It’s in my DNA

Hello Folks!

As a Palestinian, I always imagined that my ancestral history was coloured with the many territorial conquests of what is often defined as the Middle East. I’ve always wanted to do one of those DNA tests that tell you where you’re “really from.” But those things can be quite pricey and anyone who knows me knows that I’m living on a pinch these days. Now, somehow, don’t ask me how because I don’t remember, I found out about this free study called Genes for Good that is being done through the University of Michigan. I filled out a couple of surveys and questionnaires about myself and they sent me a spit kit. It was kind of icky, but I got through the spit kit experience and mailed my sample in. Being a free test and all, they did warn me that it would take months to get my results back. There are tons of participants, so it only makes sense. You can’t argue with free, am I right? This week, I finally got my results. The results are a tad general and I’d be interested to get some more specific results, but I’m satisfied and intrigued to learn more about my history.

Here I am. This is me:

12345

I did have the option to request the raw data, which I did. I received it, and while they did give me some instructions on how to read it, I can’t seem to make sense of it. Maybe I can learn more about myself through this raw data, but I could use some help trying to break it down. Any suggestion? Drop me a line at heba@dartmouth.edu if you have any grand ideas or some user-friendly data software suggestions.

Or just get in touch because now that you know a little about me, it’d be cool to learn a little about you too.

Peace and Pistachios,

Heba

 

Because apparently, you can’t have too many versions of a CV

Writer copy

Writer

Heba Issa (1)

Heba Issa copy 3

Heba Issa copy 5

Dissecting Orientalism

As noted by Anderson, Tessler and Halliday, regional studies are essential to the social sciences because they make broader analytical frameworks pertinent to the areas they comprise. Halliday brings forward his thoughts on the impact of Orientalism on the social sciences and makes several concerning points about the Orientalist debate.

Edward Said considered one aspect of Orientalism to be a certain depiction of the Middle East and East Asian cultures, that portrayed the East as backwards, exotic, uncivilized and in need of rescue.

“Orientalism provided a rationalization for European colonialism based on a self-serving history in which “the West” constructed “the East,” yet in Halliday’s critique, he refers to Arabs as one entity. This fails to address the non- Arab population living in the Arab nations. Before the modern Arab world existed there were a multitude of different cultures and languages spoken in the Middle East and North Africa region. As of recent statistics, there are more than 300 million Arabs in the MENA region, this number, however, includes the many ethnic minorities that do exist in the area, including the Kurds, Armenians, Aramaeans, Chaldeans, Turkmens, Cherkess, Turks, Zangians, Nubians, Berbers, Banyans, Haratins, Gnawas, Tauregs, Chechens, Romanis, Ajamis, Moors and Assyrians.[1] Halliday fails to address the demographics of people who were Arabized, such as the Berbers, as Berber languages were seen as inferior to Arabic. [2,3, 4] Just as the West orientalized the East to justify their colonialism, in turn the Arabs Arabized the Berber population as they too were and are capable of orientalist-like beliefs. Haliday’s failure to address this flaw and label of “Arab” is in a sense an orientalist belief because he has grouped different cultures together under one label.

Another concerning point unaddressed by Halliday was the effect Orientalism had on MENA academics, researchers, journalists and writers, as well as what happens when these people serve an Orientalist agenda. For example, Joumana Haddad is a Lebanese poet, translator and the creator of the Jasad quarterly magazine. She is also the editor of the cultural pages of the Al-Nahar daily paper. In her book I Killed Schehrezade: Confessions of an Angry Arab Woman, she attempts to debunk stereotypes of Arab women in the West, yet she also enhances the eroticization and orientalization of Arab women in her magazine’s erotic portrayals. She aims to show that the “typical image of Arab women is not all wrong, but rather incomplete,” but her argument and actions found throughout the book leads the reader to believe that she herself believes Arab women are oppressed.[5] She orientalizes herself by grouping Arabs with Muslims together, as not all Arabs are Muslims and not all Muslims are Arabs.

