Antiquities Smuggling: New Source of Funding for Syrian Militias

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Antiquities Smuggling: New Source of Funding for Syrian Militias

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Editorial The excavation and trafficking in antiquities and smuggling them outside Syria have become an important source for securing the necessary funding for the many different Iran-backed armed groups which fragment the country. These militias mainly control Syrian border areas with Iraq, as is the case in the countryside of Deir Ezzor governorate, especially in the al-Mayadin and Boukamal areas. They are also deployed in the countryside of the capital, Damascus, and in various areas in Homs, Aleppo, Hama, Daraa and As-Suwayda and have a symbolic presence in the Hasaka, Raqqa and Quneitra provinces. This indicates that they are distributed throughout Syria. Jiwan Soz delves into how this illegal trade is feeding the huge financial budget of these militias, especially since their numbers are estimated at tens of thousands. The details are corroborated by the latest report by the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). In the politics section, Ahmed Taher speaks about how the humanitarian role played by Saudi Arabia in supporting Yemeni people since 2011 is not limited to the last decade that witnessed a widespread chaos in the region, including Yemen. Taher reviews how the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) was established to put these efforts into an organized framework, enhance their efficiency and bring about significant results. Since its launch, KSrelief assumed its humanitarian role on both regional and international levels. Winning the world swimming championship in her seventies, Egyptian swimming champion Nagwa Ghorab proved that age was not an obstacle to achieving her ambitions. With a firm will, she was able to outdo the Russians, Germans, and the French. In the sports section, Sara Gamal interviews Nagwa and asks her about how she was so full of persistence and determination that turned her house into a museum for medals of honor and certificates of appreciation. In ancient Egypt, Egyptians used papyrus as a writing material as early as 3,000 BC. Papyrus continued to be used to some extent until around the 11th century AD. They recorded on it everything, from peace treaties, bills, to marriage contracts, to official letters, to medical instructions. In the art section, Salwa Samir interviews Atef Suleiman who is one of the remaining papyrus makers who mastered it at the hand of Ragab. He has been practising planting papyrus, drawing and coloring them since 1988. 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

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Saudi Dakar Rally - Stage 7 Rallying - Dakar Rally - Stage 7 - Riyadh to Al Dawadimi, Saudi Arabia - January 9, 2022 Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiya and co-driver Matthieu Baumel in action during stage 7 )Reuters Photos(

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China Pavilion Day at the Dubai Expo 2020 Performers walk on stage during the China Pavilion Day at the Dubai Expo 2020 on January 10, 2022 in the Gulf emirate of Dubai , United Arab Emirates )AFP Photos(

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SAU

LEBANON A Lebanese judge Tuesday issued a travel ban for the country’s central bank governor, state-run National News Agency and a lawyer said. The move comes after a corruption lawsuit accused him of embezzlement and dereliction of duty during the country’s financial meltdown. The decision was the first judicial action taken by authorities in Lebanon against Riad Salameh, who is being investigated in several countries abroad for potential money laundering. It was not immediately clear if the ban will be implemented. Salameh, 71, has been in the post for nearly three decades and enjoys backing from most politicians, including the country’s prime minister, despite the country’s devastating economic crisis and banking sector collapse.

EGYPT Egypt targets a growth rate of 5.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) during the fiscal year of 2022-2023, and to gradually hike to 6 percent in 2024-2025, according to Minister of Finance, Mohamed Maait. Maait added that the draft budget for the fiscal year 2022-2023 will witness more spending on improving people's lives and facilitating decent livelihoods, in implementation of presidential directives. The Egyptian minister stated in a statement, Wednesday that the priority in the "new republic" will be for effective programs in health and education. They are the mainstay of building the Egyptian person, strengthening the pillars of investment in human capital, in addition to maximizing development efforts in various fields.

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Foreign min Middle Eas week for m world’s sec consumer o investment The Chines no details o they were e between th The meetin include the Kuwait, Om secretary-g Council.

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UDI ARABIA

nisters from Saudi Arabia and other stern states are visiting China this meetings with officials from the cond-largest economy, a leading of oil, and a source of foreign t. se Foreign Ministry on Monday gave of the agendas for the visits, but said expected to “deepen relations he two sides.” ngs running through Friday will e foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, man, and Bahrain, along with the general of the Gulf Cooperation

YEMEN

Forces of Yemen’s internationally recognized government have reclaimed the entire southern province of Shabwa from Iran-backed Houthi rebels, officials said Tuesday.

UAE. The Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates said it expects the UAE economy to grow 4.2% in 2022, accelerating from last year's 2.1% growth. The central bank's projection, in its latest quarterly report on the economy, is rosier than that of the International Monetary Fund, projects the UAE economy will grow 3% this year. Non-oil real gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to increase by 3.9%, due to a continued increase in public spending, positive outlook for credit growth, higher employment and better business sentiment with a world fair EXPO event in Dubai, the bank said on its website.

IRAN Foreign ministers from the Gulf, Iran and Turkey were heading to China separately for talks this week, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said as talks were under way in Vienna on reviving the Iran nuclear deal. of 2015. The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and the Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council were visiting China between Monday and Friday. Turkish Foreign Minister would visit on Wednesday and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian on Friday, the ministry said.

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A WEEK ACROS ETHIOPIA.

U.S. The Kremlin said on Tuesday it saw “no significant reason for optimism” after the highly anticipated Russia-U.S. talks over Ukraine and other security issues. The talks aimed at defusing tensions over Ukraine took place in Geneva on Monday and offered no sign of immediate progress. Moscow went in insisting on guarantees to halt NATO’s eastward expansion and even roll back the military alliance’s deployments in Eastern Europe — demands that Washington had earlier firmly rejected as a nonstarter.

U.S. President Joe Biden raised concerns about airstrikes in the conflict in northern Ethiopia and about human rights issues during a call with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Monday, the White House said. Thousands have died and millions have been displaced since war broke out in the northern Tigray region in November 2020 between Abiy's federal forces, backed by regional allies, and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) that governs the region. In a tweet, Abiy described his conversation with Biden as "candid" and said the pair had discussed strengthening cooperation. "President Biden expressed concern that the ongoing hostilities, including recent airstrikes, continue to cause civilian casualties and suffering," the White House said in a statement after the two leaders spoke.

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TUNISIA.

Tunisia's journalists' union said on Tuesday that state television had barred all political parties from entering its buildings or taking pa talk shows since President Kais Sa seized most powers in July. Mehdi Jlassi, who heads the Tunis National Syndicate of Journalists, Reuters the restrictions were the fi since the 2011 revolution that end the autocratic rule of President Zin Abidine Ben Ali and introduced democracy.


SS THE WORLD

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FRANCE. CHINA.

President Emmanuel Macron traveled to the French Mediterranean coast on Monday to talk about internal security, making a pit stop in the city where an extremist drove a cargo truck into Bastille Day crowds in 2016, killing 86 people and injuring hundreds more. Macron has yet to officially confirm he is running for a second term in the election this spring, but his visit to the French Rivera had campaign overtones in a stronghold of Valérie Pécresse, a conservative who is seen by many as his most significant challenger.

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INDIA. India began administering COVID-19 vaccine boosters to front-line workers and vulnerable elderly people on Monday, with the Omicron variant fuelling an almost eight-fold rise in daily infections over the past 10 days.

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Cities across China are imposing tougher restrictions to try to control new outbreaks of COVID-19, with Tianjin now battling the highly contagious Omicron variant, which has already been detected in at least two other provinces. Tianjin officials said at a Tuesday press briefing that 49 cases had been confirmed during the latest outbreak. The city of 14 million people, around 100km (62 miles) from Beijing, is now implementing tough new controls to stop the coronavirus from spreading, especially to neighboring Beijing. The outbreak in the city has been linked to cases in the city of Anyang in the central Chinese province of Henan, where there have been 84 confirmed infections since Saturday.


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Antiquities Smuggling: New Source of Funding for Syrian Militias SOHR Director to Majalla: “Militias Trafficking in Antiquities is an Important Source of Funding But not Major” By: Jiwan Soz-Qamishli Iran’s military influence in Syria has moved through different forms and levels since the beginning of Tehran’s intervention in the Syrian crisis years ago to support Syrian President Bashar alAssad’s forces in their fight against armed factions and opposition groups.

These groups were formed following the outbreak of popular protests in various Syrian areas in March 2011 demanding the overthrow of Assad’s regime. Therefore, Iran established armed militias that it backed militarily and logistically to prevent Assad’s defeat and ensure he tightened his grip over the land. However, these armed groups currently need a huge financial budget, especially since their

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A Syrian policeman patrols the ancient oasis city of Palmyra in March. Many Syrian antiquities have been looted and smuggled out of the country during the past three years of civil war. Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images

numbers are estimated at tens of thousands. These militias mainly control Syrian border areas with Iraq, as is the case in the countryside of Deir Ezzor governorate, especially in the al-Mayadin and Boukamal areas. They are also deployed in the countryside of the capital, Damascus, and in various areas in Homs, Aleppo, Hama, Daraa and As-Suwayda and have a symbolic presence in the Hasaka, Raqqa and Quneitra provinces. This indicates that they are distributed throughout Syria. The excavation and trafficking in antiquities and smuggling them outside Syria have become an important source for securing the necessary funding, in light of the increase in the number of units of these militias, as shown in the latest report by the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). “These militias are highly dependent on smuggling antiquities as one of their sources of funding, yet trafficking contraband, such as narcotics, is actually their major funding source,” SOHR Director Rami Abdul Rahman told Majalla in a phone interview. “Pro-Iranian militias did not spare many of the antiquities from important Syrian archaeological sites that survived the excavations carried out by ISIS years ago, particularly those scattered in Deir Ezzor. They looted objects from ancient heritage sites in Syria and sold them, considering this trade a significant source of financing for their elements,” he added. There are archaeological sites on the banks of the Khabur and Euphrates rivers that are among hundreds of locations, such as cities, caves, hills and tombs from the Aramaic, Roman, Islamic and other civilizations, Abdul Rahman noted. Although they fell under the grip of ISIS, which looted most of them, yet they were also neglected and systematically destroyed by the regime forces and Iranian militias, which have recently deliberately robbed many archaeological sites to earn money, he added. The SOHR director the names of the most famous Syrian archaeological sites that were looted by the Tehran-backed militias. These comprise the antiquities of Buqurs, which are located in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor about 40 kilometers from the city center, including Mourabit hill in the ancient Buqurs, which dates back to the time before the founding of the world’s

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“These militias are highly dependent on smuggling antiquities as one of their sources of funding, yet trafficking contraband, such as narcotics, is actually their major funding source.” great empires. Ashara hill antiquities dating to the first Babylonian period and located in the eastern countryside have also been excavated by workshops working for Iranian-backed militias. Antiquities of Salihiya hill in Boukamal in the Der Ezzor countryside that date back to the first Babylonian era were also robbed, along with Taboos hill near Shumaytiyah village in the western countryside of Deir Ezzor, that dates back to the first Persian era, as well as the basement market in Deir Ezzor and other archeological sites. Abdul Rahman warned of the consequences of the continued theft of antiquities and the tampering of what he called “Syria’s cultural heritage.” He pointed out that the SOHR tackled this issue to warn against the ongoing looting of antiquities and blighting of Syria’s historic legacy by all of the forces controlling Syrian territories such as the regime, armed factions, Iranian-backed militias, Turkish- backed factions and others. They are repeating what ISIS barbarians did in several Syrian regions when they vandalized and looted Syrian archaeological and historical sites. All the forces controlling Syrian lands have committed acts of theft, looting and vandalism of Syria’s legacy without any deterrent, he stressed. Tehran-backed militias currently rely on antiquities as a primary source of funding, especially after recruiting a large number of fighters, other sources told Majalla. “They excavate the antiquities and smuggle them to neighboring Iraq to sell them there but sometimes sell them within Syrian territory.” The sources suggested that recruiting thousands of new members forced these militias to search for new sources of funding, including excavation and


