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January 31 2014

AB14: “We Must Stop Thinking That Technology Will Solve All of Our Problems”

This article originally appeared on El Diario, in Spanish. Translation by Ellery Roberts Biddle.

Empty seats for those who were absent from #AB14. Photo by Hisham Almiraat via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Empty seats for those who were absent from #AB14. Photo by Hisham Almiraat via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

“Those who live in western societies do not understand the importance of being able to criticize the actions of their government. This is a right we do not have in our countries.”

It was with this that Walid Al-Saqaf, founder of Portal Yemen, began a panel on censorship and digital surveillance at the Arab Bloggers Meeting #AB14 that took place from the 20-23 of January in Amman.

Banner calling for the release of Alaa Abd El Fattah and Bassel Safadi, former participants at the Arab Bloggers Meeting.

Banner calling for the release of Alaa Abd El Fattah and Bassel Safadi, former participants at the Arab Bloggers Meeting.

The political context for this event has changed dramatically since the last meeting in September of 2011, when bloggers and activists from every Arab country came together in Tunis, meeting under a banner that read: “Welcome to a Free Tunis.” Since this time, censorship and repression have continued. The ardent, palpable feeling of hope at the last meeting, fueled by uprisings against dictatorships in the region, has given way to difficult transitions in some cases and armed conflict in others, all struggles that we see plainly in the online realm.

“We must stop thinking that technology will solve all of our problems,” Al-Saqaf pleaded. “Censorship is here to stay, regardless of the tools, so we must stop being obsessed with them and begin to think in the long term.”

The meeting focused on the strategic pursuit of protection against censorship and surveillance, and the preservation of common bonds in a milieu that feels more and more fragmented each day. An on-site photo project featured a message from each of the participants.

“We watch the government, not the other way around,” message from Moroccan blogger Zineb Belmkaddem during the Arab Bloggers Meeting in Amman. Photo by Amer Sweidan, used with permission.

“We watch the government, not the other way around,” message from Moroccan blogger Zineb Belmkaddem during the Arab Bloggers Meeting in Amman. Photo by Amer Sweidan, used with permission.

This year, the absence of two participants from past meetings was especially palpable: Egyptian blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah and Syrian web developer Bassel Safadi. The meeting was dedicated to them, journalists and activists detained in the region. A statementcalling for freedom for Razan Zaitouneh, co-founder of Syria’s Center for Violations Documentation, a group that documents human rights abuses, who was kidnapped in December in Damascus.

As a community, we have a responsibility to stand in solidarity with activists promoting freedom and exposing human rights violations in service of our shared humanity. We at AB14 demand that the UN and all countries involved in the Geneva II Middle East Peace Conference establish verifiable mechanisms to protect and secure the release of opinion detainees and kidnappees in Syria.

These were not the only people absent. A Syrian member of the Enab Baladi project, a local independent media project created at the start of the March 2011 uprising, was sent back to Turkey after several hours of interrogation at the Amman airport. Two Iraqi participants were denied entry visas altogether. Restrictions for citizen travel between countries in the region remains a constant (at the last meeting, Palestinian participants were not able to get into Tunisia) a reality that contradicts the illusion of regional unity.

“I have no words, only shame, to describe how Arab regimes treat citizens in other Arab countries, while a person with a Western passport can move freely without a visa through practically the entire region,” wrote Abir Kopty. She added: “We will keep fighting until we are separated neither by borders nor by authoritarian regimes.”

January 24 2014

GV Face: Live from the Arab Bloggers Meeting #AB14

In this special edition of GV Face, GV veterans and colleagues join us live from Amman, Jordan, where nearly 80 bloggers and activists from throughout the Arab region came together this week for the Fourth Arab Bloggers Meeting. After four days of training and discussion between bloggers, activists, musicians, rappers, teachers and scholars from across the region, there's plenty to talk about.

GVers Advox Director Hisham Almiraat, GV MENA Region Editor Amira Al Hussaini, SMEX Co-Director Mohammed Najem and Berkman Fellow Dalia Othman share with us their insights from this remarkable event.

Learn more about the meeting and read blog posts from throughout the week (in English and Arabic) on the #AB14 website:

Sponsored post

GV Face: Live from the Arab Bloggers Meeting #AB14

In this special edition of GV Face, GV veterans and colleagues join us live from Amman, Jordan, where nearly 80 bloggers and activists from throughout the Arab region came together this week for the Fourth Arab Bloggers Meeting. After four days of training and discussion between bloggers, activists, musicians, rappers, teachers and scholars from across the region, there's plenty to talk about. 

GVers Advox Director Hisham Almiraat, GV MENA Region Editor Amira Al Hussaini, SMEX Co-Director Mohammed Najem and Berkman Fellow Dalia Othman share with us their insights from this remarkable event. 

Learn more about the meeting and read blog posts from throughout the week (in English and Arabic) on the #AB14 website:

December 30 2013

2013 in Review: A Fireside Chat with EFF's Jillian York and Eva Galperin

Graphic by 7iber (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Graphic by 7iber (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Jillian York and Eva Galperin are both longtime Advox contributors that work for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a leading US organization defending human rights in the digital age. They conducted a “year in review” exercise this week, looking at the state of digital rights in 2013 and making predictions for the new year. Not surprisingly, they found themselves focusing on the threat of surveillance in a post-Arab Spring world.

Jillian York: After the Arab Spring, I wasn't really sure how subsequent years could get crazier on the Internet freedom front. And then they did.

Eva Galperin: So was this the “worst year for Internet freedom” to date?

JY: For people who thought that the Arab Spring was going to be a positive turning point, I think 2013 was a pretty tough year. We've seen plenty of evidence of how the Arab Spring influenced countries in the MENA region. What do you think its impact was in other parts of the world?

EG: It has definitely had an influence in Russia and other post-Soviet states. For example, in Turkmenistan the government has seen the Arab Spring as a sign that they should ramp up Internet surveillance. And it doesn't help that the equipment is getting cheaper and surveillance is getting easier as more people all over the world lead more of their lives online.

JY: Surveillance is getting cheaper, and yet there are only a few countries that produce the kind of equipment we're talking about, right?

