls upon European states to repatriate those foreign fighters held in Kurdish and US captivity and deal with them in the domestic criminal justice system, most European states have so far refused to bring ‘their’ foreign fighters back. Rather, there are clear indications that European governments do what is in their power to prevent foreign fighters from returning, making use of legislative reforms that have expanded deprivation powers in recent years, or initiating new reforms to pre-


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vent a similar situation in the future. A number of escapes by ISIS women and children have been reported in Al-Hol camp. According to the Kurdish forces, more than 700 attempted escapes were prevented between March 2019 and September 2020, noting that these attempts have increased since October 2019. This significant number of attempted breakouts highlights the growing importance of financing and smuggling networks that allow these women to raise funds and get support for their exfiltration, the cost of which is estimated about $10,000.

REPATRIATION IS NECESSARY The Special Rapporteurs reiterate their clear and consistent positions that the urgent return and repatriation of foreign fighters and their families from conflict zones is the only international law-compliant response to the

Europe has still not resolved its position on the return of foreign fighters and their families, despite international pressures.

increasingly complex and precarious human rights, humanitarian and security situation faced by those women, men and children who are detained in inhumane conditions in overcrowded camps, prisons, or elsewhere in the northern Syrian Arab Republic and Iraq. Such return is a comprehensive response that amounts to a positive implementation of Security Council resolutions 2178 (2014) and 2396 (2017) and is considerate of a State’s long-term security interests. Children in the ranks of ISIS have been often defined as a ‘ticking time bomb’ by European security services and also by the EU Counter Terrorism Coordinator, who recently warned States about the worrying fate of children detained in Iraq if they - and their mothers - do not have access to effective disengagement and deradicalization processes. Generally speaking, children associated with armed forces or armed groups get there in one of three ways: they are abducted or conscripted through force or serious threats; they present themselves and become enlisted - enrolled; or, they are born into armed forces or groups. Unlike other non-State armed groups and terrorist organizations, child soldiering under the ISIS rule affected the whole family unit as many adults who moved to Syria and Iraq brought their next-of-kin along with them or started a family there. Terrorism poses multi-dimensional challenges and requires multi-dimensional responses. Experience has shown that respecting and protecting human rights and fundamental rule of law principles are not an impediment

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Families and relatives of Islamic State militants are see after they surrendered themselves to the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in al-Ayadiya, northwest of Tal Afar, Iraq August 30, 2017. (REUTERS/Ari Jalal)


A file photo of women walking through al-Hol displacement camp in Hasaka governorate, Syria, April 1, 2019. (REUTERS/Ali Hashisho)

to, but a vital condition for addressing security threats effectively. The threats posed by so-called “foreign terrorist fighters” (FTFs) and the responses required to address those threats are no exception. Human rights and the rule of law provide a solid framework for effective action to address the potential threats posed by individuals who travel for terrorism-related purposes.

CONCLUSION Since the 2015 wave of terrorist attacks in Europe, foreign fighters have become persona non grata. In order to avoid returning their imprisoned citizens, European governments have considered many options in the region, including deportation programs, international courts or other specific jurisdiction mechanisms - everything except for repatriation. It is impossible to predict what will happen to the residents in the Kurdish camps and prisons in Syria since hundreds of European fighters have been captured or surrendered during the campaigns against ISIS, with most of them in Kurdish prisons in northern Syria and others in Iraqi prisons. Europe has still not resolved its position on the return of foreign fighters and their families, despite international pressures. So far, it is still arguing that it needs to obtain data and criminal examinations, but it seems that Europe has taken the political position of rejecting the return of ISIS elements and their families. Europe has only repatriated a few women, although children and others managed

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Children in the ranks of ISIS have been often defined as a ‘ticking time bomb’ by European security services. to sneak illegally into Europe. It is estimated that the return of ISIS fighters is very unpopular in most European countries and Europeans see that efforts made so far to rehabilitate former and potential extremists across Europe have not produced encouraging results. If European countries agree to take back the fighters and their families, it will likely cost the governments a loss of many electoral votes and will make them a relatively easy target for far-right and populist political parties. Jassim Mohamad is a researcher who focuses on international security & counter-terrorism; his work covers Europe, Middle East (Iraq, Syria, Libya, Iran and Yemen), and African Sahel. He is the Head of the European Centre for Counterterrorism and Intelligence Studies ECCI.


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Iraq Elections 2021

Sadrist Movement Defeats Pro-Iran Parties Amid Low Turnout By Mahdi Krayem The Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) announced 96% of the initial results for the early general elections held on Oct. 10, the fifth parliamentary vote since 2003. Many observers expected these results, although some major political blocs lost their parliamentary seats, in return for the rise of other blocs, which achieved remarkable results. The election results sparked rage among forces affiliated with Iran due to their significant loss of parliamentary seats. More than 3,200 candidates representing 21 coalitions and 109 parties, along with independent figures, competed in these elections to win 329 seats in parliament.

ELECTION RESULTS According to the electoral commission’s official website, Moqtada al-Sadr’s movement swept the elections, coming first and increasing the number of seats it holds in parliament to 73, followed by parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi’s Taqaddum coalition with 38 seats and former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition with 37 seats, 32 for the Kurdistan Democratic Party and 15 for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party. The initial results underscored how Sadr has increased his power over the Iraqi state since coming first in the 2018 election where his coalition

won 54 seats. The election results revealed the new electoral law’s ability to expose the popularity of each party, political analyst Iyad al-Anbar told the Majalla, adding that people took advantage of these elections to punish many political blocs. The blocs that managed to win relied on their ability to organize their campaigns and attract voters by running as independent figures, Anbar noted. In general, he added, the results proved the commission’s ability to hold fair and just elections compared to the level of manipulation in the previous elections. The General Coordinator of Shams Network for Monitoring Election in Iraq, Hoker Jeto, said the results reflected part of the voters’ will, noting that the majority of the participants are partisans or affiliated with political parties. Some parties were more professional than others, he affirmed, underscoring the importance of waiting for the appeals and complaints to be considered and the final results to be ratified by the Federal Court.

LOW TURNOUT Initial turnout in Iraq’s parliamentary elections was 41%, the IHEC announced, which indicates that the boycott rate exceeded that recorded in 2018’s elections. The capital, Baghdad, recorded the lowest turnout with an estimated 32%, while the highest participation rate was recorded in Dohuk Governorate

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Followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr celebrate holding his posters, after the announcement of the results of the parliamentary elections in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Oct. 11, 2021. Iraq›s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) announced the parliamentary results of the November 10 vote which suggested that al-Sadr is the current front-runner with initial results coming from several Iraqi provinces. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

in the Kurdistan Region, amounting to 54%. Salah al-Din governorate, north of Iraq, came in second place with a 48% turnout rate. Chief Observer of the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) to Iraq Viola von Cramon said the relatively low turnout was “significant.” “This is a clear political signal and one can only hope that it will be heard by the politicians and by the political elite of Iraq,” she told reporters. Anbar said “the low turnout was mostly expected for two main reasons.” The first is that the political forces did not present a new discourse to attract the hesitant public. Instead, they lost their audience, who punished them and could have provided them with an opportunity to remain in power. The second reason is that many citizens, who sought change, did not find the same old candidates worthy of their votes. Jeto agreed with Anbar and considered the low turnout “expected” since the political process in Iraq did not meet the citizens’ aspirations. Also, major parties have repeatedly hinted that no change will take place after the elections. Those who have the greatest potential are the

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“The election results revealed the new electoral law’s ability to expose the popularity of each party. People took advantage of these elections to punish many political blocs.” – Political analyst told Majalla. parties in power, he explained, noting that the new electoral system and the multiple constituencies were a source of concern for these parties, which encouraged their members to participate in the elections while neglecting the voters.

