Adonis Diaries

Archive for November 2015

Einstein and Me: Turned out to be I’m his great niece?

Does this legitimate my contribution to Relativity?

EINSTEIN et…moi .L’autre jour, en voyant une image où l’on citait une phrase d’Albert Einstein parmi d’autres (Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Malcom X) à propos du conflit israélo-palestinien, j’ai eu le sentiment de devoir faire ici un aveu.
Je me suis lancé et, tout à coup, l’indécence entre cette histoire à dire et celle que vivaient des milliers d’enfants, de femmes et d’hommes à Gaza (où de par le monde) m’a sauté aux yeux.
Ce statut, je l’ai appelé “RELATIVITÉ”. Le double sens était caché…
Si je me décide à en parler finalement sans attendre la fin des malheurs des Palestiniens et du monde, c’est qu’au passage, il se peut que ma parole gagne, auprès de certains, en légitimité.
Je sais, vous vous demandez déjà où je pourrais vouloir en venir et pourquoi tant de détours.J’y viens. Mais d’abord, la genèse.
GENÈSE. C’était en janvier dernier. Je reçois un email de Londres de la part d’un inconnu. Il me demande si je suis bien le fils de mes parents Robert et Denise. De toute évidence, oui.
Alors il dit qu’il souhaite me parler au téléphone le lendemain. Là, il m’annonce qu’il est ami avec une cousine de ma mère surnommée Ninette, 86 ans.
Il a dû sentir que j’étais interdit. J’avais toujours compris que personne, dans la famille de ma mère (décédée en 1995), n’avait survécu aux camps de concentration…Date est donc prise pour une rencontre lors d’un prochain voyage à Londres. L’occasion se présente début avril.
Dans le restaurant où John (l’Anglais) avait réservé une pièce à part pour pouvoir s’étaler (nous et nos documents), je découvre Ninette. Pendant la guerre, elle avait pu s’échapper à pied par les Pyrénées.
Ma mère, elle, s’était échappée de l’appartement parisien – où les soldats allemands venaient, après son père André trois mois auparavant, arrêter sa grand mère Alice, sa mère Maryse et elle-même – par l’escalier de la cuisine, avait pris le métro jusqu’à Porte de Vanves et avait trouvé refuge pour longtemps dans un couvent dont elle savait l’existence.
Elle avait prétexté d’un pull à aller chercher dans sa chambre.De la bouche de Ninette, j’apprends des choses toutes simples sur ma mère enfant (“une rebelle”) ou sur mes grands-parents (dont ma mère n’avait jamais vraiment voulu parler sauf, je me souviens, sur son lit d’hôpital, pour dire qu’elle ne supportait pas quand ils lui répondaient “ cela ne se fait pas“.
Et ce serait même pour cela qu’assez jeune, elle avait goûté un peu au bouddhisme et au catholicisme.De mon côté, en guise de récit, je n’avais qu’un vieux grimoire où figuraient tout de même plus d’une centaine de photos de famille.
Mais à part celle de mon grand père et de ma grand mère, j’étais incapable de reconnaître ceux que je ne connaissais pas.LE GRAND ROULEAU
C’est alors que John et Ninette posèrent sur la table voisine un très Grand Rouleau de papier: notre arbre généalogique. A côté des Schoenfeld, la famille de ma mère, il y avait les Lévy Sée, les Lang, les Bloch, les Dreyfus
Puis ils attirèrent mon attention sur un petit carré gris où l’on pouvait lire le nom de…Là, il me faut vous laisser chercher par vous-même sur l’image jointe. Vous trouverez facilement ce petit carré gris en pivotant à gauche de mon père, Robert Barrat, et de ma mere, Denise Schoenfeld (avec leur quatre enfants au dessous d’eux).
Pour ceux qui ne se sont pas parvenus à lire ce nom, je vous le donne : Albert Einstein.Comme je ne sais pas très bien lire les branches des arbres généalogiques, je me bornerai à dire que je suis l’arrière petit- neveu d’Albert Einstein. Ou alors vous me direz quoi au juste…
Bien sûr, mes proches, depuis, me charrient. Expliquant notamment ainsi le fait que j’ai pu faire “Maths Sup” (trois semaines).
LÉGITIMITÉSi vous me le permettez, j’aimerais vous dire maintenant la phrase d’Einstein en question :
Ce serait ma plus grande tristesse de voir les Sionistes (juifs) faire aux Arabes Palestiniens beaucoup de ce que les Nazis ont fait aux Juifs“.
Une chose ici m’intrigue, comme s’il s’agissait non pas d’une opinion possiblement héréditaire mais d’un axiome. Ma mère – cofondatrice par exemple de l’Association pour la Sauvegarde du Patrimoine Culturel Palestinien – aimait quant à elle à dire qu’elle ne supportait pas qu ‘”un Peuple qui a tant souffert puisse imposer d’autres souffrances à un autre Peuple“.
Quant à votre serviteur – ayant notamment vécu les raids sur les camps palestiniens du Sud Liban et sur Beyrouth, en 1981, le siège de Beyrouth en 1982, ayant ramassé au sol ces petits tracts roses dont les gamins s’emparaient d’abord en riant dans les airs, avant de comprendre que c’était là le moyen pour l’aviation israélienne de donner un délai de grâce de 40 minutes si l’on aimait ses proches -il n’a pas de phrase clef.
Je sais seulement maintenant qu’au bout du compte, je suis un peu plus Juif que je ne le pensais. Et surtout que je ne permettrai à personne de dire que j’ai honte de moi.P .B.!See Translation
Note: Einstein integrated the classical formula for energy by including Time as another variable. 

‘This is the worst time for society to go on psychopathic autopilot’

Britain addicted to bombing junkies

What will happen in a 1,000 years? Why, do you know what  happened in the last 1,000 years?

Frankie Boyle on the fallout from Paris. Nov. 23, 2015.

There were a lot of tributes after the horror in Paris. It has to be said that Trafalgar Square is an odd choice of venue to show solidarity with France; presumably Waterloo was too busy.
One of the most appropriate tributes was Adele dedicating Hometown Glory to Paris, just as the raids on St-Denis started.
A song about south London where, 10 years ago, armed police decided to hysterically blow the face off a man just because he was a bit beige.

In times of crisis, we are made to feel we should scrutinise our government’s actions less closely, when surely that’s when we should pay closest attention.

There’s a feeling that after an atrocity history and context become less relevant, when surely these are actually the worst times for a society to go on psychopathic autopilot.

Our attitudes are fostered by a society built on ideas of dominance, where the solution to crises are force and action, rather than reflection and compromise.

If that sounds unbearably drippy, just humour me for a second and imagine a country where the response to Paris involved an urgent debate about how to make public spaces safer and marginalised groups less vulnerable to radicalisation.

Do you honestly feel safer with a debate centred around when we can turn some desert town 3,000 miles away into a sheet of glass?

Of course, it’s not as if the West hasn’t learned any lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan. This time round, no one’s said out loud that we’re going to win. (Holland did say it)

People seem concerned to make sure that Islam gets its full share of the blame, so we get the unedifying circus of neocons invoking God as much as the killers.

“Well, Isis say they’re motivated by God.” Yes, and people who have sex with their pets say they’re motivated by love, but most of us don’t really believe them.

Not that I’m any friend of religion – let’s blame religion for whatever we can. Let’s blame anyone who invokes the name of any deity just because they want to ruin our weekend, starting with TGI Friday’s.

The ringleader, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, evaded detection by security services by having a name too long to fit into one tweet. How could the most stringent surveillance in the world not have picked up Abdelhamid Abaaoud before? I mean, they’d have got him even if they just went through lists of terrorists alphabetically.

We’re always dealing with terror in retrospect – like stocking up on Imodium rather than reading the cooking instructions on your mini kievs.

The truth is that modern governments sit at the head of a well-funded security apparatus. They are told that foreign military adventures put domestic populations at risk and they give them the thumbs up anyway.

Charitably, the safety of their populations just aren’t of great concern to them. Realistically, domestic terrorist attacks play into their agenda: they allow them to grab ever more authoritarian powers with which to police their increasingly unequal and volatile societies.

Of course, no one wants to believe that our government isn’t interested in our safety, just like everyone really wanted to believe that Jimmy Savile cared about whether kids got to meet Duran Duran.

It’s not an insult to the dead to wonder why France, a $2tn economy, couldn’t make a better offer to its disenfranchised youth than a bunch of sick bullies grooming them on the internet.

It’s not apologism to try to understand why something happened.

When Syria’s drought kicked in, 25% of the population became unemployed. The vast majority of the country’s livestock has died over the past decade. A lot of Isis are farmers with nowhere to go, their entire industry destroyed – you’d think they’d have more sympathy for journalists. Those who think radicalising a youngster has nothing to do with climate – have you seen Tatooine?

No one is saying climate change causes terrorism. (Though this situation will become a major factor for increased terrorist attitudes)

Stop thinking that a global death cult is caused by one thing – it’s a complex situation involving several different countries and ideologies, not a rattling sound in your washing machine. Personally, I think that for all our blaming religion, there will be peace in the Middle East when the oil runs out. (Forced peace with no Lands to grow anything on? A recurrence of tribal razzias on the more fertile land tribes) 

But knowing their luck, then somebody will invent a way of making fuel by mixing sand and falafel.

Maybe the west’s approach is right. After all, if you’ve got a massive fight in, say, a pub car park, the best way of solving it is clearly standing well back and randomly lobbing in fireworks.

You can’t get rid of an ideology by destroying its leaders; you’d think if there’s anything “Christian” countries should know, it’s that. Europe has rejected the death penalty on moral grounds, and yet we relax this view when it comes to a group who want to be martyred.

You can’t bomb ideas. If your kid shits on the carpet, you can’t stop them by bombing the person who invented shit – though it would tidy up ITV’s Saturday night schedule.

Andrew Neil went viral with an impassioned eulogy that, like most eulogies, was just inaccurate nonsense in the form of nice memorable words strung together with angry sad words. A speech that would have made those named within it proud, but only because a good few of them were nihilistic absurdists. Listing the great French thinkers in a tribute to nuclear power showcased the worst aspect of historical fame: these were figures Neil could name but appeared to know nothing about.

For a list supporting the French government’s foray into bombing its former colony he chose Satie, a composer so questioning of state he put a question mark into La Marseillaise; Zola, a man so adamant about the function of a fair and full trial he may have been murdered for his beliefs; Rousseau – “Those who think themselves masters of others are greater slaves than they”; Ravel, who rejected all state honours; Gauguin, a passionate defender of indigenous peoples; and Camus, the great Algerian-born philosopher, who died in 1960, a year before he would’ve been thrown into the Seine at the orders of the Nazi head of the Parisian police.

Out of his list of peacenik, thoughtful, anti-government icons, one of the few who might have been in favour of bombing Syria was Sartre, and that’s only because he thought we were all dead anyway. Of course, we mustn’t forget Coco Chanel, who Neil threw on to the list in such a blatant “if we don’t include a woman we’ll get into trouble” rush, he didn’t notice a quick wiki would reveal her to be a Nazi spy.

