Saudi artists keep the dialogue going about Palestine

Saudi artists keep the dialogue going about Palestine
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Inspired by her grandmother’s earliest memories of her house in Jerusalem when she was a child, Dalya Moumina created a vivid oil painting of the Dome of the Rock within Al-Aqsa Mosque and called it ‘Rise Again.’ (Social media)
Saudi artists keep the dialogue going about Palestine
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Updated 07 June 2021

Saudi artists keep the dialogue going about Palestine

Saudi artists keep the dialogue going about Palestine
  • Using colors to tell the story of Palestinians and their unending fight for survival

JEDDAH: People around the world are using art to talk about the latest events in East Jerusalem and Gaza, with artists using their creativity to express solidarity with the oppressed and stand against injustice.

These conversations are taking place across borders, language and cultures, and artists are launching individual or collective initiatives to keep this dialogue going.

Madinah-based Lujain Ibrahim (@llujaiin) is an up-and-coming artist who is experimenting with embroidery, stitching together vivid scenes from the past few weeks.

One of her pieces depicts Nabil al-Kurd, a 70-year-old Jerusalem resident. He is standing by graffiti on the wall of his home that reads “We will not leave” in Arabic, a statement of his refusal to vacate his home in the city’s Sheikh Jarrah district.

“I'd rather feel an emotion than speak about something as difficult as what's happening today,” Ibrahim told Arab News. “In my opinion, this has a longer-lasting effect. When I look at my work, I revive a feeling, and it's a deep one that is felt on a deeper level every time and, once I share that post, I'd like others to look at it in the same light and feel rather than speak.”

This year’s anniversary of the Palestinian Naksa comes as families like Al-Kurd’s live under the threat of imminent eviction by an Israeli court in favor of right-wing settlers.

Israel occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem after its victory in the Six-Day War of June 1967 and formally, though illegally, annexed it in 1980. Since then, subsequent decisions by Israeli courts have paved the way for the army and police to evict Palestinian families from their homes, regardless of international condemnation.

Artist Nasser Almulhim (@nasajm) wrote a love letter for Palestine and its people that features watermelons, which have been a symbol of Palestinian resistance since 1967 when Israel prohibited the display of the Palestinian flag and its colors in the West Bank and Gaza.

I’d rather feel an emotion than speak about something as difficult as what’s happening today.

Lujain Ibrahim

Watermelons, like the Palestinian flag, are red, black, white and green. Although there are different versions of the story behind the watermelon as a symbol, Israeli forces see any manifestation of Palestinian nationalism in occupied territories as a threat. In Sheikh Jarrah, graffiti was erased, balloons pierced, and flags were removed.

While Almulhim did not need to overcome the restrictions imposed by Israeli forces, he still needed to trick the Instagram algorithms that have been criticized for censoring pro-Palestinian content.

With the signing of the Oslo Accords in the 1990s and the Palestine Liberation Organization being recognized as a legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, Palestinian flags showed up again. But the watermelon remains a symbol of resistance and has been revived across social media.

With hundreds of images coming out of Palestine, it is hard to see what is hidden between alleyways and behind closed doors. Children peeking through the laundry hanging from balconies, women cooking in kitchens, and men pushing vegetable carts on the street while navigating their way through the rubble of a bombed building.

Images of violence are splashed across all visual spheres. Still, it is hard to understand and imagine what it is like to live in a land so isolated, so disconnected from the world.

To show such true and on-the-ground images, Saudi photographer Iman Al-Dabbagh (@photosbyiman) took over the @womenphotograph Instagram account.

Jeddah-based Al-Dabbagh curated a virtual exhibition that focused on images from female Palestinian photographers.

Works by Samar Abu Elouf, Fatima Shbair, Rehaf Bataniji, Samar Hazboun, Rula Halawani, Lara Abu Ramadan, Kholood Eid and Eman Mohammed are able to show the true nature of the land as seen from the eye of a Palestinian.

“The Palestinian voice isn’t really heard by the people that should hear it," Al-Dabbagh told Arab News. “We (in the region) see the matter differently, and I felt the way I could support it is through my community, photographers.”

Al-Dabbagh wanted the audience to sense a human connection and to perhaps change their mind once they realized that Palestinians were ordinary people like them, with normal daily activities, dreams, responsibilities, pains, and laughs.

“Showing images that are different from the typical images that we see from Palestine will get people to want to know who the people of the land are. When you see images of art, music and culture, people from the West identify with it more. I took over this project because I wanted to support the Palestinian women photographers, who are aplenty, show their work to the world and amplify their voice.”