APPEALS AGAINST ELECTION RESULTS Many political forces announced they will appeal against the results of the parliamentary elections. Head of IHEC, Judge Jalil Adnan Khalaf, said in a statement that the Iraqi election law allows blocs and parties participating


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in the polls to file appeals against the preliminary results within three days, starting the day after the publication of the election results. He said the electoral commission would respond to the judicial body’s requests for elections and inquiries about appeals within a period of not more than seven working days from the date they are received. The European Union Election Observation Mission in Iraq approved the parliamentary results, stressing there were no manipulations or violations during the electoral process. The elections were “technically well-managed and competitive, despite challenges regarding level playing field for candidates and problematic aspects of the legal framework,” Cramon told a press conference in Baghdad. She voiced concern over the low turnout. “Voters were able to freely express their will, but the turnout was low.” Cramon pointed out that particularly female candidates were intimidated and threatened. The potential of party-affiliated non-state armed actors to intimidate both the electorate and the candidates may have had effect on voters’ choice and turnout, she stressed. Jeto highlighted the challenges faced by the

IHEC, such as disabling the equipment, not allowing observers, as well as the collective voting issue. Yet, he affirmed that none has affected the electoral process. However, he cited two major problems that occurred prior to the election day. The first is the Iraqi legislator, which divided the coun-

The General Coordinator of Shams Network for Monitoring Election in Iraq, Hoker Jeto (Supplied)

Political analyst Iyad alAnbar (Supplied)

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Iraqis voters gather to cast their votes at a ballot station in the country›s parliamentary elections in Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, Oct. 2021 ,10. Iraq closed its airspace and land border crossings on Sunday as voters headed to the polls to elect a parliament that many hope will deliver much needed reforms after decades of conflict and mismanagement. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

try into 83 electoral districts “like a cake that is divided among the active political forces.” The results in one way or another appeared in their favor, he said. The second problem is buying votes and using political money to manipulate the results, despite the huge efforts put by the commission and the security and intelligence services. Measures should have been stricter, he stressed, pointing out that the volume of spending is not regulated in the country, thus the disbursement of funds is also not monitored. Anbar, for his part, said all the appeals filed were meant to complicate the situation on the ground and could not be legally proven. The IHEC has proven its ability to prevent fraud professionally by controlling the voting process. “The e-voting system was also managed in an orderly manner, which prevented fraud,” he affirmed. Observers of the political parties were aware of the results and the audience who voted for them, he said, adding that many parties didn’t accept their loss and filed appeals to question the results. Regarding the government that will be formed

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Results of the legislative elections in Iraq have sparked rage among forces affiliated with Iran that lost significant number of seats in parliament. soon, Anbar doubted its ability to fight corruption. “We must agree that all political blocs are involved in corruption in Iraq, and the only difference is in the rate of corruption,” he stressed, noting that fighting this corruption needs a political will and a firm stance. Jeto, however, said people should wait to see what the elected political forces will do next. Forces are talking about a new system that would abandon consensual democracy and adopt a majority-minority rule, he said, adding that this system will eventually provide more space for services. Nonetheless, he pointed to the complex situation that would make it difficult to attain this goal.


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Syrian Women and The War

Harsh Stories Reveal the Magnitude of Their Tragedy and Courage By Jiwan Soz – Qamishli

Yet they are also warriors and heads of families.

Homelessness, widowhood and fear stalk the lives of Syrian women, victims of the decade-long war.

The ravages of the devastating war of over a decade in Syria, has torn apart the lives of Syrian women

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Syrian women in various provinces were the “Unknown Soldiers” who kept pace with all the developments and stages of the cruel war that their country experienced. registered by the United Nations are women who live in poor conditions in the camps. It seems that not only traditions, norms, and some regulations do not do justice to women, but wars as well. Syrian women in various provinces were the “Unknown Soldiers” who kept pace with all the developments and stages of the cruel war that their country experienced. She was the warrior mother who protected her children, the young woman who fought back to prevent fighters from reaching her, and the brave lady whose sweat was mixed with that of a man and who endured hours at sea and in the woods to reach a safe home.

Syrian women stand in line waiting to collect aid from relief agencies helping refugees who fled into the eastern Lebanese border town of Arsal, Lebanon, Monday, Nov. 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

as it turned their lives upside down and completely changed their circumstances, between the displacement of some of them from ISIS-controlled areas and their remaining in camps for fear of captivity, rape and murder. Moreover, many of them were forced to migrate illegally in order to reach safe countries with all the hardship and losses that this journey would bring, and thousands of them had to endure conditions of instability, oppression and need in the areas under the control of the Syrian regime. On the other hand, the United Nations confirmed in a report that violence against women was and still is significant in Syria, noting that 13.5 million Syrians were affected during the Syrian crisis, including 4.1 million women and girls who are of child-bearing age. In addition, 48% of the 4.8 Syrian refugees

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Ms. Hayat, 37, from the city of Afrin in northwestern Syria, says about her harsh experience with the war and her forced displacement in camps located in the countryside of Aleppo: “We suffer from both being far from our homes, land and olive trees on the one hand, and being forced to live in refugee camps in harsh conditions, with a lack of privacy and safety and a low level of health care and services on the other hand”, pointing out that “there are hundreds of women who are heads of their the families after the death of their husbands, and they bear the workload to provide for their children in extremely harsh conditions.” Ms. Hayat added also that “The women in the camp are the weakest link. In addition to the harsh conditions in which they live, they sometimes suffer from spousal violence due to the lack of supervision and deterrent laws.” Hundreds of thousands of married Syrian women


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of all ages suffer from the problem of widowhood. Jamila, 35, from Hama, recounts her suffering in Turkey as a refugee with two girls and her struggle alone to work as a factory worker for a small wage in order to shelter her family and secure the minimum standard of living in dignity. Jamila said; “After the death of my husband in the war, I had to migrate to Turkey with two children and their grandmother. At first, I suffered a lot in the refugee camps, and then I was forced to take responsibility for my family by working in a sweetmeat shop, and I was exploited for my ignorance of the language and laws, and then I moved between several jobs, all for a small salary compared to the number of working hours.”

needs, especially since the illiteracy rate has increased alarmingly, whereas girls are forced to stay out of school due to distance, cost and overcrowding, in addition to the fact that most schools were destroyed during the war. In this regard, Iman, 27, from Deir ez-Zor, said that she was forced to remain without study after ISIS, which took control of her place of residence years ago and prevented females from enrolling in school. She added; “I dreamed of becoming a pediatrician, but I was not able to finish middle school because I was prevented from going to school, and that forced my father to marry me off to my cousin in 2014 to save my life from foreign ISIS militants who were forcing women in our areas to marry them.”

The phenomenon of early marriage has reached record levels in recent years, as the number of child marriages exceeded 46% of the total number of marriages in various Syrian governorates during the war, according to an official at the United Nations Population Fund. The most dangerous thing is that most of these marriages are not recorded in A large percentage of women live in various gover- the official records, especially in Idlib governorate norates of Syria in a difficult situation due to pov- and the northern countryside of Aleppo, which are erty and destitution, which prompted a large num- under the control of the armed opposition, because ber of them to work in agricultural lands, harvest the courts in those areas are not recognized. agricultural crops, prepare and sell supplies, and some of them resorted to begging to secure their With the war going on for about a decade, the phenomenon of divorce too has spread remarkably in Syrian society. Nesreen, from Maarat Al-Numan, 21, in Idlib countryside, tells of her marriage 6 years ago to her 24-year-old cousin. She stayed with him for only about 6 months before he left her and traveled to Greece via Turkey and she found herself a divorced woman. According to the latest statistics in northern Syria this year, the number of orphans from the residents of the armed opposition-controlled areas reached 197,865 from among the displaced and residents, while the number of widows with no breadwinners reached 46,302 widows.

According to the U.N., violence against women has been significant in Syria, noting that 13.5 million Syrians were affected during the Syrian crisis, including 4.1 million women and girls who are of child-bearing age.

Nesreen said; “I married my relative to protect myself, but I suddenly woke up and found myself divorced and forced to bear the criticism of society and its harsh views,” explaining: “There are hundreds of cases similar to mine and a large percentage of divorced women inside and outside Syria, which forces many of them to accept remarrying an old man with children, or to agree to be the second

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A fighter of Syr� ian Democratic Forces (SDF) holds her weapon as they announce the destruction of Islamic State’s control of land in eastern Syria, at al-Omar oil field in Deir Al Zor, Syria March 23, 2019. REUTERS/ Rodi Said


wife under harsh conditions.” On the other hand, the participation of young girls in the battles has received great media attention from international news stations, especially the fighters of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, who took up arms against the militants to protect themselves and their areas. The fighter Janda, who hails from Kobani, says that; “The war gave the Kurdish women an opportunity to overcome the reality and the prevailing traditions in society, so they took up arms of all sizes and participated in the battles with strength and vigor without losing their femininity and their role as a mother, sister and lover.” She added also; “The difficult circumstances forced the women of the region to receive the necessary training to fight ISIS fighters and defend ourselves to prevent them from kidnapping, enslaving and

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raping us - resistance was the only way before us. She added, “Syrian women were forced, because of the war, to engage in many areas of warfare besides carrying arms, for example; many of them stood in the back lines to complete the rescue operations and treat hundreds of wounded and injured.” The experience of Janda and her companions confirms that Syrian women in various areas of conflict “changed the concepts and the standards in light of long years of war and patience despite all difficulties, as they overcame customs and traditions, to confirm their existence alongside men and in all areas of life,” as she put it. Jiwan Soz is a researcher and journalist who focuses on Turkish affairs and minorities in the Middle East. He is also a member of Syndicat National des Journalistes (National Syndicate of Journalists [SNJ]).