EG: A lot of the equipment is made in the West, but companies in the US and Europe are facing increasing competition from Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE. As activists, we can put pressure on companies like BlueCoat or Cisco or even Teliasonera, but there isn't a lot we can do to influence the policies of Chinese companies.

JY: Right — although I wonder how much the contracts in the West for those companies might influence their choices?

EG: Actually, Huawei officially said this year they were not interested in the US market anymore. I don't want to sound too defeatist, but if the best defense Western companies can come up with for selling surveillance capabilities to authoritarian regimes is “if we don't do it, Chinese companies will,” they've pretty much ceded the moral high ground.  Since everyone is talking about state surveillance these days, do you think that we've made any progress in calling out Western companies this year?

JY: Yes and no. I think we've made a lot of progress with online service providers and social media companies – even if we don't think their statements have been strong enough, many of the leading companies came together and took a stand against the NSA's mass spying. But when it comes to surveillance equipment providers, I think there's so much more we can do. In fact, I'm making that a New Year’s resolution: Find a way to target investors.

On the slip side, there was the launch of the 13 Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance – this document, developed by a coalition (of which EFF was a leading member) and signed by over 300 organizations around the world felt like a powerful step towards a more transparent, rights-protective online environment. So there's some good news.

EG: Indeed! And this could have a lasting impact in years to come. Speaking of strong activism efforts – you watch MENA pretty closely. What great activism have you seen come out of the region this year?

JY: There have been some strong actions around the case of Egyptian blogger and activist Alaa Abd El Fattah — he is facing charges under Egypt’s new “anti-protest” law, which prohibits public demonstration without prior authorization from government officials. When he was arrested last month in Egypt, his allies created a “rolling press release” in a Google Doc that they sent to journalists and organizations — this is still being updated all the time.  It is pretty genius — a great way to keep people informed of the latest news on his case.

Alaa Abd El Fattah. Photo by Alaa (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Alaa Abd El Fattah. Photo by Alaa (CC BY-SA 2.5)

And in Jordan, people have done great work opposing online censorship that has come out of the Press and Publications Law — over 300 sites have been blocked under new amendments to the law that introduce restrictive content and registration rules for websites. Last year, activists responded by driving a coffin around town, calling it a “funeral for the Internet.”

What about in the places that you watch? I know you keep a close eye on Vietnam, what's happening there?

EG: Vietnam is in the midst of a years-long crackdown on bloggers. This year, we saw high-profile bloggers like Le Quoc Quan (also a human rights lawyer) jailed and convicted. There were also cases where bloggers were lumped together and convicted a dozen at a time. And people like Dinh Nhat Uy were jailed for making anti-government Facebook posts.

They're pretty brazen about charging people for unrelated crimes. Charges of tax evasion, which is what got convicted, are pretty common.

This is also a common tactic in China and Russia. Blogger and opposition leader Alexey Navalny was convicted of embezzlement and sentenced to five years in jail in Russia this summer.

JY: Speaking of Russia, this summer it seemed Russia was “on top” so to speak — between Snowden and Putin's success vis-a-vis Syria — but Russia really is cracking down on activists, is it not?

EG: Not only is Russia cracking down on the political opposition, but they've come down hard on free speech on the Internet. Last year, the Duma passed an Internet censorship law that was ostensibly aimed at protecting children but has been used to silence the opposition. Protecting minors from “extremism” “homosexual propaganda” and information about the sale of drugs all have been leading excuses in Russia for censoring the Internet. I think the homophobia angle is relatively new and unusually strong there.

What trends do you expect to see continue into 2014?

JY: Heh – well, one unfortunate one that merits a mention is journalists being charged under terrorism statutes. I counted four just this year. On a more positive note, I think the growth of the digital rights “scene” is amazing. We're not alone in this fight — there are so many allies in every corner of the globe…but that also means we have to be strident in standing up for ALL of our rights, and not compromise.

EG: I have been really impressed by the sheer number of new organizations springing up all over the world.  I hope this means we'll see a continuing trend towards a more comprehensive, less US-centric Internet freedom movement.

JY: Yes, I hope for the same. Well, Eva – have a happy new year, and I'll see you on the other side.

EG: Back at you! Let’s hope it’s a good one.

November 19 2013

PHOTOS: Five Short Stories of Syrian Refugees

This post is part of our special coverage Surviving in Syria

While the world seems to be happy for Syrian president Bashar Al Assad to continue killing Syrians, international media, newspapers, blogs, social networks, and amateur and professional photographers are injecting the Internet space with stories and misery of 2 million (estimated October 2013) Syrian refugees. Nevertheless this post should be considered as “Surviving outside Syria” but it will be as part of our special coverage on Surviving in Syria to reveal the social media's contribution to the Syrian conflict.

Several photographs have been selected for this post, citing Syrian people in neighborhood countries, to illustrate a dark, hard and real life that Syrian children and women are facing away from their homes and families. Bad fate followed Syrians refugees again when they faced conflicts with societies that host them. In Turkey, Syrian refugees were targeted after Reyhanlı blasts, not to mention the plight of Syrian refugee girls.

Story 1: Fotojournalismus on Tubmlr posted photos of the Syrian refugees who have fled the almost 3 years conflict to Lebanon who is now a home to the largest number of them. Lebanon is Dealing with the Massive Influx of Syrian Refugees which today 20-25% of total population of Lebanon are Syrian refugees. The author wrote:

While there is no official data on the number of children and adults working on the streets Lebanon, it is estimated that it could be anywhere from 50,000 to 70,000. In wealthy districts of Beirut children and adults are viewed on nearly every block begging, looking through trash or offering pedestrians a shoe shine.


A young Syrian girl sells lighters in a wealthy district of Beirut. Source: fotojournalismus on Tumblr used under CC BY 2.0

Story 2: Under the title “Wives of the Syrian Revolution” Tanya Habjouqa briefly wrote a description of one of her 10 photos:

Um Suleiman, 26, walked alone with her four children (including an infant) from Syria to Iraq and finally Jordan. They had no food on the journey. Her husband remained behind to fight.


