Adonis Diaries

Archive for June 2014



The shifting soft power of the Arab world

Joseph Nye’s term of “soft power” is being interpreted any which way, as long as the power is not expressed in direct military engagement.

All these financial, economic and diplomatic sanctions that hurt the people of a “rogue state” and leave the political institutions intact to exert even harsher control over a society are calamities that cannot be redressed for decades.

Currently, soft power is applied by imperialist States allied with oil rich monarchies by coordinating funding of extremist factions to destabilize countries and run havoc among the population in arranging and planning long-term civil wars.

And yet, you have authors who managed to invent new expressions for soft power. Like playing the game of the capitalist imperialist elite states and using financial aids to coerce policy change along their short-term megalomania.

(CNN) — Over the past decade the Arab world has witnessed a shifting of not only hard power — which saw the traditional armies of the Arab world in Syria, Egypt and Iraq consumed in internal turmoil — but also of what Harvard professor Joseph Nye termed “soft power,” which has moved from these countries to the resource rich Gulf states.

Long before their formation into modern states, the cities of the Gulf were recipients of talent, skill and economic aid from the traditional Arab nation states that have today fallen into obscurity

Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi posted June 27, 2014 , Special to CNN
Watch this video

City of Tomorrow: World’s tallest tower

 Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi

Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi

For centuries the Kiswa, or black drapes of the holy Kaaba in Mecca were supplied by Baghdad, Cairo or Sanaa as well as Istanbul who were locked in protocol battles of soft power over the holy city.

This is of course no longer the case. Saudi Arabia, the Arab world economic (financial?) superpower and fourth largest spender on military (why and for what use?), is the party that sends aid not only to Yemen and Egypt but also to most Arab states (and funds terrorist factions to destabilize neighboring Arab States such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen…)

According to the World Bank, the Arab Gulf states, perhaps none more so than Kuwait, are today amongst the most generous nations with regards to financial aid, contributing more than twice the United Nations target of 0.7% of their combined gross national income during the period between 1973-2008.

Since the beginning of the Arab uprisings, Gulf Aid to the Arab world has significantly spiked.

Egypt, for example, has received billions of dollars from the Gulf States since its January 25, 2011, uprising.

The Egyptians’ loss of influence over Mecca — which was then under Hashemite rule — to Saudi founder Ibn Saud in 1925 was an irreparable blow to Cairo’s mechanism of religious soft power and a significant advantage to the Al Sauds. Perhaps no other city in the world, save for Hollywood, commands as much global soft power as Mecca.

Pilot’s stunning images of Dubai

From sports venue to luxury mini city


For decades, media output in the Arab world was produced, recorded, filmed and performed in the traditional leading Arab states of Iraq, Syria and Egypt as well as Lebanon.

Today a significant portion of television production, recording and filming — not to mention financing — takes place in the Gulf cities of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha.

Much of this entertainment is produced in the local dialects of Egypt and Syria, but the Gulf cities can exercise a large degree of influence on material that is locally filmed and financed.

The Gulf states are also home to the most watched TV news channels in the Arab world, a significant mechanism of soft power in one of the most politically unstable regions.

Between the Doha based Al Jazeera and the Saudi owned and Dubai based Al Arabiya is a media war for the hearts and minds of the Arab public.

The two leading news channels of the Arab world are accused of reflecting the versions of events closest to the politics of their funders.

Even so, the soft power reach of these channels with their tens of millions of Arab viewers cannot be quantified and has become one of the main levers of soft power of the Gulf states.

Flourishing tourism

While tourism has come to a standstill in Lebanon, Egypt, Syria and Iraq it has flourished in the Gulf states.

Dubai with its infrastructure and attractions that were built over the past half-century today attracts more tourists than any other Arab state and is the seventh most visited city in the world.

This year, Airports Council International ranked Dubai’s airport, home of Emirates Airlines, as the world’s busiest — in terms of passenger numbers — for the 12 months ending March.

Abu Dhabi, Doha, Muscat and a number of Saudi cities are undertaking massive airport and other infrastructure projects that will keep tourists pouring in.

The Gulf cities have turned themselves into globally recognized brands, while traditional Arab cities such as Baghdad, Cairo and Damascus have become synonymous with turmoil and unrest.

