October 28, 2012
"Britain has rebuffed US pleas to use military bases in the UK to support the build-up of forces in the Gulf, citing secret legal advice which states that any pre-emptive strike on Iran could be in breach of international law."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oct/25/uk-reject-us-request-bases-iran

July 7, 2012
I am thuroughly unsure how I feel about this

Cover-up campaign hits Gulf streets

Activists in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates encourage expatriates to dress modestly and respect local culture.



When in Rome, do as the Romans do. That is the message of two campaigns started by local women in the Gulf countries of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Najla Al Mahmoud is a Qatari behind the "One of Us" public awareness push, which hopes to educate expatriates about appropriate dress. Specifically, she wants people - men and women - in her country to cover up between the shoulders and the knees. During the summer “the scene of exposed flesh increases”, Al Mahmoud said. “We are offended by this… but we are sure that people don’t know and we are sure that people will respect this. Why wouldn’t they? We want to educate them.”
Most local women in Qatar and the UAE wear an abaya, a black garment that covers most of the body. The men wear the kandura, which tends to be ankle-length and a shade of white.
The "UAE Dress Code" campaign, started by locals Hanan Al Rayes and Asma Al Muhairi, began out of disgust at the sight of foreigners dressed in what they deemed to be inappropriate attire, according to media reports. “Whether you like it or not, this country has its own culture that shd be respected & protected by its own people,” read one of their recent tweets.
Call for dress code
Hamad Al Rahoumi, a member of the UAE Federal National Council (FNC), does not think public awareness alone is enough because there are people who are aware of cultural norms, but choose to ignore them. Al Rahoumi has suggested legally enforcing a dress code, but the law would act be more as a deterrent than to punish people. “Just because the law is there a lot of people will stop (dressing immodestly)… it is like a policeman standing next to a stop light everyone will (drive) properly… He doesn’t have to give anyone a ticket.” He added that the seven emirates have different rules regarding attire, and a federal law is needed to make a dress code in the UAE consistent.

