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August 27 2013

Burundi : des descendants d'Omanais veulent être reconnu par leur pays - Burundi - RFI

Burundi : des descendants d’Omanais veulent être reconnu par leur pays - Burundi - RFI

http://www.rfi.fr/afrique/20130827-burundi-descendants-omanais-reclament-leur-pays-reconnaisse-apatrides?n

Une cinquantaine de ceux que les Burundais ont toujours appelées « les arabes » ont organisé un sit-in hier, lundi 26 août devant les bureaux du Haut commissariat pour les réfugiés (HCR) au Burundi, pour réclamer que leur pays d’origine, le richissime Sultanat d’Oman, leur accorde la nationalité de ce pays, ou alors qu’ils soient reconnus pour ce qu’ils sont dans les faits : des apatrides. Hommes, femmes et enfants ont manifesté silencieusement, brandissant des pancartes disant « Non à l’apatridie » ou encore : « Nous voulons rentrer chez nous à Oman ». Mais les choses ne sont pas si simples.

#burundi #minorités #oman #omanais

March 27 2013

Oman: Online Activists Freed

On March 21, the Sultan of Oman issued a pardon for online activists and writers imprisoned after being convicted of insulting the ruler, committing “information technology crimes,” and taking part in unauthorized protests. Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al-Said has ruled the Gulf state since 1970.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, ”information technology crimes” included “comments about the Sultan made on Facebook pages and blogs.” The release of the activists was confirmed [PDF] on March 22 by Amnesty International.

Sultan Qaboos and US Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Photo by Master Sgt. Jerry Morrison, U.S. Air Force. This image is in the public domain.

Sultan Qaboos and US Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Photo by Master Sgt. Jerry Morrison, U.S. Air Force. This image is in the public domain.

The move, which came as a surprise to most observers, runs counter to increasing attacks against online freedom of expression in the region. At least 50 Omani activists and writers were arrested in a police crackdown conducted between late May and early June 2012. They were convicted on charges such as insulting the nation's ruler, using the internet to publish defamatory material “under the pretense of freedom of expression,” and publishing harmful and provocative material in the media or on social networks.

“We are delighted that dozens of prisoners of conscience [...] are back at liberty and able to rejoin their families and friends,” a member of Amnesty International's MENA program said, adding that individuals exercising their right to freedom of expression should not have been imprisoned in the first place.

While describing the decision as a positive step, rights organizations are urging Oman to lift repressive laws and restrictions on freedom of expression.

December 29 2012

MENA: Acclaimed Authors’ Favorites of 2012

M. Lynx Qualey, blogger, who is interested in Arab and Arabic literature, wrote a series of posts introducing acclaimed Arab poets, novelists, and short-story writers’ favorite Arab reads of 2012. She started with a list of nonfiction books, then followed by a list for poetry [En] and fiction [En].

November 17 2012

Why is the GCC Quiet about Gaza?

“Gulf countries awfully quiet about Gaza,” tweets Foreign Policy editor Blake Hounshell. Lebanese journalist Antoun Issa adds:

@antissa: Amazing how eager GCC are to arm Arabs to fight each other, while disappearing completely when it comes to Palestine. #Gaza

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is made up of Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

February 06 2012

Oman: Blogger Muawiya Alrawahi Detained

Muawiya Alrawahi. Photo by Jillian C York

It has been reported on Twitter that outspoken Omani blogger Muawiya Alrawahi (interviewed by Global Voices here), known for his controversial ideas, has been detained because of a blog post and some tweets in which he criticised Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the ruler of Oman.

Twitter user Ammar Almamari (@omanammar) wrote on the morning of February 6:

@omanammar:المدون العماني معاوية الرواحي يمضي يومه الثاني في حجز القسم الخاص بشرطة عمان السلطانية على خلفية ما نشره مؤخرا #Oman #GCC #gulf #Omanspring
The Omani blogger Muawiya Alrawahi is spending his second day in the custody of the Special Division of the Royal Oman Police, against the backdrop of what he published recently

This is a reference to a long blog post from February 3 called “Covenant of Salvation” (which has since been deleted, but a cached copy is here [Ar]). In it Muawiya talked openly about a number of things, including suffering sexual abuse as a young teenager, his earlier involvement with Oman's Internal Security Service (ISS), his admiration for and connections to ex-ISS Brigadier-General Khamis Al Ghraibi (now imprisoned under charges of spying for the UAE), his lack of religious belief, his disillusionment with Oman, and his loss of faith in the ruler Sultan Qaboos.

Muawiya ended the post by saying:

لقد تحررت من كل شيء
أنا حرٌ الآن
I am liberated from everything
I am free now

Muawiya's tweets [Ar] were equally critical of Sultan Qaboos and the political situation in Oman, and in addition he called for the downfall of all Gulf rulers.

Blogger Ferass Alryami has written a post in solidarity with Muawiya:

لا أملك من السلطات سوى كلمات قد يقرؤها البعض و قد يتجاهلها الأخر ..لكنني هنا أود أرسل برسالة قصيرة جدا إلى صديقي معاوية من زنزانتي الكبرى إلى زنزانته الصغرى أو العكس :

” تدوينتك الآخيرة كانت عبارة عن كلمات خجولة، ربما هي لم تصل إلى من أردت تبليغهم إياها ، لكنها كلمات لا بد لها أن تخترق جدار الصمت فتفصح عن بعض ما عانيته يا معاوية ..
نعم نحن لا نتفق فكريا و سياسيا و صدمت كما صدم الآخرون لكنني واثق من براءة ما كتبته .”

I have no other powers than the words that some may read and some may ignore… But here I want to send a very short message to my friend Muawiya from my large cell to his small cell (or vice versa):

“The words in your last post were somewhat shy; maybe they didn't reach the people you wanted to send them to. But they are words that must break through the wall of silence to disclose some of what you have suffered, Muawiya.

It's true that we don't agree intellectually and politically, and I am shocked just as others are shocked, but I have confidence in the innocence of what you have written”

Others have argued [Ar] that Muawiya crossed too many lines, especially when talking about Islam.

Recently two Omani journalists were jailed for “insulting” the country's Minister of Justice by publishing allegations of corruption within the Ministry of Justice. Oman's recently amended penal code outlines punishment for those who undermine the “prestige of the state”, and an article in the press and publications law prohibits “disseminating all that would compromise state security, internal or external”.

October 21 2011

Oman: Statute of State Amended Following Shura Council Elections

Two nights ago a Royal Decree by the Sultan of Oman Qaboos announced amendments to the Basic Statute of the State - the closest legal document the country has to a constitution - giving the Shura (Consultative) and State councils a say in the way the country is run. The new laws give both houses new legislative and monitoring powers.

The Sultanate of Oman has had its share of protests and public outcry earlier in the year pushed the Sultan to do a major reshuffle of the Cabinet of Ministers, increase salaries, and grant thousands of scholarships to send Omanis to study abroad, amongst other reforms. However, the biggest change the Sultan promised, in March 2011, was issuing an amendment to the Basic Statute of the State to empower the Shura Council and the State Council with legislative and monitoring powers. This amendment finally came out on Wednesday 19 October, 2011.

This biggest amendment to the Basic State allows the Shura Council (an 84-member elected council) and the State Council (an appointed council) to have a more significant role in the legislative procedure. The collective capacity of the two councils forms the Council of Oman, which now has the exclusive authority for submitting draft laws to the Sultan after receiving proposals for these from the Cabinet of Ministers.

Previously the Cabinet of Ministers was the body responsible for this procedure, but according to the new text of the Basic Statute of the State the Cabinet of Ministers must pass draft laws to the Council of Oman who can review it and amend it before submitting it to the Sultan. The Cabinet of Ministers cannot bypass the Council of Oman even when it comes to laws that require expedite treatment as the Council of Oman will still have to see it but will have a limited time frame to review the document before submitting it to the Sultan.

