Archive for the ‘Saudi Arabia’ Category
Posted by vmsalama on April 29, 2013
Children fear “planes that shoot” as communities grieve lost loved ones.
APR 29 2013
A small house, once made of large cement blocks, is reduced to rubble in a sea of untouched homes and shops in Jaar, a town in South Yemen’s Abyaan governorate. There are no signs of life where that house once stood — no photos, furniture, and certainly no people left behind. In May 2011, the house was struck by a drone — American, the locals say. Some believe the sole occupant, a man named Anwar Al-Arshani, may have been linked to Al Qaeda, although he kept to himself, so no one knows for sure. As Al-Arshani’s house smoldered from the powerful blow, townspeople frantically rushed to inspect the damage and look for survivors. And then, just as the crowd swelled, a second missile fired. Locals say 24 people were killed that day, all of them allegedly innocent civilians.
Eighteen-year-old Muneer Al-Asy was among them. His mother Loul says she knows nothing about America — not of its democracy or politics or people or values. All she knows is that it killed her son. She cannot read and does not own a television. Like many in her village, she says Al-Qaeda is “very bad,” but the thought of her youngest son being killed by an American missile haunts her dreams at night. She screams in fury at the people who took her son: “criminals!” She rocks anxiously back and forth on her sole piece of furniture — a long cushion in her single-room home — recalling the day her son was “martyred” by a U.S. drone. “I am like a blind person now,” says Loul. “Muneer was my eyes.”
Anwar Al-Arshani’s home/Photo by Vivian Salama
Thousands of miles from Washington, where the debate rages on over the moral and legal implications of using unmanned aerial vehicles for lethal targeting, the names and faces of many of the victims paints a somber picture. Some are fathers who can no longer buy food and medicine for their children. Some are kids whose only crime in life was skipping out on studies to play soccer with friends. Some are expectant mothers who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. As the U.S. focuses attention on the successful targeting of names on the notorious “kill list,” the number of innocent civilians killed by U.S. drones on the rise — threatening to destroy families, spark resentment, and fuel Al-Qaeda recruitment.
While strikes in Pakistan have been recorded since at least June 2004, drones have become more common in Yemen in recent years, used to weed out and eliminate members of Al Qaeda’s notorious Arabian Peninsula network (AQAP). AQAP has been linked to recent schemes including the foiled 2012 underwear bomb plot, as well as for parcel bombs intercepted before reaching synagogues in Chicago in 2010. The drone program has seen some successes, including strikes on high-profile targets like Saeed al-Shihri, a Saudi citizen who co-founded AQAP, and senior operatives Samir Khan and Anwar al-Awlaki. The latter was a preacher who often delivered his provocative sermons in English and, like Khan, was at one time an American citizen.
However, with the growing use of so-called “signature strikes” — attacks against suspected but unidentified targets — there have been increasingly troubling signs that many victims are deemed guilty by association. Having committed no crime, their names not part of any list and in some cases, not even known. (click here to read more….)
Posted in Middle East, Politics, Elections, Arab, Jihad, Terrorism, Religion, Islam, Freedom of Speech, Arabic, military, United States, Insurgency, Foreign Policy, American, Human Rights, C.I.A., Saudi Arabia, Al-Qaeda, Economy, Guantanamo Bay, Yemen, Arab Spring, Drones, corruption, South Yemen, PTSD, Awlaki, Abyaan, Ma'rib, Signature Strikes | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on March 17, 2013
(I LOVE the photo linked to this article — courtesy: Mohammed Al-Shaikh/AFP/Getty)
By Vivian Salama
Mar 17, 2013
The Daily Beast (click here for original link)
Two years after the Arab Spring’s protests and Saudi intervention, opposition groups are again clashing with security forces in the fragile kingdom. Are the king’s reforms too little too late?
Pearl Roundabout was once the pulse of the Bahraini opposition—like Cairo’s Tahrir Square or Mohammad Bouazizi Square in Tunis. In the earliest days of the Arab Spring uprisings, it was a vibrant center for self-expression, and saw a wave of protests—and bloodshed—as Bahrainis joined in a regional call for democracy and freedom.
Two years later, Bahrain’s iconic square is lifeless—sealed off by security forces and torn apart by bulldozers. The pearl monument that once stood majestically at its center is gone, demolished and paved over, with the government saying it was “desecrated” by “vile” protesters. It was even renamed Al Farooq Junction—a tribute to Omar ibn Al Khattab, a historical figure viewed negatively by Shias, the sect of Islam to which the majority of Bahrainis belong.