While Halliday, Tessler and Anderson addressed many issues faced by academics studying the Middle East, their concerns seemed self-centred and short-sighted, seeing as little focus was given as to how their research can influence ideologies held by MENA researchers and politicians, as well as affect the lives of the people living in the regions they study.

[1] The Islamic Human Rights Commission. “IHRC – Minorities in the Arab World.” Islamic Human Rights Commision (IHRC). 27 Jan. 2004. Web. 17 July 2011. <http://www.ihrc.org.uk/show.php?id=989&gt;.

 

[2] Weiss, Bernard G. and Green, Arnold H.(1987) A Survey of Arab History. American University in Cairo

Press, Cairo, p. 129.

 

[3] Harich, N., E. Esteban, A. López-Alomar, P. Moral, A. Chafik, and G. Vona. “Classical Polymorphisms in Berbers from Moyen Atlas (Morocco): Genetics, Geography, and Historical Evidence in the Mediterranean Peoples.” Annals of Human Biology 29.5 (2002): 473-87. Print.
[4] BBC NEWS. “Africa | Q&A: The Berbers.” BBC News – Home. 12 Mar. 2004. Web. 17 July 2011. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3509799.stm&gt;.

 

[5] Haddad, Joumana. I Killed Scheherazade Confessions of an Angry Arab Woman. P. 31. Lawrence Hill, 2011. Print.

There is nothing casual about civilian casualties

Are you a Daily Mail reader? I won’t lie, I usually read the Daily Mail for a laugh. Some of these stories they come up with… they’re just interesting and chuckle-worthy to say the least. I do, however, know that I should never read an article concerning a serious matter on the Daily Mail website. But alas, I torture myself every time and even worse, I always scroll down to the comments section to read the vile things people feel so confidently typing, but rarely say in person.

Some of the worst things I’ve read include:

Comments about how “Real” refugees shouldn’t have phones- Many refugees are fleeing war. That doesn’t mean they didn’t have possessions. Cell phones are no longer a first world standard. Get over it because I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of refugees don’t have these fancy contracts and money to spend speaking hours on the phone.

Comments about how “real” refugees shouldn’t be allowed to wear makeup- First of all, I saw the video this ignoramus was commenting on and the woman did not have makeup up. She was and is naturally gorgeous. Perfect contours, skin and thick eyebrows. She’s prettier than all of us put together. That comment was pure jealousy. Plus, considering everything these refugees have been through, so what if she gets to put on a tiny bit of makeup. She deserves to feel beautiful and like her normal self after the torment of fleeing her country and home.

Comments about how refugees are only in it for the benefits- You know what benefit they really want. The benefit of life!!! I can’t entertain that nonsense.

Comments about how Syrians should fight for their country- This is the silliest comment of all. Syrians have been fighting for their country for years. They’re not only fighting against ISIS, you know. They’re fighting against the Assad regime and the US and Russia and the whole list of countries that have been striking Syria. What weapons do these innocent civilians have that they can use against a whole world? The numbers don’t add up. The worst part is so many refugees are children. Do we really expect children to fight? Because if we allowed that the Daily Mail commenters would comment about how child soldiers are wrong.

Comments about how refugees desire to continue their education makes them economic migrants and not refugees- You realize that these people have had their entire lives come to a complete halt. They’ve literally been sitting around starving and waiting to die. A whole generation of young Syrians is growing up illiterate and unable to do basic math or know much about anything other than war. These refugees aren’t coming over just so they can take advantage of university education. No, if they could have stayed in Syria and continued their education they would have. But there are no teachers left in schools in Syria because there are no schools left. The schools that are left get used as shelters and makeshift community centers.

Comments about how “we” should bomb “them all”- That is an incitement of terror and makes you complicit in murder. Just putting that out there, you horrible human being. I have no problem with seeing ISIS and Assad terrorist thugs get blasted off this earth, however the legal thing to do would be to capture them and try them in a court of international law, in which they would be found guilty and live a long and tortuous life in maximum security prisons. But there is nothing casual about bombing an entire city, killing innocent civilians and calling them casualties.

