Tag Archives: government

Living the Confused Expatriate Life – Part 1 of a Few

Dear Faithful Readers,

Thank you all for your kind messages after noticing my absence for the last month. It’s been rough living with limited access at my place and working hard to prove myself at this new turn in my career. I have been writing a lot, believe me! I’ve written a few parts about my expatriate life in Qatar. Let’s start it off with the piece I wrote about identity…

Living the Confused Expatriate Life
Part 1 of a Few… Identity
By: Ms. Hala

I have lived the expatriate life here in Qatar for over 8 months now. There’s still a few bumps in the road to smooth out but overall, life is good. I’m enjoying my very busy and challenging job in a new industry. I’m apartment hunting for a third time now that my temp rent will be up soon. I’m following my 2013 resolution to a tee thus far… so life is good! Oh, did I mention I’m a legal resident of Qatar now? Oh yes baby I am! Got my residency permit a couple of weeks ago, now I can do stuff like get a monthly mobile phone service… hehehe Yes, mobile not cell… I’m catching on to the popular Euro lingo here. 😉

However, living this expatriate life comes with a couple of interesting confusions. Maybe I just lived in this wonderful tolerant city that is San Francisco to have to deal with this identity confusion that I’m dealing with now. I’m a Muslim Egyptian American expatriate who talks in a lovely California accent but “looks” and talks Arabic like an Egyptian. Confusing much? Apparently so!

When I first took on my new job, the grapevines of the office announced there’s an American among them. Aside from the fact that everyone thought the American was getting paid a bazillion dollars (that’s another entry, I promise you!), no one could tell whom the American was. Many didn’t realize until I started talking to everyone, introducing myself and getting the question, “Where’s your accent from?”

Say Whaaat?
Say Whaaat?

I reply, “I’m American”.

“Really?”

“Yes, I’m from Calfornia.”

“How long did you live there?”

“Born and raised.”

“Wow…”

“Uh huh…”

The major problem in Qatar is that everyone here is labeled based on their nationality. Even those born and raised in Qatar don’t even get a Qatar citizenship. They do get treated like Qataris with regards to “Qatarization” but aside from that, they are not even legally Qatari.

There’s this thinking that one or the other has a look, has a personality, has a way of thinking or a way of doing… and everyone’s judging you based mostely on those ideologies and stereotypes. There are so many ridiculous notions about every ethnicity out here, it’s unbelievable.

Let’s start with being an American girl and how exhausting it is to overcome that terrible stereotype. What’s the stereotype here about American girls you ask? Drum roll please… American girls have non-stop wild parties, get drunk all the time and the rest is flushed down a toilet in the morning. Mind you, many conservative expatriates here have come to this conclusion from the many movies and television shows that “always show you American girls drinking and having crrrazy parties.”

*sighing and shaking my head*

Finding an apartment under the American girl banner has simply been the most annoying experience of my life, twice! Having to do it so many times now is just torture at this point. I’m repeatedly asked where I’m from and have to answer with Egypt just to get a viewing appointment. Once they see my “Egyptian look” but hear my “berfect ingelesh”, I get asked, “Where are you from, exactly?” After going through an identity explanation, I have to further explain that the idea that us American girls are drunk party animals is just plain false. I’ve even had to emphasis that family will be joining me in Qatar permanently just so that they don’t think I will be in fact living alone and using this “extra space” for my wild parties.

*sighing angrily*

During my time as a temporary English instructor, I was asked to take on a group of young children. To my hesitation, I accepted and on the first day, disaster. One of the parents whom signed up his very disrespectful son only signed him up because it was exclaimed that the instructor was an American lady. Seeing that I wasn’t up to par, the Egyptian expatriate bee lined it to the director’s office exclaiming false advertisement. What did he expect? A tall blonde woman like the Americans he sees on television. Upon hearing this, I rolled my eyes and walked away before the ghetto San Francisco girl in me came out to bitch slap the stupid outta him!

