Category Archives: Interests

NAAP-DC Press Release 11/2/11: Network of Arab-American Professionals to Celebrate 10th Anniversary in DC


NAAP's 10 Chapters Celebrate 10 Years!

Contact: Mehrunisa Qayyum, NAAP-DC Media & PR Chair:
(P) 224-406-4218

Washington, DC~On Friday, November 11, 2011, The Network of Arab American Professionals, Washington, DC Chapter will celebrate NAAP’s 10th anniversary by hosting a gala at Maggiano’s Restaurant in Washington, DC. Please join us for a grand night of reflection with the NAAP Founders, current leadership, prominent Arab Americans from the DC community, and entertainment–including:
Awards Ceremony
3 Course Meal
Raffle and Door Prizes
Arabic & International Music by a DJ that will light up the dance floor!

When: Friday, November 11th, 2011 from 7 pm to 12 am
Where: 5333 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20015 at the Chevy Chase location.
What: Gala Tickets available at $85 until November 10th; $125 at the door! Available online

Sponsorship: NAAP-DC is pleased to announce its Platinum & Gold Sponsors:
Platinum~Dishnetwork & Hanania Dental
Gold~Access, ANERA, I.S. Law Firm, New Dominion, O’Connor Law Firm, Saudi Arabian Airlines, State Farm Insurance

For more information on sponsorship opportunities, contact: Sam Shihadeh:
Evite: Available at

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National Council on U.S. Arab Relations: Recapping the Arab & US Responses

HRH Prince Turki Al Sa'ud, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Addresses NCUSAR

By: Mehrunisa Qayyum

Washington, DC-On October 27th and 28th, the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations (NCUSAR) held its 20th Annual Arab-U.S. Policymakers Conference, “Dynamics of Recent Events in the Arab World: Framing the Arab and U.S. Responses” at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center. NCUSAR’s CEO and Founding President, Dr. John Duke Anthony, inaugurated the event by congratulating Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya for its respective Arab Spring achievements. Notable guest speakers included: a) Ambassador Hussein Hassouna, League of Arab States; b) Prince Turki Al Faisal Al Sa’ud, Saudi Arabia; c) Ambassador Sameh Shoukry, Egypt: and d) Ambassador Ali Aujali, Libya.

The focus on investing in energy security and defense cooperation remained central to the U.S.-Arab relations strategy. Nonetheless, developments related to the Arab Spring interjected into panels related to the Magreb region. Bahrain was not highlighted in any context regarding their struggle for human dignity–the underlying motto in Egypt, Syria, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen. In contrast to last year, the League of Arab States emerged as a key actor in various panel discussions. Prince Turki emphasized two issues: 1) he condemned Syria’s authoritarian ruler, Bashar al-Asad’s brutal crackdown on his own people; and 2) summarized that vetoing the statehood for Palestine, not only affects Saudi-US relations, but affects the rest of the world, not just the Muslim world.

(Note: PITAPOLICY Consulting’s complete analysis of the two-day conference, and specific panel commentary, are available for purchase by contacting:

Session 1: “Dynamics of Defense Cooperation”
-Ambassador James Larocco
-Dr. John Moynihan
-General Joseph Hoar (USMC, Ret.)
-Col. David Des Roches
-Mr. Bob Sharp

Session 2: “Energy Dynamics”
-Hon. Molly Williamson
-Dr. Herman T. Franssen
-Mr Jay Pryor
-Ms. Randa Fahmy Hudome

Keynote Address Delivered by Ambassador of Egypt to the U.S.: H.E. Sameh Shoukry

Session 3: “Geopolitical Dynamics (I): Iraq”
-Dr. Kenneth B. Katzman (Congressional Research Service)
-Dr. Eric Davis (Author of forthcoming book: Taking Democracy Seriously in Iraq)
-Dr. Juan Cole (Author of Engaging the Muslim World)
-Dr. Paul Sullivan (Industrial College of Armed Forces)
-Ms. Shameen Rassam (Al-Hurra Television, Iraq)

Session 4: “Geopolitical Dynamics of Maghreb (Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya), Syria, Yemen”
-Ms. Jennifer Salan (Senior Producer at Al-Jazeera English)
-Dr. Nejib Ayachi (Founder of Magreb Center)
-Dr. Michele Dunne (Director of Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East)
-Mr. Christopher Blanchard (Congressional Research Service)

Session 5: A View from the U.S. Department of State
-Dr. Tamara Wittes (Deputy Assistant Secretary for near Easter Affairs)

Session 6: Business Investment & Financial Development Dynamics & Prospects
-Mr. Michael Markland
-Ambassador Ford Fraker
-Ambassador Joseph LeBaron
-Mr. Danny E. Sebright
-Mr. Lionel Johanson

Session 7: Gulf Cooperation Council Dynamics (III)
-Dr. Abdulkhaleq Abdulla (lead author of 2008 Arab Knowledge Report)
-Dr. Abdulla AlShayji (Kuwait University)
-Mr. Jeremy Jones (Author of forthcoming book: Oman, Culture and Diplomacy)
-Mr. Robert Lacy (Historian)

Luncheon Address by HRH Prince Turki Al Faisal Al Sa’ud

Session 8: “Libya the Way Forward”
-H.E. Ambassador Ali Aujali of the National Transitional Council

