A New Perspective on Islamic Cultures
Warnings Against Slipping into Civil War in Ethiopia
A Weekly Political News Magazine
A Weekly Political News Magazine
Issue 1879- November- 19/11/2021
Prince Charles: The Heir Apparent to the British Throne
Issue 1879- November- 19/11/2021 www.majalla.com
Egypt’s Infrastructure Projects Shaping New Future
Editorial A Weekly Political News Magazine
President Abdel Fattah El Sisi can be seen frequently inspecting road, bridge and train projects in Cairo and then urging workers to complete construction in the shortest time possible. Economists says that Egypt’s major infrastructure projects which are now underway are expected to shape a new future for the North African country after decades of growing population and random construction. Menna Farouk takes an in-depth look at Egypt’s new road, bridge and transport projects that have been taking place since the Egyptian leader took office in 2013. On November 16th, clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh left 15 Armenian soldiers killed and according to the latest reports 24 Armenian servicemen remain unaccounted for. Maia Otarashvili analyses the Nagorno-Karabakh war which is far from over. In the culture section, Jiwan Soz interviews Syrian poet Hena Dawud who defied war with feminist, cultural activities. The ongoing almost decade-long war in her country has not prevented Syrian Poet Dawud from writing poetry and printing poetry collections, as well as conducting research related to the reality of women and participating in various cultural and feminist activities inside and outside Syria. In the society section, Sara Gamal talks about excessive social media use and how it may lead to relationship conflicts and negative outcomes. Read these articles and more on our website eng.majalla. com. As always, we welcome and value our readers’ feedback and we invite you to take the opportunity to leave your comments on our website.
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A Weekly Political News Magazine
A Weekly Political News Magazine
24 China’s Search for Allies
Issue 1879- November- 19/11/2021
20 Iraq’s Protesters Become Parliamentarians
34 South Caucasus in Turmoil
36 Divorce: Is Social Media Use to Blame?
58 Live Long and Prosper
Syrian Poet Defies War with 50 Feminist, Cultural Activities 5
54 ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ Haunted by Franchise’s Past
The National Aquarium in Abu Dhabi A visitor takes a closer look at fish at the newly opened The National Aquarium Abu Dhabi, the largest aquarium in the Middle East and home to around 46,000 aquatic animals, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates )Reuters Photos(
Beirut International Marathon People throw colored powder on each other during the Fun Run of Beirut International Marathon in Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021. Lebanon held its annual marathon for the first time Saturday after a two-year stop due to nationwide protests and the spread of coronavirus. Beirut )AFP Photos(
Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, kicked off a three-day visit to Jordan on Tuesday aimed at cementing a century of relations between the allied countries. It is part of the first royal tour since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Charles and Camilla were greeted on the tarmac by a Jordanian color guard. They met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Queen Rania at the royal palace in the capital, Amman, before traveling in an electric vehicle to the Christian holy site of Maghtas.
Egypt is expecting to begin exporting 60-65 million cubic feet of gas per day to Lebanon by early next year, Egyptian Petroleum Minister Tarek El Molla said on Tuesday. Egypt will supply the gas, in line with the quantity that Lebanon had requested, "as soon as we can ... we might expect it end of the year, early next year", Molla said on the sidelines of an oil and gas conference in Abu Dhabi. "We are just (doing) due diligence, checking the pipelines," he said.
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KUWAIT Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmed al-Sabah accepted on Sunday the resignation of the government, state news agency KUNA reported, as the oil-rich country's rulers seek to end a feud with lawmakers that has hindered fiscal reforms. Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Sabah submitted on Nov. 8 the resignation of his cabinet, formed in March. An Emiri decree asked the outgoing government to remain in a caretaker capacity until a new cabinet is formed, KUNA said.
Dubai’s biennial Air Show opened Sunday to a world still reeling from the pandemic and an aviation industry hard-hit by the coronavirus, but on the mend.
IRAN The U.N. nuclear watchdog on Wednesday issued reports detailing its conflicts with Iran, from rough treatment of its inspectors to re-installing cameras it deems "essential" for the revival of Tehran's nuclear deal. Indirect negotiations between Iran and the United States on reviving the 2015 deal are due to resume on Nov. 29, after a quarterly meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation Board of Governors at which diplomats say no action is likely to be taken against Iran for fear of harming the talks.
A WEEK ACROS CANADA.
U.S. New York City's Times Square will once again fill with revelers ringing in the New Year on Dec. 31, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Tuesday, but only if they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Last year, the still-raging coronavirus pandemic allowed only a handful of invited guests, including essential workers, to witness in person the dropping of the iconic New Year’s Eve ball, signaling the start of the New Year.
Floods and landslides that have killed at least one person have cut all rail access to Canada's largest port in the city of Vancouver, a spokesperson for the port said on Tuesday. Two days of torrential rain across the Pacific province of British Columbia touched off major flooding and shut rail routes operated by Canadian Pacific Rail and Canadian National Railway, Canada's two biggest rail companies. "All rail service coming to and from the Port of Vancouver is halted because of flooding in the British Columbia interior," port spokesperson Matti Polychronis said.
LIBYA. The son of late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi appeared for nearly the first time in a decade on Sunday to register as a presidential candidate for a December vote planned to help end the years of chaos since his father was toppled. Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, 49, appeared in an electoral commission video in traditional brown robe and turban, and with a grey beard and glasses, signing documents at the election center in the southern town of Sebha.
SS THE WORLD POLAND Polish security forces fired water cannon at rock-throwing migrants on the border with Belarus on Tuesday, and NATO reiterated its support for Warsaw in a crisis that has left thousands stranded on the frontier in icy temperatures. Video footage released by Polish authorities showed migrants also throwing bottles and logs across a barbed-wire border fence, and using sticks to try to break through. Seven police were hurt in the violence, the latest in a crisis the European Union says is orchestrated by Belarus - an ally of Russia - in retaliation for EU sanctions imposed over a crackdown on political protests, a charge that Minsk denies.
CHINA. Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to use his first virtual meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden to warn the United States to "step back" on the Taiwan issue, according to Chinese state media editorials printed on Monday. Xi and Biden are scheduled to meet virtually on Tuesday morning Beijing time - Monday evening in Washington - as friction between the countries persist across a range of issues including trade, technology, Xinjiang and especially Taiwan, a self-ruled island claimed by China.
INDIA. India stepped up efforts on Wednesday to combat high levels of pollution in New Delhi that threaten the lives of residents and others nearby, ordering a temporary halt to operations of five power stations and longer school closures.
Egypt’s Infrastructure Projects Shaping New Future A Deep Look into Road, Bridge, and Train Projects in Egypt Menna A. Farouk Egypt’s major infrastructure projects which are now underway are expected to shape a new future for the North African country after decades of growing population and random construction, experts say.
President Abdel Fattah El Sisi can be seen frequently inspecting road, bridge and train projects in Cairo and then urging workers to complete construction in the shortest time possible. The roads and bridges that the Egyptian leader inspects represent the most visible
aspect of a major infrastructure drive aimed at revitalizing the economy and putting an end to traffic congestion. The public works projects include several new cities and the construction of one million low cost housing units, and have helped Egypt weather the economic shock caused by the coronavirus pandemic. One of the areas that is witnessing intense activity is eastern Cairo as a network of new roads and bridges being built in the desert are leading towards a new capital which is under construction in the desert and due to open in December. A total of six new bridges to reduce traffic jams were built in Cairo’s eastern neighborhoods of Heliopolis and Nasr City in record time as part of Egypt›s National Project for New Roads and the East Cairo Development Plan.
Cairo monorail project will have a length of 56.5 km, which represents a major cultural shift in mass transportation, as it is fast, safe and environmentally friendly, according to economists. Credit: Bombardier
The new bridges have eased traffic to and from Heliopolis and Nasr City and reduced journey times by establishing limited access superhighways capable of accommodating large volumes of traffic, while providing parking lots and modifying the direction of a number of streets which are also being widened.
CIVILIZATIONAL SHIFT Among the mega projects carried out by the Egyptian government is the New Administrative Capital Monorail project, which is believed to be representing a revolution in the transport sector of Egypt. The project, in which Egypt is racing against time with record rates of completion, will change the map of the Egyptian cities through which it will pass. According to figures from the Egyptian Ministry of Transport, the implementation rate of the Monorail project in the new administrative capital is %21, which is a
President Abdel Fattah El Sisi can be seen frequently inspecting road, bridge and train projects in Cairo and then urging workers to complete construction in the shortest time possible. record rate. One of the most important steps of the project is to manufacture and fully test the first train while the second, third and fourth trains are under construction, according to information from the Ministry of Transport. The project will have a length of 56.5 km, which represents a major cultural shift in mass transportation, as it is fast, safe and environmentally friendly, according to economists. It also saves fuel consumption, reduces environmental pollution rates and relieves traffic congestion on main thoroughfares and streets, they add. According to the Ministry of Transport, the first phase of the monorail from the new administrative capital to the AlMushir Mosque station is 45 km long and is planned to open at the end of May 2022. That will be followed by the February 2023 opening of the section from the Al-Mushir Mosque station to Stadium station, with a length of about 11.5 km.
REDUCED TRAFFIC Hassan El-Haywan, an economist and professor of economics at Ain Shams University, said that the road projects will
bring a lot to Egypt. “It will not only benefit the people who will feel an easing in traffic congestion but it will also benefit businessmen and investors as well as tourists who visit the country,” he said. He added that development in areas that were worthless desert or completely isolated villages is greatly beneficial for both the government and the people.
One of the most important steps of the project is to manufacture and fully test the first train while the second, third and fourth trains are under construction, according to information from the Ministry of Transport.
“Such development boosts economic goals in the speed of transportation of goods and raw materials and the availability of job opportunities, whether direct or indirect, as well as investment and tourism goals,” he said. Ahmed el-Shami, another economist, said that using smart transport helps manage the transport system more efficiently and contributes to achieving the highest efficiency of road and traffic management. He added that development in the desert would reduce the crowding on the main arteries within the city and would create new integrated communities. Elsewhere in other governorates nationwide, road projects are in full swing. The Egyptian transport minister said that spending on the transport sector will reach 1.1 trillion Egyptian pounds (USD70$ billion) in 2024. “Taking care of infrastructure in other
The Egyptian transport minister said that spending on the transport sector will reach 1.1 trillion Egyptian pounds (USD $70 billion) in 2024. Credit: Reuters
The infrastructure projects, in which Egypt is racing against time with record rates of completion, will change the map of the Egyptian cities through which it will pass.
governorates will greatly reduce migration from rural to urban areas and would end the centralization of the capital,” El-Shami said.
