The challenges to a female journalist in the Middle East

Silje R. Kampsæter is a journalist working for the Norwegian newspaper, Aftenposten. She is the newspaper’s correspondent in the Middle East region, and reports from all the different events happening there.

Ms. Kampsæter graduated as a journalist in 2014 and started her carrier working independently, but quite different than most journalist in their early carrier. She moved to the Middle East. She spent eight months living in Bethlehem, then one month in Iraq. After this, she settled in Turkey while covering the elections that happen there. This was also at the time she got offered the correspondent job at Aftenposten.


Photo: Espen Egil Hansen, Source: Aftenposten

Ms. Kampsæter started working for Aftenposten last summer, located in Istanbul, but her application for a permanent press accreditation was rejected. That implied that a residence permit would also be impossible to receive. She said that it was a surreal situation, even though she had a bad feeling for a long time up until she received the final decision via a phone call.
The situation in Turkey for journalist in general are very bad, and Ms. Kampsæter expressed that her Turkish colleagues are in much worse situation than she ever was. They are being fired, arrested and being attacked personally by the president.

“Even though I was only rejected a press accreditation, the events that have happen after my case shows very clearly which direction Turkey is moving towards.”

Nowadays Ms. Kampsæter is living in Amman, Jordan. The city is a lot quieter and safer than Turkey was. She even admits that she likes Amman better than Istanbul, not only because of the events that happened in Turkey, but also because she’s located in the middle of the Arab world. The infrastructure and flight connections are better here than other places in this region. Ms. Kampsæter is reporting from all over the Middle East, and she consider it as important to experience and live in the culture and the daily life of Arabs.

The thing I was most curious about, was how it is for a female journalist working and reporting from the Middle East. Mainly because I might one day consider working there myself, but also because of the stereotypes and overgeneralization we learn about the gender inequality in this region.
Ms. Kampsæter responded that there are both advantages and disadvantages. She feels that there are more advantages for the female journalists.
Female journalists have a larger selection of sources, because they can be alone in the same room as the women living there. At the same time female journalists can be less threatening to authoritative men that do not like to get challenged on their own position of power.

“My experience is that female journalists in the Middle East in some cases can become kind of gender neutral. We can sit with the dinner table listening to the men gossiping, and then afterwards get the perspective from the women while washing dishes.”

Ms. Kampsæter stressed that there are a lot of challenges as a female as well. Women in general are more vulnerable to harassment than to their male colleagues. As a woman she always has to think about how she’s perceived by male sources, as well as interpreters, drivers and more. She said that she always has to consider when it’s safe to travel and not. Further on she stressed that it was not necessarily because of common threats one often associate with the Middle east, but more because she will not set herself in a situation where she can risk being raped.
“The safety assessment that are made at the daily life level are numerous and constant, although much of it eventually becomes a habit.”

It’s interesting to see how even though there are many daily threats, the advantages are seen as better because that’s something Ms. Kampsæter can imply in her research, cases and articles. And that’s when I asked her about which article she was most satisfied with herself.
According to her, every case is rewarding in different ways. Once she worked on an article about Saudi Arabia that was very exiting because of the amount of research that had to be done, the opportunity to get in touch with a lot of experts on that topic and being able to make an enlightening article.

Ms. Kampsæter admits that fieldwork is the place she thrives in the most, when she’s able to interact with people, hear their stories, perspectives, opinions and analysis.

One case was very special for her earlier this year. She went back to South-East Turkey in Cizre, right after the curfew was lifted. There was a lot of challenges regarding safety for everyone in her team, especially since this was her second time in Turkey since her rejection of the press accreditation. To cover a conflict that’s ongoing and very irritated is very challenging because you want to cover as many perspectives of it as possible, but Ms. Kampsæter expressed that it was a good exercise to be rational and effective.

– Follow Silje R. Kampsæter on Facebook to see more of her daily life and work.

By Julie Nordmo

The Palestinian workers reality in Lebanon



Maurizio Bussi is the current Italian director of ILO mission in Bangkok. During his career he spent several years in Beirut, capital of Lebanon.

ILO stays for International Labour Organization, it is a U.N. agency which aim is “to set labour standards, develop policies and devise programs promoting decent work for all women and men.” It has several missions set all over the world. One of the missions set in the most dangerous areas of the world is the one in Beirut, capital of Lebanon and it is considered one of the most productive ones.

