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Luxury Living and Hotels & Travel Special Sections

INSIDE

Luxury Living

A Special Section of The Washington Diplomat

April 2019

APRIL 2019

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VOLUME 26, NUMBER 04

Finding the Right Realtor

Middle East

As Spring Market Heats

S

Up, Experts Offer Tips

pring has finally arrived in the Washington, D.C., area. For residents and visitors, this means blooms, allergens and warmer temperatures, but for homebuyers and sellers, it likely also means an uptick in the marketplace. In general, this season has the highest number of new

Nowhere to Go: Syria’s Refugees Live in Limbo

Africa

Africa has some of the longestserving leaders in the world — and some of the richest, while many of their people live in poverty — all of which begs the question: How long is too long to stay in power? PAGE 12

Culture

Moldovan Ambassador Cristina Balan is proud of the recent economic strides her government has made. Nevertheless, she remains concerned about her country’s future in the wake of Russian muscle-flexing in the region, the frozen and costly conflict in Transnistria and multibillion-dollar banking scandals that have exposed how entrenched corruption is in the former Soviet Republic. PAGE 17

MOLDOVA’S SHAKY FUTURE SPECIAL REPORT

Women in Diplomacy Cuban-Born Artist Is Her Own Island

“Soy Isla (I Am an Island)” showcases the work of 92-year-old Zilia Sánchez, a mostly unknown but visionary artist. PAGE 34

In December 2018, the

number of

a Home •

PHOTO: DAVID MARK /

PIXABAY

Colorful rowhouses line the D.C. neighborhood of Foggy Bottom.

BY STEPHANIE KANOWITZ

units for sale in Virginia’s Arlington County and the city of Alexandria increased by 20 percent year-over-year, according to Long & Foster, the country’s largest privately owned real estate company. SEE REALTORS • PAGE 26

APRIL 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT

After eight years of war, around half of Syria’s population is now displaced. But as the welcome mat for these struggling masses begins to wear thin in overburdened countries, Syria’s refugees face an impossible dilemma: stay where they’re not wanted or return to a home that no longer exists. PAGE 10

Africa’s Leaders Have a Hard Time Letting Go of Power

on Buying and Selling

listings, according to Zillow Research, and after Amazon’s November 2018 announcement that it will open a second headquarters in Arlington’s Crystal City neighborhood, it’s likely that the already healthy marketplace will strengthen.

The #MeToo movement has exposed sexism in all walks of life, from Hollywood to the halls of Congress. But progress in tackling gender inequality has been uneven — and that extends to the male-dominated world of diplomacy. In an in-depth report, we talk to Washington’s female ambassadors to gain their personal insights on what it’s like to be a woman in diplomacy today. PAGE 4

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GOURMET GALA 2019

Volume 26

More than 50 U.S. senators and representatives will participate as celebrity chefs in this competitive cook-off to support the fight for the health of all moms and babies.

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Contents

THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | APRIL 2019

17

12

24 29

25

37 NEWS

LUXURY LIVING

SPECIAL REPORT Washington’s female ambassadors talk about being a woman in diplomacy today.

25

4

REALTOR MATCH

The first step in buying or selling a home is finding the right realtor who will work for you.

10 NOWHERE TO GO

Syria’s refugees live in limbo as they face a no-win choice: go home or stay put.

HOTELS & TRAVEL

12 AFRICAN STAYING POWER

29

The continent’s longest-serving leaders dig in their heels while lining their pockets.

17

COVER PROFILE: MOLDOVA

Moldova’s democracy is tested by geopolitics abroad and Machiavellian politics at home. GENDER POLITICS Women ambassadors reflect on what it takes to shatter the proverbial glass ceiling.

22

24

MEDICAL

A new study found that heart attacks have dropped by one-third among older Americans.

PROPERTIES WITH PERSONALITY

As new hotels pop up and old ones become new again, D.C.’s hospitality scene is as eclectic as ever.

CULTURE 34

ISLAND DISCOVERY

“I Am an Island” showcases the work of a relatively unknown but visionary artist.

35

NEXT STOP: NORTH KOREA

A policy wonk doubles as a playwright to offer a window into the Hermit Kingdom.

36

IRREPRESSIBLE HOPE

“Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” finds beauty amid decay.

37

CLASH OF SOCIAL CLASSES

An exploration of inequality takes place amid the hedonism of Miami in “Queen of Basel.” TIME WARP Traditional Korean art gets a 21st-century makeover thanks to innovative technologies.

38

REGULARS 39 CINEMA LISTING 40 EVENTS LISTING 42 DIPLOMATIC SPOTLIGHT 45 OBITUARY / APPOINTMENTS 46 CLASSIFIEDS 47 REAL ESTATE CLASSIFIEDS APRIL 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 3


WD | Special Repor t

Women in Diplomacy Female Ambassadors to U.S. Make Strides, Although Progress Uneven BY AILEEN TORRES-BENNETT AND ANNA GAWEL

G

ender equality has always been a hot-button issue, but it has been thrust into the public consciousness in recent years with the #MeToo movement against sexism in all walks of life, from Hollywood to the halls of Congress. For many, the pinnacle of women shattering the proverbial glass ceiling in politics came with Hillary Clinton’s bid to become America’s first woman president. She lost to Donald Trump despite his controversial track record with women (including allegations of infidelity and harassment). But Clinton’s loss has not dampened women’s interest in politics. On the contrary, Trump’s victory seems to have reenergized it, particularly on the Democratic side. Five women — Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and Tulsi Gabbard — have already declared their candidacies for the Democratic presidential nomination. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is proving to be one of Trump’s greatest political foes. A record 102 women now serve in the U.S. House of Representatives — 90 percent of them Dem ocrats — making up nearly a quarter of total House votes. By comparison, in 1992, which was dubbed the “Year of the Woman,” only 27 women were elected to the House and Senate. There were also a record number of firsts in this current 116th Congress, which boasts the youngest, most diverse freshman class in history: Democrat Rashida Tlaib of Michigan became the first Muslim congresswoman. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa), both 29, became the youngest women ever elected to Congress. Reps. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.), who is openly gay, and Debra Haaland (D-N.M.) are the first Native American women elected to Congress. In addition, a historic number of women have been elected to state legislatures nationwide, with 28 percent of seats now held by women, according to the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers University. “This is the largest increase in women’s representation in state legislatures we’ve seen in some time, after more than a decade of relative stagnation,” said CAWP Director Debbie Walsh in a press release. “The only question that remains is whether 2018 was a one-off or a new norm.” Indeed, while women have made significant strides in leadership positions, from Capitol Hill to corporate boardrooms, they still lag behind their male peers in many fields — including diplomacy.

4 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | APRIL 2019

PHOTO: THE GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY WOMEN LEADERSHIP PROGRAM

The ambassadors of Oman, Monaco, Rwanda and St. Kitts and Nevis talk to students from the George Washington University about female leadership during a March 2018 symposium hosted by the Women Leadership Program, a year-long living and learning program for freshmen women attending GWU.

Several major U.S. allies recently dispatched their first-ever female ambassadors to Washington, D.C., including envoys from Germany (Emily Haber), Mexico (Martha Bárcena Coqui), Afghanistan (Roya Rahmani) and, perhaps most notably, Saudi Arabia (Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud). ALSO SEE: Six Female Ambassadors Reflect on Strides and Ongoing Hurdles for Women in Politics PAGE 22 The numbers bear this out. The count of women ambassadors in Washington has never budged past 30, out of roughly 177 posts. It reached a high when Hillary Clinton was U.S. secretary of state but has since dropped to the usual figure — roughly two dozen. “Historically, diplomacy has been the preserve of men,” according to Julia Chang Bloch, the U.S. ambassador to Nepal from 1989 to 1993 and the first U.S. ambassador of Asian descent. “Women were not admitted to diplomatic and consular services in any appreciable numbers until 1933, when 13 countries, including Nicaragua and Turkey, had women diplomats. Until the mid-20th

century, the most extensive contribution made by women to diplomacy was as the wives of diplomatic and consular officers,” she wrote in an article for the Council of American Ambassadors. Women are no longer confined to the role of diplomatic spouse, although the majority in Washington, D.C., still are. But there are quite a few notable exceptions, including several prominent recent arrivals. Nordic countries have made the most prominent strides in promoting gender equality and women in government. Sweden, in fact, developed the world’s first (and only) “feminist” foreign policy. It also boasts a long tradition of policies such as generous parental leave to encourage women to stay in the workforce. Likewise, New Zealand — which recently appointed a female ambassador to the U.S., Rosemary Banks — was the first nation in the world to give women the right to vote in the 19th century. Today, the country is led by Prime Min-

ister Jacinda Ardern, who is the world’s youngest female head of state, having taken office at age 37, and who became the world’s second elected head of government to give birth while in office. She has also earned worldwide praise for her decisive, forceful yet empathetic response to the massacre of 50 Muslim worshippers in New Zealand last month by a white supremacist. In addition, several major U.S. allies recently dispatched their first-ever female ambassadors to Washington, D.C. That includes envoys from Germany (Emily Haber), Mexico (Martha Bárcena Coqui), Afghanistan (Roya Rahmani) and, perhaps most notably, Saudi Arabia (Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud). Princess Reema has made waves not only for being the kingdom’s first female envoy to the U.S., but also because she has been a vocal advocate for women’s rights in her conservative Muslim nation — at times even shrewdly circum-


Special Repor t | WD venting the authorities to do so. As the first female CEO of a retail company, she found ways to help her female employees get around the country’s strict religious diktats — for instance, by providing them with child care and travel stipends (because women weren’t allowed to drive at the time). According to a 2015 profile in Fast Company, she also cofounded a women’s-only day spa and gym in Riyadh but, because women’s gyms are illegal, she disguised it as a seamstress shop in case the religious police came knocking. A divorced mother of two, Princess Reema is also a longtime advocate of breast cancer awareness in a country where uttering the word “breast” in public is still taboo. Princess Reema’s progressive views may have been shaped by her American upbringing. A graduate of the George Washington University, she spent much of her youth in Washington, D.C., where her father, Prince Bandar, served as Saudi Arabia’s ambassador for 22 years. But it remains to be seen whether Princess Reema’s local roots and impressive credentials can rehabilitate her kingdom’s tarnished image. Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman , is accused of ordering the assassination of journal-

ist Jamal Khashoggi; spearheading a disastrous war in Yemen; and arresting scores of Saudi women’s rights activists. Princess Reema has tried to strike a balance in defending her kingdom while also acknowledging its shortcomings. On the one hand, she says the Western media often fixates on limitations such as the driving ban (which Salman lifted last year) while overlooking “the women who go so far outside the box of their limitations to make those issues irrelevant to their success,” as she told Karen Valby for Fast Company. At the same time, Saudi Arabia’s new ambassador admits that she has to tread carefully in a country where even highly educated women don’t know how to “book a hotel room” or open a bank account because they are forced to rely on male guardians. “I actually do have a family that will allow me to be mobile and dynamic, but that is not the reality of a lot of women,” she told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour last June. “And until it’s the reality for a lot of women, I think we need to keep pushing forward.” From the progressive policies of Nordic nations to the conservative confines of the Middle East, and everywhere in between, The Washington Diplomat examined the shifting gender dynamics around the world

by speaking to a number of female ambassadors in D.C., who offered their thoughts on what it takes to be a woman in diplomacy today. Here are their words: *Responses have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Mexico

MARTHA BÁRCENA COQUI One of Mexico’s most notable writers of the 20th century, Rosario Castellanos, who also served as an ambassador to Israel, wrote many insightful cultural observations about women’s rights, gender inequality and the role of women in society. She wrote a book ironically called “Mujer que sabe Latín (a woman who knows Latin),” whose title comes from the old popular adage “a woman who knows Latin neither has a husband nor comes to a good end” — which reflects, in striking detail, some of the attitudes on women that were prevalent just half a century ago. It is no secret that women around the world, including notable thinkers, have historically faced a series of structural obstacles that are now identified and discussed publicly. SEE WO M E N • PAGE 6

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PHOTO: SERGIO OCHOA / EMBASSY OF MEXICO

MARTHA BÁRCENA COQUI

ambassador of Mexico to the United States

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APRIL 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 5


WD | Special Repor t

Women CONTINUED • PAGE 5

This has allowed societies around the world to understand the value of concepts such as feminism, gender equality or women empowerment, even when they were rarely discussed or even acknowledged more than 30 years ago when I started my diplomatic career in Mexico. I am now proud to serve as the first female ambassador of Mexico to the United States, as great strides have been made toward gender equality in the last decades, even though there is still a lot of work to do to achieve equal rights and equal opportunities for women around the world. Before, I had the opportunity to represent my government as ambassador to Denmark, Turkey and the U.N. agencies in Rome. Even when government, politics and diplomacy can be seen as rigid and traditional, the role of women has slowly but steadily found its way into their core. Notable women have now occupied roles as presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers and ambassadors with outstanding results. Mexico, in particular, has played an active role promoting gender equality in regional and multilateral fora. For almost 40 years now, since Mexico City hosted the First International Conference of Women in 1975, it has been an active promoter of the “Women, Peace and Security” agenda at the United Nations. Furthermore, when Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador came into power in 2018, he appointed eight women out of 19 positions in his cabinet, and for the first time in history, the parity between men and women in the two chambers of the Mexican Congress is almost 50/50. Even when serious challenges remain in the ongoing struggle for equality and the protection of women, every success and advance should be commended as they are the result of many years of tireless efforts of bright and determined women of all walks of life that have taken us to where we are now.

Germany

EMILY HABER I have often noted that people — men and women alike —

PHOTO: EMBASSY OF GERMANY

EMILY HABER

ambassador of Germany to the United States

PHOTO: AFRICAN UNION MISSION TO THE U.S.

ARIKANA CHIHOMBORI-QUAO

ambassador of African Union Mission to the United States

national agenda. Gender equality and diversity is also vital to growth. Sweden has the highest female labor participation ever recorded in the European Union — 80 percent — which contributes to growth and prosperity in my country. I am proud to say that Sweden’s feminist government has one of the world’s highest representation of women in cabinet: 12 out of 23 ministers. Our 349-memberstrong parliament is currently made up of 188 men and 161 women. But Sweden could do better still. Women earn only 87 percent of men’s salaries, and relatively few women rise to senior positions in the Swedish private sector. Only 6 percent of CEOs at companies listed at the stock exchange are women. The #MeToo movement caught on in Sweden, indicating that sexual harassment is common. So, the struggle to increase gender equality is ongoing and never ending. Yet, gender equality is both the right and the smart thing to pursue, in Sweden and all over the world.

Finland

KIRSTI KAUPPI

PHOTO: WILLIS BRETZ / EMBASSY OF FINLAND

PHOTO: LAWRENCE RUGGERI

KARIN OLOFSDOTTER

ambassador of Sweden to the United States

don’t expect to see women in male-dominated fields. Often, they would at first rather turn to the (male) accompanying colleague, assuming he was the ambassador. The surprise of people surprised me. But then, we are all wired to expect patterns we have grown accustomed to. Anyway, I never considered this my problem, let alone a challenge. When I entered the Foreign Service in the early ’80s, I don’t think that anyone would have imagined that any woman would manage to become state secretary or be the highest-ranking civil servant in the ministry. But over time, it became less improbable. And I was lucky.

6 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | APRIL 2019

With Angela Merkel as chancellor, women are definitely present in politics in Germany. Looking at the current German government, six of 15 cabinet positions are filled by women.

Sweden

KARIN OLOFSDOTTER I feel I have been received as an equal among my Swedish male counterparts and appreciated for my knowledge, skills and other professional attributes, rather than for being a woman in a senior position in a globally maledominated environment. Gender parity doesn’t happen by itself, though. It

KIRSTI KAUPPI

ambassador of Finland to the United States

takes conscious action to change male-dominated working environments. The Swedish Foreign Service has worked to improve the gender balance at home and at embassies around the world for many years now. Today, women ambassadors comprise over 40 percent of our Foreign Service. It’s important to involve boys and men in the work for gender equality, as they are key agents for change. Stereotypical masculinity norms prevent men and boys from fulfilling their own potential. For example, children all over the world would benefit from having more engaged and active fathers. And I am fully convinced

that this would make men happier, too. I have found that as a woman, I stick out among all men and have been able to use that to lift important issues. Being the first Swedish woman ambassador to the U.S., it is a rather thankful job to represent my country from a gender point of view. Sweden is the first country in the world to implement a feminist foreign policy, as spearheaded by our Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström since 2014. Gender equality is central in all decision-making and resource allocation. The policy puts women’s rights, resources and representation front and center of our inter-

Actually in Finland, this field — diplomacy — is not maledominated. More than half of the professionals in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs are women. About half of the leadership positions in the MFA as well as ambassadorial posts of Finland are held by women. When I started, 35 years ago, this was not the case. We were in the minority. I am so happy to have witnessed this change. Today, I don’t think my work experience here in Washington, D.C. is very different from my male colleagues. Back home in Finland, women in leadership are not a rarity. At all levels, but perhaps even more in the top levels, you need to be true to yourself. And it is important to show collegiality. Here in Washington, D.C., we have, for instance, a wonderful group of woman ambassadors. We support each other and share experiences. In the international arena, women are still usually clearly underrepresented. Diversity is important; numbers matter. I believe politics and government are not so different from other fields when figuring out what can be done to have a better gender balance. It is about attitudes and awareness, but also about pol-


Special Repor t | WD icies. In Finland, we have long had policies that promote equality, including gender equality. Finnish women were the first in the world to have full political rights and actually exercise them, in 1907. Another important thing is to have systems in place that make it possible for women to pursue careers and have children at the same time. Access to affordable childcare is just one example. More generally, it is important that both parents share the responsibilities related to children.

African Union Mission ARIKANA CHIHOMBORI-QUAO To my surprise, the African ambassadors, most of whom are male, have embraced me more than I ever expected. It’s really been great working with them. They have all been perfect gentlemen to me. I am a medical doctor at heart. My first instinct is to be nurturing in any encoun-

ter with humanity. Having practiced medicine in the U.S. for 25 years prior to becoming a diplomat, I feel at times people don’t know how to read me, both in the U.S. and in Africa. Mine is an awkward situation at times. Some seem amused with the fact that a medical doctor is an ambassador. I feel, however, that being a doctor actually more than prepared me for diplomacy. I would never have thought so — not in my wildest dreams. Being a woman has never been an issue for me in my role as an ambassador. Those who might see me differently because I am a woman, that’s their problem. I will not own it for them. Gender parity is a priority for the AU [African Union]. Out of the eight commissioners at the AU, five are women. Ethiopia has a 50/50 cabinet. The Rwandese cabinet is over 50 percent women. The African heads of state are all striving to have similar numbers. The continent as a whole is acutely aware of the underrepresentation of the

majority of the population, who are women. We have a lot of work to do, but the awareness is there; so is the political will at the right level of governance.

St. Kitts and Nevis THELMA PHILLIP-BROWNE When I graduated as a medical doctor some 40 years ago, it was then a male-dominated field, so I have had the experience of realizing that it is all about believing that you can do the job and “blooming where you are planted.” It is this attitude that I took to my job as an ambassador. Moreover, as I approached the job, I did research and recognized that the meaning of “diplomat” is “the art of dealing with people in a sensitive and effective way,” and there are synonyms such as “tactfulness, sensitivity, discretion, subtlety, finesse, delicacy, savoir faire, politeness, thoughtfulness, care,

THELMA PHILLIP-BROWNE

ambassador of St. Kitts and Nevis to the United States

judiciousness, prudence.” I became convinced there is none who can do diplomacy better than women! I acknowledge that for

decades it was an uphill task for women in every field of endeavor. British society allowed female ambassadors in 1945 long after males,

but because of the marriage ban, women still could not head missions abroad until it was lifted in 1972. Despite this history — notwithstanding that there are still many places where there is no “equality under the law” and no “equality of access” — I believe women are ultimately the ones who would change that. In order to do that, however, probably the biggest barrier we face is belief in ourselves and belief in our own gender. When women begin to be confident that we can do as good, and sometimes better, a job because we tend to take broader perspectives and more caring approaches, when women support women who have that confidence and do not become naysayers, critics and detractors, then we will be able to occupy more positions of influence and instigate legal change where necessary. Women also ought to be prepared to push for better childcare, including at SEE WOM EN • PAGE 8

APRIL 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 7


WD | Special Repor t

Women CONTINUED • PAGE 7

job locations — especially as statistics show businesses benefit when childcare is provided — to get back into the workforce after child-raising, with the understanding that having raised children and managed homes, we are actually wiser when older and can contribute more. I often say we get better past our “best” or “sell-by” dates — a play on what is written on packages of supermarket produce, but no disrespect! The dynamics in St. Kitts and Nevis are not much different [from the rest of the world]. In the public sector, however, there is significant power in the hands of females in terms of heads of government departments, although not enough women are actually at the political helm, as reflected in parliamentary seats.

Moldova

CRISTINA BALAN I’ve worked only in male-dominated fields, from business to politics and

diplomacy. My academic background and professional skills made me successful in all the areas I have worked in. The only challenge I am facing right now is the pursuit of balance between my professional activity and family. I know that many women with similar experiences tend to isolate themselves, and I believe that an extensive conversation on this difficult balancing act is necessary. We need to drive more support and understanding of the choices faced by women. There is nothing more rewarding than being able to make a meaningful contribution to your country’s present and future. As a diplomat in Washington, D.C., I am charged with the difficult mission to maintain regional interests and challenges of my country, the Republic of Moldova, on the U.S.’s agenda. Back home, I used to be a hands-on politician, constantly involved in shaping the political strategy of the ruling party. My previous involvement in politics allowed me to realize that women need to speak up and that their involvement in all policy areas is crucial for driving inclusiveness. Now, I am the first woman ambassador of Moldova to the United States, and I truly enjoy all experiences I have had here in Washington, D.C. Based on my colleagues’ and interlocutors’

8 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | APRIL 2019

feedback, I represent my country well. This is all that matters to me. Finally, aside from handling diplomatic affairs and working toward strengthened relations between the United States and Moldova, setting a positive example for capable women and girls is also part of my mission. Five out of 12 members of the Moldovan cabinet are women, and about a quarter of the MPs [members of parliament] are women. Two of the four leading Moldovan political parties are chaired by women. The Moldovan political culture is changing for the better, and the recently amended electoral legislation is set to support women’s involvement in politics, providing a minimum 40 percent quota for women candidates on party lists. But there are still many grounds to act on. A respect-based political discourse should be at the core of the general effort to encourage the involvement of women in politics, together with the readiness of current women politicians and officials to attract and lift up other capable women who show genuine interest for this field. WD Aileen Torres-Bennett is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat. Anna Gawel (@diplomatnews) is the managing editor of The Washington Diplomat.

PHOTO: JESSICA KNOX PHOTOGRAPHY

CRISTINA BALAN

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WD | Middle East

The Forgotten Masses With Few Good Options, Syria’s Refugees Feel the Push-Pull Battle of Whether to Stay or Go Home BY JONATHAN GORVETT

A

fter eight years of a brutal and still unfinished conflict, around half of Syria’s population are currently living as displaced persons — making them one of the largest post-World War II refugee populations the globe has ever seen. The impact of their plight and flight has been widespread, too, evoking both generosity and hostility across continents. Yet, nowhere have these millions of refugees had a more dramatic effect on day-to-day life than in Syria’s immediate neighbours: Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq. Initially welcoming these exiles from war and repression, these four countries are now home to some 5.5 million refugees. Now, however, with economic conditions deteriorating and competition for work high, those displaced face growing pressure to go home, both from local and international actors. “Home,” though, may have been reduced to a pile of rubble, while fears of what might happen to those who go back are widespread. In this push-pull battle, the plight of the refugees is also being entangled in wider power games over the future reconstruction and reconstitution of Syria. “No one says so explicitly,” said Filippo Dionigi, an international relations lecturer at the University of Bristol in Britain who specialises in the Syrian refugee crisis, “but it seems the refugees have almost become a currency in deals over who pays for reconstructing Syria.”

