How U.S. Sees New Sino-Iran Accord
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The Rise and Fall of Hezbollah’s Ally www.majalla.com
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www.majalla.com/eng The long-drawn Lebanese deadlock in forming a government has seen many regional and international actors trying to solve the crisis by playing intermediary with the main figures on the Lebanese political scene. In this, one erstwhile powerhouse politician who seems to have lost the trust of most others is Gebran Bassil, the Lebanese deputy. He is the president of the Free Patriotic Movement and son-in-law of President Aoun. Bassil has risen rapidly to power but his decision to align with Hezbollah and Iran, for the sake of his personal gains and longing for power, made his Christian constituency and Western governments wary of him. In this week’s cover story, Hanin Ghaddar traces the rise and fall of the Lebanese politician who has little hope left to keep his status and even assets. The new deal signed recently by China and Iran was seen as defiance of U.S. efforts to force Iran to re-enter the JCPOA without lifting sanctions. Although China echoed Tehran’s position on re-entering the nuclear deal, some analysts believe the new approachment is not of as much importance to China as it is to Iran. In his weekly column, Joseph Braude highlights the U.S. perceptions of the Sino-Iranian agreement, and the reasons why Biden’s administration seems unconcerned. In a bid by the Justice and Development Party of Turkey to ban the pro-Kurdish Democratic Party (HDP), a lawsuit was filed to the constitutional court alleging ties between HDP and Kurdish armed groups. Although the indictment was returned to the court of cassation, the pluralist HDP is still facing the possibility of a shutdown to prevent its participation in the coming elections, particularly since Erdogan sees it as a threat to his party. Jiwan Soz gives an account of the ruling coalition’s attempts at getting rid of the HDP and the possible scenarios the HDP members will follow in case their party is banned. 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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UNICEF and EU Children on the Move project
Afghan children who were displaced from different provinces due to war and conflicts, attend different activities at a facility run by European Unionâ€™s Children on the Move project and UNICEF, in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, 05 April 2021. Some 46 Afghan Children (22 Boys and 24 Girls) attend different activities classes as well as provision of Psycho-social support to Internally Displaced children who have been affected by the conflict., Afghanistan )EPA Photos(
The 2021 European Weightlifting Championships
Ine Andersson of Norway in action during the women›s 59kg category final at the 2021 EWF European Weightlifting Championships, in Moscow, Russia, 05 April 2021. MOSCOW, Russian Federation )EPA Photos(
A WEEK IN THE MIDDLE EAST JORDAN The former crown prince of Jordan has appeared to pledge allegiance to the king following accusations he was plotting to seize the throne. On Saturday, Deputy Prime Minister Ayman Safadi said the government had "foiled" an attempted coup led by Prince Hamzah and two officials against his half-brother, King Abdullah II. In an attempt to ease tensions, Prince Hamzah, 41, took part in a successful mediation with the king's uncle, Prince Hassan on Monday, according to the AP. In a letter released by the royal household on Tuesday, Prince Hamzah pledged allegiance to the 59-year-old king.
KUWAIT Kuwait said this week it would extend a month-long partial curfew that had been due to end next week until April 22 as part of efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19. The cabinet said in a statement on Twitter that the curfew would be from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. as of April 8, according to Reuters. The Gulf Arab state recorded 1,282 new infections on Thursday. It had seen daily cases fall below 300 in December from close to 1,100 last May. The cabinet said deliveries from restaurants, cafes and food stores would be permitted during the fasting month of Ramadan, which begins in mid-April this year, between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m. The Ramadan fast is a time when Muslims are required to abstain from food and drink during daylight hours.
EGYPT The Suez Canal Authority is considering expanding the southern section of the waterway where the container ship Ever Given became stranded, its chairman said this week. It is also looking into procuring cranes that could potentially offload cargo at heights of up to 52 meters, Osama Rabie told Reuters in an interview. “Our procedures are sound, we are just aiming to improve the service,” he said. The 400-metre-long (1,310 ft) Ever Given became grounded diagonally across the southern section of the canal during high winds on March 23. It remained stuck for six days, preventing hundreds of ships from passing and significantly impacting global trade flows.
SYRIA Primary schools around Syria will close down indefinitely next week amid a severe increase of coronavirus cases in the war-torn country, while universities will suspend classes for only two weeks and high schools will remain open, the government announced this week, according to AP. Education Minister Darem Tabbaa told state news agency SANA that the closures will go into effect Monday, while final exams for grades five up to high school will be held over four days starting April 25. The Ministry of Higher Education said private and public universities will suspend classes for two weeks starting Monday.
LEBANON Germany plans to unveil a massive project to reconstruct the port of Beirut, but it would be conditional on Lebanon addressing rampant government corruption, sources have told Reuters. The multi-billion-dollar reconstruction plan, which has not yet been financed, would be designed to attract cash from bodies such as the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), sources told the news agency on Thursday. Two diplomatic sources with knowledge of the plans, who Reuters did not name, said the German government will make a multi-billion dollar proposal to rebuild the port and its surrounding area on April 7. A senior Lebanese official, also unnamed, confirmed to the outlet that Germany was preparing a proposal for the port. The German foreign ministry did not respond to Insider's request for comment, nor to one from Reuters.
PALESTINIANS U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his Israeli counterpart this week that Israelis and Palestinians should enjoy “equal measures” of freedom, security, prosperity and democracy, Reuters reported. Blinken’s comments reflected more of a focus on the Palestinians than the pro-Israel policy conducted by U.S. President Joe Biden’s Republican predecessor, Donald Trump. Blinken made the point in a phone conversation with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. A statement from State Department spokesman Ned Price said the two leaders discussed regional security challenges, humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, and the normalization of relations with Arab and Muslim majority countries.
UAE The United Arab Emirates’ first nuclear power plant started commercial operations this week, the Gulf Arab state’s leaders announced on Twitter, according to Reuters. The Barakah nuclear power plant in the Abu Dhabi emirate is the first nuclear power station in the Arab world and part of the oil producing state’s efforts to diversify its energy mix. “The first megawatt from the first Arab nuclear plant has entered the national power grid,” Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum said on Twitter. De facto ruler Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan said it was a historic milestone for the country, which this year celebrates 50 years since its formation.
The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen intercepted and destroyed an explosive-laden drone launched by Iran-aligned Houthis towards the Saudi city of Khamis Mushait this week, Saudi state TV reported, according to Reuters. Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea said on Twitter that Houthis have targeted “sensitive sites” at King Khalid air base in Khamis Mushait with two drones. He added that the “hit was precise”, but there hasn’t been a confirmation from Saudi authorities.
Oman decided to only allow citizens and residents to enter the Gulf Arab state as of April 8 following an increase in COVID-19 cases that is pressuring the health care system, the country’s coronavirus committee said this week, according to Reuters. The committee also extended an evening ban on all commercial activities until the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which is due to start in mid-April this year, according to a statement on state media. A curfew imposed on March 28 on movement of vehicles and people outdoors between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. would be lifted, as scheduled, on April 8 but would be reinstated during the month of Ramadan from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., the statement added.
A WEEK ACROSS THE WORLD
An Iranian cargo ship has co Red Sea, Al Arabiya TV repo unnamed sources, and semi agency Tasnim said the vess limpet mine, according to R Al Arabiya cited the source attacked off the coast of Er with Iran’s Revolutionary G evidence to support the ass Tasnim identified the ship a vessel Iran Saviz has been s for the past few years to support Iranian commandos sent on commercial vessel ( missions,” it reported.
ETHIOPIA Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Wednesday warned of the risk of conflict over Ethiopia’s giant dam on the Blue Nile after talks involving the two countries and Sudan ended without progress. Ethiopia is pinning its hopes of economic development and power generation on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which Egypt fears will imperil its supply from the Nile. Sudan is also concerned about the impact on its own water flows. Delegations from the three governments met earlier this week in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo but failed to bridge their differences. Speaking at the opening of a new government complex, Sisi said Sudan and Egypt were coordinating on the issue and that “cooperation and agreement are much better than anything else”. Referring to past regional conflicts, he said: “We have witnessed the costs of any confrontation.”
U.S. The United States said this week it aimed to discuss a common approach with its allies towards participation in the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, as China’s foreign ministry warned that the world would not accept a boycott, according to Reuters. With calls for a boycott growing over China’s human rights record, State Department spokesman Ned Price repeated concerns over what Washington has described as genocide against Uighur Muslims in the northwestern Xinjiang region, where Beijing denies that rights abuses have taken place. Asked if the United States was consulting allies over whether to consider a potential joint boycott, Price told a media briefing: “It is something that we certainly wish to discuss... “We understand that a coordinated approach will be not only in our interests, but also in the interests of our allies and partners.”
AFGHANISTAN Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov this week met Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and the country’s army chief for talks on the troubled peace process in Afghanistan, where both countries have long histories of involvement, Reuters reported. It was the first time a Russian foreign minister had visited Pakistan in nine years and comes at a sensitive time for neighbouring Afghanistan with peace talks making little headway and a deadline looming for the United States to withdraw its forces. Khan highlighted the importance of a negotiated political settlement to the war in Afghanistan during the meeting, according to a statement from his office. “Pakistan appreciated Russia’s efforts in promoting the Afghan peace process through the hosting of the recent meeting...in Moscow,” the statement said, referring to a recent summit on the peace process that Pakistan attended.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi this country’s ceasefire is maintained and str In comments to the press alongside Liby said the two leaders had spoken about i two countries with strong historic ties. For Libya “to be able to proceed with co ceasefire must continue and be strictly o took office in February. Dbeibeh’s new U.N.-backed unity govern services and prepare for a national elect
ome under attack in the orted this week, quoting i-official Iranian news sel was targeted by a Reuters. es as saying the vessel was ritrea and was affiliated Guards, but provided no sertion. as the Iran Saviz. “The stationed in the Red Sea (anti-piracy) escort
RUSSIA The Kremlin said this week that Russia would keep military forces near the country’s border with Ukraine for as long as it saw fit and that they posed no external threat, according to Reuters. Ukraine on Tuesday called on NATO to lay out a path for it to join the Western military alliance, drawing an immediate rebuke from Moscow, after days in which Russia has massed troops near the conflict-hit Donbass region. The Kremlin announced Putin’s decision to get immunised against the coronavirus in December and the president said the delay was due to a need to combine it with other vaccines he planned to receive.
week urged the Libyan government to ensure that the rictly observed, Reuters reported. ya’s interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh, Draghi immigration and economic cooperation between the
ourage and decisiveness it is a prerequisite that the observed,” Draghi said after his first foreign trip since he
nment took office last month with a mandate to improve tion in December.
EU Europe’s drug regulator this week found a possible link between AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine and rare blood clotting issues in adults who had received the shot and said it had taken into consideration all available evidence, Reuters reported. “One plausible explanation for the combination of blood clots and low blood platelets is an immune response, leading to a condition similar to one seen sometimes in patients treated with heparin,” the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said. The findings come as a major hurdle in the global fight against the pandemic and a shift in the stance of the regulator, which had last week backed the vaccine and said there was no increased risk of blood clots in general from the shot. It is also a blow to AstraZeneca, which was a frontrunner in the race for making an effective vaccine against COVID-19 ever since it began working with the University of Oxford.
MYANMAR Myanmar troops fired at anti-coup protesters this week, killing at least 13 people and wounding several, media said, as a series of small blasts hit the commercial capital Yangon and a Chinese-owned factory was set on fire. The country’s military ruler said the civil disobedience movement was “destroying” Myanmar, according to Reuters. More than 580 people have been killed, according to an activist group, in the turmoil in Myanmar since a Feb. 1 coup that ended a brief period of civilian-led democracy. Nationwide protests and strikes have persisted since then despite the military’s use of lethal force to quell the opposition.
