July 30, 2012

Poverty in the Gulf; reversing stereotypes

Having lived my whole life in Kuwait, I was faced with two stereotypes by other Arabs whom I went to school with or worked with. The first, if they thought I'm Kuwaiti, they would think am rich and have "access" to power that might screw them over somehow. The other stereotype comes when they know am a stateless of Kuwait, they think exactly the opposite and some would even look down at me being from a community that faces unemployment, lack of education, and powerless, as the government has planned for us. In both cases, the stereotypes have enraged me. 
When I traveled to Cairo, being someone who comes from the Gulf, the stereotype was that "I have an oil well in my backyard" and thus I should help find them a job or I should over-tip them. In the US, many Arabs I met, including people of the Maghreb, have depicted me as the spoiled rich girl from the Gulf coming, with no worries, to study and enjoy her time.
Long story short, every person from the Gulf is stereotyped by their oil image. It really enrages me the most because of several reasons: 1) are we expected to give up the oil, so you would like us? 2) what are you blaming us for really? 3) NOT ALL OF US ARE RICH! This is why I decided to put together some pictures, videos, and links showing poverty in the Gulf; a way to reverse stereotypes.

July 27, 2012

Maghreb on Gulf: Exoticizing or Immoralizing?

Arabic text reads "Khaliji soap operas."
[Image from Moroccan Trolls]
Camels, uneducated tribal folk, expensive cars, slow speech, niqabs and abayas, no moral values. Saudi, Kuwaiti, Qatari, Emirati, who cares? They're all the same. Moroccan women are their toys, five-star resorts and night clubs are their playgrounds. Unearned petrodollars flowing out of their wallets, with the same Khaliji dress and accent.

The actions of a few become the stereotypes used to identify the many. Such is the case of Maghrebi attitudes the Gulf. These essentialist views are mutual, as Mona previously pointed out. But what has shaped these views? Where have these views positioned Moroccan women? How are they perpetuated and reinforced? What is being done to facilitate better understanding?

Neoliberalism Gone Wild
When the newly independent Maghrebi countries began the process of post-colonial development, the state led the way with import-substitution policies. In order to man the factories and maintain production, rural-to-urban migration boomed. The public sector became the largest employer and provider of welfare. Populations were growing, expenses were rising, and the government could no longer sustain these policies. Cue the privatization of state-owned enterprises and the World Bank and IMF loans (awarded with a list of stipulations, of course). In comes the Gulf foreign direct investment.

July 26, 2012

Saudi TV series depicts Moroccan women as beautiful, seductive maids and homewreckers

The above video is a clip from the series.

What better than a Ramadan sitcom to reinforce stereotypes and misconceptions?

Read about the reaction of Moroccans on Hespress [AR]. Special thanks to @anasalaoui for sending us the video.

Gulf on Maghreb: Exoticizing or Immoralizing?

Controversial Kuwaiti cartoon depicting a Moroccan man
There were always those high-class men from the Gulf going to the Maghreb and specifically to Morocco. They were few, they were going for their own pleasures or to get antiques. When you say Maghreb, this doesn't mean Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, and Mauritania; for the gulf, it only means this exotic touristic Morocco which Gulf men portray as the place to fulfill their drugs/sex dreams. Yes there were people from the Gulf who joined the Algerian resistance against French colonialism driven by their anti-colonial Pan-Arabist sense, but the bridges between the Maghreb and the Gulf have always been limited and based on so much ignorance

Make us Moroccan!
Being oil states, the Gulf has migrant workers from all over the world. Certain communities of migrant workers were able to impact the cultures of the Gulf or at least make their cultures visible and generally known; biggest two examples are the Egyptian and Indian cultures. However, people of the Maghreb have never been migrant workers in the Gulf until few years ago. Being someone from Kuwait, I noticed the number of young Moroccan women working in malls and beauty salons; Kuwaiti women suddenly wanted to be Moroccan, so what's better than a Moroccan woman to Moroccan-ize you? A good number of Tunisians and Algerians started to come to Kuwait lately as well. 

Thanks to Rai
In my own experience, I developed an interest in the Maghreb because of Music. I grew up listening to the hits of Cheb Khaled although I understood nothing of his lyrics. Like everyone else, I thought he is Moroccan! My love for Rai Music grew and with it, my knowledge of Algeria's music, resistance, migration, and other topics. I familiarized myself with the dialects of Maghreb using YouTube videos and I got some French classes, for the influence it has over Maghreb dialects in general.

A Monarchical Affair: From Morocco to the Arabian Peninsula

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia examines a plate of dates
as King Mohammad VI of Morocco looks on.
[Image from LATimes.]
When protests in North Africa ousted dictators and began spreading elsewhere in the region, decades-old alliances between the Arab monarchies were strengthened with the common interest of staying in power at all costs. While Morocco’s political and economic ties have historically been predominantly directed toward European markets, Morocco has recently oriented its outlook toward the East, finding common ground with the monarchies of the Arabian Peninsula.

Morocco’s relationship with the monarchies in the Gulf is nothing new. When King Hassan II of Morocco prioritized the acquisition of the Western Saharan territory as the principal objective of his reign, Saudi Arabia provided an annual allowance of one hundred million dollars throughout the 1980s. The amount was specifically intended for “anti-Polisario activities.” Hassan II returned the favor in 1990 when he sent over one thousand troops to the Saudi-Iraqi border during the Gulf War. The move was largely a political gesture in support of the Arab monarchies, but one that angered the Moroccan public and fueled widespread protests against the deployment of Moroccan troops.

Morocco’s economic ties with the Gulf were and continue to be crucial to Morocco’s economic development. In 2001, Morocco signed a free-trade agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and in 2010, both private and public investment from the UAE was the second biggest from any country in Morocco. UAE investment in Morocco’s economy has been especially pivotal in the tourism industry, with the construction of luxury resort projects emerging all over the country, especially in the northern port city of Tangier, the location of a free economic zone. Just a few years into the free-trade agreement between Morocco and the UAE, Dubai-based Jafza International was awarded the contract to manage the logistics of the Tangier-Med Free Zone in 2005. The UAE is also present in Morocco’s energy industry, namely the Jorf Lasfar Project, funded by a subsidiary of the state-owned Abu Dhabi National Energy Company, making up the biggest independent power facility in the region. The funders of the Jorf Lasfar Project are also common sponsors for music festivals, such as the annual international Mawazine Festival, which is partially state-funded. Additionally, in 2011, Qatar and Kuwait pledged to invest three billion dollars in Morocco’s tourism industry to help Morocco meet its 2020 tourism development plan.