Living in Saudi Arabia

Fernando Screenshot_20170301-115524and Ana Armada are a married couple that lives in Saudi Arabia, in Riad which is the capital city of this country.  With this interview we are going to be able to know how is it to live in a country like this.

Fernando is a businessman that works in a petroleum company named Aramco, which is an American company settled in Saudi Arabia. This company created an enclosure where currently thousand of people, that works for this company,  lives.  This precinct is called Campaú, the life inside it is different from the one outside, they have hospitals, schools, pools and all types of activities to ensure the commodity of the workers and their families.

One advantage that the Aramco employees have is that the company gives them a certain amount of money that guarantee the education of each one of their children.

I asked Ana, Fernando´s wife, how was her day a day, generally she hangs out with her friends that also lives inside the Campaú, they do lots of activities, they can take classes of Arab, go to the pool. This is not the typical life of Arabia Saudi, but the company wants to ensure that the employees stay there for a long period of time so they give them all kinds of facilities. The life there is similar to the one we have in Madrid, but not in the social aspect, they do not have  the same joy as Spain. She said that the life outside the Campaú  is not very appetizing, they rarely go out, only when they need to do so.

Women have lots of limits in these types of countries, they are not allowed to drive, they can drive inside the Campaú but not in the outside of the precinct. It is also very dangerous to go alone, if they can, they are always in a friend´s company. They have forbidden to talk to Arab men, in hospitals there are separate waiting rooms for men and women. Women in general stay at home, when there are dinners in someone else house they don’t go, but this is not the case inside the Campaú. Also, women have to wear a type of dress that covers all their bodies, it can be black or dark brown, but they do not have to wear any type of veil because is something religious.

The first thing that we think of Arab women as Europeans is that it is a complicate society, they cannot hang out with another man who is not her husband, brother or father. They have also a lot of social pressure, anything that they do wrong or that are seen as an inappropriate act, is their fault because they incite it. Marriages are arranged, the family decides who they have to marry, if the women wants to divorce, they have to ask for permission to their husbands and generally men stay with the children.

Saudi Arabian women have been allowed to work for 4 years now. If a foreign women want to  work outside the Campaú is very difficult, there are some limitations, inside the campaú they have it easier because is organized by the Americans, they only have to present the curriculum. foreign people only can enter into this country if they have work permits.

Saudi Arabia is one of the countries with less equality in the world according to a BBC documentary. They showed a list of the gender equality of each country, Saudi Arabia was in the 134 position, so I asked them what did they think about it, if they think that these numbers were right. They told me: “of course, women are very different from men, they are treated if they were less.” Saudi Arabia is an Anarchic Monarchy, the government wants to have control over all things, including private conversations.

People are not allowed to speak through Facetime or Skype, and generally all the conversations are watched and controlled by the government,  in case someone says something that they are not supposed to say.

Ana has been asked to wear a veil in one case, she was in the mall with one of her sons, and a man came up and told his son to tell his mother to put the veil on, I asked her how she felt about it, she replied that she felt really bad principally because of the way the man told her.

Saudi Arabia is changing little by little, now women are allowed to study and work, in a near future this country will make a change in the sense of society.

                                                                                                                         Alejandra Torres Maldonado.

First, the respect…

The respect in this world is fundamental and more in these days where each country looks for their own interests.What exactly means the use of the veil by the westerns women in Muslims countries? in the recent years, the respect and the promotion of that of other religions, it is something that the entire society is losing. Currently, the use of the veil it is so us a limitation of the women rights, at that point, we think that the veil is an instrument or symbol that oppress the woman and her liberties but when we talk about the use of the veil in the visits to church or meeting with high representatives of the Muslim religion, the use of the veil take other paper us a symbol of respect that you show to that religion and beliefs. Looking in the When woman´s like, the Queen of Jordan or the first lady of US wore outfits that follow the rules and beliefs of the countries that they visited. We see it as a symbol of respect or only they are following the protocol?

Recently, during a visit to Lebanon, Marine Lepen, denied the use of the headscarf for the meeting with the Lebanon Sunni religious leader. At the entry, she replied to the Sunni leader secretary: “You convey to the great mufti my consideration but I will not veil myself”. Analyzing the actions taken by her, we consider that the way that she acted, it is a clear example of the low respect that she showed to the Islam religion.What

makes us think in the way, that if our high representatives didn’t promote the respect of other religions and norms, our society will become over the time, a discriminatory society with a high-level of social conflicts, for the simple fact of not knowing how to respect.