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Saudi Workplace Prepares for More Women Workers

New Laws and Facilities Make Saudi Offices Women- friendlier By Motasem Al Felou - Jeddah With more Saudi women joining the public, military and private sectors in recent years, more challenges are arising including the need for easy transportation, availability of nurseries for female employees with little kids, and most importantly, protection from sexual and nonsexual gender harassment. More than 130,000 Saudi women have entered the labor market since 2016 with more expected to join. Women’s participation in a variety of sectors has increased to reach 41% of the public sector and 32% of the private sector with a few hundred employees in the ministries of interior and defense. Over the past decade, the Saudi government has introduced several measures, reformed the laws, and provided subsidies to help women participate in the economy while feeling safe and protected. Let’s have a quick look at how workplaces became women-friendlier than ever.

EASIER TRANSPORTATION Saudi working women used to face the challenge of getting to work and back home because of the high cost of transportation. In October 2017, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development launched a program called “Wusool” in cooperation with the Human

Resources Development Fund. “Wusool”, meaning arrival in English, provides up to USD 300 in governmental transportation allowance for female private sector employees, who make USD 2,133 or less a month. This allowance is provided for those who don’t have cars. In June 2018, both Saudi and non-Saudi women were given the right to drive cars in the Kingdom. The historic decision has made it easier for women to get to their workplaces without the hustle of waiting for taxis or home drivers. “The transportation used to cost me around USD 400. Now, I am paying a monthly car installment of USD 300 and USD 120 for fuel and maintenance. I know I am paying almost the same amount of money I used to pay before leasing my car, but I have the freedom now to go anywhere and the car will be mine after the end of the car leasing contract. Working women have a much better status”, said Nisreen Salem, a Saudi private sector employee.

NURSERIES & CHILDCARE Some female employees prefer to quit their jobs after getting married or having a child. That’s why their employers suffer from lower rates of talent retention. To avoid this, major companies have created nurseries to keep female employees’ pre-school kids in safe hands. However, small companies cannot afford this.

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A picture taken late on June 2021 ,3 shows Saudi staff checking attendant’s mobiles for vaccine certificates or a negative Covid19- test, at the entrance of a theatre hosting the first concert in the Saudi capital Riyadh since the start of the COVID19- pandemic. (Getty)

According to the Saudi labor law, mothers-tobe have the right to enjoy a fully paid 10-week maternity leave, and lactating mothers can take one hour off from their working day to breastfeed their babies. This hour is included in the working hours.

PROTECTION FROM HARASSEMENT Saudi Arabia’s Anti-Harassment Law came into effect in June 2018. The heinous criminal offense is punishable by imprisonment and/or a fine. The law imposes a 5-year prison sentence and/or a fine of what equals USD 80,000 if the harassment occurs at a place work. Any woman who is exposed to harassment can report the perpetrator the police. A smart phone app by the Saudi Ministry of Interior called “Kulluna Amn” (All for Security) has a special section for reporting harassment and attaching documents and videos, if any. “Women feel safer and more protected. Sexual and non-sexual harassment can be easily reported. Women are encouraged to break the silence to bring harassers to justice just with a

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Women’s participation in a variety of sectors has increased to reach %41 of the Saudi public sector and %32 of the private sector with a few hundred employees in the ministries of interior and defense. click of a button. Not only harassment can be reported, threatening and blackmailing are also included”, Waleed Ahmed, an HR specialist told Majalla. “HR Departments are required to take immediate action if the victim complains to them. The harassment incidents must be reported to the police. This ensures women will stay safe at workplaces and raises the standards of the work environment. Harassment is a heinous crime and perpetrators must pay a high price”, he concluded.


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The Shift in China-US Competition Implications of AUKUS Alliance and Quad Summit for Indo-Pacific Region By Hoang Vu and Thuc D Pham The past month saw a series of proactive U.S. engagements with allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region, headlined by the announcement of a

newly enhanced Australia-U.K.-U.S. trilateral security partnership (AUKUS) and the first-ever inperson Quad Leaders’ Summit between Australia, India, Japan, and the United States. This is a notable sequence of events, designed to il-

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lustrate the “lead the world by the power of our example” mantra introduced by President Joe Biden during his first foreign policy speech at the U.S. Department of State earlier this year. But perhaps more importantly, these moves also represent the beginning stages of a comprehensive approach by the Biden administration to facilitate “responsible competition” with China, as highlighted in Biden’s remarks at the 76th session of the U.N. General Assembly.

FROM “ALL-OUT” TO “RESPONSIBLE” COMPETITION

President Joe Biden listens during the Quad summit with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, in the East Room of the White House, Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

From a policy standpoint, this “responsible competition” approach serves as a follow-up to the new approach previously articulated by Secretary of State Antony Blinken: “Our relationship with China will be competitive when it should be, collaborative when it can be, and adversarial when it must be. The common denominator is the need to engage China from a position of strength.” Realizing that their unrivaled network of allies and partners remains one of the key components of the United States’ “position of strength,” the Biden administration seeks to deepen ties with allies and partners. The goal is to assemble a capable coalition to strengthen its long-term competitiveness vis-à-vis China and exert higher pressure on Beijing to behave in accordance with a rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific, while also minimizing the threat of conflict and avoiding direct confrontation in a Cold War “zero-sum” mindset. The United States also attempts to promote an “integrated deterrence,” with diplomacy at the forefront. This approach is designed to utilize both military and non-military tools to advance forward presence and power projection, as well as building stronger defense cooperation and enhanced coordination with allies and partners. In this network of deterrence, AUKUS serves as an example of alliance-based defense partnerships, complementing the United States’ current military and security arrangements in the region, while the Quad serves as a new framework of U.S. regional engagement, with a focus toward meeting the region’s practical needs, instead of an immense fixation on secu-

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In this network of deterrence, AUKUS serves as an example of alliance-based defense partnerships, complementing the United States’ current military and security arrangements in the region, while the Quad serves as a new framework of U.S. regional engagement. rity cooperation and competition with China. At the same time, the Biden administration continues to intensify the decoupling process and reduce interdependence on China, especially in the high-tech realm. The U.S. has been seeking to monitor China’s acquisition of American technological firms; limit American investments and cutting-edge technology transfer to Chinese companies linked to the military or domestic surveillance sectors; ban Chinese IT giants such as Huawei and ZTE from operating in the U.S.; and call on allies and partners to avoid incorporating Chinese 5G technology in their systems. The U.S. also focuses on diversifying markets, including the digital economy and e-commerce, bolstering ties with allies to strengthen U.S. competitiveness. Through the Quad, Washington intends to promote a model of good governance and development for the Indo-Pacific region based on principles of openness, inclusiveness, transparency, and the rule of law. The Quad aims to provide public goods for countries in the region, including COVID-19 vaccines and health, high standard infrastructure, education, critical and emerging technology, cybersecurity and space data sharing, etc. These are all areas of high regional demand, reflecting a U.S.-led collective effort to present a superior model of development to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. At the same time, the United States retains its willingness to cooperate with China. The Biden administration fully understands the difficulty of dealing with urgent global challenges such as


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climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and an inclusive global economic recovery without pragmatic collaboration with China and other global powers. In addition, China remained the United States’ largest trading partner, largest source of imports and third-largest export market in 2020. Exports to China supported 1.2 million jobs in the U.S. in 2019. Despite China-U.S. trade friction, a majority of American companies (87 percent) chose not to shift their production out of China. Chinese officials, in their public statements, still viewed the U.S. approach with high skepticism and suspicion. Beijing has repeatedly called on the U.S. and its partners to abandon the outdated Cold War zero-sum mentality and narrow-minded geopolitical perception. However, as evidenced by recent high-level dialogues between the two countries, in which the two presidents discussed areas of mutual interests and agreed to promote in-depth communication channels to ensure competition does not veer into conflict, China seemed to appreciate the Biden administration’s new approach toward great power competition, seeing this shift as beneficial to China’s interests. Other than the resumption of high-level communication, the two countries have recently shown other signs of de-escalation, most notably the release of Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou.

