Posted by vmsalama on April 30, 2014
By Vivian Salama
In some ways, it was not unlike many local elections in the United States. For weeks, Iraqis have been inundated by campaign posters, commercials, political talk shows and more.
In some cities, it was hard to look anywhere without seeing the face of a parliamentary hopeful — some whose names will soon disappear, while others will linger. But war-weary Iraqis also face the daily nightmare of suicide and car bombings, where the mere proximity to political offices or police barracks puts them at grave risk.
This is Iraq in 2014.
Two years after the U.S. government withdrew combat troops, citizens went to the polls Wednesday to select a new parliament. Observers in Washington are watching the action with bated breath amid accusations that the United States made a mess of Iraq, then left it to its own demise.
Voters braved extreme violence to cast their ballots and, ultimately, to play some role in determining their future this week amid increasing sectarian strife and growing tensions between political rivals. Will it make a difference? Most observers believe Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will clinch a third term in office but not without months of political wrangling and uncertainty. He has fallen out of favor with many across this vast nation, and a deteriorating security situation has left many fearful that al-Maliki has all but lost control.
Has America forgotten its role in getting Iraq to where it is — for better or for worse? Iraq may, arguably, need the help of its allies now more than ever. Have we turned our back on it for good?
Regardless of the turnout of this week’s vote, it is an important milestone since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. And yet, much of the mainstream U.S. television media has turned a blind eye. As Iraqi-American journalist Yasmeen Sami Alamiri tweets: “Good God. CNN has covered everything under the sun (w/ non-stop coverage of the Sterling “scandal”), but no decent Iraq election coverage.” (click here to read more)
Posted in American, Arab, Arab League, Arab Spring, Arabic, dictatorship, Economy, Education, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Insurgency, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Jihad, Maliki, Middle East, military, United States, Washington | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on February 20, 2014
Letter from Kampala
FEBRUARY 20, 2014
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, January 30, 2014. (Tiksa Negeri / Courtesy Reuters)
Feeble and gaunt from the illness that has eaten away at his body, Fideli Donge wobbled onto the porch of his mud-and-straw home, which is hidden by short palm trees off an isolated, craterous dirt road used mostly by barefooted pedestrians and the occasional bodaboda, an East African motorbike taxi. He’s in his 60s, he thinks, but a lifetime of hard labor and poverty has left him looking closer to 90. A few months ago, as Donge lay bedridden, and as his children and grandchildren — he has 52 altogether — worked the 20-acre farm that his family has owned for nearly half a century, men from the local municipality in his western Uganda village knocked at his door.
“They told me that all the residents here have to leave and that they will give me a house or money,” Donge said. He and his family will have to abandon the land that they rely on for their own food and livelihood; they make pennies from the sale of maize, sugar cane, and cassava, a staple crop across Africa. “We don’t know when we will go, or where,” he said. The municipality promised Donge a new home, one large enough to accommodate his family, with soil rich enough to farm, but he hasn’t heard anything since the officials came to his door. “Until now, we are just waiting.”
Since 2008, more than 7,100 residents in surrounding villages have been given similar offers as part of the Ugandan government’s grand scheme to build an 11-square-mile oil refinery in the Lake Albert basin, along the country’s disputed border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The government hopes that the project will transform the downtrodden and war-torn nation, which just barely cracks the top 20 African economies by GDP, into the continent’s fifth-largest oil producer. The Ugandan government, in partnership with London-based Tullow Oil, discovered commercial reserves eight years ago, but production has been slowed by technical challenges and, especially, bureaucratic hang-ups. In early February, after years of protracted talks, the Ministry of Energy finally announced that it had signed deals with China’s CNOOC, France’s Total, and Tullow to build the estimated $15 billion worth of infrastructure needed to develop the oil fields. If successful, the government estimates reserves of up to 3.5 billion barrels of crude oil — enough to finally make this nation of 36 million people self-reliant for its energy needs.
