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Global Reportage since 1996

Unveilling the Voices of Saudi Women

Despite perceptible recent reforms, Saudi Arabia, will not soon become a tourist destination for Western party goers. The kingdom is infamous for triggering reactions of horror and frustration with regular reports of despicable news: an irritated Imam publicizing a new Sharia law, sadistic punishments inflicted to bloggers, women banned from driving, princesses sequestered, and little girls trapped in abusive marriages. Aspiring model of islamic virtue, the kingdom has no room for women’s rights and that tarnishes its global reputation. Even though, SA and the US have been allies since 1933—maintaining a “special relationship” made possible by a creative alchemy of oil and weapons trade. Although, this alliance can be disconcerting; partnering with a country where women don’t legally exist is a slap to the face  of the free world.

To most of the world, Saudi women appear as shapeless forms dressed in abayah, long black cloaks often worn over their western outfits; they stroll about, trailing a few feet behind their husbands, fathers, or brothers. Looking more ghostly than feminine, they spur mixed feelings in the Occident that range from compassion to anger from perpetuating an “unacceptable” model of womanhood.

The book “Revolution Under the Veil” by French foreign correspondent in SA, Clarence Rodriguez, turns this misconception around by letting eight Saudi women speak about their fights, dreams, and hopes. Suddenly the veil lifts, revealing an array of vibrant personalities—real trail blazers of their country’s future.

Madeva Al- Asjroush in Instagram
Madeha  al- Asjroush on Instagram

Madeha, with her irrepressible sense of purpose and resolve, is an inspiring force. In 1990, she led a group of 47 women drivers in Riyad—a milestone that shed light not only on the Saudi women’s condition but also on a burgeoning front for women’s lib. We are not afraid to “resist arbitrary actions from an ancient patriarchal tradition as long as it will persist,” she says. Yet this tradition is so rigid that it couldn’t accommodate any of Madeha’s dreams, such as becoming a photographer. By the quality and beauty of her work, she is, but she can’t make a living out of it so she shares it on Instagram.



Madeha’s paved the way for Manal al-Sharif’s 2011 driving stunt.  Spontaneously, Manal videotaped herself behind the wheel and posted it on YouTube.  She was instantly showered with worldwide attention and support along with humiliating backlash in her homeland.  Steadfast in her ideals, she now lives in Dubai, sporadically organizing media campaigns on the web with other women’s rights activists.



Eman al-Nafjan

In 2007, Eman al-Nafjan decided to publish her blog, SAUDI WOMAN, in English. Initially operating in anonymity, “I revealed my name a year later. Several Saudi blogs already existed on the web. But they were written by men or by expatriated women.  Oftentimes, I didn’t even like their content.  So I created a space where I could give my opinion on different topics affecting me and Saudi women in general.  A little buzz started growing around it and my husband was called to the minister. They asked him to sign a document ordering me to stop my blog otherwise he would get himself into trouble and lose his job.  Unimpressed by their blackmail, he didn’t sign,” she says. Eman’s blog became one of the most popular in Saudi Arabia and gave her opportunities to write pieces for newspapers and magazines abroad.  Yet, nothing from her upbringing in Quassim, a religiously radical region, could possibly encourage her to be a successful writer, save a supportive and openminded family.


princess adila
Princess Adila of Saudi Arabia

Princess Adila is the youngest daughter of late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Aida Fustuq, a Lebanese woman.  Far from being sequestered,  she was called the “Modern Face of the Conservative Saudi Royal Family.”  Highly respected and influential , she is credited for being instrumental behind new reforms, signed by her father, giving more opportunities to women in the kingdom. In addition to the king’s legacy of widening their job opportunities and raising the legal age of marriage to seventeen instead of twelve, this year—for the first time—Saudi women may exercise their right to vote in municipal elections. Since his employment reform, the SA Ministry of Labor published data showing that the number of Saudi women employed in the kingdom’s private sector grew from 55,000 in 2010 to 454,000 by the end of 2013.

Conservative and progressive alike are avid internet users—surfing  Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  All are aware of the world beyond the Wahhabism Islamic wall, and are in closer contact with the Western world than ever before. How much of this external input empowers them to insist for change is hardly quantifiable.  According to  Eman, “blogs and social networks have contributed largely to the recent evolution of women within the Saudi society. Before we heard nothing but the voice of our government. Suddenly, thousands of voices reached us from all over the world; our ears are opened and voices freed.”