ROCK AND A HARD PLACE

Since the outbreak of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2011, some 6.6 million Syrians have been displaced within the country’s borders, while 5.6 million more have become registered refugees outside the country. According to the latest U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) data, of the latter group, some 3.6 million are now in Turkey, while 946,291

PHOTO: UNICEF / ALESSIO ROMENZI

Fatima, 19, sits on a street in Beirut. The wife of a Syrian Army soldier, she arrived in Lebanon in 2013 from Jisr al-Shughour, where her house has been destroyed. Lebanon, already facing economic challenges, is buckling under the weight of the nearly 1 million Syrian refugees who have come to the country.

First, there was great sympathy and a feeling of solidarity with [Syrian refugees]. Then, however, after Russia intervened and the idea that [Bashar al-] Assad was about to fall disappeared, regional countries realized the refugees wouldn’t be going back any time soon. The perception then grew of the refugees being a social and economic burden.

FILIPPO DIONIGI, lecturer of politics and international relations at the University of Bristol

are in Lebanon, 671,551 in Jordan and 253,085 in Iraq. Less well reported, too, are some 133,028 in Egypt. Conditions for these people vary widely, as do their levels of income and ability to access local support networks. In Iraq, for example, many of those who have fled are Syrian Kurds who went to the Iraqi Kurdish region. While still undergoing great hardship, their move has at least placed them among sympathetic locals. Many have also been able to gain Iraqi Kurdish identity cards, giving them the right to stay and work. In Turkey, too, conditions have been hard, but the coun-

10 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | APRIL 2019

try’s more developed economy and political stability, along with aid from Europe and elsewhere, have helped the giant refugee population. In addition, a potential customs deal between Turkey and Europe to cover not only manufactured goods but also agricultural products could open up new opportunities for refugees to join the workforce. In Lebanon, however, conditions have generally been much tougher, while Jordan remains somewhere in-between. UNHCR estimates that around 70 percent of Syrian refugees in Lebanon live below the poverty line. “Here at Shatila, conditions

are very difficult,” said Yasmin Kayali, chief communications officer for the Lebanese-based charity Basmeh & Zeitooneh, which runs programs at the camp, just outside Beirut. Site of the infamous 1982 massacre between Palestinians and right-wing Christians, Shatila was founded in 1948 to house 3,000 Palestinian refugees. “By 2011, before the conflict in Syria started, there were 20,000 people here,” Kayali explained. “Now, with the influx of Syrian refugees since then, there are 43,000 people here — and all still living in the same, one square-kilometer site.” The camp, along with others in the Bekaa Valley and else-

where in Lebanon, lacks basic facilities such as fresh, clean water and safe electricity supplies. In addition, “The U.S. withdrawing its funding for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency [UNRWA] has had a huge impact,” said Kayali. UNRWA had been one of the main supporters of the local economy, with the agency now having to make cuts as U.S. funds are withdrawn. “Garbage collection was the first thing to go,” Kayali said, “so now there’s no sanitary support and hygiene is suffering. Destitution has undoubtedly accelerated for many families.” Syrian refugees have also


often found themselves facing extortionate rents from Palestinian landlords who were themselves once refugees. “In Shatila, they can be charged $200 to $250 a month for a small room, $1,000 for an apartment,” Kayali noted.

FIGHTING FOR WORK

Meanwhile, jobs have become much scarcer for Syrian refugees due to a combination of government regulation and overall economic decline. “Several economic sectors have suffered during the Syrian conflict, including trade, tourism and reconstruction,” said Armenak Tokmajyan, the International Crisis Group’s Syria fellow. “The remittances from Lebanese workers overseas, especially in the Arabian Gulf, have also decreased.” Indeed, the economic slowdown in the Gulf, resulting mostly from low oil prices, has meant many layoffs, slashing remittances and sending unemployed Lebanese — and Jordanians —home. At the same time, “Lebanon used to export via Syria to Jordan and then on to the Gulf,” Tokmajyan said. “The closure of the SyrianJordanian border between April 2015 and October 2018 harmed Lebanese trade. The same applies to Jordan, only the other way round — Jordan used to export via Syria to Lebanon and then on to Europe.” The Lebanese authorities have also introduced laws requiring residence and work permits for Syrian refugees to get jobs. This has driven many into the shadow economy, further exposing them to exploitation. “Before 2015,” according to Tokmajyan, “UNHCR statistics show that all eligible family members of 58 percent of refugee households had residence permits. After the new laws were introduced, by 2018 that figure had fallen to 18 percent.” Despite the difficulties of obtaining work permits in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey — and the limitations each country places on the fields in which Syrian can work — many businesses continue to hire Syrians, but mostly for low-wage, low-skill jobs. A recent study by California-based Rand Corporation found that “Syrians in all three countries were finding ways to get by. Most men were working, as were many women between the ages of 18 and 55, but not in the occupations in which they had education, training, and experience,” according to the report. The report called this “a lost opportunity both for the Syrians and their host countries” because “firms in these countries often struggle to fill semi-skilled and highly skilled positions, especially in second-tier cities.” The report recommends vocational training and job-matching programs. That includes moving refugees away from overburdened capital cities, where most are currently concentrated, to secondary cities or special industrial zones that offer more employment opportunities. But such advice is likely to fall on deaf ears in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, which were already struggling economically in the wake of the 2008 global recession. The refugee influx, regional instability and drop in oil prices have exacerbated their economic woes; even onceprosperous Turkey went into recession in the last quarter of 2018. These economic pressures have added to political forces pushing for the refugees to return home. “There have really been two phases in the region’s attitude toward the refugees,” said Dionigi. “First, there was great sympathy and a feeling of solidarity with them. Then, however, after Russia intervened and the idea that Assad was about to fall disappeared, regional countries realized the refugees wouldn’t be going back any time soon. The perception then grew of the refugees being a social and economic burden.”

Initiatives such as granting access to EU markets for Jordanian goods that are produced with a percentage of Syrian labour have had some results. Jordan has also allowed work permits for Syrians in certain economic sectors. Yet there is also suspicion that the real motive behind Western efforts to ensure the longterm settlement of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries is to avoid the prospect of another wave of Syrian refugees heading to Europe, as they did in 2015. “These initiatives to make local work more sustainable also mean taking some of the pressure off Europe’s borders,” said Dionigi. The Syrian refugees can, of course, be a major asset for their host countries, with a wide skill set represented among them. Yet in Lebanon, more than elsewhere, but also in Jordan, Iraq and Turkey, overall economic growth is vital if Syrian refugees are to find both short- and long-term safety and stability. “Somead people really go backin as it means and NOTE: Although every effort is made to assure your is free ofcan’t mistakes spelling detention,”to said Tokmajyan. “Their situation is content it is ultimately up to the customer make the final proof. really critical and in the future, they will be to exploitation. More and PHOTO: UNICEF / ALED JENKINS The first two faxed changes will be made at nomore costvulnerable to the advertiser, subsequent changes more people will join this group, too, if the On July 6, 2018, in Jordan, 2-year-old Ahmad fromwill Deraa in Syria receives a drink of water from be billed at a rate of $75 per faxed alteration. Signed ads are considered approved. Lebanese economy continues to decline.” a UNICEF humanitarian affairs officer outside a U.N.-supported health clinic at the Jaber Nasib Meanwhile, in the densely packed refugee crossing point in Jordan. “We have nothing. We have no water,” said his father. Please check this ad carefully. slums Mark of anyShatila changes to the your ad. flooded and in recently In Lebanon in particular, elements within economy with help from the West — a desire camps of the Bekaa Valley, “it is very difficult to If the ad correct sign thwarted and fax by to:U.S. (301) 949-0065 needssaid. changes keep going,” Kayali “When you look at the thatishas so far been and Euthe government and some local municipalities have thus been keen to explore ways to encour- ropean insistence that reconstruction can only Palestinians here, first they thought they were begin once aDiplomat U.N.-backed settlement has933-3552 been going back, then they just wanted some rights age refugees to return. The Washington (301) agreed to. Such a settlement would likely in- — so the bar keeps being set lower and lower, clude political and constitutional changes to and this feels like it’s happening to the Syrians Approved __________________________________________________________ FRACTURED STATES Syria rejected by Assad. now, too.” WD ___________________________________________________________ In the meantime, Western governments Yet, in a sign of the fragmented nature ofChanges the have been trying to support efforts to enable Jonathan Gorvett (jpgorvett.com) is a Lebanese state, that debate has pitted members ___________________________________________________________________ of the newly formed coalition government refugees in neighbouring countries to support freelance writer and journalist specializing in Near and Middle Eastern affairs. against each other. Saleh al-Gharib, the refu- themselves. gees minister who is a pro-Assad Druze representative, is keen to have Syrian refugees return, while the prime minister, Saad Hariri, has warned of the Syrian regime’s desire to “take Specialists in Reproductive Health Care revenge” on them. UNHCR figures show that some 165,000 Dedicated to providing reproductive services and infertility health care refugees have returned to Syria so far, with with pleasant surroundings in a state-of-the-art facility. concerns over safety a major reason why there have not been more. Indeed, “a multidimensional sense of insecurity — including violence, prosecution and social tensions — is the primary concern among refugees regarding potential future returns,” said World Bank senior economist Harun Onder, who recently led a study looking at Syrian refugees’ mobility. Other factors affecting the decision to return include housing, availability of work, services and legal issues over title and land rights. “While Syrians of all walks of life want to go back, there are many obstacles to their return,” Kayali said. “Some face returning to a place where their home is destroyed, there is no school, no facilities, no infrastructure. Others are scared of being kidnapped or conscripted into the army. A huge number of the refugees are women and children who have no one to depend on, while if you exit Lebanon or Jordan and it doesn’t work out, you can’t get back in, as the borders are closed. As a result, we are even seeing smugglers working again, bringing people back in who have already fled once.”

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INTERNATIONAL EFFORTS

Mid-March saw the latest in a string of international initiatives on Syria, with the Brussels III conference seeking a permanent solution to the Syrian crisis, while also mobilizing more humanitarian assistance for refugees. “For Europe in particular,” said Dionigi, “there has been some thinking that if the regime — and Russia — make Syria safe and the refugees return, then the West will help finance the rebuilding with grants and soft loans.” This would address the desire of Russia in particular to start rebuilding the shattered

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WD | Africa

African Staying Power Continent’s Longest-Serving Leaders Stay Put While Lining Their Pockets BY KARIN ZEITVOGEL

I

n 2005, Sudanese-British entrepreneur Mohammed “Mo” Ibrahim sold the mobile phone company, Celtel, that he’d built from scratch into a business with 24 million subscribers in 14 African countries — nearly a third of the continent. With part of the $3.4 billion he netted from the sale, Ibrahim set up a foundation that bears his name. The aim of the foundation is to encourage better governance in Africa. Two years later, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation awarded the first Ibrahim prize for achievement in African leadership to Mozambique’s former head of state, Joaquim Alberto Chissano. Elected in 1994 when Mozambique held its first multi-party elections after a brutal 15-year civil war, and re-elected in 1999, Chissano was selected for the prize, which has purse of $5 million over 10 years, $200,000 annually for life after that, and up to $200,000 a year for 10 years for public interest activities and good causes. The panel that selected him also praised him for not seeking a third term in office in 2004, even though he could have under Mozambique’s constitution. The following year, Festus Mogae of Botswana won the Ibrahim prize “for his role in maintaining and consolidating Botswana’s stability and prosperity in the face of an HIV/AIDS pandemic which threatened the future of his country and people.” But for more than half of its existence, the Ibrahim prize has not had a winner. No one was awarded the prize in 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016 or 2018. In an interview with Forbes magazine in 2014, Ibrahim said he was disappointed by how few African leaders are worthy of the prize. “It goes to show that governance and leadership in Africa is miles away from where we want it to be. It’s a work in progress,” he said.

SLIM PICKINGS

One reason the pickings are slim for the Ibrahim award is that laureates have to be former heads of state, but leaving office at the end of their terms is something many African leaders seem to have a hard time doing. By way of illustration: If you were to add together the years that Africa’s five longest incumbent leaders have been in power, and subtract them from this year, you’d be taken back to 1842, or 1835 if you count the seven years Cameroon’s Paul Biya served as prime minister before becoming president. That’s at least a generation before America’s Civil War. In total, the top 10 longestserving leaders in Africa have held power for over 300 years.

12 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | APRIL 2019

PHOTO: UNICEF / VINCENT TREMEAU

A former child soldier in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 15, recalled seeing his mother beheaded, “and because of the rage I felt, I decided to join the movement” in 2016 against pro-government forces. Despite its vast natural riches, the DRC is overrun with poverty and violence, although its political leaders are rarely short on cash.

Africa remains poor because the elites go into government not to serve but to fleece the people. GEORGE AYITTEY

founder and president of the Free Africa Foundation

African leaders also disqualify themselves from the Ibrahim prize on other counts. They have to have left office in the three years preceding their nomination for the prize, have been democratically elected, served their constitutionally mandated term and have demonstrated exceptional leadership. The longest-serving president in Africa, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, has been in power in Equatorial Guinea for nearly 40 years. He’s disqualified because he came to power through a coup in 1979, is still in power, and the many elections that have returned him to power have been regarded by observers and opponents as fraudulent and undemocratic. The third longest-serving African leader, Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo, has been president of the smaller of the two Congos since 1997 but was also president from 1979 to 1992. The government formally abandoned its one-party system in 1990 and held multiparty elections in 1992. Sassou Nguesso placed third while Pas-

cal Lissouba was democratically elected as president. Sassou Nguesso served as an opposition leader until he returned to power in 1997, during Congo’s second civil war, when forces loyal to him ousted Lissouba. Sassou Nguesso went on to win a largely uncontested presidential election in 2002 and was re-elected in 2009 to what, under Congo’s constitution, should have been his last term in office. But, as many African presidents have done, he changed the constitution to allow himself to run again by eliminating term limits. Sassou Nguesso officially garnered more than 60 percent of the vote in the 2016 election, which sadly, like many elections in Africa, was dismissed as fraudulent by observers and opposition figures. Likewise, in Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni, who’s been in office since 1986 and once even blamed Africa’s ills on leaders “who overstay in power,” changed the constitution to eliminate age caps, effectively allowing him to remain president for life.

Even Rwandan President Paul Kagame, once hailed as the poster-child of reform and good governance by the West, amended the country’s constitution to stand for re-election. Kagame, who first came to power in 2000, could now potentially remain in office until 2034. There is little doubt, however, that Kagame, who has been transformative in helping Rwanda recover from the 1994 genocide that tore the country apart, enjoys legitimate popular support at home. And despite allegations that he’s stifled political dissent, Kagame insists that the majority of Rwandans agree that the country needs a strong, steady hand to ensure continued progress and security. Likewise, Serge Mombouli, ambassador of the Republic of Congo, says stability and development take precedence over democracy for many Africans. Speaking at The Washington Diplomat’s Ambassador Insider Series discussion on Feb. 28, Mombouli lamented that Western media often paints Africa in a negative light while ignoring the significant strides the continent has made — particularly in the face of tremendous historical injustices. “Nobody talks about colonization, nobody talks about slavery, which are the pasts of Congo and are the pasts of Africa,” he said. He also argued that the West places a microscope on African leaders while


overlooking other leaders around the world who have been in power for long stretches of time, such as Lee Kuan Yew, a key U.S. ally who governed Singapore for three decades. “They single out Africa too much,” he said. Above all, Mombouli — who himself is one of the longest-serving ambassadors in Washington — says democracy is not a priority for many Africans in the face of daily struggles. What Africa’s people need from the U.S. is investment, not criticism, he insisted. “They need food, they need doctors so that they survive, they need water they can drink. All of that costs money.” Yet some experts say the argument that economic development should come before democracy doesn’t hold water. “In the past 10 years it has become fashionable to argue that democracy is not good for development in Africa,” wrote Nic Cheeseman in a Feb. 22 article for Mail & Guardian. “But this is wrong. Instead, nine times out of 10, authoritarianism is bad for development and the quality of governance,” he said, citing a report by the Bertelsmann Transformation Index. And while African nations certainly aren’t the only ones with rulers who’ve overstayed their welcome, the continent is home to a disproportionate number of these so-called leaders for life — roughly half of the top 20 longest-serving leaders in the world are, in fact, from Africa.

UNEVEN CHANGE

Change does occur, but sometimes only because even the longest-serving leader can’t escape one inevitable reality: their own mortality. That was the case with Gabon’s Omar Bongo, who died in office after nearly 42 years in power, and Togo’s Gnassingbé Eyadéma, who died after nearly 38 years in power, with his son taking the reins after his demise. Other times, change does come voluntarily, albeit gradually. Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos stepped down after 38 years in office. He was succeeded by João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, who has since made strides in tackling the country’s entrenched corruption. Other departures are decidedly involuntary. Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe clung to power for 37 years, but even his own party elite became fed up with the aging ruler and ousted him in 2017. While Mugabe went peacefully, others did not. The Arab Spring uprisings in 2011 saw

PHOTO: U.S. NAVY PHOTO BY MASS COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST 2ND CLASS JESSE B. AWALT

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir listens to a speech during the 20th session of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Jan. 31, 2009. Bashir, who has faced mounting protests recently calling for his ouster, has been in power for 30 years.

longtime Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi killed and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak imprisoned. Mubarak has since been released and the hopeful fervor of the Arab Spring has largely been stamped out. But frustration with Africa’s entrenched elites continues to simmer and occasionally explodes into the open. Following a wave of protests across Algeria, the country’s enfeebled, wheelchair-bound president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, reversed course and decided not to run for a fifth term. Bouteflika, 82, has been in power for 20 years but has rarely been seen in public since he suffered a stroke in 2013. Under intense pressure, he postponed elections that were set for April, but it remains to be seen how long Bouteflika will stay in office until new elections are called and whether the ruling elite will allow a free and fair poll. Meanwhile, in Sudan, demonstrations that began to protest a hike in the price of bread have morphed into a nationwide movement to oust President Omar al-Bashir, who has ruled the impoverished nation with an iron grip for 30 years. So far, though, Bashir has

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refused to back down in the face of the protests, declaring a state of emergency and jailing hundreds of demonstrators. Likewise, clashes erupted in Burundi when President Pierre Nkurunziza flouted the constitution to run for a third term in 2015. His move triggered deadly unrest in the already violence-weary nation and sent a surge of Burundians fleeing to neighboring countries. In

2018, Burundians voted in a referendum to increase the presidential term from five to seven years, but limit presidents to two consecutive terms — unless their name is Pierre Nkurunziza. The incumbent, who’s been in office for 14 years, is allowed by the constitutional amendments to run twice again, even though he’s currently in his third term. Nkurunziza has vowed, however, that he will step down in 2020, much to the chagrin of his skeptics. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), President Joseph Kabila, who took over the vast, troubled country after his father, Laurent-Désiré Kabila, was assassinated in January 2001, first delayed elections that were supposed to be held in December 2016. Then, according to numerous sources, he skewed the results once the vote was finally held in December last year. The surprise winner, opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi, was sworn in as the DRC’s new president in late January despite numerous indications that another opposition candidate, Martin Fayulu, won the race. Speculation has since been rife that Kabila struck a backroom deal with Tshisekedi to rig the election as a way of preserving his influence. Now a senator for life, Kabila has not ruled out running for president again in 2023. “U.S. Ambassador Michael Hammer heralded the moment as the ‘first-ever peaceful, democratic transfer of power’ in the country,” wrote Michelle Gavin, a former U.S. ambassador to Botswana and current senior fellow for African studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. “It may have been peaceful, but it was democratic only in the way that a movie set’s facades are actual buildings. They look right at SEE AF R ICA • PAGE 14

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PHOTO: UN / CIA PAK

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe addresses the U.N. General Assembly in New York in September 2017. Two months later, Mugabe, now 95, was forced to resign by members of his own party after 40 years in power.

APRIL 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 13


Annabelle, 17, a former rebel militia soldier, is seen veiled and photographed on Oct. 23, 2018, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In 2016, Congolese security forces clashed with anti-government militias, forcing more than 2.1 million people to leave their homes and an estimated 12.8 million people to be at risk for severe malnutrition.

PHOTO: BY NUKTA77 - EAST AFRICAN COMMUNITY HEAD OF STATESUPLOADED BY BANYANTREE, CC BY-SA 2.0

PHOTO: UNICEF / VINCENT TREMEAU

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, widely credited for stabilizing the country after the 1994 genocide, center, sits with four other leaders from the East African Community in April 2009. From left are Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi. A decade later, Kagame, Museveni and Nkurunziza all remain in office.

Africa

SIDEBAR

CONTINUED • PAGE 13

Top 10

a glance, but once you peer inside, there is nothing there.”

AFRICA’S TOP 10 LONGEST-SERVING LEADERS

WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE?

Why the allure to stay in an African presidential palace once they’re in? Because, explains George Ayittey, an economist in residence at American University and founder and president of the Washington-based Free Africa Foundation, many African leaders see government as a vehicle “not to serve, but to fleece the people.” Once in power, they quickly understand “that they could use the enormous power vested in the state to amass private wealth, punish their rivals, and perpetuate themselves in office,” Ayittey wrote in his book, “Applied Economics for Africa.” In many African countries, government has been “hijacked by a phalanx of unrepentant bandits and vagabonds in Ray-Ban goggles, who used the machinery of the state to enrich themselves, their cronies and their tribesmen,” Ayittey said in a TED talk. “The richest people in Africa are heads of state and ministers. Where did they get their money? By creating wealth? No. By raking it off the backs of their suffering people.” It’s difficult to calculate accurately how much wealth African leaders had before coming to power and after they left, because of the way they came about their wealth — through corruption and stealth, said Ayit-

Equatorial Guinea Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (1979-present) TOTAL: 40 YEARS

Cameroon Paul Biya (1982-present) TOTAL: 37 YEARS PHOTO: UN / ESKINDER DEBEBE

Congo

Above, Paul Biya, president of Cameroon, right, talks with then-U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the Presidential Palace in Yaoundé on Jan. 31, 2005. Below, Denis Sassou Nguesso, president of the Republic of Congo, talks with then-Secretary of State John Kerry at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C., in 2014.

Denis Sassou Nguesso (1979-92; 1997-present)

tey. But amass it, they did. Mobutu Sese Seko, the despotic, eccentric leader who ruled Zaire (the name he gave the Democratic Republic of Congo) from 1965 to 1997, illicitly raked in between $1 billion and $5 billion for himself and his family. Gross domestic product (GDP) per capita was just over $200 in Zaire in 1985. By 1997, when Mobutu was chased from power and out of Zaire by Laurent-Désiré Kabila (Joseph’s father), per-capita GDP had fallen to around $139, according to the World Bank. Cameroonian President Paul Biya is estimated to be worth some $200 million. Much of his wealth is in European real estate, according to Quebec-based website TheRichest.com. In contrast, per-capita GDP in Cameroon in 2017 was $1,450 and, as of 2001, around a third of the country lived in poverty, according to the CIA World Factbook.

Yoweri Museveni (1986-present)

14 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | APRIL 2019

TOTAL: 35 YEARS

Uganda TOTAL: 33 YEARS

Swaziland (renamed Eswatini) King Mswati III (1986-present) TOTAL: 33 YEARS

Sudan Omar al-Bashir (1989-present) TOTAL: 30 YEARS

Chad Idriss Déby (1990-present) TOTAL: 29 YEARS

Eritrea PHOTO: STATE DEPARTMENT

Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of the Congo is believed to be worth between $200 million and $400 million. The president’s lavish spending was on full display during the 2006 U.N. General Assembly, where he and his entourage racked up a $400,000 hotel bill for a five-

night stay. In 2008, France launched an investigation into property acquisitions by Sassou Nguesso and his family. The French probe also targeted President Obiang of Equatorial Guinea and Bongo, Gabon’s then-president and the father of current President Ali Bongo.

