Sunday, February 27, 2011

Reel Arabs and Real Arabs At the 2011 Oscars: Revolution, Independence, and History

Two of the films nominated for this year's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar deal with historical themes regarding the Middle East and North Africa. Both had resonance with contemporary concerns before the wave of uprisings and revolutions across the region began in December 2010; and, their nominations were independent of those current events. Nevertheless, the confluence of the 2, and the awarding of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in a few hours, amplifies the resonance of both the cinematographic representations and the real life videos, audios, transcripts, images, news reports, testimonies, and cultural manifestations (posters, chants, songs) of the protests.

Whether they win or not, the exposure gained by their nomination, and the resulting desire to view them, along with the increased number of showings in more cinemas both in major and less prominent cities, already enhances the average person's ability to relate to and better understand aspects of current issues in the Middle East. They will remain a long lasting testimony to past events, and their continued ramifications, one that uses art to shape memory and memorability.

Incendies (Scorched) (Canada)

Denis Villeneuve's Quebec film is based on an acclaimed stage play by Lebanese-Canadian playright Wajdi Mouawid. Though Lebanon is not named in the film, the knowledgeable will recognize the country of origin of the heroine and the events. Leaving the country vague, beyond "a Middle Eastern" country, broadens the issues and themes beyond sectarian violence to struggles for identity, dignity, and freedom. At the same time, the highly personal focus and details of the film bring the impact of these broad events and ideals into sharp emotional relief. As a story of family secrets--on their mother's death a twin brother and sister discover that their father is alive and that they have a half brother, but there are more secrets--the film allows for wide identifications even as the details of the secrets are unique to a more collective time of social disorder.

Wajdi Mouawid is one of the real Arabs who will be at the Oscars tonight, awaiting the fate of his reel Arabs. The actress who plays the primary role, through flashbacks in the film, Lubna Abazal, and who won the Abu Dhabi Film Festival's Black Pearl Award for Best Actress, for this performance, is half Berber (Moroccan) and half Spanish, raised in Belgium. In some ways she has shared the life of the "beurs" echoed in the nominated Algerian film, Hors-la-loi.

Hors-la-loi (Outside the Law) (Algeria)

Hors-la-loi (Outside the Law), Rachid Bouchareb's third film nominated for an Oscar, was written as a follow-up to his Indigènes or Days of Glory (2006) set during WWII. Although it is independent of the that film, the same actors are found in new roles, this time with the focus on the immediate aftermath of WWII in the French colonies, specifically Algeria. The theme of occupation France's by Nazi Germany, and the colonies by the French is key and "sensitive".

The film has sparked controversy, outrage, protests, and a French government inquiry into its historical accuracy, particularly the early scenes of the Sétif massacre, but also in Algeria because it doesn't spare the Front de Libération National (FLN). It has hit a still very raw nerve in France which has never fully come to grips with the Algerian War, and how brutal, low, and vicious it was in both France and Algeria. The loss of what was considered France's southern most province (not colony), still hurts. The influx of returning French, and Algerians loyal to France during the civil/colonial war, had a major social impact at the time, and continues to mark the descendants of all parties.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of the extreme right Front National, now headed by his daughter (a kinder, gentler racist), who spent the Algerian War as a lieutenant in the French Army, torturing Algerians, was able to stir more than his usual hateful controversy, by calling French soccer star Zinedine Zidane a beur, but then incited violence and forced Zidane into his only public political statement by saying that Zidane's father was an "harki"--an Algerian who fought for the French Army against Algerians in the Algerian War. The accusation was false, but tantamount to an invitation to murder, or at the very least social ostracisation.

While a fiction, and therefore in some ways more powerful, Rachid Bouchareb's film is based on 9 months of interviewing participants and reviewing historical documents. Bouchareb has a history of producing films of high cinematographic value with high social impact. His 2006 film بلديون Indigènes (Days of Glory) had a direct impact on the payment of just pensions to soldiers of the French Colonial Forces who fought in WWII (see "Remembrance Day: Muslim Soldiers in Western Cemeteries"; and especially "The Liberation of Paris: Black and White Photos, and Whitening the Troops", and the upcoming "بلديون Indigènes: le cinéma comme agent social/ Days of Glory: cinema as social agent").

Like Incendies, Hors-la-loi anchors its themes on a family story, this time of 3 brothers and the choices they make in the post-WWII era of decolonization and war. In this sense, Hors-la-loi  (which could also be translated "Outlaws") is closer to the strife of current events, and their impact on individuals--events which may be understood as an ongoing struggle for true freedom, independence, and dignity for the Arab peoples of former European colonies, or "zones of influence".

It is hard to know who to support to win the Oscar 2011's Best Foreign Language Film award, but easy to celebrate that both films, show reel Arabs and real Arabs in a better and more complex light than Hollywood depictions. As a cultural anthropologist, Dr Lawrence Michalak, wrote in his highly readable and devastating article “The Arab in American cinema: From bad to worse, or getting better?”, only when the ethnic group starts making films about itself will Hollywood stereotypes fade. Oscar buzz can help get more of those films made, as well as increasing and broadening the impact of the nominees.

Related Posts:
Reel Arabs and Saudis: How Real Are They? Part I—Western Cinema
Reel Arabs and Saudis: How Real Are They? Part II—Arab Cinema(s)
Remembrance Day: Muslim Soldiers in Western Cemeteries
"The Liberation of Paris: Black and White Photos, and Whitening the Troops"
Why, even if you hate the niqab, you should hate the French "burqa ban" more
بلديون Indigènes: le cinéma comme agent social/ Days of Glory: cinema as social agent-Upcoming

Will you be watching the Oscars?
What/who are your favourite nominees?
What is your impression of these 2 films?
What is the social impact of cinema in your experience/view?
Any other thoughts, comments, impressions?

Addendum: And the winner is, Hævnen [The Revenge] (In a Better World) (Denmark)

Friday, February 25, 2011

February 26th 2011: Day of Demonstrations Across Canada to Support Libya/Libyans

As these posters announce, the main protest will be held on Parliament Hill, Ottawa from 1-4pm on February 26th. However there will be protests held across Canada at similar local times on the same day. The Libya Rally Facebook site is continuously updated as new protests are announced. The rallies are being organized on Facebook by Enough-Khalas/Ottawa, originally started for the Egyptian Revolution, and which have demonstrated as well for Bahrain, and RubyDo RubyDo.

