Development of a Learning Jouranl Essay Example

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Development of a Learning Journal

Analyses of Three Different Articles


Submission Date

© 2012



The Children of Fallujah — Sayef’s story

By Robert Fisk

Special Report day one: The phosphorus shells that devastated this city were fired in 2004. But are the victims of America’s dirty war still being born?

For little Sayef, there will be no Arab Spring. He lies, just 14 months old, on a small red blanket cushioned by a cheap mattress on the floor, occasionally crying, his head twice the size it should be, blind and paralysed. Sayeffedin Abdulaziz Mohamed – his full name – has a kind face in his outsized head and they say he smiles when other children visit and when Iraqi families and neighbours come into the room.

But he will never know the history of the world around him; never enjoy the freedoms of a new Middle East. He can move only his hands and take only bottled milk because he cannot swallow. He is already almost too heavy for his father to carry. He lives in a prison whose doors will remain forever closed.

It’s as difficult to write this kind of report as it is to understand the courage of his family. Many of the Fallujah families whose children have been born with what doctors call “congenital birth anomalies” prefer to keep their doors closed to strangers, regarding their children as a mark of personal shame rather than possible proof that something terrible took place here after the two great American battles against insurgents in the city in 2004, and another conflict in 2007.

After at first denying the use of phosphorous shells during the second battle of Fallujah, US forces later admitted that they had fired the munitions against buildings in the city. Independent reports have spoken of a birth-defect rate in Fallujah far higher than other areas of Iraq, let alone other Arab countries. No one, of course, can produce cast-iron evidence that American munitions have caused the tragedy of Fallujah’s children.

Sayef lives – the word is used advisedly, perhaps – in the al-Shahada district of Fallujah, in one of the more dangerous streets in the city. The cops – like the citizens of Fallujah, they are all Sunni Muslims – stand with their automatic weapons at the door of Sayef’s home when we visit, but two of these armed, blue-uniformed men come inside with us and are visibly moved by the helpless baby on the floor, shaking their heads in disbelief and with a hopelessness which his father, Mohamed, refuses to betray.

“I think all this is because of the use by the Americans of phosphorous in the two big battles,” he says. “I have heard of so many cases of congenital birth defects in children. There has to be a reason. When my child first went to the hospital, I saw families there with exactly the same problems.”

Studies since the 2004 Fallujah battles have recorded profound increases in infant mortality and cancer in Fallujah; the latest report, whose authors include a doctor at Fallujah General Hospital, says that congenital malformations account for 15 per cent of all births in Fallujah.

“My son cannot support himself,” Mohamed says, fondling his son’s enlarged head. “He can move only his hands. We have to bottle-feed him. He can’t swallow. Sometimes he can’t take even the milk, so we have to take him to hospital to be given fluids. He was blind when he was born. In addition, my poor little man’s kidney has shut down. He got paralysed. His legs don’t move. His blindness is due to hydrocephalus.”

Mohamed holds Sayef’s useless legs and moves them gently up and down. “After he was born, I got Sayef to Baghdad and I had the most important neurosurgeons check him. They said they could do nothing. He had a hole in his back that was closed and then a hole in his head. The first operation did not succeed. He had meningitis.”

Both Mohamed and his wife are in their mid-thirties. Unlike many tribal families in the area, neither are related and their two daughters, born before the battles of Fallujah, are in perfect health. Sayef was born on 27 January, 2011. “My two daughters like their brother very much,” Mohamed adds, “and even the doctors like him. They all take part in the care of the child. Dr Abdul-Wahab Saleh has done some amazing work on him – Sayef would not be alive without him.”

Mohamed works for an irrigation mechanics company but admits that, with a salary of only $100 a month, he receives financial help from relatives. He was outside Fallujah during the conflict but returned two months after the second battle only to find his house mined; he received funding to rebuild his home in 2006. He watches Sayef for a long time during our conversation and then lifts him in his arms.

