Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Middle East Heroes

As I was surfing the web looking for op-eds discussing the Iraqi paradoxical situation, I came across a headline featuring my best friend’s name.  I immediately recalled our last heated discussion.
My friend and mentor, Ammar Al-Shahbander, asked me to go back to Iraq and work with him on promoting freedom of expression and empowering women. I declined; I didn’t want to go back. I felt that I already jeopardized my safety and that of my family and friends. Ammar was disappointed. He said, “If you don’t go back and help, and I don’t go back and help, who is going to build the country?”  “I just can’t,” I replied.

I felt I couldn’t do it again to my son. Both of us suffered a lot.  Just like many Iraqis, we have been shot at, survived bomb attacks, threats, separated from each other, and lived in fear. Even though I wanted to help, I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. My mentor concluded the conversation with deep disappointment. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Searching for Things Right in Front of You!

Have you looked for something that is right in front of you? You searched high and low to find it while the object was in an obvious place. Personally, I spent half an hour searching for my sunglasses, only to be told that I was wearing them!

I feel the same way about how linguists analyze a text and examine its language.  Oftentimes, linguists focus on the direct meaning, and they overlook the hidden message while it is right in front of their eyes.

It could be that as a linguist, I am obsessed with words and the message conveyed by these words. I spend my time thinking about each word and analyzing it. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Lottery: Reality VS Fiction

Yesterday, I read The Lottery; a short fiction written by Shirley Jackson. The story portrays a society gathering to play a game of lottery. Children run around collecting stones for a drawing to take place to see which woman would be stoned. No trial, no guilty verdict, just a sentence of death. In the story, men stride in as the sheppards and women reluctantly join as sheep to the slaughter.

In the end, Tessie, a mother, and wife is stoned to death by her community. Even Dave, her son, is given small pebbles to throw at his own mother. 
While the story is set in an American village, the symbolism of women’s suffering is universal.
Jackson presents a patriarchal society, where men come first as they converse with each other, but don’t include women in their discussions. Similarly, in peace processes women are left out, even though they didn’t wage the war. However, the warlords, all men, are seated at the negotiation table.  

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Water and Security!

How can there be a connection between safe drinking water and insurgency? Is it possible?

On 24th of August of 2004, I survived a suicide bomb attack in which four of my bodyguards were killed. Mousab Al Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq at that time, claimed full responsibility and called me “the leader of the infidels.” Perhaps he was overestimating my capacity, I thought. After all, I was not working on security issues at all! In fact, I thought I was as far away from dealing with security issues as would be possible for a government minister. At least, that was what I thought.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Secretary Battle: Zarif VS Kerry.

The Iranian Secretary of State, Javad Zarif, dared to challenge a direct order from the Supreme Leader of the Republic of Iran. The directive was quite simple " Stop yelling at the American Secretary of State, John Kerry."  It seems the two Secretaries were engaged in a title "diplomatic battle," as part of "the nuclear negotiation war."

However,  why it was so difficult for Zarif to follow such as simple order? The Supreme Leader is the head of the state. Can any secretary here in the U.S disregard a directive from the President? Of course, not. Similarly, no Secretary, or Minister as referenced there, can ignore a directive from the Supreme Leader. What was it that Zarif was trying to achieve?

Monday, July 6, 2015

Secretary Clinton: Equality VS Gun Control.

I am a big fan of Secretary Clinton and I do look at her as a role model. Nevertheless, as a linguist, I am disappointed in her last statement following the Wednesday night’s shooting at the historic Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Secretary Clinton stated that “we can’t hide from the truth of white privilege.”
Secretary Clinton is way stronger and bolder than just admitting the truth because there is "no other place to hide." The first official who called women's right as human rights can do more for us. The lady who is strong enough to run for the oval office is strong enough to tell the “ truth,”  and fight for it, not just admit it because there is no way to hide from it.

