Category: Asia

Petra, Jordan

Petra, Jordan

Petra, Jordan: The village, carved into the rock, was built as early as 9,000 BC. BC and is considered to be one of the oldest settlements in the Middle East.

The former rock city of Petra is located in the Edom region of Jordan, around 240 km south of today’s capital Amman and around 120 km north of the Gulf of Aqapa, which flows into the Red Sea. The town, carved into the rock, was built as early as 9,000 BC. BC and is considered to be one of the oldest settlements in the Middle East. In 1985 Petra was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Strategic center of the Middle East

In ancient times, Petra was the capital of the north-west Arab nomadic tribe Nabataeans and, along with the Syrian Bosra of the Arab trading metropolis of Hegra, was one of the most important places of this era. The venerable city was strategically located and connected, among other things, the caravan routes of Egypt and Syria as well as southern Arabia and the Mediterranean region.

Historical monuments with monumental dimensions

Located in the mountains of Edom, with around 800 historical monuments, it is one of the world’s most famous archaeological sights and is ideal for cultural and historical trips. The facades of the buildings were carved directly out of the rock and impress with their gigantic dimensions. Internationally known buildings in Petra include:

The treasure house: The “treasure house of the Pharaoh”, built in the Hellenistic style, impresses with a height of 40 meters and a width of 25 meters. In the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” the building, carved out of solid rock, was used as the hiding place of the Holy Grail.

The Roman amphitheater: The theater was built in the 1st century AD and had 45 rows of seats for up to 10,000 visitors. The building was probably destroyed by an earthquake in AD 363 and was only rediscovered during excavations in 1961.

The rock temple ad-Deir: The rock temple outside of Petra was carved into a mountain wall in a high position and impresses, among other things, with the 9 meter high urn on the top of the round temple. In the Middle Ages, the temple complex was used as a monastery by monks.

The “new seventh wonder of the world”

With its unique monumental buildings, Petra is certainly one of the most spectacular destinations for study trips in the Arab world. The touristic development of the city in the rock began directly after the archaeological excavations in the 1920s. The first hotels were initially built in the immediate vicinity of the city, but these structural mistakes have now been remedied. At the end of the 20th century, a modern visitor center was built at an adequate distance from Petra. The area around the rock city was officially declared a protected national park. As part of an international survey by the Swiss NewOpenWorld Foundation, the cultural site even received the unofficial title of one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.

Petra, Jordan

Why are Norwegian Soldiers in Iraq?

Why are Norwegian Soldiers in Iraq?

In April 2015, the Norwegian government sent 120 soldiers to Iraq . There, they were to “help train Iraqi security forces.” Some of the soldiers were stationed in the Kurdish provincial capital of Erbil under the security forces of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq (KRG). Other Norwegian soldiers were stationed in the capital Baghdad.

  • What are the main rules of international law for military operations on foreign soil?
  • What is the basis for the Norwegian military presence in Iraq from 2015?
  • How does this presence stand against the rules of international law for the use of military force?
  • What international law challenges does the presence face?

The Norwegian military will support the Iraqi central and regional authorities in recapturing territory from Islamic State (IS), which in 2015 controlled approx. 1/3 of Iraq. Norwegian participation is part of a loosely led American coalition with the goal of “crushing” IS.

The Norwegian presence in Iraq represents a break with the tradition of Norwegian military operations abroad after the year 2000. The presence also raises at least three challenges : uncertainty about what the mission is, insufficient legal certainty for the soldiers, and questions about whether the soldiers can perform their tasks so efficiently as provided.

2: International law: barriers to the use of military force in other countries

A central international agreement – the UN Charter ‘s Article 2 (4), non-interference court as a “cornerstone of the UN Charter” – and international legal custom prohibits the use of military force in interstate relations (power ban). Threats of such use of force are also prohibited.

Military use of force in the territory of another state violates the principle that every state is sovereign in its own territory. The prohibition on force also applies to the use of force against non-state actors in the territory of another state. However, the ban on power has two exceptions that can make military use of force in other countries legal: Chap. VII mandate and self-defense . In addition, another state may be invited by the government of a country to operate militarily in that country. Every sovereign government is free to do so.

3: Chapter VII mandate

One exception to the ban on power is military operations adopted by the UN Security Council . The Security Council may authorize (grant the right to) the use of military force under Chapter VII of the UN Charter if there is a threat to peace, a breach of peace or an act of aggression (Article 39 of the Covenant).

In addition, a resolution may clarify the legality of an ongoing military operation to which it has been invited. In 2015, the president of Yemen lost control of the capital and state-owned institutions. He then invited a group of states led by Saudi Arabia to help put down the rebels. Eventually, the Security Council confirmed that the President had the competence – stood strong enough – for such an invitation. Resolutions that confirm the legality of ongoing use of force do not change the basis of international law. The operation in Yemen is based on an invitation and not on a mandate from the Security Council.

A related clarification of legality can be found in the Security Council’s call from November 2015 for permission to use “all necessary measures” against groups in IS-controlled areas in Syria and Iraq to prevent terrorism.

The Chapter VII mandate nevertheless sets clear barriers to the use of force under international law . The operations must be carried out within the framework of the mandate. A Chapter VII mandate authorizes the use of all necessary means to achieve the purpose, but no more.

The use of force must also be proportional to the purpose of the use of force. Military operations for purposes that are outside the mandate or that are disproportionate to the purpose of the use of force, represent a violation of the prohibition of force . In Libya in 2011, removing Gaddafi’s regime (regime change) was not part of the mandate.

A state may not invoke the right to self-defense against military operations based on a mandate from the Security Council. The legality of the operations in Syria has been repeatedly disputed by the Assad regime . When Resolution 2249 confirms the legality of these, Assad can not claim that the operations are acts of aggression that trigger Syrian right to self-defense. The Security Council has stated that self-defense against IS (and certain other non-governmental groups) in Syria (but also in Iraq) is not contrary to international law.

4: The right to self-defense

The second exception to the ban on power is access to military operations for national self-defense (Article 51 of the UN Charter). A country thus has the right – individually / alone or collectively / together with other states – to defend itself against attacks contrary to international law. Other states can then assist in self-defense. The right to self-defense is triggered by an “armed attack”. Most states and international law lawyers have interpreted this exception strictly. In the case of collective self-defense, a country that has individual self-defense rights asks for help from other states.

Self-defense outside its own territory will not order the other UN countries to cooperate with other states, such as a Chapter VII mandate. Other states can then take a stand for or against the use of force or invoke neutrality. If the right to self-defense is confirmed by the Security Council, they must still comply.

Also in self-defense, military operations must be necessary (for defense) and proportionate . That is, the operations’ damage (scaling) must be in proportion to the purpose of the attack. When Israel attacked Lebanon after Hezbollah’s attacks on Israeli territory and a subsequent ambush in Lebanon in 2006, the operation was in line with Israel’s self-defense law. The purpose was to prevent similar future attacks. But the extent of Israel’s response was criticized by many, such as France, Russia, the EU and the United States, for being disproportionate to this purpose – and therefore contrary to international law.

The self-defense rules in Article 51 do not apply to a state power that exercises authority in its own territory, e.g. maintains or restores peace and order. Iraqi authorities can not invoke self-defense against Iraqi IS in Iraq. Here, it is the state’s right to exercise authority that is the hook under international law. International law does not give a state power the “right” to wage war against its own people when warfare is based on arguments about self-defense. This type of self-defense right also does not apply in occupied territory. Rules and barriers to what an occupying power can afford in the use of force differ both from self-defense against external enemies and from the rules on the exercise of power in one’s own country.

The situation in and around Syria and the lack of a Chapter VII mandate (cf. the use of the right of veto) has led to a number of allegations of self-defense for other states’ military use of force on Syrian soil: US airstrikes on Syrian territory began on 22 September 2014. The United States has stated several various self-defense bases for its operations on Syrian soil: Self-defense against IS, collective self-defense to safeguard the self-defense rights of Syria’s neighbors, self-defense against a non-governmental group and defense of US allied groups (insurgents) on the ground in Syria.

The right to self-defense is the most obscure of the legal bases for the use of force. The core consists of a basic right to self-maintenance. However, the vast majority of military operations can be presented as a version of self-defense. Therefore, international law has always sought a narrow framework for this exception to the prohibition of power. However, the right to self-defense seems to have been interpreted somewhat more broadly since 2001. The situation in Syria and Iraq also seems to push the states’ practice of self-defense even a notch further.

5: Invitation to military assistance

A third legal basis for the use of military force on foreign soil consists of an invitation or consent from state authorities in another country. These authorities then invite one or more other states to assist them in maintaining or restoring order internally, in practice to retain state power, defend the territory or to prevent the territory from being exploited by non-state actors for violence that may threaten national or international Safety.
This legal basis is no exception to the prohibition of power in the UN Charter. Such military operations have a background in the sovereignty of the inviting government . Thus, they do not violate the ban on power.

Government authorities may invite other states or non-governmental organizations to assist them in the use of force in their own territory. The Assad regime, which is thus the ruling power in Syria, can invite other states such as Iran and non-state actors such as Lebanese Hezbollah to assist the Syrian authorities with the use of force on Syrian territory. Russian soldiers in Syria have also been invited by the Assad regime.

However, if the use of force by invitation extends beyond the inviting state and into the territory of another sovereign state, the prohibition on force requires a decision by the Security Council. Iraqi forces or other states’ armed forces at the invitation of Iraq can not simply use military force against IS on the Syrian side of the border. It requires a different basis of international law.

Security Council Resolution 2249 provides a kind of “cloak of international law legality” for various types of military operations in Syria and Iraq.

An invitation must be clearly expressed . It cannot be assumed that the state would have consented “if it had been asked”. Other states may also question how real a consent is. In addition, the invitation must come from authorities that (still) are strong enough to be able to invite, e.g. still has central state-supporting institutions.

The Security Council can confirm whether the government in a country has the capacity to invite , as in Yemen, or it can cut off such a right. When the Security Council recognized the opposition in Libya as “the legitimate representative of the Libyan people” in 2011, Libyan authorities could no longer invite others to help them.

If the use of force by an invited state (the sending state) should affect the consent, the use of force is contrary to international law. If it can be characterized as an armed attack, it even triggers the consent state’s right to self-defense against the sending state (Article 51).

The purpose of the invitation will depend on what an inviting government wants, or the agreement between it and the sending state. Such agreements normally take the form of agreements on the legal status of forces (SOFA). They clarify the purpose of the military contribution, and they give military personnel criminal immunity for their presence and for actions that fall within the scope of the mission. It provides visibility and clarity (notoriety) to the outside world. And it provides security for the soldiers and predictability within.

6: Rules for the actual use of force

Even if the legal basis for an operation is in order, violations of international law can still occur as a result of the way the operations are carried out. The use of force must take place within the framework of the legal basis. Also: Is a military operation in accordance with the rules of international law for warfare – including the protection of war victims and the ban on using rules that prohibit certain types of weapons?

There are four different sets of rules in international law that set general barriers for different types of military operations, rules for:

  • intergovernmental conflict
  • occupation,
  • non-intergovernmental conflict,
  • for military operations in situations below the threshold of armed conflict

The first situation is governed primarily by humanitarian law (the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Conventions), the latter by human rights . Occupation and non-international conflicts are extensively regulated by both humanitarian law and human rights, but in different ways.

On a couple of important points, these sets of rules differ from each other, and impose different rights and obligations . Thus, the use of force that is legal under one set of rules may be a violation of international law under another. The use of expanding bullets or tear gas is, for example, permitted by law enforcement internally in a country, but if these means are used in combat, it will be classified as war crimes. Persons who have committed war crimes must either be prosecuted by their own authorities or extradited to states or courts abroad with the right to prosecute them. Furthermore, the demarcation between military targets and civilians is clearer under the first two sets of rules than in non-international conflicts / civil wars.

7: By invitation – Norway is in Iraq

In the summer of 2014 , IS conquered important strategic areas in northwestern Iraq. They declared an Islamic caliphate and committed massive war crimes against Iraqi soldiers and religious minorities, including the so-called Camp Speicher massacre . More than 1,500 Iraqi Shiite cadets and soldiers were executed by IS during one afternoon. Abuses against the Kurdish Yezidi minority received a lot of attention in the late summer of 2014, with acts that according to several may be genocide .

In the autumn of 2014, the Norwegian authorities decided to send military forces to military advice and training in Iraq. Norway is now contributing militarily to fighting IS. The mission will “help to better enable the Iraqi forces to meet the ISIL threat”. Norwegian personnel will not participate in military operations, but will be part of the military support apparatus for Iraqi security forces.

There is not any Chapter VII mandate from the Security Council which are entitled to Norwegian military presence in Iraq. After IS conquered parts of four Iraqi provinces and declared an Islamic State on Iraqi and Syrian territory in June 2014, the Security Council in August 2014 ruled that IS was a threat to Syria, Iraq, the Middle East and to international peace and security. But the Security Council has not adopted the right to use force under Chapter VII in extension of this, even though the Security Council has unanimously condemned IS ‘conduct.

On 24 September 2014, the Security Council decided in Chapter VII to order states to fight foreign fighters (Res. 2178). But it did not give the green light for the use of force against IS. The loosely organized US operation is mainly based on arguments about self-defense (see above) in the face of a serious threat to international security. The Security Council has established that IS is. Thus, it has clarified that states can invoke self-defense law even if IS is a non-state actor.

However, Norway has not stated self-defense for our presence in Iraq. Collective self-defense is derived from the right of self-defense to countries that are under attack and asking for help. Norway is helping Iraq (primarily) against Iraqis in Iraq. Norway can not claim to help Iraq to self-defense in Iraq as international law does not contain any self-defense rule for the exercise of power in its own territory. The Iraqi authorities, on the other hand, can state self-defense for operations on the Syrian side of the border, where Norway may assist based on collective self-defense, but then on behalf of Baghdad. The Norwegian authorities can thus justify their presence in Iraq by saying that they are there to help the regime retain state power. Operations in Syria will have the same justification.

With Resolution 2249 behind it , outside states can conduct military operations in Syrian and Iraqi territory. It clarifies that means of force can be used to prevent terrorist attacks by IS (and certain other groups) from the area that IS controls in Syria and Iraq. The resolution is not a UN mandate to operate militarily on Syrian or Iraqi territory without coordinating with the governments of Baghdad and Damascus. Iraqi authorities remain in the driver’s seat of operations in Iraq.

The UN Security Council confirmed the invitation and thus also the Iraqi authorities’ competence to invite. Iraq could need such confirmation as the situation was in Iraq in the summer of 2014. At that time, the Iraqi security apparatus went up in limbo in northern Iraq in the face of an advancing IS. In addition, Kurdish forces from Erbil occupied many controversial and strategically important places. When the invitation came, Baghdad practically controlled less than 40% of the land. The Security Council acknowledged that their numbers were not enough to defeat Iraqi government.

Iraqi authorities may impose conditions on the use of force on those invited, or withdraw their consent at any time. As early as October 2014, the Iraqi authorities stated that the letter to the Security Council in September had restrictions. “We asked for help, but it was about air force.” Among other things, Baghdad announced that neighboring Arab countries (read: Sunni Muslims) were not wanted on the ground in Iraq.

In August 2015, Iraqi authorities asked the Security Council to allow Turkish troops to leave Iraq, a demand Iraq repeatedly made in the fall of 2015. Iraqis do not consider ground forces from countries in the region to be covered by the Security Council’s request.

Outside this requirement is neighboring Iran, which has a separate defense agreement with Iraq. It gives Iranian soldiers the right to operate on Iraqi soil. Iran has also carried out airstrikes against IS in Iraq since December 2014, independent of the international coalition. The close military cooperation between Iraq and Iran means that Iran has a different and broader mandate for its presence in Iraq.

It is thus not obvious that the Norwegian military in Iraq is covered by the invitation Iraq handed over to the UN Security Council in September 2014. According to the Iraqi authorities, the request only includes air force . But it is not air force Norwegian soldiers in Iraq are engaged in. The legal basis for the Norwegian military presence in Baghdad is an invitation , in Norway’s view. What this invitation entails is very unclear . Norwegian soldiers have been invited to Iraq to take part in an air offensive against IS, an air offensive in which they are not participating.

8: Counters at the legal basis

As with the Norwegian operation in Iraq in 2003–2005, no special Norwegian restrictions were placed on military participation in 2014 – except that «Norwegian forces will not participate in direct combat operations».

However, there is a big difference between Norway’s Iraq operations in 2003–2005 and in 2015. In 2003–2005, there was a clearer organization and a much clearer legal basis (see below). When the international law basis for military presence in a foreign country is weak, unclear or controversial, it becomes all the more important with clear agreements that regulate the nature of the mission and the situation of the soldiers.

Invitation as a legal basis is usually regulated in more detail by a defense agreement. The United States has a political agreement, and Iran has a defense agreement with Iraq. Norway does not have that.

GENERAL RULES: If the legal basis and the nature of the assignment is somewhat unclear, the general rules of international law apply. Since the summer of 2013, the Iraqi authorities have been involved in a civil war-like situation against Sunni Muslim areas, ie the same areas where IS eventually took control.

The term “non-international conflict” is not limited to armed conflicts that take place only in the territory of one country. The fight against IS extends over two countries, and involves more than 60 nations on one side and a non-state actor on the other.

Iraq is today neither in a situation of occupation nor in an international armed conflict. Here, the rules of a country’s sovereign law enforcement and internal armed conflicts apply.

This means that the rules of humanitarian law for non-international armed conflicts apply to Norwegian soldiers to the extent that they have a military function linked to one of the parties to the conflict.

9: Norway in Iraq: Three challenges

Since the turn of the millennium, Norwegian soldiers have been involved in several military operations on foreign soil. Many of them have not been UN operations in the sense of peacekeeping operations (after the ceasefire agreement has been reached) under the UN mandate – Afghanistan (2001–2016), Iraq (2003–2005) and Libya (2011). All three operations were launched following a mandate from the Security Council.

After the year 2000, Norway has had clear legal bases for its military foreign operations. But Norway’s military contribution to Iraq from 2015 represents something new . The backing of international law for Norway does not seem controversial, since the Iraqi authorities do not consider Norwegian soldiers to be enemy soldiers, as they do with certain other coalition countries. Nevertheless, the invitation appears to be deficient . It does not provide clarity (notoriety) about the purpose of the contribution or framework around the activities of Norwegian soldiers in Iraq in 2015.

By invitation to assistance, we lend military capabilities to another state. A recipient state will normally have other motives and interests than ours. And it will probably be involved in power struggles and conflicts that are beyond the control of Norway, but where we can still be drawn in. Consequently, it is important to have a clear framework for such lending. The somewhat vague basis of international law for Norway’s military contribution to Iraq therefore represents challenges on three levels:

1 Around notoriety – it is difficult to prove purpose, document or control who has done what and when. There is neither a UN mandate nor a self-defense authority for the contribution. No defense agreement or SOFA (agreements on forces’ legal status status of forces agreements, SOFA) has been negotiated that can clarify the purpose of the mission.

Why has Norway sent troops to Iraq? At home, it can be important to clarify what Norwegian soldiers do on land far away, including with atypical, perhaps dubious, partners. To other countries, it may be appropriate to clarify why troops have been sent to Baghdad to help a coalition that works closely with the military in Tehran, Damascus and Russia. Also: Can soldiers we train in Baghdad want to use their new military skills to fight soldiers we train in Erbil?

2 Norwegian soldiers’ legal security . Norwegian soldiers in Iraq are so-called administrative employees at a diplomatic post (embassy) Norway does not have. The agreement between Norway and Iraq is not very specific. Diplomatic immunity does not include the right to engage in military activity practiced by soldiers. The legal protection of Norwegian soldiers in Iraq does not match the tasks they have or the conflict landscape in which they operate.

3 Efficiency of the operation . How effectively can Norwegian soldiers carry out their mission when assisting security forces that have reportedly been involved in many and serious violations of international law? How effectively can they operate in one of the world’s most corrupt countries, which is also struggling with major disciplinary challenges in the security apparatus?

According to THEMAKEUPEXPLORER, a small country like Norway will always have a strategic interest in respecting international law. Then it is important that the use of military force in foreign operations appears – at home and abroad – as predictable, predictable and even principled.