The amendment to the Basic Statute of the State also added new authorities to the Council of Oman to review draft development plans and the annual budget, and the Cabinet of Ministers is required to look into the comments made by the Shura Council on the entry into any international treaty that has an economic or cultural impact before signature.

There are many other amendments such as a minimum qualification requirement for members of the Shura Council and further authorities on questioning Ministers, but a major amendment involves the appointment of the next Sultan; prior to the amendments the Basic Statute of the State required the Defence Council to enforce the secret will of the Sultan on who should rule next if the Ruling Family fails to agree within the period of three days after the death of the Sultan on that matter. The new amendment makes the Defence Council work with the Head of the State Council, the Head of the Shura Council, and the Head of the Supreme Court along with two of his deputies to enforce that will.

The reaction to the amendments of the Basic Statute of the State has been somewhat mixed, a great number of people are optimistic about the new changes as it seems to them the Shura Council will finally be able to have an influence in the decision making process, while some people on the other hand are disappointed that the opinions of the Shura Council are still not truly binding on the government and the Sultan still has the authority to reject the opinion of the Shura Council and take that of the Cabinet instead.

A discussion board commentator going under the name of Firas Al Riyami [ar] posted the following:

قد تكون انطلاقة حقيقية نحو تغيير شامل وجذري في عمان..قفزة كبيرة نحو الديمقراطية ودولة المؤسسات..واصلاح من العمق
السلطان بهذا سيعطي خارطة طريق لعمان جديدة..مكملا ما بداه من ورش الاصلاحات التي كانت تنم بالاساس القطع مع سياسات العهد الماضي..والاوراش الكبرى.
اليوم على الشعب ان يكون في مستوى التطلعات وفي مستوى الوعي الذي يؤهله لانجاح هذا الرهان..الان على الشباب والشعب بصفة عامة الانخراط في المؤسسات والجمعيات لاجل طرح صوته ومشاركة سياسية فعليه..
على الشعب ان يساهم في تعزيز دولة المؤسسات و يساهم في تعزيز دورها و تفعيلها و تأسيس مؤسسات تشاورية فعلية قوية.
This could be a real start towards a comprehensive and fundamental transformation in Oman, a big leap towards democracy and the establishment of an institutional country, and a reform from the true depths. The Sultan has given with this a roadmap towards a new Oman, completing what he has start from reform workshop that ere completing the termination of the policies of the old age. The biggest workshops are now, and the people must be up to the aspirations and must aware enough to make this bet succeed. Young people and the nation generally must get involved in institutions and associations in order to share their opinion and participate effectively. The nation must participate in supporting the institutional state, and its role and formation of a strong real consultative one.

Another commentator on the same discussion board going by the name ‘Ibrawi Omani' didn't share the same optimistic view saying [ar]:

لا يجوز إستجواب رئيس الحكومة
لا يجوز إستجواب نواب رئيس الحكومة
لا يجوز إستجواب وزراء الوزارات السيادية
لا يجوز مناقشة الإتفاقيات الأمنية والعسكرية والسياسية
رأي المجلسين غير مُلزِم للحكومة
You can't question the head of the government.
You can't question the deputies of the head of the government.
You can't question ministers of sovereign ministries.
You can't discuss security, military, or political treaties.
The opinion of the two councils are not binding on the government.

It will be very hard to predict what approach the Sultan will take when dealing directly with changes requested by the Shura Council and there are still other significant issues about the elected members of the Shura Council as many still believe that tribal pressures force people to vote for their tribal leaders instead of voting for capable people who they can really trust and support.

The Shura Council in its current form is also still not well equipped for reviewing legislation or international treaties as the members of the Council do not have staff members or even an office to go to and study the legal documents they are expected to comment on.

The majority of Omanis do not seem to be bothered with the fact that the exact scope of the authorities of the Shura and State Council were unknown, as the country was alive with excitement about the recent elections for the membership of the Shura Council, probably due to the assumption of many people that the future government will be selected from among members of the Shura Council. The result was that the country was swept with billboards of candidates and advertisements filled the newspapers and the Internet, and on Sunday the results came out with the names of the 84 members of the new Shura Council of Oman.

To me personally, the results seemed somewhat anti-climatic as it seems that the majority of people who got elected were tribal leaders who have always been elected to the Shura Council due to the tribe influence in many regions in Oman. Only one women made it to the council, and as we do not know what the authorities of this council will be yet, we really cannot expect much of them yet.

Blogger Mohammed Al Shahri wrote about the elections in a positive [ar] light saying:

بارك لأعضاء مجلس الشورى في الدورة السابعة 2011-2015، الذين نالوا ثقة الناخبين في ولاياتهم وتم ترشيحهم بالطريقة الديمقراطية التي شاهدناها بالأمس في كل محافظات ومناطق السلطنة، والتي حضرنا بعض منها في عدة ولايات في محافظة ظفار منها ولايات (سدح ومرباط وطاقة وصلالة) أثناء تغطيتنا للانتخابات من قبل جريدة الرؤية، وقد شاهدنا توافد المواطنين على مراكز الاقتراع، في واحدة من أهم المشاركات الشعبية في الحياة السياسية في عُمان.
We congratulate the members of the Seventh Session of the Shura Council 2011-2015 who acquired the trust of the votes in their states and were elected in the democratic manner we saw yesterday in all governates and regions in the Sultanate. We attended some of them in a number of states in the Governate of Dhofar including Sadah, Mirbat and Salalah. During our coverage of the elections by Azzaman Newspaper we saw the citizens come to the election center in one of the most important instances of public participation in the political life in Oman.

Blogger Mahfif [ar] from Dhofar, on the other hand, believed that tribal influence was very significant in these results:

قالت القبائل كلماتها.. نجحت القليل من الكفاءات وخسرت بعض الكفاءات… لكن يجب أن نقر بأن كلمة القبيلة هي المسيطرة على مشهد الشورى في ظفار. حتى الكفاءات التي نجحت في الانتخابات كانت معتمدة على التنافس القبلي أكثر من اعتمادها على الكفاءة.
The tribes have said their word, some capable people succeeded, some capable people failed, but we have to admit that the word of the tribe has control of the Shura situation in Dhofar. Even the capable people who won depended on the tribal competition rather than on their own capabilities.

The elections took place before the people got to know the exact scope of authority the Shura Council now has, and the new amendments require the members now to have at least a high school certificate as a minimum qualification requirement - this could mean that a number of of elected members who are old tribal leads with no educational qualification might have to be removed, but that it is still not confirmed.

We are going through interesting times in the Sultanate of Oman as it tries to draw a balance between its gradual approach in making political and cultural change and the public's desire to have a change right here and right now.

Thumbnail image of Omani flag by Flickr user Shenghung Lin (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

October 04 2011

Les mesures adoptées depuis le début de la contestation

Algérie

Mesures économiques et sociales

— Déblocage de 20 milliards d'euros pour diverses mesures sociales, notamment des prêts à 0 % pour les jeunes. Abandon de toute mesure visant à contrôler le commerce informel.

— Le salaire des professeurs d'université a été quasiment quadruplé, de 50 000 à 200 000 dinars (de 500 à 2 000 euros environ). Des aides directes ont été promises aux jeunes chômeurs.

— Les greffiers de justice, qui étaient en grève, ont obtenu une augmentation salariale de 110 %.

— Selon le ministre de l'intérieur, M. Daho Ould Kablia, huit des quatorze revendications avancées par les gardes communaux (qui suppléent la gendarmerie) ont été satisfaites, notamment l'augmentation des salaires et des primes ainsi que le paiement des congés et des heures supplémentaires.

— Les taxes sur le sucre ont été réduites.

