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Women in the Middle East financial world: An interview with Layal Haykal



In order for a woman to succeed in a world, where the rules are dictated by men and age-old traditions, she must be a real professional. Today we are interviewing just such a specialist and, using her example, we want to show how professionalism and striving for success help to achieve heights despite unequal conditions.

Layal, please describe the problems women face in the Middle East? How do these problems prevent women from developing and achieving success in their careers?

"Unfortunately, in the majority of the Middle East countries, women cannot have equal rights with men. What is more, development in the professional sphere is complicated for them. All the leading positions in the majority of spheres of life are occupied by men - and it is the main problem and inhibitory factor for women's career progress. As a rule, each woman entirely depends on her husband. Her life is locked in the household. Of course, such a dishonorable role affects the options in general development in social, professional, and cultural dimensions exceptionally negatively. 
You are one of the few who have truly reached impressive heights in your professional career. What qualities do you think have helped you to succeed in the specific world of business and finance, where men traditionally rule?

Of course, every rule has exceptions. I think I was fortunate to manage the escape from this vicious circle of dependencies and become an example for many women willing to live, work, and develop a fascinating career. Luck is far from a determinant perk here. I work a lot and constantly improve myself as a professional. A woman in the Middle East can be successful if she is head and shoulders above men in a professional dimension. 

Your story is a success story. What are its reasons?

"As I've mentioned before, the fundamental cause of success is persistence. I put back into work and continually learn. In the financial sphere, one must not only know much but swiftly react to the market changes, as the apparent prosperity can give place to a crisis in a moment. 
Tell us about your experience. What challenges did you face in Euromena and how important is your role in the company's operations and its success?

During the days of employment in Euromena Funds, an international investment company based in Lebanon, I could prove out myself maximally. There I got significant experience in investments and affected mutual success and company development equally with men. 
My duties included the workflow organization within a company and consulting in the field of taxation optimization.

How do Lebanese and international partners and clients rate your work?

"Their feedback was very positive. Their support and appreciation, in particular, have become proof of my professionalism and motivated me to move further in my career and professional knowledge and never stop at what has already been achieved. At the rapidly changing world of finance you always need to move forward.
At the end of 2019, a banking crisis began in Lebanon, from which the country has not yet been able to recover. Tell us how you managed not only to work, but also to maintain high efficiency during this difficult time?

During the October 2019 banking crisis, a pretty severe period for Lebanon, I had to run the financial flows of the whole Euromena Group.
Besides that, in the meantime, I was lucky to cooperate with financial development institutes in the spheres of ecology betterment and social relationships. The institutes still promote the development of the Lebanon private sector forming after a crisis and the region's economic stability.

Answering your question, I can add that the system approach and a habit of learning and work much helped me solve those tasks. Years of practice gave birth to a strong habit not to sit idly even if I had spare time. 

In addition to finance, what other areas have you managed to become a professional and succeed in?

"Yes, finances are not half of it. I conducted the transfer of the data belonging to all 18 companies forming the Euromena Group from old software to new. Despite the significant amount of work, I managed to complete it successfully. That assignment captivated me, as it demanded great attention to detail. I think the more difficulty means the more excitement. 
How do you manage not only to work fruitfully, but also to study in parallel, to combine this with the role of mother and wife?

Here everything is relatively easy. I wouldn't say I like sitting idly so much that any professional or common obstacle cannot frighten me. They are just tasks, and one should fall in love with them. Then, everything is possible! When you feel the responsibility for others, you feel up to do it!
What advice would you give to women in the Middle East and around the world to achieve their goals?

The main peculiarity of women is their ability to create the world around them, change it, and care about it. It concerns the professional sphere completely. Yes, often, a woman has to work twice more than a man to prove her competence. But it will make you a true professional. It will highlight you among other co-workers and let you accomplish all the career goals. 

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Middle East

Unique conference reflects unity against Iran’s extremist policies by moderate Muslims and other faithful.



In an online conference this week political, social, and religious leaders from various Muslim countries, Europe, and the United States stressed the need for a unified response to Iran’s role in regional crises and its practice of fomenting sectarian conflict and threatening its neighbors.