  Most local women in Qatar and the UAE wear an abaya, a black garment that covers most of the body, while men wear the kandura [Getty Images]
Another member of the advisory FNC body, Noura Al Kaabi, said via email that “proper awareness campaigns would be more ideal”.
While the awareness campaigns are not focussed on creating dress code laws, they are about respecting cultural norms. But modesty and taste are subjective and without clear laws, what is acceptable attire is often left to the discretion of the wearer.
Article 30 of the UAE Constitution says, “Freedom of opinion and expressing it verbally, in writing or by other means of expression shall be guaranteed within the limits of the law.” But to what extent does “other means” cover clothing - or lack of it?
There are also no laws that explicitly spell out the do’s and don’ts of dressing in Qatar. Article No. 398 of the Qatari Criminal Act states that one can be fined 300 Qatari riyals (about $82) for acts of public indecency equivalent to urinating or bathing in public.
The only constitutional article that addresses the issue is Article 57, which states: “The respect of the Constitution, compliance with the laws issued by Public Authority, abiding by public order and morality, observing national traditions and established customs is a duty of all who reside in the State of Qatar or enter its territory.”
Laws are not needed, and the constitutional article is enough for everyone, said Hassan Al Sayed, a prominent Qatari legal expert. “Just respect the culture in Qatar.”
Khalid Al Ameri, an Emirati columnist and blogger, agrees. Enforcing laws pertaining to clothes could prove difficult and arbitrary. For example, a woman may choose to wear shorts and a baggy T-shirt and find herself in violation of a hypothetical law, whereas another “girl might come wearing tight stuff that reveals more than it covers, but complies with the dress code”, said Al Ameri, who wrote recently on the topic. Enforcement and punishment would also depend on the actual officer or official to pass judgement, which is not desired, he added.
Public indecency laws, of course, are not unique to the Arab world. Western countries also have rules for covering up, and there are different rules for the sexes. Women in western countries cannot walk around topless, one expatriate commented.
It is not so much a matter of what clothes one wears, but where one wears them, said Al Ameri. “You couldn’t wear a short shirt in a mall, but you could maybe wear a short shirt in a private club or private restaurant where it complies with the dress code.”
Divided opinion
On social media and Qatari networking sites, some foreign women who have both applauded and denounced the modesty movement said they think time would be better spent campaigning to enforce laws that could save lives, for example fining people who smoke in areas where lighting up is banned, or requiring the use of seat belts.
Others have suggested that stores in the Gulf could sell more “local-friendly” dresses, skirts and the like. The high-end clothing stores on the Pearl in Doha, Qatar, do not generally stock many clothes that would be considered acceptable women’s wear in public spaces in the country. Trying to find a shop that sells a dress that has both sleeves and a hem that hits below the knees proved difficult. The same could be said for many of the clothes for sale at the H&M in the local Qatari malls. “This is so bad,” said Al Mahmoud, who is also trying to raise awareness at clothing stores by asking that their advertisements and window displays be culturally appropriate.
Shopping in one of the world’s largest complexes, the Dubai Mall, presents the same irony - see-through blouses, plunging necklines, and near waist-high skirt slits are prevalent. Pants and blouses, of course, are an option.
"We want Qatar to be a place for everyone. Something in the middle. Not too extreme and not too loose."
- Najla Al Mahmoud
There have been calls of hypocrisy, noting that many Muslims vehemently opposed the veil bans in France and Belgium. Comments on Qatar Living, an online community website, run the gamut, with some stating that people should be allowed to wear what they want in public be it in Qatar or Belgium. But others believe that if people do not like the local laws or norms in the Gulf or Europe, then “they should go back to where they came from… In their country, it’s their rules.”
Qatari Al Mahmoud said one could not compare Gulf campaigns to legal moves in Europe. “We are not interfering with religion… We are not banning a certain attire,” she said. “Modesty doesn’t have a religion or a country… We are not singling people out or being racists to one nationality or one religion. It’s for everyone.”
The Gulf should not go the route of some European countries that penalise some people for their clothing choices, said Emirati Al Ameri. The Emirates has grown “as a country and we have become one of the most popular places for expats to go because we have been a tolerant society and because we have taken an approach of educating rather than punishing people that come”. A simple dress code is better. “When you have a dress code and somebody doesn’t abide by it, they are excluded.” The choice becomes theirs. If someone goes to a restaurant and does not wear the appropriate attire, they will be refused entry. “I believe that is a more effective way than by punishing.”
Nora, a Muslim expat from the United Kingdom who teaches in Qatar, said “our ‘uniform’ tells men ‘approach with caution’”. And, while one cannot control the actions of disrespectful men, “one can control how we dress, so we do”, added Nora, who did not want her last name used. That is not to say that a woman dressed immodestly is extending an invitation. “Everyone deserves to be treated with respect.”
All those contacted for this article agreed that disrespecting someone who is dressed disrespectfully is not acceptable. “We want Qatar to be a place for everyone. Something in the middle. Not too extreme and not too loose,” Al Mahmoud said. UAE FNC member Al Rahoumi agreed. “We don’t want them to cover their face… (but), I don’t want to see the underwear… It is not suitable.”
Whether you like the campaigns or not, outfits that might fly elsewhere will likely not pass in the Gulf anytime soon, despite the number of foreign residents who live in these countries. A Qatari resident from the United States also does not think that any pushback from offended Western women would change local norms, and that foreigners should just adhere to the culture. “What’s the big deal? Cover the knees, shoulders and (chest),” said Cena McLatchy. “It’s not like they are asking you to go to prayer five times a day, or slaughter a lamb at Eid.”

Source:
Al Jazeera

I am thuroughly unsure how I feel about this

Cover-up campaign hits Gulf streets

Activists in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates encourage expatriates to dress modestly and respect local culture.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. That is the message of two campaigns started by local women in the Gulf countries of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Najla Al Mahmoud is a Qatari behind the "One of Us" public awareness push, which hopes to educate expatriates about appropriate dress. Specifically, she wants people - men and women - in her country to cover up between the shoulders and the knees. During the summer “the scene of exposed flesh increases”, Al Mahmoud said. “We are offended by this… but we are sure that people don’t know and we are sure that people will respect this. Why wouldn’t they? We want to educate them.”