Source: 5cents a Pound on Tumblr. Used under CC BY 2.0

And added

Far from the frontlines, these women — now refugees in Jordan — are struggling to support their families despite meager financial means. Calls from their husbands are the only thing that breaks up the dull routine of everyday life and fantasies of reunion are fed by sultry texts that have infused romance back into these marriages.

Story 3: Michael David Friberg posted a photo on his Tumblr for Syrian children playing football in the massive Zaatari refugees camp which host (Until July 4, 2013) an estimated 144,000 refugees, making it Jordan's fourth largest city.


Syrian men playing soccer on the outskirts of Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan in July 2013. Source: Michael David Friberg on Tumblr. Used under CC BY 2.0

Story 4: Give peace a chance on Tumblr also shared this photo of a Syrian worker, Tareq, who had fled to Greece. 

Tareq, 46, an unemployed painter from Syria, is reflected in a mirror in a shed where he lives in an abandoned factory in Athens, Greece. 


Source: Give Peace a Chance. Used under CC BY 2.0

Story 5:

Hope to comeback! This photo tells a story of three Syrian boys who are waiting for the buses that take Syrian refugees back to Syria from Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan.

4 busses leave daily and people return for a variety of reasons. Most of them would rather take their chances in Syria than live in Zaatari. The situation every day is incredibly volatile as there are more people trying to leave than their are seats on the busses. Riot police monitor the situation as people climb over each other and hoist people up into open windows.


Source: Michael David Friberg on Tumblr. Used under CC BY 2.0

November 05 2013

‘Women Should Be Submissive', and Other Google Autocomplete Suggestions

A series of ads by UN Women, revealed in late October, used the Google Autocomplete feature to uncover widespread negative attitudes toward women. Global Voices followed reactions to the UN Women campaign and conducted its own experiment in different languages. The results of searches conducted both within the UN Women campaign and Global Voices revealed popular attitudes not only about women’s social and professional roles, but also about their sexuality, appearance and relationships with men.

UN Women ad featuring Google autocomplete suggestions for the phrase

UN Women ad featuring Google autocomplete suggestions for the phrase “women shouldn't”

The creators of the UN Women ads used search phrases like “women cannot”, “women shouldn’t”, “women should” and “women need to” completed by genuine Google search terms to highlight overwhelmingly negative stereotypes, sexist and highly discriminatory views held about women by society globally. The ads quickly went viral and sparked a heated discussion online. Last week, creators have announced that they are planning to expand the campaign in response to the mass online reaction.

The auto-complete function for searches, according to Google, predicts users’ queries based on the search activity of all users of the web as well as the content of indexed pages. The predictions may also be influenced by past searches of the particular user if they are signed into their Google account.

Global Voices asked its contributors from around the world to carry out Google searches using the same or similar phrases as those used in the UN Women campaign, in their own languages. The searches done between October 19 and October 25, 2013, revealed attitudes about the roles women are expected to take in society, often demonstrating the same global prejudices, but sometimes showing contradictions in different countries. Below are searches in 12 languages from different countries and continents:



“Women should not…”. A screenshot by Silvia Viñas. October 21, 2013.

Women should not…
Women should not preach
Women should not work
Women should not talk in the congregation
Women should not drive


“Women cannot…” A screenshot by Juan Arellano. October 21, 2013.

Women cannot…
Women cannot preach
Women cannot be pastors
Women cannot donate blood
Women cannot live without man

Puerto Rico

“Women should…”. A screenshot by Firuzeh Shokooh Valle. October 21, 2013.

Women should…
Women should be submissive
Women should use the veil
Women should preach
Women should work



“Women should…”. A screenshot by Suzanne Lehn. October 21, 2013.

Women should…
women should stay at home
women should work
should women preach
women should wear skirts
women should be submissive
women should know
women should vote
women should stay at home
should women work
women should do the cooking

“Women don't know…”. A screen shot by Rayna St. October 21, 2013.

Women don’t know…
women don't know how to drive
women don't know what they want
women don't know how to be in love
women don't know how to read cards


Egypt (similar results in Jordan)

“Woman cannot…”. A screenshot by Tarek Amr. October 21, 2013.

Woman cannot…
Woman cannot live without marriage
Woman cannot live without a man
Woman cannot keep a secret
Woman cannot interpret man's silence


“Women cannot…”. A screenshot by Gloria Wang. October 21, 2013.

Women cannot…
Women cannot be too smart
Women can't drive
Women cannot give birth
10 topics women cannot discuss with their husbands


“Women should not…”. A screenshot by Diana Lungu. October 21, 2013.

women should not…
women should be loved not understood
women should not be understood
women should not wear pants
what women should not do in bed



“Women should…”. A screenshot by Gaia Resta. October 22, 2013.

Women should…
Women should stay at home
should play hard to get
should stay in the kitchen
should be subdued

“Women should not…”. A screenshot by Gaia Resta. October 22, 2013.

Women should not…
Women should not be understood
should not work
should not be understood but loved
should not read



“Woman should not…”. A screenshot by Katrin Zinoun. October 21, 2013.

Woman should not…
Woman should not teach
My wife should not work

“Woman can…”. A screenshot by Katrin Zinoun. October 21, 2013.

Woman can….
Woman cannot come
Woman cannot get pregnant
Woman cannot cook
Woman cannot get a baby


“Women don't…”. A screenshot by
Gilad Lotan. October 21, 2013.

Women don't…
Women don't work
Women are not modest
Women don't know how to drive
Women don't want to have kids


“A woman should be…”. A screenshot by Marietta Le.
October 21, 2013.

A woman should be…
a woman should be a chef in the kitchen
a woman should be pretty and ruthless


“Women cannot…”. A screenshot by Solana Larsen. October 20, 2013.

Women cannot…
Women cannot drive
Women cannot control vagina
Women cannot be color blind
Women cannot barbecue

In Danish, the searches for “women cannot” and “women can” yielded the same results.


“Women should not…”. A screenshot by Veronica Khokhlova. October 19, 2013.

Women should not…
Women should not be believed
Women should not lift heavy things
Women should not drink
Women should not be trusted


The UK

“Women should…”. A screenshot by Annie Zaman. October 25, 2013.