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trade in looted antiquities. Iranian-backed militias comprise at least 65,500 Syrian and non-Syrian fighters and are deployed in all areas controlled by the Syrian regime, according to SOHR statistics published in early 2022. There are at least 29,000 fighters, among which are 11,000 Syrian fighters and nearly 18,000 Arab and Asian fighters deployed in Deir Ezzor, west of the Euphrates. There are nearly 11,500 fighters in south Syria. They were recruited by pro-Iranian spiritual figures in “Saraya al-Areen” of the 313th Brigade in northern Daraa, al-Lajat in the Daraa countryside, al-Baath city and Khan Arnabah in the al-Quneitra countryside, areas near the border with the occupied Syrian Golan and in As-Suwayda countryside. The number of Syrian and foreign members and recruits within the pro-Iranian militias in the capital, Damascus, and its countryside is estimated at more than 10,200 fighters. They are deployed in several cities, towns and villages and dominate the entire area from Damascus to the Syria-Lebanon border. There are nearly 8,350 fighters who are deployed in Aleppo city, Nebl, al-Zahraa and its surrounding areas in the northern countryside of Aleppo, al-Eis, al-Hader in Aleppo’s southern countryside, Maskanah, Deir Hafer and al-Sfirah in east Aleppo countryside. In Homs and the deserts of Hama and al-Raqqah, there are nearly 4,800 Syrian, Arab and Asian fighters, the SOHR reported. Although the largest part of Idlib province falls under the control of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), previously known as al-Nusra Front, which is alQaeda’s arm in Syria, members of the Iranianbacked militias are also present. There are nearly 900 Syrian and non-Syrian fighters stationed in

“They take care of the transfer or sale to other traders in return for a percentage of the sales price.”

the areas that were recaptured by regime forces in 2020 and 2021. Members of these militias are also present in alHasaka province although there are US bases there. Tehran recruited 800 fighters, of which there are 390 fighters and commanders of the regimebacked National Defense Forces, while 410 are civilians and members of Arab tribes. Tehran recruits them by offering to pay huge monthly salaries, given the current economic conditions in the war-torn country. Training of the new recruits is carried out in camps within the Turtub regiment, south of Qamishli, and then they are transferred to other areas, mainly west of the Euphrates. A local source in Deir Ezzor countryside told Majalla that the process of excavating antiquities is carried out using primitive tools and traditional methods. The militiamen use tools that are mainly used in agriculture and in bulldozing agricultural lands and other ground, the source affirmed. He stressed their lack of access to “any modern device to carry out the process, which takes place randomly in all the small hills and areas where antiquities are expected to be found.” The source pointed out that “all those who lead the excavation processes are directly affiliated with the Iranian militias that control the countryside of Deir Ezzor governorate. “Following the excavation process, the antiquities are transferred to points where there are brokers who trade in them backed by figures close to the regime and the Iranian militias,” he explained. “They take care of the transfer or sale to other traders in return for a percentage of the sales price.” The Ain al-Furat Network had reported that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) had dug out large quantities of antiquities from the city of Palmyra, located in the countryside of Homs Governorate, where Iranian militias are carrying out excavations. The Iranian militias that support the Syrian regime depend on three Iraqi archaeologists and local excavation workers, according to Syrian opposition media outlets. Experts receive an estimated 10% of the selling

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Antiquities in Palmyra, Syria. Photo: courtesy UNESCO.

price while workers are paid a daily wage estimated at 8,000 Syrian pounds, the Network revealed. It further confirmed that the Iranian militias have archaeological artifacts, statues, golden figures, stone tablets bearing cuneiform inscriptions, and other antiquities important to Iraq. Last year, the Syrian regime ignored the pillaging by Tehran-backed militias after accusing the Turkish army, which controls several Syrian cities, of conducting archaeological excavations and then transporting artifacts to Turkish territory. The Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums in Damascus called on international organizations and bodies interested in heritage to put an end to what it called “the Turkish aggression against ancient heritage sites in Syria” after documenting the destruction of 710 archaeological sites and buildings. In early 2021, the Iranian militias began excavation work in two caves in Palmyra city’s western region. Syria is distinguished for having more than 4,500 archaeological sites from different civilizations

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“They excavate the antiquities and smuggle them to neighboring Iraq to sell them there but sometimes sell them within Syrian territory.” such as: Ebla, Ugarit and Mari, passing through the Aramaic, Phoenician, Akkadian, Chaldean, Byzantine and Roman civilizations. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had earlier included six Syrian archaeological sites on the World Heritage List, namely, Damascus’ ancient neighborhood, ancient Aleppo, Qalaat al-Madiq, Qalaat al-Hosn, the ancient city of Bosra, Tal Tamr city, and some archaeological villages in north and northwestern Syria.


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Saudi Arabia Confronts Houthi Terrorism with Humanitarian Aid KSrelief Projects, Partnerships Contribute to Alleviate Yemeni Sufferings By Ahmed Taher - Baku The humanitarian role played by Saudi Arabia in supporting Yemeni people since 2011 is not limited to the last decade that witnessed a widespread chaos in the region, including Yemen. Historically, Yemen has always been a region of concern with wide-scale support by Saudi leadership. The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief

Center (KSrelief) was established to put these efforts into an organized framework, enhance their efficiency and bring about significant results. Since its launch, KSrelief assumed its humanitarian role on both regional and international levels. Meantime, it has given ultimate priority to tackle the deteriorating humanitarian conditions of Yemeni citizens, especially after the events of the so-called Arab spring which turned into severe

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winter that froze the blood in the veins of Yemeni state institutions. The Yemeni government fell into conflict with armed militias that took a violent path to achieve their aspirations at the expense of the state and the people. Thus, providing assistance to the Yemeni people has become everyone’s duty in order to save them from the terrorism of Houthis who receive broad and diverse Iranian support, mostly from the Iranian proxy in the region, the Lebanese Hezbollah.

NEW HUMANITARIAN AGREEMENT

The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) provides aid to Yemeni people.

In pursuit of its humanitarian responsibility towards the Yemeni people, KSrelief has adopted an approach that strikes a balance between the necessity of aiding unarmed Yemeni people who didn’t commit crimes or promote violence and killings and the necessity of confronting violent, extremist and terrorist groups. Such a balanced approach is manifested in the center’s developmental projects, contributions and subsistence aid. Most recent of these projects is an agreement signed by the KSrelief and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in early January 2022 to provide shelters to displaced families all over Yemen. According to the agreement, 104,406 persons will benefit from six million dollars in aid which will provide 6,000 houses and 14,000 shelter bags for displaced families that are affected by the humanitarian crisis in many governorates: Hajjah, Al-Jouf, Al-Baida, Omran, Taiz, Hodeidah, Sanaa, Abyan, Ibb, Dhamar, Aden, Lahaj, Capital Municipality, Al-Dali and Saada. Undoubtedly, such an agreement deserves due recognition of the humanitarian role played by KSrelief, declared the UNHCR Representative to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Khalid Khalifah: “We are proud of our partnership with KSrelief and we highly appreciate its continuous backing and important contribution to support the needy displaced people in Yemen.” He also added, “The contribution will support UNHCR’s efforts in responding to the shelter needs of underprivileged families and help them enjoy decent lives.” This reflects the UNHCR’s need for the support provided by KSrelief to help Yemeni brothers and sisters in various areas and to alleviate their suf-

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KSrelief has adopted an approach that strikes a balance between aiding unarmed Yemeni people who didn’t commit crimes or promote violence and confronting violent, extremist and terrorist groups. fering. The UNHCR described the Yemeni crisis as “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world with more than 4 million people uprooted from their homes and more than 20 million in dire need of humanitarian assistance.” Therefore, this agreement will complete the efforts exerted by KSrelief to help displaced Yemenis. These efforts take the form of goal-oriented and well-defined initiatives which enable the observation and assessment of its objectives and outcomes for the purpose of strengthening the regional and international role of Saudi Arabia.

SAUDI HUMANITARIAN SUPPORT PROGRAMS FOR YEMENIS In this regard, the most prominent KSrelief programs implemented in Yemen or other regions for Yemeni people include: First: “Nabdh AlSaudia” helps internally or externally displaced Yemenis. Many initiatives were implemented within this project. One significant initiative took place in early January 2021 when the center distributed 1300 food baskets to 7800 people who were displaced from Al-Jouf to AlRayan in Marib. The initiative also supplied female breadwinners in Marib governorate with vocational tools for various crafts such as sewing, photography, pastry-making and incense-making. The vocational supplies were part of the “Seed of Safety Project” in order to support more than 300 orphans in four governorates in Marib, Al-Jouf, Sanaa and Al-Baida. Second: “MASAM” is a Saudi humanitarian pro-


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ject for landmines clearance in Yemen, which suffers from large numbers of landmines. These mines and explosive devices killed thousands of children, women and elderly people and caused permanent disabilities that burdened healthcare institutions and incurred economic losses. Since the beginning of the project, 303,279 landmines and explosive devices were cleared, according to the website of KSrelief.

In contrast to humanitarian efforts by Saudi Arabia to support Yemenis and alleviate their mounting suffering under the Houthis terrorism, the kingdom confronts continuous Houthi aggression, represented in illegitimate attacks launched by Iranian-backed Houthis against Saudi territories.

Third: “Artificial Limbs” is a program linked with the abovementioned project. KSrelief launched a humanitarian project to support and fund artificial limb centers that provide free service for amputees, which includes many women and children across Yemeni governorates. The program provided support for 25,340 people. Fourth: There is the “Child-Soldier Rehabilitation Program” which is a distinctive humanitarian program launched in Marib in September 2017 to rehabilitate child soldiers and children affected by the armed conflict with the aim of returning them to their normal lives and socially supporting them. Since its launch and until last December, the project directly benefited 530 children, in addition to indirect benefits received by parents, which raises the number to 60,650 beneficiaries. Fifth: “Guests Inside the Kingdom” is a program that provides various forms of assistance to refugees inside the Kingdom such as free healthcare and education in addition to social inclusion across the Kingdom and appropriate jobs. The amount of aid totaled USD$ 9,378,878,174. Sixth: “Yemen Emergency Crisis Response Project” (YECRP) is run by KSrelief in cooperation with the UN Development Program (UNDP) in order to join forces in responding to the famine. The KSrelief provided funding to achieve three practical outcomes: to create short-term employment by rehabilitating basic service infrastructure (e.g., roads, water, sanitation, and hygiene);

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Saudi relief convoy arriving in Yemeni governorates.


Saudi humanitarian aid is uninterruptedly provided to Yemeni people.

enhance local food production capacity; and, preserve the capacities of the Social Fund for Development (SFD) and the Public Works Projects (PWP), which are two key national institutions. It is noteworthy that the KSrelief role also included providing various humanitarian aid to Yemenis to confront famine throughout the past years. In early February 2021, KSrelief contributed 40 million dollars to the UN World Food Program to give essential food aid to families in dire need. That came following previous efforts in which the center gave humanitarian aid to the World Food Program: about 138 million dollars in 2020, and 380 and 260 million dollars in 2018 and 2019 respectively, for the same purpose. All that is part of the humanitarian efforts exerted by Saudi Arabia via KSrelief to support Yemeni brothers and sisters and alleviate their mounting suffering under the Houthis terrorism against Yemeni people and the region as a whole. In contrast, Saudi Arabia confronts continuous Houthi aggression, represented in illegitimate attacks launched by Iranian-backed Houthis against Saudi territories. According to a recent report issued by “The Center for Strategic and International Studies,” more than 4100 attacks were launched by Houthis against Saudi Arabia between 2016 and 2021. The frequency of such attacks increased during the first nine months of 2021, with a monthly average of 78 Houthi attacks against the Kingdom. This re-

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Facts show the humanitarian aspect of Saudi policies not only towards Yemen, its legitimate government and its honest people, but also towards various regional and international crises. veals the role played by the Houthis in contrast to the false claims and grievances they propagate through the media. Similar to the Iranian approach of spreading false claims, they want to gain regional and international public support. However, on one hand, the facts reveal these as falsehoods and uncover the criminal practices of the Houthi movement. On the other hand, the facts show the humanitarian aspect of Saudi policies not only towards Yemen, its legitimate government and its honest people, but also towards various regional and international crises. Saudi Arabia has never been late in extending its hand with aid and relief to any refugee, displaced, injured or needy person. This has been the approach adopted by the Kingdom since it was established by its founders and until the present.


