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Middle East Press ( 28 Apr 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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When Schools and Students Become Spoils Of War: New Age Islam's Selection, 28 April 2016

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

28 April 2016

 When Schools and Students Become Spoils of War

By Zama Coursen-Neff

 Shoura and Women Driving

By Samar Mogren

 What US Elections Should Look Like In a Real Democracy

By Susan Abulhawa

 Green Card: A Ray of Hope for Expats

By Abdulateef Al-Mulhim

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


When Schools and Students Become Spoils Of War

By Zama Coursen-Neff

27 Apr 2016

Two years have passed since Boko Haram abducted 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, Nigeria, and 219 of the girls remain missing. The anniversary, and that of the kidnapping of another 300 schoolchildren from another town, marks a grim roll call for education in the country's northeast: more than 910 schools destroyed, 1,500 forced to close, at least 611 teachers deliberately killed, 19,000 forced to flee. Close to a million school-age children have fled the violence and now have little or no access to schooling.

These are children like 14-year-old Falimotu, who was in class in a school in northeast Nigeria when Boko Haram fighters, their faces wrapped in black scarves, entered her school and started shooting.

Her teacher was killed. A boy from the next class was shot in the leg as he ran and later died, and the fighters said they would return if the children didn't stop going to school.

Falimotu stayed home for three months before her family fled. Nigerian soldiers moved into the school, causing more students to drop out.

Five months later, Boko Haram attacked, drove the soldiers away, looted ammunition stored there, and burned the school to ashes.

International Pattern

Boko Haram's increasingly brutal attacks aren't an aberration - Nigeria is ground zero for a practice that more and more characterises war: the intentional targeting of schools, teachers and students.

At least 30 countries have had a pattern of such attacks in the past decade, according to the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack.

School attacks are not unique to Nigeria and addressing the problem extends beyond that country's borders.

This includes places well-known for attacks on schools, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria, as well as many others, such as southern Thailand, South Sudan, Ukraine and Yemen.

Rami, a 12-year-old boy from Syria, described how government forces shelled his school with a tank.

He had left science class to go to the toilet when "[t]wo shells hit the fourth floor. I was on the first floor. People started running away." Pro-government armed groups known as shabiha "came into the school and shot the windows, broke the computers. After that, I only went back to take my exams."

Boko Haram's name is loosely translated as "Western education is forbidden". The group literally sees Western-style schools as the enemy.

In other countries, schools are attacked because they are symbols of governments, they educate girls, they are vulnerable soft targets or, too often, because opposing forces are present.

Militaries and armed groups have used schools as barracks, bases, sniper posts, weapons depots and for other military purposes in at least 26 countries with conflict in the past decade.

Although in many instances troops use schools for their own convenience, some local community members may see them - and the troops may see themselves - as protectors.

But moving soldiers into schools is no solution. We spoke with people in northeast Nigeria who had invited soldiers in for this very reason, only to find that Boko Haram attacked the schools precisely because the troops were there.

Inadequate Protection Measures

At the same time, some attacks might have been prevented by other methods. Many schools and dormitories had no perimeter fences and security gates, even as attacks were escalating.

Local residents and school staff stated that when they reported Boko Haram threats to security forces, the forces ignored them - or the government provided untrained or inept civilian security guards.

In April 2012 Boko Haram fighters raided an unfenced government-run boarding school in a remote part of Nigeria's northeast.

Though no one was killed, a teacher saw the return of only a small fraction of students. "I don't blame them," he said. "The school still has no fence or quarters for teachers four years later."

Military use of schools is pervasive, deeply harmful, and completely preventable. In the worst cases, students and teachers have been killed when opposing forces attacked the occupying troops.

In other instances, troops displace students entirely, forcing children to travel long distances to another school or to drop out. Yet, until recently, very few countries had made schools off limits to their forces. This is beginning to change.

Last May, countries from around the world came together to join the international Safe Schools Declaration, pledging to protect education during war, including by avoiding the use of schools for military purposes (PDF).

To date, 52 countries, including Nigeria, have signed on. These include countries such as the Central African Republic, Sierra Leone, and South Sudan - countries who have seen the long-lasting effects of wars on their schools - as well as others from all regions of the globe.

For Safer Schools

The Nigerian government, with international support, has recently taken some promising steps, including merging various presidential initiatives aimed at delivering services to victims of Boko Haram's violence, hiring 500,000 university graduates to improve the quality of teaching, and providing cash transfers to extremely poor parents with the condition of enrolling their children in schools.

Such progress could be undermined, though, unless, the government starts protecting schools better and keeping the military out.

Much-needed international assistance for education should be accompanied by pressure on the Nigerian military to vacate schools and investigate and prosecute violations by Boko Haram, government security forces, and pro-government militias.

School attacks are not unique to Nigeria and addressing the problem extends beyond that country's borders.

Countries truly concerned about the still-missing schoolchildren from Chibok and other towns in the northeast should join the international Safe Schools Declaration and commit themselves to make schools safer for children everywhere.

As in the words of the boy who had been abducted at the age of 12 from his school in Somalia by al-Shabab: "Lack of education is a lack of light. It's darkness."