Why are Norwegian soldiers in Iraq

Lebanon and Syria: Fear of Spillover Effect

Lebanon and Syria: Fear of Spillover Effect

When unrest or armed conflict breaks out in a country, there is always a danger of spreading, or spillover effect, to neighboring countries. The danger becomes extra great where the ties between the countries are many, when one state is weak and there is political disagreement about how to deal with the conflict in the neighboring country. In Lebanon, the consequences of the uprising in Syria are already noticeable in several areas. Many fear that the country will once again be drawn into an armed conflict.

  • How does a civil war have consequences outside the war zone itself?
  • How are conditions in Lebanon related to the situation in Syria?
  • How is Lebanon divided by the situation in the neighboring country in the north?
  • How can the situation in Syria and Lebanon be seen in a broader power perspective?

2: Background – close ties

Close ties have, for better or worse, linked the two countries together both throughout history and today. The uprising in Syria therefore affects the situation in Lebanon politically, security-wise, economically and socially . The lands were from 1516 under the Ottoman Empire . As Turkey (the core country of the empire) was on the losing side during World War I, the countries in 1920 became French territories under the League of Nations. In 1943 and 1946, respectively, they became independent. But it was not until after the Lebanon wars of 1975-1990 that Syria recognized the country as an independent state.

Since 1971, Syria has been ruled with a heavy hand by the al-Assad family , first by Hafez and after his death in 2000 by his son Bashar. The father built his power on solid contacts in the military, on the Ba’ath party, an extended family dynasty and the vast majority of Alawites – a Shiite religious denomination that makes up 12 percent of the country’s population. Some Ismailis (Shiites), Christians and Sunni Muslims in the economic upper class also support the regime.

After years of unrest, political stability was created in the country, but the price was suppression, partly bloody, of all attempts at opposition. Internal stability, economic progress and a certain softening during the 1990s have given the country the rank of a regional superpower and led to many Syrians being satisfied with the regime.

3: Lebanon – a lot of strife and Syrian involvement

The small neighboring country Lebanon is in every way a contrast to Syria . The political system is based on a consensus – agreed agreement – on the distribution of all political positions and public office equally between Muslims and Christians, even though Christians today “only” make up 39 percent of the population. In 1943, the proportion was 52 percent.

Since independence, the situation has been characterized by a lack of stability and hostilities , and the country has been one of the scenes of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. On the other hand, an ultra-liberal economic system and a large degree of freedom of expression have made Lebanon a haven for opposition figures and refugees from other countries in the Middle East. In the years from 1975 to 1990, the country was haunted by armed conflicts of both internal and regional nature. Israel occupied parts of southern Lebanon from 1978 to 2000. Syria supported Palestinian and some Lebanese organizations.

In 1976, Syria was asked to send troops to stop the fighting between Christian and Palestinian forces. Eventually, this led to confrontation between Lebanese, armed groups and Syrian forces. At most, the Syrians had 30,000 troops and a well-developed intelligence apparatus stationed in Lebanon. They became the most important rulers in the country. Protesters either had to leave the country or go into hiding.

In the autumn of 2004, a wave of assassinations against anti-Syrian politicians, intellectuals and journalists began. On February 14, 2005, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was killed by a powerful car bomb . On the day one month later – March 14. – Nearly 1 million Lebanese gathered in central Beirut under the slogans “Freedom”, “Dignity” and “Syria out”. The uprising was called the Cedar Revolution (the cedar tree is Lebanon’s national tree ) and led to Syria having to withdraw its troops from the country.

The Shia Muslims’ strongest organization, Hezbollah (see facts), which has close ties to Syria and Iran, strongly disagreed and organized its own demonstrations and occupied the center of Beirut for months to come. The Syrians could also play in the power struggle that arose between Christian leaders who returned home from exile or had been in prison and who wanted to take back their former position. Therefore, the Syrian influence persisted even after the troops were withdrawn.

4: Political division and unrest

In Lebanon, the current political landscape is characterized by two equal coalitions:

  • The March 8 coalition,which is pro-Syrian and critical of everything they define as Western influence. It is dominated by the Shia Muslim organizations Hezbollah and Amal, but also houses half of the Christian politicians under the leadership of General Michel Aoun. They are sitting with the government today.
  • The March 14 coalition, for its part, includes most Sunni Muslim politicians and the Christian parties Kataëb (Falangists) and the Lebanese forces. These are for an independent Lebanon.

Some prominent politicians, such as Druze leader Walid Jumblat, are trying to lead an independent line by belonging to the March 8 coalition while supporting the Syrian rebels.

According to THEDRESSEXPLORER, three main issues separate the two coalitions:

  • Lebanon Special Court appointed by UN in 2007 to investigate the killings of Rafik Hariri and other critics of Syria’s influence in Lebanon
  • Hezbollah’s weapons that constitute a significant armed force outside the state apparatus. Many Lebanese are critical of this.
  • How close should cooperation with Syria be? Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online. Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.

Since the uprising in Syria began in March 2011, the divisions – both among politicians and ordinary people – have deepened between those who support the Syrian regime and those who support the rebels. March 8 supports the Syrian regime’s view that the uprising is the result of a Western / Israeli conspiracy. The March 14 coalition claims that the uprising is a legitimate struggle against an oppressive regime and for freedom and democracy. There is great disagreement about Lebanon’s position in the UN – both in the Security Council and in the General Assembly. There, the country has either abstained or voted against any condemnation of Syria.

When the March 14 coalition recently marked the anniversary of Hariri’s assassination, they clearly showed solidarity with the rebels, and a greeting from the Syrian National Council was read out. But apart from the possibility of creating a communication channel, no one was in favor of further involvement in the conflict.

Two days later, Hezbollah’s (see facts) supreme leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, gave full support to Syria. He claimed that the March 14 coalition had made every effort to break up the Syrian regime and accused them of being directly involved in an escalation of the conflict in Syria. By helping the rebels with money and weapons, they plunge Lebanon into war, he claims. Unconfirmed reports also say that Hezbollah soldiers have taken part in fighting in Syria. This is rejected by the leadership of Hezbollah.

5: Tension – refugees

Excited in northern Lebanon

The situation in the border areas in the north is very tense. From here, the road is short to Homs and Hama in Syria – central rebel cities. Since the uprising began, light weapons have been smuggled across the border. In the city of Tripoli, Sunni Muslims and Alawites live in neighboring neighborhoods, and there have been clashes where several have been killed. The Syrians have gradually mined this part of the border, while Lebanon has strengthened its army in the area. So far, the fighting in Syria has not spread to Lebanon.


According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), approx. 8,000 civilians fled to Lebanon by the end of March 2012. The Catholic humanitarian organization Caritas operates with more than 10,000, while some media claim that as many as 100,000 Syrian refugees are now in the country. The reason for this large difference lies in the status of the refugees. Many people come to relatives in Lebanon and expect to return home as soon as the situation improves. Others do not want to sign up for fear that it may make it difficult for them to return if the regime in Syria stays in place. Lebanese media report many young men among the refugees. This is also known from conflict areas elsewhere in the world.

Due to the large number of Palestinian refugees (250-300,000 according to UNWRA), Lebanon has not signed the UN Refugee Convention which describes the rights of refugees in the recipient country with regard to health care, education, etc. The assistance the refugees receive is therefore primarily dependent on international and national organizations, as well as family networks.

Many of the refugees cross the border between Lebanon and Syria under cover of darkness. Large parts of the border are mined, so they come on foot and have no more with them than they can carry. On the Lebanese side, they are being received by UNHCR, Caritas, the Lebanese Red Cross and a number of local civilian organizations.

Wounded people are admitted to public and private hospitals – the biggest problem is that they arrive far too late. Amputation then often becomes the only possible form of treatment. Depending on local resources and initiatives, children are offered a school place. However, the burden this places on local communities is very unequally distributed because the refugees come to Sunni Muslim and Christian villages and towns, but avoid Shiite Muslim areas.

6: Economic consequences

The uprising in Syria has already had major consequences for the Lebanese economy . This is especially true for the export industry, where the Syrian market accounts for approx. 26 percent of the market, especially for agricultural products. Syria is completely irreplaceable as a transit country for exports to the Arab Gulf countries, so this market has become almost inaccessible.

In the immediate vicinity of Syria, cross-border trade has been an important source of income. Syrians have come here to buy goods that they did not find, or that were cheaper than in their home country. In the Bekaa Valley, several thousand families lived off this trade. Along the border river el-Kebir in the north, there must have been close to 4,000 shops, many of them modest, but where each, after all, formed the basis of life for a family.

The important tourism industry has seen a marked decline after a few years of growth. Two groups in particular have disappeared. The first are Arabs from the Gulf who came to shop and to enjoy the varied nightlife, especially in Beirut. They now prefer to stay away from the tense situation in Lebanon and Syria. The other is tourists from western countries who like to make round trips from Lebanon to Syria and Jordan. Large investments had been made from both the private and the public sector, but now this booming industry is down.

Due to the sanctions against Syria and Syrian citizens, Lebanon’s thriving banking system has come under international observation. So far, only one bank has received comments.

7: Other consequences for Lebanon

Much will depend on the outcome of the uprising in Syria. Although the uprising in Syria is primarily about regime change, freedom and democracy, it has acquired an ethnic-religious character because most of the rebels are Sunni Muslims, while power in the country since the late 1960s has been in the hands of Alawites, who are a side branch of Shia Islam. Many Lebanese therefore read the conflict in Syria into a broader dispute over hegemony in the Middle East between the Shiite superpower Iran on the one hand and the Sunni superpower Saudi Arabia and Qatar on the other, in other words between Shia and Sunni Islam.

The Syrian regime is in a difficult situation, and in Lebanon many fear that this regime, with the help of Hezbollah, will open another conflict, either internally in Lebanon or with Israel. The organization’s supreme leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, denies that they will be involved in this way.

Even if Lebanon were to avoid new acts of war, a protracted conflict in Syria would in any case have very negative consequences for Lebanon. Because the Lebanese are so deeply divided in their view of the uprising in the neighboring country, politicians also have limited opportunities to agree on how to solve the problems that have arisen in Lebanon in connection with increased insecurity, deteriorating economy and a growing flow of refugees.

8: A broader power perspective

A regime change in Syria will lead to a breach of the axis between Hezbollah and Iran via Syria and Iraq . This will lead to major changes for Hezbollah, which may be forced to choose between being both a party and an armed liberation organization, as they define themselves today, or exclusively a political party. Hezbollah’s position in Lebanese politics will then be completely changed and thus also the balance between the two coalitions.

It is still too early to predict the outcome of the uprising in Syria. There is a possibility that the regime will be able to adapt to the demands of the international community, represented by the UN and the Arab League. The opposition is very complex and only now, after about a year, is organizing. It is therefore unclear what kind of regime will eventually take over, and a normalization of the situation in Syria will undoubtedly take a long time. Regardless of the outcome in neighboring countries, Lebanon will therefore face major challenges for a long time to come.

Lebanon and Syria - Fear of Spillover Effect

New War in the Middle East?

New War in the Middle East?

Will Benjamin Nethanyahu go down in history as the Israeli prime minister who allowed Iran to build an existential threat to the Jewish state? This is how he and others read the development. In January, Defense Minister Barak said they had nine months to stop the Iranian nuclear program. Then it would be too late. In the Israeli government, it is these two who control the relationship with Iran, and they work closely together.

  • What is the law and not the law within the non-proliferation agreement?
  • Who are the parties to the conflict over Iran’s nuclear program?
  • How consistent is the outside world in its criticism of Iran?
  • Where did the dialogue-oriented Obama go?

2: The escalation

When President Bush declared “mission accomplished” in Iraq in the spring of 2003, Iran was a possible next target. During Kjell Magne Bondevik’s visit to the White House in the early summer, Bush thought highly of that possibility, but the problems in Iraq made him think about it. In 2008, the issue was raised again on Israeli initiative. Then Bush made it clear that a military attack was not on the map for the rest of his presidency. Instead, tougher sanctions, assassinations of Iranian physicists and sabotage of military and nuclear facilities followed. A computer worm, known as Stuxnet, destroyed several hundred centrifuges at the Natanz enrichment plant. Everything to save time.

In the autumn of 2011, tensions built up again, first with the assassination attempt on the Saudi ambassador to Washington, which the United States claims was behind Iran. Then came a new IAEA report (from the International Atomic Energy Agency ) on the Iranian nuclear program. The report made extensive use of disturbing information from various Western intelligence agencies. This was followed by warnings of new Western sanctions and an attack by protesters at the British Embassy in Tehran.

At the turn of the year, Iran carried out a major military exercise in the Persian Gulf (Note our New Year’s change: Iran celebrates the New Year on the vernal equinox), and the war of words escalated. Accusations of assassination of Iranian physicists and assassination attempts on Israeli diplomats – back and forth between Iran and Israel – continue. A new round of US and European sanctions is being phased in, and in the US, the Republican presidential candidates are competing in power language against Iran.

3: Is Iran becoming a nuclear power?

The answer is that we do not know . US intelligence says that Iran had a weapons-related program until 2003, but that the weapons-oriented activities were stopped that year and have not resumed since. The head of US intelligence, James Clapper, reiterated this in a recent Senate hearing, saying it was “a high degree of certainty”.

Recent reports from the IAEA , however, show that there are indications that some of the weapons-related activities continued after 2003 and that some of them may continue to this day. Israel claims they know the Iranians are making nuclear weapons, and many Western politicians talk as if they know the same thing.

In any case, the Iranians have been slow to act . On top of the shah’s large investments in nuclear energy in the 1970s, the enrichment program – which will eventually produce the weapons material – has been going on for 25 years. In comparison, Pakistan and South Africa (no longer nuclear power) spent 12-15 years acquiring nuclear weapons.

In the West, many have been calling wolves for 10 years and saying that in one, two or three years Iran will be a nuclear power. Then they have updated their alarming predictions from year to next. Former IAEA chief Muhammed El Baradei says he has not seen any evidence, only contrived allegations. His predecessor Hans Blix is ​​reminiscent of Iraq, where the United States and Britain claimed that there were weapons, which later turned out not to exist. It was determined by inspectors from both the UN and the United States.

Now Western countries are trying to prove intentions that may not exist. El Baradei’s successor, the Japanese Amano, has been heavily criticized for his Western orientation, and the Iran reports made under his leadership are controversial .

4: Does Iran meet its international obligations?

According to SUNGLASSESWILL, Iran is a member of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, NPT) and the NPT gives member states the right to exploit nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. All countries that do not have nuclear weapons must report their nuclear activities to the IAEA, which checks that the activities are not being abused for military purposes. Until 2003, however, the enrichment program was kept secret: Thus, it was clear that Iran had violated the safeguard agreement with the IAEA. The agency listed a large number of activities that should have been reported.

That year , Iran changed course and gave the IAEA ample opportunity to inspect the facilities. The Agency (IAEA) was allowed to apply the so-called Additional Protocol to the Security Control Agreement . This makes it possible to look for activities that may not have been reported. Iran also opened up for inspection of some military installations on a voluntary basis.

From the end of 2003 to February 2006, Iran accepted more extensive inspections than any other country in the world. But when a majority in the IAEA board decided to send the Iran issue to the UN Security Council with a view to sanctions, the Iranians reverted to the original security control agreement. And it gives little opportunity to check if something is kept hidden. Since then, the Agency has gradually lost track of what is happening. Instead, it has begun loading national intelligence into its reports .

5: The historical backdrop

The strained relationship between Iran and the Western powers has deep historical roots. England and Russia fought for a long time for influence in Iran. The Tsar hijacked land, while England seized the oil. When the elected Prime Minister Muhammad Mossadeq came to power in 1951 and nationalized the oil industry, the British appealed to the United States to remove him. It happened in 1953, and young Muhammad Reza Pahlawi was put on the throne as the United States’ extended arm in the country . In Iran, there is still an undercurrent of suspicion against both the British and the Russians, and after the revolution in 1979, the United States is referred to as “the big satan” and Israel as the small one.

The revolution and the hostage drama – 52 US embassy employees were held hostage for 444 days – created an irreconcilable attitude in the United States. The United States and Iran have not had diplomatic relations since then, and Americans are not allowed to have contact with Iranians unless it is politically clear. Iran is the number one enemy image of the United States . As the nuclear issue is part of a broad and deep conflict , it is difficult to find a separate solution to it regardless of the conflict in general.

6: Geopolitics and dispersal

The Iran issue is important not only in the Middle East but also globally . It is about both geopolitics and the future of the international non-proliferation regime . Geopolitically, it is a question of Iran’s future position between the West and the rapidly growing powers in the east and south, primarily the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). There are more and more indications that the basic aim of American policy is a change of regime in Iran, and the BRICS – especially China and Russia – will avoid this.

The conflict is reflected in the Syrian conflict . There, the West wants to deprive Iran of an ally while the BRICS opposes all talk of military intervention and unilateral support for the rebels. For the non-proliferation regime, it is about more than Iran. If Iran crosses the threshold and becomes a nuclear power, more countries can go in the same direction, not just in the Middle East.

That is why the Iran conflict is the same as the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians: the whole world is concerned about it. Nevertheless, the question boils down more and more to the relationship between three states: Iran, Israel and the United States. They are the ones who decide what will happen. The focus is on negotiations, sanctions, state terrorism and the use of military force.

7: Negotiations

From the end of 2003, Iran and the EU / EU3 (France, Britain and Germany) negotiated a solution to the conflict. During the negotiations, Iran suspended its enrichment activities. In August 2005, the EU came up with an offer that was rather thin. For example, many had expected that Europeans would assist Iran with power reactors, ie with peaceful use of nuclear energy, but the offer only said that they would not do anything that could prevent the market from functioning normally. But if the EU3 did not want to do anything on its own initiative, the Americans could stop selling from the EU through their patent rights. Iran perceived the whole thing as a provocation .

The United States never believed in the negotiations. At the time, the White House believed that the United States was so powerful that it was not necessary to negotiate. Conversations should rather be a reward for those who behaved as the United States wanted. Talking to the axis of evil – Iran, North Korea and Iraq – was under no circumstances relevant. In retrospect, it may seem that the Europeans were influenced by this way of thinking and therefore did not think it was necessary to offer Iran that much. In February 2006, the case went to the Security Council with a view to sanctions, and since then the conflict has intensified.

When Barack Obama became president, he said he was ready to talk to US opponents without conditions. The first negotiation meeting took place on October 1, 2009. It was a confidence-building measure: the Iranians were to give up 1,200 kg of lava-enriched uranium that they had produced themselves, in exchange for recovering fuel rods for a research reactor in Tehran. What was left in Iran would not be enough to be further refined for weapons purposes.

In new talks three weeks later, it became clear that the Iranians were unsure whether the Western powers and the Russians would keep their part of the agreement. They were the ones to deliver the fuel rods. Moreover, the internal power struggle was in Tehran after this summer’s presidential election so strong that no leader was able to pursue effective diplomacy. Obama was under pressure from an Iran-hostile opposition and had a bad time. The negotiations were therefore fruitless, and at the turn of the year 2009-2010, Obama was back on the Bush administration’s sanctions track.

This had an interesting aftermath. In 2010, Turkey and Brazil reached an agreement with Iran on the same confidence-building measure, only with better assurances for Iran. But then the Americans were no longer interested. They wanted stronger sanctions, and were able to pass a resolution on this in the UN Security Council. However, the agreement showed that it is possible to make agreements with Iran.

8: Sanctions and terror – not on purpose

After four rounds of increasingly stronger sanctions , it is not possible to get the Security Council involved in more. Instead, the US and the EU are now imposing their own sanctions on Iran’s oil trade. The United States is pressuring other countries to reduce imports from Iran. Japan has already done so and is therefore exempt from the sanctions. Now the pressure is primarily on China, India, South Korea, Turkey and South Africa. The EU will suspend all imports from 1 July.

This is hurting the Iranian economy. The average Iranian is punished the most, even the middle class. But the regime still manages to channel resources to its high-priority programs, such as the nuclear program. In Iran, this high-tech prestige program has broad support. Therefore, the sanctions do not work as intended.

Nor do the computer attacks, the killings of Iranian nuclear physicists and the sabotage of military installations. On the contrary, such activities make it easier for the Iranian authorities to call for unity against Israel, the United States and other suspected culprits. Admittedly, the rivalry in the leadership is strong and the popular dissatisfaction with the regime is widespread, but the pressure from outside means that the opposition has poor working conditions.