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Three American Reports: Increasing Political Violence Washington - Mohammad Ali Salih Except of a few assassinations of politicians during the recent decades, the US political system, changes and discourse have all been largely peaceful. But, with the increasing violence in the US, whether in schools, in streets, in movies, in children’s games or on the Internet, the question has become not whether violence would reach the political system, but why it took so long. These are excerpts from recent reports, not only about the increasing political violence, but also, about expected largescale political violence that might endanger the basics of American democracy. First, a report in “The Washington Post,” on results of a recent poll, showed that about 30 percent of the Americans accepted rising against the government if thought to be unjust or unfair. Second, a report in “Time,” also on results of a recent poll, showed a rising belief in political insurrection among extreme Christians, and that last year’s attack on the Congress building was carried out by a mostly Christian mob.

Having stormed the sanctum of American democracy, extreme Christians thanked God for “filling this chamber with patriots that love you and that love Christ.” For several years we’ve measured Christian nationalist ideology by asking Americans a series of questions like whether they believe the government should declare the U.S. a Christian nation, or whether they reject the separation of church and state, or whether they think America’s success is part of God’s plan. That is around 30 million adults. Just as disturbing, white Christian nationalists are also isolating themselves within more homogenous social groups. New experimental research shows that the more right-wing Americans isolate themselves within communities who only share their moral worldviews. Add to this the fact that white Americans who subscribe to Christian nationalism are not only increasingly getting their news from certain platforms and right-wing news sources but they are believing the narratives being shared. Among the central unifying narratives within white Christian nationalist ideology is that of victimization.

Third, a report in “Newsweek” warned about a new book that advocated violence against Black “extremists,” particularly leaders of the Black Lives Matter (BLM).

The threat of immigration and minority status does make whites more Christian nationalist. It’s that they genuinely believe they are persecuted.

“Time”: Christian Political Violence:

“Newsweek”: Against Black Lives Matter:

“In the aftermath of the attack on the Congress a year ago, a largely forgotten phenomenon were the Christian banners and flags, the wooden crosses, the impromptu praise and worship sessions, the “Jesus Saves” signs, the Christian t-shirts, and the infamous corporate prayer in Jesus’ name in the Senate Chamber.

“An incendiary book falsely claiming authorship by Kyle Rittenhouse (a White who was recently acquitted after killing two people during demonstrations in the aftermath of the killing of Black George Floyd by a White policeman) hit big sales. The book talks about the “holy rage” of the “True Patriot,”

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and warns that “only the sword will prevent our nation’s ruin.”

“The Washington Post”: Violence Against the Government:

The book which went on sale through Amazon website shortly after the not guilty verdict of Rittenhouse, is titled: “How to Defend America From the Woke Mob” (“Woke” stands for the recent alerts about racial injustice by organizations like Black Lives Matter).

“Thirty percent of Americans say violence against the government can be justified, citing fears of political schism, pandemic. This marks the largest share of Americans to hold that view since the question was first asked more than two decades ago. ‘The world we live in now is scary,’ said Ward, 32, a Republican. ‘I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist but sometimes it feels like a movie. It’s no longer a war against Democrats and Republicans. It’s a war between good and evil.’ A year after a pro-Trump mob ransacked the Capitol in the worst attack on the home of Congress since it was burned by British forces in 1814, a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll finds that about 30 percent of the Americans say they believe violence against the government can at times be justified. The findings represent the largest share to feel that way since the question has been asked in various polls in more than two decades. They offer a window into the country’s psyche at a tumultuous period in American history, marked by last year’s insurrection, the rise of Trump’s election claims as an energizing force on the right, deepening fissures over the government’s role in combating the pandemic, and mounting racial justice protests sparked by police killings of Black Americans. A majority continue to say that violence against the government is never justified — but the 62 percent who hold that view is a new low point, and a stark difference from the 1990s, when as many as 90 percent said violence was never justified.”

These are excerpts from the book that called for political violence: First, ‘The United States was founded in a violent, anti-authoritarian revolution. And as Thomas Jefferson so eloquently put it, there will be many times where violence is required to renew our God-given liberties,’ Second, ‘Modern America finds itself facing the old threat of communism. But unlike ages past, this threat is not in a foreign land. Domestic collectivists menace our cities and seek to destroy our way of life.’ Third, ‘It is vital that true patriots possess a historical understanding of America’s foremost ideological threat. By comprehending the current partisan struggle of this country in its long historical context, a patriot may feel confident that their holy rage is justified.’ Fourth, ‘when collectivist mobs attempt to steal and destroy our cities, only the sword will prevent our nation’s ruin … You will probably be vastly outnumbered. It is therefore advisable to use a semi-automatic weapon with a large magazine capacity. The ability to lay down sustained rapid fire is essential when outnumbered...The AR-15...is ideal for confronting a violent woke mob’. The book attempts to couch its inflammatory rhetoric with a caveat in the small print: ‘This is a work of political theory.’ “

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Russia Thinks America Is Bluffing

To Deter a Ukraine Invasion, Washington’s Threats Need to Be Tougher By Chris Miller

could impose on the Kremlin, from targeting Russia’s financial system to restricting its ability to imAs talks between US and Russian diplomats begin in port technology. Geneva over the fate of Ukraine, Europe stands on But the West’s threat of economic sanctions can the brink of war. The US strategy is to negotiate with work only if the proposed measures would make Russia while threatening “devastating” sanctions if Russian military action against Ukraine expensive Russian President Vladimir Putin decides to invade enough to alter the Kremlin’s cost-benefit calculus. his country’s eastern neighbor. Biden administra- Putin, however, sees Ukraine as crucial to Russia’s tion officials have outlined a range of sanctions they great-power status and to his own personal legacy.

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So for sanctions to work, they have to be costlier than the vast benefit Putin perceives in controlling Ukraine. That doesn’t appear to be in the offing: notably, after Biden administration officials escalated their threats, the Russian stock market and its currency barely budged. The markets’ collective shrug mirrors the Kremlin’s view that the United States will not follow through on the harsh sanctions it has discussed. Russian policymakers know that many of the tactics that could seriously hurt Russia—such as curbing Russian commodity exports or blacklisting Russian banks—would be costly to the West, too, making it uncertain if the Biden administration would follow through on those threats. Finally, economically tough sanctions will require Chinese acquiescence, and that could create a host of other problems for the United States.

Russian President Vladimir Putin / Reuters

Sanctioning Russian oligarchs and Putin’s cronies, another measure that has strong Congressional support, is equally unlikely to change the Kremlin’s calculus.

its own GDP was a fair price for Crimea and the Donbas, it would surely be willing to pay more to acquire the rest of the country. Biden says he’s ready to impose “devastating” economic costs if Russia invades. His administration has threatened a “high-impact, quick-action The Sanctions Must Bite response” on sanctions, one official recently told In the past, Putin has demonstrated that he’s the New York Times. But even the most detailed willing to endure moderately costly sanctions statements from administration officials have in pursuit of reestablishing Russia’s dominance focused on steps the United States might take, of its former satellite states. After Russia seized rather than those it will commit to. U.S. officials Crimea and occupied part of the Donbas region have discussed severe measures such as cutting of Ukraine in 2014, the United States and Eu- Russia off from the Society for Worldwide Inrope imposed restrictions on several big Russian terbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), firms, denying them access to international capi- but this would require European support and may tal markets, which according to the International therefore be challenging to implement, though Monetary Fund reduced Russia’s GDP by some- some European leaders have signaled they are where between 1.0 and 1.5 percent. The United open to considering such measures. States also banned companies from doing busi- Washington’s promise to work with allies on ness in Crimea and prohibited the export of cer- sanctions, meanwhile, may be seen as a sign of tain oil-drilling technologies, which has reduced weakness, not strength. Deference to allies—in Russian oil output, but not by a huge amount. particular, Germany—is what led Biden to deThe Kremlin concluded this was a fair price to cline to sanction the Nord Stream 2 pipeline pay for Crimea and the Donbas and has no plans (which transports gas from Russia to Germany) to give either territory back, no matter how long earlier this year. Now, Germany and France are resisting a European Union effort to specify these sanctions remain in place. This time, Russia has set its goals even higher. which sanctions they’d impose if Putin in fact Rather than trying to grab two chunks of Ukrain- invades Ukraine. The new German chancellor, ian territory, it wants to force the entire country Olaf Scholz, started his premiership with a call back into its own sphere of control. To do so, for dialogue with Moscow, which in German Russia has assembled a vast invasion force on diplomatic parlance too often means “concesUkraine’s border, one capable of driving through sions.” The Western allies are sending dangerUkrainian defenses all the way to Kyiv. Mean- ously contradictory messages about their willwhile, Russia maintains the ability to launch ingness to impose anything beyond a financial missile attacks and airstrikes on targets across slap on the wrist. Ukraine. If the Kremlin thought one percent of Meanwhile, within the United States, Congress

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has focused on sanctions without serious economic bite. Some members of Congress are fixated on canceling the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, a measure that would impose close to zero economic cost on Russia. If Nord Stream 2 gets canceled, Russia will simply keep shipping gas to Europe via existing routes. There is already a surplus of pipeline capacity, so the volume of Russian gas sales to Europe would be unchanged. The Kremlin may see the focus on Nord Stream 2 as evidence that the United States is not serious about imposing costs. Sanctioning Russian oligarchs and Putin’s cronies, another measure that has strong Congressional support, is equally unlikely to change the Kremlin’s calculus. There is good reason to prevent them from laundering money through Western financial systems, but doing so would have little impact on the Kremlin’s foreign policy. Russia’s business elite would prefer to continue traveling to the West and keep their foreign bank accounts. But they don’t decide Russia’s foreign policy: Putin does, with advice from a small circle of security service chiefs, most of whom are already under sanction. Given that US domestic debate focuses on lowcost measures, and given that Europe is divided over whether to back costly sanctions, Putin may think the United States is bluffing when it threatens tough sanctions. Washington has powerful sanctions in its arsenal, such as blacklisting Russian banks. It has applied these kinds of measures in the past against Iran and North Korea. There’s no doubt the United States could obliterate Russia’s connections with the global financial system: U.S. officials have discussed

Putin, however, sees Ukraine as crucial to Russia’s greatpower status and to his own personal legacy.

blacklisting major Russian banks, preventing banks from converting rubles into dollars, and disconnecting Russia from the SWIFT interbank communication network. But implementing any of these measures would be costly to allies in Europe. It would also directly affect China, the largest consumer of Russian commodities. And that could bring about complications the Biden administration would prefer to avoid.

