Female flag carriers, the Olympics and the Arab World 30, July 2012Posted by thegulfblog.com in Middle East.
Tags: Arab flag carriers Olympics, Arab States, Flag bearers, Flag carriere, London Olympics, Olympics, Qatar flag carrier olympics, Saudi Arabia female athletes
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As a devout opening and closing ceremony skeptic, I missed the first fifteen minutes of the London Olympics opening jamboree sure in the knowledge that they’re all naff, incomprehensible wastes of money or in the case of Beijing, a freakish show of iron population control and a waste of money. Curiosity got the better of me, however, and after I started watching I was enthralled.
After the theatrics had finished– James Bond with Queen Elizabeth II and all – I watched the start of the athlete procession planning to switch off and finally go to bed. But again, this too was oddly compelling and I noticed that there were a surprising number of female athletes as flag carriers for Arab countries.
It started off surprisingly strongly. After Algeria’s typical male opening Bahrain, the Comoros Islands, and Djibouti (of all places) were led out by ladies. Iraq and Jordan followed too with female flag bearers.
Eventually, with Qatar and Somalia surprising many by being led by female athletes, the final tally for the Arab world was nine out of the twenty-two nations being female-led, more than double the 2008 Olympic tally of four female flag bearers for Arab States.
Does it mean anything?
Given the near-parity of females to men leading out the teams in a region that is resolutely male-dominated, clearly something is afoot. Is the answer as simple as ‘the Arab Spring’? Do states’ athletic federations, extensions of the governments, feel obliged to field female flag bearers as some kind of notion that they are ‘moving with the times’? It is tempting to make such a conclusion, and there may be something to it, but aside from vague notions that this ‘might make sense’, there is no evidence on which one can draw.
A more fruitful approach would be to look at the states individually to discern if any rhyme or reason can be found.
No-one is surprised that Qatar led with a female athlete. Indeed, given the influence of Sheikha Moza here for many years now, QF’s emphasis on female empowerment, and the ever upcoming 2022, it would have been a surprise had they not led with a female athlete. This is wholly in keeping with the ‘Western-friendly’ face that Qatar likes to present at these jamborees. It is likely that they can’t make much of a splash on the pitches, fields, mats, and pools, but they can in other ways. Moreover, when you’re bordered by a luddite-like state like Saudi Arabia, I’m always convinced that the Qataris can’t resist poking and prodding away, noting that while they may be of the same religious denomination, they are nevertheless vastly different.
After being led out by a lady in Beijing, the UAE reverted to a man this year (who was dressed like some kind of paramilitary-type: very odd). I doubt that there’s much significance to this and while one could make jibes about the UAE trying to maintain a highly traditional status quo (to wit: Al Islah) above all else, this may be a digression too far.
Great play has been made of the fact that Saudi Arabia finally sent women to the Games. And they should be congratulated on this. But I almost think that they should leave their female athletes at home if they’re going to make them walk x paces behind the men; a truly medieval moment there, I thought, revealing a bit too much about the underlying mindset. And as for KSA’s bitter protests that they will withdraw their team if their female athlete cannot wear her hijab in her event, I truly can’t explain in words how little I would care if KSA withdraw. I utterly fail to see why anyone is giving this temper-tantrum the slightest attention.
No-one is overly surprised that Bahrain had a female flag carrier. It was thus in Beijing and this time around I’m not sure whether Bell Pottinger or Qorvis gave them any choice.
Seeing as Egypt can’t even arrange to buy non-knock off kit, I doubt that anyone could entertain a conversation about have a lady leading them out or not so they stuck to the norm. And otherwise in North Africa, aside from Morocco, it was as per usual.
But perhaps most surprisingly of all, what were the odds that Djibouti and Somalia would have female athletes leading the states out? Forgive my naivety and my resort to cliché, but these places don’t seem to be the most advanced places in terms of equality. Granted, it was a fifty-fifty choice for the Somali team with only two competitors, but still, they went for the lady; good for them. A good image to show to the world at least.
So, does this mean anything? I suspect not, though I am something of an incorrigible cynic. I think that a wave of feminism would be one of the greatest waves that could fall over the Middle East, but it does not appear to be that close at hand. As ever, it is one step forward and any number backwards. Certainly it is a good sign that KSA sent women for the first time; hopefully they will send more next time and they’ll not be made to derisively walk behind the men.
Tags: Cultural map Middle East, Historical map middle east, map hijaz, map khalij, map nejd
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Map of religion in the Middle East 17, May 2011Posted by thegulfblog.com in Middle East.
Tags: Christianity map middle east, Ibadi map middle east, Judaism map middle east, Map of religion, Middle East religion map, Shia Map, Sunni map, Sunni Shia middle east map, Wahhabi map middle east
Bahrain tries Iranians for spying 13, April 2011Posted by thegulfblog.com in Bahrain, Middle East.
Tags: Bahrain Iranian spies, Bahrain tries spies, GCC and Iran, GCC States, Iranian revolutionary guard, IRGC spies Gulf
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Two (or possibly three) Iranians are facing charges in Bahrain for spying for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC). They were allegedly meeting with various nefarious people:
with the intention of undermining Bahrain’s military, political and economic status and harming the nation’s interests.
This action comes soon after Kuwait tried and convicted members of an Iranian spy ring. Diplomats were expelled, recalled and a fuss generally made. Ahmadinejad denied that any Iranians were spying in Kuwait. After all, he cheekily mused,
there’s nothing to spy on in…Kuwait
In the past Kuwait has had reasonably good relations with Iran. Their Ambassador in Tehran even – shock, horror – suggested that the term Persian Gulf was more appropriate than Arabian Gulf. Yet the atmosphere in recent months has turned for the worse.