As a linguist, I feel the statement implies that admitting “the truth” is America’s last resort not the first. Thus, we ( the U.S) decided to admit the truth of the white supremacy, just because we can’t hide from it anymore. Had we been successful in hiding from the truth, then we would.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Teaching for the First Time

I was the only female teacher among 45 teachers. Newly appointed and not being assigned to a class. The chairperson approached me, saying “can you teach legalese?” I immediately said, “ Sure, I can.”

Once he walked away, I said to myself “ What did I do? Wasn't it the class that Laser tagged their teacher, who left after 15 minutes of class?” unheard of in the School of Law, the most traditional and conservative school at Baghdad University.

“I can do it. I took that class before as a student, what was wrong with it? ”  These are the words that were in my head while trying to prepare for my class.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

My childhood: Lebanon VS Iraq

I was born in Lebanon to a Lebanese mother and an Iraqi father. At home, we spoke two dialects, Iraqi and Lebanese. My father was Shiite and my mother was Sunni. Even though my family wasn’t into religion, but this mixture was my first exposure to diversity.  I used to talk to my father in Iraqi, then turn to answer a question from my mother in Lebanese.

It was my mother’s hope to stay in Lebanon. Unfortunately, she couldn't pass the Lebanese citizenship to my father. Thus, my father couldn’t work there.  So, her hopes and mine were crushed. Nevertheless, my father promised to take her, and the kids, every summer to Lebanon. He delivered on his promise.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

A Female Run Police Station in the Middle East: Why Not?

In most Middle Eastern countries, women are in charge of housekeeping including cleaning the house, cooking the food, and nursing the sick. Thus, oftentimes, women (especially in rural areas) walk 10-20 miles a day to collect water.

While men join the insurgency, their wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers, will perform the same role, only in a different capacity. Women prepare food for the insurgents, clean the place(s) where they plan their activities, take care of the injured.

At the Checkpoint!

The police force in countries such Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, features policemen, not policewomen.

Thus, searching a woman who is crossing the checkpoint is impossible. In the Middle Eastern culture, no man can touch a woman who is not his wife or sister. 

Insurgencies have started to recruit heavily among women. After crossing the checkpoint, the woman would denote the exclusives killing more victims than a male suicide bomb attacker. These women can get closer to the target than men.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Language is the Key to Dealing with Iran

Oftentimes, the U.S foreign policy seems puzzled when it comes to dealing with Iran. I feel the U.S foreign policy doesn’t know how to handle Iran. One day, the negotiations are delayed, canceled or postponed. The Other, is all about relaxing the sanctions. 

I think the U.S foreign policy is missing one key ingredient that is language. The U.S doesn’t know how to talk to the Iranians. Thus, every day, there is a new dialogue, vocabulary, and discourse. However, all these statements missed the KEY element which would make all the Iranian leaders listen, that is the notion of justice.

Iran is invested in the notion of justice. Have you heard the latest statement from the Supreme Leader Khamenei? He said Iran will continue to support the oppressed nations

Monday, May 18, 2015

ISIS Is Embracing the Western Lifestyle!

I am sure by now you have watched the clips of executing the Egyptian Christians. If you can bypass the shock and bear with one more time to observe the following:

ISIS presents itself as the anti-American organization. However, the entire clip is influenced by American movies. Strange right? For example,  there is a main character in the clip, he is the only one who talks and acts. The rest of the group is there to follow him. Similarly, American action movies are centered around one character; the hero. The rest of the cast is just there to follow him. 

However,  according to Islamic teaching, the leader should consult with the group on the matter. Chapter.3 V 159 of the Quran. 

Environmental Security: Which is More Pressing the Far Future or the Near?