The Chinese Factor The United States didn’t have to carefully weigh China’s potential reaction to imposing sanctions on the Kremlin in 2014. This was largely because the measures didn’t hit China in a meaningful way. Few Chinese-made goods were affected by the export controls, and China had no meaningful investments in Crimea. As a result, Beijing could condemn the sanctions but allow its companies to abide by them in the few instances that they had an impact on business. But if Washington imposes much harsher sanctions, the Chinese response might be far different. China is Russia’s largest trading partner, after all. It’s unclear if Chinese companies would stop dealing with a major Russian firm that the United States chose to blacklist. Doing so would help strengthen U.S. financial power—and prove the potency of tools that could easily be used against China in the future. Russia and China have already collaborated to establish alternative payments mechanisms if U.S. sanctions obstruct their banking systems. If China chose to reject U.S. sanctions and its companies didn’t comply, it would put Washington in a tight spot. Chinese companies would be in violation of U.S. law, but any legal action against them would require risky escalatory measures such as imposing penalties on major Chinese firms. The alternative, however, would be to accept that China need not follow U.S. sanctions, which would dramatically undermine their economic reach. The same dilemma applies to the Biden administration’s threat to cut off Russia’s ability to buy semiconductors, smartphones, or airline parts.

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Russia has assembled a vast invasion force on Ukraine’s border, one capable of driving through Ukrainian defenses all the way to Kyiv. SERGEI SUPINSKY / AFP /GETTY


Smartphones are mostly produced in China, for example, so any export controls on smartphone components would work only if China were willing to enforce them. Beijing could buck U.S. sanctions and dare Washington to retaliate—which would open a second front in a great-power financial war. China has previously taken humiliating steps to avoid violating U.S. sanctions. Chinese stateowned banks, for example, refused to open accounts for Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, after the United States imposed sanctions on her. U.S. sanctions that have a chance of changing the Kremlin’s calculus, however, could force a rethink in Beijing. If there were ever a time to try to undermine American financial power, this would be it. After all, in terms of their impact on the global economy, tough financial sanctions on Russia could well be the largest use of sanctions since the United States targeted Japanese finance and oil imports before World War II. This is why Russia may think the United States is bluffing when it threatens dramatic sanctions. The Kremlin believes it has a far higher tolerance for risk

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In the past, Putin has demonstrated that he’s willing to endure moderately costly sanctions in pursuit of reestablishing Russia’s dominance of its former satellite states. than its American or European counterparts. If Biden is serious about using sanctions to shape Russia’s calculus, his administration needs to sharpen its messaging. The administration should name the Russian banks it would blacklist, the specific transactions it would prohibit, and the companies that would be in danger of going under. Then the Kremlin might start taking its sanctions threats more seriously. This article was originally published in Foreign Affairs.


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The Search for Stability in Afghanistan

Can Iran and Pakistan Manage the Taliban’s Emirate? By Kamran Bokhari The US withdrawal from Afghanistan last summer troubled many neighboring countries that had grown used to the United States doing the heavy lifting in the region. With the Taliban ensconced in Kabul, militant networks will likely expand, and insecurity could radiate across Afghanistan’s borders. That prospect remains a cause for disquiet in as many as a dozen states. Afghanistan’s largest neighbors, Iran and Pakistan, however, are the two countries that have the most influence in the country—and the most at stake. Their long borders with Afghanistan combined with historical ethnic, linguistic, and cultural ties have allowed Iran and Pakistan to play significant roles in Afghanistan’s internal affairs. By contrast, none of the three neighboring Central Asian states or China, which also border landlocked Afghanistan, have the same level of influence in the country. China is counting on both Iran and Pakistan to manage a Taliban-dominated Afghanistan. In the aftermath of the U.S. departure, Iran and Pakistan will be the main competitors shaping the future of a Taliban-run Afghanistan.

The end of the long epoch of direct great-power interventions in Afghanistan has left a dangerous void. Despite their many differences, Iran and Pakistan both seek stability and security in a country that has been in a state of war for two generations. Their interests have often diverged or come into direct conflict in Afghanistan, but now they will be forced to cooperate in ways that they have not in the past.

THINGS FALL APART Iran and Pakistan need the Taliban to build a government that can maintain a modicum of stability and keep the so-called Islamic State, also known as ISIS, and other transnational jihadi actors in check. Having neutralized the ISIS threat on its western flank in Iraq only recently, Iran does not want to see the jihadis grow in strength on its eastern flank. Pakistan fears ISIS activities in Afghanistan might galvanize militants within its own borders. The Taliban may now dominate Afghanistan militarily, but the movement is very far from establishing effective governance

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A Taliban fighter near Bamiyan, Afghanistan, December 2021. Ali Khara / Reuters

across the country, never mind a viable economy in the absence of international recognition of its regime. In these circumstances, ISIS could gain ground. The militant group and other transnational jihadi forces will benefit from the Taliban’s struggle to balance the pragmatism necessary to govern with their core ideological commitments. Should the Taliban moderate their behavior, they could lose many of their members to more radical groups. The Taliban’s reconquest of Afghanistan comes at a time when both Iran and Pakistan are experiencing turmoil at home. Pakistan faces its deepest economic troubles since independence, with inflation rising exponentially and the country seeking to negotiate yet another loan deal with the International Monetary Fund, all exacerbated by unprecedented tensions between the military establishment and civilian leaders. Similarly, after four decades, Tehran’s clerical regime is in the midst of a major transition from a moderate to a more hard-line president and faces the looming question of who will succeed the ailing supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Iran is also experiencing a great deal of financial pain due to international sanctions. If Afghanistan begins exporting unrest, refugees, and militancy, it will only make matters worse for both countries. Afghanistan also represents a major gateway for Iran and Pakistan to Central Asia, especially in terms of energy and trade routes. They are eager to tap into China’s regional connectivity efforts through the vast infrastructure program known as the Belt and Road Initiative. China’s largest BRI project is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which runs through areas near the Afghan border and is vulnerable to strikes from Pakistani Taliban rebels as well as Baluch separatist militants. Pakistan is trying to get the Afghan Taliban to crack down on Baluch rebel outfits operating out of Afghanistan, but the new rulers in Kabul are unlikely to rein in their Pakistani Taliban counterparts, who enjoy sanctuary on the Afghan side of the border. As a result, the insecurity radiating out of Afghanistan threatens Chinese plans in Pakistan. Likewise, the Iranians are hoping that a new nuclear deal will allow the Chinese to move ahead with their plans to extend the BRI to their country. Iran and Pakistan therefore have a shared interest in a stable Afghanistan, which both countries realize is not likely to emerge anytime soon. But such stability may become more likely if Iran and Pakistan coordinate and cooperate more than they compete in Afghanistan.

BETWEEN THE PLAINS AND THE PLATEAU For centuries, states that arose in the Persian plateau to Afghanistan’s west and those centered in the plains of Punjab to the country’s east have vied over its territory. The modern nation-states of Iran and Pakistan are just the latest actors to be locked into this dynamic. In this contest, Pakistan enjoys a geographic and cultural advantage over Iran. Its border with

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Despite their many differences, Iran and Pakistan both seek stability and security in a country that has been in a state of war for two generations. Their interests have often diverged or come into direct conflict in Afghanistan, but now they will be forced to cooperate in ways that they have not in the past. Afghanistan is nearly three times as long as Iran’s border with Afghanistan, allowing Pakistan more scope to influence events in the landlocked country. Iran has traditionally maintained ties to Afghanistan’s various minorities (including the Tajik, the Uzbek, the Hazara, the Turkmen, the Aimak, and the Baluch communities) and benefited from the fact that the country’s lingua franca is Dari (the Afghan variant of Persian), which allows Tehran to cultivate deep ties with not just these minority groups but also the Pashtuns. Islamabad, on the other hand, has principally exerted influence in its western neighbor via the Pashtuns, who are the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan and make up as much as 45 percent of the population. Pashtuns form nearly a fifth of Pakistan’s population. In the 1990s, Pakistani support for the Taliban, which is a predominantly Pashtun group, demonstrated the power of this connection. Four years after Islamist factions toppled the communist government in Kabul in 1992, the Taliban emerged as the most powerful militia in the Afghan battle space and won the backing of Pakistan. Pakistani support helped the Taliban establish their first regime in 1996. Even after the United States unseated the Taliban in 2001, Islamabad continued to support the group. The Taliban remain Afghanistan’s largest political movement, able to recover from their defeat in 2001 to reclaim the country. Iran, on the other hand, bet on losing horses in Afghanistan. In the 1990s, it supported a coalition of smaller, weaker groups opposed to the Taliban and largely drawn from communities inclined to ally with Tehran, such as the Tajiks and the Shiite Hazaras. This anti-Taliban camp never formed a political vanguard that could compete with the Taliban and has remained splintered along ethnic lines. This history would suggest that Kabul’s new masters would ally closely with Islamabad and spurn Tehran. But the geopolitical landscape in the country has changed tremendously in the 20 years since the United States toppled the Taliban’s first emirate in 2001.


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Pakistan does not have the same sway over the Taliban as it did in the 1990s. The Taliban themselves are no longer a solely Pashtun phenomenon; indeed, they have made significant inroads into the ethnic minority communities, which in great part explains how the militant group swiftly took over areas in the country’s north in early August 2021. In the past 15 years, Iran also developed relations with elements of the Taliban insurgency, recognizing that the militants remained too powerful and important to ignore.

ban. By the mid-2010s, the Taliban had not only cultivated ties to Iran but also begun negotiations with Washington, established a political office in Qatar, and pursued relations with other powers such as China, Russia, Turkey, European states, and others. Islamabad still had the most extensive connections to the Afghan insurgent movement, however, especially with the Haqqani faction based in eastern Afghanistan and the old Quetta Shura that represents the Taliban’s original heartland in the country’s south.

PLAYING BOTH SIDES

RELUCTANT COOPERATION

Certainly, Iran has come a long way from 2001, when it provided intelligence support to the United States and helped its Northern Alliance partners oust the Taliban from power. Relations between Iran and the United States deteriorated precipitously thereafter amid disputes over Tehran’s nuclear program and Washington’s involvement in Iraq. The Iranians began cultivating ties to the Taliban sometime around 2005. By 2009, the Quds Force, the overseas operations arm of Iran’s elite military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was supplying weapons to Taliban insurgents. Tehran worked with Taliban figures such as the former military commanders Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir and Mullah Ibrahim Sadr and the late Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, who was killed in a 2016 U.S. drone strike minutes after his vehicle crossed into Pakistan from Iran. At the same time, Iran maintained ties to the minority groups as well as lines of support to the U.S.-backed regime in Kabul, supplying it with bags of cash worth over $1 million annually. Pakistan, for its part, also tried to build ties with other forces in Afghanistan. It first reached out to the Kabul government and anti-Taliban factions some 15 years ago. These overtures were not always warmly received; long-time opponents of the Taliban remained deeply mistrustful of Islamabad. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s attempt to cooperate with the U.S. war effort resulted in the loss of its monopoly of influence over the Tali-

During the era of the Taliban insurgency, Iran and Pakistan were content to maintain channels of communication and support with both the government in Kabul and the militants. But now with the Taliban in power and opposition forces largely crushed, Tehran and Islamabad face a situation that they were likely not prepared for. How do they ensure that those whom they helped wage an insurgency will now govern in a manner that does not lead to wider insecurity and threaten their respective national interests? Iran and Pakistan realize they must cooperate in managing the security situation in Afghanistan. The formation of the Taliban’s interim government suggests a degree of coordination between the two countries. The initial cabinet that the Taliban unveiled was dominated by militant leaders close to Pakistan. But within a few days, and after some conversations between Iranian and Pakistani officials on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting in Dushanbe in September 2021, figures from minority communities with close ties to Iran were placed in key portfolios. Zakir and Sadr became deputy ministers of defense and interior, respectively. Haji Nooruddin Azizi, a Tajik from Panjshir Province, became minister of commerce. The Commerce Ministry (trade between Afghanistan and Iran is greater than that between Afghanistan and Pakistan) also got Haji Mohammad Bashir, an Uzbek trader from Baghlan, as deputy minister and Haji Mohammad Azim Sultanzada, another Uzbek merchant from Sar-e-Pul, as second deputy minister. Mohammad Hassan Ghiasi, a Shiite Hazara physician, became deputy health minister. Through these very symbolic appointments, the Taliban hope to achieve two goals. First, on the domestic front, the Taliban government is trying to convince minority communities that they will be represented in the provisional authority and in a future government. Second, the ruling Islamist movement seeks to signal to the international community that it is responsive to calls for an inclusive government. These negotiated cabinet appointments, however critical, are not the only means by which the Iranians and the Pakistanis are cooperating to manage the extremely fluid situation in Afghanistan. Iran’s most senior military commander, MajorGeneral Mohammad Hossein Bagheri (who as joint armed

The Taliban remain Afghanistan’s largest political movement, able to recover from their defeat in 2001 to reclaim the country. Iran, on the other hand, bet on losing horses in Afghanistan.