CONCERNS However, some have raised concerns about the excessive spending on roads and bridges while neglecting other key fields like education and health. In televised statements, President Sisi said that it is necessary to implement these projects to facilitate people›s lives, reduce wasted time and pressure, and reduce fuel consumption and pollution. A study prepared by the World Bank in 2014 estimated the cost of congestion in Greater Cairo to be the equivalent of 3.6 percent of GDP, which is much higher than some other major cities. “The government loses millions of dollars every year because of traffic and trying to
“Such development boosts economic goals in the speed of transportation of goods and raw materials and the availability of job opportunities, whether direct or indirect, as well as investment and tourism goals.” reduce these costs would greatly help the economy,” El-Shami said. He added that easing traffic and reducing journey times would also lower daily pressures on people which would increase their productivity at work. “This is not only about roads and bridges it is about the society and the future of the people,” he added.
Does it make sense to turn a new page with a murderer ?
by Alia Mansour
A year ago the U.S. Democratic President Joe Biden was elected to succeed the Republican President Donald Trump, but until this moment his policy on Syria, if any, has not been announced. We have long realized a reluctance concerning the Syrian issue, although the U.S. State Department occasionally repeated its opposition to dealing with the Assad regime before reaching a political solution according to international decisions. Since Biden came to power, his administration kept repeating that it wouldn’t participate in floating the Syrian regime, although it stopped short of announcing its absolute rejection to normalization of ties with the regime, contrary to the past administrations. The stance taken by the Democratic Administration, particularly Biden, who was formerly Obama’s vice President, is not surprising. Still, the frequent question posed during the past few months was: “When will the U.S. Administration completely abandon the Syrian issue?” Although the U.S.Iranian negotiations have had their ups and downs, the Iranian regional expansionism was never an obstacle to returning to the nuclear deal.
failed during the past 16 years. This spans the period from the assassination of the Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, and the subsequent attempts to separate Assad from Iran to the outbreak of the Syrian uprising and direct and indirect Iranian intervention in Syria via militias, in addition to plunging the country into the Revolutionary Guards’ mercenaries of various nationalities. It was notable that few weeks ago, during the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to Russia, Israel, the closest ally of the U.S., agreed with Moscow that the Israeli raids will not target the Syrian regime nor its infrastructure. Strangely, Israel is counting on the Russians to contain the Iranian role in Syria, at least to distance Iranians from Israel’s northern borders. That was previously agreed upon, but Russia has failed or has been unwilling to fulfill the promise since 2018.
If Israel was unable to act due to the absence of American cover and stance on Iranian intervention, and Russia is unable or unwilling to distance Iran from Israeli borders, how would floating the Assad regime be the means to All that said, some still bet on a pos- get Iran out of Syria? Or even limit its sible Arabization of the Syrian regime, influence? which didn’t happen and repeatedly Since Hafez Assad seized power in a 18
There is a serious economic component to the plan, designed not just to help the Palestinians but the Jordanians, Lebanese and Egyptians.
1970 coup, Syria was the soft spot that enabled Iran to infiltrate into the region. Now Iran leaves no chance to assert with usual impudence that it controls four Arab countries. Betting on returning the Syrian regime to the Arab league and normalizing ties with it, in order to weaken the Iranian regime, is in fact legitimization of the Iranian occupation and would offer Iran a new seat and vote in the Arab League. We have not forgotten pro-Iranian stances against Arab countries, taken by former Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil during the AL meetings, top of which is Saudi Arabia. Bashar Assad and his regime are indebted to Iran for staying in the Tishreen Palace in Damascus. Even earlier, the Syrian regime since the 1970s was indebted to the Islamic Republic of Iran for its existence. Thus, the incentives of reconstruction and returning to the Arab League won’t help in Arabizing Assad. The one who wreaks havoc on his country won’t feel it urgent to rebuild it; the one who besieged Syrians and left them starve to death is not concerned with their current suffering.
A main point most writers and commentators ignore is that Assad’s problem is not only caused by Iranian hegemony over Syria, because Syria is not about geography or regime, but it is the Syrians. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians were killed and millions more were displaced by Assad, so will it make sense to turn a new page with the murderer? During my teenage, I was interested in Agatha Christie’s novels. I read them passionately to see if there was ever a perfect crime, but all the novels ended with uncovering the perpetrator in spite of his/her shrewdness and attempts to hide all evidence. Today, we have grown up to see a crime that was seen live, and the murderer doesn’t even bother to hide any of its traces - he even takes a “selfie” of the crime and posts it live on social media. Nevertheless, this crime is “perfect”. The murderer is known, the murder’s methods are documented, and the victims are just names and torn bodies, but the perpetrator may go unpunished. If Agatha Christie was alive, what would she have said about this crime that was beyond her imagination? 19
A main point most writers and commentators ignore is that Assad’s problem is not only caused by Iranian hegemony over Syria, because Syria is not about geography or regime, but it is the Syrians
Iraq’s Protesters Become Parliamentarians From the Streets to the Parliament
unaccountable and corrupt political system that has prevailed since the toppling of Saddam Hussein. In October, Iraq held its fifth parliamentary election As expected, turnout for the vote was the lowest in since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. The polls took place Iraq’s recent history, officially recorded at 36 percent. in a moment of deep gloom and anger with the politi- Many analysts believe that the true figure is in fact cal process. Many Iraqis across the country refused much lower. The international community, including to vote out of the conviction that elections have not the United States, the European Union, and the United deepened democracy but instead have reinforced the Nations, invested millions of dollars in trying to inBy Renad Mansour
still trust in elections, which first took place in 2005. So, too, have religious institutions and leaders such as Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani sought to get Iraqis to vote. Despite these efforts, many Iraqis remain thoroughly disillusioned and disinterested in the electoral options offered to them. Nevertheless, these elections did appear to provide some grounds for optimism. A few parties and political figures associated with huge public protests in 2019 won seats in the new parliament. They share a distrust of and impatience with the Iraqi political system and seek to curb the entrenched corruption that has created a narrow ruling elite. This system has proved resilient to all challenges, but the burgeoning coalition of reform-minded political groups holds out the prospect of at least incremental change in Iraq.
THE HEAVY HAND OF THE STATE
An anti-government protest in Baghdad, Iraq, May 2021. Credit: Reuters.
This year’s election followed a period of upheaval in Iraq. In the wake of the 2018 election, many Iraqis took to the streets, convinced that the vote was rigged. Demonstrations flared that year in Basra, which suffered power and water cuts in the scorching summer months, with protesters calling for better services and condemning the corrupt political class. In response, the state violently clamped down on protesters in Basra in a sign of things to come. The Iraqi government has lost the confidence of much of the country. Almost two-thirds of Iraqis are under the age of 25. In recent years, faced with economic crises linked primarily to fluctuations in the price of oil (which accounts for over 90 percent of state revenue), the government has struggled to create jobs and provide basic services to this growing population. Instead, the establishment parties have used their access to government positions to take from state coffers and develop and sustain their own patronage networks, catering only to a shrinking sliver of society. Disillusionment over this politically sanctioned corruption bubbled over in 2019 when young Iraqis took to Baghdad’s Tahrir Square and other squares in the south to again protest failures of governance. Known as the October Uprising, these demonstrations spread to cities across the country and posed a major challenge not just to the government of Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi but also to the political system that came into being in the wake of the 2003 invasion—the simultaneous collaboration and competition of ethno-sectarian political parties (including Shiite,
Disillusionment over this politically sanctioned corruption bubbled over in 2019 when young Iraqis took to Baghdad’s Tahrir Square and other squares in the south to again protest failures of governance. Sunni, and Kurdish groups and parties representing smaller minorities) in forming governments and administering the state’s coffers. Protesters arrayed themselves not against a particular leader or party but rather against the entire ruling elite and the political status quo that elections only reinforce. The state responded to protests in Basra in 2018 and the 2019 October Uprising with unprecedented violence. The government, which viewed the uprising as an existential threat, relied on armed groups that killed hundreds of demonstrators and injured tens of thousands more. Eventually, authorities were able to reclaim the public squares and send protesters home. Since then, the state has sought to deter mass mobilizations in part by allowing armed groups to carry out a campaign of assassinations that have targeted dozens of political activists and civil society leaders. These armed groups enjoy total impunity for helping to protect the system from the upwelling of popular anger. Authorities have jailed, tortured, and intimidated many more activists. The repression of the protest movements achieved its desired result. If many Iraqis in 2018 doubted that their votes could bring about change, many Iraqis in 2021 grew to fear that protests are incapable of bringing about change and only invite violent retribution. The low turnout of the 2021 election reflected the sense of resignation that pervades Iraqi society. Parties with social bases and networks of patronage won a disproportionate number of seats, taking advantage of voter apathy. The bloc led by Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr did best, increasing its parliamentary seat total from 54 to 73, while its main competitor, Fateh, struggled primarily because of its failure to navigate changes in the electoral system. In the years since the
toppling of Saddam Hussein, Sadr has often portrayed himself as a political outsider and an antagonist of the state even as he remains one of Iraq’s chief power brokers. But the election didn’t just offer more of the same. New parties and political leaders who had emerged from the protests of recent years did surprisingly well. Emtidad, a party that grew out of the occupation of squares in the city of Nasiriya and is led by the protest organizer Alaa al-Rikabi, won nine seats. Rikabi himself received the third-highest number of votes of any individual candidate. Other protest-inspired groups fared well, including Ishraq Qanoon, which won six seats, and the New Generation Movement, which won nine seats. The latter is a party born out of protests in the autonomous Kurdistan region, where many people suffer from the same disillusionment as people in central and southern Iraq. Several activists involved in the protests across the country also ran as independents and won seats. Together, these groups and figures could form an important slice of the new parliament. They have claimed that they will not take part in the usual horsetrading that comes after an election as parties wrangle over access to state coffers but will instead use their seats to form an opposition to the ruling consensus. At stake here is the emergence of something that has never really existed in Iraq’s recent history: an opposition within the parliament. Instead of the usual national consensus governments that bring together all sides, these MPs seek to forge a significant bloc that
Instead of the usual national consensus governments that bring together all sides, these MPs seek to forge a significant bloc that can represent those Iraqis who do not benefit from existing patronage networks.
can represent those Iraqis who do not benefit from existing patronage networks. If they can survive as an integral bloc over the next four years, they hope to win even more votes and build an even bigger opposition bloc in the next election, holding out the prospect of greater accountability and incremental reform coming from within the system—a possibility that many Iraqis have given up on.
