“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
An event took place in Baghdad, Iraq, on December 5, where a woman organised a joint bike ride for women. The event was called “I, the society”, and was set up in order to motivate women to bike in public.
Photo and video credits: Irfaa Sawtak and Hayder Hamzoz
Are you planning on murdering some people? Assassinate an entire group of men, women and children due to the city they reside in? Murder is illegal in any country of the world – everyone knows that. But there’s still a way to get away with it. Do you, at the same time, want to get away with the crime? Here’s some useful advice for you:
Make some good friends. Friends with power and military resources.
Make sure these friends are short of morals, that also they are conducting crimes against humanity in their own countries. With this, they will not blame you for the crimes that you commit.
Divert all the attention towards the terrorists residing in the target area. Everyone knows that there are jihadist groups, and they have had a very active online presence, torturing the world with their terror. But you play up the jihadist as if they include all the rebel groups in the area; all the civilians; all the rescue workers.
Pretend as if the civilians don’t exist. Each and every human being in the city is in liaison with the jihadists.
If people, who are trying to flee from the bombings, make it to what they think are safe areas, the areas that are under your control – immediately accuse them of being terrorists, imprison them and torture them.
Bomb the hospitals, the last piece of infrastructure that is left; the core of humanity. Everything is already gone: schools, electricity, running water.
Few people will survive this ordeal. Even fewer will survive with their sanity intact. You know this. By breaking a society, a city, piece by piece, you have taken away the humanity and the urge to resistance. The world is watching silently, despite the terrors being broadcasted every minute in social media, every day on prime time TV. You have reached so far with your powerful friends, with launching the idea of the terrorists, the whole world is scared by it.
You are almost there, close to the finish line. Soon all of these people are gone. The city that once was, is no more. You’re close to where you have succeeded without paying the price for the crimes you committed. Where you have gotten away with murder.
Photo credit: travelpulse.com
The victory seems closer now than ever. Assad has been able to push the rebels out of some of their strongholds. The regime and it’s allies are bombing the humanity out of Aleppo. The opposition is weak and fighting each other.
On social media, photos from pages such as Syria Tourism and Tartous2day are uploading photos as if it’s the summer of 2010: dressed up young people attending a party; ice cream desserts enjoyed in the center of Damascus; Syrian restaurants serving food to it’s guests, the trade mark fountain bubbling in the middle. Hope seems to make its way back into the common perception of Syria; in this sense, hope meaning the hope of peace.
If the regime will win the war, peace might happen in the near future. The regime will then need to rebuild parts of the country from scratch. Hospitals, schools, roads, buildings; in some areas, all of this needs to be rebuilt. But there will be peace, and many of the Syrians in exile will be able to go back to their beloved, beautiful country, without fear. They will be able to make use of their summer vacations to return to Syria and go swim in Latakia. Stroll in the old souk of Damascus. Dine out in one of the outdoor restaurants. I dare to say that I believe all Syrians have now been waiting for this for a long time.
But, there are those who won’t be able to enjoy an upcoming peace in Syria, the way peace seems likely now. Those who can’t go back despite any peace agreement if the regime stays in power. The people who once stood up against the regime, demanding human rights, a society where free speech was accepted. A society where you could live without fear.
These people once risked their lives for their own country, and they will receive nothing in return. They’ve been imprisoned, tortured, raped, before – if they were lucky – escaping the country.
Many of them that I know, are not happy with and would never have chosen the exile. A young woman who early on received permanent asylum in Sweden, and who has done quite well in maintaining her career and her profession, has done less well in appreciating the safety Sweden has provided her. Despite her freedom of speech, her ability to maintain her activism against the regime, her huge network all around Europe, she seems to dislike almost every aspect of her life in exile; her life in her new home country; the country itself. She’s aching so much for the Syria she once had. Despite all the terrible things she was put through, as an open activist against the regime.
One day, her Facebook status update simply stated: “I want to go home!”