These are the people who made France great, because what they asked of France was to question, to look death in the eye, to commit to full trials and never resort to military force, to step away from government, away from indigenous lands, to never see themselves as superior, and most, most of all, for people to stop regurgitating rhetorical cliches and think for themselves

Neil asked us to consider who will be remembered in 1,000 years, and the answer of course is Thkkkkkkkzzzzxrrkksd, the insane Cockroach Emperor, who revolutionised the mining of our bones for fuel.

But let’s go with his conceit. A thousand years is a long time; the first book published in French wasn’t until 1476. Goodness knows what an Islamic caliphate would have been doing 1,000 years ago? They built the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, one of the first universities in the world; they asked scholars of all faiths to translate every text ever written into Arabic; they demanded the first qualifications for doctors, founded the first psychiatric hospitals and invented ophthalmology. They developed algebra (algorithms are named after their Arab father) and a programmable machine … a computer. They introduced Aristotle to Europe, Al-Jahiz began theories of natural selection, they discovered the Andromeda galaxy, classified the spinal nerves and created hydropower using pumps and gears.

And Neil is right – we don’t remember any of that. Not to say that this is what Isis want – Isis are like the group that closed the House of Wisdom, the next caliphate who decided science was irreligious. Isis want to destroy the knowledge that Islam is a beautiful, scientific and intelligent culture, and we are way ahead of them.

We want Paris to be remembered in 1,000 years and we don’t remember the names of the victims 10 minutes after reading them

– we don’t remember Amine Ibnolmobarak, a Moroccan émigré who was designing an architectural solution to the 2,000 deaths at Mecca;

we don’t remember Elsa Delplace and her mother Patricia San Martin, who died shielding Delplace’s young son from bullets.

We remember that the female terrorist was blond and one had no pants on.

We remember that the terrorists came in with refugees even though they don’t seem to have done, especially since they were all French or Belgian.

We expect our descendants to remember Daft Punk and we don’t even remember that invading Iraq caused the birth and rise of Isis. And we won’t remember any of this once the new series of Britain’s Got Talent starts.

 

ISIS survives largely because Turkey allows it to: the evidence

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Kurdish (YPJ) frontline troops

The real frontline confronting ISIS is not US or French bombers (the latter currently targeting Raqqa, a city with 140,000 civilians, who are virtual prisoners of ISIS) but the Kurds of Iraq and northern Syria.

Just over a week ago the combined Kurd forces, under the command of the Yezidis, liberated Sinjar from ISIS.

For the Kurds, their war is not just about defeating ISIS, but about creating their own autonomous region – a region that would link all the Kurd cantons.

This will not be easy, especially as the Iraq-based Kurds (Peshmerga) are allied with Iran and benefit from US support (nor are the Iraqi Kurds in any hurry to secede from Iraq).

But the largest hurdle to an autonomous Kurdistan is Turkey, which not only has rekindled its war with the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party), but has done everything it can over the last 12 months or so to ensure Kurd victories against ISIS were minimised.

So where is the evidence for this? It comes from a a range of sources, including the Institute for the Study of Human Rights (Columbia University) and leading commentators/analysts Nafeez Ahmed and David Graeber. See below…

A. Introduction

The Kurds of northern Syria, together with the Kurds of Turkey and Iraq, have been at war with ISIS since the latter rose up and declared their so-called caliphate. It was the Syrian Kurds and their Kurdish comrades in Turkey who helped rescue the Yezidis, after they had fled the ISIS onslaught to take refuge in the Sinjar mountains. It was the Syrian Kurds and their comrades in Turkey who liberated the city of Kobani from ISIS.

But the Kurds of northern Syria have not just been waging war. They have also been waging peace: creating new, democratic structures, declaring autonmous cantons; setting up schools, universities, hospitals. They have taken their inspiration from the Zapatistas of Mexico, who in their thousands retreated into the jungles of Chiapas and together with the Mayans created a new society, free from the oppression of the Mexican authorities.

In short, the northern Syrian Kurds have created and are living a social revolution. It is no wonder, therefore, that the authoritarian and neo-Islamist Erdogan Government of Turkey is doing everything it can to break the Kurds, including providing covert support to the Kurds’ main enemy, to ISIS.

In a recent article in the Guardian, Professor David Graeber of the London School of Economics stated how “Back in August, the YPG, fresh from their victories in Kobani and Gire Spi, were poised to seize Jarablus, the last Isis-held town on the Turkish border that the terror organisation had been using to resupply its capital in Raqqa with weapons, materials, and recruits – Isis supply lines pass directly through Turkey.”

Graeber added: “Commentators predicted that with Jarablus gone, Raqqa would soon follow. Erdoğan reacted by declaring Jarablus a “red line”: if the Kurds attacked, his forces would intervene militarily – against the YPG. So Jarablus remains in terrorist hands to this day, under de facto Turkish military protection.”

B. Turkey’s support for ISIS

For well over a year the Turkish Government has been secretly supporting ISIS, but the US and NATO turn a blind eye to this because of Turkey’s geopolitical position. ISIS as an armed force – though not ISIS terrorists outside the Mid East region – would most likely have been defeated long ago had it not been for Turkey’s support.

According to journalist, Nafeez Ahmed: “Earlier this year, the Turkish daily Today’s Zaman reported that “more than 100,000 fake Turkish passports” had been given to ISIS. Erdogan’s government, the newspaper added, “has been accused of supporting the terrorist organization by turning a blind eye to its militants crossing the border and even buying its oil…

Based on a 2014 report, Sezgin Tanrıkulu, deputy chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said that ISIS terrorists fighting in Syria claimed to have been treated in hospitals in Turkey.”

Dr Ahmed adds: “In January, authenticated official documents of the Turkish military were leaked online, showing that Turkey’s intelligence services (MIT) had been caught in Adana by military officers transporting missiles, mortars and anti-aircraft ammunition via truck “to the al-Qaeda terror organisation” in Syria. According to other ISIS suspects facing trial in Turkey, the Turkish national military intelligence organization (MIT) had begun smuggling arms, including NATO weapons to jihadist groups in Syria as early as 2011.”

Also: “Turkey has also played a key role in facilitating the life-blood of ISIS’ expansion: black market oil sales. Senior political and intelligence sources in Turkey and Iraq confirm that Turkish authorities have actively facilitated ISIS oil sales through the country. Last summer, an opposition politician estimated the quantity of ISIS oil sales in Turkey at about $800 million — that was over a year ago.”

Finally, Dr. Ahmed shows how consistent transfers of CIA-Gulf-Turkish arms supplies to ISIS have been fully documented through analysis of weapons serial numbers by the UK-based Conflict Armament Research (CAR), whose database on the illicit weapons trade is funded by the EU and Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.

Latest – see link in tweet below – is an article that reports on a group “involved in making arms deals on behalf of the Islamic State leaders in Syria, including buying FN-6 portable air defence systems and other weaponry, which were shipped to ISIL in Syria through Turkey… transferring money to Turkish bank accounts…

Other allegations re Turkey’s support for ISIS:

[Note: the following is compiled from a Report by Columbia University’s Program on Peace-building and Rights, which assigned a team of researchers in the United States, Europe, and Turkey to examine Turkish and international media, assessing the credibility of allegations made against Turkey. This report draws on Turkish sources (CNN Turk, Hurriyet Daily News, Taraf, Cumhuriyet, and Radikal among others) as well as a variety of mainstream media – The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, BBC, Sky News, etc.]

1. Turkey Provides Military Equipment to ISIS

• An ISIS commander told The Washington Post on August 12, 2014: “Most of the fighters who joined us in the beginning of the war came via Turkey, and so did our equipment and supplies.”

• Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, head of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), produced a statement from the Adana Office of the Prosecutor on October 14, 2014 maintaining that Turkey supplied weapons to terror groups. He also produced interview transcripts from truck drivers who delivered weapons to the groups. According to Kiliçdaroglu, the Turkish government claims the trucks were for humanitarian aid to the Turkmen, but the Turkmen said no humanitarian aid was delivered.

• According to CHP Vice President Bulent Tezcan, three trucks were stopped in Adana for inspection on January 19, 2014. The trucks were loaded with weapons in Esenboga Airport in Ankara. The drivers drove the trucks to the border, where a MIT agent was supposed to take over and drive the trucks to Syria to deliver materials to ISIS and groups in Syria. This happened many times. When the trucks were stopped, MIT agents tried to keep the inspectors from looking inside the crates. The inspectors found rockets, arms, and ammunitions.

• Cumhuriyet reports that Fuat Avni, a preeminent Twitter user who reported on the December 17th corruption probe, that audio tapes confirm that Turkey provided financial and military aid to terrorist groups associated with Al Qaeda on October 12, 2014. On the tapes, Erdogan pressured the Turkish Armed Forces to go to war with Syria. Erdogan demanded that Hakan Fidan, the head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MIT), come up with a justification for attacking Syria.

• Hakan Fidan told Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Yasar Guler, a senior defense official, and Feridun Sinirlioglu, a senior foreign affairs official: “If need be, I’ll send 4 men into Syria. I’ll formulate a reason to go to war by shooting 8 rockets into Turkey; I’ll have them attack the Tomb of Suleiman Shah.”

• Documents surfaced on September 19th, 2014 showing that the Saudi Emir Bender Bin Sultan financed the transportation of arms to ISIS through Turkey. A flight leaving Germany dropped off arms in the Etimesgut airport in Turkey, which was then split into three containers, two of which were given to ISIS and one to Gaza.

2. Turkey Provided Transport and Logistical Assistance to ISIS Fighters

• According to Radikal on June 13, 2014, Interior Minister Muammar Guler signed a directive: “According to our regional gains, we will help al-Nusra militants against the branch of PKK terrorist organization, the PYD, within our borders…Hatay is a strategic location for the mujahideen crossing from within our borders to Syria. Logistical support for Islamist groups will be increased, and their training, hospital care, and safe passage will mostly take place in Hatay…MIT and the Religious Affairs Directorate will coordinate the placement of fighters in public accommodations.”

• The Daily Mail reported on August 25, 2014 that many foreign militants joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq after traveling through Turkey, but Turkey did not try to stop them. This article describes how foreign militants, especially from the UK, go to Syria and Iraq through the Turkish border. They call the border the “Gateway to Jihad.” Turkish army soldiers either turn a blind eye and let them pass, or the jihadists pay the border guards as little as $10 to facilitate their crossing.

• Britain’s Sky News obtained documents showing that the Turkish government has stamped passports of foreign militants seeking to cross the Turkey border into Syria to join ISIS.

• The BBC interviewed villagers, who claim that buses travel at night, carrying jihadists to fight Kurdish forces in Syria and Iraq, not the Syrian Armed Forces.

• A senior Egyptian official indicated on October 9, 2014 that Turkish intelligence is passing satellite imagery and other data to ISIS.

3. Turkey Provided Training to ISIS Fighters

• CNN Turk reported on July 29, 2014 that in the heart of Istanbul, places like Duzce and Adapazari, have become gathering spots for terrorists. There are religious orders where ISIS militants are trained. Some of these training videos are posted on the Turkish ISIS propaganda website takvahaber.net. According to CNN Turk, Turkish security forces could have stopped these developments if they had wanted to.