“Every time I watch my son, I’m dying inside,” he says, tears running down his face. “I think about his destiny. He is getting heavier all the time. It’s more difficult to carry him.” So I ask whom he blames for Sayef’s little cavalry. I expect a tirade of abuse against the Americans, the Iraqi government, the Health Ministry. The people of Fallujah have long been portrayed as “pro-terrorist” and “anti-Western” in the world’s press, ever since the murder and cremation of the four American mercenaries in the city in 2004 – the event which started the battles for Fallujah in which up to 2,000 Iraqis, civilians and insurgents, died, along with almost 100 US troops.

But Mohamed is silent for a few moments. He is not the only father to show his deformed child to us. “I am only asking for help from God,” he says. “I don’t expect help from any other human being” Which proves, I guess, that Fallujah – far from being a city of terror – includes some very brave men

Source: The Independent; April 25, 2012

Nature of the article

This article, published by The Independent Newspaper is a special report which is intended to be developed into a documentary as opined by the author — Robert Fisk who says: “Special Report day one” at the start of the article. The author of the article is sympathising with the future of the children of Fallujah city, born after the two great American battles in 2004 and 2007 (Zucchino, 2004; Williams, 2011 and Wright, 2007). He blames the US troops by saying: “The phosphorus shells that devastated this city were fired in 2004. But are the victims of America’s dirty war still being born?”

Cross-cultural implications

It is evident that two cultures are at crossroads in this article. This is identifiable from the tone and nature of communication presented in the article. The author of the article obviously represents a different culture from that of Sayef’s father, Mohamed. When speaking, the author is depicted as being very direct and energetic, which is characteristic of the Western culture (Deresky, 2010). Mohamed on the other hand speaks slowly and non-committal, portraying multiple meanings that bespeaks of Arabic culture according to Deresky (2010). Robert Fisk approaches the issue very cautiously because he is not sure of Mohamed’s reactions as he believes great atrocities where committed against his community. Sayef’s father is obviously in pain, hopeless and at a loss as he fondles his paralysed and incapacitated son. But he portrays no bitterness.

Personal reflections

In my personal views, this article tends to lean too much towards the Arabic culture. My views are formed by the fact that the article is done in an Arabic setup and background. Also, the author through his own manifestations appears to have been ‘Arabicised’ even to be speaking in defense of the Arab culture as you picture this: “…are the victims of America’s dirty war still being born?”


Deresky, H. (2010). International Management: Managing across borders and cultures: Text

and Cases, 7th Edition, Pearson.

Williams, C. (2011). Learning to redress preemptive deceit: The “Iraq Dossier”, SAGE Open

Wright, S. (2007). The United States and Persian Gulf Security: The Foundations of the War on

Terror. Ithaca Press

Zucchino, D. (2004). Thunder Run: The Armored Strike to Capture Baghdad. New York:

Atlantic Monthly Press.


Sociologist builds site that gives direction to party spots

By Philip Mwakio

At a tender age of 16, Felix Kamwibua tasted alcohol; as he stooped to relatives’ influence. Though he cursed the experience, regretted and promised not to drink again, five years later, the 28-year old sociologist regressed. And as it turned out later in life, Kamwibua would come up with a web-based application — Pub Director — that provides direction to bars, restaurants and entertainment spots within Nairobi. “The website gives directions to bars, gigs that are happening in different locations and advises on road safety”, a sociology graduate from Catholic University of Eastern Africa told Business Unusual.

He said the rationale behind the website is based on friends and personal encounter. “Most of the times when you are at a night out, people call you to ask if they can join you. They again call to ask for direction to where you are. It is challenging and tasking to give directions. I thought I should develop a website to ease their search for pubs”, Kamwibua explains. The website integrates entertainment spots and locations with Google maps, which ease the search. Armed with Shs.250, 000 from his personal savings, Kamwibua was set for business.

Hired services

Before he set up the firm, he conducted research to clear any doubts over business continuity. “I conducted a survey and also hired services of research firm so that I can clear doubts. From the survey I found out that Pub Director was a viable business”, Kamwibua says. After the survey findings, Kamwibua and his team embarked on developing a database. This was done to help the searches suitably integrate with Google Maps. Although the Kamwibua says it was time consuming, he is happy since the tool has helped many revelers.

