A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Archive for the ‘blogging’ Category

blogs and bedouin

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas to those of you who are celebrating today! And to those of you who blog, a less merry bit of news from Kuwait: a proposal to increase the government’s power to monitor blogs produced in Kuwait.

The news comes from a Zawya piece published on the 23rd, and it is a bit third-hand. The Zawya story was taken from Bahrain’s Gulf News, which in turn took its information from a local news site. The blog law proposal is interesting, particularly for its rationale: that what is being written on blogs is more dangerous than what is printed in newspapers and broadcast on television.

The proposal and its rationale are interesting, but so is the sudden segue to Kuwait’s ongoing internal conflict between its bedu and urban (well, the word is “hadari”, but its generally translated here as “urban”) populations.

I have more to say on this, but my mother is having an iPhone crisis, and I think the entire family may need to get involved. Happy reading!

Kuwait’s information minister has urged the parliament to endorse a proposal to monitor blogs, citing social and stability threats.

“Electronic blogs post matters that are now threatening national cohesion and that are much more dangerous than what is being published in newspapers and broadcast on satellite channels. We are therefore working on a draft law to monitor blogs and we urge the parliament to approve it,” Shaikh Ahmad Al Abdullah Al Sabah told Kuwait’s MPs yesterday, Alaan news portal reported.

The minister’s plea came as the country’s social fabric has come under heavy strain following the broadcasting by Al Sour on Saturday of a controversial programme that claimed that tribesmen were not genuine Kuwaitis and that many of them broke the law by holding dual citizenship.

Bedouins make up half of the native population and have 25 MPs in the 50-member parliament.

The programme charged that the only “true and genuine” Kuwaitis were the descendents of those who lived inside the walls surrounding Kuwait City in the 19th century and that the others were not Kuwaitis.

Thousands of Bedouins reacted angrily and staged a rally during which several lawmakers and activists called upon the government to take stringent action against Al Sour and Scoop TV stations for broadcasting the programme and Mohammad Al Juwaihel, the owner of Al Sour …

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Posted in blogging, Kuwait | Leave a Comment »

diamond vs. naharnet: a recipe for disgruntlement

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on July 27, 2009

Just don’t put this in your blog, H said yesterday, frowning at me across a Skype connection after finishing a particularly juicy Beirut story.

I stopped blogging months ago, I said, frowning back. Didn’t you notice?

H frowned more deeply, a familiar look of ‘oh no: she’s about to go beyond all bounds of rationality’ settling on his face.

Honestly, d., he said, trying to be conciliatory. I haven’t been online at all this summer. I haven’t even been on Naharnet.

Did you just compare my blog to Naharnet? I asked, eyebrows arching. Don’t get me wrong – as a blogger, I loved Naharnet. It gave me almost as steady a supply of entertaining language gaffes and random ‘news’ stories as the Daily Star.

But did I want my sweet little blog to be spoken of in the same breath? Certainly not.

That’s not what I meant, H said urgently, still trying to stave off the logic meltdown that seemed likely to take out much of Brooklyn.

I meant that I haven’t been online even to look at serious sources of news and analysis, like your blog and like Naharnet.

Argh.

Please stop, I said. The only saving grace is that you didn’t compare me to Now Lebanon.

I don’t have much to blog about these days, but thanks to a recent trip to Doha to visit my aunt, I do have a few stories to share. Look for a series of short, non-Naharnet’y anecdotes to stream their way from New York later this week, before I return to blog hibernation :).

Posted in Beirut, blogging | 2 Comments »

new views, new worlds

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on May 21, 2009

When I was in graduate school, I took a number of courses outside my immediate field for auditor credit, rather than full course credit. I had no background in petrochemicals, for example, or the oil markets of the Gulf, but I thought that as long as courses were being offered in those subjects, I should try to learn what I could.

One of these “I don’t know enough about this subject but I’d like to” courses was a semester-long class on the region’s political economy. I didn’t know anything about political economy – in fact, I didn’t know what the phrase meant. And I certainly knew nothing about terms like “ISI”, the “rentier state”, or the “tertiary sector”. But I stuck it out, and have been grateful ever since for the opportunity to develop at least a basic understanding of the mysterious world where economics and political science meet.

I have been equally grateful for the professor, Steve Heydemann, and his many memorable classroom quips of – including one that has resonated with increasing urgency over the past few months.

I believe, he said in response to a question about the credibility of another scholar’s recent op-ed, that in-country knowledge has a shelf life of about six months.

In other words, one can write about one’s experiences of the country as it was six months or a year or whatever other point when one was last there, but after a certain period one can no longer claim to have the intimate experiential knowledge of the country in its current state.