The conference, "Islam, Religion of Mercy, Fraternity, and Equality; Solidarity of All Faiths against Extremism," was chaired by former Algerian Prime Minister Sid Ahmed Ghozali and moderated by the prominent Algerian author Mr. Anwar Malikwas, and was held on the advent of the holy month of Ramadan by the International Islamic Committee in Defence of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (PMOI/MEK) and the Iranian Resistance.

The virtual gathering connected over 2,000 locations in 40 countries and featured dozens of dignitaries, including former government ministers, members of parliaments, and religious leaders from some 30 countries. The joint presence of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish religious leaders underscored the fact that the Iranian regime is an enemy of all these religions.

Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), who joined the conference from her residence in Auvers-sur-Oise, focused on the notion that “the ruling clerics of Iran are hostile to all Abrahamic religions and all religions of Islam.”

She also noted that this Ramadan is taking place at a time of high prices, mass unemployment, and economic deprivation for millions of Iranians. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has refrained from spending even a tiny portion of his trillions of dollars of assets to the fight against the Coronavirus to provide for public health.

“In reality, the Iranian people simultaneously face two monsters: the virus of religious fascism and the Coronavirus,” Rajavi said.

Emphasizing the fact that the ruling religious fascism in Iran has stepped into a phase of failures and defeat despite all the bloodshed and clampdown that it has committed, the NCRI President-elect added: “So long as the clerical regime has not been overthrown, it will not abandon repression, religious discrimination, and misogyny. It will not abandon its meddling and crimes in Middle East countries because it relies on these policies for its survival. But there is a solution to this ominous calamity that has taken hostage the destinies of Middle East countries and poses the greatest threat to global peace and security. The solution is to overthrow the mullahs' religious fascism by the Iranian Resistance and the uprising of the Iranian people. And today, the MEK, the people of Iran, and their courageous children have risen up to bring down the rule of religious dictatorship.”

Mrs. Rajavi urged all anti-fundamentalist Muslims, and all countries in Europe and the Middle East, to stand with the Iranian people and their struggle to overthrow the regime. This struggle to establish a democratic and pluralist republic will herald the tolerant and peaceful coexistence of followers of various religions and denominations, she said.

Mr. Ghozali echoed this call to action, concluding that the fight against dictatorship by the Iranian resistance will serve not only the Iranian people but also peoples in the surrounding region. “The Iranian Resistance provides an alternative to dictatorships,” he said. “This is the specific characteristic of the Iranian Resistance. It has enormous experience and has made enormous sacrifices for the Iranian people. Even those who are not Iranian wish success for this noble cause. And this is why we consider it as our shared cause.”

Rt. Rev. Bishop John Pritchard joined the conference from the UK and condemned the Iranian regime for misusing religion to carry out atrocities. He noted that activists of all sorts are being arrested and sentenced to long prison terms or even execution based on vague, religious-sounding charges like “waging war against God.”

“Christians are not allowed to observe their faith in public. Their homes are raided and belongings are confiscated simply because they are Christian,” he said. “We reaffirm our belief in freedom of religion in Iran, which is enshrined in Madam Rajavi’s ten-point plan. We call on the international community to take action for the release of all those who are being held in Iran’s prisons unjustly.”

Rabbi Moshe Lewin, spokesperson of the Chief Rabbi of France stressed the need for inter-religious dialogue, especially at a time when much of the world is threatened by fundamentalism. “You are all dear to me and I know how hard you work to have Iran become a democratic country, and how hard you fight against fundamentalism,” he told the global audience of Iranian activists. “And this is why I will always be at your side. Iran needs a society at peace that enables each Iranian citizen to live decently.”

Azzam Al-Ahmad, head of the Fatah faction in the Palestinian Parliament, said, “Palestinians are paying attention to what you are suffering in Iran because of the killing and arrests that the regime is doing. We are also suffering the same killing and capturing and occupation. We will stand together against the dark forces that spread destruction in the Middle East. We support you and our friends in the Iranian nation to achieve the security and noble values that the MEK represents.”

Elona Gjebrea, Secretary of the Albanian Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee and former Deputy Minister of Interior of Albania pointed out that for decades, the Iranian regime has oppressed its people and stripped its citizens of their rights. “We are concerned about the continued use of torture against Iranian protesters and support the human rights of the Iranian people and to support the cause of the MEK.”