The way the events in Syria are unfolding right now, that might never be possible.
Photo credit: www.facebook.com/tartous2day/
Why is intolerance towards gays till accepted by people who claim to believe in human rights? Human rights is somehow the slogan of this century from activist groups, still many people who demand the human rights declaration to be followed cannot apply the human rights convention to all societal groups.
In popular news this week it was broadcasted that the singer Ricky Martin is engaged to a man. This caused an uproar of hate. Why? The man, Jwan Yosef, is supposedly of Syrian-Kurdish ethnicity. For many people, it’s unacceptable for a Middle Eastern man to get publicly and romantically committed to another man.
This is a very sensitive issue. Culture and religion – many different cultures, many different religions, are sometimes being used as excuses for homophobia.
For actively oppressing those with a certain sexual orientation.
For preventing people from being able to legally marry their partner.
For preventing people from having children.
For subjecting people to discrimination.
For subjecting people to abuse.
Here are two questions I asked myself when seeing the hate towards the mentioned engagement on social media: why is it in 2016 still ok to refer to culture or religion as a reason to not accept human rights for everyone? Women; men; straight; gays; disabled; people from different colours.
And: is it even possible for the people who don’t accept the human rights convention for everyone, to claim the given human rights in another situation?
The Release of the “Syria Always Beautiful” video is not brand new, it was released on August 30 by the Syrian Ministry of Tourism, but it sent out signals that is still accurate. Messages about happy people in regime controlled areas, enjoying life as if the year was 2010 and there was no war anywhere; partying, celebrating, riding water scooters and swimming in crystal blue water, sends out the message that the regime are regaining confidence about winning the war.
For a long time, Assad and his allies were denying that a war was ongoing at all. In central Damascus, young people were still partying, singing karaoke despite the distant sounds of mortars and shelling from the suburbs. The public TV channels still aired soap operas and broadcasted news about the president visiting local areas where people happily threw flowers at hime and his wife.
Then in 2013, there was finally little room for denying that a war was going on, and the rhetoric then turned to describe the opposition as solely consisting of terrorists, mainly from foreign countries.
Now, in 2016, when Aleppo is being massacred in front of all the world; when Syrian army together with support from Russia and crushing the little resistance that is left, Assad seems more sure than ever that he regain dictatorship of all of the country.
It seems impossible from the outside, that a country where people have been starting to talk freely for the first time in decades; where people have started to demand an end to corruption and the suppressing of oppositional groups, would return to live under the same conditions they were risking their lives for.
But in the Assad controlled Syria, anything now seems possible.
The opposition is shattered, weak, and have been hijacked by terrorist groups.
The terrorist groups have been pushing the population that was previously against the regime, or unsure what to think, back in believing in the comfort of Assad being in power again.
The regime has effectively played the terrorist card and making people longing back to the days when you were safe if you didn’t utter a word of criticism towards the non-elected government. Or if you by some other reason ended up in the grips of the feared security intelligence. Or if you, as a girl, happened to be abducted by young men of the regime allies and sexually abused.
They have made people believe that a rule under Assad is to prefer to the current situation. That they might even provide elections with other reliable candidates than Assad himself.
Tourism in Tartous might be possible in a near future. For everyone except for the people from the Syrian opposition, who have already escaped the country and will see no chance of ever going back. Except for the people who are, or will be, if the regime regain control everywhere, secretly imprisoned in one of the intelligence underground prisons, with no chance of getting out. People who only wanted freedom, a chance to say whatever you were thinking, a chance for young girls to be safe from the hands of the young men of the regime.
An upcoming stream of tourism to Tartous will be the last page turned by the Assad regime. It will mean he has won the war.
Photo credit: Tumblr
IS are being pushed further and further, and many are already celebrating the victory over one of the worst terrorist organisations – at least one of the worst who’s been able to show it off so cleverly online – this decade.