Most local women in Qatar and the UAE wear an abaya, a black garment that covers most of the body. The men wear the kandura, which tends to be ankle-length and a shade of white.

The "UAE Dress Code" campaign, started by locals Hanan Al Rayes and Asma Al Muhairi, began out of disgust at the sight of foreigners dressed in what they deemed to be inappropriate attire, according to media reports. “Whether you like it or not, this country has its own culture that shd be respected & protected by its own people,” read one of their recent tweets.

Call for dress code

Hamad Al Rahoumi, a member of the UAE Federal National Council (FNC), does not think public awareness alone is enough because there are people who are aware of cultural norms, but choose to ignore them. Al Rahoumi has suggested legally enforcing a dress code, but the law would act be more as a deterrent than to punish people. “Just because the law is there a lot of people will stop (dressing immodestly)… it is like a policeman standing next to a stop light everyone will (drive) properly… He doesn’t have to give anyone a ticket.” He added that the seven emirates have different rules regarding attire, and a federal law is needed to make a dress code in the UAE consistent.

  Most local women in Qatar and the UAE wear an abaya, a black garment that covers most of the body, while men wear the kandura [Getty Images]

Another member of the advisory FNC body, Noura Al Kaabi, said via email that “proper awareness campaigns would be more ideal”.

While the awareness campaigns are not focussed on creating dress code laws, they are about respecting cultural norms. But modesty and taste are subjective and without clear laws, what is acceptable attire is often left to the discretion of the wearer.

Article 30 of the UAE Constitution says, “Freedom of opinion and expressing it verbally, in writing or by other means of expression shall be guaranteed within the limits of the law.” But to what extent does “other means” cover clothing - or lack of it?

There are also no laws that explicitly spell out the do’s and don’ts of dressing in Qatar. Article No. 398 of the Qatari Criminal Act states that one can be fined 300 Qatari riyals (about $82) for acts of public indecency equivalent to urinating or bathing in public.

The only constitutional article that addresses the issue is Article 57, which states: “The respect of the Constitution, compliance with the laws issued by Public Authority, abiding by public order and morality, observing national traditions and established customs is a duty of all who reside in the State of Qatar or enter its territory.”

Laws are not needed, and the constitutional article is enough for everyone, said Hassan Al Sayed, a prominent Qatari legal expert. “Just respect the culture in Qatar.”

Khalid Al Ameri, an Emirati columnist and blogger, agrees. Enforcing laws pertaining to clothes could prove difficult and arbitrary. For example, a woman may choose to wear shorts and a baggy T-shirt and find herself in violation of a hypothetical law, whereas another “girl might come wearing tight stuff that reveals more than it covers, but complies with the dress code”, said Al Ameri, who wrote recently on the topic. Enforcement and punishment would also depend on the actual officer or official to pass judgement, which is not desired, he added.

Public indecency laws, of course, are not unique to the Arab world. Western countries also have rules for covering up, and there are different rules for the sexes. Women in western countries cannot walk around topless, one expatriate commented.

It is not so much a matter of what clothes one wears, but where one wears them, said Al Ameri. “You couldn’t wear a short shirt in a mall, but you could maybe wear a short shirt in a private club or private restaurant where it complies with the dress code.”

Divided opinion

On social media and Qatari networking sites, some foreign women who have both applauded and denounced the modesty movement said they think time would be better spent campaigning to enforce laws that could save lives, for example fining people who smoke in areas where lighting up is banned, or requiring the use of seat belts.

Others have suggested that stores in the Gulf could sell more “local-friendly” dresses, skirts and the like. The high-end clothing stores on the Pearl in Doha, Qatar, do not generally stock many clothes that would be considered acceptable women’s wear in public spaces in the country. Trying to find a shop that sells a dress that has both sleeves and a hem that hits below the knees proved difficult. The same could be said for many of the clothes for sale at the H&M in the local Qatari malls. “This is so bad,” said Al Mahmoud, who is also trying to raise awareness at clothing stores by asking that their advertisements and window displays be culturally appropriate.

