Visit our stand at Freshers Fair

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OxGAPS will be at the Oxford University Freshers’ Fair which will be held at Examination Schools on 8, 9 and 10 October. Visit our stall and talk to a member of our team about our future plans and activities and how you can get involved.

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Be part of the discussion on the Gulf and the Arabian peninsula at Oxford.

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The Oxford Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Studies (OxGAPS) Forum is an on-going ad-hoc initiative led by Oxford University students, researchers and alumni.

The forum has, since its inception in 2012, sought to stimulate a fresh approach to the study and discussion of issues related to the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula at Oxford. The ten countries in the immediate focus of the Forum are Bahrain, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen, however given the size and complexity of Iran and Iraq we look at them primarily in the context of their impact on the others.

In the academic year 2013/14 we organised a major international conference, a number of seminars and numerous social activities.

Our plans for 2014/15 Continue reading

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OxGAPS welcomes all students and scholars at Oxford University at the start of the new academic year.

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On behalf of the Oxford Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Studies (OxGAPS) Forum we welcome all students and scholars at Oxford University at the start of the new academic year. We particularly welcome ‘Freshers’ who are joining the University for their first term. We wish you success with your studies.

If you are interested in the Gulf region and the Arabian Peninsula – be it because your studies are connected with the region, because you are from the region itself, or simply because you are interested please join our network. We have a number of exciting activities planned for the next academic year – some intellectual and some social.

Send us an email at office@oxgaps.info or visit our stand at Freshers Fair.

(Photo: Procession of the Chancellor Lord Patten of Barnes at Encaenia. Credit: Whitaker Studio. This image comes from Oxford University Images )

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Yemen seeks to get rid of “ghost soldiers”.

yemen armyYemen’s government has begun applying a biometric registration system for all military personnel in order to clear the public payroll from double-dippers and so-called ‘ghost workers’.

Double-dippers are those who are registered twice on the payroll and receive two salaries from two different public sector jobs. Ghost workers are fake names that are put on the payroll or those workers who receive one salary but do not serve in their positions. Some ghost workers do not even live in Yemen.

The problem is particularly acute in the Armed Forces, but the practice has been difficult to eradicate due to the delicate balance between different tribal and regional differences in the Army. But now teams have been sent to military camps across the country to take photos and fingerprints of the soldiers. Yemeni president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi said on August 3 that the teams should finish registering all soldiers before the end of October.

Continue reading

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Muslim students at Oxford University join millions world-wide marking the holy month of Ramadan.

RAMADAN-WALLPAPERS-5__1600x1000Millions of Muslims all over the world are marking the Islamic holy month of Ramadan – a month of fasting and reflection. This annual observance is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Continue reading

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OxGAPS hosts event with the theme “Are islam and democratic liberalism destined to clash?”

akyolProminent Turkish writer and journalist Mustafa Akyol was the guest speaker at an event hosted by OxGAPS at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford on Friday 23 May, 2014. Akyol, author of the book “Islam without extremes, a Muslim case for liberty” addressed the theme “Are Islam and democratic liberalism destined to clash?”

Ali Aslan Gumusay (Magdalen College/Said Business School) was the discussant during the event which was chaired by OxGAPS Forum Convenor, Dennis Sammut (St Peter’s College/History Faculty). The presentations were followed by a lively Q and A session with the participation of an active audience from across the university community.

audience 2The event was jointly organised by OXGAPS (The Oxford Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Studies Forum)  and the Oxford University Islamic Society.

A summary of the proceedings will be available on this website shortly.

 

 

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Oxford graduates argue for a multi-tiered approach to achieving a successful labour migration policy in the UAE

gf 2Most GCC  countries depend on millions of foreign workers to keep their economies moving. Their presence is often the cause of debate, and sometimes controversy. In this op-ed for oxgaps.org, Oxford graduates Froilan T Malit Jr and Ali al Youha argue for a four-tier approach in dealing with the issue in the United Arab Emirates, as the country moves forward with plans for a knowledge-based economy.

Over the last four decades, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has transformed its small-scale economy based on fishing and pearling sectors into one of the largest GDP/capita economies globally.  Today, the UAE hosts 8.2 million temporary labor migrants (90% migrant population) fueling the UAE’s aspiration of becoming a “knowledge-based economy”.  Through its relatively good record of governance and political stability, the UAE has continued its economic expansion, which inevitably triggered massive influxes of temporary labor migrants to its sovereign borders. Continue reading

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Arab Youth consider themselves global citizens. They are more independent minded, but are they also more spoilt?

arab youthSeven out of 10 young Arabs describe themselves as global citizens, regardless of their ethnicity, nationality or religious background, according to a study just released. The second annual Arab Youth Survey, conducted by the Dubai-based public relations firm Asda’a Burson-Marsteller, questioned 2,000 Arab national and expatriate youth, aged 18 to 24, in nine countries across the Middle East: Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE. Continue reading

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8 March: International Women’s Day

8 March is International Women’s Day.

From the City and University of Oxford, on behalf of the Oxford Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Studies Forum (OXGAPS)  we extend our congratulations to all women, and especially those in Bahrain, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. We salute all their efforts for their families, their societies and their countries and we support their endeavors.

