Tuesday, February 24, 2004

scarves, hijab, veil, modesty and the right to choose.

I am angry at something which I thought would never happen in Libya.I have wanted to discuss this subject for some time, might as well do it..

As usual at noon I headed yesterday towards the office cafeteria for coffee break , lunch and maybe a little gossip. To my surprise , the waitress in charge had a beautiful new haircut and highlights. I can hear you saying " what's wrong about that. Haircut ? highlights ?
Nothing is wrong, in fact she is gorgeous, a real hottie and would make catwalk stars pale in comparison( wish I could publish her photo), but there is a catch, until the day before she had a veil on....

My surprise is not because of that, because I believe in freedom of choice and human rights and all that a piece of cloth does not change the inner person. What shocked me was that in answer to my simple inquiry as to what happened she said : " the hotel management has forbidden the scarf!"
I mentally realed back , now if it were in Europe or even Turkey or Tunis , I would have accepted this, but in Libya, it is a bit tough. Let's get deeper into the story.

Flashback 3 months ago, this lovely waitress who as I said had nothing to envy pop stars nor international beauties comes with a scarf , so I congratulate her and ask her how did she feel . Please do not think this is getting into private life, we usually congratulate those who have taken the plunge and worn a hijab, and we ask them about what was the factor which dipped the balance in favour of making this decision. She told me that she felt it was better and more comfortable for her this way.

I had my own theory about this, she is a real beauty with a gorgeous body , men were lining up in the cafeteria more than necessary to get to see her or chat her up. This kid needs her job and wants to be left alone. Therefore a scarf would immediately put a little distance because the man who would talk to her would think twice and would be more professional because he would not be thinking about her potential sexiness or readiness to go out with him.
Still, whatever her reasons to wear it it was her personal choice not brother, or father or uncle or anyone else.

Back to the present, how dare the management tell someone to uncover her head in her own country? And where are we heading to if a foreigner in my land is going to dictate dress code. She could not stand up to him as she has no union and no proper contract yet and with the unemployment rate she won't get a better job. Still it made me angry, but this anger is not directed at the foreigner only but at the ineffective people in charge of protecting her rights.

I will talk about the hijab status in Libya and equality of the sexes another time.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

"It is the weak who are cruel gentleness can only be expected from the strong" ---Leo Roshin
WAR president ...

I'm a war president. I make decisions here in the Oval Office in foreign policy matters with war on my mind," GWB.

That does not bode well for the world does it . No further comment is necessary.

It's a compensations gold rush yippee

A leading member of the Ulster Unionist Party [Ireland], Reg Empey, has demanded that the Libyan government provide compensation to victims of IRA violence. Mr Empey said people injured by Libyan arms and explosives sold to the IRA should be compensated by Libyan president Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi. He has written to British Prime Minister Tony Blair asking him to press the Libyans for such compensation. [BNI]”

Now everyone who has a grievance is going to ask for compensation from Libya, is this the gold rush of the centuty or what ? I resent it this very much . Why aren’t we getting any compensation from the Israeli for the downed Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114 in February 1973? 106 passengers died there in the Sinai desert. Why aren’t we compensated for the Libyans who died as a result of the US-NATO bombing in 1986 by those smart missiles .. and many more. We should be compensated also for all those years of unjust sanctions during which Libya is holding the record number of car accidents. I am afraid to board a Libyan plane because we have not had spare parts for 20 years . They must be flying by sheer 'baraka' ( blessings in Arabic).

Oil corruption ?!?!?

On the subject of oil barrels offered by the Saddam regime . I’m ready to believe anything about Saddam as it would not be past him. However, the list presented seemed to me to serve the Americans too much .. especially the sole Libyan national on this list . I mean Libya I think does not need to be bribed by 1 million barrels of oil we have so much oil it’s sickening. Plus the guy named has no way to hide these barrels and he can’t well sell them on the market on his own now can he. This is not contraband material ! I'm not defending anyone but it just seemed to good to be true.
I came across another article and I wanted to share it , for those interested this linkshould work ( I hope ) :

