Your Values & Loneliness

The world is falling apart and people’s minds are going downhill with it.

Intolerance are increasing everywhere. People with intolerant views believe they are finally right.

What before was off the record is now on the record. Everything is possible. Everything is true. It’s like the Holocaust never happened. WWII never happened.

You try to stick to your values anyhow. You try to stick to what’s right. Maybe not stick up for, but stick to. That’s the least you can demand from yourself.

Does it pay off? Maybe for your soul.

Does it pay off for your every day life? No.

Does it pay off for your social life? No.

Does it pay off for your relationships? No.

At the other end of sticking to your values in a time when most people don’t, comes this: loneliness.

How to Fuck up Your Kids Using Religion as a Tool

Do you have a hatred inside you that you wish to transfer to your children? Do you channel the hatred by religion? Is hate more important to you than children feeling safe and loved? This piece is for You.

Dear Hater,

This is how You should roll it.

Speak directly the kids that You want to transfer the hate to – Your kids, Your grandkids, other kids that You are taking care of or have an influence over, kids that are dependant on You and Your care in order to feel safe and secure, and therefore have no other or little other reference they can relate to, no other safety net, no other strong role models that they can rely on instead, when You start your hateful indoctrination.

Tell the kids that there is A Certain Religion that is bad, simply bad with no specific reason. Tell the kids that whoever belongs to That Religion is dirty, unclean, unfaithful, greedy, cheap. Any negative adjective You can use – use it for That Certain Religion.

Use a stereotype for anyone coming from That Certain Religion. Tell the children about the certain features of that religion. These people have certain hair colours, noses, facial features. That’s how you can tell they belong to That Religion.

The people from That Religion is all bad. Everything they do, they’re bad. You can never be friends with them. You can never go to school with them. You can never be neighbours with them. You can never work with them. This, the children needs to know. Before they start school, they need to know. They can never accept other people as individuals. Everything should be filtered in the dirty filter that You use for life.

Does anyone in the children’s extended family belong  to That Religion? Did they, God forbid, marry an outcast who belongs to That Religion? Did someone make the unforgivable crime of converting? Tell the children that all these people that have committed that unforgivable sin will be punished for what they did. Family or not, religion cuts through everything. They don’t celebrate the same religious occasions as You and the children do, and therefore, they are bad. They will never be able to enter certain religious places because of their religion. Even when life is over, when they’re dead, they won’t find peace. They will burn in hell. Hell, to children, is scary. Use that fear as an incitement. Fear filters everything. Fear is a useful filter against love. Fear is a useful filter against happiness.

You hope that You succeed. Succeeding in passing on the hate is,  first and foremost, the ultimate goal for the children that You care for.

But wait! Somehow, with one child or more, You were not successful. The children grow up, slowly but steadily along a rocky path, and where fear had it’s way, hate somehow didn’t make it. They could not buy the concept of hate, but they could not resist the concept of fear. Confusion and anxiety took the place where You hoped hatred would be.

You did not succeed. The children are not haters the way You hoped. But they are not secure, happy, grown up persons. Any hateful comments, they flinch and dodge. Any hateful comment, they might attack. Any hateful comment, it hurts them as if a bullet went straight to their heart.

You have made everything poisoned. Any religious holiday, any family gathering, it’s all attached to the fear and confusion, to the hatred You hoped would be planted in their heart.

You have succeeded, but You have not succeeded. You have created a damaged, fearful person where You hoped hatred would have been a part of the child, now the grown up person’s, spine. The hate have stopped, but the pain hasn’t. The pain probably never will. You have succeeded, but You have not succeeded. Where You wanted a strong hate to take place, something else took it’s place.

In the worst case for You, the grown up child recent everything that You were standing for. The grown up child might recent You and Your ways, even long after You have left this life. But the grown up child is still not happy. Still not secure. They are just fucked up. But they won’t carry on Your hate. This means, You have really not succeeded at all.

Regards,

Someone who’s not carrying on with Your hate

#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.

The Poison

You believe you are a decent person. You believe you never do harm. Then you open your mouth and intolerance comes out.

You believe you are a tolerant person. You believe you are a humanitarian. Then you open your mouth and ignorance comes out.