Six months isn’t a magic number – and for those with permanent ties, like H, perhaps the time limit is irrelevant.

But for me I find that it is time to make the switch from experiential writing – recounting the goofy bits of my daily adventures – to analytic writing. And quite frankly, I can take only so many analytic blog posts, either my own or others’.

I look forward to reading about the Lebanese elections, the Kuwaiti parliament, and other issues dear to my heart on your blogs, and I look forward to either resuming this blog or starting a new one when I feel that I have more daily-life anecdotes to share.

Posted in academia, blogging, women, words | Leave a Comment »

Seek, and ye shall find

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 9, 2009

Its a cold winter Friday in Manhattan. I’m sad about the ongoing attacks on Gazans, as well as the fact that it took two weeks for the UN Security Council to call for an “immediate ceasefire” – a call which BBC earlier this morning described Israel as “snub”-ing.(Not that Hamas seems to have been jumping up and down to endorse it, either.)

And I’m peeved that my new thermometer tells me that the temperature in my office is 64 degrees F (that’s 18 C for you metric fans). Brrr.

So to warm myself up, and to take my mind off more substantive issues, I have taken a look at the search terms that have brought new readers to my blog this week.

I always get a number of searches for Beirut, Lebanon, Lebanese culture, hijab, Islam, etc.

And I always get a few stumpers, like mayonnaise. I think my blog must appear on this search because I have written about toum – but who knows.

My blog brings in people looking for particular Arabic words – this week, “arnabeet” and “tatari” were popular (go figure).

And sometimes I think I can see the same searcher refining his/her search, as with “ghida fakhri”, which was followed by “is ghida fakhri Christian”. Cue eye roll, please.

Some searches make me laugh out loud, like “escort service in amman jordan”. Boy, is this a perennial search term favorite – and I am sure that most searchers are terribly disappointed to learn that my post on “The Dangers of Women” does not provide contact information.

And some just make me wonder about the searcher’s education, like “beaches in damascus”. May I suggest trying another search first: “Syria map”.

Enjoy your Fridays – and let’s hope for better news soon.

Posted in Amman, blogging, Damascus, humor, research | Leave a Comment »

a brave new world: blog polls

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on December 20, 2008

Today, I am trying something new – actually, two things. First, I am putting my first poll on this blog. And second, its not my poll: I am actually putting Jester’s post on my blog! Jester is trying something very interesting – and very scientific! – asking a number of bloggers to link to the Lebanese Inner Circle poll about “the most effective Lebanese of 2008”, in hopes that drawing from a larger pool of readers will result in a more accurate poll.

If you would like to participate in  the poll, here it is:

Posted in Beirut, blogging, friends, Lebanon, research | Leave a Comment »

Geagea: the man, the myth, the Gabor sister

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on December 20, 2008

Good morning to all from a very snowy Brooklyn! I have much to say today (the blogging equivalent of cabin fever, I suppose!), but let me start with a link to this fascinating article by Borzou Daragahi – a feature on Samir Geagea.

At first, I wanted to post about this solely because of the “(pronounced zsa-zsa)”. How could this possibly be interpreted as a helpful pronunciation guide? Samir Geagea, pronounced “Zsa-Zsa Gabor“.

But in fact the feature is very interesting in its own right – as is “Dr.” Geagea. He is the only major figure from the civil war to have spent any time in prison – i.e., he is the only one to have been punished for his actions as a warlord – out of all the many men in Lebanon’s contemporary political leadership with blood not only on their hands but dripping from their shoes as well, from Jumblatt to Zahra.

And his popularity is astounding. He is much, much more charismatic than any of today’s Gemayels: when the Kataeb and the Ouwet gathered at Amin Gemayel’s home after the 2007 special election, people cheered for Geagea – even when Gemayel was speaking.

I follow several Ouwet blogs and online discussion fora, and what I see is that even when young men disagree with an Ouwet decision, or a position that Geagea has taken, they do it because of their reverence for him. He is an incredibly powerful touchstone, at least for the young men of the Maronite community.

Here is the article:

When the warlord finally tried to repent, no one would accept his apology.

They already had formed their opinion of Samir Geagea, once the leader of a fearsome Christian militia. His supporters loved him regardless of what he did. And his rivals and enemies would never see him as anything but a caricature of the excesses, brutality and impunity of Lebanon’s civil war.

But there are twists to Geagea’s tale. Unlike other commanders during the country’s civil war, Geagea (pronounced zsa-zsa) paid a price afterward, locked in a windowless prison cell beneath the Defense Ministry building for 11 years. During that time, he said, he studied literature, mysticism and religion, finding spirituality and a longing for salvation.

