Month: September 2006

‘Post Global’ hosts debate on potential new UN chief

Washington Post's 'PostGlobal'The Washington Post‘s new on-line feature "PostGlobal," which is being moderated by David Ignatius and Fareed Zakaria, is hosting a debate this week on the replacement for Kofi Annan as UN chief. As I blogged previously, Jordan’s prince Zeid bin Ra’ad is among the candidates to replace Annan. Though he has an outside chance, he’s well qualified, having earned his BA in Poli-Sci at Johns
Hopkins and a PhD in history from Cambridge. He served as Jordan’s
deputy permanent representative before his current permanent representative post. As a UN chief, Prince Zeid would most likely put the Middle East crises on the global agenda. In this day and age, this is more than needed.

The Post debate is ongoing, though I couldn’t help but notice there there doesn’t seem to be much support for the prince. Here are few snippets from what readers are saying. Veteran journalist Daoud Kuttab said:

If the international community is serious about solving the Palestinian conflict then it should vote for the Jordanian candidate. Judging from the UN’s record, it seems unlikely that a Jordanian official — even a Hashemite prince — can do much, but it might be worth giving this seemingly intractable problem a chance to find a permanent solution.

On the other hand, if the position of the UN General Secretary is little more than a representative of the world conscience, then the smooth-tailing, experienced Indian candidate will probably prove more successful.

Another comment that caught my eye is one from Patrick in Egypt, who is not that excited about having a Jordanian chief.

I honestly think that South Korea’s leader will be the most impartial and suitable leader. Jordan’s leader should be ruled out. We’ve had an Arab Secretary-General in the 1990s (Boutros Boutros Ghali of Egypt) and having another one so soon would be understandably unfair. Furthermore, Prince Zeid would be too closely involved in a region that will probably be the focal point of many important and controversial UN measures. The UN can’t survive allegations of bias or unfairness.

You can read more comments and make your voice heard here. Other panelists like Kuttab are featured on the main page.

In the name of ‘honor’ another one bites the dust

Yet another woman has been murdered in cold blood in the name of honor. According to The Jordan Times, the deceased became the thirteenth woman killed this year in Jordan in what is termed an "honor crime."

Authorities on Thursday said two brothers confessed to murdering their sister for reasons related to family honor two weeks ago, then dumping her body in a canal in Karak. A shepherd discovered the victim’s badly decomposed body in a canal earlier this week. Coroners detected light burn marks on her body and traces of gasoline. Initial investigations indicated that the two brothers drove their sister from Irbid to a deserted area near the Queen Alia International Airport, beat her up, then strangled her, one source said. The suspects then drove to Karak and dumped their sister’s body in the canal and tried to set it ablaze to conceal their actions and get rid of the body, the source added.
Source: [The Jordan Times]

The most repulsive thing for me about these hideous crimes is that the killers still get reduced sentences for their brutal acts against humanity. All previous efforts to amend Jordanian Penal Code Article 340, which facilitates reduced sentences for these despicable crimes, has failed. It is such a shame that in this day and age, lives — especially those of women — can be so damn cheap. Here is what Jordanian blogger Euroarabe has to say about honor crimes:

Article 340 in Jordan’s penal code allows honor crime to go unpunished. The article was rejected in 1999 for ratification. Jordanian Minister of Justice, Abdul Karim Dughmi, who, at the time, responded to a question about honor killings in the case of rape smiled and gave this statement, "All women killed in cases of honor are prostitutes. I believe prostitutes deserve to die." In November, 2000, 20 countries signed a UN draft condemning violence against women. Jordan abstained.

And here is a link to comments by Jordanian blogger Nas on the issue.

US organizations file suit against Jordan over workers’ rights

So after issuing a report slamming the rights extended to workers in Jordan’s Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZ), the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, or AFL-CIO, and the US National Textile Association (NTA), are filing a lawsuit against Jordan.

The AFL-CIO, the largest labor federation in the US, representing more than 10 million workers, and the National Textile Association, which represents US textile producers, on Sept. 21 filed the first worker rights case ever submitted under the US-Jordan Free Trade Agreement (FTA). "This is the first time a business association has formally joined in filing a worker rights case under a trade agreement," the AFL-CIO and NTA said in a joint press release issued last week. They called on the Bush administration to initiate dispute settlement proceedings under the FTA that would halt alleged workers’ rights violations in Jordan. The complaint charges that the Jordanian government failed to meet its obligations under the Jordan-US FTA’s labor chapter, both because its labor laws fall short of international standards and because the government has failed to effectively enforce its laws. Source: [The Jordan Times] [Complaint in full here. Or as PDF]

And here is the Jordanian government’s reaction:

"We would like to know what else is needed to prove that we are totally serious when dealing with these allegations," Minister of Labor Bassem Salem told The Jordan Times yesterday. "The ministry has increased the number of inspectors on the team to 164, to ensure that workers’ rights are protected," the minister added.

