April 11, 2007

This blog is...MOVING!

Blogger has been generously hosting 'my occupied territory' for more than 19 months, but like many other bloggers, it's time for me to move up into the world of WordPress. That's not to say that I had ANY idea how to even begin doing that.

When I started this blog in September '05, I barely knew a thing about html. I was proud to be able to change some links on the sidebar after much Googling and much agony. When I stumbled upon the blogosphere, I knew that it would be something I would enjoy, being the kind of person who likes to talk a lot and rant a lot. I won't say that my life has been changed because of blogging, but it has definitely had an impact on me. I'm glad to have been able to maintain my blogging over the past year and a half and hope to continue learning more through blogging.

One of the most important things that blogging has introduced me to is the technical aspect of maintaining a blog. I'm no where near being an expert on anything beyond basic html (still trying to figure out what CSS is), but I know so much more than I would have if I hadn't started blogging.

So I knew I wanted to change the look of my blog, and get my own domain, but didn't really have much of a clue on how to start. I really could not have made this "big" move without the immense help I received from a fellow blogger, Sayed. It would have taken me years to find out how to get a domain, download WordPress, upload plugins, and all that junk. Some of the advantages of being a part of this great blogosphere are the connections you make with bloggers that allow you to become friends with people you've never met and may never even meet. They are always willing to help out and share their experience with others. I hope that I'll be able to help some budding bloggers as well with my limited knowledge and experience. Again, thank you Sayed for all your help and for being patient with all my annoying questions :)

I hope you all will like the new domain, even though it's a tad long, but I think it's easy to remember. I also hope you will enjoy the new look. I'll be personalizing it and tweaking it over the next few weeks, and your suggestions are always welcome.

Thank you for putting up with this blog despite the dreary colors and unattractive layout, and I apologize for the light blogging over the past month or so as I was getting ready to pack my posts and move out.

I guess it's just impossible for me to write a concise post. Enough blabbing.

Don't forget to adjust your bookmarks and your RSS feed:


Labels: ,

April 9, 2007

Four Years Later, Regret

I don't want to write another post about the ill-advised invasion, or the miserable state of the occupation. I did a little of that a few weeks back, on the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Today, on the anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, the day I literally felt my heart sink, I leave you with the reality of "liberation".

One way I have felt closer and more hurt by this war is because one of my closest friends is Iraqi. When her great aunt and uncle were brutally murdered in their home a few years back, I felt the reality of the numbers I heard everyday. When her recently wed cousin was also killed in Iraq, I did not know what to tell her. Today, she spoke to one of her cousins on the phone... a young girl who is too mature for her age, one of many that have become adults as a result of living through this war. Today, the 14-year old told my friend...
"I hated Saddam, I really did. He hurt Jido* a lot. But the day his statue came down in Baghdad 4 years ago, that's the day Iraq died. And thats the day we all died."
Another powerful account is that of a man who helped in the oft televised image of the Saddam statue being brought down by Iraqis and American soldiers. The Post profiles his story...
"We got rid of a tyrant and tyranny. But we were surprised that after one thief had left, another 40 replaced him," said Jubouri, who is a Shiite Muslim. "Now, we regret that Saddam Hussein is gone, no matter how much we hated him."

(*Jido: grandpa)

Labels: , , , , ,

March 26, 2007

On the Egyptian Referendum and the DC Protest

A protest was held today in front of the Egyptian embassy in Washington, D.C. where activists gathered to voice their opposition to the constitutional amendments that seek to cement Mubarak's power and silence any opposition to his rule. It was a diverse group of activists in terms of nationality, age, gender, and profession, but all were united in their belief that the Egyptian president and his NDP are taking Egypt towards a path that can only lead to more autocracy and oppression. A letter to Mubarak was signed by the protesters and handed to embassy officials. For more details about the protest, check Nora's post. I'm glad I had the opportunity to attend even though it was not a large presence, but we were at least able to send a message to the embassy that these backward "reforms" cannot and should not be tolerated. The protesters chanted mostly in Arabic, with slogans like "down with Mubarak, father and son", "Egypt is not your father's ranch", and my absolute favorite, "Give Mubarak a visa, and take him, Condoleezza". They all sound much better in Arabic though, and the organizers did a great job of leading the chants, and even singing patriotic and revolutionary songs.