To date the following rallies in support of Libya are planned for February 26:

Fredericton: 12pm
Ottawa: Parliament Hill @1-4pm
Toronto: Dundas Square with a march to Queens Park @ 12-4pm
Windsor: Windsor City Hall @ 2pm
London: Victoria Park @ 2 pm
Winnipeg: Manitoba Legislative Building @ 2-4pm
Edmonton: Churchill Square- Downtown @1-3pm
Vancouver: Vancouver Public Library @1pm

The goal as stated by Sawsan Wehbe in a comment on the website Libya February 17 (see also my earlier post):
We believe by uniting our efforts nationally, we will capture the attention of our politicians, the media, the Canadian public at large, and the international community. With one voice.

The full version of the following interview clip with Anderson Cooper of a Tripoli woman, taking great risk to do so, is compelling, in its plea that the outside world care about Libya and remember the Libyan people, while those especially in Tripoli await the threatened massacre.

A CBC interview with a woman whose Libyan husband was in Benghazi is also compelling, as she testifies to the very slow response of the Canadian government, whether in aid of Canadian citizens in Libya or in humanitarian aid, and political support for the human rights of Libyans. Only after the media became involved did the Canadian government move to evacuate citizens there.

The following article reports on an earlier demonstration on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, with pictures and video:

Protesters gather on Hill to press for change in Libya
By Meghan Hurley, The Ottawa Citizen February 21, 2011

OTTAWA — About 100 protesters marched on Parliament Hill on the weekend to press for changes in Libya after the country responded with lethal force to an uprising against Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

The Libyan-Canadians, many of whom still have family in their home country, held signs that read “Set Libya Free” and “Over 40 years of oppression” as they marched on Parliament Hill shouting “No Gadhafi. Gadhafi no more!”

“We’re here to raise awareness about the indiscriminate killing that’s happening by Gadhafi’s hired thugs,” said Balqees Mihiria, who helped to organize the protest. “They’ve been arresting journalists, they’ve been arresting activists, anybody who speaks out has been arrested if they get found out.”

Libya's 'Revolutionary Committees' have vowed not to allow protesters to “plunder the achievements of the people and threaten the safety of citizens and the country’s stability.”

With files from Citizen news services


Since that rally on Monday, events in Libya have spiralled and Gaddafi's brutality has resulted in many more deaths (up to 1000 and counting), and injuries (~5000). Medical supplies, blood, and medical personnel are needed. Morale is also an important factor.

Related Posts:
Saif Al-Islam Alqadhafi's PhD Thesis from the London School of Economics (LSE); Libyan Funding of LSE; Response of the University; LSE Student Sit-In
Whence Gaddafi is Getting His Mercenaries: His Influence in Subsaharan Africa
Omar Al Mukhtar (August 20, 1861- September 16, 1931): Quranic Teacher and Resistance Leader عمر المختار
Lockerbie and Libya: Scapegoating? The Silence of the Arab League--Doha Debates Chez Chiara

Your comments, thoughts, impressions?
Do you know of rallies in support of Libya or other MENA countries in your area?
*For those planning to attend, posters are available here.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

King Abdullah Returns to Saudi: Concerns About Succession Fade as Concerns About Reform Grow

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah is greeted by a large number of people 
on arrival in Riyadh on Wednesday. (SPA) See also article in Arab News, "Grand welcome for King Abdullah"

I have procrastinated about posting on King Abdullah's medical condition, its treatment in the US, and his convalescence in Morocco, with the attendant concerns about succession in case he should not return to Saudi. I fully appreciated the worries about succession, including that generally any time of transition like a succession can be challenging and threatening to social harmony and progress, and that in this instance the likely successor, Prince Naif, is far more conservative than the current King. I also realized that the preparations King Abdullah made about an acting ruler in his absence increased fears among the Saudi people that he was more ill than stated and at greater risk of succumbing.

However, it always seemed to me that King Abdullah was suffering from exactly what was published, a herniated disk, which is painful and incapacitating, but rarely life threatening. Surgical repair has attendant risks, particularly for the elderly, but is a well-established procedure with a high success rate. I assumed he would return after a suitable post-operative recovery period to exercise his duties as before.

King Abdullah's return the lead story in Saudi newspapers (Photo AFP)

These assumptions were not due to naïveté about the minimization of a leader's illnesses that all governments practice. Rather, I never read anything anywhere, or saw any pictures that contradicted or made suspect the stated diagnosis. That is distinct, for example, from pictures, video, and accounts of the time George HW Bush (George Bush I) "fainted" after "vomiting" at a state banquet in Japan. It was obvious even before later confirmation that he had an episode of atrial fibrillation and a vaso-vagal response resulting in the vomiting and fainting, in other words, more a cardiac issue than a simple dinner faux pas. Similarly, I always thought that Fidel Castro would make a much better recovery than the pundits were predicting, and he did, though his brother Raul still has a more expanded formal role in Cuba's governance than previously.

Saudi flags flutter above pictures of King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz decorating a street in the Saudi capital Riyadh on February 23, 2011 as he flew out of Morocco and headed home after recovering from back surgery. (Photo AFP)

Whatever staging may or may not be involved in the jubilant reception of King Abdullah on his return to Saudi, there is sufficient relief that he and not a more reactionary successor is in power that there can be disappointment with his announced "reforms". Indeed, it seems as if there is less reform than an injection of substantial funding into and expansion of existing programs of social benefits, housing support, scholarships, and minimum wage standards. Increased funding and expansion of social programs does make a difference in resources particularly for the more vulnerable in society, and a realistic minimum wage can make a great deal of difference to the working class. In that sense, the announced "reforms" are to be welcomed.