Isaias Afwerki (1993-present) TOTAL: 27 YEARS

Algeria Abdelaziz Bouteflika (1999-present) TOTAL: 20 YEARS

Djibouti Ismaïl Omar Guelleh (1999-present) TOTAL: 20 YEARS


deputy ministers received The wealth amassed by about $138,000, according Obiang during his long reign to AfricaCheck.org. By comin the tiny, oil-rich central parison, a member of the U.S. African nation has been estiCongress made $174,000 in mated by Forbes magazine to be around $600 million. His 2017. son, Teodorin, was sentenced in absentia by a French court POLITICAL PERKS in 2017 to three years in prison. He was also given a susIn addition to African popended fine of €30 million for liticos’ and bureaucrats’ base embezzlement, money launsalaries, they get numerous dering, corruption and abuse perks. In South Africa, these of trust, and he had his €107 are outlined in a document million mansion near the called the Ministerial HandChamps-Elysées confiscated. book, which is supposed to be “Obiang, who was appointsecret, but which journalists CREDIT: OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE PHOTO BY LAWRENCE JACKSON PHOTO: BY MINISTRY OF THE PRESIDENCY. GOVERNMENT OF SPAIN, WIKIMEDIA COMMONS ed a vice-president by his fagot their hands on and pubther, was accused of spending Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, president of Equatorial Guinea, is seen at left meeting with Spanish politician Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo lished several years ago. In in May 1982 and at right, with President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, along with his wife Constancia Mangue de Obiang, at a more than 1,000 times his of- reception in New York City in 2009. Obiang is now Africa’s longest-serving leader, ruling over his oil-rich state for 40 years. 2007, the handbook showed ficial annual salary on the sixthat ministers got 25 percent story mansion in one of Paris’s newspaper, “In 2000, when cronies, relatives and party It also had a redundancy of Pence. But the big difference of their salary to put toward most exclusive postal codes, Obiang began building up hacks in a multiplicity of ministries: a ministry of avia- between the U.S. and other the purchase, maintenance as well as a fleet of fast cars his car collection, Equato- parallel institutions and min- tion, ministry of roads and wealthy nations, and many of and insurance of a private and artwork, among other rial Guinea was on paper the istries with overlapping func- highways, ministry of roads the low- and middle-income vehicle — whether or not assets,” Angelique Chrisafis wealthiest African country tions,” Ayittey told The Wash- and transport, ministry of countries in Africa (and Asia they bought a car. They were of The Guardian newspaper per inhabitant, yet a majority ington Diplomat by email. ports and railways — all of and South America) is not entitled to buy two other ofwrote. “The house was deco- of its people lived below the They’re royally paid and have which could have been incor- how many government offi- ficial cars valued at no more rated with more than €40m U.N. poverty line.” perks that would make many porated into a single ministry cials there are but how much than 70 percent of their salary Western government workers of transport, which also ex- they’re paid. [million] worth of furniture, for use in Pretoria and Cape seriously consider moving to isted, said Ayittey. including a €1.6m Louis XV LIKE FATHER, In many African countries, Town; and could maintain Africa. And there’s a reason desk, a Rodin sculpture and In each ministry, there are even officials who are not two houses. for that: It keeps them loyal to principal secretaries, deputy given free rein to buy sumpa dozen Fabergé eggs. Obiang LIKE SON South Africa’s cabinet was NOTE: every effort is made to assure your the ad president. is free of mistakes in spelling and contentassistant it is ultimately up to theincustomer make thebyfinal proof. owned two Although Bugatti Veyrons, tuous mansions Paris are to expanded principal secretaries, Obiang and Sassou Nguesformer PresiMany African countries deputy principal secretaries paid handsomely and enjoy dent Jacob Zuma (estimated the most expensive and fastest so aren’t the only African The firststreet two car faxed changes will be made at no cost to the advertiser, subsequent changes will be billed at a rate of $75 per faxed alteration. Signed ads are considered approved. in the world, costing leaders who have showered also have top-heavy bureau- and so on. Then, there are enviable perks. In South Afri- net worth of $20 million) cracies. Take where Mark about €1m a piece and capable their sons and other close relca, one of the more transpar- when he took office in 2009. governors, Please check thisGhana, ad carefully. any regional changesministers to your ad. of reaching 250 mph — part atives with riches. Gaddafi did Ayittey originally hails from. and their deputies, senators ent countries in Africa, the That expansion continued fleet thatand filledfaxtheto: (301) it in Libya. Mubarak in Egypt. The West African country and members of parliament. president was paid roughly during Zuma’s second term. If the adofisluxury correct sign 949-0065 needs changes garages around the cobbled Eyadéma in Togo. Bongo in had 110 cabinet and regional The U.S., by comparison, $198,000 a year in 2017, cabi“We are very concerned The Washington (301) 933-3552 Approved __________________________________________________ courtyard Diplomat of his mansion.” ministers, along with depu- has 20 cabinet officials, in- net members received an anGabon. In fact, the public secAnd yet, wrote the British tor in Africa “is packed with ties to the ministers, in 2017. cluding Vice President Mike nual salary of $168,000 and SEE AF R ICA • PAGE 16 Changes ______________________________________________________________________________________________________

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given help to buy their loyalty. Many countries’ elites, including top government officials, are essentially in the pocket of the president, said Ayittey. In many cases, the perception of these officials and anyone else who gets a government salary is that if the president were to go, so would their luxury lifestyle. “Government officials and bureaucrats get excellent perks. That is why they remain so loyal to the incumbent,” said Ayittey. In many countries, those perks extend to the head of the electoral commission, who can then be persuaded to swing an election in favor of the guy who’s giving him those perks, i.e. the president. “The electoral commissioner in the DRC gets some nice perks,” so when Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, the candidate handpicked by Kabila to succeed him in office, made a poor showing in the December 2018 elections, “the election was swung in favor of Felix Tshisekedi instead of Martin Fayulu, who had vowed to chase and prosecute the corrupt,” noted Ayittey. Buying off supporters trickles down through the ranks and isn’t a uniquely African phenomenon. In crisisridden Venezuela, where food

largest oil producer, to import refined fuels. Citing a political scientist who asked not to be named, Rupert wrote that “in CONTINUED • PAGE 15 Nigeria, corruption isn’t part of government, it’s the object of government.” Africans have been seekabout the size of our cabinet, ing the solution to their prewhich is among the biggest dicament since independence in the world,” Kaizer Nyatfrom colonial rule in the 1960s, sumba, CEO of the Steel and but few countries have found Engineering Industries Fedit. The West, including the eration of Southern Africa, U.S., hasn’t helped to remedy said in a statement. “A develthe problem. The U.S. propped oping country like ours, with up Mobutu in Zaire because a small tax base and whose the strongman was staunchly economy has been seriously anti-communist during the under-performing, cannot Cold War. For years, Ameriafford such a bloated cabinet.” can lawmakers applied the Zuma stepped down in motto that “he may be a son 2018 after being dogged for of a bitch, but he’s our son of and years by allegations of corNOTE: AlthoughPHOTO: every effort is made to assure your ad is free of mistakes in spelling BY SIMISA (TALK CONTRIBS) - OWN WORK SIMISA (TALK CONTRIBS), CC BY-SA 3.0 a bitch” to a string of long-selfruption and crimes, including content it is ultimately up to the customer to make the final proof. The busy streets of Kampala, Uganda’s capital, teem with people. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, serving dictators including rape. Reports in South Africa who’s been in office since 1986, changed the constitution to eliminate age caps, effectively allowing him Ferdinand Marcos of the Philsay that he, like his predecesto remain president for life. The first two faxed changes will be made at no cost to the ippines, advertiser, subsequent Nicaragua’s Anastasiochanges sors, will continue to receive a will be billed at a rate of $75 per faxed alteration. Signed ads are considered approved. Somoza DeBayle, Cuba’s Fuland medicines are scarce, ela or Zimbabwe — are reluc- often millionaires by the time very comfortable salary until inflation is untethered, the tant to abandon the ruling they leave. During his nearly gencio Batista, Chile’s Augusto the day he dies. When Cyril Pinochet,toSouth check ad carefully. Mark Gen. any changes yourKorea’s ad. Syngreign, Nigerian for fear of being thisfive-year once-buoyant economy is in government Please Ramaphosa took office in man Rhee, China’s Chiang Sani Abacha, for example, prosecuted for their crimes freefall and a seething politi2018, he announced that he Kai-shek, Indonesia’s Suharto web of corruption needs under a new government. cal crisis is unfolding, most would downsize government If the ad is correct sign and fax to:oversaw (301) “a 949-0065 changes that Nigerians and oil indus- and Iran’s Mohammad Reza of the military is still on the to make it more efficient. try sources say plundered Pahlavi, among many others. side of embattled President LUCRATIVE He has yet to make good on The Washington Diplomat (301) 933-3552 Also no help to countries billions of dollars from the Nicolás Maduro. They, like that promise, but just saying BUSINESS country,” wrote James Rupert trying to oust corrupt leadmany soldiers in Africa, are it makes Ramaphosa a rare Approved __________________________________________________________ “bought with fat paychecks, ” Longtime African lead- in The Washington Post on ers is the fact that the U.S. and bird among African leaders said Ayittey. ers are also reluctant to leave the day in June 1998 when other wealthy nations curbecause, as Nyatsumba said, Changes ___________________________________________________________ rently have leaders who themMoreover, soldiers who because “occupying the presi- Abacha died. “Cabinet appointments offer ___________________________________________________________________ “While he ruled Nigeria selves are hardly paragons of have perpetuated human dency is a lucrative business,” the president an opportunity rights abuses on behalf of their said Ayittey. “State controls al- from a fortified presidential virtue (also see “So Much to reward his supporters.” bosses — whether in Venezu- low African leaders to extract villa in Nigeria’s capital … he for the Swamp” in the March And the rewards they’re resources which are used to and a circle of aides and busi- 2019 issue of The Washingbuild personal fortunes and ness partners tapped virtually ton Diplomat). But countries dispensed as patronage to buy every stage of the oil business, like the U.S. still have checks political support.” Few, if any, Nigeria’s most important in- and balances to deal with selfleaders in Africa come from a dustry and the source of 80 enriching leaders while most business background. “None percent of its government African countries do not. “The presidency in African of them made their wealth in revenue,” Rupert wrote. “They the private sector, creating or took kickbacks from foreign countries is lucrative so there producing something,” Ayittey companies for licenses to is intense competition to capcharged. “So they cannot teach search for oil in the basin and ture it — competition which the youth anything about delta of the Niger River and often degenerates into civil wealth creation. By contrast,* offshore. They got bribes from war,” Ayittey said. “In many cases, reform is the richest person in the U.S. construction firms that won "Essential and entertaining reading." is Jeff Bezos, who has Amazon. contracts to build drilling rigs synonymous with political —Betty K. Koed, Historian suicide,” he added. “Africa com to show for his wealth.” and pipelines.” By siphoning off money remains poor because the Even Donald Trump made his RISING STAR, SETTING SUN: intended to allow Nigerian elites go into government money as a businessman. In contrast, many long- state-owned refineries to not to serve but to fleece the Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and the serving African leaders have turn crude oil into export- people.” WD Presidential Transition that Changed America military backgrounds and able, revenue-producing fuel, although they come into the the Abacha regime created a Karin Zeitvogel (@Zeitvogel) Rising Star, Setting Sun is a riveting new hispresidency with modest sums domestic gasoline shortage is a contributing writer for tory that explores the complicated, poignant, in their bank accounts, they’re that forced Nigeria, Africa’s The Washington Diplomat.

Africa

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and consequential transition of power from Dwight D. Eisenhower to John F. Kennedy.

The exchange of leadership between the thirty-fourth and thirty-fifth presidents of the United States marked more than a succession of leaders. It symbolized—and triggered—a generational shift in American politics, policy, and culture. Drawing extensively from primary sources, including memoirs and memos of the time, Rising Star, Setting Sun paints a vivid picture of what Time called a "turning point in the twentieth century." "The presidential transition from Eisenhower to Kennedy starkly contrasted the parties, temperaments, and generations of the two leaders, yet the transfer of power proceeded amicably in the national interest. John Shaw's Rising Star, Setting Sun slips behind the veil of civility to take the measure of both men and assess their personal antagonisms." —Donald A. Ritchie, Historian Emeritus of the United States Senate and author of Electing FDR: The New Deal Campaign of 1932 Pegasus Books, hardcover, May 2018, ISBN: 9781681777320

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Cover Profile | WD

Moldova in the Middle Former Soviet Republic’s Fragile Democracy Tested by Geopolitics Abroad, Corruption at Home BY LARRY LUXNER

I

t’s been just over a month since Moldova’s long-awaited Feb. 24 parliamentary elections, but enormous billboards promoting the country’s four leading political parties still seem to dwarf every major intersection in Chișinău. The irony is that — given the inconclusive results — little may actually change in Moldova, one of Europe’s poorest and most obscure countries. According to official results, President Igor Dodon’s pro-Russia Socialists won 35 out of 101 seats, while Vladimir Plahotniuc’s ruling pro-Western Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM) got 30 seats, followed by the anti-corruption ACUM coalition with 26, and the Șor party led by Israeli-born businessman Ilan Șor, with seven. Moldovan politicians are now jockeying to form coalitions even as the Maryland-size country’s relations with the 28-member European Union take a turn for the worse. Cristina Balan, Moldova’s ambassador to the United States, said her country’s Central Electoral Commission accredited a record 667 foreign observers, 17 diplomatic missions and 10 local and foreign NGOs to monitor the election, as well as 2,353 Moldovan observers, and another 81 for national elections organized abroad. “What’s important for us is that the elections went relatively well,” she said. “It’s never perfect, but the results were recognized by all the main international partners. The OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] report states that Moldova’s elections were competitive and that fundamental rights were generally respected.” Observers were less impressed with the vote, which saw a turnout of only 49 percent and was marred by reports of widespread irregularities, intimidation and vote-buying. There were even bizarre reports of opposition leaders claiming the ruling Democratic Party was poisoning them with mercury, charges that the PDM dismissed as ridiculous. Yet, for all the fighting among Moldova’s elite, in the short term at least, living conditions are not likely to improve for Moldova’s 3.5 million people. “The growing perception in the United States and the European Union is that Moldova’s ruling elite is neither pro-West nor pro-Russia, but rather non-ideological and self-interested,” Jonathan D. Katz and Stela Leuca wrote in a March 13 article for the German Marshall Fund. “It oversees a captured state, controlled by oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, and uses elections as democratic window-dressing

PHOTO: LAWRENCE RUGGERI

The government I represent formally supports the pro-Western integration of Moldova, and we will do our best to form a coalition so that we can continue all the reforms we started. CRISTINA BALAN

ambassador of Moldova to the United States

while pursuing authoritarian political goals and personal enrichment at the expense of Moldova.”

BUSINESS-ORIENTED APPROACH

But Balan, who previously served as vice president of the DPM, insists that her government has been working to implement much-needed reforms, although she admits that political divisions have “slowed down the process.” Last November, The Washington Diplomat hosted Balan for a Q&A as part of our ongoing Ambassador Insider Series (AIS). At the talk, the ambassador conceded that the February vote will be more complicated than previous ones, with pro-Western candidates competing against one another and Russia supporting parties that want to polarize society and “portray the West as a space of moral decay in which the local

traditions will be destroyed.” Balan, 42, arrived in Washington in June 2018 after spearheading DPM’s foreign affairs department, including its pro-EU agenda. In 2017, she was named Moldova’s “Top Female Politician of the Year” and also chaired the Foundation for a Modern Democracy, a think tank. Balan is fluent in both Romanian and Russian, the two dominant languages of Moldova. “When I graduated from high school and was about to go to university, my dream was to become an artist,” she said. “But then the Soviet Union collapsed and I had to choose a real profession. The country was poor, so I became an economist and started working for multinational companies.” After working in the private sector for over a dozen years, she switched to politics in 2015, although she says her business skills have been useful during her first ambassadorial posting. “I come from a business background

which is highly competitive and dynamic, and I’m trying to apply the same principles of success here,” she told us. “Just work hard, communicate well, find opportunities for development, find partnerships that would benefit both parties — and you will definitely succeed.” Yet for all her optimism, Balan, who was sent to Washington for a four-year term, admits she has no idea what’s next. “I cannot be sure I will stay,” said the ambassador, who heads a staff of 10 at the Moldovan Embassy at the intersection of Florida and S Streets near Dupont Circle. “At this point, it all depends on the future coalition. The government I represent formally supports the pro-Western integration of Moldova, and we will do our best to form a coalition so that we can continue all the reforms we started.”

ENDURING SPECTER OF THE SOVIET UNION

Those reforms are urgent in an impoverished country crippled by corruption and the remnants of Soviet communism. Moldova itself traces its modern roots to the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic, which was cobbled together in 1940 from parts of neighboring Ukraine and Romania. As such, it was the second-smallest republic in the SEE M OL DOVA • PAGE 18 APRIL 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 17


PHOTO: BY ANDREZ1 - OWN WORK, CC BY-SA 3.0

Moldova’s “Eternity” is a memorial complex dedicated to the soldiers who died in World War II and to the military conflict in the breakaway region of Transnistria.

Moldova CONTINUED • PAGE 17

U.S.S.R. (only Armenia was smaller). The forced collectivization schemes of the Stalinist era led to widespread famine in the late 1940s and early 1950s, although the Brezhnev years brought substantial Soviet investment to Moldova in the form of subsidized factories and public housing. By 1991, the country’s annual per-capita income was eight times higher than that of Romania. But once the U.S.S.R. collapsed, Moldova’s situation took a turn for the worse. As of 2018, according to the World Bank, Romania’s annual per-capita income exceeds $26,500, while Moldova’s hovers at around $2,700. Nearly 30 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, Moldova has effectively replaced Albania as Europe’s poorest nation.

THE TRANSNISTRIA TUG OF WAR

One of the biggest impediments to Moldova’s economic progress has been the breakaway region of Transnistria — home to a big chunk of the country’s steel and electricity production. Wedged between the rest of Moldova and Ukraine, Transnistria comprises about 12 percent of Moldova’s land area and 7 percent of its population, and is internationally recognized as a part of Moldova. Yet the government in Chișinău exercises no control over the territory. Transnistria’s bid for independence in the early 1990s was driven by separatists who balked at becoming a part of Moldova, where people are more closely related to their Romanian neighbors. A twoyear civil war ensued, and while a ceasefire stopped the fighting, Moldova lost control of the thin sliver of land —

along with about 40 percent of its economy and 56 percent of its factories. Ever since then, the Russian-speaking enclave of 500,000 people has been in legal limbo — much like the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia. At present, Balan said that Moldova’s national defense capacity is around 8,800 troops, while 15,000 troops are stationed in Transnistria (including 2,500 from the Russian Federation). “This difference in size is definitely too large not to be taken into consideration while we assess our country’s national security risks,” Balan said. “Russia has signed international agreements to withdraw the troops, and the Moldovan government has been insisting on its right of sovereignty and territorial integrity to be respected at all levels. And to be clear, it is our God-given right to national independence, which is being violated right now.” Last year, Moldovan officials established a dialogue with their Transnistrian counterparts and even managed to sign several protocols — in what Balan calls “an unprecedented success.” “This was done without the involvement of the Russian Federation,” she said, adding that Moldova and Ukraine have also established joint patrols along Transnistria’s entire border, enabling authorities to regain control over the cross-border circulation of goods and citizens.

ECONOMIC EFFORTS

In the meantime, the government has been forced to get creative to make up for the loss of its manufacturing base in Transnistria. Balan said that in addition to efforts to attract foreign investment and build special industrial zones, “we adopted legislation that would facilitate the development of the IT sector.

18 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | APRIL 2019

PHOTO: BY PUDELEK - OWN WORK, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Moldovan Parliament is seen in the capital of Chișinău. February parliamentary elections were largely inconclusive, meaning that the four political parties will now jockey to form a ruling coalition.

and re-evaluate their values.”

‘THEFT OF THE CENTURY’

PHOTOS: LARRY LUXNER

Above, posters in Chișinău urge voters to support the Socialist Party in Moldova’s Feb. 24 parliamentary election. Below, a huge billboard urges voters to support Ilan Șor, a 32-year-old Israeli-born politician who’s been implicated in a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal — and whose party is running on an anti-corruption platform.

Basically any company in the world can register in Moldova virtually and pay just a 7 percent tax rate and operate in Moldova. This will help us keep our IT engineers … and prevent brain drain and of course generate GDP.” In addition, the country’s low taxes and labor costs have attracted automotive companies from countries such as Germany and Japan to produce spare parts in Moldova, she noted. Balan also praised her government for boosting tax revenues by 30 percent in its first year in power, while eliminating bureaucracy and raising the salaries of poorly paid public servants. “For example, we’ve reduced the number of ministries from 16 to nine,” she said. “Therefore, we saved money and we’ve been able to increase the salaries and pensions for those who need it.” And following a 2014

Russian ban on agricultural imports that hit Moldovan farmers hard, the country’s producers improved standards and increased imports to the EU to make up for the loss of the Russian market. The result has been steady growth. Balan said that in 2016, “when the current government took over, we had economic development of -0.5 percent. Right now, the economic development is 5.2 percent.”

Continuing this economic growth, she said, is key to showing the people of Transnistria the benefits of returning to Moldova. Likewise, it’s critical to persuading Moldovans who’ve left the country for better jobs to return home. “We have to open new opportunities for the younger people,” she said. “They need to travel to the EU and the United States to see how the West operates, then come back

That may be easier said than done, given that Moldovans in the top echelons of power may need to seriously re-evaluate their own values — as evidenced by a massive corruption case that local media still call “the theft of the century.” In June 2017, a Moldovan court sentenced Ilan Șor to seven and a half years in prison for his role in defrauding the country’s three largest banks out of $1 billion — or 12 percent of Moldova’s GDP. The businessman (who remains free on bail) says he’s innocent and has appealed the verdict. In a fair bit of irony, his Șor party — which won seven seats in the recent parliamentary election — campaigned on an anti-corruption platform. Even as the 2014 banking scheme was unfolding and massive sums of money were drained from three banks into a web of secretive offshore companies, a fourth bank — Moldindconbank — “was routing $20.8 billion in Russian money through its accounts as part of the Russian Laundromat, the biggest money laundering operation ever uncovered in Eastern Europe,” according to the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). “Most of that money would leave the country as well, getting routed to Europe and beyond to pay for luxuries like two Bentley cars, expensive prep schools of some rich person’s kids and electronics for the Russian defense industry.” OCCRP says both schemes “were similar in design, and


that they both involve the same person” — Ilan Șor. Yet Șor is not the only shady character in Moldovan politics. Oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc, chairman of the PDM, has been called the “puppet master” who’s been pulling the strings of Moldovan politics “for more than a decade without ever being in official charge of the government or holding office,” according to filmmaker Glenn Ellis, who wrote about Plahotniuc in a March 2019 article for Al Jazeera. The oil-to-hotels tycoon has faced an array of lurid accusations — including blackmailing an investigative journalist with a sex tape recorded on cameras hidden in her apartment, and even orchestrating an attempted assassination — charges that Plahotniuc adamantly denies. Still, his influence over the country’s political system is undeniable. Despite not outright winning the February parliamentary election, Plahotniuc’s pro-Europe party could cobble together a ruling coalition by joining forces with Șor’s ACUM, despite that party’s proRussian leanings.

MACHIAVELLIAN POLITICS

These political machinations bolster accusations that Moldova’s leaders are exploiting the war of influence between Russia and the West to enrich themselves and fleece their countrymen. “They are interested in maintaining Moldova as a gray zone between Russia and the West. It’s about running a local fiefdom under the pretext of fighting a geopolitical battle, unaccountable to either Brussels or Moscow,” Vlad Kulminski of the Chișinăubased Institute for Strategic Initiatives told Foreign Policy’s Maxim Edwards for a March 3, 2019, article. Meanwhile, Brussels has become increas-

system, and all the shareholders are trusted,” she said. “Of course, corruption cannot be eradicated overnight, and nobody is a miracle maker. However, all the polls show that corruption is not the number-one problem right now for our citizens. It’s probably in fourth place,” behind economic issues such as jobs and salaries. And the type of corruption that irritates average Moldovans isn’t measured in millions or billions of dollars, she said — but rather low-level, everyday corruption such as bribes demanded by local policemen or doctors. “We’re looking at corruption through the lens of what’s actually bothering people, so we are still dealing with this,” she said.