The massive multi billion-dollar nation branding exercise that cities like Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha have undertaken has turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

World diplomatic, business and media leaders continuously make visits to these cities attracted by their commercial, political and media clout, this in turn attracts others to be based here.

For instance, today Abu Dhabi is arguably the de facto political hub of the region having witnessed visits by most foreign ministers of regional and global powers.

When the British decided to withdraw from the Gulf states in the 1960s they left behind fledgling nations, weak and exposed to regional states and the political ambitions of neighbors.

While the traditionally culturally rich powers of the Arab world continue to face internal turmoil and fail to invest in cultural projects, the Gulf states continue to thrive.

Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Doha and Sharjah are investing heavily in museums and education, attracting talent from across the Arab world and beyond.

For the second year running, a survey of young Arabs found that the UAE topped their list of preferred countries to live in, followed by the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The UAE at 39% scored almost twice as high as the U.S. at 21% — a significant show of force for a country that isn’t even half a century old.

Barely a week goes by in the Gulf states without them witnessing major international events and meetings.

The Gulf states have been on a publicity and nation-branding streak.

From Dubai’s hosting of the World Bank and IMF meetings in 2003 to the Dubai World Expo in 2020, the city is abuzz with global conferences such as the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Councils, sporting championships and media, IT and business forums.

Qatar’s hosting of the World Trade Organization Doha Round of talks in 2001 to the World Cup 2022 as well as Abu Dhabi’s massive Guggenheim and Louvre museums — which are scheduled to open in the next few years — will cement these states’ soft power advantages.

Today — due to their incredible soft power — it is these Gulf states that carry influence over the rest of the Arab world.

Editor’s note: Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi is a UAE based columnist. He tweets at @SultanAlQassemi. The views expressed in this commentary are solely his. This is the first of four opinion articles giving readers a snapshot of major issues in the Middle East. Follow the discussion this Ramadan on Connect the World with Becky Anderson as it travels from Abu Dhabi to Cairo, Beirut, Istanbul and Sharjah. Weekdays 4:00pm London time 7:00 pm Abu Dhabi time.

Nine Untranslatable Arabic Words, Translated

1. Ya’aburnee (te2borneh) يقبرني

“You bury me” is an expression of love that goes beyond the grave, said in hope of death before another for life without them would be unimaginable.


2. Zankha زنخ

The rancid/putrid smell of rotting meat is used as a mild insult directed towards someone irritating.


3. Awee/Gowwah (kuwwa) قوة *

Literally: strength or force. Used in colloquial language to reinforce the strength with which one loves/likes something. For example; I love you a lot. The word heavy is often used to describe the strength of a smell or food.


4. Bitmoun بتمون

You are in someone’s good books that might be able to help you later on. This is not to be confused with Tarbih (jmeeli) as this represents a mutually beneficial and positive relationship.


5. Dam khafif/ Thaqeel خفيف/دم ثقيل

Literally meaning light/ heavy blood, this term is used to describe one’s personality or behaviour. Light blood makes one light hearted and a complaining, bad humoured individual is described as ‘heavy-blooded’.


6. Inshallah إن شاء الله

An Arabic word used by Muslims all around the world and Arabic speaking believers of God, Inshallah means God willing.


7. Na’eeman (na3eeman) نعىمن

A blessing bestowed upon someone after a shower or make-over.


8. Ishq (3eshq)  عشق

“True” love. Love in its most pure form, without jealousy or inconsistency. The kind of love you imagine to exist between an old couple who have been together their entire lives.


9. Sahar سهر

To stay up late for enjoyment.



Are there any more expressions you would add?


Martin Schneider posted this June 26,2014


Some wedding photographer had the bright idea to add a little spice to the dreary and stilted wedding pics of time immemorial—and apparently it’s caught on! Because who doesn’t like being a little bit naughty at what often ends up being an inherently antiquated and conservative ritual … aw hell, I can’t work up any interest in that perspective. Look at the nice tushies!

I suppose you can’t spell honeymoon without “moon”…..







via Elite Daily

No Comments from my part

If you need to explain, just proceed with the change

Clarity vs. impact

Sometimes you can have both, but being crystal clear about categorization, topic sentences and the deliverable get in the way of actually making an impact.

If you can make change with a memo containing three bullet points, then by all means, do so.