INDIA India reported a record 115,736 new COVID-19 cases this week, a 13-fold increase in just over two months, raising pressure on the government to expand its vaccination campaign, Reuters reported. Some states, including hardest-hit Maharashtra and Odisha, have complained of a scarcity of vaccines during a second wave that has forced some centres to turn away people. Only those aged over 45 are now being immunised in India, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, which started its campaign with health and other frontline workers in mid-January. “Vaccination centres have to close early due to a shortage of supplies,” Maharashtra’s health minister, Rajesh Tope, told reporters.
The Rise and Fall of Hezbollah’s Ally A Long-time Ploy Comes to a Disgraceful End Hanin Ghaddar Gebran Bassil – a Lebanese deputy, the president of the Free Patriotic Movement, and the son-in-
law of the president of the republic, has learnt long time ago that an aspiring Lebanese politician has to choose between the wellbeing of Lebanon and the Lebanese people, or the interests of
MP Gebran Bassil, the president of the Free Patriotic Movement. (Getty)
Iran and Hezbollah. It was clear that Bassil had chosen to sell Lebanon to Hezbollah in return for political clout and riches. Although Hezbollah is still adhering to the deal, the deal itself is proving more challenging, for both parties. For a long time, Bassil tried to play on everyone. He allied with Hezbollah in Lebanon and benefited immensely, while telling his western interlocutors that this is not a real alliance but a surviving strategy. This ploy lasted for a long time, as the Christian leader managed to play on the Christian vs. Shia contradiction, until western leaders started to see through him, and understood his ploy. Slowly but surely, Bassil’s standing started to waver, and the price became heavier than he imagined. As a rising politician who has always boasted about his “western” connections and his mission to protect the Lebanese Christians, Gebran Bassil seems to have lost both. His narrative as a westernized Lebanese Christian leader had quickly dissolved in the mud created by his shameless alliance with Hezbollah, and his desperate ambition to succeed his father-in-law as the next president of Lebanon. But it seems even with these sacrifices that lead to the worsening of his connection to the west and the Lebanese Christian street – his presidential dreams are still much challenged. Bassil’s rise was too quick; his fall will be slow but disgraceful.
DESPERATE ATTEMPTS After receiving serious messages from Europe and France in particular regarding the possibility of sanctions, Bassil panicked. For a corrupt political figure like him who allied with Iran for financial benefits, he would endure humiliation and political isolation, as long as his bank accounts and assets are untouched. One of the main issues that would push Bassil over the edge is sanctions. When he was sanctioned by the Trump administration in 2020, Bassil did not leave any leaf unturned. According to the US ambassador in Lebanon Dorothy Shea, Bassil even offered a deal to the US, one where he promised a separation from Hezbollah in return for removal of sanction and personal safety guarantees. However, the US did
His narrative as a westernized Lebanese Christian leader had quickly dissolved in the mud created by his shameless alliance with Hezbollah, and his desperate ambition to succeed his father-in-law as the next president of Lebanon. not trust Bassil and refused the deal. Today, as he smelled some seriousness behind the French threats and messages, Bassil offered to go to Paris where he could explain his position. But Paris could not receive him without PM-designate Saad Hariri, and therefore offered a meeting with both Lebanese politicians where they could talk things over and reach an agreement in Paris, supervised by the French. This time around, Hariri refused, as his distrust in Bassil was made very clear. Eventually, all the talk about a Bassil-Hariri visit and meeting in Paris, and all new hopes for government formation, were again blown away by yet another political maneuver, and Hariri’s firm stance. It seems Hariri has become more confident and less compromising due to two main developments: A Saudi stance that called for a transition reformist government, and the visit of Egyptian foreign Minister to Beirut this week, where he met with almost all political and public figures involved in the process – except Gebran Bassil. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry urged Lebanon’s leaders on Wednesday to seek the quick formation of a so-called government of specialists that can rescue the country from its multiple crises. A statement issued by the Egyptian embassy said Shoukry’s visit is “part of the Egyptian efforts aimed at urging the Lebanese political parties to speed up the formation of a salvation government, in light of the Egyptian political leadership’s great keenness on Lebanon’s stability and on its defeat of the crises it is
currently going through.” As Bassil feels more isolated internationally and regionally, Hariri has been visiting many countries, such as Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Moscow. He is also due to visit the Vatican later this month to meet the Pope. This last visit is one that Bassil is specifically furious about. Not only he is not welcome in the US and Eu-
It seems even with these sacrifices that lead to the worsening of his connection to the west and the Lebanese Christian street – his presidential dreams are still much challenged. Bassil’s rise was too quick; his fall will be slow but disgraceful.
rope now, Bassil – who considers himself the representative of the Christians in Lebanon - is now excluded by the Vatican, and his deceiving narrative regarding “the protection of the Christians’ rights” no longer fools anyone. If anything, the Vatican is more interested in the recent initiative made by Patriarch Al-Rai, which gained major support from the Lebanese people, especially the Christian street. The Vatican prefers the Patriarch’s approach to protect Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence – hence protecting all the Lebanese, including Christians, rather than Bassil’s sectarian narrative that only ties the Lebanese Christians to Hezbollah’s agenda and Iran’s regional interests. With this kind of isolation, Bassil might lose both his assets and the presidency, and he has only himself to blame.
HOW DID BASSIL FALL? As he rose to power so quickly, Bassil thought that he will be untouched. Protected by his president father-in-law, and his main ally Hezbollah,
A picture shows noose with the portrait of former Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil hung by Lebanese protesters in downtown Beirut on August 8, 2020, during a demonstration against a political leadership they blame for a monster explosion that killed more than 150 people and disfigured the capital Beirut (Getty)
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt, Sameh Shoukry (L) welcomed by Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri (R) during an official visit in Beirut, Lebanon on April 07, 2021 (Getty)
Bassil realized at one point that if he wants to achieve more power, reach the presidency, and embezzle more money with no accountability, he will have to get closer to Hezbollah and Iran – and he did. For Hezbollah, Bassil became their main ally and protecting him a priority, even when the October 2019 protests targeted him personally, and especially when he got sanctioned by the US. Power got to his head and his attempts at embezzling the State’s resources and money became shameless, as his attempts at taking over his party’s decisions. This led to much discontent within the leadership of the Free Patriotic Movement, and within the party ranks itself. This also reflected on his popular base as his popularity within the Christian street decreased drastically, and his chances at the next parliamentary elections in May 2022 could therefore be jeopardized. His only hope left – to protect his political status and assets – is to become president, no matter what that means and what it entails, even if this came at the expanse of Lebanon and all the Lebanese. That’s why he is refusing every attempt –
by the French and others – to move ahead with government formation. As long as he doesn’t get the majority that would guarantee him political power and thereby the presidency, Bassil will not accept any other government formula. But Hezbollah – although they are still protecting Bassil – are facing a dilemma. Bassil has become the symbol of corruption in Lebanon and the main obvious hindrance in the process of government formation. Protecting him is becoming very costly, especially when it comes to Hezbollah’s popular support among the Shia and the Christians. But without Bassil, they will lose a majority in the parliament and the government that they desperately need at this time. So Far, the advantages of protecting Bassil top the disadvantages. But that might not last too long, mainly after the next parliamentary elections. Hanin Ghaddar is the Friedmann Fellow at The Washington Institute’s Geduld Program on Arab Politics, where she focuses on Shia politics throughout the Levant.
How U.S. Sees New Sino-Iran Accord New Alliance or Confirming Existing Ties? Joseph Braude
agreement amounts to less than meets the eye.
Last week, China and Iran formalized a new and enhanced relationship, which had been in the works for some time amid a growing convergence of interests. In theory, Beijing’s move could undercut the Biden’s administration’s efforts to cause Tehran to return to compliance with the JCPOA before offering any sanctions relief. But the administration has said little publicly about the China-Iran accord, suggesting a view that the new
A NEW AXIS ? In late March, Foreign Minister Wang Yi signed the agreement during a ceremony at the foreign ministry in Tehran. By all accounts, the text agreed upon by both parties is essentially unchanged from a draft agreement reached in 2020. Worded vaguely, the earlier draft proposed $400 billion of Chinese capital to be invested over the
next 25 years in a range of fields, including banking, telecommunications, sea and land transportation, healthcare, and information technology. In exchange, Tehran agreed to provide Beijing with, as one Iranian official and trader put it, “a regular… and heavily discounted supply of Iranian oil.”
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif before a bilateral meeting on September 2015 ,15 in Beijing, China. (Getty)
The oil is indeed flowing as advertised from China to Iran. Beijing has also increased its consumption of Iranian oil, in defiance of US sanctions. Industry analysts believe that, by the close of April, nearly one million barrels per day of Iranian crude will have arrived in Chinese ports over the course of the month. That would account for almost half the volume that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the world’s top exporter, supplied to China in the first two months of 2021. Although China never fully halted its importation of oil from Iran, the latest numbers represent a substantial increase. According to Refinitiv Oil Research, February’s imports totaled 27 million barrels of oil, or 3.75 million tons, topping the previous record in January of 3.37 million tons. As Emma Li, a senior Refinitiv analyst observed, “The trend seems to be continuing, though buying appetite is waning because of high inventories at ports and abundant supplies.” Beijing has aligned its political rhetoric and economic interests. Following the inking of the agreement, China’s Foreign Minister echoed Tehran’s position that Washington should re-enter the agreement without preconditions. “China firmly supports Iran in safeguarding its state sovereignty and national dignity,” Mr. Wang said in his meeting with President Hassan Rouhani, as recounted by the Chinese foreign ministry. Washington, Mr. Wang added, should immediately rescind its sanctions on Iran and “remove its long arm of jurisdictional measures that have been aimed at China, among others.” Several weeks prior, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying was even more blunt, demanding that Washington “unconditionally” return to the agreement.
WASHINGTON UNMOVED Other observers remain unconvinced, however, and hold that the agreement means little more
By all accounts, the text agreed upon by both parties is essentially unchanged from a draft agreement reached in 2020. Worded vaguely, the earlier draft proposed 400$ billion of Chinese capital to be invested over the next 25 years in a range of fields. than formal acknowledgment of pre-existing realities. The optics of the announcement — Foreign Minister Wang Yi attended the signing ceremony during the Tehran leg of his six-nation tour of the Middle East — suggested that the pact “carries less weight in Beijing than agreements with, say, Bangladesh, as one analyst put it: “When President Xi Jinping wants to signal his interest in deepening Chinese influence somewhere, he puts his own signature on the paperwork.” While the text of the agreement has yet to be released, if it is comparable to last year’s draft, possibilities substantially outweighed specifics. At that time, the amount of Chinese capital to be invested was variously reported between $400 and $800 billion. At the same time, as many Iranians were quick to note, Beijing had yet to address its large and growing debt of oil payments in arrears, then estimated at nearly $30 billion. So it is unsurprising that the Biden administration has shown few signs of concern. Last month, in an adroit show of both good faith combined with diplomatic pressure, the administration offered to rejoin nuclear talks with Iran if Tehran would return to full compliance with the JCPOA first. After Tehran refused to meet without first receiving financial incentives, White House national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said simply, “The ball is in their court.”
Turkey Continues to Pressure Pro-Kurdish Party Erdogan Seeking to Eliminate HDP Before Elections Jiwan Soz – Istanbul Turkey’s Constitutional Court has sent back to the prosecutor, an indictment calling for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) to be banned. It ruled that the indictment had procedural omissions and returned it to the Court of Cassation.