Maurizio, you are part of the organization since the 2002. You have been sent to several missions and during your career you have been involved in different types of projects. What was, specifically, your task in Lebanon?

The organization’s aim is to carry dignity in the most disastrous laboral situation in order to guarantee a full respect of Human Rights. Specifically, in our missions, we focus on four goals: creating jobs, extending social protection, increasing social dialogue and guaranteeing rights for workers.

Personally, from 2010 t0 2013, I have been assigned a project regarding the improvement of access to employment and social security for Palestinian refugees. The Palestinian labour force gives a great contribution to the Lebanese production system: they represent the 10% of the consumption and a great percentage of the labour force. Their contribution to the economy dates back to 1948, year of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, when the first migration waves began. The task the project required was to guarantee protect Palestinian workers, as the majority of them are forced to work in the informal economy and in inhuman conditions. The goals were to  apply legislative and policy changes regarding the access to employment, social protection, and decent work, and to provide the basic information about workers rights among the Palestinian population.

Was your work in Beirut a practical or a coordinative work?

Actually, it was both. When working in an organization that deals with conflictive situations it is impossible to restrict the work remaining behind a desk: we had a lot of practical work which implied facing directly with situations.

What do you mean with “facing directly situations”? Can you mention an example?

For example we had to interview some Palestinian workers about their work conditions in order to show some real datas during the 105th International Labour Conference. We had to complete the information with reports about the conditions and we had to investigate in some of the factories.

Which are the condition that you found?

Most of the Palestinian workers are excluded from the health care coverage, only 5% of employed Palestinians benefit from this right. That is a consequence of the Labour Law, which stipulates that such benefits are only given to foreign citizens whose countries afford the same rights to the Lebanese: in the case of Palestinians this reciprocity cannot be applied.

From a contracts point of view, depending on the sector of working, we found out that just a 20% of Palestinian workers benefit from a written contract, while the remaining 80% have an employment based on oral agreements which usually leads to abuses by the employers.

Which are the sectors that present the highest percentage of violations?

Usually employed males are exploited in construction sites while women are more likely to be employed in enterprises, health and education. These two last sectors are the ones which the most respect working rights providing them written contracts and fair payment while enterprises usually abuse giving a low payment and making women work for more than 65 hours a per week when the Lebanese Labour Law limits the work week to 48 hours.

How do you think it would be possible to stop this type of abuse?

The first step is the awareness: once Palestinian people have information know which are their working rights they are more likely to recognize and, consequently, avoid the abuses. The ILO did it greatly: we started doing campaigns for Palestinian workers where we taught the fundamental rights collaborating with local NGOs, such as  Association Najdeh. We noticed that if we provide information to little communities this information spreads by itself leading Palestinian people to refuse inhuman employments. Starting from education we can change things: I had the possibility to confirm this theory thanks to my job.
This kind of situation is spread all over the world and not only in conflictive or poor territories: we find abuses everywhere, from Asia to Latin America and we all have to take part in the fight against this phenomenon. My advice is to start to have awareness of what is happening in the world and to avoid a superficial attitude. When we buy something, for example, we usually do not think about what there is behind a product, what it implies. We do not wonder about the situation of workers who made the product because it seems a far reality: we see the product and its material value, if the price is reasonable we simply buy it. We have the duty to stop and think deeper.

Costanza Scatigna

Middle East Interview about cultural differences to Yaser Mohamed Rashad Cano

Interview to Yaser Mohamed Rashad Cano by Sara Borja Gómez.

Cultural differences in societies.

I began saying the following: “Good afternoon, first of all let me thank you for having this interview with me and for contributing to this project of the class of “Observatory of the actuality”. The main objective of this interview is to get to know a little bit the of culture of the Middle East from the perspective of Yaser Mohamed Rashad Cano.”


Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?


“Hello, my name is Yaser Mohamed, I was born in Suhag, Egypt. Had a few years there even though I have no much memory about it except for the food, that I remember” (laughs in between). He moved to Mexico when he was just 6 years old (currently he is 2 he sais it was a little bit of a shock for him because it was entirely a big new change to move apart from the home he knew and away from his school and friends.


“Mexico got me for surprise, it was a different continent and a strange country but it was a good job opportunity for my parents so we took it”


Now he has been living there for 19 years and explains that his experience has given him a lot to understand his own culture and the differences and problems we are challenged to adapt to in an interchangeable society.