The rest of the time, you might have to sacrifice the easy ride of clarity for the dense fog of telling stories, using inferences, understanding worldviews and most of all, engaging in action, not outlining the details. of a hypothetical interaction.

It turns out, humans don’t use explanations to make change happen. They change, and then try to explain it.

(So, whatever it takes to make an impact by action changing processes is far better than focusing on an exhaustive explanation discourse?)


Iraqi Government Losing Control of Border Crossings and Syria extending a hand by bombing towns on the Syrian/Iraqi borders that fell in ISIS (Da3esh) control.

ISIS fighters captured the border crossing at Qaim on Friday. Over the weekend, the group appeared to be trying to seize the remaining Iraqi government controlled border crossings with Syria and Jordan. RELATED ARTICLE »

Sources: Caerus AssociatesLong War JournalInstitute for the Study of War

ISIS partial or complete control   Contested    Recent fighting

Al Waleed There were unconfirmed reports that government forces had fled. Frightened police officers, reached by telephone, said that the army had already left and that the police scattered when militants arrived. Qaim ISIS captured this crossing on Friday. Bukamal, on the Syrian side, was also out of government control, with groups including the Free Syrian Army and Al Nusra Front maintaining a strong presence. Rabia Kurdish forces secured this crossing following the fall of Mosul. Yaroubia, on the Syrian side, is controlled by Kurdish forces of a different political affiliation.

Consequences of Sectarian Violence on Baghdad’s Neighborhoods

Baghdad became highly segregated in the years after the American-led invasion of Iraq.

The city’s many mixed neighborhoods hardened into enclaves along religious and ethnic divisions. 

These maps, based on the work of Michael Izady for Columbia University’s Gulf 2000 project, show how the city divided from 2003 to 2009.

KEY Sunni majority Shiite majority Christian majority Mixed areas







Green Zone



Tigris River






Green Zone




Tigris River


2003: Before the Invasion

Before the American invasion, Baghdad’s major sectarian groups lived mostly side by side in mixed neighborhoods.

The city’s Shiite and Sunni populations were roughly equal, according to Juan Cole, a University of Michigan professor and Middle East expert.

2009: Violence Fuels Segregation

Sectarian violence exploded in 2006. Families living in areas where another sect was predominant were threatened with violence if they did not move.

By 2009 Shiites were a majority, with Sunnis reduced to about 10 percent to 15 percent of the population.

• Kadhimiya, a historically Shiite neighborhood, is home to a sacred Shiite shrine.

• Adhamiya, a historically Sunni neighborhood, contains the Abu Hanifa Mosque, a Sunni landmark.

• The Green Zone became the heavily fortified center of American operations during the occupation.

• Sadr City was the center of the insurgent Mahdi Army, led by the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr.

• Huriya was transformed in 2006 when the Mahdi Army pushed out hundreds of families in a brutal spasm of sectarian cleansing.

• More than 8,000 displaced families relocated to Amiriya, the neighborhood where the Sunni Awakening began in Baghdad.

• Adhamiya, a Sunni island in Shiite east Baghdad, was walled and restricted along with other neighborhoods in 2007 for security.

• Neighborhoods east of the Tigris Riverare generally more densely populated than areas to the west.

Source: Dr. M. Izady, Columbia University’s Gulf 2000 project

Battle for the Baiji Oil Refinery

Witnesses reported that Sunni extremists seized Iraq’s largest oil refinery on June 18 after fighting the Iraqi Army for a week, but officials disputed the reports and the situation remains unclear.

Workers were evacuated, and the facility, which provides oil for domestic consumption to 11 Iraqi provinces, including Baghdad, was shut down. RELATED ARTICLE »

Source: Satellite image by NASA











Oil refinery







Smoke plume

at 10:30 a.m.






Encroaching on Baghda

Since seizing Mosul on June 10, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has been attacking towns along the main highway heading south, coming closer and closer to the capital.RELATED ARTICLE »

Sources: Institute for the Study of War,Long War Journal

KEY  Towns attacked  Bomb attacks











JUNE 11, 13, 17









The Iraqi army retook control of Ishaqi and Muqdadiya on June 14. In Muqdadiya, a Shiite militia assisted the government forces.





Militants took control of several neighborhoods inBaquba on June 16 but were repulsed by security officers after a three-hour gun battle.


