To so many people across the United Kingdom and indeed the world, the disturbing, tragic murder of Jo Cox still seems utterly incomprehensible.
This was a woman who very visibly cared deeply for others and whose altruism has been described by many as unblemished. Indeed, the more one learns about Jo Cox, the more one realises just how tremendous her compassion was. Cox was a champion for the less fortunate, the socially ostracised, immigrants, refugees, women and for diversity. She was also a genuine friend of the Middle East and the UK’s Muslim community.
(Adds Daoud’s decision to quit journalism. To jump to the update, click here).
Kamel Daoud’s op-ed, “The Sexual Misery of the Arab World,” has been trending on the New York Times since it was published on February 12. The piece — which is replete with tired, orientalist cliches — has been lauded by some for pointing out the obvious: that women in the Arab world face an enduring oppression problem, and that sexuality in the region is, as a result, warped.*
Mariam alShaar is no ordinary woman.
She’s Palestinian. She’s a refugee. She’s gentle, yet she’s fierce and passionate. She comes across as being reserved, but she’s known in Lebanon’s Borj el-Barajneh as one of the refugee camp’s most powerful and influential women.
Perhaps most telling: Although Mariam doesn’t call herself a cook, she leads a team of chefs. She’s even launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a food-truck, which she hopes will bring employment to tens of women in Borj el-Barajneh.
Indeed. Mariam is all kinds of extraordinary.
By Zahra Hankir and Themba Lewis*
Following the tragic death of toddler Alan Kurdi on the beaches of Turkey earlier this month, analysts everywhere have started questioning why the oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council hasn’t been doing more to help resettle Syrian refugees.
Compounding this criticism, as reported by Ben Hubbard of the New York Times,”are the deep but shadowy roles countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia have played in Syria by bankrolling rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad.”
A few days after the flurry of pieces from Western media (side-note: you read it right here first), Saudi Arabia released the following official statement via its state-owned news agency:
* With thanks to the Council for Arab-British Understanding for inviting me to their screening of the film at Parliament
A Syrian Love Story is devastating in more ways than one. It tells the tale of a disintegrating marriage in brutally honest terms, against the backdrop of war. It illustrates the psychological effects of that dissolution, and the conflict in Syria, on the couple’s vulnerable children. It raises questions about gender and gender roles without offering conclusions. And it delivers a poignant examination of post-traumatic stress disorder, anger and addiction.
But mostly, A Syrian Love Story is a timely and timeless portrait of just one of millions of refugee families and how war can unrelentingly tear countries and people apart. Views on the refugee crisis currently afflicting Europe and beyond will either be reinforced or challenged by this 80-minute documentary, adding to its relevance and intensity.
Bowing to public pressure, David Cameron last week said the U.K. would take in 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020 from camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. The move has been criticized by various media outlets, as well as Labour (who say that the number is too low*) and UKIP (who say the number is too high).
The resettled refugees will be given five-year humanitarian visas, and expenses will be drawn from the overseas aid budget.
But, who cares about all of that.
How will the U.K. really change?
What should the English expect?
More Middle Eastern restaurants? Weaker British values?
Florence of Arabia answers all of your burning questions.
See below. I’d like to think that I tap into the deepest, darkest fears of scaremongerers everywhere.
(Updates with developments, media coverage since Sept. 2 at bottom of story. To jump to the update, click here).
Slate’s piece on some 10,000 Icelanders offering up their homes to Syrian refugees moved me briefly yesterday, in that it demonstrated the sort of kindness that’s almost completely overshadowed by the harsh realities of this particular humanitarian disaster.
But today, those realities hit hard again with the emergence of a disturbing, heartbreaking image of a Syrian toddler washed up on the beaches of Turkey.
The boy, Aylan Kurdi, was neatly dressed in a red t-shirt, navy blue shorts and smart shoes, laces still tied. Where did he think he was going when he was preparing for the trip? How long had he been wearing those clothes? Did he have a bag? What was in it? Where were his parents? Why couldn’t anyone save him?
The Independent asks, ‘If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don’t change Europe’s attitude to refugees, what will?’
Allow me to add some more unanswered questions to this agonising list:
Where are the wealthy Arab countries? Why do they have a zero-resettlement policy, despite relative economic prosperity? Why is the focus placed almost entirely on Europe and its shortcomings when it comes to asylum seekers? Shouldn’t this moral obligation be shared?