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The Masks They Wear

It’s always entertaining when a rant of mine strikes a few nerves. In my recent rant on what I’ve learned over the past two years as an expat, I wrote, “Don’t be surprised that there’s just as much fake people as there is fake designer wear floating around.” Why?

Ever since my decision to move to the Middle East, it hit me hard how fast people can change on you. People are not what they appear to be. I can no longer take people at their face value. I can no longer judge, trust and love people so easily. Only in good times and bad, in distance and closeness, in richer and poorer did I know whom my friends really are.

I have literally gone through a social detox several times over the last two years. (And no, cleaning Facebook friends doesn’t count, although it does help, because Facebook is a digital high school… am I right?) My most recent detox was during my last visit home this past spring. So many people went out of their way to see me. To err is human and in the back of my mind I wondered about those I cherished that didn’t even bother to send their regards. I spent some quality time with family and friends that made my trip so memorable. Even as I heard the lovely rumors about myself – from how rich I was, to my new found snubbiness and everything in between – this was a bonding yet eye opening trip to say the least.

Landing back in Doha was no different. I was determined that after what I had been through back home, I needed to reevaluate the company I kept. I let the “please, please let’s remain friends” retract the request without hesitation. I let the negative energy from the whining and complaining about the blessings taken for granted drift away. I didn’t save the wrong number of the “call me if you need anything”. I did not accept the digital apologies as I preferred human contact.

Its the only way I can remain being the family and friend I want to have.

Sometimes one needs to step away from the theater for the actors to remove their masks during intermission. Then return to the theater before they have a chance to put the masks back on and continue the act. Sometimes the masks are necessary to show the world strength when there’s weakness, confidence when there’s uncertainty and a smile when there’s tears. But not all masks were design with the same hands. One must then decide whether or not the masks they wear and what’s underneath is acceptable.

Is the person real or as fake as the “fake designer wear floating around”?

Not Just Anyone, An Ode to Mommies

Not Just Anyone
An Ode to Mommies
By: Ms. Hala

She’s one of those people that really molds you into who you are. Or maybe it’s because somehow you’re existence has molded her. Some say it’s the best feeling in the world after all the pain. I say, I’m not half as strong as she is to ever be there.

She’s beautiful, oh so beautiful. She’s so gorgeous, it’s criminal! Like seriously, it’s gotten us into so much trouble!

It really is like when Frank Sinatra sings, “when she smiles, the whole world smiles”. And God forbid when she weeps, it’s just a sad, sad place. You want to do anything to make it all better just because you can’t bear her sadness.

She ignores me when she’s focused on playing games on her iPhone. She’s such a gamer, I can’t attempt to compete. All my friends are her friends on Facebook because “she’s just so cool!” Thank God she’s not on Twitter, she’d laugh at my small number of followers.

We can’t hang out without someone thinking we’re sisters rather then mother and daughter. Then again she’ll respond with, “I’m the daughter, she’s my mother.” That makes me feel so much better about myself, thanks!

She shushes me despite the fact that she knows I’ll always be too loud for my own good. She makes good fun of my height, or lack there of. I’m just not going to be as brave and tall as her, I’ve come to terms with that. She laughs at all my silly jokes and antics, I should be a comedian.

She’s encouraged my higher education, crying at ever graduation ceremony, except for the last one. Instead, with a straight face, she’s snapped, “This is it, enough degrees!” Yet I’ve caught her bragging to her friends about all the degrees and experiences she’s gotten through her children. What they have are hers too.

She can do that, because she is not just anyone. She is the mother. She is the best friend. She is the confidant. She is simply immaculate.

She raised her kids with all she’s got. She supported their every wish and dream. She loved them unconditionally. We are seriously blessed to have her.

She’s your mommy. She’s my mama. She’s our mother. She’s MOMMY and we love her! To all our mother’s on earth and in heaven, we love you every day, we appreciate you always and nothing will ever be enough to show it.

 

note: minor edits made for formating purposes.

30 Killed, 2000 Injured in Tahrir Square

On Friday, November 18th an organized peaceful protest was held in Tahrir Square to address the dissatisfaction many citizens have of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (also known as SCAF) currently running the nation since Hosny Mubarak’s fall in February. Of course, the main concern is the military trials of civilians, including that of Egyptian activist and blogger Alaa Abdelfattah alongside thousands of others.

Friday’s protest took place in Tahrir Square, similar to the many Occupy Movement protests happening here in my Bay Area hometown cities of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. The reaction from police and the military however has turned this peaceful protest into complete violent chaos!

