Reminder: No More Tumblr

It wasn’t working with the integration of my website. I am no longer updating this blog… Please find all my blog posts here: Sorry for the inconvenience!

An online message of love (not war) from Israelis to Iranians

Reminder, blog now located at  Remember also to follow on Twitter too! @jenkrimm


An online message of love (not war) from Israelis to Iranians

"We Love You - Iran & Israel": A few Israelis took it upon themselves to try to change the Iran-Israel rhetoric of hate and war online.  The video has over 100k views since March 18, and has been featured on a few different sites, including Mashable. 

Kony and Kristof: If you want to make change, make a human connection… an emotional connection

Check out my new blog post, here



I’ve made no secret of my love for Nicholas Kristof’s work, especially Half the Sky, (a book he wrote with his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, about challenges women face across the globe).

His column yesterday dealt with the Kony video criticism. For those who don’t know about it, a non-profit, Invisible Children, released a popular YouTube video about atrocities committed (murder, child soldiers, rape…) in sub-Saharan Africa.  Watch it here. In just a few days, the 30-minute video has gotten 100 million hits on YouTube. Donations poured into the non-profit, and people everywhere started talking about this Ugandan warlord, Joseph Kony.  Young people got involved, and (like the Obama campaign) a large group of young people made numerous small contributions to the charity.

The video gained steam, and as positive coverage of the video rolled in, so did the negative. Many criticized the video for taking shortcuts, for mischaracterizing the problem, etc.  But (as Kristof also states in his column) the most important thing is that it got our attention. Two weeks ago, no one had ever heard of this human rights disaster and its leader, Joseph Kony…  now he is nearly a household name.

Yes, maybe the video should not have taken shortcuts, but it got our attention and kept it for 30 minutes.  It put a personal face on a human crisis and inspired people to take action—whether donating, making a call, or even just sharing the video.  Would a video like this have made a difference in the Rwanda genocide? In the column, Anthony Lake, a former Clinton advisor, says yes. When asked about the Kony video, Madeline Albright said “Shining a light makes a lot of difference.” 

I am still just getting off the ground, but my goal is to shed light on the Arab Spring and the women behind the uprisings… to share their heroic personal stories of strength, of pain, of loss and of victory. I want to put a human face on what is/has happened here—to put it in perspective and to allow people to make an emotional connection.

When I was young, I became interested in the Middle East/North Africa because it was the most foreign place I could think of. But when I lived here for the first time I was overwhelmed not by how foreign it was, but by how familiar it was.
Growing up in the Bible Belt, I was used to barbeques: men standing around the spit, drinking tea and lemonade and talking politics and sports.  The kids played together, and… 

Blog Moved

Again, note: All posts have been moved to  Check us out there for more updates…  Find me on Twitter @jenkrimm

POST: International Women’s Day

Check out my post on for International Women’s Day, March 8, 2012. Note: my blog posts will now appear on my website, and for the time being will copy the posts here. 


In November, after attending a rally for a very liberal political party in Tunisia, one of the women in the car told me that professional women were much more active in Tunisian politics than professional men.  When I asked why, she summed it up in five words: "We have more to lose."

        See My Post: Rally Part II: “We have more to lose

I was taken aback, but it was true. Still is. I know many Americans who think all Arab/Muslim countries are similar to Saudi Arabia. They are shocked to learn that Tunisian women outnumber men at university, have voted since the 1950s, have more women in parliament than in the US Congress, have had access to birth control and abortion since around the same time as American women… and (gasp!) some Tunisian women even wear miniskirts. For decades, Tunisian women have had legal status in marriage and divorce, polygamy has been banned and there is a minimum legal age for marriage. 

        See My Post: Abortion in the Middle East and North Africa
        See My Post: More than the right to drive

However with Islamists winning big throughout the region, some women are afraid these freedoms might vanish… especially with the example of Iranian women who went through a huge transformation after Iran’s 1979 revolution. See video below: “Message from the women of Iran to the women of Tunisia”:

The Woodrow Wilson Center put together an excellent (although depressing) compilation of women’s voices throughout the region about the state of women since the beginning of the Arab Spring. Many of these women fear the changes taking place in the region. Check it out: Reflections on Women in the Arab Spring

But one professor in Isobel Coleman’s “Uneven progress for Arab Women” suggests that maybe it’s possible that these newly empowered women won’t go so quietly…

“It is too early to tell how women’s rights will ultimately fare in the longer term. Moroccan professor Souad Eddouada argues that the past year’s upheaval is producing “more grassroots youth activism whose equal access to social media tools is empowering individuals regardless of their gender or social class.” This suggests that the past year has unleashed a genie of empowerment that will be difficult to put completely back in the bottle. Many, however, will continue to try.”

