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The Courageous Duo Battling to Educat...
Dubai
By Lola García-Ajofrín
27 Mar 2015

“Neither the government of Cambodia nor its families care about blind children”
 
"No – absolutely not." This is what the Cambodian Minister of Education said to Benoit Duchateau-Arminjon in 1993 when he proposed to open the country’s first school for blind children. "If you want, take the money and invest it in normal schools,” he remembers being told.

“No,” other families said to Phalla Neang, a cambodian teacher, when she drove her small motorcycle from house-to-house, asking if there were blind children there. “Some people shut the door in my face,” she recalls. Now she laughs about it. At the time, blindness was considered a curse in Cambodia. But Benoît had promised a blind child, Wanna, that he would go to school. With that promise he convinced Phalla to join his organization, the Krousar Thmey Foundation.

"It was crazy," he admits. "I looked for her and I told her: I know you can help me but I’m only able to pay you $100." And she agreed. Phalla Neang, one of ten finalists under consideration for the “Nobel” of teaching at the 2015 Global Teacher Prize event held in Dubai, became the first teacher of Braille in the history of her country. Wanna, their first student, is now a professor of music.

FULL ARTICLE AVAILABLE ON REQUEST

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IDEX (International Defence Exhibitio...
Abu Dhabi
By WL
22 Feb 2015

The International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates February 22 to 26, 2015.

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Lebanese Town Fights to Stop Foreign ...
Baabda
By Rachel K
18 Feb 2015

Yarzeh, Lebanon February 13, 2015 An influential resident of the town of Yarzeh, which overlooks Beirut, and the Emirati Embassy in Lebanon are digging water wells, in violation of a municipal decree. Digging wells was banned because it threatens water supplies in the neighbouring town of Baabda. Concerned residents and the head of the municipal council in Yarzeh have petitioned the Lebanese authorities to stop the drilling. However, there are suspicions that the authorities are under pressure “from outside Lebanon” that prevents them from stopping the drilling.

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Lebanese Town Fights to Stop Foreign...
Yarzeh
By Rachel K
11 Feb 2015

Yarzeh, Lebanon
February 13, 2015

An influential resident of the town of Yarzeh, which overlooks Beirut, and the Emirati Embassy in Lebanon are digging water wells, in violation of a municipal decree.
Digging wells was banned because it threatens water supplies in the neighbouring town of Baabda.
Concerned residents and the head of the municipal council in Yarzeh have petitioned the Lebanese authorities to stop the drilling. However, there are suspicions that the authorities are under pressure “from outside Lebanon” that prevents them from stopping the drilling.

TRANSCRIPT

SOUNDBITE (Man, Arabic) Bassam al-Qintar, Environmental Expert
00:07- 00: 22
“There are hundreds of thousands of wells that cover Lebanon’s surface from the north to the south. There is not been anyone in Lebanon who has not drilled a well. This is leading to the loss of Lebanon’s strategic water reserves.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Henry al-Helou, Head of Baabda and Yarzeh Municipal Council
00:27 – 01:24

“All the wells in Yarzeh need to be closed. When wells were dug in Yarzeh, there was a water shortage in Baabda. Previous municipal councils raised complaints to the concerned ministries. This is why there was a decision to ban well digging in Yarzeh. You are saying that there are wells being drilled; we have fulfilled our duties. You mentioned that Emirati Embassy and Mia Ayyoub [are digging wells]. The land where the Emirati Embassy [is being built] belongs to a foreign country and follows special regulations. As a municipality, we do not have the right to interfere with them. We have to refer to the concerned authorities about that. We cannot address this issue at the municipality. Concerning Mia Khoury – Mia Ayyoub Khoury – the well she is digging is adjacent to the main well Baabda. This is not allowed.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Recorded phone conversation
01:29 – 01:58

  • Hello
  • Who is this?
  • Are you Mr. Noel?
  • No. Who wants to talk to him?
  • We are from Transterra Media. We talked to him on Friday about an interview concerning the well being dug in his garden.
  • There is nothing, there is nothing…
  • We spoke to him on Friday, and he said that he will get back to us but he did not. I would like to know if they would like to talk in front of the camera.
  • I will tell him, OK.
  • I need to know because we want to film today. [Speaker hangs up].