A FOOT IN THE DOOR Nevertheless, this coalition of parties affiliated with the protests faces an uphill battle. Similar challenges to the status quo in Iraq have foundered in the past. The Gorran movement that emerged from protests in the city of Sulaymaniyah in the autonomous Kurdistan region in 2009 ultimately failed to change the political system. It, too, sought to form an opposition to bring down the duopoly of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in Kurdistan. But over the years, the two dominant parties managed to divide and weaken the Gorran movement. The death of its leader, Nawshirwan Mustafa, also sparked further infighting and exposed deep internal tensions. A year later, the Iraqiya coalition, which consisted of a mix of secular Sunni and Shiite parties, won the 2010 election but never managed to come to power: then Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was able to entice defectors to leave the group, again revealing the great vulnerability of broad coalitions in Iraqi politics. He also managed to end the feuding between the main Shiite parties; the establishment came together in the face of the threat of Iraqiya. Today’s most recent iteration of resistance to the prevailing political system will face similar challenges. Its coalition is not hugely unified. It will come up against the entrenched interests of the elite consensus; Sadr, Maliki, and other standard-bearers of the establishment will again set aside feuding to break up and contain the challengers. The powerful ruling parties fear being dislodged from their perch and losing control of the state coffers. As they form a new government in the wake of the election, they will negotiate not just for ministerial jobs but also for senior civil service positions, posts that have allowed these parties to generate revenue and maintain their patronage networks. The divisions between the dominant parties—namely, between those
A file photo of Iraqi protesters denouncing election results and caling for a manual recount of the Oct. 10 parliamentary vote protest outside the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq. Credit: AP
attached to Sadr and those aligned with Maliki and Fateh—may at times be pronounced and have led to violence (including the recent assault on the residence of the prime minister), but they are not insoluble; the political elites will ultimately agree to stymie the protest parties, which represent a new existential threat to the current order. The ruling elites are experienced in dividing, threatening, and silencing such threats. For their part, the MPs affiliated with the protests are not part of a coherent bloc and are, in many cases, new to politics. They must square a circle; they will have limited ability to effect change in a parliament tilted against them, but their inability to effect change will be held against them in the next election cycle. At times they will also risk being divided, given that they represent not a single entity but many small movements. They may lose the confidence that many desperate Iraqis bestowed on them. In the best-case scenario, these MPs will endure in parliament as a coherent group while
maintaining relations with civil society and protest movements and building ties with reformists within the Iraqi government, in the process strengthening the connective tissue of reform. Nevertheless, the odds are stacked against them. As the MPs attempt to survive in a hostile parliament, the state will continue to target civil society activists and limit basic freedoms of political mobilization and expression. The government will also continue to fail in providing basic services and employment to a growing population. But its failures will not catalyze support for the protest-affiliated MPs. Some Iraqis look at the protest parties with hope for incremental reform, but the resilient and unaccountable political system will strive to ensure the continuation of the status quo. If they see no improvement in their lives in four years, disillusioned Iraqis will not likely return to the parties they hoped would usher in better times. This article was originally published by Foreign Affairs.
China’s Search for Allies
China Creates a Network of Its Own Patricia M. Kim The United States’ network of alliances has long been a central pillar of its foreign policy—and, as competition with China has intensified in recent years, held up as a major U.S. advantage. The administration of President Joe Biden has put a particular emphasis on allies in its Asia strategy. In its first year, the administration has both strengthened long-standing alliances such as those with Japan and South Korea and put considerable energy into bolstering multilateral partnerships such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (with Australia, India, and Japan) and the newly formed AUKUS pact (with Australia and the United Kingdom). China, by contrast, has shied away from formal alliances, based on its supposedly distinct view of international rela-
tions and a pragmatic desire to avoid the risks of entanglement. But there are signs that Beijing’s resistance is starting to erode. In more recent years, it has upgraded its strategic partnerships and expanded military exchanges and joint exercises with countries including Russia, Pakistan, and Iran. These partnerships are still a far cry from U.S. alliances (which involve mutual defense clauses, extensive troopbasing agreements, and joint military capabilities). But they could in time form the basis of China’s own alliance network if Chinese leaders come to believe that one is necessary for both its deterrent effect and its operational value to prevail in a long-term competition with the United States and its allies. Such a development would mark a true turning point in this era of U.S.-Chinese competition and pave the way to an alarming new world with lower thresholds for regional and great power conflict.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi shakes hands with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during signing a 25-year cooperation agreement at the Diaoyutai state guest house in Beijing, China December 31, 2019.
Today, China has only one formal ally—North Korea, with whom it shares a mutual defense treaty. But it has dozens of official partnerships with states around the world. At the top of the pyramid are Russia and Pakistan (whose extra-special ties with Beijing are denoted by long and exclusive monikers, “ChinaRussia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Coordination for a New Era” and “China-Pakistan All Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership”). Then come several Southeast Asian states—Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos—as well as states farther afield, such as Egypt, Brazil, and New Zealand. Beijing has also invested great energy into building Chinese-led multilateral mechanisms, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, and the ChinaArab States Cooperation Forum. China has avoided building a traditional network of allies thus far for reasons ranging from long-standing ideological inclinations to hardheaded strategic calculations. Since the early days of the People’s Republic, Beijing has sought to portray itself as a leader of the developing world and a proponent of Non-Aligned Movement principles of noninterference and antiimperialism. In more recent years, Chinese leaders have begun to insist that they practice a “new type of international relations,” eschewing traditional power politics in favor of “win-win cooperation.” Such language is meant to bolster the narrative that China’s rise should not be feared but be welcomed as a boon for global development and prosperity—and to distinguish Beijing from Washington, which Chinese leaders frequently criticize for maintaining an outdated “Cold War mentality.” In addition to such public diplomacy efforts, Beijing’s alliance-shy posture reflects a strategic decision to build relationships centered around economic ties in its quest for power and global influence. This is not to say that China uses only economic statecraft to advance its objectives. In fact, China has rapidly expanded its military capabilities over the last two decades and used its newfound might to intimidate Taiwan, jostle with India along a disputed border, and press its sovereignty claims in the East China and South China Seas. Nonetheless, while Chinese leaders consider military power essential for protecting their homeland, core national interests, and citizens and investments abroad, they have demonstrated little desire to take on external security commitments that could drag their country into far-flung conflicts. Beijing has bet instead that offering loans, investments, and trade opportunities, and doing business with any sovereign entity, regardless of its character and track record at home, will win China friends and influence. And this strategy has paid off. Many of China’s part-
China has shied away from formal alliances, based on its supposedly distinct view of international relations and a pragmatic desire to avoid the risks of entanglement. ners, particularly in the developing world, have welcomed its engagement and supported its core interests in exchange. This support tends to be primarily diplomatic in nature—for instance, affirming Beijing’s “one China” principle; staying silent or even praising its repressive policies in Xinjiang; and endorsing its agenda in multilateral forums such as the United Nations. And along with economic inducements, Beijing has increasingly turned to economic coercion to punish states that defy its demands—as in the case of Australia, which saw stiff Chinese tariffs slapped on its exports after it banned the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from its networks and supported an international investigation into the origin of COVID-19.
Beijing’s Changing Calculations In the near term, China is unlikely to abandon its geoeconomic strategy for dominance altogether. But there are two possible scenarios that could drive it to build a bona fide network of allies: if Beijing perceives a sharp enough deterioration in its security environment that overturns its cost-benefit analysis on pursuing formal military pacts; or if it decides to displace the United States as the predominant military power, not just in the Indo-Pacific region, but globally. (These two scenarios are not, of course, mutually exclusive.) Chinese leaders may come to such conclusions if they assess that the Communist Party’s core interests, such as its hold on power at home, authority over Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong, and claims of sovereignty over Taiwan would be untenable without striking formal defense pacts with key partners such as Russia, Pakistan, or Iran. In fact, Chinese assessments have already begun to move in this direction. For instance, Chinese commentary on the significant deepening of Sino-Russian ties in recent years often points to growing “encirclement” by the West as the primary driver of this development and emphasizes the need for Beijing and Moscow to work jointly to push back on U.S.-led coalitions. Although Beijing continues to insist that China and Russia are “not allies,” it has begun to assert in the
same breath that there are “no restricted areas” and “no upper limit” to their partnership. Since 2012, China and Russia have conducted increasingly expansive military drills, including regular naval exercises in the East China and South China Sea, and at times in conjunction with third parties such as Iran and South Africa. Just last month, the two made headlines for holding their first ever joint patrol in the western Pacific, which the Global Times—a Chinese state-run tabloid—said was aimed at the United States as it “gangs up with its allies like Japan and Australia.” To be sure, Beijing and Moscow’s tenuous history of friendship and rivalry and the value both states place on strategic autonomy may limit the extent of their partnership. Still, the two states could conceivably strike a deal on rendering mutual aid, from logistical support up to direct assistance, including in grey zone or conventional military operations, if either government comes to believe it faces an existential threat. Another example of China’s shifting posture is its em-
China has avoided building a traditional network of allies thus far for reasons ranging from longstanding ideological inclinations to hardheaded strategic calculations.
brace of “rogue states.” For instance, Chinese leaders have begun to characterize China-North Korea relations in strikingly different tones from just a few years ago when Beijing took pains to distance itself from Pyongyang. This past July, the two allies renewed their mutual defense treaty and vowed to elevate their alliance to “new levels.” Earlier this year, China also signed a 25-year cooperation agreement with Iran, providing economic projects and investment in exchange for access to Iranian oil. The two countries also pledged to deepen cooperation through joint military exchanges, intelligence sharing, and weapons development. China soon after endorsed Iran’s bid for full membership in the SCO, 15 years after Tehran’s initial application. According to Chinese analysts, Beijing had sidestepped the issue for more than a decade to avoid upsetting Washington and creating the impression that the SCO is aimed at countering the United States. But it decided to move ahead upon concluding that Washington’s “containment policy” toward China was here to stay. Although it remains to be seen just how much actual “upgrading” these partnerships will undergo, such developments suggest that Beijing’s desires not to entangle itself too deeply with actors such as Iran and North Korea for both strategic and image-driven reasons may be gradually eroding as it perceives an increasingly hostile external environment and, thus, greater urgency in enlisting allies. (This is notwithstanding questions about the reliability of these actors and their own suspicions of China, among other complicating factors.) Chinese leaders could very well decide in the foreseeable future that the best way to protect their interests and withstand pressure from Washington and its allies
Pakistan’s Prime Mininster Imran Khan with Chinese president Xi Jinping. Credit: Reuters
In more recent years, it has upgraded its strategic partnerships and expanded military exchanges and joint exercises with countries including Russia, Pakistan, and Iran. Credit: AFP
is for China to become an indispensable military power with its own network of allies—just as the United States did more than 70 years ago. To be sure, emulating the U.S. historical playbook won’t be easy. Most of the world’s advanced economies, after all, are already official allies of the United States. Beijing also faces deep skepticism around the globe about its long-term intentions and hegemonic tendencies. That’s true even of its closest Belt and Road Initiative partners. And many states have made clear that they do not want to exclusively align with either Beijing or Washington. But the status quo is not immutable. China is swiftly cultivating ties with advanced economies and developing states, and it is attempting to drive wedges between the United States and its allies and partners. Even if it is unable to bring some players to its side, it could push for the “Finlandization” of key strategic areas such as the Korean Peninsula and parts of Southeast Asia, forcing states to renounce their strategic ties with the United States.
