Neda

June 27, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

By Sumayyah Meehan MMNS

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A screen grab captured from the popular social-networking site YouTube shows the final moments of Neda Agha-Soltan, as she lies dying from a bullet shot through her heart by Iranian government forces. 

She stepped out of the car for just a moment to catch her breath.  And in the blink of an eye she was shot dead by government forces in the middle of an Iranian street.  The lone bullet hit Neda Agha-Soltan right in the chest. The 26-year-old university student began bleeding from her nose and mouth as her eyes rolled back into her head and her body became still. The woman whom friends have described as a loving friend and engaging companion was buried the next day.  Her family was not even allowed to hold a memorial service or hang a black banner on the front  door  because the government feared it would only further incense protestors and cause more havoc on the Iranian streets.

Neda’s death was captured on a cell phone video camera and uploaded to the Internet before her body was even removed from the street. Millions of Internet users have viewed the footage of Neda’s final moments online and her death has served as a catalyst for the continuation of protests against perceived voting irregularities, which resulted in the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

For thousands of Iranians, Neda has become the symbol of the fight against the oppressive Iranian regime. She was an innocent victim who was targeted simply because she attended a public protest against the government.  There have been many innocent victims of the Iranian government’s crackdown on so-called unlawful protests. Both men and women alike have been beaten by merciless government forces, with many losing their lives in the battle.

Neda’s death has, specifically, reached out to the hearts and minds of Iranian women who have been emboldened to let their voices be heard. Some women walk down the streets adorned with the Islamic headscarf while holding placards skyward. Others throw stones and chant anti-government slogans. While others yet have used themselves as human shields to protect the injured from further atrocities or helped the wounded get off the streets and away from government forces.

The current protests in Iran have been likened to the 1979 Iranian Revolution, however there has been a drastic change that runs along gender lines. The revolution that took place 30 years ago was comprised almost exclusively of male protestors whereas today female protestors are clearly outnumbering the men on the Iranian streets. It has taken years for Iranian women to find their voices. Their coming of age can be seen in screen grabs from cable news program and in video footage uploaded to the Internet.

No matter what the outcome of the current protests turns out to be or how many innocents are beaten and battered. There is one thread of truth that runs through it all and makes Neda’s assassination anything but in vain. And that truth is that the Iranian women are the new pioneers for change in their country. With every step that they take or stone that they hurl, Iranian women are fighting the good fight for change, democracy and freedom in their country.

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Pretty in Pink

March 19, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan MMNS

pink

The delicate color pink graces everything from haute couture to the latest techno gadgets geared towards females in the global market, however one of the last places anyone would expect to find the color is on taxicabs. Sure enough, a savvy businesswoman in Lebanon has painted the traditional yellow taxicab a cuter shade of pink. Nawal Yaghi Fakhri is the owner of ‘Taxi Banat’, which means ‘Taxi for Women’. Female drivers decked out in, what else, pink drive a fleet of blush colored Peugeot taxis throughout the capital of Beirut. The uniform they wear is comprised of a pink shirt, pink tie and a complimentary bubble gum shade of lipstick. The customers they cater to are women only, as men are not allowed to ride in the gender specific cabs.

09_ae_pink_taxi01_4 The pink taxicabs are meant to serve as a safe option for women out on the town in Lebanon who want a safe ride home. Crimes against woman traveling in taxis, often by the male driver, is not unheard of in the region as well as in most cities of the world.  The taxis are also popular with Muslim woman who adhere with the Islamic specification of not mixing with non-related men. The Lebanese Ministry of Tourism has backed the initiative whole-heartedly as the country has launched a campaign to draw millions of tourists in 2009. The minister is banking on an influx of rich Muslim ladies from the Gulf descending upon the capital this year and taking advantage of the female-fueled taxicabs.

Female geared taxicabs are nothing new in the Middle East. Both Iran and Dubai have launched similar services. However, Dubai has found the most success with the cabs, in large part due to the sprawling commercial complexes chock full of female clientele looking for a way home with their shopping loot.

The pink taxicabs in Dubai have recently metamorphosed to allow families to use the service even when male family members are included. However, bachelors will still either have to use the ‘shoe leather express’ or hail a different shade of cab.

Like most things in the Middle East, the idea for the pink taxicabs was copied from the west.

In 2006, the British Pink Ladies Club first came up with the idea for the gender biased pink cabs to help inebriated female party goers find their way home safely in the wee hours of the morning after bars and nightclubs have closed.

While the pink cabs have largely been embraced in the west, they have come under harsh criticism from many in the Middle East. Numerous Gulf women have publicly spoken out against the cabs citing that they will just give husbands another excuse to shirk their duties.

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Diabetes Spirals Out of Control in Gulf

March 12, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS

mcdonalds The unprecedented growth of diabetes around the world has raised red flags in the medical community, which is seeing a global spike in the disease in both the young and old alike. Nowhere is this more evident than in Gulf nations where the UAE is rated as 2nd in the world for the most diabetics per capita, 27% of the population is diabetic with the same percentage at risk for developing the disease. Other Gulf nations like Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are also fighting an uphill battle against the illness with more and more of their residents succumbing to a similar fate as their tiny Gulf neighbor.

Diabetes is one of the most common chronic illnesses in the world. It happens when the body stops producing insulin or when the body still produces insulin but is unable to respond to it. The most common treatment is the external administration of insulin through injection. However, many cases of diabetes in the Gulf go undetected until severe signs of the disease become manifest. Unlike most western nations, who are increasing budgetary expenditures to meet the influx of chronic disease within their borders, Gulf nations spent less than 4% of the GDP on the health sector last year that is in sharp contrast with the US who spent more than 11% of its GDP.

Perhaps the most disconcerting aspect of diabetes is the requirement, for some patients, to have a limb or extremity amputated. Diabetes restricts the amount of blood that flows throughout the body thus damaging nerves and often causing gangrene to set in. The only way to save the patient’s life is to amputate and even then it is estimated that the patient will only have 5 more years to live. In Saudi Arabia, where 25% of the population is diabetic, more than 90 foot amputations are carried out each month, which roughly translates into 3 amputations per day.

The increased revenue from years of oil surpluses and a life of ease has created a perfect storm that has swept through the Middle East with a ferocity that has taken many by surprise. With more money in the family budget, many families eat out a few times a week. And the choice of restaurant is not always the healthiest. Fast food restaurants, junk food and fizzy carbonated drinks have for years crept into the hearts of Gulf denizens who often prefer a McDonald’s Big Mac to traditional fare. Add to that the lifestyle in the Gulf, which turns lounging around into a sport and makes ‘exercise’ a dirty word.  Children are the most at risk for developing diabetes before they even reach puberty due to obesity, a decrease in physical activity and an increase in sedentary activities such as surfing the Internet or playing video games.

Diabetes is called the ‘silent killer’ for a reason as many people either don’t know they have it or ignore the treatment to care for it. Eating healthfully and engaging in exercise is often pushed to the wayside in favor of more pressing issues, like earning a living or caring for a family. According to the International Diabetes Fund, there are more than 250 million known cases of diabetes in the world. That figure is set to exponentially rise to 380 million in the next 15 years. And unless the governments of the Gulf take preventative measures now, the Middle East nations will make up a bulk of those cases. For this reason, the UAE based Harvard Medical School Dubai Center (HMSDC) has launched an initiative in cooperation with His Highness Mohamed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Academic Medical Center to make 2009 the year to combat diabetes in the kingdom, educate the public and help doctors to better treat the disease.

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