Offering Oil Barrels Secretly?!
Abdulmajid Attar Al-Hayat 2004/02/5
On January 25, Al-Mada Iraqi daily published the names of 262 international individuals and institutions that received millions of oil barrels in return for supporting the former regime. My name was mentioned on the list, and even if it were not, I would not refuse to explain this ambiguous issue to the public.
First, I would like the readers to read one of the articles published on www.reseauvoltaire.net entitled "L'Intox Des Barils Irakiens." Second, I discovered that over four billion barrels were offered, which is five-folds the annual Iraqi oil production and ten-fold the annual Algerian oil production.
One might ask the following questions: was it possible that such large quantities of oil to be offered and the UN or U.S. did not notice? Then, how was the oil-for-food program implemented?
Was Saddam Hussein able to generously offer around $50 billion while the barrel's price was only $12 dollars?
It is obvious that Saddam did not, for he could not, under the vigilant supervision of the UN inspectors, especially that the clients paid the UN and not Saddam.
Personally, I oppose every Iraqi side that is trying to assert that Saddam offered oil coupons. As for the list, every individual or company mentioned has its own credibility, and hence, I should state the following information:
From 1996 to 2000, I was the main negotiator with the Iraqi Ministry of Oil as a director of international projects and later the chairman and CEO of the Algerian Sonatrach company. I was conducting negotiations of important contracts related to developing the Tuba oilfield.
The negotiations were held with the biggest international oil companies and it was a very important project for Sonatrach.
In addition, some American companies were encouraging us to negotiate by presenting offers to participate in the project after lifting the sanctions.
All during these years of negotiations, and within the oil-for-food program, Sonatrach participated in marketing a part of the Iraqi oil. Hence, we were allocated an oil share like the other oil companies, including the American ones through Sonatrach's branch in London, under the supervision of the UN, and not directly with Iraqis.
This might be the reason why we were called to organize humanitarian activities in the favor of the Iraqi people and we sent food, medical equipment and medicines. In addition, we supervised the training of around 60 Iraqi oil engineers in Algeria, opened an office in Baghdad and contributed to the organization of trips for the companies' chairmen in order to follow the implementation of the oil-for-food program.
What happened after 2000?
Personally, I was not at Sonatrach at the time, for I was the chairman of a group of production companies. We kept on carrying out economic activities in Iraq by sending humanitarian aids and organizing trips.
Thus, we were able, until 2000, to preserve Algerian presence in the Iraqi market, mostly thanks to the state of Algeria.
In 2000, it became difficult to sign contracts and even Sonatrach withdrew from the Iraqi market and froze its negotiations.
However, Algeria held official contacts with the Iraqi side in order to preserve the tight relations between both countries. It suggested solutions and I personally introduced other companies to the Iraqi market after the withdrawal of Sonatrach. However, neither these companies nor myself received presents from Saddam. All transactions were handled by the UN. It should be mentioned that a large share of the revenues was allocated to humanitarian aid in Iraq.
Hence, one cannot regret humanitarian aids he contributed to, because they were meant to serve the Iraqi people and not Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi president gave us no gifts but some ministers used to consider us a priority in the market.
* Mr. Attar is the former Chairman of the Algerian oil company.
Why Is The West Afraid Of The Arabs?

I recently read this article in Al-Hayat ( sorry haven’t learned yet how to link to it and don’t know if the link is live still- so I’ll settle for ‘copy& paste’)