As for the referendum that took place in Egypt today, most non-official sources have indicated that the turnout most probably did not exceed 4%. Of course the official government line is that the turnout reached 23-27%. All opposition parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood, called on Egyptians to boycott the referendum because even if 99% of Egyptians voted NO, the amendments would pass.
Mike Hanna, Al Jazeera's correspondent, said the government "has made absolutely clear that it will regard a majority 'yes' vote as an endorsement of its constitutional amendments, regardless of how many people actually vote".
In fact, the NDP was in full force pushing Egyptians to go to the polls and "vote yes" for the amendments. Marc Lynch writes about the night before, linking to blogs that displayed memos sent to state employees urging them to vote YES in favor of the amendments. Lynch also gives an updated report about press coverage of the big day, which includes observations from people on the ground who reported a very weak turnout. Commentator Josh Statcher writes:

The Brothers basic argument today was that they were not protesting because if they did, the government would bring tanks on the street. Perhaps....but I suspect their calculation is that the regime is doing more harm to itself than if group comes out on the streets. Because If they did, it gives the government an excuse to distract attention away from how the whole amendment ordeal has been so blatently rigged. By doing nothing, the MB helps keep the pressure/focus on the state.

Perhaps, I am overanalyzing what was in many many respects a completely average day in Cairo during March. Not that I can prove this but well over 90% of Egyptians seemed to think the Amendment/Referendum process was a joke and it did not matter if they participated or not.

Flipping through some stations, I saw Egyptian state television displaying various reports "from the street" where they interviewed students and average citizens who of course expressed their support for the amendments and bashed those who didn't turn out to vote. Abdelmonem Mahmood, a young journalist and MB blogger, gives some reports about incidents at polling stations and how some people were brought by buses so they could vote YES.

I snapped a few pictures of the rally, and chose to focus more on the signs than the actual protesters. Check my Flickr page for more. There was a "relatively" large police presence considering there was only 20-25 protesters. There were 3 police cars stationed a few feet from the embassy entrance, and three police/security officers at the entrance as well. They didn't intimidate us or anything like that. Nothing, of course, compared to what Egyptian protesters have faced over the past few weeks in harassment, arrests, detentions, and torture.

The results of the referendum are to be announced tomorrow. I wonder if they will pass!

no to constitutional amendmentsIMG_9215give mubarak a visa and take him with you, condoleezzaIMG_9214
mubarak senior: 26 years, mubarak junior...?securityegyptian embassygreatest erosion of human rights in 26 years

Labels: , , , , ,

March 25, 2007

Protest Egypt's Constitutional Amendments in DC, Monday

On Monday, March 26th, Egyptians will be voting in a referendum on the constitutional amendments approved by the parliament that seek to cement the hold of Mubarak's NDP as the one and only party running the country. The amendments limit the freedom of citizens and parties to join the political process, and introduce draconian measures against alleged suspects of terrorism who will have to be tried in military tribunals behind closed doors. To protest these recent developments, there will be a rally held outside the Egyptian embassy tomorrow, Monday the 26th in Washington, D.C.

For more information, check Nora Younis' blog.

Let your voice be heard.

Labels: , , , , , ,

March 21, 2007

More Than Just "Stirrings" in Egypt

In case you've been living under a rock over the past few days (ie: watching/reading/listening to the American msm), I thought I would bring attention to the latest "birth pangs" of democracy on the Egyptian front.

In brief: the NDP (Mubarak's ruling party) introduced to the parliament amendments to the constitution that seek to cement their control and limit the ability of opposition parties to challenge the status quo. Parliamentarians from the opposition, mainly the Muslim Brotherhood along with some leftist parties, voiced their strong disagreement with the amendments and eventually decided to walk out and boycott the vote which ended up taking place, approving the amendments. Some protests followed, along with a security crackdown, and much speculation about the consequences and the next steps to be taken by the opposition. On March 26th, a national referendum will take place on the constitutional amendments.

