Where is Tunisia Heading?

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The Killing of al-Zawahiri

A Weekly Political News Magazine

Moscow’s Man inside the EU Raises Controversy

A Weekly Political News Magazine

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Hadja Lahbib: Journalist of Algerian Origin Turned Belgian FM

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Where is Tunisia Heading? www.majalla.com


Editorial Tunisia approved its new constitution last month to expand the powers of its president Kais Saied, who has been strengthening his grip on corrupt officials and has ousted the Islamist Ennahda party which dominated the parliament a year ago. This week Dalia Ziada writes about the Saied’s New Republic, his attempt to prevent an Islamist return and worries over unchecked powers provided under the new constitution. Last Monday, the United States announced it killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Qaeda Leader who was hiding in Kabul. A precise drone strike authorized by President Biden put an end to the terrorist who was a symbol of the organization since the US killed Osama Bin Laden. While reports point to Taliban’s knowledge of al-Zawahiri’s sheltering in Afghanistan, Jassim Mohammed writes about the history of the Taliban’s alliance with Qaeda and the allegiance pledged by al-Qaeda to Taliban in a promise of full loyalty under any leader. Suzan Quitaz highlights the controversial role of the Hungary’s Prime Minister Victor Orban inside the European Union as he seems to be Russia’s man in the bloc. From echoing Moscow’s rhetoric, to criticizing Ukraine’s Zelensky and refusing to supply Ukraine with weapons, many inside the EU view Orban’s actions and statements as a betrayal, while many inside Hungary see him as a pragmatist. Since the eruption of the war in Syria, the country has become repulsive for both domestic and foreign investors. Recently, Assad regime’s head of government called on expatriates and those who fled the country to return back in order to rebuild it. Jiwan Soz interviews a Syrian economist in exile to explain the reasons for the regime’s calls and the prospects of Syrian businessmen responding to them. 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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A Weekly Political News Magazine

46 The Challenge of a Fulfilled Relationship

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Political Conflict That Could Lead to Shi’ite-Shi’ite Armed Conflict

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Syria’s Shadow Economy

Takiya Al-

40 Mawlawiyah

44 Escaping Inflation

After an Inspiring Journey, Mouna 48 Chebbah Pays Farewell to Handball 5

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56 What’s That Shoulder Sound?


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Emirates Owl Cafe and Neptune, a male Snowy owl, at the Boomah, or Owl Cafe, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, July 21, 2022. The owner of the café Mohamed al-Shehhi had his first owl in 2014. He started his café Boomah as a hobby in 2020. Today he has nine owls at the cafe, all bred and raised by humans. /AP

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First Camel Riding School in Dubai Linda Krockenberger, Co-founder of the school, leads a group of students taking camel riding lessons at the Arabian Desert Camel Riding center in Dubai, United Arab Emirates August 1, 2022. /REUTERS

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LEBANON Thousands of protesters marched tearfully in the Lebanese capital on Thursday, marking two years since a cataclysmic explosion at the Beirut port, with chants denouncing the government's failure to uncover the truth behind the blast. In a grim reminder of the disaster, several grain silos that were left heavily damaged by the blast collapsed on Thursday afternoon, only hundreds of metres away from where crowds were gathering at the city's waterfront. The concrete silos cracked and fell, sending a cloud of smoke into the sky. Protesters covered their mouths in disbelief.

EGYPT Egypt's non-oil private sector activity shrank again in July, but at a slower pace than June's two-year low, as demand remains weakened by inflation and shortages continue to put pressure on supply, a survey showed on Wednesday. The S&P Global Egypt Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) strengthened slightly to 46.4 from June's 45.2, remaining below the 50.0 line that denotes growth. July was the 20th straight month of contraction. "The rate of contraction eased since June but was still sharp as several panelists found that rising prices led to a drop in client spending," S&P Global said.

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The U.S. St potential s Defense (T United Ara intercepto worth as m said. The poten missile de came just trip to the oil produc inflation h approval r Despite ap notificatio does not i signed or


AUDI ARABIA

tate Department approved the sale of Terminal High Altitude Area THAAD) missile interceptors to the ab Emirates and Patriot missile ors to Saudi Arabia in separate deals much as $5.3 billion, the Pentagon

ntial deals, which would resupply key efense systems for the two countries, weeks after President Joe Biden's July e region. Biden had hoped to reach an ction deal to lower gasoline prices as hits 40-year highs and threatens his ratings. pproval by the State Department, on to the U.S. Congress of the deals indicate that a contract has been that negotiations have concluded.

UAE OPEC leaders Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates stand ready to deliver a "significant increase" in oil output should the world face a severe supply crisis this winter, sources familiar with the thinking of the top Gulf exporters said.

IRAQ Iraqi populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Wednesday told his supporters to continue their sit-in occupation of the Baghdad parliament until his demands, which include early elections and unspecified constitutional changes, are met. The remarks, delivered by the Shia Muslim leader in a televised address, are likely to prolong a political deadlock that has kept Iraq without an elected government for nearly 10 months. Thousands of Sadr's followers stormed Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, which houses government buildings and foreign missions, last weekend and took over the empty parliament building staging a sit-in that is ongoing.

IRAN The United States on Monday imposed sanctions on Chinese and other companies it said were used by one of Iran's largest petrochemical brokers to sell tens of millions of dollars' worth of Iranian products to East Asia, as Washington continues to crack down on Iranian oil sales to the region. The U.S. Treasury Department in a statement accused the designated companies of being used by Iran’s Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industry Commercial Co. to facilitate the sale of Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products from Iran to East Asia.

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A WEEK ACROS BRAZIL.

U.S. Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a U.S. strike in Afghanistan over the weekend, President Joe Biden said on Monday, the biggest blow to the militant group since its founder Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011. Zawahiri, an Egyptian surgeon who had a $25 million bounty on his head, helped coordinate Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the United States carried out a drone strike in the Afghan capital Kabul on Sunday morning at 6:18 a.m. local time.

In a decision that critics have labeled as dangerous, Brazil’s government granted a preliminary environmental permit for paving a dirt highway that cuts through one of the Amazon rainforest’s most preserved areas. The road known as BR-319, runs about 900 kilometers (560 miles) and is the only highway connecting Manaus, home to 2.2 million people, with the nation’s larger urban centers further south. Half the length of BR-319 is still unpaved, and that stretch usually becomes impassable during the rainy season, which can last up to three months. This difficulty keeps forest clear cutters away.

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TUNISIA.

Tunisia's Islamist opposition party Ennahda on Wednesday accused the authorities of attempting to intimidate opponents, saying police had opened a new investigation into its leader Rached Ghannouchi. The party said Ghannouchi was being investigated on suspicion of describing the security forces as tyrannical, and it denied that he had said this. Tunisian politics has grown more acrimonious over the past year since President Kais Saied dismissed parliament and seized most powers last year.


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UKRAINE The first grain-carrying ship to leave Ukrainian ports in wartime safely anchored off Turkey's coast on Tuesday, while a senior official said Ankara expects roughly one grain ship to depart from Ukraine every day as long as the export agreement holds. The first ship, the Razoni, carrying 26,527 tonnes of corn to Lebanon, anchored near the Bosphorus entrance from the Black Sea at around 1800 GMT, some 36 hours after departing from Ukraine's Odesa port. A delegation from the Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) in Istanbul, where Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and U.N. personnel work, is expected to inspect the ship at 0700 GMT on Wednesday, according to Turkey's India's government on Wednesday Defence Ministry. withdrew a data protection and privacy bill which was first proposed in 2019 and had alarmed big technology companies such as Facebook and Google, announcing it was working on a new comprehensive law.

INDIA.

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CHINA. The United States must remember its vow "to support the defense of Taiwan" as its democracy remains "under threat" from China, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a Washington Post opinion piece published on Tuesday, moments after she arrived in Taiwan on a visit that risks bringing relations between Washington and Beijing to a new low. “The Taiwan Relations Act set out America’s commitment to a democratic Taiwan, providing the framework for an economic and diplomatic relationship that would quickly flourish into a key partnership. It fostered a deep friendship rooted in shared interests and values: self-determination and self-government, democracy and freedom, human dignity and human rights,” Pelosi said.


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Where is Tunisia Heading?

Saied’s New Republic Consolidates His Grip on Power

By Dalia Ziada

Tunisia’s path is not yet clear, either to Tunisians or to the world. The country that lit the flame on the Arab Spring is at a crossroads. The threat of authoritarianism has once again reared its head and there are worrying signs that Tunisian democracy may be its victim, but are these distant clouds on the horizon, or is this already a looming spectre?

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Elected at the end of 2019, the Tunisia of today is increasingly the ‘new republic’ of Tunisian President Kais Saied. At least, that is what he has been trying to achieve ever since his unforeseen power grab in July 2021, when this retired law professor and defender of the constitution dissolved parliament and decided to rule by decree. Any ‘new republic’ will be free from the Muslim Brotherhood, which is worthy of celebration if it does not simultaneously open the political door to the Salafists, as was seen in Egypt. Concurrently, Saied’s new system of state governance may represent a reversal of hard-won civil and political rights, swept away under the prerogative of economic reform. The potential for regression here is worthy of worry.

THE NEW REPUBLIC

Constitutionalist Sadok Belaid delivers his draft of the new Constitution to Tunisian President Kais Saied at the Carthage Palace in Tunis on June 20, 2022. - / AFP

The new constitution has been perfectly tailored by Saied to enhance his presidential powers. To outsiders, it stands as a warning that Tunisians may be growing more tolerant of slowing political reform in return for accelerating economic reform. Tunisians have been bragging about their decade of peaceful political transformation since the overthrow of former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and of being the only Arab Spring country to continue along this trajectory, but today’s toxic mix of inflation and unemployment may yet put the brakes on this transformation, while simultaneously creating fertile ground for Saied’s one-man enhancement project. The term ‘new republic’ is originally Egyptian. It was first coined by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to highlight the social and economic developments made during his first seven years in power. El-Sisi played a central role in ousting the Muslim Brotherhood from government in Egypt in 2013, which prompted a new constitution to be written and El-Sisi to be voted in as state president.

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Any ‘new republic’ will be free from the Muslim Brotherhood, which is worthy of celebration if it does not simultaneously open the political door to the Salafists, as was seen in Egypt. Saied, the conservative retired law professor, waged a war on officialdom when the mood on Tunisian streets was febrile. Protesters had been calling for the political elite to be held accountable, particularly for corruption and economic mismanagement, which was seen as having exacerbated the consequences of the pandemic. The protests only stopped on 25 July when Saied decided to use the exceptional powers given to the president in Article 80 of the constitution, allowing him to dissolve both the government and the parliament, which was dominated by the Islamist Ennahda party. Saied then moved quickly to centralise power. He issued a video message reassuring Tunisians that he was no dictator and that these were arbitrary procedures necessary to control public outrage and end economic suffering. “There is no withdrawal from respecting rights and freedoms, and there is no room for infringement or assault on them,” he promised, adding that he stood with the people to “preserve the unity of the state and protect it from the corruption that is decaying its joints”. Saied concluded the video by saying: “Insha’Allah, we will win! It is a war, but without bullets or blood. It is a war based on the law. A war for justice and freedom. We will keep our oath and our responsibility, all the way.” Surprisingly, the angry masses applauded Saied’s power grab and chose to


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believe him. In part, this was because the country’s ‘three presidencies’ system of governance had become unpopular and was being blamed for the state’s failure to meet its people’s needs. With many still fearful of a so-called ‘deep state,’ the post-revolution constitution in Tunisia had tailored a system of governance

With many still fearful of a so-called ‘deep state,’ the postrevolution constitution in Tunisia had tailored a system of governance that was neither presidential nor parliamentary but balanced between three decisionmaking authorities.

that was neither presidential nor parliamentary but balanced between three decisionmaking authorities, or ‘presidencies’, namely: the President, the Prime Minister, and the Speaker. Yet while the system kept political elites happy, it led to a state of governing paralysis. Competing agendas and visions led to inconsistencies and contradiction. With the economy wobbling, calls for reform soon became nationwide protests. Saied responded, popularly promising an end to a broken system, but soon began using that momentum to increase his grip on power, first by removing state officials from the government, parliament, judiciary, even the security forces, replacing them with loyalists, then by rewriting - and ultimately, passing - a new constitution that handed power to a largely unaccountable president, namely, him.