The Lake Albert refinery is an ambitious venture, particularly for a government plagued by corruption allegations and with a history of empty promises. (Last year, the government’s auditor reported $100 million missing from the national budget.) But, perhaps, this time is different. The refinery is a pet project of President Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled the country for 28 years; he has repeatedly gone on record calling the reserves “my oil.” Uprooting Ugandan farmers to make way for a refinery might seem like a surprising move for Museveni, who spends so much time out of the capital of Kampala, at his own cattle ranch in southern Uganda, that he earned the nickname the Gentleman Farmer (it’s one of many). But the refinery plan is, ultimately, the perfect way to shore up a presidency for life. (click here to read more)
Posted in Africa, Arab Spring, Central African Republic, Constitution, corruption, Coup, Debt, Democratic Republic of Congo, Development, dictatorship, Domestic Abuse, Economy, Education, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Human Rights, Invisible Children, Kampala, Kenya, Kony, Labor, Lake Albert, Lake Victoria, Media, military, Museveni, North Africa, Oil, Politics, Poverty, Protests, Refugees, Somalia, South Sudan, Stop Kony, Sudan, Terrorism, Uganda | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on February 8, 2014
Ibrahim Kassita prepares for a 90 kilometer boda boda ride/Photo by Vivian Salama
First paved rode many residents have ever seen/By Vivian Salama
I’m in Uganda as a fellow for the International Center for Journalists, learning about this incredible country and all of its successes and challenges. This week, along with my Ugandan colleague and New Vision journalist Ibrahim Kassita, embarked on a long and grueling journey to the Lake Albert Basin in Western Uganda to examine the plight of residents near a proposed oil refinery site. The paved road you see in picture two is brand new, paved especially to allow workers to access the refinery site. It is the first road many of the local residents have ever seen. When it was built, many residents who lived along the roads were offered either monetary compensation or a new house. We could not find any residents who had already received their new house, but we did find people who had received money.
We came across these women at a well station and decided to discuss the project with them. Not only did they share some interesting insights on how the compensation scheme stands to leave women and children out, since the men receive the money and often squander it. They also informed us that this well is the only clean water source within 10 kilometers. The women gather every few days, often bringing their children along, to fill several yellow containers full of water. They then have to lug them back on foot. Many of the wells in the area have stopped working and some are set to be destroyed once building begins on the refinery site.
After a few hours of travel, we met Fideli Donge and his family, who together total about 60 people. They have been promised a home as part of the compensation plan — they live within a kilometer of the refinery site. However, they are still waiting for word from the government and have been given no indication of when or where they will go. They have a 20 acre farm on the land Donge has lived on for 50 years. They will likely lose their crops — the sole source of income and food for his large family. He is extremely sick and frail, and told us that he wants to die knowing that his family has a roof over its head.
Fideli Donge and family/Photo by Vivian Salama
Posted in Africa, Development, Economy, Education, Employment, Environment, Oil, Poverty, Uganda | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on November 22, 2013
In just five months, Egypt has suffered more than 200 attacks.
By Vivian Salama
Writing to a network of followers and potential followers around the world, the Mauritanian-born cleric Sheikh Abu al-Mundhir al-Shinqiti, one of the world’s most prominent jihadi ideologues, described a religious obligation for Muslims to take up arms against the Egyptian army. “The goal of the security campaign that the tyrannical army in Egypt is directing in the Sinai is to protect Israel and its borders after jihadi groups in the Sinai became a real threat to it,” the letter, dated October 17, said. “Jihad in the Sinai is a great opportunity for you to gather and unite under a pure flag, unsullied by ignorant slogans.”
Hundreds of miles from Tahrir Square, the epicenter of Egypt’s tumultuous revolution, the long-neglected Sinai Peninsula has become the frontline for the military’s fight against extremism. Having operated in a quasi-lawless state there for decades, jihadi groups are now finding an opportunity to ride on the coattails of discontent following the July 3 military-backed coup that ousted President Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the interim government’s subsequent neutering of the organization.
