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Uo uZ Domestic Affairs – Page 168 – Arab News Network

Category: Domestic Affairs

This category covers all news related politics

Book rack (Al-Ahram Weekly (Egypt))

Hellbound

Tamer Abu Arab, Live from Hell (Bath Mubasher min Gohannam), Cairo: Kayan Publishing House, 2015, pp164

“Farag and Ashraf could have quietly committed suicide; in a dark small room and with a rope dangling from the ceiling, they could have silently ended their misery.” Instead, Farag hanged himself on a large billboard on the Cairo-Ismailia highway and Ashraf’s body ended up swinging loosely from a residential building. Both men took their own lives because they couldn’t meet their families’ financial needs. True story.

Tamer Abu Arab’s Live from Hell sheds light on Egypt’s two revolutions (25 January 2011 and 30 June 2013), not by recounting stories of euphoria or fury from Tahrir Square or any other demonstration where thousands or millions from across the political and social spectrum flocked to state their demands, but rather by focussing on the media and the ruling elites (the Muslim Brotherhood and the military) and how they “turned our daily lives into a live broadcast from hell”.

Abu Arab’s anger is not directed at the state media alone, but blames “the independent media for contributing to the lies and deceit” as well. “After 30 June 2013 the pro-state media stole the limelight. Talk shows won the highest ratings. In time the words expressing support for the regime became repetitive, the phrases about the war on terror boring, and the promises of a better life and a better country fell into the realm of the imagination.

“Farag and Ashraf wanted to go in a different way. Their departure is more of a scream in the face of indifference. If society didn’t feel their pain when they were alive, then it’s unfair that they should remain unfelt for now that they have left. Farag and Ashraf wanted to expose us for who we are. The nation is in shock for a few days, religious debate on the punishment of the man who commits suicide, pictures of the deaths flood Facebook and Twitter for a while, then all is forgotten as if nothing has happened.”

Throughout the book, Abu Arab exposes talk show hosts who either “change colour with the change of the regime or are instructed to discuss insignificant subjects to distract the people from politics.” For example, Abu Arab mentions programme presenter Reham Al-Said whose episode on the djinn garnered more than three million views in under four days on YouTube.

In Live from Hell, Abu Arab blames the two presidents that came from Brotherhood and military backgrounds for what happened to Farag and Ashraf – and others like them.

“Don’t spend your time and money to expose how bad the Muslim Brotherhood are,” just give them the microphone, Abu Arab advises. The Muslim Brotherhood “talk about the revolution’s goals the way a prostitute would talk about virginity.” The fury of Egyptians with the Muslim Brotherhood after a year in power is “a lesson to political factions in Egypt. You may sell a rotten commodity and get paid for it but the consumer will come back and ask for a refund. If you don’t pay back, the consumer may turn your shop to dust.”

On the other hand, Abu Arab shows his gratitude for the role of the army in protecting the people, for instance by recounting a personal story when he was stranded in the middle of the Sinai desert with his wife and baby boy, and army soldiers came to their rescue. However, addressing the army, he writes, “I don’t know your name and I don’t know if you’re still alive or a martyr, but I’m grateful to you. When my son grows up I will tell him what you did to help us so that when he joins a demonstration against military rule he will be able to tell the difference between rejecting your politics and the perpetual need for you.”

The point Abu Arab insists on delivering in his book is that the way for a better Egypt is neither in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood nor the army. “Don’t exhaust yourself trying to find a replacement for Al-Sisi,” Abu Arab writes. “Al-Sisi’s replacement is not an individual, but a state. A state not owned but run by institutions. A state ruled by law, a law that doesn’t sleep in the ruler’s bed.”

Tamer Abu Arab is a journalist. His previous works include Days of Lies and Blood: Egypt Post the Step-Down and Pharaohs without Pyramids.