I’m trying my best to overcome this stupid ideology that I can only be either Egyptian or American. I had an argument with an Egyptian fellow a while back over a remark I found quite offensive. He went on to say, “oh, is your American turned on? I forgot you don’t get some of our jokes.” I didn’t even know we could switch between our bicultural identities… WTF? Apparently, there’s a stupid stereotype about bicultural Americans, especially Arabs… Those whom hold an American citizenship think they are better than everyone else, act like they don’t get some traditional lingo and will use their American identity for beneficial purposes. As a first generation born Arab American, this stereotype is so far from the truth, you’ve got to wait for the six o’clock train to get there! Half my family from both sides hold an American citizenship after immigrating from Egypt in the early 70’s and 80’s. They’ve all worked tirelessly, raised their children and grandchildren, paid their taxes, contributed to the American society just like any other immigrant family from any corner of the world. They all deserve the same respect as every other American out there.

I’ve learned over time that I’m not alone in this odd confusion. The citizens of Qatar themselves are also in this weird situation where stereotypes about them isn’t only false, but many act upon it to the point of disgraceful. The stereotypes about Qataris… they are extremely conservative, snubby, spoiled and unkind individuals seeing all others as second class citizens. Not only is this stupidity far from the truth, but many dress in traditional Qatari attire in an attempt to act upon these stereotypes and intimidate others. Yes, this includes bullying people on road to outrageous behavior towards others… just disgraceful!

On New Year’s Eve, a Qatari lady was discriminated against for, get this, looking and dressing Qatari… WTF? According to Doha News, a Qatari lady was not allowed into a hotel restaurant on the said day because it was deemed inappropriate for Qatari ladies to attend. Again, WTF? Sadly, this this happens a lot across Qatar.

I must say however, for the most part, Qataris are the complete opposite of these stereotypes just like any other ethnicity being treated according to whatever stereotype is drawn up of them. Qataris are quite polite, kind and generous. They may be wealthy but not many act like it’s their forsaken right to the wealth or OK the ill treatment upon others.

An interesting example I see all the time: in Qatar, you are not to fuel your own vehicle (similar to the law in New Jersey), you are to stay in your vehicle or go to the many shops at the station while an station employee fuels your vehicle. On any given day, as I sit comfortably while another fuels my car, I’ll see a Qatari gentleman step out of his vehicle, have a small talk conversation with the employee fueling and washing down his car, before tipping and driving off. Every time I see that scene, I see the employee with a huge smile on his face. Many of these employees can use the extra tip for phone cards to call home or even save up for an occasion.

Other times, I hear of stories of how someone had their tires blown out and a Qatari pulled over in their designer attire to help out hands on. That I’ve personally experienced personally when I had my car accident. Yes, people from various backgrounds pulled over and offered to help but I gotta say, the Qataris were the ones whom stepped out of their vehicles, yelled at the rude police officer on my behalf and moved my car because, “She’s a lady and should be treated with respect.” Chivalry is still alive and kicking! Even the Qatari police officers at the police station gave it to the non-Qatari police officer for discriminating against me because I was American. “That doesn’t matter, she’s still a lady, have some manners brother!” Thank you. =)

I do have to admit that my identity has brought up many a  funny conversations.

At an event a few months ago, I was blessed to meet some wonderful people. One of them was an elder businessman whom owns one of Egypt’s first timeshare businesses. We got to talking business until I mentioned how the timeshare business in the USA works. Once I stated that yes, I was an Egyptian American, he just stared at me. “And you wear hijab?” I couldn’t stop laughing before it was like, man you just opened Pandora’s box! I went on and on about the wonderful community that is the Muslim American community; from the San Francisco Islamic School where I volunteered to the advocacy work of CAIR to the masjids where I’ve prayed at. I had to stop myself at one point because I realized I was missing my community to the brink of tears.

I know Qatar is trying really hard to create a tolerant, diverse and welcoming community. I know it will not happen over night and not by one feeling superior or the other feeling intimidated. I see the problem in Qatar as people coming from the many corners of the world with ignorant, close-minded and/or just confused and conflicted as I am. The thing is, it’s going to take a long time before the ignorant to be educated, the close-minded to be tolerant and the confused to take it all in one day at a time.

I’m in the process still of taking it all in, one day at a time.

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!!

FREE AL-MOLOUHY NOW!!

In 2009, Syrian government arrested 17 year old Tal Al-Molouhy for posting “anti-government” sentiments on her blog. Later she was charged for spying for the USA for a post where she asks US President Barack Obama to do more in support of the Palestinean cause.

Today, now 19 years old, Al-Molouhy was taken to court in blindfolded and in chains to receive a 5 year sentence.

