Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Jordan

Syrian Refugees on Giving Birth in the Desert: ‘I Thought I Was Going to Die’ 

More than 60,000 people are stranded on a remote strip of desert on the far eastern border between Jordan and Syria—two thirds of them women and children.

They’re in the demilitarized zone between Jordan and Syria, a stretch of rugged, sun-baked desert about four kilometers deep, bordered on the north and south by bulldozed earthen embankments, also known as berms.

It’s as inhospitable a place as you can imagine. Yet over the past seven or eight months, it has become temporary home to a glut of Syrians seeking refuge in Jordan, and the parasites who feed on them: smugglers, bandits, and Islamic State militants.

On the southern side, the area is policed by the Jordanian army, who say they have collected evidence—photographs from mobile phones, weapons, and bomb-making material—of Isis supporters and militants living on the berm, scattered amongst genuine refugees.  (So why called demilitarized zone?)

The queue for asylum in Jordan is long, hampered by deep suspicion and lengthy security checks. Humanitarian agencies provide food, water, and some medical care from earthen berm, but soldiers and aid workers do not venture into the demilitarized zone. On the northern, eastern, and western sides there is no order at all as the chaotic settlement sprawls farther by the day.

What we know about life on the berm comes mainly from the testimonies of those Syrians later admitted into Jordan and housed at Azraq refugee camp. And in these accounts, there is a sharp gender divide.

Sat cross-legged in their shelters at Azraq, the men who survived the berm describe a near-Darwinian struggle for survival. Most speak of keeping their heads down in an uncontrolled, increasingly violent community after paying smugglers hundreds of dollars per person to get there. They refer to frequent inter-tribal fighting, an extortionate black market, the bad apples who regularly incite rioting when refugees queue up for food or aid, and a creeping panic that something might happen to their wives, daughters, and sisters. Few are willing to put into words what that “something” might be.

My second dispatch from the wasteland between Jordan and Syria, where 60,000+ people are marooned in the desert.

The women who survived the berm at first have little to say. They look aside and say they didn’t see much: they spent most of their time inside the tent. But over time, the stories start to trickle out: the babies delivered in the desert; the honeymoon spent in darkness; the blind panic as the sound of rioting approaches your tent, and you grab your children and run.

According to internal NGO documents citing data collected by aid workers working in the area, more than 7% of people on the berm are pregnant women—about double the average you might expect in a typical community. The same data shows that as of April, the majority of pregnant women on the berm were in their seventh, eighth and ninth months of pregnancy.

Many of the women nursing new babies at Azraq say they waited until late pregnancy to flee for Jordan, not knowing they’d then spend weeks or months stuck in the desert.

Um Faten, a mother of four now living at Azraq, delivered her first three children in hospital in Hama. Her fourth, a girl named Faten, was born on 15 November in a tent on the berm, delivered by a midwife from Homs—another refugee awaiting entry to Jordan.

The Ruqban (Rukban) border crossing and encampment of Syrian asylum seekers, based on satellite imagery recorded on April 20, 2015. © 2015 CNES / Distribution Airbus DS courtesy of Human Rights Watch

“I thought I was going to die. There was no anaesthesia. No shots,” said Um Faten, shaking her head.

“If the Red Cross sees there are complications in the pregnancy, they usually bring women inside Jordan to deliver. But she’s healthy, look at her. The baby of the berm,” she said.

Days after her all-night labour, Um Faten and her family were admitted to Jordan and given a shelter at Azraq. Not everyone is so fortunate.

Ten days after Faten was born, a cousin went into labour with her sixth child. A vehicle from the International Committee of the Red Cross was present at the time, and the woman delivered baby Mohammad inside it. The two were taken to hospital in Ruwayshid, the closest town to the berm, and then, according to family, returned to the berm. More than four months on, as far as their family knows, they are still in the desert.

As the settlement at Ruqban has grown, the humanitarian response has become better-funded and more organized, with medical staff stationed on the berm most days. Recent antenatal arrivals at Azraq say they were told to register with medical staff at the start of their ninth month of pregnancy in order to be admitted to Jordan pre-delivery on humanitarian grounds. Sahar Hussein is one of those women.

“We spent our honeymoon in a tent,” she said, smiling at her husband, Aamer. The two had been married five months and were four months pregnant when they began their journey from Palmrya to Jordan. They sold their wedding rings to pay smugglers to get them to the berm and to buy a tent as basic supplies.