Artist Dalya Moumina (@design.by.dalya) is a granddaughter of a Palestinian refugee. Her grandmother was one of the thousands who were expelled from their home during the 1948 Nakba, and was forced to flee to Jeddah.

I tried to convey my voice as an Arab artist who believes that this is a just cause and is aware of its existence.

Fatimah Al-Nemer

Inspired by her grandmother’s earliest memories of her house in Jerusalem when she was a child, Moumina created a vivid oil painting of the Dome of the Rock within Al-Aqsa Mosque and called it “Rise Again” to depict her grandmother’s childhood view in Palestine.

Moumina has put her painting up for sale in an online auction to raise money for the Palestine Children's Relief Fund to help families in need. It is also a dedication to her grandmother and her homeland.

Saudi artist, sculptor and photographer Dia Aziz Dia (@diaaziz) shared his work with his fans on Instagram with the caption “Israeli Barbarism,” which he created during different periods of the Palestinian struggle.

His work is meant to be received as powerful and self-explanatory. They express deep pain and grief, but also determination and resilience.

“Once the artist has the skill to express his own imagination, and as long as he is aware of the events that affect his own life and the lives of his local and regional community, then I think that he must share his opinions and views, and express his feelings toward what is happening,” Dia told Arab News. “The artist holds an influential means of expression. It is one of the most powerful means of expression.”




Dia Aziz’s artworks express deep pain and grief, but also determination and resilience. (Social media)

There can be no conversation about Palestine without mention of the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.

Saudi artist Taghreed Al-Bagshi (@tagreedbagshi) created a piece of art to express his solidarity and captioned it with lines from Darwish’s poetry: “We have on this earth what makes life worth living, on this earth stands the mistress of the earth, mother of beginnings, mother of endings, known as Palestine, and became Palestine.”

Al-Bagshi said the work was driven by the overwhelming emotions she experienced while watching the news and her heartfelt wishes for peace and love to Palestinian children.  

“I am a peace advocate myself,” Al-Bagshi told Arab News. “Seeing children and families living under threat of losing their homes, hope, lives and their moments of peace at any given second gives me great distress. Ordinary children do not understand what sadness as a word means, but Palestinian children have experienced it at a very young age and are growing up with it. I painted life in the mother, peace in the white pigeons, hope in the open sky, and the call for the stolen childhood to be returned back in children's eyes.”

Darwish also inspired the artwork of Fatimah Al-Nemer (@artistfatimahalnemer). She drew on his poem “Put it on record - I am an Arab” to reflect the resilience and pride of the Arab and the Palestinian living under occupation.

“I tried to convey my voice as an Arab artist who believes that this is a just cause and is aware of its existence,” she told Arab News. “As artists we support Palestinians with our colors and paintings. I believe that an artist without a purpose and a call is not a true artist. Art is an honest practice above all. It has to be honest to speak to the inner hearts of others.”


Jill Biden, Duchess of Cambridge learn bunny care on tour

Jill Biden, Duchess of Cambridge learn bunny care on tour
Updated 11 June 2021

Jill Biden, Duchess of Cambridge learn bunny care on tour

Jill Biden, Duchess of Cambridge learn bunny care on tour
  • Biden and the former Kate Middleton visited with 4- and 5-year-olds who attend Connor Downs Academy in Hayle
  • “It’s a huge honor to have you in the United Kingdom,” the duchess said just before the discussion

HAYLE, England: US first lady Jill Biden and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, learned about bunny care Friday as they toured a preschool during a joint outing in southwest England.
They also took part in a talk about early childhood education with experts from the UK and some from the United States who joined the discussion via Zoom.
“It’s a huge honor to have you in the United Kingdom,” the duchess said just before the discussion. She thanked Biden — a longtime English teacher — for her interest in early education, also a topic of interest for the duchess, who has three young children with husband Prince William.


Biden, 70, and the former Kate Middleton, 39, visited with 4- and 5-year-olds who attend Connor Downs Academy in Hayle. The school works with children who have experienced trauma. It also has outdoor classrooms where children plant vegetables and flowers and tend to rabbits.
Biden carried a bowl of carrots when the women went outside to see Storm, one of several bunnies housed in pens, and handed the bowl to a group of kids so they could feed him.
Before the indoor roundtable, Biden said she was glad to visit the school.
“I met some wonderful teachers and principals and most of all the children, who were so inspiring and well behaved,” the first lady said. “I couldn’t get over it.”
She is traveling with her husband, President Joe Biden, who is attending a Group of Seven summit of leaders from the world’s largest economies that opened Friday in Carbis Bay.
She thanked the news media for covering the appearance “because early childhood education is so important to lay the foundation for all of our students.”


