The Opposite of Radicalization

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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.

Travel to Kurdistan

Despite the ongoing threat from Daesh, Kurdistan is trying to hold the fort. Many Kurds I know try to keep up the vibes by sharing positive photos and news from their country.

Travel to Kurdistan is a beautiful Facebook page with one clear aim in mind.

Wanna go somewhere exciting? Somewhere different? Try Iraqi Kurdistan next time. here’s a few reasons why (all captions, when there are, are from the Travel to Kurdistan’s page):

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“Zaxo, Kurdistan”

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“Our colourful flag must wave in all weather and at all time to survive.”

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Photo credits: Travel to Kurdistan’s Facebook page

Photos of Tishrin Dam, Liberated from IS

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IS announcing their rule

IS are facing setbacks, pushed back by mainly the moderate Syrian opposition. One of the areas liberated from IS Tishrin Dam, a dam that supplies areas in Northern Syria; Syrian Kurdistan, with water. It was the Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition group of different factions fighting the Syrian regime, that were able to capture the dam from IS, making them loose a strategic position.

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The dam

An international group that is dedicated to the reconstruction of Kobane and areas that were destroyed by IS, Kobanê Reconstruction Board, recently went to visit Tishrin dam, and the member Hawzhin Azeez, also the woman behind the page The Middle Eastern Feminist, shared these photos and allowed them to be republished here. The only photos not republished are those portraying corpses. This is Hawzhin Azeez’s description of the visit:

“I am sharing some late images of Tishrin dam when we visited a few days after its liberation. Tishrin was liberated on the 26th of December by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SYD) after being under Daesh control for over two years.

Tishrin is an incredible dam, not least of all because of the fact that it sits cradled in a beautiful lush valley, in an otherwise dry and arid land. But also because of what Tishrin implies for the people of Rojava who have survived for the past two years under incredible economic and political conditions, exacerbated significantly by lack of access to water and electricity which Tishrin provides.

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Tishrin dam’s 6 water turbines can be seen here

Daesh’s terrorism extended to not only physical violence and terror but also a deliberate and comprehensive policy of destroying or taking key infrastructure and service buildings. Make no mistake Daesh is a great strategist and despite issues with the lower rank terrorists the organisation has caused significant and long term damage to Rojava through its calculated infrastructural damage. This also included extensive placement of hand made booby traps, mines and other unexploded ordinances.

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Booby trap making supplies

Inside Tishrin, Daesh had created an “education center” for children- literally a terrorist training centre, including small child sized Qurans. One of the pamphlets left over detailed the fact that members could take any women among the population so long as they received the emir’s permission.

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The children’s training room

Another notable room was the “Palace Room” where the Emir would receive his guests, a grand room that now lay tattered following the fierce battle to liberate Tishrin.

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The palace room 

Tishrin city, now resembling an eerie ghost town, was empty of the Emirs and their families and supporters. On the streets children’s bikes, baby strollers and even passports lay scattered. The only reminder across the dam and the city was painted black signs of Dash flag but also, the dozens of dead Daesh bodies (luckily they did not smell too much as they were still relatively fresh corpses but also because of the cold winter) across the streets and the city. In one of the streets there were remnant of booby trap making supplies left.

Finally, at the end of the tour of the city we came across an Arab family, who tentatively came forward initially and then proceeded to hug and kiss us. The family had three daughters, two in early 20s and one that was perhaps no older than 15. The mother told us that she had hid her daughters for over two years in the basement of her house in fear of them being taken by Daesh. I hugged the girls who smiled back shyly as the hevals checked the village homes for remaining Daesh members. Their sweet shyness hid what horrors they may have experienced or what they had to do to survive under the two long years their family was terrorised by Daesh. The hevals told us that they had found a Daesh member, who claimed to be only a driver for Daesh hiding under a car the afternoon before.

A few days after our visit Daesh had launched a second offensive in a futile attempt to recapture the dam. Many have died defending her, but liberating Tishrin has brought Rojava a significant and decisive step forward towards consolidating her revolutionary goals and objectives. We are working hard to ensure that Tishrin provides services again asap to the people of Kobane and Rojava. For us, Tishrin represents and symbolises hope and life, liberation and self-sufficiency.”

 

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Control room of the dam

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The Kobanê Reconstruction Board having lunch with the engineers of Tishrin who had continued to run the dam under IS. The visiting group were asked not to show the faces of the men for security reasons.

Photo copyrights: Hawzhin Azeez

“Iraqis and Iraqis Only Will Own This Land”

Iraq doesn’t belong to IS, Iraq never did. Don’t get fooled by the news.

If you follow anti-IS activists online you see plenty of resistance everyday, resistance that rarely make headlines in the Western news. The lack of international recognition for these activists is a reason I share these news on this web page.

This is Tourism in Iraq‘s, the page I have written about on previous occasions, latest, subtle, response to the so-called Islamic State, in form of a Facebook status update:

Iraq is the cradle of civilization with great history and magical beauty. lraqis and Iraqis only own this land.

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Photo credit: Tourism in Iraq