THE NEW CONSTITUTION Last week, one year on from Saied’s power grab, a minority of Tunisians approved the

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Kaïs Saïed (photo archives: Tunisian Presidency)


Farouk Bouasker, President of the Independent High Authority for Elections, speaks during the announcement of the preliminary results of a referendum on a new constitution in Tunis, Tunisia July 26, 2022. REUTERS/ Tarek Amara

new constitution through a poorly attended referendum. Just 2.75 million of the country’s 9.3 million registered voters (30.5 percent) turned up. According to the official Electoral Commission, 94.6 percent of these voted in favour of the new constitution. Saied’s political supporters and all those concerned about Ennahda’s return have celebrated the result. However, his political opponents, not to mention several civil society groups, have referred to some acts of fraud, challenging the legitimacy of the constitution and of President Saied himself. The Administrative Court is already looking at appeals submitted by those protesting the results, yet there are other worries for Saied. The authenticity and transparency of the referendum is now being called into question. Analysts point to the questionable independence of the board of the Elections Commission, whose members have recently been selected by none other than President Saied. Others point to the exceptionally low voter

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Mired in a dire and worsening economic situation, the Tunisian people are slowly burying their dream of living in a democratic state. turnout in the referendum, asking how the state could justify changing its constitution when seven out of every ten eligible voters stayed at home. Again, commentators have said this is an abnormally low figure, given the well-known dedication to democracy of the Tunisian people. Concerns abound elsewhere, too, not least in the timing and context of the constitution’s rewrite. Major revisions penned by a powerful president’s cronies during times of transition and political turmoil risk, by their very nature, a lack of permanence. On the contrary, constitutional tinkering during times of political stability, with the active partici-


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pation of all political blocs and civil society representatives, stands a much better chance of permanence. Another cause of furrowed brows is Saied’s new constitutional ability to hire or fire any state officials of any rank or position, up to and including the Prime Minister and the Speaker of parliament. In addition, the new

Saied’s political supporters and all those concerned about Ennahda’s return have celebrated the result. However, his political opponents have referred to some acts of fraud, challenging the legitimacy of the constitution.

constitution makes him the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, making him immune from military coup. Furthermore, Article 100 of Saied’s new constitution gives him the exclusive right to “set the public policy of the state and define its essential choices”. As if that weren’t enough, his pet projects will get “priority consideration by parliament”. There is a catch, though. If the Administrative Court annuls or rejects the appeals against the referendum results, the new constitution comes into effect on 27 August, after being ratified by its presidential author. As soon as it takes effect, Saied could find himself in legal trouble, because he was elected president based on the old constitution, not the new one, and the change of constitution necessitates the re-election of all electable governing bodies and officials, including the president. Under such a scenario, the legitimacy of Kais Saied would end when the new constitution kicks in, but this shrewd former professor of law will almost certainly tailor another decree to protect himself.

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Members of the election committee count votes at a polling station during a referendum on a new constitution in Tunis, Tunisia July 25, 2022. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi


Tunisian protesters wave national flags during a demonstration in the capital Tunis against President Kais Saied and the July 25 constitutional referendum - FETHI BELAID

THE FUTURE The political scene in Tunisia is muddled. Saied has largely ruled on his own for a year through public statements and presidential decrees. Mired in a dire and worsening economic situation, the Tunisian people are slowly burying their dream of living in a democratic state. According to the Tunisian government, unemployment is running at more than 17 percent and the economy recently contracted by a record 8.2 percent. According to the World Bank, poverty rates in Tunisia reached 15.2 percent in 2020, with three out of every ten families fearful of running out of food. In recent days, reports have circulated claiming that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is considering lending two billion euros to the current Tunisian government. If true, it is unlikely to solve the economic crisis, but it would further enhance Saied’s grip on power. As he contemplates his next move, the country’s political Islamists plot their way back to power, as the world watches the Arab Spring’s great democratic hope

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Constitutional tinkering during times of political stability, with the active participation of all political blocs and civil society representatives, stands a much better chance of permanence. fall further from grace. Where is Tunisia heading? Nobody knows. But many suspect it is not towards the sunlit uplands Tunisians once hoped to see. * Dalia Ziada is an Egyptian author and Director of the Liberal Democracy Institute. Her work covers military affairs, political Islamism, and geopolitics in the Middle East and North Africa. Tweets at @daliaziada.


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Moscow’s Man inside the EU Raises Controversy

Hungary’s PM Believes Russian-US Talks Only Solution to End Ukraine War By Suzan Quitaz Victor Orban, Hungary’s far-right Prime Minister, is not new to controversy and provocation. His speeches often draw outrage and condemnations from opposition parties, European politicians, NGOs and international media. Orban’s views on immigration and

multiculturalism are no secret. Back in 2015, at the height of the refugee influx into Europe, Orban claimed that Muslims are direct threat to Europe’s Christian identity, and in 2017 his government erected a border fence to keep Syrian refugees, Africans and Middle Eastern immigrants out of Hungary. However, his latest speech on July 23 at the Băile Tuşnad in Romania›s Transylvania

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban speaks during a business conference in Budapest, Hungary, February 2022 ,19. REUTERS/ Bernadett Szabo

region, appeared to be more provocative and divisive than previous speeches. He started by lashing out that Europeans should not “become peoples of mixed race.” He said, “We [Hungarians] are not a mixed race and we do not want to become a mixed race.” Orban often cites the “great replacement” theory, or rather conspiracy, under which he claims that by 2050 we will see a final demographical shift in Europe with nonEuropeans being the majority of Europe’s population. He continued, saying that countries where Europeans and non-Europeans mingle were “no longer nations” but rather a «conglomerate of people.» During the same speech, Orban also appeared to joke about Nazi gas-chambers saying, in the context of a European Union proposal to ration natural gas and cut gas demand by %15, that “the past shows us German know-how on that.” The International Auschwitz Committee of Holocaust survivors called the speech «stupid and dangerous.» Orban’s far right, racist and anti-LGBTQ views are not the focus of this article. This article will look at the second part of his speech, which was an attack on the European Union’s strategy of imposing sanctions on Russia for invading Ukraine, saying that it has led to an energy crisis in the EU. By making this contention, he has positioned himself as Putin’s man inside the EU. The irony here is that Hungary is an EU and NATO member, but has been “allowed” to pursue a neutral policy towards Ukraine and has managed to get itself exempted from the EU oil embargo on Russia. Orban, like all EU leaders, initially condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, he has maintained ties with Russian officials, even sending his Foreign Minister to Moscow to negotiate for more gas imports. Orban still refuses to supply Ukraine with weapons, and he is the only EU leader to openly criticize President Volodymyr Zelensky and often refer to him as an opponent. During his speech at Băile Tuşnad, Orban attacked the EU’s strategy on Ukraine, saying that sanctions against Russia have failed and urging EU and Western leaders to stop their military support of the Ukrainian government,

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Orbán, echoing the Russian official rhetoric, said the reason for the war against Ukraine is that the West refused to negotiate on Russian security guarantees. admonishing them instead to bring in a new strategy. “The more modern weapons NATO gives the Ukrainians, the more the Russians will push the frontline forward … What we are doing is prolonging the war,” said Orbán during his speech on Saturday 23 July. According to Orban, the US-UK-EU strategy on Ukraine was doomed to fail on so many levels. Starting with the delusional assumption that Ukraine can win a war against Russia with NATO weapons, Orban said that Ukraine will never win the war this way «quite simply because the Russian army has asymmetrical dominance.» On the question of sanctions, the West assumed that they will lead to a weakened Russia and destabilize Putin’s government, that sanctions would hurt Russia more than Europe, and that the world would line up in support of Europe. But, according to Orban, that did not happen and during the same speech he said we will see the downfall of the West as war continues, saying the current strategy is a failure and governments in EU are falling “like dominos.” Orbán dismissed the EU Commission›s energy plans, saying that the EU executive wants to take energy away from those who have it, instead of telling Germany not to shut down its nuclear power plants. He argued that the US is pushing Europeans to buy its energy resources. He continued saying that the EU “shot itself in the lungs” by trying to cut itself off from Russia. He made this observation in the context of EU’s dependency on Russian natural gas, which accounted to %40 last year. According to the International Energy Agency (IAE), in 2020 Germany was Europe’s largest


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importer of Russian gas. The figures from the IAE show Russian gas exports to countries in billions of cubic meters – with Germany topping the list at 42.6, followed by Italy 29.2, Belarus 18.9, Turkey 16.2 and Netherlands 15.7. Hungary is on 6th place with 11.6, meaning approximately %65 of its oil and %85 of its gas requirements come from the Kremlincontrolled Gazprom corporation. Orban’s government is vigorously refusing to block Russian gas, a measure which, according to officials in Budapest, would totally cripple Hungary’s economy. The UK imported just %4 of its needs from Russia, and it is important to point out that the

“The more modern weapons NATO gives the Ukrainians, the more the Russians will push the frontline forward … What we are doing is prolonging the war.”

US does not import any gas from Russia. As the Russian war in Ukraine continues, we have seen more regular briefings coming from EU policymakers preparing the public for dire conditions this winter if gas supplies from Russia are completely cut. Officials from Germany and other EU member states have begun to talk openly and urgently about the need for immediate reductions in consumption in advance of the peak winter heating season. They have also started to plan publicly for compulsory allocation, including rationing and prioritization among industrial users, as well as sharing among member states in the event there is not enough gas to supply everyone. Orban Calls for an Implementation of a New Strategy “Peace Talks” While the sanctions have hurt Russia’s economy, they have also helped drive up global energy prices, slowing the EU and the US economies and pushing them toward recession. During his speech in Romania, Orban said the EU and the US need to take a new approach for dealing with Russia and the war. “A new strategy is needed which should focus on peace talks and drafting a good peace proposal ... instead of winning the war,” Orban said in a

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Russian President Vladimir Putin attend a news conference following their talks in Budapest, Hungary, 30 October 2019. Credit: Reuters


Supporters of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban attend a rally during Hungary›s National Day celebrations, which also commemorate the 1848 Hungarian Revolution against the Habsburg monarchy, in Budapest, Hungary, March 2022 ,15. REUTERS/Marton Monus

speech in Romania on July 23. A strategy that fosters dialogue and negotiation – one that focuses not on siding with the Ukrainians, but rather positions itself between both Kyiv and Moscow. The goal should not be about Ukraine’s winning the war but rather bringing about a peaceful solution. Orban reiterated his country will not support the war efforts in Ukraine and emphasized that his country’s economy relies heavily on Russian gas imports. He refuses to support embargoes on Russian gas imports. Orban says since Russia wants security guarantees, talks should be held between Washington and Moscow, not Ukraine. According to him, «Only Russian-U.S. talks can put an end to the conflict because Russia wants security guarantees” which only Washington can give. Here, Orbán, echoing the Russian official rhetoric, said the reason for the war against Ukraine is that the West refused to negotiate on Russian security guarantees. He went further to say that if Donald Trump and Angela Merkel had still been in office, the war would not have happened. Viktor Orbán has been in power since 2010 making him the longest serving prime minister

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Hungary is on 6th place with 11.6, meaning approximately %65 of its oil and %85 of its gas requirements come from the Kremlin-controlled Gazprom corporation. in Europe. Back in April 2022, he won his fourth straight election and promised to protect Hungarians from the effects of the war. The bitter winter is only a few months away and there are serious concerns that Putin may turn off the gas taps in the EU, leaving millions of citizens in the EU to bear the heavy brunt of the sharp rise in the cost of living. For Ukrainians and many in the EU, Orban is a betrayer. However, for many in Hungary he is a realist and a pragmatic leader who puts his people’s interests first. The question is whether the bitter winter and the continued rise of living costs in the EU will keep the bloc united or we are going to see more countries normalizing their ties with Russia.


