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November 02 2013

VIDEO: Saudi Man Beats Worker for “Talking to his Wife”

A video of a Saudi man beating and insulting a foreign worker is making the rounds online.

In the video, a Saudi man is seen repeatedly slapping the worker, from South Asia, accusing him of speaking to his wife. He calls the man an animal and a son of a dog, while spitting at him. He then starts kicking and whipping the man, who is heard screaming of pain.

On Twitter, netizens react to the video with outrage.

Ahmad Sabri writes:

Laila Rouass notes:

And Ari Akkermans says countries should not allow their citizens to work in Saudi Arabia:

Such incidents are not new to the region, where expatriate workers are abused and denied basic human rights.

Previously, this video of a Saudi man, slapping and hitting a Bangladeshi went viral.

The Saudi is seen slapping and insulting the Bangladeshi man, also calling him an “animal.”

Another video, this time in the neighbouring United Arab Emirates, shows a local beating up an expatriate driver, after they got into a road traffic accident. Passers by try to stop him:

According to Human Rights Watch, while the Middle East depends heavily on domestic workers, it fails to protect them.

A recent report reads:

As Human Rights Watch, the IDWN, and the ITUC have documented, domestic workers in the Middle East – many of them migrants from Asia and Africa – experience a wide range of abuses, including unpaid wages, restrictions on leaving the households where they work, and excessive work hours with no rest days. Some may face psychological, physical, or sexual abuse and can get trapped in situations of forced labor, including by being trafficked.

The report adds:

Almost every country in the Middle East and North Africa region excludes domestic workers from the protection of labor laws, though, and subjects them to restrictive immigration rules, granting inordinate power and control to their employers under the “sponsorship” or kafala system.

November 01 2013

UAE Police Reward Drivers for Good Driving

Saudi Amani Al Awami's tweet on a Lebanese female driver getting a reward from UAE police for good driving is making the rounds online.

She tweets:

The UAE police stopped my female Lebanese colleague today. They have her a 1,000 Dirham [272 US Dollars] reward for following traffic regulations

This tweet has been retweeted more than 3,000 times so far.

October 23 2013

Codeshare Request from Serbia's New Airline Met with US, EU Pushback

Airlines for America (A4A), the oldest and largest airline trade association in the United States, has submitted a response to the US Department of Transportation regarding the joint application of Etihad Airways and Air Serbia for codeshare authority, calling the request “bizarre”. 

Delta Airlines also responded with a similarly critical assessment, arguing that the application was “irrational” and “not in the public interest”. The letters from both A4A and Delta cite concerns about fair competition of privately held commercial air carriers with state-supported carriers.

Official promotional photo of Etihad-JAT (Air Serbia) partnership; public domain image.

Official promotional photo of Etihad-JAT (Air Serbia) partnership; public domain image.

Earlier in 2013, Etihad Airways, the state-supported national airline from the United Arab Emirates, purchased 49 percent of Serbian national air carrier JAT, also a state-funded company. The two partner companies then decided to shut down JAT and establish a new company in its place, Air Serbia, that would function with JAT's restructured resources and flight routes.

On September 19, 2013, Air Serbia applied for authority to place its existing code on now partner Eithad’s flights from Abu Dhabi to Chicago O’Hare, New York’s John F. Kennedy and Washington Dulles airports, as well as several European airports. As Novi Magazin reports [sr], Turkey was the first country to react, while some EU countries also lodged complaints:

Vazduhoplovne vlasti Turske oduzele su slot (aerodromsko mesto) i premestile su novu srpsku aviokompaniju na drugi istambulski međunarodni aerodrom Sabiha Gokčen koji je na azijskoj strani ovog grada.[...]

Neke (za sada neimenovane) evropske kompanije, kako pišu beogradski mediji, traže od regulatora u EU da ponište sve slotove koje je Jat imao na evropskim aerodromima i tvrde da Er Srbija ne može da ih nasledi, naročito zbog odredbi Sporazuma o otvorenom nebu (open sky) koje se odnose na suvlasništvo van teritorije EU.

Turkish aviation authorities have revoked slots (airport positions) and have transferred the new Serbian airline to Istanbul's other international Sabiha Gökçen Airport on the Asian side of the city.[...]

Some (for now unnamed) European carriers, according to Belgrade media, have asked EU regulators to cancel all slots that JAT had in European airports and claim that Air Serbia cannot inherit them, in particular due to regulations in the [EU-US] Open Skies Agreement regarding joint ownership [of airline companies] outside the EU.

In its 13-page response to the US Department of Transportation [PDF], A4A brings to light various issues regarding planned flights to the United States to be operated by Etihad-Air Serbia, but focuses particularly on the lack of business sense and commercial viability of the planned flights:

We oppose the Application. Because the service proposal can fairly be described as bizarre, at best, and JAT reportedly is receiving substantial state aid, the public interest does not support granting it. Furthermore, the Application and information in the public domain indicate that JAT, rebranded as Air Serbia, is (or soon will be) under the effective control of a non-Serbian citizen. For these reasons, the Application should be denied.

The Consolidated Answer of Delta Air Lines, Inc. [PDF] has an almost identical stance and goes on to explain:

The proposed codeshare routes are irrational and do not serve the public interest

While Delta believes that codeshare arrangements are typically in the public interest where they increase opportunities for travel and expand air service networks for the benefit of consumers, the codeshare services proposed by JAT and Etihad are not in the public interest because they have no market or consumer service based rationale and would only create confusion and complexity for consumers.

JAT and Etihad are proposing codeshare services on routings from Belgrade (BEL) to New York (JFK), Washington (IAD), and Chicago (ORD) via Abu Dhabi (AUH). These routes are so extraordinarily circuitous (nearly 5,000 miles of additional circuity in each direction) that one must question why any consumer would regard their addition to the marketplace to constitute a rational service option or to offer any consumer benefit.