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah speaks to Saudi media upon his arrival at Riyadh airport on Feb. 23. King Abdullah unveiled a series of benefits for Saudis estimated to be worth $10.7 billion on his return home on Wednesday from three months abroad for medical treatment. (Saudi Press Agency/ Reuters)

However, this injection of funds falls far short of the more substantive reforms sought by many, of both genders. It definitely falls short of the expectations of the Facebook group The People want to Reform the Government Campaign:
To support the right of the Saudi people and their legitimate aspirations:
1 – a constitutional monarchy between the king and government.
2 – a written constitution approved by the people in which governing powers will be determined.
3 – transparency, accountability in fighting corruption
4 – the Government in the service of the people
5 – legislative elections.
6 – public freedoms and respect for human rights
7 – allowing civil society institutions
8 – full citizenship and the abolition of all forms of discrimination.
9 – Adoption of the rights of women and non-discrimination against them.
10 – an independent and fair judiciary.
11 – impartial development and equitable distribution of wealth.
12 – to seriously address the problem of unemployment
*English translation by Eman Al Nafjan of Saudiwoman's Weblog on her excellent post "The Arab Revolution Saudi Update".
Arabic original:
لدعم حق الشعب السعودي و تطلعاته المشروعة في:
1- ملكية دستورية تفصل بين الملك و الحكم.
2- دستور مكتوب مقر من الشعب يقرر فصل السلطات
3- الشفافية و محاسبة الفساد
4- حكومة في خدمة الشعب
5- انتخابات تشريعية.
6- حريات عامة واحترام حقوق الانسان
7- مؤسسات مجتمع مدني فاعلة
8- مواطنة كاملة والغاء كافة اشكال التمييز.
9- اقرار حقوق المرأة و عدم التمييز ضدها.
10- قضاء مستقل و نزيه.
11- تنمية متوازية و توزيع عادل للثروة.
12- معالجة جادة لمشكلة البطالة.
King Abdullah welcomed by Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa on his return, at Riyadh Airport (Photo Reuters)

The funding of existing programs also falls far short of the concerns of those who protested the lack of effective government response to Jeddah's flooding, including infrastructure problems and corruption of officials charged with correcting them; Shia who protested their discrimination in the Eastern Province; and women protesting for the release of prisoners. All of these protests were small in comparison to the uprisings in other MENA countries, but signs of a change of attitude, and inspiration from those other courageous protesters.

Some have called for further and broader protests, either on March 11 in Riyadh, as the above group has done, or on March 20 as another Facebook group with similar demands has done, the aptly titled SSaudi Revolution March 20 (as described by Qusay of Qusay Today, in his post "Saudi Revolution on the 20th of March". Many (including Qusay) are skeptical that protests will occur, and just as many are fearful of swift and effective repression given the arrest of all members of Saudi's first contemporary  political party, the Islamic Ummah Party; and Saudi's firm stand with the autocratic rulers of other MENA countries, notably Ben Ali, Mubarak, and King Hamad of Bahrain.

Saudi youth wave their national flag as they celebrate the return of King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz 
in the Saudi capital Riyadh. (Fayez Noureldine, AFP/Getty Images)

See Also:
Saudi Succession
Saudi king back home, orders $37 billion in handouts
Saudi Arabia: Stifling revolution with riyals
I don't want grants
Women launch Facebook campaign to participate in municipal elections
Saudi women protest, web activists call for reform
Egypt uprising, Wahabi numbers, Khashoggi, women in municipal elections, and other stuff

Your thoughts, comments, impressions, experiences?

Youth celebrate in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on February 23, 2010. (Photo CNBC)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Saif Al-Islam Alqadhafi's PhD Thesis from the London School of Economics (LSE); Libyan Funding of LSE; Response of the University; LSE Student Sit-In

In reporting on various participants on both sides, governmental and anti-governmental, of the current revolts in MENA countries, the Western press likes to mention apparel as a distinguishing feature between conservatives and progressives, whom to trust as a potential partner, and whom not. Descriptions of Muammar Gaddafi's son, Saif Al-Islam, usually mention that he wears suits, unlike his father, who wears traditional clothing--or more precisely his sartorial embellishments on traditional clothing. Saif has been heralded in the West as an heir to the Gaddafi regime who was moderate, articulate, and educated in the West. It was hoped that he would introduce a new era of reform in Libya. He was entrusted with negotiations with the West regarding the release of the "Libyan nurses" for example.

The London School of Economics and Political Science


From ‘Soft Power’ to Collective Decision-Making? 

Saif Al-Islam Alqadhafi

A thesis submitted to the Department of Philosophy of the London School of
Economics for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, London, September 2007


This dissertation analyses the problem of how to create more just and democratic global governing institutions, exploring the approach of a more formal system of collective decision-making by the three main actors in global society: governments, civil society and the business sector. The thesis seeks to make a contribution by presenting for discussion an addition to the system of international governance that is morally justified and potentially practicable, referred to as ‘Collective Management’. The thesis focuses on the role of civil society, analysing arguments for and against a role for civil society that goes beyond ‘soft power’ to inclusion as voting members in inter-governmental decision-making structures in the United Nations (UN) system, the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and other institutions.

The thesis defends the argument that inclusion of elected representatives of nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) in tripartite decision-making structures could potentially create a more democratic global governing system. This conclusion is supported by a specially-commissioned survey of leading figures in NGOs and IGO decision-making structures. The argument is developed in a case study of the WTO.

The thesis explains and adopts three philosophical foundations in support of the argument. The first is liberal individualism; the thesis argues that there are strong motivations for free individuals to seek fair terms of cooperation within the necessary constraints of being members of a global society. Drawing on the works of David Hume, John Rawls and Ned McClennen, it elaborates significant self-interested and moral motives that prompt individuals to seek cooperation on fair terms if they expect others to do so. Secondly, it supports a theory of global justice, rejecting the limits of Rawls’s view of international justice based on what he calls ‘peoples’ rather than persons. Thirdly, the thesis adopts and applies David Held’s eight cosmopolitan principles to support the concept and specific structures of ‘Collective Management’.

Also mentioned to his credit, at least before his rambling, intransigent speech in defense of "his" regime, was the thesis that Dr Seif wrote for his PhD from the London School of Economics (LSE). Since that infamous speech, pundits wonder at how far he has moved off his original beliefs. However, when one's own power base is threatened, one can move very far indeed.