A virtual hereafter

Mohamed Sadek, #Insta_Life (#Insta_hayah), Cairo: Al-Rowaq Publishing House, 2015, pp318

Hussein Aref is a 35-year-old marketing employee who has quit his job in a quest to find 10 reasons to live. Aref creates a Facebook page #Insta_hayah, which eventually attracts over a million followers. “If I don’t find 10 reasons to live within three months,” he writes, “I’ll kill myself.”

#Insta_Life opens with Aref sitting by the Mediterranean Sea amid heavy rains, lightning and thunder three hours before the advent of 2015. At the stroke of midnight, Aref had decided, he would kill himself, having failed to find the 10th reason to live. Lama, 27-year-old divorcee who had joined Aref’s Facebook page but failed to find even one reason, sits next to him on the beach.

Sadek’s book is an attempt to encourage the appreciation of life primarily through putting his protagonists in near-death experiences to drive them to be grateful for what they already have. Death, and not the fear of it, eventually becomes the primary reason to live, as Aref puts it towards the end of the novel. One of the reasons to live “is death itself. We were born to die. The pleasure of life is that everything comes to an end… What would you do if everything in your life became never-ending? Whatever you do is driven by the pleasure of it eventually ending. There has to be an end, otherwise life would be too boring.”

The beach is the main stage in #Insta_Life though most of the story is told in flashbacks that introduce the reader to the lives of Aref and Lama and how their paths cross so that they are joined in the last three hours of their lives. At the beginning of the novel it seems the story revolves around Aref, but towards the middle Lama’s friends Assem and Hassan both realise how much they are in love with her – once they find out she is going to take her own life – and so she takes centre stage. Lama is the real protagonist throughout the novel, and through her the author exposes the hardships of an Arab divorcee who was beaten and humiliated by her ex-husband, Amir, who also posted a sex video of her on Facebook after their divorce.

Sadek’s theme in #Insta_Life may not be new, but the edge in this book is the factor of time. Sadek manages to engage the reader in a race against time to save Aref and Lama from their premeditated fate because Sadek makes it very easy for the reader to sympathise with and feel for them. The reader is constantly aware of the time left before the stroke of midnight. Flashbacks also serve to make for an exciting read because Sadek very frequently and quickly alternates between real time (on the beach) and the history of the protagonists.

“Either I reach the end of the road, or I reach my end; it’s all the same.” This phrase is repeated again and again throughout the novel, after each of the nine reasons Aref states to continue living. A mantra, it is also the opening sentence.

The book however remains open-ended. A minute before the stroke of midnight, Hassan, Lama’s friend, rushes into the sea to kill himself by drowning to teach her and Aref about the value of life. The two, accompanied by Assem, run after Hassan, but it is not clear whether they do so to save him or to join him. The finishing lines are a post on #Against_Insta_hayah (the reader concludes that the post was written by one of the main four protagonists but doesn’t know which one) that is actually a direct message from Sadek: “Do you want to make sure that we are alive? This means you want to forget your troubles with comfortable endings. In reality, there are no comfortable endings. Reality wants you to go on. I have realised that life is what we choose to live, and not what we are forced to live.”

Mohamed Sadek is a novelist. #Insta_Life is his fourth work. In 2014 his novel Hipta became a bestseller in Egypt and is currently being made into a movie.


The end of time

Ahmed Samir, Judgement Day Headlines (Manshettat Yom Al-Qeyama), Cairo: Dar Al-Shorouk, 2015, pp188

Only a close follower of the political events that have engulfed Egypt since the 25 January 2011 Revolution can easily understand this book. Based on personal accounts from Tahrir Square and other places where clashes erupted between people (from different political backgrounds) and security forces, Samir provides a cyclical series of short stories.

Samir’s writing is made up of short, quick sentences, alternating between colloquial (recounting conversations) and formal Arabic (the author’s analysis or commentary). On many occasions, he makes references to YouTube videos and Facebook and Twitter accounts to authenticate his accounts.

