TIME

Amal Alamuddin Is The Latest Exhibit in the Museum of Disempowered Women

Human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin Clooney speaks to media in Athens, Oct. 13, 2014.
Lawyer Amal Clooney speaks to media in Athens on Oct. 13, 2014 Yorgos Karahalis—Reuters

The new Mrs. Clooney is advising the Greek government on its campaign to regain looted sculptures. But the overlapping interests of her and her husband feels uncomfortable

Amal Clooney, lawyer, is reported to be at the epicenter of “the west’s longest-running cultural row.” The Guardian, which coined the phrase, meant the two-century-long tussle between Athens and London over the rightful home of marble sculptures removed from the Parthenon between 1801 and 1805 by the English aristocrat Lord Elgin and later sold by him to the British Museum, where they still reside. Clooney, née Alamuddin, arrived in Greece on Oct. 13 at the invitation of the Greek Culture Minister to assist with the campaign for the marbles’ return.

But the frenzy of flashbulbs and fashion commentary that greeted Clooney’s visit shows that she has become entangled in a cultural row of greater longevity and importance than the disposition of some antique artworks, however significant those may be. Throughout her adult life, this 36-year-old attorney specializing in international jurisprudence, extradition and criminal law has stood on her own merits accomplished, independent, respected. Now her identity risks being spirited away as the sculptures she seeks to repatriate once were. Even in the 21st century and among first-world elites, marriage retains the power to transform women into appendages, while celebrity culture reliably reduces females to ciphers. Since Alamuddin’s engagement and Venice wedding to actor George Clooney, she has never been more closely observed by a wider audience — or in greater danger of disappearing.

You might say this is Amal Clooney’s business. It is she who chose to say “I do” not only to “Hollywood’s most eligible bachelor” but also to celebrity-encrusted nuptials that created “intimate, exclusive” images for the happy couple, friends, family and the many millions of readers of publications such as People and Hello! to enjoy, showcasing the bride’s ability not only to anatomize the unfair trial of al-Jazeera journalists in Egypt under the military-backed government but also to wear nice dresses and skyscraper heels. It is Clooney who chose to retire the maiden name of Alamuddin under which she had scored many career successes and a client roster including Julian Assange and Yulia Tymoshenko. It was not, however, Clooney who chose to memorialize her first professional foray as the new Mrs. Clooney with banal reportage like this (“Move over, Kate Middleton! There’s a new hair queen in town!”). Clooney has always seemed to wear her startling beauty as lightly as her startling accomplishments, and there is nothing to suggest that she has changed.

The problem — and the reason the media repurposing of Clooney from queen of jurisprudence to hair-queen matters — is that there is still a dearth of women who rise to prominence through their own merits, reflecting the harsh reality of a world resolutely skewed against female achievement.

Many interlocking mechanisms keep women down, but in watching the transmogrification — and trivialization — of Clooney we are witnessing one of the most pernicious of these. I laughed back in June, when Britain’s Daily Mail turned its report about a global summit on combatting sexual violence into a slavering commentary on Clooney’s appearance. I laughed at reporting of the Alamuddin-Clooney marriage so tremulously overexcited by the groom (two-time “sexiest man alive”!) that it characterized the bride’s crowning attainment as “snaring” him. I laughed louder at the spoof headlines this spectacle inspired: “Internationally Acclaimed Attorney Marries an Actor,” etc.

I also laughed at that actor’s ham-fisted attempt earlier this year to boost the long-running initiative to reclaim the Parthenon marbles for Greece. “Even in England, the polling is in favor of returning the Pantheon [sic] marbles, the marbles from the Pantheon,” George Clooney said during a promotional tour for his movie about the restitution of art looted by the Nazis, The Monuments Men.

There’s nothing wrong and a lot right with stars using their celebrity power to publicize worthy causes (though it’s generally better to do the research first). However the overlapping interest of Mr. and Mrs. Clooney in this case feels uncomfortable. The Greek government originally approached the then Amal Alamuddin in 2 B.C. — that’s 2011, two years Before Clooney entered her life. Greece sought her services and those of her storied colleagues at the London-based law firm Doughty Chambers for one reason only: their collective legal expertise. Now Mrs. Clooney’s involvement in the case has been ascribed a new and more tenuous value. “We will of course be discussing all our legal options but what we really want is to keep the issue alive,” a “well-placed policy maker” told the Guardian. “There would be no better way of doing that than getting Hollywood involved and, hopefully, [George] Clooney too.”

A brilliant lawyer and strong female role model is being misappropriated, to be put on show as the latest exhibit in the Museum of Disempowered Women. Never mind restoring the marbles to Greece: give us back Amal!

TIME Egypt

Toppled Egyptian President Morsi Charged With Leaking State Secrets

Mohammed Morsi
Egypt's ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi sits in a defendant cage in the Police Academy courthouse in Cairo, May 8, 2014. Tarek el-Gabbas—AP

The move is part of the government crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood

Prosecutors in Egypt Saturday charged former President Mohamed Morsi and nine others with endangering national security by leaking state secrets to Qatar and its affiliated news agency, Al Jazeera.

Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood who came to power in elections following the ouster of longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak, was toppled in a military coup in July 2013 led by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who later went on to become president. Al-Sisi’s rule has been marked by an extremely harsh crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters.

A statement from the prosecutor’s office said an investigation of Morsi “exposed humiliating facts and the extent of the largest conspiracy and treason carried out by the terrorist Brotherhood organization against the nation through a network of spies,” Reuters reports. Under the al-Sisi government, the Muslim Brotherhood is considered an illegal terrorist organization, though the once-powerful group officially disavowed violence decades ago.

The charges allege that Morsi aides helped leak documents revealing vital Egyptian military intelligence as well as foreign and domestic policy matters.

Under Al-Sisi’s rule, Egypt has also suppressed the activities of Al Jazeera, closing its offices in Cairo and jailing three of its journalists on terms of up to ten years for allegedly aiding a “terrorist group.” Al Jazeera continues to demand the release of its journalists.

[Reuters]

TIME Egypt

Al-Jazeera Reporter in Egypt Freed After Hunger Strike

Abdullah Elshamy
Al-Jazeera Arabic service journalist Abdullah Elshamy, who had been on hunger strike for more than four months to protest his prolonged detention without charges, speaks to the media after his release from detention in Cairo on Tuesday, June 17, 2014. Nariman El-Mofty—AP

Citing concerns about his deteriorating health, Egyptian authorities released a journalist for the news service al-Jazeera on Tuesday after jailing him without charges for more than 10 months.

Abdullah Elshamy, 26, was thin, weak and still dressed in a prison uniform as he walked out of a police station near Cairo following a 147-day hunger strike, CBS News reports.

“I won,” he said to reporters.

Elshamy was among a group of al-Jazeera journalists imprisoned in Egypt after the military retook control of the country last year following the overthrow of elected President Mohamed Morsi. Three of Elshamy’s fellow al-Jazeera reporters remain jailed for lending support to the Muslim Brotherhood and are facing terrorism-related charges, which they deny.

The journalists’ arrests are part of a wider crackdown on press freedom in Egypt that has not improved since the June 3 inauguration of Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

[CBS News]

 

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