Critical regional and global issues examined at Arab Women Forum

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Arab Women Forum 2022 hosted wide-ranging conversations surrounding critical regional and global issues. (AN photo by Zubiya Shaikh)
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Arab Women Forum 2022 hosted wide-ranging conversations surrounding critical regional and global issues. (AN photo by Zubiya Shaikh)
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Arab Women Forum 2022 hosted wide-ranging conversations surrounding critical regional and global issues. (AN photo by Zubiya Shaikh)
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Updated 18 May 2022

Critical regional and global issues examined at Arab Women Forum

  • Event in Dubai hosted wide-ranging conversations with strong focus on women’s empowerment
  • Topics ranged from breaking of barriers and dating scams to fake news and potential of Arab women

DUBAI: Arab women breaking traditional barriers, online dating scams, the economic toll of fake news and the potential of women in the Middle East and North Africa were among the many issues debated at the Arab Women Forum in Dubai on Tuesday.

Launched in Saudi Arabia in 2018, the AWF is a platform to enhance and support the ever-growing contribution of Arab women in the region’s economy and society. 

The forum hosts wide-ranging conversations to explore regional and global business dynamics with a strong focus on women’s empowerment. 

AWF & TOP CEO CONFERENCE AGENDA

Special Address: Beyond the Business Reset. 

Keynote: When Women Fight Back.

Storytellers From The War Front.

A New Beginning: work 2.0. 

Arab Women’s Image. 

It’s Fake News. 

The Management Bottlenecks. 

The Leaking Pipeline. 

The Workplace Of Tomorrow. 

Women In Tech. 

Saudi Women Pioneers: Change From Within.

This year’s event, hosted at the Palazzo Versace hotel at the Jaddaf Waterfront, featured speakers from a range of professions and industries and experiences, and kicked off with a special address by Princess Reema bint Bandar, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US, delivered by video from Washington, D.C. 

Princess Reema, who is also a female entrepreneur, shared her thoughts on the post-pandemic business scenarios and Saudi Arabia’s plan for economic diversification, environment sustainability and gender diversity under Vision 2030, the reform strategy introduced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2016. 

In a special address titled “Beyond the business reset,” she underscored the importance of not just opening doors for women to enter the workplace, but welcoming them in. “We have millions of talented, motivated women eager to contribute, and they are the key to social, cultural and economic progress in the Kingdom and, frankly, in the Arab world and around the world,” she said. 

 

 

Saudi Arabia has done a “great reset” by transforming itself, and is entering the “restart” phase after successfully handling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, she said. “In post-pandemic, there is less reset and more restart,” Princess Reema said. 

From embracing technologies, reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, to empowering and advancing women in different fields, Saudi Arabia is opening the door wide for a brighter future being built by both men and women, she said. 

“I have not seen the change; I lived it. I know how important it is to open the workplace for women. When the doors for women were about to open, I realized that opening the doors wasn’t enough; women had to be prepared to take advantage of those open doors. We have to equip them with skills,” she said. 

Speaking to Arab News, Nora Al-Dabal, arts and creative planning executive director at the Royal Commission of AlUla, said Saudi women have always played a role in the development of Saudi Arabia, “but the (2030) Vision has unlocked the full potential of, and opened bigger opportunities” for women. 




Nora Al Dabal, executive director of Arts and Creative Industries at the Royal Commission for AlUla. (AN photo)

In the past four years, there has been a 130 percent increase in female participation in the labor force, particularly in the private sector, Al-Dabal said. 

“Today, women constitute 30 percent of the private-sector labor force. In the past two years, there has been an increase of 60 percent in the number of businesses owned by women,” she added.

Princess Reema’s speech reflected the seriousness of the Saudi leadership in transforming the Kingdom, diversifying its economy and utilizing the potential of all its citizens, said Deepali Janin, an Indian businesswoman who attended the event. 

Janin, the founding director of Meraki, a family-owned diamond business that began in India some seven decades ago, entered Dubai in 2011 and now is looking at the Saudi market. 

“I feel the Saudi leadership is dedicated and serious about its planning and thinking. I think it is going to be a long journey, meaning more strength, more confidence and more influence.”

Story tellers from the war front

Some believe women journalists are successful because of their attention to detail. But for Arizh Mukhammed, a war correspondent, it is a woman’s heart and emotions that make her coverage of conflicts distinctive. 