Today many observers are amazed by the changes they have noticed in the past three years. In reality, this evolution is long overdue and doesn’t significantly revolutionize women’s lives.  Hiring women in Saudi Arabia requires special accommodations:  a business needs to set up partitions to enforce gender separation, set up an appropriate transportation system, be ready to communicate through a mandatory male guardian. Against all these odds Saudi women of the twenty first century are rising.  Some of them are even enrolled in flight dispatcher training at the Aviation Academy in Jeddha.

Meanwhile, not even foreigners can avoid Charia, the law of the kingdom. So how can a female journalist do her job?

“I must admit, I have barriers that my male colleagues don’t have. Not being able to drive, I can’t cover a sudden crisis on the spot, I need a driver. The logistics are tedious. The last resort is to conduct interviews at my home; it’s not very safe.  As a correspondent, I got my accreditation in 2005, so I have official recognition, but, as a woman,  I don’t have legal existence—it’s a very dichotomic situation. I was never censored, but I have to watch myself to make sure I’m not going too far.

Recently, for the first time in ten years, I was lectured when they noticed a referene to Sunnism in one of my pieces. The topic of religion, the Sunni-Shia  relationship. is very sensitive. They read everything written about them; it’s remarkable how they can screen all these stories so meticulously,” shares Clarence.

Saudi Arabia is not only keeping its women under veils, it also draws a veil over information which ranked it number three on the infamous list of the 10 most censored countries in the world.

However Clarence wasn’t censored for her book, nor for her upcoming documentary, “Arabie Saoudite: Paroles de Femmes” (Saudi Arabia: Words of Women) for France5 : “I know I’m watched but that’s doesn’t stop me from doing my work as I see fit.  No one ever told me what to say or write,” she says.  “I made this documentary hoping to correct the biased thinking toward the life of women in Saudi Arabia, mine included.”  When traveling, her husband needs to give his authorization, and she wears an abayah in public places. She’s affected by the driving ban, relying on her spouse when available and drivers from a private company to move her around.

But then there’s the oddball moment.  Recently, the military organized a press trip at the Saudi-Yemeni border–On the field that day, Clarence was wearing three layers—her occidental clothing hidden under her abayah and on top a bullet proof vest way too large for her frame that a man was trying to adjust paternally on her.  So much for the strict gender separation.


Révolution sous le voile Couverture
Book in French.

by Carole  Illouz 


Exodus Is Reaching Critical Mass


Italian troops with the Uraniam Navy Ship rescue African migrants from Gambia, Mali, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Guinea, and Nigeria, from a rubber boat in the sea between Italy and Libya.
Sicilia, Oct 14th 2014 By Lynsey Addario diaporama for L’Instant Paris-Match

Across the Middle East and surrounding African countries, turmoil is raging.  The eyes of the world are watching videos of ethnic and cultural cleansing as it drives thousands of refugees outside of their homes, their cities, or their countries. They are forced to the roads, or onto  boats where they risk everything for one chance to escape with their lives.

Three days ago the  deadliest  Mediterranean migrants tragedy claimed  800 lives out of an estimated 850 passengers, according to  UN’s figures.  Meanwhile, yesterday the coast guard reported that  it saved some 638 migrants in six different rescue operations on Monday alone. Today, a further 446 people were rescued from a leaking migrant ship about 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of the Calabrian coast.

Migrating from a desperate situation to another is not recent for these lives on the run.  The unprecedented aggravation of the Syrian civil war,  the growing number of jihadist-death-worshippers-fanatics, like  Daech (Isil), Boko Haram,  Al-Shabab, and Al-Aqaida affiliates displaced population at a rate never seen since WWII.  Today,  51.2 million refugees haunt the world.