Despite efforts by the government to erase evidence of any challenge to its authority, Bahrainis spilled into the streets to mark the second anniversary of Saudi-led Gulf forces entering Bahrain to help their ally, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah, suppress a wave of dissent. Dozens were reportedly injured in clashes with security forces Thursday, according to Al Wefaq, the country’s leading opposition party. Police fired tear gas at protesters as a group of youths confronted them with Molotov cocktails. Protests dubbed “Never Surrender” kicked off again Friday.
The government described the unrest as “acts of domestic terror, including the theft and torching of cars, and the street blockades,” according to an Interior Ministry statement. Several policemen were injured in the clashes, the government said.
Bahrain, a staunch American ally and home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, has lent a unique story in the Arab Spring narrative. King Hamad, a Sunni in the Arab Gulf’s only Shia-majority nation, maintains his authority, often through harsh crackdowns, with the solid support of the West and surrounding Gulf states, which assert that Iran is using Bahraini Shias to infiltrate the Arab world. Saudi Arabia, which is connected to Bahrain via a causeway, has been especially fearful, as it is home to a restive Shia population in its Eastern province. Bahrain, a tiny island in the Persian Gulf, is not wealthy from natural resources like fellow Gulf Cooperation Council nations Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates; it has had to rely on aid from its neighbors since turmoil began in 2011. (click here to read more…)
Posted in Allies, Arab, Arab Spring, Bahrain, discrimination, Dubai, Economy, Education, Employment, Foreign Policy, Iran, Islam, Middle East, military, Mohamed Bouazizi, Politics, Protests, Qatar, Religion, Saudi Arabia, Shi'ite, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United States, Yemen | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on January 25, 2013
Newsweek Magazine (click here for original link)
January 25, 2013
Ismail Ahmed passes much of the day sitting on a small wooden chair outside his grocery–cum–souvenir shop in Giza, on the outskirts of Cairo, watching the cars drive by while smoking Cleopatra cigarettes, which crackle loudly with each drag. Gone are the days when busloads of tourists would pour into his shop near the Pyramids to pick up bottled water and $3 statues of the Sphinx. Since his fellow countrymen rose up against President Hosni Mubarak in January 2011, Ahmed’s business has dwindled. Gone are his hopeful expansion plans for the tiny shop, and his son Mohammed, who used to work alongside him, is looking for other jobs, because income from the store has become but a trickle. “Now if I see two tourists in a day, it means it’s a good day,” Ahmed says as he lights another cigarette. “The tourists are too scared to come to Egypt now. My store is not receiving enough income to support the family.”
Two years after revolutions unsettled and redrew the political map of the Arab world, the hope that inspired so many has not brought the desired change. Across the region, economies are unraveling, opposition groups splintering, and promises for establishing democratic secular governments now seem like a pipe dream.
War rages on in Syria, with more than 60,000 people killed so far. On one single day recently, more than 100 people were shot, killed, stabbed, or burned to death by the brutal security forces taking orders from President Bashar al-Assad. Many Syrians lucky enough to have survived the fighting are on the run, and with no end in sight, the 22-month-old conflict threatens to reshape the region. Some 2 million people—more than half of them children—have already fled Syria for Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and beyond. Already there has been trouble in Lebanon, which has its own bloody history, easily recalled and ignited, and regional observers fear political and sectarian grievances will follow the flow of refugees.
Gomaa, a 35-year-old restaurant owner who prefers to go by one name for security reasons, believes his country was better off before the uprising, and certainly his family was. His hometown of Idlib, an opposition stronghold, has been battered hard by the government, and after snipers moved into his apartment building, his family’s life turned into a nightmare punctuated by volleys of gunshots. Fleeing to Egypt with his wife and two young boys, he found that work was scarce and impossible to come by for a foreigner, though eventually he found a lead on a job as a restaurant busboy in Morocco, where he’ll be living with a large group of men in an apartment in Rabat. With little money to his name, he has arranged for his wife and kids to stay for free with family friends in Algeria. “Of course, I wish to be with my family, but I thank Allah that we are alive.”