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The Killing of al-Zawahiri The Apparent Caliph, the Hidden Caliph and the Mastermind of Al-Qaeda By Jassim Mohammed - Bonn Al-Qaeda was linked to the Taliban through the “pledge of allegiance” that Osama bin Laden first offered in the 1990s to his Taliban counterpart Mullah Omar. The two sides renewed the “pledge of allegiance” several times, although the Taliban has not publicly acknowledged it. The Taliban agreed not to allow al-Qaeda or any other extremist group to operate in areas under their control under the 2020 peace agreement with the United States. Allegiance means a pledge of loyalty to a Muslim leader. It is the basis of loyalty among many extremist groups and their affiliated organizations and entails duties for both parties, including obedience to the “Commander of the Faithful,” which here means the leader of the Taliban. Breaking the covenant is considered a grave crime in the “lit-

erature” of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and, in the case of alQaeda offering allegiance to the Taliban, this means that it is actually subject to the Taliban, by granting the title of “Commander of the Faithful” to the leader of the Taliban and his successors. Al-Qaeda is an extremist Islamic organization founded by Osama bin Laden - along with Abdullah Azzam - in the late eighties. Al-Qaeda began as a logistical network to support the “Mujahideen” fighting against the Soviet Union during the Afghan war and succeeded in recruiting new members following the withdrawal of the Soviets from Afghanistan in 1989. The alliance between al-Qaeda and the Taliban has continued since 1989 and the two groups remain engaged in cooperation with shared expectations of future consultation and cooperation. Al-Qaeda today includes disparate networks around the world

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with asymmetrical central control. Its main branches are located in the Middle East, most notably: Guardians of Religion Organization in Syria, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen, Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims—JNIM) in the Sahel, and Al-Shabab in Somalia, as well as the global leadership of al-Qaeda and the local affiliate of al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent. Afghanistan remains a central strategic node for al-Qaeda and a haven for its leaders. In addition to al-Zawahiri, many other senior leaders are likely to reside in Afghanistan, including Saif al-Adel and Amin Muhammad ul-Haq Saam Khan. Afghanistan is considered the main headquarters of al-Qaeda and it is led by Osama Mahmoud and his deputy, Atef Yahya Ghauri. US intelligence agencies estimated that in early 2021 alQaeda was at its weakest in years with fewer than two hundred members in Afghanistan. But now the number in Afghanistan has likely doubled to four hundred, with most members coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and Pakistan. This increase comes after the Taliban provided a safe haven for al-Qaeda.

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE TALIBAN AND AL-QAEDA FILE PHOTO: Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian linked to the al Qaeda network, during an interview with Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir (not pictured) in an image supplied by Dawn newspaper November 10, 2001. Hamid Mir/ Editor/Ausaf Newspaper for Daily Dawn/Handout via REUTERS

The relationship between the Taliban and al-Qaeda dates back to the Afghan “jihad” against the Soviet Union, with al-Qaeda and the Haqqani network linked by marriages between the families of key leaders. Al-Qaeda also remains very popular among the Taliban. There appears to be a consistent political basis for this relationship. Al-Qaeda sees the Afghan Taliban as a capable ideological partner in its leadership of the “global jihad,” a group whose virtues al-Qaeda can exalt before the Muslim world. It is also likely to see the Taliban as a powerful ally, whose resurgence in Afghanistan will provide significant political and material advantages. It is possible that the Afghan Taliban will view the group from the perspective of its ideological vision based on the “Hanafi school of Islam,” the centrality of “jihad” in its interpretation of Islamic texts, and its role and status as “guardians of Islam” in the Afghan society. Al-Qaeda is also aligned with major parts of the Taliban agenda, as it is one of the main sources of al-Qaeda’s “jihadist” project. More importantly, al-Qaeda continues its “jihadist” project by subordinating its Salafi ideology, at least rhetorically, to the Taliban’s status as the ultimate ruler in religious matters. Important Afghan Taliban leaders, such as deputy chief Sirajuddin Haqqani and senior military commander Ibrahim Sadr, remain sympathetic to al-Qaeda.

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The alliance between al-Qaeda and the Taliban has continued since 1989 and the two groups remain engaged in cooperation with shared expectations of future consultation and cooperation. AL-QAEDA’S RELATIONSHIP WITH THE HAQQANI NETWORK Jalaluddin Haqqani formed the Haqqani Network in the late 1970s and he is one of the first Afghan “Mujahideen” who played a pivotal role in the political system of the southeastern Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia and Paktika. Haqqani served as Minister of Tribal and Border Affairs from 1996 until 2001. The Haqqani Group, an Afghan insurgent group that emerged more in the 1980s, fought against Soviet forces and, over the past years, against the US-led NATO forces and the former Afghan government. Sirajuddin Haqqani has served as the Taliban’s first deputy leader since 2016. The US government maintains a $10 million bounty on Haqqani for numerous kidnappings and significant attacks against US and coalition forces in Afghanistan, the Afghan government, and civilian targets. But the sons of Haqqani from the eastern province of Khost differed with others in the leadership of the Taliban, most of whom are from the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. Some believe that Sirajuddin Haqqani wants more power. Other Taliban figures have opposed violent attacks by Haqqani followers against civilians in Kabul and elsewhere. Both the Taliban and the Haqqani network continue to maintain strong links with al-Qaeda. According to a 2021 United Nations report, the Haqqani network remains “a hub for communication and cooperation with regional foreign terrorist groups and is the primary link between the Taliban and al-Qaeda.” Khalil Haqqani is “known to US intelligence as the Taliban’s envoy to al-Qaeda.” Stanford’s book “Mapping Militant Organizations” explains that Khalil “acted on behalf of al-Qaeda and facilitated its terrorist operations” and “organized the detention of prisoners captured by the Haqqani network and al-Qaeda.” Experts also believe that al-Qaeda and the Haqqani network are intertwined today. In this context, the US Treasury concluded: “As of 2020, al-Qaeda is gaining strength in Afghanistan as it continues to work with the Taliban and


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senior figures of the Haqqani Network have discussed the formation of a new joint unit of armed fighters in cooperation with al-Qaeda.”

AL-QAEDA’S RELATIONSHIP WITH IRAN The relationship that al-Qaeda and Iran have forged has enough cooperative dimensions to be extremely beneficial to both. From Iran’s point of view, the most obvious advantage of enabling al-Qaeda to survive and operate is al-Qaeda’s abstention from attacking Iran or its loyalist groups. Iran’s assistance to al-Qaeda in maintaining its senior leadership and command structure has enabled the group to defy the United States and some of its anti-Iranian allies. Iran is reaping the benefits of the persistence of al-Qaeda and its affiliate groups across Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, keeping the United States engaged and less focused on countering Iran and its expanding coalition network. Iran has cooperated with al-Qaeda covertly and often by

proxy. This secret cooperation began in the early 1990s in Sudan, and continued after al-Qaeda’s move to Afghanistan, and even manifested itself on Iranian soil before, during, and after the September 11 attacks. Although the authorities were known for this cooperation, the United States formally accused Iran for the first time in July 2011 of forming an alliance with al-Qaeda that included harboring al-Qaeda operatives on Iranian soil and helping al-Qaeda transport money, weapons, weapons, and fighters. In a 2007 letter bin Laden sent to a person named Karim, bin Laden provided a justification for not attacking Iran by saying: “Iran is the main artery for finance, human resources and communications. Moreover, there is no need to fight with Iran unless we have to.” Bin Laden strongly advised against any attack on Iran, and had gone to great lengths to urge any ambitious agents to seek advice or permission before any form of retaliation against Iran.

AL-ZAWAHIRI WAS KILLED IN KABUL

The relationship between the Ato the Afghan “jihad” against the Soviet Union, with al-Qaeda and the Haqqani network linked by marriages between the families of key leaders.

Hours after al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a US drone strike in central Kabul, Taliban security forces rushed to seal off the site and green tarps were thrown over destroyed windows. Barriers were set up and trading was closed. The strike in the early morning of July 31, 2022—the strike that revealed the Taliban had harbored al-Zawahiri, a master planner for the September 11, 2001, attacks, in the heart of the Afghan capital—was a watershed moment for the group’s new government. The strike highlighted the fact that the Taliban did not carry out radical reforms from its first regime in the 1990s but

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Taliban fighters drive a car on a street following the killing of Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a U.S. strike over the weekend, in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 2022 ,2. REUTERS/Ali Khara


This handout image courtesy of Maxar Technologies released and 2022 ,2 on August ,13 taken on October shows the builiding 2021 (L) in which Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri was probably located at the time of the strike that killed him in Kabul. (Photo by Satellite Maxar 2022© image )Technologies / AFP

remained a haven and hotbed for extremist groups threatening international security. Some media outlets revealed that the house in which al-Zawahiri was staying belonged to the leader of the Haqqani network in Afghanistan.

CONCLUSION Al-Qaeda’s relationship with the Taliban movement is a solid organizational relationship based on the fact that al-Qaeda and its leader Bin Laden, and later al-Zawahiri, pledged allegiance several times to the Taliban movement. Al-Qaeda considers the Taliban movement the “guardian” of Muslims around the world. This kind of relationship and this kind of understanding reveal the extent to which bin Laden and al-Zawahiri had become entrenched in offering full loyalty to the Taliban. The proof of this kind of relationship is its continuity from 1989 until the present. Al-Qaeda considers offering the pledge of allegiance to the Taliban as a “debt in its neck.” Here it is worth noting that the Taliban refused to hand over bin Laden to the United States of America, so that Washington declared war on the Taliban after the events of September 11, 2001. Whoever delves into the secret of the Taliban’s position not to extradite bin Laden at that time will discover that bin Laden was the executive for the Taliban movement in carrying out the September 11 attacks and carrying out terrorist operations around the world. Here, the role of the Haqqani network appears, in managing al-Qaeda and its terrorist operations around the world, since the Haqqani network is the one that has so far provided the Taliban’s intelligence and security.

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Al-Qaeda is an extremist Islamic organization founded by Osama bin Laden - along with Abdullah Azzam - in the late eighties. Returning to the Haqqani network, it also has historical ties and relations with Iran, and this may have been behind the al-Qaeda leaders’ orientation to Iran in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. History may repeat itself after the Taliban’s rise again in Afghanistan in 2021 and the withdrawal of the United States. Just as the leaders of al-Qaeda and the bin Laden family headed towards Iran, today it is likely that some of the alQaeda leaders who were in Iran have settled in Afghanistan, to begin a new stage of work within the triangle formed by the Haqqani network - the Taliban - al-Qaeda and Iran. Al-Zawahiri was just an audio “phenomenon” issuing messages, not to mention that he was old and was suffering from many health problems, and it is likely that the one who runs al-Qaeda was not the “Apparent Caliph” Al-Zawahiri, but rather the Haqqani network in partnership with Iran, which was reading closely the geopolitical developments and US policies towards Iran and Afghanistan.