“My biggest worry was that Sahar would go into labor on the berm, after the doctor left,” said Aamer, holding the couple’s one-month-old baby, Loujan.

Surrounded by a growing number of desperate strangers, Aamer said he was terrified for Sahar’s safety and so hid her from view. “My wife basically spent four months in a tent,” he said.

The couple registered at the start of Sahar’s ninth month and were admitted to Jordan shortly before Loujan was born. By then, mid-March, a network of volunteer midwives had been established and were being equipped by humanitarian agencies to provide care to mums delivering on the berm. But lives were still being lost.

Among Azraq’s newest residents are a father, his six-year-old son and an infant daughter, born after medical staff had left for the night. The children’s mother died during labour for want of medical attention. She is buried on the berm.

Amongst women who have survived the berm, some of the most harrowing stories come from those who managed it alone.

Twenty-four year-old Widad, a widowed mother of three from rural Homs, spent February on the berm with her mother, sister, children, and disabled father.

“We left after Da’esh entered our village. We had one hour to leave or Da’esh would come to our houses. We were totally unprepared, the kids didn’t even have shoes. Our only goal was to get out,” she said.

After a two-day journey south, Widad and her family found a spot in the demilitarized zone close to the border, near some other people from Homs. They built a tent the way most others did, collecting a wooden pallet at the berm, taking it apart and building two posts, and then using scarves to create a roofline. From this, they hung a grey felt blanket they got from the aid workers: home.

Widad would wait in the women’s queue when aid was being distributed at the berm. But food shortages meant that they weren’t always fed.

“We would wait from 11 AM until 6 PM and not get food,” she said. “We lost so much weight, from the second we got to the berm the children were consistently sick and they lost between three and five kilograms each.”

Aid shortfalls were not the only reason Widad and her children often went to bed hungry.

“There was a lot of fighting between tribes on the berm. On the day before we left the berm, different tribal groups were throwing rocks and the camp was up in arms. I grabbed my kids and ran back towards Syria and hid amongst those tents, waiting until after dusk. I went back when it was quiet again,” Widad said, her voice shaking at the memory.

“My children are my weakness.”

As a single mother, Widad is what humanitarian agencies describe as a “woman at risk.” According to the latest NGO data, 21 per cent of women at Ruqban are classified as women at risk.

Women build their own latrines. There was human waste everywhere.

According to data collected by aid workers who service the berm, more than 18% of people at Ruqban are aged four or under, and another 23% are aged five through 11. In a society divided along traditional gender norms, this means women are saddled with the vast majority of childcare.

In a place like Ruqban, where men—if they are present at all—are typically preoccupied with safety-related tasks, women face a near-endless gauntlet of domestic work in medieval conditions.

“The first thing is that there were no bathrooms. Women build their own latrines,” said Um Ahmad, a mother of four from Homs. She spent mid-August 2015 through January 2016 on the berm, and said she had had no idea how difficult conditions would be.

For people used to living in homes with running water and modern plumbing, as most Syrians are, the adjustment to life on the berm was exhausting.

“If you bring water to your tent, you have it. If you don’t, you don’t,” said Um Ahmad.

She said the skin disease leishmaniasis was rampant on the berm, and keeping kids clean was a constant challenge. If Um Ahmad’s family was lucky, they’d receive soap and nappies from aid workers. When supplies ran out or rioting cut distributions short, they’d use what little money they had to buy soap on the black market.

Um Ahmad said she relied on her husband to haul water to the tent, where she would wash her children in buckets provided by aid agencies. Then, listening to the rumble of tens of thousands of strangers, just feet away, she would crouch down, remove her clothes in sections and quickly wash her own body.

Like every woman interviewed by Broadly, Um Ahmad was adamant: she did not feel safe on the berm.

“Never,” she said. “But no matter how bad conditions are on the berm, it’s better than in Syria.”


How the Gas deal between Jordan and Israel hurt the Palestinians?

Israeli forces take Palestinian land, bulldoze people out of their homes, and detains innocent civilians. Despite this, Jordan — home to millions of Palestinians — is about to sign a multi-billion dollar natural-gas deal with Israel.

Rewan Al-Haddad – Avaaz posted this March 5, 2015

An outcry across the region can stop it.

