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

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.”

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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.

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.

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.

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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.

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

 

ZoulFikar D. Fayad