Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

World's Muslims Did a Better Job Getting Relief to Kosovars Than in Telling World about It

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

World's Muslims Did a Better Job Getting Relief to Kosovars Than in Telling World about It

Article excerpt

World's Muslims Did a Better Job Getting Relief to Kosovars Than in Telling World About It

When a visitor to a Kosovo refugee camp says Arabish, the Albanian word for Arab, there is an immediate response of respect and gratitude. The Kosovars will never forget the helping hands and the outpouring of humanitarian support from Arab countries, the Khaleej Times of Dubai noted in a May 25 article, though news of these good deeds rarely reaches the Western press.

While most refugees have left the camps to return home, those who remain are the most vulnerable -- the sick, poor and elderly. International relief organizations have dubbed the United Arab Emirates camp for 10,000 of the 120,000 Kosovar refugees in Kukes, near Albania's border with Kosovo, the "five-star refugee camp." UAE Armed Forces personnel guard the camp around the clock, preventing the crimes that have plagued many other camps. The UAE camp also offers social and educational services along with food and shelter. Children and teenagers are provided playgrounds and schools staffed by fellow Kosovo refugees. The camp includes a hospital and even teaches nursing skills to Kosovar women. Films, news and cartoons are shown in an open area of the camp.

UAE Armed Forces also rebuilt a World War II runway near Kukes in record tune and provided a control tower to make it capable of landing large cargo planes with relief supplies, even compensating farmers for the land used, and paying for all the equipment.

To add to state-sponsored support, UAE President Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan urged UAE private citizens and the expatriate communities to dig deep into their pockets to help Kosovo refugees, in accordance with the Islamic obligation to donate to the needy. The results have been startlingly generous, but since it also is considered bad form for Muslims to discuss their charitable giving, accounts of this Muslim aid are hard to find in the Middle Eastern press, and go virtually unmentioned in the Western media. Nevertheless, many such instances can be gleaned from English-language newspapers published in the Middle East (see pp. 6-10 in the July/August Washington Report on Middle East Affairs).

By May 27 Mansour Saleem, a young Pakistani manager of a garment company in Sharjah, UAE, had collected 15,000 readymade garments worth $45,000 and a truck full of food to give UAE's Red Crescent Society, the Khaleej Times reported. He hoped to collect a total of 50,000 garments from other garment factories in the UAE. Saleem had already collected clothes for victims of the Colombian earthquake earlier this year. Also in the UAE, students at Zayed University for women in Abu Dhabi collected $94,000 in a single day at a charity benefit that included arts and crafts, dancing and music, physical and mental games, and a popular henna parlor.

On the governmental level, the UAE decided in May to send military units to join the NATO and U.N. peacekeeping forces in Kosovo. The UAE had previously provided peacekeeping help in both Lebanon and Somalia. The UAE units included women soldiers, which inspired the Arab News of Jeddah to extoll the value of assigning women to such peacekeeping forces. The June 17 article referred to a recent British ad campaign to increase the enlistment of women, noting that when a woman has recently suffered indignities at the hands of male soldiers, the last thing she wants to see is another soldier unless that soldier is a woman.

The article noted that, in many cultures, women are prohibited from talking to male strangers, so practical difficulties may arise when peacekeeping contingents do not include women. In recent operations just 1.7 percent of the U.N. peacekeepers have been female, yet in almost any conflict, 80 percent of refugees are women and children. The article concluded that peacekeeping soldiers should include more women, like the UAE female soldiers who provide a conciliatory, patient, and peaceful influence on their fellow soldiers in international operations. …

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