Comments about how everyone in Raqaa is an ISIS terrorist and that if they weren’t they would have left- Yes, Raqaa is an ISIS headquarter. Yes, ISIS controls the city, but is everyone there a supporter of ISIS, no? But to openly oppose it would leave you dead or tortured. Why don’t people leave? They don’t have the money. Sure smugglers could get you out, but where would you go? The smugglers will take all your money, risk your life and leave you penniless on a raft in the Mediterranean or in the desert on the way to a desolate refugee camp or in some other destroyed part of Syria.

Comments judging refugees for being separated from their families- Seriously? Is this the Olympic category for most vile comment made? Because if it is, you win. People get separated from their families in all sorts of ways that most people would find inconceivable. But it happens all the time. Talk to anyone whose family has been through a war or some sort of catastrophe: I can guarantee you that a majority of people will tell you they have at least one family member that ended up alone or separated from the rest.

Comments about how refugees have “such nice tents”- This dude commented on how her tent was so nice that she couldn’t possibly be a “real” refugee and that she probably has all this money stashed away. How deep in the dirt is your head exactly? Much of this type of supplies has been provided by aid workers, charity organizations and normal human people with hearts that donated much needed goods, such as tents. Do you want to live on a tent on a street corner when it’s raining and cold? No, especially since winter is nearing. You’re just a horrible person for thinking this

Comments stating the run of the mill stereotypes- The long list of racial slurs, insults, and stereotypes that I won’t humor by listing. You know the type orientalist rubbish that is slanderous, libel, disgusting and horrible filth, but Facebook won’t take it down because they’re too worked up taking pictures down of women’s bodies.

 

My conclusions: Firstly, humans are awful. I don’t know how people can be awful. I doubt most of these hateful commenters could handle  day in the life of a refugee. If you really think “we don’t owe them anything,” then you clearly have no idea how complicit our governments are in making Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and the rest of the world, the situation that they are in today.

Secondly, we haven’t learned from history one bit. These comments– ugh just look at some of the things people said during WWII about refugees. Please and compare those comments to now.

And lastly, I can’t be the only one who sees comparison in 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq with the Paris Attacks and the subsequent bombing of Raqaa.

Civilians, particularly children are innocent and pay the highest toll in wartime situations. I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I know what the answers to terrorism, racism, discrimination and bigotry are. Offhand I would say education, but we all know the world isn’t that simple.

All I want is for people to think for 30 seconds before they type these horrible comments. I pray your ignorant minds become enlightened with knowledge, wisdom and empathy.

 

Egyptian Court Verdict on Al-Jazeera Journalists

Dear FPC Journalists,

Sharing below a statement from the Office of the Spokesperson.

Regards,

 

Washington Foreign Press Center

U.S. Department of State

Tel:  (202) 504-6300

 

 

From: State Department Press Office [mailto:usstatebpa@subscriptions.fcg.gov]
Sent: Saturday, August 29, 2015 5:00 PM
To: PA All – FPC
Subject: STATEMENT: Egyptian Court Verdict on Al-Jazeera Journalists

 

 

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Office of the Spokesperson

For Immediate Release

 STATEMENT BY JOHN KIRBY, SPOKESPERSON

August 29, 2015

Egyptian Court Verdict on Al-Jazeera Journalists

The United States is deeply disappointed and concerned by the verdict handed down by an Egyptian court to the three Al-Jazeera journalists – Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed, and Peter Greste.

The freedom of the press to investigate, report, and comment – even when its perspective is unpopular or disputed – is fundamental to any free society and essential to democratic development.

We urge the Government of Egypt to take all available measures to redress this verdict, which undermines the very freedom of expression necessary for stability and development.

Iran Researcher Job posted by: Human Rights Watch Posted on: August 18, 2015

Job description

FULL-TIME JOB VACANCY

IRAN RESEARCHER

Middle East / North Africa Division

Application Deadline: 15 September 2015

Human Rights Watch (“HRW”) is seeking highly qualified applicants for the position of Iran Researcher with the Middle East & North Africa (“MENA”) Division. The researcher will be responsible for developing and implementing a research and advocacy strategy on Iran, and probably an additional MENA country. Ideally, the position will be based in New York, Washington, DC, London, or in the Middle East region.