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Political Conflict That Could Lead to Shi’ite-Shi’ite Armed Conflict

Sadr’s Supporters Thwart Iran Supporters’ Plans to Choose PM By Salam Zaidan – Baghdad Iraqi demonstrators, the majority of whom are supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr and his Sadrist movement, stormed the headquarters of the Iraqi parliament last Saturday. Their goal is to prevent the coordination framework (which includes political forces, the majority of which are loyal to Iran) from holding a session to elect the president of the republic and assigning parliament member Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani as head of the next government to replace the current caretaker government led by Mustafa Al-Kadhimi. The confrontation within the Shi’ite faction began when the results of the October 2021 parliamentary elections were announced. The Sadrist movement won 73 seats in parliament and forged an alliance with parties like Progress Party led by Mohamed Al-Halbousi, the Azm Movement headed by Khamis Al-Khanjar and the Kurdistan Democratic Party led by Masoud Barzani. They abandoned their former allies who represent today the comprehensive coordinating framework for the following political forces -- the State of Law Coalition led by Nouri al-Maliki, the National Wisdom Movement led by Ammar al-Hakim, the Victory Coalition headed by Haider al-Abadi, the Fatah Alliance led by Hadi al-Amiri, as well as the head of the Popular Mobilization Authority, Faleh al-Fayyad. Al-Sadr nominated his cousin Jaafar al-Sadr, who is Iraq’s ambassador to Britain, for the position of prime minister of the next government. Jaafar is the grandson of the founder of the Islamic Dawa Party, Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr. The Sadr-Al-Halbousi-Al-Khanjar-Barzani alliance was able to divide the positions between themselves beginning with the process of announcing the presidency of the parliament, which was granted to Al-Halbousi, a Sunni, who appointed his two deputies

from the Shiite and Kurdish blocs of Al-Sadr and Barzani. When they moved to the second step, which is choosing the position of the President of the Republic from the Kurds, the Federal Court issued a decision to prevent the announcement of the President of the Republic in the absence of a vote by 220 deputies out of 329 deputies. The coalition failed to obtain this margin after the independent deputies refused to enter into any party alliance. As a result, the political process entered into the most complex crisis since 2003. Al-Sadr stipulated that the coordination framework be abandoned, in exchange for an alliance with him and the formation of a political majority. However, this was rejected by the parties to the framework and the country entered a state of constitutional vacuum. This forced al-Sadr and members of the Sadrist bloc to withdraw from parliament, which contributed to the coordination framework’s obtaining a political majority of 130 seats. The coordination framework went a long way in the negotiations to form the government, which reached understandings with the Union Party led by Bafel Talabani (son of the former president of Iraq, Jalal Talabani) and the Sunnis, to pass their candidate Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani during the parliament session that was scheduled to take place on Saturday, July 30, 2022. That would place Muqtada Al-Sadr outside the entire political process and unable to draw up the next parliamentary elections law. It was this situation that thwarted convening the session which resulted in Al-Sadr’s supporters storming the parliament building. Al-Sadr is considered the only Shiite politician who has the ability to bring thousands of his supporters to the streets, and force the political blocs to implement his demands, as happened in 2016 and 2019.

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Hundreds of protesters have breached a highsecurity zone in Baghdad and broken into Iraq’s parliament building.

The coordination framework considered al-Sadr sit-ins as a coup against the political system, which would lead to their exclusion from the political scene, as a result of the popular rejection of their presence. Informed sources told Majalla that “Al-Sadr demands an end to the role of the Shiite militias, most of which are under the influence of Al-Maliki, in addition to ending the political presence of the latter,” noting that “the commander of the Quds Force in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Ismail Qaani, visited Iraq more than once and failed to settle the differences between the Shiite parties that won the elections.” They stressed that “Al-Sadr will raise the ceiling of his demands, after the tenth of Muharram, which is the anniversary of the killing of Hussein bin Ali, one of the Shiite imams. This may lead to the overthrow of the political system, especially since Al-Sadr received international signals that Iraq has turned into a source of concern for several countries due to the militias that started targeting several neighboring countries.” They added that other political parties, particularly the Kurds and Sunnis, reject the process of changing the political system to a presidential one, because it would limit their role in the new system. The confidence of Iraqis in the current political system has weakened insofar as 43% of the voters participated in the previous parliamentary elections, which is the lowest percentage from 2003 until the present date. A number of observers confirmed that this percentage is incorrect and that it does not exceed 30%. The increased popular rejection of the political class is due to the spread of financial and administrative corruption, the absence of health, education and other services, in addition to foreign inter-

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Al-Sadr nominated his cousin Jaafar al-Sadr, who is Iraq’s ambassador to Britain, for the position of prime minister of the next government. ference by Iran and some other countries. This week, al-Sadr extended his sit-ins from the southern side to the northern side of the Green Zone. He formed a committee of the leaders of the Sadrist movement to maintain the momentum of the sit-ins, and to hold a unified prayer in the celebrations square, which is the square in which the army forces celebrate the anniversary of their founding. Al-Sadr had called on the Iraqi people to gain wealth, change the current political system, remove the corrupt and hold them accountable, confine weapons to the state, and abolish militias. Al-Sadr’s sit-ins were supported by most of the Iraqi clans, in addition to the Iraqi Jurisprudence Council, which is the religious authority for the Sunnis of Iraq, and a number of leaders in the Iraqi uprising that took place in 2019 and is called the “October Revolution.” That gained al-Sadr a great momentum, with the aim of holding the corrupt accountable and overthrowing them, and forming a future government that would include al-Sadr and the independents from the Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis. Regarding the opinions of the protesters, Majalla toured the par-


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liament dome after it was stormed by al-Sadr’s supporters, who chanted against the coordination framework and Iran, which has had the strongest hand in forming governments during past years and has been choosing a prime minister who represents Iran’s political, economic and social interests in Iraq. The government headquarters are located in the Green Zone, which is in the center of Baghdad, and no Iraqi may enter unless he obtains a license from the security authorities. He must present two documents from the government for the purpose of allowing him to enter the designated place. Muqtada Ali, a supporter of al-Sadr, told Majalla that “this headquarters (parliament) for years did not serve the interests of the Iraqis, but rather the interests of Iran. Today, we have disabled it to express the aspirations of the Iraqi people only, end their suffering and contribute to building legislation that eliminates unemployment and poverty.” He added that the Iraqis now have the final word, and not the Iranians or what they represent, noting that the next prime min-

Al-Sadr is leading the reform revolution, first to expel the corrupt and arrange the internal house, and then prevent and stop foreign interference.

ister will be an Iraqi “who will defend our economic and commercial interests and prevent Iranian and Turkish interference in our affairs.” On the other hand, Umm Ali, speaking to Majalla as Parliament’s rapporteur, said, “Parliament is the house of the people, although it was previously the house of the corrupt. Now we have liberated it, and allowed the citizens to enter it, after it was impossible for them to even look at it.” She added, “Al-Sadr is leading the reform revolution, first to expel the corrupt and arrange the internal house, and then prevent and stop foreign interference, for the rule is to be returned to the Iraqis, after being held by the Iranians.” Meanwhile, an official in al-Sadr’s office in Baghdad, Ibrahim Al-Jabri, told a number of media outlets, including Majalla, that this popular revolution is to reform the political system, eliminate financial and administrative corruption, and end terrorism. He stressed that there are some parties trying to create sedition to eliminate the national demonstrations, but they were surprised by the support of the revolution from the clans, unions and all the Iraqi people. He indicated that al-Sadr wanted pride and sovereignty for Iraq, which the country had lost because of the corrupt parties that held power since 2003. On the other hand, the political researcher, Nabil Jabbar Al-Ali, told Majalla that “the political crisis can no longer be resolved by the political class using traditional methods that are linked to the distribution of quotas and satisfaction through the distribution of positions. “Some politicians have involved themselves in adopting demands for a high ceiling that may not be easy to reach. Especially so for those demands that call for radical changes in the political

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The supporters of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr oppose the nomination of a rival candidate for prime minister.


Mr Sadr’s political alliance won the most seats in last October’s general election, but it is not in power due to political deadlock following the vote.

system. The Iraqi system is based on component diversity and the political participation of the components, and it may not be possible to pass any new constitution without the consent of the rest of the components while maintaining the survival and the undivided cohesion of Iraq.” Al-Ali added: “I think that the crisis, after the conflicting parties, especially the Sadrist movement and the coordination framework exhausted the chances of its maximum consolidation, may resort to sitting down at the table for a dialogue that would chart the near future for Iraq with the participation of other political parties. That table may be prepared to make constitutional amendments that would improve the outcomes of the political process, end federal disputes and direct politics towards partnership instead of competition.” He added, however, that this will not be an easy task, as the political divisions are large, especially those related to federal issues, and the level of political awareness of the political class may be different, which may cause difficulty in conducting a useful dialogue with practical outcomes. Al-Ali expected that the political parties would resort to expanding the work of federations so that Iraq would be made up of several federations and decentralized administrations, or that Iraq might resort to changing the system to a semi-presidential and semi-parliamentary system, but this approach might collide with fears of the dominance of the majority, or collide with the distribution of powers between factions. Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi put forward an initiative to end the political stalemate, represented by a national dialogue that would take place through a committee that includes representatives from all political parties, to develop a roadmap for a solution, in addition to making al-Sadr supporters evacuate the

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parliament building and cooperate with the security forces. The coordination framework, the Kurds and the Sunnis, in addition to the international community such as France, Britain and America interacted with this initiative, but so far al-Sadr has not supported or rejected Al-Kazemi’s initiative. It seems that al-Sadr will accept the survival of Al-Kadhimi’s government for a year, and the holding of early elections according to the previous parliamentary elections law serving al-Sadr and which is rejected by the coordination framework that wants to legislate a new election law, as it is harmed by the previous law. Professor of Political Science at Nahrain University, Dr. Osama Al-Saidi, said that the differences between the coordination framework and al-Sadr have shifted from the political corridors to the streets, and now they are in the containment stage, through the initiatives that were put forward, including Al-Kadhimi’s initiative, indicating that Al-Kadhimi is acceptable to al-Sadr, but is rejected by the coordination framework. He added that the nomination of the next prime minister can only be achieved through a consensus between the coordination framework and Sadr, noting that 65% of the public is a silent majority, and did not participate in the last elections, but is now monitoring the situation and may have an opinion. He explained that the return of the Sadrist bloc to parliament is one of the existing solutions to the crisis, or holding early elections by dissolving the current parliament, or the coordination between the framework agreement and al-Sadr on an independent prime minister who does not interfere in his work. Afterwards, they would carry out a process of reform and conduct a population census with the aim of holding independent elections and restoring public confidence in the political system.


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Syria’s Shadow Economy Syrian Regime Entices Investors to Return

By Jiwan Soz The Syrian regime’s government has recently increased its calls for investors from expatriate countries to return and invest in Syria, despite the fact that the international community has yet to agree to rebuilding the country with the participation of the regime’s government. The European Union requires the Bashar al-Assad regime to comply with UN Resolution 2254 as a condition for reconstruction. Earlier this week, Hussein Arnous, the regime’s head of government, called on those who had fled the country to return to help rebuild it, including artists. This came just two days after Hazem Ajjan, director of the industrial city of Sheikh Najjar in northern Syria, invited investors to return after claiming that investment conditions had improved. Despite these calls, none of the investors have announced

their intention to return to the country. Syrian investment is being weighed down by the war, which has now entered its second decade, and has resulted in the emigration of investors and owners of factories, as has occurred in the country’s economic capital province of Aleppo. In this regard, a Syrian academic and economic expert living in exile stated that, “Syria is a repulsive environment for both domestic and foreign investors.” Accordingly, the regime’s government’s calls for investors to return are likely to fall on deaf ears. Khurshid Alika went on to say that, “the obstacles to the return of investors to the country have been strong so far, preventing their return.” Here is the complete transcript of Majalla’s phone interview with Alika, who lives in Germany.