Police and SCAF soldiers entered the square attacking protesters with rubber bullets and tear gas. Many reported that the tear gas used seemed to be more lethal than those used in the past. There were reports of protesters suffering from eye and nose irritations as well as seizures after inhaling these toxins. And surprise, the tear gas is “Made in the USA”!! A company by the name of Combined Tactical Systems (CTB) seems to be behind the latest in tear gases that are more lethal, similar to those used in Yemen. Ironically, the company’s website address is less-lethal.com. We need to call our representatives here in the USA to stop selling or sending these products to SCAF! CTB’s address and phone number can be found at the end of this rant.

Ahmed Harara

This violent attack also saw several protesters being shot directly in the eye, either from close range or trained snipers. One in particular is activist Ahmed Harara who lost his right eye on January 28th. He lost his left eye on Saturday November 19th amongst other activists who were actually in the hospital with him being treated by the same doctor. He is now completely blind but in unbelievable high spirits. He is my hero!

Later a video surfaced of SCAF and police congratulating each other on shooting a man in the eye! Even if one doesn’t know Arabic, it’s just disgusting and graphic to hear these officers cheer on the shooting and possibly killing civilians they are suppose to be protecting!

Thanks to social media and none to the many state-run new stations, Egyptians were made well aware of these attacks taking place in Tahrir Square. Solidarity protests took place in Alexandria, Suez and surrounding counties on Saturday and Sunday. There were reports of protesters sitting in at several police stations, ministry offices and outside SCAF facilities. The only major report came from Alexandria and Suez when riot police responded with tear gas.

Back in Tahrir Square on Sunday, the Imam of the Omar Makram Mosque tried to call a cease-fire between both sides when police on several occasions attacked the makeshift hospital in the square and inside the mosque. Many doctors carried the injured as they escaped the tear gas bombs. It didn’t last long for I received statements from people on the front lines that they were being attacked again after “the truce” lasted maybe 10 minutes! Many took refuge in near by churches, mosques and homes.

At the American University of Cairo (AUC) on the other side of Tahrir Square, several snipers were spotted on the rooftop shooting at the protesters below. Many protesters were able to escape tear gas bombs and bullets, both lethal and rubber. Again, many tweeted how they were having difficulty breathing and irritation in many parts of their bodies. Others saw many shot directly in the eye, head and neck including several dying on the scene. One very graphic photo shows a 23 year old man shot in the neck. Doctors in the makeshift hospital were unable to save him.

As of right now (Monday morning in Cairo, Sunday night in San Francisco), over 30 have been reported dead and at least 2,000 injured. This is with none stop violence since Friday night, almost 40 hours as I write this rant. What is happening in Egypt is not a second revolution because the first one never ended!

To stay up to date on the latest, please follow me on Twitter, Facebook as well as my updated Twitter list of all those tweeting from the front lines of not just Egypt but Yemen, Bahrain and Syria!

Combined Tactical Systems (CTB)
388 Kinsman Rd., Jamestown, PA 16134
Phone: 724.932.2177
Call your representatives today and ask them to stop supporting this company from selling these lethal tear gas products to SCAF in Egypt!!

Steve Jobs… Not An Obituary

Steve Jobs… Not An Obituary
By Ms. Hala
 

I am not the biggest fan of Apple products. I refuse to purchase the iPod, the iPhone or the iPad (but debating spending so much on a MacBook). I am the biggest fan of Steve Jobs. Why? Simply because he was to a great extent a business mogul, something I aspire to be one day.

Jobs will forever be remembered as the powerhouse behind Apple, the inventor of many life changing technologies and the reason many of today’s biggest tech companies are even in existence. He will be remembered for his failures before his successes.

I personally remember him for being able to smoothly rise up after each failure. Remember when Apple Computers dropped him in 1985? He rose up, dusted himself off and started all over. He launched NeXT Computers and later Pixar Animation Studios before returning again to Apple Computers in 1996 after the acquisition of NeXT Computers. Apple Computers then simply became Apple Inc. thanks to Jobs innovation and creativity beyond just computer design, including having his name on over 300 patents for the company.

The rest is history.

Seeing that everyone is discussing it on Facebook and Twitter, I wanted to be clear that as a Muslim Arab American, I don’t pride or care that Jobs biological father was a Muslim Arab. Why? It’s because I’m a firm believer that parents are those who raised, not those who birthed! Had Jobs unwed parents not given him up for adoption soon after his birth, would he have become the person he was? Would Apple have existed? Would any of these innovative technologies existed? I personally doubt it as I know Jobs had always been grateful to his family for their love and support.

I have to say, I’m blessed to have the love and support of my family, especially my mother. She’s the reason that I fell head over heals in love with computers. When I was in 5th grade, she signed me up for an after school computer class to learn how to type and navigate a computer. That class was in a small room of IBM PCs. Then when I was in 6th grade, my mother made sure that one of the classes I was taking was a computer class. It was there that I typed and sent my first email to a pen-pal. That class was in a small room of Apple MacIntoshes.