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Woman) Claude Serhal, Resident of Yarezeh
01:59 – 02:32

“If you ask around in Baabda, you will be told that it is not allowed to dig any wells because they are worried about the water supplies. Each house in Yarzeh cannot have an individual well. There are problems. People need to abide by the law.” Some people say: ‘We are in Lebanon, where anything can be done.’ You seek someone’s help and they will let have whatever you want. On the other hand, what is happening to our environment? It is being sabotaged.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Woman) Jumana Ossaily, Director of the Yarzeh Development Association
02:34 – 02:54

“It is not allowed for each citizen to obtain a license to dig a well. If a well is dug at an embassy, for example, what could the rest of the Yarzeh’s residents do? Does each one of us has the right to dig a well in his garden?”

SOUNDBITE (English) – Reporter speaks to construction workers
02:55 – 03:16

  • Can we take pictures of the embassy?
  • No, no. It is not allowed.
  • What is this here?
  • I don’t know. Talk to [staff] members. I am a guard.
  • When did they start the work?
  • I don’t know, about a week ago.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Woman) Jumana Ossaily, Director of the Yarzeh Development Association
03:17 – 03:25

“I think the problem is that there is large pressure from outside Lebanon. The head of the Municipal Council cannot stop this and neither can we.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Henry al-Helou, Head of Baabda and Yarzeh Municipal Council
03:25 – 03:38

“We have followed the necessary procedures. We petitioned to the Beirut and Mount Lebanon Water Company, and we demanded that the well digging be stopped. That was on February 4, 2015.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Woman) Jumana Ossaily, Director of the Yarzeh Development Association
03:39 – 03:56

“We sent a petition to the governor of Mount Lebanon. We sent a letter to the Ministry of Interior. We sent a letter to the Emirati Embassy and we tried to have an appointment with the Ambassador to address this issue, but we did not receive any reply.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Woman) Claude Serhal, A Resident of Yarezeh
03:57 – 04:14

“This is a message to anyone in Yarzeh who is not applying the law. We cannot make exceptions for each person, whether this person is Lebanese or not.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Woman) Jumana Ossaily, Director of the Yarzeh Development Association
04:14 – 04:41

“‘I hear some Yarzeh residents say when they see that other people are digging wells, ‘Why can we not dig wells, too?’ If I went to the Emirates and decided to dig a well – even if I represented an embassy – I know that I would need a permit. What should I do then? Should I break the law? What would they do to me if I broke the law?”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Woman) Claude Serhal, Resident of Yarezeh
04:42 – 04:49

“In the future, what will happen to Lebanon – not only Yarzeh – if everyone did whatever they wanted?”

SOUNDBITE (Man, Arabic) Bassam al-Qintar, Environmental Expert
04:49 – 05:17

“Each year, we are extracting water from wells at a pace that is depleting underground water. We have a very long summer and short winter and precipitation is scarce. If we carry on extracting underground water at the same rate, we will have a very severe drought and water resources will became salinized. A large number of these wells have already dried up.”

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Lebanese Town Fights to Stop Foreign ...
Yarzeh
By Rachel K
10 Feb 2015

Yarzeh, Lebanon
February 13, 2015

An influential resident of the town of Yarzeh, which overlooks Beirut, and the Emirati Embassy in Lebanon are digging water wells, in violation of a municipal decree.
Digging wells was banned because it threatens water supplies in the neighbouring town of Baabda.
Concerned residents and the head of the municipal council in Yarzeh have petitioned the Lebanese authorities to stop the drilling. However, there are suspicions that the authorities are under pressure “from outside Lebanon” that prevents them from stopping the drilling.

TRANSCRIPT

00:00
NARRATION

“Among the trees in Yarzeh, a town that looks like a military zone due to the large number of embassies, a drilling machine works relentlessly at the construction site of the United Arab Emirates in Lebanon.”

00:16
SOUNDBITE (English) Reporter speaks to construction workers

  • Can we take pictures of the embassy?
  • No, no. It is not allowed.
  • What is this here?
  • I don’t know. Talk to [staff] members. I am a guard.
  • When did they start the work?
  • I don’t know, about a week ago.

NARRATION
00:39
“When we talked to the town’s residents and the head of the municipality, we received a reply that explains the legal aspect of the issue.”

