Brexit voters turn their backs on Mideast

Brexit voters turn their backs on Mideast
Updated 25 September 2017

Brexit voters turn their backs on Mideast

Brexit voters turn their backs on Mideast

LONDON: The majority of Britons have limited knowledge about the Arab world and many have little or no interest in learning more, a survey has found.
Eight in 10 Brits polled said they know little or nothing about the Arab world, while 52 percent of those who voted to leave the EU said they would never visit the Middle East, according to an Arab News/YouGov survey of over 2,000 UK citizens.
The poll, conducted in August, found that half of those who voted to remain in the bloc said they were interested in learning more about the Arab world, compared to just 25 percent of “leave” voters.
Stefan Sperl, senior lecturer in Arabic at the London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), said “a new kind of inward-looking mentality” had been reinforced by the vote to leave the EU.
“Brexit is a symptom of this,” he said. “The new nationalism is not linked to Britain, you find it everywhere, this is a globalized phenomenon we are facing.”
Many of those polled in the “UK attitudes toward the Arab world” survey subscribed to certain stereotypes, associating Arab culture with strict gender roles (52 percent) extremism and violence (23 percent and 14 percent respectively).
“Media reporting focuses more on these issues and much less on real day-to-day life in these countries. We are facing the problem that whatever is newsworthy is always more negative,” said Sperl.
“When it comes to the position of women especially, the image conveyed is too influenced by the negative,” he added. “In some Arab countries, women are a major part of the workforce and fully engaged in public life but these issues are much less known.”
“For people whose knowledge of the Middle East derives from what they see in the news, these points will be paramount.”

A majority of Brits interviewed in the survey also associated the region with vast wealth while just 6 percent linked it with poverty, regardless of large-scale migration and the impact of wars on the region.
Visible symbols of Middle Eastern affluence throughout London, such as the supercar-driving visitors to the Knightsbridge area, and high-profile property purchases, are likely to have driven the image of the wealthy Gulf Arab.
“It’s another source of misunderstanding,” said Sperl.
“The association with wealth is very understandable as the visibility here is very much slanted towards one particular reality. But if anything it diminishes any kind of empathy people might have with what is going on in the region.”
This has not necessarily detracted from the willingness of the British public to support humanitarian causes across the region, other commentators said.
“What we’ve consistently seen is generosity of spirit from the British public and I think if anything people are proud of the role that British aid can play in crises in the Arab world and beyond,” said Ruairidh Villar, senior media manager at Save the Children UK.
Despite only 18 percent of Brits saying they have visited the Arab world, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries remain popular with visitors from the UK, commentators said.
“In terms of business and tourism, we’re not seeing a change in attitudes in the bigger GCC markets,” said Andrew Campbell, managing director for the Middle East at Brand Finance, a London-based consultancy. “There’s been no deterioration in the strength of GCC brands from a British perspective,” he added.
Figures shared with Arab News by Euromonitor International showed that the UK remains a strong source market for the UAE in particular, accounting for 8 percent of visitors to the Emirates in 2015, which marked a 12 percent increase in the number of arrivals from the previous year.
However, elsewhere in the region countries like Jordan and Egypt have suffered a significant decline in tourist numbers due to recent regional turmoil.
“The perception (of the Middle East) from the news is often quite negative, with a strong focus on brutality and (Daesh) so rarely would people go off and explore the Arab world if they feel that everything on the news is dangerous,” said Middle East cultural and political analyst Nicolai Due-Gundersen.

• For full report and related articles please visit: How Brits view Arab world


In Iraq, virus revives traumas of Daesh survivors

Updated 04 December 2020

In Iraq, virus revives traumas of Daesh survivors

In Iraq, virus revives traumas of Daesh survivors

BAJET KANDALA CAMP, Iraq: For half a decade, Zedan suffered recurring nightmares about militants overrunning his hometown in northern Iraq. The 21-year-old Yazidi was just starting to recover when COVID-19 revived his trauma.
Zedan had lost several relatives when Daesh stormed into Sinjar, the rugged heartland of the Yazidi religious minority in Iraq’s northwest.
The militants killed Yazidi men, took the boys as child soldiers and forced the women into sexual slavery.
Zedan and the surviving members of his family fled, finding refuge in the Bajet Kandala camp near the Syrian border where they still live today.
“We used to be farmers living a good life. Then IS (Daesh) came,” he said, wringing his hands.
In a pre-fabricated building hosting the camp’s mental health clinic, Zedan shared his traumas with Bayda Othman, a psychologist for international NGO Premiere Urgence. Zedan refers to the violence of 2014 vaguely as “the events.”
The UN says they may constitute something much more serious: Genocide.
“I started having nightmares every night. I would see men in black coming to kill us,” Zedan said, telling Othman that he had attempted suicide several times. He has been seeing her for years, learning how to cope with his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) through breathing exercises that she taught him.
Earlier this year, his nightly panic attacks stopped. Finally, he could sleep again. But only for a few months.
In March, Iraq declared a nationwide lockdown to try to contain the spread of Covid-19. Zedan broke down.
“I fear that my family could catch the virus or give it to me,” he said. “It obsesses me.”
As lockdown dragged on, Zedan’s brother lost his job at a stationery shop on the edge of the camp.
“There’s no more money coming into the family now. Just thinking about it gives me a panic attack,” he said.
“The nightmares returned, and so did my desire to die.”
Out of Iraq’s 40 million citizens, one in four is mentally vulnerable, the World Health Organization says.
But the country is in dire shortage of mental health specialists, with only three per 1 million people.

HIGHLIGHT

The Daesh extremists killed Yazidi men, took the boys as child soldiers and forced the women into sexual slavery.

Speaking about trauma or psychological problems is widely considered taboo, and patients who spoke to AFP agreed to do so on the condition that only their first names would be used.
In camps across Iraq, which still host some 200,000 people displaced by violence, the pandemic has pushed many people with psychological problems into remission, Othman said.
“We noticed a resurgence of PTSD cases, suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts,” she told AFP.
In October, there were three attempted suicides in Bajet Kandala alone by displaced people, who said their movements outside the camp were restricted by the lockdown, or whose economic situation had deteriorated even further.
A tissue factory who fired people en masse, a potato farm that shut down, a haberdashery in growing debt: Unemployment is a common thread among Othman’s patients.
“It leads to financial problems, but also a loss of self-confidence, which rekindles trauma,” she said.
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), about a quarter of Iraqis who were employed prior to lockdown have been permanently laid off.
Youth were particularly hard hit: 36 percent of 18-24 years old who had been employed were dismissed, the ILO said.
A new patient in her forties walked toward the clinic, her hair covered in a sky-blue veil.
Once settled in a faux-leather chair, Jamila revealed that she, too, feels destabilized by the pandemic.
The Yazidi survivor lives in a one-room tent with her son and four daughters. But she doesn’t feel at home.
“I have totally abandoned my children. I feel all alone even though they’re always at home. I hit them during my panic attacks — I didn’t know what else to do,” she said.
Othman tried to soothe Jamila, telling her: “Hatred is the result of untreated sadness. We take it out on relatives, especially when we feel devalued — men prey on women, and women on children.”
But the trauma is not just an issue for the displaced, specialists warn.
“With the isolation and lack of access to care, children who have lived a genocide develop difficulties as they become adults,” said Lina Villa, the head of the mental health unit at a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in northern Iraq.
“We fear suicide rates will go up in the years to come.”