Moldova at a Glance Independence Day Aug. 27, 1991 (from the Soviet Union)

Flag of Moldova

Location Eastern Europe, northeast of Romania Capital Chisinau Population 3.4 million (July 2018 estimate) Ethnic groups Moldovan 75.1 percent,

Romanian 7 percent, Ukrainian 6.6 percent, Gagauz 4.6 percent, Russian 4.1 percent, Bulgarian 1.9 percent, other 0.8 percent

GDP growth 4.5 percent (2017 estimate)

(2014 estimate)

Unemployment 4.1 percent (2017 estimate)

Religious groups Orthodox 90.1 percent,

Population below poverty line 9.6 percent

GDP (purchasing power parity)

Industries sugar processing, vegetable oil,

other Christian 2.6 percent (2014 estimate)

$23.7 billion (2017 estimate)

GDP per-capita (PPP) $6,700 (2017 estimate)

ingly fed up with the dysfunction. The bloc signed an association agreement with Moldova in 2014 and granted its citizens visa-free travel to the bloc. Since then, however, the EU has suspended a $100 million aid package to Moldova and the European Parliament said the country has been “captured by oligarchic interests.” Despite the EU’s push for democratic reforms, average Moldovan citizens seem just as disillusioned with the bloc as they are with their own politicians. The 2014 banking scandal in particular hurt support for the EU after it emerged that two prominent members of the European Parliament and a British con-

MOSCOW’S MEDDLING

(2015 estimate)

food processing, agricultural machinery; foundry equipment, refrigerators and freezers, washing machines; hosiery, shoes, textiles SOURCE: CIA WORLD FACTBOOK

servative were outspoken in their support of Șor’s recent political campaign. “That fraud is really a stain on our past,” Balan conceded. “It disappointed our foreign partners and we are still dealing with its consequences of it.” The ambassador said the government has prosecuted the main engineers behind the laundering of over $20 billion through Moldovan banks and undertaken a “complete reform” of the financial system, with support from the IMF. “All the banks are now partially or completely owned by Western investors, so there is no Russian presence at all in our banking

In the meantime, regardless which parties ultimately form a coalition, the new government will want to stay in the EU’s good graces, given that trade with the bloc now eclipses trade with Russia, with nearly 70 percent of Moldova’s exports going to the EU, compared to just 10 percent for Russia. And while Moldova’s strategic importance in the rivalry between the West and Russia has been somewhat exaggerated, there is little doubt that Moscow would like to keep Moldova in its orbit. Balan said that Russia has tried to undermine Moldova’s relations with the EU through both conventional methods — staging military exercises in the region, for example — and through hybrid warfare. On that note, Moldova’s parliament passed a law banning Russian propaganda. Balan said that previously, no less than 20 Russian-language TV channels were broadcasting directly SEE M OL DOVA • PAGE 20

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Moldova CONTINUED • PAGE 19

to Moldova without controls of any kind. “Russian TV channels can still broadcast in Moldova,” she said. “However, all news and political shows have to be produced in Moldova, which in a way secures our media market.” Such moves have been opposed by the country’s pro-Russian president, Igor Dodon — who had vetoed the transfer of a plot of land to the U.S. for the construction of a new American Embassy in Chișinău. But in early October, parliament voted to override that veto. “Unfortunately in Moldova, we have always had disputes between parliament and the presidency,” Balan said. “Indeed, the pro-Russian president has been slowing down some of the processes. However, everyone has to know we are a parliamentary country and the president has only ceremonial powers. As regards to the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Moldova, it’s huge and the U.S. Embassy is very, very small, and we believe it deserves a better spot.” Balan added: “I’m not trying not to criticize anyone. As a diplomat, I have to represent both parts of our country, the pro-Western and the pro-Russia parts. Even though it is pro-Western, our government is trying to be balanced and find com-

PHOTO: BY KREMLIN.RU, CC BY 4.0

Moldovan President Igor Dodon, seen at far right, speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, Austrian Federal Chancellor Christian Kern, second from right, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (back to the photo) on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in June 2017. Dodon favors closer relations with Russia for Moldova.

promise and constructive dialogue both with the U.S. and Russia.” Balan said Moldova’s relationship with the U.S. “has grown progressively” and that she supports the Trump administration’s focus on the resurgence of great power competition. The ambassador says Moldova feels firsthand this “new competition to influence the world” — one that involves not only Russia but also China, which she said “uses debt-trap diplomacy to accumulate infrastructure and force concessions

from smaller nations” in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Yet Balan insists she’s not frustrated with President Trump’s constant anti-NATO rhetoric and his open admiration of Russia’s Vladimir Putin. “We understand that the Trump administration is a pragmatic one,” she said. “I see it as a re-evaluation of the current … role of some international institutions and whether they do serve [their purpose] and whether they are in line with the

current reality.”

BEATING THE ODDS

For all the handwringing over transatlantic relations under Trump, Russian aggression and endemic corruption at home, Moldova faces another problem that is perhaps just as dire for its future but one that doesn’t receive much attention: its declining population. As is the case in nearly all former Soviet republics, Moldova’s fertility

rates are low and young professionals are leaving as fast as they can. Higher salaries have lured onefourth of the country’s 3.5 million people to work abroad — roughly half of them in EU countries, the other half in Russia. According to Moldova’s National Bureau of Statistics, the average number of live births per 1,000 women fell by 6 percent from 2004 to 2014. If women of childbearing age continue to emigrate at the current rate, Moldova could lose up to 40 percent of its population by 2050. This clearly concerns Balan, who has two children of her own. “The Moldovan economy heavily relies on remittances from abroad, which is not a healthy thing for our economy,” she said. “And, of course, we are facing a major brain drain, so younger people just find a better place to live in, especially because we all enjoy a visa-free regime with the EU and most Moldovans can easily get a Romanian passport.” Asked how her government might stop this demographic disaster, Balan sees no dramatic, overnight solutions — but that the overall answer is rather obvious. “The main problem is stabilizing the economy,” she replied. “Improve living standards and of course they will come back. WD Tel Aviv-based journalist Larry Luxner is news editor of The Washington Diplomat. Managing editor Anna Gawel (@diplomatnews) contributed to this report.

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WD | Diplomac y

Gender Politics Six Female Ambassadors Reflect on Strides and Ongoing Hurdles for Women in Politics BY SHAILAJA NEELAKANTAN

I

n 1954, New Zealand legislator Mabel Howard waved at the mostly male members of Parliament (MP) two large pairs of women’s underwear — both of which were marked as being the same size but weren’t — to demonstrate why clothing sizes in the country needed to be standardized. Howard’s demonstration was surprisingly successful. Although her demand was opposed by clothing manufacturers, she received tremendous support from other legislators and standardization of clothing soon became law. This wasn’t the first time Howard had won a battle of this magnitude. In 1946, she became MP for the second time by winning as much as 75.2 percent of the vote. She was only the fifth female MP since Parliament was established in New Zealand in 1854. And in 1947, she became the country’s first woman cabinet minister; she was made minister of health and minister in charge of child welfare. Howard’s was a success story in terms of women’s participation in politics in New Zealand, but hers was a rare one and not the norm on the island nation, or in many other countries. “New Zealand was the first selfgoverned country to give women the vote — in 1893. But until 1919, women couldn’t even contest elections,” said Rosemary Banks, New Zealand’s ambassador to the U.S., who narrated the account of Howard waving “bloomers” in Parliament at a panel discussion on March 6 at American University, ahead of International Women’s Day. Banks and five other women ambassadors to the U.S. were participants led the talk on women’s participation in politics in their countries. The accounts of the ambassadors of Albania, El Salvador, Finland, Kosovo, New Zealand and Sweden were bittersweet.

ALSO SEE: WOMEN IN DIPLOMACY:

Female Ambassadors to U.S. Make Strides, Although Progress Uneven PAGE 4 When compared with 50 years ago, they all said that a lot more women are in politics now — especially in Finland, New Zealand and Sweden — but the numbers are still nowhere near as high as that of men in similar positions and roles. And a lot remains to be done to change society’s mindset on the role of women outside the home. The biggest obstacle, the women said, are stubborn societal norms and 22 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | APRIL 2019

PHOTO: DAVID RIS / AMERICAN UNIVERSITY

Women envoys from Albania, El Salvador, Finland, Kosovo, New Zealand and Sweden discuss the challenges of female participation in politics in a March 6 symposium held at American University.

If you don’t see women in top party positions, people think women can’t be party leaders…. It is important to retain visibility.

KIRSTI KAUPPI

ambassador of Finland to the United States

patriarchal traditions that often can’t imagine women in political roles or, worse, can’t fathom why women should be in such positions at all. The top diplomats said these attitudes are sometimes internalized by women who then become their own worst enemy. Or, in some cases, attempts by women to engage in politics leads to down-and-dirty fights with the establishment — a necessary but oftenbrutal battle. In El Salvador, for example, there’s a big disconnect between what people feel and how they act, said the country’s ambassador, Claudia Ivette Canjura de Contento. She noted that newly elected El Salvadoran President Nayib Armando Bukele Ortez has yet to announce any female appointments to his government. “While in [opinion] polls, as much as 85 percent of respondents say there should be more women in politics, in elections, for example at local

mayoral polls, only 12 percent women were elected,” she said. “People feel only men can be in such roles.” She said her country — which for years has been plagued by poverty and drug violence — needs to work with all citizens, including younger generations, to convince them that women’s participation in politics is key to development. Even in Sweden, where roughly half of the government is comprised of women, there hasn’t ever been a woman head of state. This, in a country that performs a “gender analysis” on almost every issue and “in more cases than you can imagine,” said Swedish Ambassador Karin Olofsdotter. In fact, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven declared that Sweden has become “the first feminist government in the world,” which means that gender equality is central to all government policies. Yet Olofsdotter, who is the first woman to serve as Sweden’s am-

bassador to the U.S., finds it somewhat ironic that “it takes a man to declare a feminist government.” Why is this the case? “We don’t see women in top posts. People don’t perceive women in top positions. Among listed companies, only 8 percent are women chief executives of these companies,” said Olofsdotter. As for having a female prime minister, “we will see one. I just don’t know when,” she shrugged. Finnish Ambassador Kirsti Kauppi concurred with her Swedish counterpart. “If you don’t see women in top party positions, people think women can’t be party leaders,” said Kauppi, adding that only three out of nine party leaders in Finland are women. “We had a woman as president for 12 years,” she said, referring to Tarja Halonen, who presided over the country from 2000 to 2012. “But in today’s government, only 35 percent of ministers are women and


there’s a lot of criticism about it.” For Kauppi, the issue goes beyond numbers. “I’m mentioning these numbers because it’s an explanation … that is, for one to see women in politics, it is also important to retain visibility,” she said. One important way to address the underrepresentation of women in politics is education, said Albanian Ambassador Floreta Faber. “We have to educate boys and girls to respect each other and believe and accept equal rights for each other. This is a long-term approach that is necessary” not just for political participation, she said, “but even for issues like domestic violence and trafficking, two big problems in Albania.” For Vlora Çitaku, Kosovo’s ambassador to the U.S., fighting for women’s rights means just that — fighting hard to be heard and counted. “People say women are soft power, but let me tell you, I’ve seen women fight in parliament. I was in the first parliament of Kosovo and the youngest one there. I’ve been in fights and seen them,” she said. Çitaku recalled one time mentioning that, “We may have a woman president one day.” She said she was laughed out of the room and told she was “too ambitious” to even think that. “Guess who laughed back four years later? We had our first woman president and she was the first woman to be head of state in all of Southeast Europe,” said Çitaku, referring to Atifete Jahjaga, who served as president from 2011 to 2016. While Kosovo does have a quota system whereby 31 percent of parliament members must be women, Jahjaga did not need to rely on the quota system, given that she overwhelmingly won the approval of MPs.

PHOTO: DAVID RIS / AMERICAN UNIVERSITY

Executive Director of the Women & Politics Institute Betsy Fischer Martin led a discussion with Ambassadors Floreta Faber of Albania; Vlora Çitaku of Kosovo; Kirsti Kauppi of Finland; Claudia Ivette Canjura de Contento of El Salvador; Karin Olofsdotter of Sweden; and Rosemary Banks of New Zealand.

Quotas in general are a divisive issue, including mandatory quotas for women in government. Those who support them say they are necessary to overcome decades of entrenched inequality, while opponents argue that they crowd out — or at least are perceived to crowd out — more qualified candidates. Of the six countries represented at the panel, Albania, El Salvador and Kosovo have quotas, while Finland, New Zealand and Sweden don’t. The ambassadors of the three countries with quotas said they are a necessary catalyst

to boost the numbers and visibility of women in government. “Quotas have played a crucial role in raising awareness in society for the need for women in decision-making roles,” said Çitaku. For El Salvador’s Contento, while she respects quotas as a process, she said the positions that women take on issues is just as important as the number of women in positions of power. “Quality is as important as quantity.” And in Albania, quotas are important to “show examples of women in power,” said Faber. “They may not be a perfect candidate, but

it gives courage to other women. Since quotas were introduced, the numbers of women joining politics independently have risen,” she said. Kauppi, on the other hand, said she feels it’s important not to have mandatory quotas in elected bodies or in the corporate world. “Some companies have gone in for self-regulation and aim for 30 percent of their boards to be women. And many have achieved it. This is a good middle ground,” she said. New Zealand’s Banks had an interesting take on the issue. When asked about quotas on the sidelines of the discussion, Banks said she started off against the idea but has now come around to seeing some merit in it. “I was opposed to it because it risked a backlash from others who would say, ‘Women are only here because of quotas,’ and it would undermine women’s authority and talent. We have to win respect, I thought; we can’t command it,” said Banks. Lately, though, Banks has realized the benefits in setting aside seats at the table for women, saying that quotas “serve a purpose” in elevating women’s visibility and inspiring other women to vote or enter politics themselves. Today, while there are still only roughly two dozen women ambassadors in Washington, their visibility is slowly but surely increasing. Çitaku joked that at least this fraternity of female envoys has elevated its prestige enough to become part of a popular WhatsApp group called “Woman Power.” Hopefully in time, that popularity will continue to grow to the point where “people power,” not “woman power,” becomes the new norm. WD Shailaja Neelakantan is a freelance writer in Washington, D.C.

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WD | Medical

Heartening News Since Mid-1990s, Heart Attacks Have Fallen by One-Third Among Older Americans BY STEVEN REINBERG

S

ince the mid-1990s, the number of seniors who suffered a heart attack or died from one dropped dramatically — evidence that campaigns to prevent heart attacks and improve patient care are paying off, Yale University researchers said. The study of more than 4 million Medicare patients found that hospitalizations for heart attacks dropped 38 percent between 1995 and 2014. At the same time, deaths within 30 days of a heart attack reached an all-time low of 12 percent, down more than one-third since 1995. “This is really amazing progress,” said lead researcher Dr. Harlan Krumholz, a professor of cardiology. The study looked at Medicare patients because people 65 and older have the highest risk for heart attack, and account for as many as two-thirds of them, he said. The turnaround stems from major efforts to change people’s lifestyles to reduce heart attacks, and also to improve care so more patients survive one, Krumholz said. Since the 1990s, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, the American Heart Association, the American ColPRIMARY PREVENTION: LIFESTYLE lege of Cardiology and other organizations PREVENTION AND TEAM-BASED CARE have emphasized prevention. The efforts have focused on lifestyle changes, including adoption of healthy eating habits and getting more exercise. They have also helped patients reduce their blood pressure and cholesterol, two key contributors to heart attack. In-hospital care is also better now than it was in the 1990s, Krumholz said. Patients who arrive at the hospital with a heart attack are now treated within minutes, using procedures to open blocked arteries, rather than the hours it used to take, he noted. And more patients are leaving the hospital with prescriptions for blood pressure drugs, aspirin and statins, which help prevent a repeat heart attack. Although costs associated with heart attacks have increased, preventing them and improving survival ends up saving money on other health care costs, Krumholz added. But the picture isn’t entirely rosy. Some places have seen little or no change in heart attacks since the 1990s. These areas need special attention to improve care, Krumholz said. In addition, the obesity epidemic, along with its associated increase in type 2 diabetes, threatens to undermine the reported gains, Krumholz added. That’s CREDIT: ROGER BLUMENTHAL / JOHNS HOPKINS MEDICINE because obesity and diabetes are prime risk factors for heart attacks, raising blood pressure and damaging blood vessels. LEARN MORE: To learn more about heart “It’s not a time to rest on our laurels or become comattacks and strokes, visit the American Heart placent,” Krumholz said. “We believe there are still Association at www.heart.org/en/about-us/ improvements possible. We’d like to see heart attacks heart-attack-and-stroke-symptoms. relegated to the history of medicine.” Dr. John Osborne, a volunteer expert with the Amer-

24 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | APRIL 2019

PHOTO: ROCKETCLIPS, INC. / SHUTTERSTOCK

It’s not a time to rest on our laurels or become complacent… We believe there are still improvements possible. We’d like to see heart attacks relegated to the history of medicine. DR. HARLAN KRUMHOLZ

cardiologist and health care researcher at Yale University

ican Heart Association (AHA), agreed. “It is wonderful to celebrate these advances, but still one person in the U.S. dies of cardiovascular disease every 38 seconds, and it continues to be the greatest killer of Americans,” he said. “[These are] wonderful advances in the war against heart disease, but our war is still not finished.” According to the AHA, one in three Americans die from cardiovascular disease, which kills more than 800,000 people each year. AHA spokesman Dr. Gregg Fonarow said much more remains to be done. “The majority of the myocardial infarctions [heart attacks] still occurring could be prevented with better implementation of evidence-based primary and secondary prevention strategies,” Fonarow said. The report was published online March 15 in JAMA Network Open. WD Steven Reinberg is a HealthDay reporter. Copyright © 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.


Luxury Living A Special Section of The Washington Diplomat

April 2019

Finding the Right Realtor As Spring Market Heats Up, Experts Offer Tips on Buying and Selling a Home •

S

pring has finally arrived in the Washington, D.C., area. For residents and visitors, this means blooms, allergens and warmer temperatures, but for homebuyers and sellers, it likely also means an uptick in the marketplace. In general, this season has the highest number of new

listings, according to Zillow Research, and after Amazon’s November 2018 announcement that it will open a second headquarters in Arlington’s Crystal City neighborhood, it’s likely that the already healthy marketplace will strengthen.

In December 2018, the number of

PHOTO: DAVID MARK / PIXABAY

Colorful rowhouses line the D.C. neighborhood of Foggy Bottom.

BY STEPHANIE KANOWITZ

units for sale in Virginia’s Arlington County and the city of Alexandria increased by 20 percent year-over-year, according to Long & Foster, the country’s largest privately owned real estate company. SEE R EALTOR S • PAGE 26

APRIL 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 25


Housing inventory in Arlington County, Va., is down significantly since late last year, possibly because of Amazon’s November 2018 announcement that it will open a second headquarters in Arlington’s Crystal City neighborhood.

Realtors CONTINUED • PAGE 25

Since then, inventory has contracted significantly in those areas because the homes have sold so quickly. In January, inventory was down single digits year-over-year in the region, but in Arlington County, it was down 38 percent and in Alexandria 39 percent. Last month, the numbers fell again, to 39.5 and 52 percent, respectively. “We can see something’s happening, and we can believe and speculate it’s because of the Amazon announcement,” said Larry “Boomer” Foster Jr., president of general brokerage for Long & Foster Real Estate. As for actual sales prices, those have varied, possibly because of the type of homes each area offers. The median sales price in Arlington County rose about 6 percent in February, while Alexandria city’s fell 6.7 percent. For comparison, the median sales price for nearby Fairfax County PHOTO: BRUCE EMMERLING / PIXABAY was flat. “It could be a reflection perfect world. There are a lot of people Ideally, what you’re going to find is of the type of product that was out here looking to get something for being sold,” Foster said. “Instead that the best salespeople are the ones nothing at any cost, and that cost can of selling some higher-end singlesometimes be your safety.” family homes, you see more conwho are going to listen to you, who are Tenure in the industry is a personal dos and attached homes going.” preference, and not always an indicaAs people start to shop for and going to ask you questions and really tion of effectiveness, Shaw added. sell their homes, there are some “Some people come, they hit the things to keep in mind when understand what your wants and ground rolling and they are very suclooking for realtors. The biggest is cessful,” she said. “You’ve got agents that both buyers and sellers need needs are as a consumer. that have been in the market for 20 to do their homework. years and they’re some of the worst “Cyberstalk your folks,” Foster LARRY “BOOMER” FOSTER agents you’d ever want to see. They’ve said. “There are plenty of places president of general brokerage for Long & Foster Real Estate developed a lot of bad habits.” to get reviews online as they reWorking with a reputable real estate late to agents, and you can go and see what other people have to say agency can prevent problems from the about them.” get-go, but also later in the process, One caveat to this is that retoo, Foster said. “If something goes views on websites such as Zillow wrong, you want to make sure that the and Yelp tend to come mostly agent that’s representing you, either in from people on the extreme the buying of the home or the selling ends — positive and negative. “I of the home, is backed up by a compacertainly wouldn’t rely solely on ny that has a good reputation,” he said. that because a lot of the times Red flags to watch out for include the people that are doing the rerequests for money upfront, especially viewing are sometimes unhappy. before meeting. Although an agent That’s the reason they’re going in may ask for a retainer, they should there: They’re going to get back at also provide a contract with an opt-out whoever it is,” he said. “Anybody clause outlining how a buyer or seller with all really low reviews or all can terminate the working relationreally high reviews, I’m not sure ship. I would necessarily put a lot of Another thing to watch out for is PHOTO: PHOTO MIX / PIXABAY faith in that.” over-eagerness, Foster said, referring Use credible websites such as Bright MLS — the consumer-facing side of the to “agents who come in and promise too much — the ones that are blustery and database agents use — to research the areas you want to live in or what similar properties to yours are selling for, and then interview a few realtors in person, tell you they’re going to get you the most amount of money for something, or said Dianah Shaw, 2019 president of the District of Columbia Association of anybody that’s trying too hard. Normally the people that are trying too hard are Realtors, which is part of the National Association of Realtors. Make a list of desperate, and they’re desperate because they don’t have business.” Avoid “yes people,” too, Foster said. Buyers and sellers need agents who will questions about things that matter to you, such as schools, walkability, restaupolitely disagree with them as they help navigate the complex transaction of rants and distance to work. But also ask the realtor about themselves — and ask to see a copy of their buying or selling a home. “They should have some skill set that you don’t, so I think that I would be current license. For instance, ask how they work. Are they full-time realtors and what’s their availability? How well do they know the area and what’s their wary of somebody who just agrees with everything you say,” he said. The main points Foster and Shaw want to impart is to do your homework approach to negotiations? “This industry is different from some of the other professions; you don’t do and trust your instincts. “Real estate is a huge purchase. You’re going to spend in this market nothing the same thing all the time. Every transaction is different,” Shaw said. “For the buyer, [ask] what does the search entail? Once I find something I like, how often less than $300,000. If you’re open to even a condo, a co-op, it’s going to be a couare you available to show me the properties that I’ve identified? If I find some- ple hundred thousand. Just make sure you do your due diligence,” Shaw said. “Communication is the biggest thing that’s important to having a harmonithing I like, how quick — because everything is competitive right now — can ous relationship, so try to find somebody whose communication style matches you submit my offer?” In-person interviews are best, she added, but take caution. Ideally, they yours,” Foster added. “Ideally, what you’re going to find is that the best salespeoshould take place at their office, but if the realtor works from home, opt to meet ple are the ones who are going to listen to you, who are going to ask you questions and really understand what your wants and needs are as a consumer.” WD in a public place. And avoid viewing properties alone, Shaw said. “Generally, you want to have someone with you when you go to view properties,” she said. “We take the same advice for ourselves because we don’t live in a Stephanie Kanowitz is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat.

