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The Culture Shock of War and Peace



As waves steeped in the history of riverbeds break gently against the shoreline so does the memory of war. Flummoxed soldiers march on towards near death experiences. Far away from home. Left in a state of bewilderedness. Bereft and even going mad sometimes.

There is more than an English translation of the fragments of human bodies in war. There are translations in millions of languages.
In the dead of night when the world is fast asleep child soldiers shake in their boots to keep their chins up and their bodies upright. Every line of their fingerprints is marked by rations, imprints of their memories of home and the killing of time.
Watching the news daily, I finally knew what hot, happening war zones, orphans, living in this heat, this sweltering climate and poverty meant and its burden on those who suffer the most. Reconciliation. Closure. The final passage. The point of no return. The companions of poets are strange for they are always estranged. They are the voices of ghosts from the past, present and future. For the poet to think out of the box there must be illumination and illusion.

France, Spain, Portugal, England and America have colonized Africa with the result that there was gross exploitation of the people who were in this process. They were deprived of education, their sole dignity, integrity. At heart their morale and decency.
The point is that I am writing from the point of view as a woman, as a writer, as a poet and as an African. I am writing as a representative of Africa. Some of you might ask what my gender has to do with it. However, for years, even now women have been second-class citizens in Africa. They have been denied human rights and a voice to speak out against the brutal injustices and abuses that have fallen against them. Africa has been drained dry by the exploitation and the violation of its natural reserves of gold and diamonds and all its mineral resources. This affected the standard of education and the level of literacy on the continent for generations.
For this reason, there has been a scourge of promising writers and poets coming out of Africa. This has been particularly so in my own country South Africa which only twenty years ago gained its independence and threw off the yolk of Apartheid, with it the Group Areas Act, the humiliating forced removals which meant that people were smothered into tiny two-roomed homes with their families which made it difficult to raise their children to be upstanding, law-abiding citizens.

Although many changes have to be made the change after hundreds of years of oppression, discrimination and prejudice has brought about a novel, unique, relevant and compelling freedom which brought to light the injustices of the past governments’ patriarchal system.
Many South African writers whose literary ‘voice’ and ability was stifled now can write freely without any censorship, detention, torture or banning orders about the different cultures, languages, faiths, mores and the racial boundaries that existed before.
No more will the words ‘kinky’, ‘nappy’ hair, ‘kroeskop duchess’, ‘Bushy’ be used as expletives; as curses. No longer will they be known as vile. Mocking the pedigree or breed of a person.
As a South African writer, I write from the point of view of a black South African whose parents experienced and grew up in the struggle. Who for half of their life experience battled through to obtain a suitable level of education? They grew up in difficult, turbulent, trying times. They were deprived of an adequate education and thus could only qualify to do menial jobs or become nurses or teachers.
My grandmother worked as a domestic servant for a white family and my paternal grandfather worked as a barman at an elite country club for White golfers and their posh wives and bratty, spoilt children. She was treated in a demeaning fashion and nothing more as a servant or a nanny. However, my parents were prepared to see their children get the best possible education under the circumstances, which seemed like the bane of our existence.

I grew up surrounded by books. A love of reading instilled in me by both of my parents who became teachers. The attitudes that the Whites had against Blacks were abhorrent. They were of another breed of people. They looked down on the lower classes and saw them as either being a sad, pathetic species that they had an obligation towards, or they remained aloof, indifferent towards or whom at best they tolerated with disdain.
Now is the time for African writers to write with a passion, in overdrive, to write what they like with their own personal signature style and to not be afraid of breaking the mold, breaking new ground with humility, with the milk of human kindness and tenderness that was so lacking in their White contemporaries who could only show hate, self-hate, a deep lack of self-respect, treachery and wickedness. The ones who upheld that unholy law of the division of all the races in South Africa.
Yet it is still not so different – other countries on the continent are not as free or do not experience freedom in the sense or the way we do in South Africa. In other African nations on this beautiful, diverse, vibrant, cosmopolitan continent filled with communities that are filled with joy, life, love, colour and laughter, despite their devastating poverty stricken, marginalized and disadvantaged status quos, they are trapped in white hot war zones or the trembling precipice of peaceful reforms and democratic elections and the election of the first female president ever of an African country.

