Mahvish Ahmad of the indispensable Tanqeed interviews refugees in Bannu, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, displaced from North Waziristan after the launch of the Pakistani Army’s Operation Zarb-e-Azb. Note that these voices go unheard in the Pakistani media and the nationalist and liberal intelligentsia has been cheering on this “war on terror”.
Solidarity disclaimer: This piece was written about a half a year ago, as I returned excitedly from a workshop in South Africa. These are my (a privileged beneficiary of the Israeli apartheid system) conclusions and analysis, and in no way presume to be an “ultimate truth”, or an attempt at dictation for Palestinian action. I only hope that it’s instructive and serves as yet another window, out of many, for thoughts, debate and input. The word “we” refers to participants of the workshop.
Often when I’m asked what the point of BDS is, I quickly answer “to get the Israeli regime to the negotiating table with no preconditions” and then I move on to tactics. Sometimes we get so mired in the blood and brutality on our path of resistance, that we need to be yanked out of it, in order to stop and see our golden milestones.
Negotiations and the Death of Liberation Continue reading “Lessons from South Africa: On the Path to Negotiations with Leverage”
United Nations, New York, 20 March 2014 – “The iconic image of a huge crowd waiting for UNRWA food parcels in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, Damascus has gone up on the “Jumbotron” billboard in New York’s Times Square. This sends a powerful message to the world diplomatic community down the road at UN Head Quarters that the world has had enough of Syria’s pitiless conflict. The photo which went viral on the internet within minutes of being released has come to symbolize the revulsion of the world with what is taking place in Syria. The showing in Times Square follows a successful, celebrity backed social media campaign by UNRWA to secure support from 23 million people worldwide, the pre war population of Syria. As the image went up, a crowd below held up pita bread as a symbolic gesture of support for the starving masses in Syria.” (UNRWA Spokesperson, Chris Gunness)
The head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees spoke Tuesday of the “shocking” conditions he had seen inside a Syrian Yarmouk camp which has been under siege and bombardment for months.
For more on Yarmouk see All That Was Left of Yarmouk: Notes to an Accomplice by Talal Alyan.
Text WARM to 70111 to donate £3 to UNICEF UK’s Syria Winter Appeal. Donate by credit card at http://www.unicef.org.uk/syria (including viewers from outside the UK).
In this short film Ewan McGregor, Michael Sheen, Tom Hiddleston, Emma Bunton, Rita Ora and Tinie Tempah join UNICEF UK in support of our Syria Winter Appeal for the children of Syria.
Thank you – your help really makes a difference to children’s lives in Syria.
Syrian-American architect Lina Sergie Attar is the founder of the Karam Foundation and its Zeitouna project which brings hope to Syrian displaced and refugee children, many of whom are traumatised, all of whom have lost great chunks of their schooling. Pulse co-editor Robin Yassin-Kassab participated in June’s Camp Zeitouna in the Atmeh camp on the Syrian side of the Turkish border. In this moving piece, originally published at the New York Times, Lina describes the workshop she led with the children in their hot and dusty tented school – mapping a floor plan of their abandoned homes – and what it meant to them. Please donate to the project and Karam’s other work inside Syria here.
by Lina Sergie Attar
“We comfort ourselves by reliving memories of protection.”
Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space
Standing in a stuffy tent while facing over forty children crowded onto small benches, their dusty faces propped up by weathered, lean arms, I feel a bit nervous. They study me curiously. I tell them that I’m Syrian, from Aleppo, and that I’m an architect. I turn towards the cracked whiteboard and begin to draw with the streaky, half dried-up marker. “I haven’t been to my family’s home for over two years. When I miss it, I remember it like this.” Without turning around, I say, “Let me tell you a story about my home.”
After enduring two and a half years of the grueling brutality that defines Syria, the fall of Assad’s regime is no longer the most pressing concern of most Syrians. Rather, “When will we return home?” is the question that haunts the over seven million displaced Syrians. Of course, the fact that the first concern is the reason the second one exists adds to the country’s mass despair.