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Oct. 2, 2018 photo, Chinese visitors arrive to the opening of the Syria rebuilding exhibition at the fairgrounds in Damascus, Syria. (AP)

• Why is the Syrian investors refusing to return to the country despite calls from the regime? Many factories in Aleppo, the Damascus countryside, and many other Syrian regions were dismantled and transferred to Turkey, Egypt, and countries neighboring Syria at the start of the Syrian crisis. As a result, the Syrian economy has been fragmented among the conflicting parties, and the country has become a repulsive environment for both Syrian and foreign investors. So, there is no trust in the regime and its calls, to which no one will respond. • What are the obstacles to the return of expatriate investors? Security, military, and political obstacles, as well as the lack of any sign of a political solution, the complexity of the political scene after Russia’s war in Ukraine, a lack of confidence in the ruling regime, the difficulty of delivering raw materials for production, the difficulty of exporting, double taxation, exorbitant taxes and royalties levied on investors, and the absence of any real law to protect investors, are all obstacles. • What are the main issues plaguing the Syrian economy? The Syrian economy is plagued by numerous economic issues, the most serious of which are hyperinflation, depreciation of the Syrian pound, a lack of foreign exchange and gold reserves, a deficit in the Syrian budget, a deficit in the Syrian trade balance, as well as the loss of the creditworthiness of the Syrian pound abroad, the economic sanctions on Syria, the decline in Syrian remittances from abroad, the decline in tourist activity in Syria, the flight of capital owners from the country, the Syrian regime’s loss of control over all crossings in the north and north-east and con-

Khurshid Alika

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According to UN Resolution 2254, the West has decided not to deal with or support the Syrian regime in the absence of a political solution. sequently the decline in revenues and the division of the Syrian economy between parties to the conflict. Furthermore, Russia and Iran control the majority of domestic economic projects for their interests, increasing the Syrian regime’s debt to its Russian, Iranian, and Chinese allies. In addition, the northwestern Syrian economy is connected to the Turkish economy. • What economic factors are preventing reconstruction? According to UN Resolution 2254, the West has decided not to deal with or support the Syrian regime in the absence of a political solution. The Syrian regime, its institutions, entities, and officials are subject to “Western” sanctions imposed by the United States, Europe, and the United Kingdom. Because of their failure to respond to a political solution, the Syrian regime, Russia, and Iran are preventing reconstruction. Additionally, the issue of reconstruction requires more than hundreds of billions of dollars in order to begin, and given the current complex global economic and political conditions caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, Russia’s war against Ukraine, and global high levels of inflation, it would be extremely difficult to start any reconstruction. Furthermore, the flow of Syrians to Europe and other countries continues at a faster pace than before. • Isn’t the “Shadow Economy” a problem for the Syrian economy as well? Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, the so-called shadow economy has been active in the country and has grown rapidly, to the point where there is a shadow economy among the three parties to the conflict, which controls the economic relations between them. As a result, traders of wars and crises, as well as trade mafias, control the economy and establish a kind of formal and informal relationship between opposing parties, and the shadow economy now accounts for more than 90% of economic activity.


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How to Minimize the Damage of Layoffs 5 Principles for Business Leaders Who Have to Reduce Costs By Peter Cohan

demand. Venture capital firms are refusing to fund their portfolio companies’ operating losses. Companies are reKnow why you must cut costs, envision the company’s fu- sponding to this pressure by managing out their people, ture, set a cost reduction target, keep those who are essential according to LinkedIn. Since many CEOs have little experience with layoffs, there is a danger that they will make to your future, and conduct layoffs with respect. Business leaders these days are under increasing pressure mistakes that could endanger the company’s future, such as: to reduce costs. Why are costs suddenly too high? Here are Cutting highly-paid people who are making a significant contribution to the company’s future. some of the reasons: Inflation is driving up the costs of raw materials and labor. Dismissing people who the CEO does not like -- regardHigher interest rates are increasing the cost of borrowing. less of how much value they bring to customers and other Fears of recession and customer budget cuts are slashing employees.

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(Flicker)

Slashing people who work on fast-growing new products in favor of those supporting declining core products. Mistreating laid off employees during and after the process of managing them out of the company. To do layoffs in a way that minimizes the pain they cause and that creates a brighter future for your company, business leaders should follow these five principles. 1. Know why your company must cut staff. Cutting staff is painful for business leaders and many people who lose their jobs. Before embarking on this unpleasant path, have a very clear reason -- possibly selecting from the list above -- of why the benefits of layoffs will exceed the costs. Make sure you can succinctly communicate the reason for the layoffs to everyone who will be affected. 2. Envision your company’s next five years. Companies should resist the immediate urge to set a target for the number of people to cut and to make a list of people to let go. Instead, business leaders should identify powerful growth tailwinds and envision which new products they will build to win market share over the next five years. Lacking such a vision before cost cutting, your company could initiate a doom loop in which a string of disappointing quarters leads to more layoffs. 3. Evaluate the skills needed to realize that vision. With a clear picture of its future, leaders should identify the skills that the company will need to realize their vision. More specifically, leaders should articulate the specific talents -- for example, in product development, marketing, sales -- that will be essential for designing, building, and selling new products that can benefit from the market tailwinds. Next, leaders ought to assess the company’s current organization through the lens of these skills. Specifically, leaders should ask: Which of our current people are critical for realizing the company’s five-year vision? Who in our organization is needed to keep our current business running effectively? Which skills must we hire in order to realize this vision? Which people are not essential to realizing our future vision or keeping the business running effectively? 4. Set a cost reduction target. With the answers to these questions in mind, this is

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Know why you must cut costs, envision the company’s future, set a cost reduction target, keep those who are essential to your future, and conduct layoffs with respect. the time for business leaders to set a specific cost reduction target. If a key reason for cost cutting is to lower your company’s cash burn rate, you should set the cost reduction target based on how long you estimate the company will need to run without raising new cash from investors. Before cutting jobs, business leaders should consider actions they might take -- such as streamlining inefficient processes or negotiating lower input costs from suppliers -- to meet their cost reduction target. If those measures fall short, leaders should make a list of non-essential people and estimate how much cost savings the company might achieve by managing them out of the company. 5. Respectfully manage people out. Finally, leaders should manage people out of the company in a respectful manner. Here are some key process steps to follow: Call an all-company meeting and explain why the company must cut costs. Schedule immediate meetings in which managers communicate the severance package and other support the company will provide to those who are being laid off. At the same time, managers must meet with the people you want to keep, tell them how important they are to the company’s future, and that the company has no plans for further layoffs. Communicate the cost cutting actions with customers, suppliers, investors, and the general public. Layoffs are painful for all involved. Business leaders should adopt these five principles to minimize the pain layoffs cause while helping to secure the company’s long-term success. This article was originally published by The Inc.


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pinion

The Age of Chinese Dragon

Gamal Abdul-Mabud

The world appears to be either prematurely aging or comapletely insane. After a long period of cold peace from the end of World War II until the 1970s, Richard Nixon, then US President, visited China on the advice of Henry Kissinger, who served as his Secretary of State and National Security Adviser. The visit ushered in an era of conciliation and military relaxation beginning in the early 1970s in response to China›s political favor for America, and the Chinese assistance in escaping the quagmire of Vietnam, which drained America and exposed real American values. Given that countries do not pay blank checks and are not satisfied with empty compliments, China has mandated the acquisition of Western technology as well as massive investments. The West, on the other hand, paid a high price to isolate China from the Soviet Union, so that when Russia collapsed in the late 1980s, the American era and theories of the end of history began, and China began its modern renaissance, and because China was the owner of an ancient civilization, it took advantage of these opportunities to become America›s first competitor. Empires, like people, age and undergo stages of development from construction and prosperity, to degeneration, fall, and extinction. Civilizations do not last, and their decay is accelerated whenever their construction is fragile. They are replaced by other civilizations and new empires. I do not believe that America is immune to this, but it differs from the other empires in that it rose quickly, so it will fall quickly, especially with the rise of the Chinese dragon, which began economically and will finish as a civilized nation, even by recalling and borrowing from the ancient past. The Chinese civilization is the second oldest civilization after the Egyptian. It maintained its purity through voluntary isolation behind the Great Wall of China, which has made the Chinese a homogeneous people and made China geographically a crucible

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that melts all its components and elements into a harmonic system unique to this people. Despite their isolation, they provided the world with the longest trade route, the Silk Road. China had kept the secret of silk manufacture for over two thousand years, so that even its poor were able to wear silk clothes because they monopolized this industry, which they later exported to the world with banknotes and the customs system. This road was travelled by Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Timur, Marco Polo, the Messengers of Caliph Othman Ibn Affan, and the Arab traveler Muhammad ibn Abd al-Lah ibn Ibrahim, also known as Ibn Battuta, through whom the Chinese civilization gave much to the world while taking little from it. Nonetheless, China was able to recover from its setback, and its economy overtook Japan to become the world›s second largest after the United States. Two factors influence China›s rise and the removal of Uncle Sam from the world leadership. The first concerns America, while the second concerns China. As for America, the American age is declining with the end of the American dream, which turned out to be a mirage. It is the fastest empire to decay compared to the Roman Empire, which took nearly four centuries to fade away. The current American situation comes in line with theories of the Roman decline, which were explained by scholar Oswald Spengler as a life cycle of weakness to peak and then aging. In addition, Arnold J. Toynbee›s theories stated that the empire›s lack of real challenges makes it relax and rest, then deteriorate before it vanishes. However, there remains the theory of Ibn Khladun, the outstanding Muslim sociologist who predated all of these scholars, stating that the extinction of any nation’s power is the result of that nation›s heinous and blasphemous indignities. That is, the empire›s lack of moral values and lofty principles,


which America lost a long time ago. The dollar has become their sacred god, and the best man is the fastest one to pull his gun, and the most famous woman is the fastest to take off her clothes. In other words, power has become their end goal, and the spiritual emptiness that comes with it hastens the aging of American civilization, the impact of which on the world has not exceeded consumer values and credit card worship. For China, it is the ancient beliefs deeply rooted in the conscience of the Chinese people who do not believe in culture for the sake of culture, but rather to achieve wisdom, that will help them occupy first place in the world. Otherwise, culture will devolve into gossip, as mentioned in the semi-sacred Taoist hymns written 2,500 years ago by Laozi, the Chinese sage who was concerned with daily life and said that knowing others is wisdom, knowing oneself is boldness, leading others requires strength, and leading one’s soul requires power, and that what shrinks must expand and before taking you must give. That is why China willingly gave the world the secret of silk industry. It is no surprise that China shone after the Mao Zedong revolution, which liberated the country from ignorance, disease, and poverty. It is enough to know that the British opium war against China

resulted in addiction, poverty, and the spread of prostitution in major cities such as Shanghai and Beijing until 1949. That was when the Communist Red Army entered Beijing and declared the establishment of the People›s Republic of China, sweeping away the dust of backwardness from the ancient Chinese jewels. It is not surprising that China jumped to second place in the world economy after adopting the “one country, two systems,” one totalitarian and the other capitalist. This is what saved China from collapse similar to that of the Soviet Union, thanks to the presence of a strong communist party that applies state capitalism. What China lacks is the spread of its language around the world, as Britain and America did with English. It doesn’t have soft power like Hollywood, and has failed in creating and promoting the Chinese dream as America did earlier, in addition to its poor record of freedoms and human rights, and a lack of social openness to the rest of the world. The Ukraine war may be the straw that breaks the American camel›s back, just as the 1956 Suez battles did for the British lion. Given China’s military resources, it is expected that China will become the world›s biggest power by 2050-2030, with Ukraine serving as China›s gateway to the Chinese Dragon Age.