“Analyzing this point of view” he said and continued, “The analysis of the society and how it’s culture sets parameters for what is right or wrong inside of it, really caught my attention while growing up and got me the motivation for starting my own project about help and orientation for teenagers living in city areas where the conditions where not favorable for them.”


“I started my project when I was only 15 years old”. He explains his father had a friend involved in the government who told him a project was being launched with the purpose of giving young adults the opportunity of showing their idea to the responsible of culture administration of the city hall. “I was second place winner and they gave me a quantity of money to support my project.”


How did growing up in a totally different culture was for you?


“Well it definitely changes your perspective about how children of your own age grow up in different places and that you are more similar to them that you thought.” He explains how his project began to take form and how his interests leaned towards helping kids who came from problematic families.

“I along with other team mates which where with me in the project since the beginning, organized a program for cultural events for kids where they could assist to different events involving music, recreational areas, acting and so on.”


A year later, he got a job offer in the cultural area of the government, they offered him the cultural administration of the young kids and teenagers area. “Until now I have been working there”- he sais. “I have experienced a lot of changes from the success I could have had in Egypt initiating this project or another one similar” -he continues- “It doesn’t mean it would have been better or worse, it just means that moving to another country and changing my standards about society has helped me to develop a certain sensitiveness for cultural differences.”


Can you tell me what are you working on actually?


“At the moment I am working on a political campaign to support Mauricio Gongora who is a candidate running to be the next governor of the state of Quintana Roo in the next elections.”


He is in charge of going to different areas of the state and analyzing along with other team mates, those areas and how the situation of the families are, depending on the results of the surveys made to those families and other investigations made by the team.

“It is surprising to realize how much need there actually is in every country.”


Can you explain one aspect that you like most about this experience?


“What I enjoy the most is working day by day in communities that have a lot of challenges to overcome in order to have acceptable conditions of life.”

He sais it is frightening to realize how much people live in conditions that we would not accept in our daily life and try to understand their experiences and turn that into a better change for them and society, all along with the entire team. “It is a very rich experience in all of the senses and gives me so much to learn every day.”


He explains that when he goes back home he enjoys so much everything about it. “It is the best to go eat your favorite food in your natal country after a really long time”- he laughs.


The Middle East from an Omani point of view

Paloma Romero López

Ali Alhawari is an Omani whose job consists of the finance management sector at the airbase station and to make decisions about that matter. The station has various departments such as engineering, security, air defence, logistics… Mr. Alhawari is therefore, as said, part of the financial sector.  He has mentioned to enjoy his job very much as much as he loved to study his career. He studied wing officer since he wanted to get more knowledge of his country´s military forces and to be part of them.

I personally met him when I lived in London, since he is the father of a very good friend of mine. Due to his origin and knowledge about the Middle East, specially his homeland, Oman, I have decided to make some questions to him that I thought would be interesting to see from his point of view. I began the interview with the stereotypical image of the Middle East zone were we find nations suffering from conflicts, or dictatorship regimes, or strong religion rules… Obviously this is just a stereotype that cannot generalise the whole region, as I finished the interview with a complete opposite image  of Oman.

We touched several topics that I will cover along the article. Regarding the political situation in Oman. Mr. Alhawari mentioned how the political situation in his country is well known for its stability. “It is very rare to see any sectarianism acts or any terrorism and the same goes to racism”, he said. Apparently, in Oman there are very strict rules that all Omanis are obliged to follow, as well as the fact that they strongly follow the Islamic rules of respecting all humans. He did not forget to atribute the government of their contributing in the stability.

Among the region, Oman is a country with good foreign relationships and not only in the Middle East but also elsewhere. He believes it is a strong nation and quite important since “it is very independent and it forms this tight and sincere bond among them (Middle East countries)”

I have discovered a  very neutral and peaceful country. When I asked for any conflict the answer was “there aren´t”. The closer to an internal conflict the thought was some struggles with the oil industry: “since the price of oil is currently rising, this is causing some financial issues. This is at the moment the main and most regular issue in the country.”