In September, he told thousands of supporters gathered in the coastal city of Jounieh that he regretted some of his actions during the conflict and asked for God’s forgiveness.

Old ghosts

“If you don’t bury the old ghosts, they’ll keep bothering people,” the lanky, balding 56-year-old said during an interview at his party’s mountaintop headquarters here in Maarab, about 15 miles northeast of Beirut. “All in all, we had to do this immediately after the war. Unfortunately, after the war, there was no peace.”

The war set the standard for a new kind of lawless, media-saturated civil conflict now common in desperate corners of the world. The 15-year war, which ended in 1990, left an estimated 100,000 people dead and nearly a million displaced. It pitted Palestinians, Shiites, Sunnis, Druze, Christians and their foreign backers against one another, and sometimes against their own kind.

Geagea’s story illustrates the complexity of coming to terms with that past.

He was a year away from completing medical school at the American University of Beirut when he was sucked into the conflict’s vortex as a member of a right-wing Christian militia eventually called the Lebanese Forces. He gained a reputation for no-holds-barred killing, including violence against rival Christians.

In 1990, Syrian troops occupied the country, ending a conflict already subsiding. There would be no truth commission to examine who did what during the conflict. All parties agreed to sweep the war’s dirty business under the rug. The government offered amnesty to all fighters except those accused of killing foreign diplomats, high-ranking officials and religious leaders.

Geagea immediately alienated other Christian leaders and Syrian-backed authorities, who charged him with bombing a church and assassinating several officials during the war. After a trial that independent observers said was seriously flawed, he was thrown into prison in 1994, in the third basement level, with “no fresh air, no sun, no winter, no summer … nothing,” he said.

For 11 years, he was allowed to see only his wife and some relatives, barred from talking politics with anyone or even reading newspapers.

But he was allowed to read books. He devoured philosophy, psychology and religion, twice rereading the Quran and devouring translated works of mystic theologians.

“Always I have a mystic tension, a mystic inclination because I’m acquainted with the Christian mystics,” he said. “I went deep into the Hindu philosophy.”

Alone in his cell, he began what he called a process of “auto-psychoanalysis” to examine his actions.

“It’s not as easy as it seems,” Geagea said. “This needs fasting all the time. It needs concentration. It needs meditation. Of course, it needs silence, and I had the silence because I was solitary.”

He said he tried to determine what he did right during the war, such as making a tactical retreat that cost positions but saved civilian lives, and what he did wrong, which he declined to specify.

“I would leave that to history,” he said.

In 2005, Syrian forces withdrew from the country, and Geagea was pardoned by the parliament. Many hailed the new era, but old political demons emerged: Sunni radicalism, Christian chauvinism, Shiite grievances, Palestinian desperation, all the ingredients that brought the civil war.

Unprecedented speech

In September, Geagea stood before thousands of supporters and made an unprecedented speech.

“I fully apologize for all the mistakes that we committed when we were carrying out our national duties during past civil war years,” he said. “I ask God to forgive, and so I ask the people whom we hurt in the past.”

His supporters hailed him as Lebanon’s Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader who was imprisoned for 27 years in South Africa and later became that country’s president.

But others don’t buy it. Although many of his Christian and Muslim rivals acknowledge the speech as important, they say he continues to practice divisive politics, emphasizing Christian grievances and suffering, that could drag the country back into war.

“This is a courageous attitude,” one intellectual close to the Shiite militia Hezbollah said of Geagea’s stance. “But his current political ideology depends on fear, and his political outlook is in contradiction to his regret and will not end the logic of civil war.”

Others say that he should resign from politics, that even wars have rules and that his behavior during the civil war was so bad that he should be barred from public life.

No one really knows who did what during the conflict. Stories of horror continue to float and fester. Few care to open old wounds; the war is even excluded from school curricula.

But Geagea says he wants the younger generation to know the horrors of war.

“They don’t know what the war is, what civil war is,” he said, bowing his head slightly and drawing closer. “We know. War is the worst thing in this world. You have to try to do anything, but not war.”

Posted in Beirut, blogging, Lebanon, time | Leave a Comment »

media wars

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on May 13, 2008

Everyone is blogging about the Lebanese media and its coverage of the situation, our guest said yesterday evening.

Well, include me among the guilty 🙂 – I think that the media coverage itself – how each channel has been covering events here – has been fascinating. Plus really, what else are we doing? Most of my work is done on my computer, so I’m online constantly – and because I have a laptop, I can work in front of the television. I imagine that many bloggers here are in similar situations – so in a way the sudden flowering of media-related blog posts is merely making a virtue of necessity.