This is NOT acceptable!! Please sign this online petition to help voice your solidarity with Al-Molouhy and demand her release!

More information on Al-Molouhy’s case will be posted here as well as via Twitter.

Sources: Reuters Africa

In Search of #Jan25 Missing & Detained

Below is a message from fellow tweeter Ruwaydah as we try to collect and search for those still missing/detained since January 25th in Egypt. If you have ANY information on ANY missing or detained persons, PLEASE post a comment, email me or send Ruwaydah or myself a tweet ASAP! We’ll assure the information is sent to the appropriate people and news sources to help assist in the search!

This link has a list of those missing. Please check it to see if you know the whereabouts of any of those.

Thank you kindly, in solidarity

Ms. Hala & Ruwaydah

—–

This is a sincere call to all activists in Egypt to collectively help our Brothers and Sisters. In the past few days we have been united, Christian, Muslim, Atheist and agnostic towards a common goal to bring democracy, freedom and liberty within our society.

In the process the Government has responded harshly, many dead, injured and dozens kidnapped. In order to help those kidnapped and in particular their families we are trying to get in touch with them. Unfortunately we don’t have their contact numbers, so we can’t get in touch with them.

If you know someone who is missing and is willing to talk about it to news channels, we urgently need you to get in contact with us. It is essential that those arrested/kidnapped are helped and not left alone.

Please leave a comment, or send an email. We are here to help those detained/kidnapped and we want to get them out.

—–

The following link below showcases an unidentified martyr from the Egyptian protests. If you or someone you know recognizes this person, please let us know so that we may try to assist.  http://bit.ly/g1iKc2

.الرابط التالي يعرض علينا شهيد مجهول الهوية من الاحتجاجات المصرية. إذا كنت أنت أو أي شخص تعرف هذا الشخص، واسمحوا لنا أن نعرفه حتى نتمكن من محاولة مساعدة

http://bit.ly/g1iKc2

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…

Fear Not the Unemployment Rate

According to Sify News today, the unemployment rate in the nation is currently at 9.7%, the highist in 26 years. That’s with the job cuts being at it’s lowest this year, with 216,000 labor jobs cut in August.

What do these numbers mean? First of all, the unemployment rate is higher because it’s including those who did not find jobs from the months before. It is also high because blue collar jobs such as construction (with 65,000 job cuts) and manufacturing (with 63,000 job cuts) are being cut at a faster rate then white collar jobs, with the exception of the financial institutions (with 28,000 job cuts).

However, this report should not scare anyone. For one, the Department of Labor is working to bring in more jobs and make the job cuts even lower next month according to Secretary Hilda Solis. Remember that the stimulus package is slowly starting to fund many infrastructure projects which will help the construction sector. I do believe the government needs to mandate the overseas job sourcing for cheap labor. However, that idea will have to wait for another blog.

What can you do when you hear something like this? What ever you do, DO NOT PANIC! You would be surprised how many jobs are available out there, especially in many metro areas such as San Francisco Bay Area, New York City, Houston and Miami. At least in San Francisco where I live, companies are going out of their way to not have any layoffs, but pay cuts so that their employees maintain their jobs. You will have to work harder then just posting your resume on an online job board. You’ll have to expand on your network, utilize the social media and even make a few cold calls. Organize your time as to what your tasks are in order to get back into the work force. Something as simple as looking up templates to perfect your resume can do you a lot of good in the near future.

Functional Resume Template

Chronological Resume Template

If you are self employeed as I am, you will have it tougher getting those contracts when businesses are on a strict budget. If you are willing to take on part-time job or even a second job along side your freelance work, I recommend you do so. I also recommend to all my job seekers to take refresher courses in their fields at their local community colleges. If you used to work in the construction or manufacturing sectors, I recommend going back for higher education in another feild or even a certification in a similar sector. It is never to late to pick up new skills that could even help you improve the skills you already have. The Department of Education is encouraging it if anything, they are helping fund it! I had much of my BSBA student loans bought out by the DoE at an extremely low interest rate!

In short, there is much hope in getting back into the workforce by doing your research, organizing your job search tasks, as well as going back to school. Until next time, fear not the unemployment rate reported, stay positive as you continue to work towards your goal.

Happy Labor Day!