— Des investissements d'infrastructure seront lancés pour un montant de 112 milliards d'euros.

Mesures politiques

— L'état d'urgence, en vigueur depuis dix-neuf ans, a été levé.

— D'« importantes réformes politiques » ont été annoncées, le 19 mars, par le président Abdelaziz Bouteflika, sans autre précision.

Arabie saoudite

Mesures économiques et sociales

— Un premier plan de 25,6 milliards d'euros a été notifié en février. Le 18 mars, le roi en annonçait un second, qui se chiffre en dizaines de milliards de dollars : l'équivalent de deux mois de salaire versé en prime à tous les fonctionnaires ; une allocation de 375 euros attribuée à tous les chômeurs ; réévaluation du salaire minimum des nationaux à 560 euros ; allocation de crédits pour la construction de 500 000 logements ; une enveloppe de 3 milliards d'euros accordée au secteur de la santé.

— Création d'une commission de lutte contre la corruption.

— Recrutement de 60 000 fonctionnaires de police.

Mesures politiques

Aucune.

Bahreïn

Mesures économiques et sociales

— Baisse de 25 % du montant des remboursements de prêt pour les bénéficiaires des programmes de logements (soit 35 800 familles).

— Le ministre de l'intérieur a annoncé la création de 20 000 emplois, le roi, une subvention de 1 790 euros par famille.

Mesures politiques

Dans un premier temps, le pouvoir a libéré les prisonniers politiques, renvoyé plusieurs ministres, accepté le principe d'un Parlement qui disposerait de réels pouvoirs. Devant le refus des manifestants d'accepter des concessions de façade, le roi a fait appel, le 15 mars, aux troupes des pays du Conseil de coopération du Golfe, proclamé l'état d'urgence et décidé l'arrestation de nombreux opposants.

Jordanie

Mesures économiques et sociales

— Augmentation de salaire pour les employés du secteur public et les militaires.

— Création de 21 000 emplois dans le secteur public, dont 6 000 dans la police et la gendarmerie.

— Réduction des taxes sur le carburant et les produits alimentaires.

— Augmentation des crédits alloués aux projets visant le développement des régions les plus pauvres.

Mesures politiques

— Le 1er février, le roi Abdallah II a nommé M. Marouf Bakhit au poste de premier ministre pour remplacer M. Samir Rifaï, dont les manifestants réclamaient la démission.

— Le 20 février, il a appelé le gouvernement, le Parlement et la justice à engager des « réformes politiques réelles ».

Koweït

Mesures économiques et sociales

— Versement à chaque citoyen d'une prime de 2 647 euros.

— Distribution gratuite de rations alimentaires pour une valeur totale de 600 millions d'euros.

Libye

Mesures économiques et sociales

— Versement d'une subvention de 324 euros par famille et augmentation de 150 %des salaires de certaines catégories du secteur public.

— Abolition des impôts et des droits de douane sur les produits alimentaires.

Maroc

Mesures économiques et sociales

— Une rallonge de 15 milliards de dirhams (1,5 milliard d'euros environ) va être allouée à la caisse chargée de subventionner les biens de consommation, notamment le pétrole et le gaz. L'instance voit ainsi son budget quasiment doubler.

Mesures politiques

— Dans son discours du 9 mars, le roi Mohammed VI a annoncé une réforme constitutionnelle renforçant le statut du premier ministre (issu du parti arrivé en tête des élections), l'Etat de droit, l'indépendance de la justice et reconnaissant dans le texte la composante « berbère amazigh ».

Oman

Mesures économiques et sociales

— Le sultan Qabous a promis la création de 50 000 emplois et une allocation mensuelle de 350 euros pour les chômeurs.

— Augmentation du salaire minimum de 261 euros à 373 euros.

Mesures politiques

— Renvoi de dix ministres. Parmi les nouveaux, quatre sont issus du Conseil consultatif, dont les membres sont élus.

— Annonce du transfert de certaines compétences législatives au Conseil d'Oman (Parlement bicaméral dont la chambre haute est nommée), dont l'ampleur sera précisée par un amendement à la Constitution rédigé par une commission placée sous le contrôle du sultan.

Syrie

Mesures économiques et sociales

— Déblocage de 187 millions d'euros en faveur des plus pauvres. Par ailleurs, l'aide mensuelle pour le fioul domestique passera de 14,70 à 23,50 euros, première augmentation depuis 2001.

— Réduction des taxes sur le café et le sucre, ainsi que des droits de douane sur les produits alimentaires.

— Hausse de 30 % des salaires des fonctionnaires.

Mesures politiques

— Annonce d'une levée rapide de l'état d'urgence, d'une réforme des lois sur les partis et la presse.

— Promesse qu'une justice indépendante serait instaurée.

Yémen

Mesures politiques

— Le président Ali Abdallah Saleh a annoncé qu'il ne présenterait pas sa candidature en vue d'une réélection en 2013 ; il a également fait savoir qu'il n'a pas l'intention de transférer le pouvoir à son fils.

— Promesse d'élections présidentielle et législatives anticipées d'ici à la fin de 2011.

— Dissolution du cabinet du président le 20 mars.

May 11 2011

Arab World: The Club for Arab Monarchies to Get Morocco and Jordan

At first, everyone thought it was a joke or just one more Twitter rumor. Soon, netizens realised it was true and the shock made everyone act even more hysterical with their funny tweets that Jordan and Morocco's requests to join the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have been welcomed and will be discussed.

The news of having Jordan in the GCC did not steal the spotlight because they share borders, but to actually include Morocco, which is located on the other side of the Arab World, prompted a lot of humor and questions.

The GCC is a political entity, set up in 1981, which brings together Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

The hash tag #GCC went on fire after the news of Morocco and Jordan requesting to join the GCC.

The hash tag #GCC went on fire after the news of Morocco and Jordan requesting to join the GCC.

UAE columnist and tweep Sultan AlQassemi (@SultanAlQassemi) was one of the very first to tweet the news. He wrote:

Now the Gulf Cooperation Council states have borders with Israel, Palestine & Syria.

Then, AlQassemi added:

Basically the GCC is turning into a club for Arab monarchies. #Morocco #Jordan

Muna Abu Sulayman (@MunaAbuSulayman), a well known Saudi anchor who works for MBC broadcasting company, noted:

New GCC is about ensuring no one has power except Old GCC… Big lesson to Egypt– they have rendered Arab League obsolete

Another Saudi woman, Hatoon Al-Fasi, a famous woman rights activist and PhD holder also tweeted her reaction to the news of having Morocco and Jordan as members of the GCC, and her point of view was repeated in different ways by several tweeps also. Al-Fasi (@HatoonALFASSI) wrote:

GCC is transferring into the Council of Monarchies, Jordan and Morocco are invited to join.

Ebtihal Mubarak (@EbtihalMubarak), a Saudi activist and Journalist based in New York City, agreed with Al-Fasi in her tweet saying:

Is the new #GCC is a desperate attempt from rich Gulf states to protect the remaining monarchies/dictatorships in the Arab world?

Heba Al-Butairi (@H_eba), a young Saudi woman who was the first to register for voting in the municipal elections in Khobar a few weeks ago, wrote:

Thanks for letting me see beyond the understandable.. Let's switch it then from GCC to “Monarchy alliance against democracy” MAAD

Kuwaiti lawyer and political activist Obaid Al-Wasmi (@Dr_alwasmi)also criticized the news writing [ar]:

الترحيب يإنضمام الأردن و المغرب لمنظمة مجلس التعاون يستوجب تغيير نظامها القانوني من منظمة دولية إلى نقابة للأسر المالكة لأنه هو الهدف الفعلي

Welcoming Jordan and Morocco to GCC should come with changing GCC legal system from an international organization to an association for Royal Families, because that is actually the real aim.