Why Is The West Afraid Of The Arabs?
Patrick Seale Al-Hayat 2004/01/30
Western fear of Arabs and Muslims has emerged as one of the most striking political and psychological phenomena of recent years - as anyone with an Arab or Muslim name, wishing to enter the United States or even the European Union, will have noticed to his or her irritation and discomfort. Fear is perhaps too mild a word for it. The emotion that has seized the Western world ever since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 is more like paranoia.
A whole intellectual industry has sprung up in Western think-tanks, university departments, and among media pundits, seeking to dissect and understand the 'violence', 'hate' and 'fanaticism' which the Arab and Muslim world is said to direct against the West.
What is the root of this 'Arab rage'? Almost invariably, Western commentators have concluded that the essential cause lies in the 'failed' societies of the Arab world, in their absence of democracy, their abuse of human rights, their economic mismanagement, their oppression of women, their exploding populations, their soaring unemployment, their poor education, their technological backwardness, even their lack of internet access! The list of Arab ills is a long one.
Gareth Evans, a former Foreign Minister of Australia, who now heads an important think-tank called the International Crisis Group, has no hesitation in saying that all the existing terrorist threats in the world today come from the Arab world. In Davos this year, the consensus among business and political leaders attending the World Economic Forum was that poverty and economic backwardness were among the main reasons why Arabs and Muslims embraced Islamic fundamentalism, and, in some cases, resorted to terrorism.
Last Monday, Thomas Friedman of The New York Times claimed to know the essential cause of terrorist violence: it was the lack of jobs. He put the blame on Europe, which he described as 'the real factory of Arab-Muslim rage'. Europe, he wrote, had done an extremely poor job of integrating and employing its growing Muslim minorities, and of investing in North Africa and the Middle East, its natural backyard. On the same day, in an article in Britain's Financial Times , Sir Lawrence Friedman, Professor of War studies at King's College, London, wrote that the Arab world was suffering from the collapse of Jamal Abdel Nasser's pan-Arabism and from disastrous economic policies. Militant groups were waiting to exploit the anger of youth. The status quo had become untenable. By 2020, the population of the 22 Arab states would be well over 400 million.
In view of the underlying political and social tensions, his gloomy conclusion was that the 'real alternatives' for the Middle East were 'chaos or autocracy'.
Dozens of examples of this sort are to be found in Western books and journals, and in the speeches of Western politicians, which may be summed up by the proposition that the source of terrorist violence lies in the 'sickness' of Arab-Muslim society.
Exporting the problem to the Arabs
In my view, this type of analysis is neither accurate nor disinterested. It represents an attempt to export to the Arab and Muslim world the West's share of responsibility for the present highly dangerous and unstable state of affairs.
Very soon after 11 September, several commentators, especially in the United States, began to argue that the terrorist attacks were not in any way a response to American policies in the Middle East - to its limitless support for Israel, its control of Arab oil, its military bases, its client states - but sprang from the very nature of Arab-Muslim society.
This analysis provided Washington neo-conservatives with the argument they needed to press for war against Iraq. If it was accepted that Arab terrorists were the product of sick societies, then the way to protect the United States from further terrorist attack was to reform these societies, if necessary by force!
In my view, this argument was nothing more than a malicious smokescreen concealing the real motives for attacking Iraq - which were to subdue the Arab world and promote the strategic interests of the United States and Israel. But the argument in favor of Arab reform through the exercise of external military power has taken root, and has even been adopted by several Arab political analysts!
A fundamental question needs to be asked: Is the prime cause of terrorist violence sociological or political? Is the bomber in Baghdad, Kabul or Tel Aviv, in Bali, Riyadh, Casablanca or Istanbul, driven by poverty and hopelessness or by a burning sense of political grievance? Were the suicidal hijackers who demolished the twin towers of the World Trade Center driven by backwardness and unemployment or did they believe they were striking a blow against American imperialism?
In my view, the essential conflict between the Arab world and the West is not a conflict between Christianity and Islam, or a clash of civilizations. It will not be resolved by dialogue between religious leaders, or by the export of American-style 'democracy' by military force. The conflict between the Arabs and the West is political; as it has been for very many decades ever since Arab hopes for independence and unity were betrayed and disappointed after the First World War.
It will only abate once the West, and the United States in particular, address fundamental Arab grievances, of which the Palestine problem is only the most prominent.
Reform needs to be on the Arab agenda
No one can deny that the Arab world is in urgent need of radical reform. With a few notable exceptions, its social, political and economic life is profoundly stagnant and corrupt. Political pluralism, social justice, basic freedoms of expression and association - above all the rule of law -- are all glaringly absent. In several states, ruling elites have remained in power for far too long and have robbed the country with impunity. But these are not the causes of terrorist violence against the West and its Arab friends.
Arab writers, intellectuals and businessmen have been among the first to denounce the failings of the Arab world and to warn that if reform does not come soon from within these societies it will one day be imposed from outside. Many Arabs and Muslims understand that the central problem with which they need to wrestle - and which has concerned Arab reformers for generations - is how to acquire the many good things the West can offer while preserving Arab independence. Or, put another way, how to join the modern world of liberal democracy and scientific and economic achievement without losing the moral basis in Islam.
The message the United States has sought to convey by its invasion and occupation of Iraq is a different one, and is wholly focused on American interests and on American fears for its own security. Speaking in Davos last week, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney - the super-hawk of the Bush administration - gave a classic exposition of these views:
'Today,' he declared, 'we face a sophisticated global network of terrorists who are opposed to the values of liberty, tolerance and openness that form the basis of our societies…
'We must confront the ideologies of violence at the source by promoting democracy throughout the Greater Middle East and beyond… Direct threats require decisive action.'
There was no hint in his speech that American policies - its double standards and its countless interventions in the Arab and Muslim world - lay at the root of terrorist violence.
The Arabs should propose a bargain to the United States: 'Resolve the political problems that plague and distract us - Israeli expansion, the plight of the Palestinians, American armed force at the heart of our region, our still incomplete independence - and we will undertake the necessary reforms of our societies, free from the pressures of war and occupation.'