In the six chapters of the book, Samir doesn’t tell which events he is talking about, leaving the reader to identify them through dialogue and setting. “A guy leans next to a tree beside me. Tear gas fills the air, and countless wounded are being taken elsewhere. The guy says, ‘I’ve been smoking hash for 20 years and I’ve never been this high.’” Samir was referring to 28 January 2011, the day dubbed “Friday of Anger” when security forces clashed with protesters and showered them with tear gas on Qasr Al-Nil Bridge.

Through such terse dialogues Samir manages to express how the people he encountered in Tahrir Square felt, for example, on the night of the Battle of the Camel (1 February 2011) when rock pelting was exchanged with security. “He coughs in pain, breathing heavily. We retreat to the back rows. He says, ‘I’m ready to die, but I can’t live as a blind man if one of these rocks hits my eyes.’”

The book’s chapters are divided into articles with headlines published in newspapers. In “After the defeat”, which is an article originally published in Al-Shorouk newspaper on 21 July 2014, Samir writes, “There are no lessons learned from our defeat [in the 2011 Revolution], it’s repetitive and boring. Is the lesson learned that the Islamists shouldn’t be at the helm of the revolutionary scene? That’s been learned since Algeria’s Intifada in 1988… Is it that religious organisations will fail when in power? That’s old news. Similar experiences had ended in civil wars… Is it that military rule is bad? That’s also old news, for what else have we learned from 5 June 1967 [the war in which Egypt was defeated], or our daily failures throughout the past 60 years?”

Cynically, Samir pokes fun at the Muslim Brotherhood during their one year in power. In “To Mohamed Badie [the supreme guide], we will put you in jail – this is not a threat, this is a promise,” first published in Al-Masry Al-Yom on 9 December 2012, Samir reminds the reader of Badie’s famous saying, “What is the fault of the plants?” when Egyptians converged on the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood to protest its rule and the resulting clashes hurt the plants decorating the building, killing two protesters whom Badie never mentions. Samir insists that the Brotherhood follows the saying, “If you can’t impress them by being smart, confuse them by your stupidity.”

Ahmed Samir is a journalist who won both the Press Syndicate Award for Best Political Article and the Mustafa Al-Husseini Award for Best Article in 2014.

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Politics vs war (Al-Ahram Weekly (Egypt))

Cairo assumed a central role in easing the conflict in Yemen when it joined the Arab coalition to reinstate the government led by the internationally recognised Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Since joining the Saudi-led Storm of Resolve military operation to drive back Houthi expansion in Yemen Cairo has expanded its role as a major player in the Yemeni arena. It is now an active partner in forging a new Yemeni political dispensation.

Egypt is acting on the premise that military action alone cannot resolve the conflict in Yemen and that any continuation of chaos there will only have negative repercussions across the region. President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi has made Egypt’s position clear on numerous occasions.

Cairo has recently hosted representatives from Yemeni political forces, the UN special envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed and Hadi. Cairo has also welcomed the Omani foreign minister who is spearheading diplomatic negotiations in Muscat now that the Houthi militias and forces allied with former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh are on the retreat.

On Friday a joint delegation of politicians from the Houthi movement and the General People’s Congress, headed by Saleh, flew to the Omani capital for talks. Saudi Arabia has expressed a flexible attitude towards the negotiations in Muscat. As the Omani capital received the Yemeni rebel delegation, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jobeir released a statement saying, “We are prepared to support a political process in Yemen and to work with our allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council and with our friends around the world to find a solution that will help Yemen overcome its economic problems.”

Ahead of the talks now taking place in Muscat the Omani foreign minister paid a visit to Egypt. Cairo used the occasion to reiterate its view that Yemeni parties must pursue a political settlement, halt conflict and embark on a process of reconstruction.

While accompanying President Hadi to the inauguration of the new Suez Canal Yemeni Foreign Minister Riad Yassin issued a statement to the press saying he had requested an increase in Egyptian naval forces taking part in the defence of the southern Yemeni coast, especially the stretch overlooking Bab Al-Mandab. He also expressed hope that the mission could be expanded to include the rest of the Aden coastline, especially Aden’s ports.

