Dubai has glitz but no real sewage system

Dubai

Quite astonished by this:

The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world. It's located in Dubai, a city with a lot of other skyscrapers. What Dubai doesn't have: A central sewage infrastructure that can accommodate the needs of a bunch of skyscrapers.
You see the problem.

To solve the issue trucks come and collect wastewater from separate buildings, and then can queue for up to 24 hours to deliver it to treatment plants. Perhaps before building the next mega-mall, Dubai might invest in the unglamorous basics.

Censorship in the UAE

I have a piece in The Chronicle of Higher Ed about the abrupt cancellation of an academic conference on the Arab Spring.

The London School of Economics and Political Science abruptly canceled an academic conference on the Arab Spring it planned to hold over the weekend at the American University of Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates, citing "restrictions imposed on the intellectual content of the event that threatened academic freedom."

The last-minute cancellation took place after Emirati authorities requested that a presentation on the neighboring kingdom of Bahrain—where a protest movement was harshly repressed with the support of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates—be dropped from the program.

The paper was to be given by a professor who the Emirati authorities say has "consistenly propagated views deligitimizing the Bahraini monarchy" (and who has written critically about political repression in the UAE).

Here's London School of Economics professor Kristian Coates Ulrichsen's own account. 

Crackdown on Islamists in the UAE

Jenifer Fenton writes in about the mass arrests of Islamists in the UAE, whose spiraling campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood regionally and domestic dissidents (Islamists from Islah and others, including non-Islamists) at home continues apace. One question I have about these arrests is, how do they play out in the inter-family politics of the Emirates? Notable in all this is the public absence of the Nahyan family, often thought to be the most anti-Islamist, and of course the most powerful in the UAE. The ruler of Sharjah, who might be thought to be in a position where he has to make more public concessions to Islamists (and social conservatives more generally) within his own emirate, has taken the lead in justifying the crackdown — albeit in that typically paternalistic/tribalist manner of the Gulf.

At least 50 people are now detained in the United Arab Emirates.  The arrests amount to one of the biggest crackdown on Islamists in years, after mounting nervousness by the authorities in the wake of the Arab uprisings.

Many, but not all, of those held are members of the Reform and Social Guidance Association (al-Islah), which calls for reform but also for “adhering to Islamic principles”.  

Al-Islah was founded many years ago with the approval of the late ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum. The stated purpose of the group was to be a religious and educational body. The government feels that it has moved away from these goals and has developed a political agenda.

On July 15, Salem Saeed Kubaish, the Abu Dhabi Attorney General, ordered the arrest of a group of people “for establishing and managing an organization with the aim of committing crimes that harm state security,” according to the state news agency WAM. The group is accused of  “opposing the constitution and the basic principles of the UAE ruling system, in addition to having links and affiliations to organizations with foreign agendas.”

Amnesty International has voiced their concerns that the detained men “are thought to be at risk of torture or other ill-treatment.”

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In Translation: the UAE-MB war of words

Over the past couple weeks, a major issue discussed by the Arab (and especially the Egyptian and Gulf) press is the public spat between the leaders of the UAE and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. The UAE has been nervous about the MB (it has a small domestic version) for a long time, as last year's stripping of nationality of the UAE 7 (alleged members of the group) showed. These tensions mounted to the surface after the UAE rescinded the residency visas of Syrians who held a protest outside the Syrian embassy in Abu Dhabi. This was condemned by UAE Islamists (some of the Syrians are believed to be Syrian MB) and by Sheikh Youssef Qaradawi in Qatar, promoting the UAE authorities to threaten him with arrest for attacking the country should he visit. This incensed Qaradawy's followers in the global MB movement, and Egyptian MB spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan (one of a handful of MB leaders who really matter) countered by threatening (unspecified) action against the UAE should anything happen to Qaradawy. A story in this week's Economist provides more detail:

Yet the action against Syrian protesters, despite strong public sympathy with their plight, points to a broader intolerance for political activism of any kind, including internal dissent. This is particularly so if it is perceived to involve the Muslim Brotherhood. Over the past year, dozens of teachers believed to have Islamist tendencies have been removed from their posts, and activists said to have ties to the Brotherhood have been harassed, arrested and even stripped of their Emirati nationality.

