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On Egypt’s cancer 24, February 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Egypt.
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I suppose that everyone has a few topics on which they find it difficult to be balanced and polite. For me, I simply can’t help referring to Libya’s delinquent despot as the idiot Gaddafi. I also find it challenging to be civil about Italy’s joke of a leader. Yet one topic which angers me more than anything is undoubtedly the treatment of women in Egypt.

An odd topic you may think. Clearly I have never personally been affected by the legions of gropers and harassers that throng Cairo. Do I exaggerate? Well, ask any – and when I say any, I really do mean more or less any – woman who has, say, studied Arabic in Cairo for any length of time and you will get a litany of tales; most minor, some serious.

Within 6 hours of arriving in Cairo, one woman in my group of Arabic students had been harassed and groped on the street. She was walking by herself, well covered up, incidentally. Harassment of one form or other is a practically daily hourly occurrence. Actual physical assaults are, of course, rarer but will come eventually.

My wife, to take another example*, went the national museum in Cairo by herself. Having lived in Kuwait for a few years and travelled extensively thought the region, she was covered up in a basically shapeless outfit with her hair somewhat covered by a scarf. At the museum she was followed continuously by the security guards who worked there. They ignored the American tourists bussed in from Sharm in hot pants and skimpy tops, and, instead, decided to pursue her throughout the museum. How this cannot be seen as a predatory trait – going after the woman on her own not skimpliy clad women in groups – I just do not know. She was also physically assaulted on the way back from the museum by a random man in the street.

It is also important to point out that it is most certainly not just foreign women that suffer in this way. Egyptian women suffer day in day out, as I have noted before.

I write this now having just read another report of the attack on CBS’s correspondent last week. I did not write at the time fearing that it would just descend into a rant that looks essentially exactly like this… It turns out that as well as being stripped naked, punched, kicked and nearly raped, she was beaten with flag-poles.

This attack is, of course, of a different order to the attacks that I was referring to earlier. Its motivations are largely from a different place but still there is an underlying evil pathology of epic misogyny at play in Egypt that I have not come close to seeing anywhere else on earth. Were I to have a daughter one day, Egypt is – quite literally – the only place on earth where I would not want her to grow up. I’d take Kim Jong Ill and the lecherous Berlusconi’s rule before subjecting her to living in Cairo.

*For what it’s worth, I had a healthy ire for this topic well before this incident.



King Abdullah returns & doles out the cash 24, February 2011

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
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Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has returned to the Kingdom from a long period of convalescence in America. Three days of holiday have been announced to celebrate this auspicious occasion. Additionally, he has sizably increased the benefits for Saudi citizens including a 15% pay raise for lower paid workers all of which will cost some $36 billion.

I see this increase in benefits more in a Kuwait than a Bahrain model. This is to say both of these states recently increased benefits for their citizens. Kuwait did this as it was the anniversary of independence from Iraq and from the British. Bahrain did this in a desperate ploy to try to placate swathes of their citizens in a Middle East rife with revolutionary sentiment. I imagine that the Saudi King might have been tempted to do give out some cash even had Egypt and Tunisia’s regimes not fallen, though I would guess that he has increased the amounts in light of said events.

Though only fools make predictions, all I would say is that the only reason that Saudi need fear to any great degree is on the death of Abdullah. If it comes soon – he is a frail, recovering octogenarian after all – then aside the inevitable hullabaloo over Sultan being overlooked (which he would be; eventually) Naif’s reaction could be critical. If he stays true ‘to form’ then he may react harshly or at best, firmly, against any demonstrating elements. This, I fear, could then be a catalyst for wider demonstrations and – at the worse case scenario – prompt a serious challenge from another power centre in the Kingdom.

Hat tip: JK