Shopping in one of the world’s largest complexes, the Dubai Mall, presents the same irony - see-through blouses, plunging necklines, and near waist-high skirt slits are prevalent. Pants and blouses, of course, are an option.

"We want Qatar to be a place for everyone. Something in the middle. Not too extreme and not too loose."

- Najla Al Mahmoud

There have been calls of hypocrisy, noting that many Muslims vehemently opposed the veil bans in France and Belgium. Comments on Qatar Living, an online community website, run the gamut, with some stating that people should be allowed to wear what they want in public be it in Qatar or Belgium. But others believe that if people do not like the local laws or norms in the Gulf or Europe, then “they should go back to where they came from… In their country, it’s their rules.”

Qatari Al Mahmoud said one could not compare Gulf campaigns to legal moves in Europe. “We are not interfering with religion… We are not banning a certain attire,” she said. “Modesty doesn’t have a religion or a country… We are not singling people out or being racists to one nationality or one religion. It’s for everyone.”

The Gulf should not go the route of some European countries that penalise some people for their clothing choices, said Emirati Al Ameri. The Emirates has grown “as a country and we have become one of the most popular places for expats to go because we have been a tolerant society and because we have taken an approach of educating rather than punishing people that come”. A simple dress code is better. “When you have a dress code and somebody doesn’t abide by it, they are excluded.” The choice becomes theirs. If someone goes to a restaurant and does not wear the appropriate attire, they will be refused entry. “I believe that is a more effective way than by punishing.”

Nora, a Muslim expat from the United Kingdom who teaches in Qatar, said “our ‘uniform’ tells men ‘approach with caution’”. And, while one cannot control the actions of disrespectful men, “one can control how we dress, so we do”, added Nora, who did not want her last name used. That is not to say that a woman dressed immodestly is extending an invitation. “Everyone deserves to be treated with respect.”

All those contacted for this article agreed that disrespecting someone who is dressed disrespectfully is not acceptable. “We want Qatar to be a place for everyone. Something in the middle. Not too extreme and not too loose,” Al Mahmoud said. UAE FNC member Al Rahoumi agreed. “We don’t want them to cover their face… (but), I don’t want to see the underwear… It is not suitable.”

Whether you like the campaigns or not, outfits that might fly elsewhere will likely not pass in the Gulf anytime soon, despite the number of foreign residents who live in these countries. A Qatari resident from the United States also does not think that any pushback from offended Western women would change local norms, and that foreigners should just adhere to the culture. “What’s the big deal? Cover the knees, shoulders and (chest),” said Cena McLatchy. “It’s not like they are asking you to go to prayer five times a day, or slaughter a lamb at Eid.”

Source:
Al Jazeera

June 16, 2012
Gulf Coast Waters Closed to Shrimping (probably because of BP spill contamination)

climateadaptation:

A move that is both bold and weak at the same time. Scientists say ‘oil pollution,’ government says ‘small shrimp.’ Smells like PR bullshit to protect BP and oil drillers from further payouts to local communities.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources acted this week to close waters along the Gulf Coast to shrimping due to widespread reports from scientists and fishermen of deformed seafood and drastic fall-offs in populations two years after the BP oil spill. [‘Official’ reason is now reported to be smaller than average shrimp.]

(Source: speakerforthetrees, via reagan-was-a-horrible-president)

March 20, 2012

(Source: paloma-valentina, via saharfakhri)

October 18, 2011
"

Bahrain’s special security court has given lengthy jail terms to doctors and nurses who treated injured protesters during the uprising earlier this year, a lawyer said.

The court, set up under emergency rule, also sentenced a protester to death for killing a police officer.

Mohsen al-Alawi said the tribunal jailed 13 medical professionals for 15 years each. In addition, two doctors were sentenced to 10 years each while five other medics convicted on Thursday were given five years each…

Thursday’s verdicts came a day after the tribunal upheld sentences for 21 activists convicted over the protests, including eight political figures who were given life terms on charges of trying to overthrow the monarchy.