Arizh Mukhammed. (AN photo)

“It is not easy to cover war, because like any human being, you feel fear and I feel fear,” said Mukhammed, a reporter for Sky News who, together with Christiane Baissary, a senior news anchor for the Al-Hadath news channel, participated in a session entitled “Story tellers from the war front.” 

Acknowledging that “fear will be there in the minds of reporters as they cover from the front lines,” Mukhammed said: “Your courage must have limits. When you are going to cover war, you have your fears, but they must be put under control.” 

Following the panel discussion, she said she could not ignore human suffering and agony in her own war reporting. “Women war journalists find a deeper dimension in human suffering”. She added that men might surround themselves with the impression that they are “strong and fearless, but women actually are much more patient and are strong enough.” 

For her part, Baissary said there is a common misconception that women are not suited for war coverage as some think women are emotional and more sensitive than men. “A soldier once told me that women should not be in a war zone. He was trying to convince me that I should not stay to cover the war,” she said. 




Al-Hadath senior news anchor Christiane Baissary (right) and Arizh Mukhammed of SkyNews (center) participate in panel discussions moderated by Noor Nugali, Arab News assistant editor-in-chief. (AN photo)

“This mentality is not just in the Middle East but everywhere,” she said, adding that things have now changed and women are gaining more opportunities to cover conflict zones. 

The moderator of the discussion, Noor Nugali, Arab News assistant editor-in-chief, praised the role of women journalists deployed to war zones, citing the career of Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed while on assignment for the channel on May 11 in the West Bank city of Jenin. 

“I think it was really important for us to highlight female war correspondents and women correspondents because what they are doing is just out of the ordinary,” Nugali said in remarks after the session. “Usually when people think of correspondents, the first thing that comes to their minds (is) women are too soft, women are incapable of handling such situations. But the reality proves the resilience, strength of women and capability of female correspondents.”

It’s fake news

We are overwhelmed with incidents of fake news in our daily lives. They range from rumors on social media to footage of incidents taken out of context. 

“It is imperative to distinguish that fake news wasn’t invented with the rise of social media,” said Faisal Abbas, Arab News editor-in-chief, during a panel discussion on the subject at Tuesday’s Top CEO Conference at the same venue. 




“There is no end to fake news but we must continue to battle it,”  Arab News editor-in-chief Faisal J. Abas said during a panel discussion at the Top CEO Forum in Dubai on May 17. (AN photo)

“Fake news started with the beginning of humanity,” he said, alluding to the manipulation of Adam and Eve by Satan, who tricked them into eating the forbidden fruit. 

The panelists discussed attempts to define fake news and identify those responsible for preventing its spread throughout the world, and especially the Arab region, known for its high social media engagement. 

Hussein Freijeh, Snap Inc MENA’s general manager, said authorities’ efforts to regulate social platforms “doesn’t take away the responsibility of the tech platforms” in tackling the problem of fake news. 

Fellow panelist Khaled Abdulla Janahi, chairman of Vision 3, said even the non-inclusion of a small fraction of the facts during narration amounts to dissemination of fake news.  

“People sometimes are frustrated, so they look for a way to express their anger. But it is important for people to express their perspectives,” he said. 

Noting that content that includes or reflects anger, hate and racism brings traffic, Abbas said: “Nobody is against freedom. We are against chaos.” 

The keynote speech at the AWF was delivered by Cecilie Fjellhøy and Pernilla Sjöholm, stars of the recent hit Netflix documentary film “The Tinder Swindler.” 

They spoke about their journeys from being victims of romance scam to an inspiration for women around the world. Instead of hiding in oblivion, the women have gained the status of global inspiration against emotional fraud.


Iran ready to swap prisoners, urges US to free jailed Iranians

Updated 57 min 59 sec ago

Iran ready to swap prisoners, urges US to free jailed Iranians

  • Iran called on President Joe Biden’s administration to “act instead of performing theatrical shows”

DUBAI: Iran is ready to swap prisoners with the United States, its foreign ministry spokesman was quoted as saying on Wednesday, calling on President Joe Biden’s administration to “act instead of performing theatrical shows.”
Tehran has sought the release of over a dozen Iranians in the United States, including seven Iranian-American dual nationals, two Iranians with permanent US residency and four Iranian citizens with no legal status in the United States.
“We are ready to swap prisoners with Washington ... The US must release jailed Iranian citizens without any conditions,” the semi-official Fars news agency quoted foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani as saying.
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted that Siamak Namazi had now spent 2,500 days “wrongfully detained” in Iran and Washington was determined to secure the freedom of all Americans held by its Middle East adversary.
Kanaani spoke as Tehran and Washington sought to revive a 2015 nuclear pact after lengthy negotiations. The European Union and United States said on Tuesday they were studying Iran’s response to what the EU has called its “final” proposal to save the deal, after Tehran called on Washington to show flexibility.


