A Thirst for Blood

October 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

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There is a fine line that separates man from mere beast. This week that line was crossed by the armed rebels on the hunt for deposed Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi as they stumbled upon him held up in a storm drain in his hometown of Sirte. The events surrounding his death are as rough as the various video footage of his demise. Each video, shot from different cell phones, tells its own story. Some show Gadhafi being shot in the arm while others show him being beaten. Yet another shows him being dragged across the ground, his clothes in disarray, after he was apparently sodomized.  And the most notable reveals a gunshot wound to his head.

The question is not whether or not Gadhafi deserved to pay for his vast array crimes that stretched clear around the globe for decades. The answer is very clear in that regard, Gadhafi indeed deserved to be punished for his reign of terror. The question that begs to be answered is whether or not armed militia had the right to take matters into their own hands denying one of the world’s worst dictators the very basic of human rights, a trial in a court of law. Now many will argue that Gadhafi was not human in the way that he treated his own people with disdain and disregard for the sanctity of human life. In all respects Gadhafi was the judge, jury and executioner in Libya. However, hasn’t the very premise that made the ‘Arab Spring’ so inspirational to the world been forever tainted in a gushing of crimson blood?

It only got worse as Libyans danced in the streets with joy upon hearing of Gadhafi’s wholesale execution as scores followed his bloodied body to a nearby shopping mall where it was put on display. Men, women and children lined up and waited to catch a glimpse of Gadhafi’s gruesome corpse while taking even more cell phone video footage to share with the rest of the world.

Instead of stooping to Gadhafi’s merciless level, it might have been better to have hauled him off, alive, to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to stand trial for his crimes against humanity. A great number of Gadhafi’s victims would have been given the opportunity to speak out against the dictator who dogged them for years and humiliate him in an international arena. Gadhafi was all about appearances and it would have caused him greater suffering to be publicly disgraced than merely shot in the head. Gadhafi meticulously tortured and enslaved his people without even showing the slightest bit of remorse. How fitting it would have been to see him stripped of all his self-given powers and forced to spend his remaining days confined to a minuscule jail cell. And while Gadhafi’s suffering was over in a mere matter of minutes, the people whose lives he scarred have a long road of healing to undertake.

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Washing for a Son

October 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

four-baby-boy_1024x768_1278A bouncing baby boy, for many, is much more than merely a happy addition to the family. In some parts of the world, many couples deem sons to be more of a gift than girls. The reason being is that some perceive that boys possess more strength than girls and have more freedom of movement in societies where males are mostly the breadwinners. It’s regrettable that girls, in this day and age, are not always as cherished as they should be. In the Middle East and Southeast Asia, for example, male sons often carry their parents into old age whereas girls often care for their husband’s family.

It’s unfortunate that the success of some marriages also depends almost exclusively on the wife’s ability to produce a male heir. Little thought is given to the fact that the male sperm actually is the deciding factor in the sex of a child. Many men will even take second wives to increase their chances of having a son. For these reasons, many women go to drastic measures to try to produce a son in an attempt to save their marriages.

Some of the methods many wives engage in range from the strange to the absolutely ridiculous. From eating special food combinations to scheduling intimacy with their husbands to specific times that supposedly will result in a male birth, it seems most women in the region are game for just about anything. However, one of the most startling methods is a new product that promises to increase a woman’s chances of producing a son by almost half. It is called “Intimate Wash” and it is popping up in pharmacies all over the Middle East. According to the product label, the soap promises a 50% increased chance of producing either a boy or a girl. The insert contains directions of use specific to the gender desired.

The price of the soap, which promises to “deliver” so much, is less than $5.00. There are other types of soaps and washes also appearing on pharmacy shelves that are a bit more expensive. One such soap hails from Greece and guarantees that not only is it naturally organic but it also works with a similar percentage of success as the other soaps on the market.

Unfortunately the soaps have not been approved by any sort of governmental committee or organization, similar to the Food and Drug Administration in the USA, which protects the American population from harmful pharmaceuticals. However, the promises on the sleek package designs are often enough to bring a women’s hopes up despite the unforeseen dangers that the soap could pose to both her mental and physical health.

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Ten Lashes

September 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

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“Corporal punishment is as humiliating for him who gives it as for him who receives it; it is ineffective besides. Neither shame nor physical pain have any other effect than a hardening one.” 

~ Ellen Key

You hop in the car, fumble with the keys, start the engine and prepare to take that first sip of coffee as you back out of the driveway. This is the way that many Americans start their morning as they set out to work for the day. For most people, getting on the road safely and reaching your destination on time are the primary concerns. However, for the women of Saudi Arabia, there is a new concern to be considered before getting behind the wheel.

This past week Saudi Arabian national Shaima Ghassaniya was found guilty of driving without the permission of her government. Her punishment, which would be a mere slap on the wrist in America for the same “crime,” is flogging. By definition the word flogging means, “To beat severely with a whip or rod.” Ghassaniya is to be flogged a total of ten times with her punishment to undoubtedly serve as an example for other women in the kingdom that dare to drive.

There is no law on the books in Saudi Arabia that says women are legally barred from driving. However, there is a law that states anyone driving on the roads of Saudi Arabia must have license. The catch is that women are not issued drivers license. Denying a woman the right to drive means that she must rely on a male relative, or sometimes even a male chauffer, in order to travel. For women who are single, getting around without a car is often a nightmare.