Both women took notes during the discussion, which centered on child mental health and the importance of early education in childhood development.
As they departed, reporters asked Biden if she had sought advice from the duchess on meeting Queen Elizabeth II, which the Bidens are set to do at a summit reception later Friday, followed by tea with the monarch on Sunday at Windsor Castle.
“No, I didn’t,” the first lady replied. “We’ve been busy. Were you not in that room. We were talking education.”
Jill Biden is scheduled to head back to Washington after meeting the queen, while the president continues on to Brussels for a NATO summit and to Switzerland for a highly anticipated one-on-one summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.


Top Swiss court rejects climate activists’ appeal over tennis stunt

Top Swiss court rejects climate activists’ appeal over tennis stunt
Updated 11 June 2021

Top Swiss court rejects climate activists’ appeal over tennis stunt

Top Swiss court rejects climate activists’ appeal over tennis stunt
  • ‘At the time of their action, there was no current and immediate danger’ under Swiss law, the court said
  • In September appeals court found them guilty of "trespassing", a ruling upheld by Federal Court on Friday

GENEVA: Switzerland’s highest court on Friday rejected an appeal by environmental activists who were sentenced for trespassing after invading a bank to play tennis dressed as Roger Federer.
The Federal Court dismissed the activists’ argument that their playful demonstration two and a half years ago was an emergency action justified by the climate crisis.
“At the time of their action, there was no current and immediate danger,” according to the definition under Swiss law, the court said in a statement.
In November 2018, the 12 activists entered a Credit Suisse branch in Lausanne to denounce Swiss tennis star Federer over his sponsorship deals with Switzerland’s second-biggest bank and its financing of fossil fuels.
In January last year, a lower court acquitted the 12 defendants, accepting their “state of necessity” legal argument, finding that they had acted legitimately in the face of the climate emergency.
But an appeals court reversed that verdict last September, heeding the view of the public prosecutor who urged judges to “practice law, not emotion,” according to Swiss news agency Keystone-ATS.
It found them guilty of “trespassing” — a ruling upheld by the Federal Court on Friday.
The activists immediately announced that they intended to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights, in defense of their “fundamental rights,” including the right to free expression and to demonstrate peacefully.
Laila Batou, a defense lawyer for one of the activists, slammed the decision and the court’s “lack of ambition,” according to Keystone-ATS.
“The Federal Court could have given a clear signal recognizing that global warming constitutes an imminent danger, but also that, in some situations, civil disobedience is necessary,” she told the news agency.
Instead, she said, the court “has ruled in favor of the powerful, the big corporations who can continue business as usual to the detriment of young people.”


Work dries up for Jordan’s donkeys as coronavirus cripples tourism

Work dries up for Jordan’s donkeys as coronavirus cripples tourism
Updated 10 June 2021

Work dries up for Jordan’s donkeys as coronavirus cripples tourism

Work dries up for Jordan’s donkeys as coronavirus cripples tourism
  • In 2019, the number of visitors to the UNESCO World Heritage site topped a million for the first time
  • Since Petra reopened in May, tourist numbers have been slow to rebound