JUNE 16, 17




Falluja and many towns in the western province of Anbar have been under ISIS control for about six months.




At least five bomb attacks occurred in Baghdad, mainly in Shiite areas, in the week after the rebel group took Mosul.

Sadr City



Bab al-Sheikh

Al-Bab Al-Sharqi



Ten Years of ISIS Attacks in Iraq

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Sunni militant group that staged a stunning operation to seize Iraq’s second largest city, has been fueling sectarian violence in the region for years. RELATED ARTICLE »




Attacks That Could Be Attributed to ISIS



















51 attacks



58 attacks


5 attacks


56 attacks


62 attacks


78 attacks


86 attacks


34 attacks


603 attacks


419 attacks

2004-05 The group emerges as “Al Qaeda in Iraq” following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Its goal is to provoke a civil war. 2006-07 The group’s February 2006 bombing of one of Iraq’s most revered Shiite shrines ignites sectarian violence across the country. After merging with several other Sunni insurgent groups, it changes its name to the Islamic State of Iraq. 2008-10 I.S.I. claims responsibility for more than 200 attacks, many in densely-populated areas around Baghdad. 2011-12 The group is relatively quiet for most of 2011, but re-emerges after American troops withdraw from Iraq. 2013 Seeing new opportunities for growth, I.S.I. enters Syria’s civil war and changes its name to reflect a new aim of establishing an Islamic religious state spanning Iraq and Syria. Its success in Syria bleeds over the border to Iraq.
Note: Before 2011, less information was available on who was responsible for attacks, so the number of ISIS attacks from 2004 to 2010 may be undercounted.

Sources: Global Terrorism Database, National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (attack data); Congressional Research Service; Council on Foreign Relations; Long War Journal; Institute for the Study of War

A Week of Rapid Advances After Taking Mosul

After sweeping across the porous border from Syria to overrun Mosul, insurgents aligned with the jihadist Islamic State in Iraq and Syria continued to press south down the main north-south highway toward Baghdad. RELATED ARTICLE »


Area of



June 13

June 10

Mosul captured






June 11




June 12

Dhuluiya captured

June 11-12


Tigris R.

About 110 miles

Attacks in

the days after

Mosul captured


June 11

Parts of Baiji





Ishaki   Dujail

June 14


Lake Tharthar



Euphrates R.

After capturing Mosul, Tikrit and parts of a refinery in Baiji, insurgents attackedSamarra, where Shiite militias helped pro-government forces.

Then, they seized Jalawla and Sadiyah but were forced back by government troops backed by Kurdish forces. They continued their moves south by Ishaki and Dujail.

Which Cities Does ISIS Control?


Having occupied crucial sections of Syria over the past year and more recently seizing vast areas of Iraq, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria controls territory greater than many countries and now rivals Al Qaeda as the world’s most powerful jihadist group.

The group seized Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, on June 10. RELATED ARTICLE »

Deir al-ZourRaqqahQaimAl WaleedAnaHadithaHitRawaaFallujaSaadiyahHawijaMosulRamadiBaijiTikritHasakahSamarraKirkukBaqubaTal AfarAzazJalawlaRutbaIRAQSYRIAJORDANTURKEYIRANKUWAITDamascusBaghdadAleppoHamaHomsErbilBasraKarbalaNajaf

ISIS control of cities

Partial or complete


Attacks since Mosul

Sources: Caerus AssociatesLong War JournalInstitute for the Study of War

What the Militants Want: A Caliphate Across Syria and Iraq


The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has vowed to establish a caliphate — a unified Islamic government ruled by a caliph, someone considered to be a successor to Muhammad’s political authority — stretching from western Syria across Iraq to the eastern border with Iran.

This map shows the boundaries envisioned by ISIS.

Source: “The Islamic State in Iraq Returns to Diyala” by Jessica Lewis, Institute for the Study of War








Deir al-Zour


















Attacks Follow Sectarian Lines


The insurgents, originating in Syria, moved through Iraq’s Sunni-dominated north and west, occupying cities and towns surrendered by Iraqi soldiers and police.

They have largely avoided the Kurd-dominated northeast, but have threatened to march on to Baghdad and into the Shiite-dominated areas of the south.

