Unanswered questions following the Defeat of Isis in Mosul

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Iraqi forces have been celebrating the liberation of Mosul after three years of occupation by Islamic State. The victory has given rise to questions about how to ‘win the peace’ by safely rebuilding a more stable and peaceful country.

Now that ISIS may soon be militarily defeated, the real challenge begins, that of offering an ideology of fair play and inclusiveness as an alternative to the ISIS ideology of exclusiveness. Younger generations who have been educated under ISIS have been inspired by their message. Measures could and should be taken to turn them away from such ideologies.

A power vacuum will be left behind in the territories formerly held by ISIS.

While the liberation of Mosul offers a beacon of hope, consider the challenges ahead and the continued desperation of those in Mosul who still face homelessness, hunger and oppression. The city may have been liberated, but fear continues to rule the streets of Mosul.

The 10th International Media Awards

On the 28th of June, the 10th edition of the International Media Awards were held at Whitehall, London. With guests attending from all over the world, including Russia, Israel, Afghanistan and Libya, the ceremony was a great spectacle of diversity. The ceremony was indeed a microcosm of the greater Middle East, the disparate nationalities and ethnicities of all those who participated reflected the vast array of people that call the region home. In an increasingly exclusionary, protectionist modern political landscape, this evening serves as a sharp contrast, offering a glimmer of hope to all of us who have been saddened by the current state of middle-eastern affairs, and those of us who are discontent with recent geopolitical developments.

The evening was not short of entertainment either, throughout the dinner multiple awards were given to deserving journalists, ranging from those who have just embarked on a journalistic career to those more seasoned, with some boasting 25+ year careers. Correspondents, documentary producers, and broadcasters were all recognised during the night. It is imperative these professionals are recognised for the work they do. They consistently risk their lives for the sake of uncovering the truth on complex conflicts and help us make sense of an increasingly interconnected world. Through credible, honest storytelling the winners have drawn our attention towards humanitarian crises whether they be in Yemen or Syria, the plight of those living under IS rule in Iraq and also highlighted the injustices some Palestinians face in everyday life.

Among the winners was Lyse Doucet, an accomplished broadcaster and frontline journalist, and is currently the BBC’s Chief International Correspondent. She won the ‘Outstanding Contribution to Broadcasting’ award, which rewards those who have had an illustrious career in the field of journalism. Throughout her career, Lyse has upheld the universal media virtues of integrity, honesty and impartiality. She is a figure of the industry and an idol to many young journalists looking to begin their careers.

There was also a moment of profound reflection. During the 4-year International Media Awards hiatus, there have been over 100 media related murders in the Middle-East. This number serves to indicate the deteriorating security conditions for media personnel in the region. But it simultaneously, allows us to appreciate the dangerous but vital work these journalists undertake. The sorry state of freedom of speech in the region is disheartening, but as the International Media Awards have indicated: The Middle-Eastern region has been ushered into a new era of information and wide-spread knowledge, there has been a huge influx of young journalists breaking through evinced by the young set of winners this year. Those who are brave, courageous, and those who will always stand in the face of adversity to retell the stories of the unfortunate to those of us who are much more fortunate. It is safe to say that the future of journalism is in good hands.

 

King Salman’s son Prince Mohammed bin Salman named as new crown prince

On Wednesday morning King Salman of Saudi Arabia named his son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman as the next heir to the Saudi throne, sweeping aside his son’s oldest rival, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. King Salman’s royal decree removed his nephew, Mohammed bin Nayef, from the line of succession and from his post as interior minister. The promotion of Mohammed bin Salman to the position of crown prince marks the end of the gradual removal of powers from the previous Mohammed bin Nayef.

While some are calling the royal decree emblematic of a coup d’état in which Mohammed bin Nayef has been ousted; the decision has not come as a shock. It is the case that the timing has been unexpected, but the influence of Mohammed bin Salman has been consistently growing culminating in this decision. The new crown prince has enjoyed growing influence following his father’s accession to the throne in 2015. Shortly after King Salman’s accession to the throne, he was appointed as defence minister and later in the same year was named deputy crown prince.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s influence is perhaps most apparent in his role as defence minister in leading Operation Decisive Storm, the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen fighting the Iranian-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen. It is widely believed that Mohammed bin Salman has been a driving force behind the decision to cut diplomatic ties and enforce a blockade on Qatar. Despite being behind this inconclusive and damaging military campaign, he is popular amongst Saudis for his reforms to the country’s ineffective state bureaucracy and his new long term economic plan “Vision 2030” which aims to wean the Kingdom off its dependence on oil.