What will happen after IS might finally succumb in Iraq and its scattered members go on the run to avoid being tortured by the general army’s forces? What will happen after its European members will go back to their respective countries and plan terrorist attacks back home?
This is what needs to happen:
Iraqi government needs to include minorities in their politics. They need to take safety measures so that minorities can live under the same conditions as the majority population.
Public schools needs to receive sufficient funding and teachers so that all children get a substantial education.
The national army and police needs to be trained so that they don’t repeat the human rights abuses that has been conducted towards civilians.
Otherwise, the same constellation, or a new one, will pop up sooner or later. And the celebrations will be silenced for good.
“If you hate an entire sect, group, community, region, religion, nation etc., then you have surely fallen prey to indoctrination.
You have been taught to hate, either by your own negative experiences, or by negative experiences/perceptions of others, or by agenda-driven propaganda.
Yes, true. You can also indoctrinate yourself (self-indoctrination) by leaving your critical faculties unused.
But, don’t worry!
A learned behavior can be changed. Just remain humble; tell yourself repeatedly that you are teachable.
There’s no shame in unlearning falsehood and embracing universal truths.”
A girl wearing a hijab is interviewed in Playboy! The world goes berserk! Liberals are super happy! The religious ones gets furious!
And most people, according to me, are missing the point.
This is what happened: A woman from a religious and/or ethnic minority is represented in a mainstream magazine famous for it’s exhibition of scantily dressed women. The woman, Nour Tagouri, is featured due to her profession, she’s a journalist, and she’s not dressed like one of the women who usually features in the Playboy photos; undressed. No, she’s well dressed but good looking and makes some facial expressions as if she has an attitude, or, as the interviewer puts it, “badass”.
Now we’re living in a women hating world, women from minorities are usually more severely attacked, and some cultures and countries are worse when it comes to it’s treatment of women – legally, culturally, socially. Women from these groups are often believed to be oppressed by people in the West, even though we don’t know their individual situation.
At the same time, the men’s magazines are still here, in the 21st century, where women who value themselves in terms of their looks and bodies are featured again and again.
That’s why I’m all for representation, the kind if representation that portray the individual as an individual, and not describes a person in a stereotypical way. But Nour Tagouri, while not being portrayed as an oppressed, voiceless Arab woman, now falls into the trap of being included in a sexist context. When liberals appreciate this move, they fail to recognise that Nour is now being included in another stereotypical context. When religious people criticise her for not being honourable enough, they put her in the context of having to be an obedient woman.
But a woman in a hijab featured in Playboy is not a sign of victory for the group she represents. It’s the sign of women who hate themselves, and that sometimes, us women don’t need men to bring us down. Our internalised misogyny works perfectly well itself.
Some Syrians I know complain that the world doesn’t pay attention to Syria. I don’t agree on this. Having worked with humanitarian aid, I can recount plenty of conflicts that goes on in the world that has less international attention in media and social media, even almost non-existent.
In DRC, large areas have never been under government control, and the way the different rebel groups are performing massacres has escalated into a race to the bottom, where they try to surpass each other.
In Pakistan, the deserted tribal area FATA has seen an increase in human rights violations not only from the Taliban but also from the counterattacks of the military.
In Egypt, criminal groups are kidnapping and torturing Eritrean refugees fleeing the brutal Eritrean regime for ransoms of money.
How many people would know the details of these conflicts? Hands up, please.
Syria is quite well covered in the international and social media. Westerners who had no clue what Syria was before the war, have seen pictures from the war zones on the evening news for the last five years.
What stands out with Syria to me, is the level of madness that plays out on prime time TV before our eyes, with no real solution or intervention ahead. Bashar Al Assad keeps repeating that his army are targeting terrorists – while civilians, mothers with their babies, aid workers, medical doctors, are being killed in front of our eyes. Whatever the dictator says, social media counters it, to no avail.
Syria to me is not a forgotten conflict. It’s a new level of madness.