It’ s been four years now that the Island  of Lampedusa, in the Southernmost part of Italy, considers itself under siege, invaded by a swelling flow of migrants arriving from Africa, Middle East and Asia; creating a colossal and unmanageable humanitarian crisis. It  became overwhelming for little Lampedusa and Italy mainland to deal with the problem.  A majority of European Countries didn’t address the emergency, while overcrowded boats continued to capsize. In July 2013,  Pope Francis went to the island on his first official visit outside of Rome.  He prayed for migrants, living and dead, and denounced their traffickers, after a  boat carrying over 500 migrants sank off the coast of Lampedusa causing the death of some 366 migrants from Eritrea and Somalia.  After this episode Italy launched a robust and expensive search-and-rescue mission. The politically unpopular Mare Nostrum operation ended last year, replaced by the  European Mission Agency’s Frontex border patrol. Unfortunately,  its limited mandate and resources have prevented it from being effective in saving lives.

It ensues that traffickers  are not impress and thrive. To maximize their revenue they pack over the gills, ” from rubber Zodiac-type boats to wooden fishing vessels and even old cargo ships; charging  1,000 and 1,500 euros  for the crossing from Libya, where most trafficking operations originate.”

Although, some migrants are taking less risky pathways. ” Police in Ragusa, a Sicilian port town, said they arrested three Syrians who were in charge of a 83-foot Turkish-flagged luxury yacht, which charged passengers $8,500 a piece to travel from Turkey to Sicily.  Among the Syrian and Palestinian passengers were 23 children. Photos snapped by passengers helped police identify the crew of smugglers, police said in a statement. They estimated that the organizers were paid some $800,000 in total for the trip”,  reports AP


According to the UN Refugees Agency Since the beginning of  2015 more than 35,000 made the crossing,  and 1,600 (and counting) died.  In 2014,  they were 219,000 to cross and  3,500  lost their lives.  The total number of deaths this year “could well top 30,000,” said Joel Millman, spokesman for IOM. “We just want to make sure people understand how much more … rapid these deaths have been coming this year than last year.”

Doctor Without Borders President Lori de Filippi


“A mass grave is being created in the Mediterranean Sea and European policies are responsible,” said Loris De Filippi, Doctor Without Borders president. “Faced with thousands of desperate people fleeing wars and crises, Europe has closed borders, forcing people in search of protection to risk their lives and die at sea. There is no more time to think, these lives must be saved now. Ending the Mare Nostrum operation was a serious mistake. European States must immediately launch large-scale search and rescue operations, with proactive patrolling as close as possible to Libyan shores. The current means are obviously not enough. This tragedy is only just beginning, but it can and should be stopped.”

Over the past week alone, more than 11,000 people have risked their lives to cross the Mediterranean, and more than a thousand have reportedly died. Regardless of how high Europe builds its fences and how many obstacles are placed in the way, devastating conflicts and crises will continue to force people to flee their countries in order to save their lives, said MSF.  

“Seven hundred deaths in a day are figures from a war zone,” said De Filippi. “This humanitarian tragedy is now under everyone’s eyes but Europe is not willing to address it. This is why we will begin first-hand operations at sea, in an attempt to save as many lives possible. Only creating safe and legal channels to protection in Europe will truly prevent thousands more deaths. But as a medical-humanitarian organization, we simply cannot wait any longer.”

Two years and thousands death after the Pope visit, it seems like the International community got  the message.  Combatting the smugglers by arresting the ringleaders and destroying their boats will be the key part of Europe’s 10-point proposal for an emergency summit in Brussels Thursday.

So far, Italy has arrested more than 1,000 smugglers, most of them the navigators, not the masterminds.

Many organizations and volunteers  participate to the efforts in support of the Worldwide refugees crisis.  To help please contact:

The UN Refugees Agency 

aid workers carrying bodies of migrants out of the boat
Maltese emergency workers in Senglea this morning collect bodies from the Mediterranean disaster at the weekend.


Refugees International

Refugees International website
Refugees International website


International Organization For Migration    

IOM: "Survivors of Mediterranean Tragedy Arrive in Sicily Survivors of what may be the worst tragedy in living memory involving migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa arrived in Catania, Sicily just before midnight 20 April."
IOM: “Survivors of Mediterranean Tragedy Arrive in Sicily
Survivors of what may be the worst tragedy in living memory involving migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa arrived in Catania, Sicily just before midnight 20 April.”


