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Guest Feature: Bahira Amin
If you haven’t heard or seen the news about the Pandora Papers, it’s truly something to behold.
The Pandora Papers are “a leak of almost 12 million documents that reveals hidden wealth, tax avoidance and, in some cases, money laundering by some of the world's rich and powerful.” More than 600 journalists in over 100 countries worked together, digging through all of these files for months to find stories that ultimately published this week across several news outlets globally.
The files “expose how some of the most powerful people in the world - including more than 330 politicians from 90 countries - use secret offshore companies to hide their wealth.”
The BBC, one of the media outlets who participated in this collaborative effort, put together a easy guide to the Pandora Papers and what it all means. I also included some stories below on Lebanon, Qatar, and Jordan as they relate to the Pandora Papers. Other Middle Eastern and North African countries were implicated as well (Bahrain, Morocco, and the UAE among them).
This is incredibly alarming, to say the least. As many of these countries suffer multi-layered crises, their leaders continue to rake in more and more wealth.
Okay friends, let’s get right into it for this week. I am so excited to introduce our guest feature: Bahira Amin!
Bahira is an Egyptian writer and journalist based in and in love with Cairo. She writes about society, arts and culture, and heritage in Arabic-speaking countries, with a focus on marginalized voices.
Bahira comes across as low key, but let me tell you she’s one of the coolest, most hip person I know. Bahira is so well-connected in Cairo, yet her humility and her down-to-earth personality shines through — along with her incredibly warm and enthusiastic presence. Her go-to songs are eclectic and truly represent her curiosity and zest for life:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
My music taste is pure chaos, so my answer to this question will change by the day, if not the hour. Right now, my favorites are “Remember Me” by UMI, anything by ¿Téo? and Snoh Aleagra, and seconds 00:45-00:50 of “Yatawaghal Yatasarab” by Abyusif.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
I've made 38 playlists on Anghami, one for each hyper-specific mood, so it’s impossible to pick one song for all my feels. I do have a few that I go back to for recurring feels though. “Helplessness Blues” by Fleet Foxes for softness in existential crises. “Segn Bel Alwan” by Ramy Essam (feat. Malikah) for regularly scheduled breakdowns about politics and, you know, *gestures widely* all of it. Tamino's album “Amir” when I'm being angsty. “Teskar Tebki” by Maryam Saleh, Tamer Abu Ghazaleh, and Maurice Louca when I’m being a little too angsty and want to be called out on it.
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
Home for me means my mother, and I always think about her when “Slipping Through My Fingers” by ABBA plays, especially the “Mamma Mia” version. Literally one note of that song and I’m in tears thinking about how precious she is to me.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
I have a holdover from my Quran recitation days where I still memorize stuff really quickly, so I probably know literally hundreds of songs by heart. It comes in handy when I’m somewhere beautiful, like the mountains or the Red Sea and I have a rolodex of songs to sing to myself. Some of my favorites are “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac, “Zina” by Babylone, and “Love Came Here” by Lhasa de Sela. And there are others I want to scoop out of my head with a melon baller, like every single word to “Hamilton” and Nicki Minaj's verse in “Monster”.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
My hype songs are always Egyptian rap (it's provocative, it gets the people going). My favorites right now, and my two most played songs on Anghami for the past couple months, are “Khod w Hat” by Wegz & L5VAV, and “RAKAM 1 DA MESH ENTA” (caps are a must) by El Joker. It’s more fun when you know the beef behind the lyrics, but honestly the rhythm alone is enough to get anyone jumping.
Big shout out to Bahira for joining and sharing her song selections! All of Bahira’s songs will be included in this week’s playlist too, so be sure to take a listen. And please check out Bahira on Twitter and keep up with all of her latest and greatest writing!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Flows by Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Artists 🎧
Brise Lames - Raja Meziane
Shwaya - Sons of Yusuf
Wojoud Efterady - Mirelle Mokhtar
what lovers do - anees
Datni - Draganov
La Wahdi - Almas
Batal - 3enba featuring Lil Baba
Tiki Taka - Benab
Hamm O Bala - Jadal
Athadakom - Rahma Riad
🎤 Vibes by Latinx & Hispanic Artists 🎤
Bobolonga - El Experimento featuring Gailen La Moyeta, Jc La Nevula, La Manta, Paramba, El Chuape, and Young Gatillo
Morena - ChocQuibTown featuring La Ross Maria and Lil Silvio & El Vega
El Incomprendido - Farruko featuring Victor Cardenas and DJ Adoni
Sol - Alaíde
Ateo - C. Tangana featuring Nathy Peluso
Wasakaka - La Gabi
Lo Siento BB:/ - Tainy featuring Bad Bunny and Julieta Venegas
Magia - Monogem
Besame Mucho - Cesária Evora
Te Olvido - Manuel Turizo
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
B.I.D. - JoJo
Write A List Of Things To Look Forward To - Courtney Barnett
One Call Away - Chingy featuring Jason Weaver
Question - Burna Boy featuring Don Jazzy
Too Loyal… - Headie One
West Indies - Koffee
Garden Party - Masego featuring Big Boi and JID
Ignorance - Miss Angel
Round 2 - Sarkodie featuring Giggs
Dance Roots - Husko
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
Interrogation of play director stirs censorship fears in Lebanon - Kareem Chehayeb, Al Jazeera
Palestinian director Awad Awad was taken into custody and questioned after allegedly criticising the president in his play.
