‘We must heal now’: US expats in the Middle East react to Biden triumph

‘We must heal now’: US expats in the Middle East react to Biden triumph
Biden took the 20 electoral college votes needed to claim victory over President Donald Trump and become the 46th president of the US. (File photo: AFP)
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Updated 08 November 2020

‘We must heal now’: US expats in the Middle East react to Biden triumph

‘We must heal now’: US expats in the Middle East react to Biden triumph
  • Tears of joy as some Americans celebrate Democrat win — while others support Trump’s claim that it’s not over
  • Many see long, challenging road ahead for Biden to bring US out of present gloom

DUBAI: The deep divide in the US in the months leading up to the Nov. 3 election was clearly on display as American expatriates in the Middle East responded to Joe Biden’s poll victory.

For many, there was relief when major networks gave Pennsylvania to the Democrat challenger. By winning the state, Biden took the 20 electoral college votes needed to claim victory over President Donald Trump and become the 46th president of the US.

It also made Trump only the 11th president in the history of the US who has failed to secure a second term.

However, for others, Biden’s claim of victory was premature and, more than 10,000 km from Washington’s halls of power, they were defiantly supporting both Trump’s refusal to concede and his claims of voter fraud in mail-in ballots.

For all Americans in the Middle East, it had been a long five days of anticipation and little sleep with the future of the nation hanging in the balance.

Biden’s supporters in the region expressed dismay at four years of presidential attacks on democratic institutions, the vulnerable, immigrants and religious minorities, together with what they claimed was Trump’s use of division to wield power.

This had resulted in a negative perception of Americans abroad, they said.

“Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ election win has implications for Americans living all over the world,” said Liberty Jones, who is from Washington and is public relations director of luxury retailer Tiffany & Co. “I’ve seen firsthand here in Dubai how the perception of Americans has negatively changed the past four years.

“Trump has made the world question our morality, our respect for our fellow man, and our esteemed position as a country of opportunity and discovery.”

However, on the red side of the divide, some US citizens in the Gulf say they were hoping Trump would remain in the White House, mainly to encourage stability in the Middle East. Iran’s aggressive policies in the region meant they welcomed Trump’s tough stance against Tehran and saw it in sharp contrast to the soft approach of Barack Obama’s administration, in which Biden served as vice president.

Youssef Beydoun, UAE chairman of Republicans Overseas, told Arab News that the election is not over, regardless of what the media say.

“The media does not decide who the president is,” Beydoun said. “Moreover, not all states have finished counting, and there are suspected irregularities and fraud in several states. If we go back in history, we can see that the same scenario took place in 2000 when the media declared Al Gore as the winner and then Bush was officially sworn in as president.”

This was a historic election on many fronts. A record number of Americans voted, with some predictions suggesting the final figure will be almost 160 million. More than 100 million ballots were cast during the early voting period.

Americans abroad expressed pride in such numbers, which they said revealed a country looking for change but also trusting in the democratic process.

“I burst into tears when it was confirmed, honestly. I haven’t slept well since he has been in power,” said Anne-Shelton Aaron, who lives in Cairo and is a former chair of the Democrats Abroad group in Switzerland.

“Trump was a disturbing and destructive force, a bully with no empathy who took away the dignity of his role. I am sad at how much he managed to destroy, how many people supported him in the Republican Party and how many people voted for him.

“I am deeply relieved that we can start the healing process and that the world can see that our democratic system does work, even if it was weakened.”

Joy Buckner, who runs an educational consultancy in Dubai, said: “I’m proud of what happened in my country today, democracy prevailed. A record number of voters turned out to have their voices heard, and all of this during a global health pandemic. It makes me hopeful for the future.”

Buckner said that as a black woman, she was most moved by the election of Harris as the first female vice president.

“For her to be a woman of color brings a feeling of pride that is hard to describe,” she said.

Despite the record voter turnout, the effectiveness of the US voting system was questioned by several expats, who said that electoral reform was essential.

“The results of this election and the way it played out have strengthened my belief that we urgently need electoral reform,” said Jones. “I’m ecstatic that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have won — but this is overshadowed by my fear that the antiquated electoral process and gerrymandering will continue to drive division, infighting and political scheming in the country.”

