THE MIDDLE EAST SITUATION; A PERSPECTIVE FROM A NORWEGIAN OFFICER WORKING FOR NATO

 

Lieutenant Colonel Tore Bade is a Norwegian officer who currently works for NATO at the NATO headquarters in Turkey (Izmir). He works with Military Cooperation, helping with military training.

He has been working for the Norwegian Armed Forces for more than 32 years, and has participated in missions in such places as Lebanon (1990-91), Iraq (1992-93), Rwanda (1995), Bosnia 1997-98), Kosovo (2002-03), Iraq (2006), Afghanistan (2008), and Egypt (2010-2011 during the revolution.tore nao

Centering ourselves in one of his missions, we could highlight the one in Iraq, between 1992 and 1993, where he also worked for the United Nations with UNICEF and UNHCR, helping the refugees.

Tore spent half of the year in Bagdad and the other half in Kurdistan in the North of Iraq, right after the first gulf war and the invasion of Kuwait. This was the moment when Iraq was settled under the international sanctions.

Some years later he went back to this country (exactly in 2006) this time, helping in the training of Iraqi soldiers.  In this mission, several of his comrades in arms were killed, when their military base was attacked up to fifteen times a day with rockets and mortars.

Tore affirms that probably the most difficult part of a mission is not being contending, but being apart from his wife and his four children;   << When I look back, I think that this is one of the most silly things I ever did. Volunteering to go to on missions means volunteering to be far away from my family >>

When Tore went to Iraq for the first time, the only way of communication with his family was by satellite.  He had to pay ten dollars per minute of call. The second time he was in the country, the army paid the calls, but he could just call home once per week or every ten days.

He reaffirms; << Even sometimes I think I have been selfish and stupid, every time I go back home I try to compensate the time I have been away, and I appreciate it much more>>.

For Tore Bade, frankly speaking, there is not always a great deal of idealism from his point of view in his work. He believes that many military personnel want to “live the experience they have been training for”, therefore, they mostly go to the battlefield to corroborate that they are able to do their work and function when someone is shooting at them or bombs are falling. It is a bit like a fireman, who trains to work in burning houses. You really want to know if you can do the job.

Talking now about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization we should bear in mind that they also work with countries which are not in the NATO, willing to help maintain stability in them, and to encourage democracy, transparency and confidence building.   A great example in this case, is Jordan (one of few stable countries at the moment in the Middle East). NATO has an excellent partnership with Jordan and assists the Jordanian military forces, introducing them to the NATO way of doing business, and therefore, also helping to reinforce the stability of the country. This helps Jordan to maintain security on its borders, and reinforces stability in the region as a whole.

NATO uses its resources many ways, also to encourage transparency in terms of military budgets and tries to help implement democratic values, so it is not just a military labor but they also help the countries to become more open to the international community. Moreover, they teach leadership, showing military officers to “lead by example”.

<< If you want soldiers to respect you and to do things in the right way, you, as their commander, should be the first person to do the difficult and dangerous duties as well.
This does not happen in all countries; instead, officers and non-commissioned officers are afraid themselves. >>

Centering ourselves in the Middle East situation , Tore believes that there is a big problem taking place in the region right now, and that it will have a very big impact not just in the region, but in Europe and in fact, the whole world.  He affirms that problems that exacerbate the situation may be issues like a lack of democracy, or freedom of speech, which unfortunately helps to generate discontent. The problems also relate to Europe and will require many years to fix.

Many influential people say that this is the beginning of the third world war, Tore is optimistic. Even though, he believes that stopping terrorism is not possible over night.

<<One cannot militarily destroy  all of them, even if one could for a while, it will keep coming back, so to win will require a long term approach with a lot more than military resources.
We are unfortunately going to experience terrorism for many years to come. Terrorists serve themselves from the hopelessness of the people.  Life as we know it is going to change. We will need much more security, much more surveillance, and this means that people living in the western countries will have to get used to a very different way of life. We will have television cameras, many police checking, a very different security situation….
>>

 

Lucía Rodríguez Lara ; IR Student (Universidad Europea de Madrid)

INTERVIEW WITH A BRAZILIAN AMBASSADOR WHO WORKED IN THE MIDDLE EAST

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The Embassy of Israel in Madrid, an open door for cooperation

In the seventh floor of a building in which security measures are extreme and armored doors are the most common thing, the spokesperson of the Embassy of Israel in Madrid, Hamutal Rogel has received me, Jimena González, as a student of International Relations in the UEM. Hamutal, as the person in charge of Press and Communication Department, has cleared my doubts and questions concerning Israeli lands.