26 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | APRIL 2019


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Hotels &Travel A Special Section of The Washington Diplomat

April 2019

Fresh, and Refreshed, Faces New and Renovated Properties Add More Personality to City’s Diverse Hotel Landscape •

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ashington, D.C., is an inherently hot travel destination (think White House, Smithsonian museums, Shakespeare Theatre). In recent years, it’s shifted from being solely a place of historical and cultural significance to also a foodie destination, a favorite of shoppers seeking top designer brands and a health nut’s haven. The growth in the hotel industry here reflects this evo-

PHOTO: JIM TETRO ARCHITECTURAL PHOTOGRAPHY

BY STEPHANIE KANOWITZ

lution. The number of hotel rooms in the metropolitan region at the end of 2018 was 114,923, an increase of 13,686 in the past decade, according to Lodging Econometrics. That expansion is set to continue. Destination DC notes that the city has 18 hotels and nearly 4,000 additional rooms in the pipeline. SEE F R ES H FACES • PAGE 30

The Fairfax at Embassy Row underwent a nearly yearlong renovation of its lobby space last year, officially unveiling its $10 million makeover in December 2018.

APRIL 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 29


Fresh Faces CONTINUED • PAGE 29

They run the gamut from boutique properties to mammoth structures with convention centers. For instance, the Yotel is coming to 415 New Jersey Ave., NW, currently the site of the Liaison Capitol Hill, and will have small rooms it calls cabins averaging 180 square feet. This trend toward more budgetfriendly, smaller but still swanky rooms can also be seen at properties such as the Pod DC Hotel in Penn Quarter and the recently opened Moxy, which features 200 “petite” rooms for budget-minded millennials. These hipper, millennial-geared hotels join an already robust hospitality industry full of historical and storied properties with iconic views. As new properties make homes here, legacy buildings are revamping themselves to find that perfect marriage of traditional and modern. We looked at two of each to survey the latest in D.C.’s ever-changing hotel scene.

Conrad Washington, DC 950 NEW YORK AVE., NW

CONRADWASHINGTONDC.COM

PHOTO: CONRAD WASHINGTON DC

A growing cadre of millennial-geared, innovative hotels are joining an already robust hospitality industry full of historical and storied properties with iconic views.

Designed by the architectural firm of Herzog & de Meuron, the Conrad Washington DC is a modern, 360-room luxury hotel that is the first hotel to open in CityCenterDC.

day, including a traditional afternoon tea With a grand opening on April 9, this 360and a Japanese and craft whiskey tasting room luxury hotel under the Hilton Hotels in the evenings. Through a program called and Resorts brand is the first hotel to open Culinary Diplomacy, the chef will feature in CityCenterDC. The architectural firm that cuisine from a different country daily. designed it — Herzog & de Meuron — is no A rooftop bar called the Summit caps stranger to buildings that stand out, having off the hotel. Open to the public as of April designed the Tate Modern museum in Lon9, it has views of the Capitol and Washingdon and the Bird’s Nest, or Beijing National ton Monument. Stadium. The hotel is a breath of modern air amid Washington’s more classical cityscape, Eaton Hotel but still pays homage to its home. “If you look at the building itself, it’s deWashington DC signed after the actual grid structure of D.C., 1201 K ST., NW so incorporating the kind of north/south/ east/west grids but then also the crisscrossEATONWORKSHOP.COM/HOTEL/DC ing avenues that we have,” said Katharine At first blush, the Eaton seems to have Zike, marketing manager at the Conrad. an identity crisis, combining a hotel, “It’s really unlike any other luxury hotel in shared work space and wellness center D.C. in that it does take on the aesthetic and into one location. But a closer look reveals modern approach to luxury, whereas I think just how intentional those elements are to some of the more beautiful hotels — the PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER LIM / EATON WORKSHOP the brand that Katherine Lo is developing. Willard, the Ritz, the St. Regis — are stunLo, above, president and founder of Eaton Workshop, “I’ve been passionate about creating a positive ning, but they all have sort of a traditional, classical Katherine below, said she wanted to “subvert and transform the traditional impact in the world for much of my life, so when I luxury feel.” hotel experience into a collaborative and inspiring space for set out to create Eaton Workshop, I did so with the The first floor will boast 30,000 square feet of re- changemakers and creatives.” strong desire to subvert and transform the traditiontail shopping, including the mid-Atlantic region’s al hotel experience into a collaborative and inspiring flagship Tiffany’s jewelry store. The second floor space for changemakers and creatives,” said Lo, presihouses 32,000 square feet of meeting space and balldent and founder of Eaton Workshop. “And through rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows, and the hotel’s my own personal background in activism and passion lobby, lounge and restaurant sit on the third floor. for the arts, I knew I wanted to create something enThat’s also where the intersecting diagonals begin, tirely new in the hospitality realm that would stand Zike said, creating triangular spaces for more intiout in D.C.” mate settings, including one off the restaurant, EsWhat Lo has also done is open a brand that merges tuary by “Top Chef ” contestants Bryan and Michael hospitality with the arts, activism and “progressive soVoltaggio. cial change.” It’s an aptly Washingtonian approach that It’s also where guests will find the hotel’s masstands in stark contrast to the Trump International sive atrium, which climbs from the third floor to Hotel just a few blocks down, where “progressive” is the roof. It’s shaped to represent Switzerland, where not a word you’ll hear very often among the chandethe architects are based. Extending from the ceiling lier-and-marble-filled lobby of Trump’s namesake in to the fourth floor is a 92-foot metal mesh curtain, PHOTO: ADRIAN GAUT the nation’s capital. and as sunlight shines through 22 skylights in the Open since last fall, Eaton boasts 209 rooms that include 22 junior suites and six atrium ceiling, it creates a shimmer on the mesh, Zike said. Additionally, the Midnight Pendant, a sphere 14 feet in diameter, hangs from the artist studio rooms, plus 15,000 square feet of meeting and event space. The largest ceiling 52 feet down, and its light changes from white to amber in accordance with room, the Residence Junior Suite, has a dining area to seat up to six people, a Himalayan salt lamp and a floor-to-ceiling window. the circadian rhythm. Lo and her team handpicked each feature and amenity, selecting all-natural matThere are 32 suites in the hotel. The presidential suite has a dining area for 10, a gas fireplace, a marble bathroom and a SHADD piano made by Warren Shadd, a D.C. na- tresses, glasses made of recycled glass and bath amenities from Grown Alchemist that tive and the first African American piano maker. His pianos also reside at the Vatican are made with organic ingredients. Suites have record players and a selection of albums, plus bookshelves with literature on the environment, wellness, activism, race, and in the Obamas’ home. Guests who stay on the 10th-floor Sakura Club level get access to what Zike calls gender, art, design and architecture — topics near and dear to Lo. Additionally, guests a “hotel within a hotel.” In addition to amenities specific to the club such as a bath can request myriad complimentary products including natural hair care products and butler, the club is open 24 hours and has a private chef who prepares five meals a breast milk storage bags — reflections of Lo’s commitment to inclusivity. 30 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | APRIL 2019


“Eaton DC is an inclusive gathering place that I hope appeals to a wide and diverse range of guests, particularly those who are striving to make the world a better place and care deeply about important topics including the environment, race, gender equity, LGBTQ rights and so forth,” said Lo, whose father is executive chairman of the Hong Kong-based Langham Hospitality Group. “For centuries, this city has been at the frontline of many of the world’s most important counterculture movements, and it feels even more symbolic and historically significant given our current moment in history. I hope that Eaton DC follows in the footsteps of those people and movements who fought to make the world a better, more just place.” In addition to Lo’s philosophy, the hotel’s Wellness Center helps Eaton stand out in the crowded D.C. marketplace. Forget treadmills and free weights. Here, you can use the 266-square-foot meditation room, a 1,007-square-foot yoga space, two infrared saunas and a private holistic treatment room, where guests can sign up for Reiki or crystal healing and chakra clearing. Classes, which cost $20 apiece, include sunrise and power yoga, but also Yoga Nidra Sound Bath, a 75-minute class that combines meditation and sound “giving your body and mind access to deeper states of relaxation and PHOTO: CONRAD WASHINGTON DC wellbeing,” according to the website. The Conrad will feature the restaurant Estuary by “To me, fitness requires a holistic “Top Chef” contestants Bryan and Michael Voltaggio. approach, because while it’s important to maintain a physical health, I believe we must also focus on the health of our mind and spirit,” Lo said. Eaton DC, which used to be the Sheraton Four Points, has four dining options: American Son is a restaurant that uses locally sourced ingredients to create Asian-inspired American food; Kintsugi is a coffee shop also serving cold-pressed juices and Ayurvedic drinks; Allegory is a cocktail bar lounge within Eaton’s Radical Library (stocked with political books, naturally); and Wild Days is a rooftop music venue. The other half of Eaton Workshop is Eaton House, a co-working space open to 370 members and self-proclaimed “home for today’s counterculture movement.” Costs to join range from $400 to $4,500 per month. This year, Lo will launch Eaton Media, the brand’s global multimedia platform. Already available are weekly vinyl listening and storytelling sessions, SEE F RE SH FACES • PAGE 32

E M B A S S Y R O W, D. C .

Life Is No Longer One Dimensional You’re invited to visit our NEWLY renovated space

· American small plates and cocktail-centric menu · Dinner served 5PM to 10PM. Bar open to Midnight. · Sign up at www.thesallydc.com

E M B A S S Y R O W, D. C .

E M B A S S Y R O W, D. C .

· Grab & Go or Sit & Sip for breakfast, lunch, or lite fare and beverages in the evening · Breakfast and/or Swing’s coffee 6AM. Lunch at 11AM. Service until 10PM · Relax by the fireplace and unwind, read a book, work on your computer, play a game

Join us where Classic Elegance Meets Modern 2100 Massachusetts Avenue, NW | Washington, D.C. 20008 (202) 293-2100 | www.fairfaxwashingtondc.com

APRIL 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 31


Fresh Faces CONTINUED • PAGE 31

and a monthly series called “My Friend Wrote This Book,” which is “our take on the traditional book talk, putting authors in conversation with their friends to share personal experiences in the world of writing and publishing,” Lo said. “There’s nothing quite like Eaton DC here in D.C., and it’s clear to me that there is a strong desire for intellectual conversations touching on today’s most pressing issues in an environment that’s also engaging and enjoyable,” she added.

The Fairfax at Embassy Row 2100 MASSACHUSETTS AVE., NW FAIRFAXWASHINGTONDC.COM

The hotel dates to 1920, but its look no longer does. The Fairfax at Embassy Row underwent a nearly yearlong renovation of its lobby space last year, officially unveiling its $10 million makeover in December 2018. Designed by the acclaimed Rockwell Group, the new lobby features an expansive open reception area, both communal and private spaces, and spacious seating with low tables and a sculptural sofa. The goal, according to the hotel, is to create an elegant but inviting ambience that reflects a sense of place and community. “The whole lobby area has really been reimagined,” general manager David Hendrix said. “The Fairfax has always been a classic hotel, but being that it was built in the 1920s, the lobby area was really an afterthought at that point. We had a very small space. There wasn’t a lot of space for guest interaction, and the plan was that this would really open the space up and create a day/night atmosphere where you’ve got work during the day and the furniture converts to play at night. You’ve got a pool table that also doubles as a banquet table. You’ve got a pingpong table that’s used for breakfast setups.” Besides opening the lobby space and adding seating, the Fairfax also relocated its restaurant from the back to the front and added a seasonal outdoor patio. The PHOTO: JIM TETRO ARCHITECTURAL PHOTOGRAPHY new eatery, The Sally, offers high-end cocktails and liquors, plus small plates with locally sourced products that will change with the seasons. Named for a member Designed by the acclaimed Rockwell Group, the new lobby at the Fairfax at Embassy Row hotel of the prominent 18th-century Fairfax family, this stylish dining venue features features an expansive open reception area, both communal and private spaces, and spacious seating. a marble bar with zinc accents, dark wood floors and an eclectic mix of modern and vintage furniture. There’s also a new market café for grab-and-go bites and drinks. The changes make it more inviting for guests and passersby alike to stop in for an after-work drink or dinner, Hendrix said. The trick was making the modernization work with the hotel’s historic character. To that end, the hotel’s 259 rooms are still traditionally appointed with high ceilings and crown molding. “I think we still have a nice combination that our guests seem to enjoy,” Hendrix said.

HOTEL GUIDE

E M B A S S Y R O W, D. C .

Life Is No Longer One Dimensional You’re invited to visit our NEWLY renovated space

PHOTOS: THE DUPONT CIRCLE

Part of the Irish family-owned Doyle Collection, the Dupont Circle, above, is undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation that will revamp its restaurant, lobby and rooftop.

Promote your conference rooms, spa, ballrooms, catering services, restaurant, guest rooms or all of the above in The Diplomat.

The Dupont Circle 1500 NEW HAMPSHIRE AVE., NW

DOYLECOLLECTION.COM/HOTELS/THE-DUPONT-CIRCLE-HOTEL

E M B A S S Y R O W, D. C .

· American small plates and cocktail-centric menu · Dinner served 5PM to 10PM. Bar open to Midnight. · Sign up at www.thesallydc.com

E M B A S S Y R O W, D. C .

· Grab & Go or Sit & Sip for breakfast, lunch, or lite fare and beverages in the evening · Breakfast and/or Swing’s coffee 6AM. Lunch at 11AM. Service until 10PM

CALL ROD CARRASCO

301.933.3552 32 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | APRIL 2019

· Relax by the fireplace and unwind, read a book, work on your computer, play a game

Join us where Classic Elegance Meets Modern 2100 Massachusetts Avenue, NW | Washington, D.C. 20008 (202) 293-2100 | www.fairfaxwashingtondc.com

Part of the Irish family-owned Doyle Collection, this hotel is undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation that will revamp its restaurant, lobby and rooftop — and add a chocolate and coffeeshop. The goal is to make the hotel “the most sought-after social scene in Washington, D.C.,” according to a presentation shared with The Washington Diplomat. For years, the hotel was a popular gathering spot given its location directly overlooking Dupont Circle. But the renovation has transformed the lobby bar area and lounge into a sleek but inviting space (complete with an indoor fireplace for the winter and an expansive outdoor terrace for the spring and summer) punctuated by warm woods, retro artwork and striking sculptures. The rooftop will have 14 suites, including a 5,000-square-foot penthouse with a fireplace and heated garden terrace with views of the Washington Monument. The Pembroke, the hotel’s new restaurant, features a décor that blends cream-paneled walls with plush velvet banquettes in blue and coral tones designed by Martin Brudnizki Design Studio. The restaurant serves a global menu by Swedish-born chef Marlon Rambaran, whose dinner entrées include a whole branzino, Moroccan-inspired lamb tagine, saffron risotto Milanese topped with golf leaf and Irish-glazed short ribs with pureed parsnips. Bar Dupont will henceforth be known as the Doyle, a “club-like bar with a mid-century feel” that will serve cocktails inspired by the 1950s and ’60s. WD Stephanie Kanowitz is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat.


Culture arts & entertainment art

diplomatic spouses

theater

THEATER

photography

music

The Washington Diplomat | April 2019

history

dining

film

events

ART

‘Intangible’ Beauty “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage

of Humanity” portrays a

dystopian society where hu-

mans cling to the last shred of beauty in their world

despite the devastation

and hopelessness crushing them. PAGE 36

THEATER

Explosive ‘Queen’ Issues of immigration, racism and

economic inequality collide in a Miami

hotel kitchen, where a scorned socialite,

a Venezuelan émigré and her Cuban-

Haitian fiancée confront and confound each other in

“Lunar (Moon)” by Zilia Sánchez

Studio Theatre’s “Queen of Basel.” PAGE 37

ART

Time Warp “The Culture of Time and Space” features

digital media works by artist HyeGyung Kim

The Phillips Collection’s latest show, “Zilia Sánchez: Soy Isla (I Am an Island),”

that bring traditional

offers a masterful retrospective of the 92-year-old Cuban-born artist who prides

life using 21st-century

incredibly insular and deeply connected to that world. PAGE 34

Korean antiques to

technology. PAGE 38

herself on disconnecting from the outside world but creates pieces that are

PHOTO: COLLECTION OF IGNACIO J. LÓPEZ BEGUIRISTAIN AND LAURA M. GUERRA, SAN JUAN

APRIL 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 33


WD | Culture | Art

Island unto Herself Phillips Connects Us with Lesser-Known Cuban-Born Artist Who Likes to Disconnect •

BY MACKENZIE WEINGER

Zilia Sánchez: Soy Isla (I Am an Island) THROUGH MAY 19

PHILLIPS COLLECTION 1600 21ST ST., NW

(202) 387-2151

| WWW.PHILLIPSCOLLECTION.ORG

T

he canvas serves as the art itself, stretching and pulsing outward in surprising shapes, lines and textures in a remarkable new exhibition highlighting the work of a relatively unknown but visionary artist. The Phillips Collection’s latest show offers a masterful retrospective of Zilia Sánchez, 92, a Cuban-born artist who lives in Puerto Rico. “Zilia Sánchez: Soy Isla (I Am an Island)” is at once hilarious, profound and strange, with pieces that feel both incredibly insular and deeply connected to the material world. It’s a show you’ll find yourself thinking about weeks later, an unconventional image or newly connected thought leaping into your mind. It’s a strikingly feminine exhibition, concerned with women’s mythology, bodies and desires. Going through in chronological order, you see the narrowing and sharpening of Sánchez’s vision. It becomes blunter and sharper, but also almost inaccessible, a mythology all her own that reaches out only literally to viewers. They’ll either get it, or they won’t. “I am an island. Understand it, and leave,” Sánchez says in the documentary about her work that accompanies the exhibition. The show starts with a somewhat hilarious video of Sánchez sending out one of her works into the sea, to see where it will go and how it will come back. It’s a bold and off-putting introduction to this artist, and it works. We then see her as a traveler throughout the exhibition, hopping from island to island: Cuba, Manhattan, Puerto Rico. While touring the show, it’s clear that space, material and lines are more essential to these pieces than color or light. There’s a coolness to her approach, with blue pastels, hard black lines, stretches of white and sharp PHOTO: COLLECTION OF THE ARTIST, COURTESY GALERIE LELONG & CO., NY forms shaping her canvases. Her visual language is dominated by sensuality, eroticism and a broad exploration of the feminine iconography. Famous warriors and heroines like the Amazonians, Trojans and Antigone are the source of meditative shaped canvases and sculptural pieces. And Sánchez is obsessive, with her repeated exploration of lunar shapes and what are dubbed “erotic topologies.” She’s interested in curves and shapes and duality. There are some conventional erotic notes throughout, but they are presented in surprising fashions. In “Moon with Tattoo,” the soft mound form still remains the focus even as black curved drawn lines fill the canvas. It’s shape and meaning, colliding. “Trojan Women” is, in a word, cool. It’s reminiscent of a lineup of shields, all light and sharp. It also looks like a bunch of nipples, but that seems to be the point. “Line is the first thing you do … line is a release of expression,” Sánchez is quoted as saying in one of the museum labels. In the final room, which features the documentary, there are images from the 2016 series “Blue Blue.” The shades deepen, and it feels like a fuller vision in many ways compared to what’s come before. It’s almost unfortunate that they are in the room 34 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | APRIL 2019

PHOTO: COLLECTION OF THE ARTIST, COURTESY GALERIE LELONG & CO., NY

The Phillips Collection offers a masterful retrospective of 92-year-old Cuban-born artist Zilia Sánchez featuring works such as, from clockwise top: “Azul azul (Blue Blue)”; “Troyanas (Trojan Women)”; “Encuentrismo ofrenda o retorno (The Encounter–offering or returning)”; and “Lunar con tatuaje (Moon with Tattoo).”

with the documentary, since that video really commands the space, particularly due to its depiction of the impact of Hurricane Maria on the artist’s works. Also noteworthy to museumgoers strolling through the exhibition is the little detail of her signature on the sides of the large canvas pieces. This show marks the first retrospective for the Phillips Collection “of a woman who is LaPHOTO CREDIT: MICHAEL BODYCOMB © 2013 tina, outside of the Western canon and out of GALARIE LELONG, NYC © 2013 the mainstream,” curator Vesela Sretenović told The Washington Diplomat. And, critically, it is the first retrospective of the artist, ever. This show is also about “expanding our own horizons in terms of an institution…. We are the first museum of modern art, and this fits into what the Phillips is all about,” she said. When she first encountered Sánchez’s work, Sretenović recalled she found it “totally novel.” “It was an immediate connection, reaction, PHOTO: BEREZDIVIN COLLECTION nonverbal, on a totally subconscious level,” she said. “It affected me so deeply and so strong.” There’s a “dichotomy that plays out in her work from beginning to end,” Sretenović noted. “She wants to connect, but at the same time she wants to disconnect from the world around her. There’s a lot of playfulness and a lot of ambiguity — you can never pin her down.” After wandering through this provocative, winking, sharp, insightful exhibition, who would ever want to? WD Mackenzie Weinger (@mweinger) is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat.