Many militant groups see the Islamists’ fall from grace as justification for their claims that the creation of an Islamic state can only be achieved through violence, and not through the moderate political campaign waged by the Muslim Brotherhood following the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. In response, the military has launched an unapologetic crackdown in the Sinai in an effort to crush any group or individual that might challenge its authority or uphold the legitimacy of the now-defunct Morsi regime.
While the military declared an end to a three-month state of emergency earlier this month, a strictly enforced curfew remains in effect in Sinai from 6 P.M. to 4 A.M., with military checkpoints commonplace across the peninsula. And while Egyptian tanks were barred from certain areas of the Sinai following the 1978 Camp David Accords, Israel authorized Egypt to deploy two additional infantry battalions to the region after Morsi’s ouster to counter terrorist threats. It did not end there. In September, the military stepped up its campaign to rid northern Sinai of militants, with Army Spokesman Ahmed Ali saying it would be “taking action against terrorists, instead of merely reacting to terrorist attacks.” That same month, dozens of homes were bulldozed and trees removed along the roads from the northern town of Al-Arish to Rafah, the border city with Gaza, according to witnesses and media reports, as the military prepared to create a 1,640-foot-wide, six-mile-long buffer zone around the Rafah border crossing. Schools in northern Sinai began the 2013-14 academic year five weeks later than scheduled amid fears that children would be at risk.
The military’s “heavy-handedness is more out of lack of experience than anything,” said Mokhtar Awad, an Egypt researcher at the Center for American Progress. “If the [militants’] goal is to make the military look weak then they can do that. I always compared [militancy] to a virus—that if it does spread to [the Nile] Delta and Upper Egypt, they won’t be able to control it.” (more…)
HERE ARE SOME OF MY OWN PHOTOS FROM THE 2004 TERRORIST ATTACK IN TABA, SINAI:
Israeli Search and Rescue Crews on the scene after an attack on the Taba Hilton in Sinai, Egypt (2004)//Photo by Vivian Salama
Israeli Search and Rescue Crews on the scene after an attack on the Taba Hilton in Sinai, Egypt (2004)//Photo by Vivian Salama
Posted in Africa, Al-Qaeda, al-Sisi, Algeria, Arab, Arab Spring, Arabic, Coup, dictatorship, discrimination, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Environment, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Gaza, Hamas, Hosni Mubarak, Human Rights, Insurgency, Intervention, Islam, Israel, Jihad, Journalism, Libya, Media, Middle East, military, Mohamed Morsi, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Palestinians, Politics, Protests, Sahara Desert, Sinai, State of Emergency, Suez, Terrorism | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on November 4, 2013
By Vivian Salama
The Daily Beast
Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, appeared in court Monday to stand trial—the culmination of weeks of arrests and violent clashes in a nation bitterly divided since the military staged a coup in July amid popular protests against Morsi’s rule.
A member of the Muslim Brotherhood, which saw significant electoral gains following the removal of Hosni Mubarak, Morsi has been virtually cut off from the outside world and held at a secret location since his arrest. He is charged with inciting his supporters to attack and kill opposition protesters at clashes outside the Presidential Palace in Cairo last December, which left 10 people dead. Lawyers familiar with the Egyptian judicial system say the maximum sentence for incitement of murder can be a life sentence or death.
The trial was adjourned to January 8 after Morsi refused to wear the obligatory prisoner’s uniform—instead wearing a suit—and interrupted with outbursts declaring: “I am the legitimate president of the Republic,” state media reported. Morsi is to be tried along with 14 other senior officials of the Muslim Brotherhood. The defendants, who were being held in a cage in the courtroom, chanted “illegal, illegal!” as the proceedings took place. Morsi is separately accused of escaping from prison during the 2011 Arab Spring uprising. The judge decided on Sunday not to broadcast the trial live for security reasons.
