Dual Loyalties

My opinion on the people who shape our world

Monday, August 02, 2004

Shaha Riza - Culture and Poverty: Projects at the World Bank

Culture and Poverty - Projects: Poetry, Literacy and Empowerment for Rural Yemen Women: "Culture and Poverty: Projects at the World Bank

Poetry, Literacy and Empowerment for Rural Yemen Women

Summary:

This is a pilot research project that will explore the relevance of expressive culture to development. Adult rural women in Yemen will be taught literacy skills through the writing and documenting of their own poetry and that of other women in their community. A cultural resource that is valued locally and nationally will be utilized to teach rural women a potentially empowering skill that is not currently perceived by them as relevant to their lives. The project will be community driven from the planning stages, and it has the support of Ministry of Education officials in Yemen.

The pilot project addresses two problems currently faced by rural Yemeni women: the first is a decline in their own poetry composition and with it a loss of social voice. In Yemen, among men and women, poetry is the primary recognized tool for conflict management and for the expression of personal wishes and opinions. Good poets have considerable input in local political issues, and poetry is an acceptable cultural venue with which to sway family decisions that impact on a poet’s personal life, such as choice of marriage partner. While the poetic tradition as a whole has been enhanced through audio cassettes which permit the transmission of poetry across the country, this is largely poetry composed by men. Rules of modesty constrain most women from recording their voices on tape. For rural women, modernity has resulted in a decline of occasions and contexts for poetry composition and a consequent loss of their social voices. Meanwhile, they are not taking advantage of the modern option of formal schooling. This project is designed not only to help document and archive traditional women’s poetry, but to encourage women to compose poetry again. It is intended to foster intergenerational communication between older and younger women through which literacy (or poetry) becomes a tool for the transmission of traditional values of empowerment.

The second problem the project addresses is Yemen’s very high illiteracy rate for women – 77% in 1996 (UNICEF). According to Min. of Education personnel, current literacy efforts aimed at rural women are not seen by these women as relevant to their lives as agriculturalists. One hypothesis to be tested is that they might find literacy efforts more relevant it these focused on cultural expressions that they themselves value – in this case, their traditional poetry. Using the Language Experience approach to community literacy (which taps into the philosophy of Paolo Friere) and Community Counseling Learning developed by Fr Curran, women will be taught reading and writing skills through the transcription of poetry that they and their neighbors have composed. As the process develops, these and other poems composed by project participants will be printed and disseminated in the community, and possibly outside the community as well.

Proponents: Shaha Riza, Najwa Adra"

"Special ‘relationship’ behind US West Asia policy

The Telegraph - Calcutta : International: "Special ‘relationship’ behind US West Asia policy
PHILIP SHERWELL

Paul Wolfowitz
London, Aug. 1: Political foes of Paul Wolfowitz like to portray him as a leading light in Washington’s so-called ‘Zionist conspiracy’, part of a small cabal of Jewish neo-conservatives driving a blindly pro-Israel policy in West Asia.

The US deputy secretary of defence was one of the original architects of the war to overthrow Saddam Hussein and remains an enthusiastic advocate of spreading democracy in West Asia, despite the setbacks in Iraq. For his detractors, it is evidence that he is pursuing an agenda hostile to Arab regimes, particularly ones as virulently opposed to Israel as Saddam’s.

Critics have also latched on to the fact that his sister, Laura, a biologist, lives in Israel as proof for their theory. Indeed she does; she even has an Israeli husband. But although she rarely talks about politics, the reality is that she is a moderate rather than a hawkish settler or enthusiastic backer of Ariel Sharon, Israel’s hardline Prime Minister.

In fact, there is a woman from whom Wolfowitz does draw support and backing for his views, but she comes from a very different — and unexpected — background. His closest companion and most valued confidantes is a middle-aged Arab feminist whose own strongly held views on instilling democracy in her native West Asia have helped bolster his resolve.

Shaha Ali Riza is a senior World Bank official who was born in Tunis, grew up in Saudi Arabia and holds an international relations masters degree from St Anthony’s College, Oxford. Close acquaintances of the couple have told The Daily Telegraph that she is romantically linked with Wolfowitz, 61, a fellow divorcee with whom she has been friends for several years.

