Tag Archives: Middle East

Social Justice for Turkish Women

by Jessica Stone

Turkey is making strides to be a modern country, but its treatment of women is still far behind the times. Largely because of the prevalence of strict religious fundamentalism, women who have been raped are often blamed as much as, if not more than, the perpetrator of their rape. The Guardian columnist Elif Shafak describes the society in Turkey as viewing unmarried non-virginal women negatively, which means rape victims are shamed and said to have lost their honor. For this reason, Shafak writes that neither Turkish domestic abuse victims who want to leave their spouse nor Turkish rape victims have few options for legal recourse:

“For women in Turkey who are victims of domestic or sexual violence, there are few doors to knock on. There are few women’s shelters, and too often society tends to judge the victim, not the perpetrator. Every year women are killed or forced to commit suicide in the name of honour. In a context as unfair as this, we need politicians who are sensitive to women’s problems and dedicated to solving them. However, unlike other areas of life in Turkey, local and national politics remains stubbornly patriarchal.”

The issue of arranged marriages also raises some women’s rights concerns. The Jerusalem Post cited a U.N. statistic showing that 3.6 million girls under 18 are married in Turkey. same article also quoted Nezihe Bilhan, the president of the Turkish Association of University Women, as saying, “Early marriage is a major human rights violation because you take away her right to be educated. When you take her right to be educated then you take her future. She cannot have a future if she is not educated.”

Some of the concerns about women’s rights have to do with worries that Turkish Prime

Erdogan's government has been criticized for its views toward women. Source: The Guardian
Erdogan’s government has been criticized for its views toward women. Source: The Guardian

Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is catering to religious fundamental groups that don’t support many women’s rights.   Middle East news magazine The Tower reported in October that Erdogan recently repealed a ban on religious headscarves in civil service jobs, a rule a former Prime Minister implemented to separate church and state, and the country’s vice president publicly criticized a TV anchor for not dressing modestly enough.

These actions suggest the country’s elected officials believe women should dress, act, and behave under extremely strict religious guidelines. Part of the reason for that could be a lack of women in the Turkish government. E.U. Neighborhood Policy Commissioner Stefan Fule said that only 1 percent of the municipalities in Turkey have a female mayor, according to the United Press International.  Fule also said part of the problem was Turkish society’s attitudes toward gender:

“We are all aware that progress on women’s rights also depends on a change in mentality and perceptions on gender,” Fule said. “Such change cannot take place overnight, neither in Turkey nor anywhere else.”


Jordanian Cuisine

Jordanian_FoodThe Jordanian cuisine is extremely festive and is heavily influenced by Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine. Pretty much every mealtime is a social event, where people gather together to share the prepared food. There is a large variety of cooking styles in Jordan but it is mostly the authentic meals such as shish kababs, shish taouks,and stuffing of vegetables (grape leaves, eggplants,etc) that stand apart from any other country.  Hummus is a very common and delicious appetizer that is eaten with freshly backed pita bread. “Mansaf is a Bedouin dish and often symbolizes a occasion. Mansaf consists of Arabic rice, a rich broth made from dry sour milk (jameed), and either lamb or chicken.” One can say that Jordanian cuisine highly resembles the Greek cuisine or Mediterranean cuisine.

The collective manner of sharing each meal, allows the Jordanian people to express their hospitality and generosity towards any guests and extended family members.  All the meals are put into appealing arrangements and that allows a person to get what they want easily.  Food is extremely important to Jordanian families because it reflects their culture and tradition.


Posted by Irina Franz


Jordan’s culture is very unique compared to other countries. When it comes to conversation,  Jordanians love to talk about religion but not if you are trying to push a different religion on  them. If you are trying to take the missionary approach, it might hurt your relationship with that person. They aren’t opposed  talking about money  such as  wages, rent, and other money related items. One thing you should try to avoid is asking them about their personal relationships with their spouses. This is considered very impolite. They enjoy talking about  soccer because it is the sport that brings the communities together. Talking about current event could be risky, especially if it’s about the west or Israel.

Gift giving can be tricky. Usually when you provide a gift to a family, it means that you are better off than them. Most of the time they will not get offended especially if you do it in secret or if you bring the gift to the children. Begging is extremely normal in Jordan. Actually, the beggars are considered to be sophisticated and well-trained and surprisingly the  profession is not considered to be t the bottom of professions. When it comes to expressing themselves, when Jordanians use quiet voices it shows that the person is well matured and respected. Loud voices reflect their emotional state, it could be love, grief or hate. Standing close to each other is actually very common and should not be surprising. Overall, Jordanians are extremely welcoming and nice people to all who enter their home.