Shoura And Women Driving

By Samar Mogren

Apr 28, 2016

WOMEN’s driving is an old subject but many citizens across the country still call for this genuine right, which is expected to bring about a revolution in women empowerment, facilitating their movement and increasing their involvement in social and economic activities.

I understand that readers would be a bit disappointed reading about this subject but as a columnist I have to write about it again and again with the hope of convincing the decision-makers to allow Saudi women to drive their vehicles like other women around the world.

We have seen some Shoura members making continuous efforts to raise the issue and press for a resolution to lift the ban on women driving in the country.

Dr. Haya Al-Munie, Dr. Lateefa Al-Shoalan and Dr. Muna Al-Mushait have been campaigning for women to drive for the last three years, raising their voice in the corridors of the Saudi Parliament despite the opposition from some Shoura members.

Last week they called for changing Article 36 of the Traffic Law that specifies the conditions for obtaining driving license in the Kingdom by adding a new paragraph. The text of the new paragraph is “Driving license is the right of both men and women when they fulfill the necessary conditions.”

The three female Shoura members have taken this vital step after conducting necessary studies and taking into consideration the social, economic, cultural and security benefits of women driving. It also goes in line with the country’s Basic Law of Governance.

They have taken up the issue while shouldering their responsibility toward the nation and society and pushing the Shoura Council to instruct the security committee to study the proposal and present it for voting in the 150-member body as the proposal is ready and complete.

The proposal goes hand in hand with the government’s efforts to transform the Kingdom, focusing on human and material resource development, visualizing full and effective participation of women.

Women driving are no more a luxury or an extravagance. Most Saudi women consider the right to drive as a necessity as it would save them from recruiting foreign drivers and its expenditures.

Women driving have become more important than any time before. Actually it is a national and popular demand and the government should take the initiative to realize this objective as quickly as possible without blaming the Shariah or existing regulations for the delay.

I would like take this opportunity to call upon the Shoura Council to give the issue greater priority. It has taken more time than necessary to sanction women to drive. I don’t see any justification for many Shoura members to oppose the idea without giving any genuine reason.

I hope the honourable Shoura members would rise up to the occasion by supporting the proposal to allow women to drive and this would be remembered as a great service to the nation.

I would like to mention here that women driving would not be imposed on everybody. Many people oppose the idea because they are ready to drive their women to their destinations. Women who reject the move can still resort the service of foreign drivers for their movement.



What US Elections Should Look Like In A Real Democracy

By Susan Abulhawa

27 Apr 2016

The United States presidential primaries are unfolding an impossibly grim choice for citizens voting in the November general elections. On one hand is Donald Trump, an egomaniac racist with an insatiable appetite for power, a fifth-grade vocabulary, and little or no experience in political or intellectual life.

On the other hand is Hillary Clinton, arguably a war criminal, destroyer of nations, from Honduras to Iraq to Libya, champion of environmental devastation, and holder of the title "America's most corrupt politician in 2015".

Having an understanding of Clinton, I find myself feeling that as a Palestinian American Muslim woman, I'd rather find myself in a Donald Trump internment camp rather than live in a world led by Clinton's chauvinistic, neoliberal, faux-feminist warmongering. 

A Viable Third Option

Bernie Sanders has already made it clear that he would not run as an Independent because, he said: "I do not want to be responsible for electing some right-wing Republican to be president of the United States."

This not only seems like an ego-driven betrayal to the millions of his supporters, but it is based on an inconclusive prediction. It is entirely conceivable that Sanders, with the right strategy, could also split Trump's supporter base and walk away with the presidency as a third party candidate.

Although Trump and Bernie hold opposing social, philosophical, economic and political views, their appeal to voters is based on the same principle.

It is entirely conceivable that Sanders ... could also split Trump's supporter base and walk away with the presidency as a third party candidate.

Both candidates are viewed as political mavericks willing to challenge the status quo. Their support base is predominantly people who feel disenfranchised from a dual-party system.

Contrary to popular perceptions, Trump's supporters are not particularly ideological.

Although his base spans to the right in the political landscape, at least 20 percent of his supporters describe themselves as "liberal" or "moderate", with 65 percent ticking "conservative" and only 13 percent "very conservative".

Lives of Greater Promise

Approximately half of his supporters are 45-65 years in age, 34 percent are over 65 years, and slightly more than half are women. The majority have a high school education or less, with only 19 percent earning a college post-graduate degree. Over a third earns less than $50,000 a year.

In other words, Trump's support comes from under-educated, economically disadvantaged, and middle-aged to older Americans ostensibly seeking lives of greater promise and opportunity.

Ironically, this is precisely the demographic that would be most favourably served by Bernie Sanders' proposed economic and social policies.

Trump’s only articulated plans include schemes to rid the nation of brown people, which will ultimately offer his supports nothing in the way of better lives. It is entirely reasonable to believe that making this truth apparent to voters could turn Trump fans into Bernie voters.

Such a scenario may be an uphill and risky battle, but real leaders should not shirk from a challenge when the public welfare is at stake.