Saif Gaddafi's full speech in Arabic. Described as rambling, it has been compared to Tunisian ex-President Ben Ali's discourse; and, a series of threats playing on Libyan (and Western) fears.

Protesters in Martyrdom/Green Square in Tripoli, after the speech

A better question is how deeply held these beliefs ever were. In light of new information (or at least new to me), one might even question how much help Dr Seif had with his doctoral thesis. The London School of Economics is an extremely prestigious institution, as are the professors named by Dr Saif in his standard Acknowledgements in the thesis. Their ethics are not in question. One does wonder just how much Monitor Group contributed to the thesis:

I would like to express my appreciation to a number of individuals who have provided invaluable assistance to me during the process of writing this  dissertation.  First of all, I would like to thank those at LSE who advised  me directly and gave generously of their time to assist me to clarify and refine my  arguments. This includes Professors Nancy Cartwright, David Held and Alex Voorhoeve. I could not have completed this thesis without them.
I would also like to acknowledge the benefit I received from comments on early drafts of the thesis from a number of experts with whom I met and who consented to read portions of the manuscript and provide advice and direction, especially Professor Joseph Nye. I would also like to thank a number of individuals at Monitor Group with whom I worked to design and conduct the NGO Survey which provides empirical data for this thesis.  [emphasis added] I am particularly grateful for the time given by the respondents in what was a lengthy survey and interview process.

It is, nonetheless, disconcerting that the LSE benefitted from major financial donations before and after Saif received his doctorate. This is disconcerting both to the governance of the LSE and its student body.

London university halts Libya-funded program
Feb 21, 2011 8:33 AM ET
By The Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — The London School of Economics says it has suspended a study program partly funded by a charity run by the son of Moammar Gadhafi after the "distressing" violence in Libya over the past few days.

The university says that in 2009 it accepted a gift of 1.5 million pounds (2.4 million) from the Gadhafi International Charity and Development Foundation, which is chaired by the Libyan leader's son, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, an LSE graduate.

The school said the money was used to fund a North African research program, which has now been suspended.

The LSE also said it was reconsidering other links with Libya in light of the "highly distressing" violence there.

LSE has offered classes for Libyan officials, but the school said no more such courses were planned.


22 February 2011 Last updated at 09:10 ET
UK university reviews funding from Libya
By Katherine Sellgren
BBC News education reporter

The London School of Economics has said it is reconsidering its links with Libya "as a matter of urgency".

The LSE has run courses for Libyan officials and has received a £1.5m donation from the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation.

Colonel Gaddafi's second son, Saif al-Islam, studied at the LSE, gaining both a Master of Science and a doctorate.

The LSE statement follows a speech made by Saif on Sunday, in which he said the regime in Libya would stand firm.

He warned of civil war and rejected foreign intervention.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi wrote his doctoral dissertation on the role of civil society in the democratisation of global governance institutions.


The LSE has offered executive education programmes to Libyan officials. "No further courses are in preparation," the university's statement said.

“Rather than seeing the opportunity for reform... Saif al-Islam Gaddafi stressed the threat of civil war and foreign intervention”Professor David HeldLondon School of Economics and Political Science
[One of Saif's advisers at LSE]

"We have also received scholarship funding in respect of advice given to the Libyan Investment Authority in London," it continued.

"No further receipts are anticipated."

In 2009, the university was pledged £1.5m from the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation for its North Africa Programme.

The university said it has accepted £300,000 of that grant and the funds so far had been used to develop a research programme on North Africa, focused on politics, economics and society.

"In current difficult circumstances across the region, the School has decided to stop new activities under that programme.

"The Council of the School will keep the position under review.

"The School intends to continue its work on democratisation in North Africa funded from other sources unrelated to the Libyan authorities."

'Opportunity for reform'

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, 38, enrolled at the LSE in 2003 for an MSc which he completed. He continued his studies there, and was awarded a PhD in 2008.

Professor David Held, who supervised his PhD studies, said he watched his former student's speech and was "deeply disturbed by its failure to grasp the changing circumstances of the Middle East in general, and of Libya in particular".

"Rather than seeing the opportunity for reform based on liberal democratic values and human rights, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi stressed the threat of civil war and foreign intervention.

"I have known Saif al-Islam Gaddafi for several years since he did a PhD at the LSE. During this time I came to know a young man who was caught between loyalties to his family and a desire to reform his country.

"My support for Saif al-Islam Gaddafi was always conditional on him resolving the dilemma that he faced in a progressive and democratic direction.

"The speech last night makes it abundantly clear that his commitment to transforming his country has been overwhelmed by the crisis he finds himself in. He tragically, but fatefully, made the wrong judgement."

The LSE Students' Union said it was "totally unjustifiable and contradictory of LSE to operate on funds which contravene its guiding principles".

"We welcome the School's decision to take no further funding from the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation; however, we believe that this does not go far enough.

"The school should take action to ensure that the money that was stolen from the Libyan people for our benefit, is now used for the benefit of Libyan people.


Students at the LSE are angered at the university's association with Libya

Gaddafi funds prompt LSE students' protest
By Katherine Sellgren
BBC News education reporter

Students at the London School of Economics have staged a protest against the university's association with the regime in Libya.

About 12 students stormed the offices of LSE director, Sir Howard Davies Students and 150 held a rally outside.

The LSE says it is reconsidering links with Libya "as a matter of urgency".

But the students demanded the university paid back the £300,000 it had accepted of a £1.5m grant from a charity wing of the regime.

The grant was pledged in 2009 by the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation.

The funds have so far been used to develop a research programme on North Africa, focused on politics, economics and society.

The student demonstrators called on the LSE management to "repay" the £300,000 already spent by creating a scholarship fund for underprivileged Libyan students.

"It's reprehensible that the university continues to benefit from money that was stolen from the Libyan people"
Ashok Kumar
LSE student

The students also urged the university to revoke the LSE alumni status of Libyan leader Col Gaddafi's second son Saif al-Islam, who studied at the university from 2003 to 2008, gaining both a Master of Science degree and a doctorate.

