Posts in The Disturbing

The mistreatment of animals in Jordan

Imad Hammo boxes a tiger The Jordan Times should be commended for Monday’s investigative report into the mistreatment of animals in Jordanian zoos. Here is an excerpt:

The inhumane treatment of animals in the country’s zoos is cause for concern, according to visitors’ complaints sent to the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) and the Humane Center for Animal Welfare (HCAW). The complaints, seen by The Jordan Times, expressed anger about what one visitor referred to as "horrendous sights" at local zoos.

Among the complaints listed were poor feeding, physical abuse and a lack of proper medical supervision. "The animals in these zoos are in a miserable state," stated Walid Bakri. "Most are starving, some are severely wounded and everywhere we turned not one zookeeper showed the slightest bit of care," his letter continued.

I believe the mistreatment of animals in Jordan generally is a major problem that needs highlighting and immediate attention. I have witnessed many disturbing scenes of violence to animals on the streets of Amman. I recall seeing children torture stray cats that for some reason still fill the streets of the Jordanian capital [you’d think they’d know to hide by now]. I’ve seen children kick cats, pull their tails and throw soda cans at them.

A trained hyena Humane behavior towards animals should be instilled in children from an early age. The situation must not be allowed to continue as it is now. Organizations like Humane Center for Animal Welfare (HCAW) should be really given credit for their efforts to spread awareness amongst Jordanians about the humane treatment of animals. I attended a number of their workshops while working for The Jordan Times, as I was assigned to cover their activities back then. Their primary goal is to spread awareness. Kudos for their efforts.

One of the more horrible stories related to me by an HCAW official was that they saw kids trying to blow up a cat with a tire pump simply for the fun of it! Horrific! According to The Jordan Times, Jordanian zoos are in dire straits. That was news to me, although it is not that surprising. The pictures here were taken by the husband during his visit to one zoo in Amman as part of his work as an editor at The Star. The first picture was taken inside a lion’s cage. The man boxing the tiger in the picture is Imad Hammo, the head of the zoo mentioned in The Jordan Times report. The second image is of a tamed hyena, which Hammo claimed to be the only one in the world.

Depressing Dahab developments

Dahab's hippies enjoy the day

I want to extend my condolences to the Egyptians and other nationals impacted by the terrible human tragedy that befell Dahab on Monday. More than 20 people were killed in a hideous terrorist attack that rocked the peaceful coastal city — the third in the Sinai in 18 months. When will this ever stop! It really is truly disgusting and just so terribly evil!

The husband and I went to Dahab a few years ago and really enjoyed the laid back atmosphere of this place; everyone seemed content and simply at peace. I hope the bombings don’t change its unique atmosphere in the long run.

Here is a picture of Dahab I took during the trip that I called The Dahab Hippies. It was by the beach where people bearing all the hippie hallmarks hung out to get a sun bath.

The Prophet cartoon row rolls on

Editor Muhammad al-Asadi Yemeni lawyers have called for a newspaper editor to be sentenced to death for showing cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, his paper says. Muhammad al-Asadi was arrested after his publication, the Yemen Observer, showed the Danish cartoons in February. He denies the charges of offending Islam, under which he is being tried. The English-language newspaper has had its license to publish suspended, although its staff have continued to produce material on-line. Lawyers leading a civil case against publishers of the cartoons — in addition to the public case — cited precedents from Muslim history when the prophet was insulted by a woman and then praised her killer. Source: [BBC]

The death penalty! Geez! This is just out of control. There is an interview with him from jail right after his arrest that suggests he is at least somewhat prepared. Meanwhile, as expected, the cartoon row seems to have played an integral part in a new survey highlighting the growing negative image of Muslims and Arabs. Her are some excerpts from the Washington Post’s front page story:

As the war in Iraq grinds into its fourth year, a growing proportion of Americans are expressing unfavorable views of Islam, and a majority now say that Muslims are disproportionately prone to violence, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. The poll found that nearly half of Americans — 46 percent — have a negative view of Islam, seven percentage points higher than in the tense months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, when Muslims were often targeted for violence.

The survey comes at a time of increasing tension; the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq show little sign of ending, and members of Congress are seeking to block the Bush administration’s attempt to hire an Arab company to manage operations at six of the nation’s ports. Also, Americans are reading news of deadly protests by Muslims over Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad.