The driving laws seem archaic compared to the full driving rights that women enjoy in neighboring Arab countries, like Kuwait and Oman. “I would be lost without my car,” laments Raina Ahmed who is a schoolteacher in Kuwait, “I have to drive myself to and from work every day. I also use my car to take my children for all of their doctor’s appointments.” Female drivers in other Arab countries share the roadways with their male counterparts and are often safer drivers.

The news of the Ghassaniya’s flogging punishment comes on the heels of another announcement that could have been promising for the women in the region. King Abdullah recently announced on state-run television that Saudi Arabian women have been granted the right to vote and run in local elections. However, they will have to wait until the year 2015 to exercise these newly given rights. Perhaps, by then, they will be able to drive themselves to the ballot box.

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Get a “K-Lue”

August 18, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

It’s the new gaming ritual that is bearing down on Kuwait like a hungry dog chomping down on a juicy bone. By all appearances, K-Lue is a heart-pounding and fast-paced treasure hunt that takes place in commercial complexes, malls, beaches and parks all over the country.  It bears a very close resemblance to reality television shows like Survivor and The Amazing Race. However, it is growing much larger than anyone expected and is certainly set to change the face of adventure gaming in the region.

The mastermind behind the new gaming venture is a 22- year old Kuwaiti Entrepreneur named Dhari Al-Moawad. Through his website, www.K-Lue.com , Al-Moawad unites people from all walks of life to participate in a mind-jarring game of K-Lue. Clients, who choose the preference “Welcome Stranger,” will be pitted against perfect strangers and will be a part of teams comprised of total strangers. The other option, and most popular, is for clients to be teamed up with their close friends or relatives.

The object of the game is the same as it is with a traditional treasure hunt. Each team is given a set of clues and a fixed period of time in which to find them. The team that finds all of the clues, or at least the bulk of them, wins. The prize is a shiny gold-toned medal and the satisfaction of being the winner. Teams must utilize their own transportation, know-how and bravado to get from one point to another when searching for each clue.

Al-Moawad is very active in his gaming venture and even hides some of the clues himself in various places around Kuwait. “I am so involved that I’m always unconsciously thinking of riddles and every place to me looks like a big maze. Once as I was driving, I spotted sign language for the disabled and I immediately wanted to incorporate that into my next game. This way I get to constantly innovate as well as learn about various communities and cultures.”

The best part about K-Lue is that clients determine the level of game play and even the timings. Reservations can be booked online according the number of players or teams and even according to gender. The future looks very bright for K-Lue as Al-Moawad plans to expand his gaming venture to other countries in the Middle East. “I’m trying to launch a treasure hunt between regional countries. For instance, it would start in Kuwait and end in a neighboring country. We’re still working on the logistics of that one though I’m also eyeing a concept right now which is more individualistic and complex than K-Lue,” he shares.

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Cracking Down on Balconies

July 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

balcony-colorIn the United States, most home owner’s associations have stringent rules for how members must maintain the outer appearance of their houses and even lawns. Members often incur fines and sometimes the wrath of their fellow neighbors for having unkempt lawns or yards full of discarded junk.  For this reason, the typical homeowner in America spends a great deal of time manicuring his lawn to perfection.

Just a stone’s throw away, in the Middle East, the majority of homeowners participate in a similar ritual.   Houses in the region feature immaculately groomed and grassy front yards. In addition, most homes also have an ornate garden filled with desert shrubs and fruit-bearing date palm trees. Neighbors often compete with one another over whose dates are the sweetest and plumpest.
For members of the expatriate community, life is drastically different. The majority of the foreign populace in the Middle East cannot afford to buy luxury homes while others, such as ones residing in Kuwait, are legally barred from buying real estate. Expatriates have little recourse but to rent apartments which are often small despite the hefty monthly rental fee. Due to the lack of space, many expatriates utilize the extra space that terraces and balconies provide.

It is not unusual to find a balcony completely covered in plywood. The space is then transformed into a spare room or even a home office. For others, the balcony serves as a private home garden with large soil filled pots serving as the “land”. Thanks to the consistent amount of sunlight in the Middle East, it is very easy to grow tomatoes and herbs right on the balcony. A balcony is also very functional in that it provides space to store unused items and most are fitted with a clothes line perfect for hanging out the wash.

Freedom of balcony usage is typically left in the hands of the tenant and is not mandated by the government. However, in one tiny Gulf municipality, balcony usage has come under fire. In Sharjah, which is a municipality of the United Arab Emirates, authorities are cracking down on tenants with messy balconies. According to the recent balcony laws, tenants are no longer allowed to hang laundry from the balcony, attach a television satellite anywhere on it and storing junk is strictly forbidden. Anyone touting the balcony laws will be fined $68 and paying the initial fine late results in an increased fine of $136.

Sharjah authorities have also launched an all-encompassing media campaign to inform the public about proper balcony maintenance. Leaflets in various languages, including Arabic, are regularly left on the doorsteps of tenants all over the region. The laws are currently being enforced by a special balcony task force that visits neighborhoods and hands out fines for offensive balconies. There is also a special hotline that residents can call to ask questions and report violators. 

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