• Turks who joined an affiliate of ISIS were recorded at a public gathering in Istanbul, which took place on July 28, 2014.

• A video shows an ISIS affiliate holding a prayer/gathering in Omerli, a district of Istanbul. In response to the video, CHP Vice President, MP Tanrikulu submitted parliamentary questions to the Minister of the Interior, Efkan Ala, asking questions such as, “Is it true that a camp or camps have been allocated to an affiliate of ISIS in Istanbul? What is this affiliate? Who is it made up of? Is the rumor true that the same area allocated for the camp is also used for military exercises?”

• Kemal Kiliçdaroglu warned the AKP government not to provide money and training to terror groups on October 14, 2014. He said, “It isn’t right for armed groups to be trained on Turkish soil. You bring foreign fighters to Turkey, put money in their pockets, guns in their hands, and you ask them to kill Muslims in Syria. We told them to stop helping ISIS. Ahmet Davutoglu asked us to show proof. Everyone knows that they’re helping ISIS.” (See HERE and HERE.)

• According to Jordanian intelligence, Turkey trained ISIS militants for special operations.

4. Turkey Offers Medical Care to ISIS Fighters

• An ISIS commander told the Washington Post on August 12, 2014, “We used to have some fighters — even high-level members of the Islamic State — getting treated in Turkish hospitals.”

• Taraf reported on October 12, 2014 that Dengir Mir Mehmet Fırat, a founder of the AKP, said that Turkey supported terrorist groups and still supports them and treats them in hospitals. “In order to weaken the developments in Rojova (Syrian Kurdistan), the government gave concessions and arms to extreme religious groups…the government was helping the wounded. The Minister of Health said something such as, it’s a human obligation to care for the ISIS wounded.”

• According to Taraf, Ahmet El H, one of the top commanders at ISIS and Al Baghdadi’s right hand man, was treated at a hospital in Sanliurfa, Turkey, along with other ISIS militants. The Turkish state paid for their treatment. According to Taraf’s sources, ISIS militants are being treated in hospitals all across southeastern Turkey. More and more militants have been coming in to be treated since the start of airstrikes in August. To be more specific, eight ISIS militants were transported through the Sanliurfa border crossing; these are their names: “Mustafa A., Yusuf El R., Mustafa H., Halil El M., Muhammet El H., Ahmet El S., Hasan H., [and] Salim El D.”

5. Turkey Supports ISIS Financially Through Purchase of Oil

• On September 13, 2014, The New York Times reported on the Obama administration’s efforts to pressure Turkey to crack down on ISIS extensive sales network for oil. James Phillips, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, argues that Turkey has not fully cracked down on ISIS’s sales network because it benefits from a lower price for oil, and that there might even be Turks and government officials who benefit from the trade.

• Fehim Taştekin wrote in Radikal on September 13, 2014 about illegal pipelines transporting oil from Syria to nearby border towns in Turkey. The oil is sold for as little as 1.25 liras per liter. Taştekin indicated that many of these illegal pipelines were dismantled after operating for 3 years, once his article was published.

• According to Diken and OdaTV, David Cohen, a Justice Department official, says that there are Turkish individuals acting as middlemen to help sell ISIS’s oil through Turkey.

• On October 14, 2014, a German Parliamentarian from the Green Party accused Turkey of allowing the transportation of arms to ISIS over its territory, as well as the sale of oil.

6. Turkey Assists ISIS Recruitment

• Kerim Kiliçdaroğlu claimed on October 14, 2014 that ISIS offices in Istanbul and Gaziantep are used to recruit fighters. On October 10, 2014, the mufti of Konya said that 100 people from Konya joined ISIS 4 days ago. (See HERE and HERE.)

• OdaTV reports that Takva Haber serves as a propaganda outlet for ISIS to recruit Turkish-speaking individuals in Turkey and Germany. The address where this propaganda website is registered corresponds to the address of a school called Irfan Koleji, which was established by Ilim Yayma Vakfi, a foundation that was created by Erdogan and Davutoglu, among others. It is thus claimed that the propaganda site is operated from the school of the foundation started by AKP members.

• Minister of Sports, Suat Kilic, an AKP member, visited Salafi jihadists who are ISIS supporters in Germany. The group is known for reaching out to supporters via free Quran distributions and raising funds to sponsor suicide attacks in Syria and Iraq by raising money.

• OdaTV released a video allegedly showing ISIS militants riding a bus in Istanbul.

7. Turkish Forces Are Fighting Alongside ISIS

• On October 7, 2014, IBDA-C, a militant Islamic organization in Turkey, pledged support to ISIS. A Turkish friend who is a commander in ISIS suggests that Turkey is “involved in all of this” and that “10,000 ISIS members will come to Turkey.” A Huda-Par member at the meeting claims that officials criticize ISIS but in fact sympathize with the group (Huda-Par, the “Free Cause Party”, is a Kurdish Sunni fundamentalist political party).

BBP member claims that National Action Party (MHP) officials are close to embracing ISIS. In the meeting, it is asserted that ISIS militants come to Turkey frequently to rest, as though they are taking a break from military service. They claim that Turkey will experience an Islamic revolution, and Turks should be ready for jihad. (See HERE and HERE.)

Seymour Hersh maintains in the London Review of Books that ISIS conducted sarin attacks in Syria, and that Turkey was informed. “For months there had been acute concern among senior military leaders and the intelligence community about the role in the war of Syria’s neighbors, especially Turkey. Prime Minister Recep Erdogan was known to be supporting the al-Nusra Front, a jihadist faction among the rebel opposition, as well as other Islamist rebel groups.

‘We knew there were some in the Turkish government,’ a former senior US intelligence official, who has access to current intelligence, told me, ‘who believed they could get Assad’s nuts in a vice by dabbling with a sarin attack inside Syria – and forcing Obama to make good on his red line threat.”

• On September 20, 2014, Demir Celik, a Member of Parliament with the people’s democratic party (HDP) claimed that Turkish Special Forces fight with ISIS.

8. Turkey Helped ISIS in Battle for Kobani

• Anwar Moslem, Mayor of Kobani, said on September 19, 2014: “Based on the intelligence we got two days before the breakout of the current war, trains full of forces and ammunition, which were passing by north of Kobane, had an-hour-and-ten-to-twenty-minute-long stops in these villages: Salib Qaran, Gire Sor, Moshrefat Ezzo. There are evidences, witnesses, and videos about this. Why is ISIS strong only in Kobane’s east?

Why is it not strong either in its south or west? Since these trains stopped in villages located in the east of Kobane, we guess they had brought ammunition and additional force for the ISIS.” In the second article on September 30, 2014, a CHP delegation visited Kobani, where locals claimed that everything from the clothes ISIS militants wear to their guns comes from Turkey. (See HERE and HERE.)

• Released by Nuhaber, a video shows Turkish military convoys carrying tanks and ammunition moving freely under ISIS flags in the Cerablus region and Karkamis border crossing (September 25, 2014). There are writings in Turkish on the trucks.

• Salih Muslim, PYD head, claims that 120 militants crossed into Syria from Turkey between October 20th and 24th, 2014.

• According to an op-ed written by a YPG commander in The New York Times on October 29, 2014, Turkey allows ISIS militants and their equipment to pass freely over the border.

• Diken reported, “ISIS fighters crossed the border from Turkey into Syria, over the Turkish train tracks that delineate the border, in full view of Turkish soldiers. They were met there by PYD fighters and stopped.”

• A Kurdish commander in Kobani claims that ISIS militants have Turkish entry stamps on their passports.

• Kurds trying to join the battle in Kobani are turned away by Turkish police at the Turkey-Syrian border.

• OdaTV released a photograph of a Turkish soldier befriending ISIS militants.

9. Turkey and ISIS Share a Worldview

• RT reports on Vice President Joe Biden’s remarks detailing Turkish support to ISIS.

According to the Hurriyet Daily News on September 26, 2014, “The feelings of the AKP’s heavyweights are not limited to Ankara. I was shocked to hear words of admiration for ISIL from some high-level civil servants even in Şanliurfa. ‘They are like us, fighting against seven great powers in the War of Independence,’ one said.” “Rather than the [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK on the other side, I would rather have ISIL as a neighbor,” said another.”

• Cengiz Candar, a well-respected Turkish journalist, maintained that MIT helped “midwife” the Islamic state in Iraq and Syria, as well as other Jihadi groups.

• An AKP council member posted on his Facebook page: “Thankfully ISIS exists… May you never run out of ammunition…”

• A Turkish Social Security Institution supervisor uses the ISIS logo in internal correspondences.

• Bilal Erdogan and Turkish officials meet alleged ISIS fighters.

 A woman Syrian refugee in Canada: Trying to figure out how to welcome new comers

Cynthia Choucair and Sabine Choucair shared
 Keenana Issa post

I am a Syrian refugee in Canada.

In December 1st last year I was walking on the peace bridge that separates Canada from the United States.

I speak good English, sort of connected as I’m a writer, activist, film producer and communication person.

I’m considered advanced technologically and I have a family here.

Even though, I feel like a complete alien, I’m not here out of choice, I just found myself here, and I don’t know what to do as I’m getting really lost and lonely here.

And now, next week a group of Syrian refugees will be here in Canada, the first group.

I live 20 minutes away from Pearson airport, and I desperately need to welcome my folks and can’t seem to find a way.

Welcoming those Syrian refugees who had it the harder way, that may or may not speak English, who are coming to a camp that will decide their future that they know nothing of, they’ve seen horrors and observed the world from an underground’s point of view.

They have witnessed how horrific power and ideologies can be.

I just wanna be there to welcome them at the airport, tell them that you made it to safety, you’re survivors, and you need to be proud of yourselves, see how far you’ve come, feel happy about it, you’re in a good place, a place that would take you time to know and like.

I understand that each one of you has their traumas to deal with, and you’ll hate any place that’s not home, and probably you’d think Canadians are cold and reserved, but it’s not the truth.

Canadians are, just like any other people in the world, like Syrians and Palestinians and Indians and French…you name it, there are the good and the bad ones, the only difference here is that you have to try, despite all of your pain and tragedies to know and love and appreciate and tell the difference between people and streets here in this new place.

Remember that this is a country, such as ours before everything exploded in our faces, is opening its arms for you with all its strengths and weaknesses, there are people here who are trying to live and let live as much as there are others who only seek power.

 Let’s learn to appreciate that, let’s try to introduce them to our ethics and culture without prejudice.

 It’s a place where you can speak up for yourself, they think differently, they expect you to explain your needs, they don’t figure it out by themselves,.

But in comparison to other places in the world, they’ve gone a long way in guessing it out, so let’s give them credit for that, and let’s hope they are willing to go all the way with us until we find our way of healing, and show us what’s most beautiful about this land.

P.S: I wish I was able to meet original people, I guess I owe them a thanks for all the loving spirit that has inhibited this land.

Emirates Secretly Sends Colombian Mercenaries to Yemen Fight

It is inevitable: Easy wealth leads underdeveloped countries with non-sustainable institutions into practicing their favourite pastime: war.