Alliances Have Consequences The great strides the Biden administration has made to revitalize U.S. alliances and increase U.S. allies’ contributions to security in the Indo-Pacific region are essential in this era of shifting power balances and strategic competition. But Biden should be aware that when U.S. leaders vow to reimagine Washington’s alliances and work toward “a new 21st century vision” of “integrated deterrence,” Beijing could very well pursue the same with its own strategic partners. This is not to say that Washington should distance itself from its allies in hopes of moderating China’s
To be sure, emulating the U.S. historical playbook won’t be easy. Most of the world’s advanced economies, after all, are already official allies of the United States. behavior. After all, Beijing’s choices will be chiefly informed by its own strategic vision and ambitions. Nevertheless, the Biden administration would do well to consider how its successes in rallying friends could impact Beijing’s threat perceptions and unwittingly spur the creation of a rival Chinese-led alliance network. Serious thought should be given now on how to live with, and better yet prevent, such an outcome. Efforts along these lines should include considering ways to keep China invested in stable relations with the United States and its allies and making sure to engage with a broad array of states, not just like-minded democracies, so that those outside the United States’ traditional circle of friends do not conclude that their best or only option is to align with Beijing. Strategic foresight and planning will be essential to prevent the drift toward a truly divided world, with an opposing bloc helmed by a more entangled and interventionist China. ©2021 Council on Foreign Relations, publisher of Foreign Affairs. All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Warnings Against Slipping into Civil War in Ethiopia As Country Descends into Uncertain Politics, Dictatorship Threat Looms By: Ahmed Taher Baku- Three years have passed since Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed deceived the world by raising the slogans of justice, equality and freedom. The truth behind his orientations, aspirations and dreams was soon revealed, and, due to his intransigent policies, became nightmares disturbing his life. He may either end up in exile in one of the neighboring countries and prosecuted by the International Criminal Court for committing war crimes or put in jail in his country on the same charges. The peaceful
mask which he wore and which led to his being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, (which must now be reconsidered), fell off in the first real test. In fact, despite the bleakness of both scenarios on Ahmed’s future, those put forward for the future of the Ethiopian state remain bleaker, as expressed by the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo in her address to the UN Security Council on Nov. 8. “No one could really predict what continued fighting and insecurity will bring. But let me
clear: What is certain is that the risk of Ethiopia descending into widening civil war is only too real,” she stressed, warning of “grave uncertainty” surrounding the future of the country and stability of the whole Horn of Africa region.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed
This report reviews the probable paths of the year-long escalating Ethiopian crisis. In November 2020, Ahmed launched a military attack against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which has long dominated the national government before he came to power. It was an active party in the national politics and dominated the political and security apparatus for nearly 30 years after it took control of Addis Ababa and overthrew the Marxist military regime, represented by the Provisional Administrative Military Council in 1991. However, it lost control when Abiy took office in 2018 and succeeded in removing the front, which did not take part in the course of national events. It also rejected the elections held by the Prime Minister in the region, launching that round of conflict, which has recently witnessed an accelerated pace. The Tigray forces have recently succeeded in controlling key strategic cities of Dessie and Kombolcha, which enabled them to control a major highway to Djibouti, Ethiopia’s economic hub, prompting Ahmed to escalate his military war and kill civilians. According to relevant international organizations, the Premier’s recent actions are considered crimes against humanity and genocide since he used all means of oppression and violence to silence the ethnic movements and fronts that demand their political and economic rights.
Ethiopian Crisis and Future Scenarios There are three possible scenarios for the future of the Ethiopian crisis, as follows: First scenario: The success of the newlyformed alliance of Ethiopian factions, dubbed the “United Front of Ethiopian Federalist and Confederalist Forces” to overthrow Ahmed’s regime, dominate the country’s resources and
shall enter a transitional phase to rearrange the situation and share power among the partners. Tigrayan forces mounted a remarkable counterattacking campaign and began coordinating with the Oromo Liberation Army, a rebel group in the Oromia region. Together with seven other opposition groups, they formed the alliance to replace Abiy’s government. This scenario is most likely to take place since the alliance was announced by faction leaders in Washington, indicating that the US wants to get rid of Ahmed’s regime, which has committed war crimes and bolstered ties with China, which in turn has been waging an economic war against the US. If this ambitious scenario turns out to be a success and gets rid of a regime tainted with the blood of Ethiopians, it would lead to two possible courses: The first is concluding several understandings between the political and military forces in a way that restores stability in the war-torn country. As a result, the constitution is amended, new elections are held to reflect the balance of power on the ground and a new phase begins in the history of the state, during which the wrongdoings of the past are addressed and state institutions are built on foundations that would attain balance among racial, ethnic and religious divisions. The second is entering a new phase of power struggle among military and political parties that succeeded in overthrowing Ahmed’s regime so that the country witnesses further division. Second scenario: The premier succeeds in dealing a fatal blow to the newly formed opposition alliance by tightening his grip and controlling the situation, taking advantage of the available resources, including soldiers and equipment, compared to the opposition fronts. Under this scenario, Ethiopia enters a new phase of abhorrent dictatorship in dealing with the opposition alliance. It may lead to a temporary de-escalation of the conflict under the excessive use of force that compels all parties to submit.
In this regard, Ethiopia is expected to witness more crimes against civilians of the opposition fronts. They may amount to the physical liquidation of the leaders of these fronts and their active elements. However, the situation will not eventually stabilize and the conflict between these forces will be renewed, as happened recently. The Ethiopian army is expected to enter into a guerrilla war with the elements of those fronts that refuse to resolve the conflict in favor of the government. Third scenario: The failure of the two parties (the current government and the opposition
The current events in Ethiopia require all international, regional and local parties to be aware of the seriousness of the expected consequences of the crisis.
forces) to resolve the conflict in their favor, slipping the country into a massive civil war that would lead to the division of the federal state into conflicting states based on racial and ethnic grounds. This would make it difficult to reunite the state, increasing the suffering of people, who are paying the price of this raging conflict. In this case, the conflict will affect the country’s geographical neighborhood, which in turn is witnessing many internal conflicts, bringing the entire region into a new destructive phase.
These scenarios remain dependent on three factors. The first is the role of the international powers immersed in the Ethiopian crisis. Over the past years, international major powers, including the United States, Russia and China (which has the largest volume of investments in Ethiopia) have been present in the African country’s arena. Their interests certainly represent a guide for the future of this crisis, whether it is heading towards a solution or is on its way to further escalation leading to the most pessimistic scenario. The second is the role and influence of the re-
Dozens of displaced people in Ethiopia’s Tigray region
United Nations: At Least 400,000 living in famine-like conditions in Ethiopia’s Tigray region (Reuters)
gional parties. These parties play a direct role in the conflict, as is Eritrea’s case, or indirectly support some of the parties to the conflict, thus enhancing their positions in the face of the other party. There are currently several alliances between some of these regional parties and international powers that adopt an approach that achieves their interests at the expense of the Ethiopians. The third is the role played by internal forces, which indicates the size of internal tribal and ethnic alliances and alignments. These forces have a direct influence on the conflict and its possible courses. Although the internal parties are affected by the stances of the regional and international powers that support them, yet they still have an influential role on the course of events, especially if the Ethiopians became aware of the dangers facing their country due to this renewed conflict. In light of these three factors, the third scenario will most probably take place because of the fragile structure of the opposition alliance, which includes conflicting parties. The alliance’s main target is to overthrow
Ahmed’s regime. However, it doesn’t have an agenda for the post-regime arrangements. Parties to the alliance are old rivals who may renew their enmity in the first dispute they face. Meanwhile, the government has various capabilities and equipment that exceed those owned by the alliance, which makes it very difficult to resolve the battle in favor of one of the parties. This opens the way for an actual challenge to the security of the Horn of Africa, which represents a geo-strategic and geo-economic significance on the map of international political and economic interactions. Recent international efforts to bring the conflicting parties to the round table have also failed. The US State Department and the African Union see a small window of opportunity to end fighting in Ethiopia. “All these leaders, here in Addis Ababa and in the north, agree individually that the differences between them are political and require a political solution through dialogue,” the AU envoy for the Horn of Africa, former Nigerian President Olusegun said, adding that “the window of opportunity we have is very little and that time is short.”
His remarks were in reference to the TPLF’s insistence on overthrowing Ahmed first, urging the PM to incite the fight to death. “We will bury this enemy with our blood and bones and make the glory of Ethiopia high again,” said Abiy, calling on Addis Ababa residents to arm themselves in line with the field progress.
GERD and Crisis Scenarios The challenges resulting from the Ethiopian crisis extend to one of the most serious disputes in the African continent on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which represents an international and regional issue. It also carries humanitarian, developmental, legal and political aspects, as it remains difficult to monitor the size of its expected impact on the security of the Nile basin countries that have differences with Addis Ababa, which are the downstream countries, Egypt and Sudan. Ethiopia’s intransigence and unilateral steps taken in this regard have led to an increase in the regional and international rejection for it to manage a fateful issue that affects the future of the peoples of the two downstream countries. Therefore, the outcome of the current Ethiopian crisis will have a negative impact on the GERD issue, which is expected to enter an unclear stage that lacks a vision on the next step. Decision makers in both downstream countries face
Over the past years, international major powers, including the United States, Russia and China, which has the largest volume of investments in Ethiopia, have been present at the African country’s arena.
three possible scenarios: In the first scenario, Ahmed succeeds in regaining control of the situation, which means he would be more stringent in managing this issue, in an attempt to restore national cohesion. In this case, the dam issue, which is national and consensual, becomes the most influential. In the second scenario, the opposition alliance succeeds in controlling the situation, prompting it to become stricter on the dam issue, in an attempt to gain the support of the Ethiopian public opinion on a consensual issue. The alliance is also unwilling to act against the
Ethiopian army forces (Reuters)
will of international and regional powers that have investments in the dam project, especially if the governments of these countries ask for compensation for the damage incurred in case the dam construction was halted. In the third scenario, both parties fail to dominate the country’s resources, which threatens they would slip into a civil war that will most probably affect Ethiopia’s federalism. In this case, finding a solution in the near future becomes impossible, which requires halting any developments in the dam issue until parties return to the negotiating table and discuss solutions that establish peace and stability in the
country and its surrounding.