However, Michelle Obama during her official visit to Saudi Arabia in 2015 didn’t cover her hair with the veil that the Muslim religion required to the women. But, reading an article from the CNN, in the protocol the use of veil by foreign women´s is exempted and allows them to have their heads uncovered. Although for the civil citizens of Arabia Saudi, it is seen as an insult to their religion, Michelle Obama didn’t want to create those points of views, she only followed the protocol respectfully.

The respect and love by two different religions are something that the Pope and Queen Rania of Jordan have shown us during the visit of the Jordan Kings in August 2013. The Queen of Jordan, which is from a Muslim country, showed her admiration to the Pope, wearing in accordance with the protocol, a simple black dress and a white veil without any jewel or makeup. But the most relevant moment came when the own Pope made a reverence to the Queen, showing the respect that he had to her and to all the humanitarian projects that she has done. A simple action that has produced a huge impact in the relation between both religions has made a considerable progress, in the respect of other beliefs and cultures between the different societies.

Pope breaks with the protocol by bowing Queen Rania of Jordan. 

Making all this research, we have noticed that the simple fact of wearing or not a piece of clothes produces a high level of influence in the international society. Currently, the world is living a situation in where the respect is taking second place, losing the fundamental bases of humans. Concluding that, the main goal of all the international actors, is to create an atmosphere where the integration and the respect of all types of beliefs and traditions are the basis of the international relations and humans.

By: Angela Cantero, Marie Camacho and Alejandra Torres.

An Airstrike kills two Palestinians on the border of Gaza-Egypt.

On the morning of February 9th, an explosion killed two Palestinians and left five wounded on a smuggling tunnel between the Egypt-Gaza border. The origin of the airstrike is a question, Palestinian officials said that the explosion was caused by an Israeli airstrike, but the Israeli army denied any involvement in the incident.

Gaza’s health ministry spokesman, Ashraf al-Qidra (also known as Ashraf al-Qedra), has pointed out that the aim of the attack was the tunnel that unifies the city of Gaza and Rafah. The tunnel is normally used as a way to pass products between Gaza and Egypt. It has become an important means for transports and exchange of armament and basic resources to survive. The huge tensions in the border have caused that more than 2 million Palestinians in Gaza are still living since 2014 under a military blockade.

Ashraf al-Qidra said that the two men were “martyred and five other people were wounded as a result of being targeted by the Israeli warplane along the Palestinian-Egyptian borders”. According to Al-Qidra, the Two Palestinian victims have been identified as Hossam Al-Sufi, 24, from the town of Rafah, and Mohammed al-Aqra, 38, resident of Gaza City.

Some witnesses said that they saw an Israeli airplane threw a missile against the entry of the tunnel on the bounder, but the Israeli army denied having carried on these attacks. The facts happened a few hours after the draw of several rockets on Wednesday night from the Sinai city, Egypt, that is between the border of the East side of Israel and Gaza, Palestine.

The Gaza-based al-Mezan Center for Human Rights has expressed their concern that Israel could be starting a high-scale military offensive. Also, the non-governmental organization has prayed to the international community to “act promptly against Israel’s military escalation, to fulfill their obligations to protect civilians, and ensure respect for the rules of international law,” claiming that “acting before a full-scale military bombardment is launched is crucial to ensuring the protection of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.”

The idea of building the tunnels comes from Hamas, who decided to build this grid of tunnels in order to support the Gaza strip. They built two kinds of tunnels: on the one hand, the one used by the Gaza strip and another one used to infiltrate Israel. The first category allows the terrorists of Gaza to hide their weapons, their commander center and their launching rockets ramps underground. The second one was made in order to kidnap and kill civilians from Israel.

In the past years, Egypt has destroyed more than 2,000 tunnels that provides basic resources to more than 2 million Gaza citizens. Also, Tamer al-Rifai, the Egyptian army spokesman, stated that in the past two months the Egyptian army has destroyed and uncovered six tunnels at the border between Gaza and the North Sinai, Egypt.

Angela Cantero, Alejandra Torres and Marie Camacho. 

Omran Daqneesh, the face of suffering in Aleppo.

Omran Daqneesh, a five year old child, has become the symbol of 100,000 children that are currently suffering constant bombings and the subsequent loss of their homes and hopes for the future.