WASHINGTON — The United Arab Emirates has secretly dispatched hundreds of Colombian mercenaries to Yemen to fight in that country’s raging conflict, adding a volatile new element in a complex proxy war that was decided, supplied and supported by the United States.

It is the first combat deployment for a foreign army that the Emirates has quietly built in the desert over the past five years, according to several people currently or formerly involved with the project. The program was once managed by a private company connected to Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater Worldwide, but the people involved in the effort said that his role ended several years ago and that it has since been run by the Emirati military.

(A thorough embargo on foodstuff and health provision are denied the civilians in Yemen, by sea, land and air.

Every single infrastructure has been destroyed by daily air bombing, including hospitals and schools)

(You can see the hands of the US in every phase of this genocide pre-emptive war where only thousands of Yemeni babies are dying from famine, malnutrition and lack of medical care)

Photo

At least 32 people were killed when a suicide bomber attacked a mosque in Sana, Yemen, in September.
Dozens have been killed in similar bombings over the last six months, carried out by Sunni Islamic extremists targeting mosques where Shiite Yemenis worship. Credit Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

The arrival in Yemen of 450 Latin American troops — among them are also Panamanian, Salvadoran and Chilean soldiers — adds to the chaotic stew of government armies, armed tribes, terrorist networks and Yemeni militias currently at war in the country. Earlier this year, a coalition of countries led by Saudi Arabia, including the United States, began a military campaign in Yemen against Houthi rebels who have pushed the Yemeni government out of the capital, Sana.

It is also a glimpse into the future of war.

Wealthy Arab nations, particularly Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Emirates, have in recent years embraced a more aggressive military strategy throughout the Middle East, trying to rein in the chaos unleashed by the Arab revolutions that began in late 2010.

But these countries wade into the new conflicts — whether in Yemen, Syria or Libya — with militaries that are unused to sustained warfare and populations with generally little interest in military service.

“Mercenaries are an attractive option for rich countries who wish to wage war yet whose citizens may not want to fight,” said Sean McFate, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and author of “The Modern Mercenary.”

“The private military industry is global now,” said Mr. McFate, adding that the United States essentially “legitimized” the industry with its heavy reliance on contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan over more than a decade of war. “Latin American mercenaries are a sign of what’s to come,” he said.

Emirati officials have made a point of recruiting Colombian troops over other Latin American soldiers because they consider the Colombians more battle tested in guerrilla warfare, having spent decades battling gunmen of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, in the jungles of Colombia.

In addition, a recent United Nations report cited claims that some 400 Eritrean troops might be embedded with the Emirati soldiers in Yemen — something that, if true, could violate a United Nations resolution restricting Eritrean military activities. (Eritrean are fleeing their country and are being picked up for mercenary jobs)

The United States has also been participating in the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen, providing logistical support, including airborne refueling, to the nations conducting the airstrikes.

The Pentagon has sent a team to Saudi Arabia to provide targeting intelligence to the coalition militaries that is regularly used for the airstrikes. (The US and France have sold weapons to these “wealthy states” in the tens of billions)

The Obama administration has also in recent years approved the sale of billions of dollars’ worth of military hardware from American contractors to the Saudi and Emirati militaries, equipment that is being used in the Yemen conflict.

This month, the administration authorized a $1.29 billion Saudi request for thousands of bombs to replenish stocks that had been depleted by the campaign in Yemen, although American officials say that the bombs would take months to arrive and were not directly tied to the war in Yemen.

The Saudi air campaign has received widespread criticism from human rights groups as being poorly planned and as having launched strikes that indiscriminately kill Yemeni civilians and aid workers in the country.

Last month, Saudi jets struck a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in Saada Province in northern Yemen, and in late September the United Nations reported that 2,355 civilians had been killed since the campaign began in March.

On the other side in Yemen is Iran, which over the years has provided financial and military support to the Houthis, the Shiite rebel group fighting the coalition of Saudi-led Sunni nations. (Just rumors spread by the US and its allies who have the monopoly of the media)

The divisions have created the veneer of a sectarian conflict, although Emirati troops in southern Yemen have also been battling members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Sunni terrorist group’s affiliate in Yemen.

Dozens of Emirati special operations troops have died since they arrived in southern Yemen in August. A single rocket attack in early September killed 45, along with several Saudi and Bahrani soldiers.

The presence of the Latin American troops is an official secret in the Emirates, and the government has made no public mention of their deployment to Yemen. Yousef Otaiba, the Emirati ambassador to Washington, declined to comment. A spokesman for United States Central Command, the military headquarters overseeing America’s involvement in the Yemen conflict, also declined to comment.

The Latin American force in the Emirates was originally conceived to carry out mostly domestic missions — guarding pipelines and other sensitive infrastructure and possibly putting down riots in the sprawling camps housing foreign workers in the Emirates — according to corporate documents, American officials and several people involved in the project.

A 2011 intelligence briefing for senior leaders involved in the project listed Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Somali pirates and domestic riots as some of the biggest threats to Emirati stability.

The troops were told that they might one day be called for foreign combat missions, but until the deployment to Yemen the only external missions they were given were to provide security on commercial cargo vessels.

Those missions were rare, and soldiers involved in the project describe years of monotony at the desert camp, housed within a sprawling Emirati military base called Zayed Military City. They rise every day at 5 a.m. for exercise and military training — including shooting practice, navigation and riot control. A number of Westerners, including several Americans, live at the camp and serve as trainers for the Latin American troops.

But by late morning the sun burns so hot at the windswept complex that the troops move into air-conditioned classrooms for military instruction.

The troops live in typically austere military barracks, hanging their laundry out the windows to dry in the hot air. There is a common computer room where they can check their email and Facebook pages, but they are not allowed to post photographs on social media sites.

Meals are basic. “It’s the same food all the time, every day,” one member of the project said several weeks ago. “Chicken every single day.”

The Emiratis have spent the equivalent of millions of dollars equipping the unit, from firearms and armored vehicles to communications systems and night vision technology. But Emirati leaders rarely visit the camp. When they do, the troops put on tactical demonstrations, including rappelling from helicopters and driving armored dune buggies.

And yet they stay largely because of the money, receiving salaries ranging from $2,000 to $3,000 a month, compared with approximately $400 a month they would make in Colombia. Those troops who deploy to Yemen will receive an additional $1,000 per week, according to a person involved in the project and a former senior Colombian military officer.

Hundreds of Colombian troops have been trained in the Emirates since the project began in 2010 — so many that the Colombian government once tried to broker an agreement with Emirati officials to stanch the flow headed to the Persian Gulf. Representatives from the two governments met, but an agreement was never signed.

Most of the recruiting of former troops in Colombia is done by Global Enterprises, a Colombian company run by a former special operations commander named Oscar Garcia Batte. Mr. Batte is also co-commander of the brigade of Colombian troops in the Emirates, and is part of the force now deployed in Yemen.

Mr. McFate said that the steady migration of Latin American troops to the Persian Gulf had created a “gun drain” at a time when Latin American countries need soldiers in the battle against drug cartels.

But experts in Colombia said that the promise of making more money fighting for the Emirates — money that the troops send much of home to their families in Colombia — makes it hard to keep soldiers at home.

“These great offers, with good salaries and insurance, got the attention of our best soldiers,” said Jaime Ruiz, the president of Colombia’s Association of Retired Armed Forces Officials.

“Many of them retired from the army and left.”

Another cult-like status in Syria?  Who is Suheil Al-Hassan “The Tiger”?

Nov. 25, 2015

by Al-Souria Net (opposition website)

Al-Hassan’s cult-like status has helped him cement an image of a fearless and merciless commander in the public eye, with many touting the Syrian colonel as a likely successor to President Bashar Assad

Who

In recent years, Syrian Colonel Suheil al-Hassan has become one of the most iconic and respected names amongst loyalists of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. News of Hassan’s (reportedly undefeated) military success on numerous fronts has been widely publicized in pro-regime media, with many questioning how the colonel has witnessed such victory while so many other regime commanders tasted defeat.

Known to many as “The Tiger”, Hassan was considered by many to be a necessity for the continued rule of Bashar Assad as the crisis worsened and the battlefronts expanded across Syria. Acting on advice from intelligence officials, Bashar and his brother, Maher, appointed a leader who they believed would act faithfully on their behalf, as well as serve as a symbol representative of the strength of the Assad regime.

Although Hassan is not the only Syrian officer with high-ranking influence, he is regarded as the most influential commander inside the country’s pro-regime areas. Alsouria Net learned from reliable sources that Hassan was given the authority to appoint the heads of the security committees in Hama and Homs, and to assign new directors for Hama’s military intelligence and air force intelligence departments.

Hassan also administers security in the city of Al-Salamiyah in the countryside of Hama, overseeing local air force intelligence in addition to the the region’s largest militia leaders, including Wareeth Alyounis and his brother Rajab, Musib Salamah, Mahmoud Afifi and Ghazwan Alsalmouni. Despite the regular differences between Hassan and the militia warlords, which could sometimes lead to armed conflict, their sectarian relationship played a major role in diffusing tensions and preserving loyalties.

‘The Tiger’s’ Battles

Colonel Hassan’s battle success can in many ways be attributed to his authority to command Syria’s air forces as he desires. He is known for his use of heavy aerial bombardment alongside his private artillery forces, consisting of a group of trucks from the Fourth Armored Division carrying around 130 large guns, in addition to a number of tanks, mortars, armored vehicles and fighters trained in Iran and Lebanon.

The late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad was well known for his supreme control over his notorious air forces and air force intelligence department, and Bashar Assad followed his father’s lead by implementing a similar method of airtight control over these same institutions.

As an Alawite, Hassan has been able to garner favorable influence among Syria’s top military officers, and is one of the only people authorized by President Assad to direct the air forces during battles, despite objections from air commanders and security heads. Although Colonel Fadl Salami, chief of Hama’s security committee, was known to have an amicable relationship with Hassan, Salami refused to obey a number of Hassan’s orders, and was consequently relieved of his position as the leader of Hama’s military airport of Hama.

Often described as employing a scorched earth policy, Hassan is known to move his troops only when he is assured the attack area is brutally destroyed, and often justifies his indiscriminate attacks by claiming all civilian areas are potential environments for terrorism to hide behind. According to information obtained by Al-Souria Net, as a show of his authority in front of his troops, Hassan rarely consults with his superiors before issuing orders, allowing him to make decisions during battles without the fear of accountability.

In addition, Iran has offered the commander unrestricted support for his ground units. Officers of The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps generously supplied his troops with advanced equipment and special weapons. In return, Hassan commanded his forces as if in a Holy War, appearing on video as a Shiite preacher heralding the coming of Mahdi before the prophesized Day of Judgment.

The Russian Support

The Russian air force has focused on supporting Hassan’s troops since the start of Moscow’s incursion into Syria. Moscow’s air cover supported his forces in the Battle of Jazal and recapturing of a number of Syria’s oil fields, as well as in the recent battle to reclaim Kuweiris Airport.