In Tunisia, where, in despair over government injustice, vegetable seller Mohamed Bouazizi set fire to himself, inspiring the wave of protests that came to be known as the Arab Spring, demonstrators flooded into the streets earlier this month. Marking the two-year anniversary of the ouster of former president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, this was no celebratory gathering, but rather a show of frustration by people who fear their new government is corrupt, religious, and self-serving. “Where is the constitution? Where is democracy?” they chanted, as police fired tear gas to disperse the crowds. Tunisia has recently been rocked by a scandal dubbed Sheratongate, which centers on allegations that Tunisia’s foreign minister, Rafik Abdessalem, abused public funds to pay for rooms at the five-star Sheraton hotel in Tunis, where he would meet his mistress for illicit trysts. “There are fewer jobs, and corruption and crime is worse than before,” complained Yazid Ouerfelli, 19, a university student from Tunis. “The country is also more divided now because of religion—it didn’t used to be like that.” (click here to read more…)
Posted in Algeria, Ali Abdullah Saleh, Arab, Arab Spring, Bashar Al Assad, corruption, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Europe, Foreign Policy, Hosni Mubarak, Iraq, Islam, Israel, Jihad, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Media, Middle East, military, Mohamed Bouazizi, Mohamed Morsi, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Newsweek, North Africa, Oman, Persian Gulf, Politics, Protests, Qatar, Religion, Salafi, Saudi Arabia, State of Emergency, Succession, Syria, Tourism, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United Nations, War, Yemen, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on September 11, 2012
The Daily Beast (click here for original link)
At least 2,000 demonstrators, enraged over Innocence of Muslims, a little-known film produced in the United States that allegedly insults the Prophet Muhammad, shouted, “We will sacrifice ourselves for you, Allah’s messenger!” A group of men managed to mount the embassy’s walls waving a black flag with the words “There is no God but God, and Muhammad is his messenger.” Many of those gathered did not know the name of the film, nor did they know the details of their grievance against the U.S. pastor linked to it, Terry Jones, whose 2010 threats to burn the Qurantriggered deadly riots in Afghanistan. Similar attacks were reported on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where an American was killed and part of the consulate burned, according to Al Jazeera.
Al-Azhar, one of the Arab world’s most elite centers for higher Islamic learning, reportedly condemned the film on Tuesday, citing a scene in which a character based on the Prophet Muhammad goes on trial. The Wall Street Journal reportedthat Innocence of Muslims’ writer, editor, and producer is a 52-year-old American, Sam Bacile. Jones is promoting the film, whose new 14-minute Arabic-dubbed trailer on YouTube depicts the Prophet as a deranged womanizer calling for massacres.
The organization standupamericanow.orgran a live stream on Tuesday of a press conference featuring Jones in what he dubbed “International Judge Muhammad Day,” during which he listed reasons why, in his opinion, the Prophet should be put on hypothetical trial.
Muslims consider any depiction of the Prophet, be it in an illustration or film, to be a violation of Islamic belief. Similar protests were staged outside the Danish Embassy in Cairo and across the Muslim world in 2005 after the daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten published satirical cartoons depicting the Prophet. (click here to read more…)
Posted in Arab, Arab Spring, Arabic, Bahrain, Censorship, Christian, Christianity, Clinton, Coptic, dictatorship, Economy, Egypt, Employment, Film, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Islam, Lebanon, Libya, Media, Middle East, military, Mohamed Morsi, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Qaddafi, Religion, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Terrorism, Tunisia, United States | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on July 16, 2012
Back in Egypt now and picking up where I left off in the never-ending political tornado (whether it’s genuine or theatre, that is the question). A rather telling (and somewhat hilarious) photo is making the rounds on Facebook and Twitter, showing Hillary Clinton in a wedding dress alongside Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, head of the Egyptian military, the couple looking smitten alongside one another as they enter a room to join several other men in uniform. In fact, both sides of the political tug-of-war in Egypt creates great uncertainty for the US as it attempts to safe keep its interests in the region while hedging its bets against the unknown. Only time will tell whether Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s newly elected president and member of the Muslim Brotherhood, will become a friend or foe. In all likelihood, so long as the United States is cutting a check for billions of dollars annually, it is hard to imagine that Egypt will see a drastic departure from the status quo. Here’s my article:
The Daily Beast
By Vivian Salama
July 15, 2012
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrapped up a two-day visit to Cairo on Sunday, the first since Egypt’s historic presidential election won by an Islamist candidate, potentially reshaping ties between these old allies against the backdrop of a rapidly changing Arab world.Clinton cautiously reaffirmed America’s commitment to Egypt’s power transfer as a recent tug of war between newly elected President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood and the country’s top generals seemed to lodge the transition in limbo. On Sunday, she urged the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to fully support a handover to civilian rule while pressing Morsi to maintain his commitment to establishing a democratic state.