A top prosecutor filed the lawsuit earlier this month demanding a ban on the HDP, parliament’s third-largest party, for alleged ties to Kurdish armed groups, as well as a political ban on many party members. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its far-right ally the Nationalist Movement
Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) Turkish MP Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, who was expelled from the parliament earlier this month, holds a press conference on March 2021 ,31 at the party’s headquarters in the Turkish capital, Ankara
Party (MHP) have been calling for banning the HDP activities and accused it of ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is designated a terrorist group by Turkey and other international parties. The HDP leaders, however, deny these accusations. They have repeatedly argued that “The evidence on which authorities rely to establish our relationship with the PKK are 22-year old pictures that brought us together with the PKK jailed leader, Abdullah Ocalan, when we were mediators in the negotiations between the Kurdish leader and Ankara.” They assert that these photos and visits were taken years ago and with the approval of Turkish security authorities, noting that they should not be taken as evidence of the party’s alleged links with the outlawed PKK. HDP MP Hüseyin Kaçmaz stressed that the party’s strategy had overthrown the AKP, which prompted it to launch deliberate security campaigns against its members. The ruling party detained HDP members and stripped them of their parliamentary seats and municipality posts they had won, in addition to its continuous attempts to shut down the party. The party managed to win 80 seats in the June 2015 parliamentary elections, Hüseyin Kaçmaz told Majalla, surpassing the AKP’s parliamentary majority. In the 2019 elections, Kaçmaz said the HDP was the reason behind the ruling party’s loss of the country’s major municipalities, such as Ankara, Istanbul, Antalya, Mersin and others. Therefore, “the AKP is trying to get rid of us before any future elections to avoid a possible defeat.” Turkey’s opposition parties couldn’t have won in the municipal elections then without the HDP’s support for their candidates, he noted. As a result, the AKP was intimidated, especially after its candidate lost Istanbul’s municipal elections for the HDPbacked opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) candidate. “This loss represented a blow to the ruling party, which always maintained that whoever rules Istanbul, ruled Turkey.” One of the main reasons behind the ruling coalition’s demands to ban the HDP activities is the latter’s contribution to its loss in local elections, Kaçmaz said. In short, the AKP and the MHP realize that the HDP will be the reason behind their defeat in any future elections. The MP, however, ruled out the success of this decision, especially since several Turkish parties have rejected it, albeit timidly. The CHP, which is the main opposition party in Turkey, recognizes the HDP’s contribution to its victory in the 2019 elections. Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu thanked the pro-Kurdish party’s voters after winning the Istanbul municipal elections twice in a row after the ruling party insisted on a re-run of the poll in June 2019. In this regard, Kaçmaz said the HDP has prevented the ruling party from taking over the control more comprehensively. “We have solutions to Turkey’s various problems, including the Kurdish issue,” he affirmed, adding that for this reason the ruling coalition seeks to ban its activities, especially as it needs
The HDP is a pluralist Turkish party and is known as the pro-Kurdish party because it advocates for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue in the country. It has provided many opportunities for political participation for other minorities in the country. more than 50% of the votes to win in the next presidential elections.” Kaçmaz further affirmed that regardless of the pressure exerted on the HDP, it will participate in all upcoming elections. He pointed out that the pro-Kurdish party has alternatives that would allow it to do so, even indicating the possibility of forming another party under a new name. The HDP is a pluralist Turkish party and is known as the proKurdish party because it advocates for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue in the country. It has provided many opportunities for political participation for other minorities in the country, such as the Armenians, Arabs, Assyrians and others. It is currently co-chaired by the Turkish professor of public and constitutional law, Mithat Sancar. The party follows the principle of the “co-presidency” to ensure gender equality. It always has two presidents, a man and a woman. In late March, a top prosecutor filed the lawsuit demanding a ban on the HDP. The move had occurred on the same day that authorities stripped prominent HDP legislator and human rights activist Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu of his parliamentary seat. The United States and the European Union have condemned the Turkish authorities’ demands to shut down the pro-Kurdish party. Although the Constitutional Court sent back the indictment to the prosecutor, this does not rule out the party’s closure anytime later. HDP leaders have repeatedly confirmed that they will form a new party if the activities of their current party are banned, which means that the ruling party will not get rid of the obstacle hindering its way to victory in any upcoming elections. According to HDP officials, the Constitutional Court will take several months before issuing a final verdict. They pointed out the pro-Kurdish party has the following and votes of 10 to 12.5% of the total number of voters in the country. In case the Court decides to ban its activities, the HDP may also object to its decision and resort to appealing to the European Court of Human Rights, which would delay the verdict’s being brought into force.
China’s Unrestricted War on India CCP Bid to Gain Asian Hegemony?
By Brahma Chellaney On October 2020 ,12, the electricity went out in India’s biggest city. Mumbai faced its worst power cut in decades, with businesses crippled, the stock market shut down, thousands of commuters stranded, and hospitals scrambling to
ensure backup supply for their Covid19- patients. Major outages are not altogether uncommon in India, but Mumbai had prided itself on its recent record of reliable electricity for its residents. The disruption left authorities in the western state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital, searching for answers.
Indian officials revealed in March that they might have found the cause of the power cut: a foreign cyberattack that targeted the servers of state power companies. They did not name a particular culprit, but the implication was clear. Chinese hackers, officials suggested, had trained their sights on bringing down Mumbai’s electric grid—and they had succeeded. In its bid to gain Asian hegemony, China views India as a major obstacle. This possible cyberattack came at a time of mounting military tensions, with confrontations flaring last year at numerous points along the rugged, disputed border between the two countries. Beijing’s ability to pressure its neighbor extends beyond the conventional battlefield and increasingly includes unconventional forms of warfare (or “unrestricted war,” as the title of a book by two Chinese military officers put it) to achieve expansionist and coercive objectives. Through unrestricted war—which includes its “salami slicing” strategy (or how it aggressively seizes parcels of disputed territory without providing a cause for war), cyberwarfare, debt-trap diplomacy, environmental degradation, and the spread of misinformation—China has redrawn the geopolitical map of the South China Sea without incurring any international costs. Beijing hopes to use the same methods to box India in. Tibetan exiles take part in a peaceful march to commemorate the anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule, in Leh on March 10, 2021. (Getty)
WAR BY OTHER MEANS The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its founding this year, has ruled China continuously for more than seven decades, making it the longestserving political party in power in modern history. Its success attests to the ruthlessness with which it has pursued its objectives at home and abroad. Mao Zedong led the party to power, and Deng Xiaoping made the country richer. Now, President Xi Jinping’s ambition is to turn China into a hegemonic global leader. Such is the essence of what Xi calls the “Chinese dream.” The CCP pays lip service to equality and reciprocity in international relations, but in fact China under Xi seeks to subordinate small nations. Nowhere is this truer than in Southeast Asia, where China has used a two-pronged, unconventional strategy to help it both dominate the South China Sea and
China has steadily brought Indian security under pressure through unconventional instruments, including cyberattacks, its reengineering of the cross-border flows of rivers, and its nibbling away at disputed Himalayan territories. control the transboundary flow of the Mekong River, the region’s lifeline. Chinese forces have constructed artificial islands in the South China Sea and unilaterally claimed disputed waters. China’s 11 megadams on the Mekong equip it with the power to turn off the tap for much of continental Southeast Asia, making downstream countries dependent on Chinese goodwill for access to water. With a similar multidimensional strategy, China also hopes to contain its two potential peer rivals in Asia, India and Japan. The CCP has adopted a strategy of indirect war against India and Japan, with the aim of fencing in the two powers. The strategy’s first phase involved building Pakistan as a nuclear and conventionalmilitary counterweight to India and aiding North Korea’s initial development of weapons of mass destruction. In more recent years, China has focused on an escalating campaign of deception, stealth, and concealment. At the center of this campaign is territorial revisionism, with China flexing its muscles by asserting its claim to lands or islands administered by its two neighbors. The indirect-war elements are conspicuous in China’s actions against India. China has steadily brought Indian security under pressure through unconventional instruments, including cyberattacks, its reengineering of the crossborder flows of rivers, and its nibbling away at disputed Himalayan territories. It seeks to employ all available means short of open war to curtail Indian ambitions and strike at core Indian interests.
THE SHADOW WAR China relishes plausible deniability in its involvement in cyberwarfare against its rivals. India claims that state-sponsored Chinese hackers have repeatedly targeted its critical infrastructure, including power grids. A U.S.based cybersecurity firm found that a Chinalinked group called RedEcho was behind a surge in attacks on India’s power infrastructure in 2020, but Chinese officials insisted the allegations were false and that, in any case, it is “very difficult to trace the origin of a cyberattack.” The cyber-tactics run parallel to more traditional conflicts. Last May, a shocked India discovered that Chinese forces had stealthily occupied mountaintops and other strategic vantage points in the northern border region of Ladakh. Tensions quickly rose, with more than 100,000 war-ready Chinese and Indian troops locked in multiple Himalayan military standoffs. And as frontier skirmishes intensified, China ramped up its cyberwar on Indian power grids. In June, clashes between Chinese and Indian forces left dozens of soldiers dead. That month also saw at least 40,300 attempts to inject malware into Indian networks. Indian officials understood these efforts as a stern warning from Xi regime’s: if India did not stand down in the border confrontation, China would turn off the lights across vast expanses of the country. India surged troops to the border in the following months, and in October, Mumbai went dark. More recently, Chinese cyberattackers have
Through unrestricted war, China has redrawn the geopolitical map of the South China Sea without incurring any international costs. Beijing hopes to use the same methods to box India in.
homed in on India’s pharmaceutical industry. China’s attempts to steal American data on Covid19- vaccines and treatments have been well publicized, but recent Chinese cyberattacks on two of India’s leading vaccine makers have received little attention. The hackers attempted to pilfer blueprints of the two Covid19- vaccines at the heart of India’s current immunization campaign. India supplies more than 60 percent of the world’s vaccines against various diseases and is currently employing that manufacturing heft to export millions of Covid19- shots every week.
RIVERS RUN THROUGH IT China controls many of the rivers that flow from the Himalayas into the Indian subcontinent, and through them it can wield tremendous leverage. China has weaponized these waters in the past. In 2017, India announced that it would boycott the
Activists of the Asom Yuva Santha (AYS) burn a Chinese Flag during a protest in Guwahati on March 2013 ,25, against the proposed construction of dams on the middle reaches of the River Brahmaputra in China, part of a hydropower project. (Getty)
inaugural summit of Xi’s signature project, the vast infrastructure investment program known as the Belt and Road Initiative. (India was the first country to criticize the BRI for lacking transparency and pursuing neocolonial aims, a stance the United States later adopted.) China retaliated by abruptly withholding hydrological data it once shared on the transboundary flows of rivers originating in Tibet. It resumed sharing the data in 2018, but only after the suspension had already hampered India’s early-warning systems for flooding, resulting in preventable deaths in the downstream Indian state of Assam. China dominates Asia’s water map with its control over the water-rich Tibetan Plateau, a region the country annexed in the early 1950s. China, however, still refuses to enter into a watersharing treaty with any downstream country. (Even historic rivals India and Pakistan have a water-sharing treaty.) In March, China’s rubber-
The village-building spree, coupled with the frenetic construction of new military facilities along the border, is a classic example of the CCP’s indirect war, which blends irregular tactics with conventional methods. stamp parliament ratified the CCP decision to dam the Brahmaputra River just before it enters India. This mammoth dam will allow China to effectively control a vital resource for millions of people outside its borders. Chinese upstream activities in the past have triggered flash floods in Indian border states and polluted
the Brahmaputra’s main artery, the once pristine Siang. The newly approved megaproject, whose construction in an area known for frequent seismic activity could make it a ticking “water bomb” for downstream communities, will generate almost three times as much electricity as China’s Three Gorges Dam, currently the world’s largest dam. The country located farthest downstream, Bangladesh, will probably bear the brunt of the megaproject’s environmental havoc. This could trigger a new exodus of refugees to India, already home to millions of Bangladeshi migrants. The dam will allow China to further manipulate transboundary river flows and leverage its longstanding claim to the adjacent Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which is almost three times the size of Taiwan.