Responsibilities:

1. Research, monitor and document human rights abuses by collecting and analyzing information from a wide variety of sources including governments, local media, NGOs, victims, witnesses, journalists, diplomats, security forces and others in the field;

2. Conduct fact-finding missions in Iran (if possible) and in other countries, as needed and if security permits;

3. Write and publicize reports, briefing papers, letters, news releases, op-eds, and submissions to international bodies based on the findings of your research;

4. Develop and implement local, regional, and international strategies to change abusive laws, policies, and practices;

5. Present human rights and humanitarian law issues and concerns to government officials, opinion leaders, inter-governmental agencies, and the media to promote civilian protection and human rights reforms;

6. Work closely with relevant local and international human rights organizations and activists to ensure that the work of HRW in Iran complements and enhances their work;

7. Respond promptly to queries from the media, public, and colleagues in the human rights community and take initiative to project concerns in public debate;

8. Liaise effectively with HRW staff located in multiple locations throughout the world to ensure effective coordination and delivery of activities;

9. Travel domestically and internationally, as required, in order to carry out research and advocacy; and

10. Perform other duties as required.

Qualifications:

Education: An advanced (graduate) degree in international relations, journalism, law, history or social sciences is strongly preferred.

Experience: A minimum of three years of experience working on human rights issues or humanitarian law, ideally in the Middle East and/or North Africa, is required.

Related Skills and Knowledge:

1. Excellent oral and written communication skills in English and Farsi are required.

2. Ability to identify, research, analyze and effectively communicate important human rights developments in Iran is required.

3. Ability and sensitivity to conduct interviews with a wide range of people, including victims and witnesses, are required.

4. Ability to identify and advise on strategies to conduct research and advocacy is required.

5. Ability to produce high-quality written material under tight deadlines is required.

6. Strong initiative and follow-through, capacity to think creatively and strategically, excellent editing skills, and dynamic public speaking skills are required.

7. Strong interpersonal skills in order to work collaboratively within HRW, as well as with external partners, are required.

8. Ability to multi-task effectively, including having strong planning and organizing skills, and ability to work under pressure are required.

9. Ability to think strategically about the global and local media environments and how to use the media and electronic media to further goals are required.

10. Ability to work flexible hours to accommodate developing and urgent events is required.

11. Ability to make sound decisions consistent with functions is essential.

12. Knowledge of and experience working in international human rights and familiarity with international humanitarian law is strongly preferred.

Salary and Benefits: HRW seeks exceptional applicants and offers competitive compensation and employer-paid benefits. HRW will pay reasonable relocation expenses and will assist employees in obtaining necessary work authorization, if required; citizens of all nationalities are encouraged to apply.

Human Rights Watch is an equal opportunity employer that does not discriminate in its hiring practices and, in order to build the strongest possible workforce, actively seeks a diverse applicant pool.

How to apply

Contact: Please apply immediately or by 15 September by emailing, in a single submission, a letter of interest describing your experience, resume, contact details for three references, and a brief writing sample (unedited by others)to menajobs@hrw.org. Please use “Iran Researcher Application Ref: MENA-15-1063″ as the subject of your email.

Only complete applications will be reviewed and only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

Location

350 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor, New York, NY, 10118, US
This job can be performed from a remote location.

Details

Application deadline
September 15, 2015
Education requirements
Languages needed
Employment type
Full time
Professional level
Professional
Job function
Owner’s areas of focus

U.S. Humanitarian Assistance in Response to the Syrian Crisis

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Office of the Spokesperson

For Immediate Release

 FACT SHEET

March 31, 2015

U.S. Humanitarian Assistance in Response to the Syrian Crisis

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power announced today at the Third International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria in Kuwait that the United States will provide nearly $508 million in additional life-saving assistance to benefit those affected by the war in Syria. This is the largest announcement of funding the United States has made for this humanitarian crisis, which demonstrates the unprecedented magnitude of suffering and urgent needs.