I think this article has summed up a lot of issues :

Most scary is this one : “if it was accepted that Arab terrorists were the product of sick societies, then the way to protect the United States from further terrorist attack was to reform these societies, if necessary by force!” … now we have US governement crawling all over our lands and reforming us . Why not let us reform in our own time ..
I think Patrick’s proposal is a good one maybe the Greater Middle East should strike this bargain but I am betting the US would not accept it .

PEPSI and the return of the Americans
“The Bush administration is expected to lift travel restrictions on Libya next week and is considering providing humanitarian and eventually other types of aid as a reward for dismantling its weapons programs, people involved in the deliberations said. The administration has told key lawmakers that it intends to take the first tangible step toward easing its sanctions on Libya by lifting restrictions on the use of U.S. passports for travel to Libya. An announcement is expected by Feb. 24, when the measures come up for review. [Reuters]”

Nice news for all those companies itching to get back to Libya for the lucrative oil deals etc.. I admit we do need the investment and it would be a welcome change from all those Euro countries who have gotten too big headed around here almost dictating their own policies now they will have stiff competition and believe me it has started to show already.

The most obvious sign that the Americans are back is funnily enough the Pepsi logo ( yes they beat you to it Coca-Cola you better watch it) . Within the last few weeks Pepsi signs have cropped like fungus on many supermarkets and shops. Not that we did not have Pepsi or other soft drinks before , but we never had advertisements for that since the 70’s .

Everyone is excited about the return of the Americans .. but Pepsi come on ..

“As part of a U.S. congressional delegation, U.S. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert met with Libyan officials for several hours Friday prior to a two-hour meeting with Libyan leader Qadhafi. Boehlert said Saturday in a phone call to the Observer-Dispatch that the delegation insisted Libya meet several conditions: It must implement a systematic disarmament of its WMDs, forge a partnership with the U.S. in the war on terrorism, acknowledge its culpability in the Pan Am Flight 103 disaster and begin to improve its human rights record. Improved U.S. relations would be Libya's reward for compliance.”

I have always asked myself why are we not allowed to develop our own WMD ? Who has given the right to other countries to dictate this ? Not that I advocate this path because it is too expensive and the money used for this progam would be more useful elsewhere . But simply why shouldn’t my country have it s own weapons if it can afford it ? is it because it would on a par with Western countries and therefore a threat to their interest ? just a thought …
Anyway it is too late now the weapons are gone and probably it was the only way to get back into the fold as the proverb goes ‘when you can’t fight them , join them’. I hope we can turn the page and start a better life… Libyans are going to be rewarded for ‘compliance’ .

Saturday, February 07, 2004

from the BBC Friday 6th February 2004
"The US embassy said discussions between Assistant Secretary of State William Burns and the Libyans had been "very positive and thorough".

"The two delegations discussed... assigning a small number of personnel to each other's capitals given the absence of functioning embassies "

US embassy statement

Sounds encouraging eh ?

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

It's seem several people are genuinely interested to learn a little about Libya or at least my perception of it ( how arrogant of me ;) ) . I'm still ambivalent whether to continue writing here and disclose my url or just stay discreet ?
Let's just say that I still have not mastered the little geeky tricks in 'blogger' like how to insert links and so on... plus it would probably mean devoting time to this subject .....
I'm still mulling it over .