9: Use of force

New negotiations are underway , but Obama has little room for maneuver (upcoming presidential elections, etc.). From the Israeli point of view, negotiations are a waste of time. There is no indication that the sanctions and terrorist acts will cause Iran to change its strategic calculations. Therefore, supporters of the bombing may soon claim that all other possibilities have been tried.

But not right yet. During Nethanyahu’s recent visit to Washington, the United States and Israel approached each other. Nethanyahu said he was willing to wait for the results of the sanctions and negotiations: both he and Barak now say they do not need to act in the coming weeks or months. Obama recognizes the Israelis’ right to act on their own and is supposed to give them more of their strongest conventional bombs.

He emphasizes that a new war in the Middle East is a lesser evil than Iran with nuclear weapons , and that he does not bluff when he says he will attack before Iran eventually crosses the threshold. Such a war would be a blatant violation of international law and trigger strong reactions around the world, but they seem to care little about it.

This is a high stakes game for a president who does not want a new war at all with unforeseen consequences in an election year. If Iran does not offer surprising concessions, the talks will be short-lived. The effect of the sanctions is also not much to wait for, because it is quite clear that they do not stop the nuclear program. In the early summer, the supporters of bombing may therefore have strengthened their case.

So why is Iran not giving in to the pressure on them? This is not the first time Tehran’s decision – makers have seen life and death in white. In the 1980s, they fought a bloody war against Saddam Hussein, who was backed by all the great powers except China. The war veterans – not just the Revolutionary Guards – have now taken leading political positions. They are not suicidal, but neither are they easily intimidated. Iran is a proud nation with rich traditions.

Attack routes and attack targets

The shortest route from Israel to Iran is across Jordan and Iraq. Israel can use aircraft and ground and submarine-based missiles and has received powerful conventional bombs, so-called bunker-busters, from the United States. Jordan will probably let the planes pass and Iraq is virtually without air force. There are also other possible routes, and there is speculation about the use of airports in Azerbaijan for stopovers.

The Natanz enrichment plant, a gas-to-gas uranium conversion plant near Esfahan , the Arak heavy water and reactor buildings and a new enrichment plant near Qom ( Fodo ) will be among the most important targets. The latter is built so deep into the mountains that it is difficult to destroy with conventional weapons. This is the facility the Israelis refer to when they say that time is running out. The nuclear program has many other known haunts and probably also many unknown ones, and Israel is hardly capable of carrying out many waves of attacks over such a great distance.

An attack will put the Iranian nuclear program back, but could quickly become a costly victory . For one thing, the countermeasures, which can set large parts of the Middle East on fire. Another is that the program will most likely continue afterwards, and then with renewed vigor and without inspection rights for the IAEA. If the target has not been nuclear weapons before, it will most likely be then.

New War in the Middle East

Libya: Difficult Dilemmas

Libya: Difficult Dilemmas

The wave of insurgency in the Middle East continues. In Tunisia and Egypt, major upheavals have taken place with relatively little use of violence. But not in Libya. The country is on fire, marked by a civil war between Gaddafi’s government forces in the west and rebel forces in the east. “Five to twelve” – ​​on March 17 – the UN Security Council decided to intervene in the conflict, and on March 19, Western planes began to bomb. Then we faced a probable massacre of the civilian population in Benghazi and other cities in the east. In dictation and action, the dictator had proved both willing and able to do so. The stated objective of the Security Council Resolution 1973 was to protect the civilian population.

  • What are the dilemmas facing the international community in Libya?
  • Who are the parties to the conflict in Libya?
  • What is meant by “responsibility to protect”?
  • Is protecting civilians the same as supporting one party in a civil war?

According to SMARTERCOMPUTING, the election in the Security Council was not easy. It was a choice between a number of controversial alternative options where the least bad alternative won out – the use of military force “to protect civilian lives”, including a no- fly zone . The UN Charter’s principle of non-interference in internal affairs was set aside. Instead, the Security Council took “responsibility to protect” – a new norm that was included in the declaration of the UN summit in the autumn of 2005.

2: Commentary March 11: how to stop Gaddafi?

There is not much we can do for the victims of the tyrants – therefore we must do what we can. The UN Security Council has often failed in recent decades – from Rwanda and Bosnia in the 1990s – to Iraq and Sri Lanka in the last decade. The great powers have failed either because they do not want to agree on how to confront brutal despots like Saddam Hussein, because they are willing to accept anything from regimes fighting “terrorists” – or because they do not want to use resources to save lives. citizens of other states.

Positive exception? Libya can continue to be a positive exception in and for international politics. The members of the Security Council quickly agreed on sanctions (Resolution 1970 ) against Muammar al-Gaddafi and his circle: an arms boycott, seizure of financial assets, travel and visa bans and “reporting” to the International Criminal Court . The investigation of Gaddafi as a possible war criminal has already begun. The EU will extend economic sanctions. This has not come close to reacting to the generals in Burma.

The problem is that it takes time for such measures to bite. A lot of blood will flow while government-loyal forces use superior fighting power against civilians and insurgents. Therefore, a no-fly zone and other use of military force against Gaddafi’s soldiers must be planned. However, the dilemmas are in line:

  • Those who can implement an effective no-fly zone are Western states, which after Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza – and arms sales to Gaddafi in particular – have minimal credibility as world police in Arab countries.
  • International military sanctions are most effective while being planned and can scare the regime’s supporters into flag flight. Once the operation is underway, accusations of civilian casualties and growing demands for ground operations will come.
  • The open discussion about the effectiveness, legitimacy and costs of flight bans, weapons aid to rebels and invasion undermines deterrence. When several members of the Security Council and NATO question any military action, Gaddafi’s elite forces have less reason to desert.

3: Comment 2, March 25: the next steps in Libya

Massacres in Benghazi were prevented and Gaddafi’s plane was crushed. Now Arab countries must contribute, the Africans mediate and the rebels organize.

A successful Libyan operation could be a breakthrough for the UN’s ability to further develop international law and defend fundamental human rights in a dramatically changing world. But the drop is staggering . The fall of Gaddafi and Tripoli must not appear as the work of the West. If NATO ‘s muscles are used more actively than the UN’s brains, it will be more difficult than easier to intervene the next time a tyrant sharpens his knives.

The Western world military alliance, NATO, must not act as a rebel air force after the liberation of the besieged city of Misrata . Only a new UN resolution can give the legal signal for a change of regime or an attack on Gaddafi’s forces where civilians are not under attack.

Successful start. If the United States, France and Britain had not attacked and stopped the Libyan government forces on March 17, next week’s news would have shown how Gaddafi’s forces had “gone from street to street, house to house and room to room without showing mercy” in the rebel cities. to use the dictator’s own words. Weekend 22. – 24. In March, rebels seized cities and oil facilities from Ajdabiya in the east to the outskirts of Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte in the west. The UN-authorized international coercive operation has so far been militarily successful. Many civilian lives are saved.

Still, there is cause for concern . If the coercive operation is still totally dominated by western countries such as the USA, France and the United Kingdom, a civil war in Tripoli with long-term sanctions will neither appear successful nor legitimate outside the EU and the USA. It was the Arab League that first requested a flight ban on March 12, thus paving the way for the Security Council’s decision (Resolution 1973) .

This was not to be another Western campaign in the Muslim world. Yet the great Arab countries shine with their absence – despite their large and expensive air weapons. Only the small states of Qatar and the United Emirates provide flights. It must be more politically expensive to be for something you do not contribute to. More and more people will want to make the operation in oil-rich Libya suspicious if non-western countries remain on the fence.

The phase of diplomacy. High-tech air warfare is easier to carry out and attracts more public attention than political mediation and reconciliation. Easier a Norwegian plane from Crete, it gets more news coverage than African heads of state who want to mediate peace, but are not allowed to fly into Libya.

Several elements of the decision. The protection of civilians is only part of the Security Council’s resolution 1973 . Equally important is the Council’s decision to seek a ceasefire, peace mediation and a political solution. This means that African, Arab and Western diplomats must exercise as much initiative as NATO’s generals and pilots. At a summit in Addis Ababa on Saturday, March 22, representatives of the African Union, the United Nations, the countries of the Security Council, the EU and the Arab League agreed on the framework for a political solution: a ceasefire and negotiations between Gaddafi’s regime and the rebels on a transitional period until elections to democratic institutions.

It is also a prerequisite for success that the rebels are better organized. With great courage and enthusiasm, untrained and undisciplined militia groups conquer and lose one city after another, but the rebels still stand without a unified leadership and a political program. They must appear as a credible alternative to Gaddafi’s regime and not as a threat to the groups and tribes that have not taken part in the uprising.

Following a bloody victory for Gaddafi, a protracted civil war between East and West is the worst-case scenario for Libya, as well as for the countries participating in the military operation. A civil war in a divided country will lead to economic and social collapse and enormous civilian suffering on both sides of the front lines. Therefore, diplomacy must now take over after the air force has done its thing.

4: The rest: from the online meeting on March 17 – before the decision in the Security Council

Q: What reactions can the rebels expect if Gaddafi regains control of Libya? The Gaddafi regime has always been extremely brutal. Opposition groups called for a boycott of the rally. Hundreds of prisoners have been killed in prisons and thousands have been tortured. We can expect bloody revenge from Gaddafi, unfortunately, if he were to win and take the rebel capital, Benghazi.

Q: What is the best thing the world community can do for Libya now (March 17), and why? At the UN summit in 2005, the principle of ” responsibility to protect adopted ” when 190 countries vowed that “… we are willing to act collectively, in a fast and powerful way … if peaceful means are inadequate and national authorities clearly fails to protect its population from

  • genocide,
  • war crimes,
  • ethnic cleansing, and
  • crimes against humanity ».

It can not be said more clearly. Heads of government from the United States to Norway and from Russia to China have a commitment to protect civilians in Libya. The Security Council quickly agreed on sanctions (Security Council Resolution 1970 of 26 February 2011) against Gaddafi and his entourage.

The problem is that it takes time for such measures to bite. A lot of blood will flow while government-loyal forces use superior fighting power against civilians and insurgents. Therefore, the international community should adopt a no-fly zone and threaten Gaddafi with another use of military force, even if the threats are not necessarily implemented.

Q: How can we facilitate that Russia and China also perceive Gaddafi’s actions as illegitimate, so that motions for resolutions are not rejected in the Security Council? In 2011, our leaders are not allowed to be spectators to civilians being slaughtered on foot. The pressure on Gaddafi should have been stepped up as early as February. The Security Council should have long ago authorized the implementation of a no-fly zone and a naval blockade. Only the UN can provide the necessary authority.

The creativity of our Western politicians must be challenged: they must speak less publicly, and they must act with and through the Arab League and the African Union . As early as March 2, Amre Moussa (leader) declared that “the Arab League will not stand with its hands tied while the blood of the Libyan fraternal people flows”. An Arab-Western action with a UN mandate would be a diplomatic triumph.

Q: Gaddafi still has some support. Do we know who has deserted? How is the balance of power between the parties? Gaddafi and his sons have long built up their own loyal elite forces, which they use in addition to more or less compliant army and air forces. Many officers and soldiers deserted as it looked like the rebels would win. The absence of a credible threat has since caused many to come down from the fence – on the wrong side. Gaddafi also uses African mercenaries. We know too little about how ethnic and cultural contradictions are used and abused.

International military sanctions are most effective while being planned and can scare the regime’s supporters into flag flight. When the operation is underway, there are accusations of civilian casualties and increasing demands for ground operations.

The open, Western discussion about the effectiveness, legitimacy and cost of flight bans, weapons aid to rebels and invasion undermines deterrence. When several members of the Security Council and NATO doubt that military action could be carried out, Gaddafi’s elite forces have less reason to desert.

5: Norway – aid to Libya?

Q: Should Norway send in forces to kill Gaddafi? How can Norway contribute without having to send troops to Libya? After the Cold War, neither Norway nor any of our allied countries have had a policy that allows the killing of leaders in countries we are not at war with.

We should urge Arab countries, with the help of other UN members, to use all necessary means to stop Gaddafi’s abuses. We should ask the Arab League and the African Union to take a leading role in forcing Gaddafi to stop the abuses and negotiate with the rebels.

Q: Has Norway had a connection with Gaddafi in the form of trade, economy or support, before the uprising in Libya began? How will this affect Norway in these areas? Answer: Norway has extensive investments in Libya’s oil and gas, among others. a. through Statoil. Many people probably find it a little embarrassing that it was argued for an embassy in Tripoli not long ago. Norway will now loyally follow up on the UN’s punitive measures.

Q: Will a comprehensive boycott of Libya help now? Will Gaddafi think so long-term that this will hinder his actions? A good series of boycott measures have already been adopted, but that does not stop Gaddafi from attacking civilians and violating human rights. In the long run, it will hopefully contribute to negotiations on a transition to a democratic system. A full economic boycott of the whole of Libya is unlikely to be introduced. This will hit most people harder than the privileged Gaddafi family. (cf. the Iraq boycott of the 1990s)

6: West and Libya

Can Libya become a new “Afghanistan” if the West intervenes and helps? If Western countries, led by the United States, entered with ground forces, there might be a new “Afghanistan war”. But it will not happen. U.S. Secretary of Defense Gates recently told U.S. cadets that “those who want the United States on the ground in a new war in the Middle East should have their heads examined.”

Who are the rebels? Will most of them need help in the form of military forces from the West, or will they lead the revolution alone? Gaddafi has cracked down so hard on all opposition in his dictatorship that no prominent opposition leaders or political groups are emerging with holistic alternatives. Opponents are from all walks of life and from both religious and secular forces that have one thing in common: opposition to the dictator.

Did the West make a mistake when we took Gaddafi back into the heat due to. the war on terror? Is it possible to send troops into Libya, and which soldiers should we send in? Yes, Western countries should not go to bed politically and economically with Gaddafi just because he went from promoting terror to cooperating in the “war on terror”. That it is Western weapons Gaddafi uses against civilians, says most. I do not think western countries should send soldiers into the ground. But we can contribute to an Arab-Western flight ban and naval blockade after a clear signal from the Security Council.

Is it possible to sue Gaddafi in an international court? Is it possible to send elite soldiers to arrest Gaddafi? The International Criminal Court in The Hague, ICC, is under way, but it demands that Gaddafi be handed over or captured. It is not easy to take a dictator who surrounds himself with thousands of loyal elite soldiers. In any case, Western countries should not try. Then Gaddafi will easily present himself as a brave defender of Arab honor against the superpower USA. Perhaps Arab countries with their new regimes and together with other Arab countries will be able to take Gaddafi if the International Criminal Court issues an arrest warrant.

7: Responsibility for protection – «R2P»

The international law boundary for when the international community has the opportunity to intervene is unclear. Does the support that the UN summit in 2005 made for “The Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) have any direct or indirect significance for this demarcation? The UN Security Council has often failed in recent decades – from Rwanda and Bosnia in the 1990s – to Iraq and Sri Lanka in the last decade. The great powers have failed either because they do not want to agree on how to confront brutal despots like Saddam Hussein, because they are willing to accept anything from regimes fighting “terrorists” – or because they do not want to use resources to save lives such as do not belong to their own citizens.

This changed when the «obligation to protect» was adopted in 2005: Now the Security Council must in principle react collectively and «in a quick and powerful way,… if peaceful means are not sufficient and national authorities clearly fail to protect their population from genocide , war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity ».

Libya - Difficult Dilemmas

Libya: Road Choices are in Line

Libya: Road Choices are in Line

The Arab Spring is almost two years old, and it is still going on. Most striking is what is happening in Syria. In a situation where the news picture is characterized by ongoing fighting and abuse, it can quickly evoke demands for foreign involvement, but will it always be helpful? There are also news from Libya and other Arab countries that things are taking time. Often the next phases after a takeover can be the most difficult. The case of Libya illustrates this.

  • How united is Libya?
  • What are the prerequisites for Libya to succeed in the change of power?
  • What happened to the UN resolution of 1973?
  • What are the most pressing issues facing the new leaders in Libya?

2: The fragmented Libya

Every country has its history. Libya has more. In the Ottoman Empire, the country was administered as three different provinces:

  • Tripolitania in the west,
  • Kyrenaika (with Benghazi) in the east,
  • Fezzan in the southwest.

When the Italians occupied the country in 1911, they retained the same division, but switched to a fifth division before World War II: Tripoli, Misurata, Benghazi, Derna (a coastal strip) and the Libyan Sahara. When the British and French occupied the area in 1943, they returned to the old triad with British rule in Kyrenaica and Tripolitania and French rule over Fezzan. After the country became independent in 1951, the same division was used. Libya then became a constitutional (constitutional) monarchy organized as a federation with three capitals: Tripoli, Benghazi and Sabha.

However, this administrative structure was only a coarse-grained division. Beneath it lay a network of just over 20 major tribes , and still tribal affiliation largely determines people’s identities. The vast majority of the 5.6 million inhabitants are Arabs , while the minority consists of Berbers (the western name of the indigenous people of North Africa) in the west and south and the nomadic Tuareg and Toubou peoples in the south.

Unlike Tunisia and Egypt, where the Arab Spring began, the people of Libya therefore have no common history in their territory, but many different narratives. In Tunisia and Egypt, the Arab Spring meant that people had a chance to “reclaim” their lands after decades of dictatorial rule. In fragmented Libya, this task is different and more difficult, because here the feeling of historical community is much weaker.

3: Rebellion against Gaddafi

In 1969, King Idris was overthrown by a group of non-commissioned officers. Muammar Gaddafi became the country’s new leader at the age of 27. At that time, Libya had started exporting oil, and when the price of oil skyrocketed in the 1970s, the country received large revenues. Libya eventually became the richest country in North Africa , but dissatisfaction was still significant because revenues were unevenly distributed.

Internationally, Gaddafi’s radical ideology and distinctive leadership style created unrest and discontent. He supported international terrorism and imposed sanctions on it. He sought acceptance and “homeland” in the Middle East, Africa and the West, but was rejected – with one important exception: the Western powers showed him respect when in 2003 he pledged to stop all support for international terrorism and all attempts to obtain weapons of mass destruction. But as the war in 2011 showed, there was no deeper understanding or agreement behind this.

Inside, Gaddafi spent a lot of money securing support for the regime. The quality of the health care and education system was higher than in neighboring countries. But at the same time he played on the heterogeneous (disparate) Libya and distributed and disadvantaged according to political will. It created a lot of irritation and anger and became part of the backdrop for the revolt against him.

Gaddafi kept the military on fire while he politicized them. This is how he secured his own position. Extensive use of foreign mercenaries also secured his grip on power. The fighting power was greater among the semi-military, who were closely linked to the intelligence services where the sons held important positions. Gaddafi came to power in a military coup, thus reducing the risk of falling victim to another coup.

When the uprising started in February − March 2011, this made the road to Tripoli easier. But without NATO’s bombing campaign and ground support from several countries, not least Qatar, it would hardly have succeeded.

The Security Council Resolution 1973 of 17 March 2011 was used as a justification for the intervention in Libya. Initially, this states that a ban on all air traffic over Libyan territory is a significant contribution to the protection of the civilian / population , and establishes a no- fly zone over the area. Furthermore, the Security Council demanded a ceasefire immediately . Two days later, a group of NATO countries (among them Norway) started the most intense air traffic that has ever taken place in Libyan airspace.

And in the months that followed, the Western powers opposed any ceasefire. The aim was clearly a change of regime – Sarkozy (France) and Cameron (Britain) had made that clear in advance. But had the resolution said that the intention was a change of regime with military power, it would never have been adopted.

The way in which the resolution was used, however, had an aftermath in the case of Syria. With the Western twist of the Libyan mandate fresh in mind, Russia and China sharpened their opposition to interfering in the conflict. Wise of the damage, they said a definite no to any thought of getting the Security Council to legitimize foreign interference in it.

In Libya, the new leaders are naturally in a certain debt of gratitude to the countries that helped them remove Gaddafi. And not just the leaders: The assassination of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens – killed in Benghazi by a radical militia – led to a strong popular reaction. People demanded that the militias be brought under control – in practice a cry for law and order.

4: Libya in a comparative perspective

In Libya, as in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq and Kosovo, the Western powers won militarily in the sense that the existing regimes were removed. But the subsequent phase – stabilization and democratization – proved to be much more difficult. What are the prospects for stabilization and democratization in Libya? What can we read from the experiences gained in the other countries?