IMPLICATIONS FOR THE INDO-PACIFIC REGION It should be noted, however, that China- U.S.

Through the Quad, Washington intends to promote a model of good governance and development for the Indo-Pacific region based on principles of openness, inclusiveness, transparency, and the rule of law.

strategic competition remains an inevitable and perhaps irreversible trend in the short and medium term. Though their leaders have made it clear conflicts are undesirable, the risks of miscalculation remain high. However, should the shift away from all-out, geopolitics-centric competition toward a competition of development models remain the dominant form of the China-U.S. competition, the region should stand to benefit. For the sake of regional interests, major powers should compete in terms of public goods provided to the region, with an aim toward the promotion of peace, stability, and prosperity. Should tensions remain high, the U.S. and China can look to constructively engage with other stakeholders in the region, especially ASEAN. With its central role in promoting regional engagement, ASEAN can play the role of facilitator, coordinating the China-U.S. “responsible competition” in the best interests of the region. ASEAN can help to distribute public goods in a

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Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison (C) and US President Joe Biden attend a joint press conference via audio visual link (AVL) from The Blue Room at Parliament House in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia, 16 September 2021. Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States agreed to the creation of a trilateral security partnership to be known as AUKUS. (EPA/MICK TSIKAS AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT)


more effective manner through close consultation and coordination, either bilaterally, multilaterally with ASEAN as a whole, or minilaterally with ASEAN member states. In this way, ASEAN and the Indo-Pacific as a whole can proactively retain their voice in great power competition, playing a role in facilitating cooperation and mitigating conflicts for the interests of everyone involved. In order to fill that role, however, ASEAN should look to do more on its part. While the Quad remains diplomatically savvy enough to always mention their respect for ASEAN centrality in public statements, the expanded role of the Quad should more than worry leaders of ASEAN member states. The lack of consensus and subsequent progress in dealing with regional issues, most notably the current situation in Myanmar, if not properly addressed soon, will continue to hamper ASEAN’s reputation as the region’s go-to mediator.

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ASEAN and the Indo-Pacific as a whole can proactively retain their voice in great power competition, playing a role in facilitating cooperation and mitigating conflicts for the interests of everyone involved. In summary, ASEAN and the region can stand to benefit from the shift from all-out competition to “responsible competition” between the U.S. and China. But whether they can seize that opportunity or not remains to be seen. This article was originally published by The Diplomat.


A Weekly Political News Magazine

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Issue 1874- October- 15/10/2021

Karim Benzema: Better to Arrive Late Than Never

www.majalla.com



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“Nawara”: Egypt’s Poor are Dreaming of a Small Window Looking on Life A Movie Represents Egyptian Disappointment after 25th January Revolution By Salma Adham Wishes are not always fulfilled, even if they are not big ones. Do revolutions really achieve justice and a decent life? Or do they serve political purposes? Does justice exist or does it become just a desire? People protest to say that we are here, our voice is loud and we have the right to express our anger and the life we are dreaming of, but in our life today, the simple rights, for some people, are becoming dreams. In Nawara, even having water, the basic right for every citizen, cannot be achieved. The place is Egypt, the time, post the revolution of 25th January and the story is about poverty and oppression. The dark side is that the movie introduces how Egypt’s poor live in a contrasting picture with the hope and the main demands of the Egyptian revolution- to get rid of poverty and enjoy social justice and decent life! Many movies were produced after the revolution to document what happened and its effect

on Egyptian society, but Nawara came to speak differently and out of this picture. The story does not address the demonstrations, nor the pictures of the clashes and the political situation represented by the leftist parties and movements, but actually presents the sad reality of poor people in Egypt, the ones the revolution inflamed for their rights, and also the ones who paid the price.

Actress Menna Shalaby in the police car after she was arrested for theft in a scene from “Nawara”. (Supplied)

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Actress Menna Shalaby in a scene from “Nawara”. (Supplied)

The main protagonist is a girl named Nawara (Menna Shalaby) and her love story after the January 25, 2011 revolution in Egypt, reviewing the impact of what was happening in Egypt during this period, her love story, and her work as a maid in the villa of one of the former ministers of the Mubarak regime. Produced in 2015 and directed and written by Hala Khalil as her third film after Ahla al-Awqat (Best of Times, 2004), and Qus w Lazq (Cut and Paste, 2006), the other actors are Amir Salah El-Din and Mahmoud Hamida. Menna Shalaby won the best actress award for this film from the National Egyptian Film Festival, the Dubai International Film Festival, the Malmö Arab Film Festival, the Catholic Center Film Festival, the Film Association Festival for Egyptian Cinema, the Tetouan International Festival for Mediterranean Cinema, and the Oran International Film Festival. Recently, she has been nominated for the international Emmy Award for her role in the crime mini-series “Every Week Has a Friday”. The rule says that the first and the last scenes of the movie should be the strongest ones because you want at first to grab the attention of the viewers to follow your story and at the end, you want to leave them with the final message with a strong expressive scene that

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Nawara and her love story after the January 2011 ,25 revolution in Egypt, review the impact of what was happening in Egypt during this period. will be stuck in their memory or make them questioning something. This actually happens in Nawara. In the opening scene, the cadre stormed a simple girl carrying two empty jugs, with which she penetrates the streets and alleys of the slums, towards one of the public water taps, where women line up to fill the jugs with clean water. Nawara, who has a weak and strong body at the same time, carries them and walks a long distance until she reaches an old house where she lives in one of its rooms with her old grandmother. Then she heads to the hospital, where her father-in-law, ill with cancer, lies on the corridor floor waiting for a bed. Menna Shalaby’s biggest challenge in Nawara was the character and the deep feelings she should convey at the same time. She is a calm


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and contented girl despite all the oppression, poverty and suffering she faces, she is full of hope that one day things will improve and she will live the life she always dreamed of. A picture that includes helplessness, sorrow, and hope! Nawara moves on her daily way, from one public transport to another, sometimes behind a “microbus” or “bus” in which people miraculously stack up on a daily scam to live, before returning at the end of the day exhausted in a “tuk-tuk” that can penetrate the narrow, twisted alleyways to reach her simple house. After the revolution, the figures of the former regime flee abroad with their money for fear of imprisonment and accountability, so the family Nawara is living with asked her to take care of their villa so that nobody notices their escape. As depicted by the film’s script,

Nawara loved the revolution in name only and did not participate in it, the revolution gives her the opportunity to dream of a better tomorrow.

Nawara is loyal to the family that entrusted her with her home, and she even sees with excessive naivety that they are good people who do not deserve what is happening with them, and after her employer gives her a reward for her marriage of 20,000 pounds, the police come to inventory the villa and accuse Nawara of stealing the money. To protect the employer, the loyal, noble, crushed girl reveals her feelings of frustration and collapse in front of all this injustice despite her sincerity. Nawara’s poverty and the condition of people like her does not give her or them the luxury of protesting, they get the news from the radio while they go to earn a livelihood. The truth is that the idea of cutting off a street for them is a disaster, as they will be unable to reach her work, because if they leave it, they will not find food. She loved the revolution in name only and did not participate in it, the revolution gives her the opportunity to dream of a better tomorrow and repeat the slogans of the demonstrations from the window of the bus with the protesters. Nawara is the simple girl, who lives a love story with Ali, the Nubian young man who also faces poverty and his father’s illness, and makes it impossible for them to marry under

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Actress Menna Shalaby (Nawara) and Amir Salah El-Din (Ali) in a scene from “Nawara”. (Supplied)


Actress Menna Shalaby carrying jugs of water after filling them from the communal faucet in a scene from “Nawara”. (Supplied)

difficult life conditions and her story makes us ask why life is so hard. And despite this oppression, how do these people still have hope unless they are very strong! Nawara was really strong, but she was as naive as the other poor people. She believed what the radio said and the news that the corrupt symbols would be held accountable and give them money - the money that, when she imagined getting it, she dreamed of treating her fiancé’s father and renting a house to get married after many years of waiting. Filming and moving from the world of Na-

Actress Menna Shalaby carrying water in a scene from “Nawara”. (Supplied)

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The intense painful realism of the movie elevates its beauty. Experiencing the lives of its protagonists and their suffering is the essence of what cinema offers to viewers. wara’s dystopia where she lives and the world of utopia that she is allowed to enter to work in was very good, as well as the performance of the two key protagonists, Menna Shalaby and Amir Salah El-Din. We believe that they are Nawara and Ali, who cannot marry due to poor financial conditions. The film’s soundtrack is from the distinguished Layal Watfa, which harmonizes beautifully with the storyline of the film. The intense painful realism of the movie elevates its beauty. Experiencing the lives of its protagonists and their suffering is the essence of what cinema offers to viewers. Nawara’s story may not have a strong and impressive plot, but, in its simplicity and truth, it carries a lot of meanings and messages.