Moscow considers Hassan’s approval a priority as its air forces are heavily reliant on Syrian air bases to launch their missions. Russia’s eagerness to pander to Hassan recently impacted on its capacity to strike in the east of Hama, as its air forces were split between the battle at Kuweiris airport in addition to its strikes in Hama’s northern countryside, Homs and Idleb, which mainly targeted the Free Syrian Army. The complication led to the advancement of Islamic State (ISIS) troops towards Ethria, which endangered regime forces in the area. All distress calls sent by National Defense Forces (NDF) militias were neglected by the military air base at Hama, resulting in the loss of many villages and sites considered of great importance for the regime.

Hassan and His Opponents

For all his popularity and cult-like status among regime supporters, Hassan has faced considerable internal competition to his authority and control, especially in Hama province. The most notable case was his much publicized conflict with Hama’s military intelligence, following several attempts by the local intelligence director to arrange Hassan’s assassination. The most recent assassination attempt, in October 2014, resulted in the director of Branch 219 being removed from his position.

Hama’s military intelligence was not the only concern for Hassan, as a number of pro-regime warlords would become sworn mortal enemies due to deep conflicts of interest, despite their alliances with the commander. Hassan stood as an obstacle for warlord Musib Salamah, who was leading a smuggling and burglary ring in the eastern regions of Hama’s countryside. Although altercations erupted between fighters loyal to Salamah and Hassan, as well as other militia leaders, including parliamentarian Ahmed Aldarweesh, however, common interests usually overcame the problems and the direct confrontation was avoided.

The Striking Force

Along with fighters from the pro-regime National Defense Forces militias, Suheil Hassan was also successful in encouraging militants and security services to join him in battle, including military intelligence forces and other armed groups. Yet, his biggest problem emerged when the NDF of Al-Salamiyah separated from Hama’s National Defense Force center in Der Shmiel, often likened to an Assad death camp, where he had a held significant authority and influence.

Following the controversial split, which drew the attention of an irked President Assad, Hassan worked hard to encourage large number of other militias in Salamiyah to fight amongst his ranks.

But Hassan wasn’t satisfied with the results, leading him to form a Special Forces unit named the Striking Force, with support from Iran and Colonel Fadl Salami, the former head of Hama’s military air base. Assisted by top Syrian officers and Iran, Hassan managed to convince the Minister of Defense to exempt all members of his Striking Force from mandatory military service.

In addition to Hassan’s Stiking Force, all volunteers in the air force intelligence in Homs, Hama, Aleppo, Lattakia and Tartous would be considered a member of Hassan’s troops, with air force intelligence fighters styling themselves as the “Alnemer Forces” (Tiger Forces) in a show of loyalty to him.

Story of two survivors: From a boat carrying 500 refugees sunk at sea

Every day, I listen to harrowing stories of people fleeing for their lives, across dangerous borders and unfriendly seas. But there’s one story that keeps me awake at night, and it’s about Doaa.

A Syrian refugee, 19 years old, was living a grinding existence in Egypt working day wages. Her dad was constantly thinking of his thriving business back in Syria that had been blown to pieces by a bomb.

And the war that drove them there was still raging in its fourth year.

And the community that once welcomed them there had become weary of them. And one day, men on motorcycles tried to kidnap her.

Once an aspiring student thinking only of her future, now she was scared all the time. 

Patsy Z shared  via TEDxSKE

The power of stories… Much more powerful than the hundreds of numbers we hear of…

ted.com|By Melissa Fleming

01:13 But she was also full of hope, because she was in love with a fellow Syrian refugee named Bassem.

Bassem was also struggling in Egypt, and he said to Doaa, “Let’s go to Europe; seek asylum, safety. I will work, you can study — the promise of a new life.” And he asked her father for her hand in marriage.

But they knew to get to Europe they had to risk their lives, traveling across the Mediterranean Sea, putting their hands in smugglers’, notorious for their cruelty. And Doaa was terrified of the water. She always had been. She never learned to swim.

02:01 It was August that year, and already 2,000 people had died trying to cross the Mediterranean, but Doaa knew of a friend who had made it all the way to Northern Europe, and she thought, “Maybe we can, too.” So she asked her parents if they could go, and after a painful discussion, they consented, and Bassem paid his entire life savings — 2,500 dollars each — to the smugglers.

02:29 It was a Saturday morning when the call came, and they were taken by bus to a beach, hundreds of people on the beach. They were taken then by small boats onto an old fishing boat, 500 of them crammed onto that boat, 300 below, 500 above. There were Syrians, Palestinians, Africans, Muslims and Christians, 100 children, including Sandra — little Sandra, six years old — and Masa, 18 months. There were families on that boat, crammed together shoulder to shoulder, feet to feet. Doaa was sitting with her legs crammed up to her chest, Bassem holding her hand.

03:15 Day two on the water, they were sick with worry and sick to their stomachs from the rough sea.

03:22 Day three, Doaa had a premonition. And she said to Bassem, “I fear we’re not going to make it. I fear the boat is going to sink.” And Bassem said to her, “Please be patient. We will make it to Sweden, we will get married and we will have a future.”

03:42 Day four, the passengers were getting agitated. They asked the captain, “When will we get there?” He told them to shut up, and he insulted them. He said, “In 16 hours we will reach the shores of Italy.” They were weak and weary.

Soon they saw a boat approach — a smaller boat, 10 men on board, who started shouting at them, hurling insults, throwing sticks, asking them to all disembark and get on this smaller, more unseaworthy boat. The parents were terrified for their children, and they collectively refused to disembark. So the boat sped away in anger, and a half an hour later, came back and started deliberately ramming a hole in the side of Doaa’s boat, just below where she and Bassem were sitting. And she heard how they yelled, “Let the fish eat your flesh!” And they started laughing as the boat capsized and sank.

04:56 The 300 people below deck were doomed. Doaa was holding on to the side of the boat as it sank, and watched in horror as a small child was cut to pieces by the propeller.

Bassem said to her, “Please let go, or you’ll be swept in and the propeller will kill you, too.” And remember — she can’t swim. But she let go and she started moving her arms and her legs, thinking, “This is swimming.”

And miraculously, Bassem found a life ring. It was one of those child’s rings that they use to play in swimming pools and on calm seas. And Doaa climbed onto the ring, her arms and her legs dangling by the side. Bassem was a good swimmer, so he held her hand and tread water.

Around them there were corpses. Around 100 people survived initially, and they started coming together in groups, praying for rescue. But when a day went by and no one came, some people gave up hope, and Doaa and Bassem watched as men in the distance took their life vests off and sank into the water.

 One man approached them with a small baby perched on his shoulder, 9 months old — Malek. He was holding onto a gas canister to stay afloat, and he said to them, I fear I am not going to survive. I’m too weak. I don’t have the courage anymore.”

And he handed little Malek over to Bassem and to Doaa, and they perched her onto the life ring. So now they were three, Doaa, Bassem and little Malek.

06:50 And let me take a pause in this story right here and ask the question: why do refugees like Doaa take these kinds of risks? Millions of refugees are living in exile, in limbo. They’re living in countries [fleeing] from a war that has been raging for four years. Even if they wanted to return, they can’t. Their homes, their businesses, their towns and their cities have been completely destroyed. This is a UNESCO World Heritage City, Homs, in Syria.

So people continue to flee into neighboring countries, and we build refugee camps for them in the desert. Hundreds of thousands of people live in camps like these, and thousands and thousands more, millions, live in towns and cities. And the communities, the neighboring countries that once welcomed them with open arms and hearts are overwhelmed. There are simply not enough schools, water systems, sanitation. Even rich European countries could never handle such an influx without massive investment.

The Syria war has driven almost four million people over the borders, but over seven million people are on the run inside the country. That means that over half the Syrian population has been forced to flee. Back to those neighboring countries hosting so many. They feel that the richer world has done too little to support them. And days have turned into months, months into years. A refugee’s stay is supposed to be temporary.

08:49 Back to Doaa and Bassem in the water. It was their second day, and Bassem was getting very weak. And now it was Doaa’s turn to say to Bassem, “My love, please hold on to hope, to our future. We will make it.” And he said to her, “I’m sorry, my love, that I put you in this situation. I have never loved anyone as much as I love you.” And he released himself into the water, and Doaa watched as the love of her life drowned before her eyes.

09:34 Later that day, a mother came up to Doaa with her small 18-month-old daughter, Masa. This was the little girl I showed you in the picture earlier, with the life vests. Her older sister Sandra had just drowned, and her mother knew she had to do everything in her power to save her daughter. And she said to Doaa, “Please take this child. Let her be part of you. I will not survive.” And then she went away and drowned.

10:10 So Doaa, the 19-year-old refugee who was terrified of the water, who couldn’t swim, found herself in charge of two little baby kids. And they were thirsty and they were hungry and they were agitated, and she tried her best to amuse them, to sing to them, to say words to them from the Quran. Around them, the bodies were bloating and turning black. The sun was blazing during the day. At night, there was a cold moon and fog. It was very frightening. On the fourth day in the water, this is how Doaa probably looked on the ring with her two children.

10:52 A woman came on the fourth day and approached her and asked her to take another child — a little boy, just four years old. When Doaa took the little boy and the mother drowned, she said to the sobbing child, “She just went away to find you water and food.” But his heart soon stopped, and Doaa had to release the little boy into the water.

11:22 Later that day, she looked up into the sky with hope, because she saw two planes crossing in the sky. And she waved her arms, hoping they would see her, but the planes were soon gone.

11:38 But that afternoon, as the sun was going down, she saw a boat, a merchant vessel. And she said, “Please, God, let them rescue me.” She waved her arms and she felt like she shouted for about two hours. And it had become dark, but finally the searchlights found her and they extended a rope, astonished to see a woman clutching onto two babies.

12:05 They pulled them onto the boat, they got oxygen and blankets, and a Greek helicopter came to pick them up and take them to the island of Crete.

 But Doaa looked down and asked, “What of Malek?” And they told her the little baby did not survive — she drew her last breath in the boat’s clinic. But Doaa was sure that as they had been pulled up onto the rescue boat, that little baby girl had been smiling.

12:38 Only 11 people survived that wreck, of the 500.

There was never an international investigation into what happened. There were some media reports about mass murder at sea, a terrible tragedy, but that was only for one day. And then the news cycle moved on.

13:03 Meanwhile, in a pediatric hospital on Crete, little Masa was on the edge of death. She was really dehydrated. Her kidneys were failing. Her glucose levels were dangerously low. The doctors did everything in their medical power to save them, and the Greek nurses never left her side, holding her, hugging her, singing her words. My colleagues also visited and said pretty words to her in Arabic. Amazingly, little Masa survived.

13:39 And soon the Greek press started reporting about the miracle baby, who had survived four days in the water without food or anything to drink, and offers to adopt her came from all over the country.

13:56 And meanwhile, Doaa was in another hospital on Crete, thin, dehydrated. An Egyptian family took her into their home as soon as she was released. And soon word went around about Doaa’s survival, and a phone number was published on Facebook. Messages started coming in.

14:21 “Doaa, do you know what happened to my brother? My sister? My parents? My friends? Do you know if they survived?”

14:34 One of those messages said, “I believe you saved my little niece, Masa.” And it had this photo. This was from Masa’s uncle, a Syrian refugee who had made it to Sweden with his family and also Masa’s older sister. Soon, we hope, Masa will be reunited with him in Sweden, and until then, she’s being cared for in a beautiful orphanage in Athens.