Nation building is expensive. The size of the countries says something about the price tag. The population of Libya is two to three times as large as in Kosovo and Bosnia, but barely a third of Iraq and Afghanistan. Libya is also richer than the other countries, with an annual income per capita of over $ 14,000 before the war began. The war and the sanctions before it were also less devastating. The economic foundation for nation building is therefore relatively good.

The geography is also favorable. Libya has a long coast that allows for exports and imports, while the other countries barely have a coastline (Iraq has access to the Persian Gulf, but is trapped and dependent on the goodwill of others). Libya’s neighbors lack both the motive and the strength to prevent the rebuilding of the country; the other countries have demanding neighborhoods . The strategic importance is small and does not call for competition between the great powers for influence in the country. All this counts in favor of Libya.

However, the country is politically immature. Only Afghanistan can be compared to Libya in that way. Gaddafi’s legacy was heavy. His recipe was divided and prevalent: in addition to the historical, regional and ethnic differences, he pitted the tribes against each other. The National Transitional Council inherited a country with long traditions of local self-government and weak ministries that lacked the trust and legitimacy of the population. The state institutions were poorly developed or simply absent.

The legacy of the Civil War was also heavy. The rebel leadership in Benghazi called for support from armed groups in the west of the country – not only to crack down on Gaddafi, but also to prevent the war from taking the form of fighting between East and West. Many armed groups gained a share in the victory, and when the war ended, it overflowed with weapons. More than 125,000 Libyans carried weapons and were members of well over 100 militia groups. However, many weapons and mercenaries disappeared south where they destabilized Mali . Libya suffered from a lack of nationwide police, and the judiciary was poorly developed and congested.

5: Libya one year after the war

In July 2012, parliamentary elections were held – for the second time in Libya’s history. The first time was in 1952, shortly after independence (an election was held in 1965 as well, but then no political parties were allowed). According to EU observers, the election went smoothly and smoothly, although technical problems and violent unrest disrupted voting at some of the polling stations.

To a parliament with 200 seats became

  • 80 elected on party lists
  • 120 as independent

The parliament, which will sit for one year, has legislative authority and will decide how the work on the new constitution will take place.
An alliance of parties led by former (interim) Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril won 39 of the 80 party seats, while the Brotherhood’s party won 17. This was interpreted as a victory for liberal forces in the country and as progress for women’s participation in politics. Jibril’s campaign constantly encouraged this. Among the independent candidates, many had a vague position in the political landscape, but the Brotherhood expected to find much support there. All in all, the election was a major step forward for Libya.

According to SECURITYPOLOGY, Muhamed Magariaf was elected president of the National Assembly and is the country’s de facto head of state. He was early on demanding democratic reforms, and in 1984 he tried to kill Gaddafi. He then spent most of his time in the United States before returning to Libya in 2011. The new prime minister was Mustafa Abu Shagour , who narrowly won over Mahmoud Jibril. Shagour is an engineer and has an academic career behind him, also with a long stay in the United States . But when he presented his list of governments in October, he was ousted by the National Assembly. That the country is unstable in this phase should not surprise anyone.

A new political system is thus taking shape, and it is happening faster than expected. The election, the popular reaction to the storming of the US consulate in Benghazi and the government’s subsequent integration of three key Benghazi militias into the Libyan army give cause for optimism. The protesters – an estimated 30,000 – raided several of the bases of Ansar al-Sharia , a militant Islamist group suspected of participating in the attack on the consulate. The United States supports the construction of the army and other parts of the nascent Libyan security apparatus financially and / or through training.

6: The problems

The continuation is still uncertain . When the fighting ceased so quickly, it was largely due to local leaders and civilian and military groups engaging in an end to the devastation. But this patchwork of security actors is fragile. The agreements and arrangements are time and place specific and can break down almost at any time.

The regional contradictions, tribal affiliations, the many different militia groups and the large supply of weapons can in the long run become a recipe for endless tactical maneuvers and persistent conflicts and clashes. In such a landscape, there is little pointing forward.

Much therefore depends on the government in Tripoli managing to establish a reasonably efficient national security sector. For most people, there is nothing more urgent to keep the country together and to bring it on a democratic course. The pattern of local leaders and militias must be broken in favor of state governance and control. The need is urgent, for Gaddafi’s divide-and-rule policy reinforced fragmentation by pitting groups against each other. Some won the regime’s favor, while others suffered. When the dictator fell, militant Islamist groups, especially in the East, launched assassination campaigns against Gaddafi’s supporters. A number of armed groups were then ready to defend their interests or seek a larger portion of the cake.

Initially, much of the conflict dynamics have been kept in check, but a more secure future depends on the dissolution of the militias and the reintegration of its members , either in the army or in civil society, and the collection of weapons . The classic definition of a functioning state is a government apparatus with a monopoly on physical means of power. But the building up of state power must take place gradually and therefore becomes a painstaking task.

Following the unrest in Benghazi and the assassination of Christopher Stevens, the Tripoli government demanded the dissolution of all militias beyond its control. However, such a top-down strategy for disarmament and demobilization has little chance of success and can make matters worse. The government of Tripoli has neither the means nor the legitimacy for such an approach. In anticipation of a nationwide police, judiciary and prison system that can guarantee the safety of citizens, the collection of weapons must be based on consensus with the militias.

At the micro level , it is about power, resources and in many cases revenge. At the macro level as well: the uprising against Gaddafi gave new life to the historical conflict between Kyrenaica and Tripolitania, between Benghazi and Tripoli. These cities are close to 1000 kilometers apart and with the Sidragulf in between, and each have their own identity. The divide is very much alive. The government of Tripoli must find a balance between the development of a fairly unified security sector and a degree of autonomy for Benghazi. The Berbers in the west and south, who played a significant role in the conquest of Tripoli, also demanded autonomy (internal self-government).

Libyans are Sunni Muslims and generally conservative. Therefore, the new leaders early on advocated sharia law, perhaps more out of respect for the dominant religious currents in the country than out of their own convictions. Decades in the United States must have left traces in both al-Magariaf and Abu Shagour. These are leaders who showed courage in the fight against Gaddafi and who are well suited to secure American and other Western support. They can also play on the gratitude of the people for the Western support in the fight against the dictator (although it is far from unison).

Revolutions, however, tend to eat their own. The fraternity can come stronger into the picture over time, as in other countries that have experienced the Arab Spring. The pattern in Egypt and Tunisia was that relatively liberal and secular forces kicked off the revolution, while the Islamic movements led by the Brotherhood gradually came stronger and took control. The same in Iran in 1979: Initially, the revolution was fronted by moderate and secular leaders (Mehdi Bazargan, Abolhassan Bani Sadr), before Khomeini tightened its grip on the 1980s. Something similar could happen in Libya as the settlement with Gaddafi comes to a close.

Libya - Road Choices are in Line

Who are the Israelis?

Who are the Israelis?

Few states in the world are as widely covered in the international media as Israel. But in the big political drama, Israel is often portrayed as something one-dimensional, like a homogeneous mastodon with a powerful army and strong leaders. This picture reflects to a small extent the Israeli society, which is rather very heterogeneous, and is characterized by being a young state with a population that has immigrated from many – and in some cases very different – countries. Israeli society is therefore also characterized by deep, internal dividing lines. Therefore, in order to better understand Israel’s political priorities, we must look inward toward Israeli society itself.

  • Who are the Israelis?
  • What are the central dividing lines internally in Israel between different Jewish groups?
  • How has Israel’s history affected Israel’s views of the world around it?
  • How does immigration to Israel affect political life?

2: A safe haven for Jews

The creation of Israel was the result of a long process. Establishing a state for the world’s Jewish population became a goal in 1897. At that time, a group of European Jews gathered in Basel, Switzerland for what became known as the First Zionist Congress. Anti-Semitism and nationalism in Europe were on the rise, and the World Zionist Organization was established to establish a national home for Jews from all over the world.

At the same time, the organization was to encourage – and facilitate – Jewish immigration (immigration) there. The Declaration of Independence, read out in the Israel National Assembly by the Knesset by Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion on May 14, 1948 , is descriptive of how the Jewish people in the country themselves understood the significance of their recent state. The declaration opens as follows: “The land of Israel is the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped … The recent catastrophe of the Jewish people – the massacre of millions of Jews in Europe – was another clear demonstration of the urgent need to address the problem of the homelessness of the Jewish people by restore the Jewish state in the Land of Israel. ”

There were thus two important reasons behind the establishment of Israel: That the state held areas of very special religious and cultural significance to the Jewish people, and that the Jews in Europe had always been treated as second-class citizens.

3: Turbulent history

Israel was established on May 14, 1948 and has been at war since then. This has affected the way the Jewish people of Israel view their Arab neighbors, who today are marked by obvious distrust. Many attribute this to the turbulent history of Israel. Israel has not only been a state at war: Israel was born at war, it is often said.

Over the heads of the Palestinians, the UN General Assembly (51 mainly Western states) adopted a partition plan for historic Palestine on November 29, 1947. At that time, war broke out immediately between Palestinians and Jews. It took less than 24 hours from the creation of the state until Israel was at war with its Arab neighbors. That the Israelis see this war fundamentally differently than the Palestinians can be seen only from the name of the war: While the Palestinians call it “al-Nakba” – the catastrophe – the Jews in Israel talk about the ” war of independence” .

When this war ended with a ceasefire agreement in 1949, the boundaries of the Jewish state had been extended well beyond the UN partition plan. The Israeli state still has no internationally recognized state borders. Israel has therefore been in border disputes ever since the ceasefire agreement. The most violent war in which this took place took place in June 1967. It has become a milestone: Israel won sovereign and occupied territories three times larger than itself , including the West Bank and East Jerusalem. from Jordan.Since then, Israel has expanded and consolidated its control in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, mainly through the establishment of Jewish settlements in the areas.

Today, the settlers number 289,600 in the West Bank, and 190,000 in East Jerusalem. This has contributed to regular conflicts between the Israelis and the Palestinians. In 1987 came the first Palestinian intifada. The first intifada ended with the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. The Palestinians believe that the agreement made their situation worse, and this has led to the second intifada, also known as the al-Aqsa intifada, which broke out on September 28, 2000. Several analysts believe that we can now face a third intifada.

4: A society of immigrants

The people of Israel are made up of immigrants from all over the world. The population of the country has increased dramatically rapidly: While the Jews numbered about 84,000 in 1922, the number had increased to 800,000 in 1948. Today, Israel’s Jewish population numbers about 5.5 million. Of these, only 68 percent were born in Israel. As many as 32 per cent are immigrants, mainly from Europe and the USA. So who are the Israelis?

About 25 percent of Israel’s nearly 7.5 million people are Arabs. Yet it is the Jewish majority of Israel that characterizes the entire state. Therefore, it is worth noting that when the majority is asked to name their most important identity marker, it is not “Israelis” they give in response, but “Jewish”.

The strong immigration to Israel is inevitably linked to the country’s identity as a safe haven for the world’s Jews. In line with Zionist ideology, the Israeli government has always actively encouraged Jews outside Israel to immigrate in order to strengthen the Jewish character of the new state . At the same time, Jews around the world have wanted to move to Israel in search of community and belonging. The authorities continue to offer automatic citizenship and, to some extent, generous welfare schemes to Jews who choose to immigrate.

This is in line with Israeli law, which gives all people of Jewish descent and their spouses the right to immigrate to Israel. For Zionists, this is understood as a return to the homeland of the ancestors. As a result, the extensive immigration has led to a very pluralistic society, with some deep dividing lines.

5: Ashkenasim, sefaradim and mizrachim

The different ethnic and geographical backgrounds of the Jewish immigrants are expressed through the differences between what we call ashkenasim, sefardim and mizrachim (the im-suffix is ​​a Hebrew plural). The meaning of the words says a lot about what the conflict is about:

  • Ashkenazi is a Yiddish word for “German” and is used to denote Jews who come from Europe.
  • Sefardi comes from the Hebrew word for Spain – Sefarad – and refers to Jews of Spanish and North African descent.
  • Mizrachi Jews refer to Jews who come from the Middle East, i.a. Iran and Iraq, as Mizrach is Hebrew for the east.

In everyday speech, however, Sephardim and Mizrachim are mixed, and both are used about Jews from North Africa and the Middle East. Somewhat simplified, we can therefore say that the main difference in the Jewish population is between Ashkenazi and Mizrachi / Sephardic Jews.

6: Ethnicity and conflict

The differences between Ashkenazi and Mizrachi / Sephardic Jews are not only about ethnicity , but also about political influence , economic class and education , as well as cultural differences. These dividing lines go back to the wave of immigration that the creation of Israel brought with it. At that time, the Jewish community in Israel went from being relatively small and homogeneous to growing rapidly and becoming heterogeneous. The country has increased tenfold in 50 years.

Over 57 percent of the immigrants are Ashkenazis from Europe, with the majority from Eastern Europe and countries in the former Soviet Union. Since 1991 alone, more than 1.3 million Russians have moved to Israel. They are becoming a significant power group in the country. As it was the Ashkenazis who founded both Zionism and later also the driving force in the establishment and construction of modern Israel, this group has been a leader in Israeli society. And it still is. As a consequence, the Sephardic and Mizrachi Jews have experienced that they have had to work for greater recognition, ever since the state was established.

In a young society such as the Israeli one, the struggle over the values ​​on which it should be based has also been important. Before the state was established, was the unifying value a kind of pioneering spirit, where Jews stood together to establish a Jewish state. And, in the early years of the state, it was Zionism that filled this role in the Israeli-Jewish identity. But as the population grows, so do the Jewish community . At the same time, Zionism is no longer as unified an ideology as it once was. It is therefore difficult today to point to any common denominator in the Israeli-Jewish identity.

7: Religion in Israel

Israel is the only country in the world where the majority are Jews , and the state strongly associates itself with Jewish culture and religion. Therefore, it is worth noting that according to Israeli law, there should in principle be full religious freedom. Israel is a secular state, and there is a sharp divide between state and synagogue (Jewish house of worship). At the same time, the Jewish religious law (Halakha) applies in some areas, such as family law. This means that all Jewish marriages and divorces must be heard in a religious court.

Judaism is far from a unified religion. The two main branches that we find in Israel are Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Judaism. The difference between the two mainly concerns the extent to which religion should dominate all aspects of people’s lives. Israel conforms to what is called Orthodox Judaism. This is a relatively strict form of Judaism. It nevertheless allows the followers to participate in society, provided that it does not directly contravene the commandments of the religious law.

Ultra-Orthodox Judaism, on the other hand, allows no flexibility, and has a strained relationship with other Jewish denominations as well as with non-religious Jews. Ultra-Orthodox Jews claim to be the true heirs of Judaism. Therefore, they live in strict accordance with Jewish law and relatively isolated
from the rest of Israeli society. They therefore live mainly in their own enclaves, primarily in the areas of Mea She’arim in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak outside Tel Aviv. There they have their own schools, courts and shops.

The conflict between religious and secular

The fact that ultra-Orthodox Jews have chosen to isolate themselves from the rest of society has set the minds of the non-religious population in Israel on fire. The conflict between ultra-Orthodox and secular Jews is based on two issues in particular: the payment of taxes and the service of military service. While Israel has a general conscription for both men and women (3 years for men and 2 years for women), the ultra-Orthodox are exempt from this duty, and they live largely on social benefits from the Israeli authorities.

This is the result of an agreement between ultra-Orthodox leaders and the Israeli government when the state was created. Then it was a central idea that Israel should be a state for all Jews. Therefore, Israel should allow all forms of Jewish living. At that time, the ultra-Orthodox in Israel were few and far between, and there was no major burden on the state to enter into this compromise.

But over the years, the groups’ share of the population has changed drastically , and the pressure on the non-religious part of the population has increased. While non-religious groups have an average of 1.8 children, ultra-Orthodox women have about 8, which today makes up just under 20 percent of Israel’s Jewish population. While the exemption from military service for the ultra-Orthodox in 1948 applied to 400 people, it applies to almost 130,000 today.

Secularists – who do not care about religion – have therefore become increasingly opposed to the exceptions and benefits that the ultra-Orthodox receive from the government: where being in the army is eventually associated with great risk.

8: “Ethno-religious” politics?

Israel has a multi-party parliamentary system . The National Assembly – the Knesset – consists of 120 members. The representatives are democratically elected by election every four years; All Israeli citizens – both Jews and Palestinians – over the age of 18 have the right to vote. Election day is a public holiday.

Israeli politics is at times very confusing with many parties and volatile constellations. All Israeli governments (with the exception of the one in 1948) have been coalition governments , composed of a whole range of different parties. This contributes to the fact that Israeli governments tend to be both unstable and pragmatic. The parties in a government are often given responsibility for their own flag issue , rather than a government standing for a single political platform. One reason for this is that the barrier limit to the Knesset is low – only 2 percent. This makes it a little easier to get voted in. Another reason is that the various dividing lines also cut through Israeli politics – across the parties.

According to RCTOYSADVICE, the religious and ethnic contradictions between Jewish groups have manifested themselves in the fact that political parties can in many ways be described as interest groups. With the exception of the three largest parties – the Social Democratic Labor Party , the Center Party Kadima and the right-wing Conservative Likud party
– the other parties’ political programs are more a reflection of the group they represent than a program of broad interests and a broad ideological platform.

The Russian immigrants, for example, have Avigdor Lieberman’s (current Foreign Minister) party Israel Beiteinu (Our Home Israel) as “their” party; Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox Jews have United Torah Judaism , while Mizrachi and Sephardic ultra-Orthodox Jews have their mouthpiece in the influential Shas party .

We find Arab groups mainly behind three parties; either Hadash on the left, Balad – which is a nationalist party – or the more moderate United Arab List . When the whole country also consists of one constituency, it means that the composition of the Knesset evenly reflects how Israel is composed. The large groups will always have the greatest influence, while small groups will remain without much weight in the Israeli parliament.

9: Israeli economy in 2010

Did you know…:

  • Israel has an economic system that is somewhat similar to the Norwegian one: A market economy with significant state control.
  • Israel has few natural resources and is dependent on significant imports of oil and gas.
  • Israel has signed free trade agreements with both the United States, the EU and China and was the first country outside Latin America to sign a free trade agreement with Mercosur.
  • Agricultural products and high technology (especially computers, computer technology and military technology) are crucial to Israel’s exports.
  • Israel’s high technology is among the leaders in the world, and that Israel’s significant growth in technology and science was crucial for Israel’s membership in the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development) in September 2010.
  • The United States is Israel’s most important economic partner. The EU is second most important.
  • The United States provides the Israeli state with an annual loan guarantee of more than $ 3 billion, in addition to supporting Israel’s defense budget with nearly $ 3 billion annually.
  • the relationship between poor and rich largely coincides with the relationship between Israel’s Jews and Arabs: Of Jews, 16% are poor, while 50% of Arabs (Druze, Palestinians) are poor.
  • Diamond grinding and tourism are crucial to both employment and the Israeli economy.

Who are the Israelis

Russia Recent History

Russia Recent History

Gorbachev’s reforms and the extinction of the USSR

After the death of Leonid Brezhnev and after the rapid succession of Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko, Mikhail Gorbachev was appointed leader of the USSR. Gorbachev began to implement significant changes in the economy, Perestroikaand Glásnost politics, unleashing opportunistic forces that with the encouragement of the West worked to disintegrate the USSR and the return of its members – especially Russia – to capitalism. The distancing of the Communist Party and its leadership from the workers favored this process.

The movement that definitely brought down the USSR came from Russia, the nation that had built the Tsarist empire, predecessor of the Soviet state. In May 1990, Borís Yeltsin, who had been expelled from the CPSU in 1987, was elected president of the Russian Parliament. From that position of power, Yeltsin promoted measures that precipitated the end of the Soviet Union.

Powerless and abandoned by almost everyone, Gorbachev resigned as President of the USSR on December 25, 1991. The Soviet red flag was lowered in the Moscow Kremlin, the Russian flag replaced it.

Russia took over from the USSR on the international scene: embassies, permanent post on the Security Council, and control of Soviet nuclear weapons. The end of the Cold War was announced, but the United States took advantage of it to impose its hegemony in a unipolar world.

Russian Federation

Although Yeltsin was applauded abroad for showing himself as a democrat to weaken Gorvachev, his conception of the presidency was very autocratic, acting either as his own prime minister (until June 1992) or appointing people he trusted to that position., regardless of parliament.