They called for a public commitment that no grants from officials "of such oppressive regimes" would be accepted in the future, as well as a public statement denouncing the recent "gross violations of human rights" by the Gaddafi regime.

One of the protesters, Ashok Kumar, who is also education officer for the LSE students' union, said: "I think it's reprehensible that the university continues to benefit from money that was stolen from the Libyan people and it's only right to return it to the people who are now being murdered in the streets fighting for their freedom."

The money should be returned either as scholarships to underprivileged students, or "to the families of those who have been murdered and who continue to be murdered", he said.


In a statement, the university said the LSE Director "noted the message" from the students.

"He shares the students' revulsion at the recent violence and gross violations of human rights in Libya, and much regrets the association of the School's name with Saif Gaddafi and the actions of the Libyan regime.

"The School's statement of 21 February made clear that School engagement with the present Libyan authorities, covering a number of programmes, has already finished or has been stopped following the events of the weekend of 19-20 February."

The university said no more of the £1.5m donation from the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation would be accepted.

It said about half of the £300,000 already accepted had been spent and its council would now consider what to do with the remaining funds, taking into account the views of LSE students.

The LSE's review of its links with Libya follows a speech made by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi on Sunday, in which he said the regime in Libya would stand firm.

He warned of civil war, talked of "rivers of blood" and rejected foreign intervention.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi wrote his doctoral dissertation on the role of civil society in the democratisation of global governance institutions.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, a son of the Libyan leader, studied at the LSE


Fortunately, it seems as if the London School of Economics is doing the right thing. Unfortunately, it seems the Gaddafi's are doing the wrong thing--with extraordinary violence, brutality, and contempt for the Libyan people.

THE ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY IN THE DEMOCRATISATION OF GLOBAL GOVERNANCE INSTITUTIONS: From ‘Soft Power’ to Collective Decision-Making? by Saif Al-Islam Alqadhafi; full thesis online via dropbox; link provided by Kal of The Moor Next Door, via Twitter.
Links to full articles and linked ones provided from various posts on the blog Libya February 17th
Pictures without captions added from Google Images.

Related Posts:
Whence Gaddafi is Getting His Mercenaries: His Influence in Subsaharan Africa
Omar Al Mukhtar (August 20, 1861- September 16, 1931): Quranic Teacher and Resistance Leader عمر المختار
Lockerbie and Libya: Scapegoating? The Silence of the Arab League--Doha Debates Chez Chiara

Your comments, thoughts, impressions?

Whence Gaddafi is Getting His Mercenaries: His Influence in Subsaharan Africa

The above infographic from The Globe and Mail accompanies the article copied below, Gadhafi's dying dream for African unity. Together they suggest from whence Gaddafi is drawing the "black African" mercenaries fighting the Libyan protesters, and the many favours upon which he can call. My Libyan students had remarked to me some time ago that the country's money was not going to the Libyan people, but rather to various African countries in one of Gaddafi's many bids for international importance.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi talks during a press conference in front of Africa map in Tripoli, Libya, Tuesday, Jan.29, 2008, as he wear a shirt showing African political figures leaders. (Abdel Magid Al Fergany/AP)

Based on various medical situations and the general living conditions they described, there is no doubt that even the middle classes in Libya are deprived in relation to the country's oil wealth. And that economic circumstance doesn't even begin to take account of the high level of government control over all activities, informers, government officers, government "revolutionary committees", restrictions on media, on travel, required learning of and adherence to the Green Book (his model of Islamic socialist revolution) and the White Paper (on his one state solution to the Palestinian question), and international pariah status.

While the Libyan Army has been described as comprised of "murderous thugs", it is a major employer. Also Gaddafi doesn't trust the army either, hence his 17 militias centred around Tripoli, and the use of mercenaries. This combination of employment rather than loyalty, and the independent-minded eastern region of Libya may explain the massive defections of soldiers and whole units in the east. It certainly helps explain that it his militias who are doing the most thuggery, especially in Tripoli, and especially after his call for a house to house cleansing of the "cockroaches", "rats" and "traitors" as he calls his people.

Gadhafi’s dying dream for African unity
JOHANNESBURG— From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
Published Monday, Feb. 21, 2011 11:51PM EST
Last updated Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011 5:59PM EST

When he pronounced himself the “king of kings” on the African continent, Moammar Gadhafi was widely seen as a buffoon and a megalomaniac.

But behind the absurd titles, behind the crown and sceptre that were awarded to him by his hand-picked collection of African tribal monarchs, Col. Gadhafi had a profound impact on Africa. And for better or worse, he will leave a vacuum behind him on the African landscape if he is toppled from power in Libya.

Col. Gadhafi was the last major global leader who promoted the dream of pan-African unity. He had his own self-interested reasons for this quixotic campaign, of course, since his own ambition was to become the powerful ruler of a new United States of Africa. But his disappearance from the political stage would remove the last remaining enthusiast for a European-style political union in Africa.

“Without Gadhafi, the pan-African movement is dead,” said Laura Seay, a political scientist at Morehouse College in Atlanta who specializes in African politics.

“He was the only prominent voice driving that movement. He was keeping those ideas alive. There’s nobody else with the financial resources available.”

Under his grandiose ambitions, the United States of Africa would have its own common army, its own passport, and its own currency (to be named, he said solemnly, “the Afro”).

There was little chance that this scheme could succeed in a badly divided continent, and there was little practical support for his ideas at the African Union, even when he served as the AU chairman from 2009 to 2010. But by tirelessly marketing this idea, he kept alive the dream that Africa could overcome its differences and find some form of unity. After him, the dreams will be smaller.

Col. Gadhafi, one of the wealthiest leaders on the continent, did not hesitate to use Libya’s vast oil money to buy political influence across Africa. This money, in turn, helps to pay for peacekeeping missions, humanitarian aid, infrastructure projects, political organizations, and support for fragile states.

In his drive to transform the African Union into a single government under his personal dominance, he became one of the AU’s biggest benefactors. Libya provided 15 per cent of the AU’s membership dues. It also paid for the dues of many smaller and poorer countries. If his 42 years of authoritarian rule are ending, the AU will struggle to keep its financing intact.

