Eleven million Palestinians scattered around world

Updated 21 December 2012
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Eleven million Palestinians scattered around world

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: There are some 11 million Palestinians scattered around the world, including more than five million refugees living throughout the Middle East.
Their plight has made headlines in Syria, where the UN agency for Palestinian refugee UNRWA says as many as 100,000 Palestinians may have fled the Yarmuk refugee camp in Damascus in recent days because of fighting.
Thousands returned to the camp on Thursday despite sporadic gunfire.
On Wednesday, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas urged the international community to help those refugees fleeing fighting in camps in Syria to enter the West Bank and Gaza.
The fate of Palestinian refugees and their descendants is one of the most sensitive issues in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
It remains an emotive issue for Palestinians more than 60 years after many first fled during what they call the “Nakba” or “catastrophe” of their exodus during the fighting that followed Israel’s creation in 1948.
Around 760,000 fled or were forced from their homes during that time, followed by several hundreds of thousands more who left during the 1967 Six-Day War in which Israel captured east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.
The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics earlier this year put the Palestinian population living in the Palestinian territories at 4.29 million, with 2.65 million in the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, and 1.64 million in Gaza.
Another 1.4 Palestinians live in Israel and are often referred to as Arab Israelis. They have citizenship and now make up 20 percent of the Jewish state’s population.
Hundreds of thousands live in countries throughout the world, with large communities in the United States and several countries of Latin America.
According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), there are another five million Palestinian refugees and their descendants in the Middle East.
The number includes 850,000 in the West Bank, 1.2 million in Gaza, two million in Jordan, 525,000 in Syria and 450,000 in Lebanon.
Their living conditions and rights differ vastly from place to place, with Jordan the only Arab country to grant the population nationality.
In Lebanon, many professions are off-limits to Palestinians, who live in difficult conditions in refugee camps. Their situation in Syria had been comparatively comfortable, before the outbreak of violence in the country.
Palestinians are also present throughout much of the Gulf, where they began moving in the 1960s lured by the opportunity of employment.
The right of return for Palestinian refugees remains a key issue in peace negotiations with Israel.
UN General Assembly Resolution 194, adopted on December 11, 1948, stipulates that “the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date.”
It says that compensation should be paid for the property of those who do not want to return.
The Palestinians — backed by the Arab world — want Israel to recognize the principle of the right of return, with a detailed solution to be negotiated subsequently.
But Israel fears that this would open the door for a massive influx that could chance its character as a Jewish state.


Recent appointments in Egypt show rise of women to high political office in Mideast

The appointment of the women ministers may help to assuage disappointment about the make-up of the rest of the — all male — Cabinet.
Updated 21 June 2018
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Recent appointments in Egypt show rise of women to high political office in Mideast

  • Recent appointments in Egypt are the latest example of the rise of women to high political office in the region
  • “The men’s monopoly has been broken,” the Jordanian National Commission for Women declared in a celebratory statement which also praised the prime minister’s “clear position”

CAIRO, LONDON: The appointment of two more female ministers this month to the new Egyptian Cabinet means women now fill eight out of 34 positions, the highest number in the modern history of Egypt.

Hala Zayed is the new health minister while Yasmine Fouad takes over as environment minister. Both women replaced men and join culture minister Inas Abdel-Dayem, tourism minister Rania Al-Mashat, Nabila Makram (immigration minister) Ghada Wali (social solidarity minister), Hala El-Saeed (planning minister) and Sahar Nasr (minister of investment and international cooperation).
The appointments by Egypt’s new Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly have been welcomed as forward thinking by social and political commentators.
Dr. Magda Bagnied, a writer and professor of communication, told Arab News: “I believe whoever planned for those eight effective ministries was looking forward for the future of Egypt since they are all interconnected in some way, and having females leading them is a leap forward.
“A country’s rank and status is measured by the role of women. The higher the number of leadership roles for women, the further the country is considered to be on the road to development.”
Four out of 15 new deputy ministers are also women and women now hold 15 percent of the seats in Parliament.
The rise of women to high political office in the Arab world is by no means restricted to Egypt.
Jordan also has a record number of women ministers after Prime Minister-designate Omar Razzaz appointed seven women to the 29-member Cabinet sworn in last week.
“The men’s monopoly has been broken,” the Jordanian National Commission for Women declared in a celebratory statement which also praised the prime minister’s “clear position.”
The appointment of the women ministers may help to assuage disappointment about the make-up of the rest of the — all male — Cabinet.
Twenty-three members of the new Jordanian Cabinet have been ministers before and 13 were members of the outgoing government that was brought down by popular protest.
Rawan Joyoussi, whose posters became one of the defining images of the protests, said: “I was hoping that women would be empowered and I am happy with that. But as far as the composition of the rest of the government is concerned, I think we have to play our part to create the mechanisms that will hold the government accountable.”
In the UAE, women hold nine out of 31 ministerial positions, and one of them, Minister for Youth Shamma Al-Mazrui, is also the world’s youngest minister, appointed in 2016 when she was only 22.
This makes the UAE Cabinet nearly 30 percent female, which is higher than India, almost equal to the UK and far ahead of the US, where Donald Trump has just four women in his Cabinet.
The general election in Morocco in October 2016 produced 81 women members of Parliament, accounting for 21 percent of the total 395 seats. The Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD), which won the most votes, also ended up with the highest number of women MPs, 18.
Though elections in Saudi Arabia were open to women only in 2015, it ranks 100th out of 193rd in the world league table of women in national governing bodies, slightly above the US at 102nd place.
A policy briefing from the Brookings Institution think-tank in Washington says that one of the best ways for a country to ease economic pressure and boost productivity is to increase female participation in the workplace and in political life.
“Introducing diversity through gender parity will benefit economic growth and can help Arab countries to generate prosperity as well as the normative and social imperative of change,” wrote analyst Bessma Momani.
Yet in some parts of the Middle East, female representation seems to be going backward.
In 2009, four of Kuwait’s 65 MPs were women. In 2012 there were three and in 2013 only one. In 2016, 15 women stood for election to the 50 open parliamentary seats (the other 15 are appointed). Only one, Safa Al-Hashem, who was already an MP, was successful.
Qatar has no women MPs or ministers at all.
Egypt’s appointment of two more women ministers does not have the appearance of tokenism. The new Health Minister, Hala Zayed, 51, has a solid background in the field as a former president of the Academy of Health Sciences, a hospital specializing in cancer treatment for children.
She was also government adviser on health, chairwoman of a committee for combating corruption at the ministry she now heads and also has a Ph.d. in project management.
Similarly, Yasmeen Fouad, 43, the new environment minister, has four years’ experience as a former assistant minister in the same department, where she was known as “the lady for difficult missions,” and liaised with the UN. She is also an assistant professor of economics and political science at Cairo University.
Egypt’s first female minister was Hikmat Abu Zaid, appointed minister of social affairs in 1962 by President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who dubbed her “the merciful heart of revolution.”
Now there are eight like her, demonstrating that in the Middle East, “girl power” is on the rise.