Source: Dr. M. Izady, Columbia University’s Gulf 2000 project












Euphrates River


Predominant group

Sunni Arab

Shiite Arab



Iraqi Cities, Then and Now


Many of the Iraqi cities that have been attacked and occupied by militants in recent days were also the sites of battles and other major events during the Iraq War.


Then: American forces took control of Mosul in April 2003. What followed was a period of relative peace until mid-2004 when periodic insurgent attacks flared, resulting in a large-scale battle in November.
The death toll reached dozens, including a number of Iraqi soldiers who were publicly beheaded. RELATED ARTICLE »
Now: In perhaps the most stunning recent development, Sunni militants drove Iraqi military forces out of Mosul on June 10, forcing a half-million residents to flee the city.
Iraqi soldiers reportedly dropped their weapons and donned civilian clothing to escape ISIS insurgents.
MosulMoises Saman for The New York Times

Then: Falluja played a pivotal role in the American invasion of Iraq. It was the site of a number of large-scale battles with insurgents.
In April 2003, it became a hot bed for controversy when American soldiers opened fire on civilians after claiming they had been shot at.
Incessant fighting left the city decimated, leveling a majority of its infrastructure and leaving about half its original population. RELATED ARTICLE »
Now: Sunni militants seized Falluja’s primary municipal buildings on Jan. 3. The takeover came as an early and significant victory for the group, initiating a slew of attacks south of the city.
FallujaMax Becherer for The New York Times

Then: The home of Saddam Hussein, Tikrit became the target of an early American military operation during the Iraq war.
Securing it proved cumbersome, however, as insurgents mounted continued attacks on the city for years afterward.
On Dec. 14, 2003, Hussein was found hiding in an eight-foot deep hole, just south of Tikrit. RELATED ARTICLE »
Now: Tikrit fell to ISIS insurgents on June 11, clearing a path for them to march on to Baiji, home to one of Iraq’s foremost oil-refining operations.
After taking the city in less than a day, militants continued the fight just south, in Samarra.
TikritChang W. Lee/The New York Times

Then: Samarra is home to the Askariya shrine, which was bombed in 2006, prompting an extended period of sectarian violence across the country. RELATED ARTICLE »
Now: After an initial attack on June 5, ISIS insurgents have now positioned themselves just miles away from Samarra.
It is unclear whether they are capable of capturing the city in the coming days, but the Shiite shrine makes it a volatile target.
SamarraAyman Oghanna for The New York Times

Video: Iraq’s Factions and Their Goals


A look at the goals of of the three main groups in Iraq — Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish — as the country threatens to split apart along sectarian lines.

Growing Humanitarian Crisis


The United Nations estimates that at least 500,000 Iraqis were displaced by the takeover of Mosul.

Food supplies are low and there is limited fresh water and little electricity.

An additional 430,000 people were displaced by fighting In Anbar Province, which insurgents have controlled for more than six months.

Safin Hamed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
An Iraqi family, one of thousands who have fled Mosul for the autonomous Kurdish region, walks past tents at a temporary camp.

Video: Behind the Group That Took Mosul


Background on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Islamist group that appears to be in control of the second largest city in Iraq.


“Scrounger” people according to Iain Duncan

Utterly, utterly brilliant! Perfect in fact. Give this woman a standing ovation!
Ren WaromGive this woman a standing ovation!

“There’s no love, just proofs of loving”

What could be proofs of “being in love”?

How men and women express their love in action and behavior?

Men and women are two different species and their behaviors differ when expressing their being in love.