In early March outrage over the treatment of the Syrian protesters led to the arrest of a sympathetic Emirati, as well as to a full-blown diplomatic spat between the UAE and Egypt. After Sheikh Youssef Qaradawi, the Qatar-based Egyptian preacher revered by the Brotherhood, made a critical statement against the Emirates, police in Dubai, the emirates’ commercial hub, threatened him with arrest if he visited the country. This prompted a Brotherhood spokesman in Egypt to threaten retaliation “from the entire Muslim world”. The affair has now subsided, but not before Dubai’s flamboyant police chief warned on his Twitter account that “since the Muslim Brotherhood has become a state, anyone advocating its cause should be considered a foreign agent.”

The Brotherhood has since toned down its rhetoric, although it stopped short of contrition. The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to which the Emiratis complained, is washing its hands of the whole affair, saying it is not responsible for the statements of the MB. The government is of course worried about getting UAE financial support (none of which has been delivered yet, perhaps in part because the UAE only wants to give it in kind for specific projects, not as general budget support). And the Emiratis are not over it at all, as the endless attacks on the MB in their papers show. For them, it's not just a question of national pride — it's a real worry about the regional MB block becoming a powerhouse and the Egyptian mothership boosting similar movements elsewhere. The Emirati MB may be small and operating in a society that is largely ruled according to tribal traditions and oil power, but it represents the seed of something that seems to really scare the Emirati establishment. The article below, from the Emirati paper al-Ittihadi, is typical in its defensiveness. 

As always, the translation is provided by the amazingly talented folks at Industry Arabic. Don't get your translations anywhere else.

The Muslim Brotherhood… and the Exploitation of Turmoil

Dr. Abdullah al-Awadi, al-Ittihad, 16 March 2012

No country in the world – least of all a country the size of Egypt – allows a political party, even if it prevails in “democratic” elections, to control its destiny or jeopardize its higher interests. When the party of the Muslim Brotherhood wages a battle in the name of the Egyptian state to defend a “cleric” who interfered in a sovereign matter in the Emirates, how could any state stand on the sidelines and watch while its back is exposed to the MB’s attacks — as if they had won the whole world, and not just the “Mother of the World”?

It seems that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has forgotten they are living in the Arab country of Egypt, and not in the country of a “political party” that is drunk with victory, even though it has not yet done anything of note for Egypt.

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No justice for the UAE five

Five activists charged with opposing the Emirati government, inciting demonstrations and insulting the country’s leadership have been sentenced to jail. The rulers of the United Arab Emirates have made it clear they do not welcome public challenges to their absolute authority to rule.

Ahmed Mansoor, a prominent Emirati human rights activist who faced more charges than the others, was sentenced to three years. Four others, including Nasser Bin Ghaith, an academic who has lectured at Sorbonne Abu Dhabi, received two year prison terms. The trial was held in a state security court. The men cannot appeal, according to Mohammed Al Roken, one of the lawyers representing them.

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The Return to "Normalcy" in the Gulf

The U.S. is not so much ignoring the Arab Spring (since it cannot be ignored), but viewing it in the larger context — i.e., our Cold-Hot War with the Islamic Republic of Iran from 1979 to the present. As one U.S. official told the WSJ when asked how arms sales to the U.S.'s Arab allies were being impacted by domestic unrest, the response was "We in the military are poised to get back to normalcy," i.e., arms sales that send a clear message to Iran (ironically, when Warren G. Harding first used that word in 1920, it was followed up by a major reduction of the U.S. armed forces' strength). 

From Reuters:

"The Pentagon is considering a significant sale of [4,900] Joint Direct Attack Munitions [JDAMs] made by Boeing Co, adding to other recent arms deals with the UAE. These include the sale of 500 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles about which U.S. lawmakers were notified in September."