00:44
SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Henry al-Helou, Head of Baabda and Yarzeh Municipal Council
“The land where the Emirati Embassy [is being built] belongs to a foreign country and follows special regulations. As a municipality, we do not have the right to interfere with them. We have to refer with the concerned authorities about that. We cannot address this issue at the municipality.”

00:58 SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Woman) Jumana Asseily, Director of the Yarzeh Development Association
“I think the problem is that there is large pressure from outside Lebanon. The head of the Municipal Council cannot stop this and neither can we.”

1:06
SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Woman) Claude Serhal, Resident of Yarzeh
“I do not know who is backing them, but everyone in this county has connections.”

01:11
SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Henry al-Helou, Head of Baabda and Yarzeh Municipal Council
“We petitioned the Beirut and Mount Lebanon Water Company, and we demanded that the well digging be stopped. That was on February 4, 2015.”

01:26
SOUNDBITE (Man, Arabic) Bassam al-Qintar, Environmental Expert
“There are hundreds of thousands of wells that cover Lebanon’s surface from the north to the south. There is not anyone in Lebanon who has not drilled a well. This is leading to the loss of Lebanon’s strategic water reserves. Each year, we extract water from wells at a pace that is depleting underground reservoirs. We have a very long summer and short winter and precipitation is scarce. If we carry on extracting underground water at the same rate, we will face a very severe drought and water resources will became salinized. A large number of these wells have already dried up.”

02:10
SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Woman) Jumana Asseily, Director of the Yarzeh Development Association
“We sent a petition to the governor of Mount Lebanon. We sent a letter to the Ministry of Interior. We sent a letter to the Emirati Embassy and we tried to have an appointment with the Ambassador to address this issue, but we did not receive any reply.”

02:28
NARRATION
“This issue has raised concerns among the residents of Yarzeh and Baabda, after other people have started to dig unlicensed wells in their private gardens. The municipal police can see this and have tried in vain to stop the work several times. We tried to talk with the owners of this well.

02:50
SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Recorded phone conversation

  • Hello
  • Who is this?
  • Are you Mr. Noel?
  • No. Who wants to talk to him?
  • We are from Transterra Media. We talked to him on Friday about an interview concerning the well being dug in his garden.
  • There is nothing, there is nothing…
  • We spoke to him on Friday, and he said that he will get back to us but he did not. I would like to know if they would like to talk in front of the camera.
  • I will tell him, OK.
  • I need to know because we want to film today. [Speaker hangs up].

03:18
SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Henry al-Helou, Head of Baabda and Yarzeh Municipal Council
“Concerning Mia Khoury – Mia Ayyoub Khoury – the well she is digging is adjacent to the main well in Baabda. This is not allowed. This depletes water.”

03:34
“If you ask around in Baabda, you will be told that it is not allowed to dig wells because they are worried about the water supplies. Each house in Yarzeh cannot have an individual well.”

03:47
SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Woman) Jumana Asseily, Director of the Yarzeh Development Association

“I hear some Yarzeh residents say when they see other people digging wells, ‘Why can we not dig wells, too?’ If I go to the Emirates and decide to dig a well – even if I represented an embassy – I know that I would need a permit. What should I do then? Should I break the law? What would they do to me if I broke the law?”

04:13
NARRATION

“When the officials at the embassy refused to make any statement, it was necessary to communicate with the governor of Mount Lebanon, which oversees the municipality. The latter, however, said that he needs permission from the Minister of Interior Nuhad al-Mashnuq to talk in front of the camera. One of the minister’s advisors said clearly that we need permission from the minister to be able to talk to the governor. ‘So far, you shall not be given that permission,’ the advisor added.
This reply came four days after the request. Despite diligent daily attempts to obtain information, the advisor was not able to meet the minister and convey to him the request for the interview. This incident is as unusual as these wells.”

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US Teacher Stabbed to Death in Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi
By WL
04 Dec 2014

December 4, 2014
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

An American teacher was stabbed to death in a woman's toilet at a shopping mall in Abu Dhabi. The murder was apparently carried out by a woman dressed head to toe in a traditional black abaya with black gloves and face cover, worn by may women in the Gulf. Investigations are still on going as to the suspects gender and identity. The victim of the attack has been identified as kindergarten teacher Ibolya Ryan, a Romanian born mother of 11 year old twins. She had previously taught school in Colorado.