Syria denies holding US journalist Tice captive

Updated 17 August 2022

Syria denies holding US journalist Tice captive

  • US is certain Tice is being held by the government of President Bashar Assad

DAMASCUS: The Syrian government on Wednesday denied holding American nationals captive, including journalist Austin Tice who was abducted a decade ago in Damascus.
It issued a statement in response to US President Jo Biden saying last week that he knows “with certainty” that Tice “has been held by the Syrian regime,” and calling on Damascus to help bring him home.
The foreign ministry denied the accusation in a statement carried by the official SANA news agency.
“The Syrian Arab Republic denies that it has kidnapped or forcibly disappeared any American citizen who entered its territory or resided in areas under its authority,” the statement said.
It said it would only accept “official dialogue or communication with the American administration if the talks are public and premised on a respect for Syria’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.”
Tice was a freelance photojournalist working for Agence France-Presse, McClatchy News, The Washington Post, CBS and other news organizations when he disappeared after being detained at a checkpoint near Damascus on August 14, 2012.
Thirty-one years old at the time he went missing, Tice appeared blindfolded in the custody of an unidentified group of armed men in a video a month later, but there has been little news of him since.
Biden’s statement came on the tenth anniversary of Tice’s disappearance.
“There is no higher priority in my administration than the recovery and return of Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad,” Biden said.
The previous administration under Donald Trump sent a White House official on a rare mission to Damascus in 2020, aiming to seek Tice’s freedom.
But that mission yielded no visible results.
In 2018, US authorities announced a $1 million reward for information that would lead to the journalist’s recovery.


Germany and Israel condemn Palestinian president’s Holocaust remarks

Updated 17 August 2022

Germany and Israel condemn Palestinian president’s Holocaust remarks

  • Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of committing ‘50 Holocausts’
  • His comment followed months of tension and a brief conflict this month during which 49 people were killed in Gaza

BERLIN/JERUSALEM: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz voiced disgust on Wednesday at remarks by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that the German leader said diminished the importance of the Holocaust, while Israel accused Abbas of telling a “monstrous lie.”
“For us Germans in particular, any relativization of the singularity of the Holocaust is intolerable and unacceptable,” Scholz tweeted on Wednesday. “I am disgusted by the outrageous remarks made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.”
During a visit to Berlin on Tuesday, Abbas accused Israel of committing “50 Holocausts” in response to a question about the upcoming 50th anniversary of the attack on the Israeli team at the Munich Olympics by Palestinian militants.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid also condemned the comments as a “disgrace.”
“Mahmoud Abbas accusing Israel of having committed ‘50 Holocausts’ while standing on German soil is not only a moral disgrace, but a monstrous lie,” Lapid said on Twitter.
“History will never forgive him.”
Six million Jews were killed in Nazi Germany’s Holocaust.
Standing alongside Scholz, Abbas referred to a series of historical incidents in which Palestinians were killed by Israelis in the 1948 war that accompanied the creation of the state of Israel and in the years following.
“From 1947 to the present day, Israel has committed 50 massacres in Palestinian villages and cities, in Deir Yassin, Tantura, Kafr Qasim and many others, 50 massacres, 50 Holocausts,” said Abbas.
The official Palestinian news agency Wafa did not include the Holocaust comments in its report of the meeting with Scholz, and the Palestinian foreign ministry said Lapid’s comments were intended to divert attention from Israel’s “crimes.”
In a statement, the ministry said “the occupying power is not satisfied with committing these crimes on a daily and continuous basis, but also does not tolerate and rejects any talk or statements that remind the Israelis and the international community of the many crimes committed by Israel.”
Abbas’ comment followed months of tension and a brief conflict this month during which 49 people were killed in Gaza after Israel carried out a series of air strikes in response to what it said was an imminent threat from the militant Islamic Jihad group, which fired over 1,000 rockets in response.
Dozens of Palestinians have also been killed in clashes with Israeli security forces in the occupied West Bank, while there have been a number of attacks on Israelis, including an incident on Sunday when eight people were wounded on a bus carrying Jewish worshippers in Jerusalem.
Palestinians seek statehood in territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war. Negotiations have been frozen since 2014.