Apart from the scenarios pres ented, whether for the future of the Ethiopian state, its prime minister who is accused of war crimes or the management of the GERD issue, the current events require all international, regional and local parties to be aware of the seriousness of the expected consequences of the crisis the African country is going through. If things go beyond control, it will be difficult to solve the crisis, given the risks, threats and various challenges.
South Caucasus in Turmoil The Nagorno-Karabakh War is Far from Over
By Maia Otarashvili On November 16th, clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh left 15 Armenian soldiers killed and according to the latest reports 24 Armenian servicemen remain unaccounted for. Azerbaijan has reported seven of its soldiers dead and 10 wounded. A year ago, Russia brokered a ceasefire agreement between the two sides after a six-week long conflict left 6500 dead back in November 2020. Russia even placed a military peacekeeping mission in the region, including 1,960 infantry (motor-rifle) troops with light weapons, 90 armored personnel carriers, and 380 motor vehicles. But since the conflict simmered down, Moscow has struggled to maintain
peace as small incidents have kept on occurring. But this week’s clashes have been the deadliest yet since the ceasefire agreement was reached. Later on the day of the deadly clashes Armenia announced a Russian-mediated truce. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is a particularly challenging one. The territory was internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but has been settled by predominantly ethnic Armenian population and has remained mostly under Armenian control. In the 2020 war Azerbaijan regained control of most of the territory, leaving thousands of Armenians displaced. Arguably Russia maintains the greatest deal of leverage over both Armenia and Azerbaijan, but it took three tries to establish a semi-lasting
ceasefire agreement, and even after that Russia is unable to effectively resolve the dispute. What’s worse, the U.S. and E.U. have been largely absent from the peace process. A handful of statements from the West have called for both sides to practice caution and respect human rights. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights published a statement on November 11th expressing concern over the escalation situation: “The Commissioner has received credible reports from NGOs and victims and their families about breaches of international humanitarian law as well as serious violations of human rights by the parties to the conflict. The Commissioner emphases that states have the legal obligation under international humanitarian law and the European Convention on Human Rights to hold those responsible for war crimes and serious human rights violations accountable. Moreover, the Commissioner is particularly concerned by reports of indiscriminate shelling of populated areas resulting in deaths and serious injuries to civilians. She calls on Armenia and Azerbaijan to renounce the use of cluster munitions and to ensure effective investigations into violations of international humanitarian law, such as indiscriminate and/or disproportionate attacks, to identify and bring those responsible to account, and provide adequate and effective reparation to the victims.” An Armenian serviceman fires a cannon towards Azerbaijan positions in Nagorno Karabakh. Photo: Armenian Defence Ministry/AFP
Since President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo prematurely announced the end to the conflict back in October 2020 after Pompeo met with both foreign ministers, the U.S. has had very minimal role in peace negotiations, leaving the region wide open for Russian and Turkish involvement. On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Armenia’s independence President Joe Biden shared words of support for the embattled nation: “As we mourn with the people of Armenia, we will work hand in hand with your government, including through the OSCE Minsk Group and other regional formats, to promote regional stability and conflict resolution. The United States will continue to advocate for the release of all Armenian detainees held in Azerbaijan.” The Armenian ambassador to the U.S. was quoted as saying “we do not see the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as resolved.”
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is a particularly challenging one. The territory was internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but has been settled by predominantly ethnic Armenian population and has remained mostly under Armenian control. of Armenia and Azerbaijan held under the auspices of the CoChairs in New York and Paris, by continuing to engage in direct dialogue aimed at contributing to security, stability, and prosperity in the region.” Yet Armenia’s president Pashinyan clearly understands that the power is ultimately in Moscow’s hands, and according to some sources, he has asked for Russian military assistance. According to Russian sources, the Armenian Security Council has cited a 1997 security agreement between Russia and Armenia and says it expects Russia to assist Armenia in restoring its territorial integrity. Most analysts see Russia as the ultimate winner in this situation, as through its involvement in the Black Sea/South Caucasus conflicts, Moscow has been able to once again solidify its role as the regional hegemon. But this is only party true. In practice, the unresolved conflicts like the one in Nagorno-Karabakh may keep the West out, but also challenge Russia’s ability to serve as a security guarantor. As Olesya Vartanyan of the International Crisis Group has documented, the Russian peacekeepers have a very unclear mandate governed by only three sentences.
The United States also serves as co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group along with France and Russia. The co-chairs issued a statement of concern regarding the November 16 clash:
The two sides have refused to engage in high level talks to work out the details regarding border demarcation, refugees access to aid, and even on troubleshooting the day-to-day issues like residents’ safe passage to farmlands. In the absence of those rules, the Russian peacekeepers find themselves doing everything from monitoring the administrative boundary lines to operating hotlines and helping the locals find their cattle. It’s no surprise that the situation has been unsustainable.
“The recent increase in tension underscores the need for a negotiated, comprehensive, and sustainable settlement of all remaining issues related to or resulting from the NagornoKarabakh conflict. The Co-Chairs urge the sides to build on the progress made during the joint meetings of the Foreign Ministers
This is why greater international engagement is necessary, and additional peacekeepers and conflict monitors should be deployed to the region. No one party, even a forceful hegemon, can fully navigate the complexities of protracted ethnic conflicts, and Russia is no exception.
Divorce: Is Social Media Use to Blame? Excessive Social Media Use Leads to Relationship Conflicts and Negative Outcomes By Sarah Gamal A survey of 205 Facebook users aged 82-18 was conducted using a -16question online survey to examine whether high levels of Facebook use predicted negative relationship outcomes such as breakup/divorce, emotional cheating, and physical cheating. It was hypothesized that those with higher levels of Facebook use would demonstrate more negative relationship outcomes than those with lower use.
The study then examined whether these relationships were mediated by Facebook-related conflict. Furthermore, the researchers examined the length of the relationship as a moderating variable in the aforementioned model. The results indicate that a high level of Facebook usage is associated with negative relationship outcomes and that these relationships are indeed mediated by Facebook-related conflict. This pattern of relationships only holds for those who are, or have been, in relatively newer relationships of 3 years or less.
Two golden wedding rings (Unsplash)
Egyptian society has witnessed a significant increase in divorce cases during the last two decades compared to previous years, coinciding with the expropriation of the world›s communication sites (social media), the satellite channels and the technological revolutions that the world is witnessing in the present century. A technological revolution started in 2006, when the first social networking sites appeared for everyone. After two years of serving the students of Stanford, Columbia and Yale universities, as well as schoolchildren in the United States of America, Facebook expanded to include the whole world. It was at about this time that Twitter also appeared. Egyptians, of course, were not isolated from those defining moments in human history which changed the course of the lives of millions on the globe by infiltrating these sites into all aspects of the lives of people of different nationalities. However, locally the situation raised a certain problem. According to the indicators of the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics, after the emergence of social media, divorce cases rose from 65.5 thousand in 2006 to 84.4 thousand in 2008, while marriages increased in the same period from 522.8 thousand to 614 thousand. In 2009, divorce cases rose significantly when the number reached 141.5 thousand cases, with the highest rates recorded in 2015 when the number of cases reached 199.9 thousand. Marriage cases amounted to 660.1 thousand and 969 thousand in the same two years, respectively. By stopping at the year 2015, it becomes clear from the reality of the above figures that 769.1 thousand families disintegrated. On a global level, Egypt was at the top with the world›s highest divorce rate of 149.3 thousand cases in 2010. The noticeable increase in the number of divorce cases, according to official statistics, in conjunction with the increase in the number of users of social media, indicates some link between the two phenomena. Now that in just a few minutes everyone can watch everything
Dr. Sara El Naggar, a physician and psychiatrist who is enrolled in postgraduate psychological and neurological studies.
Egyptian society has witnessed a significant increase in divorce cases during the last two decades compared to previous years, coinciding with the expropriation of the world›s communication sites (social media), the satellite channels and the technological revolutions that the world is witnessing in the present century. that›s going on in the world with sound and image, many believe that social media has the largest share in the reasons for the high divorce rates, especially in Egypt. This is shown by the fact that electronic betrayal has become easy, simple and commonplace at the present time. Divorce is no longer unattainable for many couples and the last solution they resort to after a bitter life. Rather, it has become like a fashion that has spread with intensity, especially in Egypt in recent years, which has monitored the rise in the highest divorce rates in the world. The strange thing is that most divorce cases occur between newly married couples and not between spouses who spent many years together and decided to end their marriage. Some also believe that social media has become a means of social distancing and not communication. Its negatives are much greater than its positives because we deal through a virtual world, and therefore experiences in communication, listening to the other and sharing opinions and thoughts diminishes with the consequence that social relations begin to collapse over time. Not only that, but social media is also considered the reason why some people resent themselves and their lives, because they only see people on it during their outings, and there is happiness and laughter in the photo posted on Facebook or Instagram. We do not know what is the truth or the situation before or after this shot. Perhaps a person who is angry with those who see their pictures is much happier than them, and they only put happiness on display to other people. Hence, a feeling of dissatisfaction with oneself and life surfaces because we see people who are happier and who have more money than us. This is followed by the emergence of problems in the home, and thus an inability to enjoy life because happiness is linked to satisfaction and attaining the goals that we seek to achieve. Wives also deal with social media wrongly and always compare themselves with their friends in what they see on Facebook posts, explaining that husbands do not know how
to deal with their wives. From the point of view of the man or the woman, the husband cannot understand his wife and appreciate her effort in building a happy life, and also the wife does not succeed in understanding her husband and appreciating his work of providing the perfect life for his family. Another group of people believes that the failure of a large percentage of wives to bear responsibility is also one of the main reasons for the increase in divorce rates. Infidelity is also believed to be one of the most important reasons for divorce recently due to the massive spread of social media. This gave men the opportunity to enter the virtual world apart from his wife and his family. In other words, they do not take responsibility for marriage, family and children, and think only of taking care of themselves. Dr. Mahmoud Farag, Doctor of Sociology at the Faculty of Arts, University of Alexandria, sees that: “Divorce rates are on
Divorce rates are on the rise, especially in cities, higher than in the countryside, due to the complexity of life and the emergence of entertainment and consumption patterns that did not exist in the past.