Meanwhile, the excessive presence of tiny parties and their refusal to form coherent alliances left the legislature ungovernable. During 1993, the dispute between Yeltsin and the parliament culminated in the constitutional crisis of October.

This reached its critical point when, on October 3, Yeltsin commanded the tanks to bombard the Russian parliament. With this momentous (and unconstitutional) step of dissolving parliament by gunfire, Russia had not been so close to civil strife since the 1917 revolution.

From then on, Yeltsin was completely free to impose a constitution with strong presidential powers, which was approved in a referendum in December 1993. However, the December vote also marked an important advance by communists and nationalists, reflecting the growing disenchantment of the population with neoliberal economic reforms.

Despite coming to power in a general atmosphere of optimism, Yeltsin would never regain his popularity after supporting Yegor Gaidar’s economic “shock therapy”: end of Soviet-era price controls, drastic cuts in public spending and openness to the economy. foreign trade in 1992.

The reforms immediately devastated the quality of life of the vast majority of the population, especially in those sectors benefited by controlled wages and prices, subsidies and the welfare state of the Soviet era. Russia suffered an economic recession in the 1990s more severe than the Great Depression that hit the United States or Germany in the early 1930s.

On the advice of Western governments, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, Russia would embark on the largest and fastest privatization ever carried out by a government in all of history. By the middle of the decade, commerce, services and small industry were already in private hands.

Almost all large companies were acquired by their former directors, spawning a class of nouveau riche close to various mafias or Western investors. At the base of the system, due to inflation or unemployment, many workers ended up in poverty, prostitution or crime.

According to, the Russian economy began a recovery from 1999 in part thanks to the rise in oil prices, its main export even though Soviet production levels are far behind.

After the financial crisis of 1998, Yeltsin was in the twilight of his career. Just hours before the first day of 2000, he resigned by surprise leaving the government in the hands of his prime minister, Vladimir Putin, a former KGB official and head of his successor agency after the fall of the USSR.

In the presidential elections of March 26, 2000, the new president easily defeated his opponents, winning in the first round. In 2004 he was reelected with 71% of the votes and his allies won the legislative elections.

In the Russian legislative elections of 2007, the United Russia party won 64.3% of the votes, which was seen as support from the Russians for the aforementioned political and economic course.

In Russia’s 2008 presidential elections, United Russia party candidate Dmitry Medvedev, supported by then-President Vladimir Putin, won by a wide margin over his opponents at the polls. Medvedev took office in May 2008.

Vladimir Putin again won the 2012 elections, and on his return to presidential power he appointed Medvedev as prime minister.

Russia Recent History

Saudi Arabia Recent History

Saudi Arabia Recent History

Founding of the state

On the Arabian Peninsula existed in the first millennium. V. Independent empires. The political unification of the Arab tribes in the 7th century under the sign of Islam was short-lived. It was not until the 18th century that Mohammed Ibn Saud († 1765) and his son Abd al-Asis I († 1803), in close connection with the Islamic reform movement of the Wahhabis in the interior of the Arabian Peninsula, created a state (capital since 1821 Riyadh), the temporarily extended beyond its area of ​​origin, the Nedjd landscape. On behalf of the Ottoman sultan Mahmud II. After several years of fighting, Egyptian troops smashed the first Wahhabi state in 1818. During the 19th century, the Saud dynasty (Saudites) lost their dominion in battle with their rivals; the Shammar Bedouins conquered Riyadh in 1884 and expelled the Saudites from there (exile in Kuwait since 1891). In 1902 Ibn Saud recaptured Riyadh from the Shammar and expanded – initially in dependence on the Ottoman Empire – his territory as Emir of the Nedjd and Imam of the Wahhabis on the Arabian Peninsula (1913 annexation of Hasa area; 1915 recognition of independence by Great Britain).

After conquering the emirate of Hail the Shammar (1921/22) and the kingdom of Hidjas (1924, occupation of Mecca), he was proclaimed king in 1926 (recognized by Great Britain in 1927) and proclaimed the kingdom of Saudi Arabia on September 23, 1932 . To provide external security, the new state concluded friendship treaties with Transjordan (1933), Yemen (1934, renewed in 1937; among other things, contractual regulation of the affiliation of Asir), Iraq (1936) and Egypt (1936). Ibn Saudand his successors, who in the meantime bore the ruler’s title of “guardian of the two holy places”, sought to combine the state and social order, which was characterized by a strict Sunni interpretation of Islam, with an intensive modernization of the economic infrastructure. The ruler and his extensive family determined the political development. The growing exploitation of oil reserves made the country one of the richest countries in the Middle East. By granting oil production concessions (1933) to the Standard Oil Company of California, later the Arabian American Oil Company (abbreviation ARAMCO), the rulers achieved high profits, which also benefited the state budget (e.g. expansion of the transport and school system, irrigation system). Towards the end of the During the Second World War, Saudi Arabia joined the Allies in the war against Germany (February 28, 1945) and Japan (March 1, 1945). It participated in the establishment of the Arab League. In the 1st Arab-Israeli War (Palestine War, 1948–49), Saudi Arabia remained neutral.

Power factor in the Middle East

After the death of Ibn Saud, his son Saud (Ibn Abd al-Asis; * 1902, † 1969) ascended the throne in 1953. With his lavish lifestyle he came into domestic political rivalry with his brother, Crown Prince Feisal (Ibn Abd al-Asis Ibn Saud), who from 1962 onwards pushed him more and more into the background and finally ousted him (1964). As king, Feisal opened Saudi Arabia carefully to the western lifestyle (close cooperation with the USA) without loosening the autocratic form of rule, and carried out (especially in the Yemeni civil war, still an opponent of G. Abd el-Nasser) after the Six Day War (June 1967) rapprochement with Egypt (Treaty of Khartoum, August 1967; balance of different interests in the Yemeni civil war). Especially since the 1970s, as a country located in Middle East according to Countryaah, Saudi Arabia has been able to enforce its hegemony claims in the Middle East against other Arab states – but also against Iran – and at the same time adopted common positions with them in the dispute with Israel. In terms of economic policy, the state endeavored to gain ever larger shares in ARAMCO (until it was completely taken over in 1980). Together with the other oil-producing Arab states, Saudi Arabia used oil exports as a weapon against the states of Europe and the USA, which are considered to be Israel-friendly,

After Feisal’s assassination (1975), Saudi Arabia rose under Khalid (Ibn Abd al-Asis Ibn Saud) to become one of the financially strongest powers in the world and was able to increase its international influence. In the Middle East conflict it rejected the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty (1979; Camp David), but looked for ways to resolve the conflict itself: In 1981, Crown Prince Fahd presented a peace plan. At the same time, the ruling house had to react to oppositional external and internal influences. In November 1979 radical Islamic forces occupied the Kaaba with messianic thesesand could only be removed by force. The Shiite population in the east of the country came under the influence of the fundamentalist Islamic revolutionin Iran (1979).

In order to protect itself against the risk of overturning in foreign policy, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states founded the Gulf Council in 1981. In the 1st  Gulf War, Saudi Arabia, which has been producing armaments v. a. Received from France, Great Britain and the USA, Iraq (1980-88) against Iran. In July 1987 and 1988, triggered by Iranian pilgrims, serious unrest and increased tensions with Iran occurred during the pilgrimages in Mecca. In 1988, Saudi Arabia agreed to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty. In the 2nd Gulf War in 1991, Saudi Arabia was Iraq’s main enemy.

The negotiations that began in 1995 between Saudi Arabia and Yemen to settle the open border issues (including in the Asir region, based on the renunciation of what was then Yemen in favor of Saudi Arabia in the Taif Treaty of May 20, 1934) could only be concluded on June 13, 1934. To be concluded in 2000 with the signature of a border agreement; Saudi Arabia and Qatar had already settled their border disputes bilaterally in 1999. The relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran eased from 1998/99 (including the cooperation agreement of April 2001).

Saudi Arabia Recent History

Oman Economy

Oman Economy

Remained until the seventies of the century. XX practically on the edge of the modern world economy, Oman has experienced significant development through the exploitation of oil, extracted since 1967 on behalf of the national company Petroleum Development Oman Co. The economy is therefore dominated by crude oil, whose production however began to decline since 2001, and natural gas, whose exploitation, on the contrary, is expanding. Since the 1980s, the income from oil production has allowed investment in other sectors and sectors. Initially, the state’s commitment took the form of agricultural infrastructure works (dams and irrigation systems) and the strengthening of light industry. Subsequent plans made it possible to increase spending on services and the non-oil industry. The country has managed to achieve a constant increase in the gross domestic product per capita, which amounted to US $ 18,988 in 2008, however the lowest in the area, registering, in the same year, a GDP of nearly US $ 36 billion. The thriving economy of the sultanate, which has often suffered both from regional tensions, as in the case of the Gulf War, and from the cyclical fluctuations in oil prices on international markets, undergoing numerous periods of crisis. The economic plans have therefore also focused on privatization and the resumption of investments from abroad, even if the new rise in oil prices in the early 2000s has partly decelerated this renewal phase and caused an increase in inflation. The authorities are however oriented towards the expansion of the other sectors, in particular the tertiary sector (services, tourism and new technologies), also through privatization (energy, water, services, telecommunications) and opening up to foreign investments, favored by the signing of free trade agreements with other countries.

Across the Gulf Cooperation Council Oman has commercial relations with the European Union, China and Japan. § The agricultural sector contributes modestly to the formation of the GDP and is mainly of a subsistence nature. Date palms, cereals (sorghum, millet, barley), vegetables (tomatoes) and tobacco are grown in the oases; fruit growing also has ancient traditions, especially the cultivation of citrus fruits and, later on, bananas; cotton and sugar cane, on the other hand, find a certain space in the Dhufar. § The breeding of sheep and goats, of cattle, present in the Dhufar, and of camels is particularly cared for. § However, fishing is of greater importance, especially sardines, which constitute the main economic resource for many coastal people and which are also largely exported. In the last decade of the century. XX benefited from the expansion of the fleet and the construction of a plant for the conservation and freezing of fish, while on the other hand forms of pollution have become more perceptible, linked in particular to oil activities. Pearl oysters are still harvested by very ancient custom. § The industrial activity is centered on the exploitation of hydrocarbons but there is no lack of other manufacturing companies; in addition, lively craftsmanship thrives. The discovery of oil has led to a series of fundamental transformations in the secondary sector, which now contributes to nearly two-thirds of GDP. Other mineral resources are gold, silver, chromite and copper, which feed the metallurgical plants of Ṣuḥār. There are also active industries for the processing of construction materials and cement (Raysut, in the far south, and Rusail, north of Muscat), chemical products, optical fibers and textiles, as well as oil refining and processing plants. production of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

New projects concern the production of fertilizers, aluminum and steel. § With the proceeds of the royalties on oil have been especially strengthened in social services, schools and hospitals in the first place, as well as road and communications infrastructures in general. The road system, considerably increased, makes use above all of the expressway, completed in 1977, which connects Muscat with the neighboring emirate of Dubai; the other main arteries connect Maṭraḥ with the oasis of Nazwá and the city of Ṣalālah with Raysut, in Dhufar. As one of countries starting with O according to Countryaah, Oman has the international airports of Seeb near Muscat and Ṣalālah (the national airline is Oman Air), as well as numerous ports such as those of Ṣalālah and Qabus, near Maṭraḥ, to which the terminal is Fahal oil plant, connected by pipeline to the main oil fields. International trade, more than tenfold in a few years, is based on the export of oil and liquefied natural gas; for the rest, the country exports dates, citrus fruits, fish, chemicals and metals. Imports are mainly represented by machinery and means of transport, various industrial products, foodstuffs. The trade balance is largely active; the most intense exchanges take place, as regards exports, with China, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates, while, as regards imports, above all the Arab Emirates United and Japan.

Oman Economy

Oman Politics and Law

Oman Politics and Law


According to the first constitution, which came into force on November 6, 1996, Oman is an absolute monarchy (sultanate). The head of state, head of government and commander in chief of the armed forces is the sultan. Legislation (based on Sharia) is made by decrees of the monarch. Representative of the people with an advisory function is the Council of Oman, consisting of the Consultative Council (Madjlis asch-Shura; 84 members, elected for 4 years) and the State Council (Madjlis ad-Dawlah; 70 members appointed by the Sultan). All Omanis over the age of 21 are entitled to vote, and women also have the right to vote and to stand as a candidate. As the executive body, the cabinet receives its powers from the Sultan and is responsible to him. The constitution fixes individual and collective rights and freedoms (e.g. freedom of religion, prohibition of discrimination based on origin, gender, etc.).

National symbols

The national flag was first hoisted on December 17, 1970. The red stripe on the leech has a third of the flag width and is covered with the coat of arms in the Obereck. The flying end is striped horizontally in white, red, green. Red is the traditional flag color of the Gulf States, the white stripe stands for peace and prosperity, and green for fertility.

The coat of arms first appeared on coins in 1940 and has been in use since 1971, modified in 1985. The emblem is the traditional parapet for adult men. In front of two crossed curved swords lies an Arab curved dagger (khanjar) with a belt buckle.

Oman: coat of arms

According to computerdo, the coat of arms of Oman shows the traditional defensive hangings of men: two crossed curved swords, in front of them an Arab curved dagger with a belt buckle.

National holiday: November 18th was the birthday of Sultan Kabus Ibn Said Ibn Taimur ( * 1940, † 2020 ), which ruled from 1971 until his death.


There are no political parties in Oman.


Trade unions have been permitted since 2006, but there are only a few in-house organizations. The umbrella organization is the General Foundation of Oman Trade Union.


The total strength of the volunteer army is about 40,000 men. The army (25,000 soldiers) is divided into 1 tank brigade, 2 infantry brigades, 1 tank and 1 infantry reconnaissance regiment, 3 artillery regiments, 1 anti-aircraft, engineer and paratrooper regiment each. The Air Force and Navy each have around 4,000 men, plus the Royal Guard with around 7,000 men.


Oman is divided into 11 governorates (Muhafazah) with 61 administrative districts (Wilayat).


The legal system is based on the Sharia (Islamic law), in addition there are elements of the English common law. Following a comprehensive reform of the judiciary, the courts of first instance are responsible for civil, criminal and economic matters; The judgments of these courts can be appealed against, for which 6 appellate courts have jurisdiction. The third instance is the Supreme Court in Muscat.


It was not until 1970 that the foundations for a modern education system were laid. There is no general compulsory school attendance. The school system comprises a ten-year basic level (English lessons from the first grade) and a subsequent two-year secondary level. In addition to the state Sultan Qaboos University (founded in 1986) in Muscat, there are four private universities and several state and private colleges.


Freedom of the press is anchored in the constitution, but it can be restricted. This happens among other things. through criminal and media laws. Some topics are taboo; self-censorship is practiced again and again. The state limits access to the journalistic profession.

Press: There are a dozen daily newspapers; Arabic languages ​​are »Al-Watan« (»The Nation«, founded in 1971), »Oman Daily«, »Al-Shabiba«, in English »Times of Oman« (founded 1975), »Oman Tribune« (founded 2004), »Oman Daily Observer “(founded 1981) and” Muscat Daily “(founded 2009).

News agency: Oman News Agency (founded in 1986, state-owned).

Broadcasting: “Radio Sultanate of Oman” (SOR, five channels) and “Sultanate of Oman Television” (SOTV, two channels) are state owned. There are also some private radio and television stations, e.g. B. “Majan TV”.

Country facts

  • Official name: Sultanate of Oman
  • License plate: OM
  • ISO-3166: OM, OMN (512)
  • Internet
  • Currency: 1 Rial Omani (RO) = 1 000 Baisa
  • Area: 309,500 km²
  • Population (2019): 4.9 million
  • Capital: Muscat
  • Official language (s): Arabic
  • Form of government: monarchy (sultanate)
  • Administrative division: 11 governorates
  • Head of State and Prime Minister: Sultan Haitham bin Tariq bin Taimur Al Said
  • Religion (s) (2010): 86% Muslim; 7% Christians, 6% Hindus, 1% other / n / a
  • Time zone: Central European Time +3 hours
  • National Day: November 18th

Location and infrastructure

  • Location (geographical): Arabian Peninsula
  • Position (coordinates): between 16 ° 30 ‘and 26 ° 30’ north latitude and 53 ° and 60 ° east longitude
  • Climate: Hot desert and semi-desert climate
  • Highest mountain: Jabal ash-Shams (2,980 m)
  • Road network (2012): 29 685 km (paved), 30 545 km (unpaved)


  • Annual population growth (2020): 2%
  • Birth rate (2020): 23.1 per 1000 residents.
  • Death rate (2020): 3.3 per 1000 residents.
  • Average age (2020): 26.2 years
  • Average life expectancy (2020): 76.3 years (men 74.4; women 78.4)
  • Age structure (2020): 30.2% younger than 15 years, 3.7% older than 65 years
  • Literacy rate (15-year-olds and older) (2018): 95.7%
  • Mobile phone contracts (pre-paid and post-paid) (2018): 133 per 100 residents
  • Internet users (2017): 80 per 100 residents


  • GDP per capita (2019): US $ 17,791
  • Total GDP (2019): US $ 77 billion
  • GNI per capita (2019): US $ 15,330
  • Education expenditure (2017): 6.7% of GDP
  • Military expenditure (2019): 8.8% of GDP
  • Unemployment rate (15 years and older) (2019): 2.7%

Oman Politics and Law

Emigration to Russia

Emigration to Russia

Area: 17,075,400 km² (excluding Crimea)
17,102,344 km² (including Crimea)
Population: 144,526,636 (excluding Crimea)
146,877,088 (including Crimea) in 2018
Population density: 8 E / km² (excluding Crimea)
8.6 E / km² (with Crimea)
Form of government: Federal Republic
System of Government: Semi-presidential system
Neighboring countries: Norway, FinlandEstoniaLatvia, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, ChinaLithuania and Poland (neighbors of the Kaliningrad exclave)
Capital: Moscow National
language: Russian
51% Russian Orthodox,
7% Muslims,
0.1% Jehovah’s Witnesses
Currency: Ruble (RUB)
1 ruble = 100 kopecks
Exchange rates:
1 EUR = 88.306 RUB
100 RUB = 1, 13 EUR
1 CHF = 81.349 RUB
100 RUB = 1.228 CHF
(rate from 13.07.2021)
Telephone area code: +7
Time zone: CET +1 to +11

In 2020, 1,475 Germans officially emigrated to the Russian Federation and 3,194 came back to their homeland. Within the 10 years from 2010 to 2019, 22,534 Germans officially emigrated to Russia and 40,203 moved back to Germany. Over 400,000 Germans or Russian Germans still live in Russia, many in Moscow and St. Petersburg and the majority (Russian Germans) in Siberia. In Moscow there is even a residential area for Germans only.

The population in Russia is declining, which, according to UN estimates, will require two million foreign workers annually over the next few years (more information on the increasing trend towards emigration of young Russians). In 2017, 8.1% of the population were migrants, most of whom came from the former Soviet republics of Central Asia and the Caucasus, but some also from Africa and Southeast Asia. According to Countryaah, Russia is one of countries starting with R.

Russian is the only official language. At the same time, however, the respective vernacular is often used and promoted as the second official language in the individual autonomous republics.

Travel and Visa

Changed travel regulations during and after the corona pandemic

Entry is permitted for German nationals and for citizens of other countries with an unlimited residence permit for Germany (original submission required) as well as diplomatic and service passport holders arriving by direct flight from Germany and certain other countries, including Finland, Greece and Switzerland. In addition, travelers must be in possession of a valid Russian visa.

Entry restrictions apply to entry by other means, in particular across the land border and by air from other countries. Entry on these routes is only possible for accredited employees of diplomatic missions and consular institutions of foreign countries and their family members, drivers in international road traffic, the crews of aircraft, sea and inland vessels, train crews in international rail traffic, employees of the courier service between the governments and members official delegations, as well as persons with diplomatic, official or regular private visas issued in connection with the death of a close relative.

Also exempt from the entry ban are people who enter the country as family members (spouses, parents, children, adoptive parents or children), guardians or carers of Russian nationals with identity documents recognized in this capacity with visas, people who enter for medical treatment and people who Have a permanent residence in the Russian Federation.

Even technicians who want to enter the country for the commissioning and maintenance of systems manufactured abroad are not subject to the entry ban. Highly qualified specialists with work permits and their family members can re-enter. The website of the German-Russian Chamber of Commerce in Moscow provides further information on the approval procedure required for these last two groups.