Further to this point, it seems that Dr Jill Stein has reached out to Sanders to join forces, possibly offering the support Green Party voters.

Inching Closer To Truer Democracy

It is no secret that Republican Party leaders are desperate to derail Donald Trump's nomination and there have been suggestions to contest his nomination at in July at the Republican National Convention.

Although doing so could potentially weaken the Republican party, it remains a possibility that party leaders might take that risk rather than put Trump forth as their candidate.

Unlike Sanders, Trump did not rule out an independent run if he does not secure the nomination. If that happens, a new reality would be created that could assuage Bernie's reticence to also run independently, thus creating a four-way presidential race, moving the US closer to what elections in a real democracy are supposed to look like.

It should be clear by now that Americans are acutely aware that our collective fate is being steered by a ruling elite whose principle pursuit is one of self-interest and consolidation of power as they simultaneously pay lip service to the very real human struggles in this country.

As the populace inches closer to the condition of irredeemable discontent - whether it is with rigged elections, sustained economic hardship or unrelenting social and environmental injustice - it would behove the political establishment to comprehend that the status quo is untenable.

Lastly, and this is the most important point I can make: Real change can only ever come from popular mass movements. The leaders we have allowed in office in my lifetime have largely acted to curtail, discredit, and/or disband popular opposition, from the Black Panthers to the Occupy Wall Street movements.

The person we need in high office is not a saviour hero.

We merely need a leader who will not actively block our efforts to organise as we work to expand labour unions, empower students, protect consumers, create activists, educate our young so that we might produce critical thinking, compassionate, and imaginative generations to steer us away from the current individualistic, rapacious capitalism setting our planet aflame.



Green Card: A Ray of Hope for Expats

By Abdulateef Al-Mulhim

28 April 2016

Emad is an Egyptian engineer. Ahmed is a Syrian accountant. Both are very close friends and their families are like one big family. Both the friends have been living in Saudi Arabia for the past 35 years. Their children grew up together. All their childhood memories were formed in Saudi Arabia and all their friends are in this country not in their respective home countries.

Interestingly, Emad and Ahmed know the Eastern Province like the back of their hands. They could easily become tourist guides who are aware about the area like natives. These two guys can easily get confused in the streets of Cairo or Damascus. In other words, Saudi Arabia is their home away from home. Unfortunately, the sword of Damocles is always hanging on the fate of these men. What would they do at the termination of their work contracts?

This is the dilemma of not only Emad and Ahmed but it a problem most, if not all, expatriates are facing in the Kingdom despite having lived here for decades. Expatriates had been living and working in Saudi Arabia for many decades. Their numbers had jumped to unprecedented level after the discovery of oil in 1938 and until this day it continues to swell.

The number of expatriates in the past was small and they were confined to a few areas in the Kingdom. Some were in the western parts of the Kingdom close to the holy places and some were in the eastern parts close to the oil fields. In other words, expatriates have greatly contributed to the development of Saudi Arabia.

During the 1970s Saudi Arabia witnessed world’s biggest economic boom and the country was on track to see the biggest transformation in the world in a short period. At that time, Saudi Arabia needed millions of skilled workers from around the world and these expatriates became part of the Saudi society and as time passed Saudi Arabia became their home. Some of the expatriates had been in the Kingdom for more than 30 years. They worked and lived in the Kingdom but most important thing is that their children were born in Saudi Arabia and later on most of them attended private schools with a few attending public schools.

The children, who were born and raised in Saudi Arabia, don’t know anything about any other country. Many of these families with children would travel less and often to their home countries because of travel expenses or simply the head of the family was needed by his or her employer. At the end of the day not only the children, but even their parents made friends in the Kingdom.

In short many of the young expatriates go to their native countries but they barely know their relatives and have no friends. They are all in Saudi Arabia. In the past few years we have seen the lives of many families shattered due to the termination of work permits or contracts of the guardians of expatriate families and they were forced to leave the Kingdom.

This issue had been under discussion since a long time but it remained without any solution. We should understand that they are part of this country and many of them actively took part in the development of Saudi Arabia.

Just a few days ago, a ray of hope emerged for these expatriates, who have immense love and loyalty for Saudi Arabia. Yes, I am referring to the recently announced Saudi Vision 2030. Part of the vision is the introduction of a system in the form of a green card for long-serving expatriates. The expatriate community is very excited about it. And I thing the sooner is the better for the introduction of such a system because it will be beneficial for both the Kingdom and the expatriates.

Financially well-off expatriates will then be able to own a home in Saudi Arabia instead of living on rented properties and instead of sending all their money back home, they will also invest in the Kingdom.

Many expatriates are willing to invest in Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange and in other areas. Expatriates have faith in the Saudi economy, the stability and security of Saudi Arabia, which is very comforting to any investor.

And one important aspect of expatriates in the Kingdom is that many of them also have unique skills and huge experiences in medicine, engineering and other technologies that the Kingdom can utilize rather than seeing them go to their native countries or other parts of the world. The Saudi Vision 2030 will have a great impact not only on the Saudi economy but it will improve the living standards of the expatriates living in the Kingdom.