Their voices are quelled. Their histories are quelled as is their individual pain, the innocence of their children, their sorrow and suffering for all the world to see in shared light but it is invisible in the darkness of their sadness, helplessness and their hopelessness for the situations that they find themselves in.
Sufi poet Amir Khusrau said, ‘People think they are alive because they have soul in them, but I am alive because I have love in myself.’ I want the children on the African continent, globally and from different nationalities to realize that expression of their inimitable talent or gift, that expression of their creativity, that is gold and that all people are born equal second to none.

A writer scrapes the walking wounded, the sunlight, and the pain of a songbird off her knee, pulls faith over her head and calls it a sweater. Mistakes feel like sequins. The alphabet too. The merits of crossing the water in a swimming pool feel like lightning, a bridge, and poetry. We come to the culture shock of war and peace. We call it heritage. In South Africa, we call it indigenous knowledge systems. Our poets call it shamanic wisdom. In every location there is a flash of God.

Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominated shortlisted and longlisted poet Abigail George is a recipient of four writing grants from the National Arts Council, the Centre for Book and ECPACC. She briefly studied film, writes for The Poet, is an editor at MMAP and Contributing Writer at African Writer. She is a blogger, essayist, writer of several short stories, novellas and has ventured out to write for film with two projects in development . She was recently interviewed for Sentinel, and the BBC.

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Soft Power Dynamics in Middle Eastern Conflict



The Middle East is synonymous with eternal conflict as being at the cross-point between Africa, Europe, and Asia.

The paper intends to understand how the power could be derived from the cultural roots in a world filled with pre-existing biases based on religious values, nationality, and interpretation of history.

Palestine receives strong international support through social media by sharing its pain and grievances increasing its soft power that hampers Israel’s international relations. A new question emerges can the soft power paradigm be used to resolve the problem?  

The roots of the Middle Eastern problem are driven by historical-religious literature which shows the Middle East to be the historic homeland of Jews and they wanted to get back to their original homeland due to two-millennium long suppression that finally ended up as the holocaust.

Israel continues to emphasize and promote stories related to Second World War which help them gain the legitimacy to exist as a state. It is also remarked that the holocaust may have been a decisive condition for the creation of a Jewish state but this action would have occurred sooner or later.

One of the biggest strengths for Israel and its legitimacy comes from the Biblical literature which has some historical stories in it and mentions Israel and Judah in the Middle East providing American Christian Support which seems to be dropping as a result Israel needs to work on its soft power.

A similar strength can be found in Quran for Israeli as Surah Al-Ma’idah in Chapter 5 verse 12 states about the Children of Israel and verse 21 explains that they are “destined to enter and not to turn back else they will become the loser.” These verses motivate Israeli for their cause which raises an interesting phenomenon that some pro-Israeli media would use Quranic verses to gain legitimacy.

History needs to be studied to understand how and where the differences between Jews and Muslims started. Originally there was a peaceful relation between Jews and Muslims but Jews refuse to acknowledge Muhammad a non-Jew as one of the prophets of God which caused the relationship between Jews and Muslims to deplete.

Finally, Banu Qurayza a Jewish community allied with Qurashites against Prophet Muhammad that caused Medina to suffer a war-built hatred towards Judaism.

However, even after looking at the differences Muslims, Christians, and Jews are Abrahamic religions maintaining their base Judaic-monotheistic tradition as both Roman Catholics and Arab previously had polytheistic culture and Israel has indirectly benefitted from this historical fact.

Israel could benefit from various religions by showing show respect to the leaders of Abrahamic religions and even maintain an apologetic attitude on behalf of some of the members of the Jewish community which may have conducted villainous actions as per some stories based on other religious doctrines.

The tower of one’s ego can prohibit supporting the national interest which could only be achieved by becoming softer to gain soft power.

It is argued that the ancient Philistine is related to present-day Palestine. Palestine as a result gets associated with David and Goliath or Samson’s struggle with Philistine. However, the term Palestine is more complicated which had developed in the period.