Young Saudi tweep Aalia Al-Faigh (@Aalia_F) touched another string in the case saying:

the most important thing is that the citizens hadn't been asked and have no opinion

March 21 2011

Video: Time Lapse Mapping the Global Protests and Uprisings

Written by Juliana Rincón Parra

John Caelan from the website The Swamp Post has created a couple of time-lapse videos that map protests from December 18 to March 7, 2011, where the protests and uprisings can be seen spreading out into different countries.

This next one focuses on the Middle East region:

On a comment on his website in response to a reader's question he explains how he got the data by searching results of protest and uprising reports from mainstream media.

Generally, the methodology was to sift through the first 1000 results of a news search on any given day and mine the unique events. All of that was copied into Excel by day–the locations were mined from the articles manually, and the icons were the chosen by the best average of reporting, as reporting the actual count of people at any gathering is both intrinsically difficult, regardless of skew involved parties tend to apply. Each day’s sheet was turned into a .csv, and imported into the mapper, which is a free thing from Zee Maps, ’cause I’m poor. The day would be copied, new events added, events older than 5 days deleted, events older than 2 days turned to gray. Each event remains in color for two days, mostly to account for the crossover of timezones.

Mr Caelan, however, is aware of the unreliability of these results in showing worldwide trends, as he explains in a comment on this page. Because protests have caught the attention of mainstream media, he says, this map shows how reporting on uprisings or protests has increased, although not necessarily the quantity of protests themselves.

To find out more about the uprisings shown on the videos, there's also an interactive map where you can click on the different icons and read information on the protest that was recorded at that point.

March 16 2011

Bahrain: Police and Military Clear Protesters in Manama (Videos)

Written by Yacoub Al-Slaise

This post is part of our special coverage of Bahrain Protests 2011.

On Wednesday March 16th, a day after the King of Bahrain announced a State of National Security, police forces dispersed protesters from Pearl (Lulu) Roundabout by tear gas. Military forces were also on the scene in Manama but it is still unclear if they are Bahrain's National Guard or members of the Gulf Peninsula's Shield who entered Bahrain on Monday.

YouTube user hyya999 uploaded this video showing riot police dispersing the crowds at Pearl Roundabout with tear gas and dark smoke rising.

This video uploaded by YouTube user altan9o shows a man injured by bullets shot in the leg in the town of Qadam which is in the Northern Governate a few kilometres from the capital Manama. The YouTube user claims that the fire was from Saudi forces but this is unclear from the actual video.

Also in Qadam, this video by YouTube user Ahmedaino clearly shows helicopters and military vehicles around Budaiya (or locally know as “Burgerland”) roundabout which is a few hundred metres from the entrance of Qadam village.

At Razi Health centre, a few hundred metres away from Pearl (Lulu) Roundabout, YouTube user ALKOOFIPHOTO manages to shoot some images of military personnel firing bullets.

Another video by YouTube user EncryptedReality2 surfaced showing bullets holes damaging a Ministry of Health ambulance.

On Bahrain national TV, the 3rd statement by the Bahrain Defense Force was aired (uploaded by PureFacts2011)

English translation of statement from Bahrain news agency:

“The General Command of Bahrain Defence Force announces that on Wednesday 16 March 2011, forces from the Public Security and the National Guard, with the support of the Bahrain Defence Force, launched an operation to cleanse the Gulf Cooperation Council Roundabout, the Bahrain Financial Harbour, the Salmaniya Medical Complex and the areas surrounding them.
The operation aimed to evacuate all the outlaws who had terrorized citizens and residents and harmed the national economy.
The operation was carried out according to plan with high standards of competence and professionalism while ensuring the safety of all.
Bahrain Defence Force General Command congratulates all citizens on the start to regain of normalcy and stresses that it will take all necessary procedures and measures to assert security and public order and safeguard the country and the people.
The General Command also requests all citizens and residents to avoid gatherings in vital areas of the capital for their own safety”.

Meanwhile, Omanis showed solidarity with the Bahraini protesters at holding a rally in front of the Bahraini embassy in Muscat. Video uploaded by YouTube user OmanProtests

This post is part of our special coverage of Bahrain Protests 2011.

February 28 2011

Oman: Protests Continue in Sohar

Written by Yacoub Al-Slaise

The waves of Arab revolt have reached the shores of Oman as hundreds of Omanis take to the streets in calls for reform and the end of corruption in different areas across the Sultanate.

Protests continued in Sohar, the industrial hub and where the Sohar Industrial Port is located in, as over 1000 protesters blocked the entrance to this vital industrial hub on Monday:

@SultanAlQassemi Al Hurra: Eyewitnesses: 1,000 protesters block entrance to Port Sohar. Chants of “We want reform” #Oman

@mehindaa #oman #saudi #kuwait #uae #qatar محتجون يغلقون مدخل ميناء صحار اليوم، ثاني أكبر الموانئ بعُمان http://twitpic.com/44oki2

Pro reform protesters block the Sohar Port entrance

Pro reform protesters block the Sohar Port entrance

Protesters block the entrance of Sohar port, Oman's second largest, today (Monday)

@RebaBerry #Oman: roads to main export port blocked.

Other protesters have shown their anger against the killings between protesters by riot police by torching a hypermarket and a branch of the Ministry of Labour.

@mehindaa #oman #saudi #kuwait #qatar #uae دخان يرتفع من مبنى تابع لمكتب وزارة القوى العاملة في صحار بعُمان اليوم http://twitpic.com/44o963

Fire at Ministry of Labour and Workforce branch in Sohar, Oman

Fire at Ministry of Labour and Workforce branch in Sohar, Oman

Smoke rises from the branch building of the Ministry of Workforce in Sohar today (Monday)


by YouTube user freeoman1 who writes:

احتراق مركز لولو التجاري نتيجة لقتل قوات الأمن في سلطنة عمان لمجموعة من المتظاهرين .

Lulu Hypermarket being burned down as a result of security forces killing a number of protesters in the Sultanate of Oman.

Oman's Sultan Qaboos has ordered a number of concessions to help ease the tension in the Sultanate by ordering 50,000 new jobs and seeking the demands of the Sohar protesters.

@3alfailakawi قابوس: يوفد اليوم شخصيات سياسية الى صحار للاستماع لمطالب المعتصمين والمحتجين

Qaboos: Political figures head to Sohar to listen to the protesters' demands

@SultanAlQassemi ONA: Sultan Qaboos of Oman orders the Employment of 50,000 Citizens http://bit.ly/dRbHVZ

Following are more reactions from Twitter, curated yesterday:

@muscati: @chanadbh please keep in mind, none of the demonstrations in Oman numbered more than a few hundred and they're all 100% pro the sultan

@Maithams: Something is happening in #Sohar hospital emergency!! Ppl injured! I'll go check! #oman

@Thereluctantmum: right now in sohar, a police station's been stoned and people have been tear-gassed. nearly 150 people.

@khokhz: When will they ever learn!? “@Maithams: CONFIRMED: 12 injured& 1 died in #Sohar #Oman most of them from gunshot wounds! 2 r in surgery!”

@spinonspin: scene in #sohar no longer “green march.” protestors provoking police. police responding with gas, smoke. no gunshots but rocks from my perch

@spinonspin: protestor in #sohar saw camera and urged me take pic. “just like gaddafi.” had to wonder if he's seen footage from #libya.

@spinonspin: situation not good in sohar. police and protesters throwing rocks at each other. smoke bombs. onlookers edge up and then run away. #oman

@Maithams: They burned a “gas truck” in protest near the police station! Thats when the shooting started #Oman #Sohar

@Mo3athooo: a picture of a protester covered by smoke…you can see the rock on his hand http://twitpic.com/44b6wp #Sohar

@momina95: Uh what's happening to peaceful sohar :/ The Middle East is SERIOSULY transitioning. I hope Omanis don't follow the footsteps of #gadafi.