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The Ukraine war may be the straw that breaks the American camel›s back, and given China’s military resources, it is expected that China will become the world›s biggest -2030 power by 2050 .


A Weekly Political News Magazine

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Issue 1916- August- 05/08/2022

Hadja Lahbib: Journalist of Algerian Origin Turned Belgian FM www.majalla.com



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Takiya Al-Mawlawiyah The Last Remaining Dervish Theater in Egypt By Salwa Samir Takiya Al-Mawlawiyah, in Cairo’s historic neighbourhood of El-Darb El-Ahmar, is the only remaining Takiya with dervish theater. It has a rich history that dates back to the 14th century. Takiya means a place for housing dervishes (Ssufis). It is the same as khanqah, which emerged in the Ayyubid dynasty (1171–1260) and the Mamluk sultanate (mid-13th–early 16th centuries). “Saladin, the founder of In tthe Ayyubid era, Saladin, its founder, eestablished khanqah to fight the Shiite, who were prevailing under the Fatimids, the previous rulers. These khanqahs were housed by Ssufis. They roamed the streets and alleys to sing Islamic hymns intendedthat meant to urge people to fight against the Crusaders and the Shiites,” Gamal Abdel Rahim, Professor of Archaeology and Islamic Arts, Faculty of Archaeology, Cairo University told Majalla. He added that when Egypt reverted to the status of a province governed from Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) after after the Mamluks were defeated by the Ottomans in 1516–17, the Ottomans replacedused the Ppersian-word

khanqah with and named it Takiya, with for the same purpose which was, to house dervishes. Takiya Al-Mawlawiyah was previously a madrasa of Prince Sunqur Sa’di, a commander of the “Rroyal Mmamluks” under Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad (ruled between 1293 and – 1294). He built it in 1321 as a madrasa (a place for teaching the four Sunni schools of jurisprudence,; namely, Hanafi, Shafi’i, Maliki and Hanbali rites), a convent for women, orphanage for children and a mausoleum for himself. “During the Ottoman period in the 18th and 19th centuries, it became aturned to be Takiya, where dervishes perform whirling (Mawlawiyah) so its name became Tekeya El-Mawlawiya,” Abdel-Rahim said. El-Mawlawiya is a form of dhikr (remembrance of God). It was founded in Konya, Anatolia, by Jalal al-Din Al-Rumi (1207 – 1273), widely known as Rumi, the Persian poet, Islamic jurist and Sufi mystic. Rumi’s life completely changed and he became an ascetic when he met the dervish Shams Tabrizi (1185–1248), his spiritual instructor. His ideas were spread all over the Islamic world. Rumi’s followers called him Mawlana (our master). Takiya Al-Mawlawiyah has an intact huge- cir-

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The stage consists of a round wooden platform as a stage surrounded by a small wooden partition with two doors for the dervishes to enter and leave before and after their Mawlawi performance. (Credit: Salwa Samir)

cular theater where dervishes performed their dance. It is all made of wood. It consists of a round wooden platform as a stage surrounded by a small wooden partition with two doors for the dervishes to enter and leave before and after their Mawlawi performance. It also separates the stage from the audience area. Above the stage there is a cupola based on 12 columns bearing the names of the twelve Shia Imams, who were spiritual and political successors to the Islamic Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him). The ceiling of the dome resembles the sky. It has drawings of birds flying in the sky representingresembling dervishes’ souls in oneness with God in addition to eight windows indicating the gates of Paradise. The theater has an upper floor onin which the audience and the instrumentalists sit, like the tambourines and flute players. There is a section dedicated for women attendees covered with wooden screens so that they can see the

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El-Mawlawiya is a form of dhikr (remembrance of God). It was founded in Konya, Anatolia, by Jalal al-Din Al-Rumi. performance without anyone watching them. There is also a metal chandelier hung byfrom long wires from the cupola over the middle of the stage. The practitioners of the Mawlawi order enters the theater wearing a wide white skirt representing the shroud, and wearingon his head wears a long camel’s hair hat representing the tombstone. The whirler stands on his left leg which is always fixed on the ground metaphorically for the creed and the Sharia (Islamic law), which does not accept analysis or discussion or thinking.


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Above the stage is a cupola based on 12 columns bearing the names of the twelve Shia Imams, who were spiritual and political successors to the Islamic Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him). (Credit: Salwa Samir)

The right leg is moving around in a circle which. It represents life. While spinning, the arms are open: the right one is directed to the sky to receive Allah’s madad (beneficence); the left hand is directed to the ground, as if it transfers the madad to the earth. This way of whirling reflects Rumi’s concept that the soul swayed and danced with joy in drawing closer to God. Rumi was known as the poet of love, because he spoke about love in his books and poetry, as he chose love as a path to reach God. His creed of love is indivisible. Rumi loves everything in the world –; he loves flowers, birds, seas, trees and people, whatever their na-

This way of whirling reflects Rumi’s concept that the soul swayed and danced with joy in drawing closer to God.

tionalities and beliefs. He believed that love is the basis for the creationconstruction of the world,; of the relationship between athe person and his Creator,; of the relationship between athe person and himself,; as well asand the basis of the relationships between athe person and others. The ground floor of the Takiya housed the tomb of Mohamed Ghaleb Dora, a great mystic and dervish (died in 1915). There is also a showcase displaying the distinguished Sufi attire while another. Another showcase displaysing the Mathnawi, a Persianlanguage poem with thousands of verses by Rumi. It is regarded as one of the most influential works of Sufism as it includes anecdotes and stories derived from the Islam’s Holy Book and hadith sources. Abdel Rahim said that the whirlers performed in the Takiya until 1954 after the July 23 revolution that toppled the monarchy. “The Antiquities Ministry plans to return the mawlawiyah dance toin Takiya in the near future to encourage tourism,”Abdeltourism,” Abdel Rahim said.

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The ceiling of the dome resembles the sky. It has drawings of birds flying in the sky representing dervishes’ souls. (Credit: Salwa Samir)

There is a section dedicated for women attendees covered with wooden screens so that they can see the performance without anyone watching them. (Credit: Salwa )Samir

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S

ociety

Escaping Inflation

Wekalet El-Balah: A Clothes Haven for All Egyptians

By Maryam Raafat Through narrow corridors under the 15th of May Bridge in Cairo, stands are stacked with clothes that suit different age groups. Shop owners are scrambling to attract passersby to look at their “brand” merchandise and buy the clothes they need. Wekalet El-Balah is a very old district that used to be a market for old spare parts of cars and used clothes as well. It was previously the place where poor people shopped. But as time went by, and with the continuous increase of lifestyle commodities, this market started to attract more segments of Egyptians. The rise in the price of clothing in recent years has prompted a large segment of citizens to resort to searching for an alternative that guarantees them the wearing of branded clothes, even if they are used. Wekalet El-Balah has become a destination for a wide range of middle-class people to buy imported and used

clothes at a value that is not comparable to their regular retail price. “We no longer receive only middle class people, but we start to meet different classes of customers after the increase in price of clothes,” Ahmed Abdel Aal, one of the sellers in Wekalet El Balah, told Majalla.

CHANGING HABITS Faten Othman, a housewife in her mid-thirties, used to buy Eid clothes for her children from downtown stores, but the high prices pushed Othman to buy second-hand clothes, as she believes that buying a used blouse is better than nothing. “I used to go to the 26th of July Street to buy Eid clothes for my children, but I was surprised by the great increase in their prices, which are not much different from the stores,” Othman said. “I can’t afford the cost of the new clothes while my salary doesn’t exceed LE2000 (US106$),” Othman

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Shoppers wearing protective face masks walk near a sale sign in a shop window inside a Carrefour hypermarket, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in the Cairo suburb of Maadi, Egypt September 25, 2020. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh/File Photo

added to Majalla. Although some of them had gotten university degrees, sellers in Wekalet El-Balah are happy to stand on the sidewalks and in the street for long hours to sell their meager goods after all the doors were closed in their faces for jobs that would save them from the intense heat in the summer and the harsh cold of winter. “I hold a bachelor’s degree in Sharia law at AlAzhar University, and I haven’t found any job that matches my university qualifications with a proper salary, so I sell used clothes in Wekalet El-Balah to be able to put food on the table for my children,” said Mohamed Mohsen, a -40year-old used clothes seller. “Not all the clothes are used, there are stocks left over from export, which are of higher quality than used ones, and their prices start from 75 pounds per piece,” Mohsen added to Majalla. The prices hiked because the import is currently stopped, but there is no comparison with the prices of new clothes in stores, which are multiplied 4 times compared to the prices of the Wekalet ElBalah, according to Mohsen.

CRISIS TIME Since last February Egyptians have been hit by a hike in prices as a result of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. The prices of clothing and shoes have risen by around 30 per cent, while prices in Wekalet El Balah range from LE25 to LE250. Lucky shoppers found their proper sizes as they searched through piles of clothes.

People shop at Al Ataba, a popular market in downtown Cairo, Egypt. (Reuters)

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We no longer receive only middle-class people, but we start to meet different classes of customers after the increase in price of clothes. For Rehab Gad, a -35years-old housewife, the prices of used clothes are not so far from those in the stores. “The greediness of the sellers makes things harder, they exploit any season such as feasts to increase the prices, as they also exploit the increasing number of people who shifted to the used clothes market by raising prices.” A few years ago, people were not encouraged to announce that they visit such kinds of markets, and many were afraid to be spotted by their acquaintances because their reputation would be ruined. But now things have changed a lot. The segments of people who visit these markets have become wider, and some YouTube influencers have started to promote the idea of purchasing used clothes in order to rationalize the culture of consumerism. The flourishing of the used clothes market has pushed many to start this business whether online through the different social media platforms or through offline stores.


o

pinion

The Challenge of a Fulfilled Relationship

By Luisa Markides

You have to find peace within yourself, inner peace. Feel satisfied and fulfilled - before you are able to be open for someone else - for a fulfilled relationship. Everything begins within us. Above is a common belief which is widespread and probably everyone has come across, heard from our parents or through some media. These are sentences which initially can sound like an empty phrase but, in reality, are very wise advice. Thinking about relationships and all the difficulties that could arise on a journey between a couple during their relationship can be very challenging. Arguments and misunderstandings between people are inevitable. When two people cross each other’s path and decide to consider their lives together, it can lead to happiness but also daunting feelings of disappointment. Wieland Stolzenburg, a psychologist who is also a very well-known best-selling author of more than ten books with his main focus on “fulfilled relationships” shared his opinion about relationships. When asked what leads to problem in a relationship, Stolzenburg replies: “It is often our own unresolved life-story that leads to relationship problems. On one hand, in a partnership, we would look for what we did not get in the past- in our childhood through mostly our parentsand on the other hand, our partner could easily hurt us precisely at these sore points. Someone could symbolise this with two backpacks that everyone carries around with them: one containing our skills and resources; and in the other, our weaknesses and wounds. Dealing with the backpack of injuries and processing experiences of our childhood is the best basis for a long-term fulfilling partnership. If both do this independently, then this is the road to success. This means that we have to get away from the accusations and wishes for change in our partner, towards looking at ourselves and the question: what am I willing to invest and what topics do I bring