Thirty Saudi Women are now members of the Shura Council where they contribute to the governance of their country. Saudi women continue to aspire for a more equal role in the their society.

Thirty Saudi Women are now members of the Shura Council where they contribute to the governance of their country. Saudi women continue to aspire for a more equal role in the their society.

UN Secretary General Kan bi-Moon has issued a special message on the occasion. He said, 
Continue reading

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Jeddah Art Week adds vibe to Peninsula art scene.

jeddah art weekArt on the Arabian peninsula is swinging. From Abu Dhabi to Sharjah, and from Kuwait to Sana’a, artistic expressions of different forms – paintings, theater, photography, galleries, and more are fast becoming genuine expressions of popular culture. The Saudi Red Sea port of Jeddah is now catching up fast, with a vibrant scene that this month saw at least three major cultural events, at the same time as the city itself seeks to become a UNESCO World heritage site.

One such event was the Jeddah Art Week which this year was held from 1-6 February. JAW-2014 has been an overwhelming success, not because of the several thousands of people who visited the exhibition but because JAW has managed to draw attendance and support from a cross-section of Jeddah community, Lina Lazaar, founder of JAW, told the Saudi English daily Arab News. “Art knows no language, has no race, gender, or nationality, and JAW-2014 has been a triumph in showcasing the richness of Jeddah’s vibrant community through art,” she said. Continue reading

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“Yemen 2014 – problems, solutions and prospects” , OxGAPS seminar in Oxford on 20 February

yemenWe are pleased to announce that the next OxGAPS event will be a seminar with the theme “Yemen 2014 – problems, solutions and prospects”. The event will take place on  Thursday, 20 February 2014 from 16.00 – 18.00 at the Middle East Centre, Woodstock Road (next to St Antony’s College). Coffee and registration start at 15.45.

The keynote speaker is Amat al-Alim Alsoswa, considered as Yemen’s most senior female politician, and a key protagonist of the current National Dialogue Conference.  Also on the panel will be Helen Lackner, editor of the new book  “Why Yemen matters: a society in transition” and Henry Thompson, Yemen specialist and Consultant to the oil and mining sectors on environmental impacts and community engagement strategies. Continue reading

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In memory of Dr Abdullah Omran Taryam – an Emirati statesman, intellectual, and foremost, a journalist.

Dr Abdullah Omran Taryam with the first president of the UAE Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan soon after the establishment of the federation.

Dr Abdullah Omran Taryam with the first president of the UAE Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan soon after the establishment of the federation.

OxGAPS co-ordinator, Dennis Sammut, reflects on the life and work of Dr Abdullah Omran Taryam who died yesterday.

The death of Dr Abdullah Omran Taryam, the founder and chief Executive of the al Khaleej Newspaper Group in the United Arab Emirates, at the age of 66, has saddened many people in the Gulf region and beyond. In many ways Taryam personified the journey that the Arab people of the Gulf have made over the last half century. At a very young age he was, as a member of the delegation of Sharjah, part of the team that together with the founding fathers of the UAE negotiated the establishment of the Union paving the way for the British departure from the Gulf in 1971. He subsequently served as Minister of Education, and later as Minister of Justice. Continue reading

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Enchanting Jabreen Castle mesmerises visitors to Oman.

Jabreen Castle, Oman

Jabreen Castle, Oman

Tourism is a relatively recent phenomena in many parts of the Arabian peninsula, and the interior of the Sultanate of Oman cannot be said to have been, at least until recently, a popular tourist destination. Yet for those who want to venture inland from the coast there are some wonderful historical gems to be discovered. One of them is Jabreen Castle which dates back to 1670. Its design and construction were supervised by Imam Bil’Arub bin Sultan Al Y`aribi  and it was built to resemble the most beautiful palaces of that period. The castle served as a palace and home for the Imam and his family, and a bastion during wartime. It was also a centre of learning and contained many study rooms. The Castle has recently been restored to its former glory thanks to the Ministry of Culture and Heritage of Oman, after having been in ruins for many years. Continue reading

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The battle for the minds of young Saudis.

The new Minister of Education of Saudi Arabia, Prince Khalid al Feisal with Sheikh Abudlateef al Sheikh, the head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice - al Haia, at their meeting on 1 January 2014, hailed by Saudi bloggers as a meeting of moderates

The new Minister of Education of Saudi Arabia, Oxford graduate, Prince Khalid al Feisal, with Sheikh Abudlateef al Sheikh, the head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice – al Haia, at their meeting on 1 January 2014. The meeting was hailed by Saudi bloggers as a meeting of “two moderates”.

There are high hopes that the recent appointment of a new Minister of Education in Saudi Arabia marks a significant attempt to modernise the country’s education system. In this op-ed, Dennis Sammut discusses the tasks ahead for Prince Khaled al Faisal as he walks a tightrope between reformists and religious conservatives.