Women should…
Women should be seen and not heard
Women should stay at home
Women should know their place

 Not all searches carried out by members of Global Voices community turned up negative terms. Nevertheless, the results of the experiment largely confirm UN Women’s worrying conclusion that a great deal of work still remains to be done in order to advance women’s rights and empowerment around the world.

October 30 2013

Why Didn’t Arab ‘Civil Society’ Discuss Human Rights at IGF?

Photo by Gabba Gabba Hey! via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

‘See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’ unattributed stencil art. Photo by Gabba Gabba Hey! via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

“Is it time for the Internet spring in the Arab region?” This was the title of the only workshop (out of 150 sessions) meant to highlight Internet issues in the Arab world at the 2013 Internet Governance Forum. Held in Bali, Indonesia, this forum is the eighth UN-convened, open multistakeholder forum that brings together people from all sectors to discuss Internet policy issues. This was the first time that my organization, 7iber, participated in the forum.

While issues of civil rights online filled the air of the forum’s hallways, Arab delegates had a minimal presence among the 1500 participants from private, public and civil society sectors. In the ‘high level’ meeting that opened the forum, there was no Arab representative among the 19 panelists. Although plenty of sessions addressed human rights online in broad terms, this was the only place where it felt appropriate and pragmatic to raise regionally-specific human rights challenges. For a media rights organization like 7iber, based in Jordan, this should have been the place space to bring forth issues of Internet freedom in this region in the conference.

If people attending the session had not been up to date on Internet news in the Arab world, they might have left the session thinking our region is perfect — a leading example in openness and policy-making. The panel’s discussion was off-base as its title was dreamy. IGF panel submissions required organizers to select participants from different sectors. This panel’s organizers seemed to believe that they could present an inclusive conversation by convening the head of the ICT Development Department of the Arab League, two members of Arab IGF Secretariat, two representatives from ICANN, the director of the international Diplo foundation, and a Yemeni internet rights advocate who resides in Sweden. During the first hour, the Arab IGF secretariat and Arab League panelists provided a progressive image of the “multistakeholder” process of Internet policymaking in the region. Then, the international civil society representatives from the Diplo foundation and ICANN used the panel to market their educational initiatives in the region.

At no point during the 90-minute session did panelists mention how Saudi Arabia recently jailed seven activists for organizing protests on Facebook. Nor was there comment on how Kuwait jailed a writer for tweets ‘defaming’ an ex-prime minister. The Whatsapp message of “Sisi is more criminal than Bashar” on the phone of a Jordanian, that sent him to a state security court under charges of “disrupting relations with foreign countries,” went under the radar. And so did the arrest of an Algerian blogger for posting a caricature mocking the Algerian President on Facebook. There was no discussion of why Bahrain was named “enemy of the Internet” in 2012 (a Bahraini blogger was tortured in Bahrain). There was no comment on the popular online magazine editor who was arrested in Morocco for publishing an article about an Al-Qaeda video.

Panelists did not go over recently proposed legislation in Qatar and Kuwait which targets and incriminates online freedoms of speech. They did not touch on new media laws in  Jordan that require sites to seek governmental approval before launching, a policy that has resulted in the blocking of over 200 websites. Nor did they broach Saudi Arabia’s plans to connect Twitter accounts with a national identification card. They did not speak of the countless old-school unregulated acts of online censorship in Bahrain and Oman.

It was only at the very end of the panel, during the question and answer period, that attendees from Jordan and Morocco were able to break the problematic facade created by the panel.  Addressing the Arab League representative, we questioned the evidence of the feel-good concept of “multistakeholderism” in states that incriminate online expression. The Arab League representative insisted that civil society was more present on the panel than governments, but the absence of civil society representatives attending the panel left this narrative unchallenged. In an attempt to conclude the discussion, the representative exclaimed, “how can I give you internet freedoms if you are threatening my national security?”

It was depressing to to see that while Latin American countries and Indonesia are developing data protection and privacy laws to protect online users’ privacy and right of access, the Arab world is still debating online freedom of speech. It was also astonishing to see how the presence of civil society alliances (on a local level like in Indonesia, or a regional like in Latin America and East Asia) across panelists and audience members prevented governments or enterprises from spreading propaganda without contestation.

The weak presence of the Arab civil society allowed a one-sided official narrative to only scratch the surface of repressive practices of governments in this region. I have never been a believer in the results of huge conferences, which are so often dominated by entities that wield the most power through tools, finances, and policy-making. However, the meetings at the IGF are the only place in which governments, civil society, and the private sector may directly and publicly interact at the same table. Regardless of a general fatigue of official meetings and a disbelief in systems of governance, it was still disappointing to encounter the domination of an official regional narrative at a global event of this magnitude. I left the session thinking that we are, unfortunately, realistic about the fruitlessness of engagement with our governments (that we did not elect), as evidenced by the earlier remarks of the Arab League representative.

Much work needs to be done within our role as actors within civil society. While we cannot detach or treat our online rights as separate from our offline rights, we can’t ignore the role of the Internet in shifting the process of consumption and the production of knowledge. Don’t the huge commonalities in the repressive practices of Arab governments online justify a need to form alliances? How can we generate greater legitimacy in shedding light on Internet issues, put forward a counter-regional narrative for the rights of 125 million users, and, to say the least, hack this global discussion?

Reem Al Masri leads research and development work at 7iber, a Jordanian media organization that promotes free expression online. The original version of this article appeared on

October 24 2013

GV Face: Advox at #IGF2013

Governments have a lot of power when it comes to the Internet — and so do corporations like Google, Yahoo, and Facebook. But does that mean that people like us – the regular users –  have no say in how we use the world's most powerful space for communication? That's the big question at the Internet Governance Forum. Live from Bali, Indonesia, watch Advoxers Hisham Almiraat, Ellery Biddle, Sana Saleem, Nighat Dad, and other friends of GV talk about what's at stake for user rights at this year's event.

GV Face: Advox at #IGF2013

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

September 10 2013

Jordanian MP Fires Kalashnikov in Parliament

@fooqalsada shares this cartoon of Jordanian MP Sharif, who fired his Kalashnikov at his colleague after an argument today.

On Twitter, @fooqalsada shares this cartoon of Jordanian MP Sharif, who fired his Kalashnikov at his colleague after an argument today. No one was injured.