ENDLESS WAR In the disputed Himalayan borderlands, China has mixed conventional and unrestricted tactics. For example, China has set out to quietly build some 624 villages in the region so as to unilaterally change facts on the ground. Such militarydesigned border villages are the Himalayan equivalent of China’s artificially created islands in the South China Sea. By bringing people from afar to settle in desolate, uninhabited border regions, China is seeking to achieve twin objectives: to absorb disputed areas and to legitimize its grabs under international law, which customarily has recognized settlements as evidence of effective control.
Unless the world’s democratic powers form a united front against Xi’s expansionism, China’s unrestricted war will continue to destabilize Asia and undermine international security.
The village-building spree, coupled with the frenetic construction of new military facilities along the border, is a classic example of the CCP’s indirect war, which blends irregular tactics with conventional methods. The irregular aggression, known also as “gray zone” warfare because it straddles the line between war and peace, aims to subdue the foe through exhaustion while simultaneously falling short of precipitating an actual shooting war. Even against a significant military power such as India, China has demonstrated how such hybrid warfare can incrementally advance its expansionist objectives without crossing the threshold of overt armed conflict. China may not want to risk outright war with India or its other rivals, but it remains absolutely willing to flout its legal obligations. Its withholding from India of data about rivers breached two bilateral
Indian soldiers pay their respects during the funeral of their comrade, Tibetan-origin India›s special forces soldier Nyima Tenzin in Leh on September 7, 2020. Tenzin was killed in the latest border showdown with Chinese troops on their contested Himalayan border, a Tibetan representative said on September 1. (Getty)
accords that required China to transfer to India hydrological and meteorological data daily during the dangerous flood season. The CCP ceases to see international agreements as binding when they are no longer politically convenient, a fact apparent from its obliteration of Hong Kong’s autonomy in violation of a United Nations–registered treaty. China grabbed Indian territory in 2020 in Ladakh and massed troops at the border in brazen disregard of bilateral agreements to maintain peace and tranquility. Many of the CCP’s external actions may appear small in isolation, but they are significant when taken together. It is thus perilous for any target country to consider Chinese moves individually rather than collectively. No country has been able to figure out how to counter the CCP’s aggressive behavior under Xi—not even the United States, as China’s cost-free expansion in
the South China Sea illustrates. The CCP has repeatedly outfoxed and outmaneuvered India. Given that China made its territorial grabs in Ladakh without firing a shot, India has no credible option to restore the status quo ante without provoking a war. China is constantly searching for opportunities to take bits of territory and catch its opponent by surprise, without taking overt warlike actions. Unless India is willing to turn the tables on the CCP with its own hybrid warfare that targets China’s weak spots, including in Tibet, and unless the world’s democratic powers form a united front against Xi’s expansionism, China’s unrestricted war will continue to destabilize Asia and undermine international security. This article was originally published on ForeignAffairs.com.
The World May Never Know How the Pandemic Started What the WHO Investigation Reveals About the Origins of Covid- 19 By Yanzhong Huang
press conference with their Chinese counterparts on February 9, announcing preliminary findings In January, World Health Organization-designat- that were widely received as a public relations ed scientists departed for China to investigate the victory for China. The WHO-China joint study origins of COVID-19. After spending four weeks supported the natural outbreak theory, legitiin-country (including two weeks under quar- mized the claim that the novel coronavirus could antine), the international scientists held a joint have reached China through imported frozen
food, and discarded the hypothesis that the virus had escaped from a laboratory. The same findings, however, convinced critics of the Chinese government that the investigation was neither independent nor transparent. In a statement issued on February 13, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan expressed “deep concerns” about how the scientists had reached and communicated their findings. Because of the controversy, the official release of the WHOChina joint study was delayed until yesterday, March 30. The 319-page report does not reach conclusions significantly different from those presented in February, but it does offer a wealth of information about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, the report usefully documents the information the WHO team acquired during its trip, highlighting what more would be needed in order to make a definitive judgment about the origins of the outbreak. The report and the mission serve to illuminate the vulnerabilities and obstacles the WHO faces in addressing global health security.
ONE VIRUS, THREE HYPOTHESES Thea Fisher (C) and other members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team, investigating the origins of the Covid19coronavirus, visit the closed Huanan Seafood wholesale market in Wuhan, China’s central Hubei province on January 2021 ,31. (Getty)
From the beginning of the pandemic, many scientists pointed to natural zoonotic transmission as the most likely path by which the novel coronavirus first reached human hosts. Historical patterns by which other human coronaviruses had emerged, as well as the genomic sequence of SARS-CoV-2, suggested that the virus had jumped from an original animal source to human beings directly or via an intermediate host species. Bats and pangolins have harbored the known viruses most closely related to SARSCoV-2, but those pathogens are not sufficiently similar to SARS-CoV-2 to serve as its direct progenitors. The joint team concluded that direct zoonotic transmission was “possible to likely” but that the possibility the virus was introduced through an intermediate host was “likely to very likely.” The problem is that scientists thus far cannot pinpoint which animal served the role of intermediate host. Researchers tested domestic and wild animals throughout the country but did not find samples that were positive for SARS-CoV-2.
The terms of reference the WHO signed with China essentially reduced the investigation to a joint study, in which the WHO-led team did not have the mandate or access it would have needed to investigate the outbreak independently and thoroughly. According to the report, researchers will continue studying more animal species, in China and other countries, in search of a coronavirus related to SARS-CoV-2. If the virus did not pass to people through live animal hosts, what might be the alternative? Chinese state media early on offered the hypothesis of “cold-chain transmission.” The theory holds that the virus jumped to humans through frozen products, implying that the virus could have arrived in China through goods imported from another country. According to the report, “Food-chain transmission can reflect direct zoonotic transmission, or spillover through an intermediate host. Meanwhile cold chain products may be a vehicle of transmission between humans.” Such a transmission path could also allow for the possibility that the virus was human engineered. The virus can survive in cold and frozen environments, and wet markets in Wuhan sold frozen animals. Chinese scientists conducted studies that identified seemingly significant correlations between confirmed cases and cold-chain goods in the Huanan Seafood Market, with people who had spent time in stalls with cold-chain goods 3.3 times likelier to get sick than those who had frequented stalls without cold-chain goods. The scientists also identified in Wuhan, from September through December 2019, a total of 440 kinds of cold-chain products imported from 37 different countries or regions. In addition, the WHO report noted that index cases in recent outbreaks in Beijing, Dalian, and Qingdao were linked to the cold chain and that the virus had
been identified on imported products and packages this past year. These findings point to alternative pathways of virus introduction. According to Liang Wannian, the lead Chinese scientist for the joint study, cold-chain transmission could have played “an important role” in the spread of the virus. But the report also said that “there is no conclusive evidence for foodborne transmission of SARSCoV-2, and the probability of a cold-chain contamination with the virus from a reservoir is very low.” Much as with the natural transmission hypothesis, exploring the cold-chain hypothesis entails retrospective testing—in this case, of available frozen food products manufactured in 2019 and supplied to the Huanan market. Researchers would then need to trace the source of the frozen products and animals that were in Wuhan wet markets in December 2019. The joint WHO-China study found least convincing the hypothesis that the novel coronavirus escaped from a laboratory. Biosafety has long been a concern in China: in 2004, SARS twice escaped a Beijing lab affiliated with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. In November 2020, more than 6,600 people in northwestern Gansu Province were found to be infected by brucellosis, a bacterial disease that spread from a leak at a vaccine plant in the city. Chinese scientists have identified lax biosafety regulation as a concern even in high-level biosafety labs such as the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Before the
The report usefully documents the information the WHO team acquired during its trip, highlighting what more would be needed in order to make a definitive judgment about the origins of the outbreak.
pandemic, scientists at the WIV had been working on CoV RaTG13, the closest known strain to SARS-CoV-2. Beginning in April 2020, top officials in the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump promoted a theory that the novel coronavirus had escaped a Wuhan lab. President Joe Biden’s administration has confirmed some of the facts behind this claim and suggested that more probe is needed to evaluate the lab’s role in the outbreak. Scientists participating in the joint WHO-China study, however, unanimously deemed a lab leak “extremely unlikely.” In order for a lab leak to be responsible, the virus would have to have been purposely engineered or accidentally cultured in the lab prior to December 2019, and the scientific community has dismissed both possibilities. The report also suggests that the three labs in Wuhan all upheld stringent protocols that would have prevented any accidents. The director of the WIV, when meeting with the WHO team, denied that the viruses cultured in the lab there were closely related to SARSCoV-2. She assured the team that there were no “reports of unusual diseases” among her staff, all of whom tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. The joint study, according to the head of the Chinese team, had put the lab escape theory to rest, and “future virus origins-tracing missions will no longer be focused on this area, unless there is new evidence.” But not everyone in the scientific community was satisfied. Twenty-six scientists from the United States, Europe, and Australia signed an open letter in early March contending that the WHO-designated scientists lacked the necessary training and forensic skills to fully investigate the lab escape scenario. Skeptics pointed to reports that some Chinese researchers at the WIV fell sick in fall 2019 (the WHO-led team was quick to point out that these staff members tested negative for the coronavirus). Amid criticism that the lab escape hypothesis was ruled out hastily and with inadequate information, WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated that “all hypotheses
Head of the Expert Group on Covid Response at China’s National Health Commission Liang Wannian, center, answers a question as Tong Yigang, left, and Feng Zijian, right, listen during a press conference addressing the World Health Organization (WHO) report on the origins of SARS-CoV2-, at the National Health Committee on March ,31 2021 in Beijing, China. (Getty)
are on the table and warrant complete and further studies.” According to the scientists who signed the open letter, further investigation involves expanding the team to include forensic investigators and biosafety and biosecurity experts, who should have “full or significant access” to labs and institutions known to have worked on coronaviruses, their records and samples, and employees of the labs in 2019.