"The sale of Boeing-built "bunker-buster" bombs and other munitions to UAE, a key Gulf ally, is part of an ongoing U.S. effort to build a regional coalition to counter Iran."

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UAE: Electoral hangover

There was a dismal voter turnout in the United Arab Emirates for the Federal National Council elections, only 28 percent of the roughly 130,000 eligible voters cast a ballot. Before the polls closed, there was optimism that turnout would exceed expectation. The Dubai Media Office, which represents the government of Dubai, tweeted:

National Election Committee: The extension of voting period is due to the increasing turnout of voters at polling stations #UAE

Election Commission in Western Region: Huge turnout is clear & thanks for voters for their response & cooperation #UAE 

However, when the final turnout numbers were reported, it was clear the vast majority of eligible voters did not participate in the UAE’s democratic experiment. In 2006, when the electoral college was considerably smaller, 6,500 people, turnout was 74 percent.

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Elections in the Gulf 2/2: UAE

Two elections are taking place in the Gulf — in Bahrain and in the United Arab Emirates — on Saturday. The political environments could not be more different, but the results of both elections are not expected to change much. Yesterday, we looked at Bahrain. Today, we focus on the UAE.

In the UAE there is no opposition and the candidates — 468 of them — are running for a body that has no legislative power. So what are people focused on? Turnout.

In the run up to the Federal National Council election the state run news agency WAM carried statements stressing the importance of voters exercising their right at the ballots. UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan called for broad and active participation in the elections. Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum echoed the call a day later.

Even more clearly, Anwar Mohammed Gargash, state minister for FNC, said:

There is no historic cumulative for the electoral process in the UAE to assess a number of voters who will turn up, but the measure of success will be the percentage of participation.

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The UAE's global ambitions post-Libya

This post was contributed by Jenifer Fenton.

It is a dot on a map dwarfed by its neighbors, but it is also an influential and stable country in a rough neighborhood. The United Arab Emirates is an increasingly sought-after ally, one with an ambitious foreign policy that it can finance with its rich resources. 

Do not underestimate the power of a small state, said Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, a professor of political science at UAE University. The UAE (and Qatar) is saying we “are determined, ready to play an unusual leading role in events…We are daring enough. We have the capacity, the ability and the desire to play a bigger role,” he said. 

The UAE sent a dozen aircrafts to support the no-fly zone over Libya and the country was arguably (along with Qatar) one of the biggest contributors on the humanitarian and diplomatic fronts. Now as the NATO campaign is winding down, the Emirates’ contributions to Libya will “continue and become much more prominent in the post-Gaddafi era,” Abdullah said.

But Libya is just one of the many arenas in which the UAE is currently operating. For the past eight years, the UAE Armed Forces have been in Afghanistan — the only military force from an Arab country. (Previously, the Emirates assisted with peacekeeping missions in Somalia and Kosovo.)

“The US, UK, France, see in the UAE an Arab state that thinks strategically, and one with which they can cooperate,” said John Chipman, director general and chief executive of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “The contribution of UAE Special Forces to the operation in Afghanistan and of air assets to the coalition effort in Libya demonstrated that the UAE had no strategic aversion to direct cooperation with Western militaries when strategic perspectives and aims were aligned,” he added. “This case by case, but unemotional, strategic cooperation is likely to continue.”

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Elections in the UAE: the lucky 129,274

This guest post was contributed by Jenifer Fenton.

Some 469 people, including 85 women, will run for a seat on the United Arab Emirates’s Federal National Council (FNC), an advisory body, scheduled on September 24. Any Emirati national selected by the rulers of the Emirates to be part of the electoral college was eligible to register as a FNC candidate provided they are at least 25, in good standing with the law, and literate. Half the seats are up for election, the other half are appointed by the leadership of the UAE.  

In short, “chosen” Emiratis will soon be voting for half the members of a government body that has no legislative power.  What do you call that — cosmetic democracy or progressive empowerment?  