A Jordanian Member of Parliament opened fire on another MP while Parliament was in session today. No one was injured in the fiasco – a notch up from previous incidents where MPs threw shoes and hurled water bottles at each other.

Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab shares a video of the shooting, which is said to have happened in a hall outside, while parliament was in session today. The sound of the shots being fired from an Ak-47 is clear in the video:

He further explains:

And adds:

Kristen McTighe wonders how an MP got a Kalashnikov into parliament:

Jordanian Yasmina Alnasser poses another question [ar]:

Do think that wild animals should be kept in a zoo? How come MPs are outside [the zoo]?

And Jordanian Ali Dahmash adds:

Dear MPs of the elected parliament, Congratulations on the Kalashnikov. Don't forget to kill each other before Thursday, so that we can relax. Yours sincerely, the Citizen

From Bahrain, blogger Eyad Ebrahim describes the incident as awesome – “just awesome”:

August 22 2013

Introduction d'un système de carte de rationnement pour exclure les réfugiés syriens du bénéfice…

Introduction d’un système de carte de rationnement pour exclure les réfugiés syriens du bénéfice des subventions sur la farine en Jordanie
Gov’t set on smart cards to regulate bread subsidies — Halawani | The #Jordan Times

The government confirmed on Monday that it would use a smart card mechanism to direct bread subsidies to Jordanians.

Through the targeted subsidy system, the government seeks to direct support only to Jordanians, as there are over 2.5 million foreigners living in the Kingdom, according to the minister.

According to Halawani bread prices in Jordan are the lowest in the world. The minister noted that the continuous flow of Syrians into Jordan has increased the country’s imports of wheat by an estimated 14,000 tonnes a month


January 23 2013

Jordanians Elect New Parliament

Jordanians went to the polls today [Jan 23, 2013] to elect a new Parliament. 7iber provides updates in this live blog post.

January 10 2013

Jordan: Good White Morning from Amman

Amin Amin shares this photograph from the Jordanian capital Amman this morning:

A good white morning from Amman

A good white morning from Amman. Photograph shared on Twitter by @aamin1968

January 03 2013

Arab World: Al-Andalus: Fall or Reconquista?

Every year, on the 2nd of January, “El día de la Toma de Granada” is celebrated in Granada in Spain. On that day in 1492, Muhammad XII of Granada (King Boabdil) surrendered the Emirate of Granada. The Umayyad Caliphate conquered the Iberian Peninsula eight centuries earlier, and the fall of Granada on that day put an end to the Islamic control of that part of the world, or what is known in as Al-Andalus in the Arab world.

This year, on the other side of The Mediterranean Sea, some Arabs decided to tweet in remembrance of the fall of Al-Andalus.

‏@taherofficial: We remember the 521st Anniversary of the fall of Al #Andalus.

Photo shared by @Al_Andalus_ showing King Boabdil handing the keys of the city over to King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile

Many netizens seized the opportunity to tweet about the Islamic and Arabic civilization:

@adnan_hws: Remembering #Andalus is more than crying for the loss of a kingdom, it's to learn from our mistakes to rebuild such a glorious civilisation

@morabeteen: الأندلس ليست بمكان ولا زمان, بل هي تجربة حضارية إنسانية لا مثيل لها استمرت تنير ظلمات العالم زهاء الثمانية قرون من الزمان..

@morabeteen: Al Andalus is not just a place or chapter in history, it is an unmatched civilization in the history of mankind that kept on illuminating the world for about eight centuries.

Others claimed more examples for the effect of such civilization:

‏@Nouh1919: In Portuguese there are more than 3000 Arabic words as there are over a 1000 Arabic word in medicine and chemistry in English! #andalus

@mdamra: While London is sinking in mud, Córdoba recorded the 1st dustbin in history, there were collection vehicles and street cleaning!

However, a bigger debate started on Twitter later on. Some users believed that this day marks the loss of a part of the Islamic world.

@HmdSaud: Do you think dear Spanish we forget it

@AliElKhateeb: on January 2, 1492, Emir Muhammad surrendered the Emirate of Granada (#Andalus ♥), we won't forget any land taken from Muslims by force.

@NadaMadridista: On this day above all days we recall those who were murdered and tortured by the Spanish Inquisition 5 centuries ago. #Moorish #Andalus

While others replied by saying that it was basically an occupation.

@samaralii: اسمها عودة الاندلس لأهلها الإسبان بعد احتلال عربي، زي كده سينا رجعت كاملة لينا، بلاش تكيلوا بميكيالين

@samaralii: It is called the return of Al-Andalus to the Spanish people after it has been occupied by the Arabs. It is the same as we [Egyptians] reacquired Sinai after it has been occupied. Stop having double standards.

@MoudBarthez: زعلان ان الأندلس راحت منك ؟ كان نفسك تفضل محتلها طول العمر ؟ علي كدا شباب بريطانيا لازم يتظاهر عشان يرجعوا يحتلوا مصر تأني

@MoudBarthez: Are you sad because you lost Al-Andalus? You wish you had occupied it forever? If so, then the British people should demonstrate to re-occupy Egypt again.

Yet, others insisted that it was not an occupation:

@alaa: حكم المسلمون الأندلس سبعة قرون لا يمكن ان يوصف بالاحتلال و لا معنى لتقييم حكمهم بمعايير اليوم اصلا.

@alaa: The Arab ruling of Al-Andalus for seven centuries can never be described as occupation. And no way to evaluate it with today's standards.

@SherifKhairy: الناس اللي بتتكلم عن إن حضارة المسلمين في #الأندلس كانت احتلال زي احتلال الإنجليز مثلا، بالتأكيد مقرأوش كلمة عن ما حدث وقت دخولها وبعده

@SherifKhairy: Those who call the Muslim civilization in Al-Andalus occupation, and compare it to the English occupation of Egypt, for sure never read a word about that phase of history.

One netizen created a mobile application to mark the occasion, while two others decided to make fun of the whole debate. The first was worried [Ar] that FC Barcelona might become as bad as the the Egyptian football teams if Arabs decided to occupy Al-Andalus again. While the other, after looking at the status of the Arab world today, decided that “we did them the biggest favour ever” by leaving them alone.

