White Helmets: TedxAmsterdam 2016

I was hired by TedxAmsterdam to coach and live translate a speech for Raed El Saleh, the founder and leader of the White Helmets group in Syria.

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The theme of this year’s TedxAmsterdam was #NewPower, a large and loose term that pools in a variety of ideas, projects, and movements which offer new perspectives and literally new power to challenge the status quo.

My first responsibility was to help him generate strong talking points and draft them into a compelling speech. Secondly, I coached him on the use of body language, tone, and the number of words and sentence structures to deliver a powerful speech.

During the event, I was also asked do live translation as he delivered his semi-structured speech for the audience.

The White Helmets are a group of about 3000 volunteers distributed  around 120 centers in eight districts in Syria whose mission is to save lives post airstrikes and attacks. They are local search and rescue teams trained to pull people out from under the rubble. Read more about them on their official website and you can follow their live updates on Twitter.

Here is the full video of Raed El Saleh’s talk, translated live by myself:

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Opportunity to Volunteer in Lesvos for Bahrainis (Or Arabic Speaking candidate)

This is a one time opportunity to encourage mainly Bahrainis to get involved in humanitarian work and help refugees.

About the opportunity:

  • Deadline is December 26th
  • This is a donation given by a Bahraini who wished to remain anonymous and will cover only flight ticket. You are expected to pay for your hotel, car rental, living expenses, and visa if you need one.
  • This is not part of a team, or an official organization that you will join. You are expected to work independently and be able to establish relationships and connections on the ground to collaborate with. We will put you in touch with some people, but there is no fixed schedule of activities and things to do that you would follow.

About you:

  • Must be 18 years or older
  • Fluent in both Arabic and English
  • Have funds to cover the other expenses
  • Have a valid driver’s license
  • Can be there for a minimum of 10 days
  • Can work under pressure and in intense situations
  • No health problems that requires special care
  • Submit a brief report (one page) about your experience after you come back

Things to know:

  • Mytelini and Lesvos is the same place. Two names for the island
  • There are rarely direct flights to Mytelini, you’d have to stop in Athens first
  • It is cold these days in Lesvos especially at night by the shores
  • The experience is mentally and emotionally and physically exhausting
  • There is a big Facebook group where all volunteers and NGOs are discussing all kinds of things, and there are files available to explain dynamics of the island and information
  • If you’re selected, you would get a general briefing of all the information you need to know.

If interested, email the following to fatenhbu@gmail.com:

Cover letter explaining:
  • Tell me about yourself and background (basic information: name, age, location, and who you are)
  • Why you’re interested in volunteering in Lesvos?
  • Why do you think you’re the perfect candidate to be chosen?
  • What is your previous experience in humanitarian aid, or any relevant experience?
  • This could be a very heavy experience, some days are slow and easy, others are traumatic for both refugees and volunteers. How do you usually handle emotional situations and shock (any relevant example?)
  • When is the earliest that you can be in Lesvos?

Priority goes to:

  • Bahrainis (and then all arabic speakers)
  • Volunteers who can leave as early as possible
  • Volunteers who already have a visa
  • Volunteers who live in Europe *for minimal flight expenses*

Podcasts: Lesvos Diaries

About three weeks ago, myself and a friend decided to launch a campaign, to raise funds for refugees in the Greek island of Lesvos. On November 16th we hopped on a plane to Lesvos to provide basic supplies and help with the donations we have collected.

It’s difficult to grasp and capture our time there with simple written words. The conditions need improvement, and the stories of arriving refugees are heart breaking. We worked at several camps with other volunteers to try to improve the situation as well as provide basic supplies in preparation for winter.

We started a Sound Cloud account where we shared and will continue to share some of our experiences.

For updates on our work in Lesvos follow our Instagram account @impactlesvos

What is Bahrain Doing to Prevent a Terror Attack?

Following two attacks on Shia mosques in Saudi Arabia in earlier weeks, and the last attack in Kuwait two days ago, ISIS promises the next will be in Bahrain.

I wrote a much needed article on Global Voices wondering if safety measures are being taken in Bahrain to prevent potential attacks, and protect worshipers.

“Bahrain is politically a perfect hub for a terrorist attack. The country is already divided by sectarian tensions following the popular uprising in 2011, when people called for more political reforms. The government pitted the conflict as a Shia population trying to wrestle power from a Sunni leadership, a storyline often echoed in international media. Bahrain is also different from both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait because Shias are closer to being a majority in the small Gulf island and are easier to target as the government has been engaged in daily street battles with Shiite protesters on an almost daily basis since protests started four years ago.

However, it remains the responsibility of the government first and the people second to provide security for all citizens equally, and not based on sect or political loyalty. Failing to secure the lives of all Bahrainis, regardless of their sect, is a sectarian statement in itself.

The question is, how can a country like Bahrain where systematic approaches based on sect are deeply infested, fight a bigger battle against ISIS. How are people expected to stand united, when state media fuels hatred and sectarian tensions in the country? Are we even allowed to blame ISIS for their irrational extremism when Bahraini religious figures, media outlets, and laws do the same?”

Read more here.

Analytical Series: Why Women’s Political Presence in Bahrain is Still Marginal

My colleague Anne Koopman and I co-authored a series of three analytical articles to explore the problem of women’s marginal role in politics in the Gulf Island of Bahrain. We have talked to politicians, activists and regular people to get a better understanding of the situation.

Since the introduction of the National Action Charter ‘Al-Meethaq’ in 2002, women and men have equal political rights in Bahrain, giving both the right to vote and actively participate in politics. However, female presence in politics is considerably low. In this series we will address the issue of low political presence in Bahrain by dividing the problem into three articles. In “Bahraini Politics: Where Are The Women?”, we will look at the political background in Bahrain and the statistics of women serving in higher positions, as well as compare the country to other Gulf States. In the second part “The Triangle of Oppression: Challenging Women’s Political Presence” we explain how the male dominant society, religious influences and lack of endorsements by political societies cause women to experience pressure to withdraw from elections or stay away from the political scene, but also to feel hesitant towards participating to begin with. In “Is There Hope For Equal Political Representation?” we show how the popular uprising in 2011, has put women’s rights on a back shelf, and the challenges for both men and women have become more similar and equal, leading to an unclear future for women in politics in Bahrain. Experts and female activists propose some solutions that could gradually improve women’s political presence in Bahrain.

Read all three articles on The Bahrain Debate:

Part I: “Bahraini Politics: Where are the Women?”

Part II: “The Bahraini Society: Challenging Women’s Political Presence”

Part III: “Is There Hope for Equal Political Representation?”

Saudi Cables in Relation to Bahrain

Wikileaks released about 500,000 top secret documents from the Saudi government that consists correspondence between the country’s official bodies and other governments around the world.

Several of these relate directly to the Bahraini popular uprising in 2011, when people took the streets calling for democratic reforms and improvement of living conditions. The leaked documents show the Saudi government’s interference in Bahrain’s internal affairs and obsession with the uprising’s media coverage.

As an editor of Global Voices Check Desk, I am tracking these documents and posting them on a story that is constantly updated as we go through more documents.

Check it out: http://globalvoices.checkdesk.org/en/story/1909