Delta's main concern is the distortion of the market and confusion of travelers, as the two state-funded companies Etihad and Air Serbia seem to be planning on offering rerouted flights from Belgrade via Dubai to US cities, approximately an additional 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers), for the same or lower prices as other air carriers who fly directly. The state subsidies provided to the new Air Serbia company by both the UAE and Serbian governments are inconsistent with international aviation policy, Delta and A4A claim, as well as tax advantages, fuel and airport fee subsidies, and government investment in airport infrastructure that Etihad and Air Serbia benefit from.

Although both documents have been made public, Serbian media have shown little to no mention of this case nor any discussion about the possible repercussions for the new national airline should the former Serbian airline JAT's codesharing not be granted to Air Serbia for US and EU-bound flights, thus there is very little discussion about the matter on social networks or public forums. No media outlet in Serbia seems to have even made these documents available to the public, while Kurir simply quoted a tweet by Vladimir Todorić, a politician and member of the Democratic Party (DS), in a short article titled “HATE: Delta More Important than Serbia to the Democrats!” [sr].

Todorić complained on Twitter in recent days:

The Association of American Airlines is against Air Serbia/Etihad. [It has been] on the web since October 4, no Serbian media has published it http://t.co/xgjXx11SjC

— Vladimir Todoric (@VladimirTodoric) October 18, 2013

When asked by another Twitter user why the A4A was against Air Serbia-Etihad, Todorić responded:

@MidzaBg @Bezdanj Who normally flies to NY through Dubai, i.e. 5000 miles more? If the price of the ticket is the same as for a direct flight then that [ticket] is subsidized

— Vladimir Todoric (@VladimirTodoric) October 18, 2013

An Air Serbia aircraft had its first test flight [sr] on October 23 under the new brand and colors at 3 p.m. over Belgrade, but it remains to be seen just how far Air Serbia's other planes will be flying.

Gulf Cities: Cultural Capitals of the Arab World?

UAE commentator Sultan Al Qassemi argues that “some of the cities of the Gulf were transforming into cultural capitals of the Arab world as the traditional capitals of Baghdad, Cairo, Beirut and Damascus continue to suffer from civil strife.” He posts arguments in support and against this notion on his blog here.

July 29 2013

Qatari Doctor Detained in UAE for Muslim Brotherhood Ties

On Doha News, Shabina Khatri shares the story of a Qatari doctor Dr Mahmood Al Jaidah, detained in the neighbouring UAE under suspicion of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Doha News reports:

According to his lawyer Abdullah Tahir, who has been tweeting about the case, Al Jaidah has also been accused of accepting an envelope with Dh100,000 (about QR100,000) from an Emirati to be handed over to another UAE citizen in Qatar.

[...]

Unlike in Qatar, which has had strong ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, the UAE has little tolerance for the group.

Earlier this month, a UAE court sentenced 56 individuals affiliated with Al Islah to prison for three to ten years over charges of trying to overthrow the government. Eight people were sentenced in absentia to 15 years in jail and 26 were acquitted.

Al Jaidah's family denies he is linked to the group.

July 04 2013

Brazilian Weapons Firm Exports Arms to Arab Countries

[All links lead to sites in Portuguese unless specified otherwise.]

This post, written by Bruno Fonseca and Natalia Viana for Agência Pública, was originally published as a report entitled “Bomba brasileira na pele turca”  (Turks Feel a Brazilian Bomb Firsthand) and is part of the special coverage #IndústriaBrasileiraDeArmas (Brazilian Weapons Industry) on the weapons lobby and industry in Brazil. The story will be published in a series of three articles on Global Voices Online. This is the second part of the series.

Check out the first post: Brazilian Tear Gas Used Against Turkish Protesters

Stand of the firm Condor in the Brazilian pavilion in Turkey in May, 2013. Some of the items on exhibit are the same which would be used against the Turkish population less than one month later. /Agência Pública/Under Creative Commons license

Condor's stand in the Brazilian pavilion in Turkey in May 2013. Some of the items on display were the same which would be used against the Turkish population less than one month later. Agência Pública/Used under Creative Commons license

Less than one month before the beginning of recent anti-government protests in Turkey, the Brazilian government backed a meeting between national weapons firms and foreign buyers in Istanbul. During the International Defense Industry Fair 2013 in Turkey from May 7 and 10, the Brazilian Agency for the Promotion of Exports and Investment (Apex Brasil) and the Brazilian Defense and Security Industries Association (ABIMDE [en]) – whose vice-president, Carlos Frederico Queiroz de Aguiar, is president of Condor – set up an eye-catching display in the Brazilian pavilion.

In the area set aside for Condor, a showcase displayed a variety of metallic projectiles, grenades, and cans of colored sprays, the same as those which would be used a few weeks later in the streets of the same country. Beneath the name of the company in red were ballerina grenades and “diverse defense solutions” – according to the industry jargon – such as 13 types of 40 x 46mm incapacitating munitions for launchers.

Apex hadn't responded to questions about Condor and other Brazilian firms’ incentive in Turkey by the time of this report's publication. According to the Turkish newspaper Sozcu, Minister of Commerce Hayati Yazici stated that in the last 12 months, the country imported 628 tons of tear gas and pepper spray, mostly from Brazil and the United States. These imports were valued at 21 million US dollars.

Condor is the only Brazilian firm that sells weapons to the government of Turkey, according to a statement from their press secretary. In addition to long range projectiles and ballerina grenades, Condor also produces tear gas and pepper sprays, smoke bombs, rubber bullets and stun guns, known as Taser guns.