Bassam Al-Omoush, former Jordanian Minister and former Ambassador to Iran raised the question, “Why does the Iranian regime need to kill Syrians and Iraqis and Yemeni people?”   “This is not Islam. They are using Islam to control the people and this is not acceptable.”

Riad Yassin Abdallah, Former Yemeni Foreign Minister and Ambassador to France stressed, “The Iranian regime’s militias show no mercy toward the people. They are not looking for peace. No one can trust them,” he said. “They are butchering thousands of people. They are planting bombs and depriving the people of food. I invite all our brothers and friends to support and pray for our nation. We need to understand that what they are doing is not supporting peace and security and is not related to any religion.”

Dr. Walid Phares, foreign policy expert and Co-Secretary General of the Transatlantic Parliamentary Group, underscored, “The truth is the militias of the Iranian regime are spreading terrorism across the Arab and Islamic countries. The regime is not the protector of Shiites. They are the oppressors of Shiites. After all these decades of bloodshed, how can we say that this regime represents Islam? We must help bring an understanding of the realities on the ground. Most of the people in the region know the danger of this regime. We wish this resistance movement to be successful in bringing peace and stability to the region.”

Marc Ginsberg, former US Ambassador to Morocco and White House Middle East Adviser, pointed out: “The Iranian regime carries out atrocities under the banner of Islam. And we all know this is not Islam. The mullahs do not practice peace. They practice war. They practice vengeance. Those of us who have come to know Madam Rajavi, the MEK, and NCRI know that her leadership is true Islamic leadership. Like all Abrahamic religions, the Islam that Madam Rajavi practices seek to remove the shackles of human bondage. Despite all concessions made by Europe and the U.S. to this regime, the minute that the ink was dry on that agreement, the Ayatollahs were cheating on the commitments that they signed up for.   Madam Rajavi represents the most viable and democratic alternative to this regime.”

Aiham Alsammarae, former Iraqi Minister of Electricity, said, “The Iraqi people will not allow any support of the mullahs and do not endorse concessions to the Iranian regime during the nuclear negotiations. This will only worsen the suffering of the people of Iran and the region,” he said.

Mohamad Nazir Hakim, former Secretary-General of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, expressed a similar sentiment, “The mullahs’ regime has always considered Syria its 35th province to ensure its Shia project overlooks the Mediterranean coast,” he observed. “But the Iranian and Syrian people do not believe the regime’s narrative, and their Resistance movements present hope that goes beyond the regime’s bloodshed.”

According to Cheikh Dhaou Meskine, Secretary-General of Council of Imams in France, “Iran needs its Resistance movement. The whole Middle East needs you so that Iran can live in a democracy and can play its role as the vanguard of civilization.”

Jordanian Member of Parliament Abed Ali Ulaiyan Almohsiri, anticipated the eventual victory of that movement. “[Tehran’s] fascist regime is concerned about this organization and considers them its worst threat,” he said. “This resistance will be victorious and will have support from inside and outside Iran. Iranians agree that this regime has to go. The MEK is moving forward to change this regime to liberate the Iranian people.”

Egyptian MP Ahmed Raafat emphasized that this victory will begin to reverse some of the damage that Iranian imperialism has done to the entire region. “It is spreading its poison all across the world,” he said of the clerical regime. “What the MEK and Madam Maryam Rajavi are doing is a great goal that history will remember.” The movement, he said, represents a meaningful challenge to a regime whose rule “is based on encouraging bloodshed under the banner of Islam. Islam is unconnected with what they are doing.

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The #AbrahamAccords and a changing #MiddleEast



Whether we call it peace or normalization isn’t very important: The agreements being signed today between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, along with US President Donald Trump’s guarantee, mark a historical transition that not only reflects the great changes underway within Arab societies, but also upends old dynamics and can change the world, writes Fiamma Nirenstein.

It’s very difficult to recognize the deal for what it is, because Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu don’t enjoy the support of the international press. Moreover, the Palestinians received what was for them a totally surprising refusal from the Arab League to their request to condemn it.