“This is a very sorry situation because on the one hand we want people to be encouraged to run for the FNC elections so they can have an opinion and share in the building of the nation,” Abdul Hamid Ahmad, the editor-in-chief of Gulf News, wrote recently in an editorial for the paper.  “While on the other hand, because of the limited role of the FNC, we take away from them one of the main tools for candidacy. The manifesto has no meaning.”   

In late September, 129,274 people — a number that falls far short of universal suffrage — will be allowed to vote in the FNC elections. The number is a significant increase from the last and only other elections of 2006, when 6,600 or so Emiratis were eligible.   The increase in the number of members shows the UAE is “committed to strengthening political participation and developing it in tune with the local culture”,  Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Minister of State for Federal National Council Affairs Anwar Mohammed Gargash said.   

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The United (but not Equal) Arab Emirates

The following post — a backgrounder on the economic structure and inequalities of the UAE — was contributed by Jenifer Fenton.

When six emirates proclaimed themselves a unified country in 1971, Ras Al Khaimah was not among them.  For Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, the ruler of the emirate at the time, there was one remaining stumbling block: an imbalance of power that tilted strongly toward the economically dominant emirates. Today, that imbalance remains.

While Abu Dhabi is awash with cranes working around the clock to raise a post modern city from the sand, and the skyline of Dubai is exploding with glass towers, in the northern emirates what one sees is a  developing-world landscape.  In Ras Al Khaimah, many of the residential streets are lined with single-story homes with unsightly exterior air conditioning units, peeling paint and tin-roofed garages.  From the highways of Sharjah, drab concrete apartment blocks appear the norm rather than the exception.

Here “there is no oil,” Yousef Al Antali, a resident of Fujairah said.  “We live a simple life.” But growing slower is better, his friend Abdullah Al Khadddeim said. Maybe in “two to three years we will be the same as Abu Dhabi.”

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UAE Activists on trial

The piece below has been contributed by Jenifer Fenton, a freelance journalist based in the UAE, formerly with CNN.

Five activists charged with opposing the government and insulting the country’s leadership returned to court on Monday in the United Arab Emirates. Ahmed Mansoor, a prominent Emirati human rights activist and blogger, and four others - who face up to five years in prison if convicted - have pleaded not guilty.

Behind closed doors in Abu Dhabi’s Federal Supreme Court the prosecution called two more witnesses who testified about the activists’ internet articles and blogs. There was a gathering of about 50 pro-government demonstrators outside the courthouse who protesting against the five: Emiratis Mansoor, Nasser bin Ghaith, Fahad Salim Dalk and Hassan Ali Al Khamis; and Ahmed Abdul Khaleq, who does not carry identification papers.

Earlier this year, Mansoor was among 133 Emiratis who signed a petition to President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the Supreme Council of the seven Emirates asking for the country to have direct elections.  The group also asked that the Federal National Council (FNC) be granted legislative powers; the body is only an advisory one.

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The UAE turns 39

I'm in Dubai for work this week and my visit here has just happened to coincide with National UAE Day, the Emirates' 39th birthday. The locals  have really gotten into the festivities.

Patriotic window display in Bur Dubai

The recession that hit Dubai in 2008 seems to have somewhat receded. There's still a lot of stalled projects and the economy isn't what it used to be. But people aren't panicking anymore that the whole thing is going to come tumbling down; there's a sense of relief and even optimism. 

The picture above is of a vehicle decked out for the festivities--someone has been doing great business in applying heart-and-start-burst decorated decals of Sheikh Khalifa, Maktoum and company. Last night, Dubai's main beach-front drag was full of kids in cars like this. The kid leaning out the window of this vehicle is spraying my taxi with silly string.

 

And finally, the Dubai skyline from the water. The impossible and rather stunning building on the left is the Burj Khalifa, the tallest skyscraper in the world. Apparently it was quickly renamed Burj Khalifa after Sheikh Khalifa of Abu Dhabi gave Dubai a $10 billion bail-out. Someone at dinner last night told me it cost $30 million just to change all the shop and street signs on which the original name (Burj Dubai) had already been put. 