This new funding brings the total U.S. contribution to assist those affected by the conflict in Syria since its start in 2011 to nearly $3.7 billion. The funding will support the activities of both international and non-governmental organizations, including United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN World Food Program (WFP), and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). It will provide food, water, medical care, shelter, protection, and other necessities to millions of civilians suffering inside Syria and nearly 4 million refugees from Syria in the region. It will also provide assistance to host governments and communities throughout the region that are struggling to cope with the strain of supporting them. The announcement comes after the United States provided more than $1.5 billion to those affected by the conflict in fiscal year 2014, the largest amount of assistance the United States has ever provided to a single crisis in one year.

The new funding comes in response to the $8.4 billion United Nations 2015 appeals for Syria and the region, its largest set of appeals to date.  Behind the numbing statistics are humans whose lives are at stake: the refugee boy who is forced to leave school to support his family by begging on the streets, the widow in a besieged Damascus suburb who struggles to feed her children, and the father seeking urgent medical care for an injured child in a city where few doctors remain.

The United States recognizes that along with our emergency relief response, we must look at the longer-term development needs of Syria’s neighbors – boosting their health care and education systems, and supporting their economies amid the strain of hosting millions of refugees.  In addition to providing humanitarian aid to refugees, this funding will be programmed in a manner that is mindful of the development needs of host countries and host communities in those countries.

Though nearly all of Syria’s population is affected by the conflict, Syria’s youth continue to pay the heaviest toll.  With U.S. support, the UN and its NGO partners helped over 360,000 Syrian refugee children in neighboring countries enroll in school in 2014, triple the number enrolled in 2013.  Despite this progress, the UN estimates that two million children inside Syria are out of school and one in five schools have been damaged or destroyed.  In the region, the UN estimates that half of Syrian refugee children are not in school. 

The onslaught against civilians and aid organizations by the Syrian regime and extremist groups we are seeing shows that the principles of humanitarianism that founded the United Nations remain under attack from multiple sides in Syria.  We cannot allow this kind of regressive brutality to go unchallenged. Impartial and neutral humanitarian organizations must be allowed to do their jobs; civilians must be protected.

The United States remains committed to assisting those affected by this terrible war, and strongly urges all donors, organizations, and individuals concerned about the situation to contribute to the 2015 UN appeals.

U.S. Humanitarian Assistance for the Syria Crisis, By Country

INSIDE SYRIA: Nearly $270 million. Total to date: $1.82 billion

There are now 12.2 million people in need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria, and U.S. humanitarian assistance reaches 5 million people across all of Syria’s 14 governorates.  This new assistance will support life-saving food, emergency medical care, funding for shelter and critical water, and sanitation and hygiene projects to help those affected by the crisis.  It will also provide critical relief supplies and much-needed counseling and protection programs to help the most vulnerable, including women, persons with disabilities, and the elderly.

Of special concern are Syria’s children who have been traumatized by war and many of whom have been out of school for more than two years.  The new funding will support children’s needs in education, nutrition, health, and psychosocial care, while also providing additional safe and nurturing spaces for Syria’s children to learn, play, and deal with the stresses of conflict.

LEBANON: More than $118 million.  Total to date: $792 million*

The UN estimates that Lebanon is the highest per capita refugee hosting country in the world.  Today’s announcement increases support to both refugees and host communities.  With the additional funding, UN and international organization partners can continue to deliver immediate cash assistance for food, rent assistance, education, healthcare, shelter assistance, and basic relief items like blankets, heaters, and hygiene kits.  The UN is also using efficient electronic cards to distribute aid and reach more people in need.

The additional U.S. funding will also support Lebanese refugee-hosting communities through improvements in municipal water and sanitation systems, support to local community centers and clinics, and improving school facilities.  The WFP program has had a direct impact on the local economy, creating over 1,300 jobs and enabling participating stores to double their revenue.  

The number of refugees from Syria now living in Lebanon includes approximately 45,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria.  Approximately half live in Palestinian refugee camps that were overcrowded even before the influx from Syria, with few resources and limited opportunities to improve their situation.  Additional U.S. support to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in Lebanon provides needed aid, including cash, relief supplies, education, and medical care, to Palestinian refugees from Syria in camps and other communities.