The ministry has also initiated a hot-line, in seven different Asian languages, creating a channel through which workers can lodge complaints. In its response to the allegations listed in the AFL-CIO and NTA lawsuit, the government reiterated its position that "it takes these allegations very seriously and will not tolerate any labor violations against guest workers and takes all steps necessary to ensure that the treatment of such workers is in accordance with international standards."
Source: [The Jordan Times]

It’s hard not to notice that there has been a lot of pressure on Jordan these days from international organizations. Just last week Human Rights Watch slammed Jordan’s alleged use of torture in detention centers. I guess being a US ally makes Jordan the subject of greater scrutiny.

The roller coaster rider

The Loch Ness Monster's interlocking loops
When the husband told me of his desire to take me to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia I answered saying: "Great. But no roller coasters." "We’ll see," he said under his breath.

As soon as we arrived, the first thing we did was ride a roller coaster, the park’s legendary Loch Ness Monster. I have no idea how he convinced me to do it. I just succumbed so quickly — with no resistance. The experience was terrifying in every sense of the word. I was so scared that I decided to close my eyes during the ride and pretend that the whole roller coaster experience was just a bad dream. As soon as this near-death experience came to an end, the beaming husband asked me how I felt. "I need a beer," was my reply.

The day rolled on with still more adventures including haunted houses, bumper cars, Halloween shows, water rides and one more roller coaster. Yes, I succumbed one more time. "I want to you to share my love for roller coasters," he said in his latest attempt to convince me to ride another roller coaster — this time the Big Bad Wolf. I obliged for I’m too weak. This second ride was as terrifying as the first except that this time I decided to conquer my fear and keep my eyes open. I did not conquer anything. I was scared to death.

By the end of the day, yes, the husband wanted to try yet another roller coaster. This time I resisted. "Come on how can you keep doing this?" I asked a bit annoyed.
"Well I’m like Grissom in CSI. I love riding roller coasters," he explained.
"Did he say that in the show?" I asked.
"Oh yeah," the husband said smiling. "Do you know when I was about fifteen, my friend Steve and I once rode the Loch Ness some 25 times in one day."

After three years of marriage I discovered something new about my husband: he rides roller coasters.

The Alpengeist
Das Festhaus
Le Scoot

Jordan’s promising Institute of Cinematic Arts generates online controversy

King Abdullah and USC Dean Elizabeth M. Daley attend ceremony in New York Thanks to the blogosphere, I’ve found out about an amazing cinematic project that will be established in Jordan. It is the Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts (RSICA) based in Jordan’s Red Sea resort town of Aqaba. I first heard about this great project on Laith’s blog and it really made my day knowing that such a highly needed institute would be established in Jordan. Kudos to all those behind it.

However, the announcement of this project is already creating controversy in the blogosphere. The reason stems from a statement by veteran filmmaker Stephen Spielberg, who will be involved in the project:

When His Majesty the King approached me on the subject of a Jordan-based, world-class film school serving every country in the Middle East, including Israel, I immediately saw the importance and significance of such a venture for the people and the future of the region. I knew as a trustee of USC and a member of the school’s Board of Councilors that the university had the exact expertise he needed for this incredible initiative.
Source: [University of Southern California]

Some were not happy about having Israelis involved in the project. One anonymous commentator on Ameen’s blog said:

I read what blogger Laith Majali posted about the film school and it said the school is also open to Israelis. Imagine, sitting next you will be an Israeli who is an IDF reservists and who may have killed or maimed an Arab few kilometers away from the film school. And then we in Jordan will help him make films about evil and terrorist Arabs. This is like Israeli film schools admitting skinheads and neo-nazis. Will we go along with anything if the price is right?

Another commentator on Laith’s blog said:

"… world-class film school serving every country in the Middle East, including Israel" The New Middle East? You can count me out.

Another commentator on Laith’s blog going by the name of Shlomo said:

Thank you. I can’t [wait] to learn filmmaking in Jordan to make films about terrorist Arabs.

Regardless of the controversy, I see this project as the materialization of the dreams of so many aspiring Jordanian and Arab movie makers. I am excited.