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“Happiness Owner” Back to Acting

How Egyptian Comedienne- Businesswoman-Talk Show Hostess Carved Success By Sarah Gamal An unusual, quick-witted character with an overwhelming presence, able to move between characters with impressive smoothness, never failing to make her audience laugh to the point of crying and getting their full focus, she is Esaad Hamed Younis Jamal Al-Din, or as she is known in the artistic community as Esaad Younis. The philanthropist Essad Younis is aptly called a comedian actress who has made a solo name for herself in the world of presenting programs to become «Sahebat Al Saada/Happiness Owner”, who brought back the joy to programs, in addition to her multiple talents as a satirical writer, producer and distributor. She presented to the cinema many important films and worked with many stars. She is distinguished by a unique mind in the ideas she presents, beside her magical mixture of happiness and success. The Egyptian actress returned recently to the cinema screen after an absence that lasted about 15 years, through «200 Pounds», a movie which is currently shown in theaters, since her role in «The Yacoubian Building» movie. She embodies the character of «Aziza Al-Sayed», who plays a driving role in the events of the film, and stamps her name on a note of 200 pounds. The events of the film revolve in a social framework around a -200pound banknote, which is transmitted from one person to another from different social classes and residential places, in 9 different and varied stories, and includes situations which are comic as well as tragic, each with a hero. Esaad Hamed Gamal El-Din Younis was born on April ,12 1950 in Cairo, and her mother decided to call her “Esaad” (literally means; make people happy) to bring good luck and goodness to her father so that he would return safely from his

trip in England. Her father belonged to a family of notables in Talkha in the Dakahlia governorate, and his father - Assad›s grandfather - was the mayor of Talkha. Her father worked as a war pilot and was an officer, in addition to his work as a journalist at “Rose El-Youssef” newspaper.

HER EARLY START Esaad trained to work on radio on the European program while she was in the first year of her studies at the Institute of Tourist Guidance. After obtaining her bachelor›s degree in 1968, she worked as an assistant in the Middle East program, and then she had a special program on Middle East Radio. She began entering the field of acting through small roles in some works in the mid-seventies, including the movies “An Unfinished Crime”, “Me, My Daughter and Love”, “The Love Ends”, “The Queen and I”, and “«A Rendezvous with Soso”. She conquered the hearts of her fans from the ocean to the Gulf like a piercing arrow through her golden opportunity in the first distinguished show in 1977, where she presented her first dazzling roles, which highlighted her comedic talent, and announced the birth of a new star, in the series “Mizo’s Tale” with Samir Ghanem. With the beginning of the eighties, Esaad Younis started to achieve a noticeable spread and different performance in many works, such as; “The Resignation of an Atom Scientist” movie, the play of “Arousa Tajnin”, “Mkhaimer Daiman Ready” movie, “Shaaban Below Zero” movie, and many more. In 1985, Esaad presented her first cinematic writing experience through the “Al-Majnoona” movie, in which she also starred alongside actor Mahmoud Abdel Aziz In 1986, Esaad had a date with impressive success, and that was in the series of “Bakiza and Zaghloul”, in which she achieved impressive success at the level of the writer and

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The Egyptian actress returned recently to the cinema screen after an absence that lasted about 15 years, through «200 Pounds», a movie which is currently shown in theaters.

Egyptian Actress, presenter and producer Essad Younis.

no less impressive success for Essad the actress, and it was converted into a movie in the late eighties also. FIRST ARAB TABLOID TALK SHOW Essad did not forget her beginnings in presenting programs, so she returned through the «Free Space» program on Orbit network in the nineties, and then came back with the most famous program «Sahebat Al Saada/Happiness Owner», which has become one of the most important programs on the scene in the Arab world, after she rejected many of the programs that were offered to her before «Sahebat Al Saada/Happiness Owner». Since its very first episode, «Sahebat Al Saada/Happiness Owner» had hit most of the Oprah show’s fans with nostalgia. Some might also claim that Essad has replaced Winfrey in the Egyptian audience’s hearts. In this regard, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi honored her on International Women›s Day for her program, and for her keenness to encourage the Egyptian industry and food products in special sections of her program.

PRODUCTION COMPANY AND CONTROVERSY In 2000, Essad founded the Arab Film Production and Distribution Company and chaired its board of directors, while the property belonged to her husband, a Jordanian businessman. She gradually moved away from acting as of 2001 and devoted herself to managing the company. Al Arabia Cinema Production & Distribution (ACPD) is a film distribution and production company based in Egypt. It has distribution networks spanning the Arab region. It owns Renaissance Cinemas operating 21 cinemas in Egypt covering 99 screens. It is also a member of the Mediterranean Distribution Network. Over the past two decades, the company was able to produce many films and distribute nearly 100 films inside and outside Egypt. Among the most famous films produced by the company

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were “Love Journey», “The Mediterranean Man”, “A Divorce Lawyer” ... etc. In addition, after the success it achieved in the Egyptian market for the film industry only, the company decided to expand and link the eastern civilization with the western civilization by bringing Egyptian films to the world. In a previous television interview, Essad justified its founding of the company with its aim to create a system similar to developed countries in the arts industry, explaining that she accepted its presidency because its ambitions did not stop at acting. A storm of attack was sparked by the activity of Essad and her husband’s company, and many workers in the showbiz accused her of “monopoly.” The late director Medhat El Sebaei, the husband of the producer, Nahid Farid Shawky, launched a war against the company through a series of articles, accusing the company of trying to seize Egyptian Cinema archives. The Jordanian businessman, Esaad’s husband, had bought, through his company, about %90 of the most important Egyptian films, and also bought all the cassette production companies with all its old lyrical heritage and modern musical production. In a previous television interview, Essad justified the founding of the company with her aim to create a system similar to developed countries in the arts industry, explaining that she accepted its presidency because its ambitions did not stop at acting.

ESSAD AS A WRITER To satisfy her passion for writing, Esaad Younis continued to write a weekly article in an Egyptian newspaper and also in an Egyptian magazine, before she stopped writing articles a few years ago. However, she launched more than one book, including “Nora’s Terrified Diary,” “Beggars” and “As You I Say It To You.”; and it was also the name of her program, which she presented in 2016 on a radio station and achieved great success, during which she touched on the stories of artistic and historical personalities. During the month of Ramadan 2017, Younis presented a radio program, entitled «May the Prosperity Last/Yadom El Ez».


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The Revival of Egypt’s Hindu Palace

Historic Baron Empain Palace, Newly Restored, is Cairo’s Shining New Tourism and Cultural Attraction By Meera Ravi From being a crumbling, bat-infested ruin to now a dazzling cultural and fashion venue, Egypt’s iconic Baron Empain Palace in Heliopolis has indeed come a long way. Often referred to as the Hindu Palace because of its architectural bow to the Angkor Wat Temple of Cambodia and the ancient temples of Orissa in Eastern India, the Palace was built between 1907 and 1911 and scored many unique architectural points – built by Belgian millionaire Baron Edouard Empain, who is also the founder of Heliopolis district, it was designed by French architect Alexandre Marcel and decorated by Georges-Louis Claude. It was the built entirely of concrete, then a new building material. The facade of the two-storey piece of art is richly decorated with sculptures of snakes, dragons and other oriental mythological figures. An engineer, entrepreneur, financier and industrialist, as well as an amateur Egyptologist, Baron Empain was ennobled by King Leopold of Belgium. The brain behind the Paris metro, Baron Empain first visited Egypt in 1904 and fell in love with the country. He proceeded to use his considerable wealth to build a railway empire of trams. metros and electric railways. In 1906, he bought a very large stretch of desert (25 square kilometers) to the northeast of Cairo at a throwaway price from the Egyptian government and proceeded to build the new town of Heliopolis, ten kilometers from the center of Cairo. It was designed as a “city of luxury and leisure”,

with broad avenues and equipped with all the mod-cons including the historic Heliopolis Palace Hotel (formerly the presidential palace of ex-President Hosni Mubarak).