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Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, center, and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, both wearing face masks because of the COVID-19 pandemic, inspect the honor guard before a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, on November 19, 2020. (Rahmat Gul/AP)


forces chief of staff oversees both the IRGC and Tehran’s regular military forces), led a delegation to Islamabad in mid-October. In meetings with their Pakistani counterparts, Bagheri and the other visiting Iranian generals discussed at length how to work with the Taliban regime to manage both countries’ shared security concerns. Despite these attempts at cooperation, Iran and Pakistan cannot help but be wary of each another. Pakistan remains deeply concerned about its archrival India aligning more closely with Iran. Iranian and Indian interests in Afghanistan, namely the shared desire to ensure that Sunni Islamists hostile to Tehran and New Delhi are not able to operate freely in the country, have long overlapped. Together with Russia, Iran and India cooperated significantly in the 1990s to support the Northern Alliance, the anti-Taliban coalition. Although China and Pakistan did not attend a regional conference on Afghanistan in November organized by India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Iran’s national security chief Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani (along with counterparts from the Central Asian states and Russia) did. But the U.S. exit from Afghanistan and the subsequent implosion of the internationally backed Afghan state have created a huge strategic problem for India. With the Taliban now in control in Kabul, New Delhi has lost its influence in Afghanistan; working with Iran could provide India with alternative access to the country. For decades, Afghanistan represented a shared strategic backyard for Iran and Pakistan. The Pakistanis have long sought a friendly government on their western flank so they could focus on their main geopolitical adversary to the east, India. Iran and Pakistan will have the most influence on whatever outcome emerges in Taliban-run Afghanistan. Great powers

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The formation of the Taliban’s interim government suggests a degree of coordination between the two countries. The initial cabinet that the Taliban unveiled was dominated by militant leaders close to Pakistan. such as China and Russia will rely on their bilateral relations with Tehran and Islamabad to try to ensure that the uncertainty in Afghanistan does not upset their strategic plans for Central and South Asia. Assuming Afghanistan eventually achieves some semblance of stability, both the Iranians and the Pakistanis will seek to leverage their influence to enhance their economic interests in the country and in the region. But for the foreseeable future, both will be struggling to make sure that the anarchic piece of geopolitical real estate between them does not undermine their national security. This article was originally published in Foreign Affairs. ©2022 Council on Foreign Relations, publisher of Foreign Affairs. All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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Radical Islamic Organizations: Odd Prospects, Guns for Rent and Mercenarism

By Abdelkader Zaoui

We are facing groups with odd prospects, guns ready for rent and mercenarism that do not represent the true Islamic religion

Some of the reasons behind the decision taken by Washington and its allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan are becoming clear gradually.

It has facilitated the return of Taliban to power in Afghanistan, which would cause anxiety and tension for many countries, being an inspiring example for various organizations in the region.

They cleared the way for Taliban to take over power without any resistance from local forces or the international coalition forces, which only secured the exit of its members and some Afghans who cooperated with it.

Washington has given the impression that it has accepted the fate of the various Muslim Brotherhood forms of political Islam. These include the electoral defeats and legal decisions in countries that allow the organization to operate openly or the security measures by authorities of some countries that did not hide their efforts to eradicate the Brotherhood phenomenon by dismantling its secret cells, drying up its financial sources and relatively rehabilitating random areas from where new followers have emanated.

The decision was not the result of a military defeat or the failure to build successful civil state institutions and establish a pluralistic political life. It aimed at reducing huge military expenditures and redeploying US forces in new areas which Washington considers constitute a serious threat to its interests and global leadership. It was also used as an implicit political message about the US vision for the future of some issues in the Middle East and North Africa region. The message addressed to all the regimes in the region and the international and regional powers underlines Washington’s unwillingness to abandon using political Islam as a card in its relations with the regional countries and one of its tools to secure its major interests and ensure the continuation of its dominant influence there. It also shows that it is capable of activate this card and using it in the manner it sees as appropriate. 32

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Nevertheless, paving the way for Taliban and overlooking the crimes it has committed prove that the US authorities still want to play the card of political organizations tucked behind religion. Washington is convinced that there is no other organized political alternative that can be taken advantage of to maintain tension throughout the region. It considers these organizations necessary to disturb the deep military, security and administrative institutions that run several countries and have opposed the US wish to distinguish between moderate organizations and those that adopt violence and terrorism as a


means to achieve their goals. In light of the above, the terrible decline in the activities of the “light” Islamic political organizations compared to the Sunni and Shiite armed organizations and militias seems to be normal. These organizations are active locally within the borders of one state and defy and sometimes fight the authorities of that state, and regionally within exposed sectarian alliances. It is noteworthy that most of these organizations have recently intensified their activities, raising the ceiling of its challenges after it considered the US overlooking Taliban a green light that could be used to expand its influence. Below are some examples: - Yemen’s Houthi Movement, also known as Ansar Allah, became fierce and violent after US President Joe Biden’s administration removed it from the US list of terrorist organizations.

- Somalia’s Islamic Shabaab organization has benefited from the withdrawal of US forces from Somalia under former US President Donald Trump and the current delays in establishing a unified Somali army to extend its influence in central and southern Somalia, defying the central authority in Mogadishu. It aims to carry out terrorist operations in neighboring countries such as Kenya, where it was able to recruit Kenyan and Ugandan citizens, threatening to widen the circle of instability throughout East Africa. This seems to be its task. - ISIS, which was said to have been defeated after being expelled from Mosul, the capital of its so-called caliphate, in 2017. The organization has returned in the form of mobile terrorist cells, whose number of militants according to Western intelligence estimates is 27,000. It adopts the style of a painful guerrilla war in Iraq and Syria and arose from areas close to the Syrian Al-Tanf base, where the US forces are stationed. This indicates that its move came to curb the escalation of demands to withdraw those forces from Iraq and to prevent the expansion of the Syrian regime forces east of the Euphrates River.

It besieged the city of Marib and continued bombing civilian areas in Saudi Arabia instead of resorting to negotiations with the legitimate Yemeni authorities, in accordance with UN resolutions and the Gulf iniThe “victorious” return of Taliban to powtiative. er has certainly inspired other extremist - Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, of organizations that would not hesitate to which Washington approved the establish- commit acts of terror and intimidation in ment to fight ISIS militants then recom- the right circumstance. This once again afmended considering it a legitimate govern- firms that we are facing groups with odd ment institution in Iraq after cooperating prospects, guns ready for rent and mercewith its members to secure air cover for US narism that do not represent the true Islamforces during their fight against ISIS rem- ic religion. nants. The US had deliberately attacked its barracks recently on the Syrian border to But it would be naïve to deny that it these give it credibility that could inflame sectar- groups were founded in the Arab region and ian feuds, especially since the movement their followers are the result of the shallowdoes not deny being sectarian and expresses ness of our education system, the misery of openly its ambitions to expand within the our culture and a reaction to all the evils that spread through our societies. Sunni provinces. 33

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The “victorious” return of Taliban to power has certainly inspired other extremist organizations that would not hesitate to commit acts of terror and intimidation in the right circumstance


A Weekly Political News Magazine

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Samuel Eto’o: One of the Greatest African Footballers of All Time

www.majalla.com



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The History of Monologue Art in Egypt

Political and Social Issues were Presented with Fast Music Rhythm By Salma Adham - Cairo THE MONOLOGUE In theatre, a monologue is a speech presented by a single character, often expressing their thoughts aloud, though sometimes also directly addressing another character or the audience.

IN EGYPT In Egypt, the monologue began with the appearance of theaters and the increase of music halls at the beginning of the 20th century when the need to present something sarcastic arose. It was an enter-

The monologue is familiar across dramatic media such as film and TV and in non-dramatic media such as poetry. A monologue is similar to a poem-- it involves one ‘voice’ speaking. Interior monologues involve a character externalizing their thoughts so that the audience can witness experiences that would otherwise be primarily internal. In contrast, a dramatic monologue involves one character speaking to another character. Monologues can also be divided into active and narrative monologues. In an enthusiastic or active monologue, a character uses their speech to achieve a clear goal. Narrative monologues involve a character telling a story which is often identified with their past.

Ismail Yassin

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Soraya Helmy

tainment segment far from the seriousness of theater and drama as well as the usual song and dance shows. The idea of the “humorous/critical” monologue comes from the concept of a single actor on the stage. It is close to light song and dance music in its written and melodic structure. It was different from oriental music, and a large part of its success was based on performance, movement, and interaction with the audience. The monologue was presented in various forms, combining comedy and fast pace, including critical, political, emotional, and social issues. The spoken word was the most crucial characteristic of this art. It made fun of emotional relationships, social customs and habits. It was also straightforward in posing political or national problems by way of light and short melodies. Late Egyptian artist Sayed Suleiman was one of the first to present this art, and he delivered the monologue in most of its types. The first generation included many monologists, such as Hassan and Nea-

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The monologue was presented in various forms, combining comedy and fast pace, including critical, political, emotional, and social issues. mat El-Meligy, Mohamed El-Barbari, Abdel-Aziz Ahmed, and the artist Hassan Fayek. The latter was one of the most famous monologists at that time. Egyptian radio began broadcasting in the midthirties. The monologue started to take on greater fame, and the second generation and the remainder of the first generation recorded monologues on the radio. However, the radio was not enough to develop the monologue because it was visually lacking and the monologue is a complete expressive picture of words, melodic performance, singing, and movement. In Egypt, the pioneers of monologue art were Ismail


Yassin, Mahmoud Shokoko and Soraya Helmy.

the films of Ismail Yassin, Shokoko, and Soraya Helmy.

By the beginning of the forties, monologues and show sketches began to appear as a form of cin- Ismail Yassin ematic singing and were gradually liberated from the dominance of oriental song. This increased The late artist Ismail Yassin worked as a singer, the monologue’s fame, and cinema began pre- monologist, and actor. He remained one of the piosenting full films based on monologues, such as neers of this art for ten years, from 1935-1945, then worked in the cinema and became one of its most prominent stars. Ismail Yassin presented several famous monologues, such as Matestagebsh matestaghrabsh and Abu Dehka genan.

By the beginning of the forties, monologues and show sketches began to appear as a form of cinematic singing. This increased the monologue’s fame, and cinema began presenting full films based on monologues, such as the films of Ismail Yassin, Shokoko, and Soraya Helmy.

Soraya Helmy The late artist, Soraya Helmy, also presented the most famous monologues in Egyptian cinematic history. Soraya is considered one of the most preeminent artists who developed the art of monologue, most notably: “Give bread for his baker.”

Mahmoud Shokoko The late artist Shokoko participated in many plays with his songs and monologues and later formed a performing group with Soraya Helmy.

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Ismail Yassin


Ismail Yassin and Soraya Helmy

In the 1950s, the monologue gradually disappeared. With the beginning of the 1970s, the monologue began to collapse completely, starting with the transformation of the monologue into a second-class art

Mahmoud Shokoko

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and treating it as only clowning. The skilled monologue poets and composers also disappeared, and this was one of the reasons for its deterioration. By the 2000s, it was replaced by stand-up comedy.