15:09 And Doaa? Well, word went around about her survival, too.

And the media wrote about this slight woman, and couldn’t imagine how she could survive all this time under such conditions in that sea, and still save another life.

The Academy of Athens, one of Greece’s most prestigious institutions, gave her an award of bravery, and she deserves all that praise, and she deserves a second chance. But she wants to still go to Sweden. She wants to reunite with her family there. She wants to bring her mother and her father and her younger siblings away from Egypt there as well, and I believe she will succeed.

She wants to become a lawyer or a politician or something that can help fight injustice. She is an extraordinary survivor.

But I have to ask: what if she didn’t have to take that risk? Why did she have to go through all that?

Why wasn’t there a legal way for her to study in Europe?

Why couldn’t Masa have taken an airplane to Sweden?

Why couldn’t Bassem have found work?

Why is there no massive resettlement program for Syrian refugees, the victims of the worst war of our times?

The world did this for the Vietnamese in the 1970s. Why not now?

Why is there so little investment in the neighboring countries hosting so many refugees?

And why, the root question, is so little being done to stop the wars, the persecution and the poverty that is driving so many people to the shores of Europe? Until these issues are resolved, people will continue to take to the seas and to seek safety and asylum.

17:27 And what happens next? Well, that is largely Europe’s choice. And I understand the public fears. People are worried about their security, their economies, the changes of culture.

But is that more important than saving human lives? Because there is something fundamental here that I think overrides the rest, and it is about our common humanity. No person fleeing war or persecution should have to die crossing a sea to reach safety.  

18:13 One thing is for sure, that no refugee would be on those dangerous boats if they could thrive where they are. And no migrant would take that dangerous journey if they had enough food for themselves and their children. And no one would put their life savings in the hands of those notorious smugglers if there was a legal way to migrate.

So on behalf of little Masa and on behalf of Doaa and of Bassem and of those 500 people who drowned with them, can we make sure that they did not die in vain?

Could we be inspired by what happened, and take a stand for a world in which every life matters?

 

How the West cultivated Osama bin Laden

We needn’t reach back far into history, just a few decades.

A much-circulated photo of an article published in British newspaper the Independent in 1993 exemplifies the West’s twisted hypocrisy. Titled “Anti-Soviet warrior puts his army on the road to peace,” it features a large photo of Osama bin Laden, who, at the time, was a close Western ally.

Osama bin Laden, reported on favorably in the U.K.'s The Independent in 1993 (Credit: Imgur)

Osama bin Laden, reported on favorably in the U.K.’s The Independent in 1993 (Credit: Imgur)

History takes no prisoners. It shows, with absolute lucidity, that the Islamic extremism ravaging the world today was borne out of the Western foreign policy of yesteryear.

Gore Vidal famously referred to the USA as the United States of Amnesia. The late Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai put it a little more delicately, quipping, “One of the delightful things about Americans is that they have absolutely no historical memory.”

In order to understand the rise of militant Salafi groups like ISIS and al-Qaida; in order to wrap our minds around their heinous, abominable attacks on civilians in the U.S., France, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Nigeria, Turkey, Yemen, Afghanistan and many, many more countries, we must rekindle this historical memory.

Where did violent Islamic extremism come from? In the wake of the horrific Paris attacks on Friday, November the 13, this is the question no one is asking — yet it is the most important one of all. If one doesn’t know why a problem emerged, if one cannot find its root, one will never be able to solve and uproot it.

Where did militant Salafi groups like ISIS and al-Qaida come from? The answer is not as complicated as many make it out to be — but, to understand, we must delve into the history of the Cold War, the historical period lied about in the West perhaps more than any other.

The newspaper noted that bin Laden organized a militia of thousands of foreign fighters from throughout the Middle East and North Africa, and “supported them with weapons and his own construction equipment” in their fight against the USSR in the 1980s. “We beat the Soviet Union,” bin Laden boasted.

The mujahedin, this international Islamic extremist militia organized and headed by bin Laden, is what eventually morphed into both al-Qaida and the Taliban.

“When the history of the Afghan resistance movement is written,” the Independent wrote, “Mr Bin Laden’s own contribution to the mujahedin… may turn out to be a turning point in the recent history of militant fundamentalism.”

Portraying bin Laden in a positive light, less than eight years before he would help mastermind the largest terrorist attack on American soil in decades, the British publication claimed that the “Saudi businessman who recruited mujahedin now uses them for large-scale building projects in Sudan.” In reality, bin Laden was setting the stages for what would be become al-Qaida

Unheeded warnings

In Greek mythology, Cassandra was blessed with the power of prophecy, but cursed in that no one would ever heed her warnings. Eqbal Ahmad, the late political scientist, historian and expert in the study of terrorism, was a modern-day Cassandra.

In a speech at the University of Colorado, Boulder in October 1998, Ahmad warned that the U.S. policy in Afghanistan would backfire:

“In Islamic history, jihad as an international violent phenomenon had disappeared in the last 400 years, for all practical purposes. It was revived suddenly with American help in the 1980s. When the Soviet Union intervened in Afghanistan, Zia ul-Haq, the [U.S.-backed] military dictator of Pakistan, which borders on Afghanistan, saw an opportunity and launched a jihad there against godless communism. The U.S. saw a God-sent opportunity to mobilize one billion Muslims against what Reagan called the ‘Evil Empire.’

“Money started pouring in. CIA agents starting going all over the Muslim world recruiting people to fight in the great jihad. Bin Laden was one of the early prize recruits. He was not only an Arab. He was also a Saudi. He was not only a Saudi. He was also a multimillionaire, willing to put his own money into the matter. Bin Laden went around recruiting people for the jihad against communism.

“I first met him in 1986. He was recommended to me by an American official of whom I do not know whether he was or was not an agent. I was talking to him and said, ‘Who are the Arabs here who would be very interesting?’ By here I meant in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He said, ‘You must meet Osama.’ I went to see Osama. There he was, rich, bringing in recruits from Algeria, from Sudan, from Egypt, just like Sheikh Abdul Rahman. This fellow was an ally. He remained an ally.

My story with Arranged Marriages

I never knew that I would be able to write about my experience as a woman of this community.

I’m here today because it has made me who I am today: a woman trying to embody the ideals of both the West and East, a constant struggle, a constant obstacle- one day, I will overcome them…”- Zaafira

I am a South Indian Muslim, from one of the greatest historical coastal towns, (the name of the town cannot be disclosed due to privacy reasons), found in the state of Tamilnadu, in South India.

I have had the opportunity to study and live in different parts of the world like the UAE, UK and Malaysia, which has exposed me to various cultures.

I have had the chance to live amongst unique individuals in each country and I have witnessed first hand a confusion relating to my cultural identity.

Families and individuals from my town, follow Islam which was brought to us by our ancestors who predominantly came from Yemen, Iran and Egypt.

It is believed that my ancestors, especially from Yemen, were merchants and traders who arrived on boats to the coastal town, married the locals who were descendants of the then Pandyan King Raja Varma Kulasekhara, and settled in this busy port harbour around the 10th century.

They had assimilated into this new flourishing town and primarily adopted coastal and agricultural trading for survival. I am a descendant of the Moors of the town (what we are known as today), the largest ethnic group from my town.

My ancestors preserved and passed on their Islamic cultural heritage infused with South Asian values from one generation to the next. This was the emergence of what I would call, the Muslim community. A community that used to, and still is adhering to the hybridized, values, customs and traditions passed on from its ancestors.

Amongst one of prominent practices that we have adopted from our Yemeni heritage, is the ancient pre-Islamic tradition that is practiced in our community, ‘shegar’ or ‘swap marriages’, a variant of arranged marriages.

The way we call this system is ‘badal mappillai’ (in Tamil), which literally translates to the exchange of grooms.

However, we do not follow the shegar system in the exact way as Yemeni’s do. Our ‘badal mappillai’ system is mix of both Yemeni and South-Indian customs.

To begin with, we must understand how shegar works and how my community has modified it to its own needs.

In Yemen, according to Yemeni BBC representative, Mai Noman, the practice of shegar is an ancient marriage custom that still exists to date in few Yemeni communities (usually in rural and/or countryside).

For example, family A would approach family B, asking family B’s daughter’s hand in marriage for their son, in exchange for their own daughter’s hand. In simpler words, a brother and a sister from the same family would marry a brother or a sister from another family. Their marriages would strengthen family ties.

This is when the problem arises, making these marriages complex. If suddenly, one of the couples has a fight and the marriage ends in divorce, the other couple would directly be harmed.

Let us say that Sarah was married to Abed (the couple who are getting divorced) and Omar is Sarah’s brother married to Abed’s sister, Yasmine, immediately Omar will decide to divorce his wife, Yasmine, since his sister was divorced by his brother-in-law, causing two broken marriages. This practice in Yemen can be regarded to be very extreme.

In my community, we have a different form of shegar. Families will be willing to do the ‘exchanging of grooms’ and in the case of divorce, the community will try to ensure that none of the involved parties are harmed or get divorced. If they are unable to keep the couple united, they will go ahead and grant the divorce, however the other couple will not be affected. They are not forced into getting divorced by their families.

In addition, we also follow the same way of inter-marrying within our community like few communities in Yemen. So it is a norm in our community to marry our cousins. To marry someone from outside the community is considered taboo. Individuals, who have married outside the community, become excommunicated, to an extent from their families and extended families.

I mentioned the above in order to set the stage for the upcoming paragraphs where I’ll be recounting my personal experiences and how I have overcome them.

I’ll also be explaining the theories and beliefs behind arranged marriages not only in my community and India, but also in South-Western Asian countries like Egypt, the State of Israel and Turkey. Additionally, I will briefly mention my qualitative research conducted in my university, regarding the notion of arranged marriage.

When I was around the age of 3 or 4, my maternal uncle was getting married to my aunt (my father’s 1st cousin). All the memories that I have of this occasion, come from wedding pictures and videos.

My uncle happily got married to my aunt and life moved on. However, I found out that somehow I had become betrothed to my second cousin (an aspect of shegar) who was the nephew of my aunt.

The elders had decided my future at such a young age. I had no idea about the betrothal; I was naive and innocent.

As years went by, I used to receive gifts like clothes and toys from my future in-laws. As weird it may sound, this was not something new- this was a norm, and nobody questioned it. Years went by, and my family and extended family teased me about my “supposed fiancé” and I think I pretended to be shy or I was genuinely shy when they teased me.

It was vague to me at that time. Fast forward 10 years, when I was around 14, talks of me going to study in London arose- since I wanted to study there. My brother was already in London and he is 6 years older than me. He was going to be my guardian and I would be under his custody.

Somehow, my parents agreed to send me to a boarding school in Kent, the following year and I told them to trust me that I would never betray them or do anything silly when I were to live there. They completely trusted me and I them. I was exhilarated and ecstatic.

Now, it is not a norm for young girls of the age 15 to go abroad and live (almost) on their own in my community.

I had broken the barriers and the status quo. To top it all off, I broke off my engagement with my second cousin.