As a school bus driver in Chicago, Gary McCord, 65, dealt with many children of Arab descent. "Some of the best families I’ve ever had were some of my Muslim families," he said in a follow-up interview. "They were so nice to me." He now works for a Palestinian Christian family, whose members he says are "really marvelous." But his good feelings do not extend to Islam. "I don’t mean to sound harsh or anything, but I don’t like what the Muslim people believe in, according to the Koran. Because I think they preach hate," he said. As for the controversial cartoons of Muhammad, he said Arabs seem hypersensitive about religion. "I think it’s been blown out of proportion," he said. Source: [Washington Post]

Atwar Bahjat, rest in peace

I am really shocked by the horrifying news today of the murder of Alarabiya reporter Atwar Bahjat and her crew in Samarra, Iraq.

Screen capture of Attwar Bahjat Two gunmen pulled up in a pickup truck, shooting in the air and shouting: "We want the correspondent," The Associated Press quoted Al-Arabiya as reporting. "Atwar was in the news van and shouted to the crowd to help her."

"The crew tried to speak to the gunmen, but they snatched them and took them [to] an unknown location. By this time, night had fallen," Reuters quoted Al-Arabiya’s Baghdad correspondent Ahmed al-Saleh as telling viewers. Saleh said the bodies had been dumped near the town of Dawr near Samarra. All three were Iraqi citizens. Source: [CNN]

I met Atwar briefly last year in Doha, Qatar. I remember her as being so extremely friendly. I’m really just appalled by such a cold-blooded murder. May her soul rest in peace. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has issued a statement on the killings:

We are horrified by this appalling act. We will never stop repeating that journalists are neutral and vital observers. They are neither combatants nor targets to be shot down. Their work must be protected and respected, whatever their nationality and regardless of which media they work for.

… A total of 82 journalists and media assistants have been killed since the start of the war in Iraq. Seven of them have died since 1st January 2006, making this start of the year the most deadly in three years. Atwar Bahjat is the 7th woman journalist to be killed since the war in Iraq began.

The situation in Iraq seems to be getting worse by the day. When will all this mayhem come to an end once and for all!

RSF: Jordanian authorities ‘acrimonious’ since cartoon controversy began

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is apparently not satisfied with the Jordanian government’s handling of the Prophet caricature controversy. In a press release, RSF said:

The Jordanian authorities have been among the most acrimonious since the start of this controversy. Ten days ago, the Jordanian parliament called for the cartoonists to be punished. Now the judicial authorities are getting involved and have had a journalist imprisoned.

For my part, I’m really quite annoyed with the decision jailing the two Jordanian journalists, even though I understand that they violated the Press and Publication Law by publishing such religiously offensive cartoons. That said, I don’t see how you can justify the very presence of a press law in a supposedly democratic country. Arresting journalists and throwing them in jail before they get a fair trial is surely a step backwards in the kingdom’s supposed march towards a free press.

But the most upsetting thing for me is that these actions were taken while we Jordanians are being showered with promises of a free press via the highly anticipated reform program: The National Agenda. I was more optimistic several months ago, particularly after the launch of a campaign to end journalist imprisonment in Jordan. I truly believed Jordan was on the path towards embracing reform. Now it seems things are going in reverse.

In case you are wondering what became of the two journalists, well, they were re-arrested after an appeal from a civil prosecutor on Monday. This was one day after a judge released them pending their respective trials. The two could spend three years behind bars if found guilty. "It will be awkward that two editors walk freely while we are leading a national campaign condemning the Europeans who published the cartoons," said Deputy Hisham Qaisi, a member of the Legal Committee at the House in an article published the Jordan Times.

Jordanian blogger Khalaf has an excellent post about the emergence of a "slippery slope" that is developing in Jordan following the cartoon controversy. In his post he highlights recent calls to censor websites in Irbid Internet centers. These censored sites include "those that evoke sexual instincts, degrade religious feelings, or the system of government or encourage the use of illegal drugs."

Kahlaf makes a link between this call for censorship and the publication of the cartoons by the two Jordanian editors. He also mentions that some MPs have asked the government (in Arabic) to "reject the American pressure to license new Christian groups." Somehow MPs in their twisted logic see some sort of link between "new Christian groups" and the publication of these cartoons. Kahlaf ends with a powerful observation:

Of course, as this undemocratic rush continues, we can expect a lot of add-ons that would involve wish lists of all those involved. After terrorist attacks in Amman killed more than 60 innocent victims … people were afraid that the government would use this to limit freedom of speech. What the terrorists couldn’t do was achieved by some cartoons. Talk about [a] sense of proportion.

Well said, Kahlaf. Well said!

UPDATE: According to The Jordan Times, a number of international and national press watchdogs have also shown concern over the journalists’ arrest:

“We are deeply concerned by the jailing of Jihad Momani and Hashem Khalidi and the possibility that they could serve a lengthy prison sentences for what they published,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). "While we recognize the anger this controversy has caused, journalists should not be jailed for what they publish, even when it is considered offensive," she added.