©GlobalReportage2015 /UN Refugees Agency/AP


French React To Lack Of Media Coverage On Kenya

Uproar pervades the French cybersphere over the media’s indifference toward the Garissa University College massacre in Kenya. France learned the news from the English  online press, and hold their media accountable for underreporting the story.  Meanwhile, in the US, reports on Garissa came in the wake of  terrorist raids, developed with regular updates about personal stories and responses from Kenyan authorities; and then faded away when the verdict of the Boston marathon bomber–also related to  extremist Islam–broke.

In France, solidarity with Kenya stems from sharing the same intolerable violence and shock from terrorists jihadists.  Then it splits on the global mediatic scene.  In January,  after the Paris’ twin attacks,  France received an exceptional  demonstration of global support : the hashtag  #jesuischarlie, worldwide demonstrations, and the political leaders walking in the streets of Paris; none of this happened for Kenya.

Now France feels awkward, its heart swelling beyond borders.  Since the world has been Charlie, the French became Danish for the terrorist attack that killed one at a free speech Conference in Copenhagen, Tunisian after gunmen  killed 19 visitors in  the Bardo Museum, and now Kenyan.

The flame of a candle Kenya in large letter . Black background

It’s as if Charlie and the Kosher market terror generated a slow-to-heal fracture,  a before and after.  Before, on December 16th 2014,  seven Talibans clad in Pakistani army uniforms burst into a military-run Peshawar public school, killing 145 students. The scenario is almost identical to Garissa; it was reported as insurgents taking revenge against military action. The attack was so unpredictable that the military was caught off guard on its own territory, resulting in almost the same death toll.  Yet, no one in the Western world  changed their Facebook profile picture in solidarity for the young Pakistani martyrs.  Furthermore, rare are those who remember the slaughter and endless pain it brought to the many families who lost their children forever.

Anyway,  with Kenya the frustration is mounting.  Complaints about the lack of coverage grow bigger than the story itself. Some recommended using memes to show concern, and support by pushing the hashtag  #jesuiskenyan.  Very few have changed their profile pictures.  No heads of state are marching in the streets and Kenyans feel as though their lives are somehow worthless.


Paintings We Wish We Could Frolic In

Jeff Hanson is one of a kind. At 20 years old, he developed his own painting style, gave $1M to charity, and his colorful, textured artwork business is booming.  At the heart of his success is the sense of joy he communicates through his creations. Bold, primary colored shapes seem to jump out of their frame, inviting us to a world of uplifting sensations.  Jeff brings to us what he sees and touches like any other artist, except his vision is unique. Without talented individuals like him, we would never know that perspective.

To  visit his website


































Demystyfing Blind Judo

The Perfect Defect

Water will be low, snacks will be lite, legs will be tired, but Peter and Janos Kabai’s sense of purpose when biking on the Alaska Highway-one filled with narrow and sometimes unpaved roads, traveled by big trucks- will be plenty, especially when they remember why they’re doing it.

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Volunteering to Build Bridges



Poster nfb 75thBIrthday

With the project 75 days of service, the Community Service Department of the National Federation of the Blind is creating the perfect opportunity to demonstrate that blindness has nothing to  do with being helpless.  This initiative invites NFB’s  members  to volunteer,  individually or with one of the NFB  local chapters,  to help make a positive change in their community.  Whether it’s engaging  in a community service project with other groups such as local churches and schools, or helping those in need  in their neighborhood,

To sign up for the Community Service Division list serve: .

For Facebook users:

Participants will be able to share ideas and receive support during bi-weekly conference calls every other Sunday.  The first call will take place Sunday, April 12, at 7 pm EST/4pmPT

For a complete call schedule:


 twitter: @goldengateace
Facebook: search for “NFB Community Service Division”.


Using the hashtag #NFB75Serve, volunteers can tweet about their community service activities, and will also have the opportunity to write about their experiences on the National Community Service Division’s official blog.  The  purpose of the blog is to  communicate  that the blind  are active participants,  contributors and collaborators in society.”

This is very good news!

A great way to share experiences while reorienting misconception.

Sculptor of Sounds

Life is music for Jean-Philippe Rykiel, a Parisian-born musician   famous as a keyboardist, he is also composer,  producer, and tech wizard. Rykiel molds his notes and immediately add a rich and layered dimension to any style of musics.  He played with Leonard Cohen, Salif Keta, Steve Hillage, Youssou N’Dour, Lama  Gyurme,  and so many more…at ease with Avant-Garde, Jazz, African music, Tibetan or  simply himself,  being blind was never an obstacle to his musician life.  He uses technology as an extension of himself since a very longtime an shared with us some interesting insights. 