Not finding internal conflicts we discussed about the Yemen conflict which is happening right across their frontiers. He believes this was an internal conflict of their neighbour country that has grown due to the interfering of other nations which he claimed was not necessary as the conflict was something Yemen could solve without making it such a big deal (internationally). Despite the proximity of Oman to the conflict, the government has decided to stay out in order to ensure stability and security and not only that, suggests Mr. Alhawari, “also to try and lessen the damages and the unwanted outcomes of this move. . Getting involved will only make the conflict bigger and would produce losses of humans, destruction of infrastructure…” By means, Oman´s involvement in the conflict would just make it worse instead of sorting it out.

There is little we can outline about ISIS. He as most of the people is aware of the critical situation but he was calm when talking from his position since he affirmed that Oman has nothing to do with this terrorist group and he does not see any danger for Oman: “This nation has been building and anchoring the values of world peace and universal acceptance in its people, and it has gone very far. It is very good because these beliefs are growing wildly in the coming generation´s minds and this looks like a huge wall that cannot be easily broken. Gladly, the answer is no, ISIS will not be able to penetrate or approach Oman.”

As a conclusion, this interview reflects a young State from the Middle East that is very peaceful, with a strong religious influence and well respected. Far from radicalism,  the monarchy remains conflicto neutral and internal conflicts are as in any European country merely economical.


The World Humanitarian Aid by the UN isn’t good enough

Turkey is as many other countries directly involved in the refugee crisis, which is at the top of the list of problems the World Humanitarian Summit hopes to resolve this week. Turkey needs the help of the United Nations and European Union to end this crisis. However, these international organizations are not helping with enough humanitarian aid and supplies for the people that are suffering.

The United Nations’ main goals are to maintain international peace and security, also to promote the respect of human rights, in which they’re not doing a really good job currently. In countries neighbouring Syria, UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) supports host communities to cope with the influx of refugees by improving infrastructure, and improving local economic and employment opportunities focusing especially on vulnerable groups engaging the local population in its projects.

Speaking in Geneva the UN emergency relief coordinator Stephen O’Brien said that the Syrian government had in fact disregarded ‘countless’ efforts for aid to be allowed in, residents of the town last received aid in November 2012. Although the UN conducted a needs assessment which they came to the conclusion that resources which are in urgent need include medicine, food along with shortages in drinking water due to supplies being destroyed. While the UN’s announcements have been helpful in condemning Assad’s regime actions, it has not taken enough action to help those who need their assistance most.

Lack of aid might be the issue in the besieged areas in Syria, but that’s not the biggest problem. The quality of the humanitarian aid in the world today is not developed to where it should be, and it can be improved to a much higher level than it is. David Millband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, stated in a speech he held a month ago at Georgetown University, that the world humanitarian aid need to be reformed. Further on he expressed, “the scale and complexity of current humanitarian needs are increasingly out of step with the resources, policies and practices available to meet them.”


Source:  The World Humanitarian Summit


The organisation that directs the World Humanitarian Summit is the United Nations. Examples the media covers every single week shows that this organisation is not the most efficient when it comes to humanitarian aid. Actually, one of the biggest and high-profiled international NGOs was absent. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) had withdrawn from the event with the statement; “We no longer have any hope that the WHS will address the weaknesses in humanitarian action and emergency response, particularly in conflict areas or epidemic situations.”

This week the World Humanitarian summit took place in Istanbul to revise and improve the structure of humanitarian aid. It only lasted two days, and as expected it was not enough time to improve the humanitarian aid in any way. The gathered world leaders did establish a core document with commitments, but it’s non-binding and therefore it becomes another declaration of intent, rather than action.

“It is shameful that rich countries are moaning, complaining, sending refugees back, cutting deals behind their backs… We want to see rich countries step up to the plate, absorb refugees and give them opportunities in their countries,” Winnie Byanyima, executive director of the aid group Oxfam International, told Al Jazeera after the summit closing.

Humanitarian action not only saves lives, it prepares communities to respond to disasters, protects hard-won development gains, and helps people get back on their feet after a crisis strikes. It is important that there soon will be taken some action rather than several conferences and summits that gather publicity for world leaders and organizations.
The United Nations is to bureaucratic and inefficient to handle the different crisis that are ongoing right now. The institutions should involve other NGOs to get action when it’s needed.

Iran’s leaders are dissatisfied by the US’ presence in the Persian Gulf

The deputy commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) stated on state television, that Iran will close the Strait of Hormuz if the United States and their allies do not stop threatening the Islamic Republic.
The Strait of Hormuz is an important and strategic area as it connects the Persian Gulf with the Arabian sea, this strait has a fundamental importance in the oil world’s business. A third of the world’s oil is transported through it so such threats can raise global tension.