Theater | Culture | WD

Theater Wonk One-Man Show Explores the Conflicts and Compromises of North Korea Visit •

BY JASON OVERDORF

I

t’s not until the end of John Feffer’s one-man show, “Next Stop: North Korea,” that the foreign policy scholar-cum-playwright offers a withering comment on the failed second summit meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Adopting the guise of a Scottish tour leader who sets the context for the contemplative 12-scene comedy, he opens the question-and-answer session with a setup for a one-liner: “You could ask me what I think about the recent meeting, for example,” he says, “and I’d tell you: They were having such a lovely love affair, I thought they’d consummate it. But instead, we got summit interruptus.” The co-director of the Foreign Policy in Focus project of the Institute for Policy Studies, a D.C.based liberal think tank, Feffer has long blurred the line between his academic and creative work. His most recent novel, “Splinterlands,” for instance, describes a dystopian future that’s informed by his study of virulent nationalism and the pressures threatening to dissolve the European Union. And earlier one-man shows dramatized his thinking on the failed response to an ecological collapse and his research on the fall of the Berlin Wall and spoofed a well-known local type: the foreign policy pundit grubbing for “that most coveted of D.C. positions: a top administration job.” The blending of disciplines works particularly well in his latest show, which is less a satire than a travelogue that takes the viewer on an imaginary visit to North Korea. Where journalism and policy writing all too often eclipse the ordinary people affected by the momentous events they describe, dramatization allows Feffer to portray and explore the nuances of life in one of the most closed-off

LEARN MORE: For more information on John Feffer’s work, visit www.johnfeffer.com. countries in the world. This includes delving into the conflicts and compromises that the totalitarian state demands of a foreign tourist and aid worker; a tour guide schooled in propaganda; a government apparatchik; and a taxi driver wrestling with patriotism and the struggle to survive. Because the so-called Hermit Kingdom is the proverbial black box for most viewers, the imaginative journey is especially evocative, although director Angela Kay Pirko has eschewed all but the barest hint of sets and costumes. Based on three trips Feffer has made to North Korea, the show focuses on the experience of a similar aid worker type as he negotiates the hurdles presented by the country’s rigid control over citizens and visitors, and his own inner conflict between the desire to forge some kind of constructive relationship with the regime and the fear of becoming complicit in its repression. As our Scottish interpreter warns before the trip begins: “Americans go halfway around the world and they find … themselves!” For the anonymous aid worker (and, by extension, the viewer/ tour member), the comfortable cynicism in the face of clumsy propaganda (the Juche tower is like the Washington Monument — only bigger) is punctuated by disturbing epiphanies. At the statue of Kim Il-sung, our aid worker meekly complies with the order to bow and lay a mandatory bouquet of flowers at the feet of the “Great Leader” despite his urge to rebel, for instance. But at the Museum of American Atrocities, amid evidence of the effects of U.S. carpet-bombing and the use of napalm during the Korean War, he finds “propaganda but truth there as well.” Con-

PHOTOS: ANGELA KAY PIRKO

Foreign Policy scholar John Feffer, inspired by his visits to North Korea, explores the challenges of doing good in a morally ambiguous environment in his one-man play “Next Stop: North Korea.”

fronted by the tremendous mound of a mass grave, he reflects: “Here I would bow.” But no such reverence is requested. At a subsequent state banquet, he swallows his principles along with gritty rice and chicken so old it seems welded to the bone, knowing that ordinary citizens are lucky if they get to see a bowl of rice on television. But when he tells a visiting Frenchman of his horror at a museum exhibit depicting an incident in which American troops flooded a bunker with gasoline and roasted the North Korean soldiers inside, his previous epiphany is tempered by a new revelation: The bunker fire story is true, but it was perpetrated by South Korean soldiers, not American ones. In other scenes titled “Kate Winslet of Pyongyang,” “The Minder,” “The Driver” and “The Defector,” Feffer imagines life in the dictatorship from the point of view of its citizens. These portrayals are affecting because they show that the North Koreans themselves are struggling with the same kinds of inner conflicts and reluctant compromises as the visitor. For instance, his hilarious (and perceptive) portrait of an apparatchik whose stint in America lingers on in his passion for karaoke tunes like Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides, Now” — yes, he sings it — transcends simple parody when it extends to an explication of the North Korean state ideology of Juche, or “self-reliance.” Self-reliance here means something more like “never submit,” as it’s better to be a starving wolf than a well-fed dog, Feffer explains. Its opposite is Sadae, or “the reliance on great powers.” In America, he says, for a time he enjoyed the variety at Baskin-Robbins. But before long, he realized that “in the U.S. and South Korea, there are lots of flavors of ice cream, but they all taste like Sadae.” Like all of Feffer’s varied writing, in contrast to Sadae-tasting sundaes, “Next Stop: North Korea” is delicious from start to finish. WD Jason Overdorf (jasonoverdorf.com) is a freelance writer in Washington, D.C. APRIL 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 35


WD | Culture | Theater

‘Intangible’ Hope Humanity Clings to Last Shred of Beauty in Gripping but Morose ‘Masterpieces’ •

BY LISA TROSHINSKY

Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity THROUGH APRIL 7

SIGNATURE THEATRE

4200 CAMPBELL AVE., ARLINGTON, VA.

(703) 820-9771

F

| WWW.SIGTHEATRE.ORG

or those brave at heart and with a penchant for the compelling and morose, Signature’s premiere of “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” might be

for you. “Masterpieces,” penned by D.C. playwright Heather McDonald and directed by Nadia Tass, showcases a dystopian society in the midst of a catastrophic hundred-year war in an unnamed country. The scene takes place inside a demolished museum being used to torture and jail prisoners, and where, ironically, characters become fixated on restoring a fictional Rembrandt painting. The reason? For even when crushed with hopelessness, there is a human need to survive and savor some sense of beauty, the script expounds. “Masterpieces” marks Signature’s second production as part of the Heidi Thomas Writer’s Initiative, named after the British playwright and screenwriter behind the popular BBC series “Call the Midwife.” Through a grant from the Jenna and Paul Segal Foundation, Broadway producer Jenna Segal will sponsor a world premiere by a female playwright with a female director for the next five years. The intensity behind “Masterpieces” never lets up, as we witness and empathize with three women trying to cope with dire circumstances. To ensure buy-in, there is even audience participation during this 90-minute saga with no intermission, so there’s literally no break as we are made to commiserate with the characters’ reality. The play starts out innocently and calmly enough as Layla, the art restorer (played by Holly Twyford), gives us some academic background on the situation, showing slides of great masterpieces and asking the audience to write down on a slip of paper (given out by ushers on entry) the one thing we would save from a burning house. What would be our masterpiece worth preserving? After collecting the paper, but before she has a chance to read our responses, Layla is brutally whisked away by her military captor, Mitra (played by Felicia Curry). From there, the plot trajectory follows the power play and exchange between the two and a third woman, Nadia, designated as Layla’s nurse (played by Yesenia Iglesias). Each of the women characters is alternately emotionally and physically strong and yet vulnerable, which makes rooting for one’s survival over the other complicated. The role of victim here is a loosely moving concept. As the play progresses, the characters’ relationships alter as the power dynamics change, exposing different sides to their personalities. A constant reminder of the characters’ multiple personas is when Mitra, while donning military garb and weapons — and in between sessions of torturing Layla — constantly implores her victim to “illuminate” her with her knowledge and understanding of art, culture and facts about her personal life choices. By the end, “the three women all find common shreds of humanity as they try to save a small symbol of beauty in their broken world,” says Signature’s dramaturg.

36 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | APRIL 2019

PHOTOS: C. STANLEY PHOTOGRAPHY

Above, Holly Twyford becomes fixated on restoring a fictional Rembrandt painting in the midst of a catastrophic hundred-year war in “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity,” which also stars Felicia Curry, left, as a sadistic but conflicted military captor.

The three women give over 100 percent to their roles, making us feel a gamut of emotions — from terror and disgust during the torture and fight segments to sorrow and sympathy when they plead for escape or relief from agony. We even, at times, identify with them when they reveal inner pain and struggles. “Masterpieces,” for better or worse, demands one’s attention and emotional involvement. In this play, the scenery and lighting are overpowering. Set designer James Kronzer had his work cut out for him. The stage is nothing short of unorganized chaos to the point where it resembles an environmental hazard. The museum has been hit, one can assume, by some type of weaponry that has crushed and smashed any remaining art pieces. An ancient dismantled statue lays on its side, boulders and trash cover the floors, feathers from mourning doves caught in a collision float in the air, and the ceiling drips from a leak somewhere above. To prevent being dripped upon, ushers hold large umbrellas as they show you to your seat. One of the themes of the play is that of light. Thus, the lighting, by Sherrice Mojgani, is more than a design; it’s a metaphor for the characters’ plight and state of mind. Throughout the play, images of civilizations filled with works of art are projected in a steady stream onto the back wall as a reminder of the high price the characters are paying for their manmade war on progress. The term “chiaroscuro” — when a painting is full of deliberately strong, bold contrasts between light and dark — is repeatedly mentioned when speaking of the Rembrandt painting that Layla calls “The Two Marys,” illustrating pre-dawn dimness before two of Jesus’s followers are aware of the Resurrection. Also mentioned is “light that lives in darkness,” which is synonymous with what these three women are ultimately striving for. If your world came crashing down around you, would there be something worth saving? What would you risk to save it? These are the questions that “Masterpieces” poses. You might not have all the answers by play’s end, but you’ll know that the answers are windows into our cultural heritage and identity. WD Lisa Troshinsky is the theater reviewer for The Washington Diplomat.


Theater | Culture | WD

Volatile ‘Queen’ Bettis Subverts Dated ‘Miss Julie’ by Adding Immigration, Inequality to the Mix •

BY MACKENZIE WEINGER

Queen of Basel THROUGH APRIL 7 STUDIO THEATRE

1501 14TH ST., NW

(202) 232-7267

| WWW.STUDIOTHEATRE.ORG

S

tudio Theatre’s “Queen of Basel” welcomes guests into a Miami hotel storage kitchen, a faint thumping bass signaling the relentless drama about to unfold. While it’s not an entirely convincing hour and a half, “Queen of Basel” is willing to tangle in thought-provoking ways with social issues such as immigration, racism and economic inequality as it recalibrates the psychodrama of August Strindberg’s 1888 play “Miss Julie.” Here, Julie (Christy Escobar) is found escaping the hedonism and wealth of the weeklong Miami party known as Art Basel, slowly coming undone in the kitchen as she hides from a swanky party in her father’s hotel. She’s just had a run-in with Venezuelan refugee Christine (Dalia Davi), who is working the hotel party as a cocktail waitress. As Julie frets over the gin spilled on her gown — she’s in recovery, but is clearly hiding from more than just the paparazzi — Christine calls her Cuban-Haitian fiancée, John (Andy Lucien) to give Julie a ride home in his Uber. The stage is set, then, for the trio to weave in and out, circling, confronting and confounding each other over the course of 85 minutes. “Each character represents a perspective of the Latinx experience,” playwright Hilary Bettis writes in her author’s statement. “There is racism, colonialism, assumptions, and blindspots in all of them. Yet all three have a deep connection to their heritage, and a desperation to be seen through that lens.” Bettis notes that “Miss Julie” is a work that she “HATED” with “utter passion.” In the play, an aristocratic young woman, Julie, and a well-traveled valet named Jean, who is engaged to the servant girl Christine, have an affair. Shortly afterward, Jean’s feelings for Julie begin to cool, while churchgoing Christine looks down on the immoral woman. Faced with the dilemma of confessing her sins to her father, Julie asks Jean what she should do. In response, he hands her a razor so she can kill herself to escape her predicament. “It was clear Strindberg had disdain for women, and viewed our existence through the Madonna/whore lens. And he believed ‘white’ male sexuality, an innate quality men are entitled to without character, is the epitome of strength,” Bettis states. Her adaption stems from her fundamental disagreements with that play and its author’s worldview, and “so the only way I could write this adaption is to subvert Strindberg at every turn,” she writes. “‘Queen of Basel’ is really a play about empathy,” Bettis says. It’s a powerful frame, but one that’s sometimes more aspirational than what’s executed directly on the stage. Christine’s presence is the most sympathetic throughout, and her closing monologue, delivered in Spanish and translated by John, is both a topical ex-

PHOTOS: C. STANLEY PHOTOGRAPHY

Above, Andy Lucien plays a Cuban-Haitian driver while Christy Escobar is an unstable socialite whose explosive encounter (along with Lucien’s Venezuelan fiancée, played Dalia Davi, at left) turns into a commentary on immigration and equality in “Queen of Basel.”

ploration of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s disastrous regime as well as a memorable theatrical moment. John and Julie dominate the play, and ultimately generate some interesting chemistry as they size each other up and explore the shifting power between them. Julie, with her Harvard MBA, alcoholism and dreams of creating an NGO focused on women’s health, often feels more like a vessel for social commentary than a fully fledged character. And she only really comes alive in a moment without dialogue, as she spirals around the kitchen, breaking down. John and Christine are more sensitively drawn, but still come across at times less like three-dimensional people than points the author is striving to make. But the actors both have a striking stage presence that makes it easier to gloss over the lack of depth at times. While Bettis sometimes relies on surface clichés to introduce her points — Uber driver John doesn’t drink beer, for instance, but is passionate about wine, challenging Julie’s assumptions but making some in the audience roll their eyes — the playwright is admirably uncompromising in her pursuit of subverting “Miss Julie.” And she’s clearly a talent, with a knack for snappy oneliners and awards to prove it for her work on the TV show “The Americans.” It’ll be worthwhile to stay on the lookout for original plays by Bettis, if you miss “Queen of Basel” during its run. The direction by José Zayas is also worth noting, with a nod to the acting naturalism of “Miss Julie” as the players circle in and out of scenes and around each other. Characters track and challenge each other, putting to good use the realistic, but limited set. While the show doesn’t always land — and it’s not an easy starting point with “Miss Julie,” which is inescapably dated — it still raises enough interesting questions and shines a much-needed spotlight on underrepresented stories to make it worth the ticket. WD Mackenzie Weinger (@mweinger) is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat. APRIL 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 37


WD | Culture | Art

Moving Canvas ‘Time and Space’ Puts 21st-Century Spin on Oriental Art to Bring Old Back to Life •

BY ANNA GAWEL AND KATE OCZYPOK

The Culture of Time and Space: Digital Media Artist HyeGyung Kim THROUGH APRIL 22

KOREAN CULTURAL CENTER

2370 MASSACHUSETTS AVE., NW

(202) 939-5688

| WWW.KOREACULTUREDC.ORG

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he Korean Cultural Center has carved out a niche for itself with exhibitions that explore cross-cultural identity and the interplay between the modern and the traditional. While the shows usually focus on Korean or Korean-born artists, their messages have universal resonance in a fast-changing, globalized world. The center continues this exploration of the past, present and future with its latest exhibition, “The Culture of Time and Space,” which uses digital media works by artist HyeGyung Kim that reflect on the convergence of traditional Korean beauty and contemporary technology — and the artistic possibilities when the two are fused. “I felt that, ironically, many young Koreans these days are quite familiar with Western art, history or culture, while showing less interest to our own East Asian traditions,” said Kim, who is also an author and design teacher in South Korea. To bridge this gap, Kim blends the old with the new to give Koreans a greater appreciation for their own history and culture. And her innovative techniques are a natural fit for today’s tech-savvy youth. In Kim’s work, digital media and Taoism intersect with traditional Oriental art, specifically East Asian antiques, to create an interactive experience that connects traditional Korean aesthetics with modern-day innovation. She plays with techniques such as light, sound, movement, mapping and projection to breathe new life into Korean crafts such as porcelain and antique wooden furniture. Kim calls her art “emotionally driven interactive work rather than actual interactive work.” “I hope the exhibit gives the audience an interesting opportunity to meet Korean ancient arts combined with dynamic new media,” she said. The results are moving pieces of art — literally. In a pair of pieces, “Omaju, A Treasure” and “Omaju, Joyful,” she starts off with the blank canvas of a plain gray vase. But soon the canvas becomes a virtual one, as different patterns are projected onto the vase, creating an array of decorations that blend and fade into one another. One moment we see a mesmerizing pattern of fans, blinking lights and sweeping brushstrokes of white, while in the next moment we see meticulously designed flowers and peacocks. Except these peacocks, which for an instant appear static, as if they were simply painted onto the vase, ever-so slightly tilt their heads and move their beaks while their plume of feathers undulates in the wind, reminding us that we’re actually looking at a digitally manipulated piece of art. In another signature piece, “Media, A Treasure,” a vase sits atop an ordinary-looking vertical chest. But soon, beautifully lit projections appear on the façade as the vase on top glitters and sparkles. Again, we see similar patterns — the twitching peacock, the pulsating blossoms, along with an intricate latticework of shapes and lines that are drawn right before our eyes and mimic traditional Korean metalwork. The results are a juxtaposition of ancient art and new technology, and how the latter can transform the former. The digital designs enhance the antiques, while simultaneously preserving the original artistry that went into making them. By focusing on the vibrancy of Korea’s past and the vitality of its future, Kim ultimately hopes to begin an artistic dialogue that she says transcends space and time. “I think the easiest way to communicate with my audience is using the visibility,”

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PHOTOS: KOREAN CULTURAL CENTER

Kim told us. “I try to express the visibility in the form of media art that deliver auspicious patterns and ancient art stories.” The exhibition is the latest in a string of shows that directly engage the viewer and examine traditional artwork through a modern-day lens. The 2019 opening exhibit, for instance, showcased vibrant textile works based on the traditional Korean wrapping cloth known as bojagi, but reimagined the cloth using contemporary techniques, aesthetics and social commentary. Other exhibitions touch on universal topics, such as “City, Unfamiliar Landscape,” which explored the evolving nature of urban spaces, as well as “Inner Monologue,” a rumination on the challenges of immigrating to a new country and learning to speak a foreign language. Cross-cultural dialogue is a primary mission of the Korean Cultural Center, which often spotlights the connections between South Korea and the United States, as seen in a recent show commemorating International Women’s Day that featured 45 Korean American artists who reflected on their experiences as immigrant women in the U.S. To further that mission, the center closed last year for a major renovation, which it debuted in September (also see “Renovated Korean Cultural Center Aims to Serve as Bridge Between East and West” in the Diplomatic Pouch). The renovation created lit and shadowed spaces intended to evoke the experience of walking through a traditional single-story Korean house called a hanok. The goal was to design a welcoming environment for American visitors to experience Korean art and, as architect Jennifer Lee said at the debut, create “a window to the cultural experience of Koreans that can now be experienced by everybody.” WD Korean artist HyeGyung Kim creates movies on digital canvases that give traditional Oriental art a 21st-century makeover in “The Culture of Time and Space.”

Anna Gawel (@diplomatnews) is managing editor of The Washington Diplomat. Kate Oczypok (@OczyKate) is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat.


Film | Culture | WD

Cinema Listings *Unless specific times are listed, please check the theater for times. Theater locations are subject to change.

CZECH Golden Sting

Directed by Radim Špaček (Czech Republic/Slovakia, 2018, 106 min.)

Young lawyer and athlete Franta takes over coaching the Czechoslovak men’s basketball team after his coach is arrested during World War II. Following the liberation of Czechoslovakia, Franta leads the team to the European Basketball Championships in Geneva, where they miraculously win gold in 1946. But with the communist coup in February 1948, they find that their fiercest competitor remains off the court (part of the Czech That Film Festival; includes Q&A with the director). THE AVALON THEATRE WED., APRIL 10, 8 P.M.

Patrimony

Directed by Jiří Vejdělek (Czech Republic, 2018, 90 min.)

Fashion designer Eva unexpectedly becomes a widow. Surprises continue to abound when she discovers an unknown child’s drawing in her late husband’s possessions. Even though Eva would like to ignore the discovery, her daughter Tereza latches onto the idea of an estranged stepbrother and the two set out in her late husband’s vintage car to find out more about the hidden family secret (part of the Czech That Film Festival; an embassy reception takes place at 7 p.m. in the main theater). THE AVALON THEATRE THU., APRIL 11, 5:15 P.M.

Suitor

Directed by Jan Hřebejk (Czech Republic, 2017, 113 min.)

Set in the late 1950s, the communist regime controls Czechoslovakia, and a gap has opened between the prewar and postwar generations. City girl Daniela meets country boy Mirek while staying at the garden store run by her aunt and uncle. Love begins to bloom, but Daniela’s father is furious. He has other plans for his daughter, intent on making the perfect match with an educated catch (part of the Czech That Film Festival; an embassy reception takes place at 7 p.m. in the main theater). THE AVALON THEATRE THU., APRIL 11, 8 P.M.

ENGLISH The Aftermath

Directed by James Kent (U.K./U.S./Germany, 2019, 108 min.)

Following World War II, a British colonel and his wife are assigned to live in the ruins of Hamburg during the post-war reconstruction, but tensions arise with the German widower who

previously owned the house. In this charged atmosphere, enmity and grief give way to passion and betrayal.

ANGELIKA MOSAIC LANDMARK’S E STREET CINEMA

Apollo 11

Directed by Todd Douglas Miller (U.S., 2019, 93 min.) Crafted from a newly discovered trove of 65mm footage, and more than 11,000 hours of uncatalogued audio recordings, Apollo 11takes us straight to the heart of NASA’s most celebrated mission—the one that first put men on the moon, and forever made Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin into household names. ATLANTIC PLUMBING CINEMA

The Brink

Directed by Alison Klayman (U.S., 2019)

“The Brink” follows Steve Bannon through the 2018 midterm elections in the United States, shedding light on his efforts to mobilize and unify far-right parties in order to win seats in the May 2019 European Parliamentary elections. To maintain his power and influence, the former Goldman Sachs banker and media investor reinvents himself — as he has many times before — this time as the selfappointed leader of a global populist movement. LANDMARK’S E STREET CINEMA

The Chaperone

Directed by Michael Engler (Australia/U.K./U.S., 2019, 103 min.)

A slice of pre-Hollywood history comes to light in this comingof-age story centering on the relationship between the young, free-spirited and soon-to-be international screen starlet Louise Brooks and her tee-totalling chaperone. On their journey from the conservative confines of Wichita, Kansas, to the flash and sizzle of New York City, both women are driven by a kindred desire for self-discovery and liberation from the past. LANDMARK’S THEATRES OPENS FRI., APRIL 12

The Favourite

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (Ireland/U.K./U.S., 2018, 119 min.) In early 18th century England, a frail Queen Anne occupies the throne and her close friend Lady Sarah governs the country in her stead. But when a new servant Abigail arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah. LANDMARK’S E STREET CINEMA

Gloria Bell

Directed by Sebastián Lelio (Chile/U.S., 2019, 102 min.)

Gloria (Julianne Moore) is a freespirited divorcée who spends her days at a straight-laced office job and her nights on the dance floor, joyfully letting loose at clubs around Los Angeles. ANGELIKA MOSAIC

LANDMARK’S BETHESDA

ROW CINEMA

LANDMARK’S E STREET CINEMA

High Life

Directed by Claire Denis (Germany/France/U.K./Poland/ U.S., 2018, 110 min.)

A father and his daughter struggle to survive in deep space where a group of criminals have become the subjects of a human reproduction experiment. ANGELIKA MOSAIC OPENS FRI., APRIL 12

Hotel Mumbai

Directed by Anthony Maras (Australia/U.S., 2019, 125 min.)

Based on the true story of the 2008 terrorist attack on the famed Taj Hotel in Mumbai, hotel staff risk their lives to keep everyone safe as people make unthinkable sacrifices to protect themselves and their families (multiple languages). ANGELIKA MOSAIC

LANDMARK’S BETHESDA ROW CINEMA

LANDMARK’S E STREET CINEMA

The Hummingbird Project

Directed by Kim Nguyen (Belgium/Canada, 2019, 111 min.) A pair of high-frequency traders go up against their old boss in an effort to make millions in a fiber-optic cable deal. ANGELIKA MOSAIC

LANDMARK’S BETHESDA ROW CINEMA

LANDMARK’S E STREET CINEMA

Little Woods

Directed by Nia DaCosta (U.S., 2019, 105 min.)

In a North Dakota fracking boomtown well beyond its prime, Ollie is trying to survive the last few days of her probation after serving jail time for smuggling prescription pills over the Canadian border. But when her mother dies, she is thrust back into the life of her estranged sister Deb, who is facing her own crisis with an unplanned pregnancy and a deadbeat ex. LANDMARK’S THEATRES OPENS FRI., APRIL 19

The Mustang

Directed by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre (France/U.S., 2019, 96 min.)

Roman Coleman, a violent convict, is given the chance to participate in a rehabilitation therapy program involving the training of wild mustangs. LANDMARK’S E STREET CINEMA

The Wedding Guest Directed by Michael Winterbottom (U.K., 2019, 97 min.)

Jay is a man with a secret who travels from Britain to Pakistan to attend a wedding — armed with duct tape, a shotgun and a plan to kidnap the bride-to-be. Despite his cool efficiency, the plot quickly goes off course,

sending Jay and his hostage on the run across the border and through the railway stations, back alleys and black markets of New Delhi — as attractions simmer, loyalties shift and explosive secrets are revealed. LANDMARK’S BETHESDA ROW CINEMA WEST END CINEMA

GERMAN The Invisibles

Directed by Claus Räfle (Germany, 2017, 110 min.)

Berlin, February 1943: The Nazi regime declares the Reich’s capital “free of Jews.” But some 1,700 Jews managed to survive the war living in Berlin, hiding in plain sight: “invisible.” Claus Räfle’s gripping docudrama traces the desperate and ingenious adventures of four real-life survivors who seemed to be ordinary German youths trying to navigate the scarcities and prohibitions of Berlin at the height of World War II. LANDMARK’S E STREET CINEMA

Transit

Directed by Christian Petzold (Germany/France, 2019, 101 min.)

a German refugee named Georg flees to Marseille, assuming the identity of a recently deceased writer whose papers he is carrying. There he delves into the delicate and complex culture of the refugee community, becoming enmeshed in the lives of a young mother and son and falling for a mysterious woman named Marie. LANDMARK’S BETHESDA ROW CINEMA WEST END CINEMA

HUNGARIAN Sunset

Directed by László Nemes (Hungary/France, 2019, 142 min.) In 1913 Budapest, as World War I approaches, the young Irisz Leiter arrives in the Hungarian capital with high hopes to work at Leiter, the legendary hat store that once belonged to her late parents. But she is quickly sent away by the new owner. Refusing to leave the city, Irisz embarks on a quest that brings her through the dark, dusty streets of Budapest, where only the Leiter hat store shines, into the turmoil of a civilization on the eve of its downfall (Hungarian and German). LANDMARK’S BETHESDA ROW CINEMA

ICELANDIC Woman at War

Directed by Benedikt Erlingsson (Iceland/France/Ukraine, 2019, 101 min.) Halla is a 50-year-old independent woman with a quiet routine as a popular choir director in a small country town. But she

The Washington Diplomat leads a double life as a passionate environmental activist, engaged in secret warfare against the giant power company that is (in her opinion) desecrating the countryside and hastening global warming (Icelandic, Spanish, English and Ukrainian). LANDMARK’S BETHESDA ROW CINEMA

LANDMARK’S E STREET CINEMA

JAPANESE 100 Yen Love

Directed by Masaharu Take (Japan, 2014, 113 min.)