HINDU PALACE IN A LAND OF MINARETS But today, Baron Empain is perhaps best known by modern visitors to Egypt for the building of a palace (the Palais Hindou) in the Avenue des Palais (renamed Orouba Avenue following the Egyptian Revolution of 1952). The Baron had kept the choicest plot in the Heliopolis for himself, so that from his terrace, he could watch the rising of Heliopolis against no less a backdrop than the 4000 year-old Giza Pyramids. He had lot of financial interests in Indonesia and it struck him, that if he were to combine the key features of Indonesian and Indian temple architecture, it would be interesting in a land of mosques and minarets. The separate pieces of the palace building were cast in concrete in France, according to Marcel’s designs, then shipped individually to Egypt and assembled on site. The building consisted of two floors with two additional subterranean floors. The underground floors contained a family mausoleum, a kitchen and the servant’s room. There were two elevators and even a tunnel that connected with the nearby church built by the Baron. The layout of the rooms was designed so that every room commanded a view of Heliopolis City. The landscape surrounding the palace used to be a wonderland a long time ago, festooned with ascending green

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Baron Empain Palace, Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt. (Photo credit: Amr Moustafa Shalaby via Wikimedia Commons)

terraces each with its own set of marble statues of snakes, Indian dancers, elephants, and images of Buddha and the Hindu Gods, Shiva and Krishna. The first Baron Empain had entertained all of Egypt’s elite and state guests in the Hindu Palace, including King Albert and Queen Elizabeth of Belgium during their 1912 visit to Egypt.

RUIN AND RUMOURS OF HAUNTINGS It was the death of Baron Empain in 1929 that marked the beginning of the palace’s slow ruin. Three generations of Empains occupied the premises. The last to live there were his grandchildren, Janine and Huguette Empain who much preferred the lounges of the nearby trendy Heliopolis Sporting Club to the sepulchral halls of their grandfather’s palace. They were great friends of King Farouk, the last King of Egypt. But it appears that somewhere in 1948, their relations soured, when Janine, in a drunken mood insulted Farouk - she demanded that waiters in a posh restaurant serve her before they attended to King Farouk and his guests, who were dining at the next table. Now, normally, King Farouk,

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The first Baron Empain had entertained all of Egypt’s elite and state guests in the Hindu Palace, including King Albert and Queen Elizabeth of Belgium during their .1912 visit to Egypt then in his regal prime, would have brushed off the drunken jibe from a friend. But to be insulted in his own capital, Cairo, and that in public was too much. He sent a message to Janine immediately banishing the Empains from Egypt. They did not return from this exile. Then the Egyptian army requisitioned the building during the Suez crisis of 1956, which further damaged the garden and interior. The palace, together with its valuable interiors, was eventually auctioned in 1957, since when it has been systematically stripped of all the fresco murals,


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the massive gilded doors, the balustrades, the beautifully designed parquet floors and the gold-plated doorknobs. Even the famed Belgian mirrors were wrenched from their sockets, and instead of the carved ceilings reflecting off the marble floors, bat droppings littered the magnificent hallways. The edifice eventually became home to thousands of bats and stray dogs and the inevitable rumors began to circulate: that the palace was haunted; that it was used by devil worshippers and, perhaps more credibly, by drug dealers. The once-lush gardens of the palace withered, as the municipality cut the water when the bills were no longer paid.

SOLD FOR A SONG The palace was sold by the Baron’s family in 1957 to the families of Lebanese financiers, Alxasam and Reda and was declared as a monument later in the 80s by the Egyptian government. In the year 2000, the owners of the palace, who had bought it in 1957 for a mere Lebanese LE160,000 (equivalent to 100,000 US dollars) had offered the Egyptian Government one of two choices - either to buy the palace for the amount of fifty million dollars ($50,000,000) or to allow them to turn it into a five-star tourist project for the rich and famous. But the Egyptian Government, despite the fact that it did not have the money to buy the building, refused to allow it to be converted into a hotel. Finally, in 2005, the Hindu Palace of Baron Empain, (known as the most famous relic in Cairo after the Pyramids) was taken over by the Archaeological Department of Egypt, thanks to the initiative of Madam Suzanne Mubarak, wife of then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. “I call it Walt Disney architecture,” said Yehya El Zeini, chairman of architecture at Egypt’s Supreme Council of Culture, at that time, “Pure fantasy. The palace is unique and there would be no shame bringing in international restorers,”

The palace was sold by the Baron’s family in 1957 to the families of Lebanese financiers, Alxasam and Reda and was declared as a monument later in the 80s by the Egyptian government.

says Raafat, an eminent Egyptian architect, and added, “It should be brought back to its original state. There are plenty of old photos extant to help achieve that goal.” For the last few decades of the 20th century, nobody, except official surveyors, had been inside the building and nobody knew what treasures were left in the palace. In the early 70s, Muslim fundamentalists were enraged that, at Cairo, the citadel of Muslims, there was a Hindu palace with the icons of Hinduism represented! It appears that they told the Egyptian Government that they would buy the Hindu palace for whatever price demanded by the Egyptians and would have it demolished. The Egyptian Archaeological Department told them firmly, that irrespective of its symbols, the building represented the heritage of Egypt and they would not allow its destruction. Later, a group of Arab businessmen wanted to lease the mansion and convert it into a modern casino. Here also they could not get the clearance from the Egyptian Government.

RESTORATION AS CULTURAL HEARTBEAT In 2017, the rehabilitation of the palace was begun in earnest by the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry and was painstakingly carried out by the Engineering Corps of the Egyptian Armed Forces and four private companies. The price tag of the restoration came to 100 million Egyptian pounds (US$ 6 million). When the beautiful burnt sienna color of

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Baron Empain Palace after restoration in May 2020. (Photo credit: Bishoy Samuel via Wikimedia Commons)


Inner staircase of the Baron Empain Palace tower, 9 August 2017. (Photo: Manadily via Wikimedia Commons)

the external walls and the marble pillars were first revealed after cleaning away the dust of nearly a century, there was a hue and cry that the restoration was changing the appearance of the palace. However, Antiquities Minister Khaled Al-Anany reassured the public that the rumors were false. “I confirm all these reports are false,” he said, affirming that the ministry worked carefully to preserve the palace in a form that is faithful to its original character. There were reports that the original steel gate and the walls of the garden of the palace had been removed and that a four-meter wall would be constructed around the palace to block passersby from watching it but the minister said this too was baseless. Once the restoration is done, the minister said, the palace will be turned into an exhibition featuring the history of the wealthy Heliopolis suburb through various eras. Hesham Samir, al-Anany’s assistant for engineering affairs, said that the engineers of the Armed Forces oversaw the renovation works carried out by four private companies which restored the gardens, walls, the marble columns, the statues and the antiques. He added that the renovation, which started in August 2017, was also observed by archaeologists from the antiquities ministry to ensure the highest levels of restoration. Finally, in June 2020, the Baron Empain Palace was once again thrown open to eager tourists and visitors who came to admire its beauty and unusual setting. In end-September and early October this year, as the COVID-19 crisis gradually lifted, the Empain Palace once

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The Baron had kept the choicest plot in the Heliopolis for himself, so that from his terrace, he could watch the rising of Heliopolis against no less a backdrop than .the 4000 year-old Giza Pyramids again became a heritage point and two major international events were held there – on October 1, it was the ‘Brands and Designers of Egypt’, a day-long event that intersected Egyptian history with the local fashion scene. Earlier, on September 30, guests thronged to the Gouter 2021 Festival held under the auspices of Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli and in the presence of Nevine Gamea, minister of trade and industry, and Khaled El-Enany, minister of tourism and antiquities. More than 17 countries participated, presenting their heritage and distinct cultures in Egypt. As tourists and Egyptian visitors once again discover the beauty of the Empain Palace, its breathtaking Indian artistry will once again take on new life and yet another wonderful architectural wonder of Egyptian heritage will make Egyptians proud.