THE WHEN AND WHERE The WHO team sought to settle the questions not only of where the virus came from but exactly when it first struck and in what location. Chinese scientists had found that the first confirmed case (“patient zero”) became ill on December 8, 2019. A review of genomic, epidemiological, clinical, and sentinel surveillance data collected by Chinese scientists does not support the extensive circulation of the virus in the months before the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan. That said, the data collection process has not been flawless. Chinese scientists examined medical records of more than 76,000 patients with respiratory conditions in October and November 2019, among
whom 92 hospitalized patients were identified as suspected COVID-19 cases. None of them tested positive for antibodies to COVID-19. International scientists have pointed out that the small number of suspected cases might be a function of stringent clinical criteria that would likely exclude patients with milder illness. Moreover, scientists tested the patients’ antibodies only a few weeks before the WHO team’s arrival, by which time they might have faded to an undetectable level. The report recommended a further joint review of the data and further testing of relevant specimens. But if the report cautiously reinforced earlier conclusions about when the virus emerged, it did not evince as much certainty about where. Until late November 2020, the WHO maintained it was “highly speculative” that the virus did not emerge in China. The Huanan Seafood Market, which sold live animals before it shut down on January 1, 2020, was initially suspected to be ground zero for the virus. But current data suggest the market acted more as an “amplifying event.” Of the 174 notified cases in December, only 28 percent had a history of recent exposure to the market only. Patient zero was said to have
no connection to the market. Extensive testing of animal products in the market found no evidence of animal infections, either. The WHO team did observe that patient zero’s parents (who later tested negative for COVID-19) had visited a different wet market and that Chinese health authorities did not trace their contacts there. Likely for this reason, the report recommends more interviews and serological testing of people connected to the wildlife farms that supplied the wet markets linked to positive cases in Wuhan. Those suggested for study include “farmers and their workers, vendors, delivery staff, cold-chain suppliers and other relevant people and their close contacts.” The joint team further reviewed studies and reports suggesting that the virus had circulated in other countries even before the first confirmed case in Wuhan. The team recognized that these studies were limited in nature and recommended systematic, retrospective research on “earlier cases and possible hosts for SARS-CoV-2 around the world.” In making this recommendation, the report’s authors echo China’s official narrative on the origins of the pandemic—but their work also clearly shows the need for further research on the same subject within China.
WHAT THE INVESTIGATION REVEALS For all the questions the joint report raises, it also sheds important light—some of it on the
The distilling and disclosing of information relevant to the investigation risks following a logic of realpolitik rather than of scientific necessity or peer review.
flaws in the health governance regime itself. The WHO is the lead international organization on global health security and rightfully belonged in the driver’s seat in investigating the origins of the pandemic. But it should have been diplomatically and politically savvier in dealing with those who held critical stakes in the investigation. The WHO Secretariat reportedly failed to consult its 34-member executive board before or during the negotiation with China over this mission. In selecting scientists to join the mission, it rejected those the United States government nominated. The terms of reference the WHO signed with China essentially reduced the investigation to a joint study, in which the WHO-led team did not have the mandate or access it would have needed to investigate the outbreak independently and thoroughly. Even WHO officials themselves admitted that the mission was to “design and recommend scientific studies, not to do an investigation, let alone a forensic audit of laboratories.” The episode also showcases deficiencies in the International Health Regulations, the law that governs the international response to global public health emergencies. The investigation into the pandemic’s origins was supposed to comply with the IHR and to be transparent and hold all actors accountable. But the WHO did not have unfettered access to China and was instead compelled to allow Beijing to set the investigation’s pace and agenda and approve its final report. The IHR does not have teeth to enforce its norms, especially in authoritarian states that value secrecy and obedience. The Chinese government holds a political stake in the matter of the pandemic’s origin. As a result, the distilling and disclosing of information relevant to the investigation risks following a logic of realpolitik rather than of scientific necessity or peer review. By the time the mission took place, a full year had elapsed since the initial outbreak and much of the critical information was gone. The WHO couldn’t gather intelligence independently, so for data and analysis it had to rely on Chinese scientists, whose work is at the
The inspection personnels are researching the viral nucleic acid at the pathogen detection laboratory on 04th February, 2020 in Wuhan, Hubei, China. (Getty)
mercy of the very state that sought to determine the parameters of the investigation. When the international scientists requested access to the raw data of the more than 76,000 respiratory patients from the fall of 2019, their Chinese counterparts refused, appealing to the need to protect the privacy of patients. Right before the WHO team arrived, China’s government began to promote the idea that the COVID-19 pandemic was likely caused by “separate outbreaks in multiple places.” The results of the WHO-led joint study do not prove this claim, but they do recommend expanding the inquiry to other countries. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman seized on this recommendation to question when the WHO experts would be invited to access the U.S. military lab in Fort Detrick, where Chinese state media indicated the pandemic might have originated, even though the same WHO report has invalidated such a hypothesis. The United States and European Union have greeted with suspicion a study that was neither thorough nor independent. The world may never
The problem is that scientists thus far cannot pinpoint which animal served the role of intermediate host. Researchers tested domestic and wild animals throughout the country but did not find samples that were positive for SARS-CoV- 2 discover how the pandemic started, but hopefully the episode will create urgency to reform the WHO and strengthen the IHR so that future global health emergencies are arrested in their infancy. This article was originally published on ForeignAffairs.com.
Post Covid -19 Life 5 Signs Quality of Life Has Improved in Saudi Arabia Motasem Al Felou – Jeddah Life stopped at 3:00 pm. People were not allowed to go out unless it was an emergency. Companies could reduce salaries up to %40. Business got a hard blow as shoppers were forced to stay home to avoid any type of direct human contact. Hundreds, if not thousands, of cases were recorded daily. That is how daily life used to be a year ago, marking now the 1st anniversary of the outbreak
of the Covid19- pandemic. Now, all business activities are open. People can travel domestically whenever they want. With tens of thousands of new cases being recorded daily in neighboring countries, the Kingdom has managed for a long period of time to keep new cases under 700 as well as to maintain a high recovery rate. The post-Covid19- Saudi Arabia has new foundations for a better quality of life. What has changed? How did the quality of life get
a boost? Below are five signs that are tangible:
]1[ HIGHER STANDARDS OUTDOORS The dining experience has reached a new level of quality. Everyone involved in the process of cooking food, preparing beverages, and serving food wears masks and gloves that are replaced regularly. Every restaurant or café customer gets their body temperature measured before entering and must show their health status on Tawaklna App, a smart phone application made to track Covid19infections, vaccinations and recoveries. This makes people who love to eat out feel safer. It functions as a “local passport” to enter hotels, shopping malls, business offices, etc. The government has made it obligatory for people working in F&B sector to get vaccinated. Otherwise, they must test for Covid19- every 7 days on their own expense. The quality has improved for delivery orders. Drivers, who pick up orders from restaurants and deliver to homes, apply higher standards of hygiene from pickup to delivery.
]2[ MORE DIGITALIZATION
Health workers perform a nose swab test during a drive through coronavirus test campaign held in Diriyah hospital in the Saudi capital Riyadh on May 7, 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Getty)
Visiting government agencies or banks are not as necessary as before. Most of the transactions no longer require a physical presence. Cash transactions are decreasing dramatically. In 2020, digital payments surged %75 in the Kingdom. All business activities are required to provide Points of Sale through which customers can pay through smart phones or contactless cards. People do not have to line up at ATMs or bank tellers to withdraw cash and touch the banknotes when shopping. Saudi Arabia is speeding up its steps toward a cashless society. The pandemic is an excellent opportunity to give up old habits and get more involved in the digital life for greater convenience. One of the catalysts of the digitalization is Covid19-. Crowds are not tolerated no matter what. Digitalization is the best way to get things done without direct physical contact.
]3[ MORE RESPONSIVE AGENCIES For Saudis, Covid19- is a national security issue, not a health one only. Everyone is involved in keeping the country safer and more immune.
Government agencies have dedicated special numbers, websites, and accounts on social media channels to report cases of health measure violations. Once a violation is reported, the reporter gets updated on the investigation and disciplinary procedures taken. The response is subject to evaluation by the reporter. This gives citizens and expats more assurance and confidence in the way government agencies are handling the pandemic challenge. Public awareness regarding health issues has improved. It is either self-commitment or hefty fines for violators.
]4[ FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION The Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority (NAZAHA) is sending regular updates to mobile phones on the number of investigations and individuals accused with more details on their nationality and where they work. High ranking employees, officers, and businesspeople have faced corruption charges. Citizens and expats are encouraged to report cases of corruption. More transparency means the country is paving the way to a higher rank of the quality of life. Corrupt countries do not prosper and thrive. NAZAHA’s updates give a clear sign to the public that violators are held accountable for their actions, meaning more equality and justice.
]5[ BIGGER GOVERNEMNT SPENDING During the pandemic, the Saudi government dedicated more investment into the local market. The Public Investment Fund, the government’s sovereign investment arm, bought more shares in local companies. The government announced that Mega projects like “The Line,” a 170 km. long mega smart city consisting of connected communities launched early 2021. New PIF-owned companies have started work on the ground. ROHSHN, a community developer, is advancing its work to build modern communities while keeping a traditional spirit. More investments mean more hiring. The latest unemployment reports show better figures and recovery. Unemployment among Saudis decreased to %14.9 in Q2020 3 from 15.4 percent in Q2020 2. More job recovery is expected with pumping more investments in the different sectors.
“White Superiority” vs. “Woke Supremacy” Is Wokeism Equally Hateful or Just Not Real ? Mohammad Ali Salih – Washington
Since the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by policeman Derek Chauvin, a White man, last summer in Minneapolis, and now with the start of Chauvin’s trial, the American political vocabulary has created, re-created or expanded the use of certain phrases as discussions about race relations have reached high and heated levels. The “Black Lives Matter” movement, only a few years old, flared up all over the world, as has “White Supremacy” or “White Supremacism” which before had been barely recognized as a movement. Recently, “Woke Supremacy,” in reference to an old Black word that implied being aware, emerged as a counterpart of “White Supremacy.” Last week, when Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only Black Republican senator, suddenly delivered speeches and wrote opinions about “Woke Supremacy” the term went viral. But, instead of duels between Blacks and Whites on “Woke,” (generally, Whites have been less inclined to use these racially charged phrases), some leading Blacks objected to Senator Scott’s opinion, if not to him. One of them was Jonathan Capehart, a leading journalist and television personality. To learn their opposing opinions directly and clearly, the following are excerpts from their tweets, websites and writings.
“My comments that “woke supremacy” is as bad as white supremacy were, of course, not comparing the long history of racial hate to the very short history of wokeism. That would be ludicrous. I am painfully aware that four centuries of racism, bigotry and killings does not compare to the nascent woke movement.
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) (Getty)
Recently, “Woke Supremacy,” in reference to an old Black word that implied being aware, emerged as a counterpart of “White Supremacy.” JONATHAN CAPEHART
Jonathan Capehart, a leading journalist and television personality. (Getty)
“’Woke supremacy’ ranks up there with that tired crutch of the right known as ‘cancel culture.’ The purpose of both phrases is to shield folks from criticism when they are called out for their actions or their deeply As a country, we continue to pay a heavy price for our ignorant musings that peddle in racism, xenophobia or original sin. misogyny. My comments were a sound-bite-length reaction to yet It is also used to deny dignity to those of us who rise another media figure accusing me of being a token for up and demand it in defiance of a dominant culture that Republicans. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time I’ve depends on our silence … heard that type of slur. I spoke out because I am gravely ‘Woke supremacy’ is not real. But white supremacy concerned for our future if we ignore either type of su- is very real … The result is African Americans being premacy — both of which are rooted in racism or dis- viewed with suspicion and being held at the bottom of crimination … the social order, no matter our education or the state of Woke supremacy (is) the ‘tolerant’ left’s intolerance our finances. for dissent. It is a progressive conception of diversity What is not invisible is the impact of white supremacy that does not include diversity of thought. It is discrimi- and those who enforce it. The clearest example is the nation falsely marketed as inclusion … Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by white supremWoke culture is speeding our country toward ideologi- acists egged on by a white-supremacist president intent cal and literal segregation. Already, Columbia Univer- on overturning the election he lost … sity has decided to host segregated graduation celebra- Between 1916 and 1970, 6 million African Americans tions based on race or socioeconomic status. We are fled the racial terror lynchings of the South in the Great living in a society that has allowed ‘autonomous zones’ Migration north and west. And in Scott’s own state, an that effectively prohibit law enforcement from protect- avowed and unrepentant white supremacist walked into ing people from crime, and campus ‘safe spaces’ to pro- historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church tect students from others’ opinions. in Charleston, S.C., to murder nine Black parishioners Carving out public spaces for people of only one race as they prayed. or mind-set? Since when is separate but equal back in I defy Scott to ask the families of those murdered in vogue? that 2015 slaughter whether something as ridiculous as Two wrongs don’t make a right … “woke supremacy” is as bad as white supremacy. So, we collectively have a choice: We can continue down I defy him to ask the families of Trayvon Martin, Tamir the path of toxic woke mandates and virtue signaling that Rice, Jordan Davis, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Sandra themselves create discrimination, segregation and hate, Bland, Elijah McClain, Rayshard Brooks, Ahmaud Aror we can choose to create equality of opportunity and bery, Daniel Prude, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor access to the American Dream for everyone. Because I — to name a few — whether the pernicious power of believe in the goodness of America, I remain hopeful white supremacy contributed to the loss of their loved that we will choose the Opportunity Society …” one …”
MENA Countries Must Diversify Income to Address Deficit
Region is Facing a Rapid Accumulation of Public Debt Due to Covid- 19 By Hatem Khedr The World Bank has recently warned that economies of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are suffering a sudden accumulation of public debt
owing to challenges caused by the coronavirus (Covid19-) that pushed the region’s countries to spend much money on healthcare in order to stop the spread of this pandemic. In its recent report, the World Bank revealed the
estimated accumulated cost of the pandemic in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) losses by the end of 2021 will amount to USD 227 billion in the region.