The Institute for Environmental Security doesn’t differ in its approach to “ Environmental Security” from any other organization that is out there in the main metropolitan areas. The Institute for Environmental Security focuses all of its energy and resources on a "threat” that will happen within “100 years” from now, ignoring the current threat that the U.S paid dearly due to ignoring it.
In Afghanistan, the timber policy, and by timer I mean wood, resulted in a proxy war led by Taliban in Pakistan against the U.S soldiers in Kunar and Nuristan. The U.S soldiers were getting killed, in an area they called “ the Valley of Death” due to an ill-designed environmental policy. The timber policy utilized an absolute language prohibiting all timber cutting without any consideration to the supply and demand. Thus, Taliban launched a proxy war to smuggle the timber, fund its criminal activities and killing our soldiers because they get in the way. Taliban hit three birds with one stone. The security threat and the blood that our soldiers shed went unnoticed and was not even mentioned in their document titled “ What is Environmental Security?” The Institute for Environmental Security focused only on what will happen with “ 100 years” from now.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

She Is the Rightful Heir. The Talk I Never Gave

Many U.S based universities have asked to speak about women’s rights in Islam. After all, I have studied Sharia Law in the Law School for four years, as a mandatory course to obtain a law degree. I have addressed different aspects of women’s rights in Islam, but I didn't get a chance to talk about their right to rule.

Often time, the university is interested in financial rights of women ( inheritance in particular) or family rights ( choosing her husband, divorce, and custody ). I was never asked to talk about women’s right to rule according to Islam.

I feel I have addressed secondary rights. However, I didn’t address primary rights such as the right to rule i.e. to govern a society.

As you know, Islam has  two  main sects Sunnis and Shiites[1]. Sunnis feel that Muhammed’s rightful heir is his friend “Abu Baker” while Shiites believe that his cousin and son-in-law ( who married Muhammed's daughter Fatimah) “Ali” is his rightful heir.

I believe that Muhammed’s daughter “Fatimah” is his rightful heir. I also believe that denying her right as the governor, resulted in oppressing women in the name of Islam.

Why Now: The Movie and the Violent Protests?

I received many inquiries asking me about the violent Muslim protest against the movie that insulted Prophet Muhammad.
While, it is not the first time that such a movie was circulated, it is the first time when American diplomats have been killed and embassies have been attacked over it. So, why now?

Chatting over Arabic Coffee!

I am inviting you to enjoy a cup of my homemade Arabic coffee. It is a special type of coffee that I only offer to my readers. Please sit back, relax, while I ground my medium roasted coffee beans to extra fine.
Why don't we talk, while I am making the coffee? What is more pressing than ISIS? In the Middle East, we always discuss world affairs over a cup of coffee.

As a linguist, I can't  help but examine their language and how it was utilized in their statements. Unlike their previous statement[1] , the current statement was issued on the same day they carried out their bloody attacks on innocent Shiite pilgrims[2].

Issuing the statement on the same day reflects ISI ability to better organize themselves and communicate effectively with their members despite the security measures taken by the Iraqi government.
It seems that ISI overcame whatever difficulty that was facing earlier. Additionally, ISI took an advantage of the recent political turmoil in Iraq[3].

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Insurgency: An E-Game to See it Coming.

I know, that sounds like a strange idea! But, would you like to take  part in an e-game that I once played with my students. We had a lot of fun. So, are you willing to give it a try? I take that as a “yes.”

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Question from a Friend: Is It Safe for a Woman to Travel to Baghdad?

A friend of mine emailed me asking if it is safe to travel to Baghdad, she has received a wonderful opportunity to do business in Iraq. However, she has legitimate concerns about being in an unsafe environment.
I have to weigh the advantages and the disadvantages of such a trip and present them to my friend.  I did not want her to lose any business opportunity. However, I don’t want to encourage her to go on a dangerous trip.
My friend is a woman, and a woman is sought after, because she is a soft and easy target.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Part Two: My Days Under Saddam’s Regime: An Environment Of Oppression Where Love is Lost.

In such an oppressive environment, love was lost. It was not a virtue anymore, because it was for the weak (who would listen to his/ her feelings). While, many of my elder cousins married based on love [1], my friends and I did not.  Love, kindness, and romance were all lost values. 