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Prince Mohammad bin Salman, as Defence Minister, with US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis before a bi-lateral meeting held at the Pentagon, Washington DC, March 16 2017. 

King Salman’s decision to cement the position of Mohammed bin Salman brings into question what the consequences in the region will be, particularly with regards to the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen. Significantly, the decision to replace the 57-year-old Mohammed bin Nayef with King Salman’s 31-year-old son will give the Kingdom something it has not experienced in over half a century – a young King with the potential to rule for over 4 decades.

It is too early to predict the precise effects of this appointment on the stance of the Kingdom with regards to respective nation states in the region. That being said, given the current aggressive stance under King Salman towards Iran, it is likely that this will either continue or worsen under the crown prince. What is for sure, is that Mohammed bin Salman’s appointment will have significant ramifications for Middle Eastern politics, and more specifically for the Gulf, in the long-term.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Refugees than Ever Before?

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In a world where one in 200 children has the status of a refugee, it is of upmost importance to think of those who had no other choice than to move away from home. Today is International Refugee Day, a day that raises awareness about the issue among political leaders and civil society. Since the UN General Assembly decided in 2000 to make June 20 a day that would honour refugees around the world, members of society and heads of state have annually been reminded of the challenges that lie ahead. Thus, also today, nation-states must take into account the responsibility they face in terms of hosting and integrating refugees on their territory, while people like you and I must inform themselves of the challenges refugees face in their everyday life.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, 28,300 people a day are forced to flee their homes due to persecution and conflict, while the overall number of refugees on a global scale is as high as 22.5 million. Countries like Iran, Turkey, Pakistan and Lebanon, that are geographically close to war zones, are hosting a vast number of displaced families; and throughout the last few years the number has constantly increased. The war in Syria has led to a refugee crisis that forced many to cross borders and to settle down in neighbouring countries as well as striking out for  Europe. We currently face the highest levels of displaced people on record. The number of refugees has almost tripled in the last decade, while thousands have died in the Mediterranean Sea on their way to a better life.

The British Election

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The outcome of the British elections, hung parliament though it may be, is in many respects encouraging. Though the Brexit issue may not have been in the forefront of all voters’ minds, this is a vote against hard Brexit, and thus a vote for less disharmony between Britain and the other nations of Europe. Furthermore the unique vote in Scotland, one place in which the Conservative Party did better, was a vote, in part, against the concept of Scottish independence. And we see too much micro-nationalism in the world today. A world in which we all need to work together, rather than working against one another for our own selfish interest.
The true winner of the elections was democracy. The United Kingdom, in the face of terror and fear, provided the world with a prime example of how to respond. People went to the polls to participate in a peaceful democratic process. There is an example here for many nations across the globe, when faced with tyranny, a genuine respect for democracy is of the utmost importance. For if we resort to the ballot box rather than the bullet, to resolve our differences we build a safer tomorrow – and a better world for our children.

And the hidden plus was that this vote was a vote led by the young. The youth of Britain had felt dissempowered by the Brexit vote. This was payback time. it has implications for democracy in the future.

May´s snap election: the facts

Although Theresa May was hoping to strengthen her leadership with a snap election and thought to increase her mandate in Britain´s negotiations with the EU regarding Brexit, the actual election results did not meet her expectations. The Tories lost 13 seats in the House of Commons and thus their parliamentary majority, while the Labour party on the other side gained 30 seats, leading to a hung parliament. This rather unexpected election outcome has forced the Conservative Party to enter into discussions with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland in order to form a DUP-Tory alliance.