Ali Khalaf, who is from Washington but has lived in Dubai since 2007, said: “When you have the highest number of votes counted for either party, was it a surprise showing by Trump? It’s hard to evaluate.

“Exit polls are not accurate because a lot of the votes that were coming in were absentee votes so can you really exit poll those? This election was ultimately a rejection of Trump. He lost by more than the popular vote that he lost to Hillary Clinton in 2016. We have yet to see Georgia and North Carolina, which also may flip (Democrat).”

Many expats also expressed unease at the challenging road ahead, particularly since Trump is likely to wage legal battles in a bid to cling to the White House.

“Even though we have a new president, Trumpism will be there for a while,” said James Ruiz, a health care company director based in Abu Dhabi.

Originally from New York, Ruiz describes himself as a Republican but voted for Biden in this election.

“Right now, we need to heal and unify the nation, and get past its division,” he said.

“For Biden, it is crucial to get past the challenges of the pandemic, because you can’t build an economy and keep it sustained if you can’t solve the COVID-19 problem. Providing public health care for all throughout the pandemic will be critical to rebuilding, growing and sustaining the economy.

“Biden has 100 days and needs to prove he can do this very quickly.”

Michele Tarnow, originally from New York and now working as CEO of Alliance Care Technologies in Dubai, said the divisions in the US cannot be overestimated.

“Trump has severed for now the ability of people to have civil conversations,” she said. “This also impairs the ability to look for real solutions to problems.

“The calls for social justice that emerged after the world watched the death of George Floyd have been met with division fueled by Trump.”

Tarnow added that Biden and Harris “have their work cut out to build bridges” while stemming the rise of COVID-19.


UK parliament declares genocide in China's Xinjiang; Beijing condemns move

UK parliament declares genocide in China's Xinjiang; Beijing condemns move
Updated 7 sec ago

UK parliament declares genocide in China's Xinjiang; Beijing condemns move

UK parliament declares genocide in China's Xinjiang; Beijing condemns move
  • So far the government has imposed sanctions on some Chinese officials and introduced rules to try to prevent goods linked to the region entering the supply chain
  • The support for the motion is non-binding, meaning it is up to the government to decide what action, if any, to take next

LONDON: Britain’s parliament has called for the government to take action to end what lawmakers described as genocide in China's Xinjiang region, stepping up pressure on ministers to go further in their criticism of Beijing.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government again steered clear of declaring genocide over what it says are “industrial-scale” human rights abuses against the mainly Muslim Uighur community in Xinjiang. Ministers say any decision on declaring a genocide is up to the courts.

So far the government has imposed sanctions on some Chinese officials and introduced rules to try to prevent goods linked to the region entering the supply chain, but a majority of lawmakers want ministers to go further.

Lawmakers backed a motion brought by Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani stating Uighurs in Xinjiang were suffering crimes against humanity and genocide, and calling on government to use international law to bring it to an end.

The support for the motion is non-binding, meaning it is up to the government to decide what action, if any, to take next.

The Chinese embassy in the UK condemned the parliament’s move, calling on Britain to take concrete steps to respect China’s core interests and “immediately right its wrong moves.”

“The unwarranted accusation by a handful of British MPs that there is “genocide” in Xinjiang is the most preposterous lie of the century, an outrageous insult and affront to the Chinese people, and a gross breach of international law and the basic norms governing international relations,” the embassy said in a statement dated Friday.

Britain’s minister for Asia, Nigel Adams, again set out to parliament the government’s position that any decision on describing the human rights abuses in Xinjiang as genocide would have to be taken by “competent” courts.