If this deal is signed, Israel will supply Jordan with natural-gas for 15 years. This has caused massive outrage in Jordan — thousands of people have raised an outcry, and dozens of ministers have urged the government to reconsider.

The Jordanian government is feeling the pressure and deciding their next steps.

Let’s join our Jordanian friends and pile on more pressure so the government sees this isn’t just a national issue anymore — it’s become a regional one.

Click the link below to sign the petition urging the Jordanian government to ditch the Israeli natural-gas deal. Civil society groups are organizing a massive demonstration in Amman on Friday, and Avaaz will be there to represent each of our voices:

Relying on Israeli gas is risky and will normalize economic relations with a country which is brutally oppressing innocent civilians.

And while nations around the world are encouraging companies to divest from Israel, the Jordanian government is doing the complete opposite — they are about to sign a huge deal that will add billions of dollars to the coffers of the Israeli government.

The Minister of Energy argues that this is needed to sustain the country, but many say the government hasn’t sufficiently explored their options.

Cyprus is keen to supply Jordan with natural-gas, Jordan itself has reserves that haven’t been fully developed, oil prices have plummeted, and alternative energy has huge potential.

Instead of doing deals that will enrich this repressive government, Jordan should be looking for alternatives that truly serve the future of the Jordanian and Palestinian people.

This is our chance to stand with both our Palestinian and Jordanian brothers and sisters for what is right. Click below to urge Jordan to say NO to Israeli gas:

Our community has stood with Palestine before through a massive campaign calling on big companies and banks to divest from the occupation.

Let’s do it again, to help ensure there is justice for Palestinians and Jordanians alike.

Note: Jordan of the absolute monarch Abdullah has also signed the project to link the Red Sea with the Dead Sea.


Inside the Syrian Crisis: Social therapy in Jordan


Sabine Choucair shared International Rescue Committee‘s photo

An awesome social therapy project I did with International Rescue Committee. I love these girls so so so much

ps: In zaatari camp now, doing some other crazy lovely stuff with the women-mothers-sisters out there.

"They laughed again. Their self esteem is back."</p>
<p>Social therapy in Jordan for Syrian refugees. A video:

“They laughed again. Their self esteem is back.”

Social therapy in Jordan for Syrian refugees. A video:

Over 600,000 Syrian refugees are currently in Jordan, 80% of whom live in urban areas among Jordanian neighbors.

In February the International Rescue Committee organized a two-week social therapy workshop at our women’s center in the city of Irbid that brought together Syrian refugee teenagers and their Jordanian counterparts.

The program included dance, songs, storytelling, theater, community projects — and just clowning around.

“Most of the girls came with very low self-esteem,” said Sabine Choucair, who led the workshop. As a result of the program, she says, “they laughed again. Their self esteem is back.”

(Posted May 2014)

Learn more about the IRC’s work in Jordan

Behind Barbed Wire, Shakespeare Inspires a Cast of Young Syrians

On a rocky patch of earth in this sprawling city of tents and prefab trailers, the king, dressed in dirty jeans and a homemade cape, raised his wooden scepter and announced his intention to divide his kingdom.

His elder daughters, wearing paper crowns and plastic jewelry, showered him with false praise, while the youngest spoke truthfully and lost her inheritance.


So began a recent adaptation here of “King Lear.”

For the 100 children in the cast, it was their first brush with Shakespeare, although they were already deeply acquainted with tragedy.

All were refugees who had fled the civil war in Syria. Some had seen their homes destroyed. Others had lost relatives to violence. Many still had trouble sleeping or jumped at loud noises.

And now home was here, in this isolated, treeless camp, a place of poverty, uncertainty and boredom.

Reflecting the demographics of Syria’s wider refugee crisis, more than half of the 587,000 refugees registered in Jordan are younger than 18, according to the United Nations. About 60,000 of those young people live in the Zaatari camp, where fewer than a quarter regularly attend school.

Parents and aid workers fear that Syria’s war threatens to create a lost generation of children who are scarred by violence and miss vital years of education, and that those experiences and disadvantages will follow them into adulthood.

The “King Lear” performance, the conclusion of a project than spanned months, was one attempt to fight that threat.

