We are All Losers – Some Thoughts After the Nairobi Attacks

Maybe I shouldn’t be writing this post in my blog as the terrorist attacks in Nairobi has nothing to do with neither the Middle East nor Sweden, but I as I have a huge interest for tolerance and intolerance I decided to give myself the freedom to do so.

When the news broke on how one or more British converts were involved, I felt my spirit drop down low. Not again. Some confused, troubled Westerners who gets involved with outcast groups in deprived areas where they incite each other against a common enemy, and puts each other on a derailed train track, heading for disaster where they selfishly are pulling masses of people with them: not only the direct victims of terrorist attacks and their families, but us normal, regular people who are trying to live our everyday lives side by side; Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists and other religions alike.

Do these people even read Arabic? Did they open the holy book of the religion they claim to follow or did they listen to same tape-recorded message by one of the underground group fanatic leaders who probably didn’t read the book himself but was happy to call himself a Muslim since he wore short jeans over the ankles and refused to sit next to a woman on the public subway? In all religions there are numerous of books discussing the different aspects of this religion, new publications are printed each year, seminars are being held among people who wants to discuss religions on an intellectual level, and Islam is not an exception. But the converts are happy with their downsized watery version boiled down to hate.

These people should be charged with crimes against humanity, because whatever was difficult before the attack will be much worse after. In my country I know what will happen. Our national pride and joy Sverigedemokraterna will gain more votes in next year’s election. My veiled neighbor will be surprised I help her up the stairs with her baby and stroller. People will ask how I can invite both my Jewish and Muslim friends to one of my dinner parties.

When reading blogs under the tags of tolerance and intolerance you find the most horrible people out there, hating from all sides. With the ending of this post I would like to target a subcategory within this category, the one of fanatics in line with the Nairobi bombers:

Even if you don’t care about the importance of coexistence, you just made life a little more impossible for your fellow Muslims in the West. Congratulations. Or if you can read Arabic: مبروك

So You Desperately Need a Maid?

I still receive comments on my previous post Campaign for Domestic Worker’s Rights in Kuwait, which I’m happy for as it obviously still sparks discussion.  And I decided want to discuss this issue a bit further. Let’s not talk about the human rights of the staff but about the very conditions of having a maid in your home.

Many times I have heard people saying that there are two sides of the coin when discussing the situation for domestic staff in the Gulf, talking about unreliable house staffs that are not doing their job or violating rules. I’ve heard of staff abusing the kids they’re babysitting, staff seducing the husband, seducing the drivers, seducing each other, stealing money and running off. I’ve been asked if I would like to have a person living with me who I couldn’t trust either with work tasks or with my kids.

So here’s my take on things.

No, I wouldn’t want someone to hit my kids or steal my things. I wouldn’t want to live with someone I didn’t trust or felt uncomfortable with. I would be angry too if that happened to me. So guess what? I wouldn’t bring someone to live in my house in the first place.

Because it’s risky to leave your kids to a stranger, who is not supervised during the days and who probably doesn’t have a special training to care for kids. Add to that being discriminated in the society you live in, having men asking you for sex on the street only because you’re Asian and they assume you’re a prostitute, and a forced separation from your family back home, maybe even your own children. Then you don’t have much love to give to someone elses kids. And if that person also will feel hurt or offended by you – do you think they will feel a natural will to care and love your kids? If you’re worried, why do you even put yourself and your kids in that situation?

And this question of mine brings us to the next page, which is “I have to have a maid”. This is the origin of all the maid-talk among women in beauty salons and coffee shops in the Gulf, the constant complaining and bickering. They have to have a maid but trust none of them. What keeps puzzling me when I hear these conversations is, do these women have 14 kids like Octomom in America? Probably not. Are they working poor, holding down two full time jobs in order to be able to pay their rent, why they never have the time to clean the house? Probably not. So why do they so desperately need a maid?

I could here give an account for my girlfriends throughout the years that ended up single parents and were managing each day on their own; school, the extra job, picking up/bringing to school/bringing to the doctor the kids, changing diapers, carrying grocery bags, washing, cleaning and cooking. But I won’t, because I know that you who need to have a maid know these single moms, too. I just have to ask: if the majority of the world’s population can manage it without a maid, why can’t you?

Photo credit: Vimeo.com

Two Voices from Aleppo University

Aleppo University after the bombings January 2013

I was able to talk with two persons from Aleppo University in Syria, that shared what they had been going through.

Here are their stories:

I was offered a job at Aleppo university after my studies. When the revolution started we as employees in a governmental institution were made to cooperate with shabiha (a feared subgroup within the Syrian intelligence/military, some claim they are criminals that the government recruits to terrorize civilians, a strategy to stop the revolution). We had to assist them in their fights against the protests. I tried to act as if I assisted them, then I was able to escape the country.