Outside the court, small protests of some 150 people, gathered in support of Morsi and the other defendants. Small scuffles erupted in spurts, but no significant violence was reported. A number of journalists covering protests outside the police academy court in Cairo were targeted as pro-Morsi demonstrators vented their anger by attacking video camera platforms and television news trucks. As many as 20,000 security personnel had been readied to guard the courthouse where the Brotherhood officials will stand trial. Many schools closed Monday as a security precaution. (click here to read more…)
Posted in Arab, Arab Spring, Arabic, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Islam, Middle East, Mohamed Morsi, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Politics, Protests, State of Emergency | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on October 22, 2013
By Vivian Salama
Oct. 22, 2013
Off of Africa’s northwest Coast, a long causeway leads from the Moroccan city of Dakhla to a fisherman’s wharf packed with dozens of heavy-duty ships. Men in red overalls soaked in fish innards come and go, carting with them the catch of the day— sometimes crab; sometimes mussels; sometimes 3.5-pound sea bass. Nearby, the fluffy white sand and calm waters of this ocean-front Western Saharan city have been a well-kept secret of European and Australian wind surfers for nearly a decade. The trickle of tourists pales in comparison to cities in the north like Fez and Marrakesh, where visitors from around the world flood the streets to indulge in heavenly cuisine and unique textiles.
Fisherman off the coast of Dakhla, Western Sahara (photo by Vivian Salama)
The Western Sahara, a region that’s been locked in a four-decade battle for sovereignty, has long been off the radar of even the most intrepid travelers. The region, which is known to some as “Africa’s last colony,” is at the heart of ambitious development plans by the Moroccan government, which is seeking to boost investments, create jobs, and appease the indigenous Sahrawi population that has long sought independence. “When we do an urban development plan, we do it for the people,” said “Wali” Hamid Chabar, governor of Morocco’s southern-most region, part of the disputed Western Sahara. “Sustainable development cannot happen if you focus on some and leave a segment of the society behind. A development plan that only caters to the elite will not help anyone.”
Shortly after Spanish colonists began to withdraw from Western Sahara in 1975, the region was annexed by Morocco (and briefly, by Mauritania as well), making it the world’s largest and most populated “non-self governing nation,” according to the UN. Morocco says the Western Sahara has always been an integral part of the kingdom and Sahrawis are just as much Moroccan as the rest of its citizens. However, Sahrawis, backed by the Polisario Front liberation movement, have since called for independence from the rest of Morocco, claiming that they are living under occupation. In 1976, as Moroccan forces clashed with Polisario fighters in a bloody guerilla war, the rebel group and its supporters were virtually pushed out of the Western Sahara and into Tindouf, Algeria, where as many as 90,000 people are still living in refugee camps today.
Not all Sahrawis chose to leave the disputed territory, and many have since returned from the camps—the population of the Western Sahara now reaching over 530,000. While clashes between pro-autonomy activists and Moroccan forces still occur in spurts, the region has remained relatively calm since a 1991 UN-brokered ceasefire—with other regional conflict and turmoil often stealing the Polisario’s thunder.
But when Tunisians sent their longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fleeing into exile in 2010, and millions of Egyptians took to the streets to overthrow Hosni Mubarak, the Moroccan monarchy paid close attention. Within months, the young King Mohammed VI proposed sweeping constitutional reforms with substantial human rights guarantees (although with no limits to his own powers). One significant change recognized Amazigh, the Berber language, as one of the kingdom’s official languages. The new constitution also placed prohibitions on torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, arbitrary detention, and enforced disappearances.