Succession in Ra's al-Khaima

I missed this when it came out at the beginning of the month. Interesting how these mini-states operate, also that tanks were involved...

The Politics of Succession in Ra's Al-Khaimah - GULF STREAM - Current Intelligence:

When Saqr died on October 27th, there were several hours of confusion.  Khalid re-entered Ra's al-Khaimah and installed himself in his pre-2003 palace with over a hundred supporters and retainers.  He had earlier been promised by the rulers of Abu Dhabi and Dubai that he could attend his father's funeral and had concluded that he would be peacefully and swiftly installed as ruler, with Saud remaining as crown prince.  By mid-afternoon, however, a brief announcement was made by the Abu Dhabi-controlled Federal Ministry for Presidential Affairs congratulating Saud on becoming the new ruler of Ra's al-Khaimah.  Tanks were deployed on the outskirts of Ra's al-Khaimah and most of Khalid's guards were arrested and remain detained for questioning. Khalid and his son were not permitted to attend the funeral.

With Khalid stating that he intends to meet with the members of the Supreme Council of Rulers (comprising the rulers of each emirate) in order to discuss the future of Ra's al-Khaimah, it appears that he is unwilling to drop his claim, even though he has now had to leave the emirate.  This unresolved challenge will continue to undermine Saud and may provoke renewed instability in the future.

Incidentally I really like the publishing model of Current Intelligence.

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

Gulf justice

The backwardness of the religious and political leaders of the Gulf Arabs, combined with their vast wealth, has been the undoing of the contemporary Arab world — perhaps even more so than all the wars with Israel. From HRW:

Saudi Arabia: Where Fathers Rule and Courts Oblige

Saudi judges have repeatedly granted fathers the right to interfere arbitrarily in their adult children's private lives, in serious violation of their right to privacy and to establish families freely, Human Rights Watch said today. Fathers have imprisoned their adult daughters for "disobedience" and prevented their marriage, and have been granted custody over a grandchild without valid reason, all with the support of the courts.

UAE: Spousal Abuse Never a ‘Right’

A decision by the United Arab Emirates Federal Supreme Court upholding a husband's right to "chastise" his wife and children with physical abuse violates the right of the country's women and children to liberty, security, and equality in the family - and potentially their right to life, Human Rights Watch said today. The ruling, citing the UAE penal code, sanctions beating and other forms of punishment or coercion providing the violence leaves no physical marks.

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

Hillary Clinton represents her people

The ravages of BB addiction.

I was initially surprised to see this story:

The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will hold talks with the UAE over the ongoing BlackBerry dispute.

The United Arab Emirates has said it intends to prevent the phones sending e-mails, accessing the internet, and delivering instant messages.

Authorities are unhappy that they are unable to monitor such encrypted communications via the handsets.

Mrs Clinton said authorities had to balance "legitimate security concerns" with "right of free use and access".

"We are taking time to consult and analyse the full the range of interests and issues at stake, because we know that there is a legitimate security concern," Mrs Clinton said.

"But there is also a legitimate right of free use and access.

"So I think we will be pursuing both technical and expert discussions as we go forward," she added.

Why on earth would the Secretary of State of the United States of America, who surely has a busy agenda, spend her time talking to the UAE about their Blackberry ban? RIM, the makers of Blackberry, are Canadian, so it's not like she's representing American business interests (indeed, she should be pushing American iPhones on Emiratis instead.) It's not really a freedom of speech issue, since Emiratis can have access to other brands of phones that provide similar technology.

Then it hit me: Clinton is representing her real tribe, that secret cabal that runs the government, Washington Crackberry addicts. And the State Dept., which issues Blackberries (why aren't they buying American?!) to its employees partly because they come with all sorts of security options, also must have its thumb-typing protected. Anyone who's been to DC can relate that people there have the unnerving ability to pretend to be having a conversation with you while never taking their eyes off their tiny BB screens. It is one of the many charms of that wondrous city.