Finally, this debate didn't stop some Egyptians from arranging a demonstration carrying banners that read in Spanish, “No hemos olvidado” [We have not forgotten] and “Volvera por supuesto” [We will be back for sure”].

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 14 2012

Jordanians Want to Overthrow the Regime

On YouTube, ThePrbj shares this video of a protest in Amman, Jordan, last night, in which protesters are chanting: “The people want the downfall of the regime.”


Is Expired Tear-Gas being used Against Protesters in Jordan?

@_AHA shares a photograph of what he describes as an expired tear-gas canister used against protesters in Jordan

@_AHA shares a photograph of what he describes as an expired tear-gas canister used against protesters in Jordan

Protests continue across Jordan for the second night, after a hike in fuel prices. Jordanian Ali posts a photograph of what he describes as an expired teargas canister used against the protesters.

November 13 2012

Arab World: What will Change with Obama's Re-Election?

Barack Obama has won a second term as US President but how does he fare among netizens across the Arab world? Here's a snippet of the conversation on Twitter following his re-election. Reactions were divided and while many were not pleased with the US foreign policy in the region, others were happy Obama won.

Saudi Essam Al Zamil pulls the conspiracy theories from the hat. He writes [ar]:

إسرائيل كانت تفضل فوز رومني. رغم ذلك خسر. غريبة!! ما كانوا يقولون إن إسرائيل والصهاينة يتحكمون العالم ويحركوننا كأننا بيادق على رقعة شطرنج؟!

@essamz: Israel preferred [Mitt] Romney winning. Despite this, he lost. Strange!!! Weren't they saying that Israel and the Zionists controlled the world and moved us as if we were chess pieces?

Egyptian Gigi Ibrahim wonders how Obama's reaction [praising his wife and daughters] after his win would be received has he been an Arab president:

@Gsquare86: Obama telling Michelle how he loves her publicly and speaking to his daughters haha imagine Morsi or any egy pres doing that

And Kuwaiti Al Saqar shares a similar thought:

اوباما يحتضن زوجته بعد الفوز بالرئاسة وربعنا يفوز بانتخابات جمعية يتزوج على مرته !! هههههههههههه

@alsaqar_87: Obama hugs his wife after he wins the presidential elections while our friends take a second wife if they win a society election!! haha

Kuwaiti politician Dr Aseel Al Awadhi pays tribute to Obama's victory speech:

خطاب اوباما بعد اعلان فوزه يجب ان يدرس كمادة اساسية لكل القيادات العربية. نستورد منهم كل شئ ليش ما نستورد نوعية خطابهم السياسي؟

@AseelAlawadhi: Obama's speech after his victory was announced should be taught as an essential subject for all Arab leaders. We import everything from them so why don't we also import their political addresses?

And using tongue in cheek, Syrian Bint Al Rifai pays tribute to Obama's administration:

@BintAlRifai: Obama admin… Mastering the art of lip service

Egyptian Raafat Roheim tries reason, saying the US foreign policy does not change with the change of a president:

الناس العبيطة اللي مفكره أن سياسة أمريكا الخارجيه هتتغير لو رومني فاز، والنبي آتوكسو. لو كيم كارداشين بقت الرئيس السياسه مش هتتغير يا مواشي

Stupid people think the US foreign policy would have changed had [Mitt] Romney won. Even if Kim Kardashian became president, their policy won't change.

Egyptian journalist Ayman Mohyeldin remarks:

@AymanM: 2 years of campaigning, billions of dollars spent, obama wins, democrats control senate, republicans run house but will it change anything?

While Jordanian Naseem Tarawnah jokes about Obama's Islamic links:

@tarawnah: If President Obama thanks Allah during his victory speech he will freak everyone out. EVERYONE.

Meanwhile, Jordanian Fadi Zaghmout offers his support to Obama:

@ArabObserver: As a world citizen, I would vote for Obama in the #USElection #ivoted

He adds:

@ArabObserver: Thank you my Americans friends who voted for sanity yesterday. This is a win for all of us. Congratulations!

And Egyptian Nadia El-Awady wishes America good luck:

@NadiaE: Nice to wake up this morning to the news of #Obama's win. Good luck, America.

October 10 2012

Arab World: The Plight of Syrian Refugee Girls

This post is part of our special coverage Syria Protests 2011/12.

As the Syrian Revolution continues, its consequences continue to effect refugees who have fled the violence in the country, especially women who are paying a double price as victims of violence in these armed conflicts. In a patriarchal and male chauvinist culture that constantly abuses the weakness of the woman for its own interests, Syrian refugee girls in Jordan, Libya, Turkey and Lebanon are subject to the pressures of forced marriages from Syrian or other Arab nationals under the pretext of protecting their virtue at any price.

Within this context, news on Syrian refugee girls forced marriages or even campaigns to marry them off to “protect their virtue” have gone viral on social media.  The Facebook Page “Syrian Women with the Revolution”, created originally to support the revolution in Syria, has received many “marriage demands” from young Arabs wishing to tie the knot with a Syrian refugee so as “to protect her honor.”

For example, Rami from Jordan posted:

مرحبا انا رامي من الاردن عمري 25 وارغب في اازواج من فتاة سورية ونا واللة جاد جدا وارغب في الستر والحمدلله عندي بيت وراتبي منيح والحمدلله

Hello, I am Rami, 25 years old from Jordan. I'd like to marry a Syrian girl. I swear I am very serious and I wish to protect the honor. Thanks to God, I have a house and my salary is good. Thanks God

In response, many Syrians revealed their extreme irritation and anger over the abuse of the conditions of refugee families through such marriage contracts and bargains. On the other hand, the phenomena reached Libya, where Syrian refugees talked about Libyans knocking on their doors, looking to marry girls in exchange for money.

Taken from “Syrian Women with the Revolution Page” where we can read: Is this is how we are being rewarded? By you buying our sisters from the refugees camps? Shame on you and on your sense of honor. The Liberated Kfarnabl 04/09/2012

Helal Samarqandy wrote on Facebook:

أقلها هلا ركزت في دعمهن للحصول على ضروريات الحياة ثم اطلب يدها حرة إن أردت، أما استغلال تشردهن وفقدان ضرورات الحياة لديهن فلست بخير من بشار.
لعن الله من لا يحركه الا فرجه.