You’ve never been to places. Never left your hometown, never broadened your views. You don’t have friends a different shade then your own. Never rubbed against other cultures. Never rubbed against what could be good and could be bad. Still you know everything. Know about Them and the Bad Things They Do. You open your mouth and hate comes out.

It doesn’t come from you. It comes from what seeps in everywhere. The wrongs where we once were more right. It’s the Poison.

“Not a Single Mention of Release of Political Prisoners or Human Rights Violations” – an Iranian’s Opinion on the Lift of Sanctions

Today when the world celebrates the lifting of US sanctions against Iran, and CNN’s headline blasts out “Flight to Freedom”, on the previously imprisoned Americans that has been released as a part of the peace agreement, I wanted to have an Iranian’s point of view. A friend of mine gave his opinion, on the condition of anonymity.

Today, 17th of January 2016, Iranians woke up to their first day without sanctions. Whilst a lot of people will rejoice and feel relieved from an economical sense, pragmatically this just means Iran has gone back to 2006 when (the latest) sanctions were put in place. 

During the sanctions the wealthy, those with connections, those who succumbed to corruption found ways to bypass international laws and got richer. Of course as a consequence the country as a whole got poorer because a lot of oil and other resources were sold far below market price to China, India and elsewhere or re-branded as some other country. Whilst people were complaining about medicine shortage, sports cars were being imported at a never seen rate.

People similar to Babak Zanjani and countless others are now eagerly awaiting the influx of money. 100 billion dollars of assets are set to be released and Western companies can do business again.

Except, no one asks themselves, who will the money go to? Will the removal of sanctions act like some cataclysm to unlock the gross unemployment, the gross violations of human rights and everything else that is wrong with the system?

Of course not. To understand why, you simply have to look at the terms of the nuclear negotiations.

The West wanted Iran to stop pursuing even the ability to obtain an atomic bomb and Iran wanted to export its oil again and buy stuff from the global market. What’s missing?

Not a single mention of release of political prisoners, human rights violations, indictment of international criminals, free elections, gender equality and so much more. In the end it was about protecting interest. Iran could continue to do whatever it wanted internally to its population as exemplified by the record number of executions in 2015 so long as it stayed off course for an atomic bomb. If the West was serious about handling the Iranian regime it could have easily put further terms in the negotiations that meant release of all political prisoners and a return to free elections. In all likelihood they probably could have got the Iranians to agree sooner or later. 

In the end the removal of sanctions will simply mean that those with power will now have access to more cheap capital to invest in their projects and assign their family members and friends to various positions.

Yes, probably there will be jobs created. Someone after all has to do the hard labour work.

But will Iran change for the better? Will the arrest of those who dare to oppose with nothing but their words, stop?

Of course not. Internally things will continue and the everyone will be happy that diplomacy has worked.

Photo: First Women’s Rights Demonstration in Egypt

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This photo is from the Facebook site King Farouk of Egypt, a site that’s dedicated to showing photos and stories from ancient Egypt. This photo is allegedly portraying the first demonstration for women’s rights in Egypt, on March 9, 1919.

The site is reminding us of hopeful times, when the Middle East and North Africa region wasn’t bleeding. I believe we all need it right now.

“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.

Dear Western Activist for a Middle Eastern Cause!

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Are you into a Middle Eastern political or social cause that you have found yourself 100% dedicated to? Congratulations to discovering a new part of the world! Not many people who travels start to indulge in the culture and language of another country.

However, there are some side effects I have seen consistently with the, mostly young, sometimes older, Western activists who throw themselves into a Middle Eastern cause. If I have met you somewhere, some of your traits might resemble this person:

You are completely in love with the new country, the new culture and the cause you have discovered. The reason for the cause – a conflict, a social injustice – has probably existed for long but for you it’s new, and so be it. For you, it’s a new situation, and you apply that to the cause. Therefore, the cause is new.

Injustices in your own country, at home, don’t matter half as much to you. To be active in the local politics or volunteer in your local community is not as exciting, even though you might be able to provide much more input in a country where you already knew the context, the culture and the language. No, it’s the across-border-thingy that attracts you. The Middle Eastern people need to be saved. They are oppressed.