In 2011, the firm confirmed the sale of weapons to Arab countries, although they denied selling weapons directly to Bahrain, where police cracked down on protesters the following year. Among their clients was the government of the United Arab Emirates, which sent troops in support of the Bahraini government.

In April 2013, Condor signed yet another contract with the government of the UAE, valued at 12 million US dollars, to supply 600,000 units of non-lethal munitions. The agreement was announced during LAADEXPO 2013 [en], the largest defense and security exposition in Latin America, which took place at Riocentro in April.

In February 2013, ABIMDE participated in another weapons fair, this time in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Again, Condor participated in the event as the only Brazilian firm producing non-lethal weapons.

Use of non-lethal weapons questioned in Brazil

Last June 3, 2013, Brazil signed the Arms Trade Treaty at the United Nations. According to the text, which aims for the elimination of weapons trade for genocide, terrorists, and international organized crime, “trade in conventional weapons would be regulated, establishing standards for their export and promoting more transparency in their transfer.” Considered a great advance for a country which avoids transparency regarding the sale of Brazilian weapons – the Minister of Development, Industry, and Foreign Trade refuses to divulge the numbers of firms which export weapons, for example – the treaty doesn't have specific definitions about the trade of non-lethal weapons. Condor's products are sold to more than 40 countries.

The Ministry of Development, Industry, and Foreign Trade refuses to divulge data on Brazilian companies which export arms/Agência Pública/Used under Creative Commons license

The Ministry of Development, Industry, and Foreign Trade refuses to divulge data on Brazilian companies which export arms. Agência Pública/Used under Creative Commons license

March 08 2013

Dima Al Khatib Remembers Hugo Chavez

Some liked him, others hated him, but the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez held a special place in the heart of Arab journalist Dima Al Khatib. As Al Jazeera's Latin America bureau chief, the Syrian-born Palestinian journalist developed a close relationship with Chavez during her 10-year stay in Caracas. Al Khatib, who is now teaching in Dubai, reveals more about this bond in a series of tweets following his death on Tuesday [March 5, 2013].

In addition to her tweets, Khatib went back to the studio to give a series of interviews on Chavez.

On Twitter, she explains [ar]:

تعرفت على الراحل أوغو تشافس في سبتمبر أيلول ٢٠٠٢ في كاراكاس، أي قبل أكثر من ١٠ سنوات. أجريت معه ٥ لقاءات خاصة ورافقته في ترحاله حول العالم

@Dima_Khatib: I got to know Hugo Chavez in September 2002 in Caracas, more than 10 years ago. I conducted five exclusive interviews with him and traveled with him around the world

She adds:

#ذكريات_تشافس كنتُ الصحفية الأجنبية الوحيدة، وأحياناً حتى الصحفية الوحيدة على الإطلاق التي كانت ترافق تشافس في ترحاله داخل فنزويلا وخارجها

@Dima_Khatib: I was the only foreign journalist, and sometimes and only journalist at all, who has accompanied Chavez on his travels in Venezuela and abroad

And says:

#ذكريات_تشافس كلما رآني كان يقول : السلام عليكم ، بالعربية

@Dima_Khatib: Every time he met me, he would say Al Salam Alaykom (Greeting: Peace be on you) in Arabic

Many recalled Khatib's closeness to Chavez. Tunisian journalist tounsiahorra tweets:

تذكرت لقاءكما انت وشافيز في مقر الجزيرة…. ذلك الود والبساطة التي جمعتكما. الصحافية والزعيم جنبا الى جنب دون بروتوكولات


@tounsiahorra
: I remembered your meeting with Chavez at Al Jazeera's headquarters [in Doha, Qatar]. Friendship and simplicity joined you. The journalist and the leader, side by side, without any protocols

Khatib shares many tidbits of information about Chavez on her Twitter account, which has become popular during the Arab uprisings. She asks:

@Dima_Khatib: Who would have thought that Fidel Castro would stay.. and Hugo Chavez would go ?

Dima Al Khatib speaks to Al Jazeera about Chavez following his death on Tuesday. Photograph from Khatib's Instagram

Dima Al Khatib speaks to Al Jazeera about Chavez following his death on Tuesday. Photograph from Khatib's Instagram

In response to a question on whether people in Venezuela like him, Khatib responds:

@Dima_Khatib: Many do. Others don't. But yes he is a popular guy. You either love him or hate him. Very polarising

In another tweet, she wonders whether Arabs too are polarised in their opinion. She reasons:

نعم أعرف .. نحن العرب محتارون .. نحزن أم لا نحزن على رحيل تشافس؟.. هو دعم فلسطين كما فعل قليلون في عصرنا، ثم لم يدعم الثورات العربية

@Dima_Khatib: Yes, I know. We Arabs are confused. Shall we feel sad or not on Chavez's departure? He has supported the Palestinian cause like very few in this era. And then again, he did not support the Arab uprisings.

On her memories with Chavez, Khatib is debating writing a book.

قد أكتب يوماً ما عن تجاربي مع تشافس .. والأحاديث التي دارت بيني وبينه عن قضايا كثيرة .. على مدى عشر سنوات .. وقد لا أكتب .. لا أعرف صراحة

@Dima_Khatib: I might one day write about my experiences with Chavez and the conversations we had over many issues.. over 10 years .. and I might not. I honestly don't know.

January 25 2013

Blogging for UAE Detainees

“UAE Detainees” [ar] sheds light on the plight of more 68 Emirati political detainees who demanded reforms in their country. By doing so, the blog tries to attract solidarity with the arrested activists, to lobby and advocate for their release, in addition to gathering and recollecting everything that has been written on their cases. Click here [ar] to read about the regression of the basic rights in the UAE and pleas for the United Nations to interfere.