There are also claims that the Syria Palaestina was constructed as a punishment for Bar Kochba Revolt in 135CE while the name Palaestina given to the region seems to be older than Bar Kochba Revolt and even older than the Roman Emperor Hadrian.

The image of the Israel and Palestine conflict is connected towards mythical combat between David and Goliath. David was an inexperienced youth who later became king of Israel and defeated a giant from ancient Philistine called Goliath.

Some actors who are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause have also connected Palestine with David who was weak at the beginning of the story while they perceive Israel as an unjust giant and the toughest fighter in the region.

The Middle Eastern conflict goes beyond religion and history as it has multiple dimensions due to multiple crimes against humanity causing people to be refugees that inflict social, political, and economic damages.

A medium to obtain soft power is by resolving the humanitarian crisis and Israel being perceived as a perpetrator tampered with its national image.

Israel as an economically advanced country with large spending power can establish economic institutions to raise funds in providing education, training, and employment to victims of that conflict regardless of their religion, ethnicity, gender, or political views who have been scattered around the world which would help Israel gain legitimacy.

The economic recovery of the war victims can minimize some damage enforced upon the national image but there is a strong opinion that the Palestinian community lacks legal rights as being in Israeli jurisdiction. So, political rights might have to be secured to the Palestinians while they have to live in Israel for Israel to create a positive national image.  

The Israeli government also create an option for the Palestinian community to have the right to return, granting them protection in Knesset (Israeli Parliament), while promoting Arab Israeli politicians, and can even reflect how they have shaped the Israeli government in the international arena to build Israel’s soft power.

Finally, the last piece of the puzzle is the social affairs which are closely tied to the soft power paradigm.

There is a clear fear that the Jews are eclipsing the social identity of the Palestinian people but in reality, they are closely linked as Arabic language and Hebrew are Semitic languages, their scripts have common Aramaic ancestry, and Halaal and Kosher dietary cultures are also similar.

There should be an effort to study the similarities to build unity and to study unique qualities as to appreciate one another’s differences. Israel could also create Cultural Relations Centers around the world that promote both Jewish and Palestinian language, culture, and cuisine to create respect and solidarity. 

There can also be the production of television programs, movies, digital applications which could allow people to understand the Middle Eastern community.

Tel Aviv is the center for the development of many technological advancements and carries great potential to build creative applications and visual storytelling that could help spread awareness about the Middle East.

On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority could request the Israeli government to provide scholarships in various Israeli Universities which could enhance their credential for making effort to create a peaceful world as well as proposing exchange programs by inviting Israeli students to visit regular Palestinian colleges and working spaces decreasing bitterness.

The Palestinian Authority could also pursue Israeli investment in core-Palestinian settlements that could create employment as well as mutual dependence allowing Palestine to grow with a greater bargaining power while maintaining a symbiotic relationship.

Culture, history, and institutions can be combined to create harmony. A key aspect to gain soft power and legitimacy is by becoming softer by showing respect to the opponents while appreciating and accepting others’ viewpoints.

Therefore, the study of religion, history has to be conducted from a neutral perspective that can be trusted by all international actors and could serve as a uniting factor while maintaining an apologetic attitude towards historic mistakes. There needs to be an effort to provide economic and political compensation for the victims which have caused notoriety in the international arena and finally the culture of the two competing communities needs to be celebrated through cultural institutions to build trust and harmony.

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Biden-Putting meeting: Live from Geneva



19:00 The places of the flags on the Mont Blanc bridge on which President Biden and President Putin will pass to reach the meeting venue on Wednesday usually hold the flags of the different Swiss cantons. Not today. The American and Russian flags have been placed to welcome the two leaders. 

18:00 A day before the Geneva summit: Hotel Intercontinental where the American delegation and probably President Biden himself is staying, how the city looks like a day before the meeting, what are the security measures like, why isn’t the UN involved and are the usual protests expected?

Iveta Cherneva with live video political commentary from Geneva one day ahead of the Biden-Putin Summit

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Will the promotion of cricket in GCC add to its Soft Power?