A 32-year-old slacker still lives with her parents, without a job or any ambition in life. After a blowout fight with her sister, she leaves home and lives hand-to-mouth working at a 100-yen “dollar store.” When she becomes enamored with a local boxer, she starts a life-changing journey of redemption and empowerment. FREER GALLERY OF ART SUN., APRIL 7, 2 P.M.

Dragnet Girl

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu (Japan, 1933, 100 min.)

This formally accomplished and psychologically complex gangster tale pivots on the growing attraction between Joji, a career criminal, and Kazuko, the sweet-natured sister of a young hoodlum. FREER GALLERY OF ART FRI., APRIL 12, 7:30 P.M.

The Makioka Sisters

Directed by Kon Ichikawa (Japan, 1983, 140 min.)

Structured around the changing seasons, “The Makioka Sisters” follows four siblings as they run their family’s kimono-manufacturing business in the years before the Pacific War. FREER GALLERY OF ART WED., APRIL 3, 2 P.M.

The Ramen Shop

Directed by Eric Khoo (Singapore/Japan/France, 2019, 89 min.)

An aspiring young Ramen chef leaves his hometown in Japan to embark on a culinary journey to Singapore to find out the truth about his past. His parents are dead, and he knows little about his Chinese mother’s family in Singapore. Arriving alone in the busy unfamiliar city, he meets his uncle, a chef who specializes in the popular Chinese dish of pork ribs soup, and pleads to be tutored in his cooking secrets. But his formidable grandmother proves harder to approach (Japanese, English and Mandarin). LANDMARK’S THEATRES OPENS FRI., APRIL 5

KOREAN Crying Fist

Directed by Ryoo Seung-wan (South Korea, 2005, 134 min.) Former silver-medalist boxer

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April 2019

Kang Tae Shik sells himself as a human punching bag on the streets of Seoul while ducking loan sharks and trying to keep his marriage together. Fresh out of jail, young ruffian Yoo Sang-hwan runs around town wreaking havoc until he finds boxing to be a perfect vent for his untenable aggression. These two desperate men’s paths meet when an amateur boxing competition offers a major cash prize.

FREER GALLERY OF ART SUN., APRIL 28, 2 P.M.

MANDARIN Ash Is Purest White

Directed by Jia Zhang-Ke (China/France/Japan, 2018, 136 min.)

This epic tale of love and crime set in contemporary China spanning nearly two decades follows a quick-witted woman named Qiao, who is in love with Bin, a local mobster. During a fight between rival gangs, she fires a gun to protect him. Qiao gets five years in prison for this act of loyalty, and upon her release she goes looking for Bin to pick up where they left off. WEST END CINEMA

Fly by Night

Directed by Zahir Omar (Malaysia, 2018, 101 min.)

This gripping heist-thriller centers on four taxi drivers running a low-key extortion racket that targets the well-off passengers they drive from the airport (Mandarin, Bahasa Malay and English). FREER GALLERY OF ART SUN., APRIL 14, 2 P.M.

Have a Nice Day

Directed by Liu Jian (China, 2017, 77 min.)

When a gangster’s driver absconds with one million yuan to pay for his girlfriend’s plastic surgery mistakes, a wild chase ensues over one rainy night. Peppered with wry dark humor, this animated film’s labyrinthine pitfalls and double-crosses are headlined by a motley crew straight out of central casting. FREER GALLERY OF ART FRI., APRIL 19, 7 P.M.

POLISH Cold War

Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski (Poland/U.K./France, 2018, 89 min.)

“Cold War” is a passionate love story between a man and a woman who meet in the ruins of postwar Poland. With vastly different backgrounds and temperaments, they are fatefully mismatched and yet condemned to each other. Set against the background of the Cold War in 1950s Poland, Berlin, Yugoslavia and Paris, it’s the tale of a couple separated by politics, character flaws and unfortunate

SEE F IL M • PAGE 46

APRIL 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 39


WD | Culture | Events

Events Listings *Please check the venue for times. Venue locations are subject to change.

ART APRIL 5 TO 26

Breaking Boundaries

This new group exhibition showcases genre-defying abstract installations, sculptures and painting by four contemporary Korean artists whose work transcends the traditional boundaries — mental, physical, spatial — that define human life and how we experience it. Yunkyung Kim, Jisook Kim, Hyo Jin Yook and Kwang Bum Jang each express contradictory phenomena in their art and subvert familiar concepts such as life and death, time and space, or real and ideal, by combining a variety techniques and media. KOREAN CULTURAL CENTER

APRIL 5 TO OCT. 27

Revolutionary Reflections: French Memories of the War for America

This exhibition explores how the French king’s officers understood the American Revolution and their role in the achievement of American independence, and how they remembered the war in the years that followed—years of revolutionary upheaval in France that included the execution of the king and many of their brothers-in-arms. AMERICAN REVOLUTION INSTITUTE OF THE SOCIETY OF THE CINCINNATI

APRIL 6 TO AUG. 11

Forward Press: 21st-Century Printmaking

Ten innovative print artists from across the United States employ the finest examples of handprinted and digital techniques, creating works that reinterpret centuries-old printmaking techniques in the digital age, exploring themes of culture, identity, religion, environment, memory, and art history. AMERICAN UNIVERSITY MUSEUM

APRIL 6 TO MAY 26

Testament of the Spirit: Paintings by Eduardo Carrillo

This expansive exhibition of works by Eduardo Carrillo — a painter, teacher and social activist known for advancing recognition of Chicano art and culture in California — features more than 60 paintings and watercolors spanning nearly four decades of the artist’s production, from the late 1950s through the late 1990s. The work reflects on the artist’s relationship to his native California as well as to his Mexican heritage, his early religious upbringing, and the European tradition of art. AMERICAN UNIVERSITY MUSEUM

APRIL 13 TO JAN. 5

A Monument to Shakespeare

The Folger Shakespeare Library

is throwing back the curtains on its origins and exciting future in an exhibition where visitors are invited to play, lounge, be curious and see more of the Folger Shakespeare Library than ever before. Among the treats: rummage through Henry Folger’s desk and read the correspondences that brought the Folger to the nation’s capital; explore large scale reproductions of Cret’s detailed architectural drawings, newly digitized for this exhibition; and visit the first complete edition of Shakespeare’s plays published in 1623. FOLGER SHAKESPEARE LIBRARY

THROUGH APRIL 14

Ambreen Butt – Mark My Words

This is the first solo exhibition in Washington, D.C., for PakistaniAmerican artist Ambreen Butt (born 1969). Featuring 13 mixedmedia works on paper, “Mark My Words” reveals the connection between the artist’s global consciousness and the physical mark-making techniques that she uses to create her works. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF WOMEN IN THE ARTS

APRIL 14 TO JULY 21

The American PreRaphaelites: Radical Realists In celebration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of John Ruskin (1819-1900), the most influential art critic of the Victorian era, the National Gallery will present more than 90 paintings, watercolors, and drawings created by American artists who were profoundly influenced by Ruskin’s call for a revolutionary change in the practice of art. NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART

APRIL 14 TO SEPT. 15

Oliver Lee Jackson: Recent Paintings

American painter, printmaker, and sculptor Oliver Lee Jackson (b. 1935) has created a complex body of work which masterfully weaves together visual influences ranging from the Renaissance to modernism with principles of rhythm and improvisation drawn from his study of African cultures and American jazz. NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART

THROUGH APRIL 22

The Culture of Time and Space

This exhibition of digital media art explores the convergence of Korean traditional beauty and contemporary technology, featuring works by Korean media artist HyeGyung Kim. Kim focuses on the convergence of digital media and Taoism through the medium of East Asian antiques. She experiments with connections between digital media and traditional Oriental art that represents Korean beauty through projection mapping and interactive media. Ultimately, Kim hopes to provide an experience beyond space and time through this artistic dialogue, while also introducing the vibrancy of Korean contem-

40 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | APRIL 2019

porary media art and the deep connections possible between traditional aesthetic values and today’s digital technologies.

KOREAN CULTURAL CENTER

THROUGH APRIL 28

Dream of Reality: An Homage to Joy Laville from the Kimberly Collection The Mexican Cultural Institute presents works from its Kimberly Collection showcasing the paintings of Joy Laville in dialogue with some of her contemporaries, who, like her, worked and lived in Mexico and shared similar thematic obsessions and traces of the plastic language. MEXICAN CULTURAL INSTITUTE

THROUGH APRIL 28

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: Pulse

Innovative Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer brings the largest interactive technology exhibition to the Hirshhorn. “Pulse” takes up the entire second level, with three major installations using heart-rate sensors to create audiovisual experiences from visitors’ biometric data. Together, the biometric signatures will create spellbinding sequences of soundscapes, lights and animations. HIRSHHORN MUSEUM AND SCULPTURE GARDEN

THROUGH MAY 3

On the Move

When people travel, their private and public spaces overlap. Paths cross and people with different destinations and motivations see their lives intertwined in ways clear as well as subtle, for times periods both extensive and brief. This exhibition explores the connective bonds between individual and collective experiences. Photographs by Juana Barreto Yampey, Helena Giestas and Olivia Vivanco invite visitors to reflect on the continuous movement of people from place to place, walking a blurred line where private and public spaces and experiences overlap. OAS ART MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAS

THROUGH MAY 19

PINK Ranchos and Other Ephemeral Zip Codes

Through this series of interconnected works, Colombian-American artist Carolina Mayorga invites the audience to enter a PINK-mented reality and experience her bicultural interpretations of those living inside ranchos, cambuches, shelters and other ephemeral zip codes. This site-specific multimedia project is the result of a year of artistic investigation on issues of home and homelessness and the artist’s fascination with the color pink. By applying the pigment to women and children (characters typically associated with home), memories of her native Colombia, 14 years of residency in D.C. and AMA’s permanent collection, she has

The Washington Diplomat created a pleasing environment to contrast the experiences of those living in exile, displacement, dislocation, relocation and eviction. OAS ART MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAS

THROUGH MAY 19

Zilia Sánchez: Soy Isla (I Am an Island)

The Phillips presents the first museum retrospective of Cuban artist Zilia Sánchez. This longoverdue exhibition examines the artist’s prolific yet largely unknown career that spans almost 70 years, featuring more than 60 works including paintings, works on paper, shaped canvases and sculptural pieces, alongside illustrations, design sketches and ephemera. Many of Sánchez’s works reference protagonists from ancient mythology (such as Trojans, Amazonians, and Antigone—all warriors and female heroines). Others have reoccurring motifs of lunar shapes, erotic topologies and tattoo drawings that map physical and psychological spaces. THE PHILLIPS COLLECTION

THROUGH MAY 27

In Peak Bloom

Highlighting the fragile beauty and ephemeral nature of the cherry blossoms, “In Peak Bloom” features digital art installations by women artists and female-led art collectives. The works take their inspiration from both the cherry blossoms’ iconic form as well as its traditional symbolism and mythology, calling attention to the passing of time, momentary exchanges and the impermanence that characterizes all life on earth. ARTECHOUSE

THROUGH MAY 29

Underlying Borders

This exhibition brings together the work of five artists and their experiences of migration between Mexico and the United States. They work from perspectives that seek to reconfigure and blur borders and boundaries, in a game of tension between locations and relocations. The artists explore concepts related to institutionalized notions such as identity, gender or nationality. Through their work, they pretend that these limits or boundaries, manifested as geographic distances or through the act of inhabiting the body or memory, are understood as zones of transition. MEXICAN CULTURAL INSTITUTE

THROUGH JUNE 9

A Gaze through the CINTAS Fellowship Program

This exhibition illustrates the efforts of the CINTAS Foundation in promoting the arts of Cubans and descendants of Cubans beyond the island for more than 55 years. It juxtaposes works from the foundation with those of the Art Museum of the Americas collection, showcases artists of the Cuban vanguard such as Hugo Consuegra and Mario Carreño, as well as artists

who emerged later in the 20th century such as Andrés Serrano and Ana Mendieta.

OAS ART MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAS

THROUGH JUNE 30

Siri Berg: Statements

Since the 1960s, Swedish painter and multimedia artist Siri Berg has worked with a geometric abstraction, one both strictly reduced and rich in variation and the visually unexpected. This retrospective provides an exclusive access to a selection of Berg’s vintage and new paintings, offering a different investigative look at the varied interests and aesthetic experimentations of Berg’s career. One exhibition gallery closes on May 12 while the other closes June 30. Part of the Swedish Embassy’s 2019 thematic programming “Smart Societies – Creative & Inclusive”; for information, visit www.swedenabroad.se/en/embassies/usa-washington/current/ calendar/. HOUSE OF SWEDEN

THROUGH JULY 7

Tintoretto: Artist of Renaissance Venice

In celebration of the 500th anniversary of the birth of Jacopo Tintoretto (1518/1519–1594), the National Gallery of Art and the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia presents this major exhibition on the Venetian master. As the first retrospective of the artist in North America, the exhibition will include many significant international loans traveling to the U.S. for the first time. The exhibition will feature nearly 50 paintings and more than a dozen works on paper spanning the artist’s entire career and ranging from regal portraits of Venetian aristocracy to religious and mythological narrative scenes. The exhibit is accompanied by “Drawing in Tintoretto’s Venice” focusing on his work as a draftsman (through June 9) and “Venetian Prints in the Time of Tintoretto” featuring some 40 prints from the second half of the 16th century (through June 9). NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART

THROUGH JULY 28

Ursula von Rydingsvard: The Contour of Feeling

This major exhibition celebrating one of the most influential sculptors working today marks the most ambitious Ursula von Rydingsvard exhibition to date in the United States and her first solo exhibition in Washington, D.C. Featuring 30 sculptures, a wall installation and 10 works on paper, the exhibition focuses on the artist’s signature works — monumental, organic-shaped sculptures made from carved cedar wood — as well as other pieces that are on view in this project for the first time. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF WOMEN IN THE ARTS

THROUGH SEPT. 29, 2019

Good as Gold: Fashioning Senegalese Women

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April 2019

In the cities of the West African nation of Senegal, stylish women have often used jewelry as part of an overall strategy of exhibiting their elegance and prestige. Rooted in the Wolof concept of sañse (dressing up, looking and feeling good), “Good as Gold” examines the production, display, and circulation of gold in Senegal as it celebrates a significant gift of gold jewelry to the National Museum of African Art’s collection. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN ART

THROUGH SEPTEMBER 2019

Shaping Clay in Ancient Iran

Potters in ancient Iran were fascinated by the long-beaked waterfowl and rams with curled horns around them. This exhibition of ceramics produced in northwestern Iran highlights animal-shaped vessels as well as jars and bowls decorated with animal figures. ARTHUR M. SACKLER GALLERY

THROUGH OCT. 20

Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths

More than 225 works of art — including blades and currencies in myriad shapes and sizes, wood sculptures studded with iron, musical instruments and elaborate body adornments — reveal the histories of invention and technical sophistication that led African blacksmiths to transform one of Earth’s most fundamental natural resources into objects of life-changing utility, empowerment, prestige, artistry and spiritual potency. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN ART

THROUGH NOV. 17, 2019

Portraits of the World: Korea

Pioneering feminist artist Yun Suknam (born 1939) uses portraiture to gain insights into the lives of women, past and present. A wood assemblage portrait of her mother is the centerpiece of this exhibition, which includes portraits of American artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Louise Nevelson, Marisol, Kiki Smith and Nancy Spero. NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY

THROUGH 2019

Urban Challenges

According to the U.N., 2.5 billion people are expected to live in cities by 2050. This will force cities to find new ways to handle the increased demands on natural resources, housing and infrastructure. This exhibition presents some of the social, economic and technological solutions proposed by Sweden to absorb the impact of our rapidly growing urban environment while leaving the environmental legacy next generations deserve. Come and find out more about Guerilla Crafts, Democratic Architecture and the mixed reality Block Builder application in large-scale environments. Part of the Swedish Embassy’s 2019 thematic programming “Smart


Events | Culture | WD

Societies – Creative & Inclusive”; for information, visit www.swedenabroad.se/en/embassies/usawashington/current/calendar/. HOUSE OF SWEDEN

DANCE APRIL 3 TO 7

Three World Premieres

The Washington Ballet will present three never before seen works featuring choreography by former San Francisco Ballet soloist Dana Genshaft, American Ballet Theatre star Ethan Stiefel, and world renowned ballet choreographer Trey McIntyre. Tickets are $25 to $100. SIDNEY HARMAN HALL

TUE., APRIL 9, 16, 23, 30 AT 6:30 P.M.

Learn to Dance Tango!

Learn to dance the tango at the Embassy of Argentina as part of the Pan-American Symphony Orchestra’s (PASO) 13th D.C. Tango Festival. Taught by Arnaud Lucas and Corinne Merzeraud, these classes are for beginners but should be taken in order since they build progressively on the class before it. Instruction is in English. Appropriate tango dancing shoes are required (leather, suede or hard plastic soles; no rubber soles). Couples only. Tickets are $5 per person per class and available only as a four-class package and must be paid in advance. For information, visit www.panamsymphony.org. EMBASSY OF ARGENTINA

APRIL 9 TO 14

Mariinsky Ballet: Le Corsaire

For more than two and a half centuries, the Mariinsky Ballet has been a crown jewel of the art form, celebrated for its dancers of unmatched skill and majesty. For its annual engagement, the legendary company presents Marius Petipa’s captivating story of bold pirates, passionate maidens, shocking betrayal, and a dramatic shipwreck rescue. Tickets are $49 to $209. KENNEDY CENTER OPERA HOUSE

APRIL 17 TO 21

Falun Dafa Association of D.C.: Shen Yun

Shen Yun’s unique artistic vision expands theatrical experience into a multi-dimensional, inspiring journey through one of humanity’s greatest treasures — the five millennia of traditional Chinese culture. Tickets are $80 to $250. KENNEDY CENTER OPERA HOUSE

DISCUSSIONS THU., APRIL 4, 6:45 P.M.

Denmark’s Defiance: Protecting a Nation’s Jews in WWII

In 1943, most of occupied Europe was hunkered down against the Nazis. The people of Denmark — led by their king — dared to stand up for their Jewish countrymen in what is considered to be one of the largest actions of collective resistance to aggression in the countries occupied by Nazi Germany. Join historian Ralph Nurnberger as he recounts

this extraordinary act of courage on the part of an entire nation under severe duress. Tickets are $45; for information, visit smithsonianassociates.org.

S. DILLON RIPLEY CENTER

SAT., APRIL 6, 9:30 A.M. TO 4:15 P.M.

The Six Wives of Henry VIII

We can easily remember them: “divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived.” We think we understand them: Catherine of Aragon was a dedicated wife, Anne Boleyn was a home wrecker, Jane Seymour was a doormat, Anne of Cleves was ugly, Catherine Howard was a whore and Katherine Parr was a saint. But who were these women who had the misfortune of being married to one of the most difficult husbands in history? Tudor and Renaissance scholar Carol Ann Lloyd Stanger considers each of Henry’s queens, examining their personalities, motivations, influence and strengths. Tickets are $140; for information, visit smithsonianassociates.org. S. DILLON RIPLEY CENTER

MON., APRIL 8, 6:45 P.M.

Conversation and Book Presentation: Enrique Olvera on Mexican Home Cooking

Enrique Olvera, widely considered Mexico’s best chef, is a leading culinary authority who has been praised for his brilliant reinvention of traditional Mexican cuisine and that has influenced a generation of chefs. Here, Olvera discusses his second English-language book, “Tu Casa Mi Casa (Phaidon),” where he focuses on authentic Mexican recipes meant to be prepared with ease at home. To RSVP, visit www.instituteofmexicodc.org. MEXICAN CULTURAL INSTITUTE

THU., APRIL 11, 7 P.M.

France and the American Revolution

“The American Revolution: A World War,” an exhibition at the National Museum of American History and a companion book of the same name, highlights the degree to which the American Revolution became a global war, in which the Americans relied heavily on support from other nations, most notably France and Spain. The war was fought across five continents and three oceans, with over 200,000 French and Spanish fighting against Britain, almost as many as the Americans. Over 90 percent of all the arms used by the Americans came from overseas, as well as $30 billion in foreign aid. Four scholars will discuss how the American alliance with France shaped both the conduct of the war, as well as the complex peace negotiations that ultimately ended it. For information, visit http:// frenchculture.org/events/9603france-and-american-revolution. EMBASSY OF FRANCE

WED., APRIL 24, 6:45 P.M.

The World of ‘Poldark’

In the wildly popular British series “Poldark” seen on PBS, the fantasies of Georgian England and its historical realities

are, surprisingly, not far apart. Aristocrat Ross Poldark returns after three years of fighting the American War of Independence to discover his Cornwall estate in ruins and his first love engaged to his cousin. He reopens his copper mines for income, moves to a modest farm, marries his kitchen servant and works to help the indigent. Julie Taddeo of the University of Maryland examines the topics the show encompasses: economics, religion, marriage, medicine, social customs, fashions, and the details of daily life in Cornwall and London. Tickets are $45; for information, visit smithsonianassociates.org. S. DILLON RIPLEY CENTER

TUE., APRIL 30, 6:45 P.M.

The CIA and the Presidents: An Ever-Changing Relationship

The sprawling Central Intelligence Agency has thousands of eyes and ears, but only one client: the president of the United States. The man who occupies that office shapes the substance and style of a relationship that extends for four or eight years. Some chief executives want intense briefings, others more charts and pictures. Some can’t get enough of the CIA, others remain at arm’s length. The CIA’s chief historian David Robarge discusses the agency’s changing role throughout administrations, and how presidents’ experience with intelligence and their foreign policy agendas have affected that relationship. Tickets are $45; for information, visit smithsonianassociates.org. S. DILLON RIPLEY CENTER

FESTIVALS SAT., APRIL 6, 11 A.M. TO 1:30 P.M.

Easter Workshop and Egg Hunt

Sign up your elder ones (ages 6-12) for a special egg decoration workshop (11 a.m.-12 p.m. or 12:30 p.m.-1:30 pm). The workshop will utilize folk artisan skills on various materials under the direction of a diplomat. Children under 6 years old will decorate eggs at a come and go pace with Miss Czech and Slovak Queens 2018/2019 Jane Buckley and Emma Carlin. The egg hunt (ages 1-10) at 12 p.m. in the embassy’s spacious garden will feature Czech candies and sweets. Live baby farm animals such as bunnies, lambs, and alpacas from the Frederick County Sheep Breeders Association, Blue Rock Farm and Whispering Meadows Farm will also be on site for cuddles and selfies. Registration is required by April 2 and can be made by emailing czechembassypr@gmail.com. EMBASSY OF THE CZECH REPUBLIC

THROUGH APRIL 14

National Cherry Blossom Festival

The National Cherry Blossom Festival commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, D.C., and celebrates the enduring friendship between the United States and Japan. Today’s festival now spans four weeks and welcomes

more than 1.5 million people to enjoy diverse and creative programming promoting traditional and contemporary arts and culture, natural beauty and community spirit. Events are primarily free and open to the public. For information, visit nationalcherryblossomfestival.org. VARIOUS LOCATIONS

GALAS FRI., APRIL 12, 6:30 P.M.

National Museum of Women in the Arts Gala

Join co-chairs Marcy Cohen, Kristen Lund and Sara O’Keefe for a special night at the National Museum of Women in the Arts’s largest annual fundraising event. The evening features dinner, dancing and a silent auction. Ambassador of Italy Armando Varricchio and Micaela Varricchio will serve as honorary chairs, while artist Ursula von Rydingsvard will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in the Arts. For reservations, call (202) 266-2815 or email fmurray@nmwa.org. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF WOMEN IN THE ARTS

MUSIC THU., APRIL 4, 6:45 P.M.