It was those simple courses that got me to type up to 65 wpm by the time I was a freshman at Abraham Lincoln High School. Most of my time in high school, I was using Apple Mac computers while using PCs at home. It was my experience using both Macs and PCs that got me some decent office jobs while other teens my age were working at fastfood restaurants. By the time I went to college, I had decided to be a computer science major, being in love with computers whilst inspired by the work of many innovators, including Steve Jobs.

Every time I started work on a project, hit a bump in the road and failed, I remember Jobs. I took my time to get up, go over what just happened, discuss with close people in my life, learn from them and be inspired as I planned my next steps. In 2003, Jobs talked about how great things in business were not done by one person, but were done by a team. That inspired me when I started freelancing two years later. I tackled a couple of projects with a team of like minded individuals rather then on my own. Honestly, it was much easier to get up after tripping over a bump in the road when a someone was there with their hand reached out to me.

As the world looks back at Jobs life, I realize how much in awe I was of him all these years. I started writing this post because I wanted to point out that as someone who is in awe of Jobs, there is one thing I dislike about his business. I’m sure you all know that the headquarters of Apple is in Cupertino, California but that doesn’t mean that’s where all the great gadgets are made. AlJazeera recently brought to light that most of Apple’s products such as the iPhone and the iPad are made in Foxconn manufacturing plants in China. Foxconn is secretly known as a sweatshop; with bad working environments, terrible treatment of employees and a company with an extensive record of employee suicides!

Watch AlJazeera English’s iProtest

I’m sure it’s not all Jobs doing alone, but being the CEO of Apple, I’m sure he has some kind of hand in it. As much as I agree with his message that one is to do something that will change the lives of others, I don’t agree that that should be done at the expense of others. As I was writing this post, Micheal Moore tweeted, “Devices made in sweatshops. We all use them. We use them at times for the greater good. Don’t think about where they come from.”

I do hope that the massive publicity of Jobs death today will bring awareness and much needed change to how Apple makes your next generation iPod, iPhone and iPad. I also hope that it continues to put us in awe of his determination, creativity and vision.

Rest in Peace Steve Jobs.

Egyptian Summer – Update?

I’m two months into my Egyptian summer now. I know, I promised to post blogs on my adventures here but with extremely slow internet in the country side where I’m spending most of my time, I opted to update via Twitter & Facebook. I’m still getting the hang of blogging via my Blackberry phone so please bare with me. (I’m extremely tempted to purchase a Blackberry Playbook. I know, I’m getting sucked into the tablet market but what can I do, I’m a nerd!)

In the meantime, everyone’s been asking me, how’s Tahrir Square? Sadly, I haven’t been allowed to go as of yet. Yes, for safety reasons, my father and cousins have not encouraged my passion to be part of the Egyptian protests. However, my other cousins and I have a plan of our own… let’s just hope it works.

Contagious Jasmine Revolution – ثورة الياسمين المعدية

Contagious Jasmine Revolution
ثورة الياسمين المعدية
By: Ms. Hala

 

It started with one youngMohamed ElBouazizi of Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia man. Mohamed ElBouazizi.

It started with one town. Sidi Bouzid.

It started with one nation. Tunisia.

It started with one day. December 17, 2010.

Mohamed Bouazizi, 26, was an unemployed college graduate. With limited prospects for employment of any kind, he took what he had and bought a fruit cart. It was his only source of income. However, the police was not so understanding when they either fined him due to permits or requested a bribe he couldn’t afford (conflicting reports), they also humiliated him. His cart was confiscated, destroyed before his eyes and in front of his humble customers. When following procedures in making a government complaint went to no avail, ElBouazizi was not able to bare it all. Not knowing simply what to do, ElBouazizi self immolated himself in Sidi Bouzid’s public on December 17, 2010.

ElBouazizi died January 3, 2011.

Tunisia, a tightly run police state in North Africa, has had the same president for almost 25 years. Zine ElAbidine Ben Ali. Ben Ali – who’s first name ironically translates to “the best of the worshipers” – was the nation’s only second president since it’s independence from France. Like other neighboring Arab nations, it’s a given that once one obtains power, they stayed in power for life. Their family & friends reap the benefits while the people struggle to obtain simple basic needs.

After Bouazizi’s self immolation, many of the Tunisian youth asked themselves, “how much longer can they live with such humiliation? When was enough enough?”

Tunisian Fist c/o unknownAnd the Jasmine Revolution begins.

Before long, Twitter, Facebook and other social media networks were ablaze with the young people organizing to have their voices heard. They, alongside their elder and younger generations, took to the streets chanting, striking and doing whatever it took to have their voices amplified. Despite the lack of journalistic broadcasts of their demands for their inherited rights and freedom, their voices did not go on deaf ears.