@momina95: There were protests against low incomes and unemployment here in Sohar, northern city of Oman. Police used teargas @AJEnglish @cnnbrk

@savannahterr88: I'm living in Salalah, Oman, where protests started yesterday. They are peaceful, but they are sort of hopping on the wave of protest…

@spinonspin: need journalists in #sohar to interview people, record scene, confirm citizen accounts. lots of emotion. #oman please send your reporters.

@LV_1: I hope those tweeting from Sohar, Oman will exercise restraint and won't get carried away at the prospect of instant twitter stardom.

@LV_1: Please be careful in tweeting abt events in Sohar, Oman. Those not here, do not understand nuances and may blow it out of proportion.

February 26 2011

Oman: The People Want an End to Corrpution

Written by Amira Al Hussaini

“The people want an end to corruption” chanted thousands of Omanis, who have been protesting since Friday in Salalah and Sohar, as well as other parts of Oman.

Last week's similar - but smaller protests in Sohar and Muscat - have brought about a cabinet reshuffle today, where Oman's Sultan Qaboos bin Said changed six ministers. The announcement was made today but that didn't seem to stop the wave of protesters who have gathered to demand more rights over the previous two days.

According to Dhofari Gucci, who blogs from Salalah, the protesters demands are as follows:

What demands? They want the following from His Majesty the Sultan:
.
(1) An end to corruption in the government
(2) More jobs for people in need
(3) increase in salaries for the poor, widows and divorced women
(4) Lowering prices
(5) An end to financial and administrative wasta (influence/nepotism) in the government and private sector
(6) And other demands.

She continues:

Evidently protests have erupted in Sur, Sohar, Shinas, and more in Muscat. What is going on in the Arab world?!!

Tweets:

Following are reactions on the protests, as well eye witness accounts on the ground, from Twitter: Evidently protests have erupted in Sur, Sohar, Shinas, and more in Muscat. What is going on in the Arab world?!!

Videos:

This video, from khawar107, shows protesters in Salalah last night chanting for an end of corruption:

And this video, from sohar9999, shows scenes from today's protests in Sohar:

January 14 2011

Arab World: Welcoming the Fall of Ben Ali

Written by Amira Al Hussaini

Looking at my Twitterfeed, one would think that the Arab world has been waiting for this day forever. Tweets celebrating the escape of Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from Tunisia have created a riot online.

For Bader Al Aujan, from Saudi Arabia, it is a day of pride:

شكرًا شكرًا شكرًا أهلنا في تونس فما كان يخطر على بالي أن أعيش مثل هذا الشعور بالفخر والعزة والأنجاز
Thank you, thank you, thank you, to our relatives in Tunisia. I never thought that I would ever live this feeling of pride and achievement

And Saudi Mohammed Al Dugailbi is as happy:

أنا من زمان ما فرحت مثل هال فرحه ودي اوقف السيارة واسلم علي الي يمشون في الشارع تعيش تونس يعيش الشعب التونسي الحر الابي
I have not felt this happy in a very long time. I wish I could stop the car and shake hands with all those people walking on the street. Long live the free people of Tunisia

Dima Khatib draws parallels to the occupation or liberation of Iraq, and says:

I hope Mr George Bush is not too busy at his ranch to watch how people get truly liberated. Not with foreign greedy armies

Youssef Chaker urges Tunisians to go all the way:

, don't replace one dictator with another… Go the full mile and complete the job

From Bahrain, Hashim Alawi tweets:

الجبناء من يطالبوا بالحرية والتغيير والعظماء من يصنعوها على الارض .
Cowards are those who call for freedom and change. Great people do that on the ground.

Yacoub Slaise notes:

Hoping the Tunisians did their homework and read Animal Farm, so as not to end up with a “Napoleon”

And Bahrainman replies:

Tunisia had a “Napoleon”, and they just got rid of him. They LIVED Animal Farm for 23 years!

While Mahmood Al Yousif tells Tunisians to bask in the glory of their achievement, at least for a day:

do I detect buyer's remorse in some tweets now? that didn't take long! c'mon, smile and be optimists at least for today!

Majda72 also sends a special tweet:

Note to the West, this was not an Islamic uprising! Take your Arab world as monolith stereotype and shove it.

In what has become a Twitterised revolution, Egyptian writer Mona ElTahawy reminds us:

didn't cause . Daily protests of courageous did. Twitter gave us - the world - front row seat.

And Sameer Padania notes:

So looking forward to a day when a long-worked-for revolution happens & no one feels need to instantly claim it's due to the power of tech.

ElTahawy alsoadds:

In ‘ brave protests brought down , dictator of 23 yrs. 1st real post-colonial revolution in world

Ahmad Fahad, from Oman, cannot take his mind off Twitter:

How am I supposed to work while governments are being overthrown live on Twitter?

And Andy Carvin adds:

I just love how the conversation on just shifted to people reading the Tunisian constitution in great detail.

Egyptian Ahmad Badawy hopes that what had started in Tunisia does not end there. He tweets:

يابن علي قول لأخوك . شعب مصر بيكرهوك
Ben Ali, tell your brother (Mubarak) that the people of Egypt hate him.

Stay tuned for more coverage from Tunisia.

December 09 2010

Oman: A Blogging Pioneer Tells His Story

By Ayesha Saldanha

Blogs in Oman, as in other countries in the region, are somewhat less popular than internet forums, but there has been a growth in blogging in recent years. Global Voices has spoken to Muawiyah Alrawahi, a young blogger who has been encouraging Omanis to blog and to create public debate in their country, with the argument that “the issue we don’t discuss is the issue we won’t solve”.

Muawiyah Alrawahi

Muawiyah Alrawahi. Photo by Jillian C York

How did you start blogging?

لعله ستضحك الإجابة، أو سيضحك منها كثيرون، في الحقيقة بدأت التدوين بسبب نصيحة من صديق، هو القاص وليد النبهاني. كنت أكتب الشعر الفصيح، والقصة القصيرة وتوقفت لفترة عن الكتابة الأدبية بعدما تغيرت الكثير من الرؤى التي كنت أؤمن بها في السابق، في فترة الدراسة الجامعية. بدأت أكتب نصوص ساخرة سريعة، وكان الهدف في البداية هو الكتابة عن المسكوت عنه، لم تكن تجربة البداية جادَّة، كنت أسميها [مهذونة] وهي كلمة تجمع بين التدوين والهذيان كما يقول الصوت باللغة العربية، وبعد سنة كاملة تعرضت لمجموعة من الضغوط الاجتماعية التي كادت أن تكون سببا لتوقفي، ولكن غيرت الموقع، وأرشفت المدونة السابقة وأنشأت مدونة جديدة باسمي وبدأت أكتبُ فيها ببعض الجدية، بعضها، وليس الكثير منها وحتى هذه اللحظة لا زلت مستمتعا بالكتابة، تجربة التدوين غيرت حياتي فعلاً، ولكنها كانت جحيما لا يطاق، جحيم اجتماعي من الصور النمطية التي تمارس دورَها الصعب. لا أحب أن أكون متململا أو شاكياً، ولكن التجربة لها جوانبها السيئة أيضا.
Perhaps you will laugh at my answer, or many will laugh at it; in truth I started blogging when a friend, the writer Walid Al Nabhani, suggested I should. I had been writing poetry and short stories, but I stopped literary writing for a while after many of my opinions changed, opinions I had held when I was at university. I began to write quick satirical pieces [for my blog]. My aim at first was to write about issues that are not discussed; initially it was not serious. I called it “Muhadhwana” which is a word combining “blogging” (tadween) and “hallucination” (hadhayan) in Arabic. After a year I was subject to a lot of social pressure which almost caused me to stop. But I changed the site; I archived the old blog and started a new one in my name, and I began to write seriously and not so seriously. Until this moment I am still enjoying writing. The experience of blogging has truly changed my life, but it has also been an unbearable hell – a social hell of stereotypes that I’m continuously subject to. I don’t like to be bored or to complain, but the experience [of blogging] has negative aspects too.