I agree.  The protests in the region weren’t sparked because of women’s rights.  However now, after the protests, many women want their voices heard too. Through the Arab Spring protests, women have crossed numerous boundaries, creating solidarity. It might be an uphill battle, but women are vigilant, aware and (at least from what I have seen) are taking action.

… I’ll leave you now with some recent news coverage of Arab women:

First, let’s start with the bad:

The Independent put out a piece “The Best and Worst Places to Be a Woman”.  Not surprisingly, a number of the “worst” categories were countries in the greater Middle East:

  • Worst place to be a woman: “The worst is Yemen, and the most dangerous is Afghanistan.” (Best: Iceland)
  • Worst place to be a mother:   “The worst is Afghanistan, where a woman is at least 200 times more likely to die during childbirth than from bombs or bullets.” (Best: Norway)
  • Worst place for economic participation: Yemen “The Bahamas has closed its gender gap by 91 per cent in the past six years, while the lowest-ranking country, Yemen, has closed only 32 per cent of its economic gender gap in the same period.” (Best: Bahamas)
  • Worst place to be a politician: “The worst countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar, Oman and Belize, have no women in parliament.” (Best: Rwanda)
  • Worst place to earn money: Saudi “while the lowest female earners are in Saudi Arabia, where women earn $7,157 to men’s $36,727.” (Best: Luxembourg)
  • Worst place to be an athlete: Saudi “The worst country, Saudi Arabia, has never sent a female athlete to the Olympics and bans girls from sports in state schools.”  (Best: US)
  • Worst place to drive a car: Saudi, as women are not allowed to drive (Best: India)
  • Worst place for high-skilled jobs: Yemen “…with Yemen coming last. Women there take up only 2 per cent of high-skilled jobs.” (Best: Jamaica)

HOWEVER, there is some good news:

Although Qatar ranked low in the women in government category , Qatar knocked one category out of the park. According to the Independent, a woman in Qatar is six times more likely to go to university than a Qatari man. (Shout out to my friends at Qatar University, Qatar Foundation and specifically Education City.  Go Qatar)

More women in parliament: I’d also like to point out Tunisia, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Iraq have higher % women in parliament than the US, Australia, the UK, and Canada.  The UAE and Morocco also slightly outrank the US Congress. (Check out the list, here)

Let’s move to another bright spot for the Arab Spring and Arab women: Yemeni Tawakkul Karman.  She was not only the first Arab woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, but also the youngest person ever to receive the honor.

Karman leads us to a list of the 100 Most Powerful Women Arab Women 2012.  Yes, many of the women on the list are from royal families, but not all of them.  The list includes artists, CEOs, and, of course, Karman.  With Saudi so far down the list on best places for women, it’s nice to see an inspiring Saudi woman like this one also on the list.


I’ll continue to update this Tumblr account for now, but from this point forward, the main VOTAS blog will be on

We’ve got a new layout and new videos. Check it out!


Apologies, I am renovating my websites and blog right now, please pardon the lack of posts and the mess.  Should be up and running (and hopefully looking even better) soon!

“U.S. Dreads Iranians’ Turnout in Elections” says one get-out-the-vote banner

Is the US media fanning the Iran fire?  Al Jazeera looks into similarities between the Iraq invasion rhetoric and the recent Iran rhetoric.

Syrian troops targeting children? 

In the News: If Israel strikes, Iran attacks on US likely—7,500 dead in Syria—Tunisia will offer asylum to Assad—Syria troops targeting children?

U.S. Sees Iran Attacks as Likely if Israel Strikes: American officials who have assessed the likely Iranian responses to any attack by Israel on its nuclear program believe that Iran would retaliate by launching missiles on Israel and terrorist-style attacks on United States civilian and military personnel overseas. While a missile retaliation against Israel would be virtually certain, according to these assessments, Iran would also be likely to try to calibrate its response against American targets so as not to give the United States a rationale for taking military action that could permanently cripple Tehran’s nuclear program. 

Syrian troops accused of killing children: Two fathers say their sons were targeted by soldiers as testimonies point to a trigger-happy security force.

Not only that, but more disturbing video is coming out of Syria… video of what looks like a little boy tortured. I have seen this video spreading on a number of different social networks, however, I cannot independently verify this video.

