Zain’s anti-terror Ramadan advert goes viral, divides Internet

Zain’s anti-terror Ramadan advert goes viral, divides Internet
The ad makes apparent reference to Omran Daqneesh, who grabbed the world’s attention when he was photographed sitting dazed and bloodied in the back of an ambulance in Aleppo. (YouTube)
Updated 01 June 2017

Zain’s anti-terror Ramadan advert goes viral, divides Internet

Zain’s anti-terror Ramadan advert goes viral, divides Internet

Kuwaiti telecommunications giant Zain has found itself at the center of a social media storm following the release of a Ramadan commercial that aims to promote peace and tolerance.

 

The three-minute video featuring Emirati pop star Hussain Al-Jassmi has already exceeded 2.4 million views on Zain’s YouTube page and more than 4,000 shares on Facebook.

 

But it has found itself under attack because of its apparent reference to the case of the 5-year-old Syrian boy Omran Daqneesh. 

 

The commercial, which was created by Joy Productions in Kuwait, features images from bombings across the region claimed by Al-Qaeda or Daesh.

 

It features footage of the 2016 Karrada bombing in Baghdad, in which more than 300 people lost their lives; the 2015 bombing of the Imam Al-Sadiq mosque in Kuwait; and the aftermath of an attack on a wedding in Amman that killed 36 people in 2005. Ibrahim Abdulsalam, who was injured in the Kuwait mosque blast, makes a brief appearance in the Zain commercial, as does Haidar Jabar Nema, who lost his son in the Baghdad bombing, and Nadia Al-Alami, the bride at the wedding in Amman.

 

However, the young boy Daqneesh — who grabbed the world’s attention when he was photographed sitting dazed and bloodied in the back of an ambulance in Aleppo — survived an airstrike by Syrian or Russian planes, according to reports at the time, and not an attack by Daesh militants. This has led to the (Arabic) hashtag #zaindistortsthetruth quickly appearing on Twitter. 

 

“The Zain advert uses the child Omran’s picture as a victim of a jihadist group, thereby hiding the crimes of Assad and the regime and exploiting the image of victims to benefit their murderer,” wrote Ahmed Abazeid on Twitter. “This ad is with terror not against it.”

 

Also on Twitter, Lina Shamy posted a video in which she said Zain was exploiting the suffering of the Syrian people. “You forgot about the main terrorist, the man wearing a suit,” she said. “If you only want to see bearded men as terrorists in Syria that’s up to you. But for you to use the image of Omran is an additional crime… We demand that Zain apologizes publicly and officially to the Syrian people who have suffered so much in their quest for freedom.”

 

WATCH: 'Worship your God with love, not terror', says viral video advert

Zakaria Nassani, a Dubai-based news producer, went a step further, demanding that the commercial be removed. “Omran, like thousands of children, is a victim of Assad terror and not ISIS,” he wrote, using ‘ISIS’ as another name for the terror group Daesh. “We demand that Zain… remove your ad.” Zain did not immediately respond to a request for comment when contacted by Arab News.

 

There has also been widespread praise for the commercial, with many lauding its message of love. The words “Worship your God with love, not terror” are central to the ad, which depicts a would-be suicide bomber being confronted by the faithful.

 

Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi, a commentator on Arab affairs, wrote: “What a beautiful ad on counter violence & extremism. Only Kuwait could do this.”

 

Tahaab Rais, regional head of strategic planning at advertising agency FP7/MENA, explained that brands that make a stand on important issues are bound to be applauded as well as vilified.

 

“The (Middle East and North Africa) region is often portrayed as a region of doom and gloom,” said Rais. “So, whenever a brand takes a stance against a societal or cultural issue, especially one that’s beyond its day-to-day job of selling its products or supporting its CSR (corporate social responsibility) strategy, it will attract attention. And it will have people who love it and people who vilify it. The latest Zain ad does just that. 

 

“I posted the ad on my Facebook when it first came out and the range of comments have been pretty insightful, especially as everyone is entitled to their opinion on social media. 

 

“What I found interesting on a professional level was the brand’s attempt to portray the region as a region of light against the doom and gloom surrounding it. It portrayed its people as believers in peace versus believers in violence. And what I felt was interesting on a personal level was the brand’s attempt to demonstrate, to the world, how the religion that is so misunderstood… is a religion that believes in peace, in conversations and in humanity — not in killing innocents, not in constant violence and not in inhumanity. 

 

“Could the execution have been more accurate in certain situations, less playful... and less exploitative of certain situations? Definitely. Yes. And the creators should have paid more attention to the details that people have been offended by and criticized them on. 

 

“Having said that, 2.4 million views (a lot of them organic), a good average time spent per views, 46,900 likes versus 3,500 dislikes and many shares, tells us that the message has resonated positively with the majority. 