Could there be nuances in or two sides to a conflict? Nah, that doesn’t interest you. You are 100% pro or against. Local politics, peace negotiations, revision of the law – all this isn’t that interesting, if it isn’t involving what you can recognise as pure, angry activism.

You despise the Gulf countries and are in love with the rest. Dubai, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are oppressive countries where other kinds of Westerners go to make money. There might be plenty of human rights groups in these countries, but that doesn’t catch your attention.

All injustices are the fault of US, Europe, or Israel. There is little responsibility with the national governments or the hardcore religious groups that overthrow any attempt to democracy. The West is to blame for everything. The West is all over racist. You don’t have statistics that will back this up, but statistics is nothing that matters to you anyhow.

The women’s rights situation you either overlook, you become uncomfortable if another activist points out the systematic oppression of women in the country or region you are dedicated to. Or you might make this your own cause, you take it on yourself to educate and liberate the oppressed women in the Middle East, ignoring the many local women’s rights groups that is, patronising the Middle Eastern women by making them need your help. You might even create a Facebook page where you undress in support of the women of the Middle East. Would a Middle Eastern woman undress to support her sisters in the West? Probably not. But that doesn’t cross your mind.

You have very clear opinions on the hijab. It’s either sexy, you try it on in the mirror before you travel to a Middle Eastern country (note: in most Middle Eastern countries it’s not mandatory), you have postcards with photographs of women in hijabs and AK4s stuck to your bedroom wall, and you dress in one on occasions and in places even when it’s not needed. Or it’s oppressive, and you do everything you can to find evidence that justifies this cause.

When hanging out with Middle Eastern friends that you’ve made in your city back home, you have lower standards than you would have with friends of your own nationality. Did a man you hang out with crack a sexist joke? Do you know that he specifically treated a woman you know badly? You forgive him, because he is from the Middle Eastern country you adore. He still needs to learn, as if he has no brain of his own, as if there weren’t men in his country that could behave properly.

Dear Western activist for a Middle Eastern cause: if you read this and you feel targeted, please don’t get too mad with me. If you feel targeted, spend some time to think why and how being an activist for a foreign cause without seeing the full aspects of it, can be problematic and reinforce stereotypes. You see, this text is aiming the problematic aspects of activism when applied to a foreign country, in the context of post-colonialism. And you know what else? I used to be where you are, myself, once upon a time.

Photo credit: brown fox.org

“When Politicians Failed to Agree on Conducting the Country’s Affairs, the Quartet Helped Them.”

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The Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet

Congratulations Tunisia! We were many who were overwhelmed by joy when the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet scored the – Swedish! – Nobel Peace Prize of 2015 a few days ago. Finally, a light at the end of the tunnel!

Now, what does a Tunisian person think of this? My friend Firas, who usually is happy to share his ideas about politics, especially the Tunisian ones, gave me his ideas, in a typical Tunisian style of mixing English with French vocabulary. He was, for once, very optimistic. A trait that is not very common among Middle Eastern and North African people nowadays.

He is happy to say that the quartet deserves it:

“They negotiated for a year in order to take country to the end of the tunnel. 2012 and 2013 were tough years. Radicals were in the government, economy was down and terrorism and unemployment up. The Nobel Peace lauréates managed to make a deal, through dialogue that allowed peaceful power shift.

They lobbied and conducted a dialogue that almowed power shift from mainly islamist government to a next one made of technocrats. This lowered social tensions… Each part of this quartet represented a part of the society. When politicians failed to agree on conducting country’s affairs, the quartet helped them.”

Firas says that the quartet helped in avoiding dictatorship and power vacuum, and points out that they negotiated around nine months to facilitate the power shift to a technocrat government and to prepare for the first democratic election:

“They negotiated around nine months the power shift to technocrat government, a non-politicised one whose mission is to keep the government afloat, and prepare for the first democratic election that will bring first democratically elected government.”

I share Firas’ hopefulness too. This quartet helped Tunisia in avoiding the fate of Egypt and Libya: where sectarian tensions has taken over and terrorism replaces politics. These days I think we should celebrate the victory over terrorism, or as the player would put it: Dialogue vs Conflict: 1-0.

Photo credit: cnn.com