Some lawmakers fear Britain risks falling out of step with allies over China after the Biden administration endorsed a determination by its predecessor that China had committed genocide in Xinjiang


Knifeman stabs female police worker near Paris

Knifeman stabs female police worker near Paris
Updated 38 min 8 sec ago

Knifeman stabs female police worker near Paris

Knifeman stabs female police worker near Paris

PARIS: A knifeman stabbed a woman working for the police in the entrance to a police station in Rambouillet, near Paris, on Friday, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said.
The victim died of her injuries, BFM TV and Europe 1 reported.
The attacker's motives were not immediately clear. The assailant was shot and overpowered by police officers. BFM TV reported that he was of Tunisian nationality and had been shot dead.
Darmanin said he was headed to the scene in Rambouillet, a middle class commuter town.
The Versailles prosecutor was investigating, officials said. 


Anti-junta protesters ready for armed resistance as Myanmar violence mounts 

Anti-junta protesters ready for armed resistance as Myanmar violence mounts 
Updated 23 April 2021

Anti-junta protesters ready for armed resistance as Myanmar violence mounts 

Anti-junta protesters ready for armed resistance as Myanmar violence mounts 
  • People have started to join combat training camps run by paramilitary groups in eastern Karen State
  • National League for Democracy members are reportedly in talks with ethnic groups to form an army against the Myanmar military 

YANGON: A 24-year-old medical student who never imagined he would ever kill anyone, as his vocation was to save lives, did so in late March after Myanmar security forces shot dead dozens of protesting civilians in one of Yangon’s neighborhoods.

“They even used hand grenades and some kinds of explosive ammunition in cracking down on us,” the Yangon University of Medicine student, Swe Min, told Arab News.

At least 739 protesters have been killed by police and military personnel since the beginning of nationwide demonstrations against the junta that ousted the country’s elected National League for Democracy (NLD) leaders in a coup on Feb. 1, according to Friday’s data from Assistance Association for Political Prisoners Burma.

The incident in South Dagon township, where more than 30 people were killed on March 29, happened two days after the deadliest crackdown on protesters, when security forces killed 114 people across the country.

Footage shared on social media showed how a barricade built by protesting South Dagon residents was blown up with explosives by security forces.

Witnessing the state violence was beyond Swe Min’s threshold of endurance.

“There were randomly shooting and brutally assaulting residents,” he said.

Swe Min and other protesters seized a plainclothes police officer near the main demonstration site and started beating him indiscriminately.

“Seeing the slaughter of civilians, we got very upset and angry,” he recalled.

“We were out of our minds, and we have beaten and kicked him to death.”

As night raids followed the officer’s killing, Swe Min managed to escape Yangon the next morning with a group of friends.

Earlier this month, they joined a militant training camp in the mountainous eastern Karen State that borders Thailand.

“We have joined combat training a week ago,” he told Arab News over the phone from an undisclosed location. There is not much choice left for us. We have to choose to kill or to be killed.”

Arrest, torture and the daily forced disappearances of protesters since the military regime took power have pushed many like Swe Min to take up arms as they no longer seem to believe in non-violent resistance.

The Karen National Union (KNU), the oldest insurgent group fighting for the eastern state’s greater autonomy, said that thousands of people who are against the regime have sought refuge in their control area.

Padoh Man Man, a spokesperson for one of the KNU’s brigades, told Arab News that many are eager to join their combat training.

“Since they came here, most are determined to take up arms. After witnessing the momentum of brutality by the regime, it is understandable why they are in favor of armed resistance,” he said over the phone earlier this week.

The group, he added, had trained hundreds of volunteers alongside new KNU members in basic guerrilla warfare over the past two months.

“They are, therefore, more or less ready to join armed resistance,” he said.

Not only ordinary citizens but also dissident politicians are considering the option.

The Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), a group of National League for Democracy (NLD) lawmakers ousted in the February coup that formed a parallel government in mid-April, has reportedly also been in negotiations with ethnic rebel groups in the hope of forming an army against the Tatmadaw — the armed forces of Myanmar.

However, this may not happen soon as, although opposed to the regime, ethnic minorities do not entirely trust NLD, which during its rule had alienated them, Sai Tun Aung Lwin, an ethnic affairs analyst and a researcher with the Yangon-based Pyidaungsu Institute, told Arab News.  

“Small community-based defense units have been formed across the country, but it seems only to defend themselves at the moment,” he said. “People are doing what they have to do. They are dutiful.”

Some are even ready to abandon their monastic life.