"

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/sep/29/bahrain-protester-death-sentence

September 29, 2011
"

Fifteen months after BP’s crippled Macondo Well in the Gulf of Mexico caused one of the worst environmental disasters in US history, oil and oil sheen covering several square kilometers of water are surfacing not far from BP’s well.

Al Jazeera flew to the area on Sunday, September 11, and spotted a swath of silvery oil sheen, approximately 7 km long and 10 to 50 meters wide, at a location roughly 19 km northeast of the now-capped Macondo 252 well

According to oil trackers with the organisation On Wings of Care, who have been monitoring the new oil since early August, rainbow-tinted slicks and thicker globs of oil have been consistently visible in the area.

"

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2011/09/2011912175412109550.html

April 21, 2011
A chilling account of the brutal clampdown sweeping Bahrain -

Since the Gulf soldiers came to Bahrain, life in the Shia villages and suburbs of the capital, Manama, has been non-stop intimidation, violence and threats. Even trying to move around in normal ways has become life-threatening. They are trying to beat down the opposition with a long campaign against us.

I live in one of the villages near Manama. One night about 7.30pm, I parked in front of my father-in-law’s house and walked towards the door, when at least 50 armed and masked thugs – they were not in security forces uniform – appeared from one of the village lanes and told me to stop, pointing their shotguns at me. I ran away and they followed, but I managed to hide in one of the houses and they did not see me.

I heard them talking to each other, saying: “Don’t worry, we will find him.” I was taking a look from the window and they stayed at the car park opposite the house I was hiding in, and they were smashing the windows of parked cars and wrecking and stealing from them. Some had Saudi accents; they are very different from Bahraini and easy to tell.

At 8pm most nights people go up on their roofs and chant Allahu Akbar [“God is greatest”] and the thugs start shooting randomly in the air and at the top of the roofs. That night the area was covered with tear-gas grenades and rubber bullets, while the roads around the house were deserted except for thugs.

Later that night (I was unable to leave the house I was in), we heard a group of people, 100 or more, chanting: “Bahrain is free, Gulf Shield out.” I was watching from the rooftop when the riot police ran in from a main road and started shooting rubber bullets and tear-gas cartridges.

I hid inside the house while the demonstrators ran away from the shooting and in 30 minutes I saw riot police, with armed civilians among them, roaming around the lanes and roads by the house I was hiding in.

They managed to catch two people, aged no more than 30, and were beating them up badly, swearing at them all the time and cursing the Shia clerics, saying: “Where is al-Khomeini now? Where is al-Sistani, you Shia dogs?” They took them away. I managed to take a photograph of the blood on the floor after the beating and there was so much. I am sure the man must have died.

They [the security forces] can tell the Shias from Sunnis because of the birth town shown on the ID cards, and also sometimes by the name. I get stopped and searched at many checkpoints and always asked the same questions: “Are you Shia? Were you at Lulu Square [the demonstrators’ name for the protest camp at Pearl roundabout that has since been demolished]?” And all kinds of other sectarian questions.

At the checkpoint by Bahrain Mall, which is the entrance to the village of Daih, the man in charge had a Saudi accent, but he was masked, in civilian clothes with an automatic rifle. My card was taken away with another officer to check my name against a list. They have pictures and names of all the people at Lulu and on the demonstrations and have posted them on Facebook with notices saying: “Bring these people to justice, they are guilty people.”

In another checkpoint, at the entrance to Karzakan, an Emirati officer [from the UAE contingent of the Gulf Peninsula Shield force] searched me, and my BlackBerry and my car, and questioned me for an hour about my reasons for entering the village.

A female co-worker who dresses conservatively in an abaya had the same thing happen to her. They kept browsing through her phone, which contained personal photos of her and her family without the headscarf, which they [male police] should not see, as it is not acceptable in Islam, Sunni or Shia.

For two weeks after the attack on Lulu we kept seeing a military aircraft (a US-built F-16 type) every day at about 7.30pm, flying low over the villages, backing up the police helicopters which we see over our heads all day long in the villages. We hear shooting every day at 8pm and 10pm when the chanting starts on the rooftops.