The Amman-based Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists (CDFJ) also denounced the arrest, saying it was a "violation of international standards of freedom of the press … We totally reject any offense against the Prophet and affirm that any offense or attack on religions contradicts human rights and freedom of expression," a CDFJ statement said. Also Tuesday, a group of 14 local journalists signed a letter expressing concern over the journalists’ arrest, agreeing to launch a campaign to collect signatures pressing for the editors’ release, according to the statement.

Is Danish cartoon controversy related to attacks on Iraqi churchs?

I came across this Elaph article (in Arabic) via Jameed indicating that some Iraqi sources are linking the latest attacks on churches in Iraq -– in which at least three people were killed and nine were wounded — to the current controversy involving the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten.

According to these sources, some Iraqi-Christian students at the University of Mosul were recently attacked by people upset by the publication of these caricatures in Denmark and Norway. These attacks came following the issuance of several fatwas that called for the expulsion of "the infidels and crusaders" for insulting the prophet. The Iraqi sources said it was likely that the coordinated church attacks that took place yesterday (Jan. 29) are linked with the recent anti-Christian campaign.

I’m not sure how credible this news is, as I’ve not seen mention of it anywhere else. But if it is accurate, then the world has absolutely gone crazy. What kind of a logic is this? People get upset at Danish cartoonists, so they decide to whack their fellow citizens! And who are these low-life individuals issuing fatwas that call for attacks on innocent civilians, ones who happen to belong to a religious minority. But then again, I guess I shouldn’t expect logic to pour forth from Iraq anytime soon.

It is no secret that the number of Christians in the Middle East is rapidly dwindling. According to this IRIN article, "about 150,000 Christians are believed to have left the country [Iraq] since the US occupation began in 2003." The number of Palestinian-Christians inside the Palestinian territories is also on the decrease, and I believe the same thing is happening in Egypt (please correct me if I’m wrong).

This is extremely bad news, as it would mean that, in the long run, the Mideast would lose the diversity that it has always enjoyed. I would ask clerics to issue a counter-fatwa urging believers to safeguard their Christian brethren who are amongst among the indigenous inhabitants of the Middle East who have suffered and fought hard to protect their nation.

Praying and hoping

Jill in Amman For the last two days, both the husband and I have been extremely stressed out, worried about the fate of our dear fiend Jill. We are still very hopeful that she will make it, primarily because she speaks Arabic and has been in the region for more than three years. Maybe her understanding and love for Arab culture will be a key to her getting out of this horrible ordeal.

She is the sweetest, most caring, most honest person you could ever meet. What kind of a person would want to hurt Jill? Will the kidnappers have any mercy left in them for her? We are hoping and constantly praying that they will. As this story has developed, so have the reactions from the blogosphere. Here are a few thoughts from those that knew her personally. This from Baghdad Treasure:

She was in love, but not with a man. She was in love with Iraq and its people. She always felt that she belongs to this country. It was obvious in her eyes. once, I had hamburger for lunch. "What is this?" she said sarcastically. "You leave all this delicious Iraqi food and eat a Hamburger?" she used to come to the office when she has time and we spend great time altogether. I wonder what she is doing now. It’s cold. Is she covered well? She was kidnapped wearing her light black abaya. She used to call it a "bullet-proof abaya" but it seems she was mistaken. I am afraid that she might die out of the shock seeing her translator, the friend, killed in front of her.

On the blog 24 Steps to Liberty a fellow reporter in Baghdad relates:

She loved this country and its people. She sympathized with its sufferings and committed to tell the truth. When I talked to her about how the Iraqis live, she always cried. She cried for the sufferings of Iraq more than Iraqis. She has the nicest heart in this world. When I blamed Iraqis for what is happening in the country, she said "don’t blames the Iraqis. You should blame the governments for what they do." I remember once we were chatting and I asked her, "so where is home for you?" And without hesitation or a moment to think, she said "This is home. Iraq. Why? What’s wrong with that?" and as the chat goes on, at some point she smiled and said "I know my fate is in Iraq."

NBC News Correspondent Richard Engel highlighted the story on the MSNBC blog, pointing out how:

The small community of reporters in Baghdad (shrinking by the month) has pulled together around the kidnapped journalist Jill Carroll in a way I have not seen here before. It could be because she’s friendly, always smiling, or because we respect her ambition – young and gutsy…but I think it’s mainly because she was alone and vulnerable.