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Karim Benzema: Better to Arrive Late Than Never

By Majalla Illustration by Jeannette Khouri

In French it says; “Mieux vaut arriver tard que jamais”, or “it is better to arrive late than never”, and this is exactly what applies to the brilliant French international player Karim Benzema who recently joined the national football team. The French press has begun to wonder if this is the year that Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema should win the Ballon d’Or, as he is now closer than ever to winning it. Benzema, 33, is going through the best period of his football career, on both levels, with Real Madrid, Real Madrid, where he is a main element, and the France National Team, in which he became the beating heart after his return. The French forward said that he was very happy and proud to win his first title with the national team after triumphing at the 2021 Nations League. Benzema was out of the squad for the 2018 World Cup before finally being brought back into the fold for the delayed European Championships in the summer of 2021. Benzema also led the French national team’s attack line at Euro 2020 and scored 4 goals, but he gave his best performance with his national team in the European Nations League, which led the French press to question whether the next version of the “Ballon d’Or” should be awarded to Les Bleus (The Blues) striker, after being nominated for that award nine times previously. There is no doubt that the current season is witnessing an extraordinary brilliance from Karim, who is the top scorer in the Spanish League with 9 goals,

and was crowned the best player in the competition for the month of September. “Anyone who likes football, likes Karim.” Those are the words of Zinedine Zidane, uttered back in April when Karim was almost single-handedly carrying an aging Real Madrid team through another season as they adjusted to life without Cristiano Ronaldo. With Real Madrid, the French striker has been playing on the strings of glory since his joining the team nearly 10 years ago. He set a historic record in the Spanish League with Real Madrid this season after 6 rounds of La Liga, and became the first player in the 21st century to contribute 15 goals with his team, in the first 6 matches of the Spanish League. Football fans in the world, especially Madridista, like to call Benzema “The Government”, because there is a prevailing belief that the player imposes himself on everyone in the club, and no one can harm him or withdraw his name from the starting lineup despite his modest level in some periods. Since Benzema joined Real Madrid in 2009, and over the course of 12 years, many great players have left Meringue, such as Mesut Ozil, Angel Di Maria, Xabi Alonso, Sami Khedira, and even Cristiano Ronaldo himself, who left during Benzema’s era. What is also exciting about Benzema’s career with Real is that he has always been a much-loved and a key player in the era of all the coaches who have gone through the royal club in the last decade, including the shrewd Portuguese Jose Mourinho, Solari, Lopetegui and Carlo Ancelotti. He currently enjoys the support and confidence of the most important figures in the Real Madrid entity, led by President Florentino Perez, and his former coach Zinedine Zidane, who said in an interview

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that Benzema is the best French striker in history, ignoring big stars such as Thierry Henry and Michel Platini. Benzema started his career with a local team and then moved to Lyon to achieve several footballing achievements at the national and European levels, where he won the French Championship four times in a row. After this, he moved to Real Madrid to continue his career in winning Spanish and European titles. His first appearance was in 2004, when he was used as a substitute, and again, thanks to him, Lyon managed to achieve the first division title. He was also a contributor to winning the European Championship when he played in the final against a Norwegian team, and through his distinguished play with the club, Benzema wrote his name in Football history forever. One of the shocking revelations is that in 2008 Benzema almost moved to Barcelona. He underwent all the necessary medical tests and his talent was not in doubt for the Catalan club, but the club stopped the deal at the last moments, explaining that the player’s surroundings do not match Barcelona’s values. A year later, he moved to Real Madrid and became one of its most prominent players for 7 years. It is true that Benzema has always been criticized for the fluctuation of his level, and it is true that he is blamed for wasting very important opportunities, but there is a wide category of fans in the world who support him and see him as one of the best strikers in the history of the club, given what he has contributed to the team, and his great sacrifice for the sake of the team, beside his effective contribution to the crowning of Real Madrid with several titles in the last decade.



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Egypt’s Trailblazing Kickboxing Champ Seeks to Inspire Young Players

Mohamed Abdo Abu Steit Speaks to Majalla on Achievements

By Menna Farouk Egyptian kickboxing player Mohamed Abdo Abu Steit was able to write his name in gold after winning this year’s World Kickboxing Championship and defeating one of the distinguished players in the game, first-ranked Russian player Nikita Surovezhkin. The victory of the Egyptian champion is considered historic because his opponent has a great history in the game and has only lost 10 matches throughout his career. In remarks to Majalla, Abu Steit described his victory as “indescribable”. “It is difficult to find the appropriate words. I achieved my dream and the dream of many who believed in me and in my talent,” he told Majalla. Behind the scenes of the tournament, Abu Steit said that it all started two and a half months ago when he decided to prepare for the tournament in a distinctive way inside the Olympic Center in Maadi. Abu Steit defeated Serovichkin in a marathon match

that was held at the Cairo International Stadium amid an intense fan presence. “It was a great, unforgettable moment,” he said.

PASSION, FAMILY SUPPORT Abu Steit said that the main reason behind his success is his passion for the sports as well as how his family always stood behind him. “My parents have a great role in my love for sports and their support for me is great all the time, and they helped me a lot in juggling between sports and studying.» On the role of the coaches in boosting his capabilities,

“I hope that this tournament will be the beginning of Egypt›s sweeping the board in world championships.»

Egyptian kickboxing champion Mohamed Abdu Abu Steit posing for a photo in Cairo. Photo Credit: Mohamed Abdu’s official Facebook page

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Egyptian kickboxing champion Mohamed Abdu Abu Steit during his match with Russian player Nikita Surovezkhin at the World Kickboxing Championship in Cairo Photo .15 on September Credit: Mohamed Abdu’s official Facebook page

the -42year-old Egyptian champion said: «They have all the credit for me reaching this level, whether in physical fitness or weightlifting. They worked hard with me during the last period, and none of them hesitated to provide assistance in various ways.»

FATHER, ENGINEER AND CHAMPION Colonel Abu Steit was born in the city of Mansoura. He is a father of three children as well as an engineer and researcher in space sciences. Abu Steit joined the Military Technical College in 1996 and was among the top performers. He was appointed as a teaching assistant at the College after obtaining a master’s degree in mechanical engineering and then a doctorate degree. He also received the Military Duty Medal from the Armed Forces for his scientific and athletic excellence. Abou Steit’s father was a boxing champion and he started his career by playing kung fu when he was 6 years old. At the age of 18, Abou Steit won gold for the first Arab kickboxing championship in Amman, Jordan, in 1998 as a student at the Military Technical College. After 2000, he played more than 6 international matches, winning gold in 5 of them, and silver in the sixth due to an injury. He was named the dean of kickboxing players in the world. He also won the gold medal in five Arab kickboxing championships.

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“My parents have a great role in my love for sports and their support for me is great all the time, and they helped me a lot in juggling between sports and studying.» A LOT OF DREAMS Abu Steit said that his dreams have not stopped despite all these wins. He still has a lot of dreams to fulfill. «I have many dreams for the coming years. I will not stop at these wins and winning world championships, as my goals are bigger at the global level and at the level of breaking records.» Sending a message to Egyptian talents in the game, the winner of the World Kickboxing Championship said, «I had a goal of winning the tournament and I made it. I hope that this tournament will be the beginning of Egypt›s sweeping the board in world championships.» “I hope that it will also blaze a trail for young Egyptian players to make world records in kickboxing,” he added.


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Embrace Healthy Habits for a Robust Memory Try These Techniques to Help You Remember By Heidi Godman Getting more sleep, exercising, eating a healthy diet, and managing stress contribute to a healthier brain and better recall. Slight changes in memory and thinking skills are com-

mon in older age. Maybe you can’t recall a particular name or word, or you often forget where you put your keys or glasses. These little shifts in cognition are a normal part of aging and usually nothing to worry about. Yet they’re powerful reminders that we need to do everything possible to ward off cognitive decline and de-

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mentia. And some of these strategies are the same lifestyle habits that benefit other aspects of health, including heart, blood vessel, and gut health.

GET MORE SLEEP We need at least seven hours of sleep each night to help the body rest and the brain conduct important duties. During sleep, the brain’s glymphatic system flushes out waste produced by the brain, including Alzheimer’s disease-related toxins (such as the protein amyloid-beta). “Sleep is also the time when your brain consolidates and stores information you’ve learned in long-term memory. If you don’t get enough sleep, these functions may be impaired,” says Dr. Andrew Budson, chief of cognitive and behavioral neurology at VA Boston Healthcare System and co-author of the book Seven Steps to Managing Your Memory.

EAT A HEALTHY DIET

Aerobic exercise -- the kind that gets your heart and lungs pumping, like brisk walking - is considered a magic elixir for most aspects of health, including cognition. (Photo by Anupam Mahapatra on Unsplash)

A healthy diet may help ward off chronic inflammation (which may fuel Alzheimer’s disease) and a type of cognitive decline that results from silent “mini” strokes. These strokes block blood flow to the brain without any symptoms, slowly killing off brain cells. “Over time, you can have dozens or hundreds of these tiny strokes, with damage accumulating in the brain,” Dr. Budson notes. To protect yourself, generally avoid processed and sugary foods and animal fats (other than from fish): they’re associated with poor cardiovascular health. Opt instead for a Mediterranean-style diet, which is tied to lower risks for cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline. The diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and fish, as well as moderate amounts of poultry and dairy. Specific foods linked to less cognitive decline include dark, leafy greens (kale, spinach); fruits (strawberries, blueberries); and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, mackerel, walnuts).