The shuffling of a few princes between different government positions in Saudi Arabia does not often excite, either citizens in the Kingdom, or observers outside, unless the changes have a direct bearing on the Royal succession. The appointment of Prince Khaled bin Faisal al Saud as Minister of Education on 21 December was however a different matter altogether. Continue reading

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Happy New Year 2014

ny 2014 dubaiDubai welcomed 2014 with a grandiose fireworks display around the iconic Burj Khalifah (picture courtesy of William Ball)

 

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Table manners can lead to divorce in Kuwait.

kuwait_towerssunsetA woman in Kuwait has filed for divorce one week into her marriage after she discovered that husband did not like to eat peas with a fork and preferred to use bread. Accusing him of failing to abide by table manners and proper eating etiquette, she said that she was disgusted by the “shocking sight” and could not stay with her husband the rest of life and wanted a divorce, local daily Al Qabas reported on Monday.

The case was among several instances where the breaking point and the reason for divorce were not the familiar issues of abuse, infidelity or lack of communication, but rather unusual attitudes and odd limits where to draw the line in marriage, the daily said.

In another case, a woman told her lawyer that she wanted to divorce her husband for insisting on squeezing the toothpaste tube in the middle and not the end. “We are always arguing,” she reportedly said. “I keep telling him that he should squeeze in the end of the tube, but he stubbornly refuses and keeps squeezing it in the middle. He is so obstinate.”

In another divorce issue, a man divorced his wife after she refused to bring him a glass of water, arguing that there was a domestic helper who could do it. The husband reportedly asked her a second time, but she again refused and in the ensuing argument, he told her that their married life was over and that he was divorcing her.

Reproduced from Al Qabas and Gulf News

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The Christmas message is one of peace to all humankind. Christmas Greetings from Oxford to all the members and friends of OXGAPS in Oxford and all over the world, and to all followers of oxgaps.org.

OxfordChristmasMarketBest wishes for the Christmas Season from the Committee of OxGAPS – the Oxford Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Studies Forum at the University of Oxford. The Christmas message is a universal message of peace to all humankind. We extend season greetings to our members and friends in Oxford and worldwide, and to all our readers on oxgaps.org wherever they may be.

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Saudi Arabia’s announces record budget of SR855 billion for 2014.

Riyadh-Saudi-ArabiaSaudi Arabia’s budget for 2014 will amount to SR855 billion (approximately USD 228 billion) in 2014, an increase of 4.3% over this year’s budget, and the highest ever in the Kingdom’s history. However commentators have described the increase as modest, compared to expenditure growth in recent years.

The budget figures just announced show that spending and revenue are projected to total SR855 billion riyals ($228 billion) next year.  Financial commentators say that the 2014 budget suggests Riyadh is starting to rein in fiscal policy after massive expansion in recent years. Next year’s 4.3 percent rise in planned spending is far smaller than the 19 percent leap envisaged by the 2013 budget plan.

Saudi state television channel al Akhbariya, reporting the announcement of the budget also stated that the Kingdom was using a windfall from oil revenues to repay its public debt, which has dropped to SR 75.1 billion, or 2.7 per cent of its gross domestic product.

The International Monetary Fund expects that the Saudi economy, the largest in the Arab world,  will grow by 3.6 per cent and 4.4 per cent in 2013 and 2014 respectively, after expanding by 5.1 per cent last year.

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OxGAPS symposium offered an open space for debate on important issues.

Participants of the first panel of the Symposium (from l to r) Brian Whitaker (partly hidden), Dr Hafez Khan, Dr Nada Dhaif (Bahrain), Maryam al Rayes (Iraq) Ghassan Khaddim (iraq) and Ghaith al Amaireh (Jordan).

Participants of the first panel of the Symposium (from l to r) Brian Whitaker (partly hidden), Dr Hafez Khan, Dr Nada Dhaif (Bahrain), Maryam al Rayes (Iraq) Ghassan Khaddim (iraq) and Ghaith al Amaireh (Jordan).

Many participants in the symposium held in Oxford on 16 November have commented on the importance of the event and how it contributed to providing an open space for debate on many important issues affecting the Middle East Region at this moment. The Symposium with the theme “Old and new challenges for the Arab countries of the Middle East and the Gulf” was held at Oxford University, and organised jointly by the Oxford Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Studies Forum (OxGAPS) and the John Smith Memorial Trust.

Around one hundred academics and students from Oxford University and other UK education institutions and practitioners from many Arab countries, participated in the one day event. They included participants from Iraq, Bahrain, Oman, Jordan and Lebanon who were in the UK attending the John Smith Fellowship Program for the Middle East and North Africa – a fellowship program held twice a year with the support of the “Arab Partnership Initiative” of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

You can read a summary of the proceedings at the symposium here

Continue reading

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Dubai celebrates: Crown Prince hoists flag on the top of Burj Khalifa.

sheikh hamdan on top of burj khalifa

Dubai is in celebration mood today as it joins the rest of the United Arab Emirates in celebrating the country’s national day. The event has however also coincided with the selection of Dubai as the city to host the 2020 world expo and many are making the most of the double celebration.

The Crown Prince of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed al Maktoum, decided to celebrate the two events somewhat differently. He climbed the world tallest building, Burj Khalifa to hoist the UAE flag.

Picture courtesy of Khaleej Times.

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