 

“The religion says that if one kills a man, it is as if that person has killed all of mankind. Guess what? A lot of people talking about the ad on my social media channels and via Facebook inbox messages are people from abroad who are applauding the brand for shining light upon the misrepresented religion and the misrepresented region. This aspect of influencing social commentary and misperceptions is what has helped this travel regionally and internationally.”

 

The Egyptian journalist Kareem Shaheen agreed. “I think it’s a bit simplistic and I don’t think they made the right call creatively with some elements of the ad and the dramatization of Omran Daqneesh (though I think the criticism based on the fact that he was wounded in a regime attack and not an attack by a terror group doesn’t make sense to me — I’m sure the team behind the ad knows this and made a deliberate point to equate all forms of terrorism against civilians),” he wrote on Facebook.

 

“I like that different elements of society are making an effort to creatively counter extremism. I like the emphasis on the victims of terrorism. I like the reclamation of ‘Allahu Akbar’ as being God is greater than your terrorism… I like the idea of a larger effort to ostracize extremist thought as incompatible with decency and modern society.”

 


Egypt to receive AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson vaccines next week

Egypt to receive AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson vaccines next week
Updated 14 sec ago

Egypt to receive AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson vaccines next week

Egypt to receive AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson vaccines next week

CAIRO: Egyptian Minister of Health and Population Hala Zayed announced on Thursday the Egypt will receive shipments of AstraZeneca’s and Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccinations next week. The jabs will be distributed across the country, Zayed said.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is being provided in cooperation with the COVAX facility, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund, Khaled Mujahid, assistant minister of health, explained, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is being provided in cooperation with the African Union.

As part of the health ministry's plan to expand the provision of vaccines, it is also scheduled to receive the Pfizer vaccine later this month, and will distribute one million doses of the Sinovac vaccine over the next two weeks, Mujahid said.

Centers have been allocated to vaccinate those who want to travel abroad, he added, with 126 centers across the country equipped for data registration and the printing of certificates with QR codes.

He said vaccination reservations can be made through the ministry’s website and that an appointment for vaccination will be provided within 72 hours of registration.

Egypt has ordered around 120 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, and production of around a million doses of the Sinovac vaccine has already begun at Egypt's Holding Company for Biological Products and Vaccines (VACSERA) factory in preparation to begin vaccinating citizens in August.

VACSERA is scheduled to produce more than 200 million doses of the vaccine by the end of this year — enough to achieve the government’s goal of vaccinating 40 million citizens and allocating surplus doses for export to regional allies.


Egypt, Italy demand quick exit of mercenaries from Libya

Egypt, Italy demand quick exit of mercenaries from Libya
Updated 49 min 51 sec ago

Egypt, Italy demand quick exit of mercenaries from Libya

Egypt, Italy demand quick exit of mercenaries from Libya
  • Egypt and Italy say mercenary groups and foreign forces should leave Libya without delay
  • Egypt, Italy welcome opening of the coastal road between Sirte and Misrata

CAIRO: Egypt and Italy have demanded that foreign forces and mercenaries leave Libya without delay, and welcomed the opening of the coastal road between Sirte and Misrata.

This came during a phone call between Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio.

The two sides discussed several regional issues, especially the developments in Libya and Tunisia.

A statement by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said that Di Maio briefed Shoukry on the overall results of his recent visit to Libya and his meetings with various parties there.

It added that Shoukry stressed the importance of fulfilling the roadmap approved by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum and UN Security Council Resolution 2570, regarding holding presidential and parliamentary elections on their scheduled date in December, with the need for all foreign forces and mercenaries to leave Libya immediately.

He also welcomed the step taken to open the coastal road between Sirte and Misrata.

Regarding Tunis, Shoukry stressed the importance of supporting stability and the legitimate aspirations of the people there, adding that Egypt stood in solidarity with all measures taken by President Qais Saeed to preserve the integrity of state institutions and overcome the delicate situation in the country.


Areas of Iraqi province lose power after attack on pylons

Areas of Iraqi province lose power after attack on pylons
Updated 05 August 2021

Areas of Iraqi province lose power after attack on pylons

Areas of Iraqi province lose power after attack on pylons
  • "Terrorist elements" using "explosive devices" carried out attacks on 13 pylons over the past 48 hours, said the electricity ministry
  • Provincial authorities distributed photos showing the damaged pylons