But media wars of various kinds have been going on for some time – and not only between the media outlets of sparring groups.

Earlier this spring, the Ouwet Front – a very pro-Lebanese Forces blog – announced that the website manager for the LF’s official site had again asked the blog to shut down. When the blog’s administrator refused, the LF’s website administrator told him that it was a “direct order” from LF boss Samir Geagea.

The two men continued exchanging heated emails, which you can read through the attached link above, but in the end they appear to have agreed to hold their noses and carry on, with the official site ignoring the blog and the blog continuing to link and refer to the official site as if nothing had happened.

I can’t stand Samir Geagea, and the LF’s political platform makes me ill, but I do check the Ouwet blog from time to time. I don’t agree with many of its writers’ and commentators’ conclusions, but I appreciate the effort they all seem to make to think through their positions intellectually, and to try to push the boundaries of their (what I consider rather narrow) understanding of who counts as Lebanese.

That’s the background. And at the beginning of last week, before all this started, I noticed that the LF had upped the ante. It is now advertising its website on billboards in Christian areas:

I don’t think that we’ve heard the last of Geagea in this crisis, either. So feel free to check out the “official” site. As the billboard says, “for the truth a website”. Imagine my eyes rolling.

While I have been writing this post, H came in and turned on the news. Nasser Qandil has been giving an unending press conference on Manar. He’s not saying anything new, and he’s certainly not saying anything particularly interesting, but his press conference is one of my top five for the crisis thus far. The power went out in his house just after he began, so the screen showed 30 seconds of black screen and the sounds of a beeping UPS until his generator kicked back in.

Ah, Beirut. This may be a coup, but even Hizbullah can’t order EDL around.

Posted in advertising, Beirut, blogging, Iowa, Lebanon, media, politics, words | 1 Comment »

typically Lebanese New Yorkers :)

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on February 27, 2008

Can you get online? G asked me this morning via sms. I need to show you something.

We’re not in touch as much these days, so I thought it might be something urgent. I rushed through my post-gym shower routine (made briefer by the fact that yes, I did indeed forget to pack my hairbrush today) and hurried to work.

Do you know the Facebook group “The Lebanese Club of New York? G asked when I had arrived and logged on.

I rushed for a FACEBOOK issue? I began wondering grumpily. But luckily G explained.

I don’t know the group – I’ve never heard of it. But evidently it knows me – or at least one of its members does.

This is the group’s page on facebook.

This is the post I wrote about seeing a painted mark on a hiking trail in Austria that looked like the Lebanese flag.

Ladies & gentlemen of Lebanon and New York: I am delighted that you enjoyed my photo, and touched that you chose it for your group.

But as an administrator of a facebook group myself, I can tell you that uploading the group’s photo requires that the uploader say that yes, he or she has the right to do so.

So naturally I am concluding that the members of this group are not merely Lebanese, but also telepathic :). They must have read my mind and known that I would be delighted that they like the photograph.

And if they are reading my mind right now, they will know that I am thinking of my favorite 212/718 Arabic (not Lebanese, sorry!) restaurants. And as fellow New York gourmands, I would love to hear about their favorites as well 🙂

Posted in Americans, Beirut, blogging, food, Lebanon, New York | 2 Comments »

blogger envy: Riemer Brouwer on the Daily Star

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on February 1, 2008

Right now I am torn between acute blogger envy and falling on the floor laughing. Lebanon has been experiencing serious winter weather for the past three days, with heavy snowfalls even at low elevations, and freezing rain close to sea level.

Even in my area, the air smelled like snow both yesterday and the day before, and we had a massive hail-storm on Tuesday.

The weather has been monumental, spectacular and utterly deserving of news coverage. But the Daily Star‘s front page article yesterday was at best Zen’ly opaque and at worst utterly moronic.

And Riemer Brouwer of Lebanon Update has written a brilliantly sardonic, witty roast of the piece. Whatever else you do today, you want to read his blog post. I laughed out loud three times, and then laughed again when I read it for the second time.

Here’s the text of the original article, “Harsh weather to persist until Thursday evening“:

BEIRUT: Severe storms continued to batter Lebanon Wednesday, with weather forecasters expecting the cold wave to recede as of Thursday night. Officials from the Civil Aviation Department at the Rafik Hariri International Airport told The Daily Star on Wednesday that the storm that has gripped Lebanon over the past two days will continue until Thursday night.

