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    Watching Protesters Risk It All

    February 20th, 2011

    As democracy protests spread across the Middle East, we as journalists struggle to convey the sights and sounds, the religion and politics. But there’s one central element that we can’t even begin to capture: the raw courage of men and women — some of them just teenagers — who risk torture, beatings and even death because they want freedoms that we take for granted.

    Here in Bahrain on Saturday, I felt almost physically ill as I watched a column of pro-democracy marchers approach the Pearl Roundabout, the spiritual center of their movement. One day earlier, troops had opened fire on marchers there, with live ammunition and without any warning. So I flinched and braced myself to watch them die.

    Yet, astonishingly, they didn’t. The royal family called off the use of lethal force, perhaps because of American pressure. The police fired tear gas and rubber bullets, but the protesters marched on anyway, and the police fled.

    The protesters fell on the ground of the roundabout and kissed the soil. They embraced each other. They screamed. They danced. Some wept.

    “We are calling it ‘Martyrs’ Roundabout’ now,” Layla, a 19-year-old university student, told me in that moment of stunned excitement. “One way or another, freedom has to come,” she said. “It’s not something given by anybody. It’s a right of the people.”

    Zaki, a computer expert, added: “If Egypt can do it, then we can do it even better.”

    (I’m withholding family names. Many people were willing for their full names to be published, but at a hospital I was shaken after I interviewed one young man who had spoken publicly about seeing the police kill protesters — and then, he said, the police kidnapped him off the street and beat him badly.)

    To me, this feels like the Arab version of 1776. And don’t buy into the pernicious whisper campaign from dictators that a more democratic Middle East will be fundamentalist, anti-American or anti-women. For starters, there have been plenty of women on the streets demanding change (incredibly strong women, too!).

    For decades, the United States embraced corrupt and repressive autocracies across the Middle East, turning a blind eye to torture and repression in part because of fear that the “democratic rabble” might be hostile to us. Far too often, we were both myopic and just plain on the wrong side.

    Here in Bahrain, we have been in bed with a minority Sunni elite that has presided over a tolerant, open and economically dynamic country — but it’s an elite that is also steeped in corruption, repression and profound discrimination toward the Shia population. If you parachute into a neighborhood in Bahrain, you can tell at once whether it is Sunni or Shia: if it has good roads and sewers and is well maintained, it is Sunni; otherwise, it is Shia.

    A 20-year-old medical student, Ghadeer, told me that her Sunni classmates all get government scholarships and public-sector jobs; the Shiites pay their own way and can’t find work in the public sector. Likewise, Shiites are overwhelmingly excluded from the police and armed forces, which instead rely on mercenaries from Sunni countries. We give aid to these oligarchs to outfit their police forces to keep the Shiites down; we should follow Britain’s example and immediately suspend such transfers until it is clear that the government will not again attack peaceful, unarmed protesters.

    We were late to side with “people power” in Tunisia and Egypt, but Bahrainis are thrilled that President Obama called the king after he began shooting his people — and they note that the shooting subsequently stopped (at least for now). The upshot is real gratitude toward the United States.

    The determination of protesters — in Bahrain, in Iran, in Libya, in Yemen — is such that change is a certainty. At one hospital, I met a paraplegic who is confined to a wheelchair. He had been hit by two rubber bullets and was planning to return to the democracy protests for more.

    And on the roundabout on Sunday, I met Ali, a 24-year-old on crutches, his legs swathed in bandages, limping painfully along. A policeman had fired on him from 15 feet away, he said, and he was still carrying 30 shotgun pellets that would eventually be removed when surgeons weren’t so busy with other injuries. Ali flinched each time he moved — but he said he would camp at the roundabout until democracy arrived, or die trying.

    In the 1700s, a similar kind of grit won independence for the United States from Britain. A democratic Arab world will be a flawed and messy place, just as a democratic America has been — but it’s still time to align ourselves with the democrats of the Arab world and not the George III’s.

    Originally Posted on The New York Times

    Nelson Mandela and Tess Sager

    February 12th, 2011

    ‎” My hero is not necessarily the president of a country or a prime minister or a cabinet minister. It is somebody who has declared war on poverty, on disease, on illiteracy and who is prepared to give human beings hope that there is a future for him or her. Those are my heroes.”
    - Nelson Mandela to Tess Sager, Johannesburg, ’03.