Une preuve d’amour.
Une preuve comme d’autres. L’attente, un enfant, un trajet. Les femmes et les hommes n’expriment pas leur amour de la même façon.
Les premières le font continuellement. Chaque jour. Dans des attentions quotidiennes, dans le don de leur temps ou de leur être.
Les hommes sont plus dans le concret. Dans les cadeaux et dans les gestes. Les actes fous et insensés. L’amour d’un homme est toujours plus violent. Plus enivrant. Plus troublant.
Un homme amoureux brise les tabous.
Il bouscule l’ordre établi de sa vie. Il quitte une femme pour une autre. Il se quitte lui-même. Il attend une femme. Des années. Qu’elle se décide ou qu’elle se libère. Il lui demande sa main. Il lui fait une scène de jalousie.
Les femmes et les hommes n’expriment pas leur amour de la même manière.
Même si parfois ils se retrouvent dans un trip identique. Sauf que la méthode de calcul n’est pas pareille. Équation et multiplication.
Il est donc compliqué que ces deux êtres-là se comprennent. Sauf dans leur discours amoureux. Dans leur langage intime. Dans les bras l’un de l’autre.
Les preuves d’amour échangées par les hommes et les femmes auraient la même fonction que pour les animaux.
Normal, nous faisons bien partie de l’espèce animale. En vue de se reproduire, le mâle ferait la démonstration de sa richesse et de sa puissance. La femelle, de sa beauté. Les loups viendraient donc de Mars et les tigresses de Vénus. Et ça, ça complique les choses.
Dès lors que l’un des deux amoureux rentre dans la revendication de l’amour de l’autre à travers des mots ou des preuves, ça ne colle plus.
« Tu m’aimes, prouve le. » La plus belle fille du monde ne peut donner que ce qu’elle a. Et chacun concentre son énergie quelque part. Des années pour elle, un enfant pour lui. L’enfant que la plupart des gens considèrent comme étant la plus belle preuve d’amour. Ça dépend pour qui.
Les preuves d’amour ne sont pas forcément inscrites dans la durée. Les preuves d’amour éphémères sont aussi belles que les éternelles. Mourir avec l’autre ou l’attendre des heures durant sous la pluie juste pour l’apercevoir, on ne peut rien quantifier. L’amour ne se quantifie pas. L’amour ne se qualifie pas.
L’amour ne s’explique pas. Chacun le définit comme il l’entend. Il le labélise, le schématise. Chacun voit dans l’action de l’autre une preuve. Une preuve qui pourrait sembler dérisoire aux yeux des autres, mais qui prend toute son ampleur en fonction de l’être épris.
Faire Montpellier-Beyrouth en voiture et en 36 heures pour l’anniversaire de sa fiancée, prendre un avion, deux avions, trois avions sur un coup de tête et la suivre en Tanzanie pour lui déclarer sa flamme et au passage la demander en mariage.
Quelle que soit la durée de ce mariage. Peu importe le flacon pourvu qu’on ait l’ivresse. L’ivresse d’un acte. Une chanson écrite pour sa belle. Something, Wonderful tonight. George Harrison, Eric Clapton, la même femme.
Un massage quand il est malade. Un colis rempli de jararengs, envoyé à New York par DHL parce qu’il aime ça, dire « nous » quand il parle, aimer son sale caractère, tolérer sa mère, aimer ses phrases qui commencent par « moi je », supporter son bordel, avaler sa mauvaise cuisine, avoir toujours envie de lui après 20 ans, lui faire plaisir sexuellement, lui faire plaisir, casser la gueule au connard qui lui a manqué de respect, lui offrir un voyage la veille du départ, lui écrire des lettres pendant toute sa vie, lui dédier un roman, le peindre, la filmer, lui faire de la place dans son armoire, dans son lit, bref dans sa vie.
Toutes ces preuves sont autant de déclarations que n’importe quel discours. Aussi amoureux soit-il.


From Syria to Sweden: The story of Stateless Syrian Palestinian in search for Identity

More than 2.8 million Syrians have been forced to leave their country so far. The vast majority of them remaining in neighboring countries, such as Turkey (764,000), Lebanon (1,093,069) and Jordan (597,328), according to the UN Refugee Agency. 

They are often living in dire conditions because countries like Lebanon and Jordan are already under extreme economic and political strain. Few others went seeking refuge in Europe.

However, Europe has only granted asylum to 89,000 people. Though Europe is failing refugees from Syria , Sweden is one of the few European countries to offer permanent residence to Syrians arriving at its borders.

Salim Salamah, found refuge in Sweden after fleeing Syria to Lebanon. I met Salim a few weeks ago in Malmo, the most densely populated area in Scandinavia, but he wasn’t a mere Syrian refugee.

While he was introducing himself, he was not sure if he should say a “Syrian-Palestinian”, “Palestinian from Syria”, “refugee in Sweden”, becoming “Swedish” or maybe just a human being!

As I was confidently introducing myself as a Tunisian African and explaining more about my Africanism, he smiled and replied: “I like that you clearly know who you are because I am still in search for my identity”.

This complex identity of Salim dates back to his family’s displacement in 1948 following the Nakba that expelled Palestinians from their homes.