EXERCISE Aerobic exercise -- the kind that gets your heart and lungs pumping, like brisk walking -- is considered a magic elixir for most aspects of health, including cognition. Exercise promotes the release of a powerful mole-

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We need at least 7 hours of sleep each night to help the body rest and the brain conduct important duties. During sleep, the brain’s glymphatic system flushes out waste produced by the brain, including Alzheimer’s disease-related toxins cule called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which repairs brain cells, strengthens their connections, promotes new brain cell growth, and enlarges the size of your hippocampus (a part of the brain involved in the storage and retrieval of memories). Exercise also increases blood flow to your brain and may protect the brain’s system for flushing out toxins. Dr. Budson recommends 30 minutes of daily aerobic exercise at least five days per week, as long as your doctor approves. And don’t worry if you’ve never been a workout enthusiast. “Starting a vigorous exercise program in midlife has been shown to delay the onset of dementia by almost 10 years. So whether you are 29 or 92, it’s a great age to start exercising,” Dr. Budson says.

TRY THESE TECHNIQUES TO HELP YOU REMEMBER Say information out loud as soon as you learn it, such as a person’s name or a development in the news. Say it aloud again later that day and even the next day. Break strands of numbers or letters into chunks. For example, instead of 1214117563, think of 12-14-1175-63. Enter appointments into a calendar as soon as you arrange them, not later on. Create acronyms to remember lists of information. For example: a grocery list of berries, apples, beans, chicken, almonds, and bread might be BABCAB. Create absurd images to remember your errand list.


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For example, if you have to go to the post office, buy some groceries, and drop off clothes at the dry cleaner, imagine you’re wearing all of the clothes at once, pushing a grocery cart full of mail. Stow important items like keys and glasses in the same place every day, so you’ll always know where they are. Keep pads and pens handy wherever you might need to jot down information: your kitchen, living room, bedside, or even your car’s glove compartment.

“When you’re stressed, your brain prioritizes your ability to figure out what’s going on and what you need to do. It deprioritizes processes that would allow you to rapidly retrieve your knowledge and memories.”

MANAGE STRESS WITH MINDFULNESS Stress makes it harder to retrieve information stored in the brain. “When you’re stressed, your brain prioritizes your ability to figure out what’s going on and what you need to do,” Dr. Budson explains. “It de-prioritizes processes that would allow you to rapidly retrieve your knowledge and memories.” One way to manage stress is by practicing mindfulness, a type of meditation that helps you learn to control your focus by observing the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings you’re experiencing. Sensory observations, by the way, help you record and call up memories. “As you put down your smartphone when you get home, for example, take a moment to focus on what you’re doing, how you’re feeling, and where you are,” Dr. Budson advises. “Later, if you can’t remember where you placed your phone, think of the images and feelings you experienced when you last had it. You’ll remember the moment and likely get your phone back.” This was originally published by Harvard Health Letter.

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Specific foods linked to less cognitive decline include dark, leafy greens (kale, spinach); fruits (strawberries, blueberries); and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, mackerel, walnuts). (Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash)



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ook Reviews

Hillary Clinton’s “Fiction” Is Former Secretary of State Playing Politics with Novels? By Mohammad Ali Salih – Washington Last week, Hillary Clinton, former first lady, former presidential nominee and former secretary of state, after two major nonfiction books, “Living History” and “Hard Choices,” about her years in politics, published a novel: “State of Terror” (with Louise Penny). Hillary seems to be following the steps of her husband, former president Bill Clinton, who, after two major non-fiction books, “My Life” and “Back to Work,” also, about his life in politics, published, in 2018, a novel: “The President is Missing”, and, this year, “The President’s Daughter”. “Beware of politicians who write about their real lives, because they might mostly write fiction, and beware of them when they write fictions, because they might write about real life,” commented a tweet on Hillary Clinton’s fiction book. Two examples from recent history of politicians writing novels show the tweet might not be, itself, a fiction: First, former Democratic Senator, Gary Hart, who, in 1987, left politics in disgrace, after a sexual scandal, wrote, in 2000, a novel titled “I, Che Guevara”, about a Cuban exile who returned to Cuba, and took power from Castro. And many critics wondered about what Hart had in his mind -- his real mind. Second, Winston Churchill, former British prime minister, wrote a novel, “Savrola,” about an imaginary country leading a revolution against a dictator. But, because of Churchill’s real life’s victory against Germany’s Nazi Hitler, the real and the fictional might have overlapped. Hillary Clinton’s novel, about terrorists trying to get their hands on a nuclear weapon, might not be strange to her role as a leader during 20 years of the U S-led Global War On Terrorism (GWOT), at least during her four years as secretary of state. The novel summary: A new president is in the White House, after

a tumultuous four years in which the previous president “screwed up everything it touched …” Ellen Adams, a former media mogul, was appointed secretary of state. Across the Atlantic Ocean, London and Paris were, meantime, struck by terrorist attacks. “Ellen” needed to find out what happened and who was responsible. But, according to the novel, the US government and its intelligence agencies were a network of ignorance and confusion about the «terrorists.» Sounds familiar? Clinton, aware of such questions, had an answer already: “All of our characters are fictional. I want to make that absolutely clear. But of course, some of their characteristics and behavior are inspired by real people.” Of course: First, the former U.S. president, Eric Dunn was “known as Eric the Dumb.” Second, Clinton wrote about “four years … (by) a president who was manipulated by foreign powers, who was indifferent to institutions and the rule of law.” Third, there were real names of real people, who recently passed away: Clinton’s friend since grade school, Betsy Johnson Ebeling; Penny’s husband, Michael Whitehead; and Ellen Tauscher, undersecretary of state when Clinton was secretary of state. “Although they are fictionalized versions of those people, it does to a degree make them immortal, which is an important thing

”Book: «State of Terror Authors: Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny Publisher: St. Martin›s Press, New York Print pages: 512 Paper: $24.99; electronic: $14,99 58

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Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the opening session of the Generation Equality Forum, in Paris on June 2021 ,30. (Photo by Eliot Blondet/ ABACAPRESS.COM via TNS)

Book Cover

for us,” Clinton, full of emotions, and almost in tears, said. Understandable, but she sounded like she was playing politics with novels. Enemies of Clinton, and there are many of them, have been repeating that she, for about 50 years in public life, has been playing politics with herself, her husband, the US and the world – for the sake of her own gratification. Beside American characters, there were foreigners, particularly, “terrorists,” like Iranian nuclear scientist Nasrin Bukhari, who “loved her country. She would do whatever was necessary to protect it.” But … “Nasrin can be a patriot, but also be on the verge of doing something horrific.” In an TV interview about the book, Clinton said something interesting: “Misguided militias, even evil as they are, have this ideology that they subscribe to that they’re somehow the true patriots. Their view of the United States is far from what I think, you know, most of us believe we are or should be.” In other words, she volunteered, and hinted about two things during these two decades of the US-led GWOT: First, a “terrorist” Muslim could, also, be a “patriot” for his own cause – something that she didn’t dare to say as a senator or secretary of state. Second, this Muslim could be a “true patriot,” as compared to the Americans’ questionable “patriotism” – something that would

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Hillary Clinton’s novel, about terrorists trying to get their hands on a nuclear weapon, might not be strange to her role as a leader during 20 years of the U S-led Global War On Terrorism (GWOT). have caused her enemies to call for her resignation had she said it then. But she said it now – in a novel, lest anyone accused her for not being “patriotic.” The novel’s leading villian was Bashir Shah, a Pakistani arms dealer “intent on creating a hell on earth.” Shah was secretly freed from prison with the blessing of the previous U.S. president. And there were the Israelis: the fictitious British foreign secretary wanted the fictitious US secretary of state to kill Shah, with the help of the Mossad -- and they both agreed. According to the novel, Shah, the world’s leading terrorist was loose again — and his next target is the US. Another problem: Shah was a “patriot” when the US asked Pakistan to free him, but he soon became a “terrorist”. When the fictional US secretary of state met the fictional Ayatollah of Iran, and asked for his help to stop the fellow Muslim Shah, the differences between “terrorism” and “patriotism” almost disappeared. Was that fiction or real life?