Hot off the Arab press 446094

What citizens of other countries are reading about the Middle East.

A rebel fighter inspects a piece of a rocket that landed in an area that connects the northern countryside of Deraa and Quneitra, Syria (photo credit: REUTERS)
A rebel fighter inspects a piece of a rocket that landed in an area that connects the northern countryside of Deraa and Quneitra, Syria
(photo credit: REUTERS)
More Efficiency is Needed
Al-Masry al-Youm, Egypt, February 20
This past January, Malaysian Airlines took a measure unprecedented by a major airline, and prohibited passengers from checking in luggage on their flights.
Carry-on luggage was also strictly limited to one piece per passenger. At first, the airline explained that this was due to strong headwinds, which forced the ground staff to reduce the aircraft’s weight due to safety concerns.
However, the real reason soon became apparent: gas prices. It turns out that suitcases, and not passengers, constitute the vast majority of weight on an airplane, leading to more gas consumption. By sending luggage to its destination on a separate cargo plane, flying in parallel to the passenger plane, Malaysian Airlines was able to increase the number of seats filled on each flight, and cut down its costs. To many people this seemed absurd. But mathematical calculations proved that the decision could save the airline thousands of dollars per flight. Simply put, the airline decided to rationalize its spending – a process which lost almost all meaning in our day and age. Look around us. Take our government as an example. Everywhere we look, unnecessary spending takes place. “Efficiency” has become a swearword. Did you know, for example, that Egypt has more embassies around the world than the United States of America? Why? Each one of these embassies requires taxpayers’ money to operate.
It consists not only of an ambassador, but also staff, security guards, drivers, and diplomatic personnel. In many of the countries where we have embassies there are barely any Egyptians, let alone commercial interests to our nation. Why not consolidate? Why not, like Malaysian Airlines, make our spending more efficient? Cutting down unnecessary spending should not be the exception, but rather the norm. We can criticize companies like Malaysian Airlines all we want, but the fact remains that they are at the forefront of reducing national spending. Such measures are necessary, even when they are unpopular. – Sliman Jawda
Lebanon without Hariri
Al-Sharq al-Awsat, London, February 18
Eleven years have passed since Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri was assassinated in Lebanon by Syrian forces, at the order of President Bashar al-Assad. Hariri was a true Lebanese visionary. He sought to bring his countrymen and women together, regardless of ethnic or political differences. He built the country’s institutions and gave them the credibility they needed both domestically and abroad – hence attracting foreign investment and support. He forged close ties with many international players; from the Gulf States, through European countries, to Russia and Iran. However, due to his criticism of Syria’s involvement in Lebanon, he found his death in a gruesome assassination in the heart of Beirut, ordered by the government in Damascus.
Since his death, Lebanon slowly fell into shambles.
In fact, Hariri is not the only one who died in February 2005. Along with him, the hope of the Lebanese people died too. Since then not much has changed: Assad continues to kill anyone who stands in his way, with over half a million Syrians dead so far in the civil war.
Lebanon continues to be divided, and the government continues to fail at bringing people together. Eleven years have passed, and it seems as if the lesson has not yet been learned. The Lebanese people must finally put aside their divisions and work to commemorate their lost leader. The only way to live up to his vision is to come together as one. – Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed
The Female Ministers of the UAE
Al-Arabiya, Saudi Arabia, February 19
In a region of patriarchal societies that disenfranchise women and deprive them of equal rights, Emirati women stand at the forefront of gender equality.
In many countries around us, women are confined to the home, where they are expected to fulfill the traditional role of raising their children. And although women have achieved significant gains in many Arab societies, they are still unable to maximize their full potential in many of them. The United Arab Emirates, however, presents a refreshing change in the Arab world. Women in Abu Dhabi are free to work in many fields – ranging from military and police, through sciences and engineering, to film and media. At a time when the rest of the Arab world is exacerbating gender gaps, the UAE is working to break social and political restrictions. More recently, three new female ministers were elected to the government, leading new initiatives related to the economic, social, and political integration of women. This brings the total number of female ministers in the Emirati government to eight, an unprecedented number in the Arab world. Certainly, there is still much more work to be done on gender issues in the Middle East. But the United Arab Emirates provides an exemplary model of how men and women should come together to strengthen their economy and their nation. Diversity of ideas, experiences, and views is healthy for all decision making processes. Diversity of gender is no less important. – Yamina Hamdi
The Splitting of Syria?
Al-Itihad, United Arab Emirates, February 20
While cease-fire talks are still unfolding in Europe, the situation in Syria is taking a severe downturn, with an escalation in violence and bloodshed on the ground. The Syrian regime already announced that the cease-fire would not apply to its fight against terrorism, which suggests that Assad will continue his bombing campaign against civilian populations.
Similarly, Russia also expressed its own doubts on the cease-fire, and informed the international community that it will continue its raids against Islamic State. Meanwhile, Turkish officials asserted that they would not hesitate targeting Kurdish sites in Syria, if any suspicious activity were to take place in proximity to the Turkish border. Even Saudi Arabia and Qatar articulated their intent to intervene in the Syrian war if tensions continue. What can we make out of all of this? The answer is sad, but rather simple: each party will continue doing exactly what it has done so far; this time, however, under the guise of an internationally- backed cease-fire agreement. With more and more parties intervening in the Syrian civil war, prospects for an all-out Middle East war grow. The Israelis, too, are not at ease with the situation. A former Israeli intelligence official recently claimed that “the division of Syria into smaller statelets seems increasingly plausible.” This might not be a wrong estimate of what is likely to happen in our region. With so many parties intervening in the Syrian civil war and expanding their use of force to protect their own sectarian interests, it is becoming unlikely that the Syria we used to know would ever return to its old state of being. Such foreign interventions might seem like small-scale wars today. But in the long run, they can possibly push our region to extreme turmoil, creating divisions within the Arab world that push us to fight one another. – Ghazi al-Ariddi
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