“Egyptians are in the midst of complex negotiations about the transition, from the composition of your Parliament to the writing of a new constitution to the powers of the president,” Clinton said at the joint conference with Egypt’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr. “Only Egyptians can answer these questions, but I have come to Cairo to reaffirm the strong support of the United States for the Egyptian people and for your democratic transition.”
Morsi, who was officially named Egypt’s first post-revolution president on June 24, has pledged to empower the Egyptian people, taking on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has served as the interim ruler since former president Hosni Mubarak’s resignation last year. Days after assuming office, he reinstated the Islamist-dominated Parliament dissolved by the high court only days before the presidential election. The court overrode the decision, but Morsi defied the order, calling on Parliament to convene, heightening tensions in a country frail from unrelenting disquiet.
A staunch ally of Mubarak’s, the United States has been impelled to evolve with the Arab world, engaging with Islamist groups it once shunned and hedging its bets with governments that bear no track record. Clinton highlighted that despite America’s support of the Mubarak regime, it was consistent in advocating human rights and calling for an end to Egypt’s oppressive emergency law. In a meeting with Morsi on Saturday, she urged the president to take minority groups into consideration amid fears that the Muslim Brotherhood and hardline Salafi Islamists would clamp down on civil rights and restrict religious freedoms in the country of 82 million people.
Prominent members of the Coptic and Evangelical churches, including billionaire Naguib Sawiris, declined an invitation to meet with Clinton, rejecting a perceived interference by the U.S. in Egypt’s internal affairs.
“Things are still very fluid,” Paul Sullivan, a North Africa expert at National Defense University, said from Cairo. The United States “needs to keep the good relations with the military. That relationship is the cement of the overall relationship with Egypt. Muslim Brotherhood relations are still putty rather than clay and potentially volatile.”Egypt is among the top five recipients of U.S. foreign assistance, receiving about $1.3 billion in military aid and $250 million in economic aid—a check America has cut annually since the signing of the Camp David accords with Israel in 1978. Clinton said the U.S. is focused on boosting trade and investment in Egypt, as well as job creation, and is prepared to commit $250 million in loan guarantees to Egypt’s small and medium-size businesses. A high-level business delegation is scheduled to visit Cairo in September to create the U.S.-Egypt Enterprise Fund, with $60 million in capital in the first year. Economic activity in Egypt has languished since antigovernment protests began in January 2011, following an exodus of investors, a drop in foreign reserves to well below half prerevolution levels, and the stunting of tourism and retail sectors. (click here to read more)
Posted in Arab, Arab League, Arab Spring, Christian, Christianity, Clinton, discrimination, Economy, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Islam, Mohamed Morsi, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Obama, Persian Gulf, Politics, Saudi Arabia, State of Emergency, United States | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on June 17, 2012
took a five minute break from the Egyptian revolution to write about the passing of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Nayef and what it means for the kingdom…. enjoy!
Prince Nayef’s Death and Saudi Arabia’s Unhappy Youth
Jun 17, 2012
by Vivian Salama
Daily Beast (click here for original link)
For Saudi Arabia, Prince Nayef’s death couldn’t come at a worse time. Vivian Salama on how the octogenarian leadership has struggled to meet the demands of its youth and minorities.
The death of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdel Aziz al-Saud, who assumed the role less than eight months ago following the death of his brother, forces the kingdom to grapple with another shuffle in its top leadership at a time when regional instability is at a peak. Television and radio stations based in the Arab Gulf have suspended all regularly scheduled programming for wall-to-wall Quranic prayers or televised tributes during a period of mourning.
Nayef, who was about 77, was said to be in “good heath” by the deputy interior minister earlier this month and was scheduled to return after leaving to Switzerland in May for medical tests and a private vacation. Known to be more conservative than his half-brother King Abdullah, Nayef controlled the Interior Ministry since 1975 and has repeatedly frowned upon reforms he deemed too liberal for the kingdom, such as granting women the right to drive. He pioneered Saudi counterterrorism efforts and was intensely involved in police and intelligence activities. The 89-year-old king is likely to select recently appointed Minister of Defense Prince Salman as successor.