Is blogging popular in Oman?

لا يمكنني أن أقول أن التدوين له تلك الشهرة في عُمان مثل بعض الدول، ولكن للأسف الشديد بسبب واقع الإعلام المرير والسيء للغاية في بلادنا أصبحت للمواقع الإلكترونية شهرة كبيرة ومصداقية وجرأة في نقد الواقع الاجتماعي والسياسي العُماني، ولعل أشهر الأمثلة على ذلك هي سبلة العرب، وسبلة عُمان، ومنتدى الحارة العُمانية، التي تمثل الإعلام البديل في عُمان. التدوين هُنا له تأثير مختلف، وله وظيفة تختلف عن التدوين المتعارف عليه، لديك مثلا المدون حمد الغيثي أحد الطليعيين في التدوين في عُمان ناقش قضايا فكرية ربما لم تكن لتناقشَ من قبل في الكتابة الإلكترونية، وكذلك مدونة مثل مدونة عبد الله الحراصي التي تناولَ فيها أشياء مهمة تتناول كسر المألوف في التفكير وتجاوزه، ومدونة مثل مدونة عمار المعمري التي كان له دور في كشف وثائق تتناول مشكلات حكومية، وكذلك تناول قضايا كثيرة لها علاقة بالحقوق القانونية للإنسان العُماني. المدونات الآن حاضرة في المشهد الإعلامي العُماني، وأصبحت محل تساؤل وحديث من قبل الناس، ولعلي ــ مع ثقتي الشديدة بأن الإعلام مهم للغاية ــ لا أجد المدونات ستقوم بدورِ الإعلام المؤسسي، ولكنها ستساهم في أن يتجاوز الإعلام المؤسسي تلك الخطوط الموضوعة والتي يرسمها شخوص من وفي الإعلام لا يريدون له أن يتغير أو أن يتقدم وأن يعبر عن البلاد وأن يمثلها خير تمثيل.
I cannot say that blogging is as popular in Oman as it is in other countries. However, unfortunately due to the bitter and terrible reality of media in our country, forums have become very popular, gained credibility, and have the courage to criticise the social and political situation in Oman. Perhaps the best-known examples are Sablat Al Arab, Sablat Oman, and Al Harah Forum which act as the alternative media in Oman. Here blogging has a different influence, and it has a function that differs to conventional blogging. For example you have the blog of Hamad Al Ghaithi, one of the pioneers of blogging in Oman, discussing ideas that have perhaps not been discussed online before. Then there is a blog like Abdulla Al Harrasi’s where you can find important matters that challenge and go beyond familiar ideas. And a blog like Ammar Al Mamari which has played a role in uncovering documents and deals with government problems, as well many issues relating to the legal rights of Omanis. Blogs are now present on the Omani media scene, and have become a place for people to reflect and discuss. Perhaps – with the great confidence I have that the media is extremely important – I don’t really believe that blogs will take over the role of traditional media, but they will contribute to the traditional media crossing these lines that have been placed by those from and in the media who do not want it to change or progress, nor to reflect the country or represent it correctly.

What have you been doing to increase interest in blogging? Why do you feel it is important?

جميل أنك سألت هذا السؤال!! حقيقةً كنت من البداية مؤمناً أنَّ أحدا ما عليه أن يفعلَ ذلك، يفعل ماذا؟ عليه أن يكتب عن المجتمع وأن يجعل من هذه المنطقة العذراء البكر التي لم تطأها أقلام الكثير من الكتاب، منطقة متحركة قابلة لأن تكون مادة للكثير من الكتابات. كان دافعي بسيطة للغاية، وهو أنَّ القضية التي لا نتحدث عنها، هي قضية لن نحلها، لا يمكن أن نحل شيئا ما دام في خانة المسكوت عنه، الفكرة كانت بسيطة في البداية أنشأت مدونة وقمت بتعيين مجموعة ممن أسميتهم [مخبرين] وللكلمة قصد واضح كما ترين. كنت أدفع لهؤلاء بطاقات شحن هاتفية، طبعا ما عدا مخبرة واحدة أصبحت لاحقا أحد أشهر المدونات العُمانيات بعدما قررت إنشاء مدونتها الخاصَّة. لم تطل هذه التجربة طويلا لأنني استعضت عنها بالأصدقاء الذين تعرفت عليهم في عالم الأونلاين، وهذا ما جعلني أصل للكثير من المعلومات بسهولة أكثر من السابق، وهذا ما جعلني أيضا أكتب عددا كبيراً جدا من المقالات التي أشعر أنني فخور ببعضها. كنت أحاول جاهداً اجتذاب مجموعة من الكتاب عبر المنتديات، وكذلك الاتصال بعدد من الكتاب وإقناعهم بإنشاء مدونات، ومع الوقت بدأ التدوين يأخذ دورَه في المسألة، بدأت قضايا تناقشها المدونات تصلُ إلى التلفاز والإذاعة بل وقامت بعض القنوات العالمية بتغطية بعض نشاطات المدونين.
I’m glad you’ve asked this question! Actually, from the beginning I believed that someone had to do that – but what exactly? He or she ought to write about society, and to create from this virgin territory which has not been touched by the pens of many writers, a dynamic space capable of providing material for many writers. My motivation was very simple; it was that the issue we don’t discuss is the issue we won’t solve. It’s impossible to solve something that is still kept silent about. The idea was simple; in the beginning I started a blog and appointed a group of what I called “informers” – the meaning of the word is clear, as you can see. I used to pay for their phone cards. Of course one informer later became one of the most famous Omani bloggers, after she decided to start her own blog. This experiment did not last long because I replaced the informers with friends that I got to know online; this enabled me to get a lot of information more easily than before, and to write a large number of posts, some of which I feel quite proud of. I made great efforts to attract a group of writers via the forums, and also to contact a number of writers and persuade them to start blogs. With time blogging began to play its role; issues that were being discussed on blogs started to reach the TV and radio. Some international TV stations even began to cover some bloggers’ activities.

Can you tell us about some of your more controversial posts? What kind of response have you had to them?