Lebanon's political class 'ripped off' the country's potential, 'Pandora' investigator says - Joyce Hackel and Marco Werman, PRI The World
The "Pandora Papers" exposed offshore accounts of the rich and powerful around the globe, including Lebanon's elite political class. Alia Ibrahim, founder of Daraj Media, a team that helped bring the investigation to light, joined The World's host Marco Werman to discuss Lebanon's economic situation.
'Doxxing' activists dole out virtual justice for Lebanon collapse - Timour Azhari and Maya Gebaily, Thomson Reuters Foundation News
With no one jailed over Lebanon's financial collapse and the probe into last year's Beirut port blast suspended, digital activists say naming and shaming politicians is more crucial than ever.
Are public school students at risk of missing another academic year? - Tala Ramadan, L’Orient Today
Worries about further delays of the public school year's start date are particularly pronounced among parents who moved their children from private to public schools this year for financial reasons.
Meet Beirut Groove Collective – the vinyl DJ group who just want to make Londoners dance - Chiara Wilkinson, Time Out
Since 2009, vinyl DJ group the Beirut Groove Collective have built up a following in the Lebanese capital. Now, they’re making a home for themselves in London. The founders explain why.
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
While His Country Struggles, Jordan’s King Abdullah Secretly Splurges - Greg Miller, The Washington Post
The monarch has spent more than $100 million on lavish homes in the U.S. and Britain, newly revealed documents show.
Yemen's ancient, soaring skyscraper cities - Ulrike Lemmin-Woolfrey, BBC Travel
Constructed using natural materials, Yemeni high-rises are superbly sustainable and perfectly suited to the hot and dry Arabian desert climate.
‘I’d rather die in the West Bank’: LGBTQ Palestinians find no safety in Israel - Tamar Ben David and Lilach Ben David, +972 Magazine
Israel markets itself to the world as an LGBTQ paradise, but testimonies from asylum-seeking queer Palestinians show it sentences them to a life of hell.
The only Arab American museum in the nation is ‘much more than a building’ - Frances Kai-Hwa Wang, PBS NewsHour
“In the city center of Dearborn, Michigan, across the street from the former City Hall, stands the Arab American National Museum (AANM), the first and only museum in the country dedicated to the history, art, and culture of Arab Americans. The museum is also an important community space, located in the oldest, largest, and most diverse Arab American community in the U.S.”
Pandora Papers: Qatar ruling family avoided £18.5m tax on London super-mansion - Ahmed ElShamy & Emir Nader, BBC News
The Qatar ruling family bought two of the UK's most expensive houses in a deal that allowed them to avoid £18.5m in stamp duty, leaked documents show.
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
‘We wanted to make history’: Michael Jackson’s bizarre year in Bahrain - Motez Bishara, The Guardian
In 2005, a Bahraini prince welcomed the deposed king of pop and wrote a Hurricane Katrina charity single with him. But Jackson’s erratic behaviour sent plans off course.
How R. Kelly Got Away With It - Kimberlé Crenshaw, The New York Times
“Until we confront the full weight of Black women’s intersectional vulnerability, these crimes of commission and omission will remain indefensibly common.”
Radio Alhara: the online station that prompted a global movement - Günseli Yalcinkaya, Dazed
A project meant to stave off quarantine boredom, the Bethlehem-based station is on a community-building mission, amassing a following with its offbeat mix of Iranian pop, Afro-funk, Bahraini wedding songs, talk shows, news, and debates.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Daniel Craig - Dave Itzkoff, The New York Times
At long last, the star of the James Bond franchise bids farewell to 007 with “No Time to Die” (and learns for the first time about his life as an internet meme).
‘NBA Lane’ director Rick Famuyiwa’s love of basketball is fit for commemorating the NBA’s 75th season - Marc J. Spears, The Undefeated
“I was just flattered and honored to have this come my way, and that I was entrusted with helping to tell this story”
📚 Other Reads 📚
Finding Memories, and Mom’s Sewing Stuff, in a Reused Cookie Tin - Priya Krishna, The New York Times
The containers we use over and over, from Cool Whip tubs to Taster’s Choice jars, can evoke stronger feelings than the food that came in them.
Biden’s Immigration Policy Picks Up Where Trump Left Off - Aída Chávez, The Nation
The administration is carrying out mass expulsions cribbed straight from the Stephen Miller playbook.
How AT&T helped build far-right One America News - John Shiffman, Reuters
As it lauded former President Donald Trump and spread his unfounded claims of election fraud, One America News Network saw its viewership jump. Reuters has uncovered how America’s telecom giant nurtured the news channel now at the center of a bitter national divide over politics and truth.
Lousy Management, Knucklehead Hires Plague Operations of Real-Life Sopranos - James Fanelli, The Wall Street Journal
Failure to stick with best business practices and a younger generation of bumbling suburban-bred mobsters kneecap a storied New York clan.
Brown, Desi, South Asian: Diaspora reflects on the terms that represent, erase them - Sakshi Venkatraman, NBC News
“They each have a place, but they don’t entirely encompass each of the others,” one activist said.