the rise, especially in cities, higher than in the countryside, due to the complexity of life and the emergence of entertainment and consumption patterns that did not exist in the past. In addition to the fact that satellite channels, with the free ideas they contain, raise the ceiling of the hopes and dreams of men and women. The result is that women seek an easy life with all the pleasures, and this does not agree with the capabilities of young people, so a collision occurs between dream and reality. Young men, on the other hand, dream about the future wife resembling the pictures of female performers who underwent plastic surgery, and thus the young man collides with the woman he married because she does not resemble who he imagined and dreamed of.” “Additionally, the increase in temptations and ease of online acquaintance between men and women, and a virtual life that is not bound by restrictions, facilitates young men and women entering into illegal relationships. Afterwards, the calamity occurs and the virtual world turns into reality. The man rejects his real life, as well as his wife, and the natural result is divorce and family displacement resulting in children who lack the warmth of the family,” he added. Similarly, Dr. Sara El Naggar, a physician and psychiatrist who is enrolled in postgraduate psychological and neurological studies, said that social media have played a major role in the recent increase in divorce cases. El Naggar explained in exclusive statements to Majalla: “It became easy, with a click on a “heart emoji” on the image of a person, you are about to enter into an relationship of admiration, then a love relationship.” “As soon as a person communicates with another with a message and greetings, the other one, on the other hand, feels
Unrecognizable black woman removing wedding ring from finger, her despaired husband on background (Unsplash)
Parents have relationship issues, arguing and fighting, wreak one›s anger on kid (Unsplash)
interest and admiration and thus it suggests to him or her that there are a million opportunities to enter into a relationship. The relationship here does not mean building a new house, but a connection to feel a kind of care and love,” she added. On the impact of divorce on children, she said: “I hope that divorce is the last solution when the spouses feel that it is impossible to live together. Divorce in my view is when the father and mother fail to provide a sense of safety, trust, respect and privacy for their children.” “When a child lives with a father and mother who are unable to provide him with safety and respect, it is a much worse
Dr. Mahmoud Farag, Doctor of Sociology at the Faculty of Arts, University of Alexandria
Some also believe that social media has become a means of social distancing and not communication. feeling than separation because family problems are the ones that affect the child the most, not just divorce,” she explained. Regarding proposed solutions to reduce divorce cases, she said: “Everyone should realize that no human being is flawless. For spouses who have made the decision to divorce, it is necessary to visit a specialist doctor before the divorce in order to understand and realize whether the crisis is with the person himself, his partner or the relationship itself, so that the bad experience does not happen again. Alternatively, the couple may consult with professionals with psychology qualifications who know a great deal about life experiences before taking the divorce step.” El Naggar concluded her statement by: “Drama is a reflection of reality, but I see that it does not contribute to an increase in divorce cases. Rather it reflects the reality, and the advice of unqualified people through the “Mummies” groups and other groups on social media may also be a factor making it easier for some to divorce instead of repairing the relationship. For this reason, couples should take advice from only qualified and competent people.”
Is Increasing Presence of China Positive ?
By Saif Al-Abri
It is “the biggest geopolitics test of the 21st century”, as Biden called it. This relationship of conflict and mistrust between America and China has significant implications for the world and periphery countries. The conflict that covers dominance over Asia, advanced technology, commerce and many other fields that significantly impact many countries as interests are constantly being changed and shaped.
and challenging US supremacy. Both countries have restricted imports of technology (China more than the US) from the other. The US is crippling the development of Chinese corporation (Huawei) and monopolizing the rights of technology which China is constantly ignoring. Furthermore, there is China’s cybermeddling and the launch of their longawaited aerospace manufacturing company, COMAC. I could go on and on about the strategies they implement to advance their positions, but you can see that tensions are rising as China strives for advanced technology supremacy, a key position of power in our very technology-centric modern age.
Let›s start with the most pressing point. It is not dominance over the Pacific but rather advanced technology supremacy. The US military complex, with the help of domestic institutions such as NASA, the department of national energy labs and the NSF, especially through Bell labs and heavy subsidies of relevant industries, drove and supported R&D of advanced technologies. Another area of conflict that has the most spotlight is the conflict over the Examples are revolutionary sea bordering the Pacific Ocean - the building blocks (transistors and South China Sea. The South China Sea semiconductors), laser fibre optics, is primarily a territorial dispute. The artificial technology, satellite US and China are both increasing their technology, etc. This led to the spin-off presence in the area as China claims effect, which is the commercialization sovereignty of that area. Of course, the of such technologies making the USA US is protecting the “free” and open a leader in advanced technology. access to the South China Sea and the rights of other claimants (Brunei, However, as the US moves into a more Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, tertiary economy, China is stepping in Taiwan, and Vietnam). The media fails 40
South China Sea. Credit: Reuters
to mention that the conflict mainly presides over “the substantial natural gas deposits, potential oil reserves or lucrative fishing grounds in the disputed territory”. If this falls into the hands of China, it conflicts with the interest of many US and European MNC companies. Furthermore, an estimated 3.37$ trillion of total trade passed through the South China Sea in 2016, and %40 of global liquefied natural gas trade transited through the South China Sea in 2017. Regarding tension in the East Sea, it has an estimated 200 million barrels of oil reserves. Both areas are of strategic importance, which will have a critical impact on US interest if left for China. Energy control and distribution is a major source of global power for the US as countries strive for energy security; its loss is detrimental and the same goes for trading routes. (Global Conflict Tracker l Council on Foreign Relations, 2021)
The conflict also hovers over Taiwan, commerce, and other fields and mainly follows the same logic: conflict of political and economic interests. As stated in a previous article, “Conflict and Development”, conflict is key to development. China’s presence, even though it’s a centralized authoritarian country, creates competition which is key to development as both polar countries limit each other’s power. The absolute power US once had after the cold war produced nothing but absolute corruption, as we’ve seen with their irrational interventions in Iraq and Latin America. However, with China competing with them, they will have to gain the trust of countries and strategically calculate their moves and the same goes for China. They will have to maintain a good reputation as a reliable trading partner not an exploitive one. 41
Another area of conflict that has the most spotlight is the conflict over the sea bordering the Pacific Ocean - the South China Sea
A Weekly Political News Magazine
Issue 1879- November- 19/11/2021
Prince Charles: The Heir Apparent to the British Throne
A New Perspective on Islamic Cultures Arts of Islam… a Past for a Present By Khaled Saad Zaghloul – Paris
upon the Louvre and Réunion des Musées Nationaux – Grand Palais to organize a national project There is always a strong reason to come and see that addresses a vast audience, and the youth in the biggest and the most beautiful museum in the particular, so they can take a new look at Islamic world, The Louvre. Formerly a palace for France’s arts and cultures. royalty located in the heart of Paris, the museum In each exhibition, ten historical and contempoallows for a journey across about ten thousand rary works of art from the Louvre Museum – Deyears of art history displayed in various collec- partment of Islamic Arts and national and regional tions. The museum’s artefacts are stunning, with more than 600,000 items that speak of Western art since the Middle Ages until 1848, and the preceding ancient civilizations (Eastern, Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan and Roman) which influenced these ages, in addition to Islamic and Christian arts. Starting this November until March 2022, the Louvre museum organizes along with Réunion des Musées Nationaux – Grand Palais, 18 concurrent exhibitions of Islamic arts across France. The French government is applying the idea of regionalization of culture which is firmly adopted by France. Fighting back centralization of culture requires tangible efforts to keep a coherent society against religious fanaticism. This arises from a belief that culture is a relentless fort of openness to others and resorting to the past to understand it in order to build a common future. From this perspective, the French Ministry of Culture called
Jean Castex, French Prime Minister
Ottoman ceramic wall panels from Turkey around 16th-19th centuries on display in the Department of Islamic Arts – The Louvre Museum. (Jean-Pierre )Dalbéra via Flickr
collections are displayed to show rich Islamic cultures and their impact on France’s history since more than 1300 years ago. In a dialogue between past and present works, each exhibition displays a work of art by a contemporary artist from the Muslim world, which reflects the view of the present world and its relationship with the heritage. More than 180 works in total will be presented to the public: an 11th century mosque lamp from Jerusalem (Louvre Museum), a chandelier from the Saladin era signed by an artist from Mosul telling the life of Jesus (Louvre Museum) and others. The initiative also aims at spreading awareness among the public about the vast diversity of regions and peoples who are influenced by Islam. Since its establishment in 2012, the Department of Islamic Arts in the Louvre has presented an opportunity to the public to dive into Islamic cultures from Spain to India, from the seventh to the 19th centuries. The department uncovers the importance of ancient, fruitful and strong exchanges between France and the East. Artistic and historical
In each exhibition, ten historical and contemporary works of art from the Louvre Museum are displayed to show rich Islamic cultures and their impact on France’s history since more than 1300 years ago. testimonies reveal religious and cultural diversity inside the Muslim World for 13 centuries. These exchanges reflect the transmission of ideas and people, as well as the diverse heritage of France. Islamic civilization is Moroccan, Turkish, Indian, Iranian, or Asian as much as it is Arab. The artworks displayed highlight a variety of artistic practices and sentiments and evoke scenes of life, nature, desire and simple ornaments of a palace or a mosque.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FRANCE AND ISLAMIC ARTS
Director of the Department of Islamic Art at the Louvre, to oversee the project. The project takes the form of a series of exhibitions to be held siFrench Prime Minister Jean Castex has called for multaneously in 18 French cities for four months. launching a national project, led by the Ministry of La Réunion is the only overseas location to host Culture, to promote Islamic arts, in order to raise one such exhibition of “Arts of Islam… a Past for awareness about the history of multi-cultural Is- a Present”. lamic civilization, in a governmental move follow- Jean Castex evoked the relationship between France and the arts of Islam saying, “The exhiing the murder of the teacher Samuel Paty. The Prime Minister appointed Yannick Lintz, bition is about the dialogue between cultures that enriched each other throughout more than 13 centuries.” He went on to say, “The Exhibition “Arts of Islam… a Past for a Present” traces back a rich and sophisticated history which brought to us a precious heritage. In the drawings of funerals, lanterns of mosques, or other daily works of art: we are stunned by the impressive diversity of these treasures of the past (whether secular or sacred). Then we discover the intimate ties between our country and these arts of Islam as they enrich our life and culture. What’s prominent is the call for openness to others as a reflection of the permanent mutual fascination between the East and the West. From the arabesque that adorns some of our Cathedrals, to reading (One Thousand and One Nights) and use of some Persian letters, we can see that the dialogue is permanent.”
French PM, “The intimate ties between our country and these arts of Islam enrich our life and culture. What’s prominent is the call for openness as a reflection of the permanent mutual fascination between the East and the West.”