The media in the US hasn't paid much attention to these important developments, but the blogosphere is rife with commentary, analysis, and up to the minute news on the situation. I highly recommend the following reads on the current situation in Egypt:

Egypt's Constitutional Showdown and Baathism on the Nile by Marc Lynch:

Amnesty International has described the changes as "the biggest threat to Egyptian democracy since emergency laws passed after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat by Islamist extremists in 1981." That's exactly right. I said this on Friday, but let me say it again, slowly. Mubarak is about to do exactly what he always accuses Islamists of secretly planning: won an election and then used his majority to abolish democracy.
Crackdown By a Clique by Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh:

Stability cannot be achieved by depriving social and political leaders of civil justice. Nor can it be achieved by resisting democracy and excluding the largest political force in the country from political life. By closing the doors to dialogue, the state is opening a door to chaos and extremism. The consequences will be severe, not only for Egypt but for the entire Middle East.
A Parliament to Watch by Baheyya:

Obviously we’re still a very long way from a real parliament capable of both checking and bargaining with the executive and forging durable extra-parliamentary coalitions. But I can’t shake off the feeling that what happened Sunday portends something new, perhaps even the spark that may ignite the parliamentarisation of Egyptian politics.

Police Crackdown on Kifaya Demonstration by Hossam el-Hamalawy:

The Tagammu was under siege by un-bloody-believable numbers of black-uniformed CSF troops and plainclothes thugs, as well as Gestapo agents and uniformed police generals. In front of the building gate there was a crowd of 200 (mainly left-wing) demonstrators, chanting “Down with Mubarak! Down with State Security!”

Burying Democracy Further in Egypt by Amr Hamzawy and Dina Bishara:

By resorting to outright repression of the Brotherhood, Mubarak is making a mockery of the American push for democracy in the Middle East. Turning a blind eye toward the ongoing crackdown undermines the credibility of an already shaky American commitment to democratization in the Middle East. It also cements the perception among Egyptians that Washington blesses autocratic regimes.

Also on the recent history of Egypt's Kifaya opposition movement is Anthony Shadid's two-part series that ran a few days ago in the Washington Post:
Imagining Otherwise in Egypt
Egypt Shuts Door on Dissent as U.S. Officials Back Away

Labels: , , , , , ,

March 19, 2007

Four Years Later

Hundreds of thousands dead.
Millions displaced, internally and externally.
Homes burned, mosques destroyed, schools bombed, markets attacked, lives destroyed.
Corruption rules. The kidnappers rule. The murderers rule.
Welcome to Iraq, four years after liberation.

53% of Iraqis have a close friend or relative who has been hurt or killed in the war violence.
86% worry about a loved one being hurt.
51% say they try to avoid leaving their homes.
70% report multiple signs of traumatic stress.

In November 2005, 63 percent of Iraqis felt very safe in their neighborhoods. Today just 26% say the same.
33% don't feel safe at all.
In Baghdad, 84% feel entirely unsafe.
In 2005, 54 percent said their power supply was inadequate or nonexistent; now it's up to 88%. In 2005 just 30% rated their economic situation negatively. Today it's 64%.

say they lack the freedom to live where they wish without persecution, or even to move about safely.
48% cite security as the single biggest problem in their lives, up from 18 percent in 2005.

97% of Sunni Arabs and Shiites alike oppose the separation of Iraqis on sectarian lines.

42% think their country is in a civil war; 24% more think one is likely.

Three in 10 say they'd leave Iraq if they could.

[source 1, 2]

Letters to the editor, on the 4th anniversary

At the anti-war protest this weekend in Washington, D.C.:
walking towards the Lincoln memorialprotestersmore protestersrallyhow many more?Mr. Busha sea against the waragainst the wardrop bush, not bombscounter-protesterscrossing the bridgethe casualties of the warthe casualtiescasualtiesmothersagainst the warleading the packMr. Bushiraq veterans against the warheading home

My thoughts on the 3rd anniversary of the war (and pictures)

Labels: , , , , , , ,

March 16, 2007

Turning Mecca into another mecca

Definitely a sign of the times... turning the holy city of Mecca into a mecca of shopping and indulgence. It's not enough that the luxury five-star hotels surrounding the site of the Kaaba make millions off the pilgrims who come to enjoy the ultimate religious experience in the most liberal ways. It's not enough that one has to enter the city with "tour operators" that charge outrageous amounts, in addition to the high costs of applying for a visa to preform the hajj and umrah trips. Now, Saudi officials have embarked on plans to open huge shopping centers housing the best the West has to offer, from coffee to couture. The sanctity of Mecca is no more. Say hello to the white and green cups of Starbucks and the little blue Tiffany boxes... Farewell Mecca, the Saudis have sold you to the ...

