Happy Easter from Iraq

Happy Easter everyone! These photos is from this weekend’s Easter celebration in Virgin Mary church in central Baghdad, Iraq. The photos are shared by Beautiful Iraq team, originally from Getty Images.

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“The Existing ‘Us vs. Them’ Dichotomy Has Recently Gotten Extremely Ugly and Inhumane”

Another, as expected, terrorist attack, another round of tensions getting high in all directions.

One of my friends wrote that he won’t add the Belgian flag because of the previous oppression of Congo, and that Belgium had brought this on to themselves.

Some friends were upset that the bombings in Belgium received more attention than the ones in Istanbul.

Some blamed the uncontrolled influx of refugees with terrorist sympathies; the failure of the European intelligence services; the failure of the social policies for integration in Europe.

A Kurdish friend of mine nailed it down like this:

The existing ‘us vs. them’ dichotomy has recently gotten extremely ugly and inhumane.”

Heartbroken, as always, I scrolled though all these comments on social media. Then suddenly, this popped up. My Muslim Syrian friend who I gotten to know in Syria in 2013, a colleague whom I worked with, who has since gone to Belgium as a refugee, still struggling to rebuild his life, posted a public post on Facebook:

For those who stuck in ‪#‎Brussels‬ ‪#‎Bruxelles‬ ‪#‎Belgium‬ after cancelling all the flights, I can offer a place to stay overnight in.

That for me, at least, became my own light in this darkness.

One Down, Many Remains. We Still Need to Learn How to Coexist

Salah Abdeslam is arrested, according to the Belgian authorities. One of the presumed terrorists behind the horrific Bartaclan-massacre is captured, he will be put to trial, will face justice for what he did. This is good. This is how justice should work. I hope that he speaks up in court, give people an explanation to why he did what he did, face the charges he will be on trial for, like a man.

Still – the underlying issue remain at large: there are many other young men like him in the grip of hateful terrorist groups. Marginalised young men, and sometimes women, of immigrant origin in the suburbs of European cities, feeling like they are, and being, looked down upon by many of the Europeans that they meet in their everyday life. Young men and women who will build up an alienation and hate towards the country they reside in, maybe even was born in. Young men and women who will cling to conspiracy theories, conservative/religious values (more conservative than in their countries of origin), alienation, and in worst case, terrorism – because they are not and don’t feel welcome in the country where they reside with a permanent residency or even citizenship.

Us Europeans still seem unable to welcome these people to a full extent in our countries. We still don’t let them have the same rights as us whites: we still don’t accept their qualifications; we still frown upon mixed couples; we still are not interested in making friends with them, citing “we’re different” if someone would ask us.

It’s our fault, the fault of all of us. One terrorist down doesn’t solve the underlying problem: that we still need to learn how to coexist. All of us.

#SyriaB4War – Hashtag Gone Wrong

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UNHCR Northern Europe wanted to launch a hashtag on Syria to remind people on how Syria was before the war. Little did they probably suspect that Syrian activists – these admirable, young, brave people – would take over the hashtag to remind the world of what was going on behind the beautiful scenery of their homeland. UNHCR even happily encouraged twitters to publish their photos of Syria before the war, seemingly disregarding the Syrian activists using Twitter as their main forum for resistance towards the regime.

Everyone agrees that Syria was a beautiful country before the war, but if you happened to be against the regime, to be one of those who wanted to speak, read and write whatever they wanted to, Syria could show a very ugly face. This, many people seem to have forgotten by now. The Twitter activists quickly took the opportunity to remind of this, and to show an excerpt of their remarkably dark humour:

“#SyriaB4War: is where you have to watch the criminal dictator pictures in all streets” (attached, a photo with the ever-smiling Bashar Al Assad)

“#SyriaB4War: Farm for Bashar al-Assad and his family”

“#SyriaB4War: Thousands of writers and the opposition were in prison”

“#SyriaB4War: is where the civil society activism was only for Asthma Assad and her entourage”

“#SyriaB4War: is where families dream of eating meat without being able to fulfil that dream with their miserable salaries”

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And the last touché: one twitterer attached a photo of the Tadomour prison in Syria: “who goes there never return”.

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I bet UNHCR’s communication department will think twice next time.