“The show is to bring back laughter, joy and humanity,” said its director, Nawar Bulbul, a 40-year-old Syrian actor known at home for his role in “Bab al-Hara,” an enormously popular historical drama that was broadcast throughout the Arab world.

The play owed its production largely to Mr. Bulbul. Smoking hand-rolled cigarettes and speaking with the animated face of a stage actor who never stops performing, Mr. Bulbul described his journey from television star to children’s director.

When the Syrian uprising broke out in 2011, he joined with gusto, appearing at antigovernment protests, leading chants and drawing the ire of the security services. A play he produced was banned, and a fellow actor who supported the government informed him that he could either appear on television to rectify his stance or expect to be arrested.

“I told him I would think about it, and a week later I was out of the country,” Mr. Bulbul said.

Last year, he and his French wife moved to Jordan, where friends invited him to help distribute aid in Zaatari. The visit exposed him to what he called “the big lie” of international politics that had failed to stop the war.

There are people who want to go home, and they are the victims while the great powers fight above them,” he said.

Children he met in the camp made him promise to return, and he did — with a plan to show the world that the least fortunate Syrian refugees could produce the loftiest theater.

The sun blazed on the day of the performance, staged on a rocky rectangle of land surrounded by a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire. The 12 main actors stood in the middle, while the rest of the cast stood behind them, a chorus that provided commentary and dramatic sound effects. The audience sat on the ground.

When each of Lear’s first two daughters tricked him with false flattery in elegant, formal Arabic, the chorus members yelled “Liar! Hypocrite!” until the sisters told them to shut up.

And when the third sister refused to follow suit, the chorus members yelled “Truthful! Just!” until the king told them to shut up.

Continue reading the main story  Video

PLAY VIDEO.  VIDEO|5:35.  Syrian Refugees Cross Into Uncertainty

Refugees fleeing fighting in Syria in May, 2013, relocated to the Zaatari refugee camp in northern Jordan where they face dusty days and cold nights in an uncertain existence with no end in sight.

In later scenes, the king was heckled by the Fool, who wore a rainbow-colored wig, and 8 boys performed a choreographed sword fight with lengths of plastic tubing.

A few scenes from “Hamlet” were spliced in, making the story hard to follow. And at one point, a tanker truck carrying water roared by, drowning out the actors and coating the audience in a cloud of dust.

But the mere fact that the play was performed was enough for the few hundred spectators. Families living in nearby tents brought their children, hoisting them on their shoulders so they could see.

After Lear’s descent into madness and death, the cast surrounded the audience, triumphantly chanting “To be or not to be!” in English and Arabic. The crowd burst into applause, and a number of the leading girls broke into tears. Mr. Bulbul said they were overwhelmed because it was the first time anyone had clapped for them.

After the show, as journalists interviewed the cast, the parents boasted of their children’s talent.

“I am the mother of King Lear,” declared Intisar al-Baradan when asked if she had seen the play. She had brought about 20 relatives to the performance, she said, adding that her son was also a great singer.

Other parents described the project as a rare point of light in a bleak camp existence.

Hatem Azzam, whose daughter Rowan, 12, played one of Lear’s daughters, said the family fled Damascus after government forces set his carpentry shop on fire.

“We were a rebellious neighborhood, so they burned every shop on the street,” Mr. Azzam said.

He arrived in Zaatari a year ago with 5 other family members, but one of his brothers got sick and died soon afterward, and his elderly mother never adjusted to the desert climate and died, too, he said.

He hesitated to send his children to school, fearing that they would get sick in the crowded classrooms, and he kept them from roaming the camp because he did not want them to start smoking or pick up other bad habits. But the theater project was close to home, and his daughter was so excited about it that he let her go.

People get opportunities in life, and you have to take advantage of them,” Mr. Azzam said. “She got a chance to act when she was young, so that could make it easier for her in the future.”

The mother of Bushra al-Homeyid, 13, who played another of Lear’s daughters, said the family had fled Syria after government shelling killed her niece and nephew.

“The camp is an incomplete life, a temporary life,” she said. “We hope that our time here will be limited.”

But after a year here, she worried that her eldest daughter, who was in high school, would not be ready to go to college.

Bushra, grinning widely and still wearing her yellow paper crown, said she had never acted before but wanted to continue.

“I like that I can change my personality and be someone else,” she said.