Confrontations over the Persian Gulf have a long history between the United States and Iran. Any kind of relation has been non-existent, and it has not had any improvement after the Nuclear Deal was signed last summer that saw Iran’s nuclear developments blocked. This deal prevented Iran from receiving a lot of sanctions that the U.S, the European Union and the United Nations had placed on the country and it opened up for Iran to have relations with Western countries again.

Last week’s statements from Hossein Salami that “The US should learn from recent historical truths” can be connected to the incident back in January, where 10 US Navy sailors were captured by the Iranian navy, and were released a day later. At the broadcasting that was sent on State Television, Salami, the Iranian Commander, stressed; “Americans cannot make safe any part of the world”. He continued saying that if the US and its allies will threaten the passage in any way, Iran will have to act according to the United Nation Convention on the Law of Sea.
The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei also expressed his discontent of the presence of the US in the Persian Gulf earlier last week on Twitter


According to the New York Times, it’s unclear whether that signals any new Iranian concern over the strait or possible confrontation with the U.S. following Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

The American response to the statements by Iran’s leaders was that they will continue to operate in accordance with professional maritime standards and international law, stated by Lt. Rick Chernitzer, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain.
The rigidity of U.S. response is a consequence of the “highly provocative” Iranian attitude. An example of that is when in December Iran tested rockets next to U.S. warships and U.S. Navy officials states that they daily face with Iranian naval vessels.

The U.S and Iran have been two countries which have always caused controversy due to the international instability after several military interventions in the middle east and their alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Different news agencies have these two nations in their primary focus waiting for their next statement or move. It seems that the relation between both will not get better in a short term, but worse. For the sake of their own security and for international security, some urgent solution must be found fast to try and slow down the delicate field in which they are pressuring on; A big responsibility lies down to the leaders of both countries, and as well as the rest of the International Community.


Crucial humanitarian aid is blocked by the Assad regime

The population of Syria has, since January, suffered from starvation because, according to a Reuters report, the Assad regime is blocking crucial humanitarian aid convoys from the United Nation as a war tactic.

A Syrian security official reporting on the issue called it a “starvation until submission campaign”. The report shows that the Syrian Government is using food, by means starvation, as a weapon. The security official is assuring that this consists as a war tactic that results in starvation and death for uncountable civilians. The areas that are suffering from this tactic the most are around Homs and Damascus but there are also facts which indicates the Regime wants to cut opposition supplies in Aleppo by using barrel bombs. In fact, just few days ago, a Médicins Sans Frontières hospital was destroyed in an airstrike, and some of the killed were doctors.

“I cannot deny that that everyone in the meeting was disappointed” Staffan de Mistura, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, said after last meeting of Humanitarian Access Task Force. The meeting was set up last week, to ensure access and delivery of aid. Mistura announced in the meeting the impossibility of reaching the most critical areas of Syria. The situation is frustrating, and many of the areas are besieged and non-reachable.

When asked for an explication, President Bashar al-Assad, justified his decision stating that it was a measure to guarantee security: forbidding the distribution of UN’s aids, the government avoided that the warring rebel parties could take advantage of the supplies.

The Syrian government has banned the access to most of the humanitarian aids to the cities of Damascus, Duma, Daraya and to the east part of Harasta. This restriction imposes obstacles to medical assistance: residents have been deprived of surgical equipments, anti-anxiety pills and atropine, used to guard against poison. The United Nations estimates more than 250,00 people are now trapped in besieged areas of Syria.

The Security Council have tried to make resolutions against the Syrian Government for a long time, but the proposals to condemn al-Assad have been vetoed by Russia and China. The biggest motivation regarding this issue is that the law of armed conflict requires all sides to allow free access of humanitarian relief for civilians in need. To deliberate starvation in a conflict is a war crime, and with international pressure the U.N. are doing their best to solve this.

The United Nations are trying to stay positive in the critical situation and stated recently that many airdrops with both food and medical aid has been successfully, assisted by World Food Programme. “The picture should not be completely negative, in the sense that, while we have to, and we must, insist on reaching these hard-to-reach or besieged areas, there is still a lot happening in Syria” Mistura said.