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“What Lies Behind the Walls”, by Zahrah Alghamdi

California’s Desert X Coming to Saudi Arabia Washington, Mohammad Ali Salih Recently, Saudi Arabian newspapers and media outlets said that the famous California’s Coachella Valley Desert X’s Art in the Desert will be shown in Saudi Arabia in February. Also, besides the last Californian show in which a Saudi artist participated, there will be more Saudi participation this time. The show, which will be held in Al-Ula, will have the theme of “Sarab” (mirage), explor-

ing the ideas of mirage and oasis through artworks that will be positioned among ancient formations of mountains, deserts and artifacts. The first Desert X show was held in 2017, starting themes that included climate change, immigration, tourism, and American culture, although some of the following shows were interrupted because of the Coronavirus epidemic. Saudi artist Zahrah Alghamdi participated in the past, showing her work “What Lies Behind the Walls.”

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“Curves and Zigzags”, by Claudia Comte

“Sempiternal Clouds”, by Alicja Kwade

“The Passenger,” by Eduardo Sarabia

“Dive-in” by a Danish group

“Hollow Earth”, by Glenn Kaino

“Lover’s Rainbow,” by Pia Camil

California Desert X has already designed the “Desert X Al-Ula” theme, and referred to the region for being one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. That is in reference to Hegra artifacts that were built by the Nabataeans

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over 2,000 years ago. Today, it is a living museum of heritage, arts and nature, rekindling its legacy as a vital cultural destination.


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Papyrus Maker Struggles to Keep Art Alive By Salwa Samir Ancient Egyptians used papyrus as a writing material as early as 3,000 BC. Papyrus continued to be used to some extent until around the 11th century AD. Egyptians recorded everything on it, from peace treaties and bills to marriage contracts, official letters, and medical instructions. It has been planted in Egypt until the middle of the 20th century. By the 1960s, the industry flourished again at the hand of Hassan Ragab (2004-1911), the founder of Papyrus Institute in Cairo.

Suleiman has a factory and 30 feddans in the village. HOW HE MAKES PAPYRUS “The process of making papyrus is all manual and primitive,” he said. He added that planting papyrus needs only water, manure and few chemicals. It is planted in six months during summer. “Together with workers, we slice the stalks into thin strips according to the sizes which I need, using a saw to remove the green parts from the

Atef Suleiman is one of the remaining papyrus makers who mastered the craft at in Ragab’s workshop. He has been practicing planting, drawing and coloring papyrus since 1988. Atef hails from Qaramus village in the Nile Delta governorate of Sharqia, which is the only village in the country that is planting papyrus right now, he told Majalla. Suleiman, 60, has been working in this profession despite being graduated from the Faculty of Commerce in Zagazig University. “I was attached to this kind of art. It is very important to keep our ancient traditions alive.”

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Atef Suleiman is seen in his land in Qaramus village in the Nile Delta governorate of Sharqia.


Atef Suleiman is one of the remaining papyrus makers who mastered the papyrus making craft in Qaramus village in the Nile Delta governorate of Sharqia.

plant and taking the white part from it. Then we lay handfuls of strips across each other to form a sheet of paper. “Then we put them in three large bowls following a specific sequence. The first bowl contains water to help soften the strips. After two hours, we put them in another bowl containing chlorine to turn the strips into the famous yellow color. Two hours later, we put them in a bowl containing potash as a cohesive material. “Then after drying out the liquids, I lay them across one another, and gently pound the strips. Then they are pressed for one day and burnished with a smooth stone before being written on,” Suleiman said. He said that he can draw on it directly or print a scene on it.

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Atef Suleiman is one of the remaining papyrus makers who mastered the craft at in Ragab’s workshop. According to him, the difference between the use of papyrus nowadays and that of ancient Egyptians is that the latter used to draw only pharaonic shapes and scenes, but today they draw landscapes, Islamic and Coptic art, in addition to writing graduation certificates. Struggle to survive papyrus making Suleiman said that he gives two lectures a week in applied arts faculties in the country and also holds workshops in schools and museums to teach papyrus making.


Part of Atef Suleiman’s work.

He participated in many bazaars in the country and exhibitions abroad to teach people how to make papyrus. “Our foreign clients demand a certain quantity which I make and bring with me when I travel with my products to showcase them abroad,” he added. He explained that his clients from the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia demand papyrus with calligraphy and Islamic designs, while he sends Pharaonic forms to Spain and the US. He creates scenes of Greek antiquities for Greece.

business. “I lost most of my clients and even workers after the pandemic,” he said. “Before Covid19- I had about 50 workers and fine arts students whom I taught how to draw and design on papyrus. Now I have only five,” he said. He added that he is still planting and manufacturing but putting them in storage,

He said that was the situation before the Covid19- pandemic, which totally changed his

“I want people to learn about this industry. It is our heritage and must be continued. I am afraid that the art will become extinct.” 44

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In marketing his products, Atef Suleiman displays and sells his works to bazaars and exhibitions.


Part of Atef Suleiman’s work

A young worker making papyrus in a workshop in Qaramus village in the Nile Delta governorate of Sharqia.

because “there are no revenues.” In marketing his products, he owned an office in the Haram district of Giza, where he displayed and sold his works to bazaars and exhibitions. A young worker making papyrus in a workshop in Qaramus village in the Nile Delta governorate of Sharqia.

“I want people to learn about this industry. It is our heritage and must be continued. I am afraid that the art will become extinct,” he said.

“I was attached to this kind of art. It is very important to keep our ancient traditions alive.” “Unfortunately, both of my children have no relationship with papyrus making,” he said, adding that his son is a history teacher and his daughter graduated from the agriculture faculty and then got married. He also lamented that when he teaches the younger generation, they don›t stay with the industry for a long period of time. “When I teach workers everything related to papyrus making, they practice it for a year or two maximum, then they leave it to work as tuktuk drivers. “This is a dilemma in the artisan industry in general,” he said. “Regrettably, people nowadays love quick earnings.”

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«A Hero»: A Gripping Moral Tale from Asghar Farhadi The Movie to Represent Iranian Cinema in 2022 Oscars By Justin Chang

favorites like “A Separation” and “The Salesman,” has little use for saintly protagonists, and his ninth The title of “A Hero,” Asghar Farhadi’s characteris- feature — garlanded at last year’s Cannes Film Festically complex, humane and absorbing new movie, tival and recently shortlisted for the Oscar for international feature — is no exception. It unfolds over at first cries out to be read ironically. Farhadi, the Iranian writer and director of art-house several eventful days in the life of Rahim Soltani

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(Amir Jadidi), a failed entrepreneur who’s serving three years in debtors’ prison, and who is no one’s idea of a hero. Until, that is, he performs a good deed that goes viral, nabbing his 15 minutes of fame from a jaded society eager for even faint glimmers of hope for humanity. A rigorous pessimist who nonetheless avoids the trap of easy cynicism, Farhadi understands and, up to a point, satisfies the public’s need for everyday uplift. “Human-interest stories” may be a reductive term for his particular mode of character-rich, milieu-specific filmmaking, but it is not an entirely inaccurate one. Certainly, Rahim is nothing if not interesting. When he steps into the sunshine for two days’ prison leave, a good-natured smile plays over his handsome face, a smile that persists even when he chases after a departing bus. You sense that Rahim has missed more than a few opportunities. You also sense that his charming smile, which he slips into with almost maddening reflexiveness, earned him a lot of them to begin with.

Amir Jadidi, right, and Saleh Karimai in the movie “A Hero.” (Amir Hossein Shojaei/Amazon Studios/TNS)

Another such opportunity has already presented itself as the story opens. Farkhondeh (Sahar Goldoust), the woman Rahim has been seeing, recently discovered a lost purse containing 17 gold coins — a godsend for someone in his dire straits. But when it becomes clear that the value of the coins won’t cover his many debts, Rahim hits on another scheme. While out on leave in his home city of Shiraz, he puts up fliers trying to locate the purse’s owner — and sure enough, a woman comes forward, claiming the bag and the gold as hers. But the true prize becomes clear when Rahim’s act of kindness — a sacrificial gesture from a man who’s already lost so much — makes national headlines, and he and his family become the toast of their community virtually overnight. A charity raises enormous sums on his behalf. Even the friendly prison staff wind up basking in the glow of their celebrity inmate. And just as swiftly — but also intricately and methodically — it all comes crashing to the ground. As he drifts in and out of prison, Rahim sees his hardwon reserves of goodwill suddenly depleted, undone by community gossip and online backlash.

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“A Hero” is essentially Farhadi’s version of a “milkshake duck” narrative, a story of how social media fame can giveth and taketh away, though the internet remains a background presence rather than a front-and-center dramatic device. “A Hero” is essentially Farhadi’s version of a “milkshake duck” narrative, a story of how social media fame can giveth and taketh away, though the internet remains a background presence rather than a frontand-center dramatic device. Before long, a time-old debate reasserts itself: Does altruism really exist? No good deed may go unpunished, but how good was Rahim’s deed to begin with, having been engineered for maximum attention? At the same time, who could blame him for exploiting the moralistic codes that govern so much of his daily life, and for trying to acquire a dose of respect in a society where virtue is the true coin of the realm? One of Farhadi’s shrewder insights here is that institutions, perhaps even more than individuals, have a real stake in turning inspirational stories to their financial and reputational advantage. He has always been good at revealing interlocking chains of complicity — at using, say, a couple’s looming divorce in “A Separation” to confront tough, intractable issues of class, money, religion and gender in present-day Tehran. While it’s more studied than that earlier film and doesn’t achieve the same gut impact, “A Hero” undertakes a similar process of social illumination. Rahim’s fortunes rise and fall with the pace of a thriller and the scope of a tragedy, but in a Farhadi film, every protagonist is caught up in a larger, sadder story. That story comes into focus early and often, swept into view by the expansive widescreen frames of Ali Ghazi and Arash Ramezani’s cinematography and the agile rhythms of Hayedeh Safiyari’s editing.


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Seemingly minor characters are accorded significant dramatic weight, and many of them are played by actors whose names you may not know, but whose faces you will have a hard time forgetting. Fereshteh Sadrorafaii plays the stern but not unreasonable director of the charity that rides the tide of Rahim’s good deed — and comes under fire when his story begins to fall apart. Ehsan Goodarzi plays a council officer tasked with investigating Rahim’s story, and his calm, dogged skepticism is so penetrating — and so emblematic of a state that distrusts everyone by default — that you may find yourself rooting for Rahim to get away with it.

The ability to pull off that kind of moral reversal, to draw you into an almost Hitchcockian complicity with characters at their lowest ebb, is one of Farhadi’s signature strengths as a storyteller.