GREAT IMPACT The report showed that the value of the region’s economies has shrunk by 3.8 percent in 1.3 ,2020 percentage points higher than World Bank forecasts last October. However, the regional growth estimate is 6.4 percentage points lower than the pre-pandemic growth forecast published in October 2019. «When MENA governments increased borrowing to address Covid19-, they saved lives and livelihoods, all investments in human capital,» said Ferid Belhaj, World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa. An Associate Professor of Economics at Kuwait University elaborated the reasons and timing of the debt-“There are two groups of MENA; the first group includes oil-producing countries and the second is non-oil countries. The non-oil countries like Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt have borrowed for some time, and have depended on some Arab development funds, Gulf investments and remittances of their workers in the Gulf area,” Dr. Riyad Al-Ghareeb, an Associate Professor of Economics at Kuwait University, told Majalla. A picture taken on December 16, 2020 shows newly constructed towers in Riyadh, the Saudi Arabian capital and main financial hub. (Getty)
THINGS GOT WORSE “Things got worse after the eruption of Covid19pandemic. The Gulf States themselves have been suffering debt due to the pandemic, therefore their financial flow to the non-oil countries in the MENA region have been severely reduced. This will have a great impact on the non-oil countries for several years,” Al-Ghareeb confirmed to Majalla. Meanwhile Belhaj said, «We can see hopeful signs of light through the tunnel, especially with the deployment of vaccines, but the region remains in crisis. Strong institutions are crucial to absorbing this crisis, re-launching economies, and building them back stronger and more resilient in the years ahead.” «Transparency will play an important role in helping MENA countries address the tradeoffs between the short-term needs and the long-term risks of public debt,» Roberta Gatti, World Bank Chief Economist for the Middle East and North Africa Region, said in press
“The Gulf States themselves have been suffering debt due to the pandemic, therefore their financial flow to the non-oil countries in the MENA region have been severely reduced.” release published earlier this month. «Transparency in the use of public information on the spread of Covid19- as well as the vaccination programs can help accelerate the recovery. In turn, reforms that improve debt transparency and the quality of public investment can be implemented immediately, reducing borrowing costs and raising long-term growth. Simply put, transparency can help chart a path to lasting recovery for the MENA region,” Gatti noted.
CHALLENGES AGGRAVATE Challenges in the region have been exacerbated due to the Covid19- pandemic that contributed to an increase in poverty, a decline of public finances, a rise in debt vulnerabilities, and a further erosion of trust in government, the report made clear. Al-Ghareeb called on MENA’s non-oil countries to take steps to reform their economies so as to address their debts and overcome their financial problems, noting that they should search for more varied investments. The essential borrowing done by MENA governments in order to sustain the funding of necessary health and social protection measures increased government debt dramatically, according to the report.
GROWING DEBT The average public debt in MENA countries is expected to rise 8 percent, from about 46 percent of GDP in 2019 to 54 percent in 2021, while debt among MENA oil importers is expected to average about 93 percent of GDP in 2021, warned the report. “Concerning the oil countries, they had to borrow for the first time in 2014 when oil prices dropped dramatically. They had to compensate for the depressed oil prices by two methods: first to liquidate
some sovereign assets to address the budget deficit like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia; and to borrow funds which was done on local and international levels,” AlGhareeb showed. “Such strategies increased debts in a number of countries like Bahrain whose public debt exceeded 128 percent of GDP in 2020, and Saudi Arabia whose debt was 34 percent of GDP due to the pandemic,” he revealed. Kuwait’s debt hit 19.3 percent of GDP in 2020. Al-Ghareeb referred to a bill submitted by the Kuwaiti government to the National Assembly on regulated borrowing from Kuwait’s sovereign fund, noting that there is a consensus on all sides about this measure.
FINDING A SOLUTION Al-Ghareeb called for finding a solution to this deficit, elaborating that price of an oil barrel should be 90 USD in the 2020-2021 Kuwaiti budget to address this issue. He demanded diversifying the countries’ economies, saying that “Saudi Arabia is the strongest economy in the Arab countries, followed by Egypt and the UAE, but Djibouti, Comoros and Yemen have lower positions in the list.” Al-Ghareeb noted that Saudi Arabia made many financial and economic reforms, expecting that the deficit will drop to 5 percent of GDP in 2021 compared with 12 percent in 2020. The report affirmed that MENA countries must continue spending on healthcare and social protection as long as the pandemic exists. Consequently, in a post-pandemic world, most MENA countries may find themselves stuck with a debt service requiring
“In turn, reforms that improve debt transparency and the quality of public investment can be implemented immediately, reducing borrowing costs and raising long-term growth.”
resources that otherwise could be used for economic development.
DIVERSIFYING INCOME Al-Ghareeb called for varying public incomes in the oil-states, while the non-oil countries need more foreign investment and an active role of the private sector as they do not have sources of income as do the oil countries. Accordingly, the non-oil countries need to pay much attention to tourism and industry. “Saudi Arabia has made a varied economy in tourism, industry and others. UAE’s economy has been diversified into the sectors of property, business and tourism. Egypt has several free zones that boost its economic status,” he told Majalla. Furthermore, Kuwaiti economic researcher and consultant Amer Al-Tamimi warned against continued budget deficits in the Gulf states. “The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states will continue facing budget deficits owing to the drop in oil prices below the balance between revenues and expenditures,” Al-Tamimi told Majalla. “So, these countries will have to borrow from the
Kuwaiti clerks sort banknotes at a currency exchange shop in Kuwait City on September 7, 2020, a sector heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic which caused a sharp drop in travel and tourism. (Getty)
The average public debt in MENA countries is expected to rise 8 percent, from about 46 percent of GDP in 2019 to 54 percent in 2021, while debt among MENA oil importers is expected to average about 93 percent of GDP in 2021, warned the report.
local and international financial markets or issue treasury bills and bonds,” he said, signaling that the accumulation of public debt may rise to more than the 54 percent as mentioned in the report. “However, the solution lies in rationalizing spending
A worker stands across a pumpjack operating in the desert oil fields of Sakhir in southern Bahrain on April 22, 2020 (Getty)
and generating sustainable non-oil revenues. Some Gulf countries have managed to diversify their economies in creative and better ways than others in the GCC bloc. These countries will be able to set appropriate foundations for sustainable development,” Al-Tamimi recommended. On addressing the tensions between the short-term objectives and the long-term risks of rising public debt in MENA countries, the report proposed some options during three distinct phases of economic recovery: spending priorities during the pandemic; fiscal stimulus as the pandemic subsides; and, alleviating the potential costs of a debt overhang in the medium term.
A Weekly Political News Magazine
Issue 1847- April- 09/04/2021
Mohab Mamish: Longtime Navy Commander and Former Chief of Suez Canal www.majalla.com
Kashmiri Girls Put New Melody into Sufiyana Mausiqi An All-girl Band Has Rewritten Notes of a Men-only Musical Form By Meera Ravi Like the Edelweiss of Switzerland, the ‘Yemberzal’ is a harbinger of springtime in Kashmir. The Kashmiri Narcissus or Daffodil is the first flower that Kashmiris see after the harsh winter – and
now, the word has taken on another equally joyful meaning with the emergence of the first allgirl Kashmiri Sufiyana band of that name. The band, consisting of the five girls ranging in age from the early twenties to their late teens -
Irfana Yousuf, Gulshan Lateef, Saima Hameed, Irfana’s younger sister Rehana and the youngest member, Shabnum Bashir – use Kashmir’s rich heritage of the spiritual poetry of revered Kashmiri Sufi saints Sheikh-ul-Alam, Lal Ded, Haba Khatoon, Ghulam Hassan Gamgeen and others as the foundation of their Sufiyana Mausiqi (Sufi music).
A PASSIONATE DEVOTION Living and learning their music in Ganastan village in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district, it all began about ten years ago when Irfana persuaded her father, Mohammad Yousuf Beigh, a classical musician, adept at playing the santoor and Saaz-e-Kashmir, and a Class ‘B’ artist with Radio Kashmir, to teach her to play the notoriously complicated instrument. He, in turn, put her under the tutelage of his own teacher, Ustad Mohammad Yaqoob Sheikh. Irfana soon picked up the techniques of four classical instruments - sitar, santoor, Saaz-e-Kashmir, and tabla - and became passionately devoted to the music, saying that it gave her a sense of calm and centeredness.
FIGHTING OPPOSITION The Yemberzal Band – Kashmir’s only all-girl Sufi music group )Supplied(
But our story begins in 2011, when Irfana performed on the state TV station as a thirteen-year old. Fascinated by the novelty of a girl playing the large instrument with such ease, many girls in her village and school approached her to learn music. Soon after, her younger sister Rehana and classmate Gulshan Lateef joined her in practice sessions and the three forged a close link. Sufiyana music evolved into a uniquely male tradition over centuries, sung by men and handed down through the male line of the family. However, seeing how youngsters were turning away from this ancient classical tradition and choosing pop and rap protest songs, Ustad Mohammad Yaqoob Sheikh, decided to teach whoever would breathe new life into the art form – including girls. “The earlier masters wouldn’t even pass it on to sons of their daughters, only sons or sons of sons,” he said, “When I first started teaching girls, I faced opposition from both neighbours and sol-
Seeing how youngsters were turning away from this ancient classical tradition and choosing pop and rap protest songs, Ustad Mohammad Yaqoob Sheikh, decided to teach whoever would breathe new life into the art form – including girls. diers, and had to move the classes to a new location four times.” Among the girls who make up the band, the youngest member, Shabnum Bashir also faced opposition at home. She was Rehana’s friend and after school, she used to secretly go to Rehana’s home to learn Sufiyana music. When her family found out, she was scoffed and scolded and it took all her persuasive powers to continue her musical journey. Her father finally relented, adding the usual parental rider: that her studies must not suffer. The fifth member, Saima Hameed, happened to hear the girls perform at an inter-school cultural show in her village nearby and was so obsessed with the beauty of the music that she actually shifted to Irfana’s school to be with the others and join the band.