PETRA, Jordan: Herds of hard-working donkeys once carried hordes of tourists on the rocky paths of Jordan’s Petra, but visitor numbers crashed amid the pandemic and the loyal animals are left without a job.
“Before coronavirus, we all had work,” said Abdulrahman Ali, a 15-year-old donkey owner at the ancient rock-carved desert city, where the sure-footed animals carry tourists up steep paths in the blazing sun.
“The Bedouins of Petra made a living and fed their animals,” he said, sitting waiting for a handout of fodder from a charity, explaining that many owners today are struggling to meet the cost of feeding them.
In 2019, the number of visitors to the UNESCO World Heritage site topped a million for the first time.
But in March 2020, the famous tourist destination was closed, and the crucial income from the tourists dried up.
“When tourism stopped, nobody could buy fodder or medicine anymore,” said Ali, who could earn as much as $280 on a good day, supporting his mother and two brothers.
“Anyone who has a little amount of money now spends it on his own food, not his animal.”
Before the pandemic, tourism made up more than a tenth of Jordan’s GDP, but revenues slumped from $5.8 billion in 2019 to $1 billion last year, according to government figures.
Since Petra reopened in May, tourist numbers have been slow to rebound.
Only some 200 visitors a day come to Petra, compared to more than 3,000 before the pandemic hit, said Suleiman Farajat, heading the Petra Development and Tourism Regional Authority.
Farajat said some 200 guides used as many as 800 animals — including horses, camels and mules as well as donkeys — for tourist rides across the desert site.
The economic ripple effect of tourism was widespread.
“Before the crisis, 80 percent of the inhabitants of the region depended directly or indirectly on tourism,” Farajat said.
“With the pandemic, not only working animal owners were affected, but also hotels, restaurants, those with souvenir shops or stores, and hundreds of employees have lost their jobs.”
Many donkey owners are turning to a clinic supported by the animal rights group PETA, where vets treat maltreated and malnourished donkeys for free.
“Before coronavirus, my family and I owned seven donkeys working in Petra,” said Mohammad Al-Badoul, 23, waiting with four other donkey owners to fill a sack with animal feed.
“We had to sell them for lack of income. Now we only have one, and I can barely feed it.”
Egyptian vet Hassan Shatta, an equine surgery specialist who runs the PETA clinic, said he launched a donkey-feeding program late last year.
“During the Covid-19 lockdown, and with the lack of tourism, people could not afford to feed their animals anymore,” Shatta said.
“Some of them ended up starving and we picked them up brought them here,” he added, noting some 250 animals had been treated, with some 10-15 cases arriving a day.
In the past, PETA had treated animals with deep cuts from being beaten or abused, but Farajat, from Petra’s tourism authority, says the working conditions of the donkeys is now “not that bad.”
But there are plans to replace some of the traditional donkeys with a new system of 20 electric cars introduced by the tourism board next month.
The cars will be “driven by the animal owners,” Farajat said.
Switching to electric cars will, Farajat hopes, put an end to the criticisms against the mistreatment inflicted on animals.


McDonald’s BTS-meal frenzy sparks virus closures in Indonesia

McDonald’s BTS-meal frenzy sparks virus closures in Indonesia
Updated 09 June 2021

McDonald’s BTS-meal frenzy sparks virus closures in Indonesia

McDonald’s BTS-meal frenzy sparks virus closures in Indonesia
  • At least 13 outlets that were deluged with online food-delivery drivers picking up the meal set were closed
  • The meal set of chicken nuggets, fries and a drink, first made available in Indonesia Wednesday

JAKARTA: More than a dozen Indonesian McDonald’s outlets were temporarily shuttered Wednesday over virus fears as the chain’s new BTS meal deal sparked frenzied buying from fans in the K-pop mad country.
Jakarta and several other cities slapped closure stickers on at least 13 outlets that were deluged with online food-delivery drivers picking up a meal set named after the hugely popular Korean boy band.
“We temporarily closed four of six McDonald’s stores here in Semarang for a couple of days,” said Fajar Purwoto, the city’s public order agency head.


“I don’t want Semarang to be in the Covid-19 red zone again.”
Indonesia is one of the hardest-hit nations in Asia.
Jakarta authorities did not respond to requests for comment. But local media said five stores in the capital were shut over BTS-meal orders.
The meal set of chicken nuggets, fries and a drink, first made available in Indonesia Wednesday, has been on offer in dozens of countries since May.
BTS have become global superstars with millions of fans around the world since their debut in 2013.


The Russian prison beauties hoping to be crowned lock-up lady of the year

The Russian prison beauties hoping to be crowned lock-up lady of the year
Updated 09 June 2021

The Russian prison beauties hoping to be crowned lock-up lady of the year

The Russian prison beauties hoping to be crowned lock-up lady of the year
  • The contestants are genuine prison officers who lock-up cell-bound inmates
  • Other government institutions to run beauty pageants have included the National Guard

DUBAI: Meet the Russian prison wardens cell-bound inmates don’t mind being locked up by

Voting is underway to find Russia’s most beautiful prison guard in the all-new Miss Penal System contest.

The 12 finalists, each hoping to be crowned lock-up lady of the year, were chosen from 100 contestants who each won their local competitions, Russia Today reported.

The Russian prison service is not the first government agency to use a beauty pageant to promote its work.

In 2019 police officer Anna Khramtsova won a similar competition when the National Guard held the ‘Beauty of Rosgvardia’ pageant.

Although all did not go according to plan for Khramtsova – and after a brief flirtation with social media fame, she was eventually fired after apparently breaching security by posting a photograph taken inside a facility.

The Miss Penal System contest is the latest initiative from the Federal Penitentiary Service – others included the instillation of British-style red phone boxes to decorate the room inmates used to make calls to the outside world.

Voting closes on June 11 when the world finds out which of the 12 finalists who let down their locks, leaving inmates a little happier about being cell-bound, is crowned the winner.