“It is normal to see such winds, rainfalls and snowstorms at this time of the year,” said one of the officials, who wished to remain anonymous. “But what is a bit exceptional is that low temperatures have hit the entire country.”

Asked if similar storms are to strike Lebanon anytime soon, the official said: “Everything is possible.”

However, the official could not deny or confirm claims that the current storm is to be followed by a wave of freezing cold.

“Every cold wave might be followed by a freezing cold wave,” he said. “But it is difficult to confirm this. It is also difficult to predict when it will occur because any storm needs time to be formed.”

An extremely rare biting cold wave has swept Lebanon over the last two weeks, leaving at least three people dead and inflicting heavy losses on agricultural crops.

The Civil Aviation Department forecast on Wednesday predicted cloudy and rainy weather for Thursday. The forecast called for southwesterly winds blowing at a speed varying between 10 and 35 kilometers per hour, with poor visibility in the highlands.

Temperatures are expected to vary between 5 and 13 degrees Celsius along the coast, between 8 degrees Celsius below zero and 6 degrees in the mountains and between -1 and 9 degrees in the Bekaa Valley.

The current polar snowstorm hitting Lebanon reached its peak on Wednesday with a blanket of white covering villages at an altitude of 600 meters. The severe winds accompanying the storm inflicted heavy losses on crops and played havoc with electricity and telephone cables in a number of Lebanese regions.

Civil Defense personnel struggled to clear snow from mountainous roads, while urging citizens to avoid such roads and call 112 and 125 for help.

Southern regions saw torrential rains and biting cold on Wednesday, with snow falling at altitudes above 500 meters for the first time this year.

Jezzine Mayor Said Abu Akl told The Daily Star on Wednesday that all of the qada’s roads were blocked by snow.

“The municipality is working around the clock along with Civil Defense personnel and the Public Works Ministry to reopen all closed roads,” he said.

In Sidon, hailstorms, strong winds and sea currents shut down the city’s harbor for the second day in a row. The heavy rains flooded the Southern port city’s roads, transforming them into fast-running rivers.

Heavy storms plunged many Southern regions into darkness.

Gergey Haddad, mayor of the Jezzine region of Roum, told The Daily Star the town has been suffering power cuts for two days.

“We call on Electricite du Liban to fix electrical defects as soon as possible,” Haddad said.

In the Chouf, snow fell at elevations of 800 meters and above, cutting off roads and damaging agricultural lands. Several vehicles were stuck on roads in the Middle and Higher Chouf where the depth of snow reached 40 centimeters.

The freezing cold brought life to a standstill in most of the Chouf villages and caused schools and businesses to close. The snowstorm also destroyed crops, particularly olive trees, as well as water pipes and telephone cables.

Posted in blogging, Lebanon, weather, words | Leave a Comment »

Back to Beirut

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 29, 2008

Last night my aunt and uncle took me to what turned out to be a five star, no holds barred Moroccan restaurant in Fehaheel (see my aunt’s post for a full review). I didn’t even order a tajine – I wanted to try the entrees, and they were delicious.

Carrots, eggplant, lentils, tomato salad – by the time I finished my stomach hurt from being so full. I was just starting to recover when the waitstaff brought a plate of sweets … and the two cookies I had pushed my stomach right past the tipping point once again.

My very dear friend M, with whom I have had many Arabic language and Arab World adventures, defines two categories of fullness: full to the point of pressure, and full to the point of pain. I was beyond pain last night – and it was worth it, because the food was so good.

When Moroccan food is not good, it is pretty average: oily and tasteless. But when it is good, it is really, really good – and Marrakesh’s food was delicious.

There is a reason why many Moroccans have come to prefer French baguettes to Moroccan bread – but last night even the bread was good:

marrakesh-bread.jpg

And now I am back home, blogging in my chilly, coming-back-to-life apartment as the rain falls. Its a wild weather day in Beirut – when H picked me up at the airport, we were nearly blown away by the wind (though to be honest I like the way it gave my hair some much needed extra body).

As I finished booting up my computer and sat down at my desk, the rain turned to hail – rapid-fire balls of ice crashing madly onto my patio. I haven’t seen such weather since … well .. since I was in Jerusalem, almost precisely two years ago. There’s something about this January/February season that lends itself to madness, I think, although the scientific side of me scoffs: “how would you prove that?”

I don’t know. But I do know that bombings, protests and snipers notwithstanding I am very happy to be back home, especially since the electricity was on when I arrived.

Posted in Americans, Arab world, Beirut, blogging, family, food, holidays, home, Kuwait, Lebanon, travel | Leave a Comment »