Europe, meanwhile, keeps repeating its old stupid mantras of “illegally occupied territories,” and “two states for two peoples.” It can’t fathom calling the current agreements “peace.”

What, after all, is peace without Palestinians?

Paradoxically, many American Jews and Israelis have joined this very same festival of self-humiliation.

Nevertheless, history is in the making in Washington today, and not only for the Middle East. What we are witnessing is the construction of a bridge between the three monotheistic religions.
Like it or not, Israel, the Jewish state, is finally integrated into the positive narrative of the region. With actual smiles and handshakes, it has become a recognized Middle Eastern state—part of the landscape of its deserts, mountains, cities and Mediterranean coasts.
Airplanes will be able to fly freely between Tel Aviv, Abu Dhabi and Manama. Citizens of these countries will travel back and forth. Water will flow. Innovation in medicine, high-tech and agriculture will be shared. It’s a Rosh Hashanah miracle. The Messiah seems to be coming, after all.
“Hope and change” — the empty campaign slogan used by former US President Barack Obama — doesn’t do justice to what is happening before our very eyes. That Saudi Arabia is allowing its airspace to be used for flights between Israel and the Arab world is but one example.
Oman, too, has welcomed the normalization of ties between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain, as has Egypt. Kuwait is looking on with caution. Even Qatar, a friend and ally of Iran and Hamas, is trying to hedge its bets—as the current agreements have shuffled all the cards.
Other Arab countries expected to normalize relations with Israel in the near future include Saudi Arabia, Oman, Morocco, as well as Sudan, Chad and even Kosovo, a Muslim country, which wants to open an embassy in Jerusalem.
All official statements welcoming the agreements express the hope that the Palestinians will eventually become part of the game again. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, decided on the Abraham Accord after Jerusalem and Washington agreed to suspend, at least temporarily, the application of Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and parts of the West Bank as envisaged in Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan.
While the Crown Prince may expect some gratitude from Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, the latter is not complying, preferring, instead, to talk about Arab “betrayal” and “abandonment”—in concert with Iran, Hezbollah, Turkey and any other proverbial pyromaniac who loves fanning the flames of war.
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh traveled to Lebanon earlier this month to meet with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and discuss a multi-front terror war against Israel. While there, he announced Hamas’s plan to build on-site smart ballistic missiles. Lebanese newspapers denounced his remarks as an attempt to “destroy Lebanon” by making it the base of a war that its citizens don’t want.
Many say that it’s “not too late for the Palestinians” to reverse their rejectionism. Some believe that it is not in their DNA to extricate themselves from their disastrous comfort zone—one that not only has turned them into veto-masters in the nationalist and then Islamist Middle East, but also rendered them the protagonists of both, which are now waning.
It’s the end. The Middle East has lived with myths and legends. But pan-Arabism, tribal and sectarian tensions, corruption, violence and Islamism (that was used as a substitute weapon for defeated pan-Arabism) are now over in a large part of the world.
The entire fortress has been struck by a resounding wave of enthusiasm for a normal future with—and increased knowledge about—this “Martian” from the planet “Evil,” which Israel had become in the collective Muslim-Arab imagination.
Now, on the one hand, there’s normalization, which has been recognized by new Asian and African leaders (even among the Palestinians, according to expert Khaled Abu Toameh, courageous voices are emerging that despise corruption and terrorist incitement); on the other hand, there is the Tehran-Ankara axis and its friends, soldiers and proxies ready for war. Their aspirations have nothing to do with fighting on behalf of the Palestinians. They are locked in an old ideological terrorist spiral.
The Europeans should have learned from history how to distinguish peace from war. Choosing the former clearly is the better path, unless death and destruction have a strange attraction that magnetizes more than peace and prosperity.
This article was translated from Italian by Amy Rosenthal.
All opinions expressed in the above article are those of the author alone, and do not reflect any opinions on the part of EU Reporter.