لا أدري ما هو السبب، هل لأنني كائن طويل اللسان، أم لأنني ببساطة أكتب دون أن أحاول أن أكون مسالما سياسيا، عدة مقالات يمكنني أن أقول أنها سببت ضجة كبيرة للغاية وصداعا هائلاً لي، المؤسف في المسألة أنني أؤاخذ وكأنني [لا ينبغي أقول] بينما طرق قضية مسكوت عنها يفتح الباب للجميع، ببساطة عندما أكتب مثلا مقالاً أنادي فيه بتوسيع قاعدة بيع الكحول في عُمان، فإنني أيضا أفتح الباب لمن يريد منع الكحول، حتى هذه اللحظة لا يكتبون أنهم ليسوا مع بيع الكحول وأنهم ضده، ولكنهم ضدي عندما أكتب وجهة نظر في جانب اقتصادي له علاقة بعدالة السوق في عُمان. ردة الفعل التي تعرضت لها كانت بشكل كبير منها اجتماعية .. إزعاج متواصل وسوء فهم وتنميط من قبل الأصدقاء قبل الأعداء، وكأنما الكتابة فقط هي بحث عن الشهرة، ولا يدركون أنَّ الشهرةَ في هذه البلاد ليس شيئا جميلا، ليس شيئا يبحث عنه، بالطبع لا أنكر هناك عامل تسويقي يجب على كل إعلامي أن يأخذ به، ولكن أن يسوق من أجل التسويق تبدو الفكرة غبية للغاية. معظم ما أتلقاه من ردود يتمثل في البريد الإلكتروني، وأتعمد أحيانا نقل بعض المقالات إلى بعض المواقع الشهيرة في عُمان لكي أستفيد من وجهات النظر ومن طريقة المجادلة التي يتبعها الكتاب الإلكترونيون، المؤسف طبعا وجود عدد هائل من البشر ممن يهاجمون بأسماء مستعارة، وللأسف الشديد يحاسبونني على كلام لم أقلْه، يعني يستنبطون من كلامي ما لم أشر إليه، ولا أعتقد أن هذه الحالة ستزول إلا بعد أن يصلب الإعلام المؤسسي ظهره ويتجه للمجتمع، وأنا أتحدث عن عُمان في هذا السياق.
I don’t know what the reason is – maybe I’m just a talkative person – but because I simply write without trying to be politically conciliatory, I can say that a number of my posts have caused an really big outcry with huge repercussions for me. The unfortunate thing is that I am blamed as if I am a (I mustn’t say the word), meanwhile the doors are opened to all into a subject previously kept silent about. For example, when I write a piece calling for alcohol to be more widely available in Oman, I am also opening the door to those who want to ban alcohol – who until that moment were not writing that they were for or against the selling of alcohol. But they are against me when I write an economically-based opinion relating to the fairness of the market in Oman. The reactions I have had to deal with have been largely social… Constant annoyance, and misunderstanding and stereotyping by friends even before enemies, as if writing were only a way to seek fame. They don’t know that fame in this country is not something good, not something to seek. Of course I don’t deny there is a promotional aspect that every journalist must pay attention to, but to promote for the sake of promotion seems a really stupid idea. Most of the reactions I get are through email, and sometimes I intentionally publish some posts on well-known websites in Oman in order to benefit from different opinions, and from the methods of debate followed by some writers on forums. Unfortunately there are many individuals who attack using pseudonyms, and sadly they attribute to me things I haven’t said; I mean they infer from my words something I didn’t intend. I don’t think that this situation will change until the traditional media develops a stronger spine and pays attention to society. In this context I am talking only about Oman.

November 21 2010

Yemen: Host to Gulf Cup 2010

By Amira Al Hussaini

Gulf Cup 2010 kicks off in Aden, Yemen, on November 22. Yemeni blogger Omar Barsawad reflects on the significance of having Aden host this football championship which brings together teams from Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

June 29 2010

Middle East: Goodbye Saramago

By Tarek Amr

Bloggers across the Middle East mourned the death of Portuguese writer Jose Saramago - the only Portuguese language Nobel Prize Winner in Literature, who has his own religious and political controversial views. People in the Lusosphere and all over the world reacted to his death, and the Arab world is no exception.

Jose Saramago

Yazan Ashqar published this photo of Saramago in his blog and wrote one of his most famous quotes under it: I think we are blind. Blind but seeing. Blind people who can see, but do not see. http://dajeej.wordpress.com/2010/06/19/%D8%B3%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%BA%D9%88/

Egyptian blogger, Badawiaa, wrote in her blog about Saramago bidding farewell to life:

في خطابه بمناسبة فوزه بنوبل، تحدث ساراماغو عن سنوات الطفولة واستذكر وفاة جده جيرونيمو بهذه الكلمات: “ذهب إلى حديقة بيته. هناك بضع شجرات: أشجار تين وزيتون. ذهب إليها واحدة واحدة واحتضن الأشجار ليقول لها وداعا، لأنه كان يعرف أنه لن يعود. إن رأيت شيئا كهذا وإن عشته ولمْ يترك فيك ندبا إلى آخر العمر، فإنك رجل بلا إحساس”.
اليوم جاء الدور على ساراماغو ليقبّل أشجار حديقته هو الآخر ويقول لها: وداعا.
In his speech on the occasion of winning the Nobel prize, Saramago spoke about his childhood and remembered his grandfather's death: “He went to the garden of his house. There were some trees and bushes there, fig and olive trees. He went to the trees one after the other, hugged and bid each one of them goodbye. He knew that he won't be able to get back to them again. If such scene doesn't leave a wound in your soul for the rest of your life, then you are a senseless man.”
And here comes the day where it's Saramago's turn to hug his own trees and kiss them goodbye.

Lebanese blogger Jihad Bazzi wonders what Saramago might be doing now in his afterlife:

لقد مات الكاتب إذاً..
حيث ولد الآن، يتلفت مراقباً. سيكتب عما يرى، لا فرق ما إذا كان في الجنة أو في جهنم، او حيث أظنه مكانه المفضل بعد الموت: العدم الرائع
The writer has passed away…
He's now where he was born, wondering and watching. He will sure write about what he sees there - whether he is in heaven or hell now. Perhaps he is where I think he is now. He's in his favourite place after death, the wonderful nowhere.

Besides being a writer, Saramago has his own political stance as well. And this made Yassin El Suwayheh, a Syrian blogger living in Spain, write about Saramago's political stance in his blog Spanish waves on Levant shores:

رحل رجلٌ يكفي لوصفه أنّ أقلّ ما يمكن أن يقال عنه أنه حائز على كبرى جوائز الأدب و الرواية و الشعر, و منها جائزة نوبل.. إن جوائزه الحقيقة كانت بشجاعته في تشريح الظلم و الطغيان, في تحدّيه و طعنه.. في دفعه و الدفاع عن ضحاياه.
للذاكرة تبقى له مواقف و أقوال و أفعال.. مثل تلك الوقفة أمام ملايين المتظاهرين ضد غزو الطغيان للعراق, ذلك الرجل الثمانيني الخارج من آلاف المعارك وقف أمامهم و قال: ” يوجد الآن في العالم قوتان عظيمتان: الولايات المتحدة و أنتم”.
رحل الحالم المناضل من أجل عالمٍ أفضل, أكثر عدلاً.. أكثر منطقياً
A man has died, who can at least be identified with his major awards in literature and poetry, and Noble prize for literature was one of those prizes.
And his real award is his braveness in standing against injustice and tyranny. And his support for the victims of such systems.
Our memories will forever behold his sayings and stance. Ones like addressing those who were protesting against the the invasion of Iraq. The eighty-something year old man stood and said: “There are two super powers in the World: The United States of America and You.”
The dreamer who fought for a better world, a world with more justice and reason, has left us now.

An anonymous reader commented on Yassin's post. The reader objected to the phrase, “A man has died, who can at least be identified with his major awards in literature and poetry” writing that it's what such personalities do and say that identifies them and not the prizes and awards they win:

يعني الجوائز ماهي إلا هامش بحياة الكبار, يعني هي شغلة بيفكر العالم انو عمل الي عليه بس يعطين جايزة قال!
وكأنو هني ناطرينا!
Awards are just a marginal part in such great people's lives. It's like the world's only way to not feel guilty towards them and give them such awards to feel comfortable doing what they are obliged to do. It is as if those great men are really waiting for such recognition.

On the other hand, Ahmed Shawky was worried that Saramago's political stances, might make people overlook his side as a creative writer.

وداعا أبو الرواية البرتغالية..أعلم جيدا أنهم سيملأون الدنيا صخبا في الأيام القادمة عن مواقفك السياسية المحترمة، وسينسون في وسط هذا الهراء التوقف على تفرد إبداعك..وداعا خوسيه ساراماجو
Goodbye to the father of Portuguese literature. I know they will keep talking in the coming days about your respectful political stances, and during these talks they will forget your creative and unique masterpieces. Goodbye Jose Saramego.