“It would change the African Union’s dynamics completely,” Prof. Seay said. “The AU would become less effective. He’s been such a key player in the AU. What will it mean for peacekeeping in Somalia and Darfur? Those peacekeeping missions are already hanging by a thread – they’re already so under-equipped and under-staffed.”

The AU peacekeeping force in Somalia, with its 8,000 troops battling against the Islamic radicals who threaten to seize control of the war-torn country, could be weakened if the AU loses the money that Col. Gadhafi provided. A similar peacekeeping mission in Darfur, whose 20,000 troops are supported by the AU and the United Nations, could be similarly jeopardized if the AU loses its Libyan money.

Beyond the peacekeeping missions, a host of smaller African countries have become dependent on Col. Gadhafi as a source of aid money, infrastructure projects and military support. Fragile states such as Chad and the Central African Republic have needed Libya’s support when they were threatened with coups. Poorer countries such as Liberia, Mali and Niger have relied on Libya for financial support and investment. Libya has won praise for providing humanitarian aid to the Darfuri refugees in Chad, and for helping to forge a ceasefire between Chad and Sudan.

Most of his donations and loans, certainly, were intended to advance his personal ambitions. Earlier in his career, Col. Gadhafi had campaigned for pan-Arab unity, seeing himself as a “man of history.” But when Libya was isolated on the global stage as a result of the sanctions imposed on it for its support of international terrorism in the 1980s and 1990s, he became furious that the Arab nations seemed indifferent to him. He turned, instead, to Africa, where his support seemed greater.

“After moving on from his dream of pan-Arab leadership, Gadhafi funnelled billions of dollars into cultivating relationships in sub-Saharan Africa that would facilitate his leadership of the African Union,” the U.S. embassy in Tripoli reported in 2009 in a confidential cable obtained by WikiLeaks.

Col. Gadhafi opted to use “dinar diplomacy” – a reference to the Libyan currency – to create a “new and larger sphere of influence,” the embassy said in the cable.

It described how the Libyan dictator had ordered his personal designers to incorporate African maps and images into his vast collection of clothing, including a large green Africa-shaped brooch, a camouflage-style tunic with Africa-shaped patterns, and a jersey emblazoned with portraits of famous African leaders.

Most Libyans still saw themselves as Arabs, but Col. Gadhafi worked ceaselessly to portray his country as African, the cable said. “A domestic propaganda campaign designed to represent Libya as an African state was also undertaken: billboards and larger-than-life murals depict Gadhafi emerging, messiah-like, from a glowing green Libya into an embracing African continent.”

Despite the long-standing conflicts between Washington and Tripoli, the U.S. diplomats actually saw Col. Gadhafi as a constructive and useful player on some African issues. “When approached with appropriate deference, Libya can be an effective actor – leveraging support and connections on the continent to secure our foreign-policy interests, as it has done (to an extent) in Chad, Sudan and Somalia,” the embassy cable said.

If the Libyan strongman now disappears ignominiously from the stage, one of the biggest winners will be China. Until now, Libya was one of the few countries that could challenge Beijing’s mounting influence in Africa. Libya was one of the few powers with enough money and ambition to offer an alternative to China as a source of investment and financing for African nations.

If the long-ruling dictator is finally toppled, Libya’s ambitions are likely to become much smaller and more modest. In the aftermath, China could emerge as an even stronger power on the African continent.


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See Also:
IN PICTURES: Gadhafi's four-decade grip on Libya [Slide show of 15 photos]

Middle East, 1969, Libyan leader Colonel Gadhafi (arms folded) is pictured during a trip to the Sudan. (Popperfoto/Getty Images)

This image broadcast on Libyan state television Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011, shows Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi as he addresses the nation in Tripoli, Libya. Libya's Gadhafi vowed to fight on against protesters demanding his ouster and die as martyr. (Libya State Television/AP)

Your comments, thoughts, impressions?


LIBYA 17TH FEBRUARY 2011--LIBYANS FOREVER IN UNITY. FROM BENGHAZI TO FEZZAN is an outstanding resource on current events in Libya--instantaneous, comprehensive, encyclopedic. The blog site includes uploads of videos, photos, maps, significant tweets, eyewitness reports, English translations of Arabic originals, and major coverage in Western newspapers. It also has messages for those on the ground such as the following:

Resources are uploaded chronologically but also grouped by the tabs in the right side bar: Images, Video, Audio, General, News, English Translations. Farther down the side bar are links to Live Video Stream from Benghazi Now;  Feb 17th Freedom. Democracy Tweeting from Eyewitnesses on the Ground; and, Libyan Radio; and, Video Gallery.

A search function opens that sidebar and tweets close it.

The site is highly professional in its esthetics, functionality, content, and ethics, scrupulously linking to all original sources. Each blog entry is striking, yet certain stood out for me, whether because I haven't seen the information elsewhere, or because it was so crucial or explanatory. They include BREAKING: Graphic images from Tripoli Hospital 20-21 February; BREAKING: Many rape victims in Tripoli last night. [after Gadafi's house-to-house cleansing speech]; BREAKING: The washing of a dead baby killed by Gaddafi’s mercenaries yesterday [video]; BREAKING: Chinook [helicopter] filmed over Jumhuriya Street, Tripoli (Feb 21) [video] and a great many more which are updating in my Google Reader frequently and regularly. Some are Leaked, for example, Leaked: Protesters being shot outside Security Directorate in Benghazi prior to its liberation [video]; Leaked: Martyrs who fell during Al Fudail barracks siege prior to Benghazi’s liberation [video]; and, Leaked footage of mercenaries storming Benghazi house prior to freedom [video].

The above interactive map, Mapping Violence Against Pro-Democracy Protests in Libya, is another excellent visual and source of information.

Another blog of great interest is THE LIBYAN YOUTH MOVEMENT FEB 17th FREEDOM-DEMOCRACY-REGIME CHANGE.  This site has a Paypal account for Libyan Relief, with all funds going to medical assistance, medical supplies, and related logistics (eg. transportation). There is a named contact for further information: Naeem Gheriany naeem @ easy . com.