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].

December 10 2012

Human Rights Day in United Arab Emirates

While millions of people from all over the world are celebrating the International Human Rights Day by demanding an end to the ongoing human rights abuses in many places, activists in United Arab Emirates are not able to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and assembly (whether by organizing protests or writing about authorities' violations). They are intimidated to use social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook to share the stories of political detainees and prisoners of conscience or any other violation that the government is exercising in the name of “national security”. Most of them can't join “Human Rights Day” Twitter campaigns.


Recently, a very young activist, Mohamed El-Zumer  (18 years old) was arrested for his Twitter posts that support political detainees in UAE and demand their release. He is the youngest political detainee, arrested for voicing his opinions by using Twitter. His arrest came following a cyber-crimes decree that attacks free speech. Human Rights Watch said that the Federal Legal Decree no.5/2012 vague words provide a legal basis to prosecute and jail people who use information technology to, among other things, criticize senior officials, argue for political reform, or organize unlicensed demonstrations. The decree threatens activists, bloggers, and ordinary citizens who exercise their rights to freedom of expression.

El-Zumer's family told Emirates Centre for Human Rights (ECHR) that after arresting him, and searching his home, he was taken to an unknown destination. By arresting El-Zumer, the number of political detainees, that I am aware of, has raised to 64 detainees. Many of those detainees are in unknown places, and their families don't have access to them. There have been no fair trials, and most of the government's claims are that those peaceful activists pose a threat to the national security.

On the International Human Rights Day, those detainees must not be forgotten. Tweeting on their behalf is what I and many other human rights activists will do today. Freedom of expression is a priority for human rights activists, regardless of the detainees' opinions or political backgrounds.

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.

September 17 2012

Open Letter to Governments: Protect Human Rights at the ITU

This December in Dubai, the International Telecommunication Union—a UN agency—will decide whether it should have regulatory authority over the Internet. This move could pose grave risks to the exercise of human rights online.

Until now, the ITU has been dedicated to setting technical standards for interoperability of international telecommunications, radio, and satellite systems, in addition to promoting access to ICT.  But some member states have proposed extending the ITU’s mandate to cover Internet-policy matters that could place limitations on online privacy, free expression, access to information and ICT use around the world.

Advocates and experts believe that citizens can have an impact by urging their national governments to support proposals that will protect the open Internet. Given that many of the issues at stake are technically complex, and the ITU process itself is non-transparent and difficult for individuals to follow, civil society groups are working to collect and disseminate resources to help citizens better understand the issue at stake, and to make it easier for citizens to get involved. A recent Global Voices Advocacy post refers readers to a range of information resources on the issue.

Civil society also can influence the process

by signing an open letter calling on governments to reject expansion of ITU regulatory authority to the Internet. Jointly drafted by open Internet advocates from around the world, the letter urges member states and government delegations to protect the exercise of human rights on the Internet when they vote at the upcoming ITU conference.

With signatories from Argentina, Brazil, Cambodia, India, Kenya, Pakistan, Poland, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand, Tunisia, and the US, among other countries, the letter reads:

As recently reaffirmed by the UN Human Rights Council, governments have a duty to protect human rights when making policy decisions for the Internet. However, while the ITU has extensive expertise in telecommunications policy and regulation, we do not believe that it is the appropriate forum to develop policies and standards that could affect the exercise of human rights on the Internet.

Further, the ITU maintains a relatively closed, non-transparent decision-making process in which only governments are allowed full participation. In contrast, the Internet has flourished under an open, decentralized model of governance, where groups representing business, the technical community, and Internet users as well as governments focus on different issues in a variety of forums. In keeping with the World Summit on Information Society commitments, we believe that such open, inclusive processes are necessary to ensure that policies and technical standards for the global Internet preserve the medium’s decentralized and open nature and protect the human rights of its users.

This letter represents a continued push for transparency in the ITU process and for governments attending international fora to represent the common interest not only of government or industry, but of all those who have a stake in the future of the information society. Civil society organizations and academics from all countries are invited to join this call. To sign the letter or learn more, contact signon@cdt.org. For more background on the ITU, read recent posts on the issue here and here.

September 12 2012

Protecting the Open Internet at the ITU: Civil Society Takes Action

This December in Dubai, the International Telecommunication Union—a UN agency—will decide whether it should have regulatory authority over the Internet. This move could pose grave risks to the exercise of human rights online.

Until now, the ITU has been dedicated to setting technical standards for interoperability of international telecommunications, radio, and satellite systems, in addition to promoting access to ICT.  But some member states have proposed extending the ITU’s mandate to cover Internet-related technical and policy matters that could place limitations on online privacy, free expression, access to information and ICT use around the world.

The Internet and the ITU / video by ISOC

Advocates around the world are organizing to work against potential threats that such a change could bring to Internet openness. Advocates and experts believe that citizens can have an impact by urging their national governments to support proposals that will protect the open Internet. Given that many of the issues at stake are technically complex, and the ITU process itself is non-transparent and difficult for individuals to follow, civil society groups are working to collect and disseminate resources to help citizens better understand the issue at stake, and to make it easier for citizens to get involved.

Global Internet traffic map. Labeled for reuse. Posted by Martin Irvine.

Here are a few examples of ongoing efforts:

Internet Society: Many international chapters of the Internet Society, a global organization that promotes Internet access for all, are taking action on the issue—a complete directory of chapters can be found here. The main site of the Internet Society also offers useful background information on the ITU process and an informative video on the ITU.
 
The Center for Democracy & Technology has developed an ITU Resource Center where users will find a letter open for sign-on by civil society groups, and a set of key resources for civil society advocates, including analyses of treaty proposals and the ITU process and an advocacy toolkit with key messages. These materials are under a Creative Commons license—advocates are encouraged to reuse, remix, and distribute these materials in their work on the issue.
 