The ability to pull off that kind of moral reversal, to draw you into an almost Hitchcockian complicity with characters at their lowest ebb, is one of Farhadi’s signature strengths as a storyteller. But he also earns your sympathy for the crucial figure of Bahram (an excellent Mohsen Tanabandeh), Rahim’s unyielding, unforgiving creditor and his own personal Javert. The bad blood between them has an ugly, complicated history, involving family entanglements and failed business ventures, that the movie takes its time untangling. But it’s precisely that history that allows Bahram to see through Rahim’s deception with a stubborn clarity that eludes everyone else, and it’s he who articulates the movie’s most pointed ideas. “Where in the world are people celebrated for not doing wrong?” Bahram asks in one heated confrontation. It’s one of many questions swirling around the taut but elastic drama of “A Hero,” some version of which you could imagine playing out in any number of different countries and eras. But any successful retelling would have to find its own equivalents of Farhadi’s penetrating cultural insights. Among other things, he reveals the everyday injustices of a prison system that turns citizens into

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“A Hero” poster. (IMDB)


Amir Jadidi in the movie “A Hero.” (IMDB)

each other’s captors and captives. He’s attuned to the ways in which emotional and logistical burdens fall disproportionately on women, including Farkhondeh and Rahim’s sister (Maryam Shahdaie), both loving and loyal to him to a fault. And not for the first time, Farhadi proves acutely sensitive to the ways in which children — in this case, Siavash

(Saleh Karimai), Rahim’s young son from a prior marriage — end up paying a cruel price for their parents’ mistakes. Siavash speaks with a stutter, making him an object of easy pity when Rahim’s image-rehab campaign kicks into gear. And even as Farhadi critiques Rahim for exploiting his son’s impediment, he takes pains not to fall into the same trap. But he also understands how children can, at certain moments, show us our better selves, can spur us to do the right thing — and, crucially, for the right reasons. It’s telling that Rahim’s most quietly heroic gesture takes place in secret, far from the eyes of onlookers or the lens of a news camera. Perhaps the title isn’t so ironic after all. This review was originally published by Los Angeles Times

‘A HERO’ In Persian with English subtitles MPAA rating: PG-13 (for some thematic elements and language) Running time: 2:07 Where to watch: Now playing in theaters and streaming on Amazon Prime Video Jan. 21

Sahar Goldust and Amir Jadidi in the movie “A Hero.” (IMDB)

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79 -Year-Old Egyptian Swimmer Breaks Records

Nagwa Ghorab to Majalla: «I hope to participate in Senior Olympics 2022 this year” By Sarah Gamal There is nothing impossible, and age is not an obstacle to being a world champion. This was confirmed by the Egyptian swimming champion Nagwa Ghorab, who won the world championship in her seventies. Age was not an obstacle to achieving her ambitions. With a firm will and with Abdel Latif Abu Heif as her ideal, she was able to outdo the Russians, Germans, and the French. Her white hair and the signs of time and experience only increased her determination. Nagwa is a woman who does not know the impossible and lives for her dream. She is made of steel and it was her persistence and determination that turned her house into a museum for medals of honor and certificates of appreciation. “I am purely Egyptian, I love my country and I am proud of my nationality and my country. My father was a police officer and at the same time he was an equestrian during the royal era and participated in the Olympic Games for which King Farouk honored him more than once. He instilled in us a love for the practice of sport while my physician mother directed us towards a healthy lifestyle. I have two sisters, and I turned 79 in early January of this year. I had a happy childhood with my tight-knit family.” This is how the Egyptian international swimmer Nagwa Ghorab began her recollections with Majalla. Her father Youssef Ghorab was an Olympic champion in equestrian sports. He wanted his daughters to become athletes with high fitness levels and compete in various championships at a time when girls’ education in itself was a praiseworthy achievement. Her father insisted that his daughters learn how to swim at the public sports

facility next to the Egyptian Opera House. Among her sisters, four-year-old Nagwa was the only one who fell in love with this sport. «We started swimming in a club adjacent to the Egyptian Opera which was very far from our home. But my father›s desire and insistence that his daughters learn and practice sports prompted us to travel this long distance almost daily to learn to swim despite the difficulty of transportation in the late forties and early fifties of the last century,» Ghorab told Majalla.

Photo courtesy of Nagwa Ghorab.

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Nagwa Ghorab, +70 Worldwide Swimming Championship- Photo courtesy of Nagwa Ghorab.

«Alone among my sisters, my talent for swimming emerged and the coaches said that I swam in a unique way. I achieved the Republic Singles Championship when I was seven years old. I continued to win titles in the Republic Championship until the age of sixteen, especially in the backstroke, (for which I got third place in the world), as well as the front crawl and butterfly. But I gave up butterfly stroke when I got older,” she added. Nagwa quickly proved her superiority and won the title of Champion of the Republic at the age of 18, but at that time women were not allowed to represent Egypt in international tournaments. Accordingly, university studies and her love of art replaced swimming, and she completed her university studies at the Leonardo da Vinci School of Painting after which she headed to the Faculty of Arts, Department of French Language, to graduate and become a teacher at the Peace School. Ghorab reached retirement age in 2010 and she dreamed of swimming once again. She joined the pioneers’ team at Heliopolis Club, and with that team she participated in many international competitions and competed against the top swimmers in the world. In the same year, she won two silver medals in the world championships in Canada for the over60-s. In the national swimming championships in the USA she took the silver for the 50 meters and finished fifth in the 100 meters in the 74-70 age group. “I have a great conviction that there is nothing impossible in life. Inside me, I am a hero, so I challenged everything

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Her father Youssef Ghorab was an Olympic champion in equestrian sports. He wanted his daughters to become athletes with high fitness levels and compete in various championships. and had determination, and carried out the instructions of my coach, so I participated in a world championship at the age of 76,”Nagwa said. As for her beginnings in swimming after the age of sixty: “I participated in the world championships when I was 14 at a time when no Egyptian swimmers were going out to participate in foreign tournaments. Among the competitors at the men›s level was the legendary Abdellatief Abouheif, and I absolutely mean “legendary.” This man did the impossible, both on an athletic level, in terms of fitness and ability to compete in world championships, and on a moral level. I was looking at him in the same way as the Egyptian and Arab fans now look at Mohamed Salah, the Liverpool star. I was well aware of his value to the sport


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and I followed his swimming technique. My biggest motivation in participating in international championships was to raise high the Egyptian flag and to have international newspapers write about an Egyptian woman who achieved great feats in swimming competitions.” Regarding the funding of sports bodies and institutions for her in international competitions: “My generation was not a wealthy generation on a financial level, and I always believed that wealth is not financial, but that wealth is sporting, cultural, artistic and educational. This is how a person will be a good human being if he/she possesses this wealth. I love sports and it is the secret of my happiness in life so far— not money— money goes but sports wealth continues,» she explained. “«I am a professional sportswoman, but, since I depend on my own financial resources, I consider myself an amateur. I never allow underestimating the Egyptian champions and comparing them with the European champions. I am proud to represent the name of Egypt and achieve titles

and medals in its name,” Ghorab continued. As for her family›s support, she said: “My daughter is a doctor and always supports me, but she is afraid of injuries after I approach eighty years of age. I always receive support from her, the rest of my children and my grandchildren. Everyone is happy with what I have accomplished and is proud of my determination, not only my family, but everyone who knows my sports career.” Accomplishing impressive feats locally and internationally, Nagwa Ghorab competed in six world championships for seniors – and won eleven international medals. She participated in the 2016 Nationwide U.S. Masters Swimming Championship for seniors aged -70

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Egyptian swimmer Nagwa Ghorab, 76, shows her medals after her training session in Cairo, Egypt, January ,27 2019. (Reuters).

Photo courtesy of Nagwa Ghorab.


Egyptian swimmer Nagwa Ghorab, 76, swims underwater during her training session in Cairo, Egypt, January 2019 ,27. (Reuters).

74 years old in North Carolina, and won second place in the 50 meters backstroke, and not only that, but also achieved fifth place in the 100 meters backstroke, and sixth place in the 500 meters front crawl. “I won five medals in five World Championships. In 2015 at age 72 I won the gold medal in Russia as well as two bronze medals. I also participated in the Nationwide U.S. Masters Swimming Championship (for seniors aged 74-70 years old) in North Carolina and I got three medals, one of them was a silver medal for the 50 meters backstroke competition. This was amazing, and it proved to America that Egyptian women can take up challenges and win. They were truly astonished when I was on the podium,” she declared. When asked about how she spends a typical day of her life, she said: “I get up at five in the morning to prepare for the morning training, which lasts for two hours a day, followed by breakfast, and then practicing some meditation and relaxation exercises under the sun. I read some texts of French literature and listen to classical music. I also make time for my family, which consists of my three daughters and four grandchildren.” As for her diet; “I do not eat all kinds of sugars, I maintain my weight and health, and I love salads. My food is regulated with few starches and fats. Music and sports are more important to me than food.” Ghorab is preparing for the international tournament that will be held next August in South Korea, with an eye toward achieving an advanced score to add to the balance sheet of her successes: “I hope to participate in the National Senior Games Association (NSGA) (or «Senior Olympics») this year, and I hope to compete against a Japanese contestant. I am very ambitious to achieve a

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Alone among my sisters, my talent for swimming emerged and the coaches said that I swam in a unique way. I achieved the Republic Singles Championship when I was seven years old. top position.” Being a role model to everyone, but especially to women over fifty –who just got their inspirational dose for today– Nagwa Ghorab sends a message to all women: “Don’t let negative comments about what you should and shouldn’t do after fifty get to you. Stay strong and pursue your dreams!” Her prescription for success that she would like to convey to young people is: «You must have will and perseverance, and not believe that age will prevent you from achieving your dreams and ambitions. The most important thing is to organize your time and strike a balance between all requirements while being close to positive people who provide you with psychological support and encouragement. You should pay a lot of attention to sports and proper nutrition, and also should embrace culture, listen to music and do some other positive things, and preserve the blessings of God. These are always my tips for my grandchildren and for all young people.”


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Samuel Eto’o: One of the Greatest African Footballers of All Time By Majalla Illustration by Jeannette Khouri Samuel Eto’o Fils is a former Cameroonian player and the current president of the Cameroonian Football Federation since December 11, 2021. Eto’o was elected president of FECAFOOT to manage affairs of the football governing body for four years. At his peak, critics regarded Eto’o as one of the world’s best strikers. He is also considered one of the greatest African players, winning the African Player of the Year award four times in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2010 The former striker is in charge of delivering the latest AFCON tournament in his home country, which got underway last Sunday and will continue till February 6, with 24 nations taking part. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) faced criticism over the timing of its continental championship, and it had last month to address rumors the tournament would be further delayed following the emergence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. With the start of the tournament, English football legend Ian Wright has criticized the coverage of the Africa Cup of Nations, claiming that the coverage has been tinged with racism Wright’s message was noted by Samuel Eto’o. He wrote on Twitter: “Respect Ian Wright! There’s no greater honor for a sportsperson than representing your country. The Africa Cup of Nations is a cel-

ebration of African pride, and next week’s AFCON will once more prove the undeniable greatness of African Players. Eto’o was born on March 10, 1981, in Douala, Cameroon, to the couple David Eto’o, who worked as an accountant, and Christine Eto’o, who worked as a fishmonger In 1996, he traveled to France to try out for a French soccer club, but he could not because of administrative problems and lack of proper documentation. He returned to Cameroon and joined the Kadji Sports Academy, based in Douala, the economic capital and the main port of Cameroon, where he was seen by the club’s coaches. A few months later, he was called back to France to participate in Le Havre and Saint-Etienne training As a promising talent, Eto’o moved to Real Madrid at sixteen. He was competing with more experienced players and got several loan spells before signing with Mallorca in 2000, scoring 70 goals. His impressive performance made him join Barcelona in 2004, where he scored 130 goals in five seasons and became the record holder for the most participation by African players in La Liga. After winning the league three times, he was a key player in Barcelona’s attack, along with Ronaldinho. Eto’o scored in the final when they won the 2005–06 Champions League. He also was part of the attacking trio alongside Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry when they won the 2008 -09 Champions League, and he scored again in the final.

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He is the second player in history to score in two Champions League finals. In Barcelona, Eto’o won third place in the 2005 FIFA World Player of the Year award, and he was named to the FIFA annual ‘FIFPRO’ squad in 2005 and 2006 In 2010, he signed with Inter Milan, where he became the first player to win the treble in two consecutive years and two different teams with Barcelona and Inter, respectively. He is the fourth player in the history of the Champions League, after Marcel Desailly, Paulo Sousa, and Gerard Pique, to win the tournament in two consecutive years with two different teams. After short contracts with Anji Makhachkala, Chelsea, Everton, and Sampdoria, Eto’o played in the Turkish Super League, where he scored 44 goals in 76 leagues with Antalyaspor. In 2015, he was awarded the Golden Foot Award. He signed for Qatar FC in August 2018, a year before his retirement. In February 2019, he said he wanted to continue playing for another year. On September 7, 2019, Eto’o announced his retirement from football. As a player in the Cameroon national team, Eto’o was part of the team that won the gold medal at the 2000 Olympics. He also won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2000 and 2002. Eto’o has participated in four World Cup tournaments and six Africa Cup of Nations. He is the all-time top scorer of the African Nations Cup, with 18 goals, the historical scorer for Cameroon, and the third most participating player, with 56 goals in 118 international matches.