Yassin also revealed that Al-Sisi had promised Hadi that Egypt would deploy more naval forces in Yemeni waters and begin training the Yemeni national army.

While military sources in Cairo have yet to provide details of the increased Egyptian naval presence in Yemen, General Chief of Staff Mohamed Qashqoush, professor of national security at the Higher Nasser Military Academy, told Al-Ahram Weekly that Egypt was coordinating regionally and internationally to secure an extensive naval presence in international waters around Yemen as part of the Restoration of Hope operation which seeks to secure a Houthi withdrawal from south Yemen.

In the meantime, Egypt remains committed to performing urgent logistical duties and has dispatched planes carrying relief and medical assistance to Aden.

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The Seven Books You Must Read If You Want To Understand Oil (Value Walk)

Oil sinks.

Here is some light reading on light crude with a tilt to history, science, and talking your way out of a business meeting on various and sundry hydrocarbons. Read 1,000 pages, and you too can catch the commodity knife in the dark.

See full article here via Bloomberg.

Seven books to help you understand Oil

The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power

The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power by Daniel Yergin

Deemed “the best history of oil ever written” by Business Week and with more than 300,000 copies in print, Daniel Yergin’s Pulitzer Prize–winning account of the global pursuit of oil, money, and power has been extensively updated to address the current energy crisis.

The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World

The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World by Daniel Yergin

A master storyteller as well as a leading energy expert, Daniel Yergin continues the riveting story begun in his Pulitzer Prize–winning book, The Prize. In The Quest, Yergin shows us how energy is an engine of global political and economic change and conflict, in a story that spans the energies on which our civilization has been built and the new energies that are competing to replace them.

The Quest tells the inside stories, tackles the tough questions, and reveals surprising  insights about coal, electricity, and natural gas. He explains how climate change became a great issue and leads readers through the rebirth of renewable energies, energy independence, and the return of the electric car. Epic in scope and never more timely, The Quest vividly reveals the decisions, technologies, and individuals that are shaping our future.

Abu Dhabi: Oil and Beyond (Power and Politics in the Gulf)

Abu Dhabi: Oil and Beyond (Power and Politics in the Gulf) by Christopher Davidson

Abu Dhabi is a new economic superpower that will soon wield enormous influence across both developing and developed worlds. The principal emirate of the United Arab Emirates federation commands over 8 percent of global oil reserves, has nearly $1 trillion in sovereign wealth funds to invest and is busily implementing a thoughtful economic master plan. It has also pumped huge amounts of money into culture, sport and infrastructural development in an attempt to eclipse even its ubiquitous UAE partner–Dubai–as an international household name. Abu Dhabi will host the Formula One Championship decider in 2009, is opening the world’s first Ferrari theme park, has a rapidly expanding airline and is setting up satellite branches of the Guggenheim and Louvre museums. Gulf expert Christopher Davidson’s book charts the emirate’s remarkable trajectory from its origins as an eighteenth-century sheikhdom to its present position on the cusp of preeminence. Abu Dhabi’s impressive socio-economic development, he offers a frank portrayal of a dynasty’s dramatic survival, demonstrating the newfound resilience of a traditional monarchy in the twenty-first century and its efforts to create a system of “tribal capitalism” that incorporates old political allegiances into modern engines of growth. Finally, he turns his attention to a number of problems that may surface to impede economic development and undermine political stability. These include an enfeebled civil society and invasive media censorship, a seemingly unsolvable labour nationalisation paradox, an underperforming education sector, and increasing federal unrest.

Oil & Gas Production in Nontechnical Language

Oil & Gas Production in Nontechnical Language by Martin S. Raymond

This nontechnical treatment is a great introduction to oil and gas production for anyone from beginning petroleum engineering and geology students to accountants, salespersons, and other professionals interested in the industry. Co-authored by Martin Raymond, a veteran production manager, and William Leffler, one of the top petroleum nontechnical writers, it is an easy-to-read reference for those who deal with petroleum industry personnel and production issues in their jobs, but need a quick overview of the technical and business issues. Complete with helpful charts and diagrams, this book covers everything from production equipment and processes to theory, business operations, and strategies.