Clowns Without Borders: in ZAATARI Camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan

The one-hour clown show Sunday was the first of its kind in Zaatari Camp, which is jointly run by UNHCR and the Jordanian government.

JAMAL HALABY posted this De. 1, 2013 in ASSOCIATED PRESS

Clowns help Syrian camp children smile for a moment

ZAATARI CAMP, Jordan — At this sprawling desert camp in Jordan, home to thousands of children who fled Syria’s civil war, a few found a moment to smile Sunday watching a troop of clowns.

Five European comedians working for Mabsutins, a private circus and clown group in Spain affiliated with the U.S.-based group Clowns Without Borders, performed for some 60 children.

More than 100,000 people live at the wind-swept camp, only 16 kilometers (10 miles) from the Syrian border, and for the children lucky enough to see the performance, it helped them forget about the challenges they face.

<br /><br /><br />
Moises Queralt, a clown from Mabsutins, a group of clowns from Spain, acts weak as a Syrian refugee child in a karate uniform pulls his arm during their show at Zaatari refugee camp near the Syrian border in Mafraq, Jordan, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013. It was an unusual day for Syrian refugee children: Pinocchio and other show gigs live Sunday under a wind-swept tent in a sprawling desert camp straddling the Syrian border.<br /><br /><br />
Moises Queralt, a clown from Mabsutins, a group of clowns from Spain, acts weak as a Syrian refugee child in a karate uniform pulls his arm during their show at Zaatari refugee camp near the Syrian border in Mafraq, Jordan, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013.
It was an unusual day for Syrian refugee children: Pinocchio and other show gigs live Sunday under a wind-swept tent in a sprawling desert camp straddling the Syrian border. MOHAMMAD HANNON / AP PHOTO

“It was best thing I have seen in my life,” said 10-year-old Rana Ziad, who fled from her restive southern border town of Daraa with her parents and six brothers and sisters a year ago. “It was very much fun and I loved it.”

More than two million Syrians have fled their country’s civil war, now in its third year, seeking shelter in neighboring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq. At least half of the refugees — 1.1 million — are children. Of those, some 75% are under the age of 12, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

A 65-page report issued Friday by the UNHCR highlighted the plight of the children, who are growing up in fractured families, missing out on education as they turn to manual labor, sometimes under dangerous or exploitative conditions. Many become the main breadwinner of their family. At Zaatari, most of the 680 small shops employ children, the report said.

There are schools at Zaatari, as well as recreational facilities, like football fields and playgrounds with swings. Other organizations have come up with activities like having children paint murals on buildings at the camp to keep them active.

However, refugees often take apart some buildings to use the material for their own structures and jobs can keep children away from such diversions. Children under the age of 16 make up roughly 40 percent of Zaatari’s population.

“It was good to bring laughter to Syrian refugee children and make them forget the patting of the war for a little time,” said Moises Queralt, a Spaniard who performs under the name Peixoxo. “Our goal was to bring a smile to the faces of the Syrian refugee children who suffered as a result of the war.”

Queralt performed as the cartoon character Pinocchio, complete with long nose. He juggled balls and bottles as he danced around to the beat of drums. Some 60 refugee children clapped and cheered, as a handful playfully kicked and grabbed at him.

Another refugee, 12-year-old Mohammad Zaidan, said the show “made us forget our miseries for one hour.”

However, when the show ended, Mohammed walked outside into a swirling, cold wind that swept dust across the camp. He said: “Once it was over, we were back to reality: we are refugees without a home.”

A brief encounter with Amman, Jordan

Though there is still much left to be seen, the short trip to Amman was a success, a rich experience of tradition and an eye opener to lots of what is uniquely Jordanian.

Wajdi Ghoussoub posted on Sat. 10/06/2012:

I did not see much of Amman. Though not ideally suited to offer much judgment about the city situated on a set of hills, my short trip is still worthy of a few descriptive lines.

The Jordanian CapitalAmman has a certain charm and feels distinctively authentic, two traits not much uncommon with other Levantine cities (Near Eastern States such as Syria, Lebanon and Palestine).

What makes Amman – and every urban center for that matter – really unique are its people (not so cheerful I heard many say, though I am yet to be convinced) who appeared to be very friendly; most men leave a proud moustache and most women clearly have what one could call Arab features.