It took 29 days, clashes with police, enforced curfews and support for the world over before Ben Ali finally “understood” and fled to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Today, there is an Interpol warrant out for his and his family’s arrest for courroption, theft and crimes against humanity. Protests remain to ensure that Ben Ali’s dictatorship does not continue through his circle still holding on to their government seats.

Before ElBouazizi, there was Khaled Said.

c/o www.elshaheed.co.uk

Said, a 28 year old young man of Alexandria, Egypt, was brutally killed by police in public for unknown reasons (conflicting reports have stated that it was either due to Said posting a video online of these same police offices in a corrupt deal after a drug sting or that he defended such an individual these officers were after). Eye witnesses and individuals who tried to intervene state that the police men dragged Said into a residential building lobby where they brutally beat him. Even as he begged them for mercy, the officers banged Said’s head several times against concrete steps, walls & floor of the building. A very graphic picture of Said after the incident can be found here.

Said died on June 6, 2010.

After the story spread across the nation via social mediablogs and the people’s uproar of the well known and feared police’s treatment of Egyptian citizens, authorities finally issued for an investigation of the policemen to take place. They were only charged with unlawful arrest & use of excessive force.

60 percent of Egypt’s population, like Said, are under the age of 35 and have only known one president, Hosni Mubarak. After President Anwar ElSadat’s assassination in 1981, Mubarak was sworn into office. Since then, Egypt has seen a rise in unemployment (now around 45%), extensive censorships and many living on survival mode as poverty reached the millions.

Since his swearing in 1981, Mubarak has put Egypt under an extended emergency law. Under this law persecutions, tortures, beatings, jailing without trail and/or of being taken “وراء الشمس” (“behind the sun” is what Egyptians refer to when one is arrested for unknown reasons and never seen again) was allowed; and the nation lived in fear.

After Said’s death, much of the Egyptian youth asked themselves, “how much longer can we live in such fear? When is enough enough?”

With a few unsuccessful protests, other forms of protests via the internet took place since. The story of ElBouazizi made it beyond the Tunisian borders. The young people of the Arab world watched Tunisia in amazement, mainly via social media, and took notes. (See “Thank You Tunisia” for images)

Ben Ali fled Tunisia on January 14, 2011.

Egyptian Voice c/o unknown

Social media networks were already ablaze with young people of Egypt organizing to have their voices heard as well. A “Day of Rage” was organized to take place on Egypt’s National Police Day for them, alongside their elder and younger generations, take to the streets and do whatever it takes to have their voices as amplified as those of Tunisia’s own.

Egypt was diagnosed with the Jasmine Revolution on January 25, 2011. The rest is history being written.

Egypt’s Day of Rage – يوم الغضب في مصر

Egypt’s Day of Rage
يوم الغضب في مصر
By: Ms. Hala

 

UPDATED 27 Jan 2011: Egyptian authorities are threatening to block social media during the planned Million March on Friday. If you are in Egypt and are block, I ask that you email your tweets, pictures and videos to <hala.abdoun@gmail.com> or to other Egyptians outside of Egypt so that information is sent out in real time! I can also be reached via BBM (if it’s not blocked) using pin 22FAF461.

UPDATED 26 Jan 2011: I’ve set up a Showcase of Digital Solidarity with THE REVOLUTION event on Facebook to showcase our support to the massive marches that will be taking place this Friday (January 28th). I’ve also set up a Twitter List to follow on those tweeting the latest with the Arab Revolution. If you are on Facebook or Twitter, both links public where you can be added, share it, repost it and retweet it!! If you are on the grounds in Egypt, Tunisia, Palestine, Lebanon or elsewhere where a march is being organized, please msg me here or on Twitter.

Check below for updated videos and pictures…

In Egypt today, January 25th, (and ironically a national Police Day holiday) became the people’s Day of Rage. Egyptians took to the streets their rage and frustrations with President Hosni Mubarak’s 30 year reign, his regime’s curroption and the governments lack of any relation to the people. This was of course an encouraged inspiration after the successful uprising that took place in Tunisia on January 14th bringing down the 23 year reign of Zeen ElAbideen Ben Ali.

Below are some links, videos and pictures of Egypt’s Day of Rage and will continuously be updated here and via Twitter.

They may have blocked it from the media, the internet and cell phones, but they can’t block the people’s voices!! HAVE A VOICE!! With pride and solidarity for my people of Egypt… it’s about time!!

Protest in Pictures, courtesy of Youm7.com

Day of Rage Timeline, courtesy the Huffington Post

Latest Breaking News on Egypt Protests, courtesy of BreakingNews.com

 

 

to continuously be updated…