Even by the discreet standards of Washington’s powerful inner circle, it is a remarkably closely guarded secret. They rarely go out as a couple openly or demonstrate affection publicly, according to friends who are aware of the relationship. They attend low-key Washington social events and visit friends’ homes together and Riza also sometimes goes to official functions and dinners with him, but is not identified as his partner, an acquaintance said.

“Most people would never guess there was a relationship, even if they saw them together,” he said.

It is a sign of the sensitivity surrounding the relationship that the few friends willing even to acknowledge it last week did not want to be named. “Shaha Riza runs around with Wolfowitz a lot. I gather she is his current girlfriend but they are very careful about this,” said one.

Riza was on holiday last week on a ranch in Wyoming and did not respond to messages left for her. Wolfowitz did not return a call placed with his office at the Pentagon.

It would amaze the detractors who depict Wolfowitz as part of a narrow-minded Jewish lobby that one of the most important people in his life is, in fact, an Arab woman whose job is to promote gender equality in West Asia and North Africa. It will doubtless also surprise many of his supporters.

Riza’s childhood in Saudi Arabia did much to shape her commitment to democracy, equal rights and civil liberties in the Arab world as she experienced at first hand the kingdom’s oppressive regime, particularly for women. She has long pursued those beliefs and joined the World Bank in 1997 as the senior gender co-ordinator for Wesy Asia and North Africa, a role that involves extensive travel in the region.

So Wolfowitz and Riza are not just close personally, they have also both long espoused the same deeply held conviction that democracy should be spread across the Arab world. With his ear, she is one of most influential Arabs in Washington.

“Paul and some others always had Saddam Hussein in their sights, but she helped reinforce that resolve,” said a friend who moves in similar conservative circles.

“That was greatly helped by the fact that she is an Arab woman who is an expert on the process of democracy. Paul Wolfowitz is always being accused of being part of a bunch of Jews pushing Zionist interests with the likes of Richard Perle (a former senior Pentagon adviser) and Doug Feith (the Pentagon number three). So when an Arab woman says something similar, her views have tremendous authority”.

Asked about their relationship, Perle, a close political and intellectual soulmate of Wolfowitz, said: “You should ask her and Mr Wolfowitz about that. Any relationship they may have is a personal and private matter. I don’t know the extent or nature of it.”

Wolfowitz was, of course, already beating the drums for regime change in Iraq and was one of the signatories with Perle on the 1998 letter to President Clinton calling for Saddam to be ousted. For him, the war on terror brought with it the chance to pursue regime change and democracy across the Islamic world. In these views, he found common ground with Riza, who had often expressed her frustration at the widely held view in the West that Arab states would never embrace democracy.

Wolfowitz hoped that the invasion of Iraq that he did so much to engineer with his boss, Donald Rumsfeld, would not just topple a brutal dictator, but also set off a democracy ‘domino effect’ across West Asia.

For many of the neo-conservative cheerleaders of democracy, the next target is the autocratic Saudi state. Wolfowitz has already said that another goal of the Iraq war was to allow US troops to pull out of the kingdom to alternative bases. Riza will doubtless have offered him her views on how to deal with her childhood home.

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH "

Strange bedfellows? Wolfowitz has Arab feminist girlfriend

Strange bedfellows? Wolfowitz has Arab feminist girlfriend: "
Strange bedfellows? Wolfowitz has Arab feminist girlfriend

August 2, 2004

BY PHILIP SHERWELL
LONDON -- Conspiracy-minded foes of Paul Wolfowitz like to portray him as a leading light in Washington's group of Jewish neo-conservatives driving a pro-Israel policy.

The U.S. deputy defense secretary was one of the architects of the war to overthrow Saddam Hussein. For his detractors, it is evidence that he is hostile to Arab regimes.

Critics have also latched on to the fact that his sister Laura, a biologist, lives in Israel.

In fact, there is a woman from whom Wolfowitz does draw support for his views, but she comes from an unexpected background.