MELODY BLOSSOMS In 2015, the girls formally announced that they would be a music band. It was not a move without risk – in 2012, three other Kashmiri girls, Noma Nazir, Farah Deeba and Aneeqa Khalid had formed a rock band called ‘Pragaash’. However, the band attracted such a backlash including a fatwa against them, that it was disbanded merely three months later. The Yemberzal band members hoped that their classical tenor would quell opposition. “We decided to focus on Sufiyana mausiqi because nowadays every musician is inclined toward
contemporary music,” said Irfana, “People have forgotten about our classical music. We decided to create a band and revive the dying art form.” In their quest for the original sounds of the Valley’s Sufi music, the band members have started learning Persian, the language in which much of the original poetry is rooted, although many of the Sufi poets composed in Kashmiri also. They also accompany their singing, which is at once full-throated and sweet, on traditional Kashmiri instruments – the 100-string santoor which is closely associated with the Valley, the Saaz-eKashmir, which is a local variation of the violin, the tabla, a percussion drum set and the sitar, a plucked string instrument. For a long time, the girls only had the instruments owned by Irfana’s father for practise. After collecting and earning through programmes, the group has finally managed to buy individual instruments for all the girls in the group. “Santoor costs around 30000 rupees. Saaz-e-Kashmir costs around 15000 rupees, Sitar and Tabla cost around 10000 rupees,” she said.
CHANGING MINDSETS For Gulshan Lateef, the band has been a way of breaking free from the boundaries created for
In their quest for the original sounds of the Valley’s Sufi music, the band members have started learning Persian, the language in which much of the original poetry is rooted, although many of the Sufi poets composed in Kashmiri also.
women over the generations. The group has received a lot of criticism from people but they believe that they have been successful in changing mindsets “even if just a little”. “Some people kept saying that we are girls and we should not do something like this. That we should stay at home and do the home chores. They believe that this is what women are meant for,” she said. The constant pressure of home chores, education as well as music becomes overburdening sometimes, she said, but the thought of their journey keeps them going. “A woman has to do everything,” she said.
In this photograph taken on February 25, 2017, Kashmiri Muslim girls play Sufi music under the tutelage of music teacher, Muhammad Yaqoob Sheikh, on the outskirts of Srinagar )Getty(
All the girls have chosen the instruments of their choice that they play during their performances as a group. However, Irfana has been collectively assigned the role of the lead vocalist and the Santoor player by the other girls. “She is the most senior among us, she deserves to lead all of us,” says Gulshan, adding that Santoor is the key instrument of a Sufiana mausiqi.
IN PRAISE OF THE PROPHET )PBUH( For the group, performing Sufiana music is a way of feeling calm and forgetting about the world. “One forgets about everything else. It includes praising the religion and our Prophet as well,” she
said. The all-female ensemble has performed for the public broadcaster, and also at events held in Srinagar city, particularly those of the Cultural Academy. They have won several competitions in Kashmir and have represented Kashmir in music competitions held outside. Irfana and Gulshan are now studying music in the University of Kashmir to further sharpen their skills and knowledge and want to spread their love for classical Sufiyana mausiqi. “More yemberzals [budding artists] will mark new beginnings to keep the music alive after us as well,” Irfana says.
«The Father» Showcases Anthony Hopkins at His Devastating Best A Mystery Set Within the Recesses of a Deteriorating Mind Justin Chang In “The Father’s” house are many rooms, all of them beautifully appointed with details so sharp and precise that you might be startled to find them vanishing a few moments later: Didn’t those backsplash tiles look different a minute
ago? Wasn’t there a lamp on that side table? The French writer-director Florian Zeller, adapting his internationally acclaimed play for the screen, has a meticulous eye and a keen sense of mischief, which doesn’t lighten so much as heighten the implacable tragedy at the heart of this story. The moment-to-moment pleasures of trying to
decipher the plot give way to crushing futility; you’re left sifting through the pieces of a puzzle that’s almost too painful to solve. Those pieces have been plucked from the life of an 80-year-old Englishman named Anthony. Known as Andre in the play, he has been renamed here in honor of his interpreter, Anthony Hopkins, who repays it with a performance of extraordinary psychological cunning and emotional force. We first encounter Anthony in a darkened London apartment, listening to a recording of Henry Purcell and John Dryden’s 1691 dramatic opera “King Arthur, or the British Worthy.” Before long his daughter, Anne (Olivia Colman), comes in and the music stops, though not before the opening lines of an aria have rung out: “What power art thou, who from below/ Hast made me rise unwillingly and slow/ From beds of everlasting snow?”
Anthony Hopkins as Anthony in «The Father.» (TNS)
The opera reference is a studied choice but an apt one: Soon enough, a deep, menacing chill descends on this movie like a fog and stays there, wrapping around the mind of a man trying to shake off his slumber. Less an unreliable narrator than an unreliable observer, Anthony is in a rapidly advancing state of dementia, a condition that manifests itself in fugue states, memory lapses and volatile fits of temper. His fierce tantrums have recently burned through a series of in-home nurses, leaving Anne at her wits’ end. This much of the situation is clear enough, mainly because it keeps getting reiterated for Anthony’s benefit — patiently by Anne, who tries to coax him into behaving , and more resentfully by her husband, Paul (Rufus Sewell), who occasionally turns up to protest the disruption of their once stable, comfortable lives. Anthony, for his part, has a rather different understanding of who’s intruding on whom. His daughter sometimes becomes a stranger. He is visited and attended to by others he doesn’t recognize, played with gently obliging smiles by actors including Imogen Poots, Mark Gatiss and Olivia Williams. (In addition to the doubled Anthonys, the casting of two equally superb Olivias slyly compounds the confusion.) He mutters and rants about unwanted caretakers and stolen pos-
He reacts to each new piece of information with skepticism and fascination as if he were an investigator making a surprising discovery rather than a man losing his grip on reality. sessions, namely the watch that keeps vanishing from his wrist — an effective if on-the-nose nod to his slippery sense of time. He reacts to each new piece of information with skepticism and fascination as if he were an investigator making a surprising discovery rather than a man losing his grip on reality. “The Father,” in other words, is both a detective story and a study in confinement, a mystery set within the labyrinthine recesses of a deteriorating mind. The original play (whose English translator, Christopher Hampton, is credited alongside Zeller for the screenplay) availed itself of the natural abstractions of theatrical space, turning the stage into a psychological hall of mirrors. But Zeller, making an elegant and incisive feature debut, finds an ideal equivalent within the more realistic parameters of the movie screen. The airlessness that stifles so many stage-toscreen adaptations only serves to reinforce this film’s mood of entrapment, barely diminished by the opera selections and the recurring strains of Ludovico Einaudi‘s original score. The imposing physicality of the apartment makes it that much more startling when the movie begins to undermine its own premises. I mean premises quite literally. The flat features a long hallway that seems to stretch toward infinity, with doors that lead into interconnected, sometimes interchangeable-looking rooms. Ben Smithard’s deep-focus widescreen compositions with restrained lighting and slightly muted colors confound your sense of direction, even as they invite you to rummage through the details of Peter Francis’ intricate production design. And as
those details — the tiles and that painting, the pottery and the furniture — begin to shift imperceptibly from scene to scene, our understanding of time, space and reality begins to rupture in concert with Anthony’s. (Among recent movies, “The Father” would make quite a haunted-house triple bill with “Relic” and “I’m Thinking of Ending Things,” which also dramatize cognitive decay via compulsively mutating decor.) How closely do Zeller’s formal conceits approximate the real, lived experience of dementia? The answer to that question is fundamentally unknowable and possibly irrelevant; as we’ve seen from “Away From Her,” “Still Alice” and other fine dramas about the impact of Alzheimer’s disease on a family, this kind of radically subjective storytelling isn’t a prerequisite for empathy or emotional truth. Even still, the rigorous interiority of “The Father” compels your attention: If narrative cinema is largely predicated on the illusion of seamlessness, there’s something apt about the way Zeller both upholds and shatters that illusion, bridging the narrative gap across a series of jarring discontinuities. You can imagine the mind doing something similar, struggling for lucidity in the wake of mounting incoherence. But you don’t need to imagine it, because for the entirety of the movie’s fleet 97-minute running time, Hopkins embodies it. His Anthony can be vulnerable and fierce, broken and defiant: His moments of verbal acuity and self-aware humor
This is, as its title suggests, the story of not just a disintegrating psyche, but also a disintegrating relationship between a father and a daughter whose love he can no longer see or feel.
exist on a continuum with his equally sudden lapses into oblivion. In one scene, he disarms a visitor with flirtatious charm and even does an impromptu dance only to turn the tables with stinging viciousness: It’s not clear if this is the real Anthony, in full, ferocious possession of his faculties, or an unrecognizably distorted version of him or some strange conflation of both. We see both the singular, towering personality he once was and the fumbling fragility to which he will soon be reduced. If it feels redundant to invoke Shakespeare with regard to this particular actor, it also seems like more than happenstance that Hopkins, having recently played King Lear in a 2018 TV adaptation, has now stepped into a role with obvious Learian overtones. This is, as its title suggests, the story of not just a disintegrating psyche, but
Olivia Colman as Anne and Anthony Hopkins as Anthony in «The Father« (TNS)
also a disintegrating relationship between a father and a daughter whose love he can no longer see or feel. “The Father” may be a remarkable feat of sustained identification, but beyond the margins of Anthony’s experience — and primarily in the figure of Anne, whom Colman brings to aching, tremulous life — we catch glimpses of other characters and other stories: a terrible accident, a broken marriage, a second chance at love. These stories may be half-buried memories or hallucinatory projections, but they are real enough to mark “The Father” as more than just one man’s tragedy. The film’s final embrace is a quietly astounding vision of grace in solitude, and it harks back to that opening aria, with its invocation of eternal winter and the unheard rejoinder that follows: “ ’Tis Love, ’tis Love, ’tis
We see both the singular, towering personality he once was and the fumbling fragility to which he will soon be reduced. Love that has warm’d us.”
’THE FATHER‘ Rating: PG-13, for some strong language, and thematic material Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes This was originally published in The Los Angeles Times.