Finally, a video linked in a blog post on LIBYA 17TH FEBRUARY 2011--LIBYANS FOREVER IN UNITY. FROM BENGHAZI TO FEZZAN:

More on Libya to follow...

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Your comments, thoughts, impressions, experiences, resource recommendations?

This is the screen shot of the blog at the time I completed this post.  It shows their 5th post since the first screen shot taken when I began this post about 1 1/2 hours ago.

Addendum: It seems that while posts from Libya 17th February arrive correctly in my Google Reader, they are subsequently tampered with such that the videos are replaced with benign Youtube songs or clips (eg about camping at Antarctica). Clicking through to the actual site shows that the site itself is intact. This began this morning and persists. Any explanations?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Arab Protests: Are the Monarchies of MENA Less Vulnerable?

BBC's clickable map: Middle East protests: Country by Country; here showing Bahrain

It has been a commonplace of Western reporting on recent uprisings in MENA countries to suggest that certain countries are less vulnerable to the spreading protests, and certain regimes more stable. Generally it has been predicted that wealthy Gulf countries, extremely repressive regimes, and monarchies are less vulnerable than are poor, less repressive (all relative of course) countries that are republics. There are 8 monarchies (or emirates) among the MENA countries, the 6 GCC countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates), Levantine Jordan, and North African Morocco.

Recent events in Bahrain, Jordan, and Morocco would seem to disprove the theory that the uprisings wouldn't happen in such countries, while at the same time proving some of the premises. Each country is unique; and Bahrain in particular is a kingdom where the royal family are from a distinct tribe, and religion, either absentee conquerors or minority absolute rulers of a majority local population.

Both Jordan's King Abdullah II and Morocco's King Mohamed VI are young, and seen as more moderate and progressive, even though they rule "constitutional monarchies" with almost absolute power, and by divine right as descendants of the Prophet Mohamed. They are the most recent scions of their dynasties, the Hashemites (Jordan) and the Alaouites (Morocco). Both came to the throne in 1999 on the natural death of  a father: Abdullah II in February 1999 on the death of King Hussein of Jordan; Mohamed VI in July 1999 on the death of King Hassan II of Morocco. They are Western educated, supported by the West and aligned with the US.

Both King Abdullah II and King Mohamed VI had illustrious and venerated namesake ancestors, King Abdullah I (the great-grandfather of Abdullah bin Hussein bin Talal bin Abdullah) and King Mohamed V (the grandfather of Mohamed bin Hassan bin Mohamed). Each of these ancestors was responsible for moving their respective countries from colonial status to independence--from Britain in 1946 for Jordan, and from France in 1956 for Morocco. The younger kings benefit to some extent from a halo effect of this association, yet both are criticized by their populace as not sufficient in their reforms,even though in the case of Mohamed VI he was a much welcome relief from the iron hand of his father Hassan II and did guide the process of a major reform of Morocco's Islamic Family Law, the Moudwana, enacted in 2004.

Both King Abdullah II and King Mohamed VI are the sons of mixed marriages. King Abdullah's mother is Princess Muna al-Hussein, the former Antoinette "Toni" Gardner, a British secretary and daughter of a British Lt Colonel; while King Mohamed's mother is Lalla Latifa Hammou, also a second wife, and the "Mother of the Princes", whose father was a prominent member of a major Fassi Berber tribe, the Zaiane. After the death of Hassan II she married his chief of security Mohammed Mediouri. Mohamed VI had a very negative reaction, mediated by Former French President Jacques Chirac with the result that the couple now live near Paris.

Both young kings have married educated non-royal women who are more prominent on the socio-political scene than their mothers. Princess Muna was never fully accepted and rapidly sidelined after her divorce, while Lalla Latifa Hammou was secluded in Hassan II's harem as were all his wives and concubines. Queen Consort Rania, a Palestinian Jordanian, is active in national and global causes, and much loved--at least in the West. Princess Consort Lalla Salma, also a Fassi (Fez is the region of ruling tribes and prominent families in Morocco), has made history merely by having her photographs with the King (engagement, marriage, family events) published in the popular press.

So far the bloodiest most repressive actions against protesters have occurred in Bahrain, where there is little compunction to use force, live ammunition, and killing on a population seen as distinct from the ruling one, and where protests have been more insistent on regime change. In Jordan there has been a combination of demands for regime change but more for reform, in part pre-empted by King Abdullah II of Jordan's firing the government, appointing a new cabinet, and promising reform. Protests there have centred on Amman.

Protests began more recently in Morocco, and centred on the northern cities of Tangiers, Nador, and Al Hoceima. Notably this area was part of Spanish Morocco, not primarily a French colony as the rest, and the population there are from the Rifain Berber tribes, Tamazight n Arif, in other words a distinct population with a different history than the ruling Fassis, and one of the most independent minded. Still, protesters are demanding reform, specifically greater democracy within the existing constitutional monarchy, not regime change. After insisting he wouldn't be swayed by demagoguery, Mohamed VI promised further reforms.

In anticipation of posts regarding events in Bahrain, Jordan, and Morocco, I thought it worthwhile to re-post an article and some of my comments on it, that formed the core of an earlier post:   Royal Saudi/non-Saudi Marriages and Their Children Part V—Marrying Across MENA. As that post states, the series of posts on Royal Saudi/Non-Saudi marriages (see the category Royal Saudi/non-Saudi on the side bar) was initiated to demonstrate the intermarriages of the Al-Saud  since the earliest days of the dynasty and the intermarriage with the Al-Wahhab (leading to the First Saudi State), and their impact on the socio-political and cultural life of Saudi Arabia.

The article مصاهرات الحكام العرب وسيلة لحفظ البقاء describes the political marriages of Saudi Royals with non-Saudi Royals, and with the political elite, across MENA. Current alliances link the Saudi and non-Saudi Royals of MENA countries from Morocco to the GCC. This article which focuses on political survival through intermarriage has new resonance given current events across the Arab world.

What follows is the original article translated, with equivalent pictures to the originals, and some other relevant ones added.