Session 9: “Geopolitical Dynamics (IV): Palestine”
-Mr. Yousef Munayyer (Palestine Center)
-H.E. Ambassador Maen Areikat
-Ms. Michelle Steinberg (Executive Intelligence Review)
-Dr. Ghada Karmi (University of Exeter)
-Dr. Norton Mezvinksy (Connecticut State University)

Session 10: “Geopolitical Dynamics (V): Iran”
-Dr. John L. Iskander (Foreign Service Institute)
-Dr. Flynt Leverett (New America Foundation)
-Mr. Afshin Molavi (New America Foundation)
-Dr. Janne Nolan (American Security Project, University of Pittsburgh)
-Mr. Kenneth Katzman

Session 11: Policy Implications from the League of Arab States
-Ambassador Hussein Hassouna
-Mr. Bill Corcoran
-Mr. John Moran

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FBI Arrested Syrian American Mohamed Anas Haithem Souied for Espionage

By: Mehrunisa Qayyum

On Tuesday, October 11th, the FBI arrested Syrian-American Mohamad Anas Haithem Souied, 47, in Leesburg, Virginia for conducting espionage in collaboration with the Syrian Intelligence.
~April-June 2011: Souied participated in a conspiracy to gather intelligence for a foreign country attending US rallies by sharing 20 recordings of protests in the US with Syria’s spy agency and disclosed the names and contacts of Syrian Americans.
~Oct. 5: Grand jury agreed to the five-count indictment against Souied, according to the Justice Department.

Mohamad Souied is among the list of co-defendants in the case filed the SETF: Abdul Aziz, et al. v. The Syrian Arab Republic United States Disttrict Court for the District of Columbia. The indictment alleges that Mr. Souied met with President Bashar and tried to recruit others. Souied is a naturalized American citizen born in Syria.

Syrian Emergency Task Force
The Syrian Emergency Task Force is a non-profit organization based in the United Sates. The SETF was created to support the Syrian people’s democratic aspirations and to provide a venue for them to convey those aspirations to the American people.

Charges Against Mohamad Souied
SETF supports the actions that the US Department of and the Commonwealth of Virginia have taken against Mr. Souied. The FBI arrest signifies the first of its kind in addressing the Syrian regime’s unethical tactics to intimidate Syrians through their American relatives. Such action marks the next step in SETF’s larger mission to uphold the civil rights of Syrian-Americans, like Ms. Hala Abudl Aziz. Specifically, SETF commends the following statements:
Assistant Attorney General for National Security Lisa Monaco said in a statement that Mr Soueid’s actions were intended to “silence, intimidate and potentially harm” the protesters.
Prosecutor Neil MacBride said: “The ability to assemble and protest is a cherished right in the United States, and it’s troubling that a US citizen from Leesburg is accused of working with the Syrian government to identify and intimidate those who exercise that right.”
Moreover, Mohamad Souied used other aliases, such as ‘Alex Soueid’ and ‘Anas Alswaid’ to report on Americans of Syrian descent to the Syrian embassy, based in Washington, DC.

In July, the US State Department said, “We received reports that Syrian mission personnel under Ambassador [Imad] Moustapha’s authority have been conducting video and photographic surveillance of people participating in peaceful demonstrations in the United States.” However, the Syrian Ambassador to the US continues to deny these allegations.

Ms. Abdul Aziz is not alone in her experience of the Syrian regime’s intimidation. World renown pianist , Malek Jandali, perfomred at a demonstration in Washington on July 23rd. Immediatately after, his parents were beaten and arrested in Damascus.

Note: Original SETF Press Release may be found on their website, which was issued by the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF) 10/13/11.
PO BOX #229, 6920B Braddock Rd. Annandale, VA 22003 (800) 385-6806 or contact us at

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NAAP-DC & Jerusalem Fund Gallery Co-Host Arab-American Art Exhibition in Washington, DC

NAAP-DC attendees

Artist: Manal Deeb

Work by Zohra Ben Hamida

Piece by Mona El-Bayoumi

Piece by Ammar Qusaibaty

By: Mehrunisa Qayyum Contributions by Samer Korkor and Fatima Ahmed

On Tuesday, October 11, 2011, The Network of Arab American Professionals, Washington, DC Chapter co-hosted nine local Arab American artists exhibit with The Jerusalem Fund Gallery. Dagmar Painter, the Jerusalem Fund Gallery’s art curator, coordinated over 50 art pieces from the Virginia, Maryland, and DC area at the Floridian, 919 Florida Avenue, NW. Over 130 attendees experienced 4 rooms of art.

Meanwhile, NAAP-DC continued its tradition of collaborating with local Middle Eastern businesses: Shawarma Spot, located in Adams Morgan on Eighteenth Street, donated the catering. The event would not have been possible without realtor, Diana Korkor, who arranged for the venue.

Since the Network of Arab American Professionals in DC (NAAP-DC), is the fastest-growing Middle Eastern organization in DC, we remain a volunteer based, energy-driven networking hub that has become recognized as a community builder for professional, cultural, and public service events.

NAAP-DC is run by a diverse group of individuals of Middle Eastern decent, from Algeria to Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Iran, Pakistan, etc. We are each from different religious backgrounds from the region and we gather in a horizontal structure where we work together putting aside any drama that might exist in or emanate from our countries of origin. And we are not non-religious, but rather encompassing of all our religions. The same goes with politics, diverging views mix with mutual respect and understanding of narrative. This is what we are building and we will celebrate with art and support professionals of all kinds, artists, lawyers, engineers, economists, health care professionals, comedians, etc.

