Week of March 3
As the coronavirus spreads in the gulf region, the UAE has cancelled or postponed all concerts and sports events. There have been around 1,650 cases in the Gulf region, mainly in Iran where there have already been over 200 deaths. A writer at The Atlantic argues that the surprising number of Iranian government officials succumbing to COVID-19 suggests that the disease is far more widespread than the official statistics indicate. In the Emirates, travel restrictions have forced many artists such as Major Lazar and DJ Afrojack to cancel events, while many K-Pop concerts were also cancelled or rescheduled as South Korea has a significant outbreak of the disease. Saudi Arabia has prohibited any entry into the country for any religious pilgrimages. Many other events such as conferences have also been pushed back as the virus continues to spread.
On Tuesday, Ethiopia accused the United States of being “undiplomatic” in its role facilitating talks between three countries on the Nile River over a giant dam. Ethiopia said on Tuesday, but promised to continue negotiations. Washington has been enabling talks between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan to resolve issues over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, set to become the largest hydropower plant in Africa. The multibillion-dollar project has been riddled with disagreements between Egypt and Ethiopia since the latter broke ground in 2011, prompting Egyptian concerns that filling the huge reservoir too quickly could lower the Nile’s flow and impact Egypt’s water supply. Ethiopia’s foreign minister said the country is building the dam because it has the full right to do so in order to lift its citizens out of poverty using its natural resources. The U.S. treasury stepped in last year after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi put in a request to his ally, President Trump. Last week, American officials said an agreement had been reached and urged Ethiopia to sign “at the earliest possible time.” Egypt has signed the “fair and balanced” deal, but Ethiopia’s foreign minister argued that the country was being singled out in the U.S. statement and urged Washington to stay neutral.
Oman’s new ruler, Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said (right), has chosen to forgo the customary issuance of gifts after the 40-day mourning period for highly esteemed Sultan Qaboos, who passed away on January 10th. Instead, though he is choosing to retain his predecessor’s top officials, at his first televised address, the new leader signaled that he will prioritize reducing the country’s debt: under his leadership, resources will be redirected to raising revenue. Sultan Al Said stated that there will be a “complete revision” of activities and employment at government companies to improve their performance. This may mean unpopular job cuts in the government sector, which could further increase the country’s 17% unemployment rate. Oman has posted deficits since oil prices slumped in 2014, with this year’s shortfall projected at 8.4% of gross domestic product. The International Monetary Fund has forecast no surpluses until at least 2024.
New satellite images released by Save the Children and World Vision show the scale of the destruction in the northwestern province of Idlib in Syria. Villages in the last rebel stronghold have been been razed to the ground. Syrian and Russian forces have decimated the whole area as seen to the left. The destruction has impacted around three million people, who now lack the infrastructure to support them when they come back to their homes after fleeing. Displaced populations are being forced into smaller and smaller areas, as their camps balloon and overtake farmland, while those attempting to cross into Turkey to escape the fighting are being stopped at the border. Many civilians have died from the cold and from attacks, yet the displaced population continues growing. The photos were released the day before a ceasefire meeting between Turkey and Russia in Moscow on Thursday at which the parties agreed to a ceasefire; however, Turkey said it reserves the right to retaliate if Syrian government forces carry out further attacks.
On Saturday, Egypt’s minister of planning and economic development Hala al-Saeed announced that Egypt’s women hold 45 percent of total governmental jobs compared to the global average of 32%. During a speech at the “She Can” event at the American University in Cairo, Saeed said Egypt “cherishes the economic empowerment of women as part of its Vision 2030 initiative and the state’s developmental plans.” Women hold 7% of Egypt’s executive leadership jobs and 18% of the country’s chief editors for national newspapers are women. She also said that the economic empowerment of Egyptian women is crucial in achieving national comprehensive and sustainable growth because women make substantial contributions through their productive and creative efforts.
In a similar vein, in celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8th, the Rabat branch of Global Shapers launched a social media campaign #ChnouBghitiNti (“what do you want?”) to raise awareness among Moroccans about gender inequalities and the needs of women at the professional and personal levels. Global Shapers was born out of the World Economic Forum and is a network of leaders driving social and economic change in 160 countries, including Morocco. The Moroccan team prioritized increasing the number of women in management jobs and fighting domestic violence and underage marriage, among their other goals. In a short video created with partners, several Moroccan women discuss their hopes for lasting changes for girls and women in the country, such as not being harassed while driving or walking on the street and wanting to be treated the same as their brothers. “We Moroccans, men and women, do not want International Women’s Day to be only an occasion of exchanging gifts,” according to the statement. “We want to think and engage in a dialogue about solutions to achieving more rights for women.” To view the video, visit here.