Rape in the UAE

The story below, covered in The National, is disturbing in so many ways:

ABU DHABI // An 18-year-old Emirati woman who was charged with having consensual sex after alleging that she had been raped by six men retracted all her statements in court yesterday.

She told the judge she wanted to withdraw her accusations against all the defendants.

The woman, LH, offered no explanation in court as to why she changed her statements, other than being “unaware” of her actions when she reported the crime.

She added that her brother beat her after accusing her of talking to other men, and after the beating she went to the police to report the rapes.

If the prosecution drops the charge of consensual sex, the woman could face a lesser charge related to deception, which is punishable by six months to two years in prison.

If found guilty of consensual sex, as a Muslim woman, she would face lashes and a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Although she changed her evidence, the charges are criminal, not civil, so it is for the prosecution to decide whether to drop the consensual-sex charge. Prosecutors said yesterday that none of the charges had been dropped at this stage.

According to court records, on May 2, LH went for a drive with a male Emirati friend, HA, in Baniyas.

Prosecutors said she went with the intention of having consensual sex with HA, a charge she denies. HA parked his Nissan Altima in an area called Bahia and had sex with her, prosecutors said. He is accused of then telephoning five of his friends, who joined him and raped LH from 1.30am to 5am.

She went to the police after the incident and told them she had been raped by the men in the back seat of the car. She was tested by the Forensics Unit at the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, and evidence of assault was cited by the public prosecution in charging all six men with rape.

First, consensual sex outside of wedlock being punishable by " lashes and a maximum sentence of life in prison" is sick. 

Second, the idea that when you report a rape you might be charged with having consensual sex is a horrible deterrent to report a heinous crime.

Third, this woman appears to have been pressured by her family to withdraw the charges of rape. Meaning they prefer not to sully the family name rather than punish the crime done against her. Of course it's hard to know the details, but the story outlined above does not look good. Presumably when she reported the crime, forensic evidence for what was after all described as a gang rape would be obtainable.

Most depressing is the last bit of the story:

When the judge questioned YM [a defendant accused of rape], he also denied having sex or confessing to rape. The judge chastised him as the young man visibly held back laughter, reminding him that if he is found guilty, he faces the death penalty, as do all the men accused of rape.

YM, when asked by the judge, declined to request a lawyer. After the judge explained that it was mandatory to have a lawyer where the death penalty is a potential sentence, YM agreed to find one. The two defendants in custody were both represented yesterday by lawyers. The young woman also did not appear with a lawyer, and she was not asked about appointing one. No member of her family was present in court.

Unsurprisingly, treatment of rape cases doesn't seem great in the UAE. The National has a recent story about a Kirgiz woman who claimed she was raped and ended up being charged with prostitution. Another recent story features an Indonesian maid sold into sexual slavery. Of course such sexual slavery happen everywhere — it's one of the major international forms of international organized crime — but the convergence of retrograde cultural attitudes to rape and what appears to be terrible laws in the UAE makes for a pretty terrible situation. Another piece shows how reluctant this makes women of reporting rape.

1 Comment

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

Biggus Dickus

Oh, the joy of this reporter:

A high level Pakistani diplomat has been rejected as Ambassador of Saudi Arabia because his name, Akbar Zib, equates to "Biggest Dick" in Arabic. Saudi officials, apparently overwhelmed by the idea of the name, put their foot down and gave the idea of his being posted there, the kibosh.

Akbar Zib is no newcomer to politics, in fact you could say he's a pretty big deal. This long-ranging high level diplomat has worked with some of the largest members of world governments, players charged with negotiating the outcome of the world's current events.

Other GCC countries have refused [Ar] his credentials, too. Via Anonymous Arabist.