Arab American Artist Listing:
~Zohra Ben Hamida is influenced by her Tunisian, American, and Saudi Arabian experiences. Earlier she showcased her textured paintings at the Jerusalem Fund Gallery in early 2011.

~Adam Chamy, who in inspired by discarded items like license plates and other unusual materials to explore the politics of identity. Chamy received his BA from George Washington University.

~Manal Deeb was born in Ramallah and studied both art and psychology. She incorporates organic material, like tree bark, to represent the layered life. Deeb’s goal is “to bring Palestinian heritage to speak across time and place to convey memory’s persistence.”

~Mona El-Bayoumi hails from Alexandria, Egypt and is largely influence by social justice causes in Iran, Central America, South Africa, and Eritrea–not just the Arab world.
Dina Karkar showcased oil paintings of vibrant colors to highlight the numerous exotic locales she has visited.

~Leila Khoury was born and raised in Cleveland and is of Syrian descent. Leila is studying at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

~Ammar Qusaibaty is both an artist and mathmetician and combines left and right-brained talents to produce double sided paintings on “mylar” sheets and fluorescent acrylic paints. His pieces include Arabesque and Night Dance.

~Vian Shmounki Borchert has presented expressionist art at The National Gallery of Art in Amman, Jordan; The Contemporary Museum of Art in Georgetown; The Jerusalem Fund; The International Trade Center, The Black Rock Center of The Arts, Gaithersburg City Hall Art Gallery, among others.

~Helen Zughaib, who has lived in Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine and focuses on “the strength and beauty of women” in her Changing Perceptions series. Her studio is in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood.

NAAP-DC Board Member, Fatima Ahmed, interviewed each artist and graciously photographed attendees with their favorite artists. Notable guests included: Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) National President, David Warren, and wife Amal Warren; Mr. & Mrs. Sam A. Kubba, of Kubba Design; and Mr. Saed Rahwanji from the Maryland Department of Transportation.

NAAP-DC Chair, Samer Korkor, the visionary of the event explained that,”It is simply the first time in anyone’s memory that a group of 8-10 significant Arab American artists in the DC area with talent…at one of the trendiest parts of DC (U Street) and in the penthouse of the most artistic new condo building, The Floridian.”

Mona El-Bayoumi shared how her art will always present an opportunity of political expression for her since “identity with symbols” plays a role as an Arab-American artist. She added that art in both the Arab world and in the US are both full of contemporary pieces, but perhaps the second and third generation of Arab-Americans might gear more towards the symbols, as seen in some of her pieces that are very reminiscent of her native Egypt. Her next showing will appear at The Jerusalem Fund Gallery in May 2012.

Ammar Qusaibaty broke the stereotype of successful artists only representing the humanities. Ammar is a practicing mathematician with a doctorate from Sorbonne. He explains how his pieces focus on the fluidity of linking the “right-brain” with the “left-brain” and pushes the viewer into a “cognitive trick that’s always trying to find order–especially as the transparent canvas changes with a new background. “Newer media presented by Ammar is not typical and presents a great contemporary addition to both Arab culture and art in of itself,” remarks Amany, who was visiting from Palestine.

Manal Deeb’s pieces include many favorites. However, my favorite was the piece representing three generations of grief as a child, a mother, and elderly woman’s faces are hidden within the tree bark and layers of paint. When asked about why incorporating tree bark and pieces, Deeb shares,”my favorite memory was playing under the fig trees in Palestine…art is a therapy for me” so the vivid imagery lives on in her haunting pieces.

As such, Helen Zughaib remarks how her work focuses on a cultural dialogue. Recently, the University of Maryland invited Zughaib to show her artwork, like the piece on Saudi women. Ironically, the same piece she selected to represent the struggle of Saudi women to drive, came to life again. With her art studio outside of the Saudi Arabian US embassy in Foggy Bottom, she retells how she felt like holding one of her pieces outside the window as women protested the Saudi driving ban.

Sarah Weatherbee, ADC-DC, commented that the event,”provides an excellent showcase of art–it’s important to preserve both the classical and contemporary Arab culture in this way.”

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Technology Series Part 1: Is There Anyone Talking about Technology in the Middle East?

Investigating the evolution of ‘technology ecosystem’ in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)

By: Ramy Ghaly
Edited by: Mehrunisa Qayyum

The ongoing debate on the extent to which social media catalyzed the Arab Spring in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, and Syria, another ‘technology’ subsector is taking off in MENA that is worth noting to help understand the current sector’s “ecosystem.” Moreover, this 3 part series will examine how technology is moving forward within the current political transformation in pursuing more democratic representation within MENA region.