How does the Pub Director work?

The user is supposed to open the site and on the search tool keys in the name of the pub. Kamwibua says a search on the page is less expensive compared to a phone call. “If you are calling someone and he is in a noisy place, you will end up getting wrong directions. You waste a lot of time. The search is convenient and affordable”, he argues.

Currently, Pub Director targets the young generation since most of them are tech savvy and have smart phones. However, not all handsets are web enabled so the searches are limited to revelers who own smart phones. Although he refutes claims that he is promoting drinking among the youth, he says he wants to use the platform to educate people more on issues affecting them. “If you open the site, you will find that there is more. We want to engage them on road safety campaigns, responsible drinking and family values”, he says.

Using his initiative, he aims to compliment government’s role in reducing road carnage caused by drunkard driving. He adds, “This has been my passion to run a website that supports the society at large and takes care of people as they go out at night. I advise young people not to drink and drive. I will be happy when we reduce night carnage”.

“Initially, the market we serve had trouble in finding clubs, which are less popular but now they can locate them easily”, says Kamwibua. Although he is yet to break even, he is targeting companies to advertise and establish strategic communication partnerships with non-profit organisations.

The dream, he says is to cover the East African region. “I plan to enter South Sudan soon”.

Source: The Standard Newspaper; April 26, 2012

Nature of the article

This is a local article collected from a local newspaper serving the East African region, “The Standard Newspaper” distributed by the Standard Media Group. The article is of repute as it is authored by a revered columnist of the Newspaper: Philip Mwakio, who helps sell business ideas for young and upcoming executives struggling to break-even (McGrath and Elias, 1992).

Cross-cultural implications

This article cuts across a number of cultures because it is addressing an issue that is of international recognition – Information and Communications Technology (ICT). The article also addresses a universal problem of starting up businesses by young entrepreneurs internationally and across geographical boundaries (Charles, 1988). From the outset, the African culture is clearly depicted by the young man’s introduction to alcoholism by his relatives at a tender age of 16. Indulgence in alcoholic beverages at the communal level is characteristic of the African culture, even leading to irresponsible behaviours as illustrated in the article. Taken in the context of the Arabic culture, this article will probably excite resentment since consumption of alcohol is outlawed in most Arab countries. The idea of Pub Director is acceptable across numerous cultures especially the Western culture whose young generation have become tech savvy and entrepreneurial (Charles, 1988). Occasional intake of alcohol is not forbidden where their social joints are clearly marked and identifiable (Linda and Jerry, 1996).

Personal reflections

As I have already indicated in the preceding section, this article is very much biased towards the African cultural orientation because of the excesses depicted by the author in the form of alcoholic indulgence and road carnage. But on the business front, the article is acceptable across the Western, Middle-East and the European cultures (Linda and Jerry, 1996).


Charles, L. M. (1988). Starting Your New Business—A Guide for Entrepreneurs. Crisp

Publications, Inc.

Linda, P & Jerry, J. (1996). Automate Your Business Plan. Analytical Software Partners & Out

of Your Mind…And Into the Marketplace.

McGrath, K. & Elias, S. (1992). Trademark—How to Name a Business and Product. Nolo Press.


Egypt’s women urge MPs not to pass early marriage, sex-after-death laws: report

By Abeer Tayel

Egypt’s National Council for Women (NCW) has appealed to the Islamist-dominated parliament not to approve two controversial laws on the minimum age of marriage and allowing a husband to have sex with his dead wife within six hours of her death according to a report in an Egyptian newspaper. The appeal came in a message sent by Dr. Mervat al-Talawi, head of the NCW, to the Egyptian People’s Assembly Speaker, Dr. Saad al-Katatni, addressing the woes of Egyptian women, especially after the popular uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. She was referring to two laws: one that would legalize the marriage of girls starting from the age of 14 and the other that permits a husband to have sex with his dead wife within the six hours following her death.