WCITLeaks, a website established to allow individuals to anonymously leak ITU process documents for public view, is now doing more than just housing leaked documents—the site’s new resource pages offer links to recent analyses, op-eds, and activism efforts by various NGOs.
 
Access Now has created a petition urging governments to vote against proposals that would expand the ITU’s mandate to the Internet.

Readers are encouraged to explore these pages and learn more about this important issue. Global Voices Advocacy will continue to post updates on ITU proceedings and civil society efforts leading up to and throughout the time of the December conference

.

August 28 2012

Lebanon: Tourism Pays the Ultimate Price

Lebanon lacks oil and mineral resources. It is geographically too small to be independent in terms of agriculture. And the only way the country can survive is by relying on its services sector, mainly tourism, if and when politics permit.

But Lebanon has not been lucky with this regard. It has been plagued with a 30 year civil war which repelled tourists. After that, and whenever the Lebanese tried to attract visitors to the Land of the Cedars, whether Westerners or Arabs, a calamity would take place and all efforts to promote the tourism sector would go in vain.

Just to name some of the few incidents which impacted Lebanese tourism recently: the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri in 2005 and the wave of other political murders which followed, the July 2006 war with Israel, the May 2008 internal conflict between different political factions, and the recent events with the divide over the Syrian crisis and the return of kidnappings to the local scene.

With the warning of embassies to their citizens to leave Lebanon, reservations in hotels dropped by 60 per cent the week of August 14th. Cancellations are also noted in terms of flight reservations.

On Twitter, the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted the Embassy number in Beirut, urging its citizens in Lebanon to contact their Embassy to ensure their swift return back to their home:

لمواطني الدولة المتواجدين حاليا في لبنان التواصل مع سفارة الدولة في بيروت على الرقم009611857000 أو بادارة العمليات على الرقم00971600599991
@MOFAUAE For the citizens currently in Lebanon, please contact the Embassy in Beirut on the following number () or the operations on …

In return, Lebanese netizens are mourning the tourism season.

Najib from Blog Baladi is sad:

All in all, I think this is the worst summer we’ve had in Lebanon for the past 10 years, even worse than the 2006 summer. That’s really sad specially with all the potential we have in this country.

On Twitter, Rawad Khoueiry summarizes the situation:

@rawadkhoueirySummer Tourism in lebanon: No Electricity, Mokdad Military Wing, Airport Road Cut, North Frontier Shooting

Wael Abou Diab explains the causes [ar]:

#بيروت تعاني …فنادق فارغة و سياحة شبه معدومة و الأسباب أمنية إقليمية عشائرية
@Waelad: Beirut is suffering. Empty hotels, quasi non-existing tourism. The reasons are sectarian, regional and related to the clans.

But as usual Lebanese sense of humour is always present against all odds.

Ralph Nader believes that the huge number of Syrians taking refuge in Lebanon will make it up for the loss of Gulf nationals.

@Aamchit: Tourism is booming in Lebanon. People are coming from Damascus, Tartous, Homs, Aleppo, Deir El Zor and many other cities. #irony

Tourists have become such a rare species in Lebanon that Bechara is surprised.

@BouCha2ra: Guess what?! I saw a tourist yesterday! m/ O.o #Lebanon

Zeina Mhanna is also sarcastic:

@MissZenaH: Today I had a Turkish tourist client.. I gave her directions to protect herself from aliens abduction in #Lebanon

Wajih has been visiting Istanbul and that is how he is promoting tourism for his country:

@neruda906: Someone tell the Minister of Tourism I'm doing a great job here, I'm convincing everybody I meet not to visit Beirut :) #Lebanon

Gulf Netizens React

With Al Mekdad Clan threatening to kidnap them, nationals from the Gulf were disappointed.

Maktoum Bin Butti, from the UAE, notes:

@Makoumbinbutti: GCC countries supported Lebanon financially and boosted their tourism & in return they get kidnapped #awkward#GCC

AbdulRahman Al Haji calls his fellow citizen to boycott Lebanon:

من اليوم فصاعداً يا سواح الخليج قاطعوا لبنان بروحهم دولة دايخة قاطعوهم قاطعوهم
@alhajji1963: From now, Gulf tourists, boycott Lebanon, a confusing state. Boycott them. Boycott them

Borzou Daraghi, who is MENA correspondent for the Financial Times, believes Jordan and Turkey will benefit mostly from what is happening in Lebanon

@Borzou: With #Syria, #Egypt & now #Lebanon off the rich Gulf Arab tourist circuit I bet #Turkey & #Jordan will be raking in the cash

August 14 2012

UAE: Human Rights Lawyer Abdulhamed AlKumaiti Arrested

Khalid Ibrahim reports: “#UAE:Prominent HR lawyer Abdulhamed AlKumaiti is targeted because he is as always ready to defend the civil &human rights of the detainees.” And Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth adds: “UAE strategy to keep 49 activists in prison: arrest their would-be lawyers too. Threat to national (aka govt) security.”

August 07 2012

Egypt: Ahmed Shafik Denies UAE Appointment on Twitter

Former Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik has resorted to Twitter to react to what he described as “rumours” about his appointment as an adviser to the President of the United Arab Emirates.

Many netizens tweeted and retweeted a news story announcing Shafik's appointment. Shafik, who was former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's last Prime Minister, served for the period from January 31, 2011, to March 3, 2011, at the height of the Egyptian revolution. He is also a former candidate for the Egyptian presidency.