He was born in 1989 and raised in Yarmouk refugee camp (by Damascus), a historical Palestinian neighborhood established in Damascus during the 50s.

At the age of 24, Salim found himself a refugee “again” and as he says “the journey continues…”


Images and dates have been engraved in his memory because of their atrocities… “28th October 2013 I left Syria…Taking that decision wasn’t easy! Because there will be no soon return to Damascus”.

Getting into severe depression during his last few weeks in Syria, he was afraid of loosing himself by “not doing any good” for himself or his country.

A decision has been made because of the suffocation of a peaceful movement yearned for freedom. “From March to September, the movement was pacifist then the security became so tight that we couldn’t move around anymore…people had to fire back and when that happened, I couldn’t have a place for myself there! because I didn’t want to die or kill”.

Life in Damascus has become a nightmare for him with the checkpoints…“Day after day, moving within and outside Yarmouk has become difficult as between two checkpoints, there is another one, so you will never know who will stop you and when you will be arrested! It was just like jumping into the fire”.

The regime then operated an organized process to get rid of activists like Salim, by arresting, torturing or constantly threatening them.   “It was a slow death of the civil resistance and peaceful social movement, I was at risk as everybody was!”

Beside demonstrating, campaigning, and being part of political gatherings, Salim’s special crime was blogging and telling jokes about the Syrian army. His poem “A day in Damascus”, says “passing by the checkpoint, I spit on it to return some of my dignity” and that was accused by the Syrian authorities as undermining the “prestige of the state”.

Once in Beirut for almost four months, Salim tried to recover from war trauma and reconnect again… “breathe again” by writing poetry. Despite dealing with his own healing process, Salim was managing a project with Al Ghawth organization in Syria. “Unfortunately the project ended after few months because we didn’t get the needed funding as international donors and NGOs were not interested in finding partners to respond to the urgent need of Syrian communities and kids under war but more interested to enslave organizations for their own agendas”

Travelled for the first time in his entire life outside Syria and Lebanon, he finally arrived to Sweden on 14th February 2012.

“When I arrived, I was surprised with the snow and the dark short days”. It took sometime for him to adapt to the new weather, language, space, currency, lifestyle and to understand  “the strange situation” in order to find his way in the new place.(It would be good for Salim to read the new book of Alexander Najjar “Millesgarten” about his journey in Sweden)

Despite the terrible situation in Syria, there is an ongoing debate about the legitimacy of the choice of activists who fled the country to seek refuge in the United States and Scandinavia.

Salim has clearly made this choice as an “individual salvation”… “I claimed political asylum because I can’t basically go anywhere as Palestinian from Syria but I made it to Sweden because I was just lucky!”

It is indeed a special case for the Palestinians from Syria.

When the UN adopted the Refugee Convention and established the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, it excluded those falling within the UNRWA mandate from coverage under UNHCR’s mandate.

“Outside UNRWA-mandate area, which is Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, or the West Bank and Gaza Strip, we are without protection”.

A concrete example of Salim’s frustration is the recent case of the four Palestinian Syrian activists detained in Sri Lanka a few weeks ago. “UNHCR Sri Lanka refused to give a statement on the issue. Husam, Muhammad, Ali and Baha are now at Buddha military prison where they have been badly treated psychologically and physically”.

Recently, Palestinians fleeing Syria are denied help even in Lebanon. 

Sadly, the tragic cases of Palestinian-Syrian refugees continue, not only in the global north, but even in the Arab region and especially in countries that sparked the revolutions in the region such as TunisiaEgypt among other countries.. “in Damascus, we were celebrating the day Ben Ali fled Tunisia, today when Syrian Palestinians arrived to Tunis, they remained stuck in Carthage airport with no support”…

As the spokesman of the Human Rights Palestinian LeagueSalim closely follows these cases and releases statements to support Syrian Palestinians without national or international protectionHaving the advantage to understand better such situation, Salim found himself working with refugees though he aims to work more with youth and children.

Beside joining the executive board of the Human Rights Palestinian League earlier this year, he helps a Swedish organization in group development of coming refugees, especially in terms of communication with Arabic and French speaking refugees from Syria and African countries.

