Monday, September 26, 2016

Recent Editorials

Here are some recent editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records)
Bleeding Aleppo needs
balm, not bombs
The tears of Aleppo refuse to cease, nor do the bullets that rain incessantly on innocent civilians.
The tormented city cries for humanitarian attention, but the international powers are too busy trading charges against each other.
The city’s residents are facing a precarious situation with worsening food and medical shortages. Stores of food and vital medical supplies are rapidly dwindling to nothing.
One of the toughest challenges for the residents is that the water supplies to many areas remain cut after pumping stations were damaged during weekend attacks.
Distressingly, the denial of access to food, water and medicines has been used repeatedly as a weapon by all sides in Syria's brutal five-year-old civil war.
Adding to the civilians’ woes, several charity kitchens in the eastern districts are no longer operating because of the danger of air strikes.
Many hospitals are struggling to deal with a huge number of casualties. Heavy shortage of blood has also compounded the problem.
But it seems that the world just would not care, with powerful countries locking horns and engaging in rhetoric.
Western powers at the United Nations have accused Russia of war crimes.
US Ambassador Samantha Power has accused Russia of "barbarism," while the British and French envoys went even further.
"War crimes are being committed in Aleppo," French Ambassador Francois Delattre has stated, while Britain's envoy spoke of "a new hell" unleashed on Syrians with bunker-busting bombs and more sophisticated weaponry used to pummel residential areas.
Moscow, on its part, has hit back at the accusations, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denouncing "the overall unacceptable tone and rhetoric of the representatives of the United Kingdom and the United States, which can damage and harm our relations."
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has correctly warned that the use of advanced weaponry against civilians could amount to war crimes.
Instead of squabbling, the world powers should work towards ending the nightmare in Syria that has already left more than 300,000 people dead and driven millions from their homes.
It is extremely painful that even the images of children under rubble and the bodies of innocent men, women and elderly have not prompted the international community to find an urgent solution to end the agony of Aleppo.
The situation is worsening by the day, which the city cannot endure anymore.
The bleeding of Aleppo should stop, now.
What the city needs is balm, not bombs. 
Dubai Opera: UAE’s
cultural masterstroke
It is the latest masterstroke by the land of superlatives, the UAE, that literally comes as music to the ears.
The opening of Dubai Opera has effectively pitched the country as a vibrant global cultural hub, heralding a new creative era for the city, region and beyond.
The "king of opera," Spanish tenor Placido Domingo’s spectacular opening concert on Wednesday night at the venue set the rhythm for a perfect takeoff.
Domingo launched the event with a series of performances including Rossini's "The Barber of Seville" and the Broadway musical "West Side Story."
Dubai Opera is the city’s first purpose-built multi-format performing arts theatre and the definitive destination for quality entertainment productions and performances.
Creative talent would be exhibited in varied ways. Dubai Opera's stage will host an incredible lineup including operatic performances, ballet, classical music concerts and productions at the core.
It will also stage musical theatre, fashion shows, jazz, comedy, family shows and a full range of live entertainment.
Emirati singing sensation Hussein Al Jassmi will take centrestage on Oct.10 giving fans the opportunity to enjoy the live concert.
Incidentally, Al Jassmi has achieved more than 500 million views on YouTube and continues to capture hearts around the globe with his innovative fusion music.
The new opera building has been designed as an architectural masterpiece, blending tradition with modernity. In recognition of its long history as a port city, the opera house is shaped like a dhow.
Music is a universal language and the UAE recognises this. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has rightly affirmed that the strong cultural movement witnessed by the UAE contributes to positioning itself as a beacon of thought and creativity at the regional level and shows its keenness on maintaining its effective role in enriching the Arab cultural life.
Here is a venue where one can experience the best entertainment, immerse senses in a variety of performing arts and also discover a wide selection of shows that offer something for everyone.
Trade, travel and tourism are all synonymous with the UAE, and with the opening of Dubai Opera, Arts and Culture have also become important icons.
As Sheikh Mohammed pointed out, the Dubai Opera has a great value as a new platform for the arts, an effective cultural bridge and an intellectual window for the infusion of the world's creative arts.
Children bear the
brunt of conflicts
The world has to awaken to the fact that children are paying a heavy price in conflict zones and much more needs to be done to protect them.
A report from the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) has indicated that almost 50 million children worldwide are uprooted, forcibly displaced from their home countries by war, violence or persecution.
Sadly, young ones driven from their homes due to conflict or in the hopes of finding a safer future face further dangers along the way.
The dangers include the risk of drowning on sea crossings, malnourishment and dehydration, trafficking, kidnapping, rape and even murder.
Unicef Executive Director, Anthony Lake, has cited the example of Aylan Kurdi and Omran Daqneesh's to highlight the plight of children.
“Indelible images of individual children – Aylan Kurdi's small body washed up on a beach after drowning at sea or Omran Daqneesh's stunned and bloody face as he sat in an ambulance after his home was destroyed – have shocked the world,” he has noted.
The report “Uprooted: The growing crisis for refugee and migrant children,” presents a sobering picture of the lives and situations of millions of children affected by violent conflict and other crises that make it seem safer to risk everything on a perilous journey than to remain at home.
What is shocking is also that more and more children are crossing borders on their own.
Figures reflect a scary pattern. In 2015, over 100,000 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum in 78 countries – triple the number in 2014.
UN officials have listed specific actions to protect and help displaced, refugee and migrant children:
These are valuable ideas that should be duly implemented.
Among the suggestions are;
* Protecting child refugees and migrants, particularly unaccompanied children, from exploitation and violence.
* Ending the detention of children seeking refugee status or migrating by introducing a range of practical alternatives.
* Keeping families together as the best way to protect children and give children legal status.
* Keeping all refugee and migrant children learning and giving them access to health and other quality services.
* Pressing for action on the underlying causes of large-scale movements of refugees and migrants.
* Promoting measures to combat xenophobia, discrimination and marginalisation.
The failure to protect children would reflect very poorly on the international community and leave an unsightly scar on its face. Ignoring the plight of such a large  number of children would come at a very high cost.