Mesaharati of the Arab world The Awakening Poetry of Fouad Hadad
Amira El Noshokaty The Holy Month of Ramadan is known for three major icons in Egypt: the Ramadan Lanterns; the 30 days of free iftar tables on the streets of every district; and, that soft drum beat that calls to wake you up in the middle of the night so you can eat before starting your fasting – Al-Mesaharati. But the Mesaharati we are highlighting is a rather sophisticated one and quite poetic. It’s the dramatic character that narrated the story of the Arab world with rhyming eloquence, grace and wit. The brain child of the pillar of vernacular poetry,
Fouad Haddad (1927-1985), these 30 episodes of musical sublime were greatly applauded by the radio audience when they were first broadcast during Ramadan 1965. “In 1964, Egyptian Radio decided to dramatize the Mesaharati in an art form. They first approached renowned Egyptian Poet Salah Jaheen, who told them that vernacular poetry icon Fouad Haddad is the most appropriate for the concept of Mesaharati,” recalls poet Amin Haddad, the son of Fouad Haddad. Fouad Haddad turned it into an art project in which the lead character, or narrator, did the Mesaharati’s job, but to awaken the whole Arab nation. Address-
Photo of poet Fouad Haddad, courtesy of poet Amin Haddad
ing colonialism, emphasizing the importance of Arab unity and highlighting the essence of the Arab culture were a few main themes of the project. He created a fixed form for the beginning and ending of each poem, and started the series with reference to Hijazz, the birth place of Prophet Mohamed. Then he surfed into the social and political challenges that faced Egypt and the Arab world back then. There was one poem on Jerusalem, another was “A Salute to the People of Levant” during the Israeli occupation of Lebanon 1982, and there was the famous “Estemara” (Form) that criticized Egyptian public service procedure back then by picturing the trip of a form from one desk to the other in an endless cycle. “Fouad Haddad created the first Mesaharati series for Egyptian radio in 1964, then created new ones in 1968, and again during the seventies when he dedicated one poem as a tribute to Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser when he died in 1970, and another poem when Egypt won the 1973 war,” added Amin Haddad. The Mesaharati of Fouad Haddad were recited and composed by renowned music figure Said Mekkawi. The series of poems is more of an Egyptian/ Arab rhymed chronicle that delved into the heart of the Arab nation with great love and true appreciation. Born in Egypt, and coming from Lebanese origins, Fouad Haddad’s poetry has always reflected his belief in the Pan Arabism. He always regarded himself as an Egyptian as well as an Arab. All of his work, especially the Mesaharati, has showcased the grandeur and essence of the multicultural layers of Egypt. “Mesaharati included poems on Jerusalem and its great history and resilience, on Damascus, and on Tunisia. It reflected on great Arab figures like Omar Ibn Al-Khattab and always reflected a message that encouraged waves of Arab resistance that can be high or low but, just like sea waves, are always there,” added Amin Haddad. Known within the Arab world as the Father of Poets, Fouad Haddad has excelled in capturing the essence of the Egyptian and Arab identity by mastering the art of “listening.” Verses like: ورفعت فني ملقام الشعب I held my art up high to reach the status of the commoners األرض بتتكلم عربي
The brain child of the pillar of vernacular poetry, Fouad Haddad (1985-1927), these 30 episodes of musical sublime were greatly applauded by the radio audience when they were first broadcast during Ramadan 1965. The land speaks Arabic إيدك تكون أخشن و قلبك أرق Your hands should be more firm, your heart more soft Such finesse and brilliance made his writings more of an epic poem about Egypt and the Arab world, Al Mesaharati included. In the eighties, the Mesaharati series was adapted to be shown on Egyptian National Television, and was sung by renowned Egyptian composer Said Mekkawy.
Traditional dawn awakeners known as ‘Mesaharati’ beat drums and chant religious songs to wake up Muslims before sunrise for the ‘suhur’ meal before the day’s fast on June 14, 2016 during the holy month of Ramadan in Cairo (Getty)
Feed Your Gut Healthy Bacteria in Digestive Tract Needs a Mix of Probiotics and Prebiotics Harvard Women’s Health If you want a healthy gut, you have to feed it well. This nourishment should include both probiotics and prebiotics -- two dietary components that are increasingly being recognized as essential to your
intestinal and overall health, says Teresa Fung, adjunct professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. There›s been a lot of buzz recently about the need to eat probiotics -- living microorganisms found in foods such
as yogurt and fermented vegetables. Probiotics add to your gut microbiota, the collection of 100 trillion or so bacteria and other critters living in your gut. Having a healthy microbiota may help foster a healthy immune system and reduce damaging inflammation in the body. Eating probiotics regularly may also help to prevent the intestinal environment from being overrun by unhealthy bacteria, which have been linked to everything from mood disorders and obesity to diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases. But probiotics are much like pets, says Fung. It›s not enough to just get one; you also have to take care of it, she says. This means feeding the population of microorganisms with prebiotics -- foods that will help all of these desirable gut bugs grow and thrive inside your digestive tract.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR GUT
Couple cooking together in kitchen )Getty(
To understand how to keep your intestinal environment healthy, it›s important to understand how your microbiota evolves. Everyone has a unique mix of microorganisms living inside them. Some of these come from your mother, conferred during pregnancy, delivery, and, potentially, breastfeeding. Others are introduced by the foods you eat, and your environment. Probiotics found in fermented foods and drinks -- such as yogurt, cheese, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut -- can add desirable organisms to your gut. But not all varieties of these foods have probiotics; it depends on how they are processed. Sometimes foods that naturally contain probiotics are then cooked or heated, killing the microorganisms and any potential health benefits along with them, says Fung. Slipping an occasional food with probiotics into your diet won›t do much to help you improve your microbiota, says Fung. «Eating probiotics needs to be a regular thing,» she says. (Research hasn’t yet
Having a healthy microbiota may help foster a healthy immune system and reduce damaging inflammation in the body. determined the ideal frequency.) Try adding them into one or more daily meals for the biggest benefit. Sip a yogurt smoothie for breakfast, or put a forkful or two of sauerkraut alongside your sandwich at lunch. The need for prebiotics Even if you eat a lot of foods that contain probiotics, it won›t do you much good if your intestinal environment doesn›t allow them to prosper, says Fung. Research has shown that a traditional Western diet -- heavy on fat, sugar, and animal meat -- creates a toxic environment for healthy microbes and can even change the proportion of different types of bacteria inside your body, she says. In short, your healthy gut microbes will suffer on a diet of hot dogs and French fries. What beneficial bacteria love, says Fung, is fiber. When fiber enters your digestive system, enzymes from the microbiota help to break it down, producing substances called short-chain fatty acids. Experts think that having more of these fatty acids changes the pH inside your colon, making it less hospitable to some damaging types of microorganisms. Some good prebiotic options are beans and whole grains. «Whole grains can include everything from oats to wheat,» says Fung. Vegetables and fruits also contain healthy fiber. Other good prebiotic sources include garlic, bananas, onions, asparagus, and seaweed. Over all, the goal should be to make sure your diet contains a good balance of probiotics and prebiotics. If you feed your gut well, it may repay you in better health.
Sculptor Turns Scrap Into Ancient Egyptian Statues First Scrap-Made Statues Exhibition Planned Menna A. Farouk An Egyptian sculptor is turning scrap into giant ancient Egyptian statues to promote
the Egyptian civilization and highlight its significance and glamor. Ibrahim Salah, 27, was able to combine the ancient Pharaonic civilization with
Salah makes his Pharaonic statues from iron, car glass, tires, and plumbing pipes. In his view, scrap is neglected so he wanted to salvage it in an environmentally-friendly way. mummify cats with the same technique they used to mummify people. “Moreover, hundreds of cats were found mummified in the Pharaonic tombs,” he added. After the -27year-old sculptor finished Bastet, he started working on Cleopatra, a statue composed of spoons and chains with a height of 5 meters and a weight of 250 kilograms. But this second work was different. “I gained a lot of experience from my first work and in this second piece of art all I needed was a greater focus on the delicacy of the Queen›s facial features,” he said. Ibrahim Salah, 27, works in his place called “The Location View” in El Haram neighbourhood, Giza governorate.
the present, by creating huge statues of some of Egypt’s Pharaonic figures. He managed to build from scrap a statue of Bastet who was the god of protection in ancient Egypt. Bastet is a statue in the form of a cat and is crafted of scrap materials with a height of 6 meters and a weight of half a ton of iron.
CIVILIZATION REVIVED Salah makes his Pharaonic statues from iron, car glass, tires, and plumbing pipes. In his view, scrap is neglected so he wanted to salvage it in an environmentally-friendly way.
“It took me 30 days to construct this statue. I worked for more than 8 hours a day to fashion this statue from scrap, iron and nuts,” he told Majalla.
Salah chose a Pharaonic identity for his project for a few reasons, including his consideration that it is the most prototypical expression of Egypt and Egyptians as well as his personal pride in being an Egyptian.
Ibrahim said that he constructed Bastet specifically because of its value to ancient Egyptians as they were keen to
Salah also seeks to display his statues in tourist sites, hotels and tourist bazaars as
well as in exhibits to schoolchildren who can learn about Egyptian civilization through his art.
awareness about artistic achievement in Egypt but he seeks to expand people’s ideas about art through exhibitions.
“This kind of art can be really useful for many young people to know more about the Egyptian civilization and it can also promote the Egyptian heritage abroad through exhibitions and events,” he said.
“I hope that I can organize the first exhibition for scrap-made statues related to Egyptian civilization in the Middle East to give the public and those interested wider knowledge about Egyptian art and its significance,” he said.
EXHIBITION OF SCRAP Salah developed a great interest in sculpting from a young age, but only 5 years ago he decided to turn this hobby into a profession. Salah also carved figures using rocks and gypsum, which are difficult materials in sculpt. “It is a hobby that breathes life into me and creates a purpose in my life especially since I promote Egyptian civilization,” he said. Salah added that there is not enough
A scrap-made statue of Cleopatra stands in the “Location View” workshop in El Haram neighbourhood, Giza governorate
A scrap-made statue of Bastet stands in the “Location View” workshop in El Haram neighbour� hood, Giza governorate
Mohab Mamish: Long-time Navy Commander and Former Chief of Suez Canal Majalla Illustration by Ali El-Manzalawi The whole world was calculating global trade losses that amounted to billions of dollars due to a blocked Suez Canal late in March. Just after the crucial waterway was cleared, Vice Admiral Mohab Mamish, the former chairman of the Suez Canal Authority and the incumbent advisor to the Egyptian president on Suez Canal zone and seaports, gave due credit to the efforts of the authority’s head, engineers, workers and pilots who were finally able to dislodge the stranded ship and free the waterway. “For 54 years the Canal has been an open sea passage, but the few days of blockage put the whole world in a state of confusion,” Mamish told a local TV news channel, stressing the fact that solving the Ever Given ship’s crisis has provided evidence of the efficiency and competence of the Suez Canal authority. While acknowledging that the captain of the ship is the one responsible for the incident, Mamish insisted that an inspection and review should be conducted to teach the canal’s pilots what happened and be prepared to avoid similar events. Proudly speaking of his seven-year position at
the helm of the authority (from August 2012 to April 2017), he described the Suez Canal as an Egyptian icon, in reference to its strategic and historic importance to the world. Appreciation of Mamish’s contributions to the authority culminated in the announcement by the SCA Chairman Osama Rabie that a huge new dredge will be named after the former authority’s head Mohab Mamish, as part of a plan to boost the authority’s equipment with more dredges and tugboats to deal with any future incidents similar to that of late March. The Suez Canal Corridor Area Project was the megaproject launched by Mamish upon the directive of Egypt’s president Sisi in 2014. The project aimed to develop the three canal cities: Suez, Ismailia, and Port Said, in addition to creating a New Suez Canal that works as a second shipping lane along the original Suez Canal in order to allow ships to sail in both directions at the same time. Being a Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Navy from September 2007 to August 2012, Mohab Mamish was also a member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces which governed the country after the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 that ousted the late President Hosni Mubarak. During his tenure as the navy commander, he was responsible for the security of sea-
ports and waterway passages. He also had to secure Alexandria, and territorial waters during the chaotic incidents that erupted all over the country due to the violence which accompanied the revolution. In addition to protecting off-shore oil and gas sites, he combated sea polluting activities, piracy and illegal sea immigration in Egyptian territorial waters. Mamish, who was born in 1948, graduated from the Egyptian Navy Academy in 1971 and served as an anti-submarine specialist in the October War of 1973. He also holds a masters degree in naval sciences, as well as a fellowship degree from the Nasser Military Academy. Joining overseas training missions, Mamish travelled to the United Kingdom, the United States, Greece, France, China and UAE. The vice admiral, who belongs to a middleclass family whose members also served in the military, was awarded numerous accolades and awards due to his valuable achievements to the country. Some of those were: Order of the Republic, Medal of long and Meritorious Service, Medal of Duty, Medal of 6th of October, Medal of the Egyptian Navy, Medal of October Warriors, Medal of Superior Service, and Silver Jubilee of Sinai Liberation.