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IBB Update: Advisors, Alliances, and... Barbie.
Mohammed Soliman joins IBB's Board of Advisors, Faisal is in The Telegraph on the Middle East and China, Barbie gets banned across the MENA region, and we have a few new Innovators!
Welcome back to the IBB Update!
We're excited to announce that Mohammed Soliman has joined our Board of Advisors, bringing with him a wealth of experience in geopolitics, business, and technology. In other news, Faisal's recent article in The Telegraph highlights the diminishing U.S. influence in the Middle East and urges America to reclaim its leadership role. On the cultural front, the new Barbie movie has stirred controversy in the Middle East, being banned in several countries for its LGBTQ+ themes while surprisingly gaining acceptance in Saudi Arabia. In innovation, Asafeer is revolutionizing children's education in the region by providing quality Arabic literature, and Megawatt Solar offers a glimmer of hope amidst Iraq's persistent power crisis. Don't miss these stories as we explore the complexities and opportunities shaping the Middle East.
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Welcome to IBB’s Board of Advisors Mohammed Soliman
We're thrilled to announce that Mr. Mohammed Soliman has joined the Ideas Beyond Borders board of advisors. An expert in geopolitics, business, and technology, Mr. Soliman brings an unparalleled depth of experience from his roles at McLarty Associates, the Middle East Institute, and other prestigious organizations. His diverse skill set includes market entry strategies, investment identification, and a profound understanding of the political landscape in the Middle East and North Africa. His insights have been featured in leading publications like The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal, and he has earned numerous accolades, such as inclusion in the 2021 CSIS National Security & Foreign Affairs Top 50 Leadership List. Fluent in multiple languages, Mr. Soliman's multidisciplinary and multicultural expertise will be invaluable to our board of advisors as we look to the future.
Faisal in The Telegraph
Faisal has written for the Telegraph that the United States is losing its geopolitical influence in the Middle East, partly due to controversial decisions like the Iran nuclear deal and the messy withdrawal from Afghanistan. As a result, countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia are turning toward other powers such as China and Russia. This shift has broad implications, including the risk of radicalization against Western interests among the region's 300 million people. While the U.S. may not align perfectly with the Gulf States, the alliance is essential for maintaining a world order more favorable to democratic values compared to what China or Russia would offer. America needs to reclaim its role as a global leader, lest it leave a vacuum for "nefarious actors" to exploit.
A Doll's Unexpected Drama
The blockbuster Barbie movie, directed by Greta Gerwig and starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, has stirred controversy in the Middle East, facing bans in Lebanon, Kuwait, and Algeria over its perceived promotion of LGBTQ+ issues and challenges to traditional family values. Despite these bans, Saudi Arabia has allowed the film, which aligns with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030 reforms aimed at liberalizing Saudi society. While the film has been acclaimed for its humor and gender commentary, some countries argue it undermines traditional values, citing, among other things, the casting of transgender actress Hari Nef. Lebanon's proposed ban is particularly surprising given the country's relatively liberal attitudes toward the LGBTQ+ community, but it reflects the influence of conservative groups like Hezbollah. The differing reactions to the film highlight the complex and evolving landscape of social values and censorship in the Middle East.
The Arabic Stories Inspiring Children
Asafeer, founded by Amro Abu-Hmaidan in 2014, aims to revolutionize children's education in the Middle East by providing quality Arabic children's literature that tackles complex topics like the refugee experience. With over 1,100 stories and a user base ranging in the millions, the platform seeks to cultivate emotional intelligence and critical thinking, which are often overlooked in Middle Eastern curriculums. The platform has partnerships with 400 schools and offers an array of educational tools, making learning more engaging for students. Despite resistance to curriculum modernization in Middle Eastern countries, Asafeer is making strides in education through private-sector involvement. Founder Amro Abu-Hmaidan encourages investors to recognize the untapped potential of the educational sector, emphasizing that meaningful investment in education could be transformative for the region.
Surviving Summer in Iraq
Iraq's power crisis intensifies every summer, with soaring temperatures and frequent outages causing widespread suffering, especially in cities like Mosul where the infrastructure is still recovering from the fight against ISIS. Amid this crisis, solar energy is emerging as a viable solution. Local entrepreneur Mustafa Almola’s start-up, Megawatt Solar, is capitalizing on Iraq’s abundant sunshine to offer cleaner, more reliable energy options. Despite Iraq's energy-rich status and massive reserves of crude oil and natural gas, corruption, mismanagement, and geopolitical tensions have led to persistent power shortages, inciting public protests and frustration. Almola hopes that grassroots solar projects can offer a path forward, circumventing the national grid's shortcomings and contributing to a more sustainable energy landscape in Iraq.
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