His closest companion is a middle-age Arab feminist whose views on instilling democracy in her native Middle East have helped bolster his resolve. Shaha Ali Riza is a senior World Bank official who was born in Tunis and grew up in Saudi Arabia.

Close acquaintances of the couple have said she is romantically linked with Wolfowitz, 61, a fellow divorcee with whom she has been friends for several years.

Even by the discreet standards of Washington's inner circle, it is a closely guarded secret. They rarely demonstrate affection publicly, according to friends.

They attend low-key social events and visit friends' homes together. Riza also sometimes goes to official functions with him but is not identified as his partner, an acquaintance said.

"Most people would never guess there was a relationship, even if they saw them together," he said.

Riza was vacationing last week and did not respond to messages. Wolfowitz did not return a call to his office.

For him, the war on terror brought with it the chance to pursue democracy across the Islamic world. In these views, he has found common ground with Riza.

"She felt that the U.S. supported democracy all over the world except in Arab countries," said a friend. "She believed that was wrong and that democracy can and must be promoted in the Arab world, even if it upsets feudal rulers and dictators."

Sunday Telegraph"

Iraq war still justified, Wolfowitz contends

Kansas City Star | 07/10/2004 | Iraq war still justified, Wolfowitz contends: "Iraq war still justified, Wolfowitz contends

By SCOTT CANON
The Kansas City Star

OMAHA, Neb. — Administration critics often single out Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz as an ideologue who cherry-picked intelligence to argue for invading Iraq.

As a report in Washington on Friday blamed the CIA for suggesting Saddam Hussein kept chemical and biological munitions and was closing in on a nuclear bomb — weapons that have yet to materialize — Wolfowitz said, “I'm concerned any time our intelligence is seriously wrong.”

Yet the conclusion by the Senate Intelligence Committee that the anti-Iraq “groupthink” was wrong about weapons of mass destruction doesn't undercut the basis for the American invasion, he said.

“If you wait until all the dots are connected, it's probably too late because you've already been attacked,” he said.

Given Hussein's refusal to give in to the United Nations' resolutions demanding weapons inspections, the brutality of his regime and his history for developing and using chemical killers, Wolfowitz said, the war was more than justified.

“The president took a broader case (than just weapons of mass destruction) to the U.N.,” he said.

Wolfowitz said Iraq is on course, albeit a violent and unsteady one, toward democratic autonomy. In a speech to Omaha business leaders, he said the handover of sovereignty has Iraqis optimistic that their fate is truly their own.

“I think they're starting to believe that we didn't come to get their oil,” he said.

By handing over authority two days early to avoid violent disruptions, Wolfowitz said, “we had the unintended effect that they saw that the Americans are so eager to get out. … That's good.”

That's bound to create a new sense of responsibility among rank-and-file Iraqis for the future of their country and less sanctuary for terrorists, he said. Iraqis now feel “they're no longer an occupied country,” Wolfowitz said. “I believe that makes a tremendous difference.”

More than 150,000 American and other foreign troops currently patrol Iraq. In talking with reporters after his speech, Wolfowitz said that he might have made an “overstatement” in saying Iraqis did not feel their country was occupied.

“But they feel things are moving toward a real Iraqi government,” he said. “They're giving the benefit of the doubt to the new government.”

He defended the Bush administration's tailoring of foreign policy toward the war on terror, describing it as “the most serious war we have ever fought,” even as he conceded that it might seem nebulous.

“It may be hard to tell when the war has ended, but it clearly hasn't ended yet,” Wolfowitz said. “It will be won when they stop attacking. … It may peter out.”

The Pentagon policy-maker said he was surprised at the strength and resilience of the post-combat Iraqi insurgency.

The insurgents' determination — and safe harbor — will fade as an Iraqi government gains the trust of its people, Wolfowitz said.

“The Iraqis' future is clearly in their own hands,” he said. “The big challenge now will be to pull off elections at the end of this year or the beginning of next year in the face of an evil enemy … I think those (insurgents) are going to lose support.”

To reach Scott Canon, call

(816) 234-4754 or send e-mail to scanon@kcstar.com."