The least you can do is support them to have the basics of life and then propose to her when she is free if you want but as to exploit their displacement and their lack of the basics things for life, you are no better than Bashar. May God curse the one whose brain is between his legs.

Nbares Blog asserted the existence of secret bureaus for “honor marriages” with Syrian girl in Benghazi, where Syrian refugees speak of Libyans knocking the doors of Syrian families looking to marry from young girls in addition to the existence of offices working discretely. Meanwhile, Libyan Affairs entitles its post “A double suffering for Syrian Refugee Girls …. a war tearing the homeland and marriage proposals that are closer to forced marriages”:

…دكاكين أبو حمد، [ وهو رمز لـ”تاجر نساء” في الأردن والجزائر وليبيا والعراق اختاره أحد الكتاب السعوديين الذين انتقدوا ظاهرة استغلال السوريات اللاجئات من قبل خليجيين وعرب] العربي المتدين الذي يتاجر بالنساء معززا بفتاوى الفقهاء، بدأت انتشارها مع اشتداد الحرب في سوريا، وسرعان ما وجدت زبائنها من الشباب والشيوخ راغبين في الزواج بالسوريات، “لسترهن” أو للتكفل بهن من منطلق أنهن لاجئات لا عائل لهن….. وغالبا ما يتم الزواج بالسوريات اللاجئات بمهور زهيدةحيث لاتملك عائلة العروس إلا القبول نظرا لظروفها الصعبة وبحثا عن “السترة” وحرصا على شرف البنات والعائلة.

We shall not accept humiliation or disgrace. This is opportunism. From “Syrian Women with the Revolution” Facebook Page and the dialogue translates into: - Marry me in Halal and I shall take you and your family from the camp - You left everything and brought victory to Islam by abusing Syrian refugee girls

The shop of Abu Ahmed [” Symbol of the pimp” in Jordan, Algeria and Iraq named by a Saudi writer who criticized the abuse of Syrian refugee girls by Gulf and Arab nationals … ], the Arab patriotic, the religious who trade women based on the fatwas [religious edicts] of clerics, started to spread with the intensification of the war in Syria and quite soon, it found its clients among youth and old men desiring to wed to Syrians so as to protect their honor or to take care of them because they are refugees without any provider. Very often, these women are married with quite a cheap dowry and the family of the bride can only but accept given their dire conditions and looking for “protection” of the girl's honor and her family.

Within the framework of a campaign to support Syrian refugee women in Syria's neighboring countries, some young Syrians created a Facebook page entitled ” Refugees … not captives” whose mission is summarized as follows:

لحماية حقوق المرأة السورية..
لمحاربة امتهان قيمة المرأة السورية..
لدعوة المجتمع الأهلي ورجال الأعمال لدعم المرأة السورية..
لاجئات لا سبايا.. لأن السوريات انتفضن لأجل كرامتهن لا ليكونوا بضاعة رخيصة في سوق النخاسة تحت مسيمات الزواج والسترة..
شاركونا في دعم حملة ” لاجئات لا سبايا

For the protection of the Syrian women rights
For fighting the humiliation of the value of Syrian women
To call the civil society and businessmen to support Syrian women
Refugees not captives, because Syrian women have rebelled for their dignity so not to become cheap goods in the slave markets under the names of marriage and honor. Join us in supporting “Refugees not captives Campaign”

Moayad Skaif, one of the campaign's founders, wonders on his Facebook Page:

دعوات الخليجيين للزواج من سوريات تعني أنهم ينظرون إلى نسائنا كسبايا ولكن بالمال.. إنه سوق نخاسة.. لإرضاء نزواتهم الجنسية وتحسين نسلهم على حساب كرامتنا وبعناوين فضفاضة..
أيها السوري اليتيم.. صرت قشة في قلب الريح..

The calls of Gulf nationals to marry Syrian women means they look at our women as captives but with money… it is a slave market, to satisfy their sexual impulses and enhance their lineage on the expense of our dignity and with bright titles … ohhhh you poor Syrian orphan … you have become a straw in the heart of history

Interviewed by the electronic magazine “Zaman al Wasl” (The times of communication), he wonders:

إذا كانت النخوة والرغبة في المساعدة هي الدافع الحقيقي لدى راغبي الزواج فلماذا لم يهب هؤلاء إلى ستر الصوماليات أو السودانيات من أهل دارفور؟….وإذا كانت الدوافع انسانية بحتة كما يزعمون فليدعموا الشباب السوري الذي أجبرته الظروف على أن يظل أعزبا وهو لاجئ لا يجد قوت يومه.

Cover Page of “Refugees … Not Captives” Facebook Page

If chivalry and the desire to help is the true motive of the marriage seekers, why don't they protect the honor of Somali or Sudanese women in Darfur as well? If the motives are purely humanitarian as they claim, let them support young Syrian males whose conditions have forced them to stay single being refugee and unable to find his daily bread.

Abdelhak on his blog debdoupress insists on the importance of that campaign:

…تهدف الحملة التي أطلقتها الناشطة السورية مزنة دريد تحت شعار( لاجئات لا سبايا) إلى توعية أهالي الفتيات ضد مخاطر هذا الزواج المغلف بعناوين دينية وقيمية اجتماعية، وتوجيه رسالة لبعض الشباب الخليجي والعربي ممن يعتقدون أن الزواج من سوريات طريقة معقولة للمساعدة بأن السوريين يرفضون المساعدة بهذه الطريقة، لأن المخاطر التي قد تترتب على هذا النوع من الزواج تتطلب رفضه.

The campaign launched by the Syrian activist  Mazna Duraid under the title “Refugees not Captives” aims to raise the awareness of the girls parents on the risks of such a marriage covered with religious titles and social values but also to address a message to some of the young people in the Gulf and the Arab World who think that marrying Syrian women is a way of helping, that the Syrians reject such a help because the incumbent risks of such a marriage requires its refusal.

This post is part of our special coverage Syria Protests 2011/12.