This is in addition to the sloped and not so gentle on the stomach roads, the low and not quite attractive rises, the unstructured planning that easily loses someone’s sense of direction, and other small things that often make the difference and a city’s heart beat.

The trip from the airport to the hotel felt eternal and as dangerous as any trip one makes in that part of the world.

I later came to know that Jordanians often compare any trip, which is long and a cause of weariness, to their airport road. Forty five minutes or so later, I was in my hotel and ready for an imbibing session with my Jordanian friend (with the company of Johnnie Walker many local men would want to emphasize).

We were to spend the next day taking a brief tour of Amman before making the 45 minute trip down to the Dead Sea. Yes – ‘down’ but more on that later on.

The last day would be spent back in the city, lunching on the famous and sensationally delectable national dish, Mansaf (see note), followed by another brief cruise before flying back to Dubai. Sounded like one heck of a weekend, though not a too insensible one.

Very late on Thursday night and after much concentrating effort by the buzzing mind, I came to learn that Amman, unlike say Jerusalem, Damascus or Baghdad, hasn’t been the metropolitan city it is today until quite recently.

Nevertheless, its history is quite long and rich and not to be underestimated, very much like that of the rest of the land now forming Jordan. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the capital sits on more than 8 hills, a usual characteristic of villages and not cities.

Before we began our journey – again down – to the Dead Sea, we took a ride through the capital, driving on the major axis and around a series of numbered roundabouts, stopping at a place for an Oreo milkshake – not a Jordanian tradition, but still a very tasty treat – and passing by a weekend market where my friend once saw Ilham Al Madfai, my favorite singer of Iraqi origin who currently resides in Jordan.

The trip to the Dead Sea was a cause of some childish and not too serious stress. If Amman’s lowest point is at around 600 meters above sea level, the Dead Sea is approximately 400 meters below sea level (marking the lowest elevation on land).

Overstretched imagination made it hard for me to comprehend how possible it is or noticeable it would be to be at the lowest point on earth. Will it be a tight curved road? Will it be severely and frighteningly sloped? What if a big bang of sorts takes place and the not too far Mediterranean Sea comes rushing down towards us like a tsunami? I was mocked at and then jokingly assured that all will be fine.

Indeed, the road was wide and comfortable and the Dead Sea, except for the lack of boats and the high salt content (8 times or so that of the ocean) that makes you float with no effort, felt like any other sea really. The apparently common knowledge that it is receding and will dry up in less than 50 years has led to some far-fetched solutions by some.

Across the calm waters, one can see the Palestinian territories and the west bank of the Jordanian river that diminishingly feeds the sea. At night, and to my great surprise, what apparently were the lights of Jerusalem from a distance were pointed out to me.

We were so close yet felt so detached from Palestine, Jerusalem and the entire Palestinian and Israeliexistential issues and also from the nearby Syrian tragedy.

The map itself looked random and clearly drawn by the powers of the early 20th century. I saw where Petra, the ancient city carved in stone, and Aqaba, Jordan’s port town, were located.

Before hitting the long road to the airport again, we stopped to have coffee delivered to our car in the poorer East Amman (one ‘Turkish sabb’ my friend excitingly exclaimed), we drove on what is supposedly the longest S shaped suspension bridge in the world (is there any other we jokingly thought?) and came to notice that the Jordanians have invested a lot in their capital’s postal code system (unlike in other cities in the Middle East) but not so much in its public and not to be relied upon transportation system.

Had I planned to stay longer, I would have embarked on the usual routine I follow when I visit any new place: buy a map, understand it up to the most granular level and walk extensively on foot abiding by it.

To be fair, the motivations this time around were different. The point was only to drink, eat, laugh and catch up with my friend and, why not I thought, see just the very basics. The score of meeting such goals was a 10 on 10. Still, I will undoubtedly return to Amman and Jordan and next time I will give them the focus they rightly deserve.

