Photos of Hafez Assad and his son Bashar Assad are festooned all over Syria and Lebanon. This gallery documents how a cult-of-personality for the Assads has been established by the Syrian regime in both countries. The photos come from a variety of sources.
Mimi Chakarova and her PBS film crew were in the magical land of the UAE to film a documentary on the world's oldest profession in the hot new Emirate: "Dubai: Night Secrets"
What Chakarova found is a complicated and depressing prostitution trade thriving amidst the Dubai boom-town. Hardly a surprise. But the authorities in Dubai didn't want her expose to come out, as she explains the short movie clip on the documentary's website. We won't give away the full story. Just check out the clip and its surprise ending.
Omanis went to the polls this week, a relatively new experience in the Land of Sultan Qaboos. As in many of the region's "elections," the outcome has little impact anyway: the Majlis As-Shura is an impotent symbol rather than a legislative body with any control. Still, hopes had been raised in advance of the election that female candidates would have an impressive showing. Alas, not one female candidate was elected:
None of the 21 women competing for election to Oman's consultative council won positions on the 84-seat body, state media reported on Sunday...
However one of the defeated women candidates, Camilia al-Busaidi, declined to be downcast. "What's happened is not a disaster and it was a helpful experience for me," she told AFP.
The advisory council, which was created in 1991 and has a four-year term, questions ministers and advises government on socio-economic issues but has no legislative power or role in defence, internal security or foreign policy. Political parties remain banned.
A total of 388,683 citizens registered to vote in Saturday's polls out of a population of around 2.3 million.
Well, congratulations anyway to Camilia and her twenty fellow female candidates for trying. Keep at it!
In the meantime, readers who want to see a real contest going down in Oman can enjoy this shot from Oman's traditional Friday bullfight (who knew?!):
The news is a few days old already, but apparently Kuwait and Bahrain have banned the new Hollywood terrorism-action flick "The Kingdom." Not clear what the problem is, though the Kuwaiti censor says the film "is a false depiction of facts." Sounds reasonable... after all the film is a fictional tale. But it's got the facts wrong!
The film is set in Saudi Arabia (hence the name), but it is not banned by the Saudi censors. Of course, Saudi Arabia has no cinemas, so they do not need to ban the film. How convenient!
Mohammed Abbou, the legendary dissident who sewed his own mouth shut in jail to protest censorship, is once again harassed by the Tunisian authorities. Abbout was set to fly to Cairo to observe the trial of Egyptian editor Ibrahim Issa. Then the word came down from on high:
The authorities prevented lawyer and human rights activist Mohammed Abbou from taking an international flight yesterday from Tunis airport. Abbou, who was freed in July after more than two and a half years in prison, had wanted to go to Egypt to attend the trial of an Egyptian journalist. A ban on leaving the country was not a condition for his release. Abbou was sentenced to three and a half years in prison in April 2005 for writing an article for the Tunisnews website that compared the torture of political prisoners in Tunisia to the mistreatment of detainees by US soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned a wave of recent attacks on journalists in Algeria... The IFJ and its Algerian affiliate, the Syndicat National des Journalistes (SNJ) have been urging authorities to decriminalise press offences, ensure fair trials for media and a withdrawal of prison sentences against journalists.
On Monday Dhif Talal, correspondent for the Arabic-language newspaper Al Fadjr in Djelfa, was sentenced under the penal code to 6 months in jail after he was convicted on defamation charges brought against him by the Ministry of Agriculture. The charges stemmed from an article Talal wrote exposing huge losses of public funds due to poor administration in the local Department of Agriculture...
In the same region, Ouahid Oussama, correspondent at daily Arabic-language newspaper Al Bilad, has been summoned to appear before the court on 19 November to face defamation charges. The Director of the Department of Education of Djelfa brought the charges after the journalist made a report criticizing the failures of the education system in Djelfa.
Another journalist in Djelfa, El-Youm correspondent Hafnaoui Ghoul, has been harassed by the local authorities for his critical reporting of local authorities’ practices.
"The secretary general of Iran’s Human Rights Committee, Dr. Mohammad Javad Larijani declared: The West has had an extensive Propaganda campaign against Iran on Human rights issues; most of which are caused by political incentives.
On the writ of stoning, Dr. Larijani added: "Stoning is neither torture nor an incongruous punishment...
"If we had execution as a punishment for adultery instead of stoning, they would again complain that the crime and the punishment are not in proportion with each other-but as you know in Islamic rules, stoning is in lower level than execution because in stoning the defendant has a chance to survive. Besides, we think that the discrimination of insolence of adultery is not on Westerners but on the social norms within our country."
We are tempted to imagine Dr. Larijani (apparently not the recently resigned nuclear negotiator) as the biblical priest from the comedy Life of Brian overseeing a stoning - only to get stoned himself as he indignantly attempts to control the public ritual. Of course, that film is set 2,000 years ago, while Dr. Larijani is issuing declarations in 2007.