Since she took office in 2013, she has tried to improve the image of Israel in Spain and she has freely talked about the idea of the creation of a Palestinian State, considering it as an option to reach peace. Hamutal, an honest and close woman, has responded about the questions concerning Israel as a country, the conflict between Palestine and Israel and the International Relations of the country that she represents.

Israel, which is a country in the spotlight of the media, is most of the times not well-considered in the international scene, which only shows a part of the Israeli reality. “It is true that every country’s image could be improved somehow, for example, talking about other issues not only focusing on the conflict that Israel has with Palestine. We should look beyond the conflict Hamutal said, because there are a lot of important factors such as the first prize that Israel has won in the “Smart City Expo World Congress” in Barcelona.

It is true that sometimes media manipulates the vision of some conflicts but Hamutal thinks that the word that has to be used is not manipulation, it is just a different way of approaching news. Today, there are nearly 200 bloody conflicts around the world, like in Congo or Mahgreb, but media just focuses on what has happened in Israel with some Palestinian and “this shows the double-standard of society” claims Ms. Hamutal.

“Israel is the land of the jewish people but arabs are also taken in consideration” Ms. Hamutal said while looking at the window of the Embassy while claiming that “There is a solution for the conflict. This solution will be resolved with two countries for two peoples”. In this regard, there has been several attempts to reorganize the land according to three maps that have been proposed, considering 98% of the Palestinian demands, but at the end, all of them were rejected by the Palestinian who think that their human rights have been violated since the Holy Land of Jewish people was based on Israel.

“Human rights are being violated every day in most parts of the world.” Ms. Rogel said, because, she noted “there are fences in Israel that separate Jewish neighborhoods from Arab ones which can also be considered as a violation of Human Rights”. Nevertheless, you can also find this fences other parts of the world but, however, as Hamutal pointed out, the clearest thing is that “governments have to reach an agreement in order to stop this”.

In order to calm this situation, The Likud, the major center-right political party that forms the government, has granted money to the Palestinian authorities in order to improve their way of living but evidences suggest that this money never arrives to the destination according to the government of Israel. This, has improved somehow the relations between both parts but “there are a lot of things that can get better if both parts cooperate and from our part it is better for us that our neighbors are happy because this will bring stability”.

While this conflict has been on stage since the beginning of the XX century, there are several positions towards it, for example Spain, according to Ms. Rogel, has a pro-Palestine feeling. This pro-Palestine feeling is, according to her, due to some historical facts that form the Spanish background. One of this facts is that the Spanish dictator Franco had a lot of bilateral economic relations with Arab countries creating strong and deep connections.

Arab countries, which claim that “Israel is the enemy”, are now the protagonists because some of their citizens are radicalizing Islam, which is the main religion of their lands. In 2015, two major conflicts have marked international relations and these are the conflict in Syria and the uprising of the terrorist group ISIS or also called Daesh. Last terrorists’ attacks, perpetrated by ISIS, occurred in Paris the 13th of November, in which 130 people were killed and 368 people were injured, have created an atmosphere of instability.

“Only one word can define what happened in Paris the last few days and this word is: horror. There is no justification for what has occurred and Western countries have to act somehow. Israel has now open relations with Western countries in order to cooperate with them to fight ISIS and to find a solution for the Syrian conflict”.

It is true that all these conflicts are difficult to solve and that they are putting in risk the most peaceful period on history, but as Martin Luther King said one day “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out of hate; only love can do that.”

 

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Source: SoySionista

LiveLoveSyria, a modern and social project in the name of beauty

Being a student of International Relations, my group and I have been asked to manage an interview with a personality working in the same field as we do, which is the region of the Middle East.  Having dual Syrian and French nationality, I found it interesting to focus on an organization based or, in one way or another, related to my beloved country.