On Twitter, Shafik fought back the rumours saying [ar]:

ليس صحيحا أبدا ما ذكرته إحدى الصحف أنني مستشار لدولة الإمارات. هذه إشاعة ليس لها أساس من الصحة, فأنا لن أعمل بالسياسة إلا داخل وطني مصر
@ahmedshafikeg: “What a newspaper published that I am an adviser to the United Arab Emirates is not true. This is a baseless rumour. I will not work in politics anywhere other than my country Egypt.”

His denial has so far been retweeted 1,360 times.

Screen shot of Ahmed Shafik's tweet, denying rumours that he has been appointed as an adviser to the President of the UAE

Screen shot of Ahmed Shafik's tweet, denying rumours that he has been appointed as an adviser to the President of the UAE

Egyptian journalist Reem Abdellatif received the original news of Shafik's appointment with disbelief:

@Reem_Adellatif: According to #Shorouk, former #Egyptian pres candidate Ahmed #Shafik has been appointed as adviser for UAE president. Is that even possible?

Mohamed Diyaa jokes:

@MohamedDiyaa: Ahmed Shafik is an adviser to suppress any upcoming protests in #UAE

And Cairo-based journalist Bel Trew says:

@Beltrew: Somehow reminds me of [former UK Prime Minister Tony] Blair as Middle East peace envoy MT @Omniaaldesoukie: Shorouk: Ahmed #shafik appointed as an adviser to UAE President

From Qatar, Esraa Al Meftah reacts sarcastically:

بس لا يعينون ريئس الوزراء السوري المنشق مستشار الامير عندنا بعد
@esra2qtr: I hope they don't appoint the Syrian Prime Minister who has defected as an adviser to the Amir [ruler] here

News yesterday circulated announcing the defection of Syrian former Prime Minister Riad Farid Hijab, prompting Al Meftah's comment that he may be seeking a job in the oil-rich state.

July 27 2012

European Telco Proposal to ITU: A Threat to the Open Web?

A group of European telecommunications companies has made a proposal for global Internet regulation that could fundamentally alter the free flow of information online. In the process, they have highlighted the risks inherent in the broader debate over “Internet governance.”

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a specialized UN agency that sets standards for international telephony, is renegotiating one of its foundational treaties. Written in 1988, the current treaty does not address Internet-related issues. Several member states and corporate sector members of the ITU are proposing changes that would expand the agency’s regulatory authority to the Internet. Members states have made proposals regarding IP routing, cybersecurity, data protection, peering charges, and other areas that could affect Internet functionality and openness.

Dubai, where the ITU Conference will be held. Image by Wael Attili, labeled for reuse.

A proposal put forth by the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ association (ETNO) could undermine the free flow of online content worldwide. It could have particularly harmful effects on less developed countries and smaller content providers. Under the ETNO plan:

1. Network operators could be forced into a system for exchanging Internet traffic in which, when forwarding a communication to another network, they would have to pay a fee to the next network in the chain. Remember: the Internet is a network of networks. This would upend the current system, where network operators exchange much traffic free of charge.

2.  Online hosts and content providers could be included in the interconnection fee system and be required to pay a fee for delivery of their content.

3. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and network operators would develop a two-tiered system for online traffic, in which content providers could pay extra money to have their traffic sent with a guaranteed “quality of service.” Content providers who couldn’t afford the extra cost would have their content delivered by the traditional method, known as “best effort” delivery.
These elements of the ETNO proposal would increase revenues for telecommunications operators, but there is no guarantee that they would provide a benefit to users – in fact, they could do the opposite.

Global Internet traffic map. Labeled for reuse. Posted by Martin Irvine.

Disadvantaging Users in Less-Developed Countries
Under the ETNO proposal, networks in more developed countries may decide not to route traffic through countries that they believe are not big enough or commercially important enough to justify the additional cost. This policy could leave users in certain countries on the wrong side of a widening “digital divide.” And it could make it hard for those users to access important content outside their countriesʼ borders.

If networks in less-developed countries need to pay new interconnection fees for sending Internet traffic, they may have to charge more to their users. This could leave entrepreneurs and other content providers in less developed countries facing greater costs in accessing global markets.

 

Disadvantaging Small and Independent Content Creators
Under ETNOʼs proposal, online service providers, ranging from small blogs to large social networking sites, would have to pay significant fees in order to send traffic through the network. Large, established companies that host content could probably afford these fees, but for smaller companies – many of which host independent content or innovative services – such costs could limit their global reach.

Web content providers in less developed countries would be disproportionately burdened by these fees, and thus less able to make their content available at a regional or international level. In poorer countries with low Internet penetration rates, this could leave users with access to local websites and content delivered by Internet giants like Google, but little else.

To use Global Voices as an example, Spain-based authors covering Latin America might suddenly have limited access to blogs in small, less developed countries like El Salvador or Bolivia, where bloggers would likely have limited means to pay international interconnection fees. On the whole, small and/or independent websites all over the world would become less accessible at the international level; international connections between users who create, innovate, game, or interact across borders would suddenly begin to diminish.

 

Economic Impact
The proposal has been framed as a policy that will allow telecommunications companies to make greater investments in Internet infrastructure and increasing ICT access, but there is no guarantee that additional revenues would be put towards such development. Instead, the policy could undermine the economic development potential of the Internet for businesses and independent vendors in developing countries. Small businesses wanting to sell their products on the global market would face higher costs, and they could even find it difficult to reach the e-commerce sites that serve as platforms for small enterprise.

 

Threat to Net Neutrality
Under ETNOʼs proposal, network operators could opt to prioritize certain traffic. A company could pay the operator higher fees in order to have its traffic prioritized, and thus delivered more quickly and reliably than that of its competitors. This would give network operators tremendous power, and it would undermine the principle of Internet neutrality.