Many Arab intellectuals know about, and have read for, Jose Saramago. Unfortunately many others should be thankful to his death for introducing them to writer like him. Ahmed El Mueini wrote in his blog about Saramago's novel Blindness, and how he has had it in his bookshelf but never had the chance to read it:

اشتُهر ساراماغو بروايته “العمى” الصادرة عام 1995، والتي ترجمها إلى العربية محمد حبيب وصدرت عن دار المدى. كما عُرف أيضًا بكتابه المثير للجدل “إنجيل عيسى المسيح” والذي اضطر بسببه إلى الرحيل عن البرتغال والإقامة في جزر الكناري.
للأسف لم أقرأ لساراماغو، وكنتُ دائمًا ما أنظر إلى روايته “العمى” في رف مكتبتي متمنيا أن أقرأها في فرصةٍ قريبة.
Saramago became very well known for his novel, “Blindness“, which was published in 1995, and was later on translated into Arabic by “Muhammad Habib”, and was then published by “Dar El Mada”. He was also well known for his book, “The Gospel According to Jesus Christ“, which was the reason behind his departure from Portugal to spend the rest of his life in the Canary Islands.
Unfortunately I haven't read anything for Saramago, and I always see his novel “Blindness” on my bookshelf and wish to have the chance to read it soon.

Omani Wadhha AlBusaidi then commented on Ahmed El Mueini's post:

الله يرحمـــــــه
اول مرة اسمع عنه ، وان دل على شيء فإنما هو يدل عن جهلي بالأدب العالمي
God bless his soul.
It's the first time to hear of him, and this proves how ignorant I am when it comes to international literature.

Another commenter replied saying that he will sure miss Saramago's writings, although he doesn't agree with his religious views:

لا شك أننا سنفقد فيه روايته العظيمة وأسلوبه الأخاذ …
أما أنا فلن استطيع الترحم على من قال : إن الله والمسيح أقاما علاقة جنسية
For sure I'll miss his great novels and attractive writing style.
But I can't ask God to bless the soul of someone who had said before that God and Jesus had a sexual relationship.

And finally, Laila, advised Ahmed not to miss the chance of reading Saramago's novel:

أنصحك يا أحمد ، بألا تفوت قراءة ( العمى ) ، رواية تشعرك بالواقعية ، تشعرك بأهمية العينين ، مازلت إلى اليوم أخشى احساس فقد البصر فجأة في مكان ما
My advice to you Ahmed, is not to miss the chance of reading “Blindness“. It's a very realistic novel that will make you feel the value of your eyes. Until today I still have the fear of loosing my sight all of a sudden.

June 11 2010

Arab World: Where the Streets are Quiet During Football Games

By Amira Al Hussaini

Millions of people around the world are glued to their television screens, watching the World Cup's opening ceremony from South Africa - and the scene is not that different in the Arab world.

From Saudi Arabia, Khaled Alabdulrahman sums up the mood across the region:

For the next few hours the streets of Riyadh will be quiet. Thanks South Africa ;)

From Bahrain, Nivos rejoices:

World Cup opening Ceremony….the world under one roof…..WOW!!!

Still in Bahrain, Redbelt adds:

I'm so happy! World Cup is finally starting! Watching the opening ceremony with wifey.

But for some, it was work as usual. Riyadh Abdul Aziz, from Oman, tweets:

Off to MOLA to do some stuff related to our workshop this week. Not watching anything #worldcup

The opening show garnered many comments, particularly when Algerian crooner Cheb Khaled rendered Didi, which brought happy memories to tweeps.

Egyptian Alaa Abd El Fattah was pleased:

cool sheb khaled is rocking #WC2010

Saudi Arabian Rami Taibah was taken back in time:

Didi!!! LOL that song took me 17 years back…. #Worldcup #WC2010

And Butheina, from the UAE, stood corrected:

Never thought “didi” could be brought back, but cheb Khaled just proved me wrong in #southafrica #worldcup

And there were disappointments.

Taibah wonders:

Wow is it just me or is the stadium isn't at full capacity? #disappointed #WC2010 #Worldcup

Doha-based Abdurahman Warsame was running out of patience:

beautiful music including Algerian singer Khalid, Kwaito (SA rap) singers … wow but let the games begin #wc2010

And Egyptian Ahmed Shokeir was not impressed:

إنتهاء الإحتفال بإفتتاح كأس العالم … إفتتاح متواضع وبدون إبهار ولكنه مقبول

The World Cup opening ceremony is over… a very modest opening, without that wow factor but acceptable

Despite this, Eyad, from Bahrain, was not pleased it ended:

Is that it! Really? I can haz disappointment

Many viewers poured their criticism on Al Jazeera Sports, which is broadcasting the games.

Taibah writes:

Dear Al-Jazeera Sports commentator please shut up, we don't need your input. We understand whats going on #WC2010 #Worldcup @ajenglish_sport

He continues:

I am just glad that Aljazeera Sport commentator didn't translate the lyrics too!

Butheina adds:

Why do arab commentators insist on maintaining that monotone from when tv was first invented as a one size fits all for every event #sa

For some, politics couldn't not be separated from sports.

Mohammed Yousef, from Egypt, hopes:

One day, Apartheid will end in Palestine and will show to the world how we can welcome them to #worldcup #pal

And Buthenia adds:

Dear @aljazeera network: pls reinvest th truckloads of money ull make frm ad revenue frm #worldcup into a motion picture abt #flotilla

Egyptian Mo-ha-med leaves us with a final thought:

Let's be honest. Did we really think we could organize the #WorldCup ? Can we compete with that?

June 10 2010

Oman: The Aftermath of Cyclone Phet

By Riyadh Al Balushi

Oman was hit a few days ago by cyclone Phet, a tropical cyclone originating from the Indian Ocean. This is the second major cyclone to hit Oman after Cyclone Gonu three years ago. Unlike Gonu, Oman and its people were more prepared for the cyclone this time around, but the city of Sur, which was directly hit by Phet, still suffered serious damages. The cyclone reached the capital city of Muscat, but the damages were nominal in comparison.

Blogger Undercover Dragon reports wrote a detailed report on the impact of Phet on the country, the deaths, the infrastructure, communications, and even the production of oil and gas:

In the end, at least as far as Muscat is concerned, Cyclone Phet was nowhere near as nasty as Gonu, neither in duration, wind speed, rain nor impact. For the town of Sur it was probably worse, as Sur was directly under the eye of the storm as it grazed the eastern most tip of Oman. Sur had a record of over 40cm of water recorded. The town was mostly underwater by Friday pm.

While a lot of accidents took place because of the storm itself, many more accidents happened because of people's carelessness and improper curiosity to explore the dangerous newly formed wadis (valleys). Interesting comments were made on Dhofari Gucci's blog on this topic as the Royal Oman Police decided to take action against all those who took unreasonable risks in relation to the aftermath of the crisis:

Evidently the ROP (see above image if you can read Arabic - was published in today's newspapers) will be questioning people who put themselves and others in danger by going into wadis or even going to 'stare' (the ultimate Omani hobby). According to my fellow blogger Reality, an ROP officer drowned trying to save a kid who was 'swimming' in a wadi. I SALUTE THE ROP FOR DOING THIS.

It is scary to think that cyclones will become a regular thing for Oman as a victim of global warming. We hope it won't.

You can see many pictures of the aftermath of Phet on the blogs of OmanizerDhofar Gucci, and Kishor Cariappa.

May 20 2010

Middle East: “Blood Borders”

By Raphael Tsavkko Garcia

Martin W. Lewis from GeoCurrent Event blog reviews Ralph Lewis' “Blood Borders” article on the idea of a complete reshape of Middle East borders in order to fit more appropriately the ethnic and religious affiliations of the region.

May 03 2010

Oman: Spot the Omani Car

By Amira Al Hussaini

Living in Oman posted a sketch detailing how to spot an Omani car.

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