Syria is at war since more than four years now and thousands of people found death, due to bombings from the regime on the one hand, but mostly because of the Islamic State´s barbarism and massacres. Millions of people decided to flee the conflict in order to find refuge in other countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and of course, Europe.

Fortunately, some Syrians did not forget about their homeland and in some way are struggling to promote Syria´s cultural heritage, full of breathtaking and magical landscapes, by giving a peaceful image of Syria and of course by helping its citizens in need.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you about Mr. Jaafar Ibrahim, founder of LiveLoveSyria !

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LiveLoveSyria is a Non-Governmental Organization that aims to fund independent projects, which benefit the community, whilst acquainting the public with Syria´s beauty through social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. “Social media has many roles to play in times of war. In LiveLoveSyria, we focus on its role in reaching a large number of people, showing a different image that is being presented by traditional means of media and traditional platforms. It is important in raising the voices of the people whose only goal is a social positive change, like us”…

Living in Lebanon and studying a double major in Business and Public Administration at the prestigious American University of Beirut, since 2011 (the beginning of the Syrian war), Jaafar has been devoted to defend his country by acting smartly and peacefully. He and three of his friends decided to use the social media networks, in order to restore hope to the millions of Syrians across the world, whose hearts have been broken by lies, false reports and fake video montages conveyed by the media. “I believe photography, in positive intentions, is extremely important with its association with social media; in that it preserves the memory associated with a place and in its ability to show undiscovered places” insists Jaafar.

image1Palmyra

image6Lattakia

image7Damascus

In LiveLoveSyria, they share beautiful places captured all around Syria and which aim to color the news feed that were polluted by pictures of destroyed places. To fund the projects, the organization sells bracelets written “LiveLoveSyria” on them. The bracelet´s price ranges from 3$ to 7$ depending on where you live. They are currently selling in Syria, Lebanon, Europe and Canada. The bracelet is a sign of support and contribution to the organization and the specific project that is funded. For example, the wave of bracelets launched now will be used to fund their winter project that will get warm clothes to children in Syria. “We aim to inspire and support young people and help them create a positive social impact on their hometowns and local communities, by funding their projects that tackle various fields such as education, environment and entrepreneurship” said Jaafar with a twinkle in his eyes.

image4Children of Aleppo

This young generation is the generation that should overcome the differences between the members of the older generation. Youth should take initiatives to act towards a better society and especially through in an innovative way. Obviously, LiveLoveSyria is a non-political not-for-profit organization that envisions a social impact. It´s about helping regardless of their political orientation because the only way the organization labels their fellow citizens is “Syrians”.

While listening to Jaafar, I felt great emotion and deep pride. The more he was saying, the closer I got to my country. Every single word was hiding an extraordinary strength of soul. He bears an unqualified message of hope, humanism and brotherhood. I would have liked to take him in my arms and thank him for living my country… for loving our country.  Jaafar is both student and the organization’s founder, he´s dealing with this double life in such a wonderfully organized way. When you are willing to do something you deeply believe in it, you will always find time to do it.

Any initiative someone takes to make a positive impact in his society is always encouraged and appreciated. But as we see in the case of LiveLoveSyria, a unifying platform that divides the work would be more effective than creating more organizations.

image5Darayya

Comparing to the use of weapons, art is always a better alternative for spreading your ideas.

 

ZoulFikar D. Fayad

Defending Human Rights is a global issue

IMG_5785Brazilian journalist Ávany França. Credits: Ávany França’s personal file

Journalist, photographer and blogger, Ávany França also holds a master’s degree in Intercultural Relations and is currently working at the NGO Alianza Por Solidaridad, in the volunteering department dealing with themes such as migration. The international organization has a strong work in the Middle East when it comes to defend human and women rights in this conflictive areas, giving civilians support, aid and support in the struggle for a dignity life during war times.

The Middle East has been worldwide news due to civil wars and revolutions. The Arab Spring combined with Western invasions in Arab countries have created violent extremist groups in the region. These extremist groups constantly bomb civilian areas killing people every day, and the local governments seem not to be strong enough to lead with them. As a result of these conflicts, a lot of people end up leaving their home countries in order to find safety somewhere else. “The most common routes are Western Balkan, Eastern Mediterranean route and Central Mediterranean route. Those routes have been used for refugees for many and many years,” said Ávany, who also explained how the refugees leave their countries. “The sea is the mainly mean used. It is unsafe and the number of people that dies trying to cross the ocean is also high.” A Syrian boy who was found dead in Turkey cost because his boat had drowned on the way to Europe has shocked the world recently.