 

What’s Next – And What Internet Users Can Do
ITU members will meet to vote on this and many other proposals this December in Dubai at the World Conference on International Telecommunications. The ITU is not open to civil society participation. Only governments and dues-paying “sector members” (mainly large companies and trade associations) can participate.

The best way for Internet users to voice their concerns about this issue is by working through the national delegations that their governments will send to the conference.  Usually, these national delegations are comprised of the minister and staff of the national telecommunications ministry.  Civil society groups have been urging Member States of the ITU to conduct public processes at the national level to solicit input from all relevant stakeholders and to release their national positions and proposals for public debate.

Global Voices Advocacy will soon post further information about how concerned citizens can voice their opinions about the treaty and its effects on the Internet. Netizens can learn more about the ITU and its potential impact on the Internet by visiting resources pages created by the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) and Public Knowledge. To learn more about the ETNO proposal in particular and its implications for the open Internet, read CDT’s memo on the proposal.

June 24 2012

UAE: Dress Code Campaign Urges Extra Inches of Clothing

Two female Emirati nationals have launched a Twitter campaign to urge expatriates and tourists to respect the cultural sensibilities of the United Arab Emirates regarding dress. Their campaign pushed the Federal National Council to propose a law regarding dress code.

Some Emirati activists want to protect the local culture from being ravaged by Western habits in the country's cosmopolitan society. While the Emiratis have preserved their local dress, they want to ensure a minimum level of decency in public places.

Many awareness signs were put in malls to urge shoppers to follow certain dressing guidelines but with no effective results. The online dress code campaign has attracted the support of many netizens.

Dress code at a Dubai mall. Photo from Flickr by Zahid Lilani. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

When in Rome…

The campaign's official Twitter account said:

@UAEDressCode: Everyone can wear freely wat they like, but with simple limits. Extra inches of cloth won't kill you. #UAEDressCode #UAEDecency

Indian expat in the Emirates Farrukh Naeem tweeted:

@farrukhnaeem: I support #UAEDressCode as an Indian expat who respects his host - just like I would expect non-Indians to respect my culture back home

Abdulla AlKendi tweeted:

@AbdullaAlKendi: If you are against #UAEDressCode which is part of #UAEDecency Law, then you shall be pleased when people call you ‘b****’

Madonna and the UAE dress code

One of the things that prompted criticism towards Madonna's recent concerts in Abu Dhabi was the costumes. Writer Sandra Hiari said:

@sandra_hiari: Madonna won't certainly accept a #UAEDressCode. I wonder what the causes of the movement are; cultural?

Madonna performing in a skirt on June 12 in Rome, Italy, which is part of her MDNA Tour. Photo from Flickr by Luigi Orru. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Madonna performing in a skirt on June 12 in Rome, Italy, which is part of her MDNA Tour. Photo from Flickr by Luigi Orru. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Blogger Woman Unveiled posted:

I definitely support Al Muhair and Al Rayes’ movement. […] In the case of Madonna’s outfits and dance moves though, I think the context allows for some leniency. Plus, it’s not like anyone was forced to go. Fans of hers know that she can get quirky while entertaining live, and most look forward to what she has planned. With that being said, I know that some restraint on her part would’ve been applauded by her fans in the Arab World.

Are men affected by the new dress code?

Some women voiced their concerns about the revealing dress of some men. Blogger Umm Qahtan tweeted:

@UmmQahtan: men also need to cover their chests & not wear such tight shorts/pants it's sick when they adjust themself

Pam, an expatriate blogger, posted:

Everything I have read is directed at the way women dress. This has made me uncomfortable as I have also seen men dress inappropriately just as many times as women. If men are not included then such a law could be mistaken for the repression of women.

The UAE Dress Code campaign assured them that men will be indeed part of the new dress code:

@UAEDressCode: Men are also included they have to apply the dress code. :) #uaedresscode

How to implement the new law?

Expatriate blogger Pam outlined a strategy to implement the envisaged dress-code law:

I would recommend before implementing a dress code into law, the government invest in an education campaign. This has not been tried yet. Perhaps it is under consideration. Assuming the application of fining or punishing someone for inappropriate dress takes resources, time and money; just think of the savings for the judicial system. And not just the money - would you prefer to have your policemen chasing after people dressing inappropriately, or would you rather they focus on real criminals? Education is the key. Educate residents and tourists, and insist that the security at facilities ask people to leave the premises if they do not abide.

Dubai's Desperate Housewife raised the issue of the absence of criteria to define decent clothes posting:

But of course “inappropriate” is quite subjective. How do you quantify “respectful dressing”? A woman could be covered from neck to ankle in clothes so tight they hide nothing, while another could be wearing baggy shorts that show a little leg above the knee, but be far more chaste. […] But while some things are clearly not acceptable, there’s a large grey area. I almost feel we need an online service where we can ask before going out, “showing 80 per cent arms but zero per cent leg, outfit 50 per cent tight – what’s my decency rating?”

June 18 2012

United Arab Emirates: Anger at Madonna's Concert

Madonna kicked off her MDNA Tour on June 1 and performed her debut concert in Abu Dhabi, UAE, on June 3 and 4. The concert prompted controversy for the sexual themes and Madonna's revealing costumes. Performers in Muslim countries usually face opposition from the conservative factions of those societies; Lady Gaga's concert in Indonesia was cancelled recently amid pressure by conservatives and hardliners.The timing was also not appropriate as the event came after the Houla Massacre in Syria. Madonna was slammed by Twitter users for various reasons.

Fashion designer Hala Zadeh summarized the sequence of events in her tweet:

@halaZadeh: Getting Madonna to Abu Dhabi, knowing who she is, then criticize her and trash her everywhere!