It is difficult to work out the exact extent of Iran’s interference or spying on this side of the Gulf. The default position of many in these parts seems to be an unequivocal “of course they are spying” without that much evidence. These trials may well be good examples of assorted Iranian perfidy but it’s difficult to tell. I think that the GCC States ought to have paid more attention to a fable about an annoying boy, his sheep and a wolf.
An example of wasta 2, November 2010Posted by thegulfblog.com in Middle East.
Tags: Guanxi, Neoptism, Wasta, Wasta in Kuwait, Wasta in the Middle East
Wasta in the Middle East is guanxi in China. In the UK it would loosely be translated as some kind ‘connection’ that enables you to obtain advantage that, strictly speaking, you don’t deserve: it’s all about who you know, not what you know. While – clearly – this principle works to some degree in all societies, it is rather blatant in the Middle East; witness the man sauntering to the front of the queue in, say, the driving licence office.
Wasta is similar to nepotism. When I was asking some Qataris about this they – well educated, bright, articulate students – couldn’t believe that it was illegal in the UK. They considered it a duty for someone, if they have the power, to get a member of their family or one of their friends a job. An interesting cultural difference.
I was emailed the brief article below. This is, essentially, wasta in action. This is but one miniscule example of a pervasive system of wasta that governs the Middle East and certainly the Gulf. Too strong a wording you may think…I’m not so sure, but am always willing to listen to counter arguments.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor said intervention by influential people has prevented the ministry from taking action against an unidentified sitting MP, reports Al-Seyassah daily, quoting reliable ministry sources.
The same sources said the MP has recruited 1,050 expatriate drivers in a trading and contracting company owned by him and his two sons.
The sources added the ministry had sanctioned the employment of only 10 expatriate workers, but the MP went on to hire 1,040 more workers. However, it has been reported only six people work in his company.
Hat tip: James E
On the passing of dignitaries: Lee Kuan Yew wife dies 3, October 2010Posted by thegulfblog.com in Middle East, Opinion.
Tags: Arab leaders obituaries, Kwa Geok Choo, Kwa Geok Choo died, Kww Yuan Yew wife dies, Sultan Al Qasseimi
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Kwa Geok Choo, the wife of Lee Kuan Yew the founding father of Singapore and the mother of Singapore’s current Prime Minister, has died. The press release said that:
The family has requested that no obituaries, wreaths or flowers to be sent. All donations will go to the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) Health Research Endowment Fund.
Sultan Al Qassemi noted this story on his twitter feed and made an interesting observation.
Imagine an Arab leader not expecting flowers, wreathes & obituaries, in addition to endless visits. There would be serious consequences.
‘No censorship in UAE’…you sure? 15, August 2010Posted by thegulfblog.com in Media in the ME, The Emirates.
Tags: Censorship in UAE, Media in Dubai
UAE’s vice-President and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashin Al Maktoum recently said that
authorities in the UAE do not impose any restrictions on information or news about economic and financial issues.
Which is strange given the blatant censorship in UAE media over various internal matters. Perhaps he was confused. Or it slipped his mind. The pulping of the Sunday Times, leaps to mind as a relatively recent example.
Hat tip: CMD
Brace yourself: Fox News comes to the Middle East 7, July 2010Posted by thegulfblog.com in Al-Jazeera, American ME Relations, Media in the ME.
Tags: Fox News, Fox News Middle East, New arab TV news channel, New Middle East TV channel, New Murdoch TV channel
Rupert Murdoch, the owner of the ‘fair and balanced’ [sic] news channel Fox News is to open a Middle East station in conjunction with Saudi’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.
Fox News, famous for its uncomplicated, gun-ho and pro-Israel stance whilst maintaining a mocking notion of neutrality, does not seem like a likely partner. Their coverage of Middle Eastern issues is far from renowned or competent. Expect flashy, glitzy sets; female Lebanese anchors [probably the ones that left Al Jazeera last month] wearing an inch of makeup and simple coverage of complicated issues.
Their main competition is Al Jazeera and Al Arabiyya.
The former was started in the mid-1990s by Qatar to – essentially – promote themselves. It was a revelation in the region: it discussed sensitive issues in an open and candid manner never seen before in the Arab world. This garnered Al Jazeera and Qatar enemies throughout the region who believed that Al Jazeera was acting as a provocative mouth-piece of Qatar’s Foreign Ministry. Saudi and Bahrain in particular felt that Al Jazeera ‘picked on’ them significantly in the early years. The Saudi Ambassador returned to Doha in 2008 after a 4 year Al Jazeera inspired absence and since then Al Jazeera’s coverage has calmed. Only last month Bahrain banned Al Jazeera from Manama after, it is believed, unfavourable coverage of poverty in the country. Egypt is also perpetually angered by Al Jazeera.
The latter was begun by Saudi Arabia as an alternative to Al Jazeera. Despite looking similar in a modern, Western, professional, CNN style, its coverage is far less controversial and really quite tame.
UAE press censorship 17, June 2010Posted by thegulfblog.com in Censorship, Media in the ME, The Emirates.
Tags: Gulf News censorship, Press censorship, UAE press censorship
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Here is a perfect example of press censorship in the UAE.
This is the opening line from an article in the Wall Street Journal.
Ras Al Khaimah wants to avoid the financial problems of fellow sheikdom Dubai and reduce its 5 billion U.A.E. dirhams ($1.36 billion) of debt after funding a development splurge with Islamic bonds, a senior official said.
This article was reproduced in Gulf News. But here’s their first line.
Ras Al Khaimah wants to reduce its Dh5 billion ($1.36 billion) of debt after funding development with Islamic bonds, a senior official said.
Surely there are laws about taking such content and changing it? If not there really ought to be.
An excellent hat tip to Sultan Al Qassemi.