Brexit talks in the aftermath of the elections

Undoubtedly however, a hung parliament signifies uncertainty for Britain´s future relationship with the European Union. A soft Brexit, meaning that Britain would after all remain a member of the European Economic Area, is more likely than before due to the loss of MPs on the conservative benches, and negotiations with Brussels are thus likely to become messier and longer. European politicians and diplomats are starting to worry about the disastrous effect that a hung parliament could have on the UK-EU future relationship and perceive a weak prime minister as a threat to Brexit talks. Article 50 is triggered, the clock is ticking and Brexit talks need to be concluded in 2019.

Diversity within the new parliament

Yet, no matter how uncertain the future between continental Europe and the UK may be, there is something positive to focus on: diversity within the newly elected House of Commons. Never before has a British parliament been so diverse. The statistics speak for themselves. While the 2015 election brought 191 women into parliament, in 2017 women represent almost 32 %, an increase of 9 %. The number of ethnic minority MPs has also increased by 41 since 2015. Moreover 45 members of parliament consider themselves part of the LGBT community, while the number of disabled MPs and of those who went to state schools rose as well.

 

The 10th International Media Awards to be held in London later this month

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The International Media awards are, presented in London, to celebrate high standards of journalism across the world, but with particular emphasis on Middle-Eastern reporting.

The awards will be presented at a ceremony held by the International Council for Press and Broadcasting, a group now allied to the International Communications Forum, a body affiliated with the Next Century Foundation. The awards honour editors, journalists, bloggers and anyone else who played a role in fostering understanding between people, and demystifying complex wars.

The awards are divided into several categories:

  • The Peace through Media prizes are for senior journalists, who have contributed to better understanding throughout their careers, and comprise the symbolic gift of an olive tree.
  • The Cutting Edge prizes are for journalists recognised for their high standards of analysis and reporting, often in conflict situations.
  • The Breakaway prize is for young journalists, who have already begun to make an impact at the beginning of their careers.
  • The Lifetime Achievement prize.
  • The Photography & Visual Media prize
  • The Outstanding Contribution to Broadcasting prize
  • The New Media prize

In this highly advanced technological age, in  which the seeds of war can be sown from  misunderstanding, The International Media Awards recognise the media’ s integral role in achieving peace, truth and rapprochement.

Water-Apartheid in the Palestinian Territories

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The right to safe drinking water is recognised by the United Nations as a fundamental human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and an adequate standard of living”. The UN calls upon all states to ensure that every person, “without discrimination”, has access to “sufficient, safe, accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use”.

Yet this is a distant reality for millions of Palestinians living in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the blockaded Gaza Strip; instead they live with water that is contaminated, overpriced and chronically short in supply.

In the Gaza Strip, at least 95% of groundwater extracted from the Coastal Aquifer is so heavily contaminated it is “unfit for human consumption” according to UNICEF. After decades of over-exploitation by Palestinian and Israeli authorities, Gaza’s only aquifer has become severely depleted and susceptible to seawater and sewage contamination. Water shortages and widespread contamination are compounded by lasting conflict between Israel and Gaza’s de facto Hamas administration: in 2014 this conflict saw crucial water infrastructure targeted and destroyed by Israeli airstrikes. Subsequently, Israel’s long-standing blockade on Gaza continues to restrict the entry of specialist materials needed to rebuild and repair this damaged infrastructure.

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Meanwhile, in the West Bank, the right of Palestinians to safe water is systematically undermined through an unequal water-sharing agreement with Israel: the 1995 Oslo II Accord. This agreement grants Israel exclusive control of roughly four times the Palestinian allocation of ‘shared’ water resources, despite Israelis and Israeli settlers comprising a vastly smaller proportion of the West Bank’s population. The disparity in water consumption is shocking: a 2013 report by local NGO Al-Haq found that 500,000 Israeli settlers living in the West Bank collectively consumed over six times as much water as 2.6 million Palestinians.

Moreover, a discriminatory permit regime enables Israel to prevent Palestinians from building and maintaining water infrastructure in the West Bank. Where building work has taken place without Israeli approval, authorities have demolished vital structures including basic latrines, water tanks and piping networks serving Palestinian communities.

Faced with chronic water shortages and widespread contamination, many Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank spend between 20-30% of their income purchasing overpriced water from Israeli water company Mekorot or other unregulated private vendors.

This is a hugely unjust situation.