The Middle East is home to more than 60 percent of its population is under 30 years old. Specifically, the 30 years and under happens to represent the group facilitating change in the political and economic sectors. We have seen examples of them playing a vital and influential part in the decision making process to increase democratic freedom and transform economies to accommodate their needs–thereby making MENA a competitive place in the digital economy market. Needless to say, the MENA region continues to be featured prominently in the ranking, with some notable observations. According to the Global Information Technology Report 2010-2011 produced by the World Economic Forum, there are four MENA countries scored in the top 30 countries out of 138, namely:
• Israel-22nd
• United Arab Emirates (UAE)-24th
• Qatar-25th
• Bahrain-30th

MENA Country Ranking Across Technology Factors

Also, for example, Lebanon entered at 95th place on the list for the first time since the report began analysis ten years ago. There is no doubt that the region is finding its way into the technology ecosystem. measuring and examining key components that is worth highlighting in the tables referenced in the report.

Middle East and North Africa (MENA)
For many young adults, the internet operates as a way of life that no one is willing to return to a twentieth century MENA. In particular, a McKinsey poll ranks communications technology in fourth place, which transformed the world. making as it ranks fourth most important sector according to a poll by Mckinsey. (The McKinsey poll surveyed 4,787 consumers around the world: INSEAD, Global Information Technology Report 2009-2010.)

McKinsey Survey

The region continues to prioritize development in ICT by economic diversification, enhance efficiency, and modernization pushing forward to advance ICT’s R&D in the region like Qatar’s 30 years plan focusing on transforming its economy into more knowledge based. Qatar exemplifies the sector impact:

“Qatar is devoted to develop its economy towards a knowledge-based economy enriching its level of human capital and improving its competitiveness. Knowledge, as it is applied in innovation and entrepreneurship, research and development, product design and Software, and in how people use their education and skills, is now considered to be one of the key sources of sustained growth in the global economy. In this context, the Planning Council of Qatar and the Qatar Foundation have in this context asked the World Bank to help them in carrying out a knowledge economy assessment of Qatar as well as in formulating a knowledge-based economy vision as part of Qatar’s National Vision 2025.”

Readiness Index

Moreover, 7 out of 15 MENA economies evaluated are considered in the high income levels have a cumulative average score below the world average in the same income category as per the table below; however, it is moving forward higher compared to the average of 138 economies evaluated. (Source: The Global Information Technology Report 2010-2011 produced by the World Economic Forum)

Looking at the region from a different perspective, one can determine the impact of ICT is widespread and will affect all key stakeholders: individuals, business, and government.) Evolving technology trends are pointing to the most likely directions they will take over the next few years as per these pillars: social, local, intelligence, and mobile (SLIM).

Social Impact:
ICT is becoming more interlinked to people’s behaviors and social networks. One can notice the future of ICT is expanding from traditional processes and automation themes to include a human and social focus. The popularity of social networks in MENA has grown tremendously in 1st quarter of 2011 driven mainly by the Arab uprising according to a study made by the Dubai school of Government; needless to say, MENA achieved the highest number new users’ in terms of percentage of country’s population compared to other markets as seen below.

Interestingly enough, this phenomenon has its impact on how the region utilizes social networks engaging with their audience and highlights an ongoing trend for business to leverage social networks and transforms information consumers into product consumers. For example, one startup, a pizza parlor in Lebanon has turned to inbound marketing techniques to launch their business opposed to traditional media. Through local bloggers, they made the place a popular one driving new customers to try out their pizza and talk about it freely in social networks creating a buzz and trend to see growing in popularity with small and medium size businesses in MENA Region. Here is a snapshot of what people are saying.
(Image Source: Moritz Stafner – a real time visualization of current tweets on twitter.)

Twitter Graphic

Stay tuned next Sunday for Part 2, the author’s conclusion, but the setup for the follow-up piece that will reflect on these trends regarding the impact on other developmental issues in MENA. PITAPOLICY invites readers to comment, or submit a piece for this Technology series.
Ramy Ghaly is a Marketing Strategist with more than ten years in international markets experience. He held professional and managerial positions in various global markets in industries ranging from retail, wholesale, consumer goods, to technology product management with concentration in channel development. He holds a degree in International Marketing Management with a minor in International Relations and Middle Eastern studies from Daytona State College. He is interested in social media developments, next generation search technologies, semantic search engines, and text analytics. Needless to say, strategies in geopolitics, Middle Eastern Studies, and Environmental factors that affect global business growth are general interests that keen to always monitor and encourage writing about. He can be reached at Follow Ramy on Twitter @ConsultRamy

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I Vote to Give Myself a Raise, After I Vote to Drive, But Before I Vote to Open a Business Without Male Guardian’s Permission…

By: Mehrunisa Qayyum, Founder PITAPOLICY Consulting

Does economic reform follow political reform or vice versa?  Is it better to be an entrepreneur who demands the franchise, or to be the voter who articulates the need to expand more favorable business conditions for women?  Can voting on issues translate into agenda setting on political, social, and economic fronts?

In 2010, the Middle East Economic Intelligence Unit ranked the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) the least democratic nation in the Middle East.  Women in Saudi Arabia may not work for wages without written consent by their male guardian.  Currently, about 80 percent of Saudi women remain unemployed, according to Hatem Samman, lead economist of the Booz & Company Ideation Center. Granted, this number does not take into account the percentage of Saudi women who will not pursue employment, but Saudi Arabian women have the lowest employment rate in the GCC.