Pain is the first feeling that we can see through the children’s eyes. They have witnessed how their playgrounds have been reduced to ashes. This is just one of the consequences of the terrible bombings that are taking place in this country. Not only militaries, but also civilians have been affected by these attacks. The insurgents are the ones that are killing thousands of people by bombarding hospitals, homes, schools or even markets.

With regard to El Confidencial, people are leaving underground, save of shrapnel and of the collapse of buildings that have been attacked. They have created an atmosphere where children can feel safer than leaving outside.

More than one million people have seen the pictures of Omran Daqneesh, pictures that talk without words. In Aleppo, you can constantly hear the weeping of the children that is interrupted by the bombs. They have seen how everything has been destroyed: from hospitals to schools. And no one has been able to help them. They are captured in a city that is in ruins and is becoming a cemetery of dreams and hopes. Aleppo has stopped being the city that saw them born.

According to the executive director of Unicef Justin Forsyth “the children in Aleppo are trapped in a truly nightmare.” There are not enough doctors or medicines to attend all of the injured people, people are letting others die in the streets when they

cannot do anything more for them.

 As the Time sais, there are lots of NGOs that were created with the purpose of helping all the families affected by the war, like Save the Children that helps providing kids and their families warm clothes, water, protection and medical care. Another example is Hand in Hand for Syria that was created after the beginning of the war in Syria helping with the emergency appeal. Thirdly, International committee of the Red Cross acts as a neutral and impartial humanitarian intermediary.

To understand the situation that Aleppo is facing we have to go back to 2012. Back then, the regime of Bashar Al Assad took place in Aleppo, Syria´s martyr city. Aleppo has been four years fighting against this regime when it became a battlefield where the insurgents attacked to try to get the governmental forces out and gain power over the North of Syria.

 In relation with the Courrier International, the president of Syria was looking for the legitimacy of the war arguing that all the enemies are terrorists and showing the military operations as liberation of war. However, we can’t talk about liberation when thousands of children have had to escape because of the offensive.

Moreover, how can we talk about liberation when the most important part of the city has become a big open sky cemetery?

So is there a solution to bring hope to the children of Aleppo?

The end of the conflict might seem quite far but we need to prevent the future. Not only humanitarian help is needed but strong agreements between countries to stop the conflict. After all, if kids are born in this hostile environment they will not grow as strong and educated adults and we will have to face a lost generation. However, as agreements between countries are very arduous, NGOs must support the most vulnerable group: kids.

 

Angela Cantero, Marie Camacho and Alejandra Torres.

The Islamic Culture As A Bias Point Of View

MADRID – Arabic translators, whose mother tongue is Spanish, are not plentiful at present. For this reason, I decided to make contact with one for granting me an interview about his work and the current problems related with the Middle East.

Rafael Mayor is a sworn translator, an interpreter and an expert in the Islamic culture. In addition, he translates texts and books about literary criticism and history. He decided to study sworn translation due to the fact that he previously had studied a degree in Law (which he has never finished), so he had knowledge about these affairs. He has been working as sworn translator since 2007 and he works with the Spanish Police at present.

Many years ago, when he started studying translation, he never thought he would become an Arabic translator, but his Arabic professor Milagros Nuin, who works in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs now, made him being interested in this language. He admitted that “learn Arabic is difficult and it takes a long time, but it is amazing”.  However, the main problem he has to face daily is the lack of specialized dictionaries, which would make his labour easier. When I asked him about his colleagues he points out that “anyone who knows Arabic and studies in Spain, is an Arabic translator, thus, it affects the quality of work done”. However, there are few of them who have the appropriate studies in order to be a sworn translator.

Regarding to his facet as islamologist, Rafael emphasised the importance of being an expert of Islam when you are a translator because “there are a lot of aspects of Arabian world that you cannot understand if you do not have knowledge about Islam due to the fact that the Islamic and Arabian world is constantly doing references to the Coran”. In his opinion, the Arabian world is misunderstood without the pertinent knowledge about the past and the present of this ancient culture.

This drove me to ask him about the causes of the radicalization of young men. “There are a lot of reasons”, he answered. Referring us to France, he argued that: “In France, for example, the problem is that these young men feel uprooted because they are not considered by the State as French persons, but as Moroccan persons, even they do not know how to speak Arabic”.

This identity problem added to a broken home is the equation whose result is to join Daesh and fight for a cause that they did not support before, but it makes them feel part of a community. For him, they are “radical young people who find a justification for doing something in a part of Islam”.