A QURAN SHEET: Maghreb or Muslim Spain 13th or 14th century (Supplied)
Yannick Lintz, General Curator of Heritage, Director of the Department of Islamic Art at the Louvre, and the general commissioner of the national project of “Arts of Islam… a Past for a Present”
He added that by the strength of this artistic and cultural education, “the young people of our nation will be republicans capable of loving the country where they live and understand the world around them, thanks to the quality of the project implemented by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports.” The exhibition is designed according to an exceptional collaborative and participative framework, thanks to the participation of La Fondation de l’Islam de France and liaisons in hosting cities such as Rouen, Rillieux-la-Pape and Blois. “’Raise your words not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.’ said the poet Jalal ad-Dine Rumi. This exhibition which ‘raises the words’ is the direct response to speech of hatred and temptations that causes concern. It reminds us that the dialogue between cultures has never ceased in our history and should inspire us in the present time. Thus it is indispensable to reach mutual understanding,” concluded the French Prime Minister.
Islamic Arts Curator Speaks to Majalla Yannick Lintz is General Curator of Heritage, Director of the Department of Islamic Art at the Louvre. She obtained her PhD in history, and is spe-
cialized in the history of Islamic art and the history of art collection and Islamic museums dating back to the 19th century. Between 2000 and 2002, she worked as advisor on museums and heritage for Jack Lang, when he was the Minister of National Education. In 2013, she was appointed director of the department of Islamic Arts. She is currently the general commissioner of the national project of “Arts of Islam… a Past for a Present”. Majalla asked Yannick Lintz about the exhibition and the value of Islamic arts in the following interview. Q. The Arts of Islam exhibition in the French lands is very huge, will it open horizons of better knowledge of Islamic culture? And how? A. I hope that this operation will be a stimulation and a new interest. The idea of showing some of these masterpieces of Islamic art in 18 places at the same time is to give 18 opportunities for discovery and initiation for young people, families, those who never come to exhibitions and museums, of objects which, in my opinion, become cultural ambassadors. It probably also allows many people to see Islamic civilization through a different lens than that of terrorism and radicalism. In the exhibitions, there will be works of art that reflect the societies of these
territories between Europe and China, their taste for beauty, luxury, decoration, and the various cultural uses to which they bear witness. For example, there are magnificent Persian carpets, often more than 5 or 8 meters long, which show real gardens called ‘gardens of paradise’, in which figurative scenes abound and tell of the pleasures of living in these places. Women listen to music, talk together, drink tea and wine, sometimes with the men, who are also seen enjoying hunting in the abundant nature of trees, flowers and animals. How can we share the beauty, richness and complexity of such a culture in today’s France? It is not an easy art to grasp. One is not always faced with images but rather with purely decorative forms. The best way to approach Islamic art is to tell its stories. Learning that a rock crystal piece in a French church today was sculpted in Cairo around the 11th century and that Muslim craftsmen went to Madagascar to find the precious material is a way of penetrating the fascination of these travelling objects! The Islamic collections of the Louvre include about 20,000 objects; how did they arrive in France? Islamic art has been in the Louvre since its creation in 1793. Among the most prestigious pieces are works that belonged to royal collections, such as the famous Treasure of Saint Denis. These oriental objects fascinated the kings of France, such as Louis XIV, but also François I, who had relations with Soliman the Magnificent. The collection also includes 3,000 objects from a deposit of the Musée National des Arts Décoratifs, located on Rue de Rivoli in Paris. This collection was built up at the same time as ours, that is to say at the time
Exhibitions Commissioner: “Islamic arts are among the most prestigious artefacts on display in the Louvre.”
when Paris had this passion for the Orient which took on the name of “orientalism” in the middle of the 19th century with the rise of the Universal Exhibitions which led to an intense circulation of objects and developed the market for Islamic art. What does this artistic world represent for Muslims today? This art can come indeed from the countries where Muslims were born or their families grew. In addition, it belongs to their religion and culture. Thus this art refers to their roots and is part of their heritage. I see the pride of North African young people when they find Moroccan, Algerian or Tunisian items in the department of Islamic Arts in the Louvre. Whether these were a magnificent golden metal tea tray or an item from a mosque, they are proud to see their roots in a certain way. The source of their pride is not religion in this case, but their feeling that they possess the cultural symbols to understand these works of art. The exotic discovery for these young people was the Iranian, Egyptian or Turkish art which they don’t
Door with starry decoration from Egypt, Cairo around 1380-1420, on display in the Department of Islamic Arts – The Louvre Museum. (Jean-Pierre Dalbéra via Flickr)
Exhibition hall of the Islamic Arts department in the Louvre, ground floor level. (Jean-Pierre Dalbéra via Flickr)
these countries. The works of those artists hailing from the Muslim world reveal their view of the modern world just as the 12th century artists could do for their societies at the time. Also, almost half of the 18 artists are women. Contemporary art lovers will recognize wellknown personalities such as Hassan Sharif, but there are also young artists, such as Halida Boughri, with a video called Transit. In the video, she evokes a contemporary theme of migration and its dramas. The artist uses the metaphor of bird flights and her work will be presented in How did you take the decisions of presenting con- the same room as the Key to the Kaaba in Sainttemporary art in 18 venues? Denis. The connection may seem a little strange at International contemporary art has given 2 or 3 first glance, but the work may echo the pilgrimage generations of creators from different Islamic to Mecca, considered in the Islamic holy books countries: North Africa, Turkey, Iraq, Egypt, In- as the flight of a bird towards its destination. In dia, and Pakistan. They have international tastes Blois, a video by the French-Algerian artist Kaand production methods, such as video, installa- tia Kameli entitled Roman Algerian will be pretion. Meantime, the works we have chosen, most sented. It is a vision of the city of Algiers with its of which belong to FRAC (Regional Contempo- colonial heritage in the background, a past in the rary Art Fund), suit the culture and heritage of all city of today. know. The same applied to many Iranians living in France and elsewhere, who discover by sentiments their cultural heritage within a larger whole. These are witnesses to history which can be near or far to them. They can reweave their historical ties. I think of African Muslim young people who live in Aubervilliers and their origins are from Timbuktu, they came to the Islamic Arts department and didn’t find any Islamic treasures from their country, but they were touched by the items that remind them of their culture, the luxurious pieces, the wooden decorations and Quranic ornaments.
Syrian Poet Defies War with Feminist, Cultural Activities Hanaa Dawd Tells Majalla: I May Have to Emigrate Due to Compelling Circumstances By: Jiwan Soz Qamishli- The ongoing almost decade-long war in her country has not prevented Syrian Poet
Hanaa Dawd from writing poetry and printing poetry collections, as well as conducting research related to the reality of women and participating in various cultural and feminist
Syrian Poet Hanaa Dawd’s book
activities inside and outside Syria.
Syrian Poet Hanaa Dawd
Dawd was born on December 25, 1979 to Kurdish parents in Syria’s northeastern town of Amuda on the borders with Tukey. She obtained a Bachelor Degree in Arabic Language and Literature and still lives in the Hasaka city despite the repercussions of the war. Dawd, which has so far published three poetry collections and one book on the biography of Graphic Artist Omar Hamdi, aka Malva. said the war forced her to move a lot, but only temporarily. The poet said she used to leave the city once any confrontation breaks out between Kurdish fighters and terrorist groups, such as ISIS, but would return to her home later. “I was also sometimes forced to leave al-Hasakah during clashes between the Kurdish security forces (Asayish) and government forces, but I return afterwards.” “I acquired new humanitarian experiences due to this temporary movement as a result of the war and my trips to participate in literary activities,” she said.
“I was also sometimes forced to leave al-Hasakah during clashes between the Kurdish security forces (Asayish) and government forces, but I return afterwards.” Dawd said these experiences helped her comprehend many pictures, situations and emotions she couldn’t have been able to understand without living the experience up close. “My life has changed during the war, as the present Hanaa Dawd is not who she was before this war,” she told Majalla, noting that many things have changed in her life and vision. “My humane view of things has deepened, so did the topics of my writings which are no longer confined to love or eternal dialogue between women and men,” she explained. “The war has created new, clearer and deeper emotions, even if they are ugly at times,” Dawd
stressed, affirming that the poet is capable of finding what he wants in the worst circumstances and creating beauty in a different real way by shedding light from his own angle. “This is what happened to me.” “I can’t say my writing topics have totally changed since I am still talking about women, love and life, but I now use different images and new vocabulary inspired by the war,” Dawd explained. “The various activities that forced me to move inside and outside Syria had a positive impact on my writings and helped me use poetry to link pain with geography,” she added. Dawd’s three poetry collections are namely, “And the Stars Travel As Well,” “Falling into the Red” and “Forty Defeats and I.” She is also currently preparing to print a new poetry collection. She donated the proceeds of her latest poetry collection to displaced Syrians from the city of Ras al-Ain, who are currently living in a camp near Qamishli city after they were forced to leave their city following a Turkish attack in early October 2019. Dawd has a record of defending women’s rights. She runs the public relations department in the Syrian ASO association to confront violence
“The various activities that forced me to move inside and outside Syria had a positive impact on my writings and helped me use poetry to link pain with geography.”
against women. She further conducts artistic and literary research on graphic art and poetry, in addition to her continuous participation in cultural activities inside and outside Syria. The poet headed the Kurdish Writers Union in alHasakah between 2013 and 2016, in addition to her work as a researcher at the Women’s Studies and Research Center in the city. Her new poetry collection is dubbed “Half a Man, Half a Nation,” she said, adding that she is currently working on a short story collection, through which she seeks to speak about displacement and war and their impact on Syrians.
Syrian Poet Hanaa Dawd
Syrian Poet Hanaa Dawd
“Despite the war’s cruelty, yet it inspired us with abundant human resources that every writer can benefit from. Therefore, we can find the intruder and the opportunist, the trumpeted intellectual and the defeated intellectual who has lost his compass.” “The cultural milieu, like others, experiences total chaos during wars,” Dawd stressed. The standards, controls and high class were lost, she said, noting that the criterion for evaluating writers or artists have changed. “However, I cannot deny there are creative artists who wrote about people and their sufferings in a refined manner.”
“The war has created new, clearer and deeper emotions, even if they are ugly at times.” Speaking about her personal life, Dawd said although her family lives abroad while she lives alone in Syria, she doesn’t think about migrating for reasons she preferred to keep to herself. “But perhaps with time and under a specific or certain pressure, I may choose to leave, and then this option will be compulsory,” she concluded.
‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ Haunted by Franchise’s Past
A Story Brings a New Family Into the Ghostbusting Dynasty
By Katie Walsh “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” is indeed haunted. But it’s not just the likes of Muncher and the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man that need to be zapped into proton packs. This film is haunted by the specter of the legacy of the 1984 “Ghostbusters,” which isn’t just lurking around the edges but literally baked into its DNA. Co-writer and director Jason Reitman is the son of Ivan Reitman, who directed “Ghostbusters”
and “Ghostbusters II,” and Reitman the younger has described “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” as a family movie, on screen, and behind the camera, with his father offering input on set. Nothing wrong with that, right? Well, the resulting “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” is a tedious and juvenile project so slavishly devoted to the original that it’s cringeworthy. Yet, it doesn’t manage to capture the essence of what made that supernatural slacker com-
“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” doesn’t manage to capture the essence of what made that supernatural slacker comedy appealing at the time (that honor would go to Paul Feig’s 2016 all-female reboot, but no one wants to have that conversation) to of childhood. And yet, for a film that’s trying so very hard to be Amblin, there’s little sense of wonder, or suspense, or adventure. It’s formulaic storytelling embroidered with tired “Ghostbusters” references. “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” brings a new family into the ghostbusting dynasty, which includes a single mom, Callie (Carrie Coon), and her two kids: brainy tween Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) and gawky teen Trevor (Finn Wolfhard of “Stranger Things” and “It”).
A scene from “Ghostbusters: Afterlife.” (Sony Pictures/TNS)
edy appealing at the time (that honor would go to Paul Feig’s 2016 all-female reboot, but no one wants to have that conversation). Where “Ghostbusters” was irreverent, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” is deeply reverent. The tone is far more 1980s Stephen Spielberg than it is 1980s Ivan Reitman, and it’s aimed squarely at a very young audience, even though it seems they keep refreshing this franchise for the 40-year-olds for whom “Ghostbusters” remains a beloved memen-
Callie is a bit of a loser, bad with money and down on her luck. When her estranged father dies and she inherits his property, she hauls her kids off to rural Oklahoma to investigate the value of his ramshackle old dirt farm. As one might surmise, said ramshackle old dirt farm is bursting with mysterious artifacts and ghost-hunting gear. With Phoebe’s round glasses, mop of dark curly hair and skill with numbers, anyone with even the most casual passing interest in “Ghostbusters” can see where this family story is going. As a slice of nostalgic kiddie adventure inserted into “Ghostbusters” lore, where the script should, or could, be earnest, rather, it is sarcastic and dripping in irony. As dirtbag mom Callie, the talented Carrie Coon is saddled with aping the style of disaffected cool that only Bill Murray can pull off. The character and her sardonic dynamic with her
children doesn’t work, and the quip-overload dialogue feels instantly dated. It doesn’t help that Phoebe’s best friend is a character nicknamed “Podcast” (Logan Kim), which might have felt somewhat fresh and relevant several years ago. Nevertheless, Kim is charming, and he brings the comic relief that
It brings a new family into the ghostbusting dynasty, which includes a single mom, Callie (Carrie Coon), and her two kids: brainy tween Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) and gawky teen Trevor (Finn Wolfhard of “Stranger Things” and “It”).
this otherwise humorless film so desperately needs. In trying to please everyone, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” should ultimately please no one except the most hardcore of fans whose idea of a fun time at the movies is pointing at things they’ve seen before. There’s no sense of a distinct perspective or anything to say at all; it treats the original movie’s silly gags as sacred mythology, but because that film never took anything seriously, there’s no meaning in the imagery. It’s just there to recognize, for a fan to feel a sense of belonging within the familiarity of a totem or a catchphrase. Reitman has described “Afterlife” as “the greatest Easter egg hunt of all time,” which is one of the darkest statements on the state of blockbuster moviemaking today, demonstrating the idolization of intellectual property that sidelines all original storytelling for nakedly transparent and manipulative fan service in pursuit of the bottom line. And that’s the scariest story of all. This review was originally published on (TNS).
Jason Reitman, left, Ivan Reitman speak onstage during the “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” cast and filmmakers panel at New York Comic Con on Oct. 8, 2021, in New York City. (Craig Barritt/Getty Images for ReedPop/TNS)
Live Long and Prosper
Can You Predict How Long You Will Live? And What Can You Do to Make Sure You Reach That Number ?
By Matthew Solan As the saying goes, there are two certainties in life: death and taxes. A good accountant can estimate your taxes due, but what about your life span? Is it possible to predict how long you have left? Health calculators are available that can estimate a person’s 10-year risk of having a major cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or stroke. But that’s not the case for almost all other diseases. And when it comes to predicting your own longevity, there are too many individual variables. “Calculating longevity is complex because there are multiple factors at play,” says Dr. David Sinclair, professor in the Department of Genetics and co-director of the Paul F. Glenn
Center for Biology of Aging Research at Harvard Medical School. “A person’s age, past health issues, current health status, geography, and lifestyle all have a significant role.” ALL IN FAMILY It turns out that the most significant predictor of longevity is something people have zero control over -- their DNA. “Longevity tends to run in the family, and your genetic makeup can often provide the best chance to live a long time,” says Dr. Sinclair. How do your genes help you live longer? Science believes their primary role is to help protect the body against age-related diseases. A study in the Dec. 3, 2020, issue of Nature, led by Dr. Sin-
clair, explored this concept. The researchers created a virus that carried three “longevity genes” into mice -- a technique known as gene therapy. They found that these longevity genes protected the mice from becoming obese (even when fed a high-fat diet), developing type 2 diabetes and heart failure, and suffering kidney failure. This was an animal study and may or may not apply to humans. Still, it suggests how people born with good genes can avoid serious health problems. WHAT CAN YOU DO NOW? This type of gene therapy resides only in the lab. So, what can you do even if you haven’t inherited good DNA? No surprise: the habits that keep you healthy right now also can help you live longer.
Photo credit: (TNS)
A 2018 study in Circulation led by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that maintaining five healthy habits can increase life expectancy. They include not smoking, having a healthy body mass index (18.5 to 24.9), doing at least 30 minutes of daily moderate-to-vigorous activity, consuming no more than moderate amounts of alcohol (up to two 5-ounce glasses of wine per day for men), and following a heart-healthy diet. The researchers looked at how these factors affected people starting at age 50. They found that men who didn’t adopt any low-risk lifestyle factors had an average estimated life expectancy of 25.5 more years. Yet, those who adopted all five fac-
Excess weight is linked to various health problems that can shorten one’s life. Keeping your weight down with a proper diet and exercise goes a long way. tors had a life expectancy of 37.6 more years. EAT LESS, LIVE LONGER This study, and similar ones, point to weight management as perhaps the biggest controllable influence on longevity. Excess weight is linked to various health problems that can shorten one’s life. Keeping your weight down with a proper diet and exercise goes a long way. Of course, that’s always easier said than done. Dr. Sinclair says one way people can address this issue is to focus on calorie reduction. One study showed that lowering average daily calories by only 12% helped overweight people reduce their high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. They also had significant drops in levels of C-reactive protein, an inflammatory factor linked to cardiovascular disease. If tracking daily calories is difficult, you could try a system called intermittent fasting, which helps with overeating and late-night snacking. A popular pattern is the 16/8 method, where you eat during an eight-hour period -- for example, from noon to 8 p.m. -- followed by 16 hours of fasting, in this case from 8 p.m. until noon the next day, when the pattern repeats. Researchers have found that people who followed 16/8 intermittent fasting lowered their blood pressure, cholesterol, and inflammation levels. The end result of all these lifestyle changes -- proper diet, adequate exercise, watching weight and alcohol, and not smoking -- is that they help keep the body healthy. In essence, this is the basic formula for longer life. “Longevity is simply a side effect of not getting sick,” says Dr. Sinclair. “Doing everything you can to be healthier now can pay off down the road.” This article was originally published on (TNS).
Photo credit: (Pexels)
Prince Charles: The Heir Apparent to the British Throne By Majalla Staff
Illustration by Jeannette Khouri Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales, is the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. He has been heir apparent to the British throne as well as Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Rothesay since 1952. He is both the oldest and the longest-serving heir apparent in British history, with his mother remaining as Queen for more than six and a half decades. He is also the longest-serving Prince of Wales, having held the title since July 1958. Upon the death of his father, Prince Philip, on April 9, 2021, Charles also inherited the title of Duke of Edinburgh. He was born in Buckingham Palace, London, England, on November 14, 1948 as the first grandchild of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. His younger siblings are Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. He was educated at Cheam and Gordonstoun schools and later spent a year at the Timbertop campus of Geelong Grammar School in Victoria, Australia. After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Cambridge, Charles served in the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy from 1971 to 1976. In 1981, he married Lady Diana Spencer with whom he had two sons, William and Harry. In 1996, the couple divorced following wellpublicized extramarital affairs by both par-
ties. Diana died as the result of a car crash in Paris the following year. On April 9, 2005, Charles married Camilla Parker Bowles, his long-term partner. She then became the Duchess of Cornwall and often accompanies her husband on many official visits. Besides his royal duties, Charles has become a leading philanthropist. As the Prince of Wales, Charles undertakes official duties on behalf of the Queen. He founded The Prince’s Trust in 1976, sponsors The Prince’s Charities, and is a patron, president, or a member of over 400 other charities and organizations. Being a self-described environmentalist, Charles has spoken publicly about organic farming and climate change, which has earned him awards and recognition from environmental groups. His views on the role of architecture in society and the conservation of historic buildings have received significant attention from British architects and design critics. In 2007, Charles launched the Prince’s Rainforest Project, a global initiative with corporate and celebrity backing to curtail tropical deforestation and thus aid the quest to stanch climate change. In addition to his philanthropic work, Charles is also an avid watercolorist and has published several books, including the 1980 children’s story The Old Man of Lochnagar, 2010’s Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World and 2012’s The Prince’s Speech:
On the Future of Food. He has also contributed a foreword or preface to books by other writers and has also featured in documentary films. During an April 2018 summit of the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth nominated Prince Charles to succeed her as head of the 53-nation association of Britain and its former colonies. Shortly afterward, Commonwealth leaders announced that they would be adhering to the Queen’s wish. Charles and Camilla are visiting Jordan and Egypt this week, becoming the first members of the Royal Family to carry out a major overseas tour since the COVID-19 pandemic started. The Prince has discussed the visit with his mother following her recent ill-health and back sprain. As with all royal tours, they will use the trip to highlight the critical bonds between the UK and both Jordan and Egypt. There will be a focus on addressing the climate crisis just days after the conclusion of the COP26 conference in Glasgow. Charles and Camilla left the UK on Sunday and have enjoyed some private time in Jordan. They were greeted by an honor guard on a red carpet at Queen Alia International Airport. On Thursday, Charles will head to Egypt, which is expected to host the next round of the UN climate summit in the resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh next year. A reception will be held for the Prince and Duchess at the Great Pyramids of Giza.