Emigration to Russia

Foreigners must provide proof of a negative PCR test when boarding a plane destined for Russia, even if they only want to travel through in transit. This also applies to those who have recovered and who have been vaccinated. The test must not have been taken earlier than three calendar days prior to the arrival of the aircraft in Russia. The test result must be printed out in Russian or English and presented at the border control. Foreigners can be obliged to take random COVID-19 tests when entering the Russian airport.

For other types of entry, the test result must be presented to the border control. Foreigners who travel to Russia for gainful purposes are then obliged to self-isolate in their home for 14 days. This also applies to people who live in the same household. The responsible Russian diplomatic mission abroad can provide more information on the entry requirements.

Travel across the land border of the Russian Federation, including the border to Belarus, is restricted for travelers. There are some exceptions. Germans are generally allowed to travel to Germany through EstoniaFinlandLithuania and Poland in transit with their own vehicle or organized collective transport. The land border between Latvia and Russia is currently closed. In individual cases, foreigners with a permanent residence permit in Russia were refused permission to cross the Russian land border.

General provisions for travel and residence

All EU citizens need a visa to enter Russia, which must be applied for at the Russian embassy before entering the country. The passport must be valid for at least 6 months when applying for the visa. The most important types of visas are listed below.

Business visa (up to a maximum of 3 months)

This visa is issued for business trips to Russia and is also mandatory for attending commercial events. As a rule, the first application for this visa is issued for a period of three months. Thereafter, multiple-entry visas are also possible for up to twelve months.

A business visa is only issued on the basis of an invitation from a natural or legal person from Russia. With this visa you cannot pursue regular employment (there is also the work visa). A business visa cannot be converted into a work visa, unless you leave the country for a short period of time.

A business visa is required for the following activities:

  • Business meetings or conducting negotiations
  • Extension or conclusion of business contracts
  • Market research
  • Participation in auctions, exhibitions and similar events
  • Installation, maintenance or repair of imported equipment in Russia

Business visa holders cannot stay in Russia for more than 90 days within a 180-day period.

Work visa (up to a maximum of 3 years)

This visa is mainly suitable for workers who want to work in Russia. The regular work visa is valid for one year. In the case of highly qualified foreign experts, the validity can be extended up to 3 years.

The number of entries and exits is unlimited for holders of a work visa within the period of its validity. An extension of the work visa can be obtained during the stay in Russia. The employer will apply for a work visa.

The following documents are required:

  • Invitation from the employer
  • Visa application form
  • Biometric passport photos
  • Valid international health insurance

Health insurance is compulsory in Russia. Accordingly, proof of health insurance coverage must be presented when applying for a visa. An unlimited possibility HERE.

Other types of visas are described in more detail on the website of the Russian Embassy.

Turkmenistan Geography

Turkmenistan Geography

Turkmenistan is located in the south of Central Asia. In the west the country borders on the Caspian Sea. The northern neighboring countries are Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, with the Amu-Darja forming the border river to the latter. In the south the country borders on Iran, here the ridges of the young and seismically active Kopet Dag Mountains form the borders. Turkmenistan shares the southeast border with Afghanistan. With a maximum east-west extension of 1,300 km and a maximum north-south extension of 540 km, the area of ​​Turkmenistan is around 490,000 km². As a bridging country between the states of the former Soviet Union in the north, the states of the Caucasus in the west and those of the Middle East in the south, Turkmenistan has a potentially important transit function, which, however, can only be implemented to a limited extent at present.

State name: Turkmenistan

Constitution: The current constitution was unanimously adopted by the Turkmen parliament in summer 2016 on the proposal of the President. The previous constitution was passed in summer 2008 – also at the request of the President and also unanimously.

Population: Between 3.7 million (last census 1991), 5.1 million (CIA World Factbook, also: United Nations) and 7.0 million (official government data)

Population growth: between 1.14% (CIA World Factbook) and 6% (official government figures).

Capital: Ashgabat

Head of State: Gurbanguly M. Berdimuhamedow (since February 14, 2007)

Basic data: CIA – The Factbook, UN data country profile Turkmenistan, Library of Congress: a Country Study: Turkmenistan, Foreign Office on Turkmenistan

Deserts and semi-deserts: 90-95% of the country’s area

Total precipitation: 75 – 130mm

Average minimum temperature (January): -5 to -8 °C (extremes <-20 °)

Average maximum temperature (July): +35 to + 40 °C (extrema > 45 °C)

Due to the very low humidity, a daily temperature difference of over 30 °Can be reached in summer (under 10 °C at night and over 40 °C during the day). With an annual average of around 28 to 34 °C, temperatures of up to 70 °C are reached directly above the ground. In terms of surface temperature and average maximum values, the Karakum is one of the hottest deserts in the world. To the north is the Karakum through the Amu-Darja bounded in the east by the foothills of the Hindu Kush, in the south by the Kopet Dag Mountains and in the west by the Caspian Sea. Rainfall falls, if at all, from December to April. Outside of the irrigation oases in the north and east, the desert is hardly populated (the population density of about 0.15 people per square kilometer or 0.00071% of the population density reached in Germany). Only a few oasis villages reach more than 200 residents.

Foothills region: 4 – 8%

Total precipitation: 200 to 300mm

Average minimum temperature (January): -1 to -4 °C (extremes <-10 °)

Average maximum temperature (July): +35 to + 38 °C (extremes> 40 °C)

The foothills form a favorable area due to the relatively high amounts of precipitation compared to the rest of Turkmenistan in combination with the relatively fertile pediment areas. Some of the largest cities in the country can be found here and the region is also characterized by a high population density outside the major centers.

Mountains > 1,500m: 1-2% of the land area Total

precipitation: around 200mm

Average minimum temperature (January): -4 to – 20 °C (extreme: unknown)

Average maximum temperature (July): 15 to 20 °C (extreme: unknown)

The west of the Kopet Dag Mountains reach up to the level of Balkanabad, but here only protrude a few hundred meters from the mighty pediment. Even further to the west the mountains sink into it. In an easterly direction, the mountains gain in height and reach their highest height at Ashgabat at almost 3,000m. Due to an advance of the Iranian border, the mountain ridge lies even further east within Iran. The foothills of the Hindu Kush in the extreme southeast of the country hardly reach heights of more than 750m and only in a few places do the mountains rise above 1000m. The slopes are flat here, corresponding to the wide pediment areas. Apart from a few deeply cut valleys southwest of the capital, the mountain region is uninhabited. Few villages have more than 500 residents.

Most of the once dense network of weather stations have now been abandoned, so that current weather reports and reliable climate diagrams are only available from a few locations.

Raw materials

According to, Turkmenistan has the fourth largest gas reserves in the world and with the South Jolotan gas field one of the largest contiguous gas fields in the world. Most of the development took place during the 1970’s and early 1980’s. Since 1991 only a few investments have been made in new exploration and extraction techniques. The transport infrastructure is also in need of renovation. Chinese companies have established themselves as the largest donors in this regard in recent years, while European companies have so far mainly been awarded concessions in the technically more demanding offshore sector.

Although Turkmenistan has also on deposits among others Sulfur, potassium, magnesium, limestone, gypsum, cement and basalt. However, the individual sites are relatively small, so that Turkmenistan does not play a significant role here on the world market. A comparison with the other states of the former Soviet Union shows that the Turkmen deposits were not considered to be of greater relevance. All raw material deposits are in state hands.

With the exception of the natural gas and oil deposits, the Turkmen raw material deposits have not yet been systematically developed. The only known exception are two cement factories in the south of the country. The export share of the sum of all non-petrochemical raw material products is less than 1.5% of total Turkmen exports.

Turkmenistan Location

Sightseeing in Dubai

Sightseeing in Dubai

Dubai is the most popular travel destination in the United Arab Emirates and magically attracts visitors with its great beaches, impressive buildings and numerous sights. Without a doubt, Dubai is a city of superlatives that can offer countless highlights and attractions.

The range of luxury hotels is also gigantic. Hardly any other city in the world has as many high-class resorts as the metropolis on the Persian Gulf. Many holidaymakers decide to stop over on their way to Asia, but the emirate is also becoming increasingly popular as an independent holiday destination.

In the following we present you the most exciting tours, most beautiful attractions and best sights in Dubai.

Dubai - Burj Al Arab - Helicopter View

1. Burj Khalifa – At the Top

At 828 meters, Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world and the absolute landmark of Dubai. Once in the city of superlatives, you should definitely enjoy the view from the Burj Khalifa. The impressive structure is one of the most famous sights in Dubai and is visited by thousands of holidaymakers every day. Tickets for the Burj Khalifa are available in different categories and price ranges.

We strongly recommend booking online in advance, as there can be long queues at the ticket counters on many days and there are often no driveways available at all. Even if the “At the Top / Sky” ticket grants access to the 148th floor and includes some extras, we feel that the normal “At the Top” tickets for the viewing platform on the 124th and 125th floors are sufficient. The whole city is at your feet here!

2. Desert tour in Dubai

Of course, a desert safari should not be missing from the most important sights in Dubai. There are also different options and price ranges here, but the processes are essentially very similar. You will be picked up from your hotel and driven to a Bedouin camp in the desert, where there is initially the option of camel rides or a small quad tour. Meanwhile, the tire pressure in the off-road vehicle is let out and shortly afterwards the rapid journey through the dunes begins.

A desert safari at the gates of the metropolis Dubai is an unforgettable experience, but not for the faint of heart. After the adrenaline rush, head back to the Bedouin camp, where a delicious barbecue buffet as well as a fire and belly dance show are usually waiting for you. VIP tours usually include service at the seat, particularly comfortable seats and drinks. Recently, self-drive safaris have also been offered, in which you sit behind the wheel of an off-road vehicle.

3. Dubai Fountain

Below the world-famous Burj Khalifa, one of the many free sights in Dubai will enchant you every evening with the “Dubai Fountain”. The impressive play of colors and water is coordinated with various romantic and traditional Arabic songs and the choreography of the fountains shooting up high in front of the gigantic building is unique in the world. The model was based on the famous Las Vegas fountains, which of course were surpassed in Dubai.

The show already takes place twice every lunchtime, but the special romantic atmosphere in the evening is particularly recommended. Secure a spot right on the water about 15 minutes before you start for the best view. The fountains of Dubai take place every evening between 6 and 11 p.m. every half hour. If you want to get closer, book a boat trip on the lake or a spot on the new floating boardwalk for an additional charge.

4. Burj al Arab

Along with the Burj Khalifa, Burj al Arab is one of the most famous buildings in Dubai. It is a 321 meter high luxury hotel and one of the city’s main attractions. The Burj al Arab was built in the shape of a sail and houses one of the most luxurious 6-star hotels in the world. It is located on an artificially created island and is actually only open to hotel guests. A good photo spot can be found on the public beach in front of the Jumeirah Beach Hotel.

Ask your taxi driver about Umm Suqeim Beach (Sunset Beach), there you will find a popular bathing beach with the imposing Burj Al Arab in the background. Or you can book an official visit to the luxury hotel by booking yourself for a sumptuous tea time or a cocktail in the bar of the Burj Al Arab. Since a reservation in advance is absolutely necessary, we recommend booking an official tour, which usually also includes the hotel transfer.

5. Dubai helicopter flight

The view from a helicopter high above the roofs of the city gives you a very special perspective of the sights in Dubai. The mostly 10 to 25-minute tours reveal exclusive views of the palm island The Palm Jumeirah, the unique skyline of Dubai and the aforementioned luxury hotel Burj Al Arab. Of course, Burj Khalifa, the tallest building, cannot be overlooked and is almost omnipresent.

The helicopter tours, during which you experience Dubai like a rock star from a bird’s eye view, usually start near the famous Atlantis The Palm Resort or a helipad near Jumeirah Beach. From here you have interesting views of the beaches on the Persian Gulf and the many spectacular buildings from the very first second. The longer tours also include a flight over the old Dubai Creek and other highlights such as the World Islands.

what are you watting for

6. Atlantis The Palm with Water Park & ​​Aquarium

The great Atlantis The Palm Resort is another of the many landmarks of Dubai, after all there is no commercial that does not show the impressive luxury resort on the famous Palm Island. Families with children in particular love the hotel and book directly there for their vacation if the budget allows. Because the Atlantis The Palm is not just a hotel resort, but is also home to several important sights in Dubai.

In addition to several pools and a great sandy beach, the hotel also has its own shopping street. This is where the Lost Chambers Aquarium is located, where the recreated ruins of Atlantis and up to 70,000 marine animals including large sharks can be admired. On hot days, the Aquaventure Water Park is the top address for young and old on the Palm Island. The countless slides, lagoons and adventure pools make boredom a foreign word.

7. Dubai Marina and Speedboat Tour

The Dubai Marina is not only one of the most expensive residential areas, but also an extremely exciting nightlife area for tourists. There are great restaurants and cafés here during the day and stylish bars and clubs with good music in the evening. Couples love a long walk through the marina, which can also be ideally combined with the neighboring “The Walk” on Jumeirah Beach, where there are other restaurants and numerous boutiques.

A special recommendation is a boat trip to the sights of Dubai. Because exploring from the water is a particularly exciting way to experience the fascinating backdrop of the city. Directly in the heart of the Dubai Marina, boat tours are offered by several providers, one of our absolute favorites is The Yellow Boats Dubai. First it goes relaxed through the high skyscraper of the marina, shortly afterwards at full throttle out to sea with many photo stops!

8. Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates

Shopping is actually a matter of course in Dubai, even if many products are not cheaper than in Germany. But the seemingly endless selection of luxury shops and stores from the lower price ranges make a shopping spree in the Emirates extremely exciting for many visitors. In addition, there are often very good sales offers and numerous brands that have still not found their way to Germany.

The best place to go for shopping is of course the gigantic shopping center of the Dubai Mall directly below the Burj Khalifa. Here you will find more than 1200 shops on several floors, one of the largest cinemas in the world, a real ice rink, a huge aquarium and much more. But the Mall of the Emirates, which is home to the quirky attraction Ski Dubai with a ski slope, has a great range of shops and is well worth a visit.

9. Gold and Spice Souks

Even if Dubai, with its glittering facades and world record buildings, stands for modernity and technical progress like no other city, Deira, Dubai’s second oldest district, still has the old flair of 1001 Nights to marvel at. The spice and gold market in Deira is one of the most visited attractions in the metropolis, although we have to admit that the visit is now not unreservedly recommended.

Many traders have meanwhile started to throw around German phrases (“cheaper cheaper,“ Aldi Aldi ”) and thereby destroy a bit the actual charm of the souks. The Gold Souk is also not a classic marketplace, but rather a shopping street with various gold shops. So it lacks a bit of the oriental magic of a real market, but the best thing is to get your own personal picture of it during a visit.

10. Excursion to Abu Dhabi

We discussed for a long time in the editorial office whether we should include a day tour to Abu Dhabi. Because Dubai itself is so rich in sights that it would easily be enough for a TOP20 list. Nevertheless, we ultimately decided on Abu Dhabi, as the capital presents a completely different impression of the Emirates. And the list of attractions in Abu Dhabi is long, so don’t miss a tour:

From Ferrari World to the Formula 1 track on Yas Island to the legendary Emirates Palace. From the view of the elegant Etihad Towers over the paradisiacal Saadiyat Beach to the newly opened Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum. From the Corniche to the Falcon Hospital to the impressive Sheikh Zayed Mosque. If you have enough time and are in the mood for more great experiences, take the chance and explore the neighboring emirate as well. You will not regret it!

Cooling Off

Sightseeing in Cyprus

Sightseeing in Cyprus

Cyprus is an island in the eastern Mediterranean with a long and eventful history. From here you can quickly get to Turkey by ship, and trips to Greece and Egypt are also possible. The capital, Nicosia, is today the only European capital that is divided into two parts: the southern part belongs to the Republic of Cyprus and the northern part belongs to the Turkish Republic of Cyprus.

Likewise, the country is divided into two parts, the north and south. Hence, the people on the island speak Greek and Turkish. In addition to the idyllic nature and beautiful beaches, there are many historical sights, monasteries, castles and Roman ruins on the Mediterranean island.

In the following we present you the most exciting tours, most beautiful attractions and best sights in Cyprus.

Aphrodite's Rock (Rum Bucolic Ape)

1. Roman ruins of Kourion

Kourion was once the city of the ancient kingdom of the same name. The remains that are still preserved today all date from Roman times. The Roman ruins of Kourion are among the most impressive archaeological sites on the island of Cyprus. One of the most important testimonies of the Roman city is the Greco-Roman amphitheater, built in the 2nd century BC.

The theater is still used for open-air events, especially in summer. In addition, some houses have been excavated in the city, in which well-preserved floor mosaics have been found. In the house of Achilles, for example, mythological scenes are shown and in the house of the gladiators the bloody games are depicted. There is also a thermal bath, a Roman agora and an early Christian basilica.

2. Salamis and the royal tombs

The ruins of Salamis offer further archaeological sights. Most of the ruins in Northern Cyprus date from the late Roman and Byzantine periods. The city is said to have been founded by heroes of the Trojan War. Over time, it became an important center in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Here, too, there is a theater that once had space for 15,000 people, a thermal high school with magnificent marble columns and the remains of two early Christian basilicas. The necropolises represent a special find. It was already known about them, why the area was combed by looters. At the beginning of the excavation in 1957, however, a “royal grave” that had not been plundered was found.

3. Cyprus Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon is a bathing bay between Polis and Paphos. The name comes from the crystal clear water and the pure, white sand. The bay is about ten kilometers from the town of Latchi and can only be reached on foot or by boat. The water should turn into a dark blue at certain times and then into a bright turquoise, depending on the sunlight.

The average depth of the water is one to one and a half meters, and you can wade through the water up to 80 meters in a relaxed manner. The Blue Lagoon is one of the most popular sights of Cyprus, there are always boats from Latchi to the beach. The idyllic Latchi is also worth a visit.

4. Ómodos in the Tróodos Mountains

Ómodos is a tranquil little village with only a few hundred inhabitants, located on the southern slope of the Tróodos Mountains. The village is one of the most beautiful sights in Cyprus. Ómodos is surrounded by numerous vines and is also famous for its knitting.

In the center there is an old and beautifully designed monastery. Incidentally, it is worth taking a hike through the entire Tróodos Mountains. In the many small towns there are traditional and beautifully decorated churches. It’s a great opportunity to explore the interior of Cyprus.

5. Kolóssi Castle

Kolóssi is a medieval castle near the village of the same name. It was built in 1210 by the Knights of the Order of St. John and served as the Grand Master’s quarters. The current shape is based on the reconstruction by the Grand Master Louis de Magnac. The square castle is 23 meters high and the walls are 2.5 meters thick. The castle is entered via a drawbridge, an ornamental cast bay window protects the entrance to the interior.

The entrance leads directly to the dining room. From there you can inspect the rest of the Kolóssi rooms: the dining room, the living rooms, the kitchen. A staircase leads to the flat roof. There is an old mill and a sugar factory nearby, as well as a small church that used to serve as a castle chapel for the knight.

Aphrodite's Rocks, Cyprus

6. St. Hilarion Castle

The Byzantines also built their castles on Cyprus. First a hermit settled here in Northern Cyprus. Then a church was built here, finally a monastery and in 10/11. In the 19th century, the Byzantines built a fortress here. The complex, which was popularly known as the “Castle of 1000 chambers”, was supposed to guard the pass road from Kyrenia to Nicosia.

In 1191 St. Hilarion was conquered by the crusaders and finally handed over to the Franks. In the 13th century it was converted into a summer residence. The castle offers an excellent view over the sea. When the weather is good, the ships can be seen leaving the Turkish side. In addition to the view and the historical ruins, there is also a museum up here.

7. Karpaz Peninsula

The Karpaz peninsula in northern Cyprus is an insider tip for nature lovers. Here you can hike extensively in largely untouched nature. Then there are the peaceful beaches. The peninsula is still largely undecided in terms of tourism, but to explore the peninsula you have to bring some initiative and a thirst for adventure yourself.

Karpaz is a very sparsely populated area with a varied landscape. A highlight is the “Golden Beach” of Karpaz, one of the most picturesque sights of Northern Cyprus and at the same time the most beautiful bathing beach in the northern half. In addition to the largest population of turtles, there is also a breeding facility for the endangered animals, which can be visited.