You may be wondering how it would have been possible.

One, my family had agreed to this when I was very young, without my consent and on top of that I have three older siblings, 2 sisters and a brother. I made the argument of why my older sisters were not engaged to someone when I was.

Two, my mother was not too keen about the alliance.

Finally, I was going to the UK, and I assumed that it was the right moment for me to break off the engagement.

I, at the age 15, thought that the community would start creating rumors of me falling love with someone abroad, so I kind of made and took a ‘prevention is better than cure’ type of action. It may all seem irrational to both, someone from my community and someone from the outside.

At the mere age of 15, I had broken two strict conventions of my community.

One, I had broken off my engagement of 11 years and

two, I went to study in the UK.

I felt a sense of freedom and my friends and cousins started saying that I had done something very rebellious and I somehow felt like a rebel.

I did not feel guilty or regret my choices, actions and decisions at that time. However, they do say, all good things come to an end.

My parents had accepted my choice but after couple of years, when I was 17, my mother started to panic.

I had moved to Kuala Lumpur at that age and started school over there. My mother started worrying because people from my community were concerned about my future. As enraged as I was, I argued with her saying it was none of their business.

I started to embrace the western ideals of freedom and choosing my soul mate.

My parents sat down with me when I came back to Dubai and started to give me pieces of advice about life. They also said they had found an alliance.

I had no intention of pursuing this, but I was forced into it. So, when I was in India, I was asked to go to the new and possible candidate’s house to visit his family.

I was not comfortable with that idea. All I wanted to do at that age was to focus on my studies; I was in year 13, doing my IB. It was important for me to focus, but somehow my parents kept insisting that I agree to that proposal.

They told me that they had their best intentions and interests for me- I was skeptical (a side effect of being a teenager). I put my feet on the ground, and told them it was not going to happen.

My mother became highly emotional and said things you would usually hear in Bollywood movies like:  “all the good men would be married and you will have to settle down with someone who’s good for nothing!”, “you have dishonored our family”, “how can I show my face to the community?”, these statements had affected me. I used to live on my own in Kuala Lumpur, and I used to cry and cry and cry, wanting this phase of my life to end. I had become depressed, but my studies kept me going.

Simultaneously, another proposal came up, this time it was someone (a cousin) who I genuinely liked and I knew him from a young age. I had somehow decided if I was to marry someone from this community, it would be him-

I had accepted the fact that there was no way out for me at that time, so I settled for the best. However, the proposal did not work out because his family already had plans for him- he was a ‘badal mappillai’ for his sister.

So, as you can see, my community wanted me to marry someone from my own kind in order to keep the lineage pure, but me liking someone from my own kind and putting forth my proposition, I had obstacles, i.e. the groom’s family was not willing to accept the alliance because they were committed to a form of shegar.

My parents, during that period, were diverted for a while, they thought that I had at last given into the community (for that period of time, I had given in) but once they knew that it was not going to happen, they carried on with the previous alliance.

My amazing siblings acted as my pillar of support during this time. They fought on my behalf and made my parents move on from the proposal. They consoled my parents, and myself and said we will get a better proposal. I was happy and I continued studying.

Despite of saying no to the proposal, my IB results reflected how I was affected by it. I was very upset, but life has to move on, that is what I told myself. I was content with the fact that I was not going to get married to every Ahmed, Abdullah and Amer. Things seemed to be calm and months went by without my parents mentioning a new proposal.

After 5 months, talks of another alliance surfaced. I thought to myself- no, not again. It felt like déjà vu- it was back to square one. I would probably say, my experience that came with this alliance was one of the worst- the one followed by this would be the worst one of them all; a living nightmare (it affected me both, physically and mentally).

I had graduated and I was 18. I had decided to take a gap year to travel and get some work experience at a law firm (I was planning to get a degree in law). It was sometime in August, when I was on a holiday with my family in Sri Lanka. My father received a phone call and I thought it was regarding work. Couple of days went by, and there were recurring phone calls.

My father said, there was a family, which was interested in ours, and they wanted to ask my hand in marriage. For a moment, my heart stopped. It was happening all over again. Somehow, I had a feeling it was going to end badly- and it did. My father said that this supposed groom, was tall, fair and handsome (he thought I was superficial- there was a time when I told my parents about my ideal kind of spouse) but it did not matter to me, I had transcended my superficiality phase.

The age, for starters was the biggest problem of all. He was 9 years older than me. I was 18 and he was 27. In my community, if a groom were around the age of 27, he would have to get married soon. For a woman, the age between 18-20 is an ideal age.

This thought of his age and imminent marriage made my heart beat even faster, I felt disoriented and started to panic. I told my siblings that it could not happen. Nonetheless, the same routine happened: I heard about a new proposal and my parents wanted me to meet him and his family. I told them I needed time to contemplate and assess the situation. I asked for 3 months (trust me, that is definitely not enough!) to give them my answer.

I went back to Dubai and spent Ramadan over there. Things got very heated between my parents and myself. My mother decided to go to Chennai and stayed there until I gave her an answer. I said I needed time and started doing some Islamic research on the whole concept of marriage.

I told my parents about my findings and they did not bother and they said it is important that a daughter respects her parent’s choice- after all; only they know the best for their child. I tried to talk to my mother and asked her to come to Dubai so I could sit down and talk with both, my father and her about my choice. She was immensely upset with me that she actually refused to not only come to Dubai but also to talk to me for 2 months!

I was upset and disheartened. The start of the proposal itself seemed ominous to me. It had ruined my relationship with my mother; I did not know what could possibly happen in the future. In order to settle this once and for all, my parents asked me to come to Chennai and asked me to visit the alliance and his family. So just like previous occasions, I went to Chennai.

When I went to their house, I felt a strong negative vibe and my feelings were reaffirmed. I knew that this would not happen and I fought with my parents verbally (with my mother physically- yes it had reached that point). My older sister was always on my side and she too, was involved. At last, I had victoriously broken off the proposal! I somehow became like a phoenix. Each event killed me and I died, but at the end of the day I woke up new and alive. I rose from the ashes- a resilient woman. I was fighting my own battle with my own parents. The ones who gave me life, they were my enemies. But I sympathized with them as well; it was not their fault, it was the community’s fault. It had made them like that. There were times when I used to vicariously feel their pain, but I could not do anything since I knew that it was not the right time for me to give in.

The accumulation of proposals and alliances made me very depressed. I had to force myself to start university.  I was around 19 and I decided to start from scratch and enrolled into Paris Sorbonne Abu Dhabi to pursue a degree in Philosophy and Sociology. My parents had vowed not to speak to me about marriage proposals again. During the years 2009-2013, I had gone through enough drama and stress.

I was glad that they promised to not to speak about marriage until I finished my degree. However, one thing that life has taught me is that in a community like mine or similar to mine, the talks of marriage were unavoidable and inevitable. So there was always a part of me, dreading the moment these talks would resurface again. Like I had suspected, it did.

During the spring of 2013, I was in Kuala Lumpur for my spring break. My grandmother was with me and started saying something like “oh there’s a new proposal, a boy from a good family, he’s very family oriented…’ and the potential groom’s résumé continued. I tried to stay calm and composed, but I could not tolerate the hypothetical ‘new elephant in the room’!

I asked my mother what was going on. She said yes we have received a prospective alliance and he definitely trumps the rest. I thought to myself, no he definitely would not. I started to feel the invisible pressure from the elders. My life somehow turned into a nightmare. I started to get affected both mentally and physically. To top it all of, I had met someone (who was not from my community)- it was definitely not the right moment, but fate works in mysterious ways.

My parents started talking about the proposal and started planning ahead. The new individual was 7 years older than me (better than 9 years-probably). I told my parents that I would try and make an effort, in order to avoid all issues and drama that I have mentioned above. I tried talking to the potential groom just to satisfy my parents, who wanted to satisfy the community, but somehow I felt I was forcing myself.

Moreover, my relationship with the man I met was growing and I did not know what to do.  I was in a moral dilemma. I knew that I would not pursue my parents’ new proposition. In June 2013, they asked me to fly to Bombay to visit the potential groom and his family. I had no intention at all, but my father reassured me and said things will be fine; he tried to convince me.

I had not told him about the man I was in a relationship with; if he had found out at that time, he would have been shocked. I thought it was not the right moment.

I went to Bombay for just 4 days (and oh were they long) and I kept constantly arguing with my parents. On top of that, I had to make an effort and talk to this new man, with someone else in my heart. In addition, I fell sick with food poisoning on the 3rd day, hence I had to postpone my trip, I honestly thought to myself I’d rather leave this city sick, than stay and get better over here.

I felt tortured mentally and I had no energy to fight with my parents. At last, the potential in-laws agreed to give me a month for me to decide. The thing with my parents or any of these potential in-laws was that there actually was no option of saying ‘no’. It was either, yes I will marry their son or yes, I WILL marry their son. For the person I was, I knew this was going to be a long battle. I was happy with the fact that I left Bombay and went to London for the rest of the summer. My parents left me at peace for few weeks.

The fact that I was in love with someone was bothering me; I felt I was being dishonest with my parents (for not telling them the truth). So one day, when my father came to London, I told him “no father, it will not happen” and he kept saying how I went to Bombay and I seemed fine there (according to them) and etc. I told him I just went there to satisfy their wishes. He got upset but I could not do anything about it.

The next thing that happened, I told my father I had fallen in love with someone. Everything stopped for a moment. I do not know where I had gathered my courage. He was shocked and he reprimanded me. For the first time in a long time, I saw him break into tears. He said, “You will not get married to anyone outside our community. That will only happen after my death!” I felt destroyed. I did not know what to do. On one side, I was in love and wanted to marry the man and on the other, I had to satisfy my parents.

My forever supportive siblings, fought by my side and told my parents it was no the right time; the proposal was broken off shortly.  My emotional and physical well being diminished over the next couple of months due to the events of 2013. I dropped out of Paris Sorbonne and went back to Dubai. I had drastically lost weight and there was a point when I started to look pale and fragile. My relatives started asking me what was wrong with me, I said “oh it’s nothing aunty/uncle”. Obviously, I could not tell them and they will never find out. My heart felt heavy for upsetting and breaking my parents’ trust.

To someone from outside my community, it may seem inconceivable to do things like the above, like getting engaged at the age of 3, or marriage talks at the age of 15 and above, etc. For some, between the age of 3-15 they would be concentrating on growing up, having fun and studying etc.

They might regard our community to be backwards, and to be honest; I had felt that way too. I felt that even if people from my community were living outside India, in countries like the UK, the UAE, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, and the USA, we had resorted to old values and customs that seemed very backwards to me. Also, some might think that what my parents did to me was inhumane and unimaginable. The answer is no.

I still love them and they have done so much for me. I can tell you that there are reasons for why my community was and still is like this- we are a collectivist community.

In order to put things into perspective, we should understand that there are two forms of cultures, one, collectivist and two, individualistic. The former is usually present in the East whilst the latter in the West. Collectivism correlates with family integrity, loyalty and unity.

There is a sense of harmony and interdependence in collectivistic cultures, while individualism is linked to personal initiative, personal autonomy, self-reliance and personal freedom.