25 dead in airstrikes, shelling in north Syria

Updated 17 August 2022

25 dead in airstrikes, shelling in north Syria

  • Turkish attacks target Assad forces and Kurdish fighters in border town

JEDDAH: At least 25 people were killed in northern Syria on Tuesday after Turkey launched airstrikes and an artillery bombardment targeting Assad regime forces and Kurdish fighters near the border town of Kobane.

The Turkish shelling began overnight, when artillery salvoes hit the town and around its edges. It continued throughout the day, and at least one child was killed.
Kurdish YPG militia fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces responded with a mortar attack on a Turkish military border post in Sanliurfa province that killed one soldier and injured four.
After the mortar attack, Turkish forces conducted retaliatory fire against targets in the Kobane area. “According to initial information in the region, 13 terrorists were neutralized. Operations in the region are continuing,” the Defense Ministry in Ankara said.

FASTFACT

Kurdish YPG militia fighters responded with a mortar attack on a Turkish military border post in Sanliurfa province that killed one soldier and injured four.

Dilvin, a shopkeeper in Kobane, said chaos broke out in the town when the shelling intensified on Tuesday. “People started running everywhere, cars everywhere, people asking about their friends and their family. Then the sounds started to build, the sounds were everywhere,” she said.
“There was so much screaming. So much fear. Now everyone is locked up at home.”
Later on Tuesday, 11 people died in Turkish airstrikes on a Syria border post run by Assad regime forces. It was not clear if the dead were Syrian government troops or Kurdish fighters.
Syrian regime forces have deployed in areas controlled by the SDF near the border with Turkey as part of agreements intended to stem cross-border offensives by Ankara targeting Kurdish forces it views as terrorists.
Turkey has launched a series of attacks since 2016 targeting Kurdish forces and Daesh, but they have rarely resulted in the deaths of Syrian regime fighters.
If regime forces are confirmed to be among those killed on Tuesday, the attack would be one of the largest escalations since Ankara and Damascus traded attacks in 2020 following a Syrian regime strike that killed 33 Turkish soldiers in the northwestern province of Idlib.
Turkey has stepped up its attacks in Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria since July, when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed to obtain a green light from regional allies Iran and Russia for a fresh offensive into northern Syria.
Turkey has been hostile to Syrian leader Bashar Assad, and backed rebels calling for his removal. But last week Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu enraged the Syrian opposition by calling for reconciliation between the regime and the rebels.

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Tunisians firmly backed new constitution: final results

Updated 16 August 2022

Tunisians firmly backed new constitution: final results

  • The charter was approved by just over 2.6 million people, the board's president Farouk Bouasker told reporters
  • The referendum came a year to the day after Saied sacked the government and froze parliament in what rivals have branded a coup

TUNIS: The final results of a controversial referendum granting unchecked powers to the office of Tunisia’s President Kais Saied showed 94.6 percent of votes in favor, the electoral authority said Tuesday.
Voters overwhelmingly approved the new constitution, the electoral board said, officially announcing definitive results from the July 25 poll.
The charter was approved by just over 2.6 million people, the board’s president Farouk Bouasker told reporters.
Turnout was considered very low at 30.5 percent.
The referendum came a year to the day after Saied sacked the government and froze parliament in what rivals have branded a coup.
Despite the low turnout, Saied’s move against a system that emerged after the 2011 overthrow of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was welcomed by many Tunisians.
Many people were fed up with high inflation and unemployment, political turmoil and a system they felt had brought little improvement to their lives.
However, opposition politicians and human rights groups have warned of a return to dictatorship under the new constitution.
“The constitution comes into force with the announcement of the final results, its promulgation by the president and its publication in the official journal,” Bouasker said on Tuesday.
He said the fact that appeals against the referendum process had been rejected “confirmed the integrity and transparency of ISIE,” the North African country’s electoral commission.
Bouasker said ISIE had been subjected to “an unprecedented wave of allegations by certain political parties and civil society groups.”
The new text puts the president in command of the army, allows him to appoint a government without parliamentary approval and makes it virtually impossible to remove him from office.
He can also present draft laws to parliament, which will be obliged to give them priority.
A second chamber is created within parliament to represent the regions and counterbalance the assembly itself.
Tunisia is mired in crisis with growth of just three percent, nearly 40 percent of young people jobless and four million people out of a population of nearly 12 million in poverty.
For weeks the heavily indebted country has been negotiating a new loan with the International Monetary Fund, hoping to obtain $4 billion, and also the chance to open other avenues of foreign aid, mainly European.

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