A Buddhist monk known for his charity work in Yangon’s Hlaing Thar Yar township, who now identifies himself with a changed name, Ashin Rsara, took off his religious robes and completed combat training in Karen State.

“The regime considers us their enemy, and I witnessed the merciless crackdown in Hlaing Thar Yar last month. Then I realized that we would never have peace as long as it is in power,” he told Arab News.

“Buddha teaches us to love each other in any situation. I have been trying to follow Buddha’s teachings my whole life, but I can’t this time,” he said. “I have to live with hate till the resistance prevails or I die.”


More risks to pregnant women, their newborns from COVID-19 than known before — study

More risks to pregnant women, their newborns from COVID-19 than known before — study
Updated 23 April 2021

More risks to pregnant women, their newborns from COVID-19 than known before — study

More risks to pregnant women, their newborns from COVID-19 than known before — study
  • An infection of the new coronavirus in such newborns is associated with a three-fold risk of severe medical complications
  • The study was conducted in more than 2,100 pregnant women across 18 countries

Pregnant women infected with COVID-19 and their newborn children face higher risks of complications than was previously known, a study by British scientists showed on Friday.
An infection of the new coronavirus in such newborns is associated with a three-fold risk of severe medical complications, according to a study conducted by scientists at the University of Oxford. 
While pregnant women are at higher risk of complications such as premature birth, high blood pressure with organ failure risk, need for intensive care and possible death.
“Women with COVID-19 during pregnancy were over 50% more likely to experience pregnancy complications compared to pregnant women unaffected by COVID-19,” said Aris Papageorghiou, co-lead of the trial and a professor of fetal medicine at Oxford University.
The study was conducted in more than 2,100 pregnant women across 18 countries, where each woman affected by COVID-19 was compared to two non-infected women giving birth at the same time in the same hospital.
Findings from the study, published in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, also showed a delivery by caesarean section may be associated with an increased risk of virus infection in newborns.
However, breastfeeding does not seem to heighten risks of babies contracting COVID-19 from their mothers, scientists said.


UK study finds significant drop in COVID-19 infections after one jab

UK study finds significant drop in COVID-19 infections after one jab
Updated 23 April 2021

UK study finds significant drop in COVID-19 infections after one jab

UK study finds significant drop in COVID-19 infections after one jab
  • Infections in adults of all ages fell by 65% after a first dose of AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine
  • More than 33 million people in Britain have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

LONDON: COVID-19 infections in adults of all ages fell by 65% after a first dose of AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine in UK research, which scientists said showed the real-world impact of the nation’s immunization campaign against the pandemic.
Crucially, the research was conducted at a time when a new and more infectious variant of the coronavirus, called B1.1.7, was dominant in Britain, but still found vaccination was just as effective in elderly people and those with underlying health conditions as it was in the young and healthy.
“These real-world findings are extremely promising,” health minister James Bethell said in a statement as the data were published. He said they showed Britain’s COVID-19 vaccination program — one of the world’s fastest — was having a “significant impact.”
The data come from two studies that are part of the COVID-19 Infection Survey — a collaboration between Oxford University, the government’s health department, and the Office of National Statistics. Both studies were published online as preprints on Friday and have not yet been peer-reviewed.
The researchers analyzed more than 1.6 million test results from nose and throat swabs taken from 373,402 study participants between Dec. 1, 2020 and April 3, 2021.
They found that 21 days after a single dose of either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine — with no second dose — rates of all new COVID-19 infections had dropped by 65%.
This included a drop in symptomatic infections by 74% and a drop in infections with no reported symptoms by 57%.
Reductions in overall infections and in symptomatic infections, were even greater after a second dose — 70% and 90% respectively — the study found, and were similar to effects in people who had previously had a COVID-19 infection.
The second study looked at levels of antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus to see how they changed after one dose of either vaccine, and after two Pfizer doses.
Results showed that antibody responses to a single dose of either vaccine were slightly lower in older people, but high across all ages after two Pfizer doses.
More than 33 million people in Britain have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with more than 10 million having had two doses, official data showed on Wednesday.