My home in Syria is all destroyed, my street is in ruins. No food is available and when going to search for food to buy people are being killed by snipers. Why are the government and the Free Syrian Army taking it out on us? We are only citizens.I  didn’t think the revolution would go this bad, and I blame both sides now. They have both helped in destroying my city.”

I was a student in Aleppo university. In January 2012 students were gathering in front of the cafeteria, holding a protest. They were protesting peacefully, shouting for freedom, protesting against the war and demanding the release of political prisoners. Security guards inside the university called shabiha without the students knowing. They came directly and started arresting students on spot and hit them with electrical batons. Another time they gassed the university with teargas.

Then on January 15 2013, it was first day of the examinations, the government bombed the university, many people saw the attack and that it was carried out by a warplane. Still when I see a plane or helicopter in the sky I get an awful feeling. One missile hit the entrance of the faculty of architecture; the other one hit the student dorm that had been evacuated to host refugees from other areas of Aleppo, people that had have to flee their homes. Dead people were littering the streets all around.

I can’t forget the barbarity of Shabiha and the security forces, the way I saw them attack the students or the sounds of clashes and missiles around us. I still have nightmares and then I wake up sometimes and I have to say to myself: ‘It’s ok, I’m out of Syria,I’m safe now’. But now a year after my departure, the situation is more much worse. There are inner borders and snipers in everywhere and there isn’t any safe place left in Aleppo.

Photo credit: New York Times

Girls Night Out!

I have had some of the craziest nights out in my life when being in the Middle East. Cities like Beirut, Istanbul and Damascus offer an amazing night life, where people put away their troubles at the door and do their very best to have fun, not limited by the bar closing at 1 am or queuing for a humiliating number of hours before maybe being let in. Yes, I have been clubbing in New York too, I still consider my Middle East partying experiences the very best!

When I first started travelling in the Middle East I was surprised by how people I met could spend a fortune on their outfits and drinks when I knew so many of them were struggling just to get by; students depending on their parents and recent graduates with low salaries in ridiculously expensive cities. But even if the show-off hurts the pockets, I learned to have fun and not care about tomorrow’s worries – a good lesson for a Lutheran Swede.

One night in Istanbul me and my girlfriend took the bus from our gloomy hostel and hopped off in Taksim area, walking around aimlessly until we heard some reggae music and popped in to the Riddim bar, that still exists, but at that time only was a small bar crowded with the alternative people that Taksim loves , or vice versa. We had no plans for the night, not the right outfits and not enough money, but we quickly made friends with the bartender who treated us to drinks, then early morning made us company to a rooftop club where people made out, smoked pot and discussed how to get away from doing the military service, until they fell asleep on the many pillows on the top floor. On the street downstairs a fight broke out and someone pulled a gun (but no one got shot), the party continued anyways. At 6 or 7 am the tired staff that wanted  had to shake everyone awake and force them into the elevator. A night like that would never had happen in the quiet little university town I was living in back home.

But a girls night out for me in the Middle East, can also mean playing tawla and smoking sheesha until late hours, while discussing the most important things in life; love and relationships. I guess these things never change?

Photo: copyright Sweden and the Middle East Views Blog

Aleppo Screams S.O.S.

Aleppo Screams SoS pic

So now the world is discussing whether the international community should intervene in Syria after the latest chemical attacks that the regime brought on its people. I can’t launch a clear opinion in this issue, because I’m not sure an international military intervention would bring less suffering to the Syrian people – but assistance of some kind seems to be needed since the revolt has escalated into civil war, with human rights abuses reported from both sides. But what the world show know is, many of the Syrian people have been asking for help for a long time, before the conflict steered towards total chaos.

The ancient city of Aleppo, once a beautiful green city in the northern part of the country, is now one of the most destroyed cities in the world. Eager to crack down on the uprising, the Syrian government has bombed the city to pieces, wiping out the infrastructure. Electricity and water is cut off, hospitals are functioning without the most basic needs, earlier this year 90% of all children of Aleppo were reported to be out of school – and the number can hardly have decreased. Below is  picture of Saif Aldowleh Avenue in Aleppo before the war started in 2011, shared with me by someone that wants to show the world what happened to his city.

And here is the same avenue, from a slightly different angle, today:

Do you think this might be expected when it’s a war somewhere? Then remember that the inner city of Damascus is still untouched, with schools and supermarkets open and a vivid nightlife still available for young people to party and attend karaoke nights, like nothing is happening in other parts of the country.

Desperate to make the world realize what is going on, a Facebookpage was started by some of the inhabitants of Aleppo in June 2012; Aleppo Screams SoS. Click on the link and have a look to see how the citizens of Aleppo were asking for help long before the most recent events, publishing photos on the ongoing destruction, photos of killed children, asking people to share. I hope the world will listen soon.

Photos: anonymous source, copyright Sweden and the Middle East Blog; Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/AleppoScreamsSos