At the same time, the top 100 Arab women include 16 from Saudi Arabia, 15 of whom are either social or business entrepreneurs. Regardless, KSA female entrepreneurs do not depend on loans to start their initiatives since they usually inherit family businesses or wealth.  Thus, current female entrepreneurs might not set an agenda that reflects the middle to low income females aiming to launch a business who require access to financial capital. listed the top 100 ‘Most Powerful Arab Women’ for 2011. The category of ‘Culture & Society’ encompasses those leading in non-profit work, activism, and philanthropy. For a variety of reasons, this category led out of all the categories and boasted about 31 of the most powerful Arab women. If we use the category of ‘Culture & Society’ as a proxy for social entrepreneurship, ironically, Saudi Arabia leads in this subcategory—ranking more Arab entrepreneurs than even Egypt, which has reflected its share of women’s activism and empowerment in the larger Arab Spring movement. Yet, these women emerged prior to winning the right to vote. Perhaps non-political factors play a stronger role in advancing social entrepreneurship.

Does the same trend play out for Saudi women engaging in private entrepreneurship? According to the ‘Ease of Doing Business Index’ in Saudi Arabia, which applies to both men and women in Saudi Arabia, in three of the factors that represent how easy it is for an entrepreneur to engage in business, Saudi leads all the other MENA countries by ranking in the top two. For example, a Saudi national has the most ease in ‘registering a property,’ compared to nationals of other countries. Furthermore, ‘getting credit’, or access financial capital to launch a private venture, is easier in Saudi Arabia than almost any other MENA country—with the exception of Israel.

Yet, despite KSA’s extremely high ranking in conducting private enterprise for either a Saudi male or female, a 2007 study in Arab News showed that Saudi women own about four percent of the total registered businesses in the Kingdom.

So what difference will female enfranchisement make?

Perhaps the KSA’s democracy ranking might improve with the new opportunity for Saudi women to both vote and run for office–in 2015.  But, in 2015, will women be able to drive themselves to the polls?  Our interview with Saudi activist and social network entrepreneur, Areej Khan, highlighted that the issue of driving and voting are intertwined.  Areej explained that, in June 2011, when Saudi officials arrested fellow activist Manal al-Sharif for driving in protest, the current king, King Abdullah, promised change in the future.  Yet, that optimism can easily be overturned by his likely successor, Prince Naif, who, according to Areej, is “not personally religious but uses religion as means to control…Looking forward to Naif is not encouraging because in a monarchy like this you really can move backward.”  What is the guarantee that the new law cannot be undone by unilateral government action? 

Similarly, according to Businessweek, a legal decree from King Abdullah last June required that women take over male employees’ positions as sales associates in lingerie stores.  If royal decrees determine how the political and business environments operate, then how much weight will a vote–albeit a female vote–carry when more controversial demands are made, such as a woman demanding equal pay irrespective of her marital status?

And how will the female vote determine the direction of other political and business environments?  The right to vote presupposes that one can exercise the right to express other freedoms, such as choosing how to live and what makes it to the agenda.  Politically, Saudi Arabia has symbolically adopted the ‘UN Covenant for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women’ (CEDAW) in September 2001.  Will the right to vote play a similarly symbolic, but largely ineffectual role?

Point, Counterpoint, I Beg Your Pardon?
On the one hand, we may argue that the right to vote will be granted as a symbolic gesture and largely ineffectual for two reasons. One, whenever there is controversy, such as the arrest and sentencing of one protesting woman driver on September 28th, “pardoning” or appeasing women emerges as an easy public relations—domestically and internationally—to rebuild political capital. As one observer noted at the joint conference by the Women’s Leadership Partnership and Woodrow Wilson’s Middle East Program, “separating the women’s issue from the larger human rights” and human development agenda “does not help the country or the cause.” Perhaps that is why the vote and opportunity to run for office will not take effect until 2015.

Second, the delayed timeline may serve as a pretext for ineffectual outcomes. When progress on the political front is not seen in 2016, skeptics may seize the opportunity to criticize the reform measure as a wasted effort. If the monarchy was serious about the granting the franchise on a delayed timeline, they would have recognized the intermediary steps and programs that they might be able to facilitate—such as implementing voter registration drives, offering candidate training programs, and perhaps decreeing the right for women to drive as Areej explained above as an intertwined issue.

On the other hand, we may argue more optimistically and learn from the Arab Spring experience that it does not matter what analysis outside of Saudi Arabia suggests. For years, Tunisia served as the “poster child” for the World Bank and International Monetary Fund programs in the MENA region. Tunisia demonstrated increased growth, but “suddenly’ experienced a mass movement from within calling it out Ben Ali on corruption charges.

Political and social reform in Saudi Arabia is among the slowest, in large part because it operates as a rentier economy that continues to crowd out innovation and private initiatives that do not complement the welfare state structure. 2015 or not, the right to vote will accrue value based on the confluence of mass interests within KSA—not the confluence of interests outside of Saudi Arabia.

The KSA has started to recognize the importance of investing in employment opportunities that extend beyond the public sector. Traditionally in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, public sector jobs comprise the bulk of employment for both men and women—but particularly for women. Once the KSA falls short of providing public sector opportunities, we will see the confluence of political and economic interests seized by not Saudi women, but by Saudi women voters.

Feel free to send a rebuttal or alternative thought to this piece at Or, feel free to tweet your response @Pitapolicy :).