Last winter in Atmeh, the largest of Syria’s border camps for the internally displaced, the longing to return home was repeated to me over and over — sometimes in anger, other times in sorrow. I could not answer their inquiry, “Will we ever return home?” except with the traditional, “God willing.” A response that should have been comforting if my wavering voice hadn’t betrayed my uncertainty.
When I returned to Atmeh last June, the camp had doubled in size from 12,000 to over 24,000 people who had fled their villages and towns to seek refuge in rows of tents between the olive trees — literally in no man’s land. They were as I had left them, still surviving without running water, electricity, and adequate sanitary services. The biting cold of December had been exchanged with the suffocating summer heat. The snow-white tents were now permanently coated with brown dirt streaks. The camp which had been still in formation a few months before, now felt unsettlingly settled.
I did not return alone. I returned with a team of Syrian expatriates to hold an educational mentorship program for displaced children called Zeitouna. The idea behind Zeitouna was to inspire and engross Syrian children with creative and athletic workshops that would engage their young minds. We returned to show them that they mattered. And that they had not been forgotten.
by Ahmad Diab
A Temporary People
One hot summer day in 2011, the residents of the beleaguered Homs neighborhood of Al-Khaldyeh were struggling to identify the bodies of two men. There was something unusual about the bodies even by the now morbidly gory Syrian standards. They were merely skeletons with worn-out fatigues, and a few personal belongings. The unearthing of their bodies was collateral damage to a stray bomb. They had been blown out of their unmarked shallow makeshift grave by the shells of the Syrian army against the rebellious neighborhood. The residents decided the belongings were clearly from the 1980s, the military fatigues were Palestinian. The story of Syrian Palestinians – like that of most Syrians – is one of many tucked-away skeletons that are thrown into the open, unannounced yet badly needing to be addressed.
Syria is home to some half a million Palestinian refugees, the great majority of whom were born into a dictatorship that oppresses them and its own people in the name of Arab unity and steadfastness in the face of Zionism and imperialism. Their imagined and lived geographies could not be farther apart. They know the streets of Homs, Aleppo, Deraa, and Damascus like the palms of their hands. Their schools, named after their villages and towns in Palestine, hoist the flag of the United Nations.
Josh Rushing brings another episode of Al Jazeera’s excellent Fault Lines.
The detention and deportation of immigrants has reached an all-time high under the Obama administration. Fault Lines investigates the business of immigrant detention and finds out how a few companies are shaping US immigration laws.
By Randa Farah
With the world media focusing on the crisis in Syria, it has been forgotten that Syria is home to some 400,000 Palestinian refugees. This includes 14,000 Palestinians who inhabit a refugee camp in the bombarded city of Homs, and who rely on UNRWA, the UN Agency tasked with assisting Palestinian refugees, for their daily needs.
Hamas’s recent condemnation of the Assad regime is unlikely to endear it to the Syrian government, but in fact over the years Syria has treated the Palestinians relatively well, if one compares the way Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt have treated their Palestinian refugee communities. Moreover, unlike Israel, Syria has never threatened the UN Agency or plotted its demise, a move that could precipitate a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions.
The most recent Israeli threats against UNRWA include an attack by Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, that blamed the Agency for perpetuating the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In conjunction with a PR firm and the right-wing, US-based StandWithUs organization, Ayalon has created a series of videos on youtube that attempt to promote Israel’s image and spin the history of the conflict. His most recent video is on Palestinian refugees. Ayalon proposes that UNRWA be dismantled and blames it for prolonging the refugee issue and the conflict. Instead, he proposes that Palestinian refugees be placed under the UNHCR’s mandate. In fact, however, the primary reason why UNRWA still exists is due to Israel’s consistent rejection of UN General Assembly resolution 194 (III)calling for the right of refugees to return and compensation.
David Sheen‘s devastating report for the African Refugee Development Center (ARDC) on the mistreatment of asylum seekers in Israel was submitted to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) on January 30, 2012.