Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Syria protest ode on You Tube

Guest post by Middle East publisher F. Najia

The lyrics of a ballad by Syrian singer, songwriter and poet Samih Shoucair have taken Syrian protesters by storm.  The ballad – titled “What a shame!” (“Ya Hayf” in Arabic) and uploaded on You Tube two days ago -- is dedicated to the “Children of Deraa.”

Shoucair, who lives abroad, embarked on his music career in 1982 after graduating from an institute for musicians in Kiev. In his new ode, he intones in one of the Arabic couplets:

“What a shame! Ouch, what a shame! Hails of bullets rain on civilians, what a shame… Children as little as roses are detained, what a shame! You, my compatriot, are killing my children. Your back is to the enemy while you face me with a sword. What a shame, what a shame! What’s happening in Deraa is a shame. Mother, it’s a shame. Mother, I heard that freedom is knocking at the door. They took to the streets to say, ‘No’. They saw rifles, mother, and uttered, ‘They won’t shoot us.’ Mother, they shot us with live bullets… Our brothers killed us in the name of our homeland’s security. But who are we after all? Check our past…”

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Syria: The full reform menu

Guest post by Middle East publisher F. Najia

The tide of demands for political and economic reforms in the Arab world having whipped Syria, President Bashar Assad is about to address the issue in a televised speech to the nation.

The big question on everyone's mind is: Will he go far enough to quell growing unrest in the country?

Ibrahim al-Amin, board chairman and chief editor of Lebanon's pro-Syrian daily al-Akhbar, this week prescribed the following reform menu to the Syrian leader in an opinion piece titled, "Syria: The race between sedition and reform."

Amin’s panacea:
  • Lift the state of emergency and issue a new emergency law to be invoked only in a state of war or in cases of natural disasters
  • Release all political prisoners and detainees under a general amnesty
  • Suspend forthwith Article 8 of the Constitution and set up an all-inclusive national committee to draw a new constitution inside six months
  • Draft a new electoral for parliamentary and local elections and sanction the establishment of political parties through a simple “legal notice” procedure. Follow-on, by year’s end, with parliamentary elections under full judicial supervision
  • Endeavor to reform the judiciary and uphold its independence by making all its branches, including the attorney general, accountable to the supreme judicial council
  • Sever all dealings by civilian and military security services with citizens and create a solitary security service to deal with national security matters only
"New PM Farouk al-Sharaa?"
  • Dismiss the current council of ministers and the entire economic team, and then bring in a consensual figure – such as Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa -- to form a new government
  • Keep hands off the media sector and cease its funding. Lift media censorship and abolish state monopoly over print, broadcasting and digital media publishing
  • Start the ball rolling to kill off the “parallel (or black) economy,” which has been the root cause of corruption in all sectors
  • Nationalize the two cellular telecommunications companies, and freeze the assets of leading business figures pending investigation by an independent judicial body
  • Close the file of missing persons with full transparency and issue passports to all Syrian citizens except in cases of high treason.

TAKREEM lining up 10 Arab Oscars

The countdown to the Arab “Oscars” for excellence and leadership worldwide has started.

The TAKREEM Arab Achievement Awards will honor and recognize 10 such Arabs at a ceremony in Doha, Qatar, on April 30.

Beirut-based TAKREEM (Arabic for "to honor") was devised to inspire Arabs worldwide. The brainchild of media personality Ricardo Karam, TAKREEM is committed to becoming an annual landmark meant to shape a brighter opinion of Arabs worldwide and inspire present and future generations.

Arab achievers have excelled in almost every country around the planet. TAKREEM aspires to honor these achievers, acting as a platform to these outstanding men and women with unbelievable success stories to tell.

Names of the nominees are a well-guarded secret until the awards ceremony, but I got the names of two contenders – both of them proposed by bloggers. They are Wael Ghonim and Fadi Ghandour.

Wael Ghonim
Wael Ghonim is an Egyptian Internet activist, computer engineer and since January 2010 the head of marketing of Google Middle East and North Africa. Earlier this year, he became an international figure and energized pro-democracy demonstrations in Egypt after his emotional interview following 11 days of secret detention by Egyptian police. He was interrogated for being the administrator of Facebook page, "We are all Khaled Saeed" (one of the main reasons that sparked the Tahrir Revolution).

Fadi Ghandour is a Jordanian entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of Aramex, a global logistics and transportation provider. He is a founding partner of, the world’s largest Arab online community. Yahoo! bought Maktoob in 2010. He is also a member of the board of Abraaj Capital, the largest private equity firm in the Middle East and South Asia; a Founding Board Member of Endeavor Jordan; and serves on the Advisory Board of the Suliman S. Olayan School of Business at the American University of Beirut (AUB), among many other roles.

Fadi Ghandour
Ghandour is passionate about social entrepreneurship. He is the founder of Ruwwad for Development, a regional private sector-led community empowerment initiative that helps disadvantaged communities overcome marginalization through youth activism, civic engagement and education. He also serves on the board of directors of Endeavor Jordan and Endeavor Lebanon. Endeavor, is an international nonprofit development organization that finds and supports high-impact entrepreneurs in emerging markets.

The TAKREEM initiative, launched two years ago, is represented by the olive branch, symbolizing the idea of peace, endurance, continuity, perseverance and accomplishment.

TAKREEM’s community consists of an honorary board, advisory and international jury, each playing a critical role in the selection and nomination process of the laureates. This year’s international jury consists of prominent figures such as Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, Carlos Ghosn and many other pioneers in their field.
Each year, the TAKREEM Arab Achievement Awards go to individuals or institutions in 10 categories:
  1. The Advancement of Peace
  2. Philanthropy and Charitable Services
  3. Arab Woman of the Year
  4. Exceptional International Contribution to Arab society
  5. Innovation in Education
  6. Young Entrepreneur
  7. Environmental Development and Sustainability
  8. Scientific and Technological Achievement
  9. Cultural Excellence
  10. Outstanding Corporate Leadership
The nominees are selected from hundreds of candidacies and winners enjoy international and regional recognition for their achievements.

According to TAKREEM founder Ricardo Karam, “Giant leaps begin with baby steps… God gives us dreams a size too big so we can grow into them. Our dream is to transcend our limitations and create a full-time initiative that showcases Arab successes. Even though TAKREEM's objectives might seem farfetched to some, they stem from the belief the bigger the dream is, the greater the results will be, as long as this dream is supported by strong determination and perseverance.”

Good luck to all the TAKREEM nominees and may the best among them win.