Part One: Living under Saddam's Regime: My Own World VS the Hard Reality.

I lived most of my life under Saddam’s regime. Living under his regime made me feel like I was carrying a heavy weight on my shoulders. However, that weight would increase each year when I grew older. I cannot recall that I enjoyed my childhood or youth. I always remember myself as an adult who the regime could hold responsible for her action at anytime and behaved accordingly.  

Friday, May 13, 2011

Liberators VS Occupiers

Many Americans ask this question, “If Saddam was so bad, and we liberated you from his brutal regime, why are you killing our soldiers?” The answer to this difficult question is rooted in issues surrounding basic services. These services include fresh water, electricity, sanitation services, and trash pickup.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Look for the Women!

What would you look for in a kidnapping situation? This question was the theme of a discussion that I attended with a group of colleagues who work on freeing kidnapped hostages in places such Iraq or Afghanistan.

I jumped into the discussion by saying “women.” Everyone looked at me with eyes full of questions. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Question from a Reader: Is it Safe in Basra?

I have received a query from a reader asking me about the security situation in Basra. The reader is interested in learning more since he will be working there.
The security situation is not a trivial one. You will not hear explosions every second of the day. In fact, Basra witnessed less bomb attacks than Baghdad. It is not a battlefront.  Is it safe? No, it is not. There are gangs and militia who will kidnap for a ransom or kill for a bargain. Who are the victims? Wealthy people, officials, professionals… etc. Anyone can become a victim and for any reason.
Given that information what can you do to be as safe and prepared as possible? I can offer you the following tips:

Friday, December 31, 2010

A Power Struggle in Iran: Ahmadinejad VS the Shark!

The Iranian President Ahmadinejad is seeking to overthrow one of the founding fathers of the Islamic Republic of Iran: Ayatollah Rafsanjani or the Shark. He earned this reputation, because he successfully defeated all those who opposed him.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Female Face of the Insurgency!

An old friend of mine called saying “you were right.” I was a bit surprised, because my friend had traditional views regarding the connections between gender and security threats. He believed that security is a man’s business and a woman has nothing to offer.

I believe security is everybody's business including women and children.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Discussion in Iran: Where Appealing to Justice Matters!

Recently, I was having a discussion with an informed friend regarding Iranian politics. My friend explained to me the importance of the notion of “justice.” He attended a confidential meeting in Tehran regarding the formation of the Iraqi government.

The Story of the Elections: Iraq VS the U.S.

Following the recent November elections here in the US, I came to understand how different the US electoral system from the Iraqi one. I think the general differences are not very well understood by the public in the US. Most people in the US assume that elections in Iraq are conducted in the same as they are here, which is not the case at all.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Part .3 Learning from the First Gulf War.

The war continued and the days were passing slowly [1]. During the day, my sister and I would bake bread using an oil stove [2] that we had, clean the dishes, and wash the clothes. Nothing was washed unless it was necessary and every drop of water was saved.
Sometimes, I would read my law books, as I was a senior at the Law School.  My mother helped as much as she could, though her health condition was not helping her. My father also helped and provided moral support [3].

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

During the First Gulf War, Shiites, Sunnis, Christians, and Kurds Were Lined Up at the Back of my House!

Although, the bombardment was far away from our house, we could still hear and feel the impact. Sometimes, it felt like the entire house was lifted and then thrown on the ground. My sister and I were the most clam people within our family, while my mother kept shaking and vomiting, my father looked pale.
The electricity was shut down almost right away. However, as I was in charge of supplies, I bought four kerosene lamps [1], batteries for the radio, flour, rice and other dry food [2].

Friday, November 5, 2010

Part One: Feelings of Uncertainty before the First Gulf War.

I was living in Baghdad with my family during the first Gulf War 1990-1991. The neighborhood where I was living was mixed Shiites, Sunnis, Christians, and Kurds [1]. My family consisted of my father, my mother, my sister, and myself [2].