8. Akámas Peninsula

If you want to go to the west of Cyprus and still want to roam through nature, you should visit the Akámas Peninsula. For a long time this part of the country was almost untouched. Almost no buildings were built here, and no tourists visited the area. 186 species of birds, 16 species of butterflies, monk seals, snakes and other species of reptiles cavort on the Akámas Peninsula.

Many species are not found anywhere else in Cyprus. The flora is also more than interesting, especially cypress and eucalyptus trees grow here. The Akámas peninsula is above all a popular destination for hikers and mountain bikers who want to enjoy nature far from the beaten tourist paths.

9. Paphos – City of Culture

The city of Paphos can look back on a long history. Supposedly here, near the rock of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love rose from the sea. Since the 15th century BC The city was settled, later captured by the Romans, plundered by the Arabs and finally conquered again by the Crusaders. Then it withered into a sleepy fishing village.

Until once Roman mosaics were found in the ground. Due to the restructuring of Cyprus after the division, the country’s second largest airport was built here. Today Paphos is the island’s first capital of culture. Many relics from Roman times could be found, the Ptolemaic royal tombs of Nea Paphos are among the exciting sights.

10. Kýkko Monastery in the Tróodos Mountains

The Kýkkos Monastery is located at an altitude of 1100 meters in the Tróodos Mountains. The monastery was founded in the 11th century by the hermit Isaias after this hermit cured the then governor Manuel Voutoumetes of gout. As a thank you, the hermit received an icon of Mary from Constantinople, which is said to have been made by the Evangelist Luke himself.

The icon is still in the monastery today, covered by a wooden board with silver and gold fittings. This jewelry was a gift from the Byzantine emperor himself. Even today, the magnificent monastery attracts pilgrims from the Orthodox world. At the same time, the complex and the museum, in which many religious artefacts are exhibited, can also be visited as a tourist.

Touching sunset (Tobias Van Der Elst)

Burma River Cruise – Upper Irrawaddy And Chindwin

Burma River Cruise – Upper Irrawaddy And Chindwin

Hardly any other country is surrounded by so many secrets as «the golden land» Burma. Hidden behind the bamboo curtain for decades and only opened to foreign visitors for a few years, Burma is considered the most original travel destination in Southeast Asia. Golden pagoda domes sparkle in the sunlight, picturesque villages pass by in slow motion while the ship glides leisurely on Burma’s lifeline, the Irrawaddy. Although the modern age is gradually arriving, Burma is shaped by deep religiosity and traditions. See Countryaah for more countries starting with letter B.

Burma River Cruise - Upper Irrawaddy And Chindwin 3

Best travel time: The Upper Irrawaddy is best traveled after the rainy season from October to February. Only then will the river have enough water and be navigable.

Travel time: 18 days

Tip: In addition to this route, there are many other river cruises with other destinations and / or shorter travel times. We are happy to advise you on the routes and dates to find the perfect river trip for you.

Day 1: Zurich – Mandalay
Flight from Zurich via Bangkok to Mandalay.

Day 2: Mandalay
In the afternoon, arrival in Mandalay and transfer to the ship. Free time. Welcome cocktail on board in the evening.

Day 3: Mandalay – Amarapura
City tour in Mandalay, the last legendary capital of the Burmese Kingdom, with a visit to the famous Mahamuni Pagoda, the Shwenandaw Kyaung teak monastery, various handicraft workshops and a gold leaf production workshop. In the afternoon bus excursion to Amarapura with a visit to a silk and cotton weaving mill. Walk on the longest teak bridge in the world, the U Bein Bridge.

Burma River Cruise - Upper Irrawaddy And Chindwin 2

Day 4: Mandalay In the
morning, the second part of the city tour in Mandalay. In the afternoon a boat trip upriver through the third and longest of four bottlenecks in the course of the Irrawaddy. Presentation of Burmese traditions and customs on the sundeck.

Day 5: Nwe Nyein In the
morning, visit the spectacular pottery in Nwe Nyein, where 200 liter water pots are made and distributed across the country by water. Afternoon boat trip with lectures on board. Passing the Anyathihadaw Pagoda in the middle of the river upstream and again downstream in the evening after the ship has turned.

Day 6: Mingun – Sagaing In the
morning visit to the famous Mingun temple, the facade of which has a prominent crack. Here is one of the largest hanging, still intact bells in the world. In the afternoon bus excursion to the beautiful Sagaing Hills with their over 1000 sanctuaries and hermitages. The place is a center of Buddhist piety and meditation. Visit to the Sun-U-Ponnya-Shin-Pagoda from the 14th century and visit to a nunnery.

Day 7: Pauk Taw
After breakfast, walk in Pauk Taw, a small village right on the Irrawaddy bank. The Pauk Taw community consists mostly of small farms. In the afternoon cruise down the river with a lecture.

Day 8: Amyint – Monywa
The residents of Amyint always look forward to international visitors. During a walk in the morning an insight into the typical Burmese village life is given. Afternoon bus excursion through the lively port city of Monywa on the Chindwin with a visit to the Thanbodi Temple.

Day 9: Monywa – Phowin Taung In the
morning, the second part of the city tour in Monywa and visit to the Phowin Taung caves, where impressive wall paintings can be admired. In the limestone caves there are over 400 niches with Buddha statues which were built between the 14th and 18th centuries. In the afternoon boat trip upriver.

Day 10: Kani
Morning walk through the picturesque village of Kani, a typical small community on the banks of the Chindwin. On foot we climb the pagoda hill for the view. Afternoon boat trip through the narrower, upper part of the Chindwin.

Day 11: Minkin
Visit on foot to the two villages Kan and Kyi Taung Oo. With its teak monasteries, the place is one of the most interesting places in Burma in terms of art history. The monasteries there are decorated with impressive wood carvings and golden wall paintings.

Day 12: Kalewa – Masein – Mawleik
Morning city tour in Kalewa, the most important port city on the Chindwin for trade with India. Continue upstream past Masein with its many small pagodas on the hill. In the afternoon in Mawleik, walk through the city and to the local market with rickshaws, Burma’s typical vehicle. Many buildings from the colonial era are still preserved. The city was the administrative center for the upper Chindwin region during this period.

Day 13: Gazet
Walk in Gazet, a small riverside village with only about 270 houses. The hospitality of the residents is impressive. Afternoon boat trip down the river.

Day 14: Bagan
The former, historical royal capital Bagan is one of the largest archaeological sites in Southeast Asia with over 3000 Buddhist sacred buildings made of brick. First part of the city tour by horse and cart in the afternoon. After dinner traditional puppet show on board.

Day 15: Bagan
Second part of the city tour by bus in the morning with a visit to some of the most important temples and pagodas. In the afternoon, a bus excursion to other selected sights and a visit to a traditional lacquerware factory. In the evening a farewell cocktail on board.

Day 16: Bagan – Yangon
Disembarkation early in the morning and transfer to Bagan airport. Lunch in a local restaurant in Yangon. Then transfer to the hotel and check-in. In the late afternoon bus excursion to the famous Shwedagon Pagoda, the landmark of the former Burmese capital.

Day 17: Yangon – Zurich
Breakfast in the hotel and check-out. Then start of the second part of the city tour in Yangon with a visit to the Scott market with its countless shopping opportunities and a photo stop at the city center. Lunch in a local restaurant. Further sightseeing in the afternoon. Then transfer to the international airport in Yangon and flight back to Zurich via Bangkok.

Day 18: Zurich
Arrival in Zurich early in the morning and individual journey home.

Burma River Cruise - Upper Irrawaddy And Chindwin

Beijing Travel Guide

Beijing Travel Guide

According to Countryaah, Beijing is the capital of China and represents both Chinese modernity and history. Beijing’s countless beautiful and fascinating attractions tell of the incredible history of ancient China.

Examples of Beijing’s most interesting destinations include:

Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City


Tiananmen Square is a large square in the center of Beijing, especially commemorated by the 1989 protests. Today, life in the square is less dramatic.

The square is said to be large enough for a gathering place of as many as a million people. People gather in the square in the morning and evening to watch the rise and fall of the Chinese flag. There are several attractions in the square. For example, you can visit the mausoleum of Mao Zedong, where the embalmed body of a former Chinese leader still rests.

To the north of Tiananmen Square is the entrance to the Imperial Palace area, the Forbidden City.

The palace is reminiscent of the heyday of the Ming and Qing dynasties. The Ming and Qing emperors ruled the “Middle Kingdom” from this magnificent monument from 1420 until 1911, when the last dynasty was overthrown.

The palace was intended only for the use of the emperor, his family, and senior officials, and intrusion into the palace area resulted in the death penalty. This is why the palace area got its name “Forbidden City”.

The Forbidden City is one of the best preserved and most beautiful palaces in China. The palace is said to consist of as many as 9999 rooms. The number of rooms was deliberately limited to less than a thousand because there were believed to be a thousand rooms in heaven, and the emperor was feared to run into trouble with the gods if he dared to seek similar glory on earth.

Today, the entrance to the palace grounds is adorned with a portrait of the great President Mao, and the palace itself has been converted into a huge museum where you can see imperial buildings, throne halls and majestic gardens.

The great wall of China

Beijing Great Wall

The Great Wall of China runs north of Beijing and extends from the Yellow Sea in the east over the mountains to the vast Gobi Desert in the west.

The wall, which consists of several different walls of reality, is a unique gem of architecture and is considered one of the most impressive architectural achievements in world history. The Great Wall of China was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huang united the country in 221 BC. and founded the first dynasty. The separate smaller walls previously built by order of the emperor were merged into a single defensive wall against the northern Mongols. Many later dynasties continued to build the wall for more or less hundreds of years, until during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) the wall took its present form.

Today, the huge wall is largely ruined, but a lot of time and resources have been spent restoring certain sections.

Mutianyu is one of the best preserved parts of the wall. Here, the wall meanders along the mountain ridge, and can be reached either by walking or along the cable car by gondola lift. The scenery from the wall is breathtakingly beautiful.

Beijing parks

Beijing has several beautiful parks and recreation areas that serve as green oases amidst the hustle and bustle of the big city.

One of the most famous is the Temple of Heaven Park in eastern Beijing. The emperor and his court traveled here once a year, e.g. to sacrifice to the God of heaven and to pray for success in the harvest in the temple of heaven. At that time, a poor harvest could mean the extinction of the entire dynasty.

Beihai Park, located west of the Forbidden City, is one of the best-preserved imperial gardens. In the middle of the park on the top of a small hill stands a beautiful white pagoda, which is a symbol of the whole park. Lake Beihai covers a large part of the park area.

To the north of the Forbidden City is the Imperial Jingshan Park. The hill rising in the middle of the park is built entirely of muscle power, and from its top the Imperial Army was once able to keep an eye on enemies coming from the north. Jingshan Hill is the highest point in all of Beijing, and in clear weather offers spectacular views over the Forbidden City from its top.

Beijing’s parks are definitely worth a visit. In the parks you can see local taiji enthusiasts, singers, dancers and mahjong players. In the parks you can see a glimpse especially of the life of the older generation in the city.

Other experiences in Beijing:

Beijing has a huge amount to see and do for many days. Our tours include the following destinations:

  • A short distance outside Beijing is the picturesque, UNESCO-protected Summer Palace, an imperial park on the shores of Kunming Lake. During the Qing Dynasty, Emperor Hovi spent much of the year here. Attractions in the Summer Palace include beautiful temples, gardens and, of course, a lake that freezes in winter so that it is possible to walk on it.
  • The city is fascinating with hutongs that are worth exploring on a rickshaw ride. Hutongs are old blocks with narrow Chinese-style streets and alleys. While many hutongs have disappeared in recent decades, some have been refurbished into trendy shopping streets. One example of these is Nanluoguxian, which is full of charming cafes, bars and small shops selling e.g. clothing and arts and crafts.
  • Beijing offers countless culinary experiences. For example, try Peking duck, which is a local specialty. The tender duck meat with its crispy skins is cut into thin slices on the table and eaten with small pancakes, spring onions and a delicious sauce.
Trips to Indonesia

Trips to Indonesia

Why travel to Indonesia?


The island nation of Indonesia includes nearly 18,000 islands, and the country stretches from the Asian continent all the way to Australia. In addition to its geographical scope, Indonesia is also an incredibly diverse country historically and culturally, making it an excellent travel destination.

As an independent country with name starting with I listed on Countryaah, Indonesia is located on the ring of fire in the Pacific. The ring of fire is called the zone along the Pacific coast where strong volcanic activity occurs.

In Indonesia, skyscrapers stretching into the sky, fabulous temples, stunning tropical sandy beaches, some of the finest coral reefs in the world, fascinating nature and a culture unparalleled in diversity await you.

For a traveler touring Indonesia, there is plenty to see and experience for even months. However, the four islands in the middle of the island nation are the most interesting in Indonesia. Each island is unique, and a mere short journey from island to island feels like arriving in a whole new country.


Our tour in Indonesia

Our tour of Indonesia focuses on one or more of four fascinating islands: Bali, Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi.

Below you can read more about tours to different islands:



Bali is known as the “Island of the Gods” and is undoubtedly one of the gems of Indonesia. Bali is a small island that offers great experiences: stunning nature, beautiful Hindu temples and white sand beaches where you can spend the beach vacation of your life.

We currently have several different trips to Bali in our selection, one of which combines a tour of Java and a beach holiday in Bali. For some tours, it is also possible to combine a trip to the Komodo Islands or the Gili Islands.

For a trip to Bali, you can experience e.g.

  • Ubud, which is the cultural center of Bali and a real must-have on your journey. Ubud has a beautiful location amidst lush mountains and emerald green rice terraces. Explore the city on a bicycle tour or visit the nearby craft villages.
  • Beautiful Hindu temples that you cannot avoid seeing as there are thousands of them on the island. For example, visit the Besakih Temple, Bali’s most important and sacred temple, or the Tanah Lot Temple, which is located in a scenic location by the sea and is Bali’s most famous landmark.
  • Bali also offers many animal and nature experiences. Bali National Park is home to an extremely endangered Balinese woman. The park is also great for hiking. On Menjangan Island, you can snorkel on the world-famous coral reef, and on Lovina Beach, playful dolphins await you.
  • Bali’s beaches are unique. End your trip to a beach holiday in Sanuri, whose kilometers of sandy beaches make it one of Bali’s most popular beach resorts.


Java is one of the most populous islands in the world, but if you travel outside the big cities, it’s not easy to believe. Java is also located on the Pacific Ring of Fire. Wherever you go in Java, you can be sure to see stunning scenery, beautiful rice fields and conical volcanoes rising in the background.

On the way to Java you can experience e.g.

  • Yogyakarta, the soul of Java. The city’s attractions include several different Palaces, such as the Sultan’s Palace in Kraton, colorful markets and a thriving arts and crafts tradition, the best known example of which is the batik dyeing technique.
  • Visit the impressive and UNESCO-protected Borobudur Temple northwest of Yogyakarta. Completed in the mid-8th century, Borobudur is one of the largest Buddhist shrines in the world.
  • The impressive volcanoes of Java are not to be missed! Experience an atmospheric sunrise on Bromo Volcano and climb to the top of the smaller Ijen Volcano on a clear blue crater lake at 2,300 meters.



Sumatra is Indonesia’s largest island, with its unique nature, tropical rainforests, rivers and lush volcanic landscapes offering plenty to see and do.

On the way to Sumatra you can experience e.g.

  • Gunung Leuser National Park, one of the main attractions of Sumatra. The national park is known for its dense rainforests, inhabited by highly endangered Sumatran ranges. In the park you can get to see these fascinating animals in their natural environment.
  • Also worth a visit are the 120-meter-long Sipisopiso, one of Indonesia’s highest waterfalls, and Toba, the world’s largest volcanic lake.
  • Meeting of local tribes. In Batak Karo villages, you can see traditional siwaluh Jabo long houses, which can accommodate up to 12 families. The tribe is especially known for the boat-shaped roofs of their houses.


Practical information about Vietnam

Practical information about Vietnam

  1. The climate of Vietnam

Vietnam is a long country with a climate that varies greatly depending on the location. The weather is usually difficult to predict, so you should always carry an umbrella or raincoat.

There are two monsoons in Vietnam, the southwest monsoon and the northeast monsoon, both of which affect the weather. The southwest monsoon runs from April to September and brings with it moist and hot weather. The northeast monsoon, on the other hand, lasts from October to April, when the weather is drier but cooler.

Northern Vietnam (Hanoi – Sapa – Halong Bay): In
North Vietnam, e.g. the capital Hanoi, the Sapa Mountains and Halong Bay. The area in the subtropical climate zone has two seasons:

The dry season lasts from Hanoi and Sapa from November to March, while the dry season in Halong Bay starts as early as October. December, January and February are the coldest and driest months in North Vietnam. So Sapa can be quite cool during the winter months, so it’s worth booking something warm to wear if you’re visiting the area at this time of year.

The rainy season lasts from Hanoi and Sapa from April to October, and in Halong Bay the rainy season ends a month earlier. The wettest months are July and August, and the most rainfall is in the Sapa region.

Average. highest temperature 19 19 23 26 31 32 32 32 31 28 24 21
Average. lowest temperature 15 15 18 21 24 25 26 26 25 22 19 15
Precipitation e.g. 10 30 50 100 150 190 210 200 160 100 60 30
Average. highest temperature 13 14 18 21 24 24 24 24 23 20 17 15
Average. lowest temperature 7 8 11 13 16 18 18 18 16 13 11 8
Precipitation e.g. 14 38 56 117 219 219 301 339 243 116 59 24
Average. highest temperature 20 21 23 27 30 30 31 32 31 28 24 21
Average. lowest temperature 14 15 18 21 24 24 25 25 24 21 18 15
Precipitation e.g. 3 22 53 57 175 172 201 265 190 54 12 23
Average seawater temperature 19 19 20 22 27 29 31 30 29 27 25 22

Central Vietnam (Hué, Hoi An and Da Nang):
Central Vietnam is home to e.g. Hué, Hoi An and Da Nang. Here, too, there are two seasons:

The dry season begins in January and lasts until August. The weather is warmest from May to August.

The rainy season lasts from September to December, and during this time the northeast monsoon brings a lot of rain to the area. During the wettest months, more than 200 mm of water enters.

In terms of weather, the best travel months in Central Vietnam are February, March and April, when rainfall is at its lowest, but temperatures are still pleasant. However, the number of tourists is highest in December-January, when many spend the Christmas holidays.

Note that between August and November, typhoons can occur in Central Vietnam.

Average. highest temperature 19 19 23 26 31 32 32 32 31 28 24 21
Average. lowest temperature 15 15 18 21 24 25 26 26 25 22 19 15
Precipitation e.g. 10 30 50 100 150 190 210 200 160 100 60 30
Average. highest temperature 24 26 28 31 33 35 34 33 31 29 27 25
Average. lowest temperature 19 20 22 24 25 26 26 25 24 23 20 20
Precipitation e.g. 92 32 30 34 56 99 90 104 297 526 363 206
Average seawater temperature 24 23 24 25 28 29 30 30 30 28 27 25

South Vietnam (Phan Thiet – Ho Chi Minh City – Phu Quoc):

The city of Ho Chi Minh City, the beach resort of Phan Thiet and Phú Quoc Island are located in South Vietnam. There are two seasons in the area:

The dry season lasts from December to April. Temperatures are generally consistently high throughout the year, but the warmest months are April and May.

The rainy season lasts from May to November. The southwest monsoon will bring wetter weather when it comes, but temperatures will still remain quite high. The rains typically hit the afternoon hours. Most rains are received between July and September. In Ho Chi Minh City, it rains the most from June to September, while in Phan Thiet the wettest months are from September to November.

Average. highest temperature 32 33 34 34 34 32 32 32 31 31 31 31
Average. lowest temperature 22 23 24 26 26 25 24 25 25 24 23 22
Precipitation e.g. 10 10 10 40 140 180 190 170 190 160 120 40
Average. highest temperature 28 29 30 32 32 31 31 31 30 30 29 29
Average. lowest temperature 21 22 23 25 25 24 24 24 24 23 23 22
Precipitation e.g. 40 15 27 59 153 190 192 197 223 253 202 120
Average seawater temperature 25 25 26 28 29 29 29 28 28 28 27 26
Average. highest temperature 31 31 32 34 33 32 31 31 31 31 30 30
Average. lowest temperature 22 22 23 24 24 24 24 24 24 24 23 22
Precipitation e.g. 40 36 80 130 193 266 290 398 296 276 212 104
Average seawater temperature 27 28 29 30 30 30 29 29 29 29 28 28
  1. When should you travel to Vietnam?