The History of the Standard Oil Company

The History of the Standard Oil Company: Briefer Version by Ida M. Tarbell

Muckrakers — a term coined in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt — referred to American journalists, novelists and critics who, in the early 20th century, attempted to expose corruption in politics and the abuses of big business. One publication spearheading these exposés was McClures Magazine, and Ida Tarbell was the writer whose dramatic revelations eventually lead to effective regulation of the Standard Oil Company. Her story, serialized by McClure’s in 1902 and 1903, tells the history of John D. Rockefeller’s company. The first major industrial monopoly in the U.S., Standard Oil, in 1901, was the largest corporation in the country, and at its peak, controlled as much as eighty-five percent of oil refining in America. But with all his wealth and power, Rockfeller could not protect himself from Tarbell. Her story of the company, which became a model for militant journalists in the future, managed to place the blame for increasingly commercialized American ideals and practical behavior at Rockefeller’s doorstep. Combining descriptions of his business practices with his personal characteristics and even his physical appearance, Tarbell created an image of a cunning and ruthless person — a picture that not even decades of Rockefeller philanthropy were able to dispel. This edition (the “briefer version” of her book; the original was more than 800 pages.) makes a great muckraking classic much more accessible to readers. As such, it will be invaluable to students and teachers of American economic history and a fascinating read for anyone interested in the muckraking era and the days of unregulated big business.

Inorganic Chemistry For Dummies

Inorganic Chemistry For Dummies by Michael Matson

Inorganic chemistry can be an intimidating subject, but it doesn’t have to be! Whether you’re currently enrolled in an inorganic chemistry class or you have a background in chemistry and want to expand your knowledge, Inorganic Chemistry For Dummies is the approachable, hands-on guide you can trust for fast, easy learning.

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  • Presents information in an effective and straightforward manner
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Endless battle: Fighting systemic corruption in Iraq (Al Jazeera)

August 11, 2015

By Ibrahim Al-Marashi  

The recent protests against the government act as poignant rejoinders to Iraq’s systemic corruption and discrimination.

Over the last two weeks

anti-government protests

have erupted in several Iraqi cities, including the capital Baghdad, Basra in the south, and the predominantly Shia heartland towns of Najaf, Karbala, and Hilla – the constituencies of Iraq’s major political parties.

The protests are primarily aimed at corruption in the government, which resulted in electricity cuts and

salty tap water

.

While

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abbadi felt

pressure

from these protests, they also served as a major embarrassment.


RELATED: Iraqi parliament votes overwhelmingly for reforms


Iraq’s anti-state, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), boasts of delivering services like reliable electricity in the sprawling Iraqi city of Mosul.

The latest protests against the government’s failure to deliver services act as poignant rejoinders to the engrained notions of Iraq’s Shia Muslims, constituting a monolithic sectarian population.

The demonstrations have proven that a s

hared Shia adherence between political elites and the Shia population is only skin deep, especially when one’s skin is burning in Iraq’s 50 degree Celsius heat and there’s no electricity for air conditioning.

Establishing a High Commission

In response to the protests, Abbadi responded by calling for the establishment of a High Commission to combat corruption and a campaign to streamline the executive branch, eliminating several posts, including those of Iraq’s

three vice presidents.

The politicians who held these vice presidencies include former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Iyad Allawi, the leader of the former Iraqiya List, and Osama al-Nujaifi from Mosul.

The redundant number of vice presidencies, which are ceremonial roles, are a symptom of Iraq’s

patronage politics, where government posts are handed out not to reward a leader’s acumen in governing Iraq, but as part of the bargain with the myriad of ethnosectarian parties that form Iraq’s post-2003 political landscape.

Posts like these are also rewarded to generate a sense of inclusiveness.

Maliki and Allawi are Shia, while Nujaifi is Sunni. Awarding Nujaifi this position in the past was an attempt to bridge differences with

Iraq’s disenfranchised Sunnis.