Salman, who is only a year younger than Nayef, formerly served as governor of Riyadh, the capital. “He is not healthy either,” notes Sultan al-Qassimi, an independent analyst based in the neighboring United Arab Emirates. “He has suffered from a stroke and has in gone for extensive medical tests.”
In the midst of sweeping calls for reform across the Arab world, Saudi Arabia’s octogenarian leadership has struggled to meet the demands of its youth and minorities, while adhering to the conservative ideals expected from the religious center for 1 billion Muslims. Regional instability has caused a spike in crude prices—a blessing for some oil producers, including Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest—which were forced to boost spending last year to placate protesters. Demonstrations in Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s biggest economy, failed to materialize last year as citizens were offered pay increases and $67 billion for housing and funds for military and religious groups. It fearfully announced a $36 billion handout within days of the resignation of Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak. (click here to read more…)
Posted in Arab, Arab Spring, dictatorship, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Islam, Middle East, military, Muslim Brotherhood, Persian Gulf, Politics, Qatar, Religion, Saudi Arabia, Terrorism, United Arab Emirates | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on June 12, 2012
Hello from Vienna International Airport where I am passing the time with my good friend Riesling, trying to drown out the sound of disgruntled babies by focusing on my trip to Egypt. I’ll be there for the next few weeks covering the historic presidential elections (and the inevitable fallout). Egypt certainly knows how to keep the drama alive, pitting two of the least likely candidates against each other — one, a member of former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime, the other, a Muslim Brotherhood strongman. Already the folks I talk to and the people writing on Facebook and Twitter seem to be echoing the same sentiments: regardless of the outcome of this week’s vote, the revolution continues. But who, then, is voting? And how could a potential boycott skew the outcome?? Are Christians voting for Ahmed Shafiq, terrified of the prospects of electing a Islamist president? Are young, disenfranchised Muslim youth or theEgyptian expats in the Gulf helping to bolster Mohammed Morsi?? Only time will tell. In the meantime, I wrote the following article in this week’s Newsweek International, exploring the powerful influence of Warda Al-Jazairia and singers from her genre. If only Arab leaders could command such a regional following.
The Algerian Rose
Newsweek International (click here for original link)
By Vivian Salama
June 10, 2012
The release of the song “El Watan El Akhbar” (“The Great Nation”) seemed to capture the sentiments that were running wildly through the hearts of young people across the Arab world. Longtime rulers were falling victim to an outcry for liberation. The lyrics, by legendary Egyptian composer Mohammed Abdel Wahab, read: “Nothing but the triumph of the Arab people, my country, my beloved. In Yemen, Damascus and Jeddah, you are sweet, oh victory … Between Marrakech and Bahrain, the same tune for a perfect unity. Oh you, whose soil is the makeup of my eye; my country, O fortress of freedom.”
The year was 1960. An air of emancipation was sweeping through Arab nations, as people sought to free themselves from colonialism and to embrace an era of nationalist resistance movements. Pan-Arabism was a concept championed by Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser, and it seeped into the political discourse of countries across the region, urging Arabs to come together in the face of tyranny. “El Watan El Akhbar,” a collaboration by some of the Arab world’s most famous singers, including Algerian legend Warda Al-Jazairia and Egyptian heartthrob Abdel Halim Hafez, stirred the vehemence and imaginations of people from Morocco to Bahrain.
Decades later, Arabs are once again fighting tyranny—this time, from within. While leaders have become targets of discontent of their citizens, the legacies of many singers, like Warda, Egypt’s Oum Kalthoum, and Lebanon’s Fayrouz, with their gallant, patriotic lyrics, continue to inspire and unite the Arab people in a way many politicians tried—and failed—to do. And they will continue to do so even in death, as evidenced by the massive outpouring of grief at the death of Warda, the Algerian Rose, at the age of 72 on May 17 in Cairo.
Today, very little else links the highly contrasted Arab people beyond music and art, particularly that which touches upon three very basic sentiments: love, God, and nation. Even now, as several countries across the Middle East and North Africa usher in a new hodgepodge of leaders, nostalgia remains for the triumphant era of pan-Arab awakening. (more…)
Posted in Algeria, Arab, Arab Spring, Arabic, Bahrain, dictatorship, discrimination, Dubai, Economy, Egypt, Elections, Foreign Policy, Gaza, Hosni Mubarak, Iraq, Islam, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Media, Middle East, Mubarak, Music, Newsweek, Oman, Politics, Protests, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Warda | Leave a Comment »