Mourners attend the funeral of Raed Fares and Hammoud al-Jneid in the village of Kafranbel in the northwestern province of Idlib on November 23, 2018. / AFP / Muhammad HAJ KADOUR
Mourners attend the funeral of Raed Fares and Hammud Al Junayd in Kafranbel, Idlib. AFP 

Raed Fares was a voice of hope, brutally silenced



Late on Thursday, two men were shot dead in the north-western Syrian town of Kafranbel. Raed Fares and his friend Hammoud Al Jneid were driving home from a mosque when unknown gunmen opened fire on their car. Unlike many in the restive province of Idlib, Fares's name was well-known, both locally and around the world. Starting out by photographing protests during the initial Syrian uprisings and circulating the images on the internet, he rose to prominence as an outspoken advocate of democracy.

Always a fierce critic of the Assad regime, Fares took an equally determined stance against Islamist extremists and global powers. His viral videos and acerbically witty protest banners grabbed the attention of the world, promoting the idea of peaceful revolution and highlighting urgent Syrian issues with barbed English-language slogans. These efforts made Fares a high-profile target of groups such as ISIS and Hayat Tahrir Al Sham, now the dominant militant organisation in Idlib. Several attempts were made on his life throughout the Syrian war and in 2014, he survived gunshot wounds to the chest after an attack by masked militants.

Far from being a one-man operation, Fares held a powerful belief in the value of collaboration and mentoring. In 2011, he established the Kafranbel Media Centre. Two years later, he launched his most ambitious venture, Radio Fresh. In addition to the station’s immediate remit of reporting independent news to the Syrian people and countering fundamentalist narratives, Radio Fresh had a greater long-term aim.

As he wrote in an article for the Washington Post in June, following the US State Department's decision to cut the station's funding: "We provide media training for more than 2,500 young men and women. We are helping them become the citizen-journalists that are so badly needed in Syria." It is essential, for the the sake of Syrians, that those young trainees continue to give a voice to the voiceless and are galvanised to uphold the messages and values he held dear.

For in many ways, Fares was an exceptional man. When militants demanded that Radio Fresh stop playing music, he responded by broadcasting a non-stop schedule of animal noises: birdsong in the morning, bleating goats in the afternoon and croaking frogs at night. His choice of programming was, he stated, a form of resistance to hardline interpretations of Islam – it was also a typically wilful and wryly humorous response. While nearly eight years of grinding violence have forced many similarly minded Syrian activists into exile, Fares remained determined to stay at home, steadfast in the belief that a better world was possible. It is a tragedy that he will no longer be able to play a part in making this long-held dream a reality.

The burning issue

The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE. 

Read part four: an affection for classic cars lives on

Read part three: the age of the electric vehicle begins

Read part one: how cars came to the UAE

 

Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed

The nine articles of the 50-Year Charter

1. Dubai silk road

2.  A geo-economic map for Dubai

3. First virtual commercial city

4. A central education file for every citizen

5. A doctor to every citizen

6. Free economic and creative zones in universities

7. Self-sufficiency in Dubai homes

8. Co-operative companies in various sectors

­9: Annual growth in philanthropy

Founders: Abdulmajeed Alsukhan, Turki Bin Zarah and Abdulmohsen Albabtain.

Based: Riyadh

Offices: UAE, Vietnam and Germany

Founded: September, 2020

Number of employees: 70

Sector: FinTech, online payment solutions

Funding to date: $116m in two funding rounds  

Investors: Checkout.com, Impact46, Vision Ventures, Wealth Well, Seedra, Khwarizmi, Hala Ventures, Nama Ventures and family offices

AWARDS

Best Male black belt: Lucas Protasio (BRA)
Best female black belt: Julia Alves (BRA)
Best Masters black belt: Igor Silva (BRA)
Best Asian Jiu-Jitsu Federation: Kazakhstan
Best Academy in UAE: Commando Group, Abu Dhabi
Best International Academy: Commando Group, Abu Dhabi
African Player of the Year: Katiuscia Yasmira Dias (GNB)
Oceanian Player of the Year: Anton Minenko (AUS)
European Player of the Year: Rose El Sharouni (NED)
North and Central American Player of the Year: Alexa Yanes (USA)
Asian Player of the Year: Zayed Al Katheeri (UAE)
Rookie of the Year: Rui Neto (BRA)Rui Neto (BRA)

The biog:

From: Wimbledon, London, UK

Education: Medical doctor

Hobbies: Travelling, meeting new people and cultures 

Favourite animals: All of them 

The specs

Engine: 3.5-litre V6

Power: 272hp at 6,400rpm

Torque: 331Nm from 5,000rpm

Transmission: 8-speed auto

Fuel consumption: 9.7L/100km

On sale: now

Price: Dh149,000

 

Our House, Louise Candlish,
Simon & Schuster

The specs

Engine: 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6
Transmission: 8-speed auto
Power: 536hp (including 138hp e-motor)
Torque: 750Nm (including 400Nm e-motor)
Price: From Dh1,380,000
On sale: now

The specs

Price, base: Dh228,000 / Dh232,000 (est)
Engine: 5.7-litre Hemi V8
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Power: 395hp @ 5,600rpm
Torque: 552Nm
Fuel economy, combined: 12.5L / 100km

Sarfira

Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5

Our family matters legal consultant

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

The specs: 2024 Mercedes E200

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cyl turbo + mild hybrid
Power: 204hp at 5,800rpm +23hp hybrid boost
Torque: 320Nm at 1,800rpm +205Nm hybrid boost
Transmission: 9-speed auto
Fuel consumption: 7.3L/100km
On sale: November/December
Price: From Dh205,000 (estimate)

Biog

Mr Kandhari is legally authorised to conduct marriages in the gurdwara

He has officiated weddings of Sikhs and people of different faiths from Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Russia, the US and Canada

Father of two sons, grandfather of six

Plays golf once a week

Enjoys trying new holiday destinations with his wife and family

Walks for an hour every morning

Completed a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Loyola College, Chennai, India

2019 is a milestone because he completes 50 years in business

 

Mina Cup winners

Under 12 – Minerva Academy

Under 14 – Unam Pumas

Under 16 – Fursan Hispania

Under 18 – Madenat

Russia's Muslim Heartlands

Dominic Rubin, Oxford

Jumanji: The Next Level

Director: Jake Kasdan

Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Jack Black, Nick Jonas 

Two out of five stars