Five times a day across the globe devout Muslims face this city in prayer, focused on a site where they believe Abraham built a temple to God. The spot is also the place Muslims are expected to visit at least once in their lives.

Now as they make the pilgrimage clothed in simple white cotton wraps, they will see something other than the stark black cube known as the Kaaba, which is literally the center of the Muslim world. They will also see Starbucks. And Cartier and Tiffany. And H&M and Topshop.

Full article available to NYTimes Select subscribers* or click here to read the full text.

*(which is now free for anyone with a .edu email address!)

Labels: ,

March 8, 2007

Educate, Empower, Enlighten

International Women's Day is but a reminder. Everyday should be women's day, and child's day, and human being's day. Everyday we should recall the millions of women who cannot afford to feed their children. The millions of women who do not have access to education. The millions of women living in war torn countries. The millions of women living under oppressive dictatorships. The millions of women being abused by their governments, their employers, their husbands, their parents, their children, and even their fellow woman.

Injustice is not something preserved for women, but women are disproportionately affected by war, poverty, illiteracy, and various forms of abuse.

Women are forced into prostitution, women are raped as a tool of war, women are used to sell cars and chips.

Today I am reminded that no matter how much I complain, I am a lucky woman. I am a woman who did not live in poverty, did not live in fear, did not live in a war zone, or a refugee camp. I have had access to the best education my whole life, and my future is promising. I have not been forced to bind my feet. I have not been genitally mutilated. I have not been forced to marry someone I do not know or do not like. I have not been sold into marriage for political or financial gains. I have not been attacked for endangering my family's "honor".

Today I am grateful for being a Muslim American woman. I could have said that I am grateful for being a Jordanian or Arab woman, but I do not believe that either affiliation has granted me much. I am at times ashamed to be an Arab, ashamed to be Jordanian. I am at times also ashamed to be American. But I'm never ashamed to be a Muslim woman, although in this day and age, it is difficult to disassociate myself from the many who have misused and abused Islam.

I'm ashamed to be a Jordanian woman because my children cannot be Jordanian like me. Not even half Jordanian. I cannot pass my citizenship on to them because I am marrying a non-Jordanian man.

I'm not ashamed to be a Muslim woman because I have been able to practice my religion in the United States without provocation, and without achieving any less than if I had not been Muslim. I do not feel that I have been stripped of any rights or constrained by any religious requirement. I feel empowered by Islam's call for me to educate myself, to be an active member of society. Islam has not limited my freedom. Arab and Jordanian customs have sometimes limited my freedom. American capitalism has sometimes limited my freedom.

I am ashamed to be an Arab woman because my sisters in Iraq are being raped while the Middle East is silent. I am ashamed to be Arab because our mothers in Palestine are starving while women in Virginia and Riyadh are competing over the most expensive handbags. I am ashamed to see that Muslim women are not as educated as their counterparts around the world. I am ashamed to see that my Muslim brothers are not up in arms when one of their sisters is murdered by a raging relative claiming that his honor lies between her legs. I am ashamed that we don't stand up for our own God given rights.

This is what I think about today, and what we should think about everyday.

Let us...Educate, Empower, Enlighten.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

March 1, 2007

In the Richest Country in the World, Boy Dies of Toothache

An off and on homeless family, sick children, no medical insurance. Medicaid failed them. The dentists won't see the child because they don't accept Medicaid. Seeing the doctor in the beginning would've cost $80. Now, the boy is dead, and the bill is $250,000. Welcome to America.

Sick? Show me your insurance card. Don't have one? Go die.

For Want of a Dentist, by Mary Otto

Twelve-year-old Deamonte Driver died of a toothache Sunday.
A routine, $80 tooth extraction might have saved him.
If his mother had been insured.
If his family had not lost its Medicaid.
If Medicaid dentists weren't so hard to find.
If his mother hadn't been focused on getting a dentist for his brother, who had six rotted teeth.
By the time Deamonte's own aching tooth got any attention, the bacteria from the abscess had spread to his brain, doctors said. After two operations and more than six weeks of hospital care, the Prince George's County boy died.
Deamonte's death and the ultimate cost of his care, which could total more than $250,000, underscore an often-overlooked concern in the debate over universal health coverage: dental care.

Read the full article.

Labels: , ,