Abbadi’s recent moves are attempts to reshuffle Iraq’s politicians, who have made a career of playing “musical chairs” in various political posts since 2003.

What remains to be seen is whether the prime minister can tackle the insurmountable structural challenge of reforming a political system that’s based on rewarding Iraqi politicians posts solely due to their ethnic and sectarian backgrounds.

Keeping the peace

For Abbadi to sustainably tackle corruption and ensure stable governance, he would have to overhaul an Iraqi state akin to the

sectarian quota system

in Lebanon, a recipe that maintained peace after its civil war, but has not translated into efficient governance.

At this stage, Abbadi does not have the political clout to deal with both the ISIL military threat and overhauling the Iraqi state, even though dealing with the latter would be a necessary condition for combating ISIL.

Among Iraq’s Shia Muslims, he vies for power with the various militias and Iraq’s top Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Abbadi came to power in 2014 partly as a result of calls from Sistani for the prime minister’s predecessor, Maliki, to step down. 

Abbadi had gotten the recent political cover to deal with “corruption” in the state as a result of Sistani’s sermon, calling upon Iraq’s leadership to tackle the corruption at the top, which has led to Iraq’s failure to deliver services.

Abbadi’s announcement streamlined executive decision-making and relieved the state of the burden of providing security details for three vice presidents.

Ageing infrastructure and crippled grids

He still has the challenge of dealing with the physical problem of an ageing

infrastructure

and crippled electricity grid that has yet to be rebuilt from the chaos of the 2003 post-war looting, partly as a result of corruption in the various ministries and municipal governments.

Furthermore, Abbadi’s vision for a High Commission to deal with corruption will face challenges, most likely from corrupt politicians who would most likely seek to join said commission.

The issue he is attempting to tackle is one that is pervasive within all levels of state.

Forms of corruption, not just in Iraq, but in a fair number of Middle Eastern states, includes the lucrative practice of informal, predatory extractive policies from society.

When a politician in Iraq is awarded a ministerial post, that ministry is filled with political loyalists rather than talented technocrats.

Those loyalists down the hierarchy then can reward themselves by accepting bribes, or creating their own niches of patronage within the ministry.

There are civil servants who demand bribes from citizens for completing the simplest administrative task, or members of the armed forces or paramilitary forces who extract payments from citizens at checkpoints.

Systemic discrimination

Outside of the Kurdish Regional Government in the north, this political system mostly benefitted Arab Shia Muslims close to the political parties after 2003.

This in turn led to Arab Sunni complaints of systemic discrimination in state-hiring practises and high unemployment for them.

The state, since the rise of Saddam Hussein, has been the largest entity employing Arab Sunnis, so the purges following 2003 ultimately led to a mass of unemployed men among this demographic.

This discrimination in employment proved to be one of the leading grievances raised by protesters throughout the country, such as those in Mosul, Fallujah, Ramadi, and Hawija from 2012 to 2013.


RELATED: Twenty five years later, the Middle East looks the same


Unlike the protests this summer, those protests were met with military force under Maliki’s government, creating the grievances that paved the way for ISIL to ride the wave of Arab Sunni discontent and push into their areas of Iraq.

Combined with an Iraqi armed forces devoted to extractive rent-seeking from the population, the regular Iraqi military lacked the discipline to combat ISIL during its foray into Mosul in 2014.

ISIL not only took advantage of this Arab Sunni discontent, it also created a model of governance that repudiated those corrupt practices of the Iraqi state.

ISIL has sought legitimacy among Iraqis by ending those extractive policies and by delivering services.

While ISIL probably leverages its “citizens” to give these rosy assessments of its administration, their complaints of their former Iraqi government have been echoed by Iraqis within Iraq itself, as demonstrated in the recent street protests.

Ibrahim al-Marashi is an assistant professor at the Department of History, California State University, San Marcos. He is the co-author of “Iraq’s Armed Forces: An Analytical History”.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

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