Intermarriage among Arab rulers as a means of survival
Joumana Farhat

Mohammed Bin Rashid and his wife, Haya

Political marriages join the UAE, Bahrain, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, intertwine thrones, and mingle the genealogies of rulers in Arab countries, following the mentality of the political marriage, which is on the increase. Though the current generation does not feel the impact, future generations will see the risks of ambitions to take over oil reserves.

The story of Nasser and Sheikha is the story of two young people who share a love of horse riding, meet, and then get married. It's a story repeated everyday, except that the everyday couple are not usually Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, son of the King of Bahrain, and Sheikha Sheikha Bint Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, daughter of the Ruler of Dubai.Marriage joins together a long list of aristocrats, such that the ruling families in the Arab world in general, and in the Gulf in particular, are now combined.

The UAE leads the list of Arab countries which have intermarriage between members of its ruling family and those of the surrounding countries. In addition to the rulers of Bahrain, the UAE aristocratic network extends to include those from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Qatar. In 2004, Jordan announced the wedding, of Princess Haya Al-Hussein, the half-sister of King Abdullah II, with the Ruler of Dubai, the Vice President of the UAE, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. As is common, a love of horse riding brought them together. As well, previously Sheikh Ahmed bin Ali Al Thani, Qatar's former governor, had married Reem bint Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the sister of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid. Also, the Saudi Prince, Abdul Aziz bin Saud bin Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, nicknamed Alsamir, married the daughter of the late UAE president, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

As for Jordan, in addition to Princess Haya, another highlight is the marriage of a cousin of Jordan's King to a cousin of Sultan Qaboos. Also, it was reported that an attempt was made by King Abdullah II to marry the daughter of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Aisha.

In Saudi Arabia, there have been multiple intermarriages with the rulers of Arab countries, including the UAE, Lebanon, and Syria. The Saudi King, Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, has been the brother-in-law of Rafaat al-Assad, and the uncle of the current Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, since the eighties, as one of King Abdullah's wives is Rafaat al-Assad’s sister. Also, Prince Talal Bin Abdul Aziz married Princess Mona Riad El-Solh, daughter of President Riad Solh, the first Prime Minister of Lebanon after independence. Marriage and family peace networks extend to Morocco: the late Amir Abdullah (uncle of the current King Mohammed VI) and Princess Lamia Solh married in 1961, after meeting in Paris where they were both studying.

Intermarriage is not only between States, but it is distributed within a single country in a strategic manner, and aims to strengthen each other’s rule; as happened in the marriage of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE, with the daughter of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum--believed to be the culmination of the reconciliation between the two families, after the emergence of political differences between them.

From the above, it is clear that the Arab rulers now form a network of intermarriages and are interrelated with each other. For example, the son of the King of Bahrain will not only be the new son-in-law of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, but will be a brother-in-law to the King of Jordan, and a relative of both Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al Sharqi, the Crown Prince of Fujairah, who each married a daughter of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum. Also, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Saud became, in turn, a relative of the King of Jordan and of the King of Bahrain.

As for the causes of intermarriage among the ruling families, some people believe they contribute to strengthening relations between these countries.This is not something new, especially in the political history of the Arabs; and, the world is full of political marriages that have a role as a social means to achieve political goals. In the opinion of the authors of «Political Marriages in the Mameluke Era», a professor of Islamic history, Fadel Jaber Al-Doha, and University Lecturer Thamer Numan, surmise that the motives behind the marriages of the ruling classes or between the sons and daughters of neighboring countries «is in the political interest, such as trying to limit the privileges of power between them, or an attempt to seize power or gain the trust of some neighboring countries, leading in the end to a secure border ».

GE Peterson, for his part, explains, in a study entitled «Rulers, Traders and the Senate in Gulf Policy: The Function of Family Networks», that this is an essential means by which rulers in the Gulf protect themselves. Family networks configure and start a hierarchy or a chain of command in government and society that is completely loyal to them. The advantages of family networks also include the building of alliances through marriage between royal families to be exploited when necessary.

A prominent example provided by Peterson, is Sheikh Ahmad bin Ali bin Jabor Al Thani, of Qatar, who ruled from 1960 until 1972. Peterson points out that Sheikh Ahmad, after his overthrow in 1972, found a safe haven in Dubai and took up residence there because of his marriage to one of the daughters of Sheikh Rashid Al Maktoum; and, later, also married one of his daughters to one of the sons of the ruling family in the UAE.

Thus, while, on the face of it, equestrian hobbies and heir marriages unite ruling families in the Arab world, underneath, they represent interests and political ambitions. It is feared that in the long run, these family networks will lead to the emergence of power struggles.

The marriage of the sister of King Farouk of Egypt, Fawzia, to Mohamed Reza Pahlavi, who was then Crown Prince of Iran before becoming its Shah, failed to provide political protection. It is rumored that Shah Reza Mirza Khan planned to marry his son, Mohammad Reza to the family of Muhammad Ali in Egypt as a way to expand the foreign political relations of Iran. However, the collapse of the marriage after a period of separation still reverberates even today, in Egyptian-Iranian estrangement, even though there are different rulers and types of rule in each country after the collapse of dynasties in both countries.

Much as these Royal Saudi/MENA marriages may be described as part of the mixed marriage patterns of the progeny of King Abdul Aziz Al Saud, one is reminded of the marrying patterns of European Royalty, particularly the progeny of Queen Victoria, who together formed much of the Royalty of Europe from Russia, to Greece, Denmark, Sweden, Norway Germany, Spain, and the UK.

While such marriages didn’t preclude love relationships, as Queen Victory herself had with the German Prince Albert whom she married, these familial alliances were both severed and strengthened through WWI and WWII, as England and Germany lined up against each other, and the Tsar in WWI, and the Greeks in WWII sought refuge in Western Europe. Of course the family of Tsar Nicholas and Tsarina Alexandra did not make it, but the families of Prince Philip, the future husband of Queen Elizabeth II, and Queen Sofia of Spain did.

While the author of the article on the intermarriages among the royalty of  MENA countries suggests both solidarity and political/sibling rivalry, it seems that thus far in terms of current events there is solidarity, most notably of Saudi Arabia and Qatar with Bahrain. No doubt all are looking over their shoulders when not fixing their gaze on their neighbours, and confrères.

Your comments, thoughts, impressions, experiences?


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