Links for 10.28.09

FT.com / Middle East - Wait goes on for Dubai’s £10bn bond | "Where is Dubai’s $10bn bond? The question has been making the rounds in Dubai business circles, as bankers and executives wonder when the emirate will bite the bullet and ask the United Arab Emirates central bank – which is bankrolled by Abu Dhabi – for the second tranche of a $20bn bail-out agreed earlier this year." ✪ FT.com / China / Economy & Trade - Qatar targets increased gas exports to China | China hydrocarbons imports from ME increase. ✪ Almasry Alyoum | Standing Up To Garbage | Interesting story about garbage collection problem, reveals govt. spending very little, military stepping in with recycling. ✪ Almasry Alyoum | NDP Promotes Gamal Mubarak On Facebook | Facebook users paid LE1500 to promote Gamal. ✪ Brown: Asking the wrong questions about Palestinian elections | Marc Lynch | Makes some good points about elections in the Arab world in general and the Palestinian ones in particular. ✪ Dar Al Hayat - The “Brotherhoodization” of the Arab World | Argues MB arrests only reinforce ideological core of the group and increases its popularity, allowing them to spread their intolerant populist message rather than engage in genuine politics. ✪ Arab winds of change | Brian Whitaker | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk | Whitaker provides a short take on his new book, which I will be reviewing shortly: the Arab malaise is not just the regimes, but also the people. ✪ The disabled Palestinian standup helping refugees find their funny side | Stage | The Guardian | Very nice story on Palestinian disabled standupcomics: "I am officially the most oppressed person in the world," Maysoon Zayid recently told an audience in California. "I'm a Palestinian Muslim with cerebral palsy." ✪ Israel rations Palestinians to trickle of water | Amnesty International | Amnesty's report on Israel cutting off water to Gaza. ✪ Envisioning an alternative Egypt, post-Mubarak - Haaretz - Israel News | Zvi Barel on Heikal and succession. ✪ bt - Waiting for a Trickle | "The boom, spurred by private and foreign direct investment, has paid off primarily for the country’s richest, according to the new report by the General Authority for Investment (GAFI)." ✪ The Race for Iran | New blog about the geostrategy of Iran, contributors include Flynt and Hillary Everett. ✪ Gaza water supply at 'crisis point' | "Amnesty International says Israeli policies and practices are denying Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip their fair share of the region's scarce water supplies" ✪ Amr Bargisi and Samuel Tadros: Why Are Egypt's Liberals Anti-Semitic? - WSJ.com | WTF is the Egyptian Union of Liberal Youth? This argument is stupid, you take the liberals you have, not those you wish you had. And how do these people get into the WSJ op-ed page? ✪ Brother of Afghan Leader Is Said to Be on C.I.A. Payroll - NYTimes.com | No wonder Matthew Hoh resigned: "KABUL, Afghanistan — Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according to current and former American officials."
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Boycott Etisalat - in the UAE and everywhere else

Till they apologize and guarantee they will never do anything like this again, at least: FT.com / Middle East / Politics & Society - BlackBerry rogue software leaves sour taste:
A bungled attempt by the United Arab Emirates’ largest telecommunications operator to install surveillance software into subscribers’ BlackBerrys has infuriated customers in the rich Gulf state, and raised global concerns over the security of smart phones. Etisalat in late June told its 145,000 BlackBerry customers to ‘upgrade’ the software on their devices by downloading a program or ‘patch’ that Etisalat claimed would improve performance, but users said it only drained the battery of the smart phones, prompting tech-savvy subscribers to investigate further. What they discovered was that the instead of improving performance, the software ‘patch’ – which included a mysterious file labelled ‘Interceptor’ – was actually spyware designed to let Etisalat capture, read and store targeted customers’ e-mails. The claim was later confirmed by Research in Motion, the Canada-based maker of the BlackBerry, which sent out a warning to subscribers in the UAE with instructions on how to remove the rogue software."
For now they are stupidly denying it. And I'd love an initiative to reveal what all Middle Eastern telecoms are doing to help governments eavesdrop (or an easy way to disable that.) MobiNil and Vodafone in Egypt, for instance, provide access to their network servers to state security.
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