Posted by Irina Franz

UN in Iraq

By Congrong Zheng

This blog will first start with a TED talk about  the future of Iraq and also UN’s influence in Iraq from TEDxBaghdad.Martin Kobler is personally vested in the Middle East with a vast amount of diplomatic experience in the region.

Started from 1995, the United Nations has been operating in Iraq through multiple programs. According to UN Iraq,Specialized agencies established their offices in Iraq in the early 1990s, and others UN entities, like UNAMI, after 2003. “The United Nations Iraq (UN Iraq) works at the request of the government of Iraq to support national development efforts on political, electoral, and humanitarian levels. The UN advises and supports the government of Iraq and its people and works on capacity building to strengthen people and institutions during the democratic transition.”

Specifically, UN Iraq has helped Iraq to conduct numerous electoral events since 2003, including voter registration updates in 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2009 and national and governorate council elections in 2005, 2009, 2010 and 2013.

For employment, UNOPS and the International Labour Organization (ILO) supported the first national employment policy, while the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) trained over 7,000 Iraqis in agro-industrial and manufacturing skills, and rehabilitated more than 20 vocational centers.

On the front page of UN Iraq, they showed  a story about how UNIDO helped local entrepreneurs, Anwar Hussein has changed his life and his business. UNIDO offered business courses at the Enterprise Development Centre (EDC). By attending to these courses, Anwar is able to expand his skills and get bank loans. His revenue increased by 35-45 percent. In addition, he owns a 50-percent share in a gas station, and water and electricity generators that support the city of Thi-Qar.

a795e43ad198ca75c00e329a1c7d431a_XLReflecting on his journey with EDC, Anwar says that “starting a business is a big achievement for many entrepreneurs, but maintaining one is the larger challenge. EDC taught me how to maintain and grow my business.”



Near East Foundation

NEF has worked in Jordan since 1937 in areas pertaining to literacy, agriculture, and development. With six offices in Amman, the foundation works closely with other NGO’s to strengthen local communities through development. NEF focuses on environmental issues, finance and attempts to solve the lack of water problem.

In 2008 the foundation organized a project called “Poverty Pockets” which primarily invests money and energy on establishing development on local economies. The project looks at the poorest areas in Jordan and finds different ways to increase economic growth by creating money generating jobs. By promoting investment and encouragement innovation, the project establishes small lending loans and grants. Additionally, the project helps to improve and create local business, public schools, health centers and public community. The primary donor to this project is Jordanian Ministry of Planning and International Cooperations (MOPIC). NEF and MOPIC work together to achieve all the goals that would help to build up a poor community. Foundations such as NEF builds a positive relationship with other NGO’s and in return they work together to give the local people opportunities that they would not have if the NGO was not present in that country.


Posted by Irina Franz

UN’s Involvement in Jordan

According to the UN, it appears that Jordan is substantially involved in UN. The United Nations presence is strongly felt in Jordan by having other 16 different agencies throughout the state. These agencies address humanitarian issues along with development. No single agency can act alone in order to be fully beneficial thus they work together to work on issues such as reducing poverty and sustaining the environment. Additionally, the agencies do focus more on younger generations so they can grow in a healthy and optimistic environment.

Agency such as United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) works on providing young children proper education when it comes to treating  the environment with respect by teaching them how to recycle and reuse various materials. Also,  the UNWomen agency is highly present in Jordan by providing economic empowerment and focuses on ending violence against women. Lastly, the agency tries to develop leadership and political involvement for the female gender so they can have better equality between the two genders.  The United Nations pays close attention to human rights issues by enhancing social equality in Jordan.  Although it appears that Jordan does not have much influence in UN, it is evident that UN has strong influence in Jordan.

Posted by Irina Franz




Petra_yordaniaThe vibrant country of Jordan is filled with rich architecture that draws tourists from across that world. Petra is a site where beautiful temples are carved out of raw stone against a desert mountain. Petra is viewed by the world as a precious property that reflects Jordan’s rich cultural heritage. This landmark was rediscovered in 1812, after being lost for hundreds of years.  Petra shows tourists what humans were capable at the time while having them admire the natural beauty of the architecture. This tourist hotspot provides major revenue for Jordan.

With appearances in movies such as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Arabian Nights, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen , Petra is becoming well-known and recognized landmark by most people. This beautiful spot has been recognized as the World Heritage Site.  The best way to get to the temple is riding through Wadi Rum by either camels or horses though it is possible to use modern transportation. This cultural landmark is a must see place before you die.

Posted by Irina Franz