Month: March 2014

Egypt in DeNile

For hundreds of years, Egypt has had a monopoly on the water supply of the Nile River. Over 11 countries rely on the Nile for water supply, yet Egypt continues to place water allocations upon riparian states. Those states being: Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. At present there is no Basin wide agreement upon the allocation of water and low-level conflicts between riparian states still occur. As population growth and economic development increases pressure on the Nile, countries such as Egypt who relies on the Nile as it’s main source of water, guards what water they can.

While Egypt is allocated 55.5 billion cubic meters of water (this figure is correct as of 2014, Masoud), considerably more than other states, it is in disagreement with Ethiopia constructing a dam to implement hydroelectric power as a power source. Admittedly this dam will be the largest dam in Africa, however Ethiopia claims that countries such as Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia will benefit from this dam, yet Egypt still guards its waters religiously.

Egypt’s hegemonic power continues to cause problems with the allocation of the Nile water resources. The late Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat, is quoted to have said: “Any action that would endanger the waters of the Blue Nile will be faced with a firm reaction on the part of Egypt, even if that action should lead towards war”. Furthermore, Egypt’s power over the other riparian states can be seen through its own implementation of new mega irrigation projects while refusing other countries the same opportunity.

Perhaps Egypt should look towards environmental politics in sorting out the conflict rather than declining any treaty or trade negotiation which they are offered. This suggestion comes not from myself but from research done on the environmental sustainability of the Nile River, as the growth of the countries that rely on the Nile Basin is slowly adding pressure on the Nile as a water resource. Yet in the countries which rely on the Nile as their main water source, the debate on water continues to be politicised.

The Nile River Basin

 

 

Hocus Pocus in Saudi Arabia

In a country that demands strict adherence to Sharia Law, any unfamiliar religious or folk law customs are seen as acts of sorcery or witchcraft. The severity of this issue is highlighted when in 2009 the Saudi government created a special Anti-Witchcraft Unit, which specifically deals with alleged witches.

One of the difficulties of this issue is the interpretation of ‘witchcraft’ through Sharia law. Wahhabism (a dominant form of Islam in Saudi Arabia) deems witchcraft as a slight to the teachings of the Quran. The Quran itself, touches upon the issue of witches, described as unseen spirits (jinn) and powerful darker forces: “I take refuge in the Lord of the Daybreak, from the evil he has created, from the evil of the darkness as it spreads, from the evil of those who blow on knots, and from the evil of the envious”. Religious clerics preside over trials such as those of witchcraft, and apply the interpretations of the Quran in context to the crime. In the case of accusing one of witchcraft, a witness is needed as well as the ‘magical’ artifact/s within the accused’s possession.

The severity of this issue is further demonstrated through the deaths, usually beheadings as per Sharia law, of numerous foreign domestic workers. Women from countries such as Indonesia, Africa, and Sri Lanka have been convicted of witchcraft and practicing sorcery and await death sentences. Human Rights Watch activists have stated that many women who have been accused of witchcraft are those who have made formal complaints to agencies against their employers; thus the counter-claims of witchcraft. These complaints range from beating to rape and highlight the lack of foreign domestic rights. While a treaty has recently been signed by the Saudi government, the rights of a foreign domestic worker is very basic. For example, under the new law workers are entitled to:

  • An agreed monthly salary (approx. $400)
  • Suitable accommodations
  • 9hrs of rest per day
  • Paid sick leave
  • One month paid vacation after two years of service.

Yet according to Labor Minister Adel Faqih, workers “do not have the right to reject a work, or leave a job, without a valid reason”.  A clear indication that while workers have some rights, they are still only very basic rights.

In addition, the aforementioned comments do nothing to illuminate the sheer scale of such a matter. Organizations such as Amnesty International, the Human Rights Watch and Migrant Care, work tirelessly to prevent such atrocities, however this issue is far reaching, and is not limited to the Muslim world, or even just Saudi Arabia, or for that matter to only women and domestic workers. Cases of those accused of witchcraft have been found all over the world and will most likely continue to be due to various superstitious beliefs.

Woman beheaded for witchcraft

Introduction

First and foremost I am a student and as such the information and topics that will be discussed in this blog will be of the academic variety. I shall therefore endeavor to maintain an unbiased opinion and tone within my posts. Au contraire to the tagline this will not be a slanderous blog but will hopefully inform those willing to learn, of the culture and politics in the Middle East.

 

Some Basic Information:

  • The term ‘Middle East’ was given to the region by the West.
  • The Middle East consists of: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Turkey is also considered to be part of the Middle East, however some scholars would also consider it to be separate.
  • Languages: mainly semitic languages are spoken, such as Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic. Although in some countries French, Italian, English and Russian are spoken due to previous occupation.
  • Religion: There are three of the main religions found in the Middle East; Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Of Islam, there are two strains, Sunni Muslim and Shi’a (Shiite or Shi’ite) the former of which dominants within the area.

 

Map of the Middle East