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from my life into the relationship?” So once again, Stolzenburg proves with this statement that everything truly begins within ourselves. Everyone has been inevitably hurt throughout their life, has had to face challenges which might have left signs of sadness or lack-of-trust issues. Nevertheless, depending on how much we are able to be true to ourselves, our wishes, our needs and our past - we will be able to embrace life as a couple in the future. However, what can be considered as a normal challenge to overcome in a relationship and what can be the reason to end a partnership? We all know the feeling after the first glow and enthusiasm in a new relationship has passed, namely, when we begin to feel frustrated about the issues which we previously might have been able to overlook but now lead to increased arguments. Stolzenburg explains that this is considered as a normal process. After the first period of falling in love ends, the hormone level drops. The idealization towards each other is slowly fading and both partners are recognizing aspects of the other that they like less. There are many reasons why a relationship can be troubled: too high expectations towards each other, too little time for each other due to work or their own children’s commitments, lack of common field of interest, lack of future plans, unsatisfied needs or an unsatisfied sexuality. However, the main issue can be when there is no real interest anymore in the other partner. This can lead to the most common reason why a relationship can fail. Although, if this appears right at the beginning of a relationship, it can also be positive when both partners feel free to be themselves and show their less glamorous side. Perhaps this can be done by showing their vulnerable side, their weaknesses, or their fears. Stolzenburg recommends that partners should always question themselves whether they can solve


Photo by Vera Arsic on Pexels

the problems or they cannot deal with the pressure and therefore will suffer because of this. He explains that sometimes, even after years, frequently the same issues arise in a relationship which can lead to arguments between the couple. One can wonder if this is simply a light issue in their relationship or if it is a serious conflict to which they are exposed. Stolzenburg advises to be guided by two standards if someone is not sure about the answer: 1. Is it a recurring topic that does not change despite communication, exchange and interest in my partner? 2. Can I let go of the topic internally at some point, or do I carry within me resentment or even hate which is directed towards my partner? However, if someone is ready from their side to let go of something that leads to an argument and perhaps accept their partner’s view, it is always also a challenging topic for ourselves. We have to question ourselves, i.e., whether we are still true to ourselves, our needs and life values or if we are just “letting go” of something in order to avoid a recurrent argument. According to Stolzenburg, every problem in a relationship, even if it seems unsurmountable, can be solved. This may happen if both partners work on themselves and do not expect the solution from their partner. But I wonder, when is the point reached in a relationship which cannot be solved anymore and when does a separation seem the only alternative? Stolzenburg opines that it is very difficult to find a universal answer. However, someone should be able to answer for themselves the following questions in a most honest way:

1. Does my partner know about my dissatisfaction and that I am considering separation? 2. Did I give myself 100% in order to improve the relationship? 3. Are the difficult topics similar to those in my previous relationship? Stolzenburg explains that if someone answers “yes” to the third question, it means that it is an unresolved issue. It is therefore most important that those people work on themselves prior to beginning a new relationship as they would simply import a similar relationship pattern into the next partnership. This is once again proof of how essential is the work on ourselves and how vital it is to resolve our own “injuries” acquired during life, prior to opening our heart for someone. We all need to accept that there will be conflicts when dealing with other people. As Stolzenburg says: “Life means change. This always inevitably leads to different opinion, needs and wishes.” Life is a continuing challenge. We are all in a constant flow. Life changes as do our needs and wishes. It is how someone responds and finds coping strategies that accept their partner the way she/he is, that leads to a fulfilled life together. Finding a common path that leads through life together, overcoming difficulties and living joyful happiness together. Growing together as a union - that’s where the strengths lie. Accepting each other for who we have been, are and will become. Love as a challenge - but a worthwhile one.

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It is how someone responds and finds coping strategies that accept their partner the way she/he is, that leads to a fulfilled life together .


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port

After an Inspiring Journey, Mouna Chebbah Pays Farewell to Handball Tunisian Handballer Had Long Successful Career with the National Team and Clubs By Sarah Gamal Mouna Chebbah, a Tunisian handball legend, announced her official retirement at the age of 39, capping off a 21-year career. A long march filled with individual and collective titles and accomplishments, where she spelled her name in gold letters and showcased Tunisian women’s handball at its best. Mouna Chebbah was born in the city of Mahdia in Tunisia’s coastal center in 1982 to a lowincome family. Her love of sports was strong, as she had participated in athletics and football since she was a child.

DESTINED TO PLAY HANDBALL Chebbah began her career as a sprinter in the 1500 meter but quickly switched to handball. She failed her first tryout with ASF Mahdia due to her short stature. Mouna Chebbah’s persistence was admirable, as she returned and took another test in order to be selected for the Mahdia team. When she was 19, she quickly ascended to the ASF Mahdia’s first team, where she was one of the team’s

youngest players at the time. After one season, Chebbah moved to ES Ariana in Tunisia’s capital, and she was one of the country’s first professional handball players. Mouna Chebbah demonstrated distinguished levels of skill during two consecutive seasons in the Tunisian League with the Carthage Eagles’ women’s team. She quickly became the leading talent and a rising star in the Arab handball sky. Chebbah began her career as the top scorer in the Women’s World Championship in Hungary in 2001, and in Tunisia she led the ES Ariana team to a league and cup double in 2003.

DEVELOPING IN FRANCE & FLYING HIGH IN DENMARK Chebbah began her professional career in Europe in the summer of 2003 when she started in the French league with Angoulême before joining Besançon in 2005. She spent three distinguished and remarkably brilliant seasons at the club, winning the award for best left-back player at the end of her second professional ex-

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The Tunisian Handball Legend Mouna Chebbah. (Supplied)

perience in 2008. In the summer of 2008, the Tunisian star joined Esbjerg, and in 2010 she joined Viborg HK, the best European team at the time, to begin a great success story and to make a leap in her career. Chebbah was named the Danish league’s best player in 2009 while playing for Esbjerg, and she also won the Danish league title with Viborg HK in 2014, as well as the cup title four times in 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2014.

Mouna Chebbah announced her official retirement at the age of 39, capping off a -21 year career. Europe’s skies played a significant role in the Carthage Eagles women’s returning to the fore and ascending to the podiums. Chebbah played in the 2009 World Championship in China, where Tunisia finished 14th and Chebbah was one of the top ten scorers.

Chebbah won the Danish Super Cup with Viborg in 2011, and the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 2014. She returned to France with Nîmes Olympique the following year and had a fantastic career with the team. In one of his most famous quotes, Nîmes Olympique club president Chebbah appeared in the 2010 Africa Nations Bernard Roux stated: “It was Mouna Chebbah Championship final, which Tunisia lost to Anwho brought the lights to the club.” gola. She was voted the tournament’s best player. CHEBBAH’S CONTRIBUTIONS TO She competed in the 2011 World Women’s THE NATIONAL TEAM Handball Championship in Brazil, where Tunisia finished 18th. Chebbah was named to the After a golden era in the 1970s, the Tunisian All-Tournament Team and voted best player of women’s handball team suffered years of insig- the 2012 African Women’s Handball Champinificance. The rise of Mouna Chebbah’s star in onship in Morocco, where Tunisia finished sec-

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ond behind Angola. Tunisia finished 17th at the 2013 World Women’s Handball Championship in Serbia, thanks to her participation. Chebbah won a gold medal with the Tunisian team at the 2014 African Women’s Handball Championship, defeating DR Congo in the final. She won gold at the 2014 African Women’s Handball Championship. Wissem Hmam, a Tunisian handball star who has had a successful career with the various teams he has played for as well as on the international level with the Tunisian national team spoke to Majalla about Chebbah’s inspiring journey. The legend of the “terrible forearm” of interna-

Chebbah’s retirement comes after she wrote a bright chapter for Tunisian women’s sports, where she flew high and was the best ambassador in the history of the game

tional handball fans emerged in the 2005 World Cup, which Tunisia hosted. Hmam finished as the tournament’s top scorer (81 goals) and led his country to fourth place, the best in Tunisian participation in the world championships so far. “Mouna Chebbah is regarded as one of the pioneers of Tunisian women’s handball, having made significant contributions at the Arab and African levels,” Wissem Hmam told Majalla. “Chebbah became a professional handball player in the French and Danish leagues, where she won numerous individual and collective titles and was praised by international newspapers for her morals,” he continued. “Mouna Chebbah was the Tunisian women’s handball ambassador, and she honored Tunisian and Arab football abroad after making a proven track record. I hope that the current generation of players will complete their brilliance and raise the banner of creativity after Chebbah retires,” the Tunisian handball star added. Hman has hopes for her in the future: “I thank Mouna Chebbah for her contributions to Tunisian handball, and I hope to see her as a great coach whose work does not end on the field when she retires. We are proud of her as a player and will be proud of her as a coach in

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Tunisian Mouna Chebbah. AFP PHOTO / THOMAS SAMSON


Tunisia’s Mouna Chebbah executes a penalty shot against Cuba’s goal during their Women’s World Handball Championship match, in Sao Paulo, Brazil on December 2011 ,6. AFP PHOTO / Yasuyoshi Chiba

The Tunisian Handballplayer Wissem Hmam (Montpellier HB) during the Schlecker Cup 2007 in Ehingen (Germany)

the near future.” When we asked him about the level of Tunisian women’s handball in the previous period, he said that Tunisian handball needs a lot of support here because this is what is lacking. “Despite this, Tunisian youth teams are performing admirably at the Arab and African levels. I hope Tunisian handball shines at both the men’s and women’s levels, regaining its luster in Arab and African forums and returning to the top.”

In one of his most famous quotes, Nîmes Olympique club president Bernard Roux stated: “It was Mouna Chebbah who brought the lights to the club.” “The “impossible” is not in the Tunisian mentality, and I am hopeful that Tunisian women’s handball will win their second African title. I also hope that the Tunisian League will facilitate the professionalization of Tunisian female handball players abroad, as we have seen some of them do in the Romanian League and other leagues in the past, because the competition abroad will benefit Tunisian teams,” Wissem Hmam concluded. Chebbah’s retirement comes after she wrote a bright chapter for Tunisian women’s sports, where she flew high and was the best ambassador in the history of the game in the Arab world and Africa, and where she reached the pinnacle of her talent and fame with the Tunisian national team and in European halls.

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Po

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Hadja Lahbib: Journalist of Algerian Origin Turned Belgian FM By Majalla Illustration by Jeannette Khouri

geria. Her biography indicates that she lived most of her life in the capital of Brussels. Lahbib received her education in Belgium and Hadja Lahbib, a television journalist of Alge- enrolled in the Free University of Brussels in rian origin and former reporter on Afghanistan 1989, from which she obtained a degree in and the Middle East, was appointed in July media and communication in 1993. Her thesis as Belgium’s new Foreign Minister in a move was on “The History of the Algerian War: The Silence of Memory.” that surprised the political world. After her appointment, Lahbib said that she In 2019, she received a diploma in Digital was shocked, but she would take on the job as Leadership from the Solvay Institute in Belsomeone “without political baggage... neither gium. In addition to French, she speaks English and is familiar with Arabic and Farsi. of the left, nor of the right.” “History knocks on our doors, and it’s up to Lahbib began a journalistic career at an early everyone to respond in their own way,” she stage in her life. She joined Belgian TV in 1993 and worked there for 5 years. said. Georges Louis Bouchez, the leader of Bel- In 1997, she joined the Belgian national gium’s Reformist Movement, said she was ap- French-language television RTBF, where she pointed because the country “needed someone worked for 23 years as a presenter, field reporter and film director. who already knows international affairs.” “Lots of our fellow citizens know her from the She assumed other responsibilities in the culTV news,” he said. “But she has a much wid- tural and media sphere, as she held the posier experience because she has been in many tion of Vice-President of the Supreme Couninternational settings, whether in the Middle cil for Media Education, chaired the Liege East and Afghanistan, covering foreign elec- Theater Festival, and managed the project tions, for example in the US, and terrorist at- “Belgium as the European Capital of Culture in 2030.” tacks around the world.” Lahbib was born on June 21, 1970, in the town On July 15, 2022, the Francophone Liberal of Boussu near the city of Mons in Belgium, Party chose her to fill the post of Minister of to a family from the Kabylie region of Al- Foreign Affairs, European Affairs, Interna-

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tional Trade and Federal Cultural Institutions and she was sworn in on the 20th of the same month. Al-Habib’s biography indicates that she has accumulated a strong journalistic experience. For 30 years, she has been in the depths of journalistic work in its various branches and related matters, as she has provided news bulletins for many years, covered wars and crises, completed reports and produced and directed many films. On various occasions, she would disappear from the television screen as a presenter only to reappear as a field reporter. Lahbib, who accompanied previous foreign ministers on trips abroad, took on the job after predecessor Sophie Wilmes resigned to take care of her sick husband. Making her first appearance at an EU Council meeting last month, she joked she was “thrown straight into the deep end.” Ms. Lahbib spoke of showing continued support to Ukraine and increasing pressure on Russia to call off its invasion. She said sanctions “must become even more effective” as the EU debated new measures, including a ban on Russian gold to “end the unacceptable suffering and gross violation of human rights” in Ukraine.



