Russia will ‘fail to save’ Assad, says Al-Jubeir

Updated 15 February 2016

Russia will ‘fail to save’ Assad, says Al-Jubeir

RIYADH: Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said Sunday that Russia’s efforts to support Syrian President Bashar Assad will not succeed in keeping him in power.
Jubeir told a press conference in Riyadh that previous efforts to prop up Assad, including by Iran, had “failed.”
“Now, (Assad) has sought the help of Russia, which will fail to save him,” he said, urging Moscow to “end its air operations against the moderate Syrian opposition.”
Russia, Assad’s closest ally alongside Iran, began conducting airstrikes in September, targeting mainly rebels backed by the West, according to US officials.
Analysts believe that Russia’s military intervention in Syria has given Assad a new lease of life and has also deeply alarmed the West.
But Al-Jubeir said that “it is impossible for a man behind the killing of 300,000 innocent people... to remain” in power.
Assad’s departure “is a matter of time... sooner or later, this regime will fall, opening the way for building a new Syria without Bashar Assad,” he said .
He urged the Syrian regime to “immediately allow the entry of humanitarian assistance to all parts of Syria, end military attacks on innocent civilians... (and) begin a political transition in Syria.”
A 17-nation Syria Support Group, co-chaired by Russia and the United States, agreed on Friday to seek a “cessation of hostilities” within a week and dramatically ramp up humanitarian access to besieged towns.
Critics have said the deal is hobbled by the fact it does not include “terrorist” groups such as the Daesh group and the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra, leaving room for Russia to continue attacks by claiming it is targeting jihadists.
The agreement followed a major offensive by Syrian government forces, backed by heavy Russian bombing and Iranian troops, on the rebel stronghold of Aleppo.

Saudi troop deployment in Syria
On the planned deployment of Saudi special forces in Syria, Al-Jubeir said it will depend on a decision by the US-led coalition fighting Daesh (Islamic State) militants.
“The Kingdom’s readiness to provide special forces to any ground operations in Syria is linked to a decision to have a ground component to this coalition against Daesh in Syria — this US-led coalition — so the timing is not up to us,” he said.
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Friday he expected both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to send special operations forces to Syria to help local opposition fighters in their drive to retake the city of Raqqa, Daesh’s de facto capital in Syria.
Saudi Arabia on Saturday confirmed it had sent aircraft to NATO-member Turkey’s Incirlik air base for the fight against Daesh militants
Al-Jubeir said the timing of the mission or size of troops has yet to be worked out.
Major powers agreed in Munich on Friday to a pause in combat in Syria, but Russia pressed on with bombing in support of Assad, its ally. Assad has promised to fight until he regains full control of the country.
US President Barack Obama has ruled out sending US ground troops to Syria. But Turkey said that both Ankara and Riyadh would support a coalition ground operation.


A Saudi app that promotes Arabic reading

Updated 23 min 38 sec ago

A Saudi app that promotes Arabic reading

  • Lamsa was launched in Saudi Arabia in 2012
  • It provides an innovative way of motivating children to learn

DUBAI: The most crucial year in a child’s education may be the age of 8, or third grade, according to a study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.The organization, which focuses on improving the wellbeing of American children, found this to be the developmental phase when children transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”

The research also established that third graders who lack proficiency in reading are four times as likely to become high-school dropouts.

The significance of this pivotal point in early childhood development is what drives Badr Ward, CEO of Arabic edutainment app Lamsa, to develop innovative ways of motivating kids in the Arab world to read and learn in their language.

“If we don’t encourage reading at that age, we could be taking the risk of them having a life-long issue with catching up,” Ward said.

Since children already spend a considerable amount of their time on connected devices, Ward is convinced that edutainment — media designed to educate through entertainment — is the best way to make screen time “relevant and meaningful.”

Badr Ward, CEO of Lamsa. (Supplied Photo)

Launched in Saudi Arabia in 2012, Lamsa provides an ad-free platform featuring animated literature, rhymes, songs, interactive games and educational videos in Arabic for children aged between 2 and 8.

Ward said: “We have to face reality. Education systems across the world are legacy systems. Whether we like it or not, technology has changed the way we consume information. Children today have access to devices from the moment they are born. So whether it’s reading on paper or e-books or interactive storytelling, we need to look at encouraging them to read, and to love to read and learn.”

Ward explains that much like a favorite teacher impacts a child’s interest in a subject, edutainment has a significant effect on their curiosity about a topic.

He modelled the characters in the edutainment app after his daughter Joory and son Adam, whose lack of interest in reading prompted him to start Lamsa.

Ward sought advice from his friend Leonard Marcus, an author, historian and expert on English language children’s literature. Marcus recommended taking the kids to a comic book store and letting them explore without forcing them to buy anything.

“So I did that,” Ward said. “We went to the comic book store, and I let them roam around. They were fascinated by the images.”

“Arabic is not just a language. It’s so important for children to understand their heritage and culture.”

Badr Ward, CEO of Arabic edutainment app Lamsa

He then asked his kids if they wanted anything, and they asked to have some of the comics. “In the evening, I found my children opening the comic book and just laughing,” he said.

“Because of that start three years ago, they can’t let go of books now.”

Ward said seeing the power of images and illustrations has made him support using pictures to captivate children.

The lack of quality and culturally relevant educational material in Arabic remains a challenge, he said. For this reason, Lamsa’s content library has been developed to celebrate Arabic not just as a language but as a source of heritage, culture, literature, music and food. The app team works in partnership with Arab authors, illustrators and organizations.

“Arabic is not just a language,” Ward said, adding that for Arab children everywhere, understanding cultural context is crucial to their values, beliefs and identity.

“It’s so important in the development of children to have a clear understanding of where they come from. In order to establish understanding of other cultures and learn tolerance, you need to start with your own. It’s fundamental to confidence, identity and heritage.”

 

 The Middle East Exchange is one of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Global Initiatives that was launched to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai in the field of humanitarian and global development, to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region. The initiative offers the press a series of articles on issues affecting Arab societies.