REBLOGGED FROM leaveobashar:

***GRAPHIC*** ASSAD’S FORCES HAVE NO SOULS, NO MERCY. THEY TORTURED THIS CHILD FOR DAYS UNTIL HIS DEATH. Homs (Khalidiyeh): Feb 27, 2012 - I do not know his name other than that he was from the Darwish family. Assad’s forces broke into his home then tortured and massacred his whole family. They did not spare the women or children either. Burning them alive as seen here.

What kind of animals do this to small children? Assad’s animals….

This man form the same family was also found with the boy (GRAPHIC)

EXTREMELY GRAPHIC: To see video, click here

Tunisia ‘offers asylum to Bashar Assad’: Tunisia’s president has said he is ready to offer asylum to Syrian leader Bashar Assad as part of a negotiated solution to the Syrian conflict. In an interview set to appear tomorrow in the French-language daily La Presse, President Moncef Marzouki says he is ready to give asylum to Assad and his associates. 

Troops battle opposition fighters in Homs:  Sporadic shelling and clashes reported in Syrian city as Western powers call for UN Security Council action.

CNN: Why the world isn’t intervening in Syria

Diplomats Warn Syria of Consequences for Violent Crackdown: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton suggested during a Senate hearing that President Bashar al-Assad could be considered a war criminal for his relentless crackdown.

Syria’s Sectarian Fears Keep Region on Edge: The insurrection in Syria, led by the country’s Sunni majority in opposition to a government dominated by Alawites, an offshoot of Shiism, is increasingly unpredictable and dangerous because it is aggravating sectarian tensions beyond its borders in a region already shaken by religious and ethnic divisions.

U.N.: Syria death toll ‘well over’ 7,500

U.S. and Egypt in Talks to End Prosecution of Americans: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday that the United States and Egypt were engaged in “very intensive discussions” to end the criminal prosecution of staff members at four American-financed nonprofit organizations, a case that has strained relations between the countries.

War reporting changing for journalists

"None of that makes it safer, indeed as the correspondents of this era seek to adjust to the ever-shifting hazards of war reporting, there is a sense that the conflicts in Syria and Libya are taking even more of a toll on this generation of foreign correspondents than the latter years of the Iraq and Afghan wars. And all these countries remain infinitely more dangerous for the reporters, photojournalists, citizen journalists, translators and fixers of those countries who, unlike foreign correspondents, cannot jump into a taxi or aircraft when it gets too hot and do not have the protection of a foreign passport or an embassy when at the mercy of their own governments."

Read more from title link above

Op-Ed: Arm Syria’s Rebels

An interesting op-ed in the NYT from Roger Cohen:

Here are some home truths about Syria. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. Nobody can put this genie back in a bottle. This is the mother of all proxy fights. The remorseless Assad regime is finished, when it dies being the only question.

I hear the outcry already: Arming Assad’s opponents will only exacerbate the fears of Syria’s minorities and unite them, ensure greater bloodshed, and undermine diplomatic efforts now being led by Kofi Annan, a gifted and astute peacemaker. It risks turning a proxy war into a proxy conflagration.

There is no policy for Syria at this stage that does not involve significant risk. But the only cease-fire I can see that will not amount to an ephemeral piece of paper is one based on a rough balance of forces. For that, the Free Syrian Army must be armed. 


Do you think Syria’s rebels should be armed?

GUARDIAN VIDEO: A little action in Tunisia on Friday. From the Guardian: 

Pro-Assad protesters rallied outside the Friends of Syria conference in the Tunisian capital, Tunis, on Friday. The demonstration delayed the attendance of the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton at the talks. The group are meeting in an effort to curb the violence in Syria, and to demand humanitarian access to besieged civilians

This is all coming as nations debate whether or not to get involved in the Syrian clashes.  Saudi announced arming the Syrian rebels is "an excellent idea".

Incredible (and heartbreaking) images and video out of Syria. These are real people. Please watch.

My whole goal of this project is to put a personal face on the uprisings in the Arab world.  When you see news of violence and political change on TV, it is easy to depersonalize it.   But I would like for you to watch this video and remember that these are real people—this is not a movie.  

A few months ago, the men and women in this video had real families, real jobs, and real hopes for the future.  Today, they are engaging in urban warfare, standing in lines for hours to buy bread, and saying goodbye to their children who were injured in the government’s attacks on their neighborhoods. It doesn’t matter what your politics are… what matters is that you see these men and women as real people, not as “them”.