    Are you an entrepreneur interested in changing the world? If so, this talk given by Bobby at the Celebration of Entrepreneurship in Dubai is for you! Check it out:

    Moises, a former child-soldier

    February 4th, 2011

    Moises, a former child-soldier and Shane Sager. Rwanda, 2009.

    When pop diva Lady Gaga unveiled three new Polaroid products at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, the crowd probably didn’t recognize the man onstage with her. But she made sure they knew who he was.

    “Let’s hear it for Bobby, everyone,’’ Lady Gaga said. “Bobby is wonderful.’’

    Bobby Sager, sporting trendy sneakers and a scarf, was on stage with Gaga because he brought her there. Sager is chairman of the board of the revived Polaroid, a name that for decades was associated with the Boston area, where he grew up and still lives.

    His mission now: restore Polaroid’s status as a global brand — the “next Apple,’’ as he puts it. (more…)

    Ball of Hope

    January 12th, 2011

    Qalandia Refugee Camp

    January 3rd, 2011

    Qalandia Refugee Camp’s school, Palestine

    Science for Monks

    December 30th, 2010

    By Amy Yee | Special to Washingtonpost.comFriday, December 17, 2010; 8:25 PM

    NEW DELHI – The northern Indian town of Bir was greeted with an unusual sight when Scott Schmidt carried six-foot-long plywood sheets on his head through the streets. Schmidt, who develops exhibits for the Smithsonian, had retrieved the wood from the village carpenter and toted it on his head to the Buddhist institute he was visiting. “I got impatient,” said Schmidt. “I probably broke every rule of how a Westerner is supposed to act in a village in India.”

    Schmidt was helping a group of 30 Tibetan monks plan “The World of Your Senses,” a bilingual science exhibition displayed last month in New Delhi at the India Habitat Center, an arts and culture venue in India’s capital.

    The wood was used to build a prototype of the display panels. Schmidt’s effort – and sore head – were worth it. The exhibit showcasing Western and Buddhist perspectives of the five senses was inaugurated by the Dalai Lama and viewed by hundreds of visitors over five days. Plans are underway for the exhibit to tour in India next year and possibly at a Smithsonian museum in the United States. (more…)

    An Amazing New Collection of Ethnic Jewelry Supporting a Great Cause

    This fabulous collection of jewery, created by Tess Sager is capturing the attention of millions worldwide. Even celebrities like Cameron Diaz, Kelly Rutherford, Gwen Stefani, and Sting, are proudly flashing these hot new fashionable pieces. Tess’s beautifully designed jewelry, and her heart of gold, are just the beginning of this hot new fashion statement.

    These brightly colored, ethnic inspired pieces allow you to create an authentic stylish look, while bettering the lives of women in Rwanda and Palestine through a new intiative called “Hands Up Not Handouts”. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the sales of these beautiful pieces is reinvested; back into the business, and to the female artisans and their communities, so that the Sager Family Foundation can continue to do what they do best, enrich the lives of those in need.

    Some of the wonderful fashions include beautiful hand embroided bracelets that feature intricate mosaic-style designs from Palestine. These amazing designs were originally used to make tablecloths and goods for the home. The stylish wrap-style bracelets are $45, and the chic cuffs are $50.

    Other incredible designs from the collection include brightly colored sweet grass earrings, inspired by the Rwanda skill of basket-making. Available in three different collections of colors, these beautiful ethnic earrings range in price from $45-$50.

    With the many different colors and designs available, there is something for everyone in this collection. These stylish earrings and bracelets are a perfect compliment to any outfit, and can be worn for just about any occasion.

    These incredible pieces, along with the entire collection are available at You can also find them at chic retailers such as,, and Fred Segal.

    he founder of Hands Up Not Handouts, Tess Sager, is a young activist from a well-known philanthropic family and the daughter of philanthropist Boddy Sager. Along with Hands Up and the Sager Family Foundation, it is

    Tess’s mission to find strategic ways to help people, help themselves with long-tem goals in mind. Tess was recently accepted to a prestigious photography program at NYU, with plans to graduate in 2014. This incredible young lady is extremely talented and has a bright-shining future ahead of her. She is dedicated to helping underprivileged women of the world, and is an inspiration to women everywhere.