Moreover, for him, the “Islamic radicalism is a phenomenon which belongs to the Western world”. He supported his statement by saying that “Middle East is not exporting terrorists, otherwise it is importing them from Europe”.

Nevertheless, he thinks that the last terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels have not woken up the dormant racism in Europe. The responsibility of this belongs to “the French government, which adopted wrong solutions”. He alluded to the protocol taken in the aftermath of Charlie Hebdo attack, whose purpose was to identify the Islamic radicalism at schools. “The protocol stated that if a child stops listening to music, it was a sign of radicalism and it is not true, it depends on other factors”, he said as an example. “To stop listening to music is a normal behaviour on Muslims, so the protocol categorized all Muslims as terrorists”.

If we talk about looking for a solution, he finds out that the main point is starting in the education field. He determined that “if these jihadist terrorists were taught about what is really Islam, they probably would have not committed those atrocities”. In the Western countries, the problem is the lack of institutions where people can study Islamic religion so “people turn to their families (who often do not have enough information), to mosques (which frequently are managed by not seasoned professionals) and to Internet (which has only information about Wahhabism)”.

Regarding to Spain, he told me that “in 1992, the government signed an agreement that allowed to teach Islam at school, but it has never been introduced.” The agreement that he mentioned is the “Acuerdo de Cooperación del Estado con la Comisión Islámica de España” included in the Law 26/1992.

Finally, to conclude, I asked him about a short-term resolution to the conflicts in the Middle East and Rafael answered that “these political conflicts will resolve within time period of five years”. I insisted on the end of the jihadist organization but “Daesh is not the problem, is only a sign”, he stated. “Daesh will be eradicated but the phenomenon will be repeated as far as they deal with the underlying problem”.

Rafael Mayor, interviewed by Macarena Dueñas.

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.

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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

Europe, you are not doing it properly

In the last few months, people all over the world wonder if Europe is doing enough in order to overwhelm ISIS and its organization. Every week, some Heads of State meet and, in their agenda, there are always ISIS, the Syrian civil war, refugees and other hot topics. Although ISIS is one of the up-to-date issues about which leaders discuss, is European Union really doing its best to crush ISIS? Definitely not.

For the first months of ISIS’ existence, Europe has maintained a passive attitude towards the jihadist organization, just looking from far the place where millions of people were cruelly killed. European leaders reacted when threats started to be addressed against the society around them. In other words, their attitude changed when Paris became one of the main targets of the jihadist organization as in the attacks in January and November 2015.

France-vs-ISIS-650x468

France vs ISIS. Cartoon by Latuff. PoliticalCartoons.

“An eye for an eye: you bomb us, we bomb you”. That is what we suppose the French President, François Hollande, thought when he commanded to launch a massive airstrike on ISIS stronghold of Raqqa after the Paris attacks in November. It is about a series of raids throughout months that has killed jihadists, of course, but innocent people too. In our point of view, trying to put an end to violence with more violence is not the solution. People may die but ideals will survive.

One of the most striking aspects of this issue is the fact that the European Union has only focused on the Middle East and not inside its own borders, where there is a real big problem. In fact, European leaders should delve into the causes that have led and still lead hundreds of young people who live in this continent to join the terrorist groups. Europe is doubtlessly ill-equipped to deal with the problem of young people travelling to Syria to join the Islamic State because not enough work has been done to comprehend why they leave. It is vital to understand why young people want to head off to jihad. We know that it is not easy. To be honest, it is something very complex to discover.

karikatur für tribüne- zwischen not und elend

Refugees. Cartoon by Petar Pismestrovic and Kleine Zeitrung. PoliticalCartoons.

Instead of that, Europe blames Syrian people with any reason and closes its borders. Europe is afraid, so it does not want to offer refugees a shelter because people think that among refugees there could be terrorists. Nevertheless, up to the present days ISIS followers who have attacked Europe, in particular Paris and Brussels, are European citizens with Muslim origins, and they have lived their entire lives here in Europe. To sum up, why do European countries deny a safer life to people who escape from ISIS? Europe and refugees are at the same side, both are victims of this war of terror.

In conclusion, we think that the current European strategy against terrorism is not enough to face what ISIS represents. Since it has been a new kind of terrorism, it requires extraordinary measures. ISIS is winning the battles, but Europe and Middle East countries will win the war if they start to work together.