The picture included here is one I took of her nearly three years ago at a restaurant in Amman. There is nothing that we can directly do to save her and it is driving Jeff and I crazy. We just have to keep hoping and praying. From my part, on this blog, Jill’s ordeal will be given top priority. Her story will never be buried. I’m going to start a countdown of the number of days she has been in captivity. So far she has been kidnapped for five days! For those interested in her reporting, here are a few links to two National Public Radio stories with Jill in Real and Windows Media formats. Please God, bring her home safely.

Oh God, not Jill!!

Jill CarrollOh my God. I’m in utter and complete shock. My hands are trembling as I’m writing this. My very good friend Jill Carroll has been kidnapped while on assignment in Iraq for The Christian Science Monitor!!

She is one of the kindest, most sincere, honest people I have ever met. She is a very motivated journalist who always went out of her way to seek the truth. I’m speechless. My words escape me at this moment. The knot in my stomach is more than I can bear. I pray to God to protect her and bring home safely. She really doesn’t deserve this. She has been working hard for years to report the true side of the story.

I met Jill while working at The Jordan Times three years ago. She has become a dear friend since then. She attended my wedding and was even a supervising usher working hard to make our big day a success. Please, God, return her home safely!

Update 1: According to the Associated Press, the Iraqi police are currently looking for Jill. AP also ran a profile of Jill here.

Update 2: This Iraq-based reporter and blogger is a friend of Jill’s there and has written an emotional post about her. Another blogger who knows her personally is also traumatized by her capture. The Washington Post has also run a story on Jill’s abduction and put Jill on the front page.

Update 3: Jeff and I gathered together links to some of the articles that Jill wrote while working in Iraq, four from CSM and one from American Journalism Review that’s quite revealing. We were so proud to see her byline, we tried to never miss highlighting her stories there:

Breaking News: Explosions in AMMAN!

Raddison SASUPDATE 3: Who are the culprits? Since no one has claimed responsibility for the barbaric attacks, speculation has already begun and almost everyone is pointing to the one and only Zarqawi. He has threatened Jordan publicly a number of times so no surprise there. Also, these similtaneous attacks bear the hallmarks of Al-Qeada. I would say the culprits are either Zarqawi or an al-Qaeda copycat. But I was surprised to hear Salamet Ne’mat, the director of Al-Hayat office in DC, saying on CNN that Syria might be linked to this. Ha? Why Syria? What kind of an analysis is this!

UPDATE 2: I just finished chatting with my sister. She just got home. It was difficult for her to get inside the neighborhood of Rabieh where my parents live and where one of the hotels was attacked. The police cordoned off the area completely and she was stuck in her car on the outskirts of Rabieyh for almost an hour. She made it home with the help of one policeman. The Days Inn Hotel, which was the third hotel attacked, is only one mile away from where my family lives. She said they can smell the smoke from our house. This is just horrible!

I’m a bit calmer now that I know that my immediate family members and most of my friends are okay. Thank God! Now it is time to unleash my anger at the bloodsucking low-life barbarians that attacked my country and killed my people.

May you enjoy the hell that is awaiting you, where, to your dismay, you will be greeted by seven demons instead of your long-awaited virgins! May you rot in hell over and over again along with Zarqawi, Bin Laden, Bin Shit and all those that support you. Nothing in the world can justify this. Those that try to justify this can rot in hell as well! May God protect my country and my people. May God bless the souls of those barbarically massacred today. We will never forget!

UPDATE: Here is the latest: Aljazeera is reporting that three explosins occurred in Amman. One at the Radission SAS, one at the Grand Hyatt and one at Days Inn in Rabyeh neighbourhood. My parents, my sisters and maybe half of Jordan live in Rabyeh. My parents live very close to the Days Inn. I just called them and thank God they are fine. Dad said he heard the explosion. The death toll so far is 18!!

I’m shaking as I’m writing this. I do not know what to say anymore. I’m appalled, disgusted and on the verge of tears. My sister is still driving back home and I can’t get a hold of her. I feel like smashing this monitor right now!

Here is the MSNBC report. A Yahoo slideshow here and Sabbah’s Flicker. AP is running a continuing update here

An explosion shook the Grand Hyatt hotel in Jordan’s capital late Wednesday, and witnesses saw smoke rising from the building. A police official said some people had been killed, "and there are many wounded." An American businessman who was at the hotel when the explosion occurred, said a "bomb that went off in the lobby." He declined to identify himself.

Police said the cause of the explosion was unknown. A black cloud of smoke was seen rising from the building in the commercial Jebel Amman district following the blast at about 8:50 p.m. (1:50 p.m. EST). Ambulances were seen rushing to the hotel.