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The doctor is in

23 Jun

"You have myopic astigmatism, sir."

I found this on the Middle East Institute Editor’s Blog*. This is just too laconic to neglect, as Bashar of course is an ophtalmologist. What’s more, this cartoonist seems to be irritated by Bashar’s neck. I can relate.

By the way: German news magazine “Der Spiegel” ran an interesting article in this week’s issue highlighting the difficulties specific to Syria’s opposition. The regime employs an absurd amount of  intelligence services, making trust hard to be established among activists. Yet the sheer amount of intelligence personnel also leads to competition and stalking among the services until ultimately, no information seems reliable. The Assad regime has applied this method for decades. Since the Assad family’s power is not based on religious, democratic or royal legitimacy, maybe it is based on ensuring that just very few people know enough to put one and one together.

Anyhow, I remember well the stereotype of the “wary Syrian”.

* The Editor’s Blog didn’t know who to credit for this cartoon, so neither do I. Just like them, I’ll credit as soon as I know more and hope I’m not infringing.

Link 14 Jun

This is such an insanely great idea!

If you should happen to go to Cairo, try catching on of the “Taxis of Knowledge”: An initiative that started in 2010 has equipped some 200 Cairene cabs with literature. So while weaving through Cairene traffic jams during rush hours, you can lean back and dive into, say, Alaa al-Aswani’s “Yacoubian Building”. So if you stay with your driver for all of your rides, you might even be able to get through your favorite book. The project is said to be hugely successful among Cairene taxi clients, and will therefore continue through 2011.

I say: Book your flight and make a reading list.

Taxi of Knowledge: Reading on the road

The Empire strikes back II

8 Jun

… And today the blogoshphere is abuzz with the latest on Amina Arraf: Andy Carvin has found out that no one in the Syrian LGBT scene knows her. He has also unsuccessfully tried to contact friends of hers, and now there’s an entirely new scenario in the room: Is Amina Arraf even real? Is hers just a fictional blog? Or is she a real person socializing online only? Andy Carvin shares his very interesting thoughts on tweetdeck.

The Empire strikes back

7 Jun

About a week ago, I read this article portraying gay and lesbian activists in Syria. I admired the courage to share one’s thoughts openly, to not hide behind pseudonyms, nevermind the fact that homosexuality is a crime in Syria. I was hoping these guys wouldn’t get in trouble with a regime that, during the past week, unleashed various measures of fighting back public insurgence. The ruling forces continue to use tactics such as cracking down protests, cutting off and then resuming Internet access, possibly staging incidents and using state media to disseminate their own version of the truth (this list probably goes on endlessly).

Said article and various others on the gay and lesbian scene had presented a young woman blogging openly on her life as a gay Syrian and on the current political events. Needless to say, one was left wondering whether her openness might make Amina Arraf an easy target for authorities at some point, especially since the regime seems to resort to taking every possible step to reinforce its prevalence. The fact that Amina is half American does not make the situation less worrisome.

This morning, I read on Global Voices that Amina Arraf has dissappeared, that her family does not know her whereabouts and that they’re worried she has been seized by authorities. Her cousin posted the news on Amina’s blog, and she will probably continue to update it with news on Amina.

This might come off a bit cheesy and unprofessional, but I really hope the hard-pressed regime does not immolate this young woman as a demonstration of power.

Yay, there’s a new Social Networking Site around!

6 Jun

… Only this one is Arabic.

In an interview with the National, AreebaAreeba’s founder Ayman Irshaid explains his thoughts behind the project, which was to create an online community not mainly for students, but for the entire Arab World and for Arab expats all over the world staying in touch with people at home. From the look of it,  AreebaAreeba aims at becoming the Arabic equivalent to business networking sites such as xing. But according to Irshaid, this year’s uprises saw a spike in network groups relating to the current political events in the Arab world. In this sense, AreebaAreeba seems to be somewhat of a mix of business and private networking tool.

The most interesting aspect is that the site’s in Arabic. Surely, AreebaAreeba is “yet another online community”, but with Arabic as its main language, the network site will be interesting to observe in regional competition to the market leaders Facebook and Linkedin. Some users might be tempted to join AreebaAreeba because this community  makes them feel more accommodated or “at home”. And while an astonishingly large number of Arabs has excellent command of English, there are of course millions of Arabs with very little or no knowledge of English whatsoever. Those might so far have been hesitant to join the mainly anglophone Facebook, MySpace and so on. I’m guessing that those are a perfect target group for AreebaAreeba.