Only six months later, despite efforts to placate the opposition, Morocco’s Islamists achieved a historic victory in the legislative elections, signaling discontent even close to the seat of power. Today, Sahrawis living in the disputed territory continue to sound alarms over unfair treatment and persecution, saying that little has changed since the constitutional amendments were implemented. The government has since redirected its efforts toward economic development as a means for extinguishing any discontent. “Hundreds of our Sahrawi people are missing or were taken into custody by the police without reason and we don’t know anything about them,” says Khalili Elhabib, a Sahrawi human rights lawyer who spent 16 years in a secret northern Morocco prison. (click here to read more)
Fishing Boats off the coast of Dakhla, Western Sahara (Photo by Vivian Salama)
Posted in Algeria, Arab, Arab Spring, corruption, discrimination, Economy, Education, Employment, Foreign Policy, Human Rights, North Africa, Sahara Desert, United Nations | Tagged: Fishing, Morocco, Phosphate, tourism, travel, Western Sahara | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on October 12, 2013
I had an amazing view of Lady Liberty around sunset tonight. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that the state would pay about $61,600 a day to reopen Liberty Island on Sunday (tomorrow) through Oct. 17. If the government shutdown is not resolved by then, officials said, they will renegotiate to keep it open.
I haven’t been over to the Statue since I was in grade school — I might have pay the old gal a visit. PS — I took this photo from Battery Park – one of my favorite places in NYC. They’ve truly done wonders with it!
Photo by Vivian Salama
Posted in Battery Park, Cuomo, Debt, Government Shutdown, New York, Obamacare, Statue of Liberty, Uncategorized, Washington | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on October 10, 2013
Been spending a lot of time in Battery Park these days….did you know the southern shoreline of Manhattan has long been known as the Battery, and was a popular promenade since at least the 17th century….It is also home to the East Coast Memorial, which commemorates U.S. servicemen who died in coastal waters of the western Atlantic Ocean during World War II, and several other memorials. The city has done some extraordinary things with this neighborhood since the tragic September 11th attacks (the World Trade Center is only 4 blocks away from where I’m standing right now).
Anyway, we’ve had some storms blow in and out of the city this week and with them, some extraordinary sunsets, pointing my camera towards downtown Jersey City. I’m so proud to have taken these photos — I AM NOT a professional photographer, but I don’t think these are half bad (these were taken on my cell phone and I did not use photoshop or any special effects — what you see is what I saw)!!! What do YOU think?
Sunset — October 7, 2013 (Photo by Vivian Salama)
Sunset — October 9, 2013 (Photo by Vivian Salama)
Posted in Battery Park, Hudson River, Jersey City, New Jersey, New York, sunset | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on July 24, 2013
July 24, 2013
By Vivian Salama
As chaos ensued on streets across Egypt this week, and speculation surrounding the whereabouts of ousted President Mohamed Morsi and his closest Islamist allies intensified, the country’s national newspaper splashed an expose across its front page.
“The public prosecutor ordered the detention of Morsi for 15 days,” Monday’sAl-Ahram headline read in bold red print, followed by a series of scandalous subtitles claiming the detention is linked to a 2011 prison break. It also alleged the ex-president is suspected of espionage after calling U.S. Ambassador Anne Peterson from the wiretapped phone of Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the man responsible for his political demise.
Both sides vehemently deny the report. That same morning, the court summoned Al-Ahram editor-in-chief Abdel-Nasser Salama for questioning, on the basis that news of Morsi’s imprisonment is untrue and unsubstantiated. In a statement on Monday, the prosecutor warned the media that those who publish false reports will face charges. IkhwanWeb, the Muslim Brotherhood’s online newspaper, called the report “utter lies,” adding that claims of spying are meant to intimidate those protesting “in support of the return of legitimacy.”
Wrangling over the sensational headline underscores the biggest casualty of Egypt’s two and a half year revolution: truth and accuracy.
Misinformation is rife — a dangerous thing in the Twitter era. Opponents of politician and Nobel peace laureate Mohammed ElBaradei had already taken to the streets in outrage earlier this month after state news reported the former head of the UN nuclear watchdog was selected as interim prime minister. The news was picked up by the international press and spread quickly over social media. The report was then denied some hours later. (click here to read more)
Posted in al-Sisi, Arab, Coup, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Hosni Mubarak, Human Rights, Intervention, Islam, Journalism, June 30, Media, Middle East, Middle East Times, military, Mohamed Morsi, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Politics, Protests, Qatar, Religion, Terrorism | Leave a Comment »