Tribute to Álvaro Carrillo by Alma de Cuerdas Ensemble The Mexican Cultural Institute welcomes Oaxacan musical group Alma de Cuerdas for a tribute to Álvaro Carrillo on the 100th anniversary of his birth. To RSVP, visit www.instituteofmexicodc.org. MEXICAN CULTURAL INSTITUTE

MON., APRIL 8, 7:30 P.M.

Bruno Monteiro, Violin Nuno Marques, Piano

Heralded by the daily Público as “one of Portugal´s premier violinists” and by the weekly Expresso as “one of today’s most renowned Portuguese musicians,” Bruno Monteiro is internationally recognized as a distinguished violinist of his generation. A versatile musician, he is equally comfortable playing solo, chamber music or collaborating artistically with other forms of expression. Along with pianist Nuno Marques, he will perform a program of Brahms, Franck, Branco, Barbosa and Saint-Saëns. Tickets are $125, including Portuguese buffet and wine; for information, visit www. embassyseries.org. PORTUGUESE RESIDENCE

THU., APRIL 11, 7 P.M.

Levin Music Concert

The Austrian Cultural Forum Washington is delighted to host Levine Music’s exceptionally dedicated Honors Program students as they perform a recital filled with chamber music. To register, visit http://acfdc.org. EMBASSY OF AUSTRIA

FRI., APRIL 12, 7:30 P.M.

Jesús Rodolfo Rodriguez, Viola Edvinas Minkstimas, Piano

Viola perfomer Jesús Rodolfo Rodriguez studied at Oviedo Conservatory in Spain, Yale Uni-

versity, Juilliard School in New York, Mannes College of Music, Manhattan School of Music and Stony Brook University; pianist Edvinas Minkstimas received his doctorate of musical arts from the Juilliard School, where he was recipient of the C.V. Starr Foundation Doctoral Fellowship and studied with Jerome Lowenthal. Together, they perform a program of Liszt, Ciurlionis and Rachmaninov. Tickets are $95, including buffet and wine; for information, visit www.embassyseries.org.

EMBASSY OF LITHUANIA

FRI., APRIL 12, 7:30 P.M.

The Mighty Five and Friends

For season finale of the Russian Chamber Art Society, soprano Zhanna Alkhazova, mezzo-soprano Anastasiia Sidorova, bass Grigory Soloviov and pianist Vera Danchenko-Stern will perform works by the “Mighty Five” group of composers. Also known as the “Mighty Handful,” Mily Balakirev, Alexander Borodin, César Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and their colleagues transformed classical music in Russia, using colors and rhythms to express the soul of the people and setting historical narratives and folk tales in their songs and operas. Tickets are $55, including post-concert reception; for information, visit thercas.com. EMBASSY OF FRANCE

SAT., APRIL 13, 2 P.M.

Washington Performing Arts: Dénes Várjon, Piano

A onetime protégé of Sir András Schiff and Alfred Brendel and a regular collaborator of the likes of Joshua Bell and Steven Isserlis, Hungarian pianist Dénes Várjon boasts prodigious technique and a balance of inventiveness and sensitivity in his interpretations of both standard and lesserknown repertoire. Tickets are $45. KENNEDY CENTER TERRACE THEATER

TUE., APRIL 16, 7:30 P.M.

Fazil Say

Pianist and composer Fazıl Say will perform a piano recital in the first half of the concert, while vocalist Serenad Bağcan will join him on stage in the second half to present extraordinary examples from Turkish classical and literature fusion songs from the İlk Şarkılar and Yeni Şarkılar albums. Tickets are $40 to $100. GWU LISNER AUDITORIUM

SHOWCASES TUE., APRIL 2, 6:30 P.M.

Events DC Embassy Chef Challenge

The 11th annual Events DC Embassy Chef Challenge presented by TCMA celebrates culinary diplomacy and provides a uniquely D.C. opportunity to taste authentic food and drinks from embassy chefs representing all regions of the world. An array of international performances including musicians and dancers provide entertainment throughout the evening, while guests visit each regional pavilion to sample the sips and bites, and be part of the excitement to see which chefs win the Judge’s

Choice and People’s Choice Awards. Cultural diversity and inclusion are at the forefront of this culinary competition. Attendees should bring an empty stomach, open mind and be prepared to take a journey around the world. Tickets are $160 in advance or $200 the day of the event. For information, visit www.eventsdcembassychefchallenge.com. RONALD REAGAN BUILDING AND INTERNATIONAL TRADE CENTER

TUE., APRIL 2, 6:45 P.M.

Agave Tasting: The Souls of the Spirit

Explore the emblematic spirits of Mexico with three of the most respected authorities in the world of agave culture. This interactive panel discussion will cover Mexican spirits from historical, cultural and sustainable perspectives. Tickets are $25. MEXICAN CULTURAL INSTITUTE

TUE., APRIL 9, 10:30 A.M.

AAFSW’s Glamour and Diplomacy Fashion Show

Associates of the American Foreign Service Service Worldwide (AAFSW) — in collaboration with Jan Du Plain Global Enterprises and Indira Gumarova, wife of the Czech ambassador — celebrate contemporary designers from around the world in this one-ofa-kind fashion show, which will feature women ambassadors and ambassadorial spouses from various continents presenting a designer dress from their respective nations. For information, please call Sheila Switzer at (703) 623-6695 or email AAFSW@gmail.com. STATE DEPARTMENT DEAN ACHESON AUDITORIUM

THEATER MON., APRIL 1, 6:30 P.M.

Reading and Dialogue: Zeitgeist Literature Festival @LaPop Cultural Salon

From the housing projects of Berlin, to the mountains of Kyrgyzstan, with foray through the streets of Bucharest, the 2019 edition of the annual Zeitgeist Literature Festival brings you the best in contemporary German-language literature. Join the Goethe-Institut, the Austrian Cultural Forum Washington and the Embassy of Switzerland in welcoming three leading German-language novelists to the nation’s capital, where they will present their latest work in a reading and conversation with three prominent local writers. To register, visit http://acfdc.org. LA POP CULTURAL SALON

APRIL 1 TO 20

The Peculiar Patriot

Betsy LaQuanda Ross is a selfproclaimed “Peculiar Patriot,” who makes regular visits to penitentiaries in order to boost the morale of her loved ones. When she is not sharing neighborhood updates and gossip, Betsy illuminates the country’s cruel and unjust criminal justice system and its impact not only on the 2.3 million people behind bars, but also their family and friends. Tickets start at $46.

SEE EVENT S • PAGE 47

APRIL 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 41


WD | Culture | Spotlight

Diplomatic Spotlight

April 2019

Congo Ambassador Insider Series Congolese Ambassador Serge Mombouli, dean of the African diplomatic corps in the U.S., headlined The Washington Diplomat’s latest Ambassador Insider Series (AIS) on Feb. 28 at the Congolese Embassy. To a packed house, Mombouli talked about the misconceptions people have about both his country and Africa at large. Mombouli’s homeland, the Republic of the Congo (also referred to as Congo-Brazzaville after its capital city), is a former French colony that is often mixed up with the Democratic Republic of Congo (also called Congo-Kinshasa or the DRC), a former Belgian colony. Both gained independence in 1960 but from there their paths diverged, with the Republic of Congo enjoying a measure of stability that has eluded its larger, more troubled neighbor. But Congo has also been criticized for a president, Denis Sassou Nguesso, who has now been in power for a total of 33 years. Mombouli, however, argued that Africa is often singled out for having so-called “presidents for life,” even though many countries in Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere also have long-serving leaders. Moreover, he said that for many Africans, stability, security and development are more immediate priorities than elections. Mombouli — an expert in corporate law and business Anna Gawel, managing editor of The Washington Diplomat, moderates a discussion with negotiations who was appointed ambassador in 2001 — also Congolese Ambassador Serge Mombouli. defended his president’s track record. He said that Sassou Nguesso’s government has used Congo’s substantial oil wealth to develop the economy and introduce market-oriented reforms such as privatizing state entities. On that note, the ambassador urged Americans to invest in the Congo and that his nation of 5 million people was open for business.

The Washington Diplomat sales manager Rod Carrasco, Kriti Doval of the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum, Puru Trivedi of the Meridian International Center and Cameron Nezam of the LINE Hotel.

Eric Ham, a national security/political analyst on BBC, SkyNews and SiriusXM’s POTUS Channel, asks a question.

— Photos: Jessica Knox Photography — Anna Gawel, managing editor of The Washington Diplomat, interviews Congolese Ambassador Serge Mombouli.

Ambassador of Nicaragua Francisco Obadiah Campbell Hooker and Ambassador of Malawi Edward Sawerengera.

The Washington Diplomat operations director Fuad Shiblie and Mounira Al Hmoud of i24 News.

42 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | APRIL 2019

Ambassador of Mauritius Sooroojdev Phokeer, Ambassador of Nicaragua Francisco Obadiah Campbell Hooker, managing editor Anna Gawel, Ambassador of the Republic of Congo Serge Mombouli, publisher Victor Shiblie and Ambassador of Malawi Edward Sawerengera.

Wame Phetlhu, deputy chief of mission of the Botswanan Embassy, right, and a guest.

Christine Vest of the European Union Delegation to the U.S., Gintare Gedrimaite of the Embassy of Lithuania, Leila Ali and Scott Stewart.

Charles Sills of the Eurasia Center, Divyanshu Varshney, founder and president of VR/AR/MR, and Claudine Halabi of Baron Tours.

Cindy Courville, former U.S. ambassador to the African Union, and Ken Indart of ECS Jets.

Thomas Coleman, Thomas Guastini and Derrick Wayland, all from the Department of Homeland Security.


Spotlight | Culture | WD

Simon Klink of the Department of Navy, Marisa GesellKlink, Elizabeth D’Antuono and Christopher D’Antuono of the Department of Navy.

The Washington Diplomat sales manager Rod Carrasco and Marinela Arresi of Keller Williams Realty.

Rana Karjawally, The Washington Diplomat publisher Victor Shiblie, Gamillla Karjawally and Dr. Claudia Camelia Cotca of the Washington Institute for Dentistry & Laser Surgery.

Congolese Ambassador Serge Mombouli and The Washington Diplomat managing editor Anna Gawel.

Doudou Teclair Ngoul’S of A.M.A. TV Internationale and a guest.

Publisher Victor Shiblie talks to Tony Culley-Foster, president and founder of CFCO International.

Isaac Shomer of Young Professionals in International Affairs, and guest, pose with Scott Stewart, Leila Ali and Christine Vest of the European Union Delegation to the U.S.

Mo Elhajjam of AV Actions, publisher Victor Shiblie and Ambassador of Malawi Edward Sawerengera.

Stephane B. Mamaty, counselor at the Congolese Embassy, and a guest.

Ambassador of Mauritius Sooroojdev Phokeer and Ambassador of the Republic of Congo Serge Mombouli.

Michael McClellan of the Department of Homeland Security and George Martinez.

Anna Gawel, managing editor of The Washington Diplomat, interviews Congolese Ambassador Serge Mombouli.

Nam Nguyen of the International Geriatric Radiotherapy Group asks a question.

Lindsay Webb and Jamie Gray, both of DMI (Digital Management LLC) and operations director Fuad Shiblie.

Raed Kolaghassi, executive vice president of Kadcon Corp., Nam Nguyen of the International Geriatric Radiotherapy Group and Isaac Shomer of Young Professionals in International Affairs.

ARC Hotel Opening

Taiwan Relations Act

ARC THE.HOTEL on New Hampshire Avenue celebrated its final phase reveal with a grand opening party. More than 200 guests enjoyed live music by the Kevin Rose Duo while sipping cocktails and sampling fresh, locally sourced dishes from the hotel’s redesigned farm-totable restaurant, Notti 824. Local artist Lakshmi Sarkar drew custom portraits of attendees on Jad Bouchebel, David Tafuri, Anastasia Vakula hotel room keys that provided access to the and Vithaya Phongsavan. intimate #UnlockARC sneak peek.

The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) hosted a reception at Twin Oaks to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act, which has been a cornerstone of the U.S.-Taiwan relationship since 1979. TECRO Representative Stanley Kao, fourth from right, welcomed various guests, including, from left, U.S. Reps. Mike McCaul (R-Texas), Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) and Rep. Mario DiazBalart (R-Fla.), as well as former Congressman Lester Wolff (D-N.Y.), far right, who just PHOTO: TECRO turned 100 and was one of the authors of the Taiwan Relations Act.

PHOTOS: ANA VALENTIN

Nickolas Barylski, Christian Miles Bentley, Yasmine Nashed and John Mawad.

APRIL 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 43


WD | Culture | Spotlight

Diplomatic Spotlight

April 2019

Bulgarian National Day

Kuwaiti Independence Day

More than 400 people toasted Bulgaria’s National Day on March 3 at the Library of Congress. Guests included members of Congress, the White House and U.S. government officials, the diplomatic corps; and representatives from academia and business. Honorary consuls of Bulgaria in the U.S. and former U.S. ambassadors to Bulgaria participated as well, along with leaders from the American Jewish organizations. At the end of the reception, Bulgarian Ambassador Tihomir Stoytchev awarded Maj. Gen. Terry Haston with a Commendation Medal from the Bulgarian defense minister for his contribution to the partnership between Bulgaria and the National Ambassador of Bulgaria Tihomir Stoytchev, his wife Dr. Lubka Guard of Tennessee. Stoytcheva and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.). PHOTOS: EMBASSY OF BULGARIA

On Feb. 26, hundreds gathered at the Trump International Hotel for a lavish reception to celebrate the 58th anniversary of the independence of Kuwait.

Ambassador of Libya Wafa Bugaighis, Ambassador of Moldova Cristina Balan, Ambassador of Bulgaria Tihomir Stoytchev, Ambassador of Kosovo Vlora Çitaku and Ambassador of Albania Floreta Faber. Maj. Gen. Terry Haston, commissioner/adjutant general of Tennessee.

Rima Al-Sabah and Ambassador of Kuwait Salem Al-Sabah welcome guests.

Former Ambassador of Lebanon Farid Abboud, Ambassador of Oman Hunaina Sultan Ahmed Al-Mughairy and her husband Fuad Mubarak al-Hinai, Oman’s permanent representative to the U.N.

PHOTO: EMBASSY OF MOLDOVA

Representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) Stanley Kao, his wife Sherry Sung, Mrs. Atta Abbas and Ambassador of Sudan Mohamed Atta Abbas.

An elaborate floral and dessert display.

U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Elan S. Carr greets Ambassador of Bulgaria Tihomir Stoytchev and his wife Dr. Lubka Stoytcheva. Guests dressed in traditional Bulgarian outfits.

Opera singer Genko Geshev, a music professor at Duqesne University in Pittsburgh, opens the program.

Yemeni Minister of Cultural Marwan Dammaj, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Mary Royce and Ambassador of Yemen Ahmed A. BinMubarak.

At left, ACCESS DC President Susan Chusyd; AJC Washington Regional Director Alan Ronkin; Austrian Embassy Director of Press and Information Thorsten Eisingerich; Ambassador of Austria Wolfgang Waldner; Austrian Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Christian Brunmayr; and AJC Washington Vice President Linda Rosenzweig.

Annual Hanukkah Celebration The Embassy of Austria joined AJC Washington (the global Jewish advocacy organization) to celebrate Hanukkah. The gathering was the eighth annual celebration hosted by the embassy in partnership with AJC. “The joint celebration has been growing in popularity ever since,” said Thorsten Eisingerich, director of the Press and Information Department at the Austrian Embassy. PHOTOS: KAREN SAYRE, EIKON PHOTOGRAPHY

At right, Editor at the Office of International Religious Freedom MacKenzie Bills and Stacy Bernard Davis, senior advisor for combating antiSemitism and Europe unit chief at the Office of International Religious Freedom.

44 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | APRIL 2019

At right, Senior Director for Marketing and Communications at Blue Star Strategies Jeremiah Baronberg; Public Affairs Officer at the Drug Enforcement Administration David Levey; Senior Vice President at the Recording Industry Association of America Joshua Friedlander; and AJC Washington Board Member Dottie Bennett.

At right, audience members listen as an Austrian band performs Yiddish songs.

Iranian businessman Muhammad Reza Nouri Esfandiari, his wife Ambassador of Morocco Princess Lalla Joumala Alaoui and Ambassador of Iraq Fareed Yasseen.

Austrian Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Christian Brunmayr and AJC Washington Assistant Regional Director Susan Sloan.


World | WD

In Memoriam Thai Ambassador Virachai Plasai Dies at 58

V

statement. “He was an avid musician, bringing the beauty of His irachai Plasai, ambassador of Thailand to the United Late Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s musical compositions States, died on March 16 at Johns Hopkins Hospital to many Americans.” in Baltimore, Md., where he was being treated for Alexander C. Feldman, president and CEO of the US-ASEmyelodysplastic syndrome, a type of cancer that affects blood AN Business Council, also praised Plasai for his diplomatic and cells in the bone marrow. He was 58. musical outreach. “Throughout his 32 years of diplomatic service, Ambassa“Ambassador Virachai was a great leader in establishing Thaidor Virachai served the Kingdom of Thailand with dedicaland’s role on the international stage, and he served his country tion and distinction,” a statement from the Thai Embassy in with enormous poise and dedication. He brought a special, Washington said. “As an accomplished diplomat and expert deeply personal touch to diplomatic relations and his love of in international law, he earned respect and admiration from music and understanding of how the power of that music could the Thai people and his colleagues worldwide.” unite people made a deep impact on all those he touched,” FeldBorn in Bangkok on June 9, 1960, Plasai won a governman said. ment scholarship to study at the University of Paris, where he “I will always remember watching him on stage in Bangkok earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in law. in an impromptu performance, which clearly showed his love In 1987, he returned to Thailand to join the Foreign Ministry, of music and his mastery of guitar, as well as how he used a where he represented the Thai government in a number of jazz concert at the Library of Congress to mark the 185th anhigh-profile legal cases, including as a panelist and arbitrator niversary of the establishment of U.S.-Thai relations,” he added. at the World Trade Organization. Plasai became well known in Thailand in 2012 as chief litigaFrom 2009 to 2015, Plasai served as Thailand’s ambassador tor at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the legal dispute to the Netherlands. In March 2015, he was appointed perwith Cambodia over ownership of the Preah Vihear Temple. manent representative of Thailand to the United Nations in The court ruled that Cambodia had territorial sovereignty New York, where in 2016 he led the Group of 77, the largest over the ancient Hindu temple and that both countries needed grouping of countries at the world body. In June 2018, he was to cooperate to resolve other boundary issues and work to proappointed ambassador to the United States. tect the UNESCO World Heritage site. In a September 2018 cover profile in The Washington DipPlasai told the Bangkok Post that he was satisfied with the lomat, Plasai emphasized the enduring, “excellent relations” ruling, calling it balanced. In a 2013 interview with the media between Thailand and the United States, which stretch back outlet, he called the ICJ experience “another assignment in my 200 years. career.” In that interview, he acknowledged U.S. concerns about the “It is true that being my country’s agent before the ICJ is by Thai military’s control of the government, while stressing that far the most important assignment I have ever been given, and his Southeast Asian nation of 70 million would adopt a politiPHOTO: LAWRENCE RUGGERI one that comes with the heaviest pressure imaginable,” he said. cal system in line with its traditions. VIRACHAI PLASAI “But I try not to focus on that aspect, because that would dis“Our American friends value democracy very highly, which ambassador of Thailand to the United States tract me from my duties. In short, I just go out there and play we understand,” the ambassador told us. “For the last two or my best game.” three years, we’ve been laying down the new legal foundations Plasai, who is survived by his wife Elizabeth, added: “I like to see myself as a professional football for what we think should bring about a better form of democracy more suited to Thai culture.” “Ambassador Virachai is remembered by many as a stalwart friend of the United States, work- player who takes whatever job the manager entrusts him with, and considers himself lucky for ing tirelessly to further the U.S.-Thai relationship and advance the prosperity and security of both having it.” — Anna Gawel and Samantha Subin our nations,” Robert Palladino, deputy spokesman of the State Department, said in a March 16

Diplomatic Appointments Armenia Varuzhan Nersesyan became ambassador of Armenia to the United States on Jan. 11, 2019, having previously served as assistant to the Armenian prime minister since Ambassador April 2018. Ambassador Varuzhan Nersesyan also previously Nersesyan served in Washington, D.C., as deputy chief of mission from 2008 to 2012. In addition, he was assistant to the Armenian president responsible for international affairs and matters related to the National Security Council (2012-18); head of the External Relations Department for the Armenian National Assembly (2006-08); head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2005-06); and deputy head of mission for the Armenian Permanent Mission to the OSCE in Vienna (2000-03). Other postings at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs include head of the Conventional Arms Control Division with the Arms Control and International Security Department (2003-05) and

OSCE desk officer (1999-2000). Ambassador Nersesyan holds a master’s degree in international relations, diplomacy and international law from Yerevan State University in Armenia; a master’s in public administration from the Public Administration Academy in Yerevan; and a certificate from the Global Master of Arts Program at Boston’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He speaks Armenian, English, Russian and German, and is married with three children.

Barbados Noel Anderson Lynch became ambassador of Barbados to the United States on Jan. 11, 2019. He also serves as the permanent representative of Barbados to the Organization of American States. Ambassador Lynch is a Barbadian statesman who began his political career as a senator from 1994 to 1999. He was elected to the House of Assembly for two consecutive terms from 2000 to 2008 and appointed to the Cabinet on both occasions to serve as minister of tourism and international transport. A marketing and communications professional by training and a former professional athlete, Ambassador Lynch most recently served as a lecturer at the

University of the West Indies and CEO of the Barbados Cricket Association. He also served as president of the Amateur Athletic Association of Barbados; manager of the national track team to the 2000 Sydney Olympics; vice president of the North American and Central American Confederation of the International Association of Athletic Federations; and as manager of various track and field teams. He holds a bachelor’s of science degree in marketing and business administration and a bachelor’s of arts in English and Spanish, as well as a diploma in education training, from the University of Puerto Rico – Mayaguez. He is married to Deborah Stoute-Lynch.

India Harsh Vardhan Shringla became ambassador of India to the United States on Jan. 11, 2019. In the course of a diplomatic career spanning 35 years, Ambassador Shringla has held a variety of positions in New Delhi and abroad. He has served as high commissioner of India to Bangladesh and ambassador of India to Thailand. He has also served in France (UNESCO); the U.S. (United Nations in New York); Vietnam (Hanoi and Ho

Chi Minh City); Israel; and South Africa (Durban). In addition, Ambassador Shringla served in the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi as joint secretary (director general) responsible for Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Maldives. He also headed the United Nations Political and SAARC Divisions in the ministry. Earlier, he was director of the Northern Division dealing with Nepal and Bhutan as well as deputy secretary of the Europe West Division. Ambassador Shringla graduated from St. Stephen’s College at Delhi Ambassador University and worked in Harsh Vardhan the corporate and public Shringla sectors in India prior to joining the Indian Foreign Service. He has pursued courses and published papers on conflict prevention, economic diplomacy, the Indian diaspora and India-Bangladesh relations. Ambassador Shringla speaks French, Vietnamese and Nepalese apart from English and Indian languages. He is married to Hemal Shringla and has one son.

APRIL 2019 | THE WASHINGTON DIPLOMAT | 45


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Friends wave as a cruise ship departs Lisbon for Mediterranean ports and the Indian Ocean. On board and on day trips in Marseilles, Pompeii, Athens, Istanbul and Cairo, a professor tells her young daughter about myth, history, religion and wars in this meditation on civilization (part of the Ibero-American Film Showcase). FORMER RESIDENCE OF THE AMBASSADORS OF SPAIN THU., APRIL 4, 6:30 P.M.

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The Washington Diplomat - April 2019  

The Washington Diplomat is an independent, monthly newspaper serving the Washington D.C. international and diplomatic community with regular...

The Washington Diplomat - April 2019  

The Washington Diplomat is an independent, monthly newspaper serving the Washington D.C. international and diplomatic community with regular...

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