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European Union must adapt to paradigm shift in the #MiddleEast



Historical news, extraordinary development. Without doubt one of the main news this summer in the world: the decision of the United Arab Emirates, one of the most important Gulf state, to normalize its relations with the State of Israel, writes Yossi Lempkowicz, Senior Media Advisor Europe Israel Press Association (EIPA).
A decision that prefigures a complete change of attitude of the Arab countries towards Israel which is no longer seen as the enemy of the Arab world but on the contrary as an ally and partner in peace, security and economic development of the whole region.
Abu Dhabi became the third capital after Cairo and Amman to cross the Rubicon. Other countries are expected to follow. We are now talking about Oman, Bahrain, Sudan, Morocco ... and why not Saudi Arabia. A normalization which illustrates the rise of a new generation of Arab leaders who have a different vision of the region.
This UAE-Israel agreement, obtained under the auspices of the Trump administration, deals an undoubtedly fatal blow to the dogma - widely held in Europe and elsewhere in the world - that the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a condition for a recognition of Israel by Arab countries. A concept which has allowed the Palestinian leadership to maintain over the years a negative attitude towards any attempt at negotiation with Israel. It should be a game changer.
One stone, two blows. In addition to the normalization of relations between the two countries and eventually the installation of reciprocal embassies and the launch of direct flights, the agreement also provides for an essential element for the Emirates: the specific acceptance by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the suspension of his  plan to extend Israeli sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). A project that was nevertheless part of Netanyahu's electoral promises. "The priority is to expand the circle of peace," he told Abu Dhabi-based Sky News Arabia.
According to a Channel 12 poll, nearly 80% of Israelis prefer a normalization agreement with Arab countries to an extension of Israeli sovereignty.
‘’Delaying the annexation (of territories), or preferably cancelling it, will save Israel unnecessary political, security and economic costs and allow it to focus on the real national security challenges ahead: the economy, Covid -19, Iran, Hezbollah and Gaza,'' said Amos Yadlin, who heads the prestigious Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv.
There are two camps in the Middle East today. Those who oppose radical Islam, want to promote peace, stability and economic development in the region - including Israel and the UAE, other Gulf countries, but also Egypt, Jordan - and those who, like Iran and Turkey (along with Qatar), seek hegemonic and warlike domination of the region through their proxies, Hezbollah, Hamas and other Muslim Brotherhood. As in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Gaza or Libya.
The agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel clearly marks a change in perception of the Jewish state in the Arab world. Israel is no longer seen by these countries as a threat but as a stabilizing force in a volatile and chaotic region. Israel is also a military, technological and economic power with which to cooperate.
“The clause (of the agreement) inviting every peace-loving Muslim to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem signals to the Islamic world that the only road to Jerusalem is through peace with Israel,” writes Amos Yadlin.
“The Palestinians made the mistake of repeatedly condemning the ties forged over the years by their Arab brethren with Israel, preferring to hug false friends in Tehran and Ankara. In reality, it is the Palestinians who abandoned their Arab brothers in favor of foreign usurpers. Powerful Arab countries have had enough and choose to promote their national security interests without taking into account the moods of the Palestinians,’’ writes Dmitri Shfutinsky of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.
Will the Europeans abandon their outdated conception of the Middle East peace process - more particularly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - and understand the fact that this normalization agreement constitutes the prelude to a deep regional geopolitical evolution? A new paradigm.
Did EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell get it when he welcomed the normalization deal, while acknowledging the ‘’constructive role’’ played by the United States in this regard? Such normalization will benefit both countries and will constitute a "fundamental step for the stabilization of the entire region," he stressed. He also called Israel's commitment to suspend plans to extend sovereignty to part of the West Bank as "a positive step." A project that the Europeans had been trying for several months to convince Israel to abandon ... One less thorn in the complex relations between the EU and Israel.
After a phone conversation with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, his German counterpart Heiko Maas, whose country currently holds the presidency of the European Union, said the normalization deal could provide a ‘'new momentum’’ towards peace in the region….
A message relayed by the head of French diplomacy Jean-Yves Le Drian who speaks of a "new state of mind" illustrated by these announcements which should allow the resumption of negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Now that the annexation project in the West Bank - the main stumbling block for the EU - has been frozen thanks to the agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, it is high time for the leaders of the European Union to take a decision. initiative to strengthen those in the Middle East who break taboos and seek to expand the circle of peace.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone, and do not reflect any opinions on the part of EU Reporter.

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