September 27 2012

Jordan: Inkitab Group to Hold Second Used Book Fair

After the success of their first event [ar], held in the Jordanian capital Amman on January 6, 2012 the Inkitab Group [ar], which works to promote reading, will soon hold their second used book fair. The fair has been named ‘Noon' and is aimed at encouraging people to exchange used books and working towards making a culture of reading more widespread across all sectors of Jordanian society.

After the resounding success [ar] of the first fair, it is hoped that there will be a greater number of titles available at this second event on October 1 in Amman's Gallery of Culture.

The organisers describe the initiative [ar] on their Facebook page saying:

“نون - معرض انكتاب للكتاب المستعمل هو مبادرة غير ربحية تعمل على ترسيخ ثقافة تعنى بمشاركة المعرفة وتمكين الأشخاص محدودي الدخل من اقتناء وقراءة الكتب.
جاءت الفكرة بإيحاء من مجتمع انكتاب المصغر من المتحمسين للقراءة ومضمونها تمرير الكتب التي انتهى الناس من قراءتها لآخرين بأسعار رمزية تتراوح بين العشرة قروش والدينارين، مما يتيح لشريحة أكبر فرصة القراءة والتعلم ويساعد الناس على التخلص من الكتب التي لا يرغبون بالاحتفاظ بها في بيوتهم والإفساح لكتب جديدة ربما لتحتل رفوف مكتباتهم الشخصية”.

Noon- This used book fair is a non-profit initiative working to establish a culture where knowledge is shared and people with limited incomes are empowered to own and read books.
A small group of Inkitab reading enthusiasts had the idea of passing books that people had finished reading onto others in exchange for a very small amount of money, ranging from ten qirsh to 2 dinars, to make it possible for more people to read and learn, and to help people get rid of books they no longer wish to keep, freeing up space on their bookshelves so they can acquire new ones.

شعار معرض نون للكتاب المستعمل

The ‘Noon' book fair logo. From the event's Facebook page

The first fair was enthusiastically received by the reading public and Jordanian bloggers such as Naser, who wrote this on his blog under the title “The people read, my dear Yahya Abdullah” [ar] [translator's note: Yahya Abdullah is a Libyan filmmaker who made a short film about people not reading]:

“وصل عدد الكتب حتى يومين قبل الموعد 2700 كتاب، باللغتين العربية والإنجليزية بشكل رئيسي بالإضافة إلى العديد من الكتب بلغات أخرى. توقّع المنظمون أن تكفي الكتب المعرض من الساعة الرابعة وحتى التاسعة مساءً، وهو الموعد المعلن عنه، إلاّ أن المفاجأة كانت عندما بدأ الناس بالتجمهر والتجمّع منذ الساعة الواحدة والنصف، ينتظرون تحت أشعة الشمس ليكونوا أوّل الواصلين ليضعوا أيديهم على كتبهم المفضلة، وعندما دقّت الساعة الرابعة، اجتاح دوار باريس مئات المتحمّسين، من شتى الأعمار والفئات والتوجهات، وقد قدّر عدد المشاركين في المعرض بأكثر من ألفي شخص على مدار بضع ساعات، فالمعرض لم يستمر للساعة التاسعة، لأن واقع الحال وضع المنظمين أمام حقيقة أن 80% من الكتب قد نفدت في غضون ربع – نصف ساعة، وهناك من اشتكى من وصوله متأخراً في الساعة الرابعة وخمسة دقائق!”.

Two days before the start of the fair, the number of books was estimated at 2700, written mostly in Arabic or English as well as many other languages. The organisers expected that the fair would last from 4:00 in the afternoon until 9:00 in the evening, the advertised times, however they were astonished to see that people began to gather from 1:30, waiting under the hot midday sun so that they would be the first to get their hands on their favourite books. As the clock struck 4:00, hundreds of avid readers of all ages and backgrounds swept Paris Square and within a few short hours, it is estimated that more than 2000 people came to the fair. The fair did not, therefore, last until 9 as the organisers had to accept the fact that 80% of the books had gone within the first 15-30 minutes, and some people even complained about having arrived late, even though they had arrived at 4:05!”.

It seems that the people looking forward to the second fair are no less enthusiastic than those that came to the first. Yara had this to say on his twitter account:

@The_YaraZ: مين قال نحن شعب لا يقرأ! شوف هالمبادرة ما أحلاها معرض انكتاب للكتاب المستعمل ‎‫#عمان‬‏ ‎‫#الأردن‬‏ ‎!/noonbookfair‏”.

@The_YaraZ: Who said that we are a people that doesn't read! They should look at this initiative and the wonderful Inkitab used book fair #عمان # [Jordan] الأردن [Amman]!/noonbookfair

Heidal had this to say:

DedeYaseen@: ‏ عندكم كاب قديمة حابين تبيعوها ؟ معرض نون للكتب المستعملة من ‎‫#انكتاب‬‏.

@DedeYaseen: Do you have old books you want to sell? The #Inkitab noon used book fair!

Areej Ibrahim, a volunteer with the initiative, added this:

@Ajeejo: عم بدخل قوائم من كتب معرض نون / كتب بتفتح النفس من عناوينها قيمة وبسعر يا بلاش يا نيال القارئ صاحب النصيب :) #Inkitab #معرض_نون

@Ajeejo: Checking out the book lists in Noon's exhibition, the titles are very interesting and valuable at an excellent price! I envy the readers of those books! #Inkitab #معرض_نون [Noon book fair]

Mazruq encouraged people to attend the fair saying:

‏@MahdMarz: إن كنت في الأردن وتشجع القراءة عليك تابع نون حدث جميل يستحق المشاركة فيه.. وكذا إنكتاب رعاة الأمل بالقراءة

@MahdMarz: If you are in Jordan and love reading, it is well worth getting involved with the wonderful Noon event. Inkitab supports hope through reading

You can follow the Noon used book fair on Twitter and Facebook. See this video for footage of the first fair.

September 08 2012

Jordan: What Happened to Education?

Roba Al Assi shares a video of the opening of the University of Jordan in 1962 on her blog And Far Away. She writes:

As a graduate of the the institution myself, it is funny looking back 50 years, at a time when education actually mattered in Jordan.
How did things get so bad so quickly?

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