JORDAN: Nearly $67 million.  Total to date: $556 million*

In Jordan, 85 percent of Syrian refugees live outside of refugee camps, in Jordanian towns and cities.  Our additional funding will benefit both refugees and Jordanian host communities. 

Our additional support to Syrians in Jordan aims to alleviate the need for children to work instead of going to school by funding continued cash assistance to cover refugees’ basic needs and shelter costs.  This funding also goes toward improving school facilities, so that all children, including those with disabilities, can access the education they need and deserve.

The WFP electronic food voucher program has led to $2.5 million investment in physical infrastructure by the participating retailers; created over 350 jobs in the food retail sector; and generated $6 million in additional tax receipts for the Jordanian government.

U.S. funding also includes support to UNRWA for the needs of some 15,000 Palestinian refugees in Jordan who have fled the conflict in Syria, helping vulnerable refugees access health care, educational services, and cash assistance for essential needs.

TURKEY: Nearly $28 million.  Total to date: $259 million*

U.S. funding assists Turkey in addressing the humanitarian and protection needs of Syrian refugees in Turkish camps, urban areas, and host communities.  This funding will be used to increase the number of social workers, child development specialists, psychologists and interpreters in refugee camps, as well as in 11 provinces hosting Syrian refugees.  Funding to UNHCR will provide tents, blankets, kitchen sets, targeted support to particularly vulnerable refugees, and technical support to government authorities. Funding for UNICEF helps provide programming for children emphasizing life skills, as well as awareness-raising on landmines.  WFP provides refugees with electronic food cards that allow families living in camps to purchase nutritious food items to meet their daily needs, and the World Health Organization coordinates the regional emergency health response to communicable diseases and will strengthen primary health care and disease surveillance, prevention, and response.

IRAQ: More than $17 million.  Total to date: $165 million*

In Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government hosts 96 percent of Syrian refugees in the country, and has provided more than 2,000 square miles of land for the establishment of 11 camp and transit sites.  This new funding will be used to repair health centers, expand schools, and improve water sanitation systems in the community.  Other funding will go toward initiatives targeting women and girls, to provide vocational and language training, general literacy training and reproductive health.

EGYPT: Nearly $9 million.  Total to date: $78 million*

The increased funding will provide assistance to Syrian refugees who continue to face significant challenges as urban refugees in Egypt.  The U.S. contribution will assist humanitarian partners in expanding assistance in major refugee-hosting cities such as Cairo and Alexandria with community-focused projects for refugees and host families in an effort to address the deteriorating protection environment.  Assistance will also target prevention of and responsiveness to gender-based violence, protection and education for children, increased self-reliance and livelihood opportunities, distribution of food vouchers, and improved access to health care services.

*Figures are rounded to the nearest million.

Funding Numbers by Country

Country

Kuwait Announcement

Total – Since FY 2012

Inside Syria

$270 million

$1.82 billion

Lebanon

$118 million

$792 million

Jordan

$67 million

$556 million

Turkey

$28 million

$259 million

Iraq

$17 million

$165 million

Egypt

$9 million

$78 million

TOTAL

$508 million

$3.69 billion

*Figures are rounded to the nearest million and may not sum to total due to rounding

Funding Numbers by Organization

Organization

Kuwait Announcement

Total – Since FY 2012

UNHCR

  $144 million

$914 million

WFP

  $100 million

$1.168 billion

NGOs

  $108 million

$834 million

UNRWA

  $57 million

$241 million

UNICEF

  $61 million

$300 million

Other (admin)

  $1 million

$7 million

ICRC

  $23 million

$103 million

IOM

  $2 million

$26 million

WHO

  $0.4 million

$30 million

UNFPA

  $8 million

$26 million

UNFAO

 $2 million

$3 million

UNDP

  $1 million

$12 million

Other Organizations

– – – – –

$15 million

TOTAL

$508 million

$3.69 billion

 

*Figures are rounded to the nearest million and may not sum to total due to rounding

For more detailed information on the U.S. government’s response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria, please visit: http://www.usaid.gov/crisis/syria.

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