Picture source:

Note 1: Mansaf is a Bedouin dish of rice, lamb and jameed (a yogurt-like substance). Tradition dictates that the large plate is to be devoured only by hand. The OCD reader might be happy to know (though not so convincingly) that Mansaf is hygienic because there are some basic rules to follow, 3 of which are perhaps the most critical: hands, of course and in any case, are to be washed, each person has an area of the dish to cover (a Mansaf realm?) and the handful small ball of jameed watered rice and lamb is to be thrown into the mouth by the way of a thumb throw, thus not allowing the fingers to touch the lips. It was a very tasty, tiring and filling experience. As my friend followed this food “massacre” with a power nap, I found myself looking in more detail at the map of Jordan.
Note 2 (mine): Israel has been exploiting the minerals from the Dead Sea for decades, and also diveritng part of its water and reducing this Sea to a deader condition

“The sirens of the Levant (Near East)”; (Feb. 24, 2010)

Hurrah, Evil wins this time around in this first French novel by the Lebanese Peter Germanos.  It is not amenable to reviewing because

1.  first, the situation in the Middle East, especially Lebanon, is very complex and would require another novel to explaining the conditions in order to make a semblance of sense;

2. second, this story involves half a dozen of intelligence institutions such as CIA, GRU (Russia), Mossad (Israel), Second Bureau (Lebanon and France), Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, to name a few nations, involved in having Lebanon a good starting base for interfering in the Middle East and securing oil exploitation and transport is one too many for a short novel of 242 pages.

We have two heroes: The Lebanese intelligence officer Marwan Hajj and the Al Qaeda.

Marwan is originally from Akoura in Mount Lebanon or “Marounistan”as Germanos calls the district, in one of the districts where the Christian Maronite sect is in majority (Kesrouwan, Jbeil, Betroun, and Bshari). Marwan is young, from a “noble” family, drives a Porch, and is willing to shell thousand of dollars for beautiful girls wishing to have lifting of whatever needs lifting so that they look “jnoun” (driving males crazy) as their gorgeous girl friends.

Al Qaeda is regaining ground after the Lebanese army defeated it in the Palestinian camp of Nahr El Bared.  The Qaeda was far better equipped with modern arms and high tech communication facilities and the army suffered over 170 soldiers and officers, not counting hundreds of injured, after 6 months of fighting.  The US refused to arm the Lebanese army and only Syria supplied the army with canon shells to resume the battle.

Al Qaeda (well established in Iraq, northern Africa, and around the Indian Ocean) is planning a major terrorist activity that would close the Suez Canal for ten years; thus, oil prices would jump to $600 the barrel and the “koffar” in Europe and the US would suffer economically.  Al Qaeda disseminates misinformation that the attempt is targeting the Strait of Hormus in the Arabic/Persian Gulf.  All the intelligence institutions have wind of a major terrorist act but are mislead on the proper maritime target.

The Mossad is cooperating with Al Qaeda in order to ignite another civil war in Lebanon to weaken Hezbollah and also to involve the US in a war against Iran.  The US army prime enemy is Al Qaeda (Islamic Sunni sect extremists) but the CIA (and its officer in Lebanon, Kyle from Kentucky) is willing to cooperate with Al Qaeda against Hezbollah and the Shiaa axe (Islamic sect) extending from Iran to Iraq, northern Syria and Lebanon.

If you feel disoriented bare with me a little while.

Wealthy Saudi princes are financing Al Qaeda terrorist plans to weaken Hezbollah and Iran, and wealthy Lebanese business men and politicians are cooperating with Al Qaeda and the Israeli Mossad to weaken Hezbollah.

Hezbollah launches a counter attack and within a couple of hours closes down dozens of Mossad bunkers and safe heavens along with other offices of the Sunni and Saad Hariri militia in Beirut who were wearing security guard outfits.  Samuel Dagan, (Israel’s Mossad chief who is currently under fire for involving many European fake passports to assassinating Hamas officer in Dubai), said that “Hezbollah destroyed within hours four years of work and preparation”.

To make a long story short, Al Qaead managed to secure a dirty (low level) atomic bomb to the port of Beirut and used the Middle East like Ho Che Minh route of (Tripoli-Palmira Syria- Anbar Iraq) to deliver the dirty bomb to Saudi Arabia.

The novel mentions the Egyptian Al Zawahiri as the master mind of Qaeda but I think it is the Libyan Al Libi who is involved in terrorist activities targeting the Shiia sect since Zawahiri is trying hard to unite all Islamic sects against the US imperialist strategy.

I could follow the story, but I doubt people (non Lebanese and none politicized) will find the courage to finish this exciting novel.

Note: Minorities in societies have this knack of constructing myths; they end up believing myths for real. You cannot defeat myths “made real” when communicating for establishing real modern States.




November 2019
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