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September 29th NAAP-DC & PITAPOLICY Roundtable: MENA On Media; Media on MENA

By: Ramah Kudaimi
Summary of Roundtable hosted by the Network of Arab-American Professionals-DC Chapter & PITAPOLICY Consulting

9/29/11: NAAP-DC & PITAPOLICY Joint Media Event

9/29/11: "Reflecting Not Forecasting"

For Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, the liberating power of social media is something which he experienced personally. The co-host of Al Jazeera’s “The Stream”- a show which taps into social media to uncover unheard voices and new perspectives- told the audience at last week’s media roundtable held by NAAP-DC and PITAPOLICY Consulting that for years after 9/11, Western media exclusively highlighted one narrative of Muslims and Arabs which focused on violence, extremism and terrorism. When he would search “Ahmed” on Youtube, the first video which would pop up was entitled “Ahmed the Terrorist” and had almost seven million views. But with the uprisings sweeping the Arab world, the power of social media to change this narrative has been on display. On a personal level, while Ahmed was traveling on a train in the United States a few weeks ago, he saw that #flagman was trending on Twitter. In a few clicks he learned that a young man had scaled the Israeli embassy in Cairo and replaced the Israeli flag with an Egyptian one, symbolizing the empowerment Egyptians felt in demanding their leaders represent their interests. And this flagman’s name was Ahmed, a stark contrast to Ahmed the terrorist.

On the macro level, social media has changed business as usual in the Arab world. Dr. Sahar Khamis, an expert on Arab and Middle Eastern media and author of Islam Dot Com: Contemporary Islamic Discourses in Cyberspace, explained that there have been two dangerous extremes in regards to analysis of recent events, especially those in Egypt. On one end the role of social media is underestimated by some who claim that the uprisings would have happened anyways. On the other end the role is overestimated as seen by those labeling what happened as the “Facebook revolution”

“Social media represent catalysts for change,” Dr. Sahar said. “It complements and supplements desires for reform.”

Egypt is unique amongst the countries experiencing upheavals because it had a vibrant and dynamic scene for change before January 25, the first day of major protests. This included opposition papers, alternative voices on private satellite channels and on the ground organizing such as the Keffiyeh (Enough) movement.

“But what failed in the past was being able to mobilize large numbers of people,” Dr. Sahar pointed out. “With the help of social media, larger numbers were able to be rallied and engaged with the protests. This was due to cascades of information which were facilitated by social media.” This is particularly significant for the Arab world due to the overall youthfulness of the region: 70 percent of people are under the age of 30. As Facebook statuses and Tweets were being shared and passed around, people were able to feel each other out and realized that their neighbors shared the same resentment and anger and were then encouraged to do something about it.

Social media also allows people to transcend borders, something which is particularly significant for Palestinian activism explained Will Youmans, founder of Kabobfest. Due to the deterritorialization of Palestinians, their struggle has been a transnational one, making social media an ideal platform for organizing. These tools have also led to the flattening of hierarchies, as new clusters of communication have developed amongst people, and the decentering of ideas and narratives. No longer do Western media hold an overall sway over information.

“These applications have helped the Palestinian cause spread outside of traditional media constraints,” Will said. “Being a part of an online community which is pro-Palestinian allows one to feel less of a target.” Increased Palestinian engagement and activism worldwide through social media platforms are encouraging alternative methods of mobilization away from the traditional political leadership and, Will hopes, will lead to the same type of empowerment other Arabs in the region are now realizing.
This recent and intense focus on social media though cannot take away from the continuing significant role more traditional media outlets play in the region, especially television. For example the Cairo News Company had 70 live broadcasts during the 18 days of protests which rocked Egypt. Several of its reporters were attacked and multiple times its offices were closed forcing reporters to work from various secret locations. Hanan El-Badry, the DC Bureau Chief, was responsible for making sure the stories and images being collected back in Egypt were reaching the international media. As the state run stations and newspapers were either completely ignoring the protests or claiming that protesters were committing acts of violence, it was the responsibility of El-Badry and other independent television reporters to counter such claims with their own reports. Traditional media also help verify information posted online. While in Egypt there were actual reporters on the ground, said Anar Virji, Deputy Program Editor at Al Jazeera English, in other places like Yemen and Syria there have been major restrictions on the freedom of journalists to travel and report. Thus it becomes more difficult to confirm videos and stories posted online and then pass them on to viewers and readers.

Regimes have also learned from the experience of Egypt and have made it more difficult to make use of social media as a mobilizing tool.

“While in Egypt the government was taken by surprise and not prepared,” Dr. Sahar said, “Syria realized its people’s lack in technological savvy and prepared themselves to hack websites and take actions against protesters in the online realm.”

There is still much to be accomplished in the Arab world but whatever difficulties protesters must overcome towards achieving their goals, it cannot be denied that social media has expanded civic engagement and further eroded media exclusivity. And this means many more, like Ahmed, will experience the invigorating power of social media.

Ramah Kudaimi is a Master of Arts Candidate in Conflict Resolution at the Department of Government at Georgetown University. She may be reached at Tweet Ramah @ramahkudaimi.


