“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.

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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

I Still Don’t Share Photos of Murdered IS Terrorists. At Some Point This Still Needs to End.

After the Paris massacre a photo popped up in my Facebook news feed, signed the Kurdish security forces, Peshmerga, that I follow. A photo of a murdered young man, clearly shot dead while on the move, probably fleeing for his life. His face is frozen in a frightened expression, his hands curled up in spasms, his face covered in blood.

In front of him another young man is peeking in to the camera and cheekily sticking out his tongue. The photo caption reads “Gift of the Peshmerga heroes to French people“.

The comments are almost exclusively overwhelmingly joyous and sarcastic:

“Nice shot”

“Stay Frosty”

“He’s throwing ISIS gang signs LOL”

I didn’t hit the like button for this photo. I didn’t share it. I did consider potentially stop liking Peshmerga forces, despite the information the page provides me.

It might be obvious to you why I reacted like this, but to sum it up, here’s the comment from the one follower of the page, a young man too and I believe he is Kurdish, who did not agree:

By posting this you bring shame on the Kurdish people.
We should not be driven by hate, but by humanity and our love to freedom.

If only more young men were thinking like him.

I have never and will never share photos of murdered or injured or caged IS terrorists. We might be approaching the third world war, we might be in the middle of it, but at one point, this still needs to end. And peace will not come faster by seeking revenge and mocking the dead ones.

I will not be the person to prolong the wait.

The Fighting

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The fighting over flags is ridiculous.

The fighting over who suffers the most is ridiculous.

The fighting over where people come from is ridiculous.

The fighting over refugees is ridiculous.

We are all tired, afraid.

We all want to live.

Photo credit: Wikipedia.org

May God Help Us, if He Exists

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I was going to write about something else, I have done research for a Middle Eastern topic, as some readers know I love the Middle East and am dedicated to write about sides of this region that usually are unnoticed in the Western media.

But then there was the terror attack in Turkey. This photo supposedly shows activists from the Socialist Youth Association Federation, snapping a group selfie before the bomb blast in Suruc. Turkey, the country that has sailed up from poverty and created a large middle class and that hosts a vivid civil society – now pulled back by the murder machine of we-know-who.

Before that, it was the Eid blasts all over. On a holiday that is sacred to many.

Before that, there was Tunisia, a country where I was supposed to go visit friends in a few days time, in Tunis and Sousse, only having to cancel it when Sweden’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs changed their travel recommendation.

Before that there was the Charleston massacre.

So I lost my inspiration tonight. In this very moment, this is what I feel:

I think we will remember this time as a dark turning point in history, when dark powers started to outweigh the good ones, and terrorism conquered co-existence. May God help us, if he exists.

Photo copyright: unknown

How Do We Feel about Tunisia?

How do feel about Tunisia? Do we have the energy to gather empathy for the victims, the country, after the terrorist attack, or are we by now so numb that we will just write it off as another horrible event that seems to be the trade mark of our time?

Me myself I’m upset and sad. I have a friend in Sousse where the massacre took place and it seems that each time a terror attack happens, it’s in a place where I have close friends, and I have to send e-mails, make phone calls, send texts, to make sure everyone is ok. The negative side of having friends all over the world is the constant worry. And I would also feel less of the lack of empathy that I sometimes experience for the ever-growing terrorism worldwide. Maybe I should have stayed in Sweden and never started my travels. Maybe my life would be less worrisome then.

But feelings aside, how does this attack feel for Tunisians? We sometimes seem to forget them in the aftermath of this very attack. Therefore I asked a friend of mine, living in France, to hear what he had to say. His name is Aymen El Amri and he was once one of the initiators to the Pirate party in Tunisia. He seemed upset and sad, and said that he doubted that he would feel secure in returning to live in Tunisia, but he still wanted to share his views.

A gunman trying to kill civilians, I think it happened in some other countries around the world throughout history, but personally I have never experienced such things except in some Hollywood movies. This is new to Tunisia…

Tunisia is a small country and everything is limited there, from natural resources to police security equipment but I appreciate the fact that it has helped and provided humanitarian aid to nearly two millions Libyan refugees. But the fact of being neighbor with Libya, the civil war in this country plus the economic instability of Tunisia gave the advantage to malevolent people and groups to infiltrate to the Tunisian land, by recruitment of teenagers and trafficking of weapons.

I’ve always had a reflection of linking what is happening; IS, terrorism, attacks, bombing, to an economic; oil, gas, and geopolitical; balance of forces context. Seeing this as a religious extremism consequence is right but not enough since this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Firstly, I accuse the incompetence of the current Tunisian government – even if it is a secular government it remains incompetent – and secondly I accuse all the international “forces” that invaded Libya, supposedly to give birth to a democracy while the only change was traded equities of some oil and gas companies that increased overnight following the invasion of Libya.

For sure, I will not be 100% comfortable returning to live there and at the same time I am uncomfortable not being able to participate in getting things progress in Tunisia given the distance.

What happened is very sad but it will happen in many other countries because we’re simply living in the same world.

What stands out to me in Aymen’s reply, is that despite his country’s current sad situation and his own despairs for the future, he himself can still appreciate the help his country have been giving to two million refugees. War and terror doesn’t have to conquer empathy, at least not for everyone. Sometimes I like to be proven to be wrong.

Photo credit: uknewsroom.tk