B

ook Reviews

«City of Refugees»

Hartman Follows Three Immigrants to See how They changed A Dying City By Mark Kramer

In «City of Refugees: The Story of Three Newcomers Who Breathed Life Into a Dying A number of writers have recently taken American Town,» Susan Hartman, who›s on a complex topic crucial to the current, taught writing at Columbia and Yale, takes sometimes violent national «conversation» on this tempting and relevant topic. about immigration: exploring communities Hartman spent years reporting on the of recent immigrants who are revitalizing unfolding lives of three main characters the Rust Belt cities of the American who›ve settled in Utica, New York: Sadia, a rebellious and vivacious Somali Bantu teen, heartland. Cynthia Anderson›s moving 2019 narrative, whose mother leans on her for Americanizing «Home Now: How 6,000 Refugees far too fast; Mersiha, a Bosnian who opens a Transformed an American Town,» took tasty bakery and catering hall — and then readers into the sweet heart of the industrious runs into the COVID19- lockdown; and Ali, Somali community of Lewiston, Maine. an Iraqi with traumatic war experiences, A.K. Sandoval-Strausz›s 2019 «Barrio who nevertheless returns as a translator for America: How Latino Immigrants Saved the American troops so his salary can provide a American City» adds academic perspective to nest egg for his family in Utica. understanding the immigrant-driven revival Hartman offers us 48 episodic chapters of Chicago›s Little Village and Dallas› Oak portraying incidents in their daily lives. This inventory of events documents, realistically, Cliff. And Jason deParle›s masterful «A Good the many minuscule obstacles — mostly Provider Is One Who Leaves» offers a global stemming from bigotry, poverty and cultural view of the homeward flow of refugees› NONFICTION earnings, sustaining the millions who stay «City of Refugees» by Susan Hartman; behind. DeParle manages this by following Beacon Press (241 pages, $27.95) an expanding Filipino family he first met while in the Peace Corps three decades ago.

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This inventory of events documents, realistically, the many minuscule obstacles — mostly stemming from bigotry, poverty and cultural unfamiliarity — frustrating success, even as advancement does happen.

Book Cover

unfamiliarity — frustrating success, even as advancement does happen. The chapters also include similar information about the characters› friends, relatives and neighbors. We tune in on a class on how to go to the doctor («Turn your head! Cough! Cover your right eye.») And we see «The Sudanese mother picking out eye makeup with her daughter at the Rite-Aid on Genesee.» We›re in on menus, addresses of apartments, which desserts (baklava, hurmasica, jabukovaca) are served at an Eid banquet. The vignette-filled short chapters may have seemed a solution to the narrative puzzle of humanizing a city of immigrants through their actions. But, though we soon affirm what we might assume all along — that they are regular people living their lives stalwartly, day by day — a reader may wish for more guidance than is on offer. The book moves from small event to small

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event. At a supper, a character «helped himself to some salad and orzo with olives and almonds, and began eating.» Makes readers hungry, but might leave some unsatisfied. There›s an impressive vastness to the reporting, but it is not tamed in the service of systematic insight. The daily facts flow past us like rubble from the flood of cultures. The net realization is that energetic young people from several religions and backgrounds devote themselves to a process that amounts to homogenization, as our commercial vigor and consumerism convert these diverse and admirable souls into more of us — in the same deep trouble. «I feel like I›m brand new» says Sadia, late in the book, as she takes citizenship lessons. «City of Refugees» takes an honorable place among the literature of urban revitalization, offering us few answers — perhaps there are few, in the current atmosphere of unresolvable peril — but much to consider. Mark Kramer has been writer-in-residence at Smith College, Boston University and the Nieman Program on Narrative Journalism at Harvard. He has helped found ongoing narrative journalism conferences in Boston, London, Amsterdam and Bergen, Norway. This article was originally published by Star Tribune


H

ealth

What’s That Shoulder Sound?

Aging, bone growths, and injuries can cause changes to the shoulder that generate sounds

By Heidi Godman Crunching, clicking, grinding, or popping sounds from the shoulder can be alarming. Here’s what to do about them. It catches you off guard: a sudden crunch, pop, or click from your shoulder that you’ve never heard before. Is your shoulder sounding an alarm? Is it just normal aging? The answer depends on a number of factors.

ABOUT THE SHOULDER

The shoulder is made up of three bones (the upper arm bone, collarbone, and shoulder blade) and many soft tissues (including muscles, ligaments, and tendons). Within the shoulder are four joints. The main joint has a ball-and-socket construction: the top of the upper arm bone is the “ball” that fits into a shallow “socket” in the shoulder blade. Aging, bone growths, and injuries can cause changes to the shoulder that generate sounds from time to time.

SOUND FISHY

There’s no one sound unique to a particular shoulder problem. That makes it hard to know what various shoulder noises are telling you. Here are some possibilities. Arthritis. When cartilage that cushions the shoulder

joints wears away, the bones can rub against each other. “Or sometimes the cartilage frays as it wears out, like pilling on a sweater. As the ball glides against it, it makes noise,” says Dr. Jason Simon, an orthopedic surgeon with Harvard-affiliated NewtonWellesley Hospital. Arthritis can be accompanied by stiffness and pain. Bone breaks. Broken bones can rub against each other audibly. Breaks are accompanied by pain, swelling, discoloration, and stiffness. Rotator cuff tears. The rotator cuff is made up of tendons that help you raise and rotate your arm. The tendons also help keep the ball centered in the socket. “If you have a tear in a tendon, the ball can move abnormally, or there could be loose tissue that gets caught as you move your arm. Both make noise,” says Dr. Simon. Tears are accompanied by pain that gets worse with shoulder use. Gas bubbles. When you move your shoulder, it can release gas that has built up in a bubble in the joint. It doesn’t hurt; the release is similar to cracking your knuckles. Bone spurs. Sometimes calcified growths develop in the shoulder. “The most common bone spur can rub against the rotator cuff. This can result in noises or pain, particularly with overhead motion,” says Dr. Simon. Neck problems. In some cases, what you perceive as a shoulder sound may actually originate in the neck. For example, it may come from neck bones

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Photo by Michael Carroll (TNS)

that rub together due to worn cartilage. This might or might not hurt.

MOVE OF THE MOUTH: A GENTLE SHOULDER WARM-UP Movement: Stand up straight and extend your right leg behind you. Bend your left knee slightly and hinge forward at your hips. Place your left hand on your left thigh for support. Slowly rock your body forward and back, causing your right arm to swing gently like a pendulum. Swing the arm forward and back 10 times, then repeat the exercise on the other side. If your doctor says it’s okay, hold a weight while doing the exercise. Bursitis. The shoulder joint contains a number of small fluid-filled sacs (bursae) that protect tendons from the bones and ligaments they glide over. “When a bursa is swollen or inflamed, it gets compressed as the joint moves, which creates a sound,” Dr. Simon explains. Loose parts. You might not feel tiny pieces of debris in your shoulder -- such as bits of cartilage that have broken off or detached stitches from past shoulder surgeries -- but they can make noise as they move within the joint.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO

Dr. Simon recommends investigating shoulder noises if you have shoulder pain, weakness, or limited movement, or if the sound followed a shoulder

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It catches you off guard: a sudden crunch, pop, or click from your shoulder that you’ve never heard before. injury. He says it’s also smart -- though not urgent -- to ask your doctor about shoulder sounds that aren’t accompanied by other symptoms: “It’s always better to be safe and catch something before it gets worse and we can’t fix it.” Seek help first from your primary care doctor, who may refer you to an orthopedic surgeon. To make a diagnosis, the doctor will conduct a physical exam and order imaging tests, such as x-ray or MRI. Treatment, if necessary, doesn’t automatically mean surgery. Some conditions need only physical therapy or anti-inflammatory medications or injections. “If there’s something torn, broken, or completely worn out, we may consider surgery. But that’s a last resort,” says Dr. Simon. “Shoulder noise doesn’t mean there’s an operation in your future.” This article was originally published by Harvard Health Letter.


o

pinion

Infoarmation Technology and the Question of Knowledge

By Saif Al-Abri

The development of information technology has been unprecedented. It seems not many know how this will affect our species, although it plays a significant role in shaping us and our minds .

In this age of information technology, knowledge has become accessible in the pockets of %83 of the world›s population. Now people can quickly research the accurate distance and time required to walk from one destination to another. They can search the mechanisms of different technologies, explore the wisdom of ancients, and much more. This, in turn, has made us more dependent on them so that Google and other search engines have become the first line of inquiry. We sometimes even trust them over our own intuitions, and children trust them over their parents.

Before our time, the way knowledge was accessed was different. Those who decided to seek knowledge would have to find a willing teacher and, if lucky, a library. It was not easy in an age where massive paper printing and pdfs were unavailable. Much of the knowledge was passed down from the older generations, which was gained through an accumulation of experiences. This was all about to change after the development of mass printing then electromechanical technology, such as the telegraph and the telephone, and then electronics, including the devices we now have. This allowed information to travel at high speeds. After commercialization, such technologies became accessible to the masses. This raises the question of what differentiates modern sources of knowledge from the past. Through observation, it seems that such information technology has created an extra layer from the truth. For instance, if we take on the question of time, I can accurately know the date, hours, minutes and seconds using my phone or a watch. However, in the past, people had to interact with nature, for instance by building obelisks, identifying shadows and sun positioning, and tracking the movements of planets and constellations. Although we have access to more accurate information, we have

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distanced ourselves from the act of identifying time and our interaction with nature and added an extra layer where it is another agent is that gives us the information. We are further away from the source of the knowledge, yet at the same time, have a more accurate piece of information. What is the implication of such results? First, it has further made us more dependent on external sources such as experts, as now most of our knowledge and information increasingly comes from such sources rather than direct interaction with nature and experience. As a result, we have more information which is more accurate, but as a consequence, we have to base our knowledge on the trust of authority. To become distant from the source of truth has reduced the role that knowledge plays. Most information learned in the past was put to use and actively played a role in the life of individuals. It was relevant to individuals and became an active part of their outlook. As such, it can become genuinely labelled as knowledge. However, information gained from media and Google searches due to their ease has become to play a lower role, maybe that’s why research has found that data from search engines was quickly forgotten. Discussing how we have become desensitized from information is a whole line of inquiry that we won›t get into. The development of information technology has been unprecedented. It seems not many know how this will affect our species, although it plays a significant role in shaping us and our minds. What is the impact of having less interaction with nature and increasing our trust in other agents for information? Will this be another tool used by state powers for censoring and guiding information, or will it play a role in developing societies? Only time will tell.