Vietnam can travel all year round, but because the country stretches from north to south for more than 1,650 kilometers across two climatic zones, weather conditions can vary greatly depending on location and time.

The best time to travel varies depending on which country you want to travel to and what you want to see and experience.

North Vietnam

One of the best times to travel to Hanoi is from September to November. By this time, the weather in the capital is usually clear, the sun is shining, rainfall is declining towards the end of the year and daytime temperatures are rising to around 20 degrees.

In Halong Bay, the sky is clear and daytime temperatures are most comfortable when it is autumn or spring in Finland.

It is worth traveling to Sapa in March-April, when the weather is sunny and light rain, while in October-November it is cooler but clearer.

Central Vietnam

The best time to travel to Central Vietnam is from February to April, when temperatures are pleasant and rainfall is low. If you like warmer weather, you can travel to Central Vietnam between May and August. However, be prepared for more rain as the year progresses.

South Central Vietnam

In this part of Vietnam, the weather is warm all year round. The best time to visit the Nha Trang area is during the dry season from January to August.

South Vietnam

In South Vietnam, temperatures are high all year round. The best time to travel to Ho Chi Minh City and Phú Quốc Holiday Island is from December to April, when the area is dry season.

Please note that the guide above is indicative and recommendations are subject to change at any time.

  1. Languages

The official language of Vietnam is Vietnamese, but the tourist is doing well in English as well.

  1. Visa

As a Finnish citizen, you must have a valid Finnish passport. The passport must be valid for 6 months from the date of entry.

Finnish citizens need a visa to Vietnam. You must apply for an e-visa, which is valid for a maximum stay of 30 days in Vietnam.

The visa is applied for via the official e-visa website, and the application must be accompanied by a scanned image of the passport and a passport image (max. 1024 KB). In addition, the application must be filled with some personal information as well as your address in Vietnam. We recommend that you enter the name and city of your first hotel. The hotel name will appear on your booking confirmation.

The visa costs $ 25 and is paid online when the application is submitted. So have your credit card ready before you apply. You will receive a confirmation of your application by email. You will also receive a unique registration code in bold (20 characters) in the email.

You will receive an e-visa within 3 working days and you can check the status of the visa processing at: To do so, you must provide the registration number you received in the confirmation email, as well as your email address and date of birth. A printed e-visa will be taken on the trip and presented with a passport to the entry officer upon arrival in Vietnam.

We recommend that you apply for a visa in good time.

If you have any questions about your visa, please contact the Vietnamese Embassy:

Vietnam Embassy in Finland
Kulosaarentie 12
00570 Helsinki

Phone: 09-622 99 011
E-mail: [email protected]

The visa rules can be checked on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs .

  1. Currency

According to Countryaah, the Vietnamese currency is the Dong (VND). The Dong is a protected currency, which means that it is not possible to exchange it in advance. We recommend that you bring some US dollars in cash, which you can exchange at an official exchange point upon arrival in the country. Ordinary credit cards such as Visa and Mastercard are becoming more common all the time, and there are ATMs in larger cities. The credit card is usually used as a means of payment in hotels, many restaurants and shops. The farther you get from cities, the less often a credit card is valid.

  1. Price level

The price level in Vietnam is generally low. The guide below applies to cities. In rural areas, prices are usually even lower and the range is smaller.

  • Food:
    – Meal at the street
    restaurant 10000 VND – Restaurant serving Western food 100000 VND
    – Restaurant serving Vietnamese food 40000 – 100000 VND
  • Drinks:
    – Soft drink 8000 – 15000 VND
    – Beer 8000 – 20000 VND
    – Juice 30000 VND
    – Water 10,000 VND
    – Spirits and cocktails 60000 VND
  • Other products:
    – Shorts / t-shirts 80000 – 200000 VND (always remember to bargain when buying clothes)
    – DVDs 15000 – 30000 VND
    – SIM cards up to 50000 VND
    – Cheap phone 200000 – 300000 VND
  1. Drink money

Tipping is welcome, but you can, of course, decide for yourself how much to give or whether to give at all. Below are the indicative amounts:

  • Piccolo: 1-2 USD per room
  • Cleaner: $ 1 per day
  • Guides: $ 5 – $ 10 per day / person depending on service
  • Drivers: $ 2 – $ 5 per day / person depending on service
  • Restaurants: In modern restaurants, the service fee is sometimes included in the price, and therefore there is no need to pay a separate gratuity. Drink money is not expected in traditional restaurants, but if you wish, you can leave some small money on the table when you leave.

In our gratuity guidelines, amounts are given in U.S. dollars, however, on-site gratuities are paid in local currency.

  1. Time difference

The time difference between Vietnam and Finland varies depending on whether Finland has summer time or winter time.
In summer +4 hours: when the clock is 12 in Finland, in Vietnam it is 16. In
winter +5 hours: when the clock is 12 in Finland, in Vietnam it is 17.

  1. Electricity

There is no specific standard for voltage or plugs in Vietnam. The voltage can thus be anything between 110 and 230 volts. Plugs can be double- or three-pronged, round or flat, depending on where you happen to be. So make sure you take the adapter with you if you need to charge a laptop, mobile phone or camera, for example.

  1. Telephone and internet

According to AllCityCodes, the international dialing code for Vietnam is +84. In Vietnam, making and receiving a call can be expensive. Check your mobile phone coverage and prices with your mobile operator.
Larger cities have internet cafes, and most hotels have WiFi.

  1. Security

Vietnam is generally a safe destination. Crime against tourists is usually limited to pickpocketing, but it is possible to avoid falling victim to theft by exercising caution and using common sense. Avoid using expensive jewelry and displaying large sums of money in public. When you always follow the safety instructions in this guide, you don’t have to worry unnecessarily.

  1. Meals and beverages

Vietnamese food is healthy, fragrant and delicious. Vietnamese food culture has been influenced by French, Thai, Chinese and partly also Indian cuisine. The most popular dish is “pho,” which is called the “soul of the earth”. Pho is a rice noodle soup that is eaten every day, especially for breakfast. It is available everywhere in restaurants and street eateries. Don’t be afraid to try the dishes of the street restaurants, as they often offer really delicious taste experiences. Worth tasting are, for example:

  • Nem ran aka Cha gio (deep fried spring roll with varying fillings)
  • Banh Chung (a cake made from rice flour, usually wrapped in banana leaves, for example, and steamed)
  • Cha lua or gio lua (low fat pork paste)
  • Banh cuon (steamed spring rolls wrapped in rice flour dough)
  • Banh mi (baguette stuffed with Pasteija or egg)
  • Mi brought Thit bo / ga (noodles and beef or chicken)

Use only bottled water as drinking water. Bottled water is cheap and available everywhere. Never drink tap water.

  1. Your luggage

We use many different airlines on our trips to Vietnam, so the amount of baggage allowed can vary for both checked-in suitcases and hand luggage. Baggage information can be found on the flight ticket. You can also contact us if you have any questions about our luggage. If your trip includes a domestic flight in Vietnam, the maximum amount of luggage is 20 kg.
Make sure you have all the essentials in your hand luggage. Essential goods include passports, airline tickets, insurance documents, credit cards, money, prescriptions and vital medicines. In addition, you should pack a camera, binoculars, computer and tablet, as well as chargers and adapters in your hand luggage.

Due to the air conditioning, it can get cold on the plane, so pack a warm sweater or windbreaker in your hand luggage.

  1. Airport transfers

When you arrive at the airport in Vietnam, you will be met by our local representative, who will be identified by a sign bearing your name in the Arrivals Hall. You will also be transported to the airport on the day of departure. The departure time of the transfer on the day of departure will be notified to you upon arrival in Vietnam.

  1. Etiquette and cultural differences

Experiencing cultural and etiquette differences is one of the pleasures of traveling, and it is important to respect these differences. The saying goes “in the country the way of the country,” and that’s why we’ve put together tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your trip to Vietnam.

  • If you’re angry, don’t let it show up. Showing irritation or frustration by shouting or rude behavior is extremely bad and degrading behavior, and it never results in any good.
  • Avoid pointing with your finger, as the gesture is perceived as offensive and demeaning. Use your whole hand instead.
  • Avoid public displays of affection, such as hugging or kissing, as they are considered offensive. It is extremely rare to see couples walking hand in hand.
  • Avoid wearing shorts, short bottoms, and sleeveless shirts, especially in temples, shrines, and places with few tourists.
  • Always take your shoes off when you step into a private home or temple.
  • Never go naked for a swim or sunbathe without a swimsuit, as it is considered completely unsuitable – even on the beaches.
  • Take off your headgear when you enter the temple or address older people, authorities, or monks.
  • Touching a child’s head is believed to bring bad luck (Vietnamese clap their shoulders or arms instead).
  • Chopsticks should not be left in an upright rice bowl, but should be placed next to the bowl. Namely, the chopsticks in the rice bowl resemble incense, which is lit in temples in memory of the dead.
  • Always use either hand or just the right hand when handing something to the other or when you are being handed something. Never use only the left hand.
  1. Gifts and Grants

Vietnam is still a very poor country in some areas, which is why our local partners have given us the following guidelines on how to deal with donations and giving money:

  • NEVER give money to beggars, especially children. Giving money to beggars reinforces the impression that begging is an acceptable way of life. If children make money by begging, parents would rather send them to the streets to earn than to school.
  • The exception is the elderly and the disabled, who can be given a few coins.
  • NEVER give sweets to children you encounter in rural villages during the trip
  • Try to get rid of the idea that the gift should be material. Most often, just a smile, being together and making friends are the best gifts.

Practical information about Vietnam

Practical information about Laos

Practical information about Laos

  1. The climate of Laos

Laos has a tropical climate and high temperatures all year round. However, the weather may vary somewhat between lowland and highland regions and between north and south. The year of Laos can be divided into two seasons: the dry season and the rainy season.

The dry season lasts roughly from November to April. Temperatures are pleasant during these months, there are plenty of sunny hours and little rainfall.

Towards the end of the season, temperatures start to rise, and by the beginning of the rainy season it may already be really hot.

The rainy season lasts from about May to October. The rainy season is warmer through the dry season – and naturally wetter. Rain rains usually come heavy during the night or early in the morning, but they rarely last longer than a couple of hours. Rainfall, on the other hand, purifies the air and makes nature green.

Despite the rains, the temperatures are quite high these months.

Average. highest temperature 27 31 33 34 34 32 32 32 32 31 29 26
Average. lowest temperature 14 16 18 21 24 25 24 24 23 21 18 14
Precipitation e.g. 15 19 30 108 147 258 228 289 173 126 40 10
Average. highest temperature 28 31 33 34 33 32 31 31 31 31 30 28
Average. lowest temperature 14 15 18 21 23 24 24 23 23 21 18 14
Precipitation e.g. 9 18 49 174 369 489 840 662 508 115 44 23
Average. highest temperature 28 30 33 34 33 32 31 31 31 31 30 28
Average. lowest temperature 16 19 22 24 27 25 25 25 24 23 19 17
Precipitation e.g. 8 13 34 85 246 280 272 335 297 78 11 3
  1. When should you travel to Laos?

Laos has a lot to see all year round.

The dry season (c. November to April) is the time of the high season in Laos, when the weather is warm, sunny and light rain. The rainy season (from May to October), on the other hand, is usually very hot, and rainfall is more abundant and common. On the other hand, at this time of year, nature is greener and there are fewer tourists.

  1. Languages

The official language of Laos is Lao, but the tourist is doing well in English as well. The Lao language is also written with its own writing system, which may seem impossible to understand from the Western. The following is a list of some useful words and phrases:

Hello: Sabaidee
Thank you: Khob Jai
Thank you very much: Khob Jai lai lai
Yes: Chao
No: Bor
Not fiery: BorPhet
Sorry: Khorthod
Goodbye: La gone

  1. Visa

As a Finnish citizen, you need a visa to Laos. You will receive a visa at the airport upon entry. As always when traveling abroad, you also need a valid Finnish passport. The passport must be valid for at least 6 months after leaving Laos.

You will need a passport, 2 passport photos and $ 30 cash for a tourist visa.

  1. Currency

According to Countryaah, the currency of Laos is KIP (LAK). Kip is a protected currency, which means that it is not possible to exchange it in advance.

We recommend that you bring some US dollars in cash (preferably large banknotes such as $ 20, $ 50, and $ 100 banknotes) that you can exchange at an official exchange point. Be prepared that you cannot exchange large dollar bills for smaller dollar bills. Therefore, we recommend that you also bring some US dollars in small banknotes (1, 5 and 10 USD).

In many places, dollars (baht near the Thai border) are preferred. General credit cards such as Visa and Mastercard are accepted at Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng and Vientiane, where ATMs are also available. Outside the cities, ATMs are scarce, and credit cards are not valid in very many places.

  1. Price level

Laos is generally one of the cheapest countries in the Far East, especially in terms of local products. However, this does not apply to imported goods, whose prices are usually even higher than in neighboring countries. The guide below applies to cities. In rural areas, prices are usually even lower and the range is smaller.

  • In street places:
    Noodle soup 15000 kip
    Noodles with pork or chicken and vegetables: 15000 kip
    Baguette: 15000 kip
  • In restaurants:
    Restaurant serving western food, from 45000 kip
    Restaurant with fixed Laotian menu, from 60000 kip
  • Drinks:
    Soft drink: 7000 kip
    Beer (Laotian bottle) 12000 kip
  • Other products:
    T-shirt / bag 30000 – 150000 kip
    Phone 200000 – 250000 kip
    SIM card 10000 – 30000 kip
    Bicycle rental 20000 kip
  1. Drink money

Gratuities are welcome, but you can, of course, decide for yourself how much gratuity you give. Below are the indicative amounts:

  • Piccolo: 1 USD
  • Cleaner: $ 1 per day
  • Guides: $ 5 – $ 10 per day / person depending on service
  • Drivers: $ 3 – $ 5 per day / person depending on service
  • Restaurants: In modern restaurants, the service fee is sometimes included in the price, and therefore there is no need to pay a separate gratuity. Drink money is not expected in traditional restaurants, but if you wish, you can leave some small money on the table when you leave.

In our gratuity guidelines, amounts are given in U.S. dollars, however, on-site gratuities are paid in local currency.

  1. Time difference

The time difference between Laos and Finland varies depending on whether Finland has summer time or winter time.
In summer +4 hours: when the clock is 12 in Finland, in Laos it is 16. In
winter +5 hours: when it is 12 in Finland, in Laos it is 17.

  1. Electricity

In Laos, the voltage is usually 230 V. In most places, the plugs are double-ended. Other types of plugs can be used, so book an adapter for the trip.

  1. Telephone and internet

According to AllCityCodes, the international area code for Laos is +856. In Laos, making and receiving a call can be expensive. Check your mobile phone coverage and prices with your mobile operator. If you need to make frequent or long calls or want to send a lot of text messages, it may be smart to get a local SIM card. Larger cities have internet cafes, and most hotels have WiFi.

  1. Security

Laos is generally a safe destination. Crime in general and crime against tourists in particular is relatively low, and problems can always be avoided by caution and common sense. Avoid using expensive jewelry and displaying large sums of money in public.

Laos was heavily bombed during the Vietnam War, and large quantities of landmines were buried in the country. Especially in the eastern parts of the country – that is, far from tourist destinations – there are still unexploded Ordinance (UXO) and areas where mines have not been cleared. However, these areas are located far from the areas we travel on and outside of tourist areas in general. In the Valley of Pots, we ONLY visit areas where bombs and landmines have been cleared. When you always follow the safety instructions in this guide, you don’t have to worry unnecessarily.

  1. Meals and beverages

Traditional Laotian cuisine uses plenty of game, wild boar and freshwater fish. The freshness of the ingredients is very important and the Laotians are happy to cook their own meals from the very beginning. Almost all dishes use spices such as galanagal and lemongrass, and all meals include a fish sauce called padaek. The words related to the dishes are:

  • Laap: a traditional dish consisting of heavily seasoned and marinated, sometimes also raw meat and / or fish and roasted rice. Also known as larb.
  • Khao niao: porridge rice or so-called sticky rice. (As in neighboring countries, rice is a staple food in Laos. Sticky rice is typically preferred here, which is mashed and rolled with fingers into small balls that are dipped in sauce.)
  • Tamarkhong: papaya salad
  • Markphet: chili

Use only bottled water as drinking water. Bottled water is cheap and available everywhere. Never drink tap water. Always make sure the ice cubes are made from bottled water.

  1. Your luggage

We use many different airlines on our trips to Laos, so the amount of luggage allowed may vary for both checked-in luggage and hand luggage. Baggage information can be found on the flight ticket. You can also contact us if you have any questions about our luggage. If your trip includes a domestic flight to Laos, the maximum amount of luggage is 20 kg.
Make sure you have all the essentials in your hand luggage. Essential goods include passports, airline tickets, insurance documents, credit cards, money, prescriptions and vital medicines. In addition, you should pack a camera, binoculars, computer and tablet, as well as chargers and adapters in your hand luggage.

Due to the air conditioning, it can get cold on the plane, so pack a warm sweater or windbreaker in your hand luggage.

  1. Airport transfers

When you arrive at the airport in Laos, you will be greeted by our local representative, who will be identified by an sign in the Arrivals Hall. You will also be transported to the airport on the day of departure. The departure time of the transfer on the day of departure will be notified to you upon arrival in Laos.

  1. Etiquette and cultural differences

Experiencing cultural and etiquette differences is one of the pleasures of traveling, and it is important to respect these differences. The saying goes “in the country the way of the country,” and that’s why we’ve put together some advice and tips to help you get the most out of your trip to Laos.

  • If you’re angry, don’t let it show up. Showing irritation or frustration by shouting or rude behavior is extremely bad and degrading behavior, and it never results in any good. If you lose your temper, you will also lose your face, and that is a horror for the Laotians.
  • Avoid pointing with your finger, use your whole hand instead. Pointing with a finger is considered offensive.
  • Avoid public displays of affection, such as hugging or kissing, as it is considered offensive. It is extremely rare to see couples walking hand in hand. On the other hand, it is common to see male or female friends walking hand in hand.
  • Never go naked for a swim or sunbathe without a swimsuit, as it is considered completely inappropriate – even in a closed hotel area.
  • Always take your shoes off when you step into a private home or temple.
  • The Laotians greet each other by putting their hands together (fingers are not interleaved) and with a slight bow. It is polite for the younger person to greet first. In the case of foreigners and in connection with transactions, a (European) handshake is also acceptable.
  • Avoid touching another person’s head. The head is considered a sacred part of the body, and touching the head with the hand is believed to bring bad luck.
  • Always use either hand or just the right hand when handing something to the other or when you are being handed something. Never use only the left hand.
  • Avoid wearing shorts, short bottoms, and sleeveless shirts, especially in temples and places with few tourists. A visit to the temple should at least cover the knees and shoulders.
  • Take your shoes off before you enter the temple.
  • If you are sitting in front of a “dain” (Buddha Shrine), see that your feet are pointing away from the Buddha.
  • Women are allowed to hand over to a monk or receive an object from a monk, but women must never touch the monks.
  • Show respect when visiting the temple: turn off your cell phone, take your headphones off, speak at a lower volume, and avoid loud conversation.
  1. Local means of transport

The infrastructure in Laos is excellent, but getting around can take time. It is common in Laos to use both taxis and subsidies, and the price of the trip is always negotiated. There are also motorcycle taxis in Laos. We do not recommend using them, as it is not uncommon for a motorcycle taxi to have an accident. Also, many travel insurance companies do not cover potential accidents if you use a motorcycle taxi.

  1. Gifts and Grants

Laos is still a very poor country in some areas, which is why our local partners have given us the following guidelines on how to deal with donations and giving money:

  • NEVER give money to beggars, especially children. Giving money to beggars reinforces the impression that begging is an acceptable way of life. If children make money by begging, parents would rather send them to the streets to earn than to school.
  • The exception is the elderly and the disabled, who can be given a few coins.
  • NEVER give sweets to children you encounter in rural villages during the trip
  • Try to get rid of the idea that the gift should be material. Most often, just a smile, being together and making friends are the best gifts.

Practical information about Laos