Individuals from individualistic societies feel the need for independence and somehow there is lack of concern for others. In her work in ‘Mate Selection Across Cultures: Mate selection in contemporary India’, Nilufer P. Medora, claims that collectivism manifests itself in the beliefs and practice that reflects individuals ‘embeddedness’ in his or her family.

Also, Medora, believes that there is a great influence of the family and extended family that takes interest in an individuals well-being like, choosing the right spouse. They safeguard the individual’s interests in exchange for his or her permanent loyalty to the community.

This theory clearly reiterates how my community functions. Members of the community believe in integrity of the group. There is some form an identity that strengthens family stability.

Also, moral dignity and family reputation are highly valued and placed on a pedestal. It explains why it means so much for my parents to get me married to someone within the community. They have a good reputation and if I went on to marry the man I love; they would be affected by my actions.

These are key things that I still have on mind (to figure out whether I should carry on…). It is believed that love comes after marriage, so it is a norm in my community to get an arranged marriage and then fall in love.

The reasons above are not sufficient enough to make one understand why my community functions like this. In my town, arranged marriages have existed for centuries. However, in recent times, divorce rates have been high.

I would say one of the main reasons is that some individuals solely enter the marriage in order to satisfy their parent’s wishes. In my opinion, I feel that any form of marriage (be it love or arranged), an individual always takes a risk.

There is a 50-50 chance of the marriage working out. The power of making the marriage work only lies in the hands of the husband or wife. It is also considered a taboo if anyone was to marry outside, as aforementioned. This does not mean we do not have people in our community who have married outside. In fact, one of my aunts is actually married to a Pakistani. She had her own battle for sure.

Parents and elders believe that marrying within the community provides socio-economic security, especially for their daughters. Furthermore, arranged marriages take place in my town in order to retain the family name and ensure our blood is ‘pure’. But I would definitely say it is not pure, since we have Yemeni heritage.

It is not only in my community or in South-Asian communities’ do we find arranged marriages.

This form of marriage is prevalent in Southwest Asian communities as well. For instance, in Egypt, Turkey, and the State of Israel, marriages continue to be arranged by parents and relatives.

In Egypt for example, marriages bring together two families (like it does in my community) and it remains to be a central building block for both religious and social aspects (Hamon 135). In South-Asian communities, family is considered to be strong, well knit, resilient and enduring. This is also the case in few Southwest Asian communities.

In the State of Israel, some families practice arranged marriages, which are carried out by matchmakers (shadchan) and sometimes by relatives. It is believed that during the later Talmudic period, the arrangement of marriage was made when either the bride or the groom was a minor (Hamon 140). This takes me back to my first account, possibly we could have adopted Yemeni Jewish customs as well, and hence I might have been engaged when I was 3.

(Most probably, the Jews carried out the same customs and tradition of their land of origin Yemen and spread it in the Near East)

Turkey is another country where arranged marriages exist as well. It is believed that couples who are involved in this practice, have “lower levels of reciprocal self-revelation, lower emotional involvement with their spouses, and being closer to their families of origin” (Hamon 162). In my town, few marriages are like this as well. It is probably a by-product of arranged marriages.

In order to understand more about arranged marriages, I conducted a qualitative research. I spoke to few International Relations students and Dr. Deniz Gokalp of Social Sciences. I came to understand that marriage is a form of institution that ensures relationships are carried out legally, according to Dr. Gokalp.

Sometimes, few individuals feel the need to go against this institution (like I did) since it breaches their sense of freedom. Also, I believe that when religion and culture is mixed, it ends in a disaster. One of the respondents from Syria made an interesting statement and said that men are more vulnerable to arranged marriages.

I would say that it has become true over the years; families of the bride would probably be looking for hardworking men who are financially stable and rich. Another respondent from Sudan said, that the general definition of arranged marriage has changed over the years.

Next, it can be argued that one of the common misconceptions in the West is that arranged marriages are practices related to religion- NO! It definitely is not. It is principally related to cultures, customs and traditions. Cultural practices in collectivistic communities transcend religion.

So, what is the future of arranged marriages?

The world is getting more and more globalized. I am personally impacted by this phenomenon. I feel like the increase in technology and mobility has made the world more multicultural. We are becoming more open and exposed to Western ideals. I would say that my struggles and hardships that I faced and still facing in my community, has made me resilient. I have become a stronger woman and I feel like I can stand up for myself. My love for my parents has not changed and I feel that I can convince them one day.

I know there will be great repercussions, but it will only prepare me for the future. My father once said, “You are a cat on the wall, you do not know which side of the wall is good for you to jump off to”.

I think I know which side of the wall I would choose. I intend to show my parents that marrying someone outside my community does not mean my life is going to end badly. I want to show them that I can be happy and marriages outside the community could actually one day, be better than inter-community marriages.

I will make it a reality.

Note 1: Different times different traditions. Urban communities were minimal and transport and communication very basic.

Note 2:  The Saudi dynasty exchange wives too

Bored to Tears by a Do-Nothing Dream Job

More than a decade ago, I was in the type of job where, if I had sat down at my desk and worked for 100 hours straight, I would be only slightly less behind than when I started.

I was a newspaper editor, stuck in the type of never-ending grind that caused me to begin having a regular daydream.

Wouldn’t it be nice, I would tell myself as I rushed to meetings and faced down one deadline after another, if I had a job where I could just sit completely still for eight hours a day.

No duties, no meetings, no responsibilities — just enter some kind of building, sit down at a desk and collect a paycheck at the end of the week.

I wanted to do absolutely nothing.

Of course, at the time I never believed such a job existed, except perhaps in a few dusty corners of the government.

But then, after suffering complete burnout in my newspaper job and finding myself back on the market, I discovered firsthand that it was possible to end up with such a position in the private sector.

Based on the advertisement, the job I applied for and got appeared to require actual work.

I was to be an editor for a company that produced in-house publications for associations.

My task would be to work with the members of the various associations to edit and prepare monthly magazines and annual directories. It sounded like just what I was looking for — no daily deadlines and far less stress.

I arrived on the agreed-upon Monday morning at 8:30, and soon learned that I had struck gold. The business model was explained to me: The company’s sales staff approached and signed up various associations across the country, then editors like myself produced their publications.

But — and this was the most important detail — editors had to be hired before the associations were on board, so the company would be ready to go as soon as a deal was signed.

A typical editor at the company managed 15 to 20 publications, but as a new hire I would start out as the editor of zero.

(Editors earned cash bonuses for each magazine or directory they completed, so nobody wanted to pawn off any of their accounts to newbies.)

On my first day, I was given an employee handbook, a thick, three-ring binder of boilerplate company material; shown to a cubicle; and told to wait. For days? Weeks? Nobody I asked could be sure.

I approached my supervisor and several co-workers about how I was expected to fill my time.

Should I assist other editors? No, I was told, they work independently with their associations, so that wouldn’t be necessary.

Should I study up on the publications I would produce? No, each association was different, so that would serve no purpose. My supervisor pointed to my cubicle and the employee manual, making it clear that at this point I was infringing on her valuable time.

The first thing you deal with in a work environment with no work to do is the insecurity that comes from the peering eyes of your co-workers. Even though you have been told to do nothing, it still feels wrong to graze on the Internet or read a book at your desk while, all around you, actual work is being done.

The company occupied an extended single-story building in a small industrial park. The building backed up to a retention pond, and in front of the pond was a grassy area with a few picnic tables that served as a smoking section for the nicotine-inclined sales staff.

To create a little separation from the actual workers, I began to make my way outside to the picnic tables, a newspaper under my arm.

At first, I would sit at the table for 10 or 15 minutes at a time, chat with the smokers, relax by the pond and then brace myself for another hour in the cubicle.

Quickly, 15 turned to 30, and 30 turned to 60. Nobody needed me, so nobody came looking for me.

Soon, the smoking salesmen began to notice that each time they cycled through for another cigarette, I just happened to be on a break too, sitting comfortably at the picnic table.

Between puffs, one of them casually broached the subject. “What, exactly, do you do here?” he asked. (Most of the public servants in Lebanon don’t even have to show up to their supposed work)

The company was very successful, and much of the success was attributed to the military-type discipline that was imposed on its sales staff. Ten new people were brought in and trained each month, and about 10 unproductive ones were shoved out the door, like so much grass spit out of a lawn mower.

Those in sales would hit their mark of 60 cold calls per day or face consequences. All employees were required to be at their desks at 8:30, precisely. (For some reason, the rule was in place at the end of the day as well; at 5:32, the building was a ghost town.)

One morning, I entered the cubicle at 8:35 to find a note on my desk from my supervisor. “We expect everybody here on time,” she told me. “Please don’t make me ask you again.” My idle presence would apparently be needed for the full eight hours.

With no way to shorten the endless hours of nothing, I began to create activities to pass the time. The company had a new health policy that encouraged walking.

Pedometers were distributed. To capitalize on this, I tried to organize walking groups among the other editors. A few of them agreed to walk around the industrial park for 15 or 20 minutes in the afternoon.

When a few of them began to beg off because of work, I became desperate and began pleading with them. Before long, the walking group was defunct.

I started calling in to midday radio contests. “The 23rd caller wins lunch for the entire office!” Nineteen of the first 23 calls were from me. With unlimited time to call in, I won several lunches for my co-workers. They were underwhelmed.

I’ve often wondered why the so-called Masters of the Universe, those C.E.O.s with multimillion-dollar monthly paychecks, keep working. Why, once they have earned enough money to live comfortably forever, do they still drag themselves to the office? The easy answer, the one I had always settled on, was greed.

But as I watched the hours slowly drip by in my cubicle, an alternative reason came into view.

Without a sense of purpose beyond the rent money, malaise sets in almost immediately. We all need a reason to get up in the morning, preferably one to which we can attach some meaning. It is why people flock to the scene of a natural disaster to rescue and rebuild, why people devote themselves to a cause, no matter how doomed it may be. In the end, it’s the process as much as the reward that nourishes us.

Eventually, associations were signed and work began to appear on my desk. But by that time, my need for purpose had jumped the line. I had begun taking graduate school classes, and they did not fit into the strict 8:30-to-5:30 company schedule. No exceptions would be made.

I stuck with the classes, and in short order I was out, just another blade of grass spit onto the sidewalk.

I took a part-time job at a newspaper.

The first day, my supervisor asked me to edit a page of church announcements, the most menial of tasks in the newsroom. I lunged for it as if I were dying of thirst.

As my workload grew and again began to eclipse the number of hours in the day, I held on to the cubicle experience. It was a blessing to have fulfilling work, to be a cog in an important machine, to have a reason for being.

Still, it wasn’t long before, on those days when the work was piled high, with no end in sight, I began to slip into a familiar daydream. “Wouldn’t it be nice, if. …”

 Andrew Bossone shared this link

We all need a reason to get up in the morning, preferably one to which we can attach some meaning.

It is why people flock to the scene of a natural disaster to rescue and rebuild, why people devote themselves to a cause, no matter how doomed it may be. In the end, it’s the process as much as the reward that nourishes us.”

nytimes.com|By Ted Geltner

adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

November 2015
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