Mohamed, Pope
on a peace mission
The UAE has always been in the forefront when it comes to promoting the values of peace, justice and coexistence in different parts of the world.
Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s historic meeting with Pope Francis has certainly pushed that noble mission to a much higher level.
Pope Francis’ praise of the UAE's efforts to promote tolerance and coexistence is a vindication of the fact that the UAE remains an oasis of peace in the region.
Under the leadership of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the country is a leading supporter of humanitarian initiatives and is the world’s largest donor of development assistance in proportion to its gross national income.
Generosity has thus always remained the hallmark of its leaders and people.
It has provided humanitarian assistance totaling Dhs6.97 billion to help save lives, alleviate suffering and protect human dignity during and after emergencies worldwide.
In December, the International Humanitarian City will organise the first bi-annual World Humanitarian Forum in Dubai to coincide with the Ten Humanitarian International Leaders meeting, which aims to bring together the humanitarian community to share experiences, build relationships and discuss emerging challenges and solutions.
The UAE assistance has solely humanitarian objectives and is never ever governed by politics or limited by the geography, race, colour or religion of the beneficiary.
In such a background, Pope’s hailing of the UAE for its ongoing humanitarian and philanthropic initiatives, its role in promoting sustainable development and support to all countries and communities in need, makes perfect timing and sense.
It is not mere talk. The UAE walks an extra mile when it comes to promoting an open society. A law against hate crime and discrimination was issued by President Sheikh Khalifa last year that strongly reinforces the concept of safe coexistence.
In a world ridden by strife in many parts, meaningful discussion between well-meaning personalities goes a long way in alleviating the situation.
The Pope has been playing a positive role in peace-building and promoting dialogue among civilisations.
With over 200 nationalities living with a spirit of harmony and understanding, despite differences of culture, race and religion, the UAE remains an adorable model for unity.
The momentous Sheikh Mohamed-Pope Francis meeting highlights the genuineness of the UAE’s mission to promote peace across the globe. It is an extraordinary meeting with a noble goal.
Need for greater police
accountability in US
The fatal shooting of 43-year-old African-American Keith Lamont Scott at the hands of Charlotte police is the latest in a long series of controversial police killings of black men that have ignited tensions in the US.
The killing has raised growing concerns about accountability in the country’s law enforcement community.
Scott's relatives claim that he was not carrying a gun as claimed by the police, but had a book in his hands when he was gunned down.
According to the relatives, he was waiting for his young son at school bus stop when police arrived.
The city had to be brought under emergency following violent demonstrations as news of the shooting spread.
Incidentally, the violence in Charlotte came on the heels of another fatal police shooting of a black man, Terence Crutcher, on Friday in Tulsa.
Tulsa police chief Chuck Jordan conceded that video footage of Crutcher's deadly shooting was disturbing and "very difficult to watch."
The 40-year-old is seen with his hands up, appearing to comply with police officers before he is shot once by officer Betty Shelby and falls to the ground. Another officer fires his stun gun.
The US Department of Justice has promised to conduct a federal civil rights probe into the Tulsa shooting.
However, the question remains on whether any effective means are being enforced to end such questionable killings.
On July 17, 2014, African American father-of-six Eric Garner, 43, died after being held in a police chokehold while he was being arrested for selling individual cigarettes illegally in New York.
On Aug.9, a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager, college student Michael Brown, 18, prompting violent protests and heavy-handed police tactics in Ferguson.
Unarmed Walter Scott was shot in the back as he ran away from an officer in South Carolina in April 2015.
A study by the Center for Policing Equity showed police used force on blacks at rates more than three times higher than for whites.
The use of force by police against African-Americans in cities from Ferguson, Missouri, to Baltimore and New York has sparked periodic violent protests.
Such killings have even spawned a movement called Black Lives Matter.
Police have the ability to take suspects into custody without killing them and there have been several examples for this.
Questions about racial bias in US law enforcement need to be answered. There is certainly a need for greater police accountability for the killings of black people in America.