According to Egyptian columnist Amro Abdul Samea in al-Ahram, Talawi’s message included an appeal to parliament to avoid the controversial legislations that rid women of their rights of getting education and employment, under alleged religious interpretations. “Talawi tried to underline in her message that marginalizing and undermining the status of women in future development plans would undoubtedly negatively affect the country’s human development, simply because women represent half the population”, Abdul Samea said in his article. The controversy about a husband having sex with his dead wife came about after a Moroccan cleric spoke about the issue in May 2011. Zamzami Abdul Bari said that marriage remains valid even after death adding that a woman also too had the same right to engage in sex with her dead husband.

Two years ago, Zamzami incited further controversy in Morocco when he said it was permissible for pregnant women to drink alcohol. But it seems his view on partners having sex with their deceased partners has found its way to Egypt one year on. Egyptian prominent journalist and TV anchor Jaber al-Qarmouty on Tuesday referred to Abdul Samea’s article in his daily show on Egyptian ON TV and criticized the whole notion of “permitting a husband to have sex with his wife after her death under a so-called ‘Farewell Intercourse’ draft law”. “This is very serious. Could the panel that will draft the Egyptian constitution possibly discuss such issues? Did Abdul Samea see by his own eyes the text of the message sent by Talawi to Katatni? This is unbelievable. It is a catastrophe to give the husband such a right! Has the Islamic trend reached that far? Is there really a draft law in this regard? Are there people thinking in this manner?”

Many members of the newly-elected, and majority Islamist parliament, have been accused of launching attacks against women’s rights in the country. They wish to cancel many, if not most, of the laws that promote women’s rights, most notably a law that allows a wife to obtain a divorce without obstructions from her partner. The implementation of the Islamic right to divorce law, also known as the Khula, ended years of hardship and legal battles women would have to endure when trying to obtain a divorce. Egyptian law grants men the right to terminate a marriage, but grants women the opportunity to end an unhappy or abusive marriage without the obstruction of their partner.

Prior to the implementation of the Khula over a decade ago, it could take 10 to 15 years for a woman to be granted a divorce by the courts. Islamist members of Egyptian parliament, however, accuse these laws of “aiming to destroy families” and have said it was passed to please the former first lady of the fallen regime, Suzanne Mubarak, who devoted much of her attention to the issues of granting the women all her rights. The parliamentary attacks on women’s rights has drawn great criticism from women’s organizations, who dismissed the calls and accused the MPs of wishing to destroy the little gains Egyptian women attained after long years of organized struggle. website; Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Nature of the article

This article was published on 25 April 2012 in The website by Daily Abeer Tayel. The author clearly presents the women’s feelings towards the proposed approval of two controversial laws on: the minimum age of marriage; and ‘farewell intercourse’ by Egypt’s parliament.

Cross-cultural implications

This article is an abomination of human character looked from both the religious and secular perspectives in line with highlights by Ansari (2007). The text vexes virtually all cultures for all the suggestions made therein. The Arabic culture is most hit because the article is transgressing against its fundamental ideals according to claims by Charfi (2005). It is unheard of in the Arabic culture to engage in sexual excesses, leave alone having sex with a corpse (Charfi, 2005). Touching a corpse in the African culture is also abominable and suggesting sex with one is even vile. In the Western culture, anyone below the age of 18 years is considered a child and therefore marrying off a 14-year old is an infringement of women’s education and employment rights (Ansari, 2007). This suggestion cannot therefore be entertained freely in any one culture in the world, except the Arabic with some reservations (Al-Labadi, 2004).

Personal reflections

This article has some aspects of biasness towards the Arabic culture which is closely knit in its operations. Subjected to the African culture, it might receive some acceptance especially in the suggestion of lowering the marriage age to 14 (Al-Labadi, 2004). In the western culture, it’s a complete NO in all aspects.


Al-Labadi, F. (2004). Case History: Diya between Sahri’a and Customary Law. Perspectives on

Reform 164-171.

Ansari, A. (2007). Law and Morality: A Comparative Assessment. Islamic Law 1-29.

Charfi, M. (2005). Islam and Liberty: The Historical Misunderstanding. London, Zed Books, 186


Development of a Learning Jouranl