As a Brazilian citizen, she also said that even though Brazil is open to receive refugees, it doesn’t provide them a social integration, only assistencialism. A problem that refugees not only find in Brazil, but also in other countries that receive them. According to her, “there is very little effort to integrate the refugees in the sense of being part of the new society.” She also explains the consequences of not fully integrate the refugees: “As a result, the society does not accept them fully, the refugees do not find a place in the new country and discrimination, and separation become a reality. With no real integration practice, the possibilities for those people feel as part of the new society and raise their voices is very limited.”

Although the refugee movement is getting more and more space on the media, still a lot of people have some sort of prejudice about them. Ávany explained that this prejudice is not only an issue in Europe but global, and it comes from the fear of the unknown. She adds: “Who are those people, what are their values, how kind of attitude can we expect from them? Those questions normally are not clarified and from the citizen’s point of view can be seen as a threat.” Ávany says that people’s reactions to the unknown are usually negative so that’s why migration policies programs should work in order to inform and to educate not only the local population, but also the refugees.

In conflictive areas the ones who suffer the most are the children. Ávany says that unfortunately education cannot be provided to them during war times since the priorities are others such as providing them food, security and dignity. She also adds: “What we need as a society, and I am saying that in a global sense, is to work very hard to avoid calamities like that keep happening in the world. Ávany says that it’s our responsibility “to fight for less social differences, for human rights and so on.”

When it comes to defend women’s rights, the NGO Alianza Por La Soridaridad have had a strong impact in the Middle East. The NGO works along with local partners in order to rise up women’s voices through creation of protocols, improvement of the care of victims, promotion of networking and support of women’s organizations. In this region, “women essential needs have been neglected wisely”, said Ávany who also explained that many women in the Middle East have been facing extreme difficulties and no rights respect due to the fact that they have no economic power or autonomy. She also complements: “Many women suffer social abuses, such as not to be able to decide on their sexual relationships, marriage, motherhood, and number of children.”

Although feminism movement as women fight for economic, social and political equality of sexes is getting bigger every day, this reality is significantly slower in the Middle East since women from this region also face religious and traditional barriers. Ávany explains that equality is an issue that will be sorted out in 118 years-time and also adds: “Unfortunately, we as a society are very far away to promote equality [of gender]. However, the positive point is that people in general can get more and more information about this gender issue and about how important this is everywhere.” She even uses Africans communities as an example of women’s struggles, “where women have suffered the powerful of tradition over their rights as human beings to the salary inequality between male and female professionals in developing countries.”

Written by Maria Beatriz Esperidião

“An agreement between the “big ones” is the only possible solution since it’s a multiple conflict, not only because of the actors on the ground but also for the countries supporting them”

The Middle East is a very rich region of the world that still has weak governments in some of the countries and that mostly shares a culture completely opposite to the Western civilization. Nowadays the whole international community is turning its eyes towards this region and more specifically to Syria, where the Islamic State has its main activity. However, the Syrian conflict does not only involve th
e Islamic State and the local government but also many other actors that at the end involve al_DSC0027most the whole international society.

I had the opportunity to deepen in these issues asking the former ambassador of Spain in Iraq about it. He is called Ignacio Rupérez and was born in Madrid in 1943. He studied law and worked as a journalist before joining the diplomatic career. Once he became a diplomat in 1984, he traveled to Cuba, Ukraine, Egypt, Israel, Honduras and Iraq. Furthermore, he was the Chief Supervisor of the region of North America, Continental Asia, Europe and Canada at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Madrid. He is nowadays based in Madrid sharing his vast knowledge about International Relations in several talks and seminars.

I could ask him about different aspects of today’s most actual issues and also about his personal experience abroad. We spent a nice morning analyzing the main threats and possible solutions that the international community faces in the current world.