The army and riot police have begun to destroy the Shia matams [mosques] in some villages, even those where there was no protest that day. They say they are looking for arms, but the only ones they’ve shown were obviously put there by them – they are government-issue weapons. The demolitions took place in broad daylight in the morning, with bulldozers.

In Karanh village at 4pm one day last week, demonstrators marched towards the entrance of the village on the main road, and they were faced with heavy firing from the riot police and masked armed civilians. They managed to get hold of three people whom they handcuffed, covered their faces with a canvas bag (like in Guantánamo) and started beating them up in a very brutal way.

In the village of Daih we demonstrated at the front of the village, and as we reached the main road the riot police attacked us with tear gas and rubber bullets and shotguns.

I managed to get on top of one of the buildings in front of the main road and saw the riot police arresting three teenagers, beating them up and handcuffing them. One of the officers kept searching their pockets, throwing stuff out and hiding some of the things he found in his own pocket.

In Sanabis, there was no sign of any protest, and as I was walking I was shocked to see riot police cars followed by unmarked cars entering the village fast and shooting randomly. They stopped near a school and about 100 armed riot police and masked armed civilians came out, roaming around the village shooting at anything that moved.

They ran after a group of people who were walking by and they entered one of the houses after seeing someone running inside, and they arrested him and beat him.

Over the past week, three of my cousins have been arrested and they are all teachers, two women and one man, who is the headteacher of a school, along with 50 other full-time teachers. They have all been arrested in their classrooms for joining the strike and signing a petition to remove the education minister. Tanks were surrounding the school and riot police entered and arrested them.

My young brother, 15, was coming back from school last Sunday, and the bus had been stopped at a checkpoint and the riot police entered.

The officer had a Saudi accent and he asked the whole bus: “Which of you went to Lulu Square? You are Shia dogs, why is there no photo of King Hamad in the bus?”

He asked the other officers to check the books of random students to see if the photo of King Hamad was there (all school books have his photo) and they found a number of students who ripped or damaged the photo.

They started to beat them up inside the bus and then arrested them and threatened the other students. “The bus will be searched every day and we had better see the king’s photo inside the bus tomorrow, otherwise you will not go home.”

The same day I drove by the same checkpoint just after my brother arrived home and saw four teenagers with their heads covered by bags lying on their stomachs at 2pm under the hot sun, with their shirts removed and getting random kicks by the officers.

I went towards a backstreet and tried to take a video, but a police car spotted me and started shooting birdshot. I ran away inside the village and they came after me. I hid in one of the private compounds and saw riot police running, looking for me.

Later that day I managed to get home and it was confirmed that the arrested students returned home after they got beaten up. They refused to be photographed, as they were threatened by the police. Now they do not use the school bus, as they are afraid they will be stopped.

I went with my mother to the military hospital by Hamad Town for her regular check-up – she has cardiac problems. That hospital is the only one in Bahrain with specialist heart doctors. When I approached the main entrance, I and my mother were asked by Bahraini security for our IDs and medical cards. When they saw them, another masked officer approached the car with a Saudi accent and asked the officer: “Who is this? What’s going on?” The Bahraini whispered something to him and the Saudi officer shouted at me: “Are you Shia?” And he kicked the car and said: “Get out of here, dog.”

I did not reply and turned the car around and went back home. My mother did not do her monthly check-up and we will have to go outside Bahrain for that.

In Salmaniya medical complex [which has been under military occupation for three weeks], a cousin of mine worked at the appointments centre. After his shift he left the hospital and police stopped him at the exit, checked his ID card and noticed his Shia name. They accused him of racism for not giving appointments to Sunnis and beat him up.

He asked his family to collect him because he was bleeding from his eyes and feeling dizzy. He did not get any medical treatment as it was impossible to reach any hospital without being questioned, especially when he is injured. He is still at home and does not go to work and it seems he lost an eye. Many doctors have been arrested for treating injured people. The opposition says that 720 people have been arrested since 15 March. Many have been beaten, four have died in detention and 210 are still missing. But who knows really how many?

They say that we are spies for Iran, but nobody here wants to be ruled from Iran. We are Shia, but we are also Arabs, not Persians. We do not want help from Iran. We want democracy in our own country.

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