Which technology are you using  for this interview?
I’m  using Dragon NaturallySpeaking which is not yet perfect.

Which computer system are you using? I’m interested by the Mac universe but  I still prefer my PC. Apple computers are more fancy, even for the blind. They feel nicer to the touch, and it’s great that Apple made the effort of providing a free screen reader built into their system. However, I find windows more logic in its architecture.

And for  your music? Great efforts are made in the development of ProTools and Logic’s accessibility, (the most popular Digital audio workstations on the Mac), and folks who didn’t use Sonar before feel very comfortable with pro tools, which has become the must have in Music industry, a bit like Microsoft Word for writing.

But,  even though most musicians are using the Mac now, I get better results on my PC, using an old version of Sonar (8.5), with the jaws screen reader and the Cake-Talking scripts which has been designed for this version.

What  about  mobile devices? I use an iPhone. I’m incredibly happy with it, and I haven’t tried  other solutions, but thanks again to Apple for taken the  challenge of giving the blind accessibility to a touchscreen that has no touch feedback at all.

I know that regarding music  you are waiting for  a more helpful technology, don’t you?  I think the biggest problem we have right now is that developers don’t care about us, we are not that many, and it’s not profitable for them to spend time energy and money on developing something accessible.

So, it’s all in the hands of screen readers developers, or third-party developers, and it can be a  tough  job.
Sighted people must understand that screen readers can only read text written in what is called ASCII code. the text included in an image for example, cannot be read by a screen reader, unless it includes some kind of OCR, which started to be the case with JAWS 14, but is rather disappointing for the moment.
Blinds have two problems. One is Clicking on things, which can be easily solved by keyboard shortcuts, but the other one is reading the screen which is the hardest one.

What is your greater challenge in this area? Keyboardists create pieces of music called patches to be stored in a data base library for further used, they are keys to any musical creation. Right now we don’t have a system that can help us found,  and then retrieve the music we need, when we need it.  In the context of a live performance, a  text-to-speech can’t be used because it interferes with the music.



Below are links to: a Video clip,  music on Sound Cloud on Sound Cloud




Hyper- Sensorial, the Blind Power

Translated excerpt from the page Voir Autrement

I’m blind from birth, but certainly not “unseeing” This is just one aspect of my life which I hope does not appear central to my social life or stories. Nevertheless it would be foolish to forget about it, especially because it can have a pedagogic property for at least two reasons:

– For other blind people, it can be a way, among others, to live with their cecity instead of treating it as an obstacle. That was never the case for me, and the experiences described in my site testify to that: I was free to pursue the exercise of my art as I wished, and probably as I would have done were I sighted; I met tons of inspiring people, I handle high-tech objects (synthesizers, sound elements, computers) often better than many others, I travel around the world and have played with a very large number of talented musicians during my various adventures… I do not aim to be a model or a mentor in the field of uninhibited blindness, but I hope to convey the message that we must have confidence in ourselves and our lives, long or short, with or without limitations, every life is worth living, and not at a minimum or a discount, but fully, to the extent of our dreams.

 For the sighted, I like to say that the problems we face are far from specific and that there is much to learn when it comes to ergonomic solutions that facilitate our lives and make more and more activities possible. But beyond this practical aspect, I would like to share how the simple fact of closing our eyes provides access to a world of new sensations, which is our permanent universe. It enhances all of our senses, not just hearing, but also smell, taste or touch, and understanding. Having a personal environment perhaps less vast but more dense grants more importance to vocal intonations, whereas the sighted could be deceived by appearances. or listen more in French 













Sheltered In Caves In Western Ukraine

by Alvaro Canova
by Alvaro Canova


War is raging around Donetsk, the clash between the pro-Russians and the Kiev Army turns into a bloodbath. Paris and Berlin fear the worst. Paris-Match correspondents Emilie Blachere and Alvaro Canova, a photographer, reported from the frontlines.
Continue reading Sheltered In Caves In Western Ukraine