The most important international conflict at the moment is located in Syria. In an attempt to seek a solution to this conflict, some states celebrated the Vienna Conference to set an agreement, which has been criticized by some as useless. In that sense, the former Spanish ambassador in Iraq said, “the agreement can favor a ceasefire and later a solution but if the great powers (Saudi Arabia, United State, Russia and Iran) don’t support this it’s impossible to reach an agreement, no matter what the United Nations or the public international opinion say”. However, the events have changed a lot today since last Friday’s Paris attacks and the ambassador’s opinion might have changed.

The war in Syria is a very difficult conflict where many parties want to satisfy their own interests. Therefore, analysts agree that a unified and common answer must be given to defeat the main threat, which is the Islamic State. Mr. Rupérez also believes that “an agreement between the “big ones” is the only possible solution because it’s a multiple conflict not only because of the actors on the ground but also for the countries supporting them”. At the end, this multilateralism worsens the conflict due to the many interests that clash and that find their beginnings in the history.

The Libyan situation has to be carefully taken into account because the stability of the region is still lacking and radical islamists can take advantage of it. The UN supervisor at Libya, Mr. Bernardino Leon, has recently left his post due to a conflict of interest during the peace talks in this country. However, Mr. Rupérez recognized the difficulty of this task regarding the many opposing parties. He focuses the problem on the future perspectives wondering whether Libya, Syria or Iraq will remain as unitary countries and adds, “the creation of Libya and Iraq was done from the union of three ottoman provinces and now this framework is not working because each of them want to take their own way”.

When talking about the nature of this islamist terrorism, the former ambassador in Iraq argues that there is an “emotional, ideological and identity feature behind the attitude of the terrorists” and highlights the anti-system feeling that members of these groups have against the West. For that reason, the way of eradicating this terrorism must be done with “patience and constancy”. A poor life together with the exaltation of the messages, he says, create an explosive mix with dangerous consequences.

Fianlly, when it comes to his stay in Iraq as a Spanish ambassador, Mr. Rupérez only has positive words about the experience. The reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the country in 2005 was fully successful and he recognizes that the Iraqi population had no negative feelings against the Spanish representation there. He admits that he could travel around the whole country without having any security problems.

By: María Gaytán de Ayala Gabarain

Women get to vote in Saudi Arabia, yet still not free

Women in Saudi Arabia are able, for the first time in history, to register as candidates for the country’s municipal elections in December 2015. Even if “the government did a poor job informing women about registration procedures and opened too few registration stations” as the NYT claimed. It seems that King Abdullah has noticed with his 2011 royal decree that marginalize women in society, is not considered as the best option a governor can opt for.

This new reality has been considered an important milestone in progress and a step towards equality, but if you deeply analyze this supposedly notorious change, you can be able to set up some conclusions.

According to Freedom House’s Organization annual report, in Saudi Arabia “Political parties are forbidden, and organized political opposition exists only outside the country”. If you evaluate for a second the right to vote as a whole, you can clearly state that there is a political repression within a very closed political system, in which citizens that do not follow the aligned monarchy could be considered as terrorists. Not to talk about that women’s role it is an advance on paper only.

Political decision-making is controlled by the King and his Consultative Council, as well as the expression in social media, which is also under restrictive measures. If elections are not free, they will not have a wide impact on society. If inside the country no-one has freedom of speech, neither will women. As a  UK-based rights group said “let’s not forget that Saudi Arabian women won’t actually be able to drive themselves to the voting booths as they are still completely banned from driving”. So the questions are how can women participate in the political life? If they cannot travel around to enforce their political opinion, how can they work as a politician?.

Despite all these facts, there has been a lot of barriers in the development or situation of women in Saudi Arabia, but the problem is not just a matter of barriers that exist, but also a problem comparing to the way that Arab societies think. On the other hand, you can see that this advance is given by not only women, but also men who want to empower women. Some men who believe in equal rights and hold power, which is very influential taking into account that those who always had voice in the region were men. The paperwork involved in the process of acceptance of these rights have had many barriers, women still do not have many rights that men have and this creates a big amount of problems in society. It has already overcome the barrier of the change and now women can vote to vote and can be represented.

While It is true that this is an advancement of women’s right in Saudi Arabia – and it should be considered a vitally important measure that needed to be taken- CNN put it best “participation in a meaningless system is meaningless itself”.