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Palestine: The History of Peacemaking & the Need for a Game-Changer

By: Omar Baddar

**********************************************************************************************************Editor’s Note: Omar is focusing on the particular issue of Palestine, which will be discussed at a joint event held by the Network of Arab American Professionals-DC Chapter panel cosponsored by PITAPOLICY. On September 29th, at 6:30pm, the NAAP-DC/PITAPOLICY Media Roundtable will be held in Washington, DC at 1025 5th Street, NW: Busboys & Poets Restaurant. blog founder, Will Youmans, will examine how the role of social media impacts the discourse of Palestine. Ahmed Shihab-Eldin will relate how Al Jazeera English’s (AJE) program “The Stream” participates in the media discourse of the Arab Spring. Dr. Sahar Khamis will explore the broader role of social media in communication strategy. Anar Virji will highlight the behind the scenes efforts at AJE.
18 years ago this month, Palestinians kicked off the “peace process” with Israel in pursuit of a two-state solution for the decades-long conflict. Palestinians recognized Israel proper, renouncing any territorial right to 78% of historic Palestine, with the idea that Israel would gradually withdraw from the remaining 22% (the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem) to facilitate the creation of a Palestinian state on those territories. But rather than withdrawing from the occupied territories during the peace process, Israel did the opposite; wildly accelerating settlement expansion on those territories, demolishing homes, driving many Palestinians out of Jerusalem, and pursuing a wide range of atrocious policies that can collectively be summed up as the illegal and brutal military occupation of Palestine.

11 years ago today (another September anniversary for Palestinians), the 2nd Palestinian intifada (uprising) ignited when 7 protesters were killed on Temple Mount during a provocative visit by Ariel Sharon, surrounded by hundreds of armed guards. While Sharon’s visit was the spark that lit up the intifada, the gas barrel it ignited was the frustration of 7 years of supposed “peace process” which, in reality, did nothing but entrench the occupation. Despite initiating, provoking, and using disproportionate violence of its own, Israel used Palestinians’ violent reaction as an excuse to rob them of further rights, most notably by building the annexation barrier (disguised as a “security barrier”) cutting off Palestinian access to more and more of their own lands and further restricting their movement.

President Obama’s unprecedented rhetoric in his Cairo speech 2 years ago, coupled with the very public confrontation with Netanyahu over settlements, raised the hopes of many that he was a different kind of President; one that will bring pressure to bear on Israel and compel it to abide by its obligations and come to a sensible peace agreement with the Palestinians. After backtracking on settlements, vetoing a U.N. resolution condemning them, and lobbying against the Palestinian bid for U.N. membership, it is clear now that Obama has capitulated. Of course, the political calculus behind Obama’s capitulation is obvious, especially after Republicans (presidential contenders and in Congress) have falsely charged him with throwing Israel under the bus. While the charge is completely baseless (Obama overseas the tightest military/strategic relationship between the US & Israel), it nevertheless stuck and did some damage, as evident by the campaigning & result of the congressional special election in New York’s 9th district.

Whether Obama would be any better if he were to win a 2nd term is an interesting question to debate, but not one that we have time for right now. We can’t just sit and wait for 14 months to see if Obama will win, if he will be better, and if better will be good enough to change the game (too many “ifs”); we have to deal with the current situation, which looks as bleak as ever with regard to any U.S.-led diplomatic process. Palestinians and Palestine-solidarity activists understand the need for a game-changer better than anyone else, which is why they are pushing forward with two efforts: international activists are escalating the BDS campaign which has clearly gotten the attention of the Israeli government, and the Palestinian leadership is pursuing the internationalization of the process of resolving the conflict by taking Palestine back to the U.N. through this membership bid.

Both efforts (BDS & U.N. membership bid) have been widely criticized, including by many within the movement fighting for Palestinian rights. But much of the criticism from within the movement has completely missed the point. Yes, the critics are right in that statehood recognition and U.N. membership will not end the occupation anymore than some flash mob to boycott products made in some settlement will end the suffering of Palestinian refugees. But these efforts are first and foremost about reshaping the public discourse in order to lay the groundwork for the restoration of Palestinian rights.

After 2000, pro-Israel propagandists repeated the mantra that Israel offered the Palestinians a viable state at Camp David II which was turned down in favor of violence by the Palestinians. The burden was on us to get into the weeds of the issue about settlements, military zones and Jerusalem to explain that what was offered to the Palestinians was not viable. After this U.N. bid, whatever happens to it (including a U.S. veto), it will finally be obvious to all observers (including the least informed) that the Palestinians sought a state on the occupied territories and that Israel denied them that state. Understanding who constitutes the real obstacle to the two-state solution will no longer be a privilege restricted to the informed, it will be common knowledge. This is a low-hanging PR opportunity that we must capitalize on regardless of whether we believe in a one-state or a two-state solution (or a 15-state solution for all I care). Whether the outcome of the U.N. bid will translate into an immediate turning point on the diplomatic front or on the ground is far from certain, but what is certain is that we will be entering a whole new phase in the public discourse battle to elucidate the reality of the situation while the other side tries to divert attention from the core issues. The Israeli government is literally readying its twitter army for this battle. What are you doing to wage it?

Omar Baddar is a political analyst, human rights activist, and Huffington Post blogger. You can follow him on Twitter @omarbaddar.