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Turning up the Volume on Brain Health Hearing Loss May be Linked to Dementia

By Kelly Bilodeau Is there a connection between hearing loss and dementia? Researchers have been working intently to answer this question in recent years.

“There are several studies that show an association between hearing loss and cognitive decline,” says Dr. Elliott Kozin, assistant professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Harvard Medical School.

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But while the two seem to be linked, doctors say it’s too early to say whether hearing loss is actually causing cognitive decline. “As the statistics mantra goes, ‘association is not the same as causation,’” says Dr. Kozin, who specializes in the evaluation and treatment of complex ear disorders at Massachusetts Eye and Ear. “There may be additional or multiple unknown risk factors linked to both hearing loss and cognitive decline.” One of those factors may be causing both problems. However, even though a connection hasn’t been confirmed, it’s important to get tested if you notice signs that your hearing may not be as sensitive as it used to be. There is already ample evidence that hearing difficulties take a toll on your social ties and your quality of life. Simple solutions can help. EXPLORING THE LINK There are some potential reasons why hearing loss and brain changes may be related. First, when you can’t hear well, you may not be able to communicate well with others, which may affect your social life. This loss of interaction may reduce your quality of life and affect your cognitive processing, says Dr. Kozin. “Collectively, these problems are theorized to result in the development of conditions like depression or dementia,” he says. Credit: Harvard health

It’s also possible that hearing loss somehow affects the actual structure of the brain, he says. This, in turn, could make the brain more susceptible to the type of damage that is commonly found in people who have Alzheimer’s disease. A MODIFIABLE RISK FACTOR? This potential link between hearing loss and changes in the brain has piqued researchers’ interest for two reasons. First, dementia is a growing concern because the U.S. population is aging, and there is a push to identify modifiable risk factors. “The thought is that if we identify factors that lead to a condition, such as dementia, we can act early to prevent it, slow it, and potentially even treat it,” says Dr. Kozin. If hearing loss causes changes in the brain, for example, it’s possible that fitting someone with a hearing aid might head off cognitive deficits.

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“An epidemiologic study supported by the National Institutes of Health indicated that %14 of adults experience hearing loss,” says Dr. Kozin. While men are twice as likely as women to have difficulty hearing, women are not immune. “This is an active area of research and is being heavily supported by the National Institutes of Health,” says Dr. Kozin. “What is generally needed are high-quality prospective longitudinal studies that compare two groups, those with and without hearing loss, to determine if they develop disorders like dementia. As part of these studies, individuals may be given hearing aids to determine if they mitigate risk of conditions like dementia. These studies are challenging; they require large numbers of patients who are closely followed over a period of time.” Second, if hearing loss is an indicator of dementia, it may help doctors to spot the condition earlier. The hope is that it could one day be used as a way to help diagnose dementia, says Dr. Kozin. It’s far too soon to say whether either of these is true, but researchers hope they will someday have an answer. ARE YOU EXPERIENCING HEARING LOSS? Below are some signs to look for that may signal trouble: - an inability to hear in quiet or noisy environments - missing words or phrases when people are speaking - tinnitus - noise sensitivity - a sensation of ear fullness - needing to turn up the television or music volume. You may also notice that you feel tired because you need to concentrate intently to follow a conversation. UNDERSTANDING HEARING LOSS In the meantime, Dr. Kozin says people should be alert


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ealth

to hearing deficits. Hearing loss is a common problem among American adults between the ages of 29 and 69, according to a 2017 JAMA study. “An epidemiologic study supported by the National Institutes of Health indicated that 14% of adults experience hearing loss,” says Dr. Kozin. While men are twice as likely as women to have difficulty hearing, women are not immune. The problem becomes more common with age. “Among adults ages 50 to 59 and 60 to 69, the study found that 23% and 39% of adults had hearing loss, respectively,” says Dr. Kozin. But it isn’t limited to older adults. “There is no definite age that one may develop hearing loss, as it could be due to many different factors, such as noise exposure and genetics,” says Dr. Kozin. Eight percent of adults in their 40s reported hearing problems, according to the 2017 JAMA study. DIAGNOSING THE PROBLEM Many people who have hearing deficits aren’t aware of the problem. “Auditory dysfunction results in many different symptoms, such as hearing loss, tinnitus [ringing in the ear], and noise sensitivity. Some individuals may only notice hearing difficulties in noisy environments, such as restaurants,” says Dr. Kozin. Other individuals may only be aware due to feedback from friends and family. While there are no national recommendations that call for hearing screening or testing at certain ages or intervals, get tested if you start experiencing symptoms of hearing loss or if someone points out that you seem to be having difficulty. “A hearing test is quick and noninvasive. There are

While the focus of many health initiatives is often on things like heart health, maintaining the health of your ears is also important.

many potential treatment options for hearing loss, so testing by a hearing professional may provide actionable next steps,” says Dr. Kozin. Addressing the problem is crucial to healthy aging. “If hearing rehabilitation also addresses cognitive decline, then this would be a ‘bonus’ benefit; however, the research does not yet support this direct gain, and clinicians should be wary of making these types of claims to patients,” says Dr. Kozin. While the focus of many health initiatives is often on things like heart health, maintaining the health of your ears is also important. “We should also be speaking about ‘hearing health,’ in terms of both hearing loss prevention and treatment. It is well studied that addressing hearing loss will lead to numerous downstream health benefits,” says Dr. Kozin. “For this reason, we always recommend hearing protection in noisy environments and some form of hearing rehabilitation strategy if someone has hearing loss.” This article was originally published by Harvard Women’s Health Watch

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Photo by Nardo from Pexels



T

echnology

Future Smart Windows May Save Energy and Adjust to Seasons

New Technology Could Help Heat and Cool Your House Automatically By Kristin Toussaint

could affect the temperature in that space.

Windows have been getting smarter, from energy-efficient panes that keep heated or cooled air from leaking out of homes to self-tinting windows that dim the light coming through without the need for shades. In the future, smart windows might go a step further to actually harvest energy from the sun to heat your house in the winter and reflect it in the summer to keep your home cool, without actually changing how well the sun’s light shines through. Nathan Youngblood, an assistant professor in the engineering department at the University of Pittsburgh, works on reconfigurable or phasechange photonics, taking optical components like lenses or mirrors and making them switch between two states. When working with a startup called Bodle on color-changing technology displays, he and his co-researchers thought, if you can use a thin coating on something like a piece of glass to switch it between two different colors, can you also switch between two different states of reflection for infrared light? Infrared light isn’t visible to the human eye, but we feel it as heat. If you could change how much a surface reflects or absorbs infrared light, it

Windows are traditionally pretty bad at regulating the temperature of indoor spaces; cold air seeps through in the winter and warm air in the summer, forcing you to adjust your heat or AC. When it comes to a building’s energy use, about 35% goes to heating, cooling, and ventilation. A lot of the advances in smart windows technology regulates temperature by adjusting the total amount of light—and therefore also heat—by making a pane change between opaque and transparent. Some smart windows dim the light by as much as 90%, meaning you then have to use more lights inside, using more energy. And it can be a disturbance if your window is turning on and off throughout the day, depending on how much sun is hitting it. “Our goal was to make something that was aesthetically pleasing in that it doesn’t disturb people inside [so] they’re not aware the technology is there and working, but it’s still able to harvest energy and reflect or heat the home depending on the season,” Youngblood says. “Having control over the thermal properties in addition to the optical properties of a window

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Youngblood Photonics Lab/TNS

is an area that hasn’t really been explored.” A paper published in the journal ACS Photonics, for which Youngblood is the first author, is proof of concept for such a material. Traditional windows are two panes with something like argon gas pumped in between to act as insulation. The researchers created a material with an extra optical coating on the inside of the glass, which can either reflect the infrared light from the sun or absorb it and bring it in as heat, without changing how much visible light shines through. The challenge comes with being able to control that coating, switching it from absorption mode to reflection mode as the seasons change, which needs to be done electrically. On the small-scale prototypes used for Youngblood’s research, the ability to switch the coating’s properties worked, but it would be more difficult to do over the span of a large window. This is just the beginning for this type of work, but it could have big impacts. “One of the key innovations that we were able to illustrate was

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In the future, smart windows might harvest energy from the sun to heat your house in the winter and reflect it in the summer to keep your home cool, without actually changing how well sunlight shines through. that we can selectively harvest energy from the infrared using materials that are switching between absorbing and reflecting,” Youngblood says, “which opens up the field for a lot of different materials that haven’t been explored yet.” When the researchers simulated potential energy savings, they estimated that using such windows (including the energy needed to control them) would save 20% to 34% in energy usage per year, versus typical double-paned windows. This article was originally published in Fast Company.


o

pinion

Privacy and Capitalism at Odds

By Saif Al-Abri

Opposed to what some might argue, we are not the product; the targeted ads that influence what we think and, ultimately, how we behave are the product. We are just the raw material for such apparatus

In light of postmodernity, we face a different set of challenges than that of the past. As Erik Erikson states, those in the past struggled with being limited by what they knew they could be. Whilst in modern times because of the infinite choices we have, people struggle with deciding what to do and believe. The process of individualization has presented us with hundreds of choices. It also brought a mountain of stress, uncertainty, and anxiety with it. It was this mentality that summoned the internet, not innovation. Such burden of modernity turned us toward empowering knowledge-rich recourses found in digital tech. Which, as Dr Shoshana Zuboff states, allowed us to amplify our voices and forge our own chosen patterns of connections, to be the author of our own life. However, the rise of vulgar capitalism (neoliberalism) commercialized the internet world. Dr Zuboff used the term surveillance capitalism to describe the commercialization of the web. She defines it as a new economic order that claims human experience as free raw materials for hidden commercial practices of extraction productions and sales. As we integrate technology into our life, more data is extracted about us. With such large sets of data, tech companies use machine learning to predict the behavior of their users. This is then used for targeted ads that guarantee a result and influence on the mind of its users. Imagine the number and types of data you provide to tech corporations daily. From the phone that knows your facial features, your location at all times and even your spending; search engines and social media apps that know what you

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are feeling and doing and watches that you know your heart rate. Imagine what they can do with the sheer volume of data and how they can influence individuals to purchase products by placing ads at specific frames. We have seen the power of such technology recently in two events. Firstly, we’ve seen it with the Cambridge Analytica scandal whereby Facebook data was used to influence the election. They built models to exploit people’s fears and stresses by bombarding them with targeted ads and pop-ups. Such technologies were used to influence public opinion. They have carried two main successful campaigns; Brexit and Trump election. Although the corporation closed its operation in 2018, it doesn’t mean that the age of behavioral modification is over. Another example is Pokémon Go, which got people running all over the city trying to find Pokémon’s. This was then used to herd people to Macdonald’s, Starbucks and other sponsors. Opposed to what some might argue, we are not the product; the targeted ads that influence what we think and, ultimately, how we behave are the product. We are just the raw material for such apparatus, which we willingly consent to by accepting those terms of service agreement that scholar points are purposely extremely lengthy and complex. It was calculated in 2008 that it would take 76 full -24 hour days to read the agreement, which is completely absurd. We are marching through unprecedented times requiring creative laws that restrict how and the extent in which information technologies can use our data.