In recent years, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, have been trying to bolster their ‘Soft Power’ in a number of ways; by promoting tourism, tweaking their immigration policies to attract more professionals and foreign students and focusing on promoting art and culture. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has taken the lead in this direction (in May 2017, UAE government set up a UAE Soft Power Council which came up with a comprehensive strategy for the promotion of the country’s Soft Power). Under Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS), Saudi Arabia has also been seeking to change its international image, and it’s Vision 2030 seeks to look beyond focusing on economic growth. In the Global Soft Power Index 2021, Saudi Arabia was ranked at number 24 and number 2 in the Gulf region after the UAE (the country which in the past had a reputation for being socially conservative, has hosted women’s sports events and also hosted the G20 virtually last year)

Will the promotion of cricket in GCC add to its Soft Power?

   One other important step in the direction of promoting Soft Power in the GCC, is the attempt to popularize cricket in the Gulf. While the Sharjah cricket ground (UAE)  hosted many ODI (One Day International )tournaments, and was witness to a number of thrillers between India and Pakistan, match fixing allegations led to a ban on India playing cricket at non-regular venues for a duration of 3 years (for a period of 7 years from 2003, Sharjah did not get to host any ODI). The Pakistan cricket team has been playing its international home series at Sharjah, Abu Dhabu and Dubai for over a decade (since 2009) and the sixth season of the Pakistan Super League is also being played in UAE. Sharjah has also hosted 9 test matches (the first of which was played in 2002).

 Sharjah hosted part of the Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament in 2014, and last year too the tournament was shifted to UAE due to covid19 (apart from Sharjah, matches were played at Dubai and Abu Dhabi). This year again, the UAE and possibly Oman are likely to host the remaining matches of the IPL which had to be cancelled due to the second wave of Covid19. The ICC Men’s T20 World Cup to be held later this year (October-November 2021), which was actually to be hosted by India,  could also be hosted not just in the UAE, but Oman as well (there are two grounds, one of them has floodlights). International Cricket Council (ICC) is looking for an additional venue to UAE, because a lot of cricket is being played there, and this may impact the pitches. The ICC while commenting on the possibility of the T20 World cup being hosted in the Middle East said:

, “The ICC Board has requested management [to] focus its planning efforts for the ICC Men’s  T20 World Cup 2021 on the event being staged in the UAE with the possibility of including another venue in the Middle East’

GCC countries are keen not just to host cricketing tournaments, but also to increase interest in the game. While Oman has a team managed by an Indian businessman, Saudi Arabia has set up the SACF (Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation) in 2020 and it has started the National Cricket Championship which will have more than 7,000 players and 36 teams at the school level. Peshawar Zalmi, a Pakistani franchise T20 cricket team, representing the city of Peshawar the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which plays in the Pakistan’s domestic T20 cricket league – the Peshawar cricket league —  extended an invitation to the SACF, to play a friendly match against it. It’s owner Javed Afridi had extended the invitation to the Saudi Arabian team in April 2021.  Only recently, Chairman of SACF Prince Saud bin Mishal  met with India’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Dr Ausaf Saeed, to discuss ways for promoting the game in Saudi Arabia. He also visited the ICC headquarters at Dubai and apart from meeting officials of ICC also took a tour of Sharjah cricket ground.

GCC countries have a number of advantages over other potential neutral venues. First, the required infrastructure is already in place in some countries, and there is no paucity of financial resources which is very important. Second, there is a growing interest in the game in the region, and one of the important factors for this is the sizeable South Asian expat population. Third, a number of former cricketers from South Asia are not only coaching cricket teams, but also being roped in to create more enthusiasm with regard to the game. Fourth, UAE along with other GCC countries, could also emerge as an important venue for the resumption of India-Pakistan cricketing ties.


In conclusion, if GCC countries other than UAE — like Saudi Arabia and Oman  — can emerge as important cricketing venues, their ‘Soft Power’ appeal is likely to further get strengthened especially vis-à-vis South Asia. South Asian expats, who have contributed immensely to the economic growth of the region, and former South Asian cricketers will have an important role to play in popularizing the game in the Gulf. Cricket which is already an important component of the GCC — South Asia relationship, could help in further strengthening people to people linkages.

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