“I’m still sad, frustrated… because of this ongoing war that is rewarding to international community powers and Syrian regime rather than the Syrian people but working with people here is also rewarding …”

Partially recovered from the war trauma …  Salim regained his life, strength and energy and he is moving forward in empowering himself and others.  

I contacted Salim again today to ask him of what the World Refugees Day would mean to him as a refugee. He immediately answered “you know… once you are a refugee, you are a refugee forever, at least for myself”.

He then took some silent moments and recalled the quotes of his friend Homi Bhabha

“the globe shrinks for those who own it… but for the displaced or dispossessed, the migrant or refugee, no distance is more awesome than the few feet across borders or frontiers” … then he continues “Today I achieved my few feet, and if I can make one more human being achieve those few feet, I will help!”

Having his family arrived to Sweden 6 months ago, Salim now feels more safe, something he hasn’t felt for a while. Still hard for him to be disconnected “twice” from where he belongs… then to be asked to belong somewhere else…

I don’t identify myself as a citizen of any place…” at least his confusion has gone since our first conversation a month ago and now he can confidently identity himself as human being or citizen of the world…



Insufferable FB complaints

Types of insufferable people on FB

This time you read in French. Via DD

Les 16 types de personnes les plus insupportables sur Facebook

1. Les gens qui se plaignent de ne pas aller bien dans leur statut…
2. … Puis qui prétendent ne pas vouloir en parler lorsqu’on leur demande pourquoi.
3. Les gens qui écrivent des trucs du genre « Putain c’est lourd toutes ces soirées, j’ai pas le temps de souffler. »
4. Les gens qui partent en mission dans un pays du Tiers Monde et inondent votre timeline d’une centaine de photos d’eux avec des locaux.
5. Les nouveaux parents qui partagent chaque étape de la vie de bébé sur Facebook.
6. Les gens qui partagent des citations pseudos profondes sur la vie, la mort, l’amour et tout le reste.
7. Les gens qui partagent des chaînes.
8. Les « amis » qui ne vous parlent jamais, sauf pour vous demander un service.
9. Les gens qui ont une opinion sur TOUT et qui veulent vraiment la partager avec TOUT LE MONDE.
10. Les amateurs de l’auto-promo.
11. Les narcissiques qui publient quatre selfies par jour.
12. Les amoureux des animaux qui s’extasient devant chaque merde de leur chien.
13. Les fans de Jésus, Coehlo, Rumi, et autres pensées positives
14. Les grands sportifs.
15. Les gens qui postent des photos de leur bouffe.
16. Et les gens qui ont une vie parfaite et qui veulent absolument vous le faire savoir.

Marie Telling

And what else can you post on FB?

I posts my articles and share good ones.

Embrace boundaries: you can’t handle otherwise

Two kinds of busy

When I’m giving a speech, I don’t have the ability to squeeze in a phone call, think about what’s for dinner or plan tomorrow’s meeting. I’m doing one thing, and it’s taking everything I’ve got. So yes, I’m busy, all in.

On the other hand, we all are familiar with the other kind of busy, the busy of feeding one kid while listening to see if the other is still napping, while emptying the groceries, checking email and generally keeping the world on its axis.

I have two suggestions:

a. if you’re used to being one kind of busy, try the other one out for a change. You might find it suits you.


b. if what you’re doing isn’t working, if you’re not excelling at what you set out to do or not getting the results you seek, it might be because you’re confused about what sort of busy is going to get you there…

Embracing boundaries

One of the most popular home computers ever made was the Commodore 64.

The “64” was the amount of memory it had–not 64 gigs, nor 64 megs, but 64k. If it were available today, it would be a little like being a toothpick vendor at a lumberjack convention.

The thing is, the amount of available memory was right there, in the name of the machine.

All the people who developed for the machine knew exactly how much memory it had.

Any time a developer whined or made excuses about how little memory there was, he was telling us something we already knew, making excuses where no excuses were needed or welcomed.

With unlimited time, unlimited money and unlimited resources, of course you might do something differently.

But your project is defined by the limitations and boundaries that are in place when you set out to accomplish something.

You build something remarkable because of the boundaries, not without them.

“You can buy this from anyone, and we’re anyone”

That’s not going to get you very far when you sell stuff, raise money, look for a job…

What if instead, you created a reputation as the person or organization that can honestly say, “you can’t get this from anyone but me?”




June 2014

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