UAE Dress Code
There is no law regarding dress codes in the Emirates but efforts have been put in place to make a dress code law.
Savannah NOT Banana said:

@EasyAsPieMmmPie: You know who else didn't care about #UAEDressCode? Madonna, in Abu Dhabi, or anywhere really

Blatant Exposition of Christian Symbols
As the Arabian Peninsula is the birthplace of Islam, it is sometimes considered offensive to expose symbols of other religions in a blatant way. Madonna used crosses of different sizes as stage props and the concert was started by ringing bells, chants and monks. Khaled Hammadi tweeted:

@kwhammadi‏: صليب كبير في جزيرة العرب من أجل راقصة خبيثة ،، يا أبناء زايد : أليس فيكم رجل رشيد !! #مادونا_تراقص_جراحنا
A big cross in the Arabian Peninsula for a wicked dancer.. You sons of Zayed, isn't there a wise man amongst you!!

Saudi netizen Mansour Al-Harethi tweeted:

@mr_mns: #مادونا_تراقص_جراحنا‬ دكتورإماراتي يخفف علينا ويقول مادوناكانت محتشمة ولم يرالسيدالجو الكنائسي الذي افتتحت به حفلتها بدلامن ان نقنت لاخوتنا
An Emirati professor tries to relieve us and says Madonna's [clothes] were modest and he didn't see the church atmosphere with which she started her concert instead of praying for our brothers [in Syria]

Alleged Affiliation with the Illuminati
Madonna's concert showed religious imagery. Hamad Al-Shirawi tweeted acknowledging Madonna's alleged links with the Illuminati:

@Hamad_AlShirawi: No more crazy illuminati concerts please. #Madonna

Sexuality
Expatriate blogger Pam posted:

I am no prude, but she pushed the limits. I am sure some people who attended, and perhaps some leaders of this country who got wind of what went down were not very happy with her. There is nothing directed at Islam in the show that I could see, but I am sure her kissing a woman and the cross dressing dances didn’t go over well among other things.

Profanities
At the beginning of the concert, Madonna addressed the crowd calling them “sons of a bitch.” Saudi Sheikh Khaled Al-Saqaby tweeted:

@KhaledAlSaqaby: #مادونا_تراقص_جراحنا‬‏ الإعلام القذر هو الذي أسهم في تقبل خمسة وعشرين ألف للقب(أبناء العاهرة )فقد أسهم خلال سنوات طويلة إلى إماتة الغيرة
Dirty media are the ones that participated in making 25,000 people accept the label (sons of a bitch) as they have contributed for many years to kill the pride

American Expatriate blogger Thomas O'Hara posted:

I'm told that her first song was in HEBREW and that she spewed profanities during the entire show. A common ex-pat would be thrown in jail for years for that kind of public behavior.

Bad Timing
The concert was held soon after the Houla Massacre in Syria. Emirati Twitter users said it was not time for rejoice and partying. They organized an online campaign using the Twitter hash tag [ar] ‎‫#مادونا_تراقص_جراحنا‬‏ (#Madonna_Dances_On_Our_Wounds).

Blogger Mohamed Alfraj posted:

مادونا المغنية الأمريكية المعتزلة من عشر سنين تحيي ليلة واحدة من عمرها الثمين بعشرة ملايين دولار فقط لا غير، ومعها جوقة صلبانها ورهبانها وطقوسها الكنسية، لم تفلح اعتراضات غيورين كثر عزّ عليهم أن تطغى صرخات العاهرة على صراخ من تبقى من أطفال سوريا، وأنين الموجوعات المفجوعات بأزواجهن وأولادهن وعفافهن في منعها، والمفاجأة المحزنة حين تقاتل الناس على التذاكر التي بلغت قيمتها أكثر من ألف درهم، وتحديدا ثلاث مائة دولار للواحدة، وتقاطروا من كل صوب، فقدر الجمهور باثنين وعشرين ألف رجل وامرأة..
Madonna, the American retired American singer who has been retired for 10 years, performs during one night of her precious life for only US $10 million and not more. With her were the group of her crosses and chorus of monks and church rituals. The opposition of many people, who didn't want the bitch's cries to overwhelm the screams of the remainder of Syria's children and the agony of the chaste mothers who lost their husbands and children, was unsuccessful. And the sad surprise was when people fought for tickets valued at more than 1,000 dirhams each, exactly 300 dollars, and flocked from every direction. The audience number was estimated at 22,000 men and women

Emirati blogger Ibrahim Alharam expressed his disappointment at the campaign failure tweeting:

@IbrahimAlharam: في المملكة استجاب التجار لنداءات الشباب السعودي وتم ‎‫#إلغاء_اللقاء_العار‬‏ ! مع الروس ولكن في وطني تركت ‎‫#مادونا_تراقص_جراحنا‬‏ !
In the Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia] tradesmen responded to the calls of Saudi youth for cancellation of the shameful meeting with the Russians but in my homeland they allowed #Madonna_To_Dance_On_Our_Wounds

However, Emirati blogger Ahmed Al-Gargaoui posted that Madonna's performance is controversial by nature:

We all know the hype Madonna has created, however regardless of all the fuss people have created over Madonna coming to Abu Dhabi.. I believe she performed beautifully, we all know the Madonna brand is controversial so if you do not want to associate yourself with it or dislike, simply don't just like an over 18 film at the cinema, don't go see it if it offends you.[…] I think this country is led by great men and they wouldn't allow her to perform if her content was extremely controversial or insulting.

May 28 2012

UAE: Some Savoury Questions

Krista, from the collective blog Muslimah Media Watch, shares her family's passion for “ridiculous and tacky” salt and pepper shakers. Their latest acquisition, a gift bought in Dubai, has raised a lot of questions in Krista's mind.

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