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Part 1~MENA Region’s Human Trafficking: Labor, Migration & Demand

By: Melina Olmo
Edited by: Mehrunisa Qayyum

On September 23rd, The Woodrow Wilson Center, based in Washington, DC, hosted an event reviewing human trafficking trends in Dubai. Ethnographer, Pardis Mahdavi, described the Middle East & North Africa region’s human trafficking patterns by way of Dubai in Gridlock: Labor, Migration, and Human Trafficking in Dubai. Mahdavi is a former Fellow of Woodrow Wilson Center and Associate Professor at Pomona College. Although Dubai serves as one case study, the larger issue relates to supply and demand. PITAPOLICY Contributor, Melina Olmo, explores the dilemma of human trafficking in the MENA region in three parts. Part one describes the nuances of human trafficking through gender, labor, and touches upon “supply” issues, which will be explored more in the second part.

Part 1

“When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.” ~Mother Teresa

These famous words spoken by Mother Theresa, continue to echo in the 21st century as we address the modern day version of slavery: human trafficking. Human trafficking is the illegal trade of human beings for the purpose of a) reproductive slavery, b) commercial sexual exploitation, or c) forced labor. Since human trafficking manifests in different forms depending on the socio-economic and socio-cultural trends in various countries, this three part article will utilize a framework that reviews the “supply” and the “demand” side of the illegal trading of human capital. Overall, how have existing trafficking practices and regulations taxed society to produce other externalities?

In recent years, pop culture has tackled the subject of human trafficking through films like Dirty Pretty Things, Taken, Biutiful and CNN’s Freedom Project. When we hear about human trafficking, our minds immediately visualize images of sex trade and prostitutes—images that seem far from our homes and lives. Nonetheless, human trafficking comprises a large industry in the global black market, or “informal economy” and extends beyond urban environments. Specifically, human trafficking represents an industry that has profited more than $30 billion USD (International Labor Organization 2005). Human trafficking “services” expand throughout more than 127 countries.

As global citizens, and consumers, we cannot deny a direct correlation with the industry. If we are to combat and abolish modern day slavery, we must step away from the philosophical moralistic debates; we must look at this for what it is: a business. All the controversy, international policy and regulations can be reduced to the most basic economic formula for markets: supply and demand. The more we, as individuals and society demand the goods and services provided by the traffickers, the higher the demand of people. In terms of human capital, we have divested potential labor from the formal economy into the informal economy. At the same time, this “divestment’ translates into social costs: more victims—most of whom are young women and children. Thus, in terms of human development, we are facilitating stunted growth.

The questions I continue to explore in the next parts include the following: Where we do as individuals stand within this industry? Are we more focused on regulating the demand side, or the supply side: protecting people from becoming the raw material for the trafficking industry? Or are we increasing the demand for services brought by human trafficking? What are we doing unconsciously to directly increase the demand for human trafficking around the world?

Listed below are some categories of human trafficking.
Sex Trafficking: when a person is made to perform commercial sexual acts through force, fraud, and/or coercion

Debt Bondage: when a person provides a loan to another and uses his or her labor or services to repay the debt; the services are not usually enough to repay the debt and the bondage is passed on to other generations.

Labor Trafficking: the purchase of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.

Child Soldiers: children under the age of 18 are forced to join in a national army or rebel militia.

Organ Trafficking: forced removal of organs for sale on the black market.

Involuntary Domestic Servitude: forced domestic labor connected to victim’s off-duty living quarters. Usually this kind of trafficking is difficult to be investigated because victims are in private homes, isolated from the world, including other workers.

The International Labor Organization has estimated profits of US$ 31.5 billion from people trafficked, inclusive of US$1.5 billion in the MENA region with the majority of victims falling into labor and sexual trafficking. The United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking reports that MENA is accountable for 9.2% of the 2.5 million victims trafficked. Countries like Morocco, Oman, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates, have passed laws to fight this criminal industry, but that is not enough to end the practice of modern day slavery. Are these laws being enforced by the government? By society? Given that human trafficking is a business, we as individuals/consumers have a direct impact on promoting or condemning this industry.

In part two of this article, I will use the MENA region as a case study to explore the interaction between the economy, policies and culture that allow human trafficking to continue.

For more updates and commentary on this issue, follow Melina Olmo on Twitter @mundorerum …

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September 29th @ 6:30: Media Round Table~4 Outlets Review MENA Coverage

PITAPOLICY Co-sponsoring Media Round Table with the Network of Arab American Professionals, DC Chapter

MEDIA ‘FUN’-A-TICS: PITAPOLICY & The Network of Arab American Professionals, DC chapter’s Media & Public Relations Committee is excited to present its event of the year!

We’ve invited 5 panelists that represent print, TV, radio, and online media for a 1 hr discussion. NAAP-DC is pleased to present:
1) TV-Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, Al Jazeera English,”The Stream”
2) Anar Virji, Al Jazeera English, Deputy Progam Editor
3) Academic-Samar Khamis, University of Maryland, Communications Professor
4) Radio-Mohamed Wafa, Radio Sawa, Washington Correspondent
5) Online-Will Youmans, Founder of

NAAP-DC will be patroning a wonderful Arab-owned business that faclitates a forum for the arts, media, politics, and informed activism. Although the panel is industry specific, the audience need not be to participate! $5 at the Door.

For questions, please don’t hesitate to contact: Mehrunisa Qayyum, 224-406-4218 or at

PITAPOLICY is co-sponsoring the Round Table and is LOOKING for a volunteer to write an Op-Ed about the NAAP-DC media event to POST on both the NAAP-DC Newsletter and 2 Blogs! Interested? Email

Visit Busboys & Poets Website:

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