SAMARRA, Iraq: Iraq’s northern Salaheddin province was left partially without power after “terrorists” blew several pylons, the government said Thursday, as increasing attacks add to the strain on Iraq’s electricity network.
“Terrorist elements” using “explosive devices” carried out attacks on 13 pylons over the past 48 hours, the electricity ministry said in a statement.
Provincial authorities distributed photos showing the damaged pylons.
Several districts in Salaheddin have since been without power, including some neighborhoods in Samarra, one of the province’s largest cities, an AFP correspondent said.
Unclaimed attacks on Iraq’s electricity network have been increasing since the start of summer.
Authorities normally accuse “terrorists” of being behind the attacks, without identifying a particular group.
Oil-rich Iraq produces just 16,000 megawatts of power — far below the 24,000 megawatts needed, and even further from the expected future needs of a country whose population is set to double by 2050, according to the UN.
The country buys gas and electricity from neighboring Iran to supply about a third of its power sector, which has been worn down by years of conflict and poor maintenance, and is unable to meet the needs of the country’s 40 million population.
Last month, areas in the country’s south were plunged into darkness for several days after a series of similar attacks.
Around the same time, Iran briefly suspended its gas and electricity exports because of Iraq’s failure to pay a $6 billion energy debt.
The US blacklisted Iran’s energy industry in late 2018 as it ramped up sanctions, but has granted Baghdad a series of temporary waivers, hoping that Iraq would wean itself off Iranian energy.
The failure of Iraq’s power system is particularly acute in the baking hot summer months, often a time of social protest exacerbated by electricity shortages, when temperatures shoot past 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit).
Energy consultant Harry Istepanian said factors contributing to Iraq’s energy crisis included not only the Iranian export suspension but also a “lack of enough generation capacity and fuel supply, lack of maintenance of the existing generation units, high demand... high technical and commercial losses, vandalism and sabotage.”


Lebanon's Mikati says slow progress achieved toward forming government

Lebanon's Mikati says slow progress achieved toward forming government
Updated 05 August 2021

Lebanon's Mikati says slow progress achieved toward forming government

Lebanon's Mikati says slow progress achieved toward forming government

Lebanon's OPM designate Mikati says slow progress achieved toward forming government after meeting president.


Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz threatens Iran with military action

The comments by Benny Gantz (pictured) come as Israel meanwhile lobbies countries for action at the United Nations over last week’s attack on the oil tanker Mercer Street that killed two people. (Reuters/File Photo)
The comments by Benny Gantz (pictured) come as Israel meanwhile lobbies countries for action at the United Nations over last week’s attack on the oil tanker Mercer Street that killed two people. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 05 August 2021

Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz threatens Iran with military action

The comments by Benny Gantz (pictured) come as Israel meanwhile lobbies countries for action at the United Nations over last week’s attack on the oil tanker Mercer Street that killed two people. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • Gantz responded to whether Israel was prepared to attack Iran with a blunt “yes”

TEL AVIV: Israel’s defense minister warned Thursday that his country is prepared to strike Iran, issuing the threat against the Islamic Republic after a fatal drone strike on a oil tanker at sea that his nation blamed on Tehran.
The comments by Benny Gantz come as Israel meanwhile lobbies countries for action at the United Nations over last week’s attack on the oil tanker Mercer Street that killed two people. The tanker, struck off Oman in the Arabian Sea, is managed by a firm owned by an Israeli billionaire.
The US and the United Kingdom similarly blamed Iran for the attack, but no country has offered evidence or intelligence to support their claims. Iran, which along with its regional militia allies has launched similar drone attacks, has denied being involved.
Speaking to the news website Ynet, Gantz responded to whether Israel was prepared to attack Iran with a blunt “yes.”
“We are at a point where we need to take military action against Iran,” Gantz said. “The world needs to take action against Iran now.”
Iran did not immediately respond to Gantz’s comments. However, in a letter Wednesday to the UN Security Council, its chargé d’affaires in New York described Israel as “the main source of instability and insecurity in the Middle East and beyond for more than seven decades.”
“This regime has a long dark record in attacking commercial navigation and civilian ships,” Zahra Ershadi wrote. “In less than two years, this regime has attacked over 10 commercial vessels carrying oil and humanitarian goods destined to Syria.”
Ershadi’s comments refer to an ongoing shadow war being waged on Mideast waterways since 2019 that has seen both Iranian and Western-linked ships attacked.
Last week’s attack killed the vessel’s Romanian captain as well as a British crew member who worked for Ambrey, a maritime security firm. In a statement Thursday, Ambrey identified the victim as Adrian Underwood, a former soldier in the British Army who started at the firm as a maritime security officer in 2020 before becoming a team leader.
“We continue to be in contact with Adrian’s family to offer support at this sad and difficult time,” said John Thompson, Ambrey’s